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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BWB Review: Incarceron


Title: Incarceron
Author: Catherine Fisher
Page Count: 464 pages
Publisher: Dial
Genre: dystopian, sci-fi, young adult

50 words or less: Out of sight, out of mind- Incarceron is where the undesirable elements of society have been sent, and Incarceron is their keeper. Those Outside are only just finding out that instead of a paradise, Incarceron is a hell from which their is allegedly no escape. Or is there?

I am such a sucker for good, vivid, thought-provoking dystopian novels. What with my addiction to worldbuilding and my thrill in people sticking it to the man, dystopian novels really hit the spot for me, and Incarceron can join the ranks as one of my favorites.

Incarceron is simultaneously three different stories going on at the same time. To begin with, it's the story of Finn, a prisoner of Incarceron, and his desire and drive to get Outside, along with his oathbrother, a young slave, and an old man who's been his informal protector since he awoke in a cell in Incarceron. It's also the story of Claudia, the Warden's daughter, her desire to escape from an arranged marriage that will make her Queen, and her desire to reconcile her past with her present to develop some sort of a future. Finally, it's the story of the history of this realm, the almost absurd need for conformity, and plots that are afoot to overthrow the existing order and try to insert another one. These three stories bob and weave until it becomes apparent that you can't have one without the other.

The whole story of Incarceron, the living, breathing prison, is set against the backdrop of a society ravaged by war and information/technology overload. As a remedy to that, the forces that be required that everyone retreat to an Era that was supposedly simpler; the 17th century seems to be the one that the powers picked, seemingly at random. With that comes a strict adherence to Protocol, which states that everything must be from the Era- clothes, technology, education, class structure. Everything. It throws the totalitarian need for conformity that is central to a dystopian novel into an almost absurd spotlight. This particular totalitarian state succeeded not only in getting everyone to conform, it got them to conform to the requirements of a society from hundreds of years in the past!

The author uses the worldbuilding in this novel in a really unique way. She opens up rifts in the worldbuilding on purpose, to show that not everyone is content with the way the society is run, and that the government's control and implementation of Protocol is not absolute. I found myself reading along, enjoying the ride, then having my attention jerked towards some seemingly insignificant detail. A small act of rebellion. A quick mention of out-of-Era technology. An opinion or mindset that seemed out of place. Normally breaks in the worldbuilding like that drive me batty, but here they were used to make a point about the story, and quite masterfully at that.

There are plenty of questions left unanswered at the end of Incarceron, but they only served to pique my interest in reading the next book in the series, Sapphique. If I had to make a comparison, this book reminded me tremendously of the old show, The Prisoner, both for its puzzles and mysteries as well as for that eerie, creepy feeling I always got when watching it.

Overall Grade: A-

This just in!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Lips Touch: Three Times

Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor
Page Count: 272 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: This three-story anthology focuses each story on a kiss, and the impact that one kiss can have. AND IT'S ILLUSTRATED!

I've read glowing review after glowing review of this story collection from a wide variety of sources, so when I saw that my public library had a copy I had to check it out for myself. I'm definitely glad that I did- the stories are lush and vivid, the writing is poetic and flowing, and the concepts and imagery are definitely unique. Because there are three stories included here, each one is a little longer, almost novella length, which only adds to the experience.

The collection starts off with a bang with Goblin Fruit. It's a reworked, reimagined expression of this poem, which I immediately had to google after reading about the connection. The story is dark and probably the most "romantic" of the three and poses a lot of interesting question about what would tempt the most jaded of people, what would entice the biggest cynic. The sudden ending was a brilliant move because it makes you imagine how the story ends, and fill in the blanks for yourself.

The second offering, Spicy Little Curses Such as These, was definitely my favorite of the three. With an exotic setting and elements of a classic story (Orpheus), the plot cooked along at a brisk pace and the elements of the curse, the romance, and the need for good and evil to balance out were braided together expertly.

Although the third story, Hatchling, didn't resonate quite as strongly with me, it was still enjoyable. This story borrowed heavily from mythology and tells the story of a young girl and the secret her mother has been hiding from her. It just evolves and blossoms from there.

By far one of the most enjoyable and unique features of this book are the illustrations. Done in black, red and white, they are stunning and narrate the story they precede eloquently without giving too much away. If you're the kind of person who would rather imagine the book without outside information, you can certainly skip the illustrations and the text remains unchanged, but you're definitely missing out.

If you haven't read this book yet, I definitely recommend you give it a try. Fans of dark fairy tales and reworked legends will find a lot to enjoy here.

Overall Grade: A

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Tiger Eye for PC by Passionfruit Games

*Review copy provided by Passionfruit Games through Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review*

I was incredibly surprised and honored when I was approached as a reviewer for the video game based on Marjorie Liu's Tiger Eye, which is the first book in the Dirk and Steele series, and was reviewed here on What Book is That?

The book is excellent, and in this case, it provides the story line for a really fun game of the same name, created by Passionfruit Games! Marjorie Liu wrote the script for the story line as well; one of the things I enjoyed most about this game was how closely the storyline and cut scenes paralleled the plot of the book.

The trailer gives a really good depiction of what game play is like:

Playing this game is easy enough- each game screen presents different objectives, which, when met, allow you to advance to the next level. Interspersed are cut scenes where the story of the book is told; you DON'T have to have read the book to enjoy this game, although I highly recommend reading/enjoying both!

The games are relatively straightforward and hints are provided if you need them; this game doesn't require a lot of exposure to video games or to PC gaming specifically to be enjoyable. I played through this game on my netbook and had few issues; I do think a regular mouse would have made some of the activities easier. If you're a hardcore puzzle fan or play a lot of computer games you might find these a little too simple for your tastes. Bear in mind, this is a game designed to entice a hesitant demographic to enter the wide world of PC gaming; if you're a veteran in the area, you'll still have fun but there isn't anything here to widen your skill set. Basically, if you can play games on Yahoo or Facebook then you have all the skills and know-how to be able to beat this game as well.

Another nice feature is that the game automatically saves each time you quit, which means it's easy to come back after an extended break. I would play a few minutes of the game in between writing reviews or other tasks; there isn't anything to forget or to have to relearn so this is a good option for people who don't have time to sit down and play a game regularly.

The cut scenes and music are well done and didn't take an unreasonable amount of time to load; I was interested to see how the events of the story would be depicted in the game. Rest assured also, for younger players, that there isn't anything objectionable in here. The website rates the game at PG-13 and I think that's a very fair assessment.

The game is available for purchase at three different levels- the cheapest option is just the game, while each successive price level offers more and more extras. The most expensive one caps out at $12.99, so any way you slice it, this is a good deal on a pretty fun, easygoing game.

It should be noted, though, that this is only Part I of the game, which means that not all of the story of the book is represented here! Part II, according to the website, is contingent on how well Part I sells, so I highly recommend trying out the free demo available at the purchase link and buying a copy of the game if you enjoy it. The package that includes just the game is $6.99, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. I have a long car ride coming up and you can bet I'll be revisiting this game to pass the time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Tempting the Beast

Title: Tempting the Beast
Author: Lora Leigh
Page Count: 252 pages
Publisher: Ellora's Cave
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: The first story in the Breeds series belongs to Callan Lyons and Merinus Tyler. The torture the Breeds endured, the fury of mating heat, and their precarious position in society are all introduced.

