June 29, 2008

Beautiful Death

By Joely Sue Burkhart


Welcome to the first of my vacation reviews! The second one will be DEATH BY BIKINI by Linda Gerber. First though, I shall review BEAUTIFUL DEATH, which is a strange little novel. In an apocalyptic future, most of humanity has been destroyed by a virus supposedly carried to Earth by an alien race. Isabella Thanatos kills the contaminated humans to protect her city Athens. Athens, and New Olympus, were created by her father as a refuge to the surviving humans. (Members of the society choose a Greek name upon joining.) But Zeus and the Pantheon are not benevolent rulers - and Isabella herself has become contaminated. She seeks help from her old friend Icarus, who sends her to Hades. Isabella hates Hades, an alien, for both carrying the virus and for feeding on her five years ago.

Hades and the other aliens came to Earth due to political exile. The Mycenean society is actually fairly interesting. They are Burkhart's take on vampires, and she plays with a few common tropes (the unnatural beauty, the bonded mate). Throughout the course of the book, Hades and Isabella fall in love and fight against the rulers of their societies who were cruel to them in the past. It's predictable, but the pages fly past quickly.

I liked Burkhart's prose. It flowed well and kept me reading. The story wasn't that fabulous, partially because Isabella is a something of a Mary Sue and that gets her through most of her scrapes. Her and Hades follow standard patterns of character growth, much of which happens in bed, which may be off-putting to some readers. On the other hand, I enjoyed watching the story unfold. Burkhart seems to be having fun with the story, even though I would recommend it most to emo kids. She weaves several plot strands together coherently, although I wish there conclusion contained a little about what happened to the Myceneans (particularly Xerxes) after the climax. She also includes a number of sympathetic side characters. I think I liked Charon, Hades' drakon, the best. These characters bring levity to the apocolyptic novel, and provide a good contrast to the villians.

BEAUTIFUL DEATH went on sale from Drollerie Press on the twentieth. The novel is currently on sale for $5.91 (15% off). You can find more at Burkhart's blog or website.

June 26, 2008

Pretty Face, Vols. 1-6


By Yasahiro Kano

It's hard to describe Pretty Face. Masashi Rando was once a typical shonen (boys) manga hero. But the brash karate club leader suffered horrific burns in a bus crash and fell into a coma. He wakes a year later with everyone thinking he died, including his family. And the doctor who reconstructed his face worked from the photo in his pocket - a photo of his crush Rina.


When he stumbles into Rina, he's shocked to find she isn't surprised by her doppelganger. Her twin sister Yuna ran away two years ago to become a beautician and she thinks Rando is Yuna returned. Rando does not particularly like his new role, but if pretending to be Yuna makes Rina happy, he will do it. Now he just has to find the real Yuna so he can regain his identity.


There are the expected hijinks: Rando must keep his male identity secret despite the fact he's walking around in a miniskirt. But his failure to act like a nice, sweet girl creates the best comic moments. He understands the power of cuteness but just cannot resist using his feet and fists on jerks. There's also a great deal of fanservice and ecchi moments some readers might be uncomfortable with. I am just curious as to why the girls always manage to flash their panties when they kick someone but Rando manages to keep the family jewels covered despite the fact he beats people up multiple times a chapter. (Okay, he doesn't always manage, but he does more often than not.)


One main problem with the manga is the real Yuna. She leaves without a word and never writes or visits. But all evidence in the story shows that she cares deeply for her twin as well as the rest of the family. It doesn't really add up. However, it's that sisterly relationship that allows PRETTY FACE to work. Rando truly cares for Rina, and in his disguise he does his best to be a good older sister. He doesn't take advantage of the fact they live together. (He just beats anyone who looks at Rina the wrong way.)


I like gender bending comedy. I think PRETTY FACE does it well, with a good blend of violence and sweetness. I do not think people new to manga should start with this title. There are less absurd titles that might be a better place to start. (For girls, the reigning gender bender comedy is probably Hana Kimi.) For those who don't mind a crazy plot and a little fan service, PRETTY FACE is a pretty good title to relax with.


All six volumes are currently available from VIZ Media. Check out the official page. It's not a very popular series, so you might need to order it from your local bookstore. If you want to see if you'll like PRETTY FACE before buying, try One Manga.

June 23, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Sorry for my brief absence. I've been busy preparing for vacation. (More reviews of mine are available here. On the other hand, I've nearly completed my blogroll. (Finally.) After that, I just need to make the blog colors more gender neutral.

