Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Will and Asheley are teenage siblings that have grown close because of their lackluster parents. Their dad left them they were children and hasn't seen them since. Their mother is an alcoholic who is constantly in and out of rehab. The day that both Will and Asheley experience success in their sport for the first time, they come home to find their mother completely plastered after going months without drinking. She is taken to a rehabilitation center, leaving her two children alone as she has so often before. When they decide to have a party in their mother's absence, Will goes out of control and commits a terrible act that would destroy their lives. The story that follows features the siblings leaving a trail of destruction in their wake as they seek to escape.

Brother/Sister is told through the alternating narratives of Will and Asheley. At first, the narrative of one completes the other in regards to plot because they aren't in the same place at the same time. As the story continues and they are drawn together by the horrible events that transpire, they experience the same things, but tell it from their own perspective. Of course, there are slight differences because they are telling the story from memories and everyone has their own version of what happened. Each chapter is fairly short and this, with the conversational writing style, makes reading the novel fluid and quick. The voices of the two narrators are very distinct, so even if I started reading again in the middle of a chapter, I could clearly tell whose chapter I was in.

Will, Asheley, and their relationship are the most compelling aspect of the novel. Will starts of as an antisocial, but sensitive guy that just seeks to prove himself. His feelings, as the novel progresses, get distorted and he becomes incredibly angry and jealous of absolutely everyone around his sister. This all starts when his mother attacks him in a drunken stupor. He views Asheley as a perfect angel while everyone is just trying to rape her or plotting to destroy her. From his perspective, his crazy thoughts seem perfectly logical and he doesn't see himself as overreacting or creepy at all. Asheley is the opposite of Will and seeks approval from her friends and her less than stellar boyfriend. As Will gets more and more overbearing, she retreats into herself and falls into a depression. She sees the good in people, but is wary to seek out help because of Will's erratic behavior. Their relationship obviously changes in Will's eyes, but Asheley struggles to keep it as it always was. These siblings couldn't be any more different and their relationship makes me morbidly curious as Will's world view becomes more and more distorted.

There is one small detail and one large one that dampened my enjoyment of Brother/Sister. The small detail is that Will and Asheley drink a lot. That in and of itself is fine, but victims of abuse by alcoholic parents tend to try to not emulate their abuser's behavior. The fact that they did it so nonchalantly shocked me. I think Asheley asked herself if this was how her mother started out, but she seemed to dismiss the thought after that. The large thing is the extremely abrupt twist ending. A little elaboration would have been really nice, but the ending as it is left me feeling kind of hollow.

Brother/Sister is a easy, fast read that grabs hold of you until the anticlimactic ending. With all it's flaws, it's still an enjoyable read that I would recommend to fans of edgy teen fiction.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, March 28, 2011


Ren Segura, also known as Jackal to her friends, is trying to bear the responsibility of being a Hope. Because she was born exactly on the first second new year, she will become a leader in the World Government called EarthGov. Although she has been treated differently all her life and has prepared since childhood to assume responsibility, Ren finds out that she's not really a Hope. Ko, the corporate nation state she represents, and her parents lied to benefit themselves. Not wanting to let her family down, she continues to pretend that she's a Hope, but starts to mentally unravel. Her life completely turns upside down when a horrible accident has her being accused of mass murder and terrorism. To spare her family from an investigation about her fake Hope status, Ren decides to settle outside of court and agrees to undergo virtual confinement, where she will be trapped in her subconscious for 8 years virtual time, 10 months real time. Can she survive being completely isolated for so long? What will happen to her after she is released from her mental prison?

Solitaire is a unique science fiction novel that deals with advanced technology that can turn your own mind into a solitary prison. This concept is simply frightening and kept me reading throughout the novel. Before the event that changes her life forever, Ren had found out that she really wasn't a Hope, but still worked hard to be what everyone expected her to be. She worked hard and didn't want to let everyone down even though she knew it was all a lie. Her experience in her personal prison and her life afterwards is the most engaging part of the novel. Her mental prison is a small room inside her head. Over the years, Ren breaks down mentally and tries to erase all the emotions that she has to live with: her love of her girlfriend Snow, her anger at her parents, her sadness and guilt at the deaths of her friends, and an overwhelming depression at her situation. At this point, she is trying to save her self from going insane. A few years into her imprisonment, Ren does something her jailers never expected her to do: she escapes. This portion of the novel is entirely too short. Everything that comes afterwards hinges on her eight virtual years of imprisonment.

