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Sunday, October 31, 2010

That's all Folks!

This quick interruption of your Halloween festivities is to remind you that Give the Gift of Reading ends tonight at midnight!  Get your comments in to boost the total that will be donated to the Room to Read Girls' Education Program and get yourself entered to win a $25 gift certificate to the online bookseller of your choice!

And now, the annual posting of my favorite Halloween video ever:

Review: Only in My Dreams

Only In My Dreams: Halle Pumas, Book 5Title: Only In My Dreams
Author: Dana Marie Bell
Page Count: novella (Kindle format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: Gabe Anderson is the sheriff of Halle and is also a Hunter, in charge of hunting down rogue shifters and bringing them to justice.  He knows who his mate is, he wants to claim her, but other circumstances get in the way, leaving Sarah wondering if someone else has Gabe's attention.  Can Gabe convince Sarah that she's his one and only or is their relationship over before it even begins?

This, the most current offering in the Halle Pumas series (before we shift over to Halle Shifters with Bear Necessities that is) is an important installment in the story, but I'll say at the onset that I didn't enjoy this one as much as I did the others.  Don't worry, this book is still enjoyable, and it adds important things to the series, but there were enough loose ends and elements that didn't quite add up that I can safely say that there are other installments that I enjoyed much more.

Gabe and Sarah are a lot alike in that each has a special position within their world that carries a lot of responsibility and garners them each a lot of respect.  Gabe is a Hunter, or rather, he finds out at the beginning of this book that he's a Hunter and has to be trained on how to do the job, a process which will require him to be away from Halle for six months.  He takes the advice of his supervisor and mentor and doesn't claim Sarah before he leaves as he thinks the separation would be too hard for her if he did; this mistake just goes to show that you should do what you think is right.

Sarah is okay with waiting until Gabe is done with training to begin their life together; what she is not okay with is having to find out everything that's going on with Gabe through Chloe, a close friend of his.  Gabe remains in close contact with Chloe and seems to share a lot more information with her than he does with Sarah, and this doesn't sit well with Sarah or anyone else in Halle, since for all intents and purposes it looks like Gabe has a girlfriend on the side.  Chloe doesn't do anything to discourage the rumors that are flying about her and Gabe either, which is one of my issues with the book and something that I'll get to in a minute.

Sarah isn't a wimp, and she decides that if Gabe can lollygag around with his female friends, then there's no reason why she can't do the same with her male ones.  She strikes up a friendship with Jim, the town veterinarian who's also Chloe's mate- there's a weird love cube going on here at this point, with hurt feelings and mixed signals thrown together that makes for a lot of problems that everyone has to deal with if they're going to move past all of this.

The whole premise of the tangled relationships and the trying to make your beloved jealous to draw their attention back to you isn't one that's brand new, but the execution of it here was a little disjointed when compared to the rules of the world.  Probably the biggest issue that I had was that Sarah is the freaking Pride Omega- she has the ability to know what any Pride member is feeling and as a result, they can't lie to her or disguise their emotions.  Therefore, it would have been easy for her to find out that a) Gabe loves her beyond all reason, b) that he isn't cheating on her and can't image ever doing so or even wanting to, and c) that he and Chloe are just friends, albeit close ones.  She doesn't seem to really accept any of these truths even at the end of the story, and while I get it that she's new to being the Omega, this frankly does not make sense to me.

Second, I didn't really understand why Gabe and Chloe didn't realize what people in Halle were saying, and that nobody bothered to follow up with any of the involved parties to try to find out the truth.  I know, I know, people will gossip the tongues out of their heads while simultaneously saying they don't want to pry into other people's business, but apparently Gabe didn't talk to anyone in Halle while he was away except for Chloe and, when he could reach her, Sarah.  I wasn't able to buy into the idea that this colossal misunderstanding was allowed to go down without anyone really taking an active interest.

I don't want people to leave with the idea that I didn't like this book.  I did, and it contributes a lot to the overall series- the dynamic between Gabe and Chloe and Chloe's issues with getting Jim to accept the idea that she's his mate play a big role in Bear Necessities, an awesome, awesome book that widens the playing field to include all kinds of shifters.  I was just left feeling like the hero and heroine had to go through an awful lot of pain in this story that ultimately wasn't fully resolved or addressed.  Still, I highly recommend this series and reading all of the installments, this one included.

Overall Grade: B-

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wolf Signs WINNER!

I'm happy to announce that the winner of the digital copy of Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend is...

Your email address has been forwarded to the contest organizer and you should be contacted regarding your prize shortly.  Congratulations!

For everyone else, remember that every comment left in the month of October enters you for the giveaway for the $25 gift certificate to the online book retailer of your choice, and benefits the Girls' Education Program at Room to Read as well!  Comment away!

Review: Cut, Paste, Kill

Cut, Paste, Kill: A Lomax & Biggs MysteryTitle: Cut, Paste, Kill
Author: Marshall Karp
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: crime comedy, murder mystery
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: It takes a special sort of person to appreciate a scrapbooking serial killer targeting society's bottom feeders, a spec script about long haul trucker vigilantes, and a pair of cats deciding the fate of the wicked, but I feel like I'm up to the task.

Lomax and Biggs are back! In this, the most recent installment involving the wisecracking detectives from LAPD Homicide, we're all forced to confront a kind of unpleasant reality: if a total scumbag gets murdered, does anyone care?  What if you're the person whose job it is to solve the murder and arrest the killer?

