Thursday, October 18, 2012

Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan

Nastasya has lived for hundreds of years, but for some reason it never seems to get any easier. She's left behind her days of debauchery to find peace and forgiveness at River's Edge, a safe haven for wayward immortals. There she's uncovered her family's epic history, reclaimed her magickal powers, and met Reyn, whom she dubs "the Viking god." Just as she settles into her new life, Nastasya learns that her old friends might be in town....
Reuniting with her gorgeous and dangerous ex-best-friend, Innocencio, Nas wonders if she'll ever be truly free of her dark legacy. Is Incy dangerous, power-hungry, and wicked? Or is he the only one who truly understands Nas's darkness? Either way, Nas is desperate to find out who she really is-even if the answer kills her.

I read the first book, Immortal Beloved, last year and was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book, but it’s been a busy year and it took me this long to find the time to read. But it was SO worth the wait. Plus, the next book comes out in only a few weeks, so I don’t have to agonize for a year. Bonus!

Nastasya is such a frustrating character. She’s selfish, prickly, self-absorbed, and cowardly. But, dang it, she’s funny. Her scathing sarcasm had me laughing out loud more times than I can count. I’m pretty sure I’d hate her if I ever met her in person, but I love following her through all her ordeals, stupid decisions and all. She is so flawed that she feels completely real, but not in a tragic hand-upon-brow-woe-is-me way. She knows she’s a screw-up and she’s trying to do better. She just sucks at it. It makes for a very compelling read.

This story reminded me so much of how addicts or abuse victims can slide right back into their old lives, even though it’s the worst thing for them. It’s often easier because it’s what they know, and they don’t have to face anything difficult about themselves in the process. There are lots of addiction themes running under the surface here, which I think will really resonate with some readers.

The romance is a perfect balance of frustration and the promise of more. I knew how the two would end up, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching them get there. They are a good match, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the next book. The end is quite satisfying, almost feeling like an end to the whole story. But there were a few clues planted here and there, hinting at the danger and drama to come. I cannot wait to read more.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Surprise Vacation!

My birthday is this week, and my husband gave me my present a little early... It's a surprise trip to NYC!! So, that's where I am right now, and that's why I'm not at home writing a post for today. But I'll be back tomorrow, so the blog will be back to its regular schedule.

In the mean time, hope everyone had a great weekend!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, nonmagical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun.
So Rose and her siblings experi-ment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke.
A few Love Muffins and a few dozen Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?

I love baking, so I was really looking forward to this story. It was cute enough, I suppose. Rosemary's insecurities definitely felt real and believable, and they explained her naiveté and poor choices. Though some of the issues she overlooked felt contrived (like the tart and the key at the end), so that was disappointing.

I also could not get over some of the plot points of the story—it takes much more than an hour or so to prep a bakery for the day, and bakeries open *much* earlier than 8:30am (because everyone is at work by then). So those running a bakery often have to start preparing well before the sun comes up. I also did not buy it that Rose wouldn’t have a way of getting in touch with her parents immediately (they were in another town baking, where there’s plenty of phones and cell coverage). The logical part of my brain kept kicking in and pointing out these inconsistencies, keeping me from enjoying the story.

My eight year old son read this book and said that it doesn’t really ‘get good’ until the halfway mark. I have to agree. Not much happens in the first half, but once Rose and her brothers break out the cookery booke it gets more interesting. My son found it funnier than I did because the humor is definitely geared toward a younger audience.

In the end, though, neither my son nor I were interested enough to seek out the next book once it comes out.

Age appropriateness: there are no incredibly tense moments, so I think this book would appeal to grade-schoolers who have advanced reading skills. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Quotes from Writers

Here's some more great quotes for you all. Enjoy!