This is the book that starts the Breeds series (check out Lora Leigh's website for a full series chronology and is a good place to start if you're interested in reading this series. I have a thing where I like to start with the first book and read in order, and while you can certainly start anywhere in this series and pick things up, it's easiest to start at the beginning. Be forewarned, though, that the installments that were published by Ellora's Cave can be a little bit harder to track down; your best bet is to buy them online.

Callan is on the run and trying to protect the other Breeds who escaped from the Genetics Council labs with him. He's not interested in exposing their secrets and in fact thinks that the Breeds being exposed to the world is a terrible idea; needless to say, he's not interested in talking to Merinus Tyler, who happens to be a journalist.

If you looked up stubborn and determined in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Merinus Tyler there. She's bound and determined to get an interview with Callan and get his story told to the world. She's got a secret obsession with Callan but doesn't anticipate ever having to act on it. She does, though, and that gets her sucked irrevocably into the world of the breeds.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that this books get a Scandalous Books designation (the series and/or the publisher should be dead giveaways) but I feel that this book is a good example of how the author's writing has evolved over time. This story was every bit as spicy as all the others, but felt less polished and less detailed than other, more recent books. The elements of the story that carry over from book to book make their initial appearance here- the Genetics Council, the backstabbing, the betrayal, the mating heat, etc. but they are more fully described and detailed in other books. The length of this book compared to others may play a role as well.

If you're looking to read the Breeds series, this is indeed the first book and a good place to start. While not my favorite of all the books, it brings the spice in a big way and the happily ever after is worth waiting for.

Overall Grade: B

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Author Interview- Karin Harlow PLUS an INTERNATIONAL Giveaway!

This is the week for fun swag prizes here at What Book is That?! I'm pleased to be able to introduce the delightful Karin Harlow, 2010 debut author and the mind behind one of my favorite books of 2010 so far, Enemy Lover! Read my review here!

I'm super excited about this feature so let's dive right in!
*****
WBIT: Congratulations on your debut novel! Of all the settings and genres out there, what drew you to writing paranormal romance?

KH: First of all, I wanted to thank you, Emily for inviting me to hang out! Now to your question: I’m not a big paranormal readers per se, but I love to sink my teeth (pun intended) into a nice juicy vampire story. As a kid I was a big fan of Dark Shadows. The whole Dracula myth and mystery has always intrigued me. And so, Marcus was born.

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

KH:It did actually. When we pitched the series we pitched it as straight RS, but my editor asked me how I felt about adding a paranormal element. At first, I was like, no way. I was thinking more along the whoo-whoo aspect of paranormal element and just couldn’t wrap my head around it. When I opened myself up to the all of the possibilities, and I saw my assassin hero as a vampire, it was kismet. As I said above, I have always been fascinated by the vampire lore, to write my perfect vampire was a dream come true. The story took off from there.

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

KH:Creating viable characters who readers will give a damn about.

WBIT:The easiest?

KH: The writing.

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

KH: I don’t think so. Non-writers are always very quick to bow down to the, “I think it’s amazing that you can one come up with a story and two actually write it! How do you do that?”

WBIT:What trends or changes do you see in paranormal romance?

KH:They seem to be getting progressively darker, some bordering on horror, and the world building is more complex. I naturally write edgy, so dark isn’t a problem for me. I don’t have to work hard at it whereas some other writers who have a lighter voice may find it a challenge. As far as the world building goes for me, I like to keep things simple and my characters complex. That said, worlds that Kresley Cole and Alyssa Day have created are wonderfully complex.

WBIT:What books or authors do you recommend to people who are new to the genre or think it's "not their thing"?

kh: As I mentioned above, Kresly and Alyssa, along with the incomparable Christine Feehan and JR Ward.

WBIT: Enemy Lover left me FRANTIC to know what happens next in the world of L.O.S.T.!

KH:Gotcha!

WBIT:What other projects do you have on the horizon and can you share anything about them?
KH: I’m currently working on L.O.S.T. book 2. It’s Nikko Cruz’s story and, oh boy has that man been through the emotional wringer. He meets up with his nemesis, half daemon, Selena de la Roja, who also happens to be the only woman he has ever loved and who because of her dirty deeds sent him to prison. She is a woman with a huge cause, and though she has done Nikko terribly wrong, all is not what it appears. I love the angst between these two. They are pushed to combine forces to save the world. Roller coaster does not come close to describing their volatile relationship.

WBIT: You're trapped in a castle, and the only way out is to bribe the guards with desserts.

KH: A castle! But what if I want to stay?

WBIT: ...Well, you can't. What dessert would you use to escape?

KH: I love to cook! Love it. And while I can whip up a mean full course meal, I kind of suck at desserts. But, I do make a really good old fashioned blueberry crisp. I’d serve it warm to the guard with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a smile.
*****
Well, I'm beyond pumped for the next book in this series- consider me addicted! I'm also happy to announce that Karin has provided a sweet prize for one commenter on this interview post:
I freely admit here, in front of the entire world, that I am jealous of whoever wins this.

Here are the rules of engagement:

-This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
-To enter, leave a comment with one of the following:
A question or comment for Karin
Your favorite thing about paranormal romance or romantic suspense
A comment or question about the interview, the book, the series- anything!

Basically, your comment must be meaningful in some way.
-Make sure you include a way to contact you if you win- email address, blog address, twitter name, whatever works for you.
-Giveaway ends Saturday, July 10th at 11:59 pm EST

Ready? Set? Go!

Thank you so much to Karin for being here today, and for furnishing this excellent prize! Folks, if you haven't yet made plans to read this book, do so immediately. You will definitely not be sorry!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Illustrated Friday: The Gentleman Bug

This book is beyond adorable. It's about a quiet, studious bookworm, the Gentleman Bug, who tries to change himself into a dandy to impress the new gal in town, Lady Bug. Lady Bug isn't impressed by dandies, though, and the Gentleman Bug learns that the best way to be is true to yourself. The illustrations are soft and detailed, with tons of minute details on every page. The text of the story is easy to read and simple to understand so the real enjoyment of the story comes from the support provided by the illustrations. This is one I might acquire for myself just to have to look at from time to time. Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Have Three Things on My Mind.

Those three things are:



Thank you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Please welcome...Chloe Neill!!! With a Giveaway to Boot!!!

Please join me in welcoming Chloe Neill, the author behind the Chicagoland Vampires and Dark Elite series! In honor of the upcoming release of Twice Bitten (book the third in the Chicagoland Vampire series) on July 6th, I bring you this guest post!


Chloe & Merit Have a Sit Down


Chloe: Hello, readers.
Merit: *Waves*
Chloe: I'm here with Merit, star of the Chicagoland Vampires series.
Merit: Aw, you're too kind.