The ball gets rolling with the murder of Eleanor Bellingham-Crump, wife of an English diplomat who should have thanked every power that exists for diplomatic immunity, as that's the only thing that saved her from being roasted as she, while roasted, passed a school bus in her car and struck and killed a ten year old boy.  The murder weapon- super sharp scrapbooking scissors- and the incredibly detailed scrapbook detailing every facet of Mrs. Bellingham-Crump's lurid crime that are left at the scene illustrate to everyone involved that a serial killer is on the loose, targeting....murderers.  Lomax and Biggs struggle with having to solve the murders and do so with the understanding that not everyone is going to think the guilty party did anything wrong.

Don't get me wrong- the book isn't glorifying violence as a way to solve problems, nor is it saying that vigilantism is an acceptable way to deal with things that you think should have turned out differently.  The way the identity of the killer is handled makes everything fit, if that makes sense, in a way that doesn't glorify what's happening but doesn't shy away from pointing out that bad guys get away with an awful lot most of the time.

There are other new elements that come into play as well- Detective Lomax and his getting more serious by the minute girlfriend Diana take in Sophie, the daughter of one of the other nurses Diana works with at the hospital, while the mother has to go to China to be with her mother who's passing away.  This shines some light on the issue of kids in their relationship, as one of the unhealed wounds that Lomax still carries from his marriage is his and Joanie's inability to have to children and how the medical followup from that is what uncovered the cancer that ultimately took her life.  There are a lot of emotional scenes and conversations in this book that illustrate that the relationships between the characters get as much detail and attention as the comedy or the murder mystery.

I will say though, that my favorite side plot in this book definitely involved the movie script that was the product of the creative collaboration between...wait for it..Terry Biggs and Big Jim, Mike Lomax's father.  Entitled Semi Justice, it's about long haul truckers who solve crime and if it were ever a real movie, I would go see it. Enough said.

Anyway, this was another excellent offering from one of my favorite authors.  If you're looking for an excellent series of books that make you laugh and hold your interest, then you don't need to look any further than this.

Overall Grade: A

Friday, October 29, 2010

Illustrated Friday: The Perfect Pumpkin Pie

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!
Halloween is almost here, and that means it's time for a good ghost story! This story is about a ghost after my own heart- he's a cantankerous old man whose haunting is based solely on needing a perfect pumpkin pie. It's up to a young boy and his grandmother to create the perfect pie and hopefully put the ghost to rest. Denys Cazet's illustrations are always funky and fun, and even though the ghost is created when the old man drops dead mid-pie, there's nothing really scary here that kids can't handle. Happy Friday!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Flipping Out

Flipping Out: A Lomax & Biggs MysteryTitle: Flipping Out
Author: Marshall Karp
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: crime comedy, murder myster
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: What do house flipping, crazy authors, illegal workers, and a vast conspiracy all have in common? Nobody knows, but LAPD Detectives Lomax and Biggs have really, really personal reasons for finding out.

Flipping Out is the third story involving my favorite detective duo, Lomax and Biggs, and while it's not my favorite offering of the ones available so far, it's still enjoyable.

The first, most noticeable difference between Flipping Out and its two predecessors is that Flipping Out is way shorter.  This is both a good thing and a not so good thing- on the one hand, this book is just right for devouring in one sitting; on the other hand, there weren't really enough pages to fully explore everything that was going on in the book.

And there is certainly a lot going on in the book.  We have the standard elements of a murder (which makes sense, since our main characters are homicide detectives) with some added flavor in the form of more information about the other detectives and officers that Lomax and Biggs work with every day as well as their families and what they get up to.  In this case, a bunch of the guys' wives are working together in a house flipping venture with the caveat that each house is financed primarily by an incredibly popular author of murder mysteries and each house serves as the setting for the murder in the author's current book.  The gimmick is a hit with the public and the houses go for ludicrous amounts of money.  When a real murder takes place at the house that's almost ready to be revealed, it seems almost too perfectly planned- until it becomes clear that the women in the house flipping group are all being targeted by the same killer.

At this point, the story kind of takes a sharp turn.  There's tremendous pressure on the officers to solve the crime, not only because it's so high profile, but because police officers' families are in jeopardy.  Lomax and Biggs stumble on the solution to the whole situation almost by accident, and as a reader I didn't see the solution coming at all.  It took me a little while to realize that I didn't see the solution coming because there were no indicators that that solution was even a possibility.  It was a good reminder that murder mysteries in books are not like mysteries in real life; in real life we only know what we ourselves know and there isn't an aside to the audience to provide the crucial details in case we get lost.  We have to figure things out for ourselves, if we can.

I think the out-of-left field resolution to the story would have worked better for me if the pacing of the novel had been a little more even.  We spent a lot of time in the beginning of the book with the house flipping and the crazy author and the literary facet, and the ending kind of swooped out of nowhere and BAM the book was over.  A little more expansion and description would have made this a top book for me; as it is it was still enjoyable but left me a little ragged at the end.

Overall Grade: B

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Welcoming Back: Random Magic!

Random MagicYou might remember awhile ago I was privileged enough to not only review Random Magic by Sasha Soren, wherein I was introduced to the best opening to a book I've read in quite some time, but I also had the chance to interview the author!  You can read my review of Random Magic here or read my interview with Sasha Soren here, and after you've done that, read on for a special treat from Sasha Soren herself, as part of the Random Magic Halloween Tour!
Music is a strong theme in Random Magic -- so strong, in fact, that one of the celestial characters Winnie and Henry meet is Efterpe, the Muse of music.

In celebration of music, Halloween and all things spooky, here’s a fun blog hop to check out. You’ll find tidbits about creepy characters from the book -- and some great music picks.

