May 28, 2008

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night

My review of WICKED DEEDS ON A WINTER'S NIGHT is available at TGTBTU. My romance reviews will now be written for and hosted on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread rather than In Bed With Books. I will try to put a notice here when one goes up, just to help ya'll out. For those who haven't visited TGTBTU, it's a wonderful site with a wealth of contests and exclusive excerpts.

May 27, 2008


By Karen Harrington

In our world, most everyone has heard about a mother killing her own children. Yet it still does not feel commonplace because we cannot understand what went wrong. Society glorifies familial bonds and promotes the idea of a mother’s unconditional love and particularly special bond with her children. I lived in Houston when Andrea Yates (who was originally sentenced to life in prison) killed her five children and watched the details of the horrifying case unfold. It’s a murder where society almost cannot bear to declare the murderer as anything but insane, since no sane mother could do such a thing. In the Yates case, I definitely felt Russell Yates deserved to bear more consequences for his role in the children’s deaths.

This is the matter JANEOLOGY addresses: Is protagonist Tom complicit in his son’s death? He spent his time at work rather than with his family and failed to notice the deterioration in Jane’s mental health. He received a nasty wake-up call when he discovered Jane drowned their children; their daughter Susan survived by luck alone. As his trial approaches, he finds comfort in alcohol. He believes in his guilt because he never saw the darker side of Jane. The woman she is now is not the one he married.

His lawyer will not work for someone who has already given up. He hires Mariah, a psychic related to Jane, to explore her genealogy. She came from a long history of abuse and criminal behavior. Dave, the lawyer, pushes a dark biology defense. By nature and nurture, Jane was a ticking time bomb and Tom had no way of knowing this about her history. The psychic element could seem goofy, but Harrington makes it work simply by making the story engaging.

Both the main and embedded stories are filled with dark subject matter, but JANEOLOGY does not feel like a downer. Instead it’s a gripping glance into the environment that produced a terrible crime. I’m not so fond of the ending, but it’s hard to finish something that explores such a difficult question.

Tom was neither a good husband nor father, but he did love his family. He did not notice the changes in Jane because he only saw the woman he loved. One feels sorry for Jane as the secrets of her past spill forth, even as nothing can absolve her of her crime. I do not think JANEOLOGY is for everyone, but Karen Harrington makes a difficult subject highly readable.

JANEOLOGY is available now. Explore more about Harrington at her Myspace or her website.

My review copy was provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.


May 26, 2008

Lock and Key

By Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is one of the best young adult authors today. While not one of my favorites, I enjoyed several of her books and JUST LISTEN earned a place on my keeper shelf. LOCK AND KEY just may join it. Ruby and her mother lived together, moving periodically when they could no longer pay the bills. Long ago Ruby’s older sister tired of the life and left for college. Now Ruby’s mom has left as well and she’s barely managing on her own (not that she will admit it). However, she cannot keep it secret forever and her landlords discover the truth. Cora, her older sister, and Jaime, Cora’s husband, take her in. Turns out they’re well off since Jaime founded (a site similar to Myspace or Facebook).

Ruby slowly adjusts to her new life. She makes friends with Olivia, another girl at her new school from the wrong side of the tracks. She works for the neurotic Harriet, whose business is just beginning to take off. And really, she’s just friends with her next door neighbor Nate. Really. As Ruby accepts that her life has changed for the better, she also realizes the Nate could use a few changes in his. But like her he does not want help.

Dessen’s books are not packed with action or vampires. There’s humor, but they aren’t funny books. She writes quiet stories of normal teens struggling with their lives. Well, maybe ‘slightly glamorous’ would be a more accurate description than ‘normal.’ Despite this, her best books are never dull. They are interesting, lived in, and pass for quicker than their 400+ page count would indicate. Dessen delivers solid novels that appeal strongly to teens and somewhat to their parents. (My mom hasn’t read LOCK AND KEY yet, so I do not know her verdict on this one.)