Mallory: What's all this?
Merit: I'm having a chat with Chloe.
Mallory: *Pouting* Without me?
Chloe: *wincing* It's kind of a lead heroine conversation.
Mallory: *Arching evil eyebrow* And you think I'm not a lead heroine? I can do MAGIC, sunshine. MAGIC. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Merit: *Rolling eyes and patting seat beside her* Fine. Have a seat, Sabrina.
Mallory: *squeeing, takes a seat* Now, where were we?
Chloe: I was just introducing everyone. So, we've got Merit and Mallory, the lead heroines of the Chicagoland Vampires series. Ladies, why don't you tell us what the books are about?
Mallory: Oh, I got this one. *Hitching a thumb at Merit* Nerdly type becomes vampire, crushes on blondie.
Merit: I am not crushing on anyone.
Mallory: Whatevs. And to add interest, I discover I have magical talents. *Makes woo-woo sounds like flitting hands through air*
Merit: She also discovers she's attracted to bossy types.
Mallory: God, ain't that the truth?
Chloe: I think that's good enough. How about Twice Bitten? That's the third book in the series, and it will be released on July 6. That's only two weeks away!
Merit: I'm really excited. There's some pretty exciting things going on in Chicago.
Mallory: With blondie.
Merit: *slowly turning head toward Mallory* I don't think that's any of Chloe's business.
Chloe: I'd disagree, but let's stay on track. Merit, any adjustments you're making for the third book in the series?
Merit: Well, I'm getting a bit more used to the vampire thing, especially since the pieces really fell together after Celina shoved me around. So that's nice.
Chloe: And how are you coping with that?
Merit: The senses can be a little overwhelming at times, but it's nice to feel like there's only just me in my head.
Mallory: Except when Morgan or Ethan use that woo-woo telepathic stuff. Or Lindsey uses her psychic mojo.
Merit: True. Except for that.
Chloe: And Mallory, how do you figure into Book Three?
Mallory: Well, I don't want to give it all away, but I'd say I definitely play a key role.
Merit: --I'm not sure I'd say 'key'.
Mallory: Well, I play a role, anyway. As you know, homeslice over here and I have some issues to work through, so we get into that a lot. But why am I telling you this? You wrote the book, right?
Chloe: Last time I checked.

Merit: I mean, I don't want to be rude, but why are you interviewing us about a book you wrote? Shouldn't you be answering the questions?

Chloe: *Blushing* And that's all the time we have today. Thanks so much for joining us, and I hope you all have a chance to check out TWICE BITTEN on July 6!



*****

Well, July 6th is certainly marked on my calendar! As an added treat, I have a prize pack of Twice Bitten swag to give away, which includes a Twice Bitten bookmark, Firespell bookmark, CV pen and "I've been Twice Bitten!" silicone wristband! I am certainly jealous of whoever wins!

Here's the skinny on how to win:

-Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only
-To enter, leave a comment here and answer this question: what book is at the top of your TBR pile this summer? You won't get extra contest love if you say Twice Bitten, but feel free to throw that in there! No answer to the question = not eligible to win.
-Make sure there is a way to contact you in your entry- email address, blog address, twitter name, something that you check so you'll know if you win. The winner will be announced here as well.
-Giveaway ends Friday, July 9th. at 11:59 pm EST

And that's it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BWB Review: Shadow Bound

Title: Shadow Bound
Author: Erin Kellison
Page Count: 332 pages
Publisher: Dorchester
Genre: paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

50 words or less: Talia is on the run from deadly wraiths who want to give her their smooch of doom. Adam is running a research foundation devoted to eliminating wraiths and has one (his brother) locked in the basement. What could possibly go wrong?

Well.

I want to start off by explaining a few things. First: I did not finish this book. I tried and I tried, and around halfway through I was so mired in my issues with and dislike of the main characters (which I'll get into in a moment) that I just set the book down (figuratively) for the last time.

Second: although this book definitely gets a Could Not Finish from me, I'm also classifying it as Don't Panic. Although I was left cold by the characters here, there are enough glimmers of good stuff here that I can definitely see why other people enjoyed this book. I am totally willing to entertain the possibility that this book might rock and it might be me that has the issue.

The raw materials of this book are definitely good. The paranormal elements are unique, taking elements of the fae and of dark magic and creating not only a bad guy creature that I haven't encountered before, but also a pretty cool way of dealing with those creatures. There's the element of the secret, sort-of-government lab, where research is being conducted in order to try to fend off the coming war with the wraiths. There's family drama, the mystery behind Erin's father (we know who he is, but only some of the characters know) and the potential for a really great story is definitely exposed early on.

What ultimately did this story in for me was the complete lack of connection with and between the characters. I'm totally fine with a hero or heroine not being "sympathetic," that is, I don't mind if someone is prickly, awkward, shy, nervous, scared, brave, ballsy, ugly, or boastful; hell, even arrogant, self-centered, brutally honest, cocky, terrified, and dependent can all work if combined in the right ways to render someone whose actions I can at least understand. I was unable to relate to either Talia (the heroine) or Adam (the hero) in any way and consequently didn't find a lot to hold my attention in any of the rest of the story.

I find it very hard to write anything about Talia as I didn't find her all that memorable. She's got these kick ass powers that stem from her mysterious father and the intellect and common sense to be able to process huge amounts of information and present a theory that's substantiated by facts or at least by research, and yet she never really emerges as a "presence" in the book. She either needs to be rescued or is caught in a state of emotional turmoil, which doesn't leave a lot of time for her to really become an individual. She has an inexplicable attraction to Adam which doesn't really ring true; I mean, Adam hired/kidnapped her, trotted out his freaky supernatural brother, and declared himself her protector somewhere in between his endless list of needs and demands, so he isn't much of a catch. Pity and sadness seem to be the primary emotions she feels whenever he's around.

Oh, Adam. While Adam certainly carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and has a lot of responsibilities and a noble purpose (saving the world usually is, after all) it's immediately apparent that Adam has rules that apply to other people, and a whole different set of rules that apply to him. Adam decides periodically to play hardball with people to get what he wants and then he feels bad about it afterwards and feels the need to bog down the story with thoughts about it, but that doesn't stop him from doing it again in the future.

Example: after snatching Talia off the street when heat stroke renders her unable to fight off a wraith, Adam tries to convince Talia to stay on as an employee at Segue, his research foundation dedicated to eliminating wraiths forever. When the "this is a great research opportunity and it's for the good of all humanity" argument falls flat when he lets it slip that she can't leave, Adam decides the best thing to do is drag her down to the basement to meet Jacob, his creepy brother, who happens to be a wraith. The ordeal is obviously traumatizing for Talia but Adam doesn't seem to care; instead, he figures he's nothing like Jacob, so it's all good. Apparently physically hurting people is wrong, but emotionally hurting them isn't. Who's the monster here?

Not only did he not really object to emotional blackmail, but he put Talia in the rather undesirable position of keeping her skills and identity a secret unless she wanted to get outed to and recruited by the Department of Defense. I mean, most people go out to a restaurant or something on the first date, so Adam's approach is a little...unique.

Then there's the troubling fact that Adam's got so many side deals and secrets and alliances going that he wouldn't know the truth if it jumped up and bit him on the ass. Talia actually opens up about her knowledge of her father and what that means for the fight against the wraiths (although I fully admit that I don't really understand why; open up to someone, sure, but why the guy who's holding you hostage?) and Adam's response is to go and rehash the conversation with other Segue researchers. Talia doesn't feel like she can trust anyone and Adam doesn't do a thing to earn that trust; she gives the trust anyway, which is a whole other kettle of fish. He wants to bang Talia; he wants to study her; he wants her protected; he wants her under the microscope. Well, guess what, Mr. Fancy Pants, we don't get everything we want, and the fact that Adam pretty much does roam around unchecked made the "relationship" these two feel stilted, forced, and awkward. I love a story where the hero and heroine start off as adversaries and end up as allies, but that didn't come together here. Instead I uncovered two people bound together by circumstance who were inexplicably attracted to one another and who, instead of acting on that, should have run in the opposite direction.

