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Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Exciting!

I have a confession to make- I am TERRIBLE at remembering to post blog awards that I've received. I mean I'm absolutely terrible. There's no excuse for it, it's just one of those things that slips my mind. Today, though, I found out that my review for Soulless was nominated for the Blog Hall of Fame for Best Book Review for January! You like me, you really like me! Blogging is definitely a labor of love so I'm glad someone out there is enjoying my reviews (besides me, of course.)

Anyway, I've been in kind of a rut as far as reading goes lately, nothing is really holding my interest. I'm hoping to get to some of my library books and review books this week so that I can finally, FINALLY, cull some books off my shelves and get my collection to a more manageable size. Easy enough, right?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Review: The Wicked West

Title: The Wicked West
Author: Victoria Dahl, writing as Holly Summers
Page Count: 128 pages (EBook)
Publisher: HQN
Genre: historical fiction

50 words or less: Lily Anders, a recent widow, and Sheriff Hale, a pillar of the community, have a lot in common. Waaaaaay more than they think. Naughty, naughty people....

Holy guacamole. Before I go any further, any further at all, allow me enlighten you on one fact. This book totally earns its Scandalous Books designation. 128 pages isn't a lot of room but the author fits in a whole lot of sex scenes. You've been warned.

Now then. The Wicked West has a familiar historical setting (the Old West) and features the developing relationship between the extremely dominant Sheriff Hale and Lily Anders, an extremely submissive widow. Both are coming out of previous relationships and are looking for someone who understands their needs and what they truly want out of a relationship.

The tension runs high between the two characters as Lily calmly and methodically sets out to get the sheriff in the sack. She succeeds admirably, too, and as the story progresses each person learns that that spice and sizzle that was missing out of their previous relationships might be right in front of their noses now.

One refreshing thing about this novella is that, despite the historical setting, the two main characters were really exploring their relationship and not making assumptions. Yeah, they have sex like rabbits, but they seemed to come to understandings about their feelings at a realistic pace. There was no angst or misunderstandings, once it became clear that they were looking for the same thing.

I will say, though, that I think this would have made an excellent full-length novel. I thought the secondary plot felt a little rushed and the back stories of the characters were kind of thrown in as an afterthought. With that said, if you're looking for an extremely spicy romance with unconventional tastes, this story might be worth checking out.

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, January 29, 2010

Illustrated Friday: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

One of my favorite things about illustrated books is that they don't have to be complex to be fun and interesting. This book is a perfect example of that- the illustrations, at first glance, seem simple enough, and the text isn't all that verbose, but the story is hilarious and the surprising little details in the illustrations on each page make this a fun book for everyone. Mo Willems wrote/illustrated Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and I know that any of the Pigeon books will be a hit with my class, but I think I'll have to add this to my list of guaranteed success books too.

Naturally, I can't see the phrase "naked mole rat" without thinking of this clip from Bill Nye the Science Guy. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

BWB Review: Wondrous Strange

Title: Wondrous Strange
Author: Lesley Livingston
Page Count: 327 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Kelley Winslow gets the opportunity of a lifetime when she gets promoted from understudy to Titania in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. For Kelley, though, faeries are about to become a very real part of her life.

Cue a dreamy sigh here, because this book is a cream puff wrapped in a doughnut with a big pile of whipped cream on top. I know the world of books is kind of saturated with faerie books right now, and personally I do find them hit or miss myself, but Wondrous Strange is a sure bet if you love creative plots, clever storytelling, enjoyable characters, and a sweet, blossoming love story.

The main character, Kelley, is an extremely likeable one- she doesn't have any kooky exceptional understanding of the extraordinary events in the story, she just rolls with the punches and tries to make the best of every day, which is admirable in the extreme. Sonny makes an excellent hero/knight in shining armor/love interest- Darklight cannot arrive soon enough at my house for me to find out what happens between them.

The politics of the faerie world are, as always, complex, and treachery lurks around every corner- Kelley finds out that she has a far more central role in all the faerie hoohah than anyone could have ever imagined. Sonny, too, finds out more about himself through the course of the book, and it'll be interesting to see what impact all these revelations have on future books. Darklight, I'm coming for you!

If you've never read a young adult book featuring faeries before or if you've read one and been disappointed, I really recommend giving Wondrous Strange a try. It's very different from other books out there and reminds me of all the reasons I fell in love with books and reading in the first place. Give it a shot!

Overall Grade: A
Blog with Bite Score: 4/4

Discussion Questions:
1.Faeries seem to be very big in YA lit lately, how does Wondrous Strange compare to others in its genre such as Lament, Wicked Lovely, etc.? Wondrous Strange is one of my favorite fey-related stories out right now, and I think it's as much because of the writing style as anything. I loved the Shakespearean parallels, and I thought the world building was very well done, and as everyone knows, I'm all about the world building.

2.How did you view the relationship with Kelley and Sonny, was it a believable romance? I thought their relationship was very sweet. I like that they didn't just jump all over each other and that they had a lot to learn about each other. It was very romantic.

