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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Author Guest Post: Please Welcome Tessa Dare!

As a part of today's celebrations about A Night to Surrender, the author herself, Tessa Dare, is here to talk books! Please give her a warm welcome!
I love converting Romance Skeptics to the fold, don’t you? There’s just nothing like sharing the joy of romance novels with a new reader and watching her latch on to the genre with excitement.

Since I mostly read historical romance, I mostly recommend historicals, too. Here are some of my favorite historical romances to give to newbies:

Flowers from the StormFlowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
This was the book that got me reading historical romance again, after several years’ hiatus. The Duke of Jervaulx suffers a crippling stroke and cannot speak. The only person who can help him recover is a young Quaker woman named Maddie. The gulfs between them are immense—aside from the communication barrier, they come from completely different social classes, religions, and upbringings. From beginning to end, their story is simply riveting.

Dreaming of YouLord of Scoundrels

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase and Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
These two books have, for me, the most iconic and unforgettable heroes in historical romance. Dain and Derek Craven. Two tortured, hardened, jaded, immoral, hot-as-sin heroes who become absolute putty in the hands of no-nonsense, down-to-earth spinsters. Both of these books never fail to have me laughing and crying by turns.

The Duke And IThe Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Julia Quinn is a favorite of many historical romance readers. The Duke and I was, I think, the first book of hers I read—and it remains my favorite. Her trademark humor and wit run all through the book, but I love it for the poignant emotions between sweet, trusting Daphne, who is devoted to family, and Simon, a man who survived an emotionally abusive father and overcame a boyhood stutter.

UnlockedUnlocked by Courtney Milan
Courtney is a newer author (and a friend, so I’m hardly impartial), but she definitely holds her own with the authors on this list. Unlocked is a digital novella that’s gut-wrenching, sexy, and ultimately so heartwarming. Lady Elaine Warren must confront the man who cruelly teased her and made her a social pariah. It would be hard enough to grant him forgiveness—but the now-reformed Evan wants more. He wants to earn her love.

How about you? What romance novels are in your conversion kit, when introducing a new reader to romance (any subgenre, historicals or otherwise)? Do you lend your personal copies, or keep them safely stored away?
Thanks so much to Tessa for stopping by today!  This guest post is a part of the Goddess Fish Virtual Book Tour for this title! Tessa Dare and HarperCollins will be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter on the tour!  Check out the synopsis and the other great tour stops:
Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men. It is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters…and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

August 29: Among the Muses
August 30: What Book is That?
August 31: Ramblings from this Chick
September 1: Reading Romances
September 2: Brazen Bookworm

Monday, August 29, 2011

YA Book Battle Bracket Winner!

A week ago today, reviews of the two contenders for mine and Amber's bracket for the YA Book Battle, hosted by The Shady Glade. For those who missed it,the reviews are here, and the contenders were StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce and Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.
Out of My MindStarCrossed
This was a tough choice, as in my opinion both books were excellent in their own ways.  They're from two totally different genres- one is a realistic contemporary narrated by a young girl with cerebral palsy, and one is a fantasy adventure, narrated by a sneak-thief with magical abilities.  We did come up with a winner right away though, and that winner is...Out of My Mind!

We both felt that Out of My Mind was a story that needed to be told.  We don't feel that people with disabilities are represented in YA literature in a significant way.  While many of the other reviews I read disagreed on the accuracy of the book, I didn't read any that said this book didn't affect them on some personal level.  How we act in school and in life towards those who are different from us is a conversation that needs to be had.

That isn't to say StarCrossed isn't a good book- it is!  It's just a book that I would read for a different purpose.  It was engaging and entertaining, but didn't challenge my thinking.  Out of My Mind challenged my thinking, and that's a good thing to do from time to time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: Flidderbugs

Title: Flidderbugs
Author: Jonathan Gould
Page Count: 41 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: fantasy, novella
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

When Kriffle the Flidderbug is thrust into a position of authority, he resolves to figure out why his fellow ‘bugs find it impossible to agree on the pressing issue of how many points there are on the leaves of the tree on which they live. But as Kriffle investigates, he finds that the truth is more complicated, and ultimately more terrifying, than he ever could have imagined.

