Thursday, March 26, 2009

Once Bitten by Kalayna Price

Title: Once Bitten
Author: Kalayna Price
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Publication Date: January 9, 2009
Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: The Haven (Book 1)

Kalayna Price's debut novel, Once Bitten, brings a new twist to urban fantasy. Kita Nekai is a shapeshifter, heir to her clan, and on the run. Initially, her only problem is evading the Hunters that her father has sent to bring her back home. However, things just get worse as she is accidentally turned into a vampire and finds out she may be responsible for creating a rogue shifter who is murdering women. She is given two days to bring the rogue to justice or her life is forfeit.

I love reading urban fantasy. The bookshelves in my home are absolutely bursting with it. I've read books about shapeshifters, vampires, witches, elves, wizards, demons, and so on. I have not read anything like Once Bitten. Price combines vampires and shapeshifters in a way that I've never read before and she does it with nonstop action. Kita is full of nervous energy, anger, and fear as her situation ventures into uncharted territory. Nathanial, the vampire, also displays a wide range of emotions, though his are often hidden behind a stoic mask. Together they must attempt to understand how becoming a vampire will affect Kita's natural form as a shapeshifter. Will her ability to shift return as she adapts to her new life?

Another difference in this book compared to other urban fantasy books I've been reading is the setting. The majority of the books I've been reading take place in a world very much like our own where the humans simply do not know the supernatural community exists. In Once Bitten all of the action takes place in our world but Kita is originally from Firth and Gil, the scholar, is from Sabin. The vampires seem to exist in our world without having another home. The supernatural community still conceals its existence from humans but not all the supernatural beings live among us on a permanent basis.

Price keeps the action going from the very first sentence of her novel. Kita must come to grips with the changes that her new lifestyle requires of her while taking action to find the rogue and keep her companions in check. All of the situations also take a heavy emotional toll as she struggles with the idea that she may have caused the rogue situation.

I would highly recommend Once Bitten to urban fantasy readers. I am looking forward to finding out what happens with Kita and Nathanial in future books in the series.

Thank you to Deborah at Bell Bridge Books for sending me a review copy of Once Bitten.

2009 Reading Challenges

1st in a Series Challenge

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Houston, we have a problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda

Title: Houston, we have a problema
Author: Gwendolyn Zepeda
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 8, 2009
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Age Group: Adult

Houston, we have a problema is the story of Jessica Luna, a young woman without the self-confidence to make her own decisions. She is tired of her mother and sister interfering in her life, yet she is unable to determine her own direction. Jessi struggles with her cultural identity and finding her place in social and professional situations.

Zepeda writes the flawed character of Jessi very well. So well in fact that Jessi drove me absolutely crazy as I waited for her to get a clue and grow up. She is self-centered yet completely insecure. She is so focused on her drama that she is unable to see the difficult situations that other members of her family are facing. She also has tunnel vision in regards to career opportunities and dating prospects, causing her to very nearly miss out on some fantastic possibilities.

I would have liked to see Jessi grow a bit more a little earlier in the book. The constant drama got old quickly especially since Jessi debated the exact same choices multiple times in the book. While the drama was important for showing the reader where Jessi is at the start of the book, I think more could have been done with the ending when she is finally determined to take control of her life. The results of her choices and new found drive would have been more interesting to me.

The other characters in the book have their own drama as well and it spills over into their relationships with Jessi even when she doesn't realize it. I thought these scenarios were very well written as I could see them playing out in many family and friend relationships. The characters and their choices are really the focus of this book. The actual situations they find themselves in are less important than their responses to the situations.

Overall, I found this book to be just an okay, quick read. The version I received does have a Reading Group Guide and a Questions for the Author section which could lead to deeper discussion of the book. There are some themes revolving around personal identity that are certainly worth contemplating. I, however, found it difficult to get beyond my annoyance with the attitude of the main character.

Thank you to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for providing me a copy of Houston, we have a problema.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Title: Galway Bay
Author: Mary Pat Kelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 576 pages
Age Group: Adult

I recently participated in a Blog Tour for Galway Bay but at that time I had not completed reading the novel. A summary of the book and links to some additional information provided by the author can be found in my Blog Tour post.

