Friday, April 29, 2011

Cover Critique: Ellora's Cave Special Part 2

For those of you who missed last week's critique, I'm doing a special three week feature on the covers of Ellora's Cave (read part 1 HERE), a publisher whose website made me pretty much happier than I've ever been in my entire life. Now, as always, my critiques are meant in good fun and are no reflection on the quality of the writing, I'm only here to point out a few aspects of these astoundingly magnificent covers to bring you all a little chuckle on a Friday!

Please note some of today's covers feature a lot of skin, so you may not want to view them at work and should perhaps wait until you get home so you can fully enjoy the absurdity.


Run! Run you hairless piece of naked manflesh, run! Run like you're more certain of where you're headed than you currently appear to be!

Oh wait. Maybe we should backtrack a little before we encourage him to continue streaking. First, I have a couple of questions I'd like to pose:

1. The obvious - why is he naked?
2. Just where does he think he's going (un)dressed like that?
3. When he gets there, which of his, um, weapons will he be putting to good use?

I have to wonder based on the title if this is in fact his method of seduction–running at people butt-arse naked while brandishing a futuristic gun. I don't know about you, but this would not be the way to coax me into bed. I guess I'm a bit prudish like that. Can you imagine a man running full tilt toward you with his goods swinging freely in the breeze knowing he expects you to be awed by the sight enough that you will magically fall on your back and let him have his way? Um, no, my glistening orange friend, you are going about this all wrong. I feel it's my responsibility as a woman to offer him a few pointers since he is so tragically veering off an acceptable course of courtship.

Step 1: Please wear clothes. Clothes are good. Clothes are your friend. If you physically cannot deal with being fully clothed, please at least think about some pants. We don't need see your manhood acting as a divining rod pointing and showing us just how much you enjoy our company. Let's have that bad boy be an ace up your sleeve and save it so we're surprised later shall we? Great.

Step 2: Maybe consider toning the musculature down a bit. We women like a nice, toned physique, but you seem to be a bit...lumpy. Makes us think you could be overcompensating.

Step 3: It's best not to charge at women with weapons in hand. That goes for any type of weapon, so please reference step one again.


Who's a pissed off fairy? This guy. He looks like he absolutely cannot believe he got stuck with such girly wings and has been reduced to a romance cover model. Here's what I picture running through his head at this moment:

Are you staring at my wings? I hate them. And I hate you for looking at them. This is quite possibly the worst thing that could have happened to me. Do you see them? Do you see what's attached to my back? And have you seen my hair? Ridiculous. Look at me again and I'll coat you with fairy dust from my super special wings. See you how you like that. I hate you all.

I feel like this poor guy would like to have some choices other than love in his life. Like maybe the choice to not have these absurd butterfly wings. That look in his eye definitely says he would choose anything other than love if it meant he wouldn't be stuck with sparkly wings on a lavender and purple cover. Well, sir, as bad as your situation seems at least you have pants on, so that's something right?


What are we saving Lady Ilsa from? Nipple exposure? What an important mission we've been assigned! Go us. I suggest if we're trying to keep her from indecency someone should tell her to get a shirt rather than wandering about copping a feel of her own chest. Honestly, Ilsa, no one needs to see your freakishly round lady lumps.

I'm slightly confused as to what is happening with this little tableau. Are the three naked people haunting this house? Does Lady Ilsa live in said haunted mansion and need rescuing from this trio of nudists? It's such a beautiful, stately manor, but the enormous topless individuals give me pause–they're such a disturbing (and dirty) contrast to the perfection of the house and grounds. Clearly, since they're naked and there's three of them, there are some adventurous sexual practices going on. Is this where the saving comes in? Lady Ilsa is tired of having her gorgeous home overrun by a ghostly fornicating threesome? Can't really blame her now can we? Nothing worse than having a bare ghost bum (or three) on your fine upholstery I always say. Think of all the...ectoplasm. Poor Ilsa, that won't ever come out.

Have a great weekend everyone, and be sure and drop by next Friday for the Ellora's Cave finale!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review + Giveaway: Abandon

ABANDON (Abandon #1)
Meg Cabot
Paranormal Young Adult
307 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Two years ago Pierce drowned in her family's backyard pool. Luckily for her, the frigid water gave doctors a chance to revive her, but she's different now. She didn't see a light that day, she saw John. John, who took her to his home in the Underworld. John, who told her she had to stay with him forever. John, who is surely angry with her for running from him and returning to the world of the living.

After a series of unfortunate events lead to her dismissal from her old school, and consequently her old life, Pierce and her mother move to an island off the Florida coast where her mom grew up. There's only one problem with the move: the island is where she first met John, and she has no doubt he will be able to find his way back into her life with her there.

Due to her status as "crazy" for what she revealed to her doctors and family about the Underworld, Pierce now has to attend school as a member of New Pathways, a special program for troubled teenagers. If only they understood what she saw. What she still sees. Because John isn't quite ready to let her go, and as she learns more about him and his world, she realizes that maybe what scares her most is not John himself, but her reaction to him.

Abandon is an engrossing and highly entertaining first installment of a three part series, the reading of it a bit like attending a theater production wherein the curtain doesn't fully rise to reveal the action, but rather is merely raised a foot at a time, making us squirm in our seats in anticipation of what those next few inches, or in this case pages, will reveal. Pierce's experience with death and the Underworld is presented to us in pieces–mentioned briefly in passing and drawing our unwavering attention as curiosity takes hold, but yet we must wait until the more detailed explanation is granted to us several chapters later. Our desire to know what has happened in the past as well as our need to know what will happen in the future combines delectably to leave us riveted to the pages, eyes scanning the sentences so quickly our very sockets feel sore the next day. As soon as our appetite for one piece of the puzzle is whetted, the next piece is held tantalizingly before us, luring, tempting, and enticing us to thoroughly explore Ms. Cabot's mythological interpretation.

Pierce is a complex heroine, inspiring often conflicting emotions in us as we delve deeper into the unusualness of her life after death. She at times is very relatable, her feelings of uncertainty with regard to not only starting a new school, but starting a new school already labeled as a problematic student, endearing her to us fairly quickly as we wish for her to find some normalcy in this new situation. Her interactions with John, however, are both frustrating and intriguing due to the fact that at the time of their current brief interlude, we have yet to be enlightened as to their complete history together. We then become defensive of John when Pierce pushes him away, only to recognize her need to do so some some pages later when more information is provided. This constant emotional flux keeps us on the edge of our seats, just wondering what feeling, positive or negative, will be elicited from us during their next interaction, and we find ourselves somewhat helpless to resist the allure of their undoubtedly unique connection.

John is a character we can't help but want to know more about, musings about his past and his present swirling in our minds as we hope that Pierce might somehow hear our silent plea and give voice to the questions that have taken up permanent residence in our heads. He, like Pierce, is difficult to label, our reactions to him changing and altering with each revelation, and the depth of his character seems almost too immense to translate into simple terms. He's both attractive and unnerving, hero and antihero, and reality and myth–his relationship with Pierce one that holds us captivated as we we wonder what facet of his complicated personality we'll be exposed to next. He seems so subdued one minute only to erupt in a temper the next, always reminding us of who he is lest it slip our minds in those quiet times, and we are forced to continually question whether we want him to win Pierce's affections or not.

is a highly recommended read, one full of mythology and romance where it's made clear to us we have but scratched the surface of Pierce's story and taken only that first step when miles and miles still await us. While events are certainly left unresolved, Ms. Cabot still gives her first installment a nice conclusion, leaving us satisfied but yet still aching with want as we attempt to resign ourselves to the long wait for Underworld.

