April 24, 2008

Things I Love Right Now, Part II

Inside Books

A schoolmate and I recently interviewed Suzanne for an Anthropology project. Here is an excerpt from the current version of the paper that includes some of the interview:

Susannah of the Austin organization Inside Books, founded in 1998, says, “Right now, we are not confident about our government doing this.”

‘This’ refers to the particular service of Inside Books – providing inmates of the Texas prison system with books. This service “[works] outside of the state system and [attempts] to offer both access to information they don’t have and things that would help them outside. It respects their agency. It helps bring them out of an undignified and unempowered place.”

The prisoners request the books they receive, although the center does not have the resources to fill every order exactly. Sometimes the program does not have enough funds to mail their packages. However, Susannah still feels it would be more work to lobby within the system. “A lot of prison libraries use a punishment-reward system,” she says. “These books become the prisoner’s personal property.”

As the system is now, the libraries must work on a punishment-reward system. The prison cannot be seen as rewarding bad behavior because it decreases the deterrent effect. An outside agency, on the other hand, can provide a service that both reminds the inmates of their humanity and offers them something to do with their spare time. Susannah told her interviewers, “I honestly think that reading an entertaining novel and keeping your mind active, getting pleasure from it, affects a person on all levels.”

This program, unlike many currently offered by the system, is both effective and low cost. Part of the reason for the success is that these prisoners are those that attempt to better themselves even without the aid of rehabilitative programs. “Self-betterment is what people see as the kernel of what we do,” explained Susannah. “It does seem clear that there’s a need and we’re meeting it. What we’re doing is damage control. We’re looking for a radical change in the way communities are organized and more preventative things. We’re here to educate people about prison issues and bring it to the public.”

Obviously, the excerpt is somewhat colored by the paper we're writing. (Strangely, our assigned bias is conservative, but the very liberal Susannah's quotes gave us some wonderful material that worked with our proposed solution.)

I agreed with many things she had to say and wanted to help the program. This link will tell you about what kind of books the program needs most and where to send them. The project also accepts monetary donations. These donations are used for postage only. On their site they also have suggestions for things Out-of-Townies can do to help. You can also search the internet for a local program, if you don't live in Texas.

No pressure though. I think it's a wonderful charity, but I don't want to make anyone feel obligated. I just wanted to bring some more attention to Inside Books.

April 21, 2008

City of Ashes

By Cassandra Clare

I enjoyed CITY OF BONES, but felt it to be a bit of a disappointment after the inventiveness Clare showed in the Draco Trilogy. (In fact, a scene in COB first appeared in the Draco Trilogy.) Still, I loved the characters and enjoyed her fantastical New York. CITY OF ASHES takes the potential of COB and lives up to it. More dynamic, more emotional, and more surprising, I believe COA far surpasses its already wonderful predecessor and sets the stage for the third novel.

Clary believed herself to be a normal human until she saw Jace, Isabella, and Alex kill a boy – a demon. Now she’s hopelessly involved with the world of the Shadow Hunters, struggling against Valentine. Valentine used to be a Shadow Hunter and now he is stealing their most precious artifacts (the Mortal Instruments) one at a time. Jace, the most talented of the four, faces prejudice from the older Hunters because of his past. Clary just wants to go back to being a normal human with her best friend Simon, who wishes he weren’t so mundane. Magnus Bane steals every scene he’s in once again – it’s most satisfying the Clare gives him more screen time. She also satisfies with her continuations of the previous relationships.

I want to say some spoiler-y things something terrible, but this isn’t the forum in which to say them. But if anyone who has read the book wants to message me and talk about it, feel free.

Actually, I find myself in a bit of a corner with COA. It’s difficult to even discuss the plot of the novel without revealing many of the first book’s surprises. I can only recommend you pick up both of these urban fantasy novels, and not just for the shiny covers. (Not that the shiny covers hurt. Can you say gorgeous? Cliff Nielsen, I’ve loved you for ages, but you’ve really outdone yourself with Clare’s covers. Keep ‘em coming baby, keep ‘em coming.)

Want humor, angst, glittery warlocks, civil war, and flying motorcycles? Enter the world of the Shadow Hunters. Find out more at The Mortal Instruments, Clare's lj, or The Mortal Instruments lj. CITY OF GLASS not arriving for far too long.

