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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lara Adrian Giveaway!

This contest is now CLOSED. Thanks for the entries everyone and stay tuned for more giveaways in the future!

The last month of 2009 is almost here and the holiday season is in full swing! With all the craziness erupting all around, sometimes the best gifts are the ones we give ourselves, and what could be better than the gift of a good book...or six?

With that said, it's time to announce my first every giveaway on What Book is That?! The prize: The first six books in Lara Adrian's Midnight Breeds series! That means the winner will receive the following:


Kiss of Midnight
Kiss of Crimson
Midnight Awakening
Midnight Rising
Veil of Midnight
Ashes of Midnight

All books are gently used and will make a great gift to yourself.

Contest Rules
-U.S. only please, thanks for understanding!
-Winner will be notified via email, so make sure the email address you leave is one you check regularly.
-Contest ends December 16th

Sound good? Then here's how you enter- simply fill out the form below- there are opportunities for extra entries galore, and also a question that I am curious about: what book do you think would make a good gift, and who would you give it to? I'll post the results in a blog post at the end of the contest, so check back if you need more gift ideas. In a way, everyone wins in this contest!

Just in case this wasn't enough excitement, Here's another contest for the Midnight Breeds series that ends December 5th!

Review: Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

Title: Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Page Count: 325 pages
Publisher: Flux
Genre: paranormal romance, urban fantasy, young adult
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Deirdre is a gifted musician; so's Luke, and then some. James is a musician too. What do these people have in common? They're all about to get wrapped up in Faerie craziness as Luke is charged with killing Deirdre and falls in love with her instead. That'll leave a mark.

Thankfully Reading Weekend continues to roll on, and looking to the future, Blog With Bite will be reviewing Ballad in the very near future. That was all the motivation I needed to dive into Lament and I'm really glad I did.

When I reviewed Shiver back in September I commented that the book simmers without boiling and flows without flooding, and that seems to be characteristic of the author's writing style, as those phrases can definitely be used to describe Lament as well. Deirdre is remarkably savvy when it comes to the faeries she encounters, and her objections that arise are to violence, not to the existence of what she's seeing. I found that element kept the story moving and made Deidre a good choice for a heroine.

Likewise, I found Luke's presence in the story to be believable, and watching his relationship grow slowly with Deirdre was enjoyable and sweet. I liked that the lines between good and evil were decidedly blurred and that the ending wasn't a clear cut and dried happily ever after. It makes me look forward to reading Ballad in the next few days.

I also have to say that I really enjoy that, even though things look pretty bleak for the main couple at times, nobody succumbed to what is rapidly becoming known as Edward Cullen Syndrome, where the hero (or heroine, let's be real here) runs for the hills when things start to look bad. Hubris is a story element as old as the hills, but when it's overused I find it waters down a story for me pretty quickly.

If you're looking for a quick, enjoyable story with plenty of imagery and beautiful language to wrap your mind around, Lament is an excellent choice.

Overall Grade: A

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Review: Bound to Shadows

Title: Bound to Shadows
Author: Keri Arthur
Page Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Dell
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Copy for review compliments of Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc.

50 words or less: It's drama-rama as Riley balances her job as a guardian with her life- her soul mate, Kye, is back in town; her brother and his mate make her an offer she doesn't want to refuse, and Quinn, her real love, shows sides that are new. What's a girl to do?

I freely admit, this is the first book in this series that I've read, although there are indeed seven previous books. I had no idea what to expect, I didn't know whether no background knowledge would be a help or a hindrance; hell, I didn't know whether I would even like the book. I'm pleased to say that everything came up roses by the end of the series and I am now definitely a fan.

Riley is a half-vampire, half-werewolf, which means she's not bound by the "rules" of either group and instead kind of meanders between them. She works as a guardian, which means her job is protecting people from the things that go bump in the night, even when people would rather not have that protection. That's the story going on here- patrons of clubs where they can feed their addictions to vampire bites are getting drained; vampires are ending up dead
(beheaded, no less) and now the big question is, who's behind the killings? It's a tense situation and one Riley would like to clear up sooner rather than later.

In the midst of all that, her wolf soul mate, Kye, reappears on the scene. Normally I'm a huge fan of shifters and find myself in that camp; that was decidedly not the case here. Kye is a douche, and a murdering one at that; Riley can't stand him, and one of the most unique parts of the book is her trying to resist him, not because she's afraid of their relationship or any of the tropes that are so common in PNR and urban fantasy books, but because she does not like him and wants nothing to do with him, and as a matter of fact, she loves someone else. Even though things don't always go as planned, Riley remains true to herself and genuinely tries to do the right thing, both for herself and for the people she cares about.

To make matters more complicated, Quinn, her lover and the one who truly holds her heart, has a much more complex role in the crime wave sweeping through the vampire community than Riley had thought. This ends up working in Riley's favor but it does call her attention to elements of her world that she was not aware of before.

There is one scene, near the end of the book, that made me cringe; as a rule, nonconsensual sex is not my thing and doesn't work for me as a plot device. I understand why it was included in the book and I definitely see what it does to move the story to its conclusiong, and hey, Kye is a bitch and bitches, as they say, get stitches, but as a rule that kind of stuff doesn't work for me.

Bound to Shadows is a good introduction to the series and will make you want to go read the previous seven installments if you haven't already. Word is that the next book will be the last one for the series so it'll be interesting to see how everything wraps up.

Overall Grade: A-

ANOTHER Huge Contest at Bloody Bookaholic!