Rating: 4/5


Thanks to the fabulous people at Big Honcho Media and Scholastic, I have one copy of Abandon to give away along with a bracelet that features a quote from the book. This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only, and to enter please just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Contest will run through midnight EST Sunday, May 8th after which time a winner will be chosen from and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!

UPDATE: I received an extra copy of ABANDON in the mail today, so there will now be 2 winners. Big Honcho Media will be sending one winner a copy of the book and the bracelet and I will be sending the second winner just the book.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about Abandon and Scholastic's other young adult titles, be sure and check out their new online community This Is Teen - an initiative meant to connect readers to their favorite young adult authors! Please click on the below links for more information.

This Is Teen on Facebook
Abandon on Facebook
Meg Cabot's Website
Meg Cabot on Twitter
Watch the Trailer

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Post: Christopher Farnsworth

Today I'm really excited to welcome author Christopher Farnsworth to the blog to share with us just a little information about what sets his vampires apart from their literary contemporaries and predecessors. Book two in his Blood Oath series, The President's Vampire, releases tomorrow so be sure and add it to your lists. Thanks so much for stopping by Chris!


Let me start by saying thank you to Stephenie Meyer. Seriously, I owe that woman big time. If she drank, I would buy her a beer. (I’m sure she’s too busy lounging on furniture stuffed with $100 bills to take me up on it but still, the offer is out there.)

She tapped into something primal and powerful, and she helped bring back our cultural obsession with vampires. She woke the worlds of publishing and entertainment to the huge audience waiting for stories that played with this archetype. If not for Meyer’s Twilight saga, I don’t think I would have been published, even though our vampires could not be less alike.

I’ve said before that vampires have never been romantic figures in my mind. They simply scared the crap out of me when I was younger. That’s the kind of vampire I set out to create when I began writing about Nathaniel Cade, a vampire who’s bound to serve the President of the United States by a blood oath.

In other words, he doesn’t sparkle.

Meyer has already gotten a fair amount of derision for this – there’s even a mini-industry dedicated to mocking sparkly bloodsuckers – but I’m really not trying to make fun of her variety of vamp. There have been weirder ideas in vampire fiction. (Check out Brian Lumley’s much darker take on the genre to get an idea of what I mean.) I just want to get to the bottom of the feeling that Meyer evoked and discover why vampires still have such a powerful attraction for us.

Like the rest of his fictional brethren, Cade has an options package that most of us dream of – superhuman strength, senses, speed, and a near-immortal lifespan.

But none of a vampire’s capabilities are as interesting without his limitations. If you have a vampire who can walk around in daylight without sunscreen and can skip blood for a cheeseburger, there isn’t much downside to being an unholy terror of the night. How much sympathy can any reader muster for a superhuman, even if he has fangs? If he can know real love, then he might as well be human.

Vampires, in my writing, are predators. They don’t see humans as love, but as convenient snack-packs. There is nothing actually stopping Cade from killing and feeding on humans – as long as they don’t work for the president and haven’t betrayed the United States – except his own iron will. He refuses to give in, even though he believes he’s already irrevocably damned.

That’s what gives Cade his edge. If Cade were able to walk in the light, he wouldn’t be a vampire anymore. More important, he wouldn’t be very good at his job.

He knows what evil really means, because, down at a cellular level, he is evil. And he knows the necessity of fighting evil, no matter what the cost. We’re simply not built for that kind of ruthlessness. Cade is.

Because in Cade’s world, vampires are not the worst things that threaten humanity – not even close. He’s prepared to do the unspeakable to kill the unthinkable.

That’s not something a human being can do, not without losing his soul.

Fortunately, we’ve got Cade to face the darkness for us.

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE, the second in a series of books about Nathaniel Cade, a vampire sworn to protect the United States from supernatural threats. It will be available everywhere on April 28, 2011 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Learn more at


For 140 years, Nathaniel Cade has been the President's Vampire, sworn to protect and serve his country. Cade's existence is the most closely guarded of White House secrets: a superhuman covert agent who is the last line of defense against nightmare scenarios that ordinary citizens only dream of.

When a new outbreak of an ancient evil-one that he has seen before- comes to light, Cade and his human handler, Zach Barrows, must track down its source. To "protect and serve" often means settling old scores and confronting new betrayals . . . as only a centuries-old predator can.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Ordinary Angels

India Drummond
Paranormal Romance
Lyrical Press
Available Now
Received from author for review

Zoe's been able to see and communicate with the dead for as long as she can remember. In fact, she tends to get along better with them than she does with the living. When Alexander waltzes into her workplace one afternoon posing as the office mailman, Zoe's unique ability instantly lets her know that he's something more than human.

Turns out Alexander is an angel of the Guardian variety, and his purpose at Zoe's office is to save his charge's life. Unfortunately for Alexander, his actions interfere with the greater timeline progression and he's quickly put on trial for protecting his charge instead of letting events happen as they were meant to, and his intimate interest in Zoe is yet another mark against him.

Just as Alexander's trial commences, Zoe's closest spirit friend Henry goes missing from his usual haunt, leaving a dead body in his wake. The Higher Angels are convinced Henry's responsible for the death and begin to hunt him in earnest, leaving Zoe the only one with the ability to clear his name. Wanting to save both her closest friend and the angel she's falling in love with, Zoe sets out to solve the many mysteries she's become wrapped up in, discovering a few stunning revelations about herself along the way.


Ordinary Angels gives us a story that's the opposite of what its title would suggest, introducing us to a world where the angels are anything but typical, and the purpose of their Guardian roles vastly different than we might expect based on previous mythologies. In this tale, the angels exist not to protect individual people from harm necessarily, but rather to ensure that worldwide events progress as they should–setting circumstances in motion in order to guarantee the existence of important discoveries, meetings, and relationships. The death of one person ultimately leads to the meeting of two people who are supposed to be together, and so everyone is to follow a predestined and linear timeline known only to the Higher Angels who then make sure the chain of events remains uninterrupted. The at times cold indifference of these angels is extremely intriguing, the thought that though they seek to protect humanity overall, they are willing to do so at the expense and sacrifice of the individual is haunting, and quickly becomes one of the elements to stay with us as we continue reading.

Though the premise is strong and the angel interpretation fascinating, the romantic relationship between Zoe and Alexander lacks the fiery spark that causes our skin to heat with each word we read as we subtly check around us to see if our flushed cheeks look as obvious to others as they feel to us. Zoe meets Alexander fairly quickly, convinces him to ask her out, and then within what seems like hours (though is in fact a couple days) they are in bed and in love, leaving us with a physical relationship but robbing us of the delicious tension and gratifying courtship that makes the consummation of such feelings of affection something exciting and memorable. Zoe and Alexander have some cute moments together, but where both seem to burn bold and bright in the eyes of the other, we find ourselves a good distance away from their flames struggling to catch a stray tendril of heat as we read about them without feeling for them.

In addition to a romantic relationship that leaves us wanting, there are several small questions raised to which we are never provided answers. All the angels have two different forms, their human appearance and then what is called their "exalted" form wherein they grow larger, change in color, and are often covered in scales. While this unusual physical description piques our interest, we are never given any information as to why they are able to shift forms or what the purpose of this warrior form is. Furthermore, it's eventually revealed that Zoe's abilities are growing in strength as a result of her being a Stalker, or angel killer, but again we are given no background as to what a Stalker does (aside from the obvious), the reason Stalkers wish the angels harm, or any history in general as to how they came to be. Someone leaves a chaos dagger, the weapon of a Stalker, for Zoe to find and it acts as a catalyst for some of her latent Stalker talents, but we never find out who left it for her, why they did so, and how they knew it would be of use to her in particular.

