Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: Vitro


Vitro by Jessica Khoury is a fast- paced, compelling story about an island with a terrible secret, and the young woman who discovers that secret. The story starts with Sophie Crue in an airport on Guam trying to find a flight to Skin Island. Her mother, a researcher on the island, has sent her an email asking her to come quickly, due to an emergency. Nobody wants to go there however, apparently the island has a bad reputation. After striking out with the local pilots, she runs into Jim Julien, a young pilot who she knows from her childhood days on Guam. Sophie grew up there but hasn't been to Guam in years, since her parents split up and she went to live in Boston with her dad. Her and Jim had been best friends once, but they're older now and have both changed in the intervening years. Jim reluctantly agrees to take Sophie to the island, and that's where the fun begins.

Things go bad quickly, and Sophie and Jim find themselves stranded on the island. Sophie soon discovers a horrifying truth- she has a sister on the island named Lux, but Lux is not just any sister. She has been developed from a test tube embryo by the company her mother works for, but she is not a regular human. And Lux may not be the only one... Sophie must unravel the mystery surrounding the Vitros, her mother and the company behind it all, while at the same time staying alive. No one wants her there, and she and Jim have to survive twists and turns and shocking betrayals

I liked Sophie a lot, she's determined and brave. We get hints of her background and learn just how hard it was for her to grow up not knowing the truth about her mom, and what she does on Skin Island. I liked Jim even more- he seemed like a real person, with real motivations and thoughts. Several times I thought that's exactly how someone might act in that situation. Both characters are very well drawn and believable. The story is told from their alternating perspectives, and this works very well here. It's probably not a spoiler to say there is a romance here- Sophie and Jim have known each other since childhood, and they spend most of the book trying to find each other again- both physically and figuratively- but it did seem like they developed feelings for each other a little fast. Certainly not insta- love, by any means, but they didn't exactly have much time for a courtship. I can accept it though just due to the sheer level of desperation they go through, and the shared history they have. It works.

The author does a great job evoking a sense of place -as I read I felt like I was in the tropics, with palm trees around, ocean breezes and the silvery moon overhead at night. Her descriptions are at times dripping with tropical heat, creaking bamboo and pounding surf. At the end I felt like I had been on an adventure in the Pacific! Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when they leave the island at the end and they're just exhausted from all the trauma they've been through? That's how this felt for me. The story has a breakneck pace and I really enjoyed that it took place over just a couple of days. It never slows down and I couldn't stop reading.

We hear several times about a project going on in South America as well- apparently a reference to Jessica's other book. I have not read that but almost certainly will, as I enjoyed this so much. It's nice to have a world with a shadowy organization in the background as the common thread, even though the characters are different. I'm curious to see if she will continue to use this as a background for future novels.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Tunes #3

Two of a Kind (1983) Poster

Twist of Fate by Olivia Newton- John is a great song from the Two of a Kind soundtrack. Two of a Kind is one of those movies... that is not very good. I like it though. I watched this movie all the time on HBO in the 80's, and I still have a soft spot for it (and this song).  It's a guilty pleasure movie.

Zach is a failed inventor who owes money to the mob, and Debbie is a bank teller.When Zach tries to rob the bank to pay the mob, Debbie slips him deposit slips instead and keeps the money, cause she's broke. Yeah I know. Meanwhile 4 angels come to Earth to try and save it- God is angry but they propose that if one person can be redeemed, He will stay his hand. God agrees, and Zach is of course that guy. Of course he and Debbie fall in love.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sunday Post #29/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This week was a little better on the reading front, I finished a book and made good progress on another. Lots of stuff going on in the personal life, too, including a possible job change and move. If we do this it will be a big change for our family, but a positive one we think. It may affect my blogging time, but I enjoy doing this and want the blog to grow, so I'll be sticking with it. Everything is early stages though so we'll see. 

We get another blizzard last night, tons of snow and the roads were nearly impassable due to drifts. Hope everyone is staying warm and having a good weekend. 


