Monday, December 28, 2015

Gearing up for 2016



I've been debating for a while on whether I wanted to do a "best of" list this year, but the truth is that I'd rather just spend the time that I'd be working on that, reading!

It's been an odd year here at HDB headquarters. It was a little stressful, a little surprising, and a lot amazing. I think it's been overwhelming enough that I just don't have it in me to sit and try to analyze it. Heck, I'm surprised at how many things I rated 5 stars this year!

So, there will be a wrap up post coming, probably Thursday. Until then, radio silence. Here's hoping this week flies by for everyone and that you're ready and raring to go in 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book Review: Fremont Rosenbloom: Party Assassin for Hire by Michael Bast


Media Type: Ebook
Title: Fremont Rosenbloom: Party Assassin for Hire
Author: Michael Bast
Publisher: St. John's House
Pages: Paperback; 413
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Source: Author
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy characters with a lot of heart, and a wit to match!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Fans of James Dashner and Richard Paul Evans will love Fremont Rosenbloom's crazy adventures!

At first, you won’t like Fremont Rosenbloom. What he does for a living is rather detestable. Let’s say you have an ex-husband getting remarried, or perhaps your slave driver boss' son’s birthday is coming up. If you want the occasion to be remembered, you call Fremont. Ruining special occasions is his specialty, in fact you could say it is his art. But please withhold judgment. Fremont has a story.

You see, Fremont’s dad abandoned him. He left in the dead of night, not to be seen again. As a parting gift, Fremont’s father left him a motivational voice mail on their answering machine, reassuring Fremont it wasn’t his fault he was being left behind. He also left him the deed to their small house, and enough money to make it to his eighteenth birthday. Fremont’s father asked him to consider it a ‘great adventure’. As you might imagine, Fremont started to spiral.

He latched onto his crusty next door neighbor Modesto, a gambling addict with a pension for the black jack tables. Modesto wasn’t much, but he was the closest thing to a grandfather Fremont could muster. He became family.

With Modesto’s help, Fremont’s money soon evaporated. Bills became due, and his adopted grandfather Modesto, was going to lose his house. Fremont couldn’t bear the thought of losing someone again. Fremont stepped up. After school he began working at the local pizza shop, but it wasn’t enough. No one was willing to pay a sixteen year old what he needed to keep Modesto and himself afloat.
It was at around the same time, he discovered he had a knack, and flair for elaborate schemes. He saw a business opportunity, and he jumped at it. He became a ‘party assassin’ for hire. But as you can imagine, this brought on a whole new set of problems.

Some people have a knack for throwing events. Fremont Rosenbloom has a knack for ruining them. Want a very public revenge on someone, that involves complete embarrassment? Fremont is your man! I thought it was clever that Michael Bast mentions the fact that his main character is a little rough around the edges. Truth be told, it's not easy to like Fremont at first. Trust me though, he'll grow on you. I honestly couldn't believe how much depth there ended up being in this story. Color me impressed!

In fact, the family aspect of this book was really what struck me. While Fremont's parents are no longer in the picture, this story builds a new kind of family for him. One that, in fact, he at first doesn't even notice exists. I love stories like this. Where a character builds their own tight knit group of people who genuinely care for them. Between Addy and Modesto, Fremont was definitely covered in the love department. Oh sure, it was a little crass at times (manly bonding and all that) but the love was there just the same.

I think my favorite part was watching Fremont grow as a character. It's extremely important to me that the protagonist I'm following gains some insight. Michael Bast delivered on this. I watched as Fremont grew and learned, cheering him on every step of the way. He definitely didn't always make the best decisions, but don't we all have those moments? I was happy to see that he was genuine. A bit flawed, but with a heart of gold underneath it all.

While this book could use a quick polish in the editing department, I definitely think that it's worthy of a four star rating! If you're looking for something that steps a bit out of the box, and has likable characters, then this is for you.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book Review: Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Guy In Real Life
Author: Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: Hardcover; 400
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Source: NetGalley
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Content Screening: Video Game Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy stories about gamer culture!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story about two teens that National Book Award–finalist Sara Zarr has called "wholly original and instantly classic."

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of the roles we all play—at school, at home, online, and with our friends—and the one person who might be able to show us who we are underneath it all.

Confession time: I was once a huge World of Warcraft fan. There was once a time where I dedicated hours upon hours of my life to traveling, crafting and raiding, happily immersed in Azeroth. So, it's a fact that books about MMOs make me happy. When I found out that Steve Brezenoff had written a book centering around this culture, I was sold without a second thought. The fact that there was both a male and a female protagonist also had me giddy. Really, I had rather high expectations for Guy in Real Life.

