Review: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

The Conspiracy of Us (The Conspiracy of Us #1)

Moving as often as she does, Avery West doesn’t allow herself to connect much with her new environments or classmates. It’s a defense mechanism against the always inevitable move looming just over the next horizon. But just as she’s considering violating that rule at her new school, thanks to the cute new guy in several of her classes, her mom announces it’s time to move again — and move quickly.

Fed up with her mom’s evasiveness, Avery decides to defy orders and attend the prom anyway with Jack (hot guy from class). This decisions thrusts Avery into a world she barely knew existed and she soon finds herself globe-trotting across the world, tracking down the family of her (presumed) dead father as well as discovering her role in an ancient, far-reaching political agenda that may have ramifications far beyond just attending prom. It seems that Avery is an unwitting part of an on-going battle between two forces and she could, quite possibly, be the missing link in a global prophecy.

Oh and in case you should forget this is a young adult novel, there’s also a love triangle to help keep the pages turning. (Or in my case, to keep my eyes rolling since it relies on that young adult trope — instant attraction!). Avery’s torn between Jack and Stellan, two guys who showed up at her prom and nearly came to blows over her. As Avery eludes the various forces coming against her, both guys show up at various times to save her bacon and for her have insta-love crushes on. It probably helps that both guys are the hunkiest hunks to grace the printed page since the last young adult novel. Continue reading

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Musing Mondays: Hardcover or softcover?

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This week’s Monday Musings (hosted by A Daily Rhythm) asks us to look at the following random question. Do you prefer Hardcover, Trade Paperback, or Mass Market Paperback? Why?

Interesting to note that e-book isn’t included here.  :)

If I’m collecting a book as part of a series or one that I might get signed, I generally prefer hardcover is available.  If I’m purchasing, I prefer mass market paperback because they’re more priced lower and it’s easier to take a large collection of them to my local used bookstore to trade in.

If I’m checking out from the library, I don’t really have a preference in most cases.

The one caveat I will put on it is when it comes to thicker books (like the longer tomes from Stephen King or George R.R. Martin) I prefer the e-book.  The last couple of 800+ pages books I read were heavy and could be unwieldy for the first quarter and the last quarter of the book.

And with that statement, I am off to get my early bird special at the Picadilly….

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Comic Book Friday: Batman ’66 Collections

Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet #1 (Batman '66/Green Hornet)Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet #1 by Kevin Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before the Avengers assembled and Batman meet Superman on the silver screen, crossovers were limited to characters we saw on the Superfriends and the second second Batman installment with the Green Hornet and Kato. Uber-fans Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman clearly recall how monumental that crossover and have channeled that love into this six-issue storyline.

The plotline finds the Dynamic Duo and the Green Hornet and Kato once again believing they’re on opposite sides of the law but working together for a common good. The dialogue is spot-on and the art works well. About mid-way through the collection, I dusted off my recently acquired complete series box-set and re-watched the original story that served as the starting point for this episode. While it’s not necessary, it did help refresh my memory of who one of the villains was in this collection.

Sure, there’s a bit of running around in the middle, but given that this series is intended to be read as single installments and not in one giant feast, I was willing to overlook this.


Batman '66, Vol. 2

The second collection of Batman ’66 stories is just as entertaining, delightful and fun as the first one. Jeff Parker continues to channel the vibe of the original television series but is giving a bigger sandbox to play in. Limited only by the budget of what his artists can do, Parker sees the Dynamic Duo traveling in time, taking on Shame and even having a story or two focus on other characters from the television universe. It all adds up to another enjoyable read and a series that only continues to deliver the goods in terms of entertainment value.

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Review: The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

The Bone Tree

Greg Iles triumphant return to the small town of Natchez continues in the middle installment of a new trilogy, The Bone Tree. Thankfully, Tree doesn’t suffer from middle installment syndrome with characters doing a lot of treading water as we slowly set up things for the final race to the finish line.

Iles spends the first third of the book allowing his characters to reflect on the events of Natchez Burning and slowly moving pieces into place for novel’s final acts. But once the revelations start coming, Iles piles them on fast and furiously, making the novel’s final six hundred or so pages fly by and leaving you curious to see what will happen next.

Mayor Penn Cage continues to juggle multiple crises — from his father being on the run from the police and wanted in connection with the death of state trooper to his fiancee not filing him fully on what she knows about the cases unfolding to his own agenda to try and exonerate his father all while uncovering the truths that have long been buried (both literally and figuratively) surrounding racial relations in his own small town, our country and just how that could tie into bigger conspiracy theories (including the shooting of JFK, RFK and MLK). The longer page count of the novel allows time for some of these events to sink in and to impact Cage (and a multitude of other characters) decisions. Seeing the forces aligned against Cage and the other various forces working with him is fascinating and while we may not necessarily root for the various opponents stacked up against Cage, Iles at least allows us to understand their motivations.