Vitro Mulled Murder


  No Safety in Numbers


More Season 4 goodness for Game of Thrones 

Carrie Fisher says she, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are due on the set of Star Wars soon.

Some cover reveals courtesy of YA Roundup at

Check out the trailer for the LEGO movie

Natalie Dormer shaves (part of) her head for Mockingjay.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three is about what happens after civilization breaks down. Adam is in school one day when the power goes out. Just a power outage, right? Well, no. It turns out that anything relying on computers is out of commission- cell phones, government services, even vehicles. The only cars than run are those without computers. It soon becomes clear that the power is not coming back on anytime soon- and the fight for survival begins.

This book made me think about what would truly happen if something like this were to occur. Is it likely? No, but something on a smaller but still catastrophic scale is certainly possible, and this makes the book so thought provoking. Anyone who has ever wondered what would happen if the power went out- and stayed out- will find this book fascinating. Would society break down? How long would it take? And what could be done to survive? Adam has two advantages- his mother is a police chief, and his next door neighbor is a retired spy. The two of them organize the neighborhood and begin to build defenses and gather resources.  The results are mostly believable and, again, thought provoking.

The neighborhood soon becomes a fortress of sorts, as they gather what they can and protect themselves from marauders. They face thorny questions, such as whether to admit other families who are in need, given that they only have finite resources- food, water, fuel. Where do you draw the line? This was the most interesting part of the book for me as it makes you what you would do in that situation.

There is a romance in the story. Lori lives on a nearby farm and Adam has had his eye on her for a while, but has been afraid to ask her out. They are brought together when Lori's family is brought into the neighborhood for their protection. The romance is cute and innocent, although I would have preferred to see Lori play a little more role in the story. The story itself kept my interest, although it did drag just a little in the middle. I kept waiting for the conflict that I knew was coming- but it never really arrived until the very end, and that was a bit disappointing. The bulk of the story is basically preparation, and while it was fairly realistic I could have used a little more action.

My biggest issue with the book is the abrupt ending. I mean, really abrupt. I waited until the very end for the action to really pick up- it does, but then there is no aftermath at all. Is there a sequel in the works? I don't know, I would be interested in reading it if there is one, but this could easily be a standalone too and that's fine. A better ending is needed though, in my opinion. Way too abrupt. Otherwise it's a fine read and it got me thinking. Solid but unspectacular.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tuesday Tunes #2 - Under The Milky Way


Under The Milky Way by The Church- such a great song. Just very mellow-makes me think of a summer night, sitting on the hood of a car and staring up at the night sky with a special someone.


What are you listening to?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sunday Post #28/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Last week flew by and again reading time was at a premium. I have a bunch of new reads but I'm reading several at once, plus real life keeps intruding, so it was another slow week review- wise. We've been busy kid-wise, with tryouts for this and practices for that. They're having fun though, and and we're to make sure they don't get over committed. I did get a review up for Alliance (the next Paladin Prophecy book). I can't recommend this book enough, or the first one for that matter. If you like YA stories with boarding schools and eerie threats, you should check this out. 


 Mulled Murder

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy #2)

Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy, #2)

Alliance by Mark Frost is the sequel to The Paladin Prophecy. The story opens several months after the events of the first book. Will and his friends are still on campus at the Center, recovering from the ordeal they went through last time around. Summer is approaching and Will has been training, learning how to use his newly discovered powers. The shadowy Knights of Charlemagne were defeated, but Will knows that was just the first engagement. The true struggle is just beginning. Will, Brooke, Ajay, Nick and Elise have been brought even closer together by their shared experiences, and the stakes are about to get higher. They're more confident now and ready to take the battle to their shadowy enemy. But will a shocking betrayal doom them all?