Another great chance to win free stuff comes courtesy of Taschima at Bloody Bookaholic, who, in honor of the various holidays and her 500 followers, is giving away the following:

- ARC Eyes Like Stars
- Signed ARC Hush Hush
- ARC Ash
- ARC The Demon's Lexicon
- ARC Betraying Season
- The Black Tatto + poster
- I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You
- Candle Man, Book One
- Deadtown
- Lenore Noogies
- The anticipated sequel of The Nanny Diaries, The Nanny Returns
- Never After by Dan Elconsin
- Secret Society signed book and an Ambassador Kit

And a 2010 Book called The Mark by Jen Nadol.

- Gift Cards for Ninja T Shirts. And as if that weren't enough, there will also be prizes for her top commenters, the three regular contest winners, random other winners, including people who blog about the contest. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Anyway, head on over, become a follower if you aren't one already, and join the insanity. Easy as that!

HUGE Giveaway at Tynga's Urban Fantasy reviews!

So the always delightful Tynga is having a huge contest to celebrate her blog's 300 followers and it is so worth checking out. There are tons of ways to get entries, and the whole shebang ends December 23rd so you have some time to get your stuff together and head on over and enter. Here's what's up for grabs:


Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper
Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly Harper
Nice Girls Don't Live Forever by Molly Harper
Storm Born by Richelle Mead
Dark Visions by L.J. Smith
Fade Out by Rachel Caine
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Marked by P.C. Cast
Flesh Circus by Lilith Staintcrow
Hunting Grounds by Patricia Briggs
Playing With Fire by Gena Showalter


Head on over, follow Tynga's blog, and tell her Emily @ What Book is That? sent you!

Review: Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas


Title: Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
Author: Tom Robbins
Page Count: 386 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: fiction, let's leave it at that

50 words or less: Impossible. Here's the summary from goodreads.com- When the stock market crashes on the Thursday before Easter, you — an ambitious, although ineffectual and not entirely ethical young broker — are convinced you're facing the Weekend from Hell. Before the market reopens on Monday, you're going to have to scramble and scheme to cover your butt, but there's no way you can anticipate the baffling disappearance of a 300-pound psychic, the fall from grace of a born-again monkey, or the intrusion in your life of a tattooed stranger intent on blowing your mind and most of your fuses. Over these fateful three days, you will be forced to confront everything from mysterious African rituals to legendary amphibians, from tarot-card bombshells to street violence, from your own sexuality to outer space. This is, after all, a Tom Robbins novel — and the author has never been in finer form.

Tom Robbins is my favorite author and has been for a long time, but I'm almost ashamed to admit that I hadn't read Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas until now. I think it's because I've not yet read a Robbins book I didn't like so I didn't feel pressured to read it. I'm glad I moved it to the top of my pile though, as the head trip that comprised the story was definitely worth exploring.

Tom Robbins is not an author to read if you need your books to start at point A and end at point Z and progress in a logical and linear fashion with no tangents, tightly packaged and locked in, following a standard formula and complete with a happily ever after. These things are all well and good but are not present in a Tom Robbins novel.

Reading his work is a lot like using the spin the bottle method of picking turns on a road trip. You don't know where you'll end up and backtracking is almost out of the question, but somehow, some way, you end up where you wanted to go. Or maybe you don't; maybe you end up somewhere totally different that you've never heard of or thought about and that's just fine too.

It's so hard to talk about what goes in the story because everything is tied into everything else- the cast of characters is outrageous, the storylines are a big, knotty, candy-covered puzzle, and through it all run themes that are still as relevant today as they were when the book first came out. It's a book to read in segments and to think about between readings; with that said, it's easy to get sucked in and read it all in one go.

Overall Grade A, if grading this kind of book is even really possible.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: Dark Prince

Title: Dark Prince
Author: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 314 pages
Publisher: Love Spell
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Copy for review was one I owned already

50 words or less: Mikhail is the Prince of the Carpathians, a dying race with little hope for the future. Raven is a human with psychic powers who rocks Mikahail's world when he realizes that she is his lifemate. What ends up developing between them rocks the Carpathian world and affects everyone in it.

I felt the need to revisit an old favorite after my last book/review, so I turned to Dark Prince, the first book in the Carpathians series. This book basically lays the groundwork for everything that happens in the rest of the series and I have to say, while it's not my favorite book in the entire series, rereading it is still fun, just to see how far the story has come and what has happened to the rest of the characters since this first book came out.

At the beginning, things are not looking good for the Carpathian people. They're dying or turning vampire at a terrible rate and it doesn't look like there's a thing Mikhail can do about any of it. Mikhail is just about ready to punch his ticket when he meets Raven and is pretty much struck stupid by her. He realizes immediately that she is his lifemate and proceeds to try to win her over, with varying degrees of success.

Dark Prince introduces a cast of characters that are interesting and well-drawn and set up the rest of the series very nicely; if I have one complaint about the book it's the use of the "this cannot be happening, I'm choosing not to believe what I'm seeing" plot device to a level that's a little extended for my liking. Raven catches serial killers with her psychic powers, you'd think she'd be a little more receptive to other supernatural doings. There's also a liberal dose of the "look how independent I am, I don't need you!" plot device, which is not one of my favorites either. I felt like there were a few chapters where the characters kind of talked in circles. These are minor complaints, though, and as the series goes on these elements are used to further the story with nice effect. It's a testament to how the story has developed with more layers as time has passed (Dark Prince was first published in 1999.)

If you haven't read this series yet and are a fan of paranormal romance, I highly recommend it. Revisiting Dark Prince has inspired me to reread the rest of the series, since there weren't any installments that I remember not enjoying the first time.

Overall Grade: B+

Thankfully Reading Weekend!



