Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Graphic Novel Roundup

Title: The Crow: Curare
Author: James O'Barr, Antoine Dode
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: January 21st 2014
Source: Netgalley & IDW Publishing


Four Stars.

When a little girl is brutally murdered, a retired policeman makes it his life's goal to track down whoever was responsible for her death and bring them to justice, making him lose things, and possibly his mind, along the way as he travels further and further into a pit of obsession.

When I saw that there was a graphic novel of The Crow available on Netgalley, I knew that I had to have it. I simply adore The Crow, as well as the work of James O'Barr (not to brag, but I have a signed lunch tin. Just saying). I'm happy to say that this book did not at all disappoint.

It has the grit and darkness that any fan of The Crow would come to expect. The story was well paced, and the artwork was haunting enough to pull me in and to focus on closer details of the story. This is a must have for fans of crime and mystery books, fans of a darker kind of graphic novel, and for any one who is as big of a fan of The Crow series as I am.

Title: Star Trek Volume 6: After Darkness
Author: Mike Johnson, Ryan Parrott, Erfan Fajar, Claudia Balboni
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: November 26th 2013
Source: Netgalley & IDW Publishing


Three Stars

Star Trek Volume Six is a graphic novel that tells the story of the newest revamp of the Star Trek series. There is trouble brewing on the ship, and it is up to the crew that we've all grown to love so much to fix it before it becomes far to late to do so.

I requested this particular graphic novel title because I adore the new imagining of the Star Trek series. My girlfriend (and her whole family...) are all die hard Trekkies from the olden days, but it took me a little bit more convincing to become a fan of this science fiction chronicle (read as: I require the man candy of Christopher Pine and Zachary Quinto). A fan of graphic novels myself, when I saw the two colliding, I knew I needed to read it.

The artwork was nice and well done. I like the coloring and I felt that each panel rightly captured the moment of the story that the authors were trying to convey. Unfortunately, the story itself fell flat for me. I was a bit bored by it, and I found myself not really caring if the problems were fixed or not.

This is a graphic novel worth a read to any die hard Star Trek fan, or even those who are newer fans to the series like me. However, don't expect the story to go too far in depth, or you'll be a bit disappointed.

Title: Signal to Noise
Author: Neil Gaiman), Dave McKean
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: December 10th 2013
Source: Netgalley & Dark Horse Comics


Three stars

Signal to Noise is a graphic novel that left me much divided on how to rate it, and how to feel. On one hand, the story is brilliantly told. Signal to Noise narrates the struggle of a filmmaker with cancer, whose final masterpiece will go on unseen- except by those of us reading the story. It was a powerful journey, and the window into the director's head was a fascinating one. It was well worth the read, though it is a bit of a slow one.

I wasn't a huge fan of the artwork, however. It wasn't bad, by any means, but I found it to be not to my tastes. It is however filled with great detail, so it's easy to immerse yourself in the setting of the story. But for me, the real art was in the words and the story themselves.

Review: The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap

Title: The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap
Author: Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, Kimberly Kincaid
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 24th 2013
Source: Netgalley & Kensington


Four Stars.

The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap is a collection of three stories that all center around three good friends around Christmastime. I'm not always a huge fan of these kinds of romantic reads, but I was definitely (and pleasantly) surprised with how much I enjoyed this book. It has just the right amount of steam, romance, and Christmassy atmosphere to make it an enjoyable December read.

The first thing that drew me in, admittedly, was the cover & title. It sounded cute, and the cover is just as adorable. It's simple, but effective, and would catch my eye on a holiday display.

The first story is called Where There's Smoke by Donna Kauffman, and I adored it. This story takes a look at the clumsy Clara Parker, who despite being unable to cook is given a job for the paper writing about Christmas cookie recipes. When a sexy fireman named Will shows up to save the day, Clara has to decide if she can open her heart again to this hero. I loved this story. I thought Clara was relatable- not TOO clumsy, but definitely not graceful and notoriously known for being single. And Will? Absolutely dreamy. I'd like one of him for Christmas too. Their relationship was cute and quirky and I was cheering for them all throughout the book.

The middle story is The Gingerbread Man by Kate Angell. Even though this was my least favorite story out of the three, it is still worth a read and is far from bad. Abby is known in her town for making gingerbread man cookies that are, well, anatomically correct. She even added a box to the cookie auction, but was a little surprised when a stranger was the one who ended up bidding on the risque treats. It isn't long before Abby saves a stranger from a snowy road- but could he be what her life has been missing? This was a fun read- with gingerbread man fun bits, how can it not be? I just wasn't as connected to Abby and Lander as I could have been, so I wasn't as invested in the story.