I think my favorite part of LOCK AND KEY is Olivia. She’s prickly, but she has a good heart, as evidenced by her relationships with Ruby and Gervais. She delivers some of the best lines in the book and every scene containing her is especially lively. I liked her even more after Gervais’s surprising announcement to Ruby. (It surprised me more than the revelation about Nate. I saw that coming from a mile away.) I also like Cora and Jaime’s relationship – not perfect, but their fights weren’t overly done. It seemed like a happy, lasting marriage, but a real one rather than Disney-style.

LOCK AND KEY is available now. While Dessen’s tour was quite limited, one of my local Borders had a signed copy so ya’ll might want to check the shelves. (Readers in Sugar Land – I did not buy it so you might want to head out now.) You can visit Dessen at her website.

Coming tomorrow: review of JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington.

May 21, 2008

Wicked Game

By Jeri Smith-Ready

Vacation makes me lazy. But last night I went to see Elvis Costello & the Imposters and the Police, which put me in the perfect mindset to finally write this review. (As well as to start on the many others I’ve been meaning to write. Again, vacation=lazy.)

Ciara Griffin’s parents raised her to be a con artist, but she wants to go straight. She pulled one big job to help her survive awhile, but she needs a job if she wants to keep paying her bills. Her best opportunity? Interning at local station WMMP. Of course, it seems prudent to quit once she learns the station believes the DJs are vampires. She learns her potential coworkers aren’t insane when she takes the scruffy Shane home and he bites her.

Eventually, Ciara decides to continue working for the station and designs a brilliant marketing strategy. Reveal the DJs are vampires because no one will believe the gimmick is true. The station needs the money the increased popularity will bring because the owner is threatening to sell to the conglomerate Skywave. Luckily, WVMP, the Liveblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll is a hit. Unluckily, other vampires are not pleased with the marketing strategy.

WICKED GAME moves quickly, combining business, cons, and more traditional fantasy action to create a truly satisfying urban fantasy. People complain about the glut of vampire novels, but Smith-Ready’s showcases their best aspects. She’s created an interesting mythology: vampires are stuck in the time they changed and must maintain ties both to their Life Time and the present. WVMP combines the music of the vampires’ times with modern technology, a perfect solution. Especially since Smith-Ready has the musical chops to pull it off. The playlist included in the front of the book is full of excellent songs, and some I now need to hear. (Dude, she knows Lead Belly. That’s incredible.)

I also appreciate that Ciara doesn’t instantly want Shane to bite her. In fact, she starts to fight him when he accidentally does it. It shows a level of sense that most urban fantasy heroines seem to lack. Ciara is not a traditional BA type – when the violence breaks out, she’s not in the center breaking skulls, she’s trying to get out of the fray. I respect that. She’s a tough woman, but her strengths aren’t physical. Refreshing.

WICKED GAME officially released last week, on the thirteenth. 10% of the author’s royalties go to VH1’s Save the Music. The sequel BAD TO THE BONE will be out May 1, 2009. WVMP Radio has its own website, which is beyond cool. I also recommend you check out Jeri’s blog. I read it regularly. Now, back to being lazy.

May 14, 2008

A Rake's Guide to Seduction

By Caroline Linden

I won an ARC in this novel through a contest at Dear Author. I must say I love those ladies for giving me the chance to read this book. Between the title and the blurb (neither of which describe the book very well), I never would have picked it for myself. But Jayne's favorable review and the chance to read it for free moved it up on my list.

One of the best parts about reading A RAKE'S GUIDE TO SEDUCTION were the many parts where Linden had a chance to include a Big Misunderstanding or other ridiculous contrivance and didn't. Instead she delivered a believeable and sweet romance.

Well, that is except for two short and bizarre subplots at the end. Those could have easily been cut because they didn't even further the main plot. They were just there and completely unlike the rest of the book.

What the rest of the book is, is the slow build of a relationship from quasi-friendship to love. Anthony first saw Celia as a woman four years ago, but he was too late: she already agreed to marry Lord Bertram. However, she marries too hastily and she and Bertram's marriage slowly dissolves. Then he dies, leaving her a widow and a shell of her former self.

