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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: White Cat

Title: White Cat
Author: Holly Black
Page Count: 310 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Genre: urban fantasy, young adult
Copy provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: What if magic were purely biological, and curses could be transferred just by touching someone? Cassel's entire family knows all about that, except him- all he wants is to be left alone. Turns out that's way too much to ask.

White Cat is one of those books that, upon completion, I immediately started planning which of my friends would receive it as a gift. It's a smart, sassy book that creates a unique world, a veritable motley crew of characters, and leaves the door wide open for a series that promises to be just as engaging as this, the introductory volume.

Cassel just can't catch a break. His entire family, from his grandpa to his parents to his brothers, are all curse workers; they can make stuff happen to people just by touching them. Cassel doesn't have this ability, which makes him kind of an outcast amongst his con artist family. They love him, sure, but at the end of the day he's an outsider. As a result, he has to find more orthodox ways to get his fix of criminal activity.

Cassel is pulled in all different directions throughout the book- between guilt and absolution (killing your first love does a number on your sense of self worth, apparently,) between legitimacy and the con, between truth and lies, between family and his sense of self. Cassel hasn't had the greatest role models in terms of how to interact with other people, either; he thinks that relationships are all defined in terms of power and that manipulating people is the only way to shore up his position. It doesn't ever occur to him that that's not how things have to be.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, good world building will suck me into a novel every time. The author creates a really believable set of rules for the curse workers and how their power works; I especially liked the inclusion of the element of blow back and how it was infused throughout the plot. Essentially, blowback is a portion of a curse that flows back to the curse worker. If they kill someone, a part of them dies too (Cassel's grandpa's hands are a hot mess because Grandpa is a death worker, his mom is an emotion worker who's an emotional basket case most of the time, and so on and so forth.)

Manipulation is definitely the name of the game in White Cat. Cassel manipulates people and also gets the hell manipulated out of him by his family. He finds out a lot of things that he was never supposed to know and is torn between feeling hurt and just letting things slide; as the story goes on and he realizes just how deep the still waters in his family really run, I think he's definitely veering to the hurt side. Cassel's family loves him, sure, but they have a funny way of showing it, and by trying to protect him, they ultimately denied him the information that would have kept him safe and allowed him to do things willingly instead of being coerced. The trouble with trying to play everyone is that you don't notice when you yourself are being played, and if I had to pick the theme that resonated most with me, that would be it.

Some people are going to get their skirts blown up by the cavalier attitude a lot of the characters have towards crime, towards death, towards drinking and/or drug use, but I think these elements were woven into the story with aplomb and made the entire setting seem legitimate. I don't think a mobster would think too much about whether or not he was being a good or moral person by doing the things he or she does; this story works its way through some pretty seedy situations and doesn't apologize for that.

There are more twists and turns in the story than I could count, and right up until the last page I was guessing at what would happen next. I'm hoping there won't be a long wait for the next installment in this story.

Overall Grade: A

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Illustrated Friday: Birds

This book is a delectable collaboration between Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek, and while Kevin Henkes is usually the one getting the illustrator byline, that's not the case here! This book features simple, sweet text and beautiful paintings of birds that talk about the experiences a young girl has while observing birds in the world around her. I discovered this title in the Scholastic book order recently and had to take a peek. I wasn't disappointed. Happy Friday!



BWB Review: Blood Song




Title: Blood Song
Author: Cat Adams
Page Count: 384 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: urban fantasy, first in a series
Copy for review was purchased by me

50 words or less: Bodyguard Celia Graves never planned on getting attacked by a vampire and turned into an abomination- a vampire/human hybrid. And then, precisely that happens. And not much else.

Sigh. Can I start off this adventure by saying how high my hopes were for this book? I'm always so excited to discover what I think is the start to a new urban fantasy series that I can really sink my teeth into, so to speak, and if/when that doesn't pan out, I am sad. Right now, my friends, I am very sad indeed.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, a story can have all raw ingredients and elements that normally make my heart go pitter-pat and if the pacing is off or the story is bogged down by irrelevant nonsense, my interest in the book will blow out like a candle in a hurricane. That sums up pretty efficiently what happened here. Although I've read a ton of reviews filled with glowing praise for this book and have nothing against folks who enjoyed it, that wasn't my experience by a long shot.

Is there a rule in urban fantasy that the heroine has to be sassy and tough and disinterested in everything? I feel like I've come across this trope more than once and I definitely encountered it here. Celia's feelings and reactions didn't really feel...authentic...to me. I mean, she laughed when things were funny and cried when they were sad, but there wasn't anything else to make me believe in what was happening. I'm not saying a heroine has to be all mushy or sentimental for me to like her and support her as a character; what I am saying is that a person's reactions and internal monologue have to be believable for me to back them up; Celia did a lot of babbling but no substantiating and after awhile I just lost interest.

I may have been able to overlook my issues with the detached attitudes of the characters if the pacing of the story had been spot-on, but that didn't work for me either. Secondary characters kept getting introduced with no connection to the story at all and I had to check several times to see if this was the first book in a series or if I had missed something. Nope, there's just no set up to the story and it barges on, full speed ahead, until it hits a plot pothole, and then those are dealt with by introducing more characters.

Another thing, and I know that this is not a huge thing but it is an example of the kind of pacing issues I'm talking about- I get that Celia's appearance changed after she was partly changed into a vampire. I get it. I get it because Celia either freaks out a passerby or a store clerk or looks in the mirror and laments about it about every five pages. I understand this is traumatic, but while Celia is freaking out about that stuff, nothing else is happening in the story, or if it is happening, it's not being explained to the audience.

Have other people loved this book? Of course. Can I count myself among their number? No. Will I be reading any more, either in this series or by this author? Probably not. I got about halfway through before I finally set this book aside, and while I understand from reading other reviews that this means I quit before a lot of things happened, I kind of feel like that just supports my case. I'm not saying a story has to be spoon fed for me to enjoy it, but if the narrative is rambling, the characters are uninspiring, the conflict is boring and the pacing doesn't work, then I'm not going to spend more time waiting for those issues to sort themselves out. Sorry.

Overall Grade: Could Not Finish

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Into the Dark

Title: Into the Dark
Author: Gena Showalter
Page Count: 383 pages
Publisher: HQN
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: This is a companion book to the Lords of the Underworld series and features three stand-alone stories, bonus content, interviews, and series-related fun.

Into the Dark is one of those books that rounds out the original series more completely without necessarily adding anything new. This isn't a bad thing; rather, this is one of those books that can be an old stand-by when the time between regular series installments is dragging and it gets harder and harder to wait for a new one.