Come enjoy a musical Halloween blog h with us, we’ve got tunes for ghouls…

Witchcraft – Duet, Frank Sinatra and Anita Baker

Random Magic excerpt: "'Wind above, so below, faster than the wind I go; strength of iron and bite of flame, I lay my will upon your mane,'" Winnie chanted, and hurled the horseshoe to the ground…"

If you enjoyed this peek into music that's reminiscent of the book, check out the other stops on the tour:

And if, in your travels through the tour, you enjoy a particular music pick, please consider buying the track to help support the person or group that created it for everyone’s enjoyment. Across The Sky (http://tinyurl.com/ld2drr) is the unofficial soundtrack for the Random Magic Halloween Tour (2010). Happy listening – and Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Dark Peril

Dark Peril (Carpathian)Title: Dark Peril
Author: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: Dominic Dragonseeker figured he'd go out in a blaze of glory, doing one last service for the Carpathian people.  He never figured that the same jungle that shelters Evil Evildoers is also home to his lifemate, the battle scarred, capable jaguar-lady, Solange.

The Carpathian series is one that I find myself returning to over and over again, not because there's something new to be discovered, but mostly because there isn't- I know that a book from this series will deliver the same sort of punch over and over again, regardless of where it is in the series.  While the later books, particularly this one and the last two are showing the series to start to kind of branch off in a different direction, for the most part the flow of the story and the order of the plot points remains pretty much the same across stories.

What makes each story unique, in my mind, are the dynamics between the starring couple and what background and experience they bring to the story.  Dominic and Solange are an excellent example of this, because while the trajectory of their story may not necessary be unique, their interactions and the path they take to becoming a couple is definitely not standard fare.

Dominic and Solange are way more alike than either of them would like to admit.  Both are loyal, noble and self-sacrificing to a fault, and neither of them thinks they'll ever find someone who could possibly love or understand them.  Solange thinks this because of her quest to save the female jaguar shifters from their psychotic male counterparts, and Dominic thinks this because he ingested poisonous blood to be able to travel in vampire territory and act as a spy, and therefore he's going to die soon.  When they accidentally discover that they're lifemates, their initial plan is to just enjoy the sensation for whatever time they have; once they realize that forever isn't going to be long enough, they both start to fight, not only for others, but for themselves.

We get a little bit of advancement in terms of the overall story; we defeated the evil mage in the last book but it's apparent that the threat to the Carpathians isn't just from him, and that his evil plans were just the beginning.  We learned that the superbug parasites were the cause of the high infant mortality among the Carpathians; in this book, we see a way to cure them without someone like Lara from two books ago having to do something really dangerous.  In a way, this book was less about advancing those storylines than about reframing them, cutting away the excess, and getting ready to move forward in future installments.  I'm in with this series for the long haul so I don't mind waiting to see how things develop from here, but for folks who are in this series for the overall plot and not for the individual couples, I can see how that would be frustrating.

Speaking of individual couples, I'm really, really hoping that the next book is about either Dmitri and Skylar (probably too early for that but I can hope) or Zacharias and whoever his lifemate is.  Either way is good for me!

Anyway, if you're interested in this series then I would definitely start at the beginning, as there's a relatively wide cast of characters and having read the books in order definitely makes it easier to keep everyone straight.

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oh Snapskies! It's Follow Friday time!

Is it Friday again already? It is!  I'm pleased as punch to announce that I'm the Featured Blog at Follow My Blog at Parajunkee's View! I want to say hi to all the new folks who have already stopped by and followed here, on Twitter, on Goodreads, you name it, and welcome! If you're an old follower, welcome back for another week!

As for the answer to this week's question of what book is that? (I love it!) I just finished Arctic Shift by Lissa Matthews and I'm finally going to start The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook!

It also wouldn't be Follow Friday without amusing offerings from YouTube, so here's Richard Pryor teaching us about the alphabet!
And this one, because it is too cute for words:
Happy Friday everyone!

Illustrated Friday: The Secret Circus

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!
The Secret Circus is one of my favorite illustrated books by one of my favorite artists, Johanna Wright! Her illustrations of the circus revelry that the mice of Paris have beneath a carousel near the Eiffel Tower are lush and memorable, with elements of fantasy and magic woven into every page. This is a great story to spark creativity and imagination and a wonderful bedtime story to boot. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Steel Beauty

Steel Beauty: Halle Pumas, Book 4Title: Steel Beauty
Author: Dana Marie Bell
Page Count: novella (Kindle book)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: After Belinda (Belle from here on out) is horribly maimed saving a Pridemate from a psycho, she has to heal her wounds, claim her mate, move on with her life, and fend off another psycho. Sounds easy to me!

The Halle Pumas series rolls on with another winner in the form of Steel Beauty, this time starring Belinda Campbell, pseudo-villianess from previous books and Rick Lowell, Alpha of the Poconos Wolf Pack.  I really, really enjoyed getting to know Belle as an individual instead of as evil Olivia's sidekick, and I think the difference between Belle's true personality and how people have perceived her all these years was illustrated really well through this story.

People like to hate Belle for her having been friends with a prize bitch in the past; they don't want to give her a chance now or entertain the thought that she might not be the horrible person they like to think she is.  It's all for the best, then, when it turns out that her mate is not only not a member of the Pride, but not even a puma at all- he's a wolf, and the wolf Alpha at that.  Rick Lowell is a snarly and devoted guy who wants to keep people safe, maintain the structure of his pack, and settle down with a mate and eventual family of his own.  He's beyond livid when he realizes that Belle was seriously injured when she was defending a Pride mate, so having to wait until she's healed enough not only to travel, but to hold off any potential challengers, is seriously hard on them both.  The text message conversations between the two of them were seriously adorable.

Unfortunately for Belle, she gets a chance to flex her muscles as Luna of the Wolf Pack right away by dealing with drama presented by Gina, resident wolf bitch who needs to be knocked down a few pegs.  Belle's way of asserting herself and dealing with naysayers and people who would deny her her due is hilarious, and I won't ruin it by revealing it here; suffice it to say she doesn't take lip from anyone and will...interrupt...anyone who needs interrupting.