I'm still sleeping off a food coma from yesterday and diligently avoiding every retail establishment on the planet, which means I'm reading! The folks at Book Blog Social Club are hosting this round up of blogs, so hop on over and see what people are reading over the holiday weekend. I know personally I will be finishing another book for the Fall into Reading Challenge, reading a book submitted for review for Blog with Bite, reading a book I borrowed from a friend over a year ago, and getting through some more Lara Adrian books as well.

What are you reading now?

Illustrated Friday: Turk and Runt


I'm in the grips of an epic food coma right now, but I wanted to share my favorite Thanksgiving-related illustrated book in honor of yesterday's festivities. Turk and Runt is the story of one turkey's efforts to save his family from becoming someone's Thanksgiving meal, and the lengths he has to go to to explain the gravity of the situation to his fellow turkeys. The illustrations are wry and witty with lots of details, and I get excited every year for the opportunity to share this book with my class. I know this year's group certainly enjoyed it!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Cha-Cha (3)

I am SO EXCITED for cha-cha this week. There are so many fun things in my starred folder right now, it was hard to decide on what to include and what to save for next week.

First of all, this came through on BoingBoing yesterday, and I cannot for the life of me stop watching it. Freaking genius!


The bloggy world has been a very busy place lately, with lots of really fantastic and interesting, thought-provoking posts. Here are just a few:

Helen at Helen Loves Books has an interesting post about books you had to read for school. I thought of books I didn't enjoy much more easily than I thought of ones I did, but that may just be me.

Mandy at She Reads has a post about Books as Brain Candy and which books or series are the most brain-candyesque. Mmmm candy...

Another treat from BoingBoing, I bring you......SCIENCE JOKES!!!


Definitely one of my favorite blog posts of the week comes from Steph Su at Steph Su Reads, where she writes about how blogging has helped her writing. I can totally see her point and was really motivated by her post.

Lynn Viehl (yes, the Lynn Viehl) has the No-Cost Ten posted at her blog, which is ten free programs or services that you can have just for signing up. She posts lists like this very frequently, so I highly recommend subscribing (and her other posts are interesting too!)

And finally, again compliments of BoingBoing (have I mentioned yet how excellent BoingBoing is?) some golden retrievers will teach us about atoms. Have a good day everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Heart of Darkness

Title: Heart of Darkness
Authors: Gena Showalter, Maggie Shayne, Susan Krinard
Page Count: 328 pages
Publisher: HQN
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review compliments of the publisher via Netgalley.com
This book will be released on December 31, 2009

50 words or less: 3 longer stories, each from a different popular author of paranormal romance. Remember that box of chocolates analogy from my review of Shifter? Strap in, folks.

Ooooookay. Let me start off with a little more information that will be helpful in deciding whether or not to read this or not. First, Gena Showalter's story in this book, titled The Darkest Angel, is a part of her Lords of the Underworld series and I'll admit was the big attraction to this book for me. The Darkest Angel was by far the strongest story in the book, so that's a good thing.

The Darkest Angel is the story of Lysander, an angel, and Bianka, a Harpy, who we met in the last book. The story introduces us to Olivia and sheds some more light on the angel/demon side plot that started to pick up speed in the last book and looks like it will be taking center stage in the near future. If you haven't read any of the other Lords of the Underworld books then this is not the place to start reading since it's definitely assumed that you're familiar with the characters and their adventures from previous stories. That's not a bad thing, though, and except for a few occasional lapses into the realm of ridiculous it was all in fun and I enjoyed this story quite a bit. According to the page at the end, the schedule for release for the next few Lords books is as follows:
Into the Dark- May 2010
The Darkest Passion- June 2010
The Darkest Lie- July 2010
That's definitely good news, and will have to hold me over, because the other two stories in the book do not inspire happy feelings in my brain.
Grade for The Darkest Angel: A-

Story number two was Love Me to Death by Maggie Shayne and was my first experience with Maggie Shayne's stories. While the writing was good and the setting for the story was well-developed for the short amount of space there was, I didn't find myself really caring about what happened in the story at all. It may be because ghost stories have never really rung my bell, but the whole idea of a group of dudes who were friends in high school, did time for supposedly killing a girl, and ended up being best friends in a community that pretty much welcomed them back with open arms after the whole debacle was finished just gave me the heebie-jeebies. There are some twists and turns that make the story slightly more palatable, but only slightly. I doubt I will be reading more from this author in the future.
Grade for Love Me to Death: C-

Story number three was Lady of the Nile by Susan Krinard and it was here that the book really went for broke in the WTF olympics. The book is set in London in 1890 and features a duchess who believes she's the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian princess. Or is it a goddess? I needed a flow chart to keep track of what was going on this story so I can honestly say I have no idea. There's a scholarly dude who decides that he's going to "help" her since obviously everyone else thinks she's just nuttier than the proverbial fruitcake. Things get even more convoluted when it becomes apparent that (spoilers ahead if for some reason you care) they are all reincarnations of ancient Egyptians of varying levels of power and prestige. Some of them are reincarnations of bad dudes though, which means there are adventures before the story is finally over. Honestly, at this point I was struggling to finish the story. I found myself wonder if the characters had collectively hit their heads or if there was a gas leak or something. Squick.
Grade for Lady of the Nile: D

The nice thing about these story anthologies is that you can test-drive different authors and characters without investing in a full length novel or in a series. If you're a fan of the Lords of the Underworld series, get this book from the library and read Gena Showalter's story; leave the other two well enough alone.

Overall Grade for the book: C-

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: The Pillars of the Earth

Title: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
Page Count: 973 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Genre: historical fiction
Copy for review was one I owned already

50 words or less: This epic follows the lives, loves and losses of a cross-sampling of people living in Medieval England. Politics, love, marriage, religion, architecture, family, obligation, honor, it's all in here somewhere.