The short stories that start off this collection are easily my favorite part of the book; each one was unique and showed a facet of the setting of the Lords of the Underworld series that I hadn't really considered before. I was really rooting for Geryon and Kadence in The Darkest Fire as they tried unsuccessfully to cage the demons that cause so many problems in this series and try to fight their mutual attraction; the sass and sizzle between Atlas and Nike in The Darkest Prison made me want to dig out my mythology book and re-explore all those stories I'd since forgotten. The Amazon's Curse, while not a part of the Lords series, was excellent as well, and reminded me that I'm way behind in reading the other series that this author has going.

I didn't find the author interview or the character interviews as engrossing as I mainly was interested in this book for the bonus stories, but they were flip, easy reading that would make a car ride or long wait somewhere go by quickly this summer and were fun for the most part.

Do you have to read this book to continue understanding this series? No. As far as companion books go, though, this one is breezy and fun. Fans of the series will enjoy more of the snark that's present in the series; newcomers might want to read the regular novels first and then enjoy this book.

Overall Grade: B+

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Moving Time- Be Back Soon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: The Replacement

Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Page Count: 352 pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: young adult, dark fantasy
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Mackie always knew he was different from everybody else in the picture-perfect town of Gentry. When he runs into mysterious creatures who live under the hills outside of town, he's sucked into a world both foreign and familiar and has to make some tough decisions about who he really is and what that means for his future.

The Replacement is the kind of book that made me question my assumptions about what kinds of books fit in a certain genre. Certainly, the concept of a "fairy tale" is one that calls certain imagery to mind; decadence, revelry, lunacy, adventures and doublespeak are all things that pop into my head as standard issue for these kinds of stories. Well, The Replacement has all of these elements and more, and weaves them together in ways that are unexpected and sad and beautiful all at the same time.

Mackie Doyle is totally aware of his unusual state and how his relationship with the townspeople of Gentry is not all that it seems. Sixteen years ago, he was left in the place of a human baby; the baby he Replaced was never seen or heard from again. Replacements like this happen all the time in Gentry; the sacrifice of a few children every once in awhile, unbeknownst to the townspeople, is what keeps Gentry so prosperous while all of its neighbors fade away to dust and ruin.

That may have been the end of the story, and the journey towards the realization of those facts would have made for a satisfying story all on its own, but the the death of a child in the town and her older sister, Tate's, quest to find out what's really going on mean that Mackie has to decide whether he's a person with a future in the town or whether he'd be better off among the nightmares of Mayhem, the mysterious world beneath Gentry that holds all the answers (well, a bunch of them anyway...)

If you're expecting a lighthearted story about teenagers partying their cares away and a story of a guy and a girl who go all gooey for each other and live happily ever after, you'll probably want to head back to the stacks and pick out another book. Instead, The Replacement is dark, dark dark, with plenty of blood and drama. If the faeries of other books feast on sunshine and rainbows and revelry and passion, then these ones feed on blood, death, and chaos, and are pretty proud of that, thank you very much.

The overall theme of the book is definitely that things are not always as they appear, and it's in the advancing of that theme that some of my favorite things about the book were realized. There are definitely some hot button issues in this book that have caused concern for people before; smoking, drinking, sexual activity, violence, you name it. The main characters are all in high school but they engage in a variety of behaviors that wouldn't make them candidates to be considered role models. You know what though? That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this theme; in a perfect town full of perfect folks, kids are testing limits all over the place. People aren't talking about what's right in front of their face. The entire experience felt authentic and legitimate and was representative of a youth culture that felt believable and real.

My favorite scene? Tate (the girl who really is a match for Mackie in every way that matters) goes medieval on another girl who held Mackie's attention for awhile but who has since been exposed as callous, shallow, spiteful, mean and obnoxious. Is fighting okay? Nah. Is violence the way to solve problems? No, but it is a way, and to have someone confront their feelings, albeit inappropriately, is refreshing to say the least.

I could go on and on but seriously, when this book drops in September, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. With just the right combination of young adult emotion, paranormal elements, young love, mystery, and coming of age drama, this is a book I could not put down and am glad I had the opportunity to review early.

Overall Grade: A


eBites: The Choir Boats

Blog With Bite


This week's scoop on ebooks comes from wowio.com, which is offering this title, The Choir Boats for free until the end of July! I've only just started flipping through, but so far The Choir Boats is lush and vivid with lots to sink my teeth into- all things I love about a good fantasy novel! A full review will be posted here at some point, but until then, download the book free! Remember, you only have until the end of July to use the free download, so head on over now and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: The Darkest Passion

Title: The Darkest Passion
Author: Gena Showalter
Page Count: 438 pages
Publisher: HQN
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided via netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Olivia is an angel who Fell when she refused to kill Aeron, keeper of the demon Wrath. Aeron is attracted to olivia but has some issues of his own to resolve, namely, what to do with Legion, his creepy adopted demon daughter. Meanwhile, the search for artifacts continues and the battle against the Hunters wages on. Just another day for the Lords of the Underworld I guess.

The Lords of the Underworld series is always good for a fun read; it's certainly hard to go wrong with the combination of mythological characters, an elaborate quest, and romance that's spicy and sweet at the same time. While The Darkest Passion is still a good installment in the series and does add some interesting facets to the overall plot, I find at the end that it wasn't one of my favorites.

This is for a lot of reasons; the hero and heroine don't seem all that compatible for most of the story. Despite her status as a fallen angel, Olivia struck me as kind of a Mary Sue for most of the story, and it wasn't until things were really looking dire that she finally decided to stand up for herself and what was hers. Likewise, Aeron was kind of a dunce for a lot of this book. Normally I'm all for having a code of honor and a sense of duty and responsibility, especially to those who have helped or sacrificed for you, but there came a point in this story where I wanted to send Aeron a memo that consisted of the following: SHUT UP AND TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND YOU.

I also wanted to strangle Legion, thoroughly and without reservation. I get that the conflict her was the product of improperly communicated expecations, but there wasn't a moment in the entire story where I felt sorry for her. Ma'am, you are a lizard. This poses some serious anatomical issues for what you're planning. I'm just saying.

I was way more interested in seeing the presentation of the heroine for Gideon's story, and in trying to figure out what was going to happen next in terms of the overall quest for the artifacts and the ultimate goal of defeating the Hunters and destorying Pandora's box. A lot of development goes on in these arenas, which is a good thing, and made me definitely look forward to The Darkest Lie, Gideon's book, which is out as we speak!

In terms of Aeron and Olivia, though, I hope they get a little bit of face time in future books, if only to enjoy themselves as a couple instead of as proverbial flies trying to extract themselves from a sticky, sticky web.

Overall Grade: B-

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Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge- COMPLETED!

My second reading challenge of the year is completed! There's still time to participate in this one though, so head on over and sign up if it's up your alley!

