January 30, 2009

Blurb Buzzwords

Here's my question for ya'll: What words in a blurb will increase your chances of buying and/or reading a book? To me, blurbs are a tricky thing. Some really annoy me because they misrepresent the book and I end up buying something I've no interest in reading. Others leave me going 'meh' but I buy the book anyway because someone I trust recommended it. (Keedledee, Deimyts, and m'dad - I'm looking at you. Oh how I trust you with my soul. It's so nice of ya'll to return the favor.) Some make me bounce up and down with happiness and want the book RIGHT THEN like a little kid.

Some of my personal buzzwords are:

1) Faeries. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. I adore the little dangerous buggers and books to do with them. Books I've previously purchased due to the word "faerie" attached to it include Artemis Fowl, Tithe, and The Faerie Reel. Clearly this is a magnificent key to finding great books.

2) Pirates/Privateers. Exhibit C. Exhibit D. Despite the fact I prefer ninjas, I think I prefer reading about pirates. I'm still holding out on Patrick O'Brien. (Maturin! You deserve better than that cold-hearted snake.) Pirates caused me to pick up the Bloody Jack series, which is as fun to explain to people as it is to read. Also, there are pirates in Robin Hobb's Liveship trilogy. But start with her Farseer trilogy, which brings me to point three:

3) Assassins. See Exhibit A again. Or Exhibit E. Right now I'm coming up with a blank on assassin purchased books (except for the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies), but not assassin movies. So go watch Leon (The Professional) and Grosse Pointe Blank. (My other dangerous movie love? Irish gangsters.)

4) Superheroes. Exhibit F. Exhibit G. Exhibit H. Exhibit I. Highly embarrassing Exhibit J. This is totally a product of the fact I sometimes read graphic novels and watched cartoons during the glory days of animated superheroes. Let's say some superhero fueled purchases were Hero, Soon I Shall Be Invincible, and The Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl.

5) Vampires. Okay, there are plenty of examples both here and on TGTBTU. This is actually not that trustworthy though because the market is currently flooded with vampire books.

Okay, so there's five of my buzzwords. C'mon now, I wanna hear yours. If you share I might tell even more of mine.

January 29, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week Four)

So school really started this week. Also, my sister and her 14-month-old daughter are visiting. I can play with them or I can read. Guess which one I pick?

Week Four

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Kiss of a Demon King (Immortals After Dark, Book Six) by Kresley Cole (bought)

Just try to tell me you didn't expect this.

January 28, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday

I decided to join this meme because I always find out about such good books through it on other sites. It was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I am currently lusting after Bloodhound (Beka Cooper, Book Two) by Tamora Pierce. The current release date is 28 April 2009. Want to know how long I've been waiting? TERRIER came out in Oct 2006.

I believe it will be worth the wait because of the quality of TERRIER. Beka's voice is engrossing and I enjoyed reading her beat cop/detective style adventures.

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Amazon description:

Beka Cooper is finally a Dog—a full-fledged member of the Provost’s Guard, dedicated to keeping peace in Corus’s streets. But there’s unrest in Tortall’s capital. Counterfeit coins are turning up in shops all over the city, and merchants are raising prices to cover their losses. The Dogs discover that gamblers are bringing the counterfeit money from Port Caynn. In Port Caynn, Beka delves deep into the gambling world, where she meets a charming banking clerk named Dale Rowan. Beka thinks she may be falling for Rowan, but she won’t let anything—or anyone—jeopardize her mission. As she heads north to an abandoned silver mine, it won’t be enough for Beka be her usual “terrier” self. She’ll have to learn from Achoo to sniff out the criminals—to be a Bloodhound. . . .

January 27, 2009

Blank Slate, Vols. 1-2

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By Aya Kanno

Zen can't remember who he is or what he's done. The only thing he knows is he feels like he needs to destroy - a fairly clear sign that he wasn't a nice person before he lost his memory. The book begins not with the original first chapter, but with a side-story that replaced it when Kanno realized her story was going to be more than a oneshot.