This book was a beast. It was long, it was involved, there were a ton of characters, and the story spans decades. It's not a book to read when you're tired, and the pace can sometimes be grueling, just the pace of real life can sometimes be grueling. It's not a book that everyone will enjoy; if you don't really enjoy historical fiction laced with details and many, many layers, it's probably a book to leave on the shelf.

With all that said, Pillars of the Earth is a meaty read that is an excellent palette cleanser if you tend to read a lot of less serious books and are looking for something to really wrap your mind around (like me.) It's not a one-sitting book by any stretch; reading it in sections is definitely the way to go.

The author works hard to create a detailed, authentic-feeling world that brings the Middle Ages to life. It's not a pretty world; this is a violent book and the author doesn't shy away from sexual violence as well. The characters have their flaws and plenty of them, and the unforeseen effects of their plotting and scheming help to illustrate the themes of the book very vividly.

If you have some background knowledge of the history and the politics in play in the book it definitely adds to the experience, but it's not absolutely necessary to understanding the book. It's actually really hard to write concisely about this book and the stories it contains because there's so much to talk about. This is the kind of book you could read every few years and see it through new eyes every time.

This book is a major investment of time and effort, but it's worth it at the end. I found myself in turns angry, happy, frustrated, bored, excited, sad, you name it. At the end of it all, I felt accomplished, since this was a major undertaking.

Overall Grade: A

As if that wasn't enough, finishing this book means I can check another title off my list of books for the Fall into Reading Challenge this year! I put a lot of meaty books on my list for this year, so getting through them is taking some time, but hopefully I can get through the other eight books by December 20th.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Review: Midnight Awakening

Title: Midnight Awakening
Author: Lara Adrian
Page Count: 369 pages
Publisher: Dell
Genre: paranormal romance
Review copy was one I owned already

50 words or less: Tegan and Elise are both reeling from the deaths of loved ones and vengeance is all that's pulling them through. That's no way to live though, as they both discover as they try and fail to ignore each other and what they're starting to mean to each other.

The Midnight Breeds series continues with Tegan and Elise's story. I'll say here at the onset that this is not my favorite of the series so far but it was still enjoyable.

The previous book closed with Elise's son Camden's death at the hands of her brother-in-law. Camden was beyond saving; Bloodlust had overtaken him and he was, for all intents and purposes, gone already. Elise didn't blame her BIL for the death, but she did decide to go to the front lines of the war between the regular Breeds who are just minding their own business and the murderous Rogues that are running around all over the place. This is how she ends up running into Tegan again; he rescues her from a kill gone awry and nothing is the same for either of them after that.

There are a lot of false starts and "aw crap" moments in the first phases of Tegan and Elise's relationship while they both tried to deny that they were attracted to each other. Sometimes this works for me in a PNR and sometimes it doesn't, and I was kind of iffy about it here. I will say, though, that one refreshing thing about this book was that the heroine had been born into the paranormal world of the book and we didn't have to go through the "this isn't happening, your crazy, I'm going wake up any minute now, la la la can't hear you" segment that's standard fare for a lot of PNRs where the heroine thinks she's fully human until something happens to change her mind.

This book also marks the start of a new story arc in the series and begins a phase where the Midnight Breeds are different from other vampire books that are out there. While there were some things in the book that weren't quite cleared up (Chase certainly extinguished the kind of embarrassing torch he was carrying for Elise pretty quickly, for example, maybe that's addressed in future books?) it was an enjoyable book for sure.

Overall Grade B+

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Caldecott and Newberry Award Winners Challenge

This challenge is hosted by Bri at Bri Meets Books

I'm so excited for this challenge! I've decided to do just the Caldecott award winners, not the Newberys or the Caldecott honor books. My goal is to read all of the Caldecott award winners by December 31, 2010, and I'll be tracking my progress here. Head on over to Bri's blog to join the fun!

1938 Animals of the Bible
1939 Mei Li
1940 Abraham Lincoln
1941 They Were Strong and Good
1942 Make Way for Ducklings
1943 The Little House
1944 Many Moons
1945 Prayer for a Child
1946 The Rooster Crows
1947 The Little Island
1948 White Snow, Bright Snow
1949 The Big Snow
1950 Song of the Swallows
1951 The Egg Tree
1952 Finders Keepers
1953 The Biggest Bear
1954 Madeline's Rescue
1955 Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper
1956 Frog Went A-Courtin'
1957 A Tree is Nice
1958 Time of Wonder
1959 Chanticleer and the Fox
1960 Nine Days to Christmas
1961 Baboushka and the Three Kings
1962 Once a Mouse
1963 The Snowy Day
1964 Where the Wild Things Are
1965 May I Bring a Friend?
1966 Always Room for One More
1967 Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine
1968 Drummer Hoff
1969 The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship
1970 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
1971 A Story a Story
1972 One Fine Day
1973 The Funny Little Woman
1974 Duffy and the Devil
1975 Arrow to the Sun
1976 Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
1977 Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions
1978 Noah's Ark
1979 The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
1980 Ox-Cart Man
1981 Fables
1982 Jumanji
1983 Shadow
1984 The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot
1985 Saint George and the Dragon
1986 The Polar Express
1987 Hey, Al
1988 Owl Moon
1989 Song and Dance Man
1990 Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China
1991 Black and White
1992 Tuesday
1993 Mirette on the High Wire
1994 Grandfather's Journey
1995 Smoky Night
1996 Officer Buckle and Gloria
1997 Golem
1998 Rapunzel
1999 Snowflake Bentley
2000 Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
2001 So You Want to Be President?
2002 The Three Pigs
2003 My Friend Rabbit
2004 The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
2005 Kitten's First Full Moon
2006 The Hello, Goodbye Window
2007 Flotsam
2008  The Invention of Hugo Cabret
2009 The House in the Night
2010 TBD

In My Mailbox- Yowza!

