Monday, August 31, 2009

SOME GIRLS ARE...amazing

Started reading a copy of the Some Girls Are ARC after work today. It's Courtney Summers' second novel, after Cracked Up to Be, and it doesn't disappoint. At. All.

It's so good I can't even describe it. Not in any way that could ever do it justice.

I'm just awash with emotions. I can feel that empty hole in my chest, the bitter emptiness of betrayal. Shaky hands. Nausea. The helplessness of being a victim.

I experienced everything Regina did. I laughed and smiled, felt light-hearted and giddy when she felt high with victory. I cried when she was too brave and too proud to let it get to her.

*amazing*

There is just no other way to describe Some Girls Are.

Hunting Ground Won't Disappoint

I'm thrilled to have recently finished reading Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs.

Hunting Ground picks up where Cry Wolf left off. Anna and Charles are married now, living in Montana and dealing with both of their histories as well as new threats to the pack and what those things mean for their relationship.

Charles' father, The Marrok, has decided it's time to follow the example of the fae and take werewolves public. However, before he goes through with it, he has called a conference in Seattle where all the most powerful alpha werewolves across the world will come to meet and discuss the implications of this political move. Charles is sure something bad will happen to his father if he attends the conference, so he and Anna go in his father's stead.

Among those at the conference are Russians, Italians, Spanairds, the British alpha who thinks he's the reincarnation of King Arthur, and the savage Beast of Gévaudan, Jean Chastel - all the most powerful alpha werewolves in the world. Old grudges between certain wolves resurface and cause plenty of tension between the various groups, and Charles also has to struggle with Dana, a former fae lover who's been called as the conference's facilitator. Then Anna is attacked while shopping by a gang of vampires using werewolf magic and tactics. Another mate of one of the alpha werewolves is attacked and killed. And the fragile peace between alphas begins to unravel and it's up to Charles and Anna to figure out who's behind it all.

As with her other books, Briggs does a great job weaving minor plotlines together so they all intertwine at climactic moments near the close of the novel. There are twists and turns thrown in, and although none are shocking, I found myself off guard a few times. Though there was a minor diabolical monologue near the end, Briggs seemed to be playing off the cliche and managed to throw in a twist in the middle of it. All in all, it's a book that won't disappoint fans of the series.

Anna and Charles are still figuring out their relationship and each other, and while they are still insecure and not the best communicators, it's easy to see actual progression and growth from the short story and Cry Wolf, and it's hard not to love them. Many of the minor characters were interesting - the only one I found myself frustrated with was Arthur, the alpha from England who thought he was the real King Arthur. Despite the fact that Briggs makes it clear he only thinks he's the real Arthur incarnate, I've had enough of running into real historical figures in urban fantasy novels.

Hunting Ground is the second novel in the Alpha and Omega series, it follows Cry Wolf and the short story "Alpha & Omega" which appeared in the anthology On the Prowl. While still enjoyable for readers new to the series, readers will enjoy the novel more if they're already familiar with the characters and have read both the first novel and the short story. Reading the Mercy Thompson Series (Moon Called is book one), is not at all necessary, but again will certainly add to the background and enjoyment of the world Briggs has created.

Next up, Silver Borne, the fifth book in the Mercy Thompson series. The cover art was just released, and like all these covers it just makes me want the book even more!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Urban Fantasy Contest Bonanza

Check out Colleen Lindsay's blog The Swivet and enter the quadruple urban fantasy/paranormal romance contest: Win a copy of The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay, Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly Harper, and And Falling, Fly by Skyler White.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thank You Tor!

Special thanks to Tor for sending a few prints of the new covers for some of their upcoming titles or reprints. Now I a new decoration for my desk.


Have I mentioned that I'm going to name my first child Ender? Boy or girl - doesn't matter.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Contest Winner: ALPHAS by Lisi Harrison

The Alphas by Lisi Harrison contest has now officially come to a close - the book has just been released - and I'm excited to be giving away the beautiful copy I have. After using the Research Randomizer, the winner is...


Congratulations! I've sent you an email. Send me your address within the next 48 hours so I can ship your new book!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

NEW YA BOOK BLOG

Quick announcement for all those book blog addicts out there. There's a new YA book blog to check out:
Mary at OfficiallyMRS

She's reading Catching Fire and holding her first official contest.