So, let's start with what this book got right. First off, all of the nods to MMOs and their distinct culture, were spot on. I found myself smiling and nodding as Lesh was introduced to this new world, plus all the jargon and traditions that come along with it. In fact, the portions of the story where the POV was that of Lesh's character were my favorite. It was like reading a Fantasy novel within another novel, and I ate it up. Brezenoff must have done his homework, and I thank him for it.

I also loved Svetlana's character as a whole. The fact that she was quirky, but unafraid of what others thought of her. When I first discovered that Svetlana was in fact the dungeon master of her own school gaming club, I honestly did a happy dance. D&D gets so much flak for being unacceptably nerdy. I loved that it brought that into a school setting, and showed how much it can bring a group of friends together. Plus, I loved that Svetlana was flawed. She wasn't this blonde-haired, perfect specimen of a girl for Lesh to fall in love with. She was rough around the edges, and yet spectacular.

So why the three star rating? Mainly, it's what this book got wrong. I was so surprised that, for a story with a female main character who is a self-proclaimed geek, there was so much negativity towards women and gaming. Granted, it was coming from other characters who weren't in the spotlight. Still, I can't deny that those pieces hurt my overall perspective. When a male character says "There are no girls on the Internet", I have to feel like I'm being attacked a bit. I also didn't understand Lesh's obsession with his female elf character. I don't want to spoil, so I'll leave it at that. Even when he tries to explain it at the end, it didn't make it feel any less like a stalker move. It made me feel icky.

Alas, that was what kicked my rating down. Other than that, I think this was an excellent story that pulled together a coming of age story and social gaming. I still love Brezenoff's writing as a whole. This particular story just wasn't exactly what I was hoping for.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2016 Reading Challenges


This year I chose to skip the Audiobook Challenge, and I honestly missed it. There were so many great recommendations for narrators that I received while participating, and so I'm excited to start again in 2016!

I'm going to go for the Binge Listener level.
20 - 30 ebooks shall be listened to!

Books will go here:
1. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
2. The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True
3. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCully
4. Low Town by Daniel Polansky
5. Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
6. Miss Mayhem (Rebel Belle #2) by Rachel Hawkins
8. Calamity (The Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson
9. The Nest by Kenneth Opel and John Klassen
10. Lockwood & Co. Book Three: The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud




The only other challenge I'll be participating in during 2016 is the POPSUGAR 2016 Reading Challenge. I've been determined to read outside the box for a long time now, but I realized this year that I need some guidance. So, here's how I'll track my progress!

Click the picture above to see the full list.

I'll keep track here, and label the ones I've finished.

1. A book based on a fairy tale  Charmed (Fairy Tale Reform School #2) by Jen Calonita
2. A National Book Award winner
3. A YA bestseller  Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
4. A book you haven't read since high school
5. A book set in your home state
6. A book translated to English
7. A romance set in the future
8. A book set in Europe
9. A book under 150 pages  Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
10. A New York Times bestseller
11. A book that's becoming a movie this year
12. A book recommended by someone you just met
13. A self-improvement book
14. A book you can finish in a day
15. A book written by a celebrity
16. A political memoir
17. A book at least 100 years older than you
18. A book that's more than 600 pages
19. A book from Oprah's Book Club
20. A science-fiction novel
21. A book recommended by a family member
22. A graphic novel  Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: Vol 1
23. A book that is published in 2016  The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
24. A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
25. A book that takes place during Summer  Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
26. A book and its prequel
27. A murder mystery  Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth
28. A book written by a comedian
29. A dystopian novel
30. A book with a blue cover  Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee
31. A book of poetry
32. The first book you see in a bookstore
33. A classic from the 20th century
34. A book from the library  Curiosity House: The Screaming Statue by Laren Oliver
35. An autobiography
36. A book about a road trip
37. A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with
38. A satirical book
39. A book that takes place on an island  The Girl Who Stayed by Tanya Anne Crosby
40. A book that's guaranteed to bring you joy  The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


Media Type: Audiobook
Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Narrator(s): Steve West; Fiona Hardingham
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Run Time: 12 hours 6 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Audible
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Content Screening: Violence

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy being swept up in a brilliant setting, with wonderfully brilliant characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
With her trademark lyricism, Maggie Stiefvater turns to a new world, where a pair are swept up in a daring, dangerous race across a cliff-with more than just their lives at stake should they lose.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater and her writing. I was given a copy of Shiver when I first started blogging, and completely fell in love with it. Then, for some reason, I never picked up another of her books. Time went by, books came and went, until finally Audible said "You might like The Scorpio Races!" and I obliged. Thank goodness I did. This story is absolutely gorgeous. It not only reminded me of why I missed Steifvater's writing, but also made me fall in love with it all over again.