The secondary characters didn't fare much better; I'm hard pressed to remember any of their names, and frankly it felt like many of them were introduced just so they could be killed off to advance the plot. Maybe they'll get more attention at some other point but I don't really remember anything about them other than that a disproportionate number of them seemed to meet an ugly, sticky end.

I definitely think that if I'd been able to connect with the characters or found them to be more three dimensional, then I'd have enjoyed the story more. Like I said, the raw materials were definitely there, but after over a hundred pages of not really liking any of the players in the story, I just didn't want to read any more. I definitely support anyone who wants to give this book a go; personally, I'm all set.

Overall Grade: Could Not Finish

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: Folly

Title: Folly
Author: Marthe Jocelyn
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Genre: historical fiction, young adult
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Against a backdrop of Victorian England, four people find out that their choices affect other people, that they must control their own destinies, and only by being mindful of themselves will they live happily ever after.

Folly is a book that I discovered entirely through book blogs, and I was excited to land a spot on a tour for it. Despite the kind of unusual looking cover and the strange expression on the cover model's face, this book isn't paranormal in the slightest; rather, it's extremely vivid, detailed historical fiction that combines the brutality of life for working people in this time period with an effervescent hope and desire for a better life.

Mary Finn starts her life living in the country but, upon her father's remarriage after her mother's death, is sent to the city to find work and support herself. A twist of fate lands Mary as a between-stairs maid in a lord's house instead of keeping house for her dour stepmother's presumably equally dour sister. From there she meets Bates, houseboy/horndog and the inexplicable love interest of Eliza, the other maid, who steps into the role of Mary's mentor.

The points of view of Mary and Eliza alternate with those of James, a young orphan who's living in a group home for orphans, and Oliver, one of the teachers of said orphans. I'll give you a hint right now, the dates on each chapter are important and indicate something important about the story and the path to the ultimate resolution. Aaaand that's all I'll say about that.

The living conditions for each of the characters can be startlingly bleak sometimes; it can be hard to remember that survival alone was a lofty goal for many people for a long time (and still is today.) Everyone has to work hard, maintain appearances at all times, and never, ever, ever let any indiscretion become public knowledge, lest they be left to fend for themselves with the rest of society's "undesired elements." This book does a good job of illustrating the vast differences between life in this time period and life in today's world.

In addition to a hearty dose of historical realism, this book also illustrates how a few careless decisions or actions on one person's part can have longstanding repercussions for others. Eliza's actions are the best example of this: in her refusal to accept that Bates, another servant in the house, may just not be that into her, she goes out of her way to snoop and spy on Mary, convinced that Mary is the one who's stolen Bates' heart. Well, she has, but the funny thing is, Mary's heart belongs to someone else, a fact which would have been easy to discern if Eliza had asked instead of going godzilla. What happens next would definitely be a comedy of errors if the results hadn't been so tragic for Mary.

Folly is densely packed with details despite its relatively short length, and each of them is important to the story. While the ultimate resolution of the story is satisfactory and everyone gets what they want in the end, some folks have to wait a long time for their happily-ever-after. This book is definitely one that's off the beaten path, and if the premise sounds like something you'd enjoy I can definitely recommend picking it up.

Overall Grade: A-

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Winner of Review Book Blowout- Historical Prize Pack!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a wiener! The winner of Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran and Flirting with Forever by Gwyn Cready is...

April (Books and Wine)


Thank you to everyone who entered and made this giveaway such a huge success! I'll have a new giveaway going up soon, and will definitely have to do more Review Book Blowouts in the future. Thanks again, you folks are awesome!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time to Party!

It's the weekend, which means it's time to party! This weekend is extra special because there are two different blog hops going on, which means two different chances to explore new blogs and find new stuff to read!

First up:

I'm participating in the Book Blogger Hope for the first time! Head on over, sign up, and meet some new people!

Also,:

The always fun Rachel at Parajunkee's View is hosting a hop as well! Double the chances to meet people, find new blogs, and gain followers at the same time.

Anyway, if you're stopping by from either of those events, welcome welcome welcome!

Illustrated Friday: Where Teddy Bears Come From

Action! Adventure! Character cameos! Teddy bears! Where Teddy Bears Come From is the story of a little wolf who decides he wants a teddy bear and must, then, go on a quest to discover where teddy bears come from. While he's doing that, he meets a whole bunch of characters that probably will come across as familiar and tries to secure their help in his journey. The illustrations are clever and detailed and the story is super fun. Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Masked by Moonlight

Title: Masked by Moonlight
Author: Nancy Gideon
Page Count: 375 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: Charlotte Caissie is a detective for the NOPD who's been wrestling with a dirty little secret: her admiration for mobster Max Savoie. Neither of them wants to deny their attraction or fight their need for each other; too bad what we want isn't always important.

Ladies and gentlemen, my eyeballs are about to fall out of my head. I literally just finished reading Masked by Moonlight and haven't felt that emotionally drained in a long time. This author grabs ahold of your heartstrings and shakes them until you don't know which way is up. It is an excellent thing that the second and third books in this series come out so soon, because I am DYING to know what happens next in this series.

Charlotte is a good, by-the-book cop who wants justice for victims. And that's all. It's been her reason for existing since the terrible events of her childhood scarred her forever- her dad's murder, her experience as a hostage to try to get other people to do things, you name it- and she was willing to let that be enough. Too bad Max Savoie is taking up an awful lot of her attention.

Max, on the other hand, feels that he owes everything to Jimmy Legere, a notorious crime boss who rescued Max from destitution and starvation when he was a child. It helps that Jimmy is keeping Max's secret- Max is a shape shifter, and Max thinks that he's the only one in existence.

Charlotte and Max are simultaneously perfect for each other and the worst thing that has ever happened to each of them. Their attraction is immediate and visceral, and they can relate to the loss and horror that each has experienced in a way that few others can. Max gives Charlotte unwavering love and devotion, strength when she needs it, a shoulder to cry on, and a commitment she never thought she'd want. Charlotte gives Max respect, love, shares her secrets and her emotions, and treats him like a person instead of a tool.

There's just this teeny tiny issue- she's a cop, and he's a mobster. It's an issue that transcends the "we don't talk about work" arena and rocks both of these characters to their cores and makes them question their identities. This leads to a lot of malfunctioning communication between these two that causes a lot of emotional angst for the reader. Max is surprisingly innocent (some would say naive) in dealing with emotions and relationships, and Charlotte can't ever turn the cop part of her brain off and is always thinking about how pieces fit together or how she can use information she's learning. This isn't a slam on either of them; it does show, however, how two fragile people can do a lot of damage to each other without meaning to.

There's a murder mystery afoot in this book, and it takes a definite backseat to the issues that stand in the way of Charlotte and Max having a successful, fulfilling relationship. This book is different in that these two loving each other is never really in question; whether or not they'll find a way to be together in a way that both of them can live with is the real issue, and is not resolved here. Like I said, I'm anxiously awaiting the next book.