Flidderbugs is a political satire, a modern fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of insects with some very peculiar obsessions.

I'm taking a quick break from peeking out the windows to share a fun story with you!  This story is so hot off the presses that the synopsis is still being finalized.  No, what there is is a fun story that brings to mind bedtime stories and plots to games I used to play with friends while I was young.  Anything could happen, and things could take any turn we wanted- funny, absurd, dramatic, you name it.

Flidderbugs is the story of Kriffle, a bug politician and rising heir to his father's position in public affairs in the great tree where all the Flidderbugs live.  The issue on the table, of course, is whether the leaves on their tree have three points, or four.  It's the fundamental question that governs their lives, governs who's in power, governs everything.  Kriffle knows that the leaves have three points, and anyone who thinks otherwise has to just be lying to the populace for nefarious purposes.

Hidden in that scuffle, though, is an allegory about fanatical devotion to ideology and about how small difference seem to be big when they're all anyone talks about.  Star-Bellied Sneeches, anyone?  Fargeeta, Kriffle's uneasy ally in this foliage based debacle, puts it elegantly:
“Most ‘bugs are so determined to believe that their tribe alone is right. They’re not interested in hearing anything that might contradict that. They would never even consider that the truth is more complicated."
Even more serious is the fact that petty disagreements like three points versus four can cause dramatic fallout, because after all, if everyone is sweating the small stuff, then nobody is worried about the big stuff.

At a quick 41 pages, this story is refreshing and attention-grabbing. Not quite a comedy, but still funny in that it resonates strongly of real-life scenarios, this is a good one to get people talking.  I can see this being used in a civics class to introduce a variety of topics in a new way, and to take some of the polarization out of these conversations.  After reading Doodling I came into this story with high expectations, and I definitely wasn't disappointed. Read and enjoy!

Overall Grade: A

Review: Dark Taste of Rapture

Dark Taste of Rapture (Alien Huntress 7)
Title: Dark Taste of Rapture
Author: Gena Showalter
Page Count: 464 pages
Publisher: Pocket
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the publisher in anticipation of an honest review


With one caress, he can give unforgettable pleasure . . . or unending pain. . . .
Hector Dean is shaved, tattooed, and totally ripped—and he has a deadly secret. He is a walking weapon, capable of killing with a single brush of his fingertips. Little wonder he’s determined to remain on his own. But Noelle Tremain is a temptation like no other. She is beautiful and rich, with a party girl smile that hides a shocking vulnerability, and from the beginning his sizzling attraction to her is undeniable. For the first time, his stone-cold resistance is tested. But to be with her, he risks destroying her.

When a wealthy businessman is murdered in New Chicago’s seediest district, the two are partnered, and there’s no escaping what they both want: each other. Yet neither Hector nor Noelle knows what to fear more—the killer case, or their own lethal desires. . . .

Fans of tortured heroes, you just got served.  This is another series I'm really, really behind in, but it was totally worth jumping back in with this installment.  Hector and Noelle grabbed me and didn't let me go, and even when things looked bleak I was rooting for them the whole time.

Hector takes being from the wrong side of the tracks to a new level.  Not only is he overcoming a pretty tragic back story, but he's also trying to come to grips with the fact that his ability (which is a pretty horrific one to have) means that any chance of a relationship, physical or otherwise, with anyone is pretty much shot.  His feelings for Noelle take awhile to develop, but they are intense, and he's determined not to give into them.  Underneath it all, while he says that this is for Noelle's own protection, in reality, it's for his; he would be devastated if anything ever happened to her, especially at his hand.

Noelle is a character that I don't remember from the few Alien Huntress books that I've read, but in this book she puts on a good show of convincing people that she's a Kardashian wannabe- spoiled, rich, and without a care in the world, but in reality she desperately wants to forge an identity based on her own skills, abilities and beliefs, independent of her family connections.  Falling for Hector is one of the facets of that identity, and she's willing to do what it takes to make herself happy.  She can only hope that she can convince Hector to come along for the ride.

