Tag Archives: NetGalley

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke: review

The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

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How good is The Assassin’s Curse? It’s so good I read it in a day!

The Assassin’s Curse is an otherworld fantasy story that can hold its own with the best of the genre. The Assassin’s Curse has about it the feel of Robin Hobb – although this instalment is shorter than one of a Robin Hobb trilogy, however, I suspect that there will be four or five books in this series (if you read The Assassin’s Curse, let me know if you agree!). Since I really want to know what happens next and how Ananna and Naji deal with the challenges they’ve been given, I shall be keeping a watch on Strange Chemistry’s blog for the next in series, although since The Assassin’s Curse isn’t released until October 2012, I suspect I will have a bit of a wait!

The story begins with our heroine running away from her betrothing ceremony – and I can’t say I blame her. Thus begin her adventures and her meeting with the eponymous assassin. One of the things that I particularly liked was that  it has a strong female lead. It’s funny how fantasy books much more often have strong, independent female leads than a number of other genres. Perhaps that’s why I’ve read fantasy (and Sci-Fi) books since I was a girl. One of my favourite authors was Andre Norton; Ms Clarke is most definitely in Ms Norton’s league.

The adventures the pair of unwilling co-travellers share follow logically from one to another, although there were a few points when I felt there was a tad too much running around without purpose and without Ananna and Naji growing further. I think there may have been some over-exuberant editing or revising around the storm sequence, since the plot progression got a little mushy around there. For me, a veteran of many sail-era naval novels, the lack of detail in, and slightly inaccurate, telling of the actions on board ship (I am being intentionally vague to avoid giving any of the story away) was a minor irritation – a very minor one. I would have liked more details about the Isles of the Sky – my mental pictures there was rather sketchy.

The telling of the developing relationship between Ananna and Naji is mostly well done – and I enjoyed that it is not too much of a formulaic romance. All of the characters are well drawn and believable. I hope we meet the wizard again – he is a character with much potential.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse and found the standard of world building by Ms Clarke to be well executed. I would have liked a little more detail on the various peoples and their cultures & religions to be worked into the tale. Had the book been somewhat longer, this and the other additions I have mentioned could have been included. The key to adding these details is to do it as part of the story and not for the author to tell the reader directly. I suspect that the publishers, Strange Chemistry, have a standrd format in which they publish and that the books they publish are edited to this format. I hope that as time goes by, they are able to offer a range of book formats (i.e. lengths).

I really liked the cover…the script’s font and the skyline are reminiscent of ancient Arabia and get the reader in the right frame of mind for the world they are about to visit.

I think this is a debut novel for Cassandra Rose Clarke and I have great hopes for her future books.

I thank Strange Chemistry for my opportunity to read The Assassin’s Curse, as a NetGalley ARC for kindle. I also thank them for introducing me to a new (to me) author. Details of the release dates for The Assassin’s Curse can be found in my WOW post.

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View all my Goodreads reviews

I’m claiming this book as No. 121/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge; and No. 6 in the First in Series Reading challenge..
[All links in right hand sidebar]

I particularly liked was that

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings: review

PoltergeeksPoltergeeks by Sean Cummings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.

In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.

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Poltergeeks is a YA witch-themed fantasy novel that will appeal to fantasy fans of all ages. It is a fast-paced and absorbing. book I really didn’t want to put Poltergeeks down, but I had to do that in order to sleep.

Sean Cummings spins a fabulous yarn, with vivid descriptions of the phenomena and battles. The various relationships are described in realistic terms; I felt that all of them rang true and were consistent throughout the book. I’m very impressed at how well this middle-aged Blackburn Rovers fan got inside a 15-year-old girl’s head. Or should I be worried…LOL…seriously, whilst reading Poltergeeks I imagined a female author, the “voice” was that good.