The Young Adult Reading Challenge, hosted by J.Kaye at J.Kaye's Book Blog. I'm challenging myself to read 30 YA books. Rereads and crossovers are okay.

1. Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

2. The Line by Teri Hall

3. Evernight by Claudia Gray

4. Firespell by Chloe Neill

5. The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

6. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

7. Stargazer by Claudia Gray

8. Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

9. Need by Carrie Jones

10. Shadow by Jenny Moss

11. Captivate by Carrie Jones

12. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

13. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

14. Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr

15. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

16. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

17. Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

18. Salt by Maurice Gee

19. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brian

20. Everlasting by Angie Frazier

21. Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

22. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

23. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

24. Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

25. WEREling by Steve Feasey

26. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

27. Freaksville by Kitty Keswick

28. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

29. White Cat by Holly Black

30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Review: Stealing Kathryn


Title: Stealing Kathryn
Author: Jacquelyn Frank
Page Count: 363 pages
Publisher: Zebra
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library

50 words or less: Adrian is hideously deformed by his constant contact with evil energy as the Guardian who gathers energy from nightmares for those who live Below. He's been sashaying through Kathryn's nightmares for months and finally answers her request to be taken away, even though he knows she won't ever really care about him. Or so he thought...

It's official; I take back many of the reservations I had about the Gatherer series. While Hunting Julian, the first book, didn't exactly ring my bell, this second book was a definite winner for me. Combine the vivid worldbuilding and unique setting of the first book with a clever reworking of the Beauty and the Beast story and introduce some characters that will make perfect leads for future books (but not so many that the story bogs down or the pacing suffers) and you've got a book that's lush, vivid, and engrossing.

By all accounts, Adrian is not a nice guy. He's so warped by his duties to his people that he's basically sitting around waiting to expire; only his sense of duty, his infatuation with Kathryn, and his vague recollections of love for his twin sister are keeping him from exiting the mortal coil.

Kathryn isn't much of a catch either; trapped in a cycle of codependency by a father who loves her but wants a housekeeper-wife but doesn't want to go to the trouble of getting married again and a sister whose health problems pose another full time job, Kathryn's life is one of duty and obligation but little fun or joy. Kathryn's dreams are the only place where she has any sense of identity at all; Adrian finds this very engrossing to say the least.

Adrian takes matters into his own hands and brings Kathryn to his temporary home, ostensibly
to take her place among the treasures and baubles he's collected over generations. Kathryn is no wilting flower, though, and makes it clear that Adrian can get stuffed if he expects her to just sit back and take whatever he feels like dishing out. When he, in his infinite insensitivity, points out that Kathryn's life up until this point has consisted entirely of sitting back and taking whatever people feel like dishing out, Kathryn doesn't know what to make of that; the seeds of self awareness are officially sown.

The primary theme of this book is that it's never to late to change and that changing as a result of one's circumstances isn't always a bad thing; Adrian becomes less monstrous and more human as his relationship with Kathryn deepens and takes shape. Kathryn, likewise, learns that she doesn't have to be a doormat and that sometimes people we think we're helping just wish we would move on; there's a really poignant scene where Kathryn visits her sister's dreams to say goodbye and learns that the world will move on without her, and not in a bad way.

This book has all the characteristics of my favorite Jacquelyn Frank novels; great setting, vivid details, a spicy, spicy romance (VERY spicy, in fact), and characters who have depth as well as stamina, so to speak. I'm now officially excited to read more in this series, which shows that giving the benefit of the doubt can sometimes pay off in a big way, and after all, that's kind of what this book is trying to communicate from the beginning.

Overall Grade: A-

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: The Iron Daughter

Title: The Iron Daughter
Author: Julie Kagawa
Page Count: 368 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: paranormal romance, young adult, fantasy
Copy for review accessed via netgalley.com in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Meghan Chase is in Faerie, trying to survive daily life in the Unseelie Court, battle the continuing threat from the Iron Fey, deal with trauma and issues in the human world, and try to convince Ash that a relationship is possible. Poor girl.

Before I get down to business with this review, I solemnly swear that I am trying my best to remember that some people out there have not read The Iron King yet and might want to before this book drops in August. I've tried to keep spoilerific activity to a minimum but a few may have stuck in here. Ye be warned.

I've said before in other reviews that it's tough to be the first book in a series because the first book has to set the stage of the whole shebang and introduce all the characters and conflicts, and it's hard to be the middle book in a trilogy because enough good stuff has to be held back to make the finale exciting and awesome, so the middle book gets stuck with a lot of angst and traipsing all over the place. While I definitely did enjoy The Iron Daughter and am certainly looking forward to the final book in the trilogy, there were a lot of parts in this book that made me want to say ACK.

First of all, you all know how I feel about love triangles, right? Do not want. There's a big one present here, and it's the worst kind- where one possible love interest is patently so much more appropriate than the other. The first couple of chapters of the book are basically a laundry list of why Meghan's relationship with Ash is doomed. I HATED Ash in the first few chapters of this book. Hated. Him. I totally get his motivations for doing what he did, and I understand that treachery and verbal acrobatics are part and parcel of dealing with or actually being Fae, but all it did was prove to me, in a way that never really occurred to Meghan throughout the course of this story, that she was heading down the road to heartbreak by thinking that this would ever turn out even remotely in her favor.

Does this make me Team Puck? Absolutely not! At the end of the day, Puck is Oberon's errand boy, and will do what he's told. Oh yeah, he manages to be disobedient in the short term, but at the end of the day, he has to worry about Meghan's dad turning him into a newt or a scrambled egg or whatever the punishment of the day happens to be. He's only lucky that he hasn't been told to do anything that would hurt Meghan yet, that's the only reason that he isn't quite as far down on the naughty list as Ash is.

Does it sound like I'm rehashing the plot of New Moon? Trust me, if the bad romance between these three was all there was to this story, I wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. No, the elements that are going to turn the whole situation on its head revolve around the Iron Fey and what sinister schemes are going on while the rest of faerie is trying to figure out what to do with Meghan. Here there are plots, schemes, betrayals, double crossings upon double crossings, and very interesting developments regarding the disappearance of Meghan's biological father all those years ago and what he might have been up to all these years. It also helps that by resolving these tangles, Meghan might stumble on some options for living between the world of faerie and the world of humans, and might create a situation for herself that will allow her to choose her own path instead of having it chosen for her and maybe, just maybe, maaaaayyyyyybeeeeee, live happily ever after. It looks like we'll have to wait for the third book to find out about that though.

The Iron Daughter is one of those books that's best read in the context of the other books in the series. You definitely should read The Iron King first and then this book; I'll probably revisit it right before the third book comes out so I can sit back and watch everything wrap up for the grand finale.