SNAP Review + Giveaway

A Review for Snap by Carol Snow

Madison Sabatini is an almost-sophomore with a bright future. She's the newest photographer on her school paper. Then, with one conversation everything changes.

Stuck in the strange, sleepy beach town of Sandyland, after her parents become bankrupt and they have to sell their house, Madison throws herself into her true passion: photography. Bizarre figures start appearing in her pictures, people she's sure weren't there to begin with, people she finds out later are reported dead. With the help of two of her new friends, Delilah and Duncan, Madison has to find out the real truth about what's happening.

Snap is a fun read, but I was really excited for it - I identify with the passion for photography and I love all things supernatural - and I ended up a little disappointed. It just didn't live up to my expectations.

Snap starts out slower than I would have liked, but when it gets going, it goes. In the beginning, the plot was a lot more about Madison adjusting to her new life in a new town than it was about the mysterious people showing up in her pictures. I also figured out the ending less than halfway through the book - too predictable for my tastes.

As for characters, Madison is like any angst-ridden teen, though I understood her angst and still found it not that hard to relate to her. But, especially in the beginning, I didn't always like her either. The fact that she thought badly about Delilah and Duncan because of their financial situation rubbed me the wrong way. She acted too condescending, and whiny at times. Of course, later she had her moments, but I liked most of the other characters better. Delilah was my favorite by far because of her artsy and quirky personality. She's the kind of character I want to be friends with when the book is over. As the Love Interest, Duncan is sweet and cute, but he didn't really stand out that much for me.

In the end, Snap was a quick read that kept me occupied and mildly entertained. It was fast paced, once it got going, and interesting, but not all that much more. It's not a re-read or a think about after book for me. But if you think it sounds good, give it a try. In fact - give it a try with my copy.

Contest details:
One lucky winner will win an ARC of Snap by Carol Snow!

How to Enter:
Leave a comment with a valid e-mail address. No e-mail address, no entry. (If you are uncomfortable leaving your e-mail in a comment, then e-mail it to me.)

Extra entries:
+1 New followers
+2 If you're already a follower
+1 Linking to my contest on your blog, twitter, etc. Include links. (up to 5)
+3 For posting about my contest on your blog. (Must be actual post)
+2 Add me to your blog roll.

This contest is open internationally! It will end September 10th at 11:59 pm Eastern time. Winner will be announced September 11th. Good luck and happy entering!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wardrobe Malfunction

Today I had a few issues with my wardrobe. First while opening boxes of books, I bent down and ripped a huge hole in the back of my jeans. Luckily the long sweater I was wearing hid that for the rest of the day. A few hours later, I was running around the office trying to get the mail all sorted and take care of a few things and my flip flops fell apart so I had no shoes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Interview With Me

Author and illustrator Realm Lovejoy interviewed me and did an amazing illustration of me that I love. Check it out!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Current Obsession

Okay, so it's not a book, but I'm totally obsessed with Veronica Mars. I've been watching reruns of season 2 and I'd forgotten how amazing the witty dialogue is. I wish this show was still on TV.

Favorite line of the night belongs to Dick Casablancas: "Please. You date Logan, he's nailed for murder. You date Duncan, he's wanted for kidnapping. You get put on Robbie and Hunter's jury, they get sent to Chino. You're like rich dude kryptonite, Veronica. This rich dude wants no part of it."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Must See - Interview with Courtney Summers

Check out the amazing art of Realm Lovejoy and her interview with Courtney Summers (who wrote Cracked up to Be) about her new novel Some Girls Are which comes out January 2010.

Winner - Never Cry Werewolf

The Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis contest has now officially come to a close and I'm excited to be giving away the ARC (the novel comes out September 1st). After using the Research Randomizer, the winner is...