In My Mailbox comes compliments of The Story Siren!


Oh man, the past couple of weeks have been excellent for getting books. I'm really looking forward to reading all of these!

Paperback Swap:

Hidden Agendas by Lora Leigh

Library:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (audio book)
The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
The Stolen One by Suzanne Carlisle Crowley
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers
Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd by Holly Black
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Bought:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

I also received the following books for review, although in my infinite awesomeness I forgot to take a picture of them:
Bound to Shadows by Keri Arthur
Blue Aspen by Tenaya Jayne
Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor by Willow

With the holiday weekend approaching I'm looking forward to getting a ton of reading done, and I have more than enough excellent options. What did you get this week?

Reading Challenges for 2010

I am shamelessly stealing this idea from Helen at Helen Loves Books and putting all my challenge information for 2010 in one post. I agree with her that it will be interesting to see what progress I make with each challenge throughout the year.

If any of these challenges strike your fancy, then follow the link to the appropriate blog and sign up!

Bottoms Up! Challenge hosted by Ellz Readz. Pull 1-3 books off your TBR pile per month and read them, finally! I'm taking my challenge a step further- if I don't get around to reading the 3 books I selected, I'm just passing them along to a good home. This dovetails nicely with the Reading from My Shelves challenge, which I'm also doing.

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Speculative Fiction Challenge, hosted by Book Chick City. I'm challenging myself to read 24 speculative fiction books, crossovers are okay.
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Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. I'm challenging myself to read 30 YA books that are by debut authors and published in 2010.
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Year of the Historical Challenge hosted by Lurve a la Mode.
12 books, one per month, posted to the Mr. Linky. Rereads and crossovers are okay.
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Young Readers Challenge, hosted by Becky at Zero-to-Eight.
12 books, one per month, I'm posting my favorite from Illustrated Friday, rereads and crossovers are okay.
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Reading From My Shelves challenge, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.
I'm challenging myself to read AND GET RID OF 30 books that I currently own. Crossovers are okay.
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Caldecott and Newbery Challenge hosted by Bri at Bri Meets Books.
I'm challenging myself to read all the Caldecott winners. Crossovers okay. This one gets a separate post since there are so many books- stay tuned!

Support Your Local Library Challenge, hosted by J.Kaye at J.Kaye's Book Blog.
I'm challenging myself to check out and read 50 library books. Rereads and crossovers are okay.
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The Young Adult Reading Challenge, hosted by J.Kaye at J.Kaye's Book Blog.
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Marple-Poirot-Holmes Challenge, hosted by At Pemberley.
I'm challenging myself to read 2 Poirot mysteries, 2 Marple mysteries, and 2 Holmes mysteries. Rereads and crossovers are okay.
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Dystopian Challenge hosted by Parajunkee's View.
Open Jan. 1st- August 24th 2010. Rereads from this year only are okay. I'm challenging myself to read 20 dystopian books:

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iWere Challenge hosted by Book Soulmates. Read as many were books as I can this year.

*****

It seems like a lot, but part of the fun for me is going to be seeing how to maximize crossovers for the best effect. Of course, as the year goes on, I can certainly add challenges as I finish these as well. Fun times ahead!

What challenges are you doing for next year?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mystery! Intrigue! Contest!

This is a good one, people.

First off, you should be following Princess Bookie's blog because it's an excellent blog, but just in case you need another excellent reason, she's running a really cool Thanksgiving contest! The prizes are still a mystery but even the little bit she's revealed so far makes the whole shebang sound very exciting.

Here's the deal: in order to be ready to enter the contest and to get all the information, head on over to Princess Bookie and become a follower. After you do that, leave a comment on her blog saying that Emily at What Book is That? sent you, and I will be very happy. If you're already a follower of her blog, make sure to post about it and then comment on her blog with the link, since it's extra entries if you do. Sound good? Good.



I will not get tired of doing this any time soon.

Illustrated Friday: An Egg is Quiet


Watercolor is one of my favorite media for book illustrations. I love the soft tones and details that can be included, especially in books about nature and wildlife. An Egg is Quiet is completely dedicated to eggs of all sizes and shapes, and can be used with a variety of age groups and reading levels. The large print text is almost poetic and gives basic descriptions of the categories of eggs on each page, while the smaller print provides interesting facts about the different animal species. For example:
Seabird eggs are pointy at one end, so if they're laid on rock ledges, they roll around in safe little circles, not off the cliff.

Another awesome feature is the last page of the book, which shows the birds, insects, and other animals that laid all the eggs depicted in the book.

Illustrated books are a neat way for readers of all ages and ability levels to learn new things. I'd never really given much thought to eggs before, but I can definitely see An Egg is Quiet being added to my list of spring read-alouds to share with my class.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bonus Feature: Queene of Light discussion questions





One of the excellent features about Blog With Bite is the chance for a more formal discussion of the books through the discussion questions that go along with the book. Sometimes the questions are a place where we can all kind of gush about a good book; other times, they're a way for us to get our thoughts out in a cohesive way without too much spitting and swearing. Queene of Light seems to fall in between the two poles of opinion, so to clear things up, extra interpretation of my answers will be provided compliments of the O rly owl. You have been warned.