April 20, 2008

Blue Vendetta

By Hugh Ellis

BLUE VENDETTA represents my first foray into self-publishing. Thus, internally, I naturally judged it on two levels. If I bought it from a store, I might not be happy. Now, I felt all its problems could be solved by a good editor. One of my issues might not, but it probably does not bother most people. (BLUE VENDETTA suffers from Beautiful People Syndrome. I used to do this once upon a time, now it sticks out to a sore thumb to me. But hey, tons of published books do this.) One issue was that Ellis uses “Marshalls” instead of “Marshals” – of course, this is such a common typo if you put “marshalls” into Google the U. S. Marshals page will be the first entry after the department store. The other issue was the dialogue felt somewhat flat. Ellis tries for one-liners throughout, but they didn’t work with me. Again, however, I felt it could be fixed with the help of a ruthless editor. I did not feel that I was reading the work of someone with a poor grasp of vocabulary and grammar, just that of someone who needed to develop a bit more style.

As for story, BLUE VENDETTA is a standard thriller. Bob’s wife Julie dies due to a policy instituted by Blue Star (a jab at Blue Cross Blue Shield?), their insurance provider. The District Attorney of Allen County, Indiana, Bob tries four men and a corporate entity for capital murder. It’s an entertaining and chilling plot, because health insurance companies do love to deny coverage. (Another sign of the missing editorial process: a saccharine prologue about the history of health insurance should be cut. If Ellis wanted to talk about the historical intention, he could have added a line that put it in a far less insipid way: our forefathers developed insurance to protect against high cost, low possibility problems.) I will also admit this part caused me to do some research on the Indiana government website.

When Bob announced his intention to try for the death penalty, I was confused as to how Julie’s death could be defined as capital murder. Man, does Indiana define capital murder loosely:

IC 35-42-1-1


Sec. 1. A person who:
(1) knowingly or intentionally kills another human being;
(2) kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, criminal deviate conduct, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human trafficking, promotion of human trafficking, sexual trafficking of a minor, or carjacking;
(3) kills another human being while committing or attempting to commit:
(A) dealing in or manufacturing cocaine or a narcotic drug (IC 35-48-4-1);
(B) dealing in or manufacturing methamphetamine (IC 35-48-4-1.1);
(C) dealing in a schedule I, II, or III controlled substance (IC 35-48-4-2);
(D) dealing in a schedule IV controlled substance (IC 35-48-4-3); or
(E) dealing in a schedule V controlled substance; or
(4) knowingly or intentionally kills a fetus that has attained viability (as defined in IC 16-18-2-365);
commits murder, a felony.

IC 35-50-2-3


Sec. 3. (a) A person who commits murder shall be imprisoned for a fixed term of between forty-five (45) and sixty-five (65) years, with the advisory sentence being fifty-five (55) years. In addition, the person may be fined not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), a person who was:
(1) at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time the murder was committed may be sentenced to:
(A) death; or
(B) life imprisonment without parole; and
(2) at least sixteen (16) years of age but less than eighteen (18) years of age at the time the murder was committed may be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole;
under section 9 of this chapter unless a court determines under IC 35-36-9 that the person is an individual with mental retardation.

In other words, don’t kill anybody in Indiana. (Really, I don’t condone murder anywhere.)

One chapter I found most interesting was in the beginning, telling of the past of John Markham – one of the villains. I wish Ellis gave some motivation to the other villains (the CEO of Blue Star and a Blue Star bureaucrat). We see only one-dimensional, cartoon figures. The evil deeds of insurance companies are perpetuated by men, and it would be nice to see Bob battle men instead of caricatures of men.

BLUE VENDETTA is a good story, but the execution needs some work. Find out more at HughEllis.com.

April 15, 2008


CJ Lyons agreed to let me interview her, being a nice lady and all. I think it went pretty well, for my first interview. Enjoy!


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm trained in both pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine, working everywhere from major inner city trauma centers to a rural community pediatric practice (we made housecalls!) to the Navajo Indian reservation.

Pediatric ER medicine combined the best of all worlds for me. It gave me the skills I needed to stabilize and keep critically ill patients alive when I worked in a rural setting and there were no children's hospitals close by. It also gave me an appreciation for life in the big city—I dealt with a lot of violence, even partnered with a SWAT lieutenant to prepare a presentation to first responders on how to stay safe in the midst of gang wars.