After she is unceremoniously released, Ren is forced to live in a slum in North America, where she doesn't know anyone and has never even been to. Normal society shuns her because of her reputation as a fake Hope and a terrorist, so she seeks solace with ex-convicts like herself, which she finds in a bar called Solitaire. Her life before and after her accident are as different as night and day. Where everyone before noticed her as a Hope and looked to her as a symbol of success, now they look in morbid curiosity at the mass murderer. The government is horrible, yet completely believable in this situation. The convicts are not only forced into the mental prisons, but there are no programs in place to help them reacclimate to society. No one also seems to care that each person that was in this program blacks out randomly and return to that prison for varying amounts of time. It's not surprising that the lowest of society would act as guinea pigs to further research and put money into corporations' pockets while getting nothing in return.

Solitaire had some problems that almost made me want to stop reading. The exposition is way, way too long and just bored me after a while. The portion about her virtual containment is entirely too short, considering it's the most important part of the novel. Once I hit this part, I was completely hooked and couldn't put it down. I also felt that the entire upheaval of how the world is governed should have been explained a bit more, but was just treated as a backdrop for the story.

Solitaire isn't a perfect novel, but the latter half is so excellent and unique that I would recommend it to every person who even remotely likes science fiction. This is an admirable first novel and I would love to read more from Kelley Eskridge.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dreadfully Ever After

One assumes that Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy lived happily ever after at the finish of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This is not quite true. After four years of marriage, Elizabeth feels unsatisfied and unhappy. Not with her husband of course, but with the fact that it's improper for her to remain the warrior she was in her unmarried days. After Darcy sees some of her old fervor when they defeat a horde of unmentionables together, Elizabeth confides in him, but their talk is interrupted. An unmentionable child bites Darcy on the neck, where amputation is impossible. Elizabeth dispatches the offending thing and takes him into their home. She calls upon her nemesis, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, who has a serum that will prevent Darcy from fully becoming one of the undead. Lady Catherine also enlists her to sacrifice her honor and her pride to seduce a doctor in London into giving her the experimental cure to save Darcy. Elizabeth has no choice but to agree and departs for London, meeting her father and her sister Kitty there to complete the facade and aid her in her quest. Can they obtain the cure before Darcy succumbs to this plague?

This is the final chapter in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies saga and I am very happy with its conclusion. Steve Hockensmith really expands upon Jane Austen's world and characters and makes them his own, while adding in zombies and ninjas. Elizabeth is entirely taken completely out of her element when she is forced into the role of seductress. In addition, she is thrown into the height of English society, which exemplifies all the frivolity and shallowness that she despises. The rules of society in general are completely ridiculous. They not only hinder her progress at every turn in London, but are at the root of her unhappiness from the start of the novel.

Other characters, such as Kitty, Mary, and Anne, actually develop personalities of their own. In the original Pride and Prejudice, Kitty and Lydia were practically interchangeable; Mary only stood out because she was more isolated and standoffish than her frivolous sisters; and I honestly don't recall if Anne was actually present or just mentioned. Lydia is completely absent, allowing Kitty to create her own identity. She retains some of her silliness, but she's also a very calculated and disciplined warrior. Her budding relationship with someone inappropriate to her social standing is a big part of her character development and one of the conflicts she faces. Mary is shown to be much more aware and sensible than I previously thought her to be. She faces problems head on, without much subtlety. Her direct approach sometimes gets her into trouble, but her intentions are always good. She is also shown to not be completely devoid of emotion like her exterior oftentimes portrays. Anne is an interesting character because I have no previous impression of her. At the beginning, she seems to be Darcy's creepy stalker that is constantly at his bedside. Later, her sweet, yet odd, nature made me like her and one of her actions in the end is the the height of awesome. The third person narrative that focused on the internal monologue of different characters in every chapter is absolutely instrumental to the fleshing out of these previously flat characters.