Galway Bay is an fantastic book. Kelly shows how the events of history unfold to affect one family and the impact over the generations. The characters in this book are amazing. Honora Kelly displays a great strength as she helps save her family from starvation, brings her children to America as a widow, and then worries for her boys as they fight in America's Civil War. As a reader, I could feel the strength of the emotions in this book as well as the pangs of their hunger. The characters truly come alive off the pages.

Kelly sprinkles some Irish phrases into the dialogue which adds to the authentic feel of the book. There is a glossary in the back of the book which aids in understanding these terms although many can be understood simply from their place in the text.

Through telling the story of one family, Kelly truly tells the tale of the millions who fled Ireland during the starvation to create new lives for themselves in America. I would highly recommend Galway Bay as a rich, historical novel and as a novel of family. The book also contains a reading guide which would make it an ideal book club selection.

Thank you to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for providing me a copy of Galway Bay.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blog Tour: Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Title: Galway Bay
Author: Mary Pat Kelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 576 pages
Age Group: Adult

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Summary: Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch--and their crops--to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop--their only staple food. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Danger and hardship await them there. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century", fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's 44 million Irish Americans.

My Thoughts: I will admit that I have not yet completed reading Galway Bay. It is a lengthy book but definitely worth it. I have just begun the third part out of five and I am in love with this story. Mary Pat Kelly brings so much life and strength into her characters. I can feel the despair and the determination, the hunger and the heartache, and the overall will to survive in the face of extreme adversity.

More Information: Mary Pat Kelly has written a couple of articles about how this book came to be and all the research she did about her family history while working on the story. Those articles can be found here and here. Mary Pat Kelly will also be participating in a Blog Talk Radio broadcast at 11:00 am EST today! More details can be found here.

For more thoughts on Galway Bay, check out some of the other blogs participating in today's blog tour:

Thank you to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for providing me a copy of Galway Bay for this blog tour.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eve by Elissa Elliott

Title: Eve A Novel of the First Woman
Author: Elissa Elliott
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: January 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Age Group: Adult

Eve A Novel of the First Woman tells the story of Adam, Eve, and their children after they leave the Garden of Eden. The story is told through the memories of Eve and her daughters. Eve recounts the events that led to her and Adam's expulsion from the Garden and also the events leading to the tragedy between Cain and Abel.

Each chapter in the book is told by a different character and they are clearly labeled. I did not have difficulty keeping track of who was relating the story. One aspect that was jarring was that most of the chapters are told in first person but Naava's chapters were told in third person. For me, it would have made more sense to write all the chapters in first person or write Eve's in first person and all of the daughters' chapters in third.

Eve's chapters meander through her memories, which is a fitting method to tell her tale. She contemplates her life and her relationships with her children, Adam, and Elohim. The reader also learns about Eve through the stories of her daughters and her relationship with her sons.

Elliott uses lyrical language to capture Eve's questions and doubts. While Elliott has researched the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, this is a work of fiction and as such, she has taken artistic license with the events to create a compelling tale.

Eve A Novel of the First Woman is a beautiful, historical novel that inspires contemplation of ones own life.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sword Quest by Sabrina Vasta

Title: Sword Quest
Author: Sabrina Vasta
Publisher: self-published via
Publication Date: 2008
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Age Group: Adult
Series: Sword Quest (Book 1)

Sword Quest is an epic fantasy novel featuring an unlikely group of traveling companions. On Aryn, a number of races manage an uneasy coexistence. The adventure begins when an elderly and powerful Pon sends a varied group of six on a journey to obtain a steel sword. Each member of the group hides their own secrets and each has their own motives for accepting the journey.

Vasta has created an enormous world in this book. The characters and landscapes are rich and varied. The action is non-stop yet there are many moments of personal reflection by the characters as well. While the characters must work together for a common goal, it is often clear that they are also at odds. Vasta manages to reveal pieces of each character's history to the reader without revealing it to the other characters. The characters' emotions run high throughout the entire novel as they face new and uncertain situations. Their uneasy truce seems to be very fragile, as if everything could fall apart at any moment.

Overall, this was a very good book and I would be interested in continuing on with the series.

Update: Sword Quest is now available at It can also be purchased directly through as either a paperback book or a download.

Learn more at the author's website

2009 Reading Challenges

1st in a Series Challenge