Congratulations! I've sent you an email. Send me your address within the next 48 hours so I can ship your new book!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ALPHAS by Lisi Harrison Giveaway

Alphas by Lisi Harrison comes out August 24th

Welcome to Alpha Academy, the super-exclusive, ultra-tricked out institute created to groom the next generation of world class dancers, writers, musicians, and inventors. It's a dream come true for one hundred lucky girls. But competition breeds excellence, and one wrong move will get you sent home at any time, for any reason. What happens when the country's best, brightest, and hawtest begin clawing and scratching their way to the top? (book back blurb)

I finished reading this today on the train ride into NYC. It's super cute - not usually along the lines of what I read. Obviously fans of The Clique books will enjoy it since it's a spin off of that series. But Gossip Girl and The It Girl fans will definitely enjoy this fast paced light read filled with gossip.

I'm giving away an ARC to one lucky commenter. To enter, comment here with your email address in the next four days. Contest closes at midnight on 8/24.


Find more videos like this on Pick A Poppy

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

HUGE Contest to Check Out

From Taschima at Bloody Bookaholic:

"So...
I have been talking about this for a L-O-N-G time. Been consulting it with my pillow. And just today my pillow said yes.
Welcome to Bloody Bookaholic's Mega Palooza contest! Celebrating 200 followers, more than half a year of blogging, and countless tears & blood generated by all the writing, editing, and reading.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!PRIZES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There are going to be a bunch of books to give away, options:
- Signed copy of Dreaming Anastasia + Goodies
- Hardback Another Faust
- Hardback Prophecy of the Sisters
- ARC The Dark Divine
- ARC Hush Hush
- ARC Give Up The Ghost
- ARC Ash
- ARC Behind Every Illusion
- ARC Shiver
- ARC Eyes Like Stars
- ARC The Demon's Lexicon
- ARC Betraying Season
- ARC Any Given Doomsday
- Dead Until Dark
- Gossip Girl 1st Book
- The Black Tatto + poster
- Vampire Academy
- Frost Bite, a Vampire Academy Novel.
- Shadow Kiss, a Vampire Academy Novel.
- Blood Promise, a Vampire Academy Novel.
20 books, now I am going to have 3 winners.
Winner number One gets to pick 7 books out of the bunch.
Winner number Two gets 3 books out of the bunch.
Winner number Three gets 1 book out of the bunch.
Only the first winner gets to choose his or her prize.
For the other two I get to choose what they get.
As every contest, there must be rules, so the bookthirsty followers won't kill themselves in order to get to the prize. Still, a few drops of blood never hurt anyone.
As always being a follower is necessary, but you already knew that! Leave a comment with your email so I can contact you. If you don't leave your email, and you win, well, you don't get the prizes! And how sad would THAT be?
And I know you guys just LOVE extra entries, so here you go.
+7 For Promoting this Contest on your Official Blog, MUST be a Post.
+4 Already being a Follower
+3 For Becoming a Follower
+1 For Promoting this Contest on your Sidebar
+1 Tweet about it
+1 For Referring people to my Blog. The person referred needs to leave your name.
+1 For telling me how you heard about this contest. If you were referred leave the name of the person who told you so they can get an extra entry.
AND by the end of the contest, whoever is on my Top 5 Commentaholics list get 7 extra entries on this contest.
This contest is open to US, PR & Canada. ENDS September 27."
Link to contest here!
So, please say I referred you because this is a really big contest!
Thank you, and go enter now!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Query Wars (Brace Yourself for the Honesty)

On a message board at a writing sight, I offered some advice for a writer who was asking for help with her query. I pointed out some common errors:

1. Don't tell me your book is the next Twilight. (really, it's probably not)

2. Don't kiss up to me by telling me all the fabulous and wonderful things you heard about me and how much you love me. (just not necessary)

3. Don't go on and on and on about all of your writing credits and previous writing experience if you really don't have any. (I honestly don't care if you've spent every waking second writing since you turned 14, that doesn't mean you're any good.)

4. Do tell me what the book is about so that I can understand it and I'm enticed to read it.

Now, I think I've given good advice. I think I've read enough queries, read enough agent blogs, and talked to enough agents to be qualified in helping a writer with her query. (honesty, folks)

Well, after I post this, another writer posts her own comments and basically says the writer should scrap the previous query and start over. Then the "modified" version is below:

Dear agent:

I am writing to you as the premier agent in the genre of _. When you represented _’s _, I knew that I could help you repeat that success.