I've also flown with LifeFlight and Stat Medevac, including two "hard landings". I've worked with police and prosecutors, testifying as an expert witness in child abuse, sexual assaults, homicide, and Munchausen's by Proxy cases.

Despite witnessing all this pain and suffering, what constantly amazes me are the children and their families who rise above, finding the strength to get involved and make a difference helping others. I guess that's what has colored my writing the most, the idea that heroes are indeed born everyday….

When did you know you wanted to be an author as well as a pediatric ER doctor?

The writing came first—I've been writing and telling stories all my life, would honestly need a 12 step program to stop. Writing sustained me through all the chaos and stress of becoming a doctor.

A few years ago, while practicing community pediatrics, I decided to pursue publication. When it became clear that my writing was good enough to sell, I made the leap of faith and left my practice to pursue this second dream come true of becoming an author.

It was quite scary—the first time I'd been unemployed since I was 15—but well worth it. And hey, if you're gonna dream, you gotta dream big!

Were any of the emergencies in LIFELINES based on personal experience?

Most of LIFELINES comes from experiences that occurred in medical school, before I was a full-fledged physician. Although I did draw on a lot of the Pittsburgh atmosphere since I lived there as an intern and resident.

All the medicine is real—but of course none of the patients are.

LIFELINES begins on July 1st, "the most dangerous day of the year" because newly graduated medical students begin their internships on this day. Is this true? Is there a safest day of the year?

LOL! If there is, I don't know what day it is!

In shows such as ER and Grey's Anatomy, which mistakes annoy you most? Which do you not mind?

I don't mind the technical mistakes—medicine changes so quickly that it's natural for a script or novel to lag behind.

What I do mind are the mistakes with the characters and who they are. For instance, in Grey's Anatomy, Addison's character is portrayed as being in her 30's (I guess to make her seduction of a 25 year old intern seem less yucky) yet she's supposed to be a "world renown" OB-Gyn surgeon, perinatologist, neonatologist, pediatric surgeon, genetic specialist, and infertility expert. Oh yeah, and in one show they mentioned she has a PhD in something.

Well, to do all that training she'd be in her late fifties at the very least—and then it would take decades to become "world renown."

I understand their interest in wanting their docs to be jacks of all trades so they can have a variety of cases, but hey, if they want that, they should just add an Emergency Medicine doc to the mix! It could a resident, they do surgery rotations all the time—and think what a wise-ass ER guy or gal could add to the sexual tension!

I haven't watched ER since George Clooney left, but those early years really got the characters and their emotions spot-on. Which is why I think it captivated so many. Seeing doctors on an emotional roller-coaster as they deal with the reality of an urban trauma center is very dramatic!

With which medical or legal procedure did you take the greatest liberty?

Just like on the TV shows and movies, my biggest liberty was in time compression. If I portrayed a real resuscitation the way it draws out in real life, readers would fall asleep.

And, if it were a resuscitation run by any doc worth their salt, there'd be little drama. Instead it would be low-key, no shouting, everyone knowing their jobs and getting it done.

In other words, boring….

LIFELINES has a large cast. Was it difficult to make each character distinct?

No, because they're all reflections of myself. Like Amanda, I was the outsider in med school, only a Yankee down South. Like Gina, I was seen as a rebel during residency and my fellowship. I once thought following the rules was the best way to save lives, like Nora, and I now, like Lydia, have learned to live by a different set of my own "rules."

Which of the characters do you sympathize with the most? the least?

Wow, that's so hard to answer! I enjoy writing Lydia, the main character in LIFELINES, because she's who I want to be when I grow up *g*

But I also love writing Gina, the emergency medicine resident, because I share so many of her insecurities and I love working through her issues and watching her grow and change. She's going to go through hell before she gets her happy-ever-after, but it will be well deserved!

How did you manage to get a cover where the models look reasonably like the characters?

Doesn't that cover rock? Thank the art director at Berkley. She asked me to supply descriptions of the characters and she hired models to match them.

Of course, it now freaks me out when I look at the cover because those are the people inside my head come to life!

Please tell me you're contracted for sequels to LIFELINES. If you are, will the next one continue to have Lydia as the lead, or will it focus on one of the other women?