Overall Grade: B+

This Just In!

For those of you who lament and complain that your Jane Austen characters get mashed up with the supernatural, I have this to say:

If there is any justice in the world, this will be a full-length movie. That is all.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: Must Love Hellhounds

Title: Must Love Hellhounds
Authors: Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook
Page Count: 361 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Four novellas, each from a popular UF/PNR series, all focusing on the shared theme of hellhounds.

This is definitely one of my favorite anthologies I've come across in quite awhile. Already being a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse and Guild Hunter novels from Charlaine Harris and Nalini Singh, respectively, I was excited to get another dose of the story and characters from those worlds. I'd encountere the Guardian series in another anthology, and I'm almost ashamed to admit that this was my first encounter with the Kate Daniels series, but you can bet I'll be fixing that ASAP. As always, I liked some stories more than others, but overall this one is definitely a winner and worth checking out if you like these authors or are interested in becoming a fan.

Straight out of the gate is "The Britlingins Go To Hell" by Charlaine Harris and features two ancillary characters from All Together Dead. They were on assignment when Sookie met them at the vampire convention, and here we get a better look at what their world is like and what they do when they aren't making cameos in vampire books. While I knew going in that this wasn't a Sookie Stackhouse story per se, I was expecting a little more action and movement than was present here. This story felt more like a detailed character sketch instead of a standalone story. It's a nice treat to hold you over between Sookie books (although I'm two books behind in the series at this point) but don't expect the cast regulars beyond the Britlingens to be here. Grade: B

The second story is Angel's Judgement by Nalini Singh and is the story of how Elena's best friend Sara became the Guild Director and also met her husband, Deacon. Everything I love about the Guild Hunter series is here as well, and it was nice to see some of the other characters get some page time (not that I don't love Elena and Raphael though.) The way the hellhound element worked into this story was fun as well, and this serves as an excellent introduction to the series and the author's writing style as there isn't really any information that you would need to know before reading to appreciate the story. Grade: A

Third was the surprise hit of this collection for me, and fully alerted me to my need to start a new series immediately; Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews. How have I not read this series yet? Frankly I have no idea, but this story showed me that I need to fix that immediately. It's the story of Andrea, Kate's best friend, and Raphael, a hyena shifter who's decided that Andrea is his mate. Raphael has been a bit of a horn dog in the past, so Anrea is really wary of what will happen when his attention wanes, as she's sure it will. Raphael has to prove that he's a changed man, and does so admirably; he helps Andrea with a case, and earns her trust and her secrets at the same time! Admittedly there were things that I didn't fully appreciate because they referenced the events of the first three books in this series (this story is billed as #3.5 in this series) but all that did was make me want to read the books. This story was definitely my favorite of the four, which is saying a fair piece in and of itself. Grade: A

Finally there was "Blind Spot" by Meljean Brook, which is part of her Guardian series. I need to read this series as well, and from the beginning, as I've read a couple of related novellas but none of the full length novels. This story is a winner though, and features characters with really unusual powers having to solve a really unique mystery and maybe find love in the process. It stars Maggie, the butler, having to save the niece and nephew of her boss without giving away a bunch of her own secrets in the process. Suffice it to say, Geoff, the nephew, isn't what she expects at all, much to the enjoyment of the audience. This series is going on my ever-growing TBR pile as well. Grade: A

As I always say, anthologies are a cheaper, sometimes riskier way of discovering new authors, but I can definitely and wholeheartedly recommend this one. Existing fans of the series will love the new additions; newcomers will definitely want to track down the previous volumes and enjoy each series from the beginning.

Overall Grade: A-

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: WEREling

Title: WEREling
Author: Steve Feasey
Page Count: 288 pages
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: urban fantasy, young adult
Copy for review provided by Book it Forward Tours in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Trey Laporte could give lessons in emotional whiplash- he goes from an orphan living in a group home to independently wealthy and a lycanthrope with a mysterious guardian and a life-threatening quest. Naturally.

WEREling was one of those books that struck all my sensitive areas at once, so to speak. Shapeshifter hero? Got it. Paranormal conflict? All over it. Blossoming teenage love interest. More, please. Male protagonist who isn't a creep or a bizarrely perfect weirdo? Excellent. The raw material was all there but at the end of the day I found that WEREling had a tough time delivering on its promise.

I think most of my issues stemmed from the erratic pacing of this story. We start off meeting Trey as he's waking up from an incredibly ordeal in his room at the group home; all of his things are destroyed and he's in the midst of the migraine from hell. When the mysterious Lucien Charron shows up and, like Calgon, takes him away, he's thrust into a world that he couldn't imagine before and is frankly having an understandably difficult time imagining now. There's a lot of infodumping going on, whether it be about Trey's life, if he chooses to stay with Lucien and his daughter, Alexa; about the mythology surrounding Trey, his existence, and why the bad guy, Caliban, hates him so much; about the resources that are now available to Trey since he's no longer a ward of the state; hell, about anything. Just when I started to get engrossed in the story, the emergency brake got put on and we started talking about something else.

Also, two words: sputum djinn. Enough said.

I'm not saying that this is a terrible book, because it isn't. I wish we'd spent a lot more time exploring Trey's powers as the only naturally-born werewolf on the planet and a little less time doing the "oh by the way" stuff (is there anything Alexa CAN'T do? I'm just asking.) I've read many glowing reviews of this book and wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it, but it definitely wasn't my cup of tea.

Overall Grade: C-

Illustrated Friday: Looking Like Me

Many books for kids that address diversity seek to emphasize how much everyone has in common and how those commonalities can transcend differences. I love finding books that model appropriate ways to celebrate the things that make us unique and encourage us to celebrate ourselves, our personalities, and the roles we play in other people's lives. Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers are a father-son team behind some excellent illustated books, and this one doesn't disappoint. The collage illustrations coupled with the jazzy, free-flowing rhymes make a definite impact on the reader and remind us of all the things we are and can be- little brother, son, dancer, runner, city kid, the list goes on and on and is as unique and individual as each of us. Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Follow Friday, Complete with Sitar Madness!

Welcome to Friday, which means it's time to explore new blogs and see what else is out there! This hop is hosted by the often imitated, never duplicated Rachel from Parajunkee's View so head on over and sign up!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, dueling....sitars. I love fusion music!

Please Welcome...Vanessa Vaughn

Please join me in welcoming our guest pilot for today here at Air What Book is That? We previously had a review for her novel, Pack of Lies, which was my first M/M novel! Well, Ms. Vaughn is here to educate us, entertain us, and tell us...

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About M/M Fiction But
Were Afraid To Ask


M/M fiction is by far the fastest growing segment of the publishing market today! But
you may be surprised to discover that this success stems from a very unusual source:
straight women.