My feelings are still coming out of the blender after reading this book, so it's not surprising to me that my issue with this book ties directly into something I already identified as a strength. The emotions, strengths, and shortcomings of both of these characters are laid bare throughout the course of this book. We get Charlotte's perspective; we get Max's perspective. Sometimes, I shouted out loud, WHAT ARE YOU TWO THINKING?! Charlotte! You got busted telling someone that your feelings for him were faked and you were only using him to get to his boss/psuedo-dad, and you're hurt that he's hurt. WHAT DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN?! Max! You introduced Charlotte as your girlfriend (which she totally is) to all the other sketchy underworld people so they would know not to mess with her, but are shocked and hurt to find out that she's still kind of squicked out about being in love with a mobster and she's worried about how this will hurt her career as a POLICE OFFICER. WHAT DID YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN?! This sword cuts both ways- I was so engrossed with the story that I was picking the meat off of every story bone, desperate to get more, but at the same time things stuck out to me that were...inconsistent with the morals and characters of the characters, for lack of a better way to say it. I am definitely interested to see how this element plays out in future books.

If you have a love for shape shifter books, want to root for a couple to overcome some serious odds, love mobsters, drama, intrigue, and the city of New Orleans, then do yourself a favorite and pick up this book. I kid you not, this is one of my favorites so far of 2010, and I don't say that lightly.

Overall Grade: A+

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Houston, We Have a Problem.

I don't know if you've ever run into this situation...

OH NO THE BOOKSHELF IS FULL! Never mind, I'll put more books on another shelf....

Wait, not that shelf....maybe the other one has room!

Okay, strike that, how about on the nightstand!

Then again, maybe not.

Guess the library shelf is full again.

And my work bag is full too!

Looks like there's no room by the bed either.

This can mean only one thing...

I need a new bookshelf.

Luckily, CSNStores.com is coming to my rescue! I've been fortunate enough to be offered the chance to review a product from one of CSN'S 200+ websites! I could literally spend days looking at all the different products they offer- lighting, modern decor, and of course, bookcases! It should come as no surprise, then, especially in light of my current plight, that I'll be reviewing a bookcase- specifically, the mighty Mylex four shelf number you see in the picture! There will also be an opportunity for you, fine readers to win either the shelf you see or a $40 gift card to snag your own excellent item from one of CSN's sites!

Sound good? Then check back soon as I'll have the whole buying, shipping, and assembling experience here for you as soon as it's available. Current followers will get a special in for the giveaway, so hit the follow button or subscribe by email today!

Of course, many thanks to Jamie and the fine folks at CSN for this great opportunity. Let the shelf exploring begin!

Last Chance!

Heads up- entries for my giveaway of Wicked Becomes You and Flirting With Forever close Friday! Seriously, all you have to do is click here and provide your name and email address in the form, and you could win two very fun books!

500Followers

Also, the mega giveaway at Blog with Bite ends Friday as well! There are ton of ways to get extra entries, and the books being given away are great fun as well. Hop on over and help us celebrate our 500th follower!

Now don't fret! I have another excellent giveaway coming up soon- I'll reveal some details later today, but suffice it to say, if you're a reader and your book collection is as out of control as mine, you'll LOVE what I'm giving away next!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Sanctuary's Price

Title: Sanctuary's Price
Author: Moira Rogers
Page Count: 127 pages (.pdf format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by Veronica at Strictly Reviews in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: The saga of Red Rock continues with the story of Dylan, a beta wolf with a heart of gold, and Sasha, a witch in training who has big shoes to fill, and their journey to Maine to find out what's going on in the rest of the werewolf world.

This series just keeps getting better and better. Each story adds more detail and nuance to an already engrossing world, and every time I finish one I find myself feeling kind of angsty because I need the next one. Book withdrawal is a terrible, terrible thing.

From the moment Dylan was introduced in the first book, I wanted him to get his happily ever after. Sanctuary's Price definitely delivers on every count, but also throws some new or at least less common elements into the proverbial pot.

To begin with, Dylan isn't your typical snarly, bossy boots alpha male. Fans of the shapeshifter genre might initially say "ick" upon reading this, but I'm going to challenge you to put that assumption aside. Instead of being, shall we say, a dick to the heroine, as is so often a danger in stories with strong alpha heroes, Dylan is way more in tune to what Sasha is feeling and thinking, which is good, considering the horrors she endured in Sanctuary Lost.

I really enjoy how intuitive all the characters are in this story, and how everyone works together as a team and leaves the villainry to the actual villains. Case and point: Dylan and Sasha are sent on a mission, ostensibly to check on the other packs who are supposedly on Red Rock's side in the increasingly ugly violence between the werewolf packs, but really, Gavin (leader of Red Rock) figured out that Sasha was feeling uncomfortable in Red Rock and could use a change of scene. He sends Brynn and Joe along for the same reasons; Brynn is tired of feeling like a freak and needs to get away without it looking like she's being cast out.

Well, it's a good thing this quartet traveled to Maine, because all is not well with the other packs, especially in rural areas. The authors here do a good job of creating a realistic and plausible conflict that is definitely not going to be resolved any time soon. Also, we get to meet Adam Dubois, vampire lumberjack extraordinaire. Just saying.

I went back and forth about whether or not this book merits a Scandalous Books designation, and I decided to hold off- there is adult content here, sure, but it's more in line with what one might encounter in other romance novels and most of the more graphic things referred to are things that happened in other books. The relationship between Sasha and Dylan is very physical, but that takes a definite backstage to their emotional growth and commitment to each other. If sex in a book bothers you, though, then I'd still steer clear.

I could go on and on and on about this book and the other ones in this series, so all I'll say is this: stop what you are doing and buy them. Buy them all together, so you won't have withdrawal symptoms when you finish one. You know you want to!

Overall Grade: A

Monday, June 14, 2010

Awesome Project Alert!

Sherry at Flipping Pages for All Ages has an awesome project going on right now! She's collecting books to benefit St. Anne's Institute, a not for profit organization that helps at-risk girls ages 12-18 in a variety of ways- through residential programs, therapeutic and educational programs, and outreach programs as well. However, due to a lack of funding and tight competition for the funds they do have, the library of books available to the girls is not what it could be. Eric Luper, an author, was on on the advisory board for St. Anne's and talks about his tour of the library and work to rebuild it here.

We can do something about this! All you have to do is go through your bookshelves, find middle grade, young adult or other books you'd like to donate, and fill out the form in this post and you'll get the address to send your donations to! Plus, your generosity will be rewarded with a chance to enter to win some great prizes, including gift cards to a variety of book retailers!

Books have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember and I can't imagine my life today without them. My love of reading is a huge part of who I am and this is a great opportunity to share that love with other people. I'm definitely donating and I hope you decide to donate as well.

BWB Review: Touched by an Alien



Title: Touched by an Alien
Author: Gini Koch
Page Count: 389 pages
Publisher: DAW
Genre: science fiction, paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: Who knew that stabbing a raging lunatic with a pen would turn Katherine Katt's life upside down? Now instead of being a marketing manager, she's a member of a secret task force charged with preventing a hostile takeover by alien parasites. Then there's the matter of Jeff...

What a fun book! I'm a sucker for a good hybrid between science fiction and romance, and this certainly fits the bill. While certainly a bit goofy at times and definitely not for people who need their science fiction to be serious and stiff upper lip at all times, this book grabbed my attention and kept my interest until the last word.

Katherine "Kitty" Katt (yes, her parents thought that was hilarious) was just finishing up her day of jury duty when all hell broke loose in front of the court house. In the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute that's gone completely out of control, she's able to kill the offender, who clearly to her is not human, and save countless people in the process. Her weapon of choice: A Mont Blanc pen. Go figure.