And the final, and possibly best, story is Sugar And Spice by Kimberly Kincaid. Lily is a caterer who takes her cooking, and her job, very seriously. Entered in the holiday bake-off against a seriously sexy and competitive pastry chef named Pete, their passion becomes hotter than the kitchen that they're baking in. This was fun and steamy to boot, and is the perfect thing to heat up a cold winter night.

All in all this is a solid collection of stories that are great to read during the holidays. Romantic and fun, this is a great pick for those of you who love romance stories without the smut. Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for my chance to read this.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mini Review: Monkeyfarts!

Title: Monkeyfarts!: Wacky Jokes Every Kid Should Know
Author: David Borgenicht
Format: Hardcover, 96 pages
Pub. Date: September 18th 2012
Source: Quirk Books


Three Stars.

Monkeyfarts!: Wacky Jokes Every Kid Should Know is a book that is just what the title suggests: a collection of jokes for kids. These jokes are geared towards kids in the elementary school age bracket, and are clean and family friendly. There's a nice variety of jokes here, ranging from knock knock jokes, puns, and funny short stories. As with any other joke book, this one is hit and miss. Some of them were hilarious (and I shockingly hadn't heard before) and others weren't funny at all (or I just didn't get). If you have a young child or are around young children a lot or even if you're a fan of jokes with an orange-you-glad-I-didn't-say-banana sense of humor, this book is definitely worth a skim.

Thanks so much to Quirk Books for my copy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Cookbook Round-Up [Double Review]

Title: Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook: Recipes for Turkey and All the Trimmings
Author: Fine Cooking Magazine
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: September 4th 2012
Source: Netgalley & Taunton Press


3.5 stars, rounded up.

Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook is a handy guide for all things Thanksgiving, and it is the kind of book that is definitely useful to have at hand when you're preparing a holiday meal.

One thing that I really appreciated about this book is all of the non-recipe advice also included. It includes tips on how to plan ahead, how to do "turkey math", and how to avoid common cooking disasters such as a cracked pie crust and burnt turkey drippings.

There was a good variety of different recipes, each paired with easy-to-follow instructions to ensure that even an inexperienced cook can understand them. There are also pictures included, which is a plus for me since I don't use cookbooks that don't have them.

While the above mentioned tidbits are positive, I also found that some of the pictures looked really outdated and grainy. I understand that these recipes are not new, but when I'm getting a new cookbook, I'd expect things to be updated a bit. It kind of took away from the book, to be honest. On the other hand, some recipes seemed a bit too simple to bother including, like shrimp cocktail and crudité. Maybe that's just because I was raised with a chef, though. So take that with a grain of salt.

Despite these flaws, there are definitely some recipes in here that I will be trying, among them Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Pie, Sauerkraut & Rye Bread Stuffing, & Turkey Soup with Ginger, Lemon, and Mint.

All in all, this is a convenient and helpful cookbook that offers tips for new cooks and old cooks alike, and is definitely worth a gander or two. Thanks to Netgally and Taunton Press for my copy.

Title: Let's Talk Turkey . . . And All the Trimmings: 100 Delicious Holiday Recipes, Tips, and Ideas from America's Top Magazines
Author: Hearst
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 23rd 2012
Source: Netgalley & Open Road Media/Hearst


Three Stars.

Let's Talk Turkey is a compilation of recipes taken from a variety of American magazines. This is a nifty little collection that takes all of the most needed and utilized recipes and keeps them together in one volume, which lessens the hassle of leafing through old magazines thinking "I know I saw it somewhere."

This book has a lot of tips and troubleshooting for how to host the perfect holiday. Let's Talk Turkey offers instructions on how to perfectly carve your turkey, helpful microwave cheat sheets, recipes for what to do with your leftovers (if you have any- I know my family doesn't!), and even a small section on how to decorate your table for the occasion. I found these tips really helpful, since I'm not the most artsy person around.

There was a good sampling of recipes here that vary from old classics to modern favorites. However, to me personally, there wasn't anything too new to try. This might be a great collection for others: there's a lot of dishes, easy to follow steps, and pictures that look tasty. I did see a few things I'd try making such as Cocoa-Spice Turkey and a sourdough stuffing.

This is good for someone doing their first Thanksgiving, or who is looking for new classics to add to their roster, but if you've been doing this for awhile like me, it's a limited resource.

Thanks to Netgalley & Open Road Media/Hearst for my copy.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent (Divergent #1)
Author: Veronica Roth
Format: Paperback, 487 pages
Pub. Date: April 25th 2011
Source: The Babbling Reader blog


Five stars.


In dystopian Chicago, the population has been divided into five factions. For each sixteen year old, the choice is a life changing one: you can choose which faction in which you will serve and live for the rest of your life. There's an administered test that guides your answer- but it doesn't work on Beatrice. This is more dangerous than it seems, and Beatrice must decide who she really is, what she will fight for, and what she holds most dear in order to save not just her skin, but the lives of others.