Overall, Ordinary Angels is written in an engaging way and presents us with a unique take on angel lore while a ghost story is casually woven between the strands of celestial politics and romance. With that being said, there does seem to be a wide variety of elements introduced in a relatively short amount of time, thereby preventing depth and complexity we hope for when reading. Ms. Drummond is clearly a talented writer however, and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for future works despite my reservations with this story.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review: Hard Bitten

HARD BITTEN (Chicagoland Vampires #4)
Chloe Neill
Urban Fantasy
350 Pages
New American Library/Penguin
Available May 3rd
Received from publisher for review

Warning: Review does contain spoilers from previous books and alludes to certain events in this book though no specifics are given.

In the aftermath of the shifters' announcement of their existence, things in Chicago for Merit, Ethan, and their fellow vampires are a bit uneasy. The human population is not reacting well to the news that yet another supernatural species is living among them, and they have taken to picketing and rioting in front of Cadogan House to show their disapproval for the individuals they once so thoroughly accepted.

To make matters even worse, Mayor Seth Tate reveals to Merit and Ethan a witness statement wherein a man claims to have seen a multitude of vampires take the lives of three women in a frenzy of bloodlust. He assigns Merit and Ethan the task of putting an end to such behavior with a less-than-veiled threat of his retaliation if they don't gain control of the vampire population.

When a visit from a member of the ruling council of vampires pays Chicago a visit, Merit finds herself without Ethan's direct help in solving their human political problem while he deals in vampire politics. Paired with Jonah, Merit uncovers a disturbing new drug circulating the vampire raves–one that causes the erratic behavior the witness described–and as she delves deeper, she realizes the threat is even greater than they imagined and the potential fallout much more catastrophic.

Hard Bitten is a pivotal book in the Chicagoland Vampire series, presenting us with shocking new information and sending our emotions into indescribable turmoil as we deal with change and loss on a scale we haven't experienced before. While this book could have easily fallen into the trap of a middle book in a series where the character interactions become predictable and the action fails to be as impressive as it was previously, instead Ms. Neill takes a decidedly riskier route, testing us as much as she does her characters as we all struggle to come to terms with seemingly irreversible events. This fourth installment is like beginning the series anew–though the characters are comforting and familiar, the startling revelations place us firmly back on square one as we eagerly anticipate the next book to help us relearn how to put one foot in front of the other in this world.

Merit and Ethan are as fun, humorous, and infuriating as ever, their complex relationship returning to the slightly-guarded-but-still-sexually-tense state that existed prior to the progression of physical intimacy in the last book. Though they seem to have taken a step back in some respects, there is an openness and candor to them now that satisfies our clawing need to see them together and happy. Where before they engaged in an intricate dance comprised of sarcastic flirting and laced with a bit of good-natured antagonism used to mask the admission of any true feelings, we now have the honest confession of fear, hurt, and betrayal adding an emotional intimacy to their connection. This new rawness is mesmerizing, causing our hearts to ache a little less with each quiet acknowledgment as we know the strength it takes each of them to reveal a vulnerability to the other, and we long for the moment when a touch between them will be free of all the complications and can be a more simple and treasured thing.

Ms. Neill does a beautiful job with the plot in this series, each book focusing on a new but related problem to the vampire race being openly known to humankind, and this continuation of that world sees the escalation of previous personal, political, and supernatural battles to such a degree that putting the book down to take a breather becomes an impossibility. The heightened tension, the augmented danger, and the increased significance of repercussions for actions taken culminates in an ending that thoroughly swipes our legs from under us, leaving us shaking in uncertainty as to the future and our hearts bruised, broken, and in desperate need of repair. We are robbed of a vital component of these books–confusion, anger, and searing pain coalescing to create a bone-deep chill as our minds work frantically to concoct scenarios in which the events we've just witnessed will be remedied and the glowing happiness we felt at the end of the previous book will be restored.

This is a story where an extreme reaction is impossible to quell–tears will fall, teeth will grit, and fists will clench in anger as we both praise Ms. Neill for so thoroughly engaging us in her world and its characters while simultaneously questioning why she chose to hurt us so deeply. Despite our pain, we can't help but look forward to the next book, hoping that the explanations for, and reasoning behind, the conclusion of Hard Bitten will be partially illuminated. We have little choice but to place our complete faith in Ms. Neill's very capable hands, knowing she must have a plan and forcing ourselves to take comfort in the knowledge that we will be privy to it in time.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cover Critique: Ellora's Cave Special Part 1

Let me preface this post by saying that my critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

I just want to reiterate, before we all dissolve into fits of giggles, that this post is not meant to disrespect Ellora's Cave or their authors. That being said, perusing their website yesterday in search of material was perhaps the greatest day of my life. It was a veritable buffet of awesomeness just begging for my brand of snark, with page after page of spectacularly brilliant covers. Now, not all of their covers are laughable, some of them are actually quite good (perhaps I'll pull some samples of those for you next week) which only makes the bad ones even worse as it's very clear they are capable of much better. This is going to be a 3 week special edition wherein I feature multiple covers because, really, there's just too much good stuff to go one at a time. I hope you all enjoy!


Huh. I'm not going to make a joke about our demon here being horny. I'm not. That would be lame and childish. Instead, I'm going to discuss, in all seriousness, the size of his horns. Much less childish. I think the naked chest clearly tells us that this is a romance novel and we can expect many a sexy moment in between these pages, knowing full well the gentlemen (or demons as the case may be) in these stories are always extraordinarily well-endowed, have the stamina of a marathon runner, and possess the sexual prowess of a god. Good for them. So I guess my question here would be this: why, assuming he's a lover of epic proportions, would they give him such tiny, stunted, and unfortunately curved horns? It makes me wonder if perhaps other parts follow suit. Pity.

Shouldn't he have huge, thick, magnificently masculine horns? Horns that are a testament to his unparalleled skill in the bedroom and make our eyes shift south as we long for maybe just a peek at what's hidden by the title? Maybe that's just me though. I have to say I'm not impressed with his pinky finger sized protrusions, so he can keep his kiss and everything else that goes along with it until he grows a few more inches. Just saying.


Is it me, or does he seem intensely fascinated by what's happening in his pants? He looks as though he's not quite sure what's going to be revealed when he slides that denim those last few inches, and I'm pretty sure if he's concerned about what's going on with his manly bits, then I definitely want no part of them.

Shouldn't he be looking at us? Trying to seduce us with his eyes as he teases us with the low-slung unzipped jeans? I wonder if this is how things play out in the bedroom as well–his partner does all the work while he simply admires his junk, of which he has undoubtedly named something hyper-masculine. Aw, yeah. Good times to be had by all I think.

I do have to give the designer props on the text placement though. The "s" in jewels and "l" in Nile hit just the right spot don't they? Right in his crotch amidst the goods that have him so enthralled. Well done indeed.


People, where has his neck gone? He's like a little naked turtle. I feel like this head and this body are not the same person, and for a reason I cannot fathom, they have photoshopped a head on an already existing shirtless body. He's got his brows raised and forehead crinkled as though he's as confused about how he came to be in this situation as we are. It's okay my friend, we feel your pain, you are not alone in this.

