Tag Archives: flash reviews

Insatiable, by Meg Cabot

InsatiableI am a huge Meg Cabot fan, so it’s probably not surprising that I quite liked Insatiable, which I read last month (I’d put in my hold request quite early at my library).

Having said that, I can kind of understand why it’s had some mixed reviews (I haven’t actually read any full blog reviews yet, so I’m going by the Amazon ones, which are definitely a mixed bag).

Update: I just realized I forgot to include a summary of the novel! Here’s the description:

Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die. (Not that you’re going to believe her. No one ever does.)

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It’s a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, Lucien’s already dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future. . . .

If she even has one.

My thoughts:

Insatiable is written rather tongue-in-cheek, and I think if you keep this in mind, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

And one of the tongue-in-cheek things that Cabot does is throw in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean. There’s a point during the “final battle scene” where your eyes kind of widen, and you think to yourself, “OMG, she’s throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!”. You might even say to yourself, “Wait a minute! I think that is the kitchen sink!”.

Fun, nevertheless. At least, I thought so.

Cabot’s also trying to get a few points across, too. Like this one: it’s not such a good thing to be stalked by someone who says he loves you – not even if he’s this really hot dishy vampire prince.

Another is: He might say it’s true love, but when someone wants to swoop into your life and take total control of it, even if it’s in order to keep you “safe”, this is really not such a good thing. No, not even if he’s this really hot dishy vampire prince.

Best phrase in the book? “… he definitely didn’t sparkle”.

See what I mean about tongue-in-cheek?

Kobo eReader, and What I’ve Been eReading

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I was given a Kobo eReader for my birthday and yes, it’s definitely been keeping me busy!

I was able to move my library of ePubs bought from the Sony Reader Store onto my Kobo eReader – it was something I could have done before on my iPhone, by moving the ePubs to the Stanza app, but I never got around to it before now.

If you’re new to the Kobo eReader, or thinking of getting one, I highly recommend downloading the Calibre ebook management program. I was already using it to convert public domain PDFs from Project Guttenberg into ePub format, as well as converting my own WIPs into ePubs so I could do a first readthrough on my iPhone, but as it turns out, it’s a fabulous program for managing ebook content on the Kobo eReader; it’s a great way to selectively weed out the 100 classics that come preinstalled on the device.

But the thing I really like about my Kobo eReader is that I can now read DRM-protected PDFs on the go!  I have several of these, and up until now, they’ve been stuck in my “I’ll get around to reading them someday” pile because I haven’t been using my netbook very much, and I simply don’t like reading books on my desktop monitor.

Mind you, it’s not perfect (and that’s a function of PDF as a format for ebooks, and not the device itself)  – the reading experience depends on each individual PDF. With some PDFs, I can select an optimum font size and I’m still able to read each page in whole on the screen; other PDFs require me to choose either a too-small font size in order to fit an entire page onto the screen, or scroll back and forth. And let me just say, scrolling back and forth on a page (or up and down), is not fun.

So DRM-protected PDFs are now (mostly) readable on the go. But when it comes to my preferred ebook format, it’s definitely ePub.

I’ve been reading a fair bit on my new eReader. The funny thing is, I still prefer reading on my iPhone (which is why I’m holding out for an iPad for Christmas …).

What I’m eReading on my Kobo eReader right now:

No One Lives TwiceNo One Lives Twice, by Julie Moffett. This ePub came to me courtesy of NetGalley and Carina Press. Carina Press is Harlequin’s digital-only imprint publishing across a wide range of genres, and No One Lives Twice sounded like a book I’d love:

I’m Lexi Carmichael, geek extraordinaire. I spend my days stopping computer hackers at the National Security Agency. My nights? Those I spend avoiding my mother and eating cereal for dinner. Even though I work for a top-secret agency, I’ve never been in an exciting car chase, sipped a stirred (not shaken) martini, or shot a poison dart from an umbrella.

Unfortunately, it turned out I was wrong – and this is through no fault of the book itself. It’s just that it isn’t a match to my taste as a reader. I’d been anticipating more of a thriller novel with a female genius computer hacking main character doing lots of extraordinary things, but No One Lives Twice is more of a romantic suspense novel, with two possible love interests (who are both referred to in the rest of the synopsis, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t warned), and the extraordinary genius computer stunts are performed by one of the love interests and a set of super-smart twins (so far, anyway – I’m on chapter 18 of 26).