3.Wondrous Strange was written in the typical fashion of paranormal literature, with the protagonist unaware of her supernatural abilities, meets boy who introduces her to the world... do you find these plot lines tiresome in their likeness, or do you believe there are always similarities within fiction and it is all about the deeper story? I admit, I'm a pretty big bossyboots when it comes to this element of stories. I don't mind if a character is just finding out about the supernatural world as long as they are not a complete doof about it. I can't stand books that go one and on and on about the character's inability to process what's going on. I find those stories repetitive. I'd much prefer a character who rolls with the situation and allows the story to keep moving to one that keeps asking "wait, what?" I think that this is one element of paranormal stories that does have to be addressed, but I think it can be skillfully done.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Cha-Cha- Videos and Victory edition!

Whew, this week is killer already! I don't want to disappoint those in need of cha-cha, though, so here are some gems from relatively recently.

First, I have to share one of the more hilarious reviews I've read lately. Compliments of the perpetually hilarious Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, check out this review of Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockman. This quote is just the tip of the iceberg:
While I liked Joe, some of the plot and much of the heroine left me disappointed. First: the terrorist organization is called “Cloud of Death.” CLOUD OF DEATH. I read that to Hubby and we giggled like 12 year old boys. Extremely flatulent terrorists only! And, as I said on Twitter, if anyone walks up to the hero and says “Pull my finger,” I’ll know who the villain is! They’ll fart in his general direction.

Then we have a double feature of videos, both compliments of BoingBoing and both entertaining in their own unique ways. By now you've probably figured out I enjoy Muppets; the reason I liked the first video shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

This video gets included just because this is an excellent version of this song:

Finally, in case you missed it, here are the details on how to win a copy of Darklight by Lesley Livingston via Blog with Bite! All you have to do is read and review the first book, Wondrous Strange, and be aware of the following things:

This is not a giveaway, this is a competition, reviews will be judged on writing ability and content. Here are the rules & judging guidelines:

1. Winner of our the Top Reviewer award will receive a signed copy of Darklight by Lesley Livingston
2. To enter this competition, please submit a review of Wondrous Strange through our Submit Review link above
3. Deadline to enter your review is January 30th
4. Blog with Bite banner must be placed on the review
5. You can have written this review at any time in the past, just have your link ready and the banner on the post

Judging Guidelines:

1. Judging will begin the day after all reviews are entered
2. Judges are the Blog with Bite HBIC's, Parajunkee, Tina & Emily
3. Judges promise to comment on your review once they have read it.
4. Like all past Top Reviewer judging, reviews are read through and the following criteria is taken into account:
1. Is the review coherent and makes sense?
2. Are there spelling errors & grammar issues?
3. If the reviewer stated likes and dislikes did they give examples?
4. Were you entertained by the review?
5. Was there a Blog with Bite banner on the review?

Read a book, review it, and possibly win another book! Easy as that! Head to Blog with Bite and join the action!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review: Branded By Fire

Title: Branded by Fire
Author: Nalini Singh
Page Count: 368 pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: Mercy and Riley finally get their own book! Can a leopard and a wolf make things work? Can terrorist activities be avoided? Can humans and changelings work together against the Psy?

I'm going to make an announcement straight out of the gate: this is my favorite book in the series so far. Mercy and Riley are an excellent couple- they're both strong, fiesty individuals that make sparks fly off the pages. Both of them (unsuccessfully) tried to fight their relationship but neither of them could deny how happy they make each other. Reading about them dealing with the issues that spring from being from two different packs was interesting; the author's explanation of how those issues were sidestepped or resolved was believable, as far as these things go.

While Mercy and Riley are flirting and, unbeknownst to either fo them, falling in love, big doings are going down on the political front for the Psy. Now that people are becoming aware that the Psy Council is not the benevolent dictatorship they'd like everyone to believe that they are, fringe groups are trying to undermine the political structre without care as to who else they might be hurting in the process. I freely admit, I was so wrapped up in the story of Riley and Mercy that I'm going to have to reread the book to get a better grasp on what happened with all of this, but hey, having to reread this book is no hardship at all.

That does bring me, though, to my one complaint about this book. It didn't lower my review of the book, but it did highlight for me one thing that I tend to not enjoy about a book, especially a romance book. It's near the end of the story, Riley and Mercy are just about ready to finalize their bond (not like that) and admit that they love each other, and BAM! There's a massive infodump of information relating to the other major plot line. Did we need this information to understand the big political climax of the book and why it happened? Yes. Did I skip this section to get to the happily ever after moment? Also yes. Plot exposition is important, but its butt gets skipped if it gets in the way of the happily ever after. Sorry!

As I said though, all that means is I have to reread the book and enjoy the story and the romance all over again. Sigh.

Overall Grade: A

Monday, January 25, 2010

Veracity WINNER!

The entries are in, and the winner of the hardback copy of Veracity by Laura Bynum is.....

Amanda Makepeace!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway and be on the lookout for more giveaways and prizes in the future! I'm cooking up something special even as we speak, so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In My Mailbox- January 24th!