The relationship between Belle and Rick is sweet and fun.  Rick is appalled at how Belle was treated in her Pride and vows that she'll never feel unwanted ever again.  He works to help her achieve her goals and her dreams for herself but can't help getting a little snarly when she overworks her injuries.  He's stunned that she feels as strongly about him as he does about her, and her demonstration of that love bowls him over.  Fun fun fun.

At $2.80, this book is beyond a good deal.  Why not start at the beginning with The Wallflower and enjoy all of the books? Do it!

Overall Grade: A

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Tracker's Sin

Tracker's Sin (Hell's Eight)Title: Tracker's Sin
Author: Sarah McCarty
Page Count: 313 pages
Publisher: Spice
Genre: Western, historical romance
Copy for review from netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Tracker Ochoa has set out to find Ari, twin sister of one of his best friend's wives, to bring her home to the ranch and hopefully spare her any further abuse at the hands of monsters.  He didn't plan on falling in love with her and doesn't want to even hope that she might want to keep him around.

Well, here's another series that's getting the old heave-ho.  I've read all four books published in this series to date and as of right now there isn't enough get up and go between them to keep me wanting to invest the time to read any further.  This story felt forced, from start to finish, and at the end I was left with only one question: who cares?

This is exceptionally disappointing because the raw material was here (and let's face it, always has been) for this to be an awesome story.  The Wild West setting is always a favorite, the drama had the potential to be there, the establishing of a new family (Ari has a young son by one of her attackers but that doesn't affect the deep love she has for him) and Tracker has the potential to be a powerful character force.  These two are thrown together and find themselves deeply attracted to one another (and married, but who's keeping track) but doubt each other and their relationship every step of the way, almost right up until the last page, and that was frustrating for me as a reader. First of all, even with the pseudo drama between the twin sisters (You left me! No I didn't!) there was no way they were going to just up and leave and head back East, and second, even if they did, word has probably gotten around that their time on the frontier has been horrific to say the least and that would make them easy targets for all kinds of discrimination and problems.  Besides their fortune, which is currently making them the target of a greedy lawyer and some other toolbags, there's nothing waiting for them anywhere except where they are.  That drama was a non-starter from the beginning.

The story didn't really pick up much momentum at all until they all arrive back at the Hell's Eight ranch.  From there, the drama centers around Ari trying to find a place for herself, trying to forgive Desi for being the one that got rescued first, and trying to convince Tracker that she actually does want to be his wife.  This was not nearly as interesting as it sounds.  At this point I was just ready for the book to be finished.

Sigh.  There's a new series coming from this author in February that starts with Reaper's Justice and it's a historical romance series featuring werewolves, but I can't bring myself to be disappointed again by another lackluster offering.  Time will tell if I take a chance on this new series, but in terms of this one I am all set, and that's pretty sad.

Overall Grade: D

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Tempting the Enemy

Tempting the EnemyTitle: Tempting the Enemy
Author: Dee Tenorio
Page Count: 236 pages (ebook)
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Copy for review obtained via netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Police detective Pale Rysen is trying to catch a vicious serial killer who's targeting members of a secret population-shapeshifters- without outing himself as a member of that persecuted group.  Jade Scarlet is a Sibile, a witch with powerful gifts and a secret of her own.  If these two are going to stop the killings they're going to have to bury the hatchet and start thinking about the future, and soon.

I'm constantly amazed by how really familiar elements from a certain kind of story can be reworked and recombined to create something new and unique.  Tempting the Enemy is a good example of this, and also an example of how a story can truly be more than the sum of its parts. Taken individually, these elements aren't anything that haven't been done before; working together, they yield a story that, while cumbersome in parts, is definitely intriguing and unique.

At first blush, the hero and heroine kind of seem like more of the same old same old.  Pale Rysen is a snarly alpha with a hidden agenda; Jade Scarlet has tremendous powers and a secret to hide and feels like she can't trust anybody.  Maybe what made this element unique for me was the sheer magnitude of the secrets each of them is keeping: Pale is trying to hide the fact that he's a shifter because there's been a genocide against shifters, and not only his life but the lives of the community of refugees he's protecting are in jeopardy if he's outed.  Jade is a half shifter and her powers are tremendous; so not only would her life be in danger from shifter-haters, but from others as well.  This is no lightweight conflict, and there are a ton of past issues and betrayals that have to be overcome by these two, in the face of pretty much crippling Heat and attraction that both of them would rather ignore.

I will share with you, though, my gripe about this book.  While I am completing understanding and sympathetic to the fact that Pale has a lot of issues with the Sibile and with witches in general due to some horrific, the fact still stands that he was an epic douchebag to Jade for a good portion of the story, even when he was trying to be all nurturing and protective.  It took away a little of the believability factor for me in terms of their relationship, as there were times that it was hard to understand why Jade would want to throw in her lot with this guy, when he can't seem to keep a civil tongue in his head.  There comes a point for me with a romance plot where the characters being in love means they have to kind of act like they're in love, and I had trouble buying into that with this story.  I have to say though, the last scene where he brings her to the compound where the refugees are staying was an extremely well-done ending to the story, and left the door open for a sequel in a way that didn't take away from the story here.

All issues aside, this was an entertaining story with a dystopian feel that combined familiar elements in a new way.  If that sounds like something that rings your bell then I can definitely endorse giving this story a whirl.

Overall Grade: B

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Of Bees and Mist

Of Bees and Mist: A NovelTitle: Of Bees and Mist
Author: Erick Setiawan
Page Count: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: magical realism, fantasy
Copy for review provided by the publisher in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Meridia wants only two things from life: love and acceptance.  Finding those things, whether it be from her parents, her peers, her lover/husband, his family, or form the community proves to be a project that will take years to complete.