While it’s not really to my taste (I’m just not much into romance when it comes to books), there are lots of fun dollops of humor in it and the writing style is an easy read, so if romantic suspense is a genre you enjoy, you can check out the excerpt at Carina Press here.

Hacking Timbuktu

Hacking Timbuktu, by Stephen Davies, is a YA novel scheduled for release this coming November. I received my ACR courtesy of NetGalley and Clarion Books, and have just started reading it.

Danny is a freelance IT specialist–that is, a hacker. He and his pal Omar are both skilled at parkour, or freerunning, a discipline designed to enable practitioners to travel between any two points regardless of obstacles. This is fortunate, because they’re off on an adventure that’s filled with obstacles, from locked doors to gangs of hostile pursuers. Together they follow a cryptic clue, find a missing map, figure out how to get to Timbuktu without buying a plane ticket, and join the life-and-death treasure hunt, exchanging wisecracks and solving the puzzle one step at a time.

I am familiar with parkour, or freerunning, because it’s something my husband is interested in (and participated in, until he hurt his knee last year). It’s exciting to watch, and the pairing of it with the computer hacking is intriguing to say the least. So far, I’m on page 70 of 274, and Hacking Timbuktu is living up to its promise.

The LineupI am midway through The Lineup: : The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler:

What was the real-life location that inspired Michael Connelly to make Harry Bosch a Vietnam vet tunnel rat? Why is Jack Reacher a drifter? How did a brief encounter in Botswana inspire Alexander McCall Smith to create Precious Ramotswe? In The Lineup, some of the top mystery writers in the world tell about the genesis of their most beloved characters–or, in some cases, let their creations do the talking.

If you find these questions interesting – and I definitely do! – you’ll love The Lineup. I’ve also discovered some mystery series that I’ve now added to my TBR list. As a writer, the essays in this book are especially interesting; it’s a peek into how a series character has developed, and absolutely fascinating from a writing point of view.

The Element

I’m also on chapter 3 of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Robinson:

The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the Element and those that stifle that possibility. Drawing on the stories of a wide range of people, including Paul McCartney, Matt Groening, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Bart Conner, he shows that age and occupation are no barrier and that this is the essential strategy for transform­ing education, business, and communities in the twenty-first century.

I’m really enjoying reading the various stories of all the different people in the book; the rest of the material isn’t quite as interesting, as it simply reinforces what I already know to be true. But it’s fun learning things like the fact that Elvis Presley didn’t make his high school glee club because the director of the club thought Presley couldn’t sing!

Flash Review: Little Skink’s Tail, by Janet Halfmann

Little Skink’s Tail, by Janet Halfmann

Little Skink's TailWhile Little Skink hunts yummy ants for breakfast, she is suddenly attacked by a crow! But she has a trick to escape she snaps off her tail, and it keeps on wiggling! Little Skink is happy to be alive, but she misses her bright blue tail. Little Skink’s Tail follows Little Skink as she daydreams of having the tails of other animals in the forest. Readers will enjoy pretending with her, trying on tail after tail. The first is too puffy-fluffy, and another too stinky! Then one day Little Skink gets a big surprise…and she doesn’t have to dream of tails anymore. The For Creative Minds section has information on tail adaptations and communications and a mix-and-match tail activity.

My thoughts: This is a little gem of a book that accomplishes two things: it tells a wonderful story, and it helps parents explore the world of animals and their tails with their children. The first time I read this book to my son, I was surprised because for some reason, I had expected the book to be non-fiction; instead, it is the delightful story of Little Skink who has to snap off her beautiful bright blue tail in order to escape from danger. The book follows her as she uses her imagination to try on the tails of other animals; the story ends with a happily-ever-after, as Little Skink turns around one day and sees her tail has grown back.