The books you like, which have been profitable, have shown _. My heroine _is like this, _.

(2 more sentences of book description here)

My writing credentials include the following reviews:

Review 1

Review 2

Review 3

I would like to call you on Tuesday___. If that time is inconvenient, please let me know.

I won’t take too much of your time as I know it is valuable, but I would appreciate your advice as to how to pick a literary agent.

I read this and thought what!?!?!? And I couldn't just keep quiet. This is some of the worst advice I've ever seen on query writing. If this is what someone actually thinks, I needed to step up and say something.

First, while it's nice to do the research and know what the agent represents, kissing up to them is just not really important. What's important is what your book is about.

Next, these "reviews" - unless they're from an NYT best selling author who's also happy to do a cover blurb for you, no one cares. Every writer has someone who's read their stuff and loved it, but think of it like American Idol. How many people say "but my best friend said I'm a great singer" and obviously they lied or didn't know anything. Your story has to speak for itself - reviews are not going to matter, just take up space.

And the worst piece of advice here? The writer wants to call!?!?!? It is the cardinal rule of agents that there is NO CALLING! NEVER call. EVER. The only people agents want calling them are editors with offers. If a client is having a crisis, they can call, but a writer who's just querying? No, they should not call.

So on the site, I spoke up and said don't do this and explained why (in a much more polite manner than I am currently), but I'm pretty sure I offended the other commenter. And I want to not care - since the person was wrong in their advice - but I still feel a little bad.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kim Harrison's Once Dead Twice Shy

A Review of Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison

In Once Dead, Twice Shy, Kim Harrison picks up where she left off at the end of her short story in Prom Nights from Hell about Madison Avery.

In the short story Madison's prom also falls on her birthday. She's 16 at the start of the prom, 17 when it ends. Normally this wouldn't be a problem. But Madison's the new girl in town, and she finds out her date is a pity date - the son of a guy who works with her dad. And even worse, light reapers (sort of like guardian angels) are assigned to people by age, which means both the reaper for 16 year olds and the reaper for 17 year olds thought the other one was watching over Madison.

So now in Once Dead, Twice Shy, four months have passed since Madison's death. She's still the new girl and considered even more of a freak. She can't go anywhere without Barnabas, the light reaper responsible for her untimely demise, and he doesn't seem all that happy about it. And if being dead and trying to figure out how her new life is going to work wasn't enough, Kairos, the guy who's amulet she stole in order to keep her body is supposedly out hunting for her and trying to get the amulet back.

I love Kim Harrison's Hollows Series, but though I enjoyed reading Once Dead, Twice Shy, it just is nowhere near as good as I hoped it would be. Madison's character is cute and spunky, but she lacks the depth to make her feel real to me. She's often petulant and self-absorbed, and at times, she's irritating.

The reapers aren't fully developed, and Josh (Madison's pity prom date) doesn't seem believable. He goes too quickly from jerk to love interest, and there are times when he's just far too accepting of all the weird stuff going on around him.

The plotline is interesting - though most readers will figure out where it's long before Madison. But the uniqueness of the world which Harrison has built is definitely a strong point. She hasn't just copied ideas from Twilight or other paranormal novels, she's created her own world, and it works. I have heard other reviewers say they were confused by the complex world she's created, and I think that may in part be because this novel picks up where the short story left off.

For fans of paranormal YA fiction Once Dead, Twice Shy is still worth reading. But to understand the conflict - the light vs. dark reapers - and Madison's backstory, I'd recommend reading the short story in Prom Nights from Hell first.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bad Moon Rising

A Review of Bad Moon Rising by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is technically the nineteenth novel in the Dark Hunter series, Bad Moon Rising is Fang Kattalakis' story. Fang is a Were-Hunter and the brother of two of the most powerful members of the Omegrion: the ruling council that enforces the laws of the Were-Hunters, Vane (his story is told in the novel Night Play) and Fury (his story is told in the short story "Shadow of the Moon"). While this novel covers the past five years of Fang's life, including his introduction to Amy Peltier, and a reader could start with this book, I wouldn't recommend it. There are so many references to different characters from other books as well as previous events from other books, it's easier to follow if you're a fan of the series.