If we were to suspend belief for a moment and pretend this head and body match, it almost seems as though he's ducking to fit his head on the cover before the Ellora's Cave Twilight bar crops it right off. We also have the author's name trying to make its way into his ear, leaving this poor guy with hardly any room at all so it's no wonder he's out of sorts.

I think he's supposed to be some sort of shifter, though if he's not, he's going to want to have the weird dark patches on his arm looked at by a specialist. His lower arm looks practically gangrenous, like it could rot off at any moment. It also appears as though there is some sort of wood paneled wall behind him to suggests he's indoors, but right around his nonexistent neck are strange patches of grass. Fur? Is he a chia pet? So, just to sum up, he's a neck-less naked man suffering from gangrene while random parts of his body sprout grass-like fur. Glorious, just glorious.

Have a great weekend everyone and stay tuned next week for part 2 !

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Tangled Threads

TANGLED THREADS (Elemental Assassin #4)
Jennifer Estep
Urban Fantasy
384 pages
Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster
Available April 26th
Received from author for review

Gin's retirement from being the assassin known as the Spider isn't really working out the way she'd planned. She's more active than ever after declaring war on Mab Monroe, the fire elemental responsible for murdering her mother and older sister, killing the woman's men one by one and leaving behind her spider rune as a calling card to be sure Mab knows just who's after her.

But Mab Monroe has never been a woman to sit idly by while she or her multitude of legal and illegal business ventures are being threatened, so she hires an assassin of her own to hunt down The Spider and eliminate her.

While plotting to kill the new killer in town, Gin is also exploring a new relationship with prominent businessman Owen Grayson, recovering still from the damage done by Detective Donovan Caine when he left town in a haste to escape his unwanted feelings for her and her chosen profession. If one fledgling relationship wasn't enough to deal with, Gin is also working on rekindling a connection with her baby sister Bria, the woman who just happens to be the detective in charge of finding and stopping The Spider. With new relationships forming and old scores to settle, Gin's retirement has never been so far away.

The fourth book in the Elemental Assassin series, Tangled Threads is yet another face-paced thrill ride, but where the earlier books focused primarily on the action and the impressive battle skills Gin possesses, this latest installment begins to weave new layers of complexity. This complexity comes in the form of character maturity and emotional growth, a development that lures us deeper into the story just as Gin's assassin namesake might entice its prey to step deeper into its web. While still dark, gritty, and unequivocally brutal, we find ourselves slowly inching our way under Gin's defenses and getting a peek at the heart of the proven fighter, the loyal friend, and the scarred little girl who's just beginning to find her sense of self-worth. We start to see Gin dare to hope–hope that maybe her heart isn't as black as she's always thought, and perhaps it might just be big enough to allow another person entry.

The relationship between Gin and Owen is a highlight of this story, the deep rooted scars left by Donovan's betrayal and abandonment starting to heal as a result of Owen's persistent affections and withheld judgment. Her understandable fear that the bloody hands, the sharp knives, and the questionable nighttime activities will eventually blind him to the woman herself slowly begins to recede, replaced by a warmth and wealth of emotion that both frightens and excites her. We can't help but smile as we will her to open herself to Owen as she never has before, finally believing herself to be as deserving of acceptance as we certainly know her to be. With Owen's steadfast dedication to her and his unchanging opinion no matter what she reveals to him, Gin begins to see that being in this particular relationship doesn't necessarily mean she has to choose between being the assassin with her own sense of justice and being a woman worthy of love, but rather can be a blissful combination of the two–both uniquely flawed and flawless–as she sets out to remedy the wrongs done unto her and others.

In addition to creating a captivating relationship, Ms. Estep is also incredibly gifted at writing novels that introduce an immediate threat to Gin and those she loves, revealing page by page a story wherein the foe is dealt with in typical Gin fashion, but she also seamlessly threads the ongoing threat with Mab Monroe through the middle of events so we never lose sight of our ultimate villain. With every Gin adventure we are brought ever closer to the suffocating blackness emanating from Mab in fiery waves, and while we know a showdown of unfathomable proportions looms not far in the distance, Ms. Estep creates a series of believable intermediate evildoers whose roles serve a specific purpose in helping Gin accomplish her vengeance against Mab.

The only minor flaw to Tangled Threads is the at times repetitive nature of the writing, with certain names, elemental gifts, or character associations being explained to us again and again as though we lack the ability to retain information we read twenty pages prior. Though this repetition will certainly be helpful to those who decide to read this book without picking up the previous three, for those of us who are avid fans and eagerly devour each page of every book, the constant reminders can be a bit distracting. Small drawback aside, Ms. Estep adds another brilliant story to her already impressive resume, and the countdown to Gin's next appearance in Spider's Revenge has certainly begun.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Veil of the Unknown

(Veil #1)

Kelly Leigh and Terri Lucas
Urban Fantasy
Available Now
Received from authors for review

Lily Drew is pretty comfortable with her life. She enjoys her job at the library and spending time with her best friend Miranda, but lately little things have been changing–she's been seeing things that don't fit with her comfortable world. With the appearance of dark and mysterious Quinn, things quickly progress from comfortable to extraordinary.

Quinn slowly educates Lily on the Veil, something every human being pulls tight around them as they conform to society's expectations and stop asking questions, obscuring their view of a world of magik, astral projecting, and fantastical beings. While Quinn and those like him work to help people drop their Veils and see the world as they did when they were children, another much stronger group of people is working tirelessly to keep people complacent and ordinary.

Soon Lily learns that she is part of a prophecy, one her parents knew of before their sudden deaths, and one they want Lily to uncover for herself using the clues they've left behind for her. With the help of Quinn and Miranda, Lily embarks on a journey to fight for humanity's right to see things as they really are instead of as they're told to see.

Veil of the Unknown is a story with a great deal of potential–a strong premise and enjoyable protagonists paving the way for reader enjoyment. We can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, there might be a world out there about which we know absolutely nothing, and only our self-imposed imaginative limitations as well as our contentment with the way things are currently are denying us our exposure to it. Ms. Leigh and Ms. Lucas have created a world of infinite complexity and endless possibility, this first installment sending us on an adventure that is nicely self-contained but also sets up future events believably, leaving us content with the knowledge that the second book won't be grasping at plot straws to keep events going.

While the aforementioned complexity is a positive element in many ways, one aspect in particular is detrimental to the overall reading experience. The presence of Kenzie and Haley, two young women we're told will be joining us on Lily's journey as they document her story (with Lily being fully unaware of them and their role), is problematic. Not only do we get first person perspectives from Lily, Miranda, and Quinn, but we also have Kenzie and Haley intermittently jumping in with their two cents, providing very little necessary information and instead often reiterating information we already know. They are an interruption rather than an enhancement of this story, their sporadic appearances serving to remind us that we are in fact reading a book as opposed to letting us blissfully forget there are paper pages separating our world from Lily's as we allow ourselves to be caught up in the events and characters around us. In this first book their purpose in documenting Lily's transcendence from Obscured to Unobscured is never fully revealed, though surely it will be in the future, causing them to be simply distractions jarring us from Lily's life repeatedly just as we begin to settle in rather than valuable inclusions.