I enjoyed the story, but feel it might not have been the best introduction. The series is only two volumes long, making the story fairly tight, but Zen is the only character set-up in the chapter. The secondary characters don't arrive until the next chapter. I wish I knew how the original opening went, but all the new one does is establish that Zen is wanted, doesn't know who he is, and dangerous. It also portrays him as a bit more capricious than he is in the rest of the story.

Things really begin when he kidnaps Rian, the blind and protected daughter of a general. She blossoms in her kidnapping because her small, sheltered life chafes her and someone is finally reacting to her without kid gloves. This misadventure leads Zen to the pacifist doctor Hakka, who might be able to help Zen discover the truth of his past.

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Kanno's artwork is beautiful, very much shojo - full of bishonen and cool clothes. However, there's a bit more violence than your average shojo, not to say there aren't a number of violent shojo series. She's also an excellent plotter. Things that you might think are unimportant details in an episodic series just might be what ties the chapters together.

Zen's a good lead character - witty, attractive, and as dangerous as people say he is. He lacks motivation aside from discovering his past and he mostly lacks empathy. I think the second chapter does work better as an introduction because what connection to people who does have is revealed in his interaction with Rian. He'd kill her if he needed to, but sees no reason to be cruel. Rian's a good foil to him because she is emotional and girly, but discovering a strength she was never allowed to need. It's a strange relationship but feels true.

The only part of the manga that really bothers me is the ending. It requires all of one character's actions to be an act. It's a bit abrupt and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story even if it does allow all the pieces to fall into place. Other than that misstep, BLANK SLATE is a well-told, if familiar, story of an assassin and military intrigue.

Both volumes of BLANK SLATE are available now through Viz's SHOJO BEAT imprint. You can also subscribe to SHOJO BEAT which serializes many manga, including the excellent CRIMSON HERO and SAND CHRONICLES. SHOJO BEAT has a MySpace, as does its mascot Moko.

January 23, 2009

The Ranger's Apprentice . . . free for one person!

I need a new sense of humor. This one is tired.

But yes, not only can you read the first Ranger's Apprentice for free, you might win an ARC of the sixth, generously provided by Penguin. So how do you become the proud owner of Ranger's Apprentice: The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan?

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It's easy! Just leave a comment on this post telling me what you ate for breakfast! (I'm tired of generic "enter me!" comments.) In the interest of transparency, I ate a piece of yellow cake with chocolate icing that my roomie bought me either because she's awesome or she's planning to eat me after I fatten up. If it's the second, she'll be disappointed because I have fabulous metabolism.

You can also get bonus entries by posting about the contest or following my blog - as long as you mention you've done these things in the comments. People who are already following get two bonus entries.

Since this is the sixth in a series, I'm going to give a bonus to those who are already reading it. Send proof you own any of the first five (receipt with personal info blacked out, picture of the book(s) on your shelf, etc.) to inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com and you'll receive FIVE bonus entries per book, for up to twenty-five bonus entries.

This giveaway will end February 15th, the same day as the promotion. As THE SIEGE OF MACINDAW is being released August 11th, you'll receive the book well in advance of it hitting shelves. (But be kind - keep spoilers to yourself.)

Sorry for international readers, but US shipping only.

The Ranger's Apprentice . . . free!

Many have posted about this, but it's still cool. Until February 15th, Penguin is offering the first Ranger's Apprentice book (THE RUINS OF GORLAN) for free on Scribd. You don't even have to follow the link - you can read it on the nifty widget below! (If it works. My copy-and-paste html skill seems to lack a certain something.)

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What's it about, you ask? The official synopsis says:

They have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied. . . .

Sounds pretty cool to me. I like this promo since I've seen the series around and didn't know whether I wanted to make the monetary commitment. Guess I'll know after I finish the eBook!

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

January 22, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week Three)

Week Three

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A Hunger Like No Other (Immortals After Dark, Book One) by Kresley Cole* (bought, reread)
*the series actually starts with a novella in Playing Easy to Get

No Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark, Book Two) by Kresley Cole (bought, reread)

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Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark, Book Four) by Kresley Cole (bought, reread)

The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by Denis Dutton (review copy, ARC)

Swallowing Darkness (Meredith Gentry, Book Seven) by Laurell K. Hamilton (review copy, ARC)

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Night Huntress (Sisters of the Moon, Book Five) by Yasmine Galenorn (review copy, ARC)

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines (review copy)

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Rises the Night (Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Book 2) by Colleen Gleason (bought)

I highly enjoyed THE STEPSISTER SCHEME and look forward to MERMAID'S MADNESS. Actually, I pretty much liked all of this batch. I appear to be on an adult fantasy kick. For awhile I was reading almost all YA.