In My Mailbox comes compliments of The Story Siren!

Busy week this week! I was home from work all week so I got a lot of reading and writing done, although never as much as I'd like, but isn't every week like that? Anyway, here's what my tired and overworked mailman brought me this week:

Won from a giveaway at Sidhe Vicious:

Proof that you should always submit your reviews to the appropriate source if you get a review copy and have contact information, I won these four as a prize pack from Harlequin for submitting my review of a galley on netgalley.com (and I panned the book, too!)

For review:

From Paperback Swap:

Have a great week everyone! I'm tallying the entries from the giveaway for Veracity and the winner will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: Hostage to Pleasure

Title: Hostage to Pleasure
Author: Nalini Singh
Page Count: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: Some psychos in the Psy community have a really horrible idea for taking Silence to the next level. Ashaya Aliene is ready to go rogue and expose the plot, but she's going to need Dorian's help. Dorian's going to need her too, in ways he didn't expect.

At last, Dorian's book! Dorian has been one of my favorite characters since the beginning of the series so it's fantastic to see him finally meet his match. Dorian's unique within the context of the story because he's a latent, which means he can't shift into his leopard form. As you might expect, that's left him with a pretty big chip on his shoulder to begin with, but add in the fact that his sister was murdered by the same serial killer that wreaked havoc in the earlier novels in the series and Dorian has not only some serious emotional issues, but a whole lot of anger directed at the Psy.

Enter Ashaya Aliene, a top Psy scientist who's supposed to be working on a top secret project to enhance Silence, the brutal training that supposedly keeps the Psy from feeling any emotion, and basically provide the tools to turn the PsyNet into a hive mind and eliminate all dissent of any kind. Too bad Silence didn't take with Ashaya, and not only does she feel things, but she has a very strong sense of responsibility and a conscience, so she's fully aware that what she's being asked to do is abhorrent. Ashaya made an appearance in the last book so we already got a read on her character, but she gets to fully develop in her own right in this book.

One huge component of this story is Dorian having to let go of the rage he's been harboring towards the Psy because of his sister's death. It doesn't come easy for him; I've read some critiques of this book that say the story is kind of repetitive, and in a way it is, but I'm going to go on record saying that I think that makes the story more authentic. I would have to call malarkey if Dorian just woke up one day and didn't hate the Psy anymore for the sake of the pacing of the story. Emotional wounds are nasty, dirty things, and hatred and prejudice are proverbial boils that have to be lanced.

The rebellion that first started percolating in Caressed by Ice reaches a boiling point here when Ashaya Aliene leaves the world of the Psy. Word is getting around that Silence is not a good thing and that the Psy Council has been deceiving people; now the match is being put to the powder keg.

The blossoming relationship between Dorian and Ashaya splits time pretty evenly with the political storyline in this book, which is a nice shake up. There's also the addition of Keenan, Ashaya's son, who I think goes a long way in helping Dorian to get ready to move on from all the damage of his past. Ashaya, too, is fiesty and spirited and helps Dorian to heal hurts he didn't even know he had; Dorian gives it right back and doesn't let Ashaya take responsibility for things that are not hers to worry about. All of the regular characters are here as well, and we get to check in with them and how they're doing, and that's something I always appreciate in a series. There are a ton of neat subplots going on here too that make this a fun, engaging read.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is a series to read in order. Each book builds on events in the previous books and in order to get the full effect, readers need to be familiar with everything that's happened up to this point. With that said, giving the series as a whole would make an excellent gift for someone, especially who loves paranormal romance and shapeshifters and what have you. Just saying.

Overall Grade: A

Friday, January 22, 2010

Illustrated Friday: The Snowy Day

This book is another perpetual hit with my preschoolers, especially around the first major snowfall of the year. The illustrations are timeless and vivid in detail; the story is simple and sweet. This is the kind of book that I imagine the kids in my class being able to read to themselves in a few years.

One of the coolest things about this book, in addition to the great illustrations, is the social significance behind it. The Snowy Day was, in the words of The Horn Book, "the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero" (thank you, PaperbackSwap.com description.) It exposes kids to play and diversity in a very positive and innocent way. I even get excited when it's time to read this book together!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: The Line

Title: The Line
Author: Teri Hall
Page Count: 220
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: dystopian, young adult, paranormal
Copy for review provided by Around the World Book Tours
Note: This book will be released on March 4, 2010

50 words or less: Rachel and her mom are living on The Property in a heavily controlled neofascist version of the U.S. When she hears a mysterious call for help from the forbidden Away, Rachel answers, and life as she knows it is never going to be the same.

Woo, my first debut novel of 2010! I'm happy to say that this one was a very good way to kick off the Debut Author Challenge. The Line is a clever mix of dystopian fiction, the paranormal, a slight dash of romance, and a bunch of important lessons- it's a good way to pass the time while we all wait for the third Hunger Games book to come out.