#1 Did you have an understanding of the world created by this novel, or did you find the complexity too much? I didn't have any difficulty understanding the world created by the novel, per se, but I did have trouble sometimes understanding what purpose the complexity was intended to serve. I found myself wanting to hear more about the epic battles that had gone down between the various factions but just as the explanation was starting to get interesting, we were launched into another plot point and that explanation seemed to get forgotten. If anything, I was ready for MORE complexity, not less!

#2 In a book that it appears many have trouble liking, what is one thing that you like about this book?Easily my favorite thing about this book was the wide variety of physical settings in which the story took place. I loved imagining the Strip and trying to imagine the palace and Keller's laboratory/apartment. I think the author provided just enough description to get my imagination going but didn't spoon feed the details, which I always appreciate. Ya, rly.

#3 Did you agree with the author’s decision to make Ayla a fierce assassin in battle and a weakling in her emotions? For example her obvious contempt for Garret but yet her willingness to be his mate and subject herself to his demeaning manor?Oh snap, this owl must be an Ayla fan! I'm going to take a different line here and say that if anything, I don't think Ayla gave enough weight to her emotions- she was so focused on survival and jockeying for a better position in life most of the time that she let other impersonal forces kind of make her decisions for her. To be fair to her, though, while I don't think Ayla ever loved Garrett, I think even she was surprised by how big a douche he turned out to be. I think all she ever wanted was a life of stability with the chance to make choices for herself, and until she met Malachi the best way to accomplish that was to settle down with Garrett. Ayla certainly had a hard life, and living among people who don't really care about you, let alone trust or respect you, would make a lot of people consider a marriage of convenience in a different light. And hey, there are plenty of examples from real human history of people doing things because they seemed like a good idea at the time and not because those courses of action would be emotionally satisfying. I'll write Ayla a pass on this one because I think at the end of the day she was trying to do what she thought would be best for herself in the long run.

#4 What do you think the significance of the the baby Ayla carries is/will be?There are so many possibilities! I think the fact that's she's a combination of light and darkness because of her parentage could be important, especially in light of the fact that she can inherit the throne if something happens to her mom. I also think she'll have to overcome some negative attitudes because of that parentage. I'm thinking of Cedric's comments here and how even though he was a cool guy for the most part, even he wanted nothing to do with anything or anyone from the Darkworld. I wonder how less...enlightened...members of the court will react to her.

#5 What do you think of Ayla's ascension to the throne? Do you believe she accepted her own destiny too easily? I think Ayla was kind of flung into the situation of being Queene and once she was there had to deal with the fact that she would have to sink or swim by her own merit. I think it occurred to her that this might happen if she were to mate Garrett but she didn't honestly think it would, not for years and years. I think she realized that panicking would get her nowhere she wanted to be and would just make it easier for Garrett to crush her in every sense. If she wanted to stay alive, she needed to toughen up right quick.

The next Blog With Bite book is Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater, and the polls for books for December will be up shortly too, so there's lots of fun stuff going on. If you haven't checked out the Blog With Bite action yet, do it!

Wednesday Cha-Cha (2)

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for more cha-cha. Most things are book-related this week, I hope you enjoy this week's offerings!

First, are you following Awful Library Books? If you are not, follow that link and rectify the situation immediately, as ALB is a truly hilarious blog that spotlights books that somehow have not been pulled off the shelves of public libraries yet. While it's funny that these books exist, the librarians behind the project, Mary and Holly, provide fair and well thought-out reasons for these books to be weeded from library collections. If one of the goals of the public library is to provide accurate information to its users, then having some of these stinkburgers on the shelves is counterproductive in the extreme.

Holly and Mary were on Jimmy Kimmel this past week with some exemplars of Awful Library Books, and here's their segment, for your viewing pleasure:





I'm happy to announce that Blog With Bite now has its very own Ning social networking site!
Head on over and sign up for more Blog With Bite excitement. Did you know that reviews for our current selection, Queene of Light, are going up as we speak? Check out the MrLinky on the Blog with Bite site to read people's reviews, and get ready to sign up for our next book, Ballad!

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but brave women read romance. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books had an excellent post last week that explains more.

Leviathan is everywhere these days; I don't think I need to remind anyone how much I liked the book. One of the best things about it is it that it serves as a great introduction to the genre of steampunk, where historical fiction is blended with futuristic technology to provide a new take on stuff that's already happened. The Compulsive Reader was talking about that very concept this past week and she recommends two other books as good examples of steampunk that are frequently overlooked. I put both of them on my TBR list though!

Bella at A Bibliophile's Bookshelf had a great Sunday Salon Post wherein she states that in 2010 she will no longer be taking ARCs and review copies of books, focusing instead on books she's acquired herself and wants to read. I think, in light of the discussions that have been held lately about ARCs and the blogging community (to which I'm relatively new, don't get me wrong) that it's good to know and be able to articulate your reasons for writing and posting. Staying true to yourself is always a good thing.

If you've missed out on all the hoohah surrounding ARCs and the ridiculous things people do sometimes to get them, there's an excellent post calledAdvanced Readers Copies- What you need to know over at The Story Siren. It's a very informative post indeed.

Tynga at All Things Urban Fantasy is hosting the First Annual Urban Fantasy Cover Art awards! Head on over to see the categories, request a nomination form, or just follow along and discover some books with excellent covers (and great stories between them!)

And finally, just in case you haven't had enough controversy, this post, from YA Fabulous, about how being critical of a popular book seems to get you treated like crap by other book bloggers, will get your juices flowing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: My Lord and Spymaster

Title: My Lord and Spymaster
Author: Joanna Bourne
Page Count: 324 pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: historical romance
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: When Jess's father is imprisoned for treason, she uses all of her skills as a trader, merchant, and former thief to find proof he's innocent. Too bad this plan involves meeting, robbing, and falling for Sebastien Kennett, a captain, spy, and the guy who put her father in jail.