Fang Kattalakis meets Amy Peltier one afternoon when his brother Vane and several of their pack go into Sanctuary, the bar and safe haven for Were-Hunters that her family owns. There's an instant connection. Both Amy and Fang are Were-Hunters. The problem is that Fang is a Katagaria wolf and Amy is an Arcadian Bear (Katagaria and Arcadian species are at war with each other). But despite the laws of nature, the more time they spend together, the more they fall in love and the more they know that they're mates - they're not interested in anyone else.

This is strictly a paranormal romance novel. Most of Sherrilyn Kenyon's novels are strictly romance, but some of them have enough plot development, action, and suspense that urban fantasy fans will find a lot about them to enjoy. Probably not with this one.

I enjoy reading all of Kenyon's novels, but I will be the first to admit some are better than others. I was excited to finally get Fang and Amy's story because both characters were first introduced to me back in the sixth book (or was it the fifth?). And the last hardcover and much anticipated Kenyon novel Acheron was the best one of the series, by far.

Bad Moon Rising opens up with the scene when Fang first meets Amy, and as a fan of the series I was delighted with the books start. I was able to get history and backstory on two characters I'd always liked but didn't really know all that well. But as the book went on, I found it hard to keep track of the time. Except for the initial time stamps on the first few chapters, it was unclear how much time had passed between chapters or even within chapters. Because Bad Moon Rising overlaps over almost all the other books in the series, I found myself fighting to try to remember what was going on behind the scenes from other books. And most of the action and suspense is a result of what was going on in the plot of other books.

While I liked was getting an explanation for the coma Fang was in during Vane's book and some of the subsequent books, I didn't like how much time Kenyon spent detailing that explanation. There were a few chapters I skimmed because I just wanted to get to the part when he came out of the coma - since I already knew that was going to happen. And that sums up probably the biggest problem I had with the book - as far as the action was concerned I knew what was going to happen because I'd read the other books.

It becomes a double edged sword. Readers unfamiliar with Kenyon's Dark Hunter series will have a hard time following the action and characters, but fans of the series will be pushing through and skimming scenes where they already know the outcome to get to the good parts - the parts that tell the story they don't know the ending to. Which is unfortunately only the last few chapters of the book.

Where Bad Moon Rising fails, Acheron succeeded because it was a two part book. In Part I, readers got Acheron's backstory and his history along with all of the mythology that Kenyon incorporates so well. Then in Part II the story fast-forwarded to the present and we got a whole new story. In Bad Moon Rising the backstory and fill in on the characters' relationship takes up about 80% of the book and only the last 20% is new.

All that said, fans of the Dark Hunter series won't want to miss Bad Moon Rising. Even with its faults, it's an enjoyable read.




Never Cry Werewolf Review + Contest

A Review of Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis
(out on September 1st from Harper Teen)

After the death of her mother and her father's new marriage to Priscilla aka Honey Bun, Shelby Locke hasn't been able to stay out of trouble. Not that any of it is her fault of course, it's just that she can't resist a guy who needs her help, with homework, or charitable events, or even a furry full moon problem.

Because that's what Austin Bridges III needs Shelby's help with.

After one too many broken curfews, Shelby's summer plans are put on the back burner and her father and stepmother send her away to brat camp, where she meets Austin, the British son of a rockstar and werewolf. And Shelby finds herself again in a situation where she has to choose between breaking the rules and helping a cute guy or staying out of trouble.

Never Cry Werewolf is a cute story with a premise most teens can relate to or appreciate. Shelby's parents don't understand her. She's not trying to get in trouble. She's trying to do the right thing, and rules like curfew are just getting in the way. The plot is straight-forward and believable.

As for the characters, Shelby's a likable character with a strong and consistent voice, and Austin is cute and personable. He doesn't help to hesitate his friends when they're in need either. I wasn't entirely convinced that he needed Shelby's help - it seemed like his being a werewolf couldn't have helped him help himself, but I understood why she wanted to help. The minor characters, like other campers have distinct, albeit less complex, personalities.