Immediately her life is turned upside down: she's carted off by a small battalion of male model look-alikes, informed that she is now being recruited as an agent for an organization in charge of protecting earth from an invasion of alien parasites intent on remaking this world (and every other one for that matter) in their image, and oh yeah, now they know who she is, so they're probably gunning for her family too.

Add to the mix one Mr. Jeff Martini, superhunk extraordinaire who's immediately smitten with Kitty and has no problem expressing this to anyone and everyone who will listen. Kitty doesn't mind all that much, although that gets her into a lot of trouble with Christopher, one of Jeff's fellow aliens and agents, who seems to delight in harassing Kitty at every turn. Kitty thinks Christopher is annoying; everyone else sees his behavior and attention for what it is and tries to warn Kitty about the situation. Tension ensues in spades, especially when Kitty realizes that Jeff's feelings are the real deal, and his skills and abilities as an empath have implications that she had never even considered.

If it sounds like I just described the plot and characters of a bunch of other different books and movies, I kind of did. Science fiction remixes ideas constantly, and this book is no exception. What makes this book unique and fun, though, is how effortlessly the hat is tipped to other works while simultaneously incorporating new elements that keep the story fresh. The secret pseudo-government agency in charge of saving the world from alien invasion is all well and good, except most of the staffers of said agency are aliens themselves. There are a ton of really strong barriers against Kitty and Jeff being able to be together, but they're religious in nature, instead of some weird Barbarella sexually bizzarro fest.

I also enjoyed how family played such a prominent role, both for Kitty and for Jeff. All too often in paranormal romance you find that the main characters sort of exist in a vacuum when it comes to family- either everyone is long dead or missing or just uninvolved. That's not the case here- Kitty's family in particular is very hands-on and she finds out a lot she didn't know about them in the process as well.

The tone of this story was flip and fun, with just enough snark to be amusing but with enough emotion to be genuine. One downside to Jeff's incredible talents as an empath is that he does tend to launch into Mr. Sensitive territory rather easily; this makes for a tough row to hoe when it comes to sorting out whether Kitty wants to be with him or someone else. We as the reader know full well what Kitty's feelings are, but in spite of his skills as an empath, Jeff doesn't. This situation gets a brief mention in passing at the end of the book and I'm excited to see what happens with this in future novels. The next book comes out in December, and I'm going to have a hard time waiting. I sense an early Christmas present coming on!

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


Also, how could I possibly review this book without including my favorite Men in Black scene ever? I don't know either.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Predatory Game

Title: Predatory Game
Author: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 313 pages
Publisher: Jove
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Jess Calhoun is a SEAL who was horribly wounded in the line of duty and is trying to walk again with the help of bionics. He thought he was doing a good deed by giving Saber Wynter a job and a place to live and that was that. Oops.

This series barrels on with this, the fifth installment, which focuses around Jess (we first met him in the second book, he was the guard at Dahlia's asylum) and Saber, who was raised in one of the horror labs and is the perfect assassin- she can kill with a touch. Saber went AWOL from one of Peter Whitney's labs and has been on the run ever since, moving on before anyone can figure out who she is or before she can accidentally take someone's life. She has an unusually powerful, attractive voice (another one of her enhanced abilities) so working in radio seems like a good, peaceful option.

Well, it just so happens that Jess Calhoun owns a radio station, and a horrible accident just cost him his night DJ and sound guy. Hiring Saber is a natural choice, or so he thought; as the story goes on, we find out just how much of this chance meeting was actually staged and how far Peter Whitney is willing to go to get the results he wants.

Saber and Jess are attracted to each other from the getgo, although whether that's because the feelings are authentic or because they're the result of the enhanced pheromones (again, compliments of Peter Whitney) is a cause of great angst and confusion for Saber. She's kind of stuck in an emotional whirlwind that she can't leave- first she shies away from Jess because a soured relationship would cost her her job and her home, then she shies away from Jess because she feels she can never be accepted by other people because of her dangerous abilities, then she shies away from Jess because she doesn't know that she can commit to him for the long haul.

Normally, these kinds of endless reservations and issues and drama don't really do anything for me, but in this book they were used pretty cleverly to illustrate that everything isn't coming up roses in the Ghostwalker world. This author has a knack for taking what could be pretty damaging plot holes and tying them into the story in a way that enhances the story and makes it feel more authentic. For example, there's a scene where Jess finds out that while one character thinks that he and all his genetically enhanced cohorts are good guys because they're "patriots," which the character defines basically as working for the government, he thinks Saber isn't so good because she "doesn't believe in anything." Jess naturally gets all defensive but he is forced to confront the question that nobody else seems to want to address, namely, what kind of future do they all have, really? Are they ever going to be able to be out and open in society or accepted as anything other than manufactured killers? This is just one example of the story seams that get tightened up in this story, and there certainly isn't a clear resolution, but then again, there usually aren't those kinds of answers in the regular world either.

The other major development in the story revolves around the bionics that Jess is using experimentally in hopes that he won't have to rely on a wheelchair anymore. That isn't a spoiler, but it sure feels like one, since characters with any kind of physical difference are so rare in romance novels to begin with. I applaud the author for "going there," so to speak, but I found the bionics aspect of the story to be kind of a cop out. It's hard to really explain why without getting too spoilery, but suffice it to say that his physical disability is there to serve a broader purpose. What would have happened if he'd remained unable to walk? I'm just speculating and overall it's a minor quirk, but I think there were added depths to this story that could have been explored.

The happily-ever-after was sweet and fun, the appearances from other characters were interesting, and while no earthshattering revelations were made about the future direction of the story, it was still a fun book to read.

Overall Grade: A-

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: The Wallflower

Title: The Wallflower
Author: Dana Marie Bell
Page Count: 114 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by Veronica at Strictly Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

50 words or less: Max Cannon is an optometrist/Alpha of the puma shifters who's finally ready to settle down. He falls hard and fast for Emma Carter, who's grown up in a big way in the years he's been away. But will she want to be with him when she realizes just what that will involve?

The Wallflower is a great story for when you've had a blah sort of day or when work or kids or family or whatnot are stressing you out. It's short (114 pages is generous as there are a boodle of excerpts of other books that add to the page length), spicy, and sets up the next installment in the series nicely.

Emma Carter is a career wallflower, so naturally she and her best friend Becky name their antiques shop precisely that. While's been focused on running her business and making it successful, Emma's grown up into a confident, sassy, beautiful woman, a fact that doesn't go unnoticed by Max Cannon, who moves back to town after an extended absence. Max lays eyes on Emma and immediately decides that he's been a moron when it comes to her; instead of being forgettable, Emma shows Max that his search for a mate is over and all he has to do is convince her that his feelings are genuine.

Because of the length of the story, the relationship develops at a breakneck pace; I about had whiplash during their dinner date and how quickly they went from "nice to see you again, you're looking well" to "ZOMG be with me forever!" There's a cute subplot where we find out that Emma's best friend Becky and Max's beta Simon secretly think each other are just the best thing ever; matchmaking ensues and the stage is set for the next story. The matchmaking served as the vehicle for Max and Emma to really bond as a couple and worked well as a story element. They certainly do a lot of bonding as a couple, too- hence the Scandalous Books note.