I don't know why I waited so long to read this book. I've been hearing about it for what seems like lifetimes on various book blogs I follow. I was a little hesitant to read it, since so many people loved it. I didn't want to be disappointed, and I definitely wasn't.

I think what I loved the most was the setting. Being a Chicago girl, of course I was excited when street names and landmarks that I'm familiar with were integrated into the story line. But it gave the book a scarier, more "true dystopian" feel for me as well. It was unnerving to think about my beautiful city becoming such a thing, and the haunting tone that Roth writes into the story definitely stayed with me after I put the book down. I love the society and technology that she created within this series.

The spacing and pace were also better than expected. I didn't find any lulls or times where I was bored or wanted to stop reading. I started this book on a train from Chicago to southern Illinois, and I was finished before I was at my destination. I didn't want to put it down.

I loved the characters, and I love the Dauntless. It's more often than not that I dislike female leads, but the struggles that Tris faced- both mental and physical- amazed me, and I was cheering her on from cover to cover. Not to mention Four. I was really emotionally invested in their lives, hating some and loving others.

I am SO glad that I picked this up (finally) and now I'm dying to read the rest of the trilogy, and to see the movie too. I recommend this for fans of YA dystopian books with a touch of romance: people who liked Matched, The Hunger Games, or Swans & Klons- this means you!

Thank you to The Babbling Reader blog for my copy.

Stacking the Shelves [32]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

Well, it's been a pretty quiet week. Between Emily being sick and remembering why I don't live at home anymore (tis the season to realize your family is batshit insane), not much has happened. Although, I did get a slice of Chicago pizza finally. Oh how I missed the windy city! Now, I was pretty well behaved with books this week...


Pretenders by Lisi Harrison
Teeny's Tour of Pie: Mastering the Art of Pie in 67 Recipes by Teeny Lamothe
The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi

For Review/Tour:

Psycho Inside Me by Bonnie R. Paulson


Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis Thank you, Le' Grande Codex blog
& a signed postcard. Thanks Aeicha

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mini Review: Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas

Title: Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas: A Perfect Fit Holiday Novella (Perfect Fit #1.5)
Author: Sugar Jamison
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: October 1st 2013
Source: Netgalley & St. Martin's Press


Three stars.


This is going to be a very short review, because I haven't got much to say about this book one way or another.

I didn't realize that another book came before this when I requested it on Netgalley, so that part is on me. That being said, I felt like I was missing something. I didn't particularly care for either of the main characters, and because of this disconnect to both the characters and the plot line, I didn't really care about what happened.

I would love to read the first book and give this novella another try afterwards, but as a standalone read it was just average: it didn't blow me away, but it wasn't awful either. It was a short Christmassy read that was pleasant enough (and has an adorable cover!), but I think people that are familiar with the series will enjoy it more than I did.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

End of the Year Book Survey 2013

I’m taking part in The Perpetual Page Turner End of Year Book Survey. If you want to come and post with us, click here. All my book covers link to Goodreads- so check these books out if they look good to you :)

Best in Books 2013

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

The best book that I read this year has to be Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. It wasn't published this year, but I read it way back in January and I still think about it.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. I read it before the movie came out and I'd heard so much praise... But I found it really, really boring.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts. It has a lot of negative reviews and a fairly low Goodreads rating, but I gave it a chance and I really liked it. -shrugs- Different strokes.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

Made of Stars by Kelley York. It's stunning, from cover to cover, with LGBT themes. If you haven't read it, do it.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I actually just finished book one (the review isn't even up yet!) and it's AMAZING.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

John Green. The Fault in Our Stars is flawless.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Call of the Jersey Devil by Aurelio Voltaire. I don't read a lot of horror or things like that much anymore, but Voltaire is my favorite singer and is a great guy, so I got his book and was very pleasantly surprised. On that note, I read Joyland despite not being a huge fan of crime novels.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

I had a really hard time putting down Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst. It was so dark and strange that I didn't want to wait to see what happened.

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Probably The Fault in Our Stars. I'll read it again before the movie. Or Forbidden, because it's beautiful.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

11. Most memorable character in 2013?

Oh god, just one? Well shit. I'm putting three. Chance, from Made of Stars. Lochan Whitely from Forbidden. Augustus Waters of The Fault in Our Stars.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. I know I'm saying it a lot, but that book seriously changed the way I look at some things. A runner up is The Fault in Our Stars.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

Matched by Ally Condie. I'd heard so much about the series, and finally got around to it this past spring. I loved it!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

“At the end of the day it's about how much you can bear, how much you can endure. Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves.”
― Tabitha Suzuma, Forbidden

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: A one star novella called Foreplay by Tammy Valentine that is a whopping 15 pages.