My only problem with it is that it was just cute. Never Cry Werewolf doesn't have the same emotional impact of other books in the genre, and I of course just read an amazing werewolf novel right before this one, and it just doesn't compare to Shiver. Regardless, this is a YA title that younger YA readers will enjoy and a cute story.

Contest Time!

I have an extra ARC of Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis to give away. You want it? Here's what you have to do -

Comment with your contact info to enter
+1 for new followers
+2 for current followers
+2 for linking back/posting about this contest
+2 for answering the question, "What's the craziest thing you did to help out a guy?"
+3 for referring someone to the contest
+3 for being the person referred

Be sure to tell me specifics otherwise I won't know how to tally up the points! Contest is open to anyone and it ends 8/20.

Check out the Heather Davis' website.

Contest Winner - Tricks

The Tricks by Ellen Hopkins contest has now officially come to a close and I'm excited to be giving away the ARC (the novel in verse comes out August 25th). After using the Research Randomizer, the winner is...

Christina
shylaloulou@gmail.com

Congratulations Christina! (The Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey is one of my favorites too :) I've sent you an email. Send me your address within the next 48 hours so I can ship your new book!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

SHIVER - The Only Reason I Would Ever Live Somewhere Cold

A Review for Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

This book is amazing - breathtaking prose, characters that instantly came to life, and heart-wrenching emotion (I cried twice). This is definitely the must-read of August.

When she was 11, Grace Brisbane was dragged from her tire swing and attacked by wolves, but one wolf - the one with yellow eyes - saved her. And ever since then, she's watched him - her wolf - in the winters when he lingers at the edge of the forest and her backyard.

Sam Roth is a werewolf - only not the kind of werewolf of legend. Actual werewolves are humans during the spring and summer when it's warm and when the temperature drops, they shift into wolves for the winter. Only as the years go by, they spend longer periods of time as a wolf and less and less time as human, until eventually, they become a wolf forever.

Sam knows with haunting certainty, this is the last year he'll be human. And it's the year that Sam and Grace finally meet and fall in love after six winters of longing for each other. Now Sam has to fight to figure out a way to stay human - or lose himself and Grace forever.

This book was A-Mazing, so to keep from rambling on too much about it and giving away anything, here are the top three reasons it's a must-read:

1. The Writing: Maggie Stiefvater's prose is beautiful. The descriptions and imagery are so magical and emotional that it's easy to overlook. This is a book you read once for the story because you're so sucked in you can't pause to appreciate the beauty of the words. Then you read it over and over again to appreciate the fact that it's art.

2. Grace and Sam: Both characters are real and distinct. They each have a strong, unique voice, and within the first ten pages they came alive to me, and despite the fantasy element to the story, I identified with both of them until the very end. And of course my favorite part is that Grace is the strong one, the take charge, get things done, take care of the people she loves character - Sam is strong in his own right of course, but Grace doesn't take a back seat to him.

3. The Romance: Unlike many of the vapid supernatural YA romances that have been part of the recent post-Twilight craze, there's more to Grace and Sam's relationship than just an inexplicable draw. Grace isn't just drawn to Sam because he's gorgeous and dangerous - in fact she never actually says anything specific about his looks other than the draw of his eyes. But they do things together, like go on dates, talk about poetry and books, watch bad movies, cook.

Check out Maggie Stiefvater's website.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Books That Changed My Life

Books usually fall into three categories for me: Not for Me, Good, Great.

I love books. As an escapist in the purest form, I've always been greedy about reading anything I could get my hands on. And even the books I don't like, the ones that leave me feeling irritated at the end - I still read them to the end, lose myself in them, and end up irritated only because I could have spent my time reading something better.

I read all the commercial bestsellers because I want to know what people liked about them, and I want to be able to speak up and weigh in when someone mentions a book they've read. And of course there are the authors and books I read and save and read over again because the characters came alive and I love them.

Then there are the books that have the power to change your life. And they're a category all on their own.


The first time I read a book that changed my life was when I read Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I sat on the floor of the gym in the middle of swim practice when everyone else was running laps, and I was physically unable to tear myself away from the book, and my coach let me sit there because I was sobbing. And no matter what came after that moment, I was forever changed.