Well will you look at that, I finally got current on a series! This is a pretty big accomplishment for me, as I tend to start a series and not finish it, even if it's good, just because I read so much other stuff.

I'm happy to say that this is a series that was well worth getting current on. I use the term series very loosely, as both this book and the one before it (Spymaster's Lady) are sort-of stand alone books. There are some character crossovers and the settings are similar but you could easily read either one without having read the other and it wouldn't detract from the experience at all.

This is the kind of book that you could read over and over again and take something different away from it every time. The book is set during the Napoleonic wars and the characters are realistic and entertaining from the first page to the last. The banter is witty and sparkling, and there were several times that I had to reread passages because I missed some turn of the conversation. This is a good thing for sure, the story kept me on my toes and I don't mind rereading things to get a better understanding of what's going on in the story.

Jess is the kind of heroine that's really refreshing to read about. While everyone around her is wailing and gnashing their teeth, Jess calmly and quietly goes about her business and does what she think is best, regardless of how ludicrously dangerous that course of action may be. She causes a lot of people a whole lot of heartburn, but she never does things just to make people mad- everything has a purpose.

In contrast, Sebastien is a genuinely good guy trying to deal with some complicated feelings. He only wants Jess to be safe and happy but has a hard time understanding her feelings and loyalty to her father. I have to admit, I had a hard time understanding her feelings or loyalty to her father, but I respected that he tried to be understanding and tried to prove that he was a trustworthy guy. Watching him try to win Jess over and watching their relationship blossom was one of the best parts of the book.

In addition to the really entertaining relationships between the various characters, there's a lot of interesting historical information that makes for an excellent backdrop to the story. Spying, smuggling, overseas trade, thievery, the black market, it's all here.

According to goodreads, the next book in this series will be out in 2010, and when it does I will definitely keep going with this series. In the meantime, I may end up getting the first two books for myself, since rereading them would definitely be a lot of fun.

Overall Grade A

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Queene of Light






Title: Queene of Light
Author: Jennifer Armintrout
Page Count: 375 pages
Publisher: Mira
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by this writer

50 words or less: Ayla is half human, half faery, all assassin. Malachi is a death angel and proud of it. When Ayla accidentally mates a douchebag, steals Malachi's immortality, is falsely accused of murder, and becomes Queene, she has to somehow stay alive, rule her people, and fall in love. Easy, right?

I should have learned by now that whenever I start a new series, I have to have at least the first two books on hand, because the first book in the series suffers from having to birth the entire world and cast of characters and the second book is where I decide if I like the series or not. This in a nutshell is pretty much what happened to me while reading Queene of Light.

Queene of Light has all the right ingredients to be a really fun book. The setting is fantastic- just enough detail is provided of the various environments to make them vivid and easily imagined without bogging down the story or being too much of a distraction. There are characters who are extremely well-drawn- Keller and Cedric come to mind immediately. The history behind the current situation the characters find themselves in is interesting, although it doesn't get fully explored or explained- I found myself asking "okay, who cares" several times during first third or so of the book.

I guess the issue for me is that at the end of the book, I just didn't care or buy into Ayla and Malachi as individuals or as a couple. True, Ayla is a halfling in a world where that's heavily frowned upon and Malachi gets his immortality grappled out of him so they both find themselves in undesirable situations pretty quickly, but their relationship just didn't...flow...for me. I felt like the book was gearing up to be about something else and their relationship was thrown in as an afterthought.

I really think, though, that this is because this is the first book in a series. There was a ton of information to digest here. The cover blurb says "But even magic folk cannot dwell in harmony, and soon two Worlds emerge: the Lightworld, home to faeries, dragons and dwarves; and the Darkworld, where vampires, werewolves, angels and demons lurk," and all those groups definitely get mentioned throughout the course of the book with every indication present that they continue to play roles in the next two books. That's a lot of intrigue to explain in a relatively short amount of time.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this. Did this book knock my socks off? No. Is it possible that the next books in the series will accomplish that? Yes. The potential is definitely there. That it wasn't actualized in my opinion plays a role in my review of this book, but it won't necessarily keep me from reading the other books in the series. I will, however, probably get those books from the library.

Overall Grade: C
Blog With Bite rating: 2

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Author Interview: Sasha Soren!


Exciting news! While I'm sad to report that I've not yet read Random Magic due to not receiving the review copy yet, I am HAPPY to report that the always effervescent Sasha Soren has agreed to do an interview. Visit her site at SashaSoren.com for more information!

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! In addition to the interview, Alistair at Cerebrate's Contemplations will be joining me for this stop on the book tour. He has indeed read and reviewed Random Magic and has all kinds of good stuff posted here. It's two stops for the price of one. So enjoy the review, enjoy the interview, and check out Alistair's blog, which I'm reading and enjoying.

And, now, your feature presentation.


WBIT: First, what motivated you to become a writer, particularly, a writer of fiction?

Sasha: I was born a writer, just didn’t get around to making that a profession for a long time, after having tried to do something more sensible.

But blood will tell. I don’t mean blood ties, which is what the original expression refers to, but your own inner compass. Writing is just in your blood, it’s there whether you like it or not. It’s there whether other people understand it or not.

Like Rita Mae Brown quips, “Writers will happen in the best of families.” That’s because whether or not it’s a practical choice, and whether or not people understand your way or just think you’re a bit balmy, it’s an inner passion that drives you, you don’t really have a choice in it, it’s just who you happen to be.

