Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Girl vs Ghost

Girl vs Ghost
Girl vs Ghost by Kate McMurry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isabel Lindley has always followed her best friend, Tripp, whenever Tripp found a new interest. But when Tripp's interest in witchcraft ends up giving Isabel a ghost of her own, she just wants out. But it doesn't look like things are going to be too easy - until she, Tripp and the Ghost Boy can figure out who he is and then help him go to the Light. Or something.

This was a book that I won through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways and, thus far, it has become my favorite read of the almost 30 books I've received. (Ok, so it's only the third one that I've read, but I really enjoyed it.) The authors are able to mix just the right amount of humor, paranormal and teenaged-reality into the book that it had me not wanting to close the covers until I'd finished it.

Each of the four main characters (Isabel, Tripp, Marc - the "ghost boy" and Parker, Tripp's nemesis) are people I could easily imagine having been in my high school. They are a bit on the stereo-typical side - the weird girl with the wild hair, the serious, driven geek, the haughty rich boy and the gorgeous latino boy. But they characters seemed to work well together and made me anxious to read more. I could also have seen myself being friends with a couple of girls like Isabel and Tripp when I was in school.

I loved the sniping between Marc and Isabel throughout, with them only realizing at the end that maybe they don't want to be separated from one another. And then wondering if it was too late.

The story kept a good pace through-out, none of it seeming to drag anywhere. The authors brought the reader along, teasing out bits and pieces of what happened to Marc and why and, in the end, slammed them with something they probably hadn't seen coming (at least, I didn't). I'll admit that I was having flashbacks to the Charmed episode, "Dead Man Dating", thinking that Isabel was going to fall in love with a ghost that would have to leave her. Instead, I was very satisfied to read the ending.

The paranormal portions weren't too spooky, though the things on the backs of the students at the school were a bit freaky (basically, ghosts that hadn't crossed over but instead stayed and became bitter, bringing out the worst in the people they latch on to). I'm far from an expert in witchcraft (much of what I know is media based) but things seemed plausible. And the reason for Parker and Tripp's spellings messing each other up seemed like a wonderful way to draw everyone into this sticky wicket.

The authors included the first chapter of the next book, Witch vs Wizard in the back of this one, and it's got me jonsing for the next one to come out. It will be out at some point this year, though I'm not sure when. This is one that, if I can't manage to get a copy through winning it, I will definitely buy. Because I can't wait to see what happens with these four next.

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Review: Level Up

Level Up
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you follow your dream or your family's? That is the question that Dennis Ouyang is asking himself as he debates his future. His father had wanted him to be a doctor - specifically, a gastroenterologist. But Dennis has a love, and a talent, for video games. At a major crossroads in his life, four angels come into his life to guide him along the straight and narrow. Sometimes sweet, sometimes terrifying, they want to make sure that Dennis fulfills his destiny.

This is not Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham's first graphic novel. They gained critical acclaim with their previous graphic novel, American Born Chinese (which is on my TBR list). But it is definitely a fantastic look at balancing the desires of our families with the desires of ourselves.

I'll admit that this gave me a glimpse into a life that is incredibly foreign to me. My parents had always wanted me to do what made me happy, and I've found myself doing the same with my boys. So to have a parent basically mapping out the future of their child seems wrong. It always had. But reading through this, seeing the bits of the why's behind the push by Dennis' father for his son to be a doctor. This book was more than just entertainment for me. It was also an enlightening book.

The artwork is much cruder than anything I find within the pages of a DC comic, but it fit well with the story of a kid obsessed with video games. For all that the black line artwork isn't masterful, it tells the story that it needs to. It made the story feel more like a boy telling his story rather than a piece of fiction. And I liked that.

The story itself was a wonderful journey, from the first moment Dennis saw a Pac-Man machine until the last panel where he showed what he can do. My heart broke when Dennis gave away his gaming systems. I wanted to smack him up along side the head when he was clueless. And the angels... they scared me pretty bad sometimes as well.

This is definitely one of the best non-super hero graphic novels I've read in a long time. While not a favorite of the level of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, it's still a wonderful read and a must for any geek grappling between what they should do and what they want to do.