Yes, there are more! The next one, due out early 2009, will focus on Amanda's story as she investigates the mysterious illness that is killing her patients—the same illness she has symptoms of.

Hopefully, Nora's story will follow. All the women will have significant roles in each book, but will take turns being in the spotlight.

My concept was an ensemble cast with new people coming on board as needed—a lot like a TV show, with the emphasis on different stories along the way, but with inter-connecting story threads as well.

For updates on new books, be sure to sign up for my quarterly newsletter or check in at http://www.cjlyons.net.


Don't forget to leave a comment to thank CJ for stopping by!

EDIT: CJ's flying to Pittsburg today, but she may stop by and answer any comments/questions. In other words . . . leave some for her!


By CJ Lyons

Dr. Lydia Fiore’s first day as an attending might be her last. She saves her first several patients, impressing various hospital workers. But one of her patients dies – and Jonah Weiss happened to be the Chief of Surgery’s son. Lydia knows she did everything she could, but the death is her responsibility. Jonah, she learns, is a prominent gay rights activist in Pittsburg, the leader of a group known as Gays Organized Against Discrimination (GOAD). The Sons of Adam, a militant cult, had reason to want him dead. So did Isaiah Steward – Jonah’s ex-lover and the medical examiner who performed his autopsy. As Lydia investigates, men start to threaten both her and those she cares about. She won’t stop though, because the murderer’s body count is rising.

The b-plots are as engrossing as the main ones. Amanda is an “extern” who is desperate to ignore that something is seriously wrong – no matter what attractive Dr. Stone tells her. Nurse Nora thinks her boyfriend Seth, the only person she trusts to talk about her past with, is growing distant. (Her friends think he’s going to propose.) Gina, in emergency medicine, needs to prove to herself that she can be strong in a messy situation. Many other distinct characters populate the novel, including the too-realistic jerk Jim Lazarov.

Many first-time authors struggle with large casts. Lyons manages to keep control of all her characters and the many plots. The novel builds to an explosive climax and satisfying conclusion, but leaves many threads open for subsequent novels. She also manages to include varied relationships: beginning, settled, and ending. Lydia and Trey have terrific chemistry, and who doesn’t want a man who can ballroom dance? (Note to younger readers: There is sexual content, tastefully done but still steamy.)

I enjoyed LIFELINES very much, and I have already passed it on to a friend. (Maybe I can get her to write a bit about the novel once she finishes . . . )

LIFELINES came out in March, so you can buy it now. Scroll up for my interview with CJ Lyons.

April 12, 2008

Vampire Kisses 5: The Coffin Club

Coffin ClubBy Ellen Schreiber

Just a warning: this review begins somewhat harsh, but becomes nicer. I promise. The Vampire Kisses series happens to be a series that I have kept reading mostly because I keep receiving review copies. Otherwise, I would have stopped after the first novel. The impressions of the first novel stayed with me for quite awhile, and I believe for valid reasons.

My two main issues were Raven as a goth and Raven’s relationship with Alexander. As both of those are central to the books, it did cause quite a problem.

Let’s start with the goth problem. For those who are wondering, I am not gothic. I am a punk, but do not think that makes me unqualified. I am fascinated by subcultures, which helped me greatly on an AP essay in my junior year (Basically, ‘The 1950s were a time of great conformity. Is this true or was counterculture already forming?’). Raven really rubbed me the wrong way because of how she viewed herself as a complete outsider in Dullsville because they could not accept her black-clad self. I always felt the town she lived in would be a lot more inviting if she stopped viewing it in her head as “Dullsville.” I also felt like she constantly put her clothes forth as an excuse for being an outsider in Dullsville (and an insider in Hipsterville). Besides being highly unlikely (hello, goth is *gag* trendy), this completely misses the point of being a goth. It’s about love. Love of the music, love of the clothes, love, love, love (well, hate of the culture against which it is reacting). Finally, in this book, I felt like Raven actually did find meaning in her clothes other than identification of her status as an outsider, due to this conversation with her hippie aunt:

“I can’t imagine you any other way. The way you dress is who you are. It’s more than beads and bangles. You aren’t doing it to be like someone else, or fit in.”

. . .

“. . . I don’t wear tattoos to freak her out; I wear them because I have to. It’s me.”

Aunt Libby paused.