I will say this- The Line takes awhile to get started. It starts off as a fairly typical (if there is such a thing) dystopian novel- the U.S. barely won an all out nuclear war and deals with the huge amounts of collateral damage by enforcing draconian laws, taxes, and punishments. Rachel Quillen and her mom, Vivian, live outside of town on The Property, a large parcel of land complete with greenhouse (hence the cover) that's owned by Ms. Moore, Vivian's boss and Rachel's teacher when it comes to growing orchids. Rachel is a likeable enough character- her mom warns her constantly to be vigilant and to think for herself, but Rachel never really understands why.

All that changes when Rachel makes some discoveries about her mom's past, her dad's history, and the truth of what lays on the other side of The Line, which is the boundary between the supposedly safe area and Away, the supposedly vast nuclear wasteland. This is the point in the story (about halfway) where The Line undergoes a transformation and becomes a unique book. Rachel has to make some tough choices and encounters that moment that we all go through when we realize that our parents are not perfect; the secondary characters (especially the Others) get a good share of the attention and their experiences and positions definitely stoked my interest in the next installment, since this is the first book in a series. On an unrelated note, I thought the explanations of the history behind the current political situation in the book were really interesting and, because they took the form of dialogue between Rachel and her mom, didn't bog the story down, which is always nice. A lot of thought obviously went into creating a realistic backstory for the politics and regulations of the world the story is set in.

My main criticism of the book is that the pacing of the book is just a little bit off- we get a whole lot of establishment in the beginning of the book that basically presents the themes of the book, one after the other. Then there's almost a pause, and the action of the story picked up dramatically. I think I would have appreciated a more thorough blending of the two elements. Granted, I read an uncorrected proof and perhaps there are some differences between that and the final product, but the pacing was one thing that stood out in my mind.

With that said, The Line is a good start in what certainly seems to be a promising series. I'm definitely on board for future installments and am excited to find out what happens with the Others and Rachel in the next book.

Overall Grade: B+

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Cha-Cha- Deep Thoughts Edition

The past week has certainly born witness to lots of really monumental events, both on a worldwide and an on an individual scale. A lot of the blogs I read regularly have had really excellent content too, which is always nice. While you're perusing the following, I hope you find something that strikes your fancy or gets your brain juices flowing.

One of my favorite sources for reviews, The Good, the Bad and the Unread, had a really interesting and personal post by Gwen on aging, change, and time. I enjoy reading the posts there anyway but this one really jumped out at me.

One of my most distinct memories from seventh grade was on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, in social studies class, when we were all talking about our weekend plans and the teacher said, "just remember, a man had to die for us to have this opportunity. Let's think about that." I still remember it, all these years later. In honor of the holiday yesterday, there was a really excellent collection of videos posted at By Pen or By Sword that are a great reminder of who Dr. King was and what he stood for.

Gail Carriger, author of Soulless and a smart/funny lady, has a list of fun and interesting podcasts on her blog. I have every intention of listening to some of these in the near future.

On a really serious note, by now everyone should be aware of the situation in Haiti following the earthquake last week. If you can donate, you should, that's all I have to say. BoingBoing had a series of really informative posts and links going all last week- here's a notable one.

Finally, this week's video, via BoingBoing, is hot girl on banjo action. I always wanted to learn how to play the banjo!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: Gateway

Title: Gateway
Author: Sharon Shinn
Page Count: 281 pages
Publisher: Viking
Genre: young adult, time travel, fantasy
Copy for review provided by Other Shelf Tours in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: Daiyu lives in modern day St. Louis but finds fitting in difficult. When she's suddenly transported to a parallel world, charged with a quest, and presented with the perfect guy, will she follow her head? Her heart? Or something else?

Gateway was kind of an impulse grab for me. I haven't read anything by this author before, and I tend to stay away from time travel books just because I have a hard time reading them without imagining the better bits of the Back to the Future movies. This book, however, was worth the time, and overall was an enjoyable experience.

Normally, I find myself drawn to character-driven books. I like to know what folks are thinking and why they do the things that they do. Gateway is a little bit different in that it is a theme-driven book. The characters themselves don't get all that much development; we get the basics about them, their lives and their roles in this world but the real meat and potatoes of the story is on carefully unpacking a variety of really complex but important ideas.

I freely admit, it's difficult to review this book without giving something away, but here are the salient points: As the result of a trick, Daiyu is transported to Jia, a world similar to but different from Earth. Turns out there are a bunch of these worlds that adventurous people can travel between if they're shown the way. Daiyu was brought to this world for a specific purpose; to get close to the prime minister of the area of this world in which she lands and send him travelling back to his original world (he's a pretty nefarious dude and wreaks havoc wherever he goes.) To do this, she's going to have to pretend to be a fancy lady and learn to dance, dress, and act rich. To further stir the proverbial soup, Daiyu's fallen in love with Kalen, a working man who happens to be associated with this plot, but is way beneath the social standing of Daiyu's wealthy persona.