I had a few grievances with the zombie rules and some of the plot points. Zombies do not run away. Even if they are being hacked to bits or witness other zombies being destroyed, they don't retreat. They don't feel fear or have thoughts or have any instincts of self preservation. Zombies try to run away at least a few times and it makes me shake the book in annoyance. Another zombie annoyance occurred when dogs ate zombie flesh. They would either be zombie dogs or very very sick and probably soon to be dead dogs. The plague would turn them or kill them or they would die from eating disgustingly rancid, rotting meat. The only other aspect that bothered me is the modern language frequently used throughout the novel. They are Jane Austen characters in Regency England. The modern phrases and slang jarred me a bit and brought me out of the novel.

Dreadfully Ever After is the satisfying conclusion to a very enjoyable series. I really loved how Hockensmith created much more fleshed out characters than Jane Austen had originally written. The message about how society's arbitrary rules and constructs creates unhappiness and hinders love is very valid even today. I would recommend this to both fans of zombies and Jane Austen (if they have a sense of humor).

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Here is the awesome book trailer that was released a couple of days ago. I usually avoid book trailers because most of them are bad, but this one is exceptional. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Internet Awesomeness: St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all! Everyone is Irish today and I want to share my favorite Irish inspired songs from the internets in celebration.

1) The Rocly Road to Dublin sung by The Dubliners is one of the first Irish songs I ever heard. My dad bought a Celtic anthology CD and this became one of my favorite tracks. It has a momentum and energy that is irresistible. It has also recently been featured in the Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr.

2) Flogging Molly is an Irish American band based in LA that combines traditional Irish tunes with punk rock music. The song Requiem for a Dying Song is one of my favorites of theirs from their album Float.

3) Even though Nightwish is a Finnish group, this song, Over the Hills and Far Away, is a cover of the original by Gary Moore, an Irish blues and rock musician. This song totally rocks, but the Celtic influences are still very present. I used this version instead of the original because I heard it voice and Tarja is an amazing singer.

4) The Boondock Saints is an excellent film about two Irish brothers that see injustices in the world and become inspired to right those wrongs. It's funny, sad, and horrifying all at once. I would recommend this movie to just about everyone, but if you're offended by blood or offensive language, I would stay away from this one. This is the opening theme for the film called The Blood of Cuchulainn.

Hope you all had a fun St. Paddy's Day!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


In the year 2150, girls are branded with a tattoo on their wrists proclaiming their status as a sixteen year old. This public display of their age is supposedly to protect them and provide freedom, but it really makes them a target for exploitation and sexual violence. Nina Oberon is especially nervous about turning 16. Most of the other girls in her position are excited about dating boys and being viewed as more mature because how the media portrays this age. On television, magazines, and advertisements, girls are encouraged to dress provocatively and learn to attract men. They are also encouraged to join FeLs, Feminine Liaison Specialist service, which is the only way for lower class girls to rise above their station. The organization is shrouded in mystery and not many people hear from girls after their required time there. Nina’s mother was working to uncover part of this mystery, but she is suddenly killed by her boyfriend. Nina is now determined to continue her mother’s work, but she needs to find her father. The only problem is she thought he died many years ago. Can she find her father and solve the mystery before she is killed as well?

In XVI, Julia Karr takes a negative aspect of our own society and augments it exponentially. Ours is a patriarchal society and women are frequently objectified and idealized in the media in ways not possible to naturally look. This is a negative, but generally accepted or ignored part of our society. We can see this in legislation trying to redefine rape to not include statutory rape or date rape, attacks on Planned Parenthood, blaming victims for rape, advertisements that objectify women to sell items, and legislation to criminalize both abortion and miscarriages. This is a real problem, but this book takes it even further, giving women next to no rights. A woman is killed in the novel and it's not a pressing matter at all to find her killer because she is the lowest of the low in this society: poor and a woman. One of my problems with this novel is that it's never explained why women are treated this way. I guess the rationale is the current misogynistic views evolve to be bigger and even more pervasive, but I would like something a little more concrete to base it off of. The lack of even trying to present a reason just makes it harder for me to suspend my disbelief.

I really like how overpowering the media was in the book. There are literally advertisements being blasted at people 24/7. When they are interrupted by the Resistance, people are shocked and pandemonium ensues. Information is skewed and distorted through the media to lull the masses into a false sense of security. I also like that Nina and her friend Sandy provide two polar opposites. Nina does not want to be considered a sexual being and resists the advertising and brainwashing. Sandy, on the other hand, plunges head first into dressing provocatively. Sandy and the media in XVI are a commentary on our own society. The media promotes the American ideal of beauty which is nothing really resembling natural beauty. Sandy represents the young girls who are effected by these images and work to appear less smart to attract a man.