Longest: A anthology called Behind Barres by Miriam Wenger-Landis, Amanda Brice, Leslie DuBois at 575 pages.

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The end of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. I can't give it away because of spoilers. But oh man I cried. I cried so hard. And for so long. My friend had to lure me out of my room with chicken nuggets because I was moping.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

I like the three way friendship between Chase, Ashlin, and Hunter in Made of Stars by Kelley York. They're so close but so odd. It made me happy.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire. Lord, I love me some Travis. Mm mm mm mm mm.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Call of the Jersey Devil by Aurelio Voltaire. Between Voltaire's recommendation himself, my girlfriend, and The Cover Contessa.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Oddly enough, YA and erotica.... That's awkward.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Newest? Well I suppose that would be Daniel Rush from Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves. Yummy policeman candy.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher. Powerful stuff.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Ehhhhh this is another tie. Either Divergent, Matched, or Swans & Klons. Or You Are Mine. UGH I READ SO MANY GREAT DYSTOPIANS THIS YEAR NEXT QUESTIONS -sulks-

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overeating, Underperforming, and Coping with My Crazy Family by Mark Rosenberg. This book was absolutely hilarious.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Oh god I cry so easily. Books that made me cry: Streaks of Blue, Where the Stars Still Shine, Made of Stars, The Fault in Our Stars, & Forbidden. Those are the ones I remember, anyway.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

I have a few: Swans & Klons, Made of Stars, & Call of the Jersey Devil among them.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Title: Joyland
Author: Stephen King
Format: Paperback, 283 pages
Pub. Date: June 4th 2013
Source: Gift


Four stars.


Devin Jones needed to get away from it all for a little while. The girl he loved more than anything broke his heart, and he needed to take some time to himself to remember what life without her is like. When he gets a summer job at a small town amusement park, he starts to feel at home... At first. When he started to uncover the oddities surrounding the park: a ghost story, tales of murder, and even a hokey psychic who may not be lying after all, he discovered that this summer would change his life completely.... That is, if he survives it.

I was really excited when my girlfriend's mother surprised me with a copy of this book. I'm a big fan of King's, and had fallen in love with the cover. I'm a sucker for stories set in a carnival/circus setting, and I knew I needed to read this one. It definitely didn't disappoint.

The thing that I loved most about this book was, you guessed it, the setting. This crime tale takes place in a Coney Island-like amusement park on the east coast. I loved all of the "Talk" that the carnies used, that is, the slang among them. Whether it's accurate or not, it was really cool to see life at one of these attractions after hours, and from the employee's point of view. The way King writes made it sound like a place I'd want to visit, and a place of sleepy summer life. I felt like I was at the park, from start to finish.

I also really liked the combination of genres in this book. It has supernatural elements, crime, murder, and a good old fashioned whodunnit. I didn't see the puzzle being pieced together until the very end, and then I got irrationally angry at the results. That's a good sign, because it means that King wrote characters that I cared about and really connected to.

The book jumps around a bit in time, but they're easy transitions, and I was at no point in the novel confused by the changes.

This book put me in mind of R.L. Stine's Fear Park series, but for the older crowd. This book contains profanity and sex, but it's a Stephen King book, so you probably guessed as much. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good murder case with a bit of a haunted twist.

Thanks again for the book, Lisa.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [31]

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to gab on about the books we've won, bought, or otherwise received in the past week.

Hello lovelies! Well, finals are finally over, and I'm back in Chicago just in time for the holiday fun. Hopefully this means I'll actually get to reading something! So far I know I have B's in Literary Analysis, Latin, and Mid-Brit Literature. Yay! Now, when I got home, I had parcels from various places awaiting me, so this may be a bit long but, a few have accumulated since I was last home in August! (Also, how about that Packers game tonight? Beautiful!) Now, on with it the books!


Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger by Kelly J. Cogswell
When It's A Jar by Tom Holt
Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson


Monkeyfarts!: Wacky Jokes Every Kid Should Know by David Borgenicht Thanks Quirk Books!
A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish via Goodreads
Twigs by Alison Ashley Formento via Goodreads
Professor Gargoyle by Charles Gilman Thanks Quirk Books!
The Slither Sisters by Charles Gilman Thanks Quirk Books!
Teacher's Pest by Charles Gilman Thanks Quirk Books!
Behind Closed Doors by J.J. Marsh Thanks Jill!
Fire After Dark by Sadie Matthews via Goodreads
Crashing Into You by B.D. Rowe Signed! Thanks B.D. and Book Nerd Tours
Because the Night by Kristen Strassel Thanks Rockstar Book Tours

and thank you SO MUCH to all of you who've been sending me Christmas cards. I love them!