There are a few really clichéd phrases uttered by the characters, along with some pretty cringeworthy phrases, but somehow they fit. Marcus is a stereotypical geek, and is bullied by a stereotypical jock, but I found I was able to ignore those formulaic bits. The witchy parts of the book are well worked out, and consistent. The story itself is internally consistent: it is set in the Calgary of the here and now – how wonderful to have a book set outside the US! There’s nothing wrong with the US, it’s just nice to be treated to a different locale – and takes the view that magic is all around us but most people don’t notice it. Witches are charged with keeping the rest of humanity safe from the “bad guys”. These two aspects – normal everyday and magical – are expertly woven together. Since Julie, our heroine, has been kept in the dark about many magical society details for most of her life, we learn about the rich details of the society with her. This kept the book interesting; I wanted to know more, I made guesses based on the clues received so far and was not bored when we got to the explanations because they happened as part of the story, either as direct speech or as part of the action rather than large passages of exposition directly from the author to the reader.

Poltergeeks absolutely races along, sometimes leaving the reader almost out of breath; there are few points where the reader thinks “Ah! I can put the book down knowing all are safe for a bit”. I admit that partway through, I worked out who – but I didn’t see the why. This looping interweaving sleight-of-hand part of the book was wonderfully woven.

In addition to discovering a new (to me) author, I’ve also discovered a new imprint: Strange Chemistry, who have some fantastic books coming out over the next six months – keep your eyes open for them: check out my WoW posts for details. Details of the release dates of Poltergeeks are also given on the website.

Thank you Sean for an excellent read. Thank you Strange Chemistry for approving me to receive a NetGalley ARC of Poltergeeks. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to subsequent books.

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View all my Goodreads reviews

I’m claiming this book as No. 120/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge; and No. 5 in the First in Series Reading challenge..
[All links in right hand sidebar]

In My Mailbox (10): Sunday 17 June 2012

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Welcome to
In My Mailbox!!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and Letterbox Love is a British take on the idea. If you want to know more, there is information under the Fun Things heading above, or you can click on the pictures at the top of this post to take you to the hosts’ blogs.

These posts are to tell you about the books I have acquired recently. I know most bloggers call all such posts “In My Mailbox”, however, as I’m English, my physical post comes through my letterbox and my electronic mail arrives in my mailbox (or my inbox…). So I have decided to use the following terms:

In My Letterbox (IML) for the physical books I aquire;
In My Mailbox (IMM) for the NetGalley books or ebooks sent to me for review by authors;
In My Inbox (IMI) for the free Kindle ebooks I compulsively download!

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Here is a list of some of the books for which I’ve been approved on NetGalley.  I have downloaded all of these, the ones I haven’t listed aren’t available in kindle format and I haven’t yet installed Adobe Digital Editions.  I have to say, if that means I can only read them on a computer, rather than my kindle, I probably won’t read them.  However, since all the ones below are in kindle format, I shall be reading and reviewing them.

NETGALLEY Books RECEIVED during APRIL:

1. A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn

Publisher: Tanglewood 15 May 2006

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2. Bandwidth by Angus Morrison

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing,LLC 08 October 2010

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3. Ravens Cove by Mary Ann Poll

Publisher: YouDOPR–PublicationConsultants 01 November 2010

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4. Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World by Dominick A. DellaSala

Publisher: Island Press 08 November 2010

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5. Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Publisher: Flaming Chalice Press 17 December 2010

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6. Fearless Fair Isle Knitting by Kathleen Taylor

Publisher: The Taunton Press 15 February 2011

I’ve always wanted to know how to do Fair Isle knitting properly…

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7. Lucia’s Eyes & Other Stories by Marina Sonkina

Publisher: Guernica Editions 25 April 2011

I thought the title sounds intriguing.

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8. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 15 May 2012

I have read so many enthusiastic reviews about this book that I was delighted when the publishers released as copy to me. This is very high on my TBR list 🙂

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9. COLOSSUS: STONE & STEEL by David Blixt

Publisher: David Blixt 25 May 2012

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10. HER MAJESTY’S WILL by David Blixt

Publisher: David Blixt 25 May 2012

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11. THE MASTER OF VERONA by David Blixt

Publisher: David Blixt 25 May 2012

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12. Good Thinking by Denise Cummins

Publisher: Cambridge University Press 30 May 2012

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13. Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Publisher: Egmont USA 12 June 2012

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Another mixed bag of styles and genres.  I intentionally looked for some already released books as well as some which are close to release.  I shall be reading and reviewing the latter first.  I hope that some of these catch your attention and interest and that you hunt them out and enjoy them!