January 19, 2009

The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution

I made ya'll wait several days for new content despite my resolve to post more frequently. Sorry, but at least I'm all moved into the dorm again!

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By Denis Dutton

If you can't tell, I don't read much non-fiction for pleasure. I love learning about things, but I usually save that for school and use my reading time for other pursuits. However, THE ART INSTINCT appeared to combine two of my favorite things, genetics and the arts. Unfortunately it is not friendly to casual reading. Denis Dutton's authorial voice is rather dry and unengaging.

Various ideas caught my attention, but I didn't really get into his argument until the 8th chapter (Intention, Forgery, Dada: Three Aesthetic Problems). Of course, this may be my personal interests talking. I often work at reconciling modern interpretation of text with its contemporary interpretation and possible authoritorial intent. And who doesn't find Dada fun?

But there were many points before that where I thought the text should hit its stride, particularly Chapter 5: Art and Natural Selection. Instead it felt like the argument just wasn't coming together. Dutton sets out to prove a rather large thesis, but at the end I feel like I'm still not sure what he's saying the connection between art and evolution is. He sometimes contradicts himself (especially in one terrible argument about a pill vs. a Salvador Rosa landscape) and he's far more familiar with art than the science aspects.

The book's best parts are the smaller arguments. He combats the extreme lengths academics go to to avoid ethnocentricism which only exoticize other cultures in the end through interesting thought experiments and examples of genres that may compare though they're done with different mediums. It's when he tries to connect the science and art that I often feel a disconnect.

For instance, Dutton explores why smell is not used more often as an artistic medium. He settles on memory being a large part of the problem, as building on a basic theme (as in music or fiction) cannot be done with smells as it would be hard to remember a specific sequence. Another problem would be lack of emotional impact. Yet smell is the best sense for bringing about instaneous memory. Smells triggering memory is an important survival instinct and an important part of human evolution. Research being done now with the human sense of smell is both incredibly weird and fascinating. Why write an entire passage about smell and art that seems to ignore this work?

I don't want to sound like I hated the work. (Although I did hate that his go-to example was Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes. He just kept mentioning them and it was driving me insane.) THE ART INSTINCT contains many interesting passages, but they're put together towards a shaky whole. I think a less provocative thesis might have served Dutton better. People interested in the philosophy of art will probably enjoy THE ART INSTINCT quite well.

Kudos to Bloomsbury Press's Art Department for changing the cover between the ARC and the final. The final's landscape is (scientifically) more aesthetically pleasing - very important on a book about art.

THE ART INSTINCT released December 23, 2008. Britain, Australia, and New Zealand will get the book on Darwin Day (February 12, 2009). Denis Dutton is the editor of the beyond cool Arts & Letters Daily. His personal website can be found here.

January 16, 2009

The Elite Winner!

Congratulations to number 116, Nicole! Please e-mail your address to inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com.

There were 197 entries once I weeded out the cheaters - truly incredible. I did not expect such a turnout! In other news, Jennifer Banash now has a wordpress you can check out.

Here's the awaited cover to SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE:


For those who did not win, you can purchase IN TOO DEEP here or at your local bookstore.

January 15, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week Two)

This was a slow week in reading, but I count it as a success because I finished several thousand words of scholarship essays. I really hate those things.

The winner of IN TOO DEEP will be announced tomorrow. I'm glad I kept track of the entries this time instead of waiting to number them all at the end - there's an incredible number.

Week Two

Kushiel's Scion (Kushiel's Legacy, Book One) by Jacqueline Carey (bought, reread)

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Beauty by Robin McKinley (bought)

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Kushiel's Justice (Kushiel's Legacy, Book Two) by Jacqueline Carey (bought, reread)

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Chalice by Robin McKinley (library)

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Dark Desires after Dusk (Immortals After Dark, Book Five) by Kresley Cole (bought, reread)

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I enjoy McKinley's earlier works more than her new stuff. CHALICE finished strong, but started slow whereas BEAUTY took awhile to reach the action but was still hard to put down.