First off, I loved this book. I think the first one was a little better, and more happened in that one, but this is still a great sequel. We learn a lot more about the Knights of Charlemagne and their purpose, as well as the Paladin prophecy itself. We get to see some old allies return, and some new enemies as well. The five friends revisit the tunnels beneath the Center and discover a shocking secret there. I thought the foray underground was fun and suspenseful, although it took up a significant chunk of the book

Just as in the first book, the five friends are the best part of this story. They all play off each other so well, and have such distinct personalities. While I think Will, with his newly awakened abilities, might be a tad too powerful, I really like Elise. She may be more powerful even than Will, but it’s her attitude that makes her fun. I love her sonic power- reminds me a bit of Banshee from the X- Men, but a little more restrained. We saw her cut loose once in the first book, at a crucial time, but here she has been training over the intervening months and has a much better handle on her power now. She gets to use it several times, often to devastating effect. Way cool.

Will’s relationship with Brooke continues to develop in interesting ways, but this time we  see that Will and Elise share a bond as well. There were hints of this in the first book, of course. I found this refreshing – a love triangle of sorts, but not an obnoxious one. The nice thing is it’s not all angsty- they’re all friends, and while it’s acknowledged that Will and Brooke are kinda together, some things happen that may put a question mark on that. I liked this a lot- Brooke is a great character, and her newly emerging powers are neat, but the idea of Will and Elise together is fascinating to me.

This series has a lot going on. Five friends who may have been genetically tampered with, giving them strange powers, an interdimensional war with elder beings, and ruins of a prehuman civilization. We get a lot of information in this one about the Knights of Charlemagne and what they’re up to. As more of their plot is divulged, I was a little bit disappointed in the reasoning behind it. The genetic manipulation and interdimensional war are great, I like the idea of the prophecy and what it means, I just found the reasoning behind it all a little iffy. There are several big reveals at the end, a nasty twist and an enormous cliffhanger. I was sorry to see this book end, it flew by and is every bit as compelling as the first book. My only complaint is that it is shorter- the first one was over 500 pages, and this clocks in at a little over 300. I wanted more! It will be a long wait for the next one.


Elise gripped his arms and got right in Will's face, her etched eyebrows arched high with excitement. "Listen. I will waitress at a Waffle House or sing happy- hour show tunes at a trailer park rest home, but I promise you I will figure out some way to bank staying here, because you knuckleheads are not going down there this time without me."
"I was hoping you'd say that," said Will with a grin.
"I've been waiting since Christmas for this," she said.

"Elise? Are you with me?"
"Why are you carrying me?" she asked.
"You were out on your feet."
"We could move a lot faster if you'd put me down."
"You think you can run now?"
"Faster than you're going," she said.
"Okay, I'll put you down".
"And, Will?"
"Whatever you do, don't look behind us."

From Goodreads:

Readers of I Am Number Four, The Maze Runner, and Legend will love this sophisticated adventure series by the cocreator of the groundbreaking television show Twin Peaks, with its unique combination of mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.

After exposing the sinister underground society of students known as the Knights of Charlemagne, Will West stays at the Center over the summer to explore his newly developing physical and mental abilities. Meanwhile, his roommates investigate the Knights' shadowy purpose and discover unsettling information about their own backgrounds. Will and his friends must quickly figure out what's going on and separate friend from foe as they prepare for the coming fight.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tunes for Tuesday

So I was thinking lately about INXS and how I missed their music. I was fortunate enough to see them on their KICK tour- what an awesome show. Good memories. So I had to take a little INXS break today... and thought I'd share the fun.

And since it's a Tuesday, why not two?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sunday Post #27/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

 It's been a quiet week on the blog after a busy beginning to January, but I have some good new stuff and I'm looking forward to reviewing some of it soon. 


 Mulled Murder


San Diego Comic Con only selling single day passes in 2014.

The trailer for Season 4 of game of Thrones is coming on Sunday. Here's a sneak peek.

What is the best fantasy movie ever made? Lots of great choices here...

Which sci fi classic is best read before the age of 18? Some age better than others...