See you all next week – meantime be sure to leave a link to your post in a comment and I’ll pop over.

Dancing with the Boss by Clare Gutierrez: review

Dancing with the BossDancing with the Boss by Clare Gutierrez

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the American Southwest, criminal organizations from all over the world conspire to control everything from human trafficking to drug running and gun smuggling. Caught in the midst of all of this is the smart and sassy Annie, the owner of a rare-art dealership in Arizona. In a chance encounter, Annie meets Tony, a veritable gangster and mafioso who finds himself at odds with the brutal nature of his work and his growing feelings for Annie.

When Annie learns that her brother Allen, a former special ops agent for the FBI, has gotten himself into some deep trouble, she finds an unexpected ally in Tony. The two of them—along with Annie’s other two siblings—set out to help Allen, maneuvering through mysterious data files and dead bodies as they travel from coast to coast—and abroad—in their search. As the tension builds, so does the number of casualties.

Explored through rich descriptions and populated with complex, likable characters, Dancing with the Boss—part thriller, part romance, part action novel—will keep even the most jaded readers hooked.

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Spoiler alert: there are a few plot reveals in this review; I have tried to keep them to a minimum and they are only there to explain my points.

This was an excellent story with lots of tension and plot twists. The story moves along at a good pace; sometime a small pause in the headlong rush to make an important aspect clearer to the reader would be useful, I think. A little polishing to the writing style would turn Dancing with the Boss from a good book into a great book.

There were a couple of problems with the kindle formatting, but I put these down to this being a NetGalley ARC – time to iron out such issues before publication. For the record, I found that the chapters ran into one another and that the word was printed “chaPTer” each time. The first letter of the first paragraph of each chapter was lower case and printed on its own line.

Whilst talking about style and formatting, there were a couple of other points I wanted to mention: I found the direct speech internal monologue inserts clumsy and distracting; finding another way to include these elements would improve the book for me. There was a classic spelling mistake: at one point Mr Hernandez became Mr Fernandez, but quickly reverted. Was this a typo or a previous incarnation, I wondered!

For me the book was somewhat spoiled by a couple of, to me, daft plot happenings. These made the main character, Annie, appear, in my eyes at least, rather stupid, something which most of the rest of the book made clear she wasn’t.

In the first place, having done some quite clever sleuthing and discovered not one but two vital pieces of information into the crime, she heads off, for an indeterminate time, and leaves both pieces of evidence behind! I’m not sure how she planned to investigate (her intention) without at least copies.

Secondly, towards the end of the book, when Annie and her sister are ensconced as investigators, she suddenly produces a huge amount of information from her friend, Rhino, who died some months earlier. No previous mention of this data was made…and given the desperate nature of their need to solve the crime and find those responsible, why would Annie sit on this information?? Non sequiturs like these really annoy me in books.

Rhino’s demise I found unnecessary. The baddies hadn’t found his lair and had his precautions and preparations been as previously described, he could have used his house instead to defeat the intruders.

Throughout the book, the passage of time, particularly when there is significant time between the end of one chapter and the start of the next, is badly described or indicated.

I got a little tired of Tony’s overbearing, nineteenth century attitude, possibly because its description and manifestation varied so little.

Despite all these areas which I believe can be improved, I enjoyed reading Dancing with the Boss. I found the characters for the most part reasonably well drawn; the polishing I mentioned earlier would include refining their description and behaviours a little, removing a touch of the stereotype that tends to creep in. I mostly cared about what happens to the characters; in some cases, the minor characters were in better focus that the major ones!

I recommend this book to ladies who love thrillers and mysteries. I suspect most of the men who read this genre would not enjoy the romance aspect. Personally, I feel this adds to the book, but thought it could be a little less front and centre, but rather a little more subtle. In some ways, I thought Dancing with the Boss couldn’t make its mind up if it were a thriller or a romance: I guess I was looking for it to be a thriller first and foremost! Dancing with the Boss is an enjoyable, entertaining read and I would pick up other books by Clare Gutierrez without hesitation.

I thank Clare Gutierrez and her publishers for making this ebook available for me to review through NetGalley.  Parts of this review also appear there.