There are a few things that bothered me about this book. Nina is pretty inconsistent and frustrates me with her antics at times. One minute she's super overprotective of her sister and then the next she seems to forget about her altogether. It just didn't really make sense to me and made me want to shake her. Some of the language in the novel is weird. For instance, cars are now known as "trannies." I think an author writing now should be aware of current slang. I just laughed to myself every time I saw the word and that brings me out of the story. The word "sexteen" is repeated a ridiculous amount in the novel and it eventually became an annoyance. The mysteries that consume Nina for most of the book are predictable and I figured them out very early on.

XVI is a quick dystopic read that leads the reader to examine their own society. There are a few flaws, including annoying words and a predictable plot, but it is a good introduction to science fiction.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Internet Awesomeness 3

I found awesome stuff on the internet and I would like to share it with you!

1) Here is the obligatory Amanda Palmer song because this woman sings too many songs that I love. I just want to share every single one. She has this uncanny talent that allows her to tap into a variety of emotions, at least from me. This is a sad song about how a passionate love can evolve into a cold relationship where they don't even remember why they were together in the first place. It's beautifully written and sung with an earnestness that few singers have. I usually can't make it to the end of the song with dry eyes.

2) Garfunkel and Oates is a great musical duo that writes and performs funny songs. This is one of my favorites called Sex with Ducks. Pat Robertson equated legalizing gay marriage to legalizing sex with ducks; this song just illustrates the ridiculousness of that statement. The video is low budget, but I love this song!

3) Regina Spektor is another talented chanteuse whose body of work is truly eclectic, drawing inspiration from different cultures and using a variety of extended techniques. This is my very favorite song by her, Eet. It never ceases to make me smile, but, contrary to the cheerful melody, the lyrics tell a melancholy story. She's another artist that never ceases to amaze me.

You can watch the official video here.

Hope you all enjoyed!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Night Season

Gretchen Lowell, the Beauty Killer, is finally safely locked up so Archie Sheridan can focus on other things. Their love-hate relationship is finally laid to rest and Archie has become much healthier. He no longer pops pills as if they were candy and religiously goes to his therapy sessions. There isn't long to relax because of the torrential, heavy rains causing the Willamette River to come to the cusp of flooding. As a result, drownings are becoming a more frequent occurence and the corpse of a man who died sixty years ago is found, which is possibly a link to a devastating flood that destroyed the city Vanport in 1968. The drownings, upon closer analysis, seem to be linked because of a strange mark found on the palm of each victim. Archie is on the case with quirky, nosy, indomitable Susan Ward. The increasingly bad weather and threatening flood make it harder for them to do their job and easier for the killer to disguise his actions. Can Susan and Archie catch the killer before they become victims themselves?

When I found out that Gretchen Lowell wasn't going to be featured in The Night Season, I was a bit wary of being bored or having this one not measure up to the rest of the series. Her presence is so magnetic and her and Archie's relationship is as sick and twisted as they come. I found out that Chelsea Cain's writing speaks for itself and doesn't need Gretchen Lowell at all to be incredibly addictive. It still has the same fluidity and holds my interest until I'm staying up at all hours of the night just to find out what happens. Gretchen's absence also allowed Archie Sheridan and Susan Ward to develop without her corrupting influence. Archie stopped most of his self destructive behaviors and is as healthy as he can be with extensive liver damage, scars, and no spleen. Susan shows another side of herself when she puts the friends that she has made in the police force over her job getting the latest scoop to publish the paper. She also has a larger role in story than she has in the past. Together, they make an odd, yet strangely harmonious mystery-solving pair.

The new killer is interesting enough with a very strange mode of murder, but the real star of The Night Season is the threatening flood. It makes simple, inane things very difficult and fills each scene with tension that builds until its climax at the end of the novel. It's almost as if the flood is a looming, silent character that is omnipresent and without human emotions. I really liked the prologue at the beginning of the novel that linked a horrific flood from the past to the current flood and unexpectedly tied the loose ends of the mystery together. It showed the mastery of Chelsea Cain's writing that the flood was not only a biproduct of the weather, but also created a tense ambience and was used as an integral part of the mystery.