By E. Lockhart

Might I say that it is a shame this cover isn't textured? Yes, there's some texture for the seal but the high-contrast envelope image begs to be touched and the slickness of the cover is a disappointment to the fingers.

It's rather alone as a disappointment. THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS features what I've come to expect from E. Lockhart - comedy, characterization, and competent writing. However, THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY is no fluff book. Frankie struggles to be recognized as an equal by her male peers and her family. She does this by orchestrating grand pranks at the Alabaster Preparatory Academy using the manpower of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Frankie is clever, ambitious, strong, and feminine. But E. Lockhart does not paint her as perfect.

She pushes things to the limit. She enjoys power. Her plans, while well-executed, do not have the expected effect on the populace. She's high-minded, reckless, and many of her actions should not be emulated. For all that, she's a wonderful heroine. She doesn't play nice, but she plays for the right things. Girls should be frustrated with being condescended to, and they shouldn't be underestimated due to a lack of a Y chromosome. (Actually, one of the book's few flaws came after the climax, so I don't feel right discussing it in the review, but it has to do with this concept.)

I also like that the boys who make Frankie so frustrated in THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY aren't bad people. They're just average boys. They make mistakes, but they aren't simply evil male chauvinist pigs.

Lockhart also plays with the way she tells the story. She begins with a framing letter and anecdotes, building an excitement for what Frankie will become despite a rather innocuous beginning. The tone is playful, but ominous. Lockhart plays with language not only through the structure, but with the dialogue. Both Frankie and her boyfriend Matthew enjoy wordplay. Frankie's is inspired by P. G. Wodehouse; Matt's comes from his inner copyeditor. Lockhart's choices come together to create a unique voice that helps THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY rise above her other novels just as much as the unconventional Frankie.

I highly recommend this novel. It's not perfect, but it has a spark to it. It sticks out in my mind from the other novels I've read recently. There's hijinks, anger, love, and plenty of food for thought. Frankie has good ideas and bad ideas, but many are ideas that should be heard and then pondered further.

You can find out more about E. Lockhart on her blog or website THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS is in stores now, along with HOW TO BE BAD (co-authored with Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle).

June 14, 2008


By Chris Crutcher


I now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. I read this book for fun with no intention of writing a review for it. DEADLINE does not seem like my sort of book. I'm an escapist reader - I like to immerse myself in the book's world and have a jolly good time. My sister likes those Lurlene McDaniel type books where someone dies in the end and you feel depressed for the entire afternoon once you finish. However, I trust Chris Crutcher. He's made me cry, many times, but I keep crawling back because he writes fabulous novels. DEADLINE is no different. I chose to write this review because I read the book this morning, loved it, and wanted to share that feeling.

DEADLINE's Ben Wolf knows he is dying. An aggressive blood disease will kill him within the year if he isn't treated. With treatment, he might extend his life some. Ben chooses to refuse treatment. He also chooses to keep his condition a secret from everyone except his doctor and the therapist his doctor forces him to see. He throws himself into his last year of life. He finally tries out for football. He pursues the girl he's in lust with. He tries to sober up the town drunk. He acts up in class because what does it matter if he doesn't graduate?

Crutcher, as usual, doesn't fear including issues in his story. There's sexual and physical child abuse, alcoholism, and bigotry. At some points these issues threaten to overshadow Ben's story, but Crutcher keeps them under control.

The diminutive Ben feels fear. He feels sad and he doesn't want to die. Every time his brother or girlfriend talks to him about the future he feels guilty for his lies. But, at the same time, he's a happy narrator. He's doing things he loves and making the most of his final year. He does not regret choosing not to fight the illness with drugs nor does he regret the relationships he makes. (He should regret some of his jokes.)

I don't regret reading DEADLINE. I cried at the end, yes. Ben dies. There is no miracle cure. But I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in his head, watching him do some things so right while still making large mistakes. I cried, but I felt happy. Ben worked hard to make sure the people he affected most would be able to handle his death. He made a choice at the beginning of the novel and defended it to the death. I respect him for that. I will also continue to read Crutcher faithfully, no matter how many of his books get banned.

DEADLINE went on sale last September. You can find out more at Chris Crutcher's website or myspace.

June 8, 2008

Important Announcements and May Winner

Joining In Bed With Books is Deimyts, a nineteen-college-student from Texas, much like me. That is, except for the fact Deimyts is male and likes tomatoes. Welcome him to the blog and look forward to his reviews!