This isn't a perfect story- it suffers a little bit from an abundance of telling and less showing than I would have liked. For example, Max tells Emma all about how he became Alpha and how this was a huge ordeal and how he and Simon completed it while they were still human which was unusual, and how people are changed from human to puma changeling and all that, and I felt like those were elements that were important and deserved more attention than a pre-nookie info dump could give them. The other characters didn't really get a lot of attention, either, although that may be because of the length and the fact that many of them get entire stories to themselves eventually. This isn't a big deal, just a heads up to people who want a lot of details about secondary characters or a lot of world building.

Overall, though, this was a great start to a series that definitely made me want to read the rest. Emma and Max are hilarious together (Emma especially is snarky and flip and a girl after my own heart.) Lucky for me, there are a bunch of titles already available!

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, June 11, 2010

And They're Off! Bloggiesta To-Do List

Brought to you by Natasha at Maw Books:

It's time again for Bloggiesta! If you've never participated before, I highly recommend you click the link and get cracking, because it's an awesome way to get bloggy things done and devote some time to your goals and projects. Speaking of, here are mine for this weekend:

1. 25 posts for Illustrated Friday, written and scheduled

2. Review Hot Spell

3. Review Lips Touch: Three Times

4. Review Tempting the Beast

5. Review Murder Game

6. Review Must Love Hellhounds

7. Review Salt

8. Review The Iron Daughter

9. Read/Review Touched by an Alien

10. Enter more mini-challenges!

11. Read at least 2 of my NetGalley titles

12. Play through and review mystery game

13. Take pictures and schedule teaser post for CSN (be prepared...)

14. Review Street Game- can't believe I forgot this one!

And that's that! I will be happy if I get to even half of all that, honestly. I'm setting my sights high this time around because I know how much stuff, potentially, can be accomplished during Bloggiesta.

If you're participating in Bloggiesta, what would you most like to accomplish? Here's to a great weekend everyone!

Illustrated Friday: Do Unto Otters

I love illustrated books that have a sense of humor and Do Unto Otters definitely fits the bill. It's subtitled "a book about manners" and that theme is worked into the entire book, but the details in the illustrations are what really make this book unique. I spend a ton of time working on manners with my class of preschoolers so any book that shakes things up a little bit is a good thing. Enjoy and Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Fever, The Cure: Sex and YA Literature

Alright everyone, cue up your nervous faces, because were about to talk about sex.

This post is inspired by one written by Melissa Marr over at Supernatural Underground, appropriately titled Let's Talk About Sex. The theme of the post was on sex and sexual content in YA literature, the questions/comments/concerns that she receives as a writer in that genre, and her thoughts on the issue from both a creative perspective and from the perspective of a parent.

By and large the comments on the post seem to reflect the consensus that sex in YA is fine as long as it's done "tastefully" (thought it should be noted that no common definition of what specifically that means has emerged) and that it fit with the groove of the story. Ms. Marr parries effectively by pointing out that the lack of common definition of tasteful is part of the issue at hand, and that gratuitous sex/violence/substance use/bad decisions in adult novels aren't necessarily what make them adult novels.

I am child-free, but I am a teacher, and honestly? My feeling is that my true job when it comes to sensitive issues such as these is to teach students how to be critical thinkers, how to determine if a source is accurate or believable, and how to develop a concrete stance on an issue based on evidence. I've always been kind of nervous about the idea that creators of young adult literature are somehow responsible for making sure that readers aren't exposed to anything "bad" and to thoroughly villify that stuff if they are; likewise, I don't think it's the job of an author to present archetypes of "good things" or to provide role models for readers. Their job is to create a story; how the reader interacts with the story is an individual experience.

I am totally supportive of parents knowing what their children are reading and being aware of the subject matter; knowing what your child likes to read is knowing something about them as an individual. But I do think that we're a little late to the party if we think that sex or sexual content or innuendo in popular culture is something new or something that only just recently needed to be policed. I mean, here's one of my favorite cover songs ever. It's about going to the doctor and being told you need to get some:



It wasn't so long ago that rock and roll was the devil's music, the Hardy Boys were corrupting the young men of America, and it was uncomfortable to see Ricky & Lucy, a married couple, sleeping in the same bed (many thanks to @Karenof4 of Twitterland for helping me finish that thought!) Not only have social ideas of what constitutes appropriate content changed, our ways of interacting with media have changed as well. Rather than focusing on what specific things a book contains or what our perceptions of those things may be as adults, I think the focus needs to be on helping young readers become thoughtful, critical people; people who don't necessarily accept things at face value and who, if they come across something that doesn't work for them for whatever reason (violates their sense of justice, conflicts with their morals, just doesn't interest them), can do something radical: make a different decision. That means read something else, change the channel, buy tickets to a different movie or hey, blog about it!

Am I saying that YA literature should be a free for all of hedonistic debauchery? No, I think the books still need to be well written and one endless sex scene doesn't constitute a good story, regardless of the target market. What I am saying, is that rather than being outraged or embarrassed that two people are intimate, or that violence is omnipresent for some people, or that some people cuss like it's going out of style, or that relationships in a book are depicted a certain way (Bella and Edward, I'm looking at you,) or whatever the case may be, I would ask readers the question, "what do you think about that?"

Review: Everlasting

Title: Everlasting
Author: Angie Frazier
Page Count: 336 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: historical, fantasy, romance, young adult
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: Camille Rowen is about to get married and become a respectable member of San Francisco society in 1855. She's quickly thrust into a world that gives a whole new meaning to the word adventure. Oh, and maybe true love has been hiding in plain sight the whole time?

I was really impressed by this story, which, incidentally, can count for the 2010 Debut Author Challeng. Everlasting was a cute, sweet, interesting story that weaves together several diverse genres with remarkable aplomb. The result is a story that, while a little bumpy in parts, still presents action, adventure, history, colorful characters, and a sweet, PG romance with a well-done happily-ever-after.

Camille Rowen is trying to simultaneously navigate the ocean and San Francisco society in 1855. She's seventeen, which means that going on voyages with her ship captain father is almost a thing of the past, as she's engaged to Randall, one of San Francisco's most coveted potential husbands. This should make her webbed toes tingle but really makes Camille feel like she should run for the hills.

This wouldn't have been a bad idea, especially when Camille stumbles upon a letter from her mother, who Camille thought had died years ago. Turns out Camille's father has been hiding a whole boatload of secrets and chose to share them with Oscar, a sailor on his ships who he promotes to first mate for what is ultimately a doomed voyage. While Camille is reeling from the secrets her father is forced to reveal, reeling from the loss of her father, and reeling from a near death experience, she has to try to reconcile her impending marriage to Randall with her growing feelings for Oscar; those feelings are more than reciprocated which only stirs the pot that much more.

Anyway, Camille and Oscar end up on a quest together to try to provide Camille with some closure and also to prevent an incredible power from being stolen by an incredible scumbag. The supporting cast is remarkably vivid for having relatively little face time or description. The author does an excellent job of packing a lot of detail into a relatively short story.

I loved the unconventional setting of the story (Australia) as well as the way the paranormal and historical elements were woven together. This is the kind of book where your imagination can fill in all sorts of gaps; this book takes "show, don't tell" to heart and it definitely works.