Celia's mother hosts a party to revive her spirits; David, Celia's brother, invites their mutual friend Anthony. He eventually admits he's still attracted - perhaps in love - and begins to subtly court her.

Despite being known as a rake, Anthony is a decent man who made his fortune on his own, if in a creative manner. He respects Celia and doesn't succumb to the jerk factor present in many alpha-male romance heroes. Celia starts a bit silly, but she matures during her unhappy marriage.

Quick and entertaining, A RAKE'S GUIDE TO SEDUCTION is a fabulous Regency saddled with an awful title. The official on-sale date is June 3, 2008. You can find out more at Caroline Linden's site.

Next Review: Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready.

May 11, 2008

Tarnished Beauty

By Cecilia Samartin

Sometimes, starting a book with no expectations is incredibly rewarding. The cover to TARNISHED BEAUTY seems erotic to me, all bare flesh and silky material. The typeface used on the cover screams science fiction. Neither is true of the novel. The blurb is accurate to the novel’s contents, but it seems plain. TARNISHED BEAUTY is anything but.

I love this novel. It pulled me in and did not let go even after I turned the last page, sometime between Anthropology and my bio section. I did not want to leave the world Samartin so vividly brought to life.

Jamilet possesses a beautiful face, but a hideous birthmark causes her superstitious Mexican village to shun her. She lives, unable to attend school, with her sickly and sad mother. Once her mother dies, she crosses the border to live with her aunt. Having grown up in scorned seclusion, Jamilet has trouble relating to others. Yet the boy across the street still helps her find employment at a local hospital. There she attends to the mysterious Señor Peregrino (Mister Pilgrim).

He forces Jamilet to listen to his story in the beginning, but she, like the reader, becomes entranced and listens of her own free will. He tells of his time as a pilgrim on the Road to Santiago in Spain. He and his friend Tomas eventually join with the beautiful Rosa and later the bold Jenny. It’s a tale of tangled loves, dedication, and dashed hopes. The story-within-a-story is perhaps even more beautiful than the tale that frames it.

Samartin’s characters are incredible. They are all flawed, but strong. Some are insecure; some are bold. Some are jaded; some are naïve. Every one of them seems real. Their stories resonate because of this strong sense of character.

People do not do great things in TARNISHED BEAUTY. Instead, they live. They connect. That’s enough for me.

TARNISHED BEAUTY does have a hefty cover price: 23.95 USD. Still, you can read it in the library and buy the paperback when it comes out. This is a book worth reading. Sometimes, starting a book with no expectations is incredibly rewarding because you discover a work of great beauty.

TARNISHED BEAUTY went on sale March 18th. You can find out more about Cecilia Samartin here.

May 8, 2008

Important Announcements and the May Contest

First, I am hosting a radio show on Passionate Voices Internet Radio. The first show is the Sunday, May 11 at 8:30 EST and lasts thirty minutes. If you can't tune in live a recording will be available on the site. I'm interviewing Cynthia Leitich Smith and hopefully Vicki Petterrson, if the time works with her schedule.

Second, I guest reviewed for Imperial Beach Teen Blog. Check out my reaction to TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Now for the May Contest!

I am giving away two ARCs. If you like Ellen Schreiber's Vampire Kisses, here's your chance to read the newest release before it hits shelves and win two collector's items. I'm offering the ARC of both the fourth and fifth books, DANCE WITH A VAMPIRE and THE COFFIN CLUB.

Coffin Club
To win, comment on this entry or e-mail me at inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com. Earn one extra entry by blogging about the contest (and giving me the link) and earn another by commenting on any of my May entries. Earn a third extra chance by listening to the radio show and leaving a relevent comment about it on this post.

Contest ends midnight (Central) on May 31st.

May 6, 2008

Lost Souls

By Lisa Jackson


#1 New York Times bestseller Lisa Jackson started with a number of rejections before she embarked on her new career of killing people. Dear Author has a wonderful article about her first sale. Her personal story made me predisposed to like LOST SOULS – it makes a large difference to me in how I approach the book if I know something about the author. And yes, I did enjoy LOST SOULS.

