In My Mailbox (16): Free and Awesome Stuff

 

I got a bunch of books a few weeks ago, but I was too lazy to make an IMM post. I was at home, but I was just plain lazy — sorry about that. :) I got some pretty awesome stuff the past weeks, some of them free, so I figure it’s time to write one. But better late than never, right? :)

Bought:

 

  1. Deadline by Mira Grant (Fully Booked) – I also got the Kindle copy of this one first, but I can’t pass the print one up of course. Like my print copy of Feed, this is mainly for borrowing. :D
  2. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (Book Depository) – I ordered this about three weeks ago as a reward for finishing an article. It took a while to get here, and I dropped everything else to read this when I received it. Talk about excited. :) I have a line of people waiting to borrow this already.
  3. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (Fully Booked) – I got this at the same time as Deadline but I only got to read it during the rainy weekend. So much Kate + Curran goodness! :)

Won:

  • Audiobook of Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (won from Helen’s Book Blog) – this is my first audio book ever, which I won during the Twitter party during Armchair BEA. Thankyou so much, Helen! :)

For review:

Last Friday, Blooey invited some local book bloggers for a dinner with some people from Scholastic. It was such a fun night eating and talking about books and blogs and travel and everything else in between. :) It was also the first time I had dinner with publishers and received books for review too! Yay free books (almost as exciting as cool grad gifts). :D

Scholastic Books

  1. Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – now I’m not a paranormal romance person anymore and truth be told, I have no plans of reading these books. But Chachic and Tarie told me it’s good, so I’m hoping I will like it well enough too. :)
  2. The Cry of the Icemark, Blade of Fire and Last Battle of the Icemark by Stuart Hill – I have no idea what this is about, except that Blooey blogged about it recently. I’m glad they gave us the entire set, though, because at least I won’t have to scramble for the copies. :)

The fun thing is, not all book packages were the same. While I think all of us got all the Icemark books, everyone else got different stuff, depending on what we’ve read. Case in point: Chachic and Tarie got Linger because they’ve already read Shiver, while Aaron didn’t get any of Stiefvater’s books because they’re not his type. Thanks again to Blooey for inviting us and to Joyce and Roselle from Scholastic for the dinner and the books. :)

Photo c/o Tarie

And that’s all for the past weeks’ haul. I have another book buying fast happening now to prepare myself for my big trip this August, so no additions to my TBR unless they’re gifts. Not to worry, anyway since I still have a very big reading mountain to conquer. :D I’ll be back tomorrow for my mid-year recap, so for the meantime, do share in the comment section what you got this week. :)

Blue Angel, White Shadow

Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson OngBlue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong
UST Publishing House, 229 pages

Twenty-five year old lounge singer Laurice Saldiaga is found dead in her room at the Blue Angel Cafe and Bar in Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown. Inspector Cyrus Ledesma, a Chinese mestizo cop with a dark past is assigned to investigate the matter. The bar owner, Antonio Cobianco, is a known associate of Mayor Lagdameo Go-Lopez. Ledesma walks into a cauldron of intrigues, labyrinths, crumbling edifices, dogfights and suspects that include a jaded whiskey drinking female bar manager, a psychic journalist, a dyslexic piano player, a quick trigger pit bull owner, an aging saxophone player and Cyrus’ own uncle, Police Chief Ruben Jacinto.

One of my favorite classes in college that wasn’t my major was my Lit class, not only because I had an awesome professor, but because I just simply loved to read. I loved that I was required to pick up a novel for class, and write a report about it. The only lit class I had was Philippine literature so I was only required to read local fiction, some written by some professors in the university. While that wasn’t what what I usually read then, I didn’t mind — I was allowed to read non-textbooks for class. In a word, it was awesome.

Reading Charlson Ong’s Blue Angel, White Shadow reminded me of those college days. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but there’s something about this book’s tone that reminded me of that. It’s been a while since I last read a serious Filipino novel so it took me some time to adjust to the tone of this book. In Blue Angel, White Shadow, we was introduced to Filipino-Chinese cop Cyrus Ledesma who was sent to investigate the death of Laurice Saldiaga, found dead in her room in The Blue Angel Cafe. The investigation leads us down Cyrus’ dark past and introduces us to several other characters — bar owner and singer Rosa Misa and her fiesty daughter Rosemarie, the old and kind-hearted Antonio Cobianco who has his own secrets, Manila Mayor Lagdameo Go-Lopez who formerly wanted to be a vet, pitbull owner Robert Cobianco, and Cyrus’ priest friend Fr. Jay among others — all somewhat related to the death of the singer.