The isle of Thisby is a curious place. One where the sea runs through the blood of its inhabitants, and the terrible beauty that is the capaill uisce makes that same blood race through their veins. I instantly fell in love with Sean Kendrick and Kate Connolly, our two main characters. Their fire, their loyalty, the simple fact that they weren't afraid to face their fears head on, all added up to characters that I had a fierce love for. I didn't even mind that there was a romance brewing. These two were perfect for one another, and I was all for it.

Now, if the setting and the characters weren't perfect enough, it was truly the writing that brought this story to life. Each page swirled with emotion and atmosphere. I felt myself pulled into Thisby, and straight into the scorpio races. I smelled the brine of the sea, mixed with blood spilled on the sand. I felt the enchantment of Thisby, and the sway that held Sean and Kate. This whole story wrapped me up in its pages, and I didn't want it to end. I listened to this on audio, which I highly recommend! It's the perfect way to experience this.


Suffice it to say, this book gets a solid 5 stars from me. I'm hooked, and I'm not the least bit upset about it.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Working on 2016 Reading/Blogging Goals




So as I review what I've done in 2016 so far, one thing is painfully obvious: I haven't found my groove yet.

2015 was a year of changes. My whole life was upset, rearranged, and reassembled. At the end of the day, it all turned out for the best. I'm as blessed as I've ever been and so darn happy. The downside is that I still haven't found a new schedule to match this new reassembled life. My cooking has suffered, my exercise, and even my reading. It's been a jarring situation.

So in 2016 I'm hoping to change that. I need to find a happy new groove to settle into, and get back into doing what I love! Here's a few of the goals I have thought out so far:

Reading Goals:

* Read more short fiction.

This year I discovered that TOR constantly has free fiction online. I finally added them to my Feedly, and I've been trying to read more of it. Reading short fiction is helps break up really long books, and honestly there's a lot of great writing out there!

* Tackle the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

I wanted to read out of the box this year, and the one thing that I discovered is that I really need some guidance. Having some categories to bounce off of will help me skinny things down to books that I can actually choose between.

* Clear my NetGalley TBR

This has followed me all year. I got so busy that I stopped reading as quickly as I did before. Alas, I didn't stop requesting. Now I'm living in the back draft of that. I need to catch up, big time. So no requesting anything new in 2016 until I fulfill the promises I've already made.


Blogging Goals:

* Post (relevant) content at least 3 times a week.

Not just reviews, although I'll still post those. I want to get back into working with memes and just general fun posts like this one :). Setting the bar low makes it easier to work time in. Which brings me to my next goal...

* Plan blogs ahead of time.

And hopefully also get a few typed up and sitting as back ups. I find myself with weird blocks of time where I'm not busy. I should use that better.



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: Heart in a Box

Title: Heart in a Box
Author: Kelly Thompson
Illustrator: Meredith McClaren
Publisher: Dark Horse Originals
Pages: Paperback; 160
Recommended Age Group: 16+
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Source: Library

When the Man with No Name breaks Emma's heart, she wants to die. But you never die from these things; you just want to. In a moment of weakness, she wishes her broken heart away and a mysterious stranger--who may or may not be totally evil--obliges. But emptiness is even worse than grief, and Emma sets out to collect the seven pieces of her heart spread across the country, a journey that forces her to face her own history and the cost of recapturing it, and leads inevitably to a confrontation with the Man with No Name himself!


I do believe that my own heart might be a bit broken after reading this. Most of us have suffered heartbreak at one point in our lives. I think all of us have at some point wished we could just rip it out, in an effort make the pain stop. That's why Heart in a Box is so amazing. It's a concept that everyone can relate to, wrapped up in a fascinating story.

Let's start with Emma's character, and the fact that I totally loved her. Here was a woman who I could totally get behind. She looks like a real person. She acts like a real person. She makes terrible decisions on a whim, mostly due to heartbreak, like a real person. What I'm attempting to explain is that Emma is easy to love. Even if the story didn't always make perfect sense, she was what I hung onto. This perfectly flawed woman who just wanted to feel whole again.


Which brings me to the fact that everything isn't laid out in black and white. Kelly Thompson's story assumes that you're ready to let go of reality, and be swept away. Once I stopped trying to figure out exactly how Brock and his offer worked, I found myself enjoying this much more. It's a story about love and loss. About accepting the pain, with the joy, and sometimes letting someone else have a little piece of you. If you're willing to let it, Emma's story will quickly pull you in.