If you wish to be a writer, write.
- Epictetus

Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.
- Leslie Gordon Barnard

A good title should be like a good metaphor.  It should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious.
- Walker Percy

One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.
- Lawrence Block

Loving your subject, you will write about it with the spontaneity and enthusiasm that will transmit itself to your reader. Loving your reader, you will respect him and want to please him. You will not write down to him. You will take infinite pains with your work. You will write well. And if you write well, you will get published.
- Lee Wyndham

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
- Robert Heinlein

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Review. Reread. Rewrite.
- George Mair

A writer's voice is not character alone, it is not style alone; it is far more.  A writer's voice line the stroke of an artist's brush- is the thumbprint of her whole person- her idea, wit, humor, passions, rhythms. 
- Patricia Lee Gauch

My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) Everybody drinks water.
- Mark Twain

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Unleashed by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié

Katelyn McBride’s life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains. Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It’s a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything.
Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night—welcome to Wolf Springs.

There are a lot of werewolf books out there (I'm not spoiling anything by saying this--the cover is a dead giveaway), so when I pick up another, I've got pretty high expectations. Unfortunately, this book didn't meet them.

Katelyn is okay as a character, I guess, but I didn't connect with her. Mostly because it was obvious from the start that there are werewolves in the story, but it takes her two thirds of the book to figure it out. I spent that time wishing she would hurry up and figure it out, which took away most of the reading enjoyment. I don't like figuring things out so far ahead of the characters.

I wasn't fond of the love triangle, either. Justin is a creep and Katelyn has no reason to trust him. And the mystery behind Trick felt purposely withheld, also making it feel contrived. There was no chemistry between Katelyn and either boy, so I wasn't invested in either.

Lastly, I had a major issue with how she ended up with her grandfather. He insists she come and live with him, even though her best friend's family has offered to let her stay with them so she can finish senior year. Instead, he brings her to his house, which is in the middle of nowhere, and is incidentally unsafe to be outside after dark. Why would he bring her there under these circumstances? It doesn't make sense, especially considering how the story unfolds with her and the werewolves. I couldn't get over that.

Overall, this wasn't unique or compelling enough for me, especially when there are better werewolf books out there.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Book Bloggers Harming Literature?

Last week, Peter Stothard--chair of this year's Man Booker prize judges--wrote an article in The Guardian on how he thinks book bloggers are harming literature. He says more on this in an interview with The Independent.

Basically, he's concerned that literature will be swallowed up by mainstream fiction, because that's what most bloggers talk about.
"If we make the main criteria good page-turning stories – if we prioritise unargued opinion over criticism – then I think literature will be harmed."
The problem is that literature isn't so easy to define. For example, Shakespeare is considered literature today, but when these plays were new they were written for the masses. I.E., mainstream. So who is to say that some mainstream fiction of today won't be considered the literature of the future? There are plenty of books out there that are good, page-turning stories that also have deep and important themes running through them.

He also said some pretty, erm, inflammatory things:

"It is wonderful that there are so many blogs and websites devoted to books, but  to be a critic is to be importantly different than those sharing their own taste… Not everyone's opinion is worth the same."
" much as one would like to think that many bloggers' opinions are as good as others. It just ain't so. People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good."

I'm not going to touch the 'not everyone's opinion is worth the same' because that's so obviously narrow-minded that nothing more needs to be said. That also comes through with the comment about books that are no good--this is another opinion, and people should be able to read whatever books they want to read. Not what critics dictate that they should read.

But this is what really puzzles me. He's saying here that the role of a critic and the role of a blogger are one and the same. I don't agree. Sure, some book bloggers might be trying to take on the role of critic, but that doesn't mean everyone is. I mean, I write book reviews and I try to critique the work in a diplomatic and professional manner, but that doesn't make me a critic. He says "literary criticism, a technique, a skill." EXACTLY. I have not been trained to be a critic, and don't consider myself to be. I think most bloggers probably share this opinion.

Mostly, I think we set out to just talk about the books we've read. It's the same as having a conversation with a friend about books we've loved or hated--it just so happens that the 'friend' is everyone in the blogosphere. :) Since when is a conversation about books a bad thing?