And while it’s not quite as fast paced as the first installment in this trilogy, it’s still every bit as page turning and compelling. Once I hit the mid-way point of the novel, it was next to impossible to put down and I was once again left wanting more when the final page was turned.

At this point, I’m not sure how Iles will wrap things up in the next book, but I know that I’ll eagerly be waiting for it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Authors

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This week’s installment of Top Ten Tuesday  (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to pick our ten favorite authors.   Not always an easy thing to do, but I’ll do my best.  And probably come up with ten more after I’m done with this list.

1. Stephen King — He’s been one of my favorites for a long time now and I always find myself looking forward to anything new he publishes.

2.  Garrison Keillor — Another long time favorite whose works I enjoy a great deal.  He’s great as a writer, but I think the best way to experience his stories of Lake Wobegon is to hear him perform them.

3.  Peter David — Or as he calls himself on his blog, “Writer of Stuff.”  I discovered him when he published his first TNG tie-in novel many, many moons ago and have been working my way through his back catalog since.  He’s written for just about every character in the Marvel universe and he’s created the spin-off Star Trek: New Frontier.    His original writings are also great — especially his Sir Apropos of Nothing series.

4.  Elizabeth George — I look forward to each new book by her for an entertaining mystery and to see what Lynley, Havers and company are up to.

5.  Laura Lippman — She was originally recommended to me by Stephen King (not personally, in a magazine column) and  I instantly became a huge fan.  I’ve still got a couple of more of her back catalog to read, but I am trying to spread them out and savor them a bit.

6.  Harper Lee — Yes, she’s only published one novel, but when that novel is To Kill A Mockingbird, you get an automatic inclusion on my list.   My favorite book and I have to admit I’m nervous about the upcoming sequel.

7.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — I discovered the Holmes canon in my middle school reading class and have been a fan ever since.  A re-read of the Holmes stories could be in my future.

8.  Charles de Lint — Urban fantasy doesn’t get much better than de Lint’s novels.

9.  Jim Butcher —  The Dresden Files is the best on-going fantasy series on the market today and I eagerly look forward to the next installment.

10.  Donald Miller —  He writes about Christian living in a way that feels totally authentic, real and raw.  In many ways, Miller reminds me of C.S. Lewis.  His books always touch me and give me a lot to think about long after the final page is turned.  I’ve heard him speak several times as well and he’s fantastic.

Honorable Mention: Terrance Dicks.   A former script-editor during the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who, Terrance Dicks adapted a large number of the original Doctor Who serials for the printed page.   I’ve read more of them than I can count and going back through and hearing them again as audio adaptions has only increased my respect for what Dicks did so well.   He helped fans experience the original serials when they weren’t always repeated or readily available in other forms and he helped instill a love of reading in an entire generation of young adults.

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Review: Not A Drill by Lee Child

Not a Drill (Short Story)

Hitchhiking his way across the country, Reacher ends up in Maine near the Canadian border. Picked up by tourists from Canada, Reacher shares a ride and a meal with them (in a diner, because where else would Jack Reacher have a meal?!?), he parts ways with them. Only to find a few hours later that the trails are closed and the military police are out in force.

Reacher is drawn into the mystery of what happened to the hikers and what the military police are so intent on hiding from the world at large.

As far as Reacher stories go, this one is a perfectly entertaining enough one. Honestly, it felt a lot more complete and enjoyable that the last longer Reacher novel in the series. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it tells an effective little mystery.

One of the better Reacher novellas that Lee Child has published in the last few years.

I listened to this one as an audio book, read by Dick Hill.  It runs ninety minutes and it never felt like there was any dead period where my interest waned.   I’m grateful my local library allowed me to download this as part of their digital audio collection.

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Review: Star Trek: New Visions, Volume II

Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2

This new comic series takes a page from the original PhotoNovels, but instead of re-telling classic original series stories, it offers up new adventures from the original five year mission. Using screen captures from the original episodes (and even The Motion Picture in a short story that’s included here) and the magic of PhotoShop, writer Johnny Bryne and his team have created a series of new stories. The first three issues were collected in volume I and Volume II is set to hit shelves later this year.

These were fun, at first. I read the first couple of issues and found myself enjoying them a great deal. It was a fun novelty idea and it made me nostalgic for my early days in Trek fandom when I eagerly checked the PhotoNovels out of my local library.

But with this collection, I find that the bloom is off the rose a bit. Part of that comes down to the stories which I felt were more miss than hit this time around. The first installment with Harry Mudd felt like it was trying too hard — up to and including Captain Tracy returning to the storyline after the events of “The Omega Glory.” The basic plot is that Tracy and Mudd stumble across a device that allows a person to become a virtual clone of another person. Tracy forces Mudd to use it to make himself become a duplicate of Kirk (because we’ve never seen that before!). The Enterprise finds Mudd and begins to unravel what happened. The seams of the story start to show through early and there is some jarringly PhotoShopped images late in the story with a Harry Mudd mustache slapped onto Captain KIrk . Continue reading

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