In addition to the somewhat inexplicable presence of Kenzie and Haley, we are introduced to secondary characters who seem almost unintentionally comical. It appears as though Ms. Leigh and Ms. Lucas were hoping to give their supporting characters memorable personality traits in order to breathe life into the individuals with whom we spend the least amount of time–a solid idea in and of itself, but it's in the execution where these traits become frustrating. Jack, Quinn's boss, is a man who places strong emphasis on every other word in order to more dramatically convey his point, to the extent that the use of italics becomes a touch annoying. One of Miranda's friends uses the word "like" incessantly, perhaps to illustrate her youth in a verbal way, but ultimately it's grating for us as readers. Lily, Miranda, and Quinn are all well-executed and speak normally and believably, their personalities distinct and clear without resorting to the employment of strange quirks and oddities, thereby making these traits in the secondary characters all the more noticeable.

There is a good story buried beneath a series of troublesome flaws, one of adventure, mystery, and romance that keeps us entertained between our bouts of irritation with Kenzie, Haley, and the supporting cast. For some readers, these detriments will not be as significant, but for readers like me who like to get swept away in a book to the degree everything else falls away save the characters and plot which hold our undivided attention, the little drawbacks in this story begin to compound and make us blatantly aware we're reading a piece of fiction.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, April 18, 2011

Group Interview: Lauren Oliver

It's the last day of the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour! To add a bit of fun to this final day, the participating blogs each submitted a question to Lauren Oliver, author of Delirium, and she was nice enough to take some time to answer all our questions. The full interview is spread across eight blogs, each linking to the next in the chain. To read the interview in its entirety, just follow the link trail starting below my question to Lauren where I've linked to the next blog. Hope you all enjoy!

Delirium is a story that really makes me believe in love, and one I walked away from with the hope that the strength of that emotion will be enough to get Alex and Lena through their trials. Is there one quote/scene from either Delirium or any other novel that made you sit back and say "Now that's love for you"?

Part of what was so fun about writing Delirium was that the whole novel was kind of a meditation on love—in all of its different manifestations. Falling in love is only the most obvious of them. I really loved writing about the love Lena and Hana had for one another, even though they couldn’t name it. Love is complex and strange and needs to be articulated over time, so I’m not sure you can point to a moment and say “that’s love.” Actually, that’s not true—weirdly, I think that when Hana and Lena have their blowout fight, and Lena feels like Hana has reached down into the very pit of her, that’s love. Only someone you love can know you that well—better than you know yourself, even—and consequently be able to hurt you.

Thanks so much for popping in Lauren! To continue the interview, please visit Rummanah at Books in the Spotlight.

For more information on Lauren and her books, you can find her here:


Review: Desires of the Dead

DESIRES OF THE DEAD (Body Finder #2)
Kimbery Derting
Paranormal Young Adult
355 pages
Harper Teen
Available Now

Though Violet's life will never be normal thanks to her unusual ability to find the dead, she was hoping things might calm down after a serial killer targeted her, her small town, and shot her best friend turned boyfriend Jay a few months back. Unfortunately for her, that just doesn't seem to be the case.

When her gift leads her to a body enclosed in a metal shipping container, her anonymous call to 911 for help leads the FBI right to her, and they know there is more to Violet and her knowledge of the case than she's admitting to.

In addition to her uniqueness coming perilously close to being made public, she's also dealing with to changes in her relationship with Jay–their romantic involvement altering her ability to share information with him–and where he was always the person she could turn to for help before, he's now just out of reach. And while Violet is preoccupied with both the FBI and Jay, a new threat is inching ever closer.

Desires of the Dead returns us to the unusual life Violet Ambrose and, like its predecessor, does a beautiful job of seamlessly weaving mystery with romance, normal with paranormal, and teenage woes with very adult responsibility. One of the more impressive aspects of Ms. Derting's storytelling is her extraordinary ability to achieve balance–our hearts start out pounding as a result of Violet and Jay's still very new physical relationship, but she keeps those pulses racing even after they part by thrusting us into the chaos of Violet's mind and her unique gift. It's only after we've set the book down upon conclusion and our breathing has returned to normal that we become fully sentient as to the degree of our involvement with characters and story. Where Violet and Jay's exploration of their increasing intimacy could have easily overshadowed the mystery, the entire book then succumbing to the notion that a romance needs to be the primary focus in order to captivate us, Ms. Derting instead delights us with a combination of elements, making her story multifaceted, entertaining, and so very enjoyable.

Violet and Jay are a couple that shine brightly, their warmth seeming to infuse the dark ink of the words describing their interactions with a smoldering red before we are returned to the crisp, cool blackness of Violet's connection to the dead. Their physical relationship is handled expertly, the emphasis on sexual need not made to be so important as to eclipse the trust and communication elements equally imperative to a successful connection, but also not approaching it cavalierly. Instead, that element is given its due attention while their relationship simultaneously grows on other levels as well. Our two protagonists are certainly not perfect in their dealings with one another however, but they both possess the ability to admit when they're wrong, seeking immediately to make amends once cognizant of their error as opposed to clinging to their anger out of spite and seeking instead to inflict pain for any imaginary slight.

Though the mystery in this story isn't quite as strong as in The Body Finder, the chapters where we flip into the villain's head not unnerving us on the same scale, it's still an engrossing element and one far more believable than if Violet were plagued yet again with a serial killer in her small town. In addition to a slightly more predictable chain of events, Violet, for all her admirable maturity in dealing with her ability, has the frustrating tendency to wander into danger and darkness alone despite having a very strong and reliable support system in place with Jay and her family. She often knows and thinks to herself that she should inform someone of her whereabouts, but then quickly disregards that fleeting moment of rationality and trudges forth, heeding the call of the dead on her own. Though it's not enough to detract from the overall success of the story, it is a noticeable irritation amidst a plethora of welcome and refreshingly positive aspects.

Desires of the Dead
is a gratifying continuation of Violet's story, both stronger in some areas and weaker in others than the first book, but a highly recommended read despite its drawbacks. We are introduced to some new and intriguing characters in this installment, most notably Rafe, thereby opening the door for infinite new possibilities now that Violet might be ready to fully embrace her gift and share it with more than just Jay and her immediate family.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Interview: Julia Karr

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Julia Karr to the blog as part of the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour. She was nice enough to answer a few questions for me about her young adult debut novel XVI (you can read my review HERE) which is now available. A sequel, Truth, is in the works as is a spin-off story called Cinderella Girl. Hope you all enjoy the interview!

Do you remember the exact moment you first got the idea for XVI, or the one aspect of the story that came to your mind first?

I do. The first aspect was Nina. She popped into my head one day - bopping down the street, earbuds in, trying to ignore the sounds of the city and a homeless guy in the street. Thus XVI was born.

If your daughters were young in Nina’s world and they asked you why the XVI tattoo was necessary for them, how would you explain it?

That would be hard. I think I'd be inclined to immediately join the Resistance and get them out of there. I would never stay in a place that marked girls that way - ever.

Can you explain the significance of using the roman numeral for the title and the tattoo as opposed to just the number 16?

I think the number 16 is not nearly as sterile and unfeeling as XVI.

XVI has a beautiful cover design–simple and clean but still eye-catching–is there another young adult book you would say inspires a little cover envy in you?

Oh my - lots! Vesper by Jeff Sampson is awesome! As is Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris! If you go to The Elevesies on livejournal & look at all their covers… OMG! I'm totally in love with all of them! Luminous by Dawn Metcalf is another fav!

Is there one step in the writing process that is the most fun for you (i.e. creating the outline, the actual writing, or the editing)? Most difficult?

The first draft is amazingly fun! Editing is freakin' HARD! But, I am actually learning to love editing, too! :)

Is there a character trait of Nina’s you would say you possess as well?

Hmmm… I share her love for her sister - and - I am pretty cautious about jumping into relationships!