20 Questions to start your year off with over at Escape Adulthood. This is a great post, very thought-provoking. Awesome blog too.

Berls asks how do you keep up with your fave blogs over at Fantasy Is More Fun? Check it out!

So how was your week? 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sunday Post/ It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I hope everyone had a fabulous New Year! We're into 2014 now and it's a time of new beginnings. Accordingly, I have a slew of new reads lined up and am looking forward to delving into them. Some fantasy, dystopians, and a bunch of other good stuff as well. Check out my new arrivals below. We're bracing for the cold and snow that is supposed to arrive by tomorrow night, right now it's not bad and we have a gentle snowfall coming down. It's beautiful at the moment. 

We finally saw Frozen and we all loved it. Best movie I've seen in a while. 

Here's the girls at Christmas with their own little tree. We finally got around to sorting through all our holiday pics. 

Here's my oldest with some of her bookish loot. 


The Rule of Three

Mulled Murder


The true origin of Squeee? Probably not, but kinda funny.  

Triumph of the English Major- a neat essay over at the New York Times Sunday Review. Worth a read. 

Want a Hostess Fruit Pie? You might not after seeing this... 

Check out the Veronica Mars trailer here

So how was your week? 

Saturday Snapshot # 3

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads.

To participate in Saturday Snapshot post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a link to your post at Melinda's site. Photos can be old or new, and be any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes. How much detail you give is in the captions is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online. 

I hope everyone had a great New Year. Here are some pics from Christmas that we finally got around to getting on the computer. 

This is the girls and their own little tree in their room. 

Christmas Day. 

Christmas Kitty. 

Opening presents at the family Christmas party. 

Guys playing cards 


Merry Christmas! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Movie Review: Frozen

Frozen (2013) Poster

Well we finally saw Frozen. The girls have been bugging me about it all week and we finally got to it- almost $40 later not counting popcorn. Yikes movies are expensive for a famiy of four these days! Anyway did I like it? The short answer- yes. It's a great movie- easily the best movie I've seen in a while. I was expecting to be a bit bored, as I often am with movies like this. Um, no. It held my attention and was not only a great story, but beautiful to look at as well. Everything works- the voices, the art, the pacing, and yes the music. I liked Tangled a lot, but this was even better I thought.

For those who don't know the story, it's about two sisters Anna and Elsa who are princesses of the kingdom of Arundell. Elsa has the power to create ice at will and when she and Anna are playing as children, Anna gets injured. Her parents take Anna to the trolls for help, and they are able to save Anna- but they also remove her memory of the event and advise the king and queen to keep Elsa isolated. They do so, and Elsa grows up with very little contact with the outside world- or even Anna.

Fast forward to the present day, and Anna and Elsa are all grown up. It is time for Elsa's coronation as queen- but when something goes wrong and her ice powers spiral out of control, the kingdom is locked into an ice age and Elsa flees into the wilderness to be alone. Anna resolves to find her and bring her back, so that together they can lift the spell of ice. Along the way she runs into the mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer companion Sven, and together with the cute little snowman Olaf, they seek out Elsa and try to make things right.

As I said above, everything works here. There's a nice twist on the dashing prince theme, and I won't say much more except that it's refreshing that the princess has to rely on herself rather than a prince to come to the rescue. Kristoff is a great character, the trolls are a nice touch and Olaf... well, often these obligatory sidekicks are a little underwhelming, at least for me, but I have to say Olaf is hilarious. One of the best parts of the movie. I've been very disappointed at the movies lately, but for once I had fun Frozen is awesome!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Review: Avengers Annual #11 Avengers vs. Defenders

I have not been reviewing very many comics lately on the blog, so I thought with a new year I would remedy that. So first up: Avengers Annual #11.