“My mother never understood my inner style, either,” she confessed. “That’s what it is, really,” she said wisely. “It’s not about designers or labels but self-expression. And attitude.”

Next, let’s move to the problem of her relationship with Alexander. I find her approach to the relationship creepy. Replace “goth” and “vampire” with “golddigger” and “trust-fund baby” and you might see what I mean. Often I feel Raven only became attracted to Alexander because he’s a vampire and he dresses in black too. Not a foundation for a lasting relationship. Of course, a lasting relationship is what she’s running into headlong. THE COFFIN CLUB forces Raven to consider aspects of becoming a vampire she never bothered to slow down and think about before. Including, sadly, the fact she would have to drink blood. As she says about herself, “I thought I was being investigative and mature when perhaps I was only being reckless.” She needs to take that lesson and apply it to her entire life. Raven doesn’t yet possess the maturity to tie herself to one person for eternity. She needs to realize that.

As for the rest of the novel, THE COFFIN CLUB is an extremely quick (192 pages) but entertaining read. There’s family bonding, some cute romantic moments, and tension between the two factions seeking control of the club. Girly-girl vamps Scarlet and Onyx are now my favorite part of the series. They’re idealistic, loyal, and I hope they show up again to steal the show in future installments.

THE COFFIN CLUB will be on-sale June 24, 2008. Find out more about the series here.

April 7, 2008

The Gods of Tigron Trilogy


By Rowena Cherry

Forced Mate
When I began FORCED MATE, I knew it was both a futuristic romance and a spoof of the romance genre. Still, I was unprepared for the cheesy characters and motivations Rowena Cherry included. She had me in stitches, although I felt the parody might be over-the-top. Then the novel hit its stride. Political intrigue, culture clashes, gender issues, and romance collide to create a fun and breezy story that made one think just a little.

The main couple consists of Prince Tarrant-Arragon, a devious teddy bear who pretends to be as ruthless and tyrannical as the rest of his family, and Djinni-vera, the last virgin of his race. He kidnaps her, interrupting several of his enemies’ plots. Cherry does not skirt the issue of rape. The women in the novels who have suffered rape are strongly affected by the event. But “Tigger” (as Djinni dubs him) goes to great lengths to earn his intended’s permission.

Meanwhile, his enemies run amok. The mixture of slapstick and intrigue works to great effect.

Insufficient Mating Material
INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL begins where FORCED MATE ends – with the issue of Djinni’s jilted fiancée, Djetthro-Jason. He and Martia-Djulia (Tigger’s sister) got it on in the first novel, but he does not know if he loves her and wishes to marry her. Marsh thinks her lover died and is not willing to accept a replacement. Tigger, ever practical, shoots their ship down – forcing them to be marooned together on a well-stocked tropical island.

Meanwhile, someone wants to kill the Princess. Of course, Djetth’s grandmother and Marsh’s mother have something to say about that. They set out to prove just how dangerous little old ladies can be. The characters all come together in a wonderful climatic scene, where the bad, bad man gets what he deserves.

Mating Net
The short prequel, MATING NET, offers insight to Helispeta’s past and why she chose to run away from her husband, Emperor Djohn-Kronos. I admire her composure and cleverness. She proves that she was BA even when she was young in an escape scene that cries out to be put on the big screen.

These books are not for younger teens. They involve many different issues, but most of the issues are explored through how they relate to sex. These are both stories of couples getting together sexually as well as romantically and focus mainly on the seduction. For more mature readers, the sexuality is well-handled and the story humorous. Younger readers likely will not enjoy the highly sexual content.

You can find out more at Rowena Cherry’s award-winning website. Her next novel, focusing on ‘Rhett (Djinni’s half-brother) will be out in September or October.

April 5, 2008


Welcome to my first contest!

I am offering two books - if you want to try to win both, you need to enter twice. If you are just interested in one, tell me which.

First is an ARC of the paperback edition of THE GOD OF ANIMALS by Aryn Kyle.
God of Animals
Kyle's debut novel features Alice, a yound girl trying to grow up in the wake of her sister leaving and getting married and a classmate's tragic death. Her mother suffers from severe depression and her father thinks he can save their farm by catering to rich women. Kyle's characters express real human emotion, and she captures the problem of being the younger and less-talented sister so well it's hard to believe she's an only child.