Do you have any superstitions when it comes to your writing? Either you have to write while sitting in the same chair, you have to start writing the story with either the first or last chapter, or there’s a certain object you can’t sit down and write without?

I am not superstitious by nature, so not really. I do prefer to write in the morning right after I get up - but that's not always possible. Also - I do need it quiet to write. No playlists during writing - afterwards, yes - during, no.

I’m the type of person who can only read one book at a time, unable to split my focus between several. Is it easy for you to juggle writing multiple projects at once, or do you prefer to focus on one book until you have a first draft before you start something else?

I prefer to focus on one book at a time. I get so involved with my characters' lives that I can't just pull myself from their world into another made-up one. Heck, sometimes it's hard to get back to the real world from an intense writing session!

Sometimes (okay, often) I cheat and read the last page of a book first because the curiosity is too much for me to resist, do you ever flip straight to the back of the book before starting?

Not before starting - but, Boy, Howdy! Do I get flack from people because I will read the last few pages before finishing a book. I do that for 1 of 2 reasons - 1) either I'm bugged by the writing style, but have to know how the book ends and whether or not it's worth my while to keep reading, 2) it's so suspenseful that I'm tearing through it - not enjoying the ride, because I can't wait to get to the end. Then, I find out what happens and go back to leisurely enjoy the book.

If you had to put together a quick teaser tagline for The Sisterhood, the sequel to XVI, what would it say?

First off - the sequel has a new title - TRUTH. I think a quick tagline would be… "Sometimes even the truth can't set you free."

Thanks so much for the interview!

Thanks so much for stopping by Julia! If you want to know more about Julia and her books, you can find her here:



Friday, April 15, 2011

Cover Critique: Be My Werecat Tonight

Let me preface this post by saying that my critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

I know what you're thinking. Okay, possibly I don't since when I first looked at this cover my mind went completely and utterly blank and I was left in a stupor of incomprehension. But, once the fog lifted, I had thoughts. Lots of them. The first being curiosity as to what this book could possibly be about given this cover. I shall keep you in suspense no longer, here is the description from Goodreads:

As a surgeon, Hank is used to working with his hands. Good thing, because those skillful fingers are needed to release the passionate wild cats lying dormant in one tigress of a redheaded woman.

Naughty nurse Nora's passionate response to her blind date unleashes something untamed within her. The only problem is she doesn't appreciate her newfound gift. It's up to Hank to teach her how to embrace her wilder side or they'll both end up as housecats-a curse worse than death for a proud Darklander werecat

Um. Am I the only one that doesn't really understand that second sentence? Passionate wild cats lying dormant? Cats, as in plural? Does she have multiple cats in her? Does she shift into more than one cat? That's both bizarre and unnerving, but moving on. At least the stethoscope makes sense now, so we've got that going for us. However, most lab coats you typically see doctors wearing are already open in front, thus no need for the tearing we see here. We would have had easy access if he were just wearing a normal lab coat and nothing underneath, but he seems to enjoy "working with his hands" and so we are subjected to the ripping-to-reveal-ripped-chest situation. Magnificent.

Now, to more important things. What, in the name of all that's holy, is going on with the black mask? Nowhere in the blurb does it mention that he sidelines as a stripper or has a some sort of mask fetish. I'm befuddled. Does he see better with it on? Are we not supposed to know his identity? Epic fail if we're not because the blurb just told us his name is Hank and he's a surgeon and a werecat. We know you now you shirtless wonder, no need for the secrecy. Why are we allowed to see his naked chest but not the skin around his eyes? Maybe he has fur there and no one but his naughty nurse is allowed to see it. Kinky.

Speaking of the naughty nurse...why is she in an evening gown yet he's all suited up in his doctor digs? Shouldn't she be in some sort of obscenely short white dress with appropriately placed red crosses over her nipples? Perhaps I'm being too stereotypical, but I just think if we're playing up the whole doctor/nurse thing, it should at least extend to both parties. And can we just go back to that second sentence for a moment? I know what it's insinuating (at least I think I do), but the way it's worded makes it seem like she's got several cats on her person and she needs him to assist her in releasing them. That just brings all sorts of weird imagery to the forefront doesn't it? Yes, yes it does. You're thinking about the fact that she could have several squirming, "passionate" felines stuffed in that dress somewhere aren't you? Well, you certainly are now that I've mentioned it huh? Excellent. Mission accomplished. You're welcome.

Have a great weekend everyone!

PS - This is book 2 in the Darklander Lovers series. Since I knew you would want to know what the first cover looked like given this masterpiece, I looked it up for you. Behold.

From Goodreads:

Bidding on a masked man at an auction is all for a good cause, but what happens when he turns out to be a vampire who has the power to unleash the wild woman lying dormant inside you?

As a Darklander vampire, Mitch has spent a century living in a bleak world, but all that changes when he sees Tina. The beast living within Mitch wants to stake his claim. Mitch knows taking Tina's virginity will change her forever, but try explaining that to a woman whose passion cannot be denied. Tina holds the key to his freedom, but Mitch will be damned forever before he turns her over as a slave for his master.

Hm. Lots of things lying dormant in these women. Cats are lying dormant inside our naughty nurse, and a wild woman is lying dormant inside our virginal Tina. So much dormancy! And passion apparently, as that's mentioned three times between the two descriptions. At least the wild woman makes more sense than the passionate cats. Also, the mask is explained in this one. Success! Though it still doesn't explain the presence of the mask in the second one, so half-success really.

And on a parting note, just what is this masked vampire doing with his hands off cover hmmm? Highly suspect. Clearly "working" with their hands and bringing things previously dormant to sensual life are common threads among these bad boys:)

A big thanks to Karen of For What It's Worth for sending me this cover!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: 12.21.12

Killian McRae
Supernatural Mystery/Thriller
238 Pages
Omnific Publishing
Available Now
Received from author for review

Sheppard Smyth has always been drawn to Cleopatra VII–her life and her death–and has spent most of his professional career trying to prove his theory that she was murdered. While most of the academic and archaeological community has scoffed at his assertion, the one person who believes him is the one person that matters most: his wife Christine.

While on a dig however, tragedy strikes and Christine is killed in a cave in, leaving Shep to fill the void she left with copious amounts of alcohol. After a few years pass, Shep is called by a former colleague to fly to Mexico in order to confirm a spectacular find involving his former obsession.

Once there, Shep is introduced to his colleague's assistant, Victoria Kent, and told the entire dig is funded by rumored Russian mob boss Dmitri Kronastia. When Shep confirms the authenticity of the items found in Mexico, he realizes the history of the world as he has known it is irrevocably altered, and his life just got significantly more complicated. Shep begins to piece together a new view of the past with the help of Dmitri and Victoria just in time for the future to come crashing down around him as the Mayan prophecy of 12.21.12 and its link to Cleopatra VII creeps ever closer.

12.21.12 combines various mythologies from both the Mayan and Egyptian cultures to create an intriguing millennia-spanning mystery that beautifully blurs fact, fiction, and the paranormal. Though this story makes reference to historical figures, the tale woven between its pages incorporates entirely new elements into the lives of people we know existed, making the reading experience an interestingly imagined jaunt through past, present, and future. The supernatural aspect of the story is seamless in its execution, the beliefs of both the Mayans and the Egyptians in multiple powerful gods paving the way for paranormal believability. Our curiosity as to the hows and whys of that element is then ultimately satisfied while our imaginations are thoroughly entertained.