And I can't wait for this Tuesday since it's the release of KISS OF A DEMON KING. At least the title isn't easy to confuse like the previous two and the cover is noticably different.

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January 12, 2009

Book Blog Spotlight

MyFavoriteAuthor is doing a series of Book Blog Spotlights, and it turns out mine is the first! You can find the interview here.

I love the graphic they used! Books really are personable, no? (That was a bad joke even by my standards.)

January 10, 2009

Liviania's Best of 2008

My one hundredth post and I'm spending it on a link elsewhere. But really, you can find my Best of 2008 list here on TGTBTU. This is books that were published in 2008 and (aside from PAPER TOWNS) I read in 2008. I feel bad since I still have a number of 2008 books I'm sure I'm going to love left to read.

What I really want to know is . . . should I do a Worst of list?

I've been working on a short essay for this blog, but the weekend derailed it. Yay for the neighborhood dogs going crazy, mine with them! (Not.)

January 8, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week One)

Everyone's posts at the end of the year about the books they'd read impressed me. I've never managed to keep track of the books I've read, although once I tried to keep track of the ones I owned. (My sister and I got bored after putting a couple hundred into the database.)

This year I'm making an effort to keep track. In order to make it easier on myself, I'll keep a week-by-week account. Maybe.

Week One

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (library)
Masquerade (Blue Bloods, Book 2) by Melissa de la Cruz (library)
Love, Stargirl (sequel to Stargirl) by Jerry Spinelli (library)
Suite 606 by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas (library)

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Hell Week (Maggie Quinn, Book 2) by Rosemary Clement-Moore (library)
Superior Saturday (Keys to the Kingdom, Book 6) by Garth Nix (library)
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks (library)
Paper Towns by John Green (library)

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The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (bought)
Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle (library)
Moonshine by Rob Thurman (bought, reread)
Madhouse by Rob Thurman (bought, reread)

I reread the Rob Thurman books in anticipation of DEATHWISH (3 March 08). How I wish it were coming even sooner.

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January 7, 2009

Lord of Misrule

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By Rachel Caine

This is the fifth book in The Morganville Vampire series. It's a rather involved series, so there will be various and sundry spoilers for the previous four books. If you haven't read them, skip this review and pick up a copy of GLASS HOUSES.

The back of the book proclaims that Morganville, Texas is just south of normal. As the book begins, things have really gone south. Amelie's father Bishop wants control of Morganville and she's not willing to give it up without a fight. The vampires are being called to battle whether they like it or not and the humans are splitting into factions.

Rachel Caine presents an interesting sociological problem in the series: just how would vampires live alongside humans? Now she adds in what would happen if the vampires were distracted and lost their control over the more rebellious elements. Some of the factions show more sense than others, but all show enough sense to not like Monica. (Yes, it is wonderful to see Monica face a little retribution.) Some help, some hinder, some coexist. Without bogging the story down Caine presents a wide variety of reactions to the situation.

Caine gives a lot of bang for the buck. The Morganville Vampires books are pocket-sized, but they're full of action. LORD OF MISRULE manages to make some of the previous entries in the series slow-paced. It makes me a little sad that the novels are limited omniscient through Claire's POV. The main gang (Michael, Eve, Shane, Claire) split up for most of the novel and some of the others have adventures that would be even cooler if they weren't briefly recounted after the fact.

Of course, most of the main ensemble being off-screen works. It makes the atmosphere even more tense, because even as Claire struggles to survive she doesn't know whether she'll be returning to find her friends didn't.

Can I also say I love Myrnin? Caine does a great job as using him as both the loveable and wise mentor and the reminder of just how inhuman the vampires can be (in case Sam and Michael make you forget). In this series the vampires prove they're more than just angsty humans with fangs. Claire and friends are fighting for the side least likely to kill them, no because they think Amelie is sunshine-and-rainbows.

The series does have a softer side, with the relationships between Shane and Claire and Michael and Eve. However, LORD OF MISRULE focuses more on moving the overarching plot along than the relationships, not that there aren't some nice moments with the couples.