A whole boodle of issues get introduced into this story pretty much from the get-go. Daiyu is Chinese and, in her regular world, was adopted by white American parents. Her original world reflects Earth as we know it, with the U.S. being laid out where it is and St. Louis being in the middle of the U.S. In the parallal world she gets sent to, though, history is completelt different; the world is dominated by the Han, who represent Asian culture, and white and African-American people are frowned upon minorities. Kalen, her love interest, is white, so he's taboo for two reasons now- one racial, one social.

Daiyu is a sensible girl and acts sensibly throughout the course of the book, which ends up being the source of many problems for her. She considers EVERY facet of EVERY problem and EVERY potential outcome; unfortunately, while she's doing that, other people have thought about things, made decisions, and acted on them. It's an interesting lesson on the dangers of overthinking things. Passion and spontanaeity aren't bad things.

Daiyu also has to learn some painful but dangerous lessons on the perils of letting other people do your thinking for you. Politics is a frequent subject in this book and Daiyu almost falls into the trap of thinking that things are not her problem when in fact they're everyone's problem; luckily she comes to her senses in time. This would be a great book to get a conversation started on the importance of involvement and being connected to your world, on being informed and on knowing how to analyze information for honesty, accuracy and integrity.

To be fair, this isn't a perfect book. The character development wasn't as thorough as I normally prefer and a great many story elements were explained and then we as readers were supposed to just suspend our disbelief and accept that things happened the way they did. There were other story elements that seemed important but that never materialized into anything; the version of the book I read was an uncorrected proof so that could have been changed in the final copy. Nonetheless, this is an interesting, honest, and multifaceted book with many lessons to take from it.

Overall Grade: B+

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review: Veracity

Title: Veracity
Author: Laura Bynum
Page Count: 376 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: dystopian, science fiction
Copy for review was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: In a world where even speaking is regulated and where punishment is brutal beyond belief, a rebellion is brewing to take back language, thought, and creativity.

Wow. Just....wow. I literally just finished reading Veracity and am kind of at a loss for what to say about it. It's simultaneously a riveting, horrifying, enlightening, depressing, and hopeful book, and although the plot is not a territory that hasn't been explored before, the lessons the book teaches are certainly as relevant today as they have been at any other time.

I'm not going to lie; if you've read 1984, you know what this book is about. If you've read Brave New World, you know what this book is about. I would argue, though, that comparing a new release to titles like that is a pretty heavy compliment, and one that I think is definitely deserved in this case.

There is a lot going on in Veracity and it's probably not a book I'd choose for light bedtime reading. The issues that the book raises- what happens when you trade liberty for security, the role of government in people's lives, the role of language in our self-expression and the expression of ourselves as a people, what it means to be a rebel, what rights are universal, literally I could go on forever- all of these are ideas you need time to mull over. This is a violent book, and the violence is horrific and gripping- if you're squeamish, you'll find plenty of stuff to turn your stomach here.

The characters are, by and large, well drawn and complex. The lead characters behave in realistic ways and the secondary characters are interesting as well. I found the world building to be horrifyingly realistic as well, which is really what made this novel stand out. If there hadn't been such a realistic feel to the background of the story I don't think the lessons would have resonated as well.

While I think that this will end up being a love it or hate it kind of book, I think the themes of the book are as timeless as they are important. I think I would recommend this book to just about anyone. At the very least, it would get some conversations started and ultimately, it's the freedom and the power of those conversations that sum up Veracity the best.

Overall Grade: A+

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In My Mailbox- January 17th

In My Mailbox comes compliments of The Story Siren!

I'm really excited about all four of these books!

From Paperback Swap:
For Review:


What did you get this week?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Review: Lead Me On

Title: Lead Me On
Author: Victoria Dahl
Page Count: 344 pages
Publisher: HQN
Genre: contemporary romance
Copy for review was from netgalley.com

50 words or less: Jane's trying desperately to outrun an embarrassing past and a kooky family by outwardly being a smart, professional woman looking for a power husband. Too bad demolition company owner Billy Chase is exactly the kind of man Jane wants- and thinks she shouldn't.

This was my first foray into the world of Victoria Dahl, and I was not disappointed at all. I don't usually read a lot of contemporary romances (you may have noticed) but this was a good one to get the ball rolling.

Jane Morgan, the heroine, could write a book about reinventing yourself. She's changed her name, gotten a new career, a new look, and spends as little time with her family (especially her mother) as possible. Above all else, Jane doesn't go for bad boys, or rough boys, or any kind of boy other than the smartly dressed, highly educated, professional dudes she thinks she's attracted to.

All that is a complete load of crap, as Jane well knows. Jane's terrified of people finding out about her crazy wild youth, and that fear explodes when Billy Chase, the owner of a demolition company, walks into the architectural firm where Jane works. Billy is exactly the kind of guy that Jane is attracted to, so naturally she runs as fast and as far as she can.

Billy, on the other hand, is a remarkably chill guy; he's not afraid to pursue Jane or to deal with her neuroses, which are like the Energizer bunny- they just don't quit. As the story goes on, both characters have some lessons to learn about letting go of the past, about letting other people lead their own lives, and about living life to the fullest without worrying about the opinions of other people.