The second offering is one of this season's "it" books for young adults: WAKE by Lisa McMann.
Janie falls into the dreams of others against her will. Sexual fantasies, tormented pasts, she's seen it all. But perhaps there is a way for her to use her power to help others? I found the beginning of the novel slow compared to the second half, but it's still a nice, easy read. McMann uses language to create a dreamlike flow that matches the content.

How do you enter? Just leave a comment on this post or e-mail me at inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com. If you blog about the contest and send me a link, I'll give you two extra entries to be put toward the book of your choice (two for WAKE, two for THE GOD OF ANIMALS, or one for each). I'll announce the winners on May 1st.

April 3, 2008

The Viscount Who Loved Me

By Julia Quinn

I will admit – I did not reread THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME for this review. It is not on my dorm bookshelf, so I will have to forego some reviewer integrity. However, this book made such an impression on me (and I have reread it many times) that I feel I can write this review without being too hard on myself. I chose to write about THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED me because it is my favorite Julia Quinn – and TGTBTU is hosting a “Fly It Forward” contest for an ARC of her forthcoming novel, THE LOST DUKE OF WYNDHAM.

The hero and heroine could be boring archetypes. Kate Sheffield is a plain virgin and the eponymous Viscount Anthony Bridgerton is a reformed rake. Quinn fleshes her characters out and makes their motives clear (and understandable to a rational person). Kate seems like nothing special because her half-sister Edwina is something special. She does not envy her sister and become bitter, but instead loves her and wishes to protect her, though she knows Eloise must marry for money rather than love. Fear rules Anthony.

Anthony’s beloved father died young of a bee sting. Now Anthony fears both bees and dying the same age as his father. While he needs to produce an heir, he does not wish to marry for love because he knows how losing his father hurt his mother. He decides to marry this Season’s Incomparable: Edwina. Kate, of course, wants better than a rake for her sister – no matter how rich.

Instead, a bee causes Kate and Anthony to be caught in a compromising position by a known gossip. They marry immediately, unsatisfied with the match. Quinn allows love to bloom between the two without resorting to deus ex machina. Not only does Kate and Anthony’s relationship shine, but so do the familial relations and Edwina’s own quieter romance.

The Bridgerton siblings are obvious fodder for a series. Yet their appearance in THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME makes you want to read each of their individual tales. They seem like a real family, very competitive and teasing, instead of like characters to be rendered in three dimensions at a later date. When Kate sends Anthony’s ball flying during a game of croquet, you know she is going to be comfortable with the family. Throughout the novel you can also see that Anthony’s going to be a terrific father.

It could grate that he only wants a wife for her womb. (A common situation, especially in those days, but not one from which romances are made.) However, you see how much he loved his own father and how well he has served as a surrogate father for his younger siblings. The reader knows he will live a long life with Kate and their children, overcoming his fear of an early death.

Quinn also begins each chapter with a passage from the gossip column of Lady Whistledown. Witty and surprisingly kind, her observations create an excellent frame for the story. Readers can enjoy guessing the woman’s identity.

Pick up THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME to experience a light-hearted and believable romance. Pick up THE LOST DUKE OF WYNDHAM when it comes out on May 27th. Find out more about Julia Quinn by visiting her well-designed website.

April 2, 2008


RougeBy Rachel Vincent

I want to love STRAY and ROGUE. Rachel Vincent builds an interesting world with both a caste system and gender bias. She portrays the werecats as they enter a time of change – where a stray might be adopted by a Pride, a girl might inherit, and the strays are tired of being pushed around. The main setting of the novels is a ranch in Lufkin, Texas. Vincent received help from her dad, a native Texan, in portraying the setting correctly. For the main part she succeeds, except for one baffling geography moment.

I’m not entirely sure where Lufkin is, but at one point a character states it will take an hour and a half to reach Dallas. Later Faythe and her boyfriend Marc fly to New Orleans from Houston International. I understand Vincent might not be able to use the name of a real airport; I assume Houston International represents either Hobby or Intercontinental. However, I do not understand why people less than two hours from DFW or Love Field would choose to drive a little under four hours to reach Houston.