This is a picture book that my son often asks me to re-read, and it has also served as a great way to start an educational (but fun) discussion about why different animals have different tails – what are the different functions of different kinds of tails? Why would switching to a different kind of tail be not only impractical but possibly dangerous? What types of animals are lucky enough to be able to grow back a tail they’ve lost? Little Skink’s Tail is a great picture book that manages to educational, too. It’s no wonder it has won several awards.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

Flash Review: Jinx, by Meg Cabot

Jinx, by Meg Cabot

Jinx

The only thing Jean Honeychurch hates more than her boring name (not Jean Marie, or Jeanette, just . . . Jean) is her all-too-appropriate nickname, Jinx. Misfortune seems to follow her everywhere she goes—which is why she’s thrilled to be moving in with her aunt and uncle in New York City. Maybe when she’s halfway across the country, Jinx can finally outrun her bad luck. Or at least escape the havoc she’s caused back in her small hometown.

But trouble has definitely followed Jinx to New York. And it’s causing big problems for her cousin Tory, who is not happy to have the family black sheep around. Beautiful, glamorous Tory is hiding a dangerous secret—one that she’s sure Jinx is going to reveal.

Jinx is beginning to realize it isn’t just bad luck she’s been running from. It’s something far more sinister . . . and the curse Jinx has lived under since the day she was born might just be the only thing that can save her life.

My thoughts: I have always had a special spot in my heart for Meg Cabot’s works, particularly the novels in which she combines chick lit elements with the supernatural. If you’ve only ever read Cabot’s Princess Diaries series, or perhaps her Heather Wells mysteries, you might be surprised to discover that Cabot has an excellent touch with supernatural topics.

I once bought all six of the books in her Mediator series and polished them off during one lovely long weekend. More recently, I found myself a little bit disappointed with Airhead (only because it felt more like a prequel to Being Nikki) so I was pleased when I read Jinx shortly after (it’s an older release that I picked up from the library). In Jinx all the elements that make a great Cabot story are there, plus enough of the supernatural to occasionally send a slight shiver down your back. (Only occasionally, though – this is not a thriller nor a horror, nor is it meant to be.) If you’re looking for a light, interesting teen read with romance and supernatural elements, Jinx is a fantastic choice.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

Flash Reviews: The Agatha Christie Audiobook Edition, Part 1

Introducing Flash Reviews here at MsBookish.com, in which I will occasionally group together shorter reviews in a courageous attempt to reduce the height of my to-be-reviewed pile (not to be confused with my to-be-read pile, which no amount of derring-do on my part will have any discernable effect on).

I’ve been listening to a LOT of Agatha Christie in audiobook format lately. There’s just something so incredibly comforting about listening to Poirot or Miss Marple demonstrate their brilliance and solve yet another case. It’s the kind of thing that makes you sigh and think, ah, yes, all’s right in the world …

In many ways, the audio version of a book is a great indication of the strength of the story the author is trying to tell. Stephen King has written:

There’s this, too: Audio is merciless. It exposes every bad sentence, half-baked metaphor, and lousy word choice. (Listen to a Tom Clancy novel on CD, and you will never, ever read another. You’ll never be able to look at another one without gibbering.) I can’t remember ever reading a piece of work and wondering how it would look up on the silver screen, but I always wonder how it will sound. Because, all apologies to Mr. Bloom, the spoken word is the acid test. They don’t call it storytelling for nothing.

As it turns out, Dame Christie wrote some very nice dialogue indeed, and she most definitely told a good story. Throw in a skilled narrator like Hugh Fraser, who narrates many of the Christie audiobooks, and what you’re likely to get is pure delight.

The following titles were all titles that qualify as “re-reads” for me (first listens, but re-reads nevertheless); in most cases, I remembered “whodunnit” a while before the actual unveiling of the culprit. I found that this didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all, which is perhaps as good a reason as any to give a Christie novel a re-read.

Murder is Easy, by Agatha Christie

Murder is Easy It was just Luke Fitzwilliam’s luck to be stuck next to a dotty old woman like Miss Fullerton on the London-bound train-although he found himself quite entertained with her tall tales about a series of perfect murders in the quaint village of Wychwood. But when he reads the next day of the freak accident that killed her, too, Fitzwilliam’s amusement turns to grave concern. A visit to the isolated village confirms his worst fears. For Wychwood seems to be divided by an eccentric lot of locals: those who are in on a dark and dangerous secret-and those who don’t live long enough to share it. (Amazon.com)

My thoughts: This is one of Agatha Christie’s “standalone” mysteries, so don’t expect either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple to show up (or Tommy & Tuppence or Mr. Quinn or even Superintendent Battle, for that matter). I think once a reader falls in love with a series detective like, say, Poirot, it’s difficult to beat back the flames of expectation that surely, those extravagant black mustaches must show up in the story some time?