The interplay between the characters was riveting in this book.  Hector and Noelle go back and forth and run hot and cold; Noelle knows Hector has the power to hurt her on so many levels and doesn't want to, and that for her is enough to take a chance on a relationship.  Hector isn't so sure, and like I said, doesn't truly believe that he's worthy of a relationship with anyone.  Noelle helps him realize his own worth, and only when that happens do these two really have a prayer.

There are so many good series in the world that it's hard to keep up with all of them.  This one (Alien Huntress) is one that had kind of fallen by the wayside for me, and after reading this latest installment I need to get caught up. Now.

Overall Grade: A

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Raining, Pouring and Other Things.

I'm currently riding out Hurricane Irene right now so the emergency preparedness had to take priority over reviews for this weekend.  I'll catch up with scheduled reviews as soon as things are back to normal. Thanks for your understanding!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two Years Ago Today, a Blog Was Born.

Harry Potter cupcakes made and photographed by Isa Herzog. Why oh why does she not live/work near me? Sigh.

Yes, What Book is That? is two years old today! It doesn't seem like so long ago that I was thinking I'd just keep a record of what I was reading and what I thought about it and that would be that.  Clearly, this has evolved quite beyond that, for which I have many other people to thank.  To all the publicists, authors, publishers, readers, and fellow bloggers out there- thank you!  You've all helped to make this endeavor what it is today, and I'm looking forward to another great year ahead.
With that said, what is there to look forward to here at What Book is That? for the rest of 2011?

Well, I'll tell you:

A new layout! I finally took the plunge and committed to getting my layout redone.  I'm on the list at Use Your Imagination Designs with an ETA of this fall! I'll keep you posted once the facelift is over, but I'm super excited!

A new approach to illustrated books! Illustrated Friday was fun, but I'm moving in a different direction.  The downside- illustrated books will be featured on a more sporadic basis here at WBiT?.  The upside- not only will there be more of them in each feature post, but the posts will be THEME BASED! Stay tuned!

A second indie giveaway festival! December 2011 is going to be EPIC.  Just wait until you see all the great things that will be happening!

A fully updated review archive! This one will take awhile as I'm only up to last year in my cataloging, but it's in the works!

TONS of reviews! The next few months are absolutely JAM PACKED.  I have so many great authors and books on board to talk about!

I'm also taking on a special project to keep myself motivated to keep the reading and reviewing happening in the coming months!
 My library (Virginia Beach Public Library) has an ongoing fundraiser going to raise $50,000 to buy new books and materials for the collections.  They're off to a great start but there's a long way to go!  As a result, I'm starting my own personal fundraising campaign- for every book I read and review here at What Book is That? between now and December 31, 2011, I'll donate $1 to the Stock the Shelves Campaign. My goal is $50 but I'd love to raise more than that. I guess it's up to me, right? Check out my campaign page here!

Lots of good stuff in the works- stay tuned and thanks for all of your support!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Lord of the Vampires

Lord of the Vampires (Harlequin Nocturne)
Title: Lord of the Vampires
Author: Gena Showalter
Page Count: 288 pages
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: paranormal romance, group series
Copy for review obtained via NetGalley in anticipation of an honest review
*Note: This book will be released on August 30, 2011*

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out….

Nicolai the Vampire was renowned for his virility, but in a twist of fate "The Dark Seducer" had become a sex slave in the kingdom of Delfina—stripped of his precious timepiece and his memory. All that remained was a primal need for freedom, revenge—and the only woman who could help him.

In her dreams, a wanton vampire called to Jane Parker, drawing her to his dark sexuality and his magical realm. But for a human, all was not a fairy tale in Delfina. Jane was the key to Nicolai's memory…but exploiting her meant dooming the only mortal he craved.

Things I did know about this series prior to reading this, the first installment:
-There are four books, all of which will be released before the end of 2011.
-Each one is written by a different author.
-All four stories feature different characters but will all interconnect with each other.

Things I did not know about this series prior to reading this, the first installment:
-Each book is based on a different fairy tale!  In the case of Lord of the Vampires, elements of Alice in Wonderland are incorporated throughout the story.
-A quartet of royal siblings are at the center of this fictional world, and this story stars Nicolai, the eldest.