Then in Prague, a Czech photography student handed me a beat up tattered copy of a book by Milan Kundera and swore it was the best book he'd ever read. Since I'd already burned through all the novels I brought, I read it. And then I read it again, again, and again. I read it so many times, curled up on my bed in the hostel, stretched out on a park bench, scrunched up in a theater seat in the back of one of my classrooms, that I lost count and the binding fell apart before I could ever give it back to him. It was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And it changed me.


Standing in Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, somehow my eyes were drawn to an unusually plain cover for a book in the "fantasy" section - a pale turquoise with a picture of a young girl's legs and shoes. I picked up the trade paperback and one of the booksellers sighed. I bought it, along with nine other books, and cracked it open when I got home. There are a lot of characters that I like, but when I read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife I wanted to be Claire Abshire. At one point I cried so hard, I had to stop reading because I couldn't see the words on the pages - everything was too blurry. Again when I closed the cover, I was changed.


It's happened again, and when I least expected it, especially after a friend in the industry didn't have many good things to say about it. But I loved Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It's changed my life.

Weigh in: Should Vampires Go Back Underground?

Neil Gaiman answered a few questions about vampires on EW's Shelf Life Blog. He thinks vampire popularity is about to plummet and disappear for the next 20 years or so.

Neil Gaiman's Thoughts
.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not Immortalized on My Shelves...

A Review of Immortal by Gillian Shields

I read a lot of manuscripts in addition to books. That’s what I do – I read for a living. And sometimes I finish a manuscript that I don’t like all that much because I’m driven to find out what happens at the end.

I couldn’t bring myself to finish this book.


Quite honestly, Immortal is a knock off of Libba Bray’s The Great and Terrible Beauty only with flat and simplistic characters, less imagination, and writing that doesn’t even glimpse into Bray’s league. On a whole, it was very disappointing.


Evie Johnson’s mom died, her grandmother is sick, and her dad is in the navy, so she get’s shipped off to boarding school. And The Wydcliffe Abbey School is full of snotty rich girls who look down on Evie because she’s a scholarship student. The old school has something sinister about it, and Evie starts having dreams/visions about Agnes, the daughter of the Abbey’s first owners. (Can anyone say Gemma Doyle?)


Then Evie meets Sebastian, a handsome and intriguing boy, she can’t help feel like she knows somehow. But as she falls in love with him, she realizes there is an astounding truth about their intertwined pasts and future.

Sebastian and Evie’s relationship doesn’t work. I couldn’t grasp onto anything that made me believe they were attracted to each other. Sure he’s mysterious and cute, but he seemed like a jerk the first time they met, and then after that he’s awkward enough to seem like he fell off another planet.


The plot is horribly predictable. With the first entry of Agnes’ diary – which actually was a cool and different inclusion in the book – I guessed exactly what was going to happen. And as the book continued I found myself able to figure out the clues at least fifty pages ahead of Evie.


There’s also a problem with the setting. Most of the novel reads like the Victorian boarding school in Libba Bray’s novels. But Evie has a cell phone and some modern technology which would insist the setting is contemporary – and though I’ve never spent much time in an English boarding school, it seemed to archaic to be realistic.


The only part of Immortal that I liked was the inclusion of Agnes’ diary excerpts. It was different from other novels. But at the same time, I didn’t feel like they added much to the plot and there were times I felt tempted to skim them.


Overall, it was very disappointing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Jeaniene Frost's Destined for an Early Grave

Review for Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost

I have conflicting feelings for Frost’s latest installment of the Night Huntress series, Destined for an Early Grave. For the first two thirds of the book, I was irritated and annoyed at the plot and the characters, but I kept reading and hoping it would turn around – and it did. I read the last third of the book, completely absorbed, and when I finished I was ready to stand up and shout how much I loved it – the ending was that good.


Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones have spent the six years since they met fighting and killing rogue undead, battling master vampires and struggling to keep themselves and the people they love alive. Now that Cat has quit her job, Bone surprises her with a vacation in Paris. But Cat’s having nightmares and visions of a vampire name Gregor who’s more powerful than Bones and is a part of her past she can’t remember. Apparently Gregor believes Cat belongs to him – is his wife, not Bones’ - and he won't stop until he has her.