Yes, we women are the major driving force behind this trend (not gay men). This
startling phenomenon has been dubbed “The Brokeback Effect”, after the enormous
success the movie Brokeback Mountain enjoyed with female audiences. In the end, it
was women who propelled that heartfelt gay romance to tremendous box office numbers
and record-breaking DVD sales, and it is that same trend we are seeing in the publishing
world today.

“But why would women want to read about two men?” you may ask. The simple answer
is: why not? After all, two hunky heroes are always better than one! (Just imagine how
much hotter Twilight might have been if Edward and Jacob forgot about Bella and
focused on a forbidden relationship with each other instead!)

This genre provides wonderful conflict (sometimes in contemporary but especially in
historical novels) as sexy male characters struggle with the dangerous chance of being
caught. There are also a lot of smoking hot novels out there featuring sensual male
werewolves and vampires tempting handsome humans into their dangerous paranormal
worlds.

And when it comes to the sex? It is definitely steamy! In fact, a lot of female authors
actually find it more exciting to pen M/M scenes. With two men involved, the lovers
are both physical equals. Authors have license to make the sex between them even more
rough and intense than they might with straight characters. There are a lot of M/M erotic
romances available, and some of them are hands down the sexiest and most breathtaking
books I’ve ever read.

If you have never cracked the spine of a M/M novel, now’s a great time to start! These
days, we women are much more free to express our sexuality than ever before; and with
the advent of ebooks it is also much easier to keep scandalous M/M covers hidden from
prying eyes. No one can see what is flickering across the screens of our eReaders or
being delivered to us from Amazon in those plain brown boxes; so if this genre intrigues
you, there’s never been a better time to give it a try!
*****
Thanks Vanessa! Pack of Lies is available now in the following formats:
eBook
Kindle

Review: The Starlet

Title: The Starlet
Author: Mary McNamara
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: mystery, chick lit, gossip lit
Copy for review provided by Regal Literary in exchange for an honest review

50 words or less: The following is a list of things Juliette Greyson did not need to encounter while on vacation in Italy: family drama. Hollywood divas. Pill-popping starlets. Rehabbers. Financial woes. Helicopter moms. Mystery. Intrigue. Juliette finds all that and more...maybe even herself.

Allow me to say the following at the onset of this review: I am up way past my bedtime to write this review because I enjoyed this book that much, and I am just now discovering that it is book two in a series, which means that there is another book that I must now get my hands on immediately.

The Starlet is simultaneously the story of one young Hollywood star's spectacular swan dive from the height of fame to the depths of a drug-induced stupor, the story of Juliette and her cousin Gabe's efforts to rescue the family estate in Tuscany from financial ruin and inevitable conversion to a hotel or conference center, the story of the insanity that erupts on a movie set (especially a supposedly cursed movie set,) and the story of Juliette's involuntary quest to untangle her issues and find some peace and contentment within her own life. Any one of these story lines would be satisfying and could take up the entire novel in and of itself; instead, they're all woven together and combined in perfect quantities to result in a book that's a mystery, a romance, a gossipy romp, a sad story of tragedy and loss, and ultimately a wry look at how people deal (or don't deal) with attention, celebrity, and their own personal demons.

In order to understand the tone of the book, you have to understand The Starlet, aka Mercy Talbot, child star extraordinaire and now a pill-popping, coke-snorting recipe for either an Oscar nomination or a flaming disaster, depending on the day. Juliette appears on the scene when she notices that Mercy, in response to her film costar/lover's recent death (apparently by suicide, although it's definitely not so simple) is climbing the fountain in the middle of a public square, naked and high out of her mind. This doesn't sit well with Juliette, who had a wild youth of her own, and she decides that the least she can do is get Mercy somewhere private so she can dry out and then be on about her business. When she's not on vacation, Juliette is a manager at the Pinnacle, a ritzy LA hotel, so dealing with the screwups of the rich and famous is old hat to her.

That one decision thrusts Juliette back into the world of Hollywood insanity and onto the set of Mercy's movie, where Juliette's ex-flame Michael has been brought in to replace the dead actor. The story evolves and blossoms into a mystery of the first order, with everyone keeping secrets and Mercy's loathsome mother Angie lurking around causing chaos at every turn (think Lindsay Lohan's parents on their worst day times a million.)

Throughout all of the mystery and drama and the rekindling of old flames is woven a subtle commentary on fame, the high price people pay for it, and the interesting way in which we interact with the folks that have it. Everyone loves famous people when they're cute and funny and sassy and sexy, but when they fall on their faces we're all there ready to laugh, or to defend them:
The Starlet is not afraid to call all of those behaviors on the carpet and to hold them up for comic scrutiny with reckless abandon; the tone, pacing and dialogue of the book come together to keep you engrossed right up until the end. I'm pretty good at untangling mysteries before the end of the book and I was so busy following Juliette and her romantic peccadilloes that I didn't put it all together until the explanation at the end.

Great balls of fire, I could go on and on about this book, but I'll close on this note: Juliette is a heroine that I could relate to from the first page. I am beyond excited to have discovered this book, series, and author, as soon as I get settled after the move, I will be getting the first book in this series, Oscar Season. Do yourselves a favor and pick this title up in the meantime, though, for a fun, engrossing, thought-provoking book that's perfect for summer (or any other time, for that matter.)

Overall Grade: A+

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

eBites: The Star King

Blog With Bite

Today's installment of eBites features Susan Grant, the author of a really awesome sci-fi romance that I'm reading right now (Sureblood, in case you're interested.) While I'm going to save all my dishy commentary on that title for its own review, here's another title by the same author that looks fun and that I'll definitely be giving a try at some point:
According to Amazon, "A beautiful fighter pilot is shot down over Saudi Arabia, and ends up in the arms of the king of a distant galaxy." Short, sweet, and enough to grab my interest. I find myself really interested in reading more sci-fi romance so this title sounds good to me. Buy it for Kindle here!

Review: Sweet Dreams

Title: Sweet Dreams
Author: Dana Marie Bell
Page Count: 92 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by Veronica at Strictly Reviews in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Picking up right where The Wallflower left off, this is the story of Simon's wooing of Becky, his mate, and his challenges in keeping her safe while convincing her that he's worth being with at the same time.

Sweet Dreams is fully a sequel to The Wallflower; even the end of the first book is used to set the stage for the second. With that said, I recommend reading these books in order and having them to read one after the other, as they work best as one giant story arc.

Simon and Becky are a funny, sweet couple who are obviously gaga for each other from pretty much the first page. I really enjoyed watching their relationship blossom and the interplay between the two was cute, fun, and sassy; Becky certainly knows how to hold her own in an argument and Simon is no slouch either.