I was expecting a typical murder mystery novel as I read Blue Angel, White Shadow, but was surprised to find something more. Instead of just following the main character collect clues to find out whodunnit, I was led through different character studies as for most chapters, I was introduced to the different people and how they were all (or will be) connected. It felt a little confusing at first, and I was impatient to know how all these characters related to the opening incident. I liked reading about the characters but I guess I was expecting something else that was why it took me a while to really get into the story.

But once I did, I realized just how good the author was in weaving the story. Even as he exposed the characters, their past and their possible motivations one by one, I couldn’t figure out who was responsible. Sure, other issues and conspiracies were discussed, but there was never a solid clue that pointed to the culprit. Once it was finally exposed, however, it seemed…well, obvious. It wasn’t even ingenious, just…well, obvious. I guess my years of watching CSI has never really rubbed off on me. The ending was pretty satisfactory, and interestingly, there was even a little romance. I liked how everything tied up in the end, answering most of the questions but not in a too clean way that it didn’t seem realistic anymore. I remember giving a satisfied nod as soon as I closed the book, my mind content with how it ended.

This isn’t really my genre, but I liked Blue Angel, White Shadow, and I am truly impressed by Charlson Ong’s writing. I feel like I could learn a lot with how he wrote his characters. I hope that the seriousness of the cover or the blurb wouldn’t make readers ignore this book because it is an enjoyable piece of fiction, even if I did feel the need to write a book report for school after reading it. :D

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
3 of 20 Filipino Books for 2011

My copy: review copy from UST Publishing House, c/o Tarie. Thank you! :)

Cover and Blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders

Hungry For You

Hungry for You by A.M. HarteHungry For You by A.M. Harte
1889 labs, 84 pages

“There is no greater drug than relationships; there is no sweeter death than love.”

Love is horrible. It’s ruthless, messy, mind-altering, and raw. It takes no prisoners. It chews you up and spits you out and leaves you for dead. Love is, you could say, very much like a zombie.

In this haunting short story collection, anything is possible—a dying musician turns to tea for inspiration; a police sergeant struggles with a very unusual victim; a young wife is trapped in a house hiding unimaginable evil….

With Hungry For You, A.M. Harte explores the disturbing and delightful in an anthology that unearths the thin boundary between love and death.

When we say the word “zombies”, the first thought is always about a virus that makes dead people…well, undead. It could be just a fluke, or a scientific experiment gone wrong, but either way, the virus spreads and everyone gets infected save for a few lucky (or unlucky ones, depending on where they get stuck) who try to live and survive amongst their undead companions.

That is almost usually the common thread for zombie novels which can get really tiring if you read about it over and over again. Every once in a while, though, we get some deviants to the norm, where zombification comes from the most ridiculous sources and yet it’s still believable (case in point: Zombicorns by John Green). I like reading these story lines because really, how many times will I read about a virus that makes people want to eat other people while they rot and shuffle and mumble, “Brains”?

British author A.M. Harte is one of those who takes the zombie folklore and spins it around to give us a different taste of zombies (pun intended). When she emailed me about sending me a review copy of her anthology, Hungry For You, I was kind of hesitant to agree because it sounded so paranormal romance, and I tend to stay away from those books nowadays. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I decided to go for this, thinking that I would need to read a paranormal every now and then.

Surprisingly, I liked Hungry For You. I was thinking it would be another so-so read because of the paranormal romance angle, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a collection of short stories about love and well, zombies. But like I said, the author spins the zombie folklore around, focusing on different aspects of romance and zombies, giving the creatures we all love to read and talk about and kill with pea-shooters and sunflowers a different approach altogether. Some of the stories may not even really count as a zombie story if you’re a purist, but the characters acted so much like zombies that you’d really think they were infected.

I was constantly surprised by the stories in this collection, and sometimes even slightly grossed out but that’s just me being squeamish (I still wonder why I like zombies so much when I feel squeamish easily). The stories were creative, funny, romantic and sad — just like what I think romance novels are. The paranormal angle isn’t really overwhelming, which I really appreciated, and I think other people who are tired of the usual paranormal will be pleased about that too. (Oh, but hey, they say zombies aren’t paranormal but more science fiction — thoughts?)