*Note: This book was won in the First Reads Giveaway. I received a copy of this book without requirement of reviewing it, but I'm glad to be able to do so anyway.

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Review: The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar: A First Kids Mystery

The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar: A First Kids Mystery
The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar: A First Kids Mystery by Martha Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When First Kids Cammie and Tessa receive a diamond dog collar for the First Dog, Holligan, they know the huge diamonds can't be real? Can they? When one diamond, then the whole collar disappears, the girls think something may be up. Especially when it comes on the heals of the disappearance of a large diamond from the nation that the collar was originally sent from. That's when they put on their detecting hats and search the White House grounds to find out the truth behind Holligan's new collar.

The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar was actually the first book I won through Goodreads' First Reads giveaway program. Since I love books of all shapes and sizes, I was excited to receive it. Originally, I planned on reading it to the boys, but as the holidays got more hectic and Teddy wanted me to start reading The 39 Clues, I decided that it was time to read it on my own.

I wish I hadn't let so much time pass, because I was doing myself a disservice. Being a relatively short chapter book, it was a quick read for me. But it was a read full of humor and surprise. I found the enthusiasm of impulsive fashionista Tessa infectious. I loved the more sensible approach that Cammie had toward the whole thing. Seeing the girls' reaction to their grandmother's budding love affair made me smile. And I loved the fact that it isn't their dad that's the president, but their mom. Seeing the father as the stay-at-home parent (or kind of close to it) was a nice change of pace for most of the kids books that I read.

The characters weren't quite as fleshed out as you would have seen in a more adult book, but it didn't bother me too much. Even without the depth that I expect from the longer novels I read, these characters definitely had some depth, character and personality. There are some of the adults that get short-shrift (the girls' parents, their Aunt Jen) but since the story centers around the girls, their dog and their cousin, Nick, they were the ones that should have had more weight to them.

The character that stole the book, though, was Hooligan. I love reading about animals that are big, fun, play-piles. And that's what Hooligan is. He's got a bunch of enthusiasm and love and is the kind of dog I'd love to see running around the White House lawns.

I also enjoyed the inside look at the Private White House. I don't know for certain if that is how life is in the White House, but it's something that I could easily imagine it being. The map that Ms Freeman included at the back of the book, detailing the White House grounds, and the afterword that she included talking about the White House, was a nice bit of educational inclusion that I love to find in books to share with my kids.

All in all, the flaws I found in this book were minor and it's a book that I look forward to sharing with my boys as they get older.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Giveaways and Goodies #1

I have a fairly large blog reading list.  My blogs range from the geekish (like GeekDad and Slice of SciFi) to the bookish (like and The Book Vixen) to the crafty (like The Steady Hand and Bursts of Bubbles) to parenting blogs (like Do Sweat the Small Stuff and The Mom Pledge) and a whole host of others*.  I love learning cool stuff from these awesome blogs and the bloggers behind them and sharing a bit with them.

One of the thing that many (though not all) of the bloggers that I read have in common is giveaways.  Many of them come from the ranks of the book bloggers that I read, in an effort to help authors promote their latest work.  Good books are too awesome not to share, and keeping mum about book giveaways that I know about would be almost criminal (even if it might increase my chances slightly of winning something myself. ;))

So I'll be starting a feature here on Views from the Reader Side where, once a week, I'll share with my readers links to the great giveaways that I've found among my blog perusing.  (If you're interested in non-book blogs, you can check out my Giveaways and Goodies feature over at Sanity's Overrated.)  Along with the giveaways, I may pass along a few other bits of book-related info that I come across.  (Though not reviews.  There are so many great reviews, I'd be typing for days.)

Without further ado, here are the giveaways, listed by date so you know which ones you need to check out sooner rather than later.

January 16, 2012

Happy Chaos by Soliel Moon Frye at The Writer Revived

January 17, 2012

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry at Roof Beam Reader
Angel Fire, The Darkness Gathers and Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger on Facebook

January 18, 2012

Author Interview with Misty Provencher and giveaway of eBook copy of Cornerstone at Book Passion for Life
The Dreaming of Books Giveaway - There are over 200 bloggers giving away books.  Follow the link and you'll find the home-linky with all the bloggers listing books.  I haven't entered many yet, but I will be over the next several days.