Even if I weren’t “officially” a writer, I’d still be scribbling on bits of paper, and drifting off in the middle of conversations, or daydreaming in inconvenient places. I think you’re really just born that way. What you choose to do with that is, of course, up to you.
Writing is a very difficult path, wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But, of course, if you’re a writer, you’re going to go ahead and not listen to my advice, anyway. It’s just that way. It’s something in your blood that won’t give you any rest, you don’t choose to write, you HAVE to write.

WBIT: Is the finished product of Random Magic different from how you envisioned it when you first started? If so, how? If not, how did you stay true to your original vision through the writing process?

Sasha: Yes, actually, it is a little different, and what an interesting question.

Originally, was just playing around, it was like making a fun, colorful mental playground for people who love books. The tone was very abstract, light, frivolous.

But I do think that some things in my own life did influence the book, in some of the darker or more spiritual themes, I guess because I was just thinking about them, so they bled over into the story.

Although, to be fair, didn’t have a set vision for the book to start with, was just thinking about where I’d go if I had the power to book-jump at will, and which book would be an interesting place to visit.

So, there was room for all kinds of things to happen with the story. But, yes, would say that originally the book was just very light and fluffy and insubstantial, more like a circus, something comical and trippy.

It ended up being a weightier book, though, with more spiritual themes than expected originally. The experience of reading it as it is now, would say it’s a more profound experience the reader will have, it’s much more complex than just a simple adventure story, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It gives the story dignitas, and makes it more balanced, because life is also that way, it’s a blend of light and dark.

WBIT: Where do you see yourself going, creatively, in 2010? Any projects on the horizon?

Sasha: No new writing projects on the horizon just yet, it’s taking a huge amount of time just promoting the book, leaving no time for writing. A pity, really, because I have several ideas percolating that would probably make really interesting reads.

WBIT: You're being abducted by aliens but, in their infinite benevolence, are allowing you to bring five books with you. What books would you choose and why?

Sasha: Oho! That’s a tough question, would be very hard to narrow it down to five books, since there are so many great books out there.

Probably would bring Random Magic, as a personal memento.

Apart from that, probably something by Dostoevsky, for the psychological depth, and something by P.G. Wodehouse, for the comedy.

Quite likely would bring Report to Greco, because I look at life the same way (as a journey), and would like to re-read that book every decade or so, to reflect on my own spiritual journey.

The fifth book, don’t really know. There are too many good books, it’s impossible to choose just one.

I’d negotiate to bring an MP3 player stuffed with as many audio books as I could possibly fit on it, probably.

WBIT: Turns out those aliens are suckers for desserts. What desserts would you give them to secure your release?

Sasha: Dessert, what dessert? I’d give ‘em a good smack, they’d be very happy to kick me off their planet.
*****

There you have it! All the news that's fit to print. I will be reading and reviewing Random Magic at some point in the future, so be sure to watch for that.

In the meantime, if you're interested in blog tours for books and are not yet a follower of Other Shelf Tours, head on over and check it out! It's a neat way to find out about books, other blogs, and to get involved in some neat projects.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: Harmony's Way

Title: Harmony's Way
Author: Lora Leigh
Page Count: 312 pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was one I owned already

50 words or less: Harmony is Death, a deadly assassin. Lance is the sheriff of a small town; his cousin recently found her mate among the genetically engineered Breeds. Harmony and Lance are perfectly matched and the sparks certainly fly, but will secret, lies and intrigue separate them forever?

I can safely say that Lora Leigh's Breed series is different from everything else that's out there on planet PNR. Sure there are some frequently tapped elements- the immediate. almost otherworldly attraction, the superhuman abilities, the tragic pasts, the insane obstacles to being together, but Lora Leigh weaves everything together in a way that's totally unique.

We met Lance in the previous book in the series, Megan's Mark (reviewed here) and we gain a much deeper understanding of the Breed world from this story.

Harmony is a broken woman at the start of the book. She kills to try to assuage her guilt from being forced into becoming an assassin while she was imprisoned in the labs with the other Breeds. Unfortunately for her, even though her kills are the equivalent of chlorine in the gene pool, the Breeds are ready to integrate with human society, which means vigilante justice is a definite no-no. Seeing that Harmony isn't going to stop pursuing her brand of justice on her own, Jonas Wyatt, the head honcho for the Breeds, arranges for Harmony to be shipped off to Broken Butte, where, conveniently, her mate is the sheriff. Jonas is hoping that Harmony will settle down and the whole assassination business can just be swept under the carpet with no one the wiser.

Sidenote: Jonas is a huge tool. Sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose, but a tool nonetheless. His book, Lion's Heat is set to be released April 6, 2010 according to Amazon and I am seriously looking forward to watching him get cut off at the knees.

Anyway, the sparks fly between Harmony and Lance, and Lance immediately realizes that Harmony is teetering on the edge of sanity. He immediately prepares to defend her with every resource at his disposal, including his own life if need be.

Oh man, I BAWLED through the second half of this book. The story wreaks havoc with emotions and is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. I found myself squarely in Harmony's corner as various factions tried to tear her down and make her feel unworthy, and when the happily ever after did finally roll out, it wasn't without a few heartstopping moments or plot developments that had me reading at top speed to get to the end.

As if that weren't enough, we also are introduced to a variety of other characters who, it's immediately apparent, will play key roles in later books in the series. The political intrigue and precarious situation that is daily living for the Breeds makes for an excellent backdrop to the romance that's the focus of the book.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, these books are, dare I say, saturated with sex scenes, so if that's not your thing then you'll either want to skim the book carefully or opt for something else. If that doesn't bother you and you're looking for a PNR that's off the beaten path, check this series out for sure.

Overall Grade: A
 
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