In addition to a riveting and suspenseful story, we are also given access to complex characters. Dmitri and Victoria are individuals who are both villainous and unrelatable when they project their seemingly indifferent view of society, proceeding to take lives when they deem it necessary while sparing barely a moment to dwell on the loss. Then, just as we're convinced of our negative opinion of them, their entire demeanor shifts to reveal moments of true emotion and vulnerability, and a beautiful humanity shines through their otherworldly facade to make us realize these two are more than they initially seem to be on a multitude of levels. Reading to see what layer of their personality will be peeled away from one page to the next is one of the most engrossing aspects, and one that makes us feel as though we've been given our own private mystery to solve as we find ourselves trying to sort through our reactions to each of them in an attempt to come to an emotional conclusion.

While 12.21.12 is an entrancing blend of mythologies with characters who force us to think about them even when we shut our eyes at night, sometimes the complicated connections between all the pieces of this puzzle cause us to blink in confusion as we attempt to digest everything we've learned. Characters from the present are not only linked to one another in various ways, but they are also connected to figures of the past as well which at times pulls us from the story as we have to flip back to prior pages to completely comprehend the relationships. Overall, however, this book is unique and suspenseful with diverse and multifaceted characters all coming together to create a very memorable read.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Bumped

BUMPED (Bumped #1)
Megan McCafferty
Young Adult/Dystopian
323 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available April 26th
Received from author for review

Teenage girls are currently the most important members of society. A virus has rendered everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, so desperate couples are now forced seek out young women, sign them to often impressive monetary contracts, and choose a young man for them to "bump" with so they have as much control over the offspring as possible.

Melody is one such teenager. Signed to a six-figure contract several years ago, she is still awaiting the choice of a partner so she can finally fulfill her end of the deal. She was one of the first girls to go professional in her school, and now she's one of the few that has yet to bump with anyone. To make things worse, her long lost twin sister Harmony shows up at her door to convince her of the sin she's about to commit by getting pregnant for profit.

However, when Harmony is mistaken for Melody and meets Jondoe, the hottest reproduction professional around and Melody's newly chosen partner for her contract, the lives of both sisters are irrevocably changed. Their eyes start to open for the first time and they begin to realize the separate worlds in which they were raised are perhaps worlds they no long wish to be a part of.

Bumped presents us with a world that feels utterly foreign, not due to the use of futuristic technology or the creation of an environment we can't possibly picture existing, but rather due to the thought processes of the individual characters themselves. This story is both appalling and absorbing–a mesmerizing reveal of a situation that leaves us wondering as to the lengths humanity will go to ensure its survival, and we read on in abject horror as we realize this world has grown to view the prostitution of its children as both normal and necessary. We laugh at the quirky sayings on t-shirts and the humorous rhyming lyrics of this world's popular music, but the smile quickly drops from our faces as we come to fully comprehend just what these catchy phrases are promoting and encouraging, and we find ourselves rubbing our arms to smooth the hairs that have stood on end at our realizations. Bumped is bothersome and intentionally uncomfortable, the disturbing nature of its society presented in a lighter way due to the aforementioned humor, but all the more unnerving as a result of this approach.

Melody is the character with whom it's easiest to relate, her six-figure contract to the Jaydens keeping her from getting tangled up in the sexual frenzy of her peers, and her innocence on that front is something we feel almost protective of as we will her to see herself as more than a purchasable baby incubator. She continues to earn our respect as the horrors of her reality begin to sink in, the absurdity of her classmates' and her parents' obsession with pregnancy becoming a recognizable problem to her as opposed to an acceptable way of life. By the end, Melody exercises some semblance of control over her life, leaving us with something in which to take comfort as we face the seemingly insurmountable flaws plaguing the way of thinking in this world.

Harmony, however, is a bit more problematic of a character. Her fanatical religious upbringing forces her to try to help others see the error of their sexual ways, resulting in mannerisms and phrases that are a bit much to deal with even though we know they are purposely over the top. While she, like Melody, seems predisposed to accepting that the expectations placed on her are perhaps not as much in her best interest as she originally thought, it's difficult to fully believe she is capable of having the profound effect on both Melody and Jondoe that she does. She leaves a memorable and lasting impression on both of them in a very short period of time though she speaks very little to either of them, and she succumbs to Jondoe's numerous physical talents with a little too much ease for a girl raised under the strict belief that intimacy outside of marriage is a sin. She may have a rebellious streak in her thought processes to match Melody's, but it seems she abandons what she's known all her life within just a few short days, managing to topple Jondoe and Melody into that churning sea of change with her though we as readers are left a little baffled as to how she accomplishes such a feat.

Bumped will certainly be a challenging read for many due to the discomfiting nature of a world where young girls sell the use of their bodies with the full support and encouragement of society, but for those who love the dystopian genre and don't mind the presentation of a haunting and horrifying future, it will be a quick and entertaining story. It's a book that will certainly inspire a wealth of differing opinions, ensuring that it will never be placed on a shelf and forgotten but will rather slither into our subconscious long after we've read it, raising new questions and eliciting new emotions with each remembrance.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cover Reveal: Masters of the Veil

Today I've got a cover reveal for Masters of The Veil by Daniel Cohen. I recently read and reviewed his debut novel The Ancillary's Mark (you can read my review HERE) and am looking forward to his upcoming release. We have a while to wait given that it won't be available from Spencer Hill Press until March 1st 2012 (which is a lucky day I think because it just happens to be my birthday, but I digress), but it's never too early to start counting down for a book release I say!

What do you guys think?


Life can’t get much better for Sam Lock. Popular, good-looking, and with a future as a professional football player… every guy at Stanton High School wishes he were Sam. That is, until his championship football game, when Sam accidentally links with an ancient source of energy known as the Veil and reveals his potential to become a powerful sorcerer.

Sam’s dreams are crushed as he is whisked off to Atlas Crown, a community of sorcerers who utilize the Veil as a part of everyday life. Once there, he trains beside a mute boy who speaks through music, an eternal sage who is the eyes and ears of the Veil, and a beautiful girl who's pretty sure Sam's an idiot.

As it becomes clear that Sam is meant for power magic—the most feared and misunderstood form of sorcery—people beyond Atlas Crown learn of his dangerous potential. An exiled group of power sorcerers are eager to recruit Sam, believing that he is destined to help them achieve their long-held goal. If they succeed, they could bring about the downfall of not only Atlas Crown… but all of humankind.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Prom & Prejudice

Elizabeth Eulberg
Young Adult
227 Pages
Scholastic Point
Available Now

Every girl at Longbourn Academy dreams about going to prom. The couture dresses, the Pemberley boys, the social prestige–all of it on the mind of every junior and senior at the school. Everyone except Lizzie Bennet, a gifted pianist but poor scholarship student, whose lack of wealth makes her a social pariah among the rich and entitled.

For the sake of her best friend, roommate, and one of the two people at school who doesn't treat her as a doormat, Lizzie agrees to go to a reception so Jane can mingle with Charles Bingley, a Pemberley student who has just returned from a semester abroad. At the party, she has an unfortunate run-in with William Darcy, Charles's best friend, and is reminded yet again of her unworthy scholarship status.

Unfortunately for Lizzie, she is forced to spend more time with Will since their respective best friends are romantically involved, and she often finds herself irritated by his very presence despite his attempts to get to know her better. However, when Wick, an old acquaintance of Will's makes advances on both Lizzie and Jane's younger sister Lydia, a shocking truth about Will's family history with Wick is revealed and Lizzie realizes she may be as guilty of prejudice as those around her.