I have a confession to make.  I accepted this book for review back in June, and for one reason or another it's been on my TBR pile ever since.  I freely admit here that I am kicking myself for letting it sit for so long as it's totally unlike anything else I've read in a long time.  If I had to make a parallel to other published works, I'd say it reminds me of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, both in terms of style and grandeur.

Before we start, allow me to show you the one thing that I can recommend that will enhance your reading experience:

This story is simultaneously enchanting, horrific, enraging, tragic and hopeful.  My emotions were so up and down while reading that I couldn't tear myself away throughout the entire book.  The beginning was bleak as Meridia (our heroine) has to deal with a cruel father and a distant mother, the middle was a dichotomy; exuberant as she experiences the joys of young love and of being a mother, enraging as she deals with the in-laws from hell and a rapidly deteriorating marriage, and the end was full of sad purpose as Meridia is forced to rebuild her life and find her own identity after feeling alone and abandoned by everyone who was supposed to care about her.  I felt physically exhausted at the conclusion of the story from the emotions that were tearing through me while reading Meridia's story.

Symbolisim and metaphor runs rampant throughout this book- the bees, the mist, birth, death, they're all important, and the author does an excellent job of guiding us through the story without leaving us to flounder or bludgeoning us over the head with the obvious.  The story is sneaky and subtle and leaves you wanting more...but not for too long.  The last two pages constitute the most appropriate, fitting and satisfying ending to a story that I've read in a long time.  Wounds are healed, justice is served, and Meridia finally gets the love and acceptance that she's craved, along with something she didn't know she wanted: peace.  Believe it or not, that's not a spoiler; that's a thought to keep you going when when you're bawling your eyes out in the middle or ready to rip Daniel (her husband) a new one for his incredible stupidity and gullibility. 

If you're in a situation where you find yourself having to do literary analysis or write formal papers about books, I can definitely recommend this one as a candidate for such a project.  There is a lot here to unpack and it makes the story very versatile, whether it be as pleasure reading or as an academic exercise.  It's good to have options!

Overall Grade: A

Friday, October 15, 2010

Important News and a Giveaway WINNER!

There are a ton of cool things going on here at What Book is That? right now! First and foremost, Give the Gift of Reading is in full swing! So far, we've raised $4.45 for Room to Read's Girls' Education Program. I know we can do a lot more than that people! Remember, every comment left here during the month of October enters you to win a $25 gift certificate to the online bookseller of your choice, and this giveaway is open internationally!

A Safe Harbor: Building Sanctuary, Book 1
The giveaway for the digital copy of A Safe Harbor ended yesterday, and I'm pleased to announce that the winner is...Marlene Breakfield! Marlene, your email address has been given to the authors so your prize can be sent to you! Congratulations!

Wolf Signs: Granite Lake Wolves, Book 1
But wait, there's more!  What Book is That? is participating in Round Two of Moira Rogers and Vivian Arend's Fall Frenzy, which means there's another chance for you to win a free digital book! Enter here to win a digital copy of Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend! Did I mention that even comments left on giveaway posts count not only for our donation total, but as entries in the gift certificate giveaway? They do! Head on over and enter!

As if all of this weren't exciting enough, October is a huge month over at Blog with Bite!  We're featuring a ton of awesome authors with plenty of ebook giveaways to go around!  My review of the first title up for grabs, Out of Time, goes live tonight, so stay tuned!

Book Blogger Hop

Finally, if you're stopping by from one of the hops, welcome! Poke around and comment for a chance to win some great prizes and support a great cause (have I mentioned this yet?)  As my gift to you, my current favorite YouTube video; is there anything that isn't funny when this song is included?
Happy Friday everyone!

Win Wolf Signs!

Remember when I gushed over how awesome the Granite Lake Wolves series by Vivian Arend is in this post?  Well, here's your chance to find out for yourself, compliments of the Fall Frenzy hosted by Vivian Arend and Moira Rogers!  One lucky person will win a digital copy of Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend!  Read on for details:

Win a copy of A Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend!
Wolf Signs
Robyn Maxwell doesn’t care that her brother has to cancel out on their backcountry ski trip. She can do it alone. The fact she’s deaf doesn’t make her survival skills any weaker. The chance to get away from it all and relax in the Yukon wilderness is just what she’s been craving.
Meeting wilderness guide Keil at the cabin starts cravings of another kind. Keil’s one hot hunk of ripped, tasty male. Now she has to deal with raging hormones as well as strange questions about wolves and mates and challenges to the death.
Keil was trying for a nice reflective retreat before challenging for the Alpha position of his Alaskan pack. He wasn’t planning on meeting the woman destined to be his mate, or finding out she’s not aware she has the genes of a wolf.
Between dealing with his accident-prone younger brother, a deaf mate with an attitude and an impending duel to the death, his week—and his bed—is suddenly full.
Far from the relaxing getaway any of them had in mind...
Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Wolf Signs!
This contest is a part of Moira Rogers' & Vivian Arend's Fall Frenzy Event. For your chance to win books, gift certificates, ereaders and more, visit http://www.moirarogers.com/contests/

-Leave a comment on this post with your email address
-Contest closes on October 29, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST

That's it! Remember, all comments left here at What Book is That? during the month of October count towards a) Give the Gift of Reading to benefit Room to Read's Girls' Education Program, and b) enters you for the drawing for a gift certificate to the online book retailer of your choice!

Illustrated Friday: A Visitor for Bear

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!