For all the PNR I read, I've never delved into the Harlequin Nocturnes arena. I'm not sure why that is, but now that I'm here I'm happy.  With a shorter length that doesn't skimp on the story, this was a great introduction.

Jane has had it rough; after recovering from a devastating car crash and having to figure out what she wants the rest of her life to be about, she gets sucked into a parallel, magical world through a book and finds herself in disguise as Princess Odette, who was presumed dead and has returned from the grave.  Princess Odette is also Nicolai's owner, as he was purchased as a slave and has been fighting to get free ever since.

Nicolai knows who Jane really is since it's his magic that's providing her disguise, but he didn't plan on having any feelings for his rescuer or for having any use for her beyond the rescue and a snack, in that order.  Instead, he falls head over heels for Jane and takes it very personally when horrible things happen to Jane, since she wouldn't have been in his world in the first place if he hadn't called her.  Much in the way that fairy tales aren't the Disneyfied fun fest that they're assumed to be and instead are pretty graphic and not always cheerful, that same tone is in place here.  Ye be warned.

This book added the caveat of Nicolai not being able to remember his life prior to being enslaved, but knowing that he has one.  He has to address some dicey issues when figuring out how to integrate Jane into his obligations as a prince, as well as to figure out how to address the spells cast by his parents that have set him down this road in the first place.

Like I said, this story is short, and it felt like it was over almost as soon as it started.  The next installments in this series are due out quickly, so there will be more fairy tale romance (literally) where this came from.

Overall Grade: B

Monday, August 22, 2011

YA Book Battle Contenders- StarCrossed and Out of My Mind!

The YA Book Battle is still raging over at The Shady Glade and I was selected to serve as a judge, along with Amber, my fellow judge for this bracket!  I'm withholding my overall grades for these books until the winner of our bracket is revealed, hopefully the suspense isn't too intense for anyone! We had two really great contenders on our plates, so let's get down to it:

IN THIS CORNER...StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce!
StarCrossedPage Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: YA, fantasy, first in a series
Copy for review compliments of the public library

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so.

Accepted as a lady's maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold--as well as plenty of jewels for the taking.

But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren't as apolitical as she thought... that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

StarCrossed was a lot of fun to read.  There's plenty here to sink your teeth into, and the author spends a lot of time developing a really intricate fantasy world that has a very deep and complicated history as well as tendrils of unrest that are starting to wind their way through all facets of society.  Digger, our heroine, is a tough cookie, whose life has been difficult since the start and only gets more so as the book progresses.  Digger doesn't really know who she can trust, as her life experience tells her than anyone can turn on you at a moment's notice.  Consequently, she has to navigate a really treacherous environment pretty much on her own; failure means she's exposed as a thief, with consequences too ghastly to think about.

The theme of forbidden magic is strong in this book, and will only get stronger as the series moves forward.  Digger finds out that just about everything she knows is wrong; the downside of being a spy is that she fully understands how slippery people can be and how the truth can be changed or shattered depending on the circumstances.

While the pace of the story takes its time, and there are many details that need to be attended to, this is a book that is worth devoting an afternoon to.  The next installment, Liar's Moon, comes out in November of this year, and I've totally got it on my list.

AND IN THIS CORNER...Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper!
Out of My MindPage Count: 295 pages
Publisher: Atheneum
Genre: middle grade/YA, contemporary fiction
Copy for review was purchased by me

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

Out of My Mind is an important book. I can't honestly think of any other book that's quite like it, which is something that I think is both telling and sad. Told from the perspective of a girl who has cerebral palsy but is intellectually leaps and bounds ahead of her peers (and most people, to be perfectly honest) it's an eye-opening story that was resonant for me. I wouldn't classify this as an uplifting story or a happy story, but it was definitely a memorable one.

Melody is an incredibly smart girl, although she tends to get brushed off by the people around her because of her physical impairments and the barriers to communication that she has to overcome. There are a lot of different angles from which to approach this book, and frankly, I think the most obvious one, about the poor way that people with disabilities are treated, is probably the least complex; there are so many other layers in this book that that's almost like stating the obvious.