As a thriller the book serves its purpose. The killer might not be a unique spin on the serial killer archetype, but the passages through his point of view are decidedly creepy and create tension. The reader becomes quite eager to see him and his partner stopped. However, it seems only police not assigned the case and Kristi Benz are eager to catch him.

Four girls have gone missing at All Saints College, but none of their bodies have been found so the police can’t call foul play. So instead we get Kristi Benz, two-time almost-victim and wannabe true crime writer, playing detective. I’m sorry to say this, but Kristi is TSTL (too stupid to live). Seriously, her motive for getting near a serial killer, even though she knows the danger, is so she can write about it. Doesn’t she know the best true crime novel, IN COLD BLOOD, was written after the killers were behind bars? Plenty of material is available from a safe distance.

While Kristi’s motive may be dumb, it’s straightforward. Unfortunately, Vlad’s interest in Kristi is inexplicable. He seems to have a history with her, but she certainly doesn’t recognize him. (Perhaps I’m missing something from an earlier book – I’ve never read any of Jackson’s work before.) Also, his victims are all “lost souls,” girls without close friends or family. Serial killers tend to be picky. So why would Vlad be interested in a woman with a loving father (who happens to be a famous detective) and a close boyfriend?

On the close boyfriend note, Jay McKnight serves his purpose fairly well. He tries in vain to keep Kristi from trouble and seems to have decent chemistry with her. I just have trouble with the separated high school sweethearts meet again and fall in love trope. Jay, a successful man in his prime, never managed to devote his full self to any relationships after Kristi because he never fell out of love with her. Still, he thinks she’s too stubborn and has a terrible temper. It’s kind of pathetic and not what I want in a romantic hero.

I cannot condemn the book though. Even with my dislike of the protagonist, Jackson kept me turning the pages. LOST SOULS is a serviceable thriller, but it could be much better. You can find out more at Lisa Jackson’s personal site.

My review copy was provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.


May 5, 2008

Bewitching Season

By Marissa Doyle

Persephone and Penelope Leland hide their talent with magic from everyone, including their parents. Now their governess Melusine Allardyce has disappeared, leaving only a note saturated with her fear. Persy must take action if she wants rescue Ally – and Princess Victoria. A political faction seeks to control the soon to be eighteen-years-old princess in order to keep control once she becomes queen. But finding Ally might put Persy and Pen in the faction’s power.

BEWITCHING SEASON is a light-fantasy historical adventure. The only thing that ruins the atmosphere is Persy and Pen’s almost complete disregard for keeping their powers secret. They use them in front of a number of maids and young men. One of these young men is Lochinvar Seton, Persy’s love interest. Lochinvar is well-read and liked by Persy’s family, and paid attention to her before she became an attractive and desired young lady. For some reason obstacles to their romance keep cropping up.

I’m serious. Ridiculous obstacle after obstacle that looks less ridiculous in comparison to the new obstacle. I would have preferred it if Doyle simply let Lochinvar and Persy acknowledge their feelings, become a couple, and let the book’s romantic plot focus on them maturing their relationship and getting to know each other past, “You like books? I like books too.” Instead, she squanders their chemistry by keeping them separate for increasingly ludicrous reasons. (See, I dislike the handling of the romance so much I’m becoming redundant.)

In the end, the mishandling of the pace of the romance does not bog BEWITCHING SEASON too much. (In fact, I'm looking forward to the sequel for which Doyle is already contracted.) It’s a frothy read, perfect for the modern American girl’s summer season. Pick up a copy for reading during that wonderful extensive free time.

Something else: I rather like the twins’ little brother. He’s a darling and his crush on Victoria is too cute for words. Lorrie, Ally’s younger sister, is also quite excellent. I love how they’re both talented individuals, but their families tend to miss it since they’re the youngest. I liked the other characters as well, but they are my favorites.

BEWITCHING SEASON came out last month. More details are available at Marissa Doyle's site. Doyle also co-writes a beyond awesome blog, NineteenTeen, about being a teen in the nineteenth century. A signed copy of BEWITCHING SEASON will be given away on that blog next week.