LORD OF MISRULE hit shelves yesterday and the previous five books are already available. CARPE CORPUS (Book Six) will be available in June. Rachel Caine is also the author of the Weather Warden series. She can be found at her website, eljay, and MySpace. If you live in the Metroplex, she will be signing from 12-3 at Legacy Books (Plano) this Saturday. (While I'm sure it's a cool bookstore - independent - Plano is at least an hour away. She should totally sign in Fort Worth for my convenience ^^.)

ETA: I forgot to mention this, but I've heard of the Lord of Misrule before. He's chosen to preside over the feast on a day when the masters act as servants and the servants as masters. Looked it up since the phrase rang a bell and it turns out he rules over the Feast of Fools. In another twist, when the British appropriated the custom they set the feast on Christmas. LORD OF MISRULE was released on the Epiphany. Way cool, no?

January 5, 2009

My V.C. Andrews Movement Progress

I am participating in the V.C. Andrews Movement/Reading Challenge hosted by Reviewer X and Taren.


I must read 11 out of 26 books by V.C. Andrews (four of her series and MY SWEET AUDRINA are options).

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The only V.C. Andrews book I've read previously is MELODY, the first of the Logan series. My sister bought a discarded copy at the huge Friends of the Houston Library sale at George R. Brown Convention Center. It's been so long that I only remember the incest was with her cousin. I thought his name was Luke but Amazon says Cary. Makes sense since Luke Logan would be an awful name.

My progress:


January 3, 2009

Interview with Jennifer Banash

Jennifer Banash wrote THE ELITE series. THE ELITE is currently available, IN TOO DEEP releases the sixth (so some stores might have it on shelves now), and SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE will be out in several months. And if IN TOO DEEP sells well enough, the series could be extended. I know I would be happy if that happened!

You can read my review of IN TOO DEEP (and enter the contest), my review of THE ELITE, and an earlier guest blog by Jennifer.



As you attended high school in the Upper East Side, how much of your own experience did you use to write THE ELITE series?

I put in a fair amount of my own experience--but in ways that wouldn't be obvious to the casual reader. For instance, I felt much like Casey in high school--never really sure if I was doing or saying the right thing, and very much wanting to fit in. Basically, I was an awkward, nervous, hot mess!

IN TOO DEEP focuses some on the characters' relationship with their parents - most of them rocky. What is your relationship with your parents like? How did they react when you first told them you wanted to be a writer?

My relationship with my parents is pretty estranged at the moment. We were never really close to begin with, and our relationship has just gotten more intense and more difficult to negotiate as I've gotten older, unfortunately. My mother was a real perfectionist when I was growing up, and not particularly forgiving of mistakes of any kind. She's actually pretty similar to Phoebe's mom in a many ways . . . When I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer they were horrified. I think my mother's biggest hope for me was that I'd grow up, marry a wealthy man, and basically spend my life as a rich, idle housewife, which wasn't exactly the route I was interested in taking.

How did you decide on the characters' names? I particularly love the ring of Drew Van Allen.

Good question! Drew's name really just came out of nowhere! There was a Van Allen Hall in the town I lived in when I was writing the series, but I wasn't thinking about it when I constructed his character--maybe it seeped in through my subconscious! Madison was named after Darryl Hannah in Splash--I always loved the movie, and the name--I thought Madison was the coolest name when I was growing up, and it has that icy diva-bitch quality I was going for with her character. I wanted Casey to have a name that was a bit unisex--not too girly or feminine--and it just felt right once I wrote it down on paper. Sophie was actually named Jenny when I completed the first draft of THE ELITE, but my editor wanted me to change it because GOSSIP GIRL had just premiered on the CW and was a huge hit, and, of course Jenny is one of the main characters in that series. I didn't think it made a difference--it's not like GG has exclusive rights to the name Jenny or anything--but it was an easy change to Sophie, which I like better now anyway as it doesn't sound as generic. I named Phoebe after Holden Caulfield's little sister in The Catcher in the Rye--one of my favorite books of all time.