I was reading on the author's Amazon page that she didn't intend for Melody to be a representative of people with disabilities, and I think that's important to note with a book like this. I think everyone can think of an exception to the situations presented in the story or cite an example of a factoid or an attitude or a word choice that wasn't spot on, but that's not really the point. The point, for me, was to consider how my own actions impact other people, and to consider, for a moment, a life and a perspective that I encounter all the time (I'm a special education teacher) but don't think of in that way.

So what book won our bout in the battle? Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian MurderTitle: Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder
Author: Shamini Flint
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Genre: mystery
Cop for review compliments of the public library

Inspector Singh is in a bad mood. He's been sent from his home in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to solve a murder that has him stumped. Chelsea Liew - the famous Singaporean model - is on death row for the murder of her ex-husband. She swears she didn't do it, he thinks she didn't do it, but no matter how hard he tries to get to the bottom of things, he still arrives back at the same place - that Chelsea's husband was shot at point blank range, and that Chelsea had the best motivation to pull the trigger: he was taking her kids away from her. Now Inspector Singh must pull out all the stops to crack a crime that could potentially free a beautiful and innocent woman and reunite a mother with her children. There's just one problem - the Malaysian police refuse to play ball...

This is a weekend for discovering great detective stories.  I had the privilege of reading yesterday's title as well as this one for the Sizzling Summer Read-a-Thon back in August and it's always good to share fun books with people- lucky you!

Inspector Singh is not having a good day.  A police officer in Singapore, he's been sent to supervise a murder investigation in Malaysia, and is only there because the accused is a Singaporean citizen.  He understands going into things that he's going to be extremely unwelcome and expects to kind of get stonewalled; he doesn't expect things to turn out the way that the do.

Part of the problem is the nature of the case at hand. The accused is former supermodel Chelsea Liew, who's accused of shooting her estranged husband as the sad resolution of a custody battle.  Chelsea is definitely in a pickle; she stands out as the obvious suspect to the police and despite the fact that her late husband was a weasel of the first order in every possible respect and nobody cares that he's gone, she still faces execution if convicted of murder.

Singh figures out pretty quickly that Chelsea isn't the killer, and finds in this case a reason to get his investigative juices flowing, so to speak.  It isn't a spoiler to say that Singh exonerates Chelsea fairly easily, however, once that's happened, his job is technically done.  Singh stays on in Malaysia to investigate the crime unofficially, and it's from there that the story really takes off.

Singh isn't a typical detective.  He's been on the job a long time, which has made him a little bit jaded and a pain in the butt to his superiors, who'd really like him to retire, or at least go away.  He chain smokes like crazy.  He finds himself terribly bothered by everyday things.  And yet, through it all, he's phenomenally good at his job, and he enjoys having a chance to prove that, at least to himself.  Investigating who really killed Chelsea's philandering almost-ex-husband takes him down many paths, and they all seem to lead back to within the family itself.  Who's a victim and who's a criminal? Can they be both?

This is another situation where I'm happy that there are other books in the series currently in publication, as the waiting factor that always seems to plague me isn't an issue!  With winter just around the corner I'll be looking for excellent mysteries to have on hand for snow days, and this series definitely fits the bill.

Overall Grade: A

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fourth Reich Rising Giveaway WINNERS!

No need for random.org this time- two people have opted in for the giveaway for digital copies of Fourth Reich Rising so they will both be receiving digital copies of the book!  Congratulations go out to Victoria and Denise Z.!  Thanks to both of you for entering!

There's always something fun going on at What Book is That? so definitely keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways and other fun stuff.

Review: A Beautiful Blue Death

A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries)Title: A Beautiful Blue Death
Author: Charles Finch
Page Count: 324 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review compliments of the public library

On any given day in London, all Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, wants to do is relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist another chance to unravel a mystery, even if it means trudging through the snow to her townhouse next door.