In this fourth book of the Night Huntress series, this time characters are not only tested by both outside sources, but they also face a lot of inner turmoil. Gregor wants Cat because he supposedly had her first - before she met Bones. So he’s after her. Also, the ghoul population has heard rumors that Cat wants to become a ghoul to combine her vampire strengths with ghoul durability to make herself one of the most powerful beings alive. So they’re after her. And then there are those doubts Cat still has when it comes to Bones – she thought she was past most of them, but in reality she’s not. And because of these issues she has, she is the one responsible for the possible destruction of her relationship with Bones.


My first problem with the book is the issue of Gregor and the main plotline. Frankly, the sudden appearance of Gregor in Cat’s dreams, his unusual vampire powers – nicknamed the Dreamsnatcher he can actually invade someone’s dreams, catch them, and pull them through the dream so when they wake up, they’re wherever he is – and his obsession with having Cat seemed too convenient and too unrealistic. I spent at least the first hundred pages frustrated because I just didn’t buy it.


One of my pet peeves in the urban fantasy genre is when the kick butt heroine becomes the object of desire for every male character – alive or undead. In addition to Bones, Tate, and Ian – who also wanted Cat for his own – now Gregor also has to have her. On the other hand at least her friendship with Vlad is based on their mutual ruthlessness and survival instincts as well as their desire to no longer feel completely alone. And it’s platonic. I was glad for that when Vlad reappeared in this book.


The other problem I had was with Cat and Bones’ relationship. After three books, they’re still having the same fundamental problems – the lack of trust, the miscommunication, the constant fighting. At some point, they need to learn from past mistakes. Cat shares her heart and body with Bones but won't allow him access into her mind and deepest thoughts. Bones of course then feels hurt even though he knows Cat has problems with letting others get too close to her. He asks her to put complete trust in him and doesn’t anticipate that she will feel like the situation they find themselves in is her fault – he doesn’t anticipate she’ll want to take care of it without letting anyone else get hurt, and then he gets upset with her and blames her for making him feel weak when she does just that. These two need to go through some marriage counseling after they finish with Gregor.


Cat’s character also has a few flaws. For one thing, I could see through a lot of the drama with Bones. When their relationships was falling apart and they were miscommunicating with each other, I found myself frustrated with Cat – why couldn’t she see through what was happening, and why didn’t she trust him? Also, she catches on to things too slowly. When the shocks and twists developed in this book, I caught on earlier than Cat just about every time, unlike in previous books where I felt we were both equally caught by surprise.


Despite it’s flaws, however, Destined For an Early Grave gives the reader more insight on the vampire culture Frost has created, and Cat and Bones’ friends and family are not only a wonderful support system, but also a great group of characters. They were able to hold my interest and keep me from wanting to slam the book shut when I was so irritated at Cat and Bones. I am, and have been from the first time we saw him, a total fan of Spade. At first I worried Vlad would be a bad rip off of the whole Dracula myth, but I like the way Frost really makes Vlad shine here. Menecheres is a voice of reason even though he is a manipulative bastard half the time. And Ian, though infuriating, he provides a little comic relief.


In the end, despite the things that bothered me, I felt Destined For An Early Grave was a very enjoyable and fun read. Snarky witty one-liners, suspense, action, and romance are all a part of this book, and once readers get past the first two-thirds of the book, those annoying details start to fall away. And I can’t really go into too detail of why without spoiling important plot details and shocking twists. Fans of the series will be happy with the ending. Though not as good as the first three, it’s worth reading, and I’m going to hope the next books in the series have better plotlines – similar to the first three.

And in the back of the book, Frost has included an excerpt of her next book, called First Drop of Crimson, set in the Night Huntress world but about Denise and Spade, and it sounds like it'll be amazing. (And yes, I've already pre-ordered it.)

Check out Jeaniene Frost's website.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Contest Winner - The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

The Better Part of Darkness contest has now officially come to a close and I'm excited to be giving away the first book of the great new urban fantasy series by Kelly Gay. After using the Research Randomizer, the winner is...

Congratulations Mishel! I've sent you an email. Send me your address within the next 48 hours so I can ship your new book!

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?