I never heard from teenbookreview, so the new winner of the Vampire Kisses ARCs is



I finished up my part in the Immortals After Dark fest at TGTBTU with reviews of No Rest for the Wicked and Dark Needs at Night's Edge. As a sort of contrast to those paranormal romances, this review focuses on an urban fantasy. One of the few current urban fantasy novels by a male author, STAKED is a good change of pace as well as an entertaining read.

By J. F. Lewis


Eric has rage issues. And memory issues, to be truthful. He tends to get angry and then come back to himself amid a pile of dead bodies. One of his latest dead bodies happens to be the son of William, who leads the local werewolves. Eric wastes no time worrying since he's pretty hard to kill. In Lewis's vampirism system, Eric's at the top. (Your abilities are determined both by your sire and by your inner strength.)

Of course the werewolves are getting pretty pesky, especially since they think they can threaten his daughter Greta. He also needs to make some sense of his personal life. He just turned Tabitha, his girlfriend, but now he's dating her younger sister Rachel. He knows he shouldn't, but something about her is irresistable. His longtime friend and business partner, Roger, is acting suspiciously. Eric would rather not deal with any of this.

STAKED combines action, well-drawn characters, and little bit of raunchiness to good effect. Tabith and Eric's relationship really gets me. She wants much more than he wants to give and she's willfully naive about the outcome of her desires. I could really despise Eric for the way he treats her, but he makes no excuses about it. He tells her the truth and surrounds her with people who can tell her the truths Eric refuses to face as well. I liked the both of them, although I worry about their specialness. (Yes, both of them have special vampire abilities.) In most urban fantasies, the gaining of special powers by the lead is a sign of the beginning of the declined. STAKED is promising and I do not want to see that happen.

I liked the side characters as well. Rachel and Greta, the two young girls, would typically be the innocents of the story. But Rachel is something of a criminal mastermind, and Greta has quite the appetite. As they say, fear the cute ones. Marilyn is the woman who loved Eric when he was alive and still stays by her side. She offers insight into his past and provides a strong human presence. Talbot, the bouncer, adds a few more mysteries to the plot. Some of his abilities are explained, but STAKED ends with little known about him or why he hangs with Eric.

Speaking of the ending . . . STAKED is a cliffhanger. I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy with this little note in the back:

Don't worry! The sequel is coming soon.

J. F. Lewis, like Eric, obviously realizes his own evil. I would say something about how he doesn't have the protection of immortality, but if he died we wouldn't get the sequel. Although STAKED ends with a bang and mysteries yet to be solved, it is a fairly self-contained sequence. The main plot begins and ends satisfyingly. REVAMPED, tentatively, will be out in March 2009. You can keep track of publication changes at Lewis's blog. Other information is available at his website.

June 6, 2008

The Humming of Numbers

My reviews of A Hunger Like No Other and Dark Desires After Dusk are available at TGTBTU. Expect even more reviews there next week.

By Joni Sensel

The Humming of Numbers

Teenager Aiden wants to be a monk so that he can become a scribe, rather than for love of God. He's an artistic young man who desires to illuminate text. He also possesses a strange ability. Objects, including people, hum of numbers. These numbers can give him some personality cues and such. As the book opens, he realizes Lana hums of eleven - the first human he's met with a number higher than ten.

Lana, a bastard daughter of the local lord, is forced to live at the abbey because she's something of a troublemaker. She possesses a sort of wood magic. She's a witch and a strong-willed girl in a time when those are dangerous things to be.

One day when Aiden is gathering apples to make ink and Lana is trying to run away, Vikings attack the abbey and village. They have also captured the lordling Brendan Donagh and are holding him for ransom. The two teenages devise a plan that uses their powers to rescue Brendan and make the Vikings leave.

Really, I cannot say much about THE HUMMING OF NUMBERS. I found it a bit boring and lackluster. There's some interesting thoughts about God, but that will probably make it seem more boring to younger readers. There are also references to rape that probably make the novel a bit too adult for the audience for which it is best suited. (In addition to finding it unsuitable for the intended audience, I felt Lana's rape did nothing to further the plot.) Most of the violence occurs off-page which allows it to remain appropriate for younger readers on that count. Fans of Irish history will probably enjoy THE HUMMING OF NUMBERS, but most other readers will probably be unsatisfied.

Find out more at Joni Sensel's website. THE HUMMING OF NUMBERS went on sale May 27th.

June 1, 2008

May Contest Winner

Congratulations to


Please send a mailing address to me at inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com by June 8th.


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