While Jane is getting her act together and Billy is pursuing Jane, an interesting side plot involving Jane's brother getting arrested for a murder he didn't commit- by trying to help her brother, Jane has to confront many facets of her own past, as well as some prejudices she didn't know she had.

One of my favorite things about this book was that the characters were not perfect, by any stretch, but they were very human. Jane is probably the best example of this- she has a whole lot of emotional baggage that never lets up- everything she does and every thought she has is affected by these issues. Jane's like that friend you have from high school, the one who always manages to call during dinner time and, after either talking about nothing or complaining for what seems like forever, apologizes for about a half hour when you accidentally let it slip that you were eating when the phone rang. And yet, you love this person! As much as I may not have agreed with Jane's decisions most of the time, I do feel that it's a situation where different people respond to situations differently.

Billy Chase is a great guy, through and through. He bears a lot of responsibility, not just through his job, but also for his family and for people that he cares about. He's a really great match for Jane, really, because he's understanding and accepting, but is not willing to be her dirty little secret. He wants a real relationship or he wants nothing at all, which was exactly the catalyst Jane needed to stop running for cover every time a triggering issue came up, which for her was all the time.

Side note- the author's writing style in this book is HILARIOUS! The dialogue is sassy and sharp, the interactions are genuine, and the word usage is spot on. Good dialogue is hard to come by but it was present in this book in abundance.

Although this was my first book by Victoria Dahl, it definitely won't be my last. This was a great book to curl up with under a blanket after a long day of work. Lots of fun, good characters, an interesting story, spicy sex (this book certainly earns a Scandalous Books designation), the works.

Overall Grade: A-

Friday, January 15, 2010

Illustrated Friday: Whopper Cake

This book is beyond adorable. I found it by chance at the library a couple of years ago and my preschoolers adored it as a read aloud. Anything by Karma Wilson is pretty much a sure thing (she's the mind behind Bear Snores On and all the similar books as well) but this one is definitely my favorite. Until now I don't think I've read anything featuring this illustrator, Will Hillenbrand, but I think I'll have to remedy that immediately. The rhymes are fun and lilting, the illustrations are attention-grabbing, and it's a good way to introduce concepts of measurement and quantity to little guys and gals as well. Check out these sample lines of the text from the book description:

Today is Grandma's birthday,

and Granddad has an ichin',

to bake a WHOPPER

chocolate cake

and traumatize the kitchen!

What's not to love?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BWB Review: Soulless

Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Page Count: 373 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: steampunk, paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: It's Victorian! It's steampunk! Vampires! Werewolves! Love! Society! Manners! Sentence fragments!

I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm kind of a fan of paranormal romance/urban fantasy books. It's hard for me to articulate what, precisely, it is that I like about them; I just know that I really enjoy them and that I have read a lot of them.

I can safely say with 100% certainty that I have not read anything like Soulless. This book takes a variety of concepts that seem to have nothing in common, throws them in the literary SlapChop, and comes out with something droll, unique, and quite, quite fun.

I will say at the onset that I don't think this is a book for everyone; it does appeal to a certain sense of humor, and if you like your paranormal romances all dark and brooding and serious and self-absorbed, then you might have to look elsewhere for your literary indulgence. If that sort of thing reminds you of having a rash, then odds are you'll find something that stands up and grabs you about Soulless.

For me, there were three things that grabbed me about Soulless. First and probably foremost, the cast of characters. This is not your typical vampires-and-werewolves book, nor is the heroine (Miss Alexia Tarrabotti) your typical heroine. Alexia is quite aware of all the supernatural shenanigans and goings-on in her world and deals with them in a sensible and straightforward way, thank you very much. I LOVED THIS. All too often I find myself wanting to grab female lead characters in these books and shake them and ask what the hell is wrong with them. I did not have that problem in this book at all.

Lord Maccon makes an excellent hero for this book, if only because he's such a perfect foil for Alexia. They work together perfectly, and their relationship develops at just the right pace, giving the reader plenty of time to enjoy my second favorite thing about this book, which is...

The steampunk element. If you haven't read anything in the steampunk vein before, this is a good introduction. The author's website has a really good page describing what, exactly, steampunk is as well. I'm a complete detail and gadget nerd when it comes to steampunk novels; the more details the better, but I understand that not everyone has this condition. As a book, Soulless understands this as well, and provides enough details to be descriptive without being overbearing.

Did someone say details? That, conveniently, is the third thing that really stood up and shouted hooray about this book. The author works a variety of details about clothing, food, fashion, mannerisms, and Victorian society into the novel without ever bogging it down. I especially loved the descriptions of the food; the fact that Alexia gets into the predicament that becomes the basis of the book because there were no acceptable snack offerings at an event struck me as exceptionally funny.