We start out with Nebulon, a previous Defenders villain, being imprisoned on Earth for his crimes of interference. Apparently his race is governed by a decree that they never interfere with other planets, and by doing so he has been exiled. He is given a choice of ending his life- the "honorable" choice- or living in exile on Earth with his power halved. He chooses Earth and is soon befriended by Thor. Sensing a kindred spirit of great power, and believing Nebulon's story that he wishes to live in peace, Thor takes Nebulon to the Avengers for help.

At the same time we have Supernalia, another member of Nebulon's race, appearing to the Defenders for assistance in apprehending Nebulon. She claims he is still bent on conquering Earth, and has brainwashed the Avengers into aiding him. The Defenders believe her, although it soon becomes clear she is utilizing some kind of mind control on them, and the Defenders soon confront the Avengers and Nebulon. Predictably, things degenerate into a pitched battle, and off we go.

We soon find out that both Nebulon and Supernalia have been manipulating events. As the battle winds down, they manage to shake the mind control and soon realize that Nebulon has been using an ennui machine to weaken his allies and siphon their power for his own ends- he clearly has not abandoned his ambitions after all. Cap saves the day with a well- placed shield throw, turning the device back on Nebulon, which will have fatal results for him. It turns out that Supernalia is Nebulon's wife, and still loves him even though he has been exiled and disgraced- nevertheless she came to earth to kill him and thereby remove the stain on their family's honor due to Nebulon's crimes. However Supernalia realizes that by orchestrating this conflict, she has also interfered with earthly affairs, and chooses the honorable way- death. She prevents the heroes from saving Nebulon, and instead joins him in oblivion.

This annual isn't bad. The Defenders lineup is pretty forgettable, with the exception of the Silver Surfer. The Valkyrie, the Beast and Gargoyle round out the Defenders present, and are matched (overmatched, I would say) by Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and the Wasp for the Avengers. I've always been a fan of the Surfer, and his power cosmic is well represented here.

I read this issue as part of the recently released Avengers Absolute Vision trade paperback. It's a collection of Avengers issues #231-241, annuals 11 and 12, and various other related issues.   I wouldn't pay full price for it, but purchased at a discount from Amazon it was worth it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: GAME

Game (HP Pettersson, #1)

Game by Anders de la Motte asks how far one is willing to go for approval and recognition- especially if you have nothing to lose. HP (Henrik Pettersson) is a slacker who finds a shiny new cell phone on the train one night, after a hard night of partying, and thinks finders keepers. The problem is, the phone keeps ringing- someone is calling and asking if he wants to play a game. Of course he doesn't want to play a game, but when the call starts referring to him by name it gets his attention! Thinking a friend is playing a prank, he decides to play along... and gets sucked into a game that starts out simple but becomes increasingly dangerous.

 As the game progresses the stakes get higher and higher, and HP finds himself crossing the line into illegal activity, with serious consequences. HP finds himself a pawn of forces he cannot control, and the game begins to take over his whole life. How far will the game ask him to go- and when the life of someone close to him is threatened, will HP be able to resist the lure of the game?

Game is told from the perspective of both HP and Rebecca, a security operative who is also HP's sister. Rebecca is much more likeable than HP but she too has deep seated issues that affect her life and career. As events spiral out of control, HP and Rebecca are drawn closer together and must discover who is behind the Game and what it really means. Secrets are revealed and they are left wondering who, if anyone, they can really trust.

Game has some great action sequences. There are several moments where the stories of HP and Rebecca converge and it really ratchets up the tension. There is a fair amount of profanity in this book, so if that offends you then you may want to consider that. I thought it was a bit much, but then again it reads just like someone might think- HP felt authentic to me exactly because of the raw language and attitude. Rebecca is a flawed character who is dealing with a huge amount of guilt in her past, and this affects every aspect of her life. Her path to self forgiveness and acceptance was one of the more compelling aspects of the story.

Game starts out strong and has a huge twist at the end, and is highly recommended for thriller fans or anyone who just wants something different. It's a thrilling ride and I'm looking forward to seeing where the Game goes next.