Personal favorites: Hungry For You, Swimming Lessons,  A Prayer to Garlic (“vegetarian” zombies!), The Perfect Song (almost similar to Zombicorns in terms of how people become zombies, but sadder) and Arkady, Kain and Zombies (sweet and tragic all at the same time). I think there is something for everyone in A.M. Harte’s Hungry For You. I like it when a book surprises me. :) I’m curious to what A.M. Harte will come up with next. :)

Hungry For You is available on ebook from Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords. The paperback version will be out in March 2011.

Rating:

My copy: ebook, review copy from the author. Thank you! :)

Cover and blurb: author’s website

Other reviews:
Doubleshot Reviews
mari’s randomnities
Attack of the Book

Fairy Dust and Warlocks

To Kill a Warlock by HP MalloryTo Kill a Warlock (Dulcie O’Neil # 1) by HP Mallory
(Dulcie O’Neil # 1)
Indie, 208 pages

The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch. Dulcie O’Neil is a fairy. And not the type to frolic in gardens. She’s a Regulator—a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld to keep them from wreaking havoc in the mortal world. When a warlock is murdered and Dulcie was the last person to see him alive, she must uncover the truth before she’s either deported back to the Netherworld, or she becomes the next victim. Enter Knight Vander, a sinfully attractive investigator sent from the Netherworld to work the case with Dulcie. Between battling her attraction to her self-appointed partner, keeping a sadomasochistic demon in check, and fending off the advances of a sexy and powerful vampire, Dulcie’s got her hands full. As the body count increases, Dulcie finds herself battling dark magic, reconnoitering in S&M clubs and suffering the greatest of all betrayals.

I’m still fairly new to the urban fantasy genre, and I am still avoiding paranormal romance (maybe I should make a post about that sometime) so when I received a review request from HP Mallory for her books, I was kind of hesitant to accept it. But I’m not really one to say no to free books, so I thought, why not?

I finally found the time to read To Kill a Warlock when we started moving a week ago. I figured after reading about zombies, I need to take a break from the gore so this should be  a perfect read. And since we were moving, all my books were packed, so all the reading I could do was in my Kindle.

So Dulcie is a fairy and one of the best Regulators from the Association of Netherworld Creatures (ANC) in California. As a Regulator, she monitors the activities of the different paranormal creatures in her area and makes sure they act in accordance to the laws. But after her Regulator job is finished, Dulcie hides in her house and works on her novel, which she hoped to published so she can be rid of her Regulator job. Her more or less regular Regulator (ha, sorry, I can’t resist!) job is disturbed when a warlock dies and she was the last one who saw him. The story follows Dulcie as she tries to figure out who killed the warlock, work on her novel and figure out her relationships with the different men in her life which included a vampire, a demon, an elf and a Loki.

To Kill a Warlock is generally a fun read, with a spunky heroine who’s had a broken heart and dreams of being a published writer. The story is pretty tight, with a good — although not really unique — concept about a group that regulates paranormal creatures among humans, and of course, lots of romance for Dulcie. That being said, however…I don’t think To Kill a Warlock really worked for me. :( I hate it when this happens, especially since it seemed like many readers liked the book and the characters (and that I got this book for review). I did not hate any of them, really, but they just failed to make an big impression on me that I just didn’t care about them as much as I normally would. As the story got to the climax, I found myself just flipping to the next pages, eager to finish because I was getting tired of how they seemed to be going in circles. When the major action has finished and everything has settled, I thought it was over, but it wasn’t…and it led me wondering, “What else could happen after all that?” I didn’t feel very satisfied at the ending because I felt like it was a bit of a cop out — everyone sort of at peace with each other, with Dulcie having three guys going after her. In the end I was just confused.

It’s not that it’s a bad book. I have to give some merit to the author because I enjoyed myself in some parts of the book, but as a whole, I was underwhelmed. I think I can put the blame on Ilona Andrews and their Kate Daniels series with how I viewed To Kill a Warlock. The Kate Daniels series is my first time to read adult urban fantasy and I loved every bit of it, so I got kind of spoiled with their world building and character development in those books. So much so that my expectations were a bit too high when I read To Kill a Warlock. Perhaps if I read this first before any of the Kate Daniels books, I’d think otherwise.

Rating:
→ I was pretty much underwhelmed with To Kill a Warlock. It’s a good urban fantasy novel, but it just didn’t work so much for me.

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 94 out of 100 for 2010

My copy: ebook, review copy from author

Cover image & Blurb: Goodreads

Other Reviews:
ALPHA reader
quillsandzebras