May 4, 2008


I've been tagged by Dominique of The Book Vault.

So this is how it goes:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment to the person who tagged you once you've posted your three sentences.

The nearest book is THE HUNTER by Gennita Low.

Amber scowled. He had hardly been out of breath when she had finally jumped in front of him a few minutes ago, a mile away from where they had started.

"Not bad. You'll do," Hawk said.

I am tagging:
1)Kicks and Giggles
2)Amberkatze's Book Blog
3)The Opinioned Reader
4)What I am reading . . . (She has a great Pay It Forward contest going on now.)
5)Tez Says

May 3, 2008

Singled Out

How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After

By Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.

I know some people are marriage-obsessed and I’ve certainly experienced one of the main questions at a family gathering being, “So, do you have a boyfriend?”; still, I’ve never realized the extent of discrimination against singles. (And yes, Bella DePaulo is very aware that singles do not face the discrimination many other groups must survive.) Sometimes she seems to be digging too deep into a frankly benign situation, but other times she uncovers surprising truths. The tone rarely contains bitterness – yes, there is some, but DePaulo approaches her subject matter with humor. Each chapter focuses on a different subject singlehood in a fairly self-contained manner. Thus, I’d like to make some comments about my favorite discussions.

Science and the Single Person

This is perhaps my favorite chapter in the book. Some might be intimidated by the large amount of data presented, but DePaulo presents everything in easy to understand terminology and graphics. We’ve all heard that married people are happier and healthier – but how accurately are scientists presenting this data? As it turns out, not very. I want to force some of my science friends to research some of the topics DePaulo brings up for their theses.

Myth #2: Single-Minded

DePaulo barely has to make a case for this one. What to single people want? To get married. Yeah, right. She deftly addresses how demeaning it feels to be reduced to an empty-headed man or woman chaser, simply because you don’t have a partner. She brings up examples of this experience that will feel familiar to any single. None of the material in this chapter seems stretched; it’s a concise, clearly stated common problem.

Myth #4 It Is All About You

This chapter definitely brought some issues to my attention I had never considered. Many cultures regard marriage as a sign of maturity, and treat singles as children no matter their age. On the other hand, there are many culturally acceptable ways for married people to act immature. One of the most obvious: a perfectly capable married person can rely on their spouse to cook and do their laundry.

Myth #6 Attention, Single Men

SINGLED OUT is a female-centric work, partially because it is informed by DePaulo’s person experience. This chapter focuses entirely on the male side of the equation. One of the most intriguing points is the tendency to perceive single men as creepers. In truth, many serial killers married and procreated. The majority of violence against women is done by a past or current intimate partner. In the end, DePaulo concludes society regards single men more favorably than single women.

To Be or Not to Be Single

DePaulo writes, “I think that most Americans – including most single Americans – want the marital mythology to be true. They passionately want to believe that if only they find their soulmate, they will live happily ever after.” My friends and I talk all the time about this concept, and we do want it to be true. We grew up in an age of high divorce rates, but we still hold the Disney dream close – jaded, cynical teenagers who still believe one day we’ll find the one. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Who cares? We’ll be just fine on our own, whether Prince Charming arrives on the scene or not.

Don’t be put off by the non-fiction aspect. SINGLED OUT is a fascinating read. It may not change your paradigm, but it will open your eyes to various injustices. Find out more at Bella DePaulo's website.

May 1, 2008

April Contest Winners

The winner of THE GOD OF ANIMALS is:

The Book Muncher!

The winner of WAKE is:


Congratulations! Please e-mail your addresses to me at inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com this week or I will choose new winners.

I'm sorry for my recent absence. Until late Tuesday I had extremely limited internet access. I finished five books which I should review soon and there are quite a number more in my TBR pile. I will begin writing those reviews after I turn in my World Literature essay on Friday. (It's supposed to be at least eight pages and my flow is stalling halfway down page seven. That's just wrong.)

I'll post about the May contest sometime between tomorrow and next week. Please check back and enter.


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