One of Jane’s former servants, Prudence Smith, is dead – an apparent suicide. But Lenox suspects something far more sinister: murder, by a rare and deadly poison. The house where the girl worked is full of suspects, and though Prudence dabbled with the hearts of more than a few men, Lenox is baffled by an elusive lack of motive in the girl’s death. When another body turns up during the London season’s most fashionable ball, Lenox must untangle a web of loyalties and animosities. Was it jealousy that killed Prudence? Or was it something else entirely, something that Lenox alone can uncover before the killer strikes again – disturbingly close to home?

Friends, I have discovered an excellent new series. By far my favorite mysteries are ones where the detective drinks a lot of tea and does a lot of thinking; I secretly desire to be Miss Jane Marple when I grow up. Set during the days of Queen Victoria, A Beautiful Blue Death is a gem; it's thoughtful, detailed, funny, and engaging, and I didn't want it to be over once it actually was. Happily for me, there are several more books already published with another one coming out later this year. I love it when that happens!

Anyway, the detective here is Charles Lenox, the second son of a well to do family who loves reading (especially about the Roman empire,) eating good food, drinking tea, taking baths, and planning trips to far away lands. His best friend in the world is Lady Jane Grey, a super sweet lady who has the same temperament and sense of humor as him; as the book goes on it's plain to see that Charles has feelings for Jane that go way beyond friendship. It's through Lady Jane that Charles comes to be involved in this case- one of Jane's former servants has died, and she doesn't share the opinion that it was a suicide. She asks Charles to investigate, and investigate he does, discovering way more than he thought in the process.

Each page of this story was like a feast. There were so many great lines, great phrases, and interesting facts and descriptions that I was completely sucked in.This is a great example of my favorite kind of mystery, where lots of tea is consumed and lots of investigating is done.  Forensics as we know it don't factor in; brainpower and observation get the job done.  If you're a fan of Agatha Christie or P.D. James you're in for a treat.

Overall Grade: A+

I have returned!

Before I say anything else, I just saw this picture today here and am in love.

IN other news, I'm back! In a highly unusual move for me, I went on vacation!  Nothing major, just a few days in DC seeing the sights, but it was very much needed and appreciated.  We're already planning a return trip in the spring since you never ever get to everything there is to see in a couple of days.  I also managed to pick a hotel that, although quite nice, did not have wi-fi.  That ended up being okay, as a couple of days away from the computer isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, I'm back, and that means reviews are starting up once again!  My calendar is pretty packed until like, January, so I'm looking forward to reading and talking about a whole lot of books.

As a final thought, this made me smile:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Forever

Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 3)Title: Forever
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Page Count: 390 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: young adult, paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by Around the World Tours in anticipation of an honest review

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever,the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

I knew going into it that Forever was going to be unique.  I'd read mixed reviews of the book prior to reading it myself, and I was interested to see not only how the trilogy would wrap up, but who would be left standing, so to speak, at the end of it all. Personally, I wasn't disappointed.

The phrase "coming of age story" gets thrown around a lot, to the extent that just about anything can be painted with that brush.  I have to say, though, that this is the first true coming of age story that I've read in awhile, in that the characters all have to decide who they truly want to be and what they stand for, even if that means pissing people off or standing alone.  Sam, Grace, Cole and Isabel all have to do that throughout the course of the book, and who they are at the end isn't who they are at the beginning.  That's the way for all of us though, isn't it?  Growing, changing, making choices. Even not making choices is still making choices.

The pieces were in place at the start of Forever: Sam and Grace had to fight for their relationship, Isabel and Cole had to figure out what they were to each other, and through it all the wolves of Mercy Falls are in mortal peril from Isabel's dad, who's still apoplectic over the death of his son.  Time is running out in every respect.  By the end, all the conflicts are resolved; whether or not one is satisfied with each resolution is a highly personal decision.

I applaud the author for not backing down from previous conflicts in the series; the best example of this is Grace's strained relationship with her parents.  It would be a lot easier to have everyone be all huggy and kissy upon reunion and have everyone say they were sorry and give a group hug.  That isn't what happens, and I appreciate that- leopards don't change their spots and I appreciate Grace handling the situation like she did.  Her parents made their choices; she made hers, and when they tried to throw their muscle around, she called their bluff eloquently and succinctly.  Bravo!