Still, this is a nicely crafted story, featuring Christie’s version of a serial-type killer. As is usual with many of Christie’s books, there’s a romance thrown in for good measure and the denouement is quite quick-paced and thrilling (although I couldn’t help but feel that the good Poirot or Miss Marple would not have let things get quite so hairy before stepping in). I listened to the audio version narrated by Hugh Fraser, and he was very good, as always.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie

One, Two, Buckle My ShoeA dentist lies murdered at his Harley Street practice…The dentist was found with a blackened hole below his right temple. A pistol lay on the floor near his outflung right hand. Later, one of his patients was found dead from a lethal dose of local anaesthetic. A clear case of murder and suicide. But why would a dentist commit a crime in the middle of a busy day of appointments? A shoe buckle holds the key to the mystery. Now — in the words of the rhyme — can Poirot pick up the sticks and lay them straight? (Amazon.co.uk)

My thoughts: This was a marvelous re-read for me, as I continued to wonder “whodunnit” almost right up to the point of Poirot’s unveiling of the murderer. There were quite a few twists and turns, and a rather big red herring that threw me right off the track. Poirot is in on the action from the very beginning; this is something I like very much. Again, the version I listened to was narrated by Hugh Fraser; he really is perfect for the medley of characters encountered throughout the course of this mystery.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

A Pocket Full of Rye, by Agatha Christie

A Pocket Full of RyeAfter wealthy financier Rex Fortescue’ s sudden death, grains of rye are inexplicably found in his pocket. The coroner’s verdict is death by poisoning, yet only one of the dead man’s relatives seems upset. The others all have motives to want the old man dead. When two more members of the Fortescue household are murdered, Miss Marple enters the case. But is one bizarre clue — the pocket full of rye — enough to solve the strangest case of her career? (Chapters.ca)

My thoughts: This Miss Marple mystery is actually reminiscent of a Hercule Poirot mystery that I had listened to earlier in the year, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (not the abridged regular audio version, but the wonderful BBC Radio dramatization). There are quite a few somewhat similar elements, and so perhaps because of my recent re-read/listen of the Hercule Poirot story, I was a little bit muddled. That’s probably just my excuse, of course; the point being, it took me quite a while to remember who the bad guy was.

As can happen with a Christie mystery, Miss Marple showed up later in the scene rather than earlier; I prefer her to show up earlier but still, it’s a great whodunnit for the cozy mystery lover. The audio I listened to was narrated by Rosalind Ayres, who gives Hugh Fraser a run for his money.

Where to buy: Amazon U.S. | IndieBound | Chapters (Canada) | Amazon UK

The Chloe and Levesque Mystery Series

Last month while knee deep in spring cleaning mode, I discovered a set of three books by Norah McClintock that I had purchased last year. The Third Degree, Over the Edge, and Double Cross all feature high-school student Chloe Yan and her stepfather Louis Levesque. McClintock has won five Arthur Ellis awards for juvenile crime fiction (her winning titles include two books from this particular series), and it’s easy to see why. I started reading the first book and I was hooked.

thirddegree Interestingly, the first book in the series, The Third Degree, isn’t really a mystery. In The Third Degree, we meet Chloe and her two half-sisters, Brynn and Phoebe. Their mother is a waitress, a single mother, who in the course of the story meets Louis Levesque, a homicide detective with the Montreal police. Chloe, Brynn and Phoebe all have different fathers; Chloe’s father is Chinese, and lives in Beijing.