Here's another discovery from the Scholastic book order! A Visitor for Bear is all about a bear who lives alone, thank you very much, until a mouse comes to visit and makes himself at home. It's described as a comedy of manners, and that certainly is true, between the animated, flamboyant text and the colorful illustrations. This is another one that kids will definitely enjoy. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Aching for Always

Aching for AlwaysTitle: Aching for Always
Author: Gwyn Cready
Page Count: 448 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: time travel romance
Copy for review provided by the publisher in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Interesting things can happen when you mess with time, as Hugh Hawksmoor (hailing from 1706) and Joss O'Malley (representing the present day) have discovered the hard way.  Throw in maps, intrigue, mystery, and a healthy dose of romance, and you have a very fun, unique story.

Gwyn Cready has been a guest here at What Book is That? before, and I thoroughly enjoyed her last book, Flirting with Forever, so signing up for the tour for her newest release made perfect sense.  Well, life got in the way and in grand Emily style, the date of the tour made a nice noise as it wooshed past, but that's not to say that this book wasn't excellent.  Aching for Always is a flirty, fun book that has a lot of interesting information in addition to a great romance and a well-paced adventure.

The level of detail in this book, whether it be regarding the historical periods covered by the book, or mapmaking, or even the characters' feeling and motivations, was easily my favorite part of the book.  I got a good picture of what goes into making a map as well as details about life and behavior in other time periods, which is something I always enjoy as as a reader.

The romance and the developing relationship between Joss and Hugh is exciting and fun to read about, as they both have to overcome their issues and figure out how they're going to be together...or if they even want to be together.  SUSPENSE!

I thought the added element of the role that Joss's fiance played in the story mixed things up in a good way, and the extra excitement from the stuff you do in the past having an effect in the present/future when you time travel was interesting as well.  This is definitely the kind of book that you have to buy into and accept the rules of the world for what they are in order to fully enjoy the story, but if (like me) you were able to do that then this was a very fun book indeed.

Overall Grade: A

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Cat of a Different Color

Cat of a Different Color: Halle Pumas, Book 3Title: Cat of a Different Color
Author: Dana Marie Bell
Page Count: 84 pages (ebook)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me

40 words or less: Adrian Giordano didn't think he'd ever want to settle down, especially when his two best friends seemed to be wallowing in mated, marital bliss.  When he meets Sheridan Montgomery, a woman/Puma on the run from her psycho ex, he starts to rethink that position (and a whole bunch of others...)

The Halle Pumas/Shifters series is like a big bag of gummy bears for me.  I can sit around all day just eating them and they never get boring, because every one is a different flavor!

This story marks the point in the series where we really start to get some development about the world and society of the Pumas.  When an outside threat in the form of Sherri's crazy ex-boyfriend appears on the scene, the entire community has to band together to not only defend against the threat, but to finally welcome Sherri as a member of the Pride.  While the beginning, middle and end of the story unfold pretty much the way you'd expect, sometimes it's nice to read a story that's fun and sweet.

One of the things I love the most about this author's books is that the characters don't wallow in their issues and insecurities.  Instead, they deal with them and move on to being happy and productive, which is a nice change from all the drama and angst that can take over a story sometimes.  The hero and heroine are adorable together (always a plus) and some of the ancillary characters get a lot of good development which indicates very good things for the next few books.  We're introduced to the friendly neighborhood pack of wolf shifters, too, and their Alpha, who's the hero of the next book, along with Belle (Belinda) the much-maligned from former installments.

If you haven't started this series yet, then I highly recommend buying all of the books at once (and at super reasonable prices that's no hardship) and settling in to read them in order.  Once you start you won't want to stop!

Overall Grade: A

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Author Interview: Kersten Hamilton!!

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars Book Awhile ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to read and review Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton, a fantastic story that weaves together mythology, adventure, romance and mayhem into a really excellent book.  The book's release date is November 15th (so mark your calendars) but I have the honor of welcoming the author to What Book is That? today for an interview!

WBIT: First off, congratulations on your YA debut! Of all the settings and genres out there, what inspired to create the setting for Tyger, Tyger?

KH:Thank you, Emily!

Tyger Tyger has deep roots in the stories and poems I read and loved when I was a child. The first is Tam Lin, the story of girl who must muster all her courage to save her love who has been taken by the SĂ­dhe.

The second is The Lords of the Grey and White Castles, a fairytale by Francis Brown, Ireland’s blind storyteller: http://www.finnvalley.ie/people/francesbrown/ The Lords of the White and Grey Castles is the story of two children- a girl and a boy- who must travel to the goblin realm to save a loved one who has been stolen by the goblin king.

The third is two of George MacDonald’s books: The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie.

And finally, there is just a hint of the goblin from Harold Monro’s poem, Overheard on a Salt Marsh, in a certain water goblin who splashes through the pages of Tyger Tyger: http://thereaderonline.co.uk/2009/10/19/featured-poem-overheard-on-a-saltmarsh-by-henry-monro/

WBIT:Did the finished version of Tyger, Tyger differ from the original one? In what way(s)?

KH: It was very, very different! Once upon a time, I wrote a picture book called Loveleaves and Woodwender. But longer picture books were not selling, so I put Loveleaves and Woodwender in a drawer and forgot all about it…

… until last year when I decided I would like to write an Urban Fantasy, a re-told fairy tale in which the unknown breaks in to modern life. I realized that Loveleaves and Woodwender would be perfect to expand. Not only that, but it fit amazingly well with the Finnian Cycle — Fion Mac Cumhaill was Ireland’s King Arthur — and the stories blended together into the perfect history/mythology for a modern story.

WBIT:What, for you, is the hardest part about writing a novel?

KH:The dreaded line edits. The tiny little nit–picky details that must be attended to after I already know the whole story by heart. Getting through final edits (while new, shiny stories are waiting to be told!) takes real discipline for me.

WBIT:The easiest?

KH: Creating characters and spinning story. :)

WBIT:Are these aspects different from what other people who aren't writers would think?