View all my Goodreads reviews
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I’m claiming this book as No. TBC/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge. [Link in right hand sidebar]

In My Mailbox: Thursday 26 April 2012

Welcome to
In My Mailbox!!

Listed here are the NetGalley books I downloaded in April. As there are quite a few, I’m not going to link them, but full links will be provided in the reviews. I have included a few comments on some of them.

I decided to list them by publication date – for no particular reason but that it made sense to me.

NETGALLEY Books RECEIVED IN APRIL:

1. The Eternity Code & The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 06 May 2003

These are books Three and Four in the Artemis Fowl series. In honour of the latest AF release, all of the series are being released to NetGalley readers, two books each month. I have read one of the series before (when I bought it for my niece) and they are well written, rip-roaring adventures; but you knew that anyway!

2. Solitary by Travis Thrasher

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 August 2010

3. Becoming Fearless by Michelle Aguilar

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 October 2011

4. Beyond The Misty Shore by Vicki Hinze

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 01 November 2011

5. Taking a Stand by Ken Casper

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 01 November 2011

6. Beside a Dreamswept Sea by Vicki Hinze

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 01 December 2011

7. Dark River Road by Virginia Brown

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 01 December 2011

8. Stuck With You by Trish Jensen

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 01 January 2012

9. The Mulligans of Mt. Jefferson by Don Reid

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 January 2012

10. Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 February 2012

11. Lowcountry Bribe by C. Hope Clark

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 06 February 2012

12. Hound Dog Blues by Virginia Brown

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 01 March 2012

13. The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 March 2012

14. Leaving Lancaster by Kate Lloyd

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 March 2012

15. Get Fluffy by Sparkle Abbey

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 31 March 2012

Murder, mystery and mischief among the pampered folks of posh Laguna Beach, CA and their equally pampered pets. Book One and Book Two of the Pampered Pets Mysteries are now available to NetGalley reviewers exclusively in this two-book review copy. In Desperate Housedogs, pet therapist Caro finds her client (the human one) dead. What did his two German Shepherds witness and how can Caro track down the killer? In Get Fluffy, Caro’s cousin, Melinda, the owner of a fancy pet boutique and spa, feuds with one of the snarkiest divas in town: Mona, whose pampered pup lives the life of a canine princess. When Mona is found dead, Mel is a prime suspect. Can she clear her name or will her career go to the dogs?

Sparkle Abbey is the writing team of Anita Carter and Mary Lee Woods. Visit the authors at http://sparkleabbey.com

I read Desperate Housedogs last December, and it’s a brilliantly hilarious read. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with Caro and the other characters – two- and four-legged – in Get Fluffy!

16. The God Who Sees You by Tammy Maltby with Anne Christian Buchanan

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 April 2012

17. The Jesus Life by Stephen W. Smith

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 April 2012

18. Temptation by Travis Thrasher

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 April 2012

19. Dancing with the Boss by Clare Gutierrez

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group 20 April 2012

I have already read this book and enjoyed it. There’s a brief review on my Goodreads shelf; I’m working on a more comprehensive one to post here and on NetGalley.

20. The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books 30 April 2012

21. Relentless Pursuit by Kathy Herman

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 May 2012

22. The Work of Christ by R. C. Sproul

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 June 2012

23. The Next Target by Nikki Arana

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 June 2012

24. Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 June 2012

25. Two Testaments by Elizabeth Musser

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 June 2012

26. Two Crosses by Elizabeth Musser

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 June 2012

27. Godspeed by Britt Merrick

Publisher: David C. Cook 01 June 2012

With the exception of the Artemis Fowl books and Dancing with the Boss, you will have noticed that these books come from only two publishers. I went looking for Bell Bridge Books books; I’ve read quite a few over the last four months and found them to be consistently well written, plotted and edited. David C. Cook is a Christian publisher I spotted on NetGalley; I thought these books looked entertaining (the fictional ones) and interesting (the non-fiction ones). Let’s hope all the books live up to expectations.

There we go: my NetGalley books for April. Watch out for the reviews over the next few weeks. Look out also for the next IMM post – I recently found the Goodreads free ebooks download page and have found some new genres to explore!