January 19, 2012

Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk (2 giveaways, 1 paperback copy, US only, one Kindle edition) at The Unread Reader

January 20, 2012

Switched by Amanda Hocking at Mission to Read (US only, sorry!)

January 24, 2012

Author Interview with Cynthia Hand and giveaway of Team Tucker theme pack at The Story Siren

January 26, 2012

Destiny by Laura DeLuca at Hanging Off the Wire
Word Catcher by Phil Cousineau at Hanging Off the Wire (US and Canada only, sorry!)
Author Interview with Jaye Frances and giveaway of the Kindle version of The Kure at The Book Vixen

January 27, 2012

Random Obesessions by Nick Belardes at Hanging Off the Wire (US and Canada only, sorry!)

January 29, 2012

Beyonders by Brandon Mull at Cami's Books

January 30, 2012

The Fear Index by Robert Harris and Start Shooting by Charlie Newton at KnopfDoubleday

January 31, 2012

Author interview with Shelly Crane and giveaway of her eBook, Significance at Book Passion for Life

February 29, 2012

Book Passion for Life's The Book Depository Affiliates Giveaway #2 (Three winners will win one of eight (8) books)

And, as always, don't forget the constant stream of giveaways on I've won close to 30 books through them and am finally starting to dive into them.  Look for reviews in the upcoming weeks.

And now for some goodies that I've found through my blog reading that I thought my fellow readers would enjoy.

So that's it for this week.  I'm hoping to have more goodies next week to share, as well as a few new books to review and anything else that I may find to catch your attention.  Thanks for stopping by!

* No offense to the many other blogs that I read and enjoy for not including you here.  If I included all the great blogs that I read, I would never get to my actual post.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody

People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody
People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody by Mike Parish

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody is another win from GoodReads First reads. By the title, I wasn't sure what to expect of it - depression poetry? Existentialism? Randomness? Well, it was a bit closer to the last.

But what it wasn't, at least by my definition, was poetry. Instead, it seemed more like random thoughts, posts to Twitter or Facebook, brief glimpses into the mind of the reader. As I read the thoughts written, I had the feeling that I was reading the thoughts of teenager, dealing with the crap that becoming an adult throws at him every day.

While it hit far of the mark of what I was expecting, it was an interesting read for what it was. I like to look into the thoughts of others and these brief, sentence or two bits, gave me a nice view into Parish's head at the time he wrote them. It had very much a sense of immediacy, as some of the portions talked about his desire to publish these bits of "poetry".

I also must applaud Mr Parish for the way he sent this. Like a few other reviewers have commented, he used the booklet (white paper, saddle-stitched) itself as the envelope. My address was written clearly on the back and the pages were held closed with a clear sticker. While some may have received theirs damaged because of this, mine came in pristine condition.

In closing, I'd say that if you were looking for poetry, look for something else. But if you like to glance into the mind of someone else in small bites at a time, check it out.

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Review: for she, who kept the other alphabet

for she, who kept the other alphabet
for she, who kept the other alphabet by Pablo D'Stair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title of this folio is what caught my attention. I'd never heard of the author or of his poetry, but this title was intriguing. So I entered to win a copy and did, here on GoodReads.

I received the folio yesterday. As advertised, it was a small booklet with each stanza of the poem on a new page. The paper it was printed on was a darker cream and the overall booklet was very stark.

The poetry itself is free verse and very meta. It's not one that I "got" on a first read through, but one that I suspect will take on more meaning the more I read it. It's one, I think, that needs to be chewed over slowly rather than taken in a large bite and gobbled down whole.

I hope to give it a more thorough review in a week or so when I read it again with fresh eyes.

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Review: Little Shoes

Little Shoes
Little Shoes by Amy Sansome

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two shoes, Finn and Maya, live inside a dark box at a shoe store. Their whole world is that box until one day, a little girl comes and opens the lid. Then they find a whole new world outside, with different sensations and different experiences. Oh, how their lives will change.

Little Shoes was another book that I picked up for free on Kindle. As much as my Kindle is mineallmine, I do want to share some books with my boys on it. So I went looking for freebies. And this was the first one I came across.