KH:I’m pretty sure everybody likes the fun parts—characters and story—and I have never really met anyone who liked line edits. So I think I am pretty normal!

WBIT: What trends or changes are you seeing in YA literature? What story elements are your favorites; that is, what makes a book excellent or unique in your eyes?

KH:I’m (still) seeing a lot of love triangles. I have a theory that the love triangle meme came from harem and reverse harem manga, where it has been popular for a very long time. In fact, I am seeing more and more manga memes in YA books.

I love books in which the world building is so detailed and complex that you are able to completely suspend disbelief. To me, that kind of book is addictive.

WBIT:There are hearty doses of mythology throughout Tyger, Tyger. For folks who are interested in reading more about those stories and characters, do you have any sources or books to recommend?

KH:Two of the books I like are: Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica: Hymns & Incantations, and James Macpherson’s The Poems of Ossian and Related Works. MacPherson mixes things up a bit, but it’s all in good fun. George MacDonald’s fairytales are excellent, too.

You can find lots of Irish stories and myths on the net, as well: http://www.luminarium.org/mythology/ireland/

If you are interested in the Celtic Christianity that inspired the character Mamieo, you can find information here: http://www.prayerfoundation.org/celtic_pages_index.htm

WBIT: Tyger, Tyger was a rich and luscious story that grabbed me from page one. What other projects do you have on the horizon and can you share anything about them?

KH: My next project, after book two of Goblin Wars, will be The Legend of the Flying Dachshund, the first book in an early MG steampunk series. After that, I’m going to be pushing new horizons with a “Holes”-esque older MG dealing with suicide, Catholicism, immigration issues and one undead school administrator. I might write a picture book or two; then, it is back to the YA world for the third book in the Goblin Wars...

WBIT: You're trapped in a castle, and the only way out is to bribe the guards with desserts. What dessert would you use to escape?

KH: Turkish Delight, of course!

Thank you so much to Kersten Hamilton for joining us today!  If you haven't already made plans to read Tyger, Tyger, then get your hot little hands on a copy when it comes out in November!  You won't regret it, and that's a promise.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review: Styx's Storm

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!
Styx's Storm (Breeds)
Title: Styx's Storm

Author: Lora Leigh
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me (sadly)

50 words or less: Storme Montague has a data chip that may contain information about Project Omega and the possibility of turning regular humans into Breeds.  The Genetics Council wants it. The Breeds want it.  The Breeds happened to kidnap Storme first.

If I had to pick one phrase to describe this book it would definitely be the following: hot mess.  Even taking into consideration that this series is not for everyone and that the level of violence and/or sexual content in this book would be an immediate turnoff for some, I've enjoyed enough other books in this series to know that this one did not ring my bell on any level.  The plot was recycled and boring, the characters were lifeless and annoying, the conflict was forced, the drama was nonexistent, the romance was offensive and gross, and then ending was extremely contrived.  If there were somehow a way to return a Kindle book I would totally be exercising that option right now.

Let's address these points one at a time.  I appreciate that after a series has a large number of installments like this one does, it's not crazy or unheard of for some elements to resurface from earlier books, but the story here was borrowed pretty much in its entirety from Tanner's Scheme (a really emotional tearjerker in this series and a way better book than this one) with only minor tweaking to address the fact that supposedly Storme is a terrible, awful person.  The story manages to introduce a new element without ever really explaining it (all we know about Project Omega is that it's really depraved and awful and bad and should never be released upon the world, but beyond that we don't know what the hell it is or why we should care about it) and then the whole story revolves around finding out more about it, with none of those details ever being shared.  Yawn.

The new characters in this book, namely, the hero and heroine, give forgettable a whole new definition.  Storm Montague is defined by who her father and brother were and for her supposedly inexcusable hatred of the Breeds (which isn't all that inexcusable, but I'll get to that in a minute) and Styx is defined by being Scottish (complete with horrible, HORRIBLE phonetically-spelled accent- seriously folks, it was painful) and addicted to chocolate (the dude packs it away like nobody's business) but beyond that we never learn a thing about them, and I found that I wasn't invested enough to want to know more.  Supposedly these two are disgusted by each other, but yet they manage to fall into bed together just fine.  Styx is supposed to get the location of the data chip by any means necessary and therefore all of his interactions with Storme felt oily and gross.  Storme feels like Styx is only sleeping with her to get the chip, and for the most part she's right, but she does it anyway.  It was very frustrating. The characters are about as dynamic as cardboard cutouts, or maybe not even.

The forced conflict didn't help matters, either.  Supposedly the information about Project Omega is key to understanding what's happening to Amber, adopted daughter of Jonas Wyatt (Director of the Bureau of Breed Affairs).  I totally get that when you're concerned about your child there is nothing you won't do to ensure their health and well being, but Jonas along with the other familiar characters (Wolfe, Hope, Rachel, etc.) acted like a bag of assholes where Storme was concerned, threatened her and intimidated her, impugned her character, damaged her mental health, and then were shocked when she didn't want to help them! Unreal.

I've touched on the romance already, but this one was extra disappointing, especially from a series where the relationship between the hero and heroine is such a crown jewel like it used to be in this one.  Storme was frightened, angry, abused, and traumatized through most of the book, often at the hands of the folks who were supposed to be the good guys!  Apparently kidnapping a woman, holding her against her will, taking medical samples without her consent, trying to seduce information out of her, and then failing to keep all those promises you made to protect her is okay as long as you feel like you're doing it for a good reason.  The interactions between the characters in this story made me want to get my tongue scraped.  Blech.