I understand now why reactions to this book were so mixed.  It takes guts to end a series to begin with, and at the end there will always be someone who's not happy.  At the end, I liked the ending, and the mood was ultimately one of hope- hope for relationships and hope for the future.  Who could ask for anything more?

Overall Grade: A

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Valentine's Day + Special Surprise at the End!

Valentines Day: A Romantic ComedyTitle: Valentine's Day
Author: Lewis Faulkner
Page Count: 342 pages
Publisher: Xlibris
Genre: romantic comedy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Valentine's Day--A Romantic Comedy is a funny, light-hearted look at love in the near-future, and a perfect holiday gift!

Imagine Robin Williams’ Bicentennial Man meets Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In a space station above the planet, Sirius—an old, reclusive, Leonardo da Vinci-type astronomer—is about to commit suicide, as well as end the ‘life’ of Comet, his android. Comet argues that he’s more than a machine. Comet believes that he’s sentient, with emotions and feelings even more mature than his master. Therefore, turning off Comet's circuits would be murder! To prove his sentience, Comet's goal becomes to strengthen the love of four specific couples on planet, and return to the space station, in ten hours, for a final evaluation. Success will prevent his master's suicide, as well as earn Comet his freedom.

On planet, as partners realign into mismatched relationships, Comet's plight looks hopeless.

Especially when Comet has to deal with characters like Auntie Elizabeth, an eighty-year-old Granny Clampet turned nymphomaniac. Stallion, a handsome, a la Cheers, Sam Malone. Fanny, a street-sharp punk, torn between her desire for fast-paced passion and fatherly commitment. Burgew and Pone, a pair of drunken gravediggers, who weigh in with more wit than an MTV version of Hamlet. A vat of middle-aged testosterone named Will, and his wife, the religiously conservative, yet sultry, Penelope, who are celebrating their twenty-third wedding anniversary.

Get ready for a sexual farce, a tender love story, and the hope surrounding second chances and the ability to change. Plus, that secretly-longed-for happy ending!
The best thing about summer vacation so far has been the chance to finally tackle my teetering piles of books to be read.  As I travel through the stacks, I find that there are lots of titles to which I haven't done justice by a long shot, and Valentine's Day is one of them.  I've had this title in the review queue for a long time- why I haven't gotten to it sooner, I simply don't know, but I'm glad I'm getting to it now!

Simply put, this is the story of one android's quest to prove his own sentience by furthering the cause of love on Earth.  His creator, Sirius, is a somewhat crazy old scientist, who kind of reminded me of Dr. Farnsworth:
Comet, the android, has a daunting task: to strengthen the love between four Earth couples before the authorities get to the space station to apprehend Sirius and, presumably, blow the place to smithereens.  Comet considers himself something of an expert on love, having had a lot of free time over the last twenty years to read novels and poetry on the subject, and figures that he's uniquely qualified for the situation.

I freely admit that I imagined Comet as Fry for the duration of the book:
Comet is innocent in the ways of people and how ridiculous things can get when you throw love in the works.  Therefore, in grand Fry fashion, Comet has to kind of bungle things a little, which makes for plenty of amusement for the audience, since we can see how things are going to play out, but the characters can't.

The four couples Comet has to work with have got to be the most persnickety set of folks walking the planet.  The thing that Comet forgot, or maybe never learned in the first place, is that people have free will, which means that they can muck up even the most straightforward plans and twist them around until nobody knows which way is up.  Comet didn't take this into account when he made his plan to increase the love factor, but he sure spends a lot of time compensating for it as the story goes on and it becomes clear that this isn't going to be as easy as he thought it was going to be.

This book takes its time getting from point A to point B, and isn't afraid to stop and have a joke or two in the midst of the zaniness and running around.  The author is firmly in control of the pace, and the reader is along for the ride.  I confess I got impatient at times, especially in the middle, when I wanted to move ahead and the story wasn't ready to do that.  It's hard to not be in charge sometimes!