We learn a little bit more about the Puma world in this story, and some issues from the first story get wrapped up nicely. The romance is spicy and sizzling and the stage is set for further stories which can expand on the groundwork laid here. I'm definitely hooked on this series at this point and am really excited to read what happens next to the other characters who are being introduced. While certainly I would have enjoyed a longer book (I mean, I always say that when I really enjoy a title) this series works well as a series of novellas. If you're looking for a quick, spicy shifter story, give the Halle Pumas a try.

Overall Grade: A-

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Street Game

Title: Street Game
AUthor: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 450 pages
Publisher: Jove
Genre: paranormal romance, romantic suspense
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: In this continuation of the Ghostwalker series, we meet a third team of agents with their own set of issues, and follow Mack, their leader, as he tries to win back Jaimie, the love of his life, who he let get away once.

Street Game is the most recent installment in the Ghostwalker series and marks an interesting sort of turning point. I'm all for expanding the pantheon of characters in a series and preparing the series to go in a new direction, but frankly I hope that moment of finished transition is near on the horizon for the Ghostwalkers. After reading Street Game, I kind of feel like I've been stopped in traffic for a really long time. I WANT to keep going, really I do, but the circumstances just aren't letting me!

If I had to pick one word to describe this story, it would be...okay. The characters are okay. The conflict is okay. The interactions between the characters are okay. Mack and Jaimie as a lead couple are okay. There really wasn't anything about this book that stood out for me, and at this point in a series, that's kind of a problem. Enough overarching conflicts and issues have been established in previous books that a resolution to some of them would have been nice, instead of introducing even more characters and basically putting us back to square one in terms of the plot. I never did go in for the "he's not dead, he's hiding!" element of soap operas, and that element plays a prominent role here.

Meh. I really wasn't moved to tears by this book one way or another. I'm still interested in seeing what happens next in the series, and I fully admit that this author is one who I know is fully capable of taking a bunch of seemingly unrelated threads in story and BAM weaving them together and resolving them in one novel and totally overhauling the direction of the series (she did it with Dark Slayer in her Carpathian series and totally revived my interest in continuing with the series.) I'm hoping that happens here as well; everyone has a misstep every once in awhile and I'm hoping that my keeping the faith for the Ghostwalker series will not go unrewarded.

Overall Grade: C-

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Shadow Hills

Title: Shadow Hills
Author: Anastasia Hopcus
Page Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Egmont
Genre: young adult, sci-fi/fantasy/romance
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Persephone Archer enrolls at Devenish Prep to come to grips with her sister's death and her own creepy dreams. She meets a hottie, uncovers a mystery, risks death and destruction, and finds some answers, although not the ones she'd thought she'd find.

The buzz surrounding Shadow Hills is excellent, and upon finishing the book, I can say that I understand why people are raving. The story is unique, and while the standard elements of YA mystery and romance are all here in force, they serve as the backdrop for a puzzle that's engaging, a romance that's sweet, and the first strains of a series that will be a lot of fun to follow.

The students who live and study at Devenish Prep can best be described through the following audio visual aid:
Yep, the kids at Devenish Prep are well off, well clothed, well traveled, and thoroughly bored with everything. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of conversations and descriptions about what people are wearing, what other people might think of the things they're wearing or doing, and fretting over grades, boys, dances, mean girls, and so on. It added a layer of authenticity and established the credibility of Phe and her friends as more or less typical high schoolers but thankfully did not detract from the pace or plot of the story overall, which I always appreciate. Maybe it's a peril of reviewing YA books as an adult, or maybe it's because I was never really into that stuff as a high schooler myself, but oftentimes I find endless descriptions of clothes and makeup and shoes and purses and whatnot to slow the pace of the story down tremendously; I'm happy to report that for the most part that didn't happen here.

Phe immediately meets Zach, a resident of the town of Shadow Hills and a student at the school and the attraction between them is intense, although they both do their best to deny or avoid it. Phe's feelings on the subject can pretty much be summed up as follows:
Deciphering Zach's feelings for her is definitely top priority on Phe's mind and remains there for the book. It's a sweet love story with plenty of obstacles to overcome but still fun.

What took center stage for me, though, was the side plot regarding the epidemic, the mysterious powers manifesting themselves among the residents of the town, the murder mystery, the mysterious powers that Phe herself seems to be developing, the need for secrecy at all times, and so many other details it's impossible to note them all here. The ending leaves many questions unanswered, but at least Phe and Zach's relationship status is certain:


The door is wide open for a sequel and hopefully more time will be spent on the open issues at the end of this book. It's a good summer book and I highly recommend it to while away those hours on the beach, in the car, or stuck inside on a rainy day.

Overall Grade: B+

Review: Murder Game

Title: Murder Game
Author: Christine Feehan
Page Count: 446 pages
Publisher: Jove
Genre: paranormal romance, romantic suspense
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Kadan Montague (check spelling) is searching for Tansy, a criminal profiler who uses her...unique...talents to catch her prey. Kadan never planned on getting snared in the process, though.

The Ghostwalker series marches on with this installment, starring Kadan, who we met briefly in the first story, and Tansy, who we may have met by name only in an earlier story but really meet in depth here. This installment is kind of unique; although the standard "Peter Whitney is EVIL and here's the proof, what barriers will the starring couple have to overcome in order to be together" storyline is here in force, it's not really the center plot. Instead, this is where we learn that although creating and controlling the Ghostwalkers was certainly front and center for Dr. Whitney and his creepy cast of comrades, in fact, he had a lot of bizarre side projects going at the same time. Our bad guy was a very busy, evil bee indeed.

This is important to the story of Kadan and Tansy only because the search for a group of serial killers is what initially draws them together. Tansy can use touch to gather psychic impressions of the people who handled or are connected to certain objects; as one would expect, this comes with considerable backlash for her

Kadan realizes immediately that Tansy is a Ghostwalker and grasps pretty clearly the incredible impact that using her talents has on her physical and mental well-being. Kadan never really tries to fight his attraction to Tansy, and Tansy doesn't put up much of a struggle either, which is refreshing, especially in this series.

Some previously featured characters make guest appearances here as a part of the mission to the put the "game" for murderers out of commission, and it's interesting to see how things have progressed for the various couples. Although the primary story line doesn't directly tie into the overall arc of the series, it is an interesting one and the author shows her knack for writing creepy bad guys off with skill.

Kadan and Tansy as a couple are great- their feelings for each other are clear, their commitment to one another is solid, and it's the obstacles presented by the outside world that provide the conflict for the story. While this series definitely leans towards the formulaic, this is a good installment and definitely made me want to keep reading.

Overall Grade: A-

News and Goings-On!