Then there was the ending, which was supposed to address three things- one, that given the opportunity to betray the Breeds, Storme was noble and worked to get back to her mate (although why she would want to do that I frankly have no idea, for the reasons outlined above,) two, that Storme has decided to give the data chip to the Breeds because Styx is a Breed and is the only person who ever made her feel safe and that means she loves him (folks, this is not romance, this is Stockholm Syndrome) and three, to show how Storme changed her tune, became a fan of the Breeds, and lived happily ever after with her growly Scottish mate and new friends in the form of Anya, coya of the Coyote pack (and another woman who wasn't treated well by the Breeds) and her bodyguards.  The ending felt like all these elements were stuck in a blender together, pulsed a few times, and spat back out on the final pages.  By the end of the book, even though the major players have apologized for being douchebags to Storme in the beginning and for not rescuing her when she was abducted out from under them by the very guy who murdered her father and brother after they'd sworn all kinds of oaths to protect her, I found myself sickened by the way Storme was treated, even though she definitely had some maturity issues that needed to be addressed.  Although, if I saw a guy tear out my brother's throat in front of me when I was fourteen and then had to go on the run to protect information that my dying father said was incredibly important and was then told by the same folks whose population included my family's murderer that I should quit being so selfish and check out their fabulous way of life and drink the Kool Aid and join them....JOIN THEM...then I would probably be snarky and defensive and hurtful with my words too.

Sigh.  This post is long enough, but there were a ton of other reasons why this book didn't work for me and was a huge disappointment.  I'm sad to say this, but I am officially breaking up with this series.  After this book upset me on so many levels, I can't rationalize continuing at this point.

Overall Grade: F

Friday, October 8, 2010

Illustrated Friday: Ellington Was Not a Street

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!
This book is powerful as well as beautiful. The words are the text of the poem "Mood Indigo" by Ntozake Shange, a famous writer and professor of drama and English, and the illustrations are incredibly realistic portraits of the movers and shakers of African American society who used to come to the author's house when she was a child. There are quick biographical sketches in the back of the book that identify the people in the illustrations. I learned a lot from reading this book. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's Read for the Record Day!

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!

It's time for the annual Read for the Record event! Today, all over the world, people are reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats to drive money, resources, and attention to early literacy programs!  Read all about the campaign here, and check out the button above to read the book online, which will help get books in the hands of kids that need them!

And just for fun, here's a really cute rendition of the book on YouTube. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

eBites: Eye of the Beholder

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!

Blog With Bite

Dana Marie Bell can basically do no wrong in my eyes, and her new release, Eye of the Beholder, which is book 2 in the True Destiny series, looks to be another winner! With Norse gods, magic, mayhem, and (of course) piping hot romance, what's not to like? Check out the Samhain Publishing site for this title and get ready to buy the ebook when it comes out on October 19th! In the meantime, here's the synopsis to get your motor running:

Travis Yardley-Rudiger deliberately stayed away from Jamie Grimm, desperate not to pull her into the petty war of wills between him and her grandfather, Oliver Grimm. Unfortunately the reemergence of Baldur and Loki and their claiming of Jamie’s sister Jordan put her squarely in Grimm’s sights. Her torture at Grimm’s hands left Travis determined to claim and protect the woman he’s loved for years—but first he has to find a way to break the news that Travis is actually Tyr.

Jamie keeps seeing the weirdest things. Flames in her sister’s eyes, for instance…even Travis’s entire body glowing. Then there are the recurring nightmares she just can’t shake. One thing is certain: Travis’s usual standoffish attitude has done an abrupt one-eighty. He’s even gone so far as to move with her into her sister’s condo while she convalesces. And when he reveals who—and what—he is, Jamie is left to wonder what the Norse God of Justice could possibly want with a crazy redhead with severe family issues.

As far as he’s concerned, it will be Travis’s pleasure to show her…

Warning: This book contains explicit sex, graphic language, a real blond god and a woman with reasons to have trust issues.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: Undertow

This post is eligible for the Give the Gift of Reading Commenter Giveaway! Every comment you leave is an entry in the drawing for a $25.00 gift certificate to the bookseller of your choice!
Undertow: Building Sanctuary, Book 2Title: Undertow
Author: Moira Rogers
Page Count: 101 pages (ebook format)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: historical romance, paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Set in the Depression, this is the story of Simone and Victor and their struggle to move on from past traumas, overcome present expectations, heal past wounds, and live happily ever after.

Sigh.  This series (and Red Rock Pass, the one that spawned this one) is just dreamy.  The books are short, sweet and to the point, the characters are authentic and well-developed, the setting is certainly unique, and the romance is sweet and powerful.  The price on this book ($2.80) makes this one a steal!

I definitely recommend starting with the first book in this series, A Safe Harbor (and as a matter of fact, I'm giving away a copy of A Safe Harbor here), you can definitely read and enjoy this one by itself.  Hey- it'll probably just make you want to go back and read the whole series!

Simone and Victor both have a lot, and I mean a lot, of issues to overcome throughout the story.  Simone is still dealing with the fact that she was the first kept lady of the corrupt alpha that tortured the females that make up the new pack in this story and feels guilty that she didn't somehow do more to keep the others safe.  Victor is fighting his strong attraction to Simone and worries that she's only attracted to him because she sees him as a protector, which would make him no better than the last guy that used her. 

These two have a great opportunity to overcome their hangups when they get stranded on an island together after bad weather totals their boat.  I have to say, this is one of my favorite plot elements in a romance novel.  I love it when the hero and heroine have only their own relationship to focus on without outside issues or distractions.  Lock them in a house during a blizzard and I am a happy camper.

All in all, when you combine werewolves, historical settings, romance, and adventure, you come up with Undertow and therefore you come up with a winner.  Moira Rogers offers up another winner with this one, and the only downside is now I have to wait for their next book!

Overall Grade: A
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