One small thing that I especially enjoyed that I don't come across often is that Randall, Camille's betrothed, is a completely regular guy. He definitely has expectations of Camille that Camille doesn't appreciate, but they aren't ones that any other guy in that time period would not have had. He's young, good looking, rich, socially acceptable, you name it. Most of the time the betrothed is either a complete idiot, a villain in disguise, old and senile, comically inept, or generally present as a foil to the hero. Here, Randall is a great catch except for the minor detail that Camille is in love with someone else.

That reminds me of the only thing about this book that really didn't work for me. I wasn't really convinced that Camille would be able to just waltz back into society in San Francisco after her adventures and misadventures in Australia. Without giving too much away, it becomes apparent that her father wasn't being honest regarding their financial position, and Camille's marriage to Randall, while ensuring that Camille was well taken care-of, would also pull their fat out of the proverbial fire. I think Camille is kidding herself if she thinks that everyone will ignore that she was off in the wilds of Australia doing God knows what with who knows who and welcome her back with open arms in light of the fact that her fortune is gone and her reputation is in question. This is 1855 after all, and Camille was well aware that her father's position protected her from a lot of criticism. Even though it would have taken months and months for news to get anywhere at that time, I kind of feel like this was a pretty naive attitude for someone with as much common sense as Camille to have.

Beyond that? This book was delicious. I definitely recommend checking it out, and hopefully a second installment will appear at some point, as the raw material is definitely there.

Overall Grade: A-

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Something Exciting!

Okay, well, maybe not all that exciting, but the new address for all the fun and excitement here at What Book is That? is now: http://www.whatbookisthat.com!

It was super easy to do, especially if you use the tutorial provided by the always awesome Rachel of Parajunkee's View! And she is awesome, Twitter confirms it!

Review: Enemy Lover

Title: Enemy Lover
Author: Karin Harlow
Page Count: 405 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: romantic suspense, paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: Angela Giacomelli is dead. Out of the ashes comes Jax Cassidy, operative for LOST who figures she's about seen and done it all. Enter Marcus Cross, her target, who's an assassin....and a vampire...

I've always felt that saying I was surprised that a book was a debut novel was kind of a backhanded compliment. Usually that thought comes to mind when I read a book that's an author's first published work that reads like the work of someone who's been there and done that and has the backlist to prove it. This thought popped into my head within the first fifty pages of Enemy Lover. Remember in cartoons how the eyeballs will just bug out of the characters head and then snap back in? That sums up my experience with this book pretty efficiently.

Enemy Lover is a neat fusion of paranormal romance and romantic suspense. The first part of the book is devoted to Jax and how she came to be Jax (and not Angela), introduces the ancillary characters on Jax's side of the proverbial tree, and explains what LOST is and what it's all about. We don't even meet Marcus Cross, the vampire hero of the story, until almost 5o pages in. The author makes this strategy work; normally a massive infodump that delays introducing one of the main players wouldn't work for me in the slightest; the author's writing style and inclusion of the perfect level of detail put me squarely in Jax's corner and sucked me in to the rest of the story.

Jax is a heroine I couldn't help but like. She had been through hell prior to where this story starts. Her backstory is graphic, gruesome, earns a Scandalous Books mark easily, but is integrated throughout the rest of the book and is critical to understanding the story. She has a tough job and is the only female in a world that takes male-dominated to a whole new level. The author isn't afraid to bring that issue up, or to have the characters deal with their hangups as a part of the story. The guys on Jax's team all have very strong opinions about her hooking up with Marcus; they have to deal with her potentially sleeping with the enemy, but also deal with the fact that when Jax overcame her past and moved on, it wasn't with one of them. I found the dynamics between the players on the LOST team extremely interesting.

Marcus works for The Solution, another free-lance group that takes yucky jobs and gets them done when legal, publicly declared options can't or won't work. He thinks he's one of the good guys, so to speak, and so it's distressing for him when he's so attracted to Jax. His back story is as bleak and gruesome as Jax's, and underneath all their tough rhetoric and posturing and danger-baiting, they're both very lonely, vulnerable people who'd like to rely on someone and have it actually pan out for a change.

This book is not for the faint of heart- there's violence, torture, emotional pain, drama, political intrigue, and the sad lesson that justice doesn't always prevail and that sometimes, might does indeed make right. This serves as a contrast to the relationship that blooms between Marcus and Jax, and definitely made me root for them as a couple, as bleak as the situation looked sometimes.

My only quibble- the ending was way rushed. It was like we were all riding the adrenaline high of the climax of the story and then BAM were pushed off a cliff. Who are Rurik and Aelia? What are they doing in the story? Will we actually get to the meet them in the next story? I certainly hope so, and I hope that we get to know the other members of LOST better as well.

The action in this book is nonstop; the good guys aren't always totally easy to identify; there were parts where I had to remind myself to blink so my eyeballs wouldn't fall out. I was depressed at the end of the book because now I'm going to have to wait for the next one.

Overall Grade: A

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

BWB Review: The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick



Title: The Vampire Stories of Nancy Kilpatrick
Author: Nancy Kilpatrick
Page Count: 171 pages
Publisher: Mosaic Press
Genre: horror, paranormal/paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: Short shots of vampires in all their various incarnations. Creepy, weird, sexy, romantic, mysterious, crazy, scheming, brooding, you name it, it's here.

Whew! I just finished this story collection and I find myself much more impressed with this book. The plotting in each story was tight, I didn't see many of the twists coming, and the ideas and concepts presented were definitely unique and not ones I'd seen before.

Really good short stories can be hard to come by if for no other reason than that many of them leave something to be desired or would work better as novellas or full length novels. This author has her finger right on the pulse of what makes a short story works- we get enough information about characters to let our imaginations do the rest, but are not so bogged down that the story isn't interesting. We get novel settings and just enough world building to set the stage, but the action is really what makes each story work. We get vivid imagery- some lush, some romantic, some naughty, some gory, but vivid all the same.

We get all that and more in a few pages apiece.

Just like in any anthology, there were certain stories that I enjoyed more than others, but one thing that I did enjoy that was unique is that some of the stories were part of a small series, and they were all grouped together so that the overall arc was maintained. Here are some high points:

Passion Play, Theater of Cruelty, & Metadrama- three stories comprising the first segment of the book, this is the story of Cheryl and NightShade and is the story that Bloodsucker wants to be when it grows up. Creepy, gothic, and strangely romantic at the same time.

Dark Seduction- Scary vampire Armand thinks he's got the drop on major league ditz Karen. Oops...

In Memory Of...- Mrs. Bram Stoker reflects on her first love, Oscar Wilde. This was one of the most creative pieces in the anthology in my opinion.

All of the stories are different from one another, but these were the ones that stuck out as favorites to me.

I debated whether or not this book needed a Scandalous Books designation, and decided against it- although there are certainly some eyebrow raising parts here, there isn't anything that readers of other vampire stories or fans of the genre have not seen before. The nice thing about anthologies, too, is that if one story isn't your cup of tea (for example, The Hungry Living Dead wasn't really my thing and is pretty graphic, sexually speaking) you can just flip past it and read something else. Some of the stories are more in line with paranormal romance or romantica, some of them are more straightforward horror stories, but there is a lot of diversity represented in this relatively short anthology.

I think this author's area of strength is definitely in short stories, and fans of the paranormal genre or folks who think that Edward Cullen is a wiener and long for the days when vampires were terrifying and morose and solitary, thanks very much, will enjoy this collection of stories.

Overall Grade: B+
BWB Rating: 3/4
 
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