Whew, lots to report this week!
First off, I'm the featured blogger over at Book Crazy for Music Monday! What albums do I always have on hand? What song did I used to think was THE COOLEST? What does Mary Poppins have to do with all this? Head on over and check out the feature!

Next, did you know that there's another fun readathon going on? Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century is hosting the Huge TBR Readathon- Take 2! It's a low stress event where the goal is just to knock some items off the TBR list, then on Friday, there's even an optional Reviewathon, which I need badly as well! Head on over and sign up and get some reading done!

In the midst of all this, I'm packing, organizing, wrapping things up here in Buffalo, and getting ready to move to sunny Virginia Beach next week. What are you up to this week?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hop This Way!


It's Friday, and that means it's blog hop time! The always delightful Rachel at Parajunkee's View hosts this hop, and if you're just stopping by for the first time, welcome! If you're a frequent flyer here at Air What Book Is That?, well, welcome to you as well!

As a special gift, here's a fun find from my favorites folder on YouTube! I love videos of people having fun at work:


Happy Friday everyone!

Illustrated Friday: Library Mouse

In keeping with last week's theme of animals writing stories, here's another take on the concept: Library Mouse Daniel Kirk brings us Sam, a mouse who lives in a library and loves to read and write his own stories to add to the library shelves! But what's going to happen when the kids who use the library want to meet the author of their favorite stories? This is a fun story with lots of detailed illustrations that works as a read aloud and will definitely inspire kids to want to write their own stories. Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

BWB Review: Pack of Lies

Title: Pack of Lies
Author: Vanessa Vaughn
Page Count: 185 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: Ravenous Romance
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review.

50 words or less: Marcus is the unsteady alpha of a volatile pack who, in a moment of insanity, attacks and changes Jack, who completely takes over his thoughts. When Jack needs to navigate his feelings for Marcus as well as his Change, Marcus figures the pack is the safest place. Oops...

Pack of Lies is simultaneously the first M/M book I've ever read as well as a unique take on the werewolf mythology and common tropes of shapeshifter books. While some elements of the story definitely worked better for me than others, this is a well-written, detailed, vivid book that makes you wonder whether the "pack mentality" that's such a common feature of shapeshifter books might not have a downside as well.

Jack was driving along, minding his own business, when BAM out of nowhere he plows over Marcus with his car; Marcus is in his wolf form and a struggle ensues in which Jack gets bitten and assumes he's just been attacked by a giant, regular animal. After a long recovery period filled with vivid dreams and a follow up day at the office where Jack catches himself thinking carnal thoughts about the copy machine, he realizes that there's certainly more going on with his recovery, and indeed between him and the mysterious guy from his dreams, than meets the eye.

Marcus is a guy whose life does not need any more complications of any kind. He's the alpha of his pack, currently, but pretty much only because Julian, his one time best friend, hasn't taken the office by force yet. The women in the pack waffle back and forth between wanting to jump his bones (which they do several times in the course of the story) or run him off for not opting to commit to one of them. Marcus didn't want to turn or fall in love with Jack; it just happened.

This gets a Scandalous Books designation, but the parts of the story that really held my interest were the dynamics between the pack members and the role of the pack in their lives. It seems like the pack is the only thing that keeps these folks from really flying off the deep end, and isn't even all that great at doing that; in light of recent events involving Marcus and his decisions, it'll be interesting to see how that works out.

The role of power in relationships and the need for people to disguise their emotions and motivations play strong roles as themes in this book, and are probably the best vehicles for identifying the thing that stood out for me about this story that didn't really work for me. At the end of the day, I got that Marcus and Jack were instantly, powerfully, and insanely attracted to one another, but I didn't get why, other than some mystical biological imperative or supernatural woo woo. I mean, for all intents and purposes, Marcus barreled out into the middle of the road and proceeded to, albeit accidentally, completely ruin Jack's life. Jack may feel the pull of the change or whatever it is, but it felt for awhile like his common sense kind of flew out the window where Marcus was concerned, and for someone who was as straitlaced and by-the-book as Jack was, that leap of logic seems like it would have been a little beyond him.

One thing that seems minor but actually really sent a powerful message for me: Ivy and her role in the story. Ivy is (was?) Jack's friend who was accidentally shifted in the same roadside showdown as Jack, but at the end of the day, Ivy has a much different experience as a werewolf than Jack does, and it basically boils down to Ivy behaving in a "traditional" way for this group and Jack wanting to be more independent. The message that any group will accept you if you meet their definitions of normal and reject you if you don't is strong, especially in the final scenes of the book.

For my first ever experience reading M/M paranormal romance, I'm putting this one down as a thorough success. Were there things I didn't really enjoy about the book? Sure, but the story was very cohesive and the writing was very detailed without bogging down, and I'm definitely interested to read more in this series in the future.

Overall Grade: B+
BWB Rating: 3/4

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Feature + Karin Harlow WINNER + Special Surprise!

Indeed, I have those three things, and in order! First, I'm over at Ex Libris with Stella, talking about my favorite paranormal romance titles that do some genre bending while they're busy being awesome. Head on over and let me know about your favorite titles!

Second, I'm pleased to announce the winner of the latte mug graciously offered up by Karin Harlow, according to random.org, is... Dwayne! Congratulations and I have to admit, I have a serious case of latte mug envy. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one, right?

Third, a surprise:

eBites: Panverse One

Blog With Bite

This week's spotlight for eBites is a tad unconventional- I'm featuring an entire publisher! Panverse Publishing's goal, in short, is to keep science fiction and fantasy fantastic; so far, two collections have been released and the first, Panverse One, has meet with critical acclaim and sales-wise is doing very well.

BUT WAIT, EMILY, you say, as you grasp your pearls in angst, THIS IS A PRINT BOOK, AND WHY WOULD A PRINT BOOK BE FEATURED IN EBITES?! THAT'S AGAINST THE RULES!

Well, I would say to you, that's where the Kickstarter campaign comes in. In order to keep putting out unique and interesting works of science fiction and fantasy, Panverse Publishing is looking to us, the readers, for financial support to expand and continue business, and as an incentive, folks who contribute to the campaign at $12 or more will receive a pdf copy of Panverse One! This campaign is time sensitive and donations do not go through unless the fundraising goal is met. I'm personally inviting you to join me in the Kickstarter campaign and to help promote a smaller press with a unique vision. Click here to donate!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Linger

Title: Linger
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Page Count: 362 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: young adult, urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Sam and Grace have overcome huge obstacles in order to be together, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Now they must face the new wolves, old trials, prejudices, and the quandary of how they fit into the bigger picture.

Linger was one of those books that went on my TBR pile as soon as I'd heard about it. I completely adored Shiver and was pleased as punch to discover it would be a trilogy (besides the inevitable book withdrawal while waiting for Linger to be released) and am happy to announce that this book takes all of the strengths of the first book and plays them up beautifully.