This is a fun book, intended to be funny and gently critical of Valentine's Day and the surrounding brouhaha all at the same time.  The ending is certainly a happily-ever-after for everyone in the most basic sense- nobody goes home alone, except for anyone that wants to, and as far as we know, they all live happily ever after.  And as far as I'm concerned, that's Good News Everyone!

Sorry, I had to!

Overall Grade: B

Oh, what was the special surprise at the end?  Well, besides the happy ending, the first person to comment on this book will receive a SPECIAL SURPRISE BOOK from Lewis Faulkner's backlist!  In the spirit of love and togetherness, this contest is open internationally and will be open until someone comments and wins!  Good luck!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Giveaway Carnival- New Winners Take Three

Two winners from the second drawing of names did not respond to my email within the allotted time frame, so I am picking a new winner for those two giveaways.

Cameo the Assassin (Trilogy of Shadows Book 1)Cameo and the Highwayman (Trilogy of Shadows Book 2)

The winner of signed print copies of Cameo the Assassin and Cameo and the Highwayman is...Ricki @ Reading Challenged!

Harm None: A Rowan Gant Investigation
The winner of the full print set of Rowan Gant paranormal mysteries is...Robin K. (Intense Whisper)!

They've both been contacted and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be drawn. For everyone else, check out the current giveaway at What Book is That?! Five digital copies of Fourth Reich Rising are up for grabs!

Review: Fourth Reich Rising + 5 copy GIVEAWAY!

Fourth Reich Rising (Jack Shepherd Mystery Thrillers)Title: Fourth Reich Rising
Author: Tom Schwartz
Page Count: 378 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: RP Books & Audio
Genre: political thriller
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

The descendents of Hitler's inner circle developed a plan for a Fourth Reich, like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes of the Third Reich. The key to success was to embroil the United States and Islamic countries in a major conflict, which would eventually drag in most of the world's nations. With the world in chaos, they would orchestrate their rise to power.
A smart man once said, "Nazis. I HATE these guys."
And because most people tend to share that sentiment, Fourth Reich Rising takes the approach of both a political thriller and an alternative history.  What would happen if, instead of succumbing to their various fates, the descendents of Hitler's advisors and cronies instead masterminded a plan to throw the world as we know it into chaos and set the stage for the realization of the corrupt dream of their forefathers?  And just to make it interesting, what if a bunch of regular people on a pleasure cruise were the ones who had to thwart this plan?

Reading this story was a unique experience.  The narrator does most of the work of communicating the story and I was reminded of the experience of reading a script or a screen play.  I was able to clearly picture what was going on and what the scene should look like; every word of text was devoted to setting the stage.

There is a lot going on in this story. Extremists are on the move.  Secret societies are engaged. Nuclear warheads are getting lost. People are on vacation.  Turns out the proponents for the Fourth Reich have realized that a clever ruse is just what they need to be able to seize power and resources for themselves, and fabricating a global political showdown seems like just the thing.  In this fictional world, the showdown takes place on September 11, 2011; surprisingly, describing the impact of that situation would kind of be a spoiler for the story.

This is not a book for everyone, I don't think; there are many, many details to absorb and motives and rationales for actions that may be distasteful for many.  In many ways, though, that's the point of the story- if you find an extremist agenda distasteful but do nothing to stop it on a persona level, then what's the point of opposing it in the first place?  Shrugging and carrying on will only take you so far.  Having honor, morals and integrity is a much better option.  Standing up for them when it counts is the best of all possible worlds.

The writing style here is minimalist, and the story reminds me of an orally shared one; we don't get pages and pages of description, instead, we get the backdrop and the actions being played out in front of the backdrop.  Much of the motion of the plot comes from the chapter headings, and if you keep those straight, you can predict the trajectory of the story.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, as for me  it was helpful to have a little bit of formal structure to keep things moving, however I can see how some might find that to be a little heavy-handed.  If you're interested in a blended political thriller/alternative history, this might be up your alley.

Overall Grade: B-
The hits just keep on coming here at What Book is That? and thanks to Tom (the author) I have FIVE digital copies of the book up for grabs!  To enter, leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you.  No contact method = no entry.  Entries will be open until Saturday, August, 20th at 11:59 EST, so get 'em while they're hot!

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