It wasn't the best children's book I've read to my boys, nor was it the worst. But it's one that I don't think my boys are going to be asking for more regularly. It doesn't seem to flow as well as many of the other books do, and some of the images that it brought to my mind, at least, were disturbing (the feeling of someone's foot sliding into Finn... shudder). I was also slightly annoyed at the author for having it be natural for Maya to recognize a mirror and then preen in it, all because she was a little girl.

Still, it did have a few redeeming qualities. It was a good look at change in your environment and trying to figure out the answers (though I'm still not sure how the shoes came up with some of the answers they did). I did enjoy the last line as well - "And Finn added, "Yes, and it's our new home." - because it feels... comfortable, I guess. The thought of a new home for anyone is just a warm-fuzzy.

The artwork was cute, with very big eyes and round faces. The colors are bright and vibrant. In eBook format, though, it doesn't seem to mesh too well. There will be a page or two of text, then a single page of a picture. It wasn't bad, but sometimes it threw off the rhythm of the story. Still, they were enjoyable to look at.

As I said above, it's not a bad book, but it's not phenomenal either. At free, I'd suggest checking it out yourself and see what you think.

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Review: Dragonsaurus

Dragonsaurus by Sharlene Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a little egg rolls down from the mountain, an unusual creature emerges at the bottom. Is it a fish, like the first creature he sees? Or a snake like the second? The problems the creature has moving like either points toward no. But when an eagle flies by and tells the creature to follow him, it is only then that she finds where she belongs.

I picked this up as an eBook freebie through my Kindle, thinking to have something new to read to my kids. Pete is dinosaur crazy, so reading anything involving dinosaurs would be a big hit. But I didn't know just how much I would enjoy the story.

Yes, I had to suspend my disbelief a little to think that a dragon and a T-Rex would mate, but if I can believe in a T-Rex living with a family of pteronadons (Dinosaur Train), then pairing a dragon and a dinosaur wasn't too much of a stretch.

Peter stayed engrossed through every sentence, curious about this little creature and what it would be. He pointed out various things he saw in the pictures with excitement. And, even better, when we were finished, he wanted to hear it again.

Being a children's book, it is an incredibly quick read. And while I would have liked to have seen some parts of it go into a little more depth (such as the creature following a few more animals in it's search for who it was), I could understand that being a side-point to the story rather than the main part.

The illustrations were nicely done - not too childish, yet not too elaborate for young minds and attention spans either. It's also not an illustration heavy book, so each one has the job of telling a bit more, and it does that beautifully.

There is also an important lesson in here - whether the writer intended it or not. You are who you are, and that is very special. Your parents don't have to be the same (in the "real" world, they don't both have to be the same race, the same religion or - dare I say it - the same sex) to love you and think you're special. And if you try to be someone that you aren't, something will always get in the way of making it feel "right".

If you have little ones that love dinosaurs or dragons, I highly recommend picking this one up and reading it to them. Because I think it's a story they'll enjoy.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: Noble Causes: Extended Family #2

Noble Causes: Extended Family #2
Noble Causes: Extended Family #2 by Jay Faerber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Noble Causes: Extended Family takes place five years after the first book - the only other book that I've been able to read. (My library, for some reason I don't understand, only carries the first book and this, which is one of the last.) Rusty and Celeste have divorced and now Rusty is seeing a hero by the name of Cosmic Rae. Race has somehow returned from the dead and the main story takes place at his and Liz's 1st Anniversary Party. Zephyr is quite obviously pregnant - and she lets everyone know it. Celeste is openly keeping company with Frost. And things for Doc and Gaia are business as usual.

The Noble Causes series has a shorter-than-usual main story, followed by several one-shots that give the reader a glimpse into the minds, hearts and world of the characters. Sometimes that's a hit, other times it's a miss. In this particular volume, I actually enjoyed the one shots more than I did the main story line.

The main story line, as I mentioned above, deals with the family at Liz and Race's 1st Anniversary party. Of course, there's the usual problems with the family - Zephyr showing off her pregnancy to give those that were talking in whisper about her glamoured, thinner self something to really talk about, a fist fight almost beginning between Race and Frost (because of a very risque ice sculpture that Frost made of Race and Liz in the middle of the party). The usual. But when an alien creature that affects the minds of it's host gets into the guest, things really become interesting.