All right, time for me to think of a criticism for this book. I suppose, if I had to pick, I would say that the book, in terms of dialogue especially, assumes a certain level of familiarity with the time period and with ideas, attitudes, and modes of behavior therein. I found a lot of the conversations regarding science, for example, to be quite funny, but those who aren't familiar with what ideas were prevalent at the time might wonder just what in the hell the author is going on about. Personally, it made me want to dig out my history books.

Overall, Soulless is a fun, enjoyable read that's currently enjoying a prominent place on my keeper shelf. I will totally be buying Changeless, the next book in the series, when it comes out in March.

And now for something completely different:

Thank you.

Overall Grade: A+
Blog with Bite Grade: 4/4

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Cha-Cha: Incredibly Crafty Edition!:

If I had world enough and time enough, I would utilize both those things by being incredibly crafty. These blogs and posts would be just the tip of the iceberg, too. Sometimes, I find when I'm writing and reviewing or generally trying to be productive, a gander at some of these posts and blogs is extremely motivated. I'm always motivated by innovative and creative things. So, without further ado, Wednesday Cha-Cha: Incredibly Crafty Edition!

Craft magazine may have gone the way of all flesh, but the blog is alive and well, and among today's offerings was this, a link to an article in the Wallflower section of the SF Gate about bookshelf organization. This picture of the shelves, organized by color, is fantastic:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If hands-on stuff is more your thing, then Craftzine has that base covered too, with a really excellent feature called How-To Tuesdays. This week's installment is How to make a magnetic organizer, and now I really want one of these for all my junk in the classroom.

Another really fun and innovative source of ideas and inspiration is Growing Up Creative. This flower wall art is made entirely out of recycled materials- I think my preschoolers and I will have a go at this project when the weather gets nicer. Here's a look at a possible finished product:
Although the project is currently on infinite hiatus, Folding Trees is one of my favorite papercraft sites, with tons of really awesome ideas and tutorials. Here are two of my favorites: Junk Mail Gift Bags and Shopping Bag to Shipping Mailer. There are tons of other tutorials on the site as well as a Flickr group, so until new content goes up there's plenty of other great stuff to fill the time.

This week's video is a favorite of mine, and comes, of course, via BoingBoing- the song is by Ceri Frost (website) and the film is by Giles Timms (website), according to YouTube it's what happens when "enchanted by a pixie, a child called Yorick enters a magical kingdom, but when Yorick returns he finds his world ravaged by time."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Beat of Temptation

*Note: Beat Of Temptation by Nalini Singh is a Psy-Changeling short story published in the anthology An Enchanted Season.

Title: Beat of Temptation
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was one I owned already

50 words or less: We finally get to read about Nate and Tamsyn!

When I read a series, I like to read all the facets of that series- novels, online content, and especially, novellas or short stories that are published in anthologies. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with anthologies so it's nice to get to read one that I know I'll enjoy, or to know that I'll at least like that one part of the collection if nothing else.

Beat of Temptation is the story of Nate, a sentinel in the leopard pack, and Tamsyn, the pack healer. These two have kind of been held up as an exemplar for what being mated is all about throughout the series so it's nice to see how they got started. This story also takes place well before the start of the actual series so there are no spoilers in sight.

The relationship in this story is a good example of how communication is important in a relationship and how FUBAR things can get if that's missing. The crux of the problems here is that Nate and Tamsyn know they're mates, they know they're destined to be together, but Nate has this idea that because Tamsyn is nineteen, she needs time and independence before she's going to be fully okay with committing only to him. His intentions are good, unfortunately he thinks that he gets to decide what's okay in the relationship and Tamsyn gets no say. Tamsyn doesn't take this well at all, needless to say, and she immediately goes about getting what she wants independent of what Nate thinks is best. Unsurprisingly, a lot of hurt feelings and emotional issues come out of this misguided situation.

Other characters in the series make brief appearances in the story, and other one-shot characters are here as well. This is a nice bonus addition to the series; if you enjoy the series already you'll like reading it, but if you don't get around to it you won't be missing any information for the main series. Best of both worlds.

Overall Grade: B+

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bloggiesta! Wrap Up Post and Reflection

Natasha at Maw Books:

Bloggiesta here at What Book is That? has come to a close, and I am beyond pleased with all that I accomplished this weekend. I will definitely participate in the next round of Bloggiesta- it's not only a great way to be productive and work on the blog, but the networking, communication, and conversation with other bloggers was out of this world. If you opted not to participate this time around or didn't find out about it in time, I definitely advise doing the next Bloggiesta- consider it a favor to yourself.

I also did some thinking about the organization of some of my posts and decided to make a couple of changes:
-I'm going to switch from a Week in Review post back to an In My Mailbox post on Sunday (when interesting stuff worth posting about comes in, anyway) and a Monthly Wrap Up post. Doing the weekly review post was taking up too much time and wasn't effectively communicating what I wanted to say.
-Wednesday Cha-Cha will be based on a theme each week! The first one of the new year centered on Bloggiesta, and I think it made it a much more useful post. Videos may still be random, though, so ye be warned.