Why should people read THE ELITE and IN TOO DEEP? What do you think makes them a good story? (No cheating and using the back blurb!)

I think people should read THE ELITE series because not only is it a glamorous and drama-packed ride that will (hopefully!) keep you up all night turning pages, but because the series also deals with "real" issues that don't get resolved at each chapter's end such as divorce, infidelity, cutting, and peer pressure.

You've been blessed with two eye-catching covers. Which do you like better? (Or should we wait for the cover of SIMPLY IRRESISTABLE to be unveiled?)

Actually, I am currently in LOVE with the cover of the third book in the series SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE! But if I had to choose between the covers of THE ELITE or IN TOO DEEP, I would have to say I prefer the cover for THE ELITE--I'm just sentimental that way since it was my first baby LOL! Most people, however, tell me that they really prefer the cover for IN TOO DEEP--which I absolutely love as well. The cover for THE ELITE also has a special place in my heart because it was such a struggle to get a good design for that book--I was very lucky that I have a great editor who made it a priority, and asked for a complete redesign after I broke down sobbing and threatening to stick my head in the oven after I saw the mock up of the first cover design. It was truly horrific.

In addition to writing THE ELITE series, you're the co-founder and co-publisher of Impetus Press. What's it like to run a small press?

Unfortunately, Impetus Press has closed due to the current financial landscape of publishing-which has become absolutely dire as of late. We were clobbered so hard and fast by returns that there was no way we could recover financially and continue to put out books. We had four amazing years though, and I'm eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such talented authors. It's a very sad situation though, and one that doesn't give me much hope about the book business as a whole at the present time.

What did you do before you got involved with publishing? How do those skills help you now?

Before I was a publisher, I taught Literature at a large university while I was getting my Ph.D in English--I just graduated in September. Teaching definitely has had a huge impact on my career as a writer--basically I read, wrote, and talked about books all day long! What could be better for a writer? Before that, I held a variety of jobs from waitress to bartender, to camera operator for ABC-TV. I even had a job selling gravestones, which was quite possibly the worst job I've ever had the misfortune to acquire. Right now I teach English at a small private school in Palos Verdes, California.

Finally, in your July guest blog, you wrote about your acquisition of both a blue and a white Marc Jacobs Pan-Am bag. If your home were on fire and you could only save one, which would it be?

Neither! I'm about to be horribly unfaithful to Marc, but one of my students bought me a brand new, absolutely GORGEOUS Fendi bag as a Christmas gift, so I'd definitely grab the Fendi! Sorry Marc!

xxoxx JB

January 2, 2009

The Coming Year

I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do think the new year is a good time to think about the direction things are going in and where you want them to go next. When I started In Bed With Books I was going to stick to posting reviews, interviews, guest blogs, and giveaways. I stuck to that for most of the year, until I got busy in December.

To make up for it, I posted random, filler-type posts. These seemed to get as good (or better) response as my regular reviews, so I think I may continue these style of posts. Is there anything in specific ya'll would like to see me write about in the space between reviews?

In addition, what would ya'll like to see in the regular programming? Is there something about my reviews that you don't like, or that you really love? Is there someone specific you want me to interview or get to blog here? What kind of giveaways do like best?

I am planning a big event for my birthday month (March). I'm still drafting the e-mail to authors, but that will be sent out soon. Be sure to stop by then even if you don't at other times.

Really, I'm just looking for feedback about the blog. Tell me what you like, don't like, what you want to see on here in 2009. I'm not going to take all suggestions, of course. This is my blog and my playground. I just want to make sure people are having fun on it.

Don't forget to enter the contest - I'll throw in a bonus entry for any feedback. (If you don't want to enter but just want to comment, I'm cool with that too.) I've got some cool reviews coming - LORD OF MISRULE, THE ART INSTINCT, BLONDE ROOTS, NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, and ETERNAL. Let's hope I can keep this up in 2009!

January 1, 2009

In Too Deep (+ Contest)

Read all the way to the end for the contest rules!

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By Jennifer Banash

IN TOO DEEP picks up not long after where THE ELITE ends. Casey McCloy and Drew Van Allen are an official item, and Madison Macallister is acting friendly(-ish) to her face but preparing to break them up. Sophie and Phoebe try to be friends to both, but they're busy with their own dramas. Even in the glittery world of the exclusive Bram building, they still have to deal with two things that plague every teenager: boys and family. (Well, some teenagers are plagued by girls and family.)