The story itself was ok. Some of this could be because I missed the intervening stories. But it just didn't engage me quite the way the first one did. The characters, were, however, true to form... or at least true to the form they were in the first book. I loved both Zephyr and Liz standing up for themselves, each in their own way.

The artwork was up to the usual standards. There are some stand-out bits, however. The ice sculpture was very well done, being both modest and risque at the same time. And the look on Liz's face when Race is screaming to her in panel 3 on page 18 (by my count - there are no page numbers) is absolutely perfect. You can see the anger behind her eyes, yet you can also see that she is holding it back. There's something about the set of her jaw that says to me she knows Race isn't behind the words.

The next story in the book is "Family Matters". In it, Zephyr is rebelling against her mother in a teen-aged fit and decides to run away from home. Where she goes is something I didn't see coming - and neither did the person she runs to - Frost. She thinks that since he has reason to hate her family as well, they should get along fine. But somehow, as she talks to him, he makes her see that her family really is the most important thing to her.

The story was pretty good, though not my favorite in this collection. While I hadn't expected her to show up at Frost's, and I had expected him to sleep with her, most of it was a typical "you don't know what you've got 'til you're gone" kind of story. It was ok, but not stellar.

The third story is a fun little piece called "Sweeps Week". The Nobles are, as we see here, a fictional superhero family being portrayed on television. The story takes us to through the various trials and tribulations of a successful (and cheesy) show - from stupid story lines to enthusiastic fans to cast changes. It's a fun romp and the surprise ending (the Big Boss coming in) is a wonderful surprise. Again, not my favorite piece in the book, but it was a decent read.

Next up is "Live and Let Diode", a freaky little piece that brings us back to the early days when Icarus was still in the picture, when he first started to realize the hatred he held for Doc's children. Each glimpse into every day life - from fighting the baddies to mediating an argument between mother and daughter to listening to the Noble Children talk about a boring mission - is punctuated by a look through Icarus' eyes on the situation, and then the violent images of what he really wants to do to the Noble Children. It's the first steps into madness and it's a very scary place to be. Violent though it was, it was my second favorite piece because it really brought out the emotions.

Next we come to a shorter piece entitled, "Rite of Passage". It is Krennick's birthday and his father has called his son to stand before him. On this most special day, Draconis has set up a special surprise for his son - a fight to the death with a couple dozen of Draconis' best warriors to test whether Krennick would be a worthy successor. While the story itself was an "eh" because of the set-up (I've never been a fan of fight to the death stories), there was one thing it did really well, and that was pacing. From the moment Draconis shouts the command for his warriors to kill his son, until Krennick stands alone at the end, the panels alternate between a couple of action-only panels and single panels where Krennick questions why his father is doing this while still fighting on. It was very beautifully done and brought the story along at just the right pace.

Then we get to my least favorite story in the book, "Educating Doc". Doc is at a lecture, talking about how he supposedly first realized that crime fighting was serious business. He spun the story to put himself in the best light, but the panels that the story was written over told the real story. And it didn't mesh with me. Doc always struck me as more someone who was buried in his work rather than focusing on self-aggrandizement. So I couldn't believe that it was him telling the story in that way. It just didn't fit for me.

However, the next story was, by far, my favorite story. "Pushing the Right Buttons" starts with the release of a sex tape in which Zephyr is the main attraction. While the media and the common man talk about it - whether it's true, if she's crying, how hot it is - her family is grilling her to find out why she did it. And all she'll answer is that she had her reasons. Even to Liz, the most understanding member of the family, she only repeats that she had her reasons. It's only at the end of the story that we find out just what those reasons were. And it's not rebellion. By the time I reached the end, I had my hand over my mouth in shock. I both applauded Zephyr and wanted to kill those who put her in this position. Because it doesn't get any lower. A very high quality story that shows things aren't always what they seem.