Prom & Prejudice is a sweet story that modernizes and reintroduces us to characters with whom we are already familiar, placing them in an updated world but keeping timeless elements at the forefront as Ms. Eulberg re-examines basic human nature in social situations in a way that keeps us rapidly flipping the pages even when we know exactly what's going to happen. This is a book that shouldn't be approached with too much seriousness–those who are looking for the rich complexity of Austen's original tale will certainly find many a flaw in this retelling–but for any reader looking for a story full of classic miscommunications and misinterpretations that ultimately lead to the reversal of a deep-rooted prejudice, you will not be disappointed. The notion that wealth is somehow an adequate and accurate way of determining a person's worth is applicable in any time period, and Ms. Eulberg does a nice job of transferring this social bias to an elite New York City boarding school where it is as believable and as equally frustrating as it was in Austen's time.

Lizzie is an enjoyable heroine, taking her verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her peers for her scholarship student status in stride, keeping her focus on her music and her career goals. She is a loyal friend to Jane, often subjecting herself to public ridicule at social functions so Jane won't have to attend alone in the hope of meeting up with Charles. We can't help but erect our own walls to guard against the animosity often slung in her direction, the strength of our solidarity with her increasing with every nasty comment and rude gesture. Though she treats Will with the same hostility she resents from others, the growth and maturity we know is coming still never fails to make us smile as she humbles herself and eventually rectifies her preconceptions of his character.

Will, after living up spectacularly well to the snobbery and arrogance rumored to infect all Pemberley students, makes a solid and respectable effort to win Lizzie's affections, enduring her wrath while quietly prodding her impressive armor for any weak spot that might allow him access to the girl underneath it all. Their interactions are beautifully tense, the line between anger and attraction often blurring to a degree that causes our temperature to rise several notches, and in our heated state we can do nothing but shake our heads as Lizzie remains oblivious to Will's interest, content instead to exist as she has previously–wrapped thickly in her own proud, but lonely, blanket. We wait with a heightened sense of anticipation for events to play out as we know they will, yet our knowledge of the outcome makes the reading of Lizzie and Will's romantic dance no less enjoyable.

Prom & Prejudice
is a quick and easy read, one not meant to mimic the beauty and depth of Austen's work, but instead meant simply to entertain and, in that respect, is successful in doing so. Readers of all ages looking for an adorable romance will enjoy this tale, reveling in the characters' ability to complicate matters that ought to be simple. We come to realize our hearts often know far more than our mouths or minds do, and we are able to sit back and experience the frustration and hurt, but also the luminous joy that accompanies the journey our minds take in order to catch up with what our hearts have already figured out.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In My Mailbox #26

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen
Ada Legend of a Healer by R.A. McDonald

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
White Cat by Holly Black
The Darkest Secret by Gena Showalter

A huge thanks to Jennifer Estep, Scholastic, and House of Lore Publishing for sending me books this week!

Winners and A Note on the Cover Critique

I've had a bunch of fun giveaways lately and have been a little behind on announcing the winners, so I'm just going to list all of them together.
Thanks so much for entering everyone and congrats to all of those who won!

IN THE STORM by Karen Metcalf

Vampire Princess

A LOVE REKINDLED by Myne Whitman


MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert


All of you have been emailed with details regarding your prizes!


Okay, so the blog has been really busy lately with tours and interviews and other exciting book-related things and I haven't been able to post the critiques consistently for a few weeks now. But fear not, things are returning to normal. The Friday Cover Critique will be back in all its glory starting next week, and I have found (or been sent) some truly spectacular covers. Just to prepare you for all the awesomeness to come, I've made a little collage of pieces of said covers for your viewing pleasure. I think I'm most excited for the middle one, how about you? I like how everyone seems to be getting undressed or is already naked (I'm talking to you mullet man), makes you want to know what you're not seeing doesn't it? Or is that just me? Just me you say? Damn.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview: Katie Kacvinsky

I'm super excited today to welcome author Katie Kacvinsky to the blog to answer just a few questions about her young adult dystopian novel, Awaken (read my review HERE). This one has a fascinating concept and an all-too possible depiction of a completely digital future, and will release from Houghton Mifflin on May 23rd. Hope you enjoy the interview!

Much like Maddie in the beginning of Awaken, I often feel naked and cut off from the world without access to the internet or anything digital, are you the same way or do you embrace those times when you can be “ unplugged” ?

This is a tough question. I realize there are so many benefits to technology—the internet is the most powerful resource that exists. I’d be a hypocrite to say I don’t use it. But, I do embrace being unplugged. I don’t need to be connected to everyone, every second of the day. What bothers me is if you try to go unplugged for very long, you become a social outcast. We not only use computers for information, we also use them for jobs, entertainment, shopping, socializing, even dating. It’s the fact that computers are taking over every facet of our lives that is creeping me out.

In order to calm Maddie down from a panic attack at being away from the constant stimulation of her digital world, Justin tells her to picture her utopia. What would your utopia look and sound like?

My utopia is Bayfield, Wisconsin. It’s a small harbor town on the edge of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin. When I go up there, I feel like time slows down. I love walking down the piers, crammed full with sailboats. I love hearing the ferryboat coming to and from Madeline Island (I actually named my character, Maddie, after Madeline Island). It’s also a great place to people watch—full of kayakers and tourists that fill the downtown streets and pubs. It’s one of those places where all my negative energy drifts away.

If you could say anything embarrassing, or gushing, or brutally honest to one person knowing you had the ability to delete all traces of it after it was said, who would you unburden yourself to?

I would tell Stephen Colbert that he has stolen my heart and soul and that I love his pointy little ears.

Did you write Awaken straight through from beginning to end or did you write the events out of order? If you wrote out of order and it’ s not a spoiler, can you tell us where you started and why there?

I wrote Awaken in order (I know, boring). Usually when I write books I skip around, but this one spilled out of me so quickly it practically wrote itself.

If Maddie or Justin could pick a literary world outside their own to live in, which fictional worlds might each of them choose and what would they find so appealing about them?

That’s a good question. I think Maddie still needs to figure this out—I don’t think you know where you belong until you leave your comfort zone and try out other places. But I can see Justin living on the coast, in San Francisco or Portland. Somewhere with people, but also close to hiking and nature.

If you could reach through the pages and pluck one character out to live in the real world with you, who would it be?

Probably Justin. It’s refreshing to meet people that question the norm. I think it’s inspiring to challenge the rules; it’s the only way change happens.

Maddie is pretty disastrous in the kitchen, her first and second attempts at making a sandwich rather unfortunate in their flavor combinations, are you more gifted in the art of cooking?

Haha, yeah, I had some fun with that scene. I figured, if she never cooks and eats protein bars for most of her meals, how would she even understand what flavor is? As for myself, I am inventive in the kitchen. I rarely follow a recipe and try to invent my own casseroles which can be pretty disastrous. I leave most of the cooking to my husband.

If you lived in the world of Awaken but were like Maddie’ s mom who remembers what it was like before synthetic vegetation and digital schooling, what one element of the previous world would you miss most?

One thing I already miss is sitting around with a group of people that aren’t distracted with their cell phones. It’s really rare these days. Usually when I go out to dinner with friends or family, everyone has their phones out on the table and their eyes are constantly wandering to their screens and I feel like I’m competing for everyone’s attention. I get distracted because everyone else is distracted. I miss the intimacy of hanging out for a night and just turning all of that off and being in the moment. I would go back to that.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Katie! And thank you to the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour for providing me with a copy of the book and making this interview possible.

AWAKEN (from Goodreads)

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.