Here's the final tally on the goals I set for myself for Bloggiesta:

1. 20 Illustrated Friday posts

2. Update challenge lists

3. Write the following reviews
-Mine to Possess
-Hostage to Pleasure

-Branded by Fire
-Beat of Temptation
-Lead Me On
-Wondrous Strange (Blog with Bite)
-Wicked Wild West

4. Set up two draft pages for Blog with Bite reviews, complete with logo already in there per month.

5. Put Lead Me On review on netgalley.com

6. Make Google Docs sheet with code for Scandalous Book, Breaking News, and other high frequency pictures.

7. Stand Alone Posts- I ended up keeping three of the ones I wrote

8. Comment comment comment!

Other Accomplishments:
-Streamlined the Twitter accounts that I follow
-Cleaned out my Google Reader starred folder and pruned a lot of blogs from my list of ones I follow
-Set up Google Alerts for my blog name and URL

If you participated in Bloggiesta, how did you do with your goals? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? What are your plans now that Bloggiesta is over? Any cool things on the horizon?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In My Mailbox- January 10th

In My Mailbox comes compliments of The Story Siren!

It was a good week this week! I had a chance to spend some gift cards to pick up some things for myself, and I had an exceptionally good winning streak in December so my prizes are starting to come in as well. Yay!

Books I Won:

Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding- thanks to Sara from All Things Urban Fantasy!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore- thanks to Tynga at Tynga's Urban Fantasy Reviews!

Books for Review:

Gateway by Sharon Shinn- for Other Shelf Tours

Books I Purchased:

An Enchanted Season by Nalini Singh, Maggie Shayne, Erin McCarthy and Jean Johnson

Hunting Julian by Jacquelyn Frank

What did you get this week?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bloggiesta! The Halfway Mark

Natasha at Maw Books:

Tonight marks my halfway point for participating in Bloggiesta- I still have all day tomorrow to get things done! So far I'm pretty much ecstatic about what I've accomplished thus far- I'm making structural improvements to my blog, networking with other bloggers, writing reviews, writing other posts on a variety of topics, and generally having an excellent time.

1. 20 Illustrated Friday posts- four done so far!

2. Update challenge lists

3. Write the following reviews
-Mine to Possess
-Hostage to Pleasure

-Branded by Fire
-Beat of Temptation
-Lead Me On
-Wondrous Strange (Blog with Bite)
-Wicked Wild West

4. Set up two draft pages for Blog with Bite reviews, complete with logo already in there per month.

5. Put Lead Me On review on netgalley.com

6. Make Google Docs sheet with code for Scandalous Book, Breaking News, and other high frequency pictures.

7. Stand Alone Posts- four of them done so far!

8. Comment comment comment!- According to CoComment I left 20 comments today.

Review: Mine to Possess

Title: Mine to Possess
Author: Nalini Singh
Page Count: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: Talin ran from Clay after narrowly escaping a horrible fate and subsequent violence. Now she's back and she needs Clay's help- kids are going missing from the Shine Foundation. Will Clay be able to move beyond the past? How about Talin?

After so many plot elements got wrapped up in Caressed By Ice, I was interested to find out what would happen next in the series and where the story and characters would go from here. This is probably the point in the series where you can't really just jump right in and be able to figure out what happened in previous books; I'm a big fan of reading a series in order but it's more necessary in some cases than others. This is definitely a series that's more fun to read in order.

The hero and heroine in this story have a History with a capital H. They grew up in foster care together and had the kind of sweet relationship that kids tend to have. That all changed when Talin realized that being a changeling meant that Clay had some attitudes and behaviors that were pretty foreign to her, and ran for it. The true details of that situation come out as the story goes on and both characters have to learn to deal with their own prejudices, which can be difficult to read sometimes.

Added to the mix is the introduction of the mysterious Shine Foundation, the surface purpose of which is to give disadvantaged kids a chance to shine. Turns out the kids have a lot more in common than just graduating from the school of hard knocks, and Talin, being a graduate of the program, is involved with the workings of the foundation without knowing its true purpose. Her devotion to the kids in her care is what brings her back to Clay, and ultimately is what starts healing the broken relationship between them.

The stories in this series keep getting more intricate, but one of my favorite things about this series, besides the really excellent dynamics between the couples, is the fact that the reactions of the characters to events in the story seem genuine. Talin and Clay have both made mistakes in the past, and the people who are important to them (particularly people in the Pack) are hesitant to welcome their new relationship. They're coming from a place of love and not wanting anyone to get hurt, but the fact stands that not everyone thinks the relationship is a good idea at first, which, given their history, is a pretty natural response.

This book gets a Scandalous Books designation for thematic content again. Talin's experience in foster care is brutal; there aren't a ton of details but the dire situation is clearly depicted. Again, nothing more intense than what comes up in your average prime time cop show but still, some people are not okay with that and I understand that.

The happily ever after in this story is a good one, because it affects more than just the primary couple. I was on vacation when I finished this book and I was really glad I'd brought the next book with me so I could find out what happens next.

Overall Grade: A-
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