"How the Servants Reclaimed their Demonhood" is the last story and one that I'm torn on. The story had me chuckling from beginning to end, thinking of the sitcom antics that having three demons formerly of hell as servants in a superhero household. But the artwork just didn't do it for me. The human characters were too angular, their features almost caricaturish. The way Gaia was drawn, I thought a dominatrix had entered the story (which made perfect sense, what with the demons and all) instead of being the head of the Noble family. It's rare for me to enjoy reading a story so much yet be put off by the artwork. So I'm still not sure how I stand on it.

The book, as a whole, was middle of the road. While there were a few outstanding stories, they weren't enough to pull the book above average for me.

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Review: A Quick Bite

A Quick Bite
A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lissiana Argeneau is celebrating her 202nd birthday with a party at her mother's house. When she enters her room to get a new pair of stockings, she assumes that the man tied to her bed his her gift from her mother... a little bite to eat after the party.

Well, she has it half right. Her mother has "convinced" (through mental coercion) Dr Gregory Hewitt to come to the house as Lissie's birthday gift. But rather than being her midnight snack, he is there to help cure her of her phobia. And it's a bad one for a vampire - Lissie faints at the site of blood.

There's instant attraction between the two, but before either of them can admit it, they have to work through Greg learning about her family, crazy relatives (on both sides) and someone that wants to put a stake through Lissie's heart for being an evil, blood-sucking fiend. No one ever said the course of true love runs smoothly.

I really enjoy this series and was glad to have finally listened to the one that started it all. I'd seen Lissie and Greg in one of the other books I'd read, but I didn't really know their story. And I, for one, thought it was an intriguing one.

One of the best parts of this series is the inventive take on vampires that Sands has taken. Rather than the mystical/magical search for immortality that vampirism is usually portrayed as, the Argeneau series takes a scientific bent in the form of nanites that keep their bodies in peak condition. While she uses fiction getting it wrong to explain away some of the usual vampire "facts", she has perfectly plausible explanations for the ones that she's kept in. Since the nanites are fueled by blood, anyone with the nanites in their system (naturally born or "made") need to regularly replenish the blood in their system. And since sunlight is always damaging the skin cells, the nanites need to work harder to keep the host healthy, which uses more blood and weakens them until they can replenish.

I also like the fact that, in today's world when blood can be stored a la the Red Cross, the Argeneau clan has switched from "feeding off the hoof" (taking blood directly from an unwitting donor) to using bagged blood. And I like how Lissie being unable to use bagged blood (since she can see it through the bag) is the impetus from bringing a human into this world, which gives the reader a chance to learn about the world that Sands has crafted.

The story wasn't perfect. I don't remember a good explanation for the mental powers that the Argeneaus have (though that could just be my forgetting). And there were some parts of the story that I saw coming from the first. But she still managed to throw me a couple times by crafting the store differently than I had expected. For the most part, though, I knew what was coming. (eg. I knew who was behind the staking). But that doesn't always bother me. Because most of the time, it feels like the logical progression.

The writing was ok - not the best I've ever read but far, far from the worst. It was, however, good enough to keep me engaged in the story. And that, for me, is more important than any of the technical parts of the writing.

A word about the audio book edition - readers can make or break a book for me. I've listened to some books that, if I were to read them, I would thoroughly enjoy. But hearing them read by a particular reader destroys my good feelings about the book. I've also listed to some books in which the reader has made the book come even more alive for me. Victoria McGee is the reader for this book and she falls somewhere in the middle. She kept the story moving, didn't break me from the reality of the world and used a few distinctive voices for different characters. But she didn't make me believe that she was each of these characters, as some of the best do. I was very much aware that I was being read to rather than feeling like I was watching the story unfold before me.

I am looking forward to reading or listening to more books in this series. I love finding an unusual take on something that most people "know". And the Argeneau series does just that for the vampire genre.

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Book Beginnings on Friday, January 6, 2012

Katy at A Few More Pages has a meme that she does on Fridays.  And it's an incredibly simple meme at that.  Share the first couple of lines of the book (or books) that you're currently reading.  Make sure to include title and author.  And if you'd like, tell us what you think of it.  Then go over to A Few More Pages and link up.

Since I'm usually a polyamorous reader, I have a few first lines to share today.  