That’s a small quibble. I am quite capable of loving books with geography errors – certainly I make many myself. While I enjoy the world, I do not love the main characters. I do love some of the secondary characters. Jace, in particular, is a sweetie. I rooted for him in the first book. Faythe’s mom is a BA disguised as June Cleaver, but Faythe is too self-absorbed to notice until the end of ROUGE. Luckily, Faythe become less self-absorbed throughout the story. Her personal growth could move a bit faster, but I saw evidence that she was beginning to think of the Pride first.

Nothing in Marc’s personality changed to make me like him better. Take this sentence: “I’d never known him to demand anything less than all of my attention, and I didn’t recognize this polite, courteous behavior.” There was a more alarming quote, but my bookmark failed to stay in place. Their relationship seems abusive to me. Not just on Marc’s part, but on Faythe’s as well. He flat out states he does not trust her. ROGUE is a paranormal romance. In my romance stories, I need the main couple to be in love. Marc and Faythe feel mutually dependent rather than loving to me.

The mystery half of the plot – tracking down a killer of tomcats and kidnapper of strippers – felt like it was given equal weight, but the culprit was too obvious. Faythe shows her brain many times in the novel. With her mental faculty, she should have put the pieces together long before she did. On the other hand, I liked Manx. I wish she entered the novel earlier so she could have more screen time.

I still plan to read PRIDE when it comes out. The action scenes are fantastic and Faythe could grow to be a strong heroine. But if Faythe shows little growth again, I might not stay for all six planned werecat novels.

ROGUE is officially released today and PRIDE should be in bookstores this fall. Find out more at Rachel Vincent’s website.

April 1, 2008

Mary Robinette Kowal

Portrait of Ari

Artist Tom cuts his thumb while attempting to cut a mat and learns something strange about Ari, his lover. The moment where he accidentally cuts himself is beautifully done – anyone who has ever cut a mat will feel a small surge of fear and remind themselves to be careful. (They will also promptly not be careful the next time they cut a mat since it is drudge work.) The story starts innocently and builds subtly to the tragic conclusion. The last line is a punch to the gut.

The Bound Man

This excellent fantasy story follows Li Reiko, a mother bound to the will of the gods, after she is pulled into the time of Halldór. In less than ten thousand words Mary Robinette Kowal builds a full world and rich characters. Li Reiko and Halldór both demonstrate the unconditional love of a parent, but they never act sentimental or insipid. From the beginning, Kowal offers hints to Li Nawi’s future. “The Bound Man” starts somewhat slowly, but quickly becomes an intriguing, human tale.

[Warning: Mentions of rape and subtle on-screen rape.]

Cerbo en Vitra ujo

This is horror. In a future where children who cannot afford school are often sold to body harvesters, the privileged Grete searches for her beautiful boyfriend Kaj. Kowal’s use of imagery only makes the story that much more repulsive and creepy. Well-written and well-executed, this unsettling story may not be for all readers. Once again, Kowal ends the story with a powerful blow. She has an excellent grasp of atmosphere and uses it to great effect.

[Warning: Explicit sex.]

Death Comes But Twice

Kowal manages a strange combination of cautionary tale and spirituality. The former follows a fairly normal trajectory, but the spiritual touch gives it an original feel. The reader understands the narrator’s choices as he explains them to his wife Lily. Kowal could have chosen once more to end a story with tragedy, but “Death Comes But Twice” feels hopeful despite its dark subject matter.

For Solo Cello op. 20

Julius, a world-class cellist, lost his hand in an accident that was only tangentially his wife’s fault. I understand how much he hates living unable to play, constantly aware of his phantom hand. But I cannot sympathize with him. He is a loathsome creature who gets what he deserves. I pity his wife as well, but also feel disconnected from her. I understood her guilt and despair, but I wished she possessed more fight. Leonard’s simply a worm – there’s no offer of his motivations. While “For Solo Cello op. 20” is well-written, I cannot recommend it.

This Little Pig

Young Aage longs for a 1952 MG-TD in British Racing Green and to impress his crush Concetta Dumas-Chan. Instead, he humiliates himself on his first day mucking pens on a pig farm. Aage manages to overcome his embarrassment and realizes the scene was probably quite funny. The thought that Concetta saw his humiliation terrifies him, but he still manages to converse with her and begin a real connection. “This Little Pig” is a sweet story that will appeal to teens particularly, but adults as well.

All six stories are available here.

Kowal has been nominated for the Campbell award.

Coming Next: ROGUE by Rachel Vincent


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