Look, I enjoyed this. That's the long, and the short of it. I especially love Meredith McClaren's slightly gritty, and toned down illustrations. I'm going to be on the lookout for more from these two for sure!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Book Review: Cold Feet at Christmas by Debbie Johnson


Media Type: Ebook
Title: Cold Feet at Christmas
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Author: Debbie Johnson
Pages: Kindle; 222
Release Date: November 6, 2014
Source: Purchased
-----------------------------------------
Genre: Adult Romance

HDB Rating: 2 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy insta-love and predictable story lines. 

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Running out on your wedding shouldn’t be this much fun!
A remote Scottish castle on a snowy Christmas Eve. A handsome husband-to-be. A dress to die for. It should have been the happiest day of Leah Harvey’s life – but the fairytale wedding turns sour when she finds her fiancé halfway up the bridesmaid’s skirt just hours before the ceremony!
Fleeing the scene in a blizzard, Leah ends up stranded at the nearest cottage, where she collapses into the arms of its inhabitant – a man so handsome she thinks she must have died and gone to heaven!
And when Rob Cavelli suddenly finds himself with an armful of soaking wet, freezing cold, and absolutely gorgeous bride on the run, he’s more than happy to welcome her into his snowbound cottage this Christmas…

The first thing that got me excited about this book was the adorable cover! Runaway bride, at Christmas no less... I was intrigued. What I hoped was a light hearted Christmas romance turned out to be more of a heavy, predictable story with some sexy scenes thrown in.

Now I'm usually all for some depth in my romance books. I love a good redemption story, but this book just had me frustrated the whole time. The book blurb promised a fleeing bride and a handsome man, both of which were present but the story itself was more about their bickering relationship, a man with a lot of baggage and a woman with no direction.

Leah seemed like a fun character, and while she had some funny moments she seemed artificial to me. Leave my wedding after finding my fiance with a bridesmaid and immediately jump into bed with a stranger? Well we all make mistakes when we are in pain and I can almost believe that. Proceed to move to a different country with no income and only knowing said stranger.... much less believable.

Aside from the insta-love from Leah's side, Rob was dealing with lots of demons of his own. I didn't quite expect the heaviness of his back story but that's not what bothered me. The writing style of constantly trying to create an internal conflict for him was hard to get through. Guilt and anger are sincere emotions and I feel like his standoffish behavior was supposed to create this tension with him and Leah but it seemed so forced and insincere. The constant "I don't deserve to be loved" attitude was exhausting and seemed to drag the story on for much longer than the actual 222 pages. His redemption moment was so very predictable I almost didn't finish the last chapter.

If you're looking for a light fun Christmas romance, this is not it. I will say that there were some exciting and sexy scenes mixed in with all of the drama that were fun to read.




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

2015 November Wrap Up


Happy December everyone! Isn't it crazy how fast time flies by? This is my favorite month of the year, because Christmas is my all time favorite holiday. Coincidentally, it's also the time of year that I get the least reading done.

This was a light month.

Graphic Novels Read:
Peanuts Vol. 1 - Charles M. Schulz,Vicki Scott,Shane Houghton Orchid Volume 1 - Tom Morello,Massimo Carnevale,Scott Hepburn,Sierra Hahn,Dan Jackson Preacher, Book 1 - Garth Ennis,Steve Dillon Lazarus, Vol. 1 - Greg Rucka,Michael Lark  

Single Issues Read: 
Welcome Back #1 - Christopher Sebela,Jonathan Brandon Sawyer Heathen #1 - Natasha Alterici Heathen #2 - Natasha Alterici Heathen #3 - Natasha Alterici  Klaus #1 - Grant Morrison,Dan Mora I Hate Fairyland #2 - Skottie Young,Jean-Francois Beaulieu  

Books Read:
Dream a Little Dream (The Silver Trilogy) - Kerstin Gier,Anthea Bell A Thousand Nights - E.K. Johnston A Spark of Justice - J.D. Hawkins A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic - Lisa Papademetriou  
  
DNF Pile:
Pretty Is: A Novel - Maggie MitchellKitty and the Midnight Hour - Carrie Vaughn 

Total (Things) Read: 16
Books sent to DNF: 2
Goal Progress: 212 out of 225 (94%)

Favorite book of November?
I'm going to give the honor to Preacher, Vol 1 this time around! I'm so glad I dove into that series, because Jesse Custer is a fabulous main character. I've never seen such an intelligent conversation done in such a hilarious way, and I'm completely hooked.

Also, we don't have Internet at home currently so that's why I haven't been posting much! I'll be back as soon as it's fixed :).

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