First, from the eBook that I'm reading.  It's a reread for me, but it's been awhile since I'd read it.  And it is one of my favorites.Neil Gaiman's American Gods.  I'm reading the 10th Anniversary edition, so there are a lot of words before the story starts - dedications, words from the author, notes about the text, an epigraph and a quote.  I'm skipping all of that and starting with the first words of the story itself as it was written by Gaiman. 
Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don't-fuck-with-me-enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

I have long been a fan of anything that Gaiman writes.  His comics, his fiction, his television scripts, his movie scripts, his blog... I could like it forever.  And I knew that American Gods wasn't going to disappoint me.  And I was write.  Even from the first paragraph, I had an idea who Shadow was, even if I didn't know what his story was going to be.  It intrigued me from the very beginning, to see if I could care about a guy who spent three years in prison for who knows what crime.  And I did care about Shadow before the end of the first chapter.  Because that's what Gaiman does - he makes his characters incredibly real.

For an audio book, I've started listening to Home Improvement: Undead Edition, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner.  This is the fourth anthology in their series which puts together two things you'd never think of - like vampires and birthdays (their first anthology, Many Bloody Returns) or werewolves and Christmas (Wolfsbane and Mistletoe).  I've read two of the previous three series and knew that Harris and Kelner had a knack for finding the write talent for their anthologies.  Again, there is an introduction that I'm skipping (though it's wonderfully fun to read) and diving straight into the first story - "If I Had a Hammer" by Charlaine Harris.

"If I had a hammer," I sang, as I used the measuring tape and a pencil to mark where I needed to drill.
From the next room, Tara called, "I'm going to leave if you're going to sing."

This story is set in Harris's Southern Vampire (or True Blood) world.  I always know I'm going to love a story about Sookie, because she's got a lot of spunk and I LOVE that about her.  Harris writes with a wonderful amount of wit that has me laughing every time I read it.  I can't speak to the rest of the stories in the anthology - I just started listening to it today - but I suspect that they'll all stand up to the usual quality.

Finally, there's the actual paper book that I'm reading - For the Love of Books by Ronald B Shwartz.  I don't remember how I found out about this book... looking for books on books, I suspect.  But in it are essays and interviews from 115 different writers, spanning all genres and mediums, telling the reader what books got them on the path to writing.  I'm finding some excellent new book fodder there.

As with the other two books above, I am skipping the beginning dedication and the blurb about the first writer and going straight into the essay.  This is by Diane Ackerman.

When I first started writing poetry in a serious way, as a college freshman, I carried a copy of Wallace Stevens' Collected Poems in one pocket and Dylan Thomas' in another.
For me, this was the perfect glimpse of the beginnings of a writer... keeping books with you that inspire you.  And they did for Ackerman, or so it seems.  I've read through several of the writers, though I haven't even reached the halfway point yet.  I've found a few essays that I just think, "Eh" and others that has me reaching for my Book of Books list to write down a title that sounds particularly interesting.  It's a slow read for me, but a very, very good one.

So that's a look at what I'm reading this week.  What about you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Promotion

This giveaway ends tonight, but you still have time to win Hot (Sweaty) Mamas by Lauri Kocanda and Kara Thom over at Cami's Books.  It's the perfect book for those moms among us (myself included) who want to become more fit!

Tell 'em Amber from Views from the Reader Side sent you!

Won books

I love Goodreads, not just because it's a great place to meet like minded book-fiends, but also because they host a LOT of giveaways.  Because I have such a varied tastes in books, I find myself entering just about every giveaway they host. And I've been pretty lucky when it comes to winning things.  (Well, about a 2% return rate, but considering the number of people that request these various books, that's not a bad ratio.)  I'm dedicating 2012 to reading the books that I've won through Goodreads and other locations.

I'm not sure yet which books I'm going to start with, but here's the full list... all 25 of them.

Won from The Book Vixen


Won from Cami's Books


Won from


 (received - comes out January 24, 2012)



 (received - comes out January 10, 2012)


 (received - comes out January 10, 2012)






 (comes out January 24, 2012)

 (comes out January 10, 2012)

for she, who kept the other alphabet by Pablo D'Stair (part of a folio series that is only given away, not sold.

 (released January 3, 2012)

People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody by Mike Parish (a book of poetry initially released as digital media)

So there's quite a bit of reading in my future... not counting any other books I may win.  I can't wait.