After Grace and Sam have defied the odds in the first book, it seems like it should be clear sailing for them both individually and as a couple, but that is definitely not the case here. Sam has to deal with the issues left behind by his mentor and father figure and deal with the arrival of the new, recently turned wolves, especially Cole, who would be Trouble with a capital T even if his drug addiction and impulsive nature were all that lurked beneath the surface. Sam also has to deal with his own past issues, especially about his parents, and those memories are certainly sad and terrifying.

Grace, meanwhile, has to address the fact that her absentee parents have suddenly decided that they want to know what she's up to, the fact that her best friend Olivia has disappeared and she's one of the few people that know where she really is, and support Sam through his transition to life as a human all year round.

Even with all of that going on, the supporting cast, consisting of loose cannon Cole and distant but hurting Isabel, get plenty of attention and I found myself really, really invested in finding out what happens between them. Without giving too much away, each one might be exactly what the other needs to find a place and a sense of self in the face of crushing pain and ennui. The story is told in alternating points of view between Sam, Grace, Cole and Isabel, and I found myself eager to read what was happening in each stage of the story.

This book has the same poetic tone and beautiful writing style as Shiver; the narration ebbs and flows and the emotions and thoughts of each character are crystal clear. There isn't anything that seemed out of place, and instead each chapter felt perfectly crafted and complete. This isn't a rock 'em sock 'em book where the heroine runs around in the basement of the boarding school and is pursued by supernatural hotties at every turn; rather, it's the documentation of the continued blossoming of a love between two people who just want to be together, which is refreshing, refreshing, refreshing.

Sidebar: I LOVED the way the author did not back down from the conflict between Grace and her parents. Grace's parents have been almost completely absent from her life thus far, and have completely taken advantage of Grace's not being a troublemaker to pursue their own lives and passions. When it becomes clear that Grace is ready to do the same, and that by extension their free, live-in housekeeper and cook might be ready to move on, they go batshit, and Grace does not stand for it. She stares them down and, without ever questioning their love for her, articulates really well that they have kind of given up their right to have a legitimate opinion on her life, since they decided a long time ago they didn't really want to be a direct part of it. There's a passage where Grace says her parents have to decide whether they want to be parents or roommates, and her mom basically says wow way to spring that on us before we have to leave for our social engagement that really made me say "dude, you folks have completely missed the point." While I admit that I'm at a complete loss as to why Grace's parents seem to dislike Sam so much (besides the obvious position that it's become apparent that they're losing control of their only child) I think it's a great conversation starter and was one of my favorite subplots of the book.

I could go on and on and gush forever about how awesome this book is, but really what I want you to do is to read and experience both books for yourself. There's one more coming out to round out this trilogy, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this through to the end, and seriously rooting for a happily-ever-after for all the characters.

Overall Grade: A

It's Wolf Week at Blog with Bite!

It's indeed Wolf Week over at Blog with Bite, and to celebrate, I have the following for you:



And, because I always think of this whenever I think of werewolves, and I can personally guarantee that I will continue to use this video at every opportunity:


Stay tuned for my review of Linger later today, and on Thursday, I'll be reviewing Web of Lies, which is my first M/M story!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Salt

Title: Salt
Author: Maurice Gee
Page Count: 252 pages
Publisher: Orca Books
Genre: dystopian, young adult
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Hari watches his father Tarl be carted off by the Company, enslaved and sent to work in Deep Salt. If he's going to rescue his father, he'll need the help of Pearl, an aristocrat, and Tealeaf, her mysterious maid. While they're at it, they just might start a revolution.

Salt is a dark, gripping book that is a must read for fans of dystopian novels. The setting is bleak, the characters are authentic, and the groundwork is laid for the rest of the trilogy to be just as good if not better.

This book is permeated with a deep sense of history. Tarl and Lee, an ancient survivor of past wars and disasters, have instilled in Hari a deep sense of injustice, and a desire to see the Company overthrown. The Company is the cause of and solution to all of the difficulties experienced by the people in the burrows; while they are brutal in their methods and cull people from the population to serve as laborers without regard to those people's lives or desires, they also provide what little food and resources are available. It's a brutal carrot and stick scenario where the Company wins and everyone else loses. Hari's hatred for Company is palpable very early on in the novel.

On the flipside is Pearl, who from the first moment we meet her is fighting against her destiny. She's planning to run away from an arranged marriage to a horrible, brutal man. If she gets caught, death will be the easiest of the consequences; she'll be given to the family of the man she was supposed to marry for him to do as he pleases with her. Her maid, Tealeaf, is assisting her in her escape, but it's plain as day that Tealeaf has an agenda of her own and that Pearl escaping this marriage is very much a part of this agenda.

Hari and Pearl's paths cross very early on and they start sniping at each other immediately, mediated only by Tealeaf and her impressive psychic powers. The short term goal of rescuing Hari's father Tarl from Deep Salt quickly snowballs into finding out just what is mined there and why nobody ever comes back; the mysterious weapon isn't hard to figure out but thinking about how horrible it would be if someone would use it definitely sent chills up my spine.

The pacing of this book was spot-on. The author introduced just enough storylines to keep the book moving and to advance the characters to a place that shows how much they've grown since the start of the book, but left plenty of questions and mysteries for the next two books to unravel. There are many different lessons to take away from this book, too- how corruption is corruption, regardless of the motives behind it, how problems are solved and catastrophes averted by bringing people together to work towards a common cause, and how ignoring the suffering of others is just as bad as actively perpetrating that suffering. Perhaps the most important lesson of all was that everyone can change and that it's never too late to pick a different path.

I highly recommend this book to fans of darker young adult literature or dystopian novels. If you've never read dystopian fiction before then this is an excellent place to start.

Overall Grade: A

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In My Mailbox: A Triumph!

In My Mailbox comes compliments of The Story Siren!

This was a beyond-exciting week for me, with lots of good stuff arriving! I'm way excited for these titles and have been pretty much ga-ga over my splurge purchase to celebrate my impending move and start at my new job, which is at the bottom:

For Review:




Purchased:



Yes, that final lovely stock photo represents my Kindle (named Dee) who is the current love of my bookly life. I went ahead and ordered a bunch of summer titles I was drooling over to have them ready for when Dee finally was delivered on Thursday (Bonds of Justice, Twice Bitten, I'll Be Slaying You, etc.) so the combination of those titles plus my snazzy new Kindle are pretty freaking exciting. One Click ordering is a dangerous, dangerous, thing. I'll have to keep track of stuff I get for Dee the Kindle so I can include it here!

Anyway, it's been a spectacular week for me! What did you get this week?
 
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