The Third Degree revolves around Chloe, who finds herself in a bit of a moral dilemma as a result of hanging out with the wrong crowd. There isn’t much of a mystery, but it does introduce us to Chloe and Levesque, who is to become Chloe’s mother’s husband number four. It’s also the only book in the series that’s written in third person; the rest of the books are all written in first person, with Chloe as the narrator.

overtheedge

Over The Edge is the actual start of the Chloe and Levesque mystery series. Chloe finds herself in the town of East Hastings, Ontario, where her new stepfather, Levesque, is the new Chief of Police. High school loner and astronomy genius Peter Flosnick has been found dead of an apparent suicide, and soon Chloe finds herself knee deep in clues that suggest Peter’s death isn’t a suicide, but murder.

The story is fast-paced and engrossing, and it’s interesting to watch Chloe’s relationship with Levesque develop. Chloe isn’t quite the rebel she was in The Third Degree, but she’s still very independent … and not liking the move from big city Montreal to small town East Hastings very much. it’s a great start to a very good mystery series.

doublecross

In Double Cross, Chloe meets high school outsider Jonah Shackleton. Jonah is a troubled teenager whose father was convicted of murdering his wife, Jonah’s mother, five years previously. Chloe’s first encounter with Jonah is not particularly pleasant:

“All I said – and I said it nicely – was, ‘Excuse me, but is this seat taken?’

He – a guy I had never seen before – scowled at me as if I were a cockroach that had taken on human form. Then he said – well, let’s just say he came close to making me blush, which isn’t easy. I’m a city kid. I know how to swear with the best of them. Who would have thought some high school kid in piddly little middle-of-nowhere East Hastings could shock me?”

Despite this encounter, Chloe soon finds herself looking into the Shackleton murder case. It’s not easy tracking down events occurring five years ago, and the fact that the Chief of Police at the time is now a politician heading into an election makes things even more difficult.

Double Cross is an intricate murder mystery that had me hooked from the very start. Chloe is an extremely likeable protagonist; she’s persistent to the point of stubbornness, smart about most things, and she’s got a good heart, not that she’d ever want to admit to something like that.

After finishing Double Cross, I wanted more of Chloe and Levesque. McClintock’s books are popular around here; I ended up putting holds at the library on two other titles in the series, Break and Enter (one of the winners of the Arthur Ellis Award) and No Escape, but luckily Scared to Death and Not a Trace were both available.

scaredtodeath

Scared to Death, which also won the Arthur Ellis Crime Fiction Award, is a great read. Pretty and popular Tessa Nixon is found dead, floating in Elder Pond. Is it an accident? Or murder? Again Chloe finds herself deep in the mystery, and to complicate matters, her friend Ross, editor of the high school newspaper, had been going out with Tessa and is suspected by others.

By the end of the book, I was on the edge of my seat, worried for Chloe’s safety and wondering whodunnit. The events unfolded very credibly, we meet some unsavory characters who might or might not be the killer, and the ending is satisfying.

notatrace I moved on from Scared to Death to Not a Trace. Published in 2005, Not a Trace is the last book in the series so far, unfortunately. The book grapples with current events, in the form of a struggle between Native rights and developers looking to build a golf course on what might be Native lands.

This time around, it’s Chloe who finds the body; the victim is Trevor Blake, father of the little girl Chloe’s been babysitting over the summer. Blake works for the people developing the golf course, and the Ontario Provincial Police take over and arrest David Mitchell, a Native protestor. But is he guilty?

Once again, Chloe finds herself in danger – not just once but several times. The ending is hair-raising, although things didn’t work out quite as credibly as the previous mysteries in the series (I found it more challenging to reconcile what happens to Chloe in the end to the way the killer is depicted when the truth comes out). Still, Not a Trace is another great read. McClintock has gone on to write other YA mystery series, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing more of Chloe and Levesque, but I’m looking forward to reading the two in the series that I haven’t read yet, Break and Enter (one of the winners of the Arthur Ellis Award) and No Escape.

If you’re interested in a very good YA mystery series, I would definitely recommend the Chloe and Levesque series. A note to U.S. readers, though: Amazon.com doesn’t carry any of the books, so you’ll have to buy them through a third party seller or (my recommendation) buy them from Chapters, the Canadian online bookstore.

Where to Buy: (all links are to Chapters)

The Third Degree

Over the Edge

Double Cross

Scared to Death

Break and Enter

No Escape

Not a Trace