I enjoyed The Night Season immensely and I highly recommend it to fans of mysteries or books about serial killers. The story is a great mystery that has unexpected twists and turns. This book could be read as a stand alone, but it's better to read the rest of the series to better understand the relationships and motivations of the characters.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winners and Cover Reveal!

The votes are in from all the contests and #1 was the winner! YAY! That was my favorite cover too. :)

And now for the winners of either an ARC or a t-shirt are:


I will be emailing the winners shortly. Thanks for all of your participation!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Guest Post: The Haunted E-book and Giveaway!

I read JL Bryan's Jenny Pox a little while ago and I absolutely loved it! His new book The Haunted E-book came out just a couple of months ago AND he has a new book coming out in April: Tommy Nightmare, the sequel to Jenny Pox. I'm so excited to read both of these new releases and I hope you are too. Please welcome JL Bryan!

Is Your Kindle Haunted?

If the horror movies of the late twentieth century taught us anything, it’s that household gadgets can become evil and turn against us. Cars, trucks, computers, and video games all had their turns at being monstrous. Gremlins featured creatures who specialized in sabotaging machinery to malfunction in a deadly fashion. Long before that, The Twilight Zone brought us a story of a haunted telephone in the episode “Long Distance Call.”

Bearing this history in mind, it’s only realistic to expect to find out that our Kindles, Nooks, and other ebook readers are also vulnerable to being haunted. When we consider the rich variety of characters, emotions, and imaginary worlds that pass through such a small device, it’s only natural that a supernatural spirit will, sooner or later, attempt to take up residence in your ebook device.

Some of these ghosts are simply nuisance hauntings, and will do little more than put typos into your ebooks. Others, however, are more dangerous.

Here are a few signs that you may have a haunted e-reader:

1. Loads stories you didn’t buy. They may be gruesome tales of death and deception, or that new book by Snooki. Either way, this could be a sign that a malevolent intelligence has moved into your Kindle.

2. Speaks to you personally. If the text-to-speech feature on your Kindle starts making conversation with you, whether pleasant or threatening, you should be aware that is not a normal function of the Kindle and could indicate a ghost.

3. Displays frightening and non-book-related images. If screaming faces appear at random on the screen of your reader, this could be a haunting. Note: These faces are especially terrifying on the Nook Color.

4. Displays stories about you. Your e-reader may begin to tell you stories about yourself, involving terrible things happening to you. If so, this is very likely a haunting.

What can you do about the risk of your Kindle, Nook or Sony reader being haunted?

1. Prevention. Some people claim that affixing a dreamcatcher to your reader’s carrying case will help block out evil spirits. Also, avoid the temptation to download The Haunted E-book to your device, despite its spookily low price of just $2.99. This book has been known to cause supernatural problems for readers.

2. Contact tech support. If your e-reader is under warranty, they may simply switch out your haunted reader for a new one. Then the ghost becomes somebody else’s problem instead of yours!

3. Download a variety of religious texts. I’m not sure which ones would work best, but certainly if you download enough sacred material, something might shake that ghost loose.

4. Exorcism. Have your Kindle or Nook professionally exorcised, if you can find a professional exorcist willing to do so. This service is offered at more progressive voodoo shops.

5. Cope. Determine whether you can just live with the amount of trouble your ghost is giving you.

We hope these tips have helped you today. In the comments below, you might let us know some more signs that your e-readers may be haunted, or your thoughts on how to deal with such a problem.

The Giveaways:

Commenting on this post within seven days enters you for The Haunted E-book Tour Grand Prizes, including The Haunted Library and a Kindle (or two!).

Your comment also enters you to win a pair of ebooks from Titania (The Haunted E-book and Dark Tomorrows) according to her usual giveaway rules: Please leave a comment with your email address before the contest closes on 3/18!

Thanks for following the tour! And thanks to Titania for hosting The Haunted E-book Tour today.

J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on the English Renaissance and the Romantic period. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He is the author of five novels and one short-story collection. He enjoys remixing elements of paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror and science fiction into new kinds of stories. His new novel is The Haunted E-book. The sequel to his novel Jenny Pox will be available by summer 2011.