I love how much more grounded THE ELITE series seems than some of the other series of this type I've read. In so many there may be parents present, but they'll have no control over their children. IN TOO DEEP explores many of the characters' relationships with their families as well as the relationship drama.

Madison, like a true queen bee, chafes under the control of her mother. (I'm not saying her mother's the best, but she's far better than Madison makes out.) She feels she's more grown-up than she actually is and it gets her in over her head. She gets scouted for modelling and encounters people who don't care what her last name is. She flirts with a man too old for her without once considering his age.

Phoebe Reynaud also has problems with her mother, but more because she keeps forgetting to pick up her little sister because she's too busy with whoever her boyfriend is. Phoebe cuts her own support lines by getting involved with a boy she can't tell her friends about. He can make her happy when he's physically present, but most of the time he just makes her feel guilty at a time when she needs something to feel positive about.

Sophie St. John loves her mother and father, but she's angry at them for the secret they kept and eager to meet her birth mom. IN TOO DEEP definitely showcases Sophie more than THE ELITE. Her Sweet Sixteen is approaching - and it's going to be on camera, on an MTV-esque show. She finds she can speak to Casey before the cameras start rolling because she can be more objective than the friends who have known her forever. Of course, those friends will eventually find out Casey knew about the adoption first. Sophie sets herself up for all kinds of drama.

On the other hand, Drew adores his father and still gets along with him quite well. He doesn't like his relationship advice about Casey, but he's always felt a strong camadarie with his father since they're rather similar. However, he's about to find out about some of his father's mistakes, which makes him question himself as a person.

This only adds to his relationship drama with Casey. Liking each other isn't enough to sustain a relationship and the two have serious communication problems. Both want to make it work but their actions often convince the other of the opposite. They don't really understand how the other thinks, which makes it hard to know when they've sent the wrong signal. Of course, their problems aren't helped by Madison helping the misunderstandings along.

In the finale Jennifer Banash really ups the ante for SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE. I can't wait to pick up the third book and see how some of the snarls come undone. Banash is fabulous at creating relatable characters in over-the-top situations. Her characters act like real teenagers and really captures that sense of being almost ready to be an adult but not quite and the out of control emotions.

IN TOO DEEP's release date is next Tuesday, January 6th. THE ELITE is currently available. You can read my review of THE ELITE here as well as Banash's Fashion Week guest blog. You can find out more at The Elite site or at Banash's MySpace.

But wait! Do you want a signed copy of IN TOO DEEP for yourself? Just enter my contest by commenting on this post. Earn extra entries too:

+1 for following the blog (+2 if you're already a follower)
+1 for commenting on my interview with Jennifer
+1 for posting about the contest and linking to your post in the comments

The contest will run for two weeks and I will announce the winner of January 16th.

Happy New Year!

To celebrate, here's three mini-reviews of books by YA authors that debuted in 2008. To be balanced, two are girly and one is aimed at boys.

The Debutante

Book Cover

By Kathryn Williams

Annie McRae's family moves to Alabama at the start of her senior year. Not only does she have to make friends all over again, but she probably won't get a field hockey scholarship and be able to attend Brown University. Her grandmother will help out - if she becomes a debutante.

I understood how much the move upset Annie. It's tough at any time, much less in a year when you were just expecting to coast. I was exasperated with her at points. Yes, being a deb is a little silly and way expensive, but there are a ton of girls (including one of her friends) who would really enjoy doing it. She makes it out to be the end of the world when all her grandmother wants her to do is learn manners and attend parties in a pretty dress.

Though my sympathy for Annie varies, it's still a cute, fun book. There's a romance (of course) and any romance is improved by a Southern gentleman.

Bringing the Boy Home

Book Cover

By N. A. Nelson

Tirio was adopted from the Takunami tribe as a young boy, after his mother left him to die due to his disability, a club foot. Adopted by an American anthropologist, he was raised with excellent medical care and love. Now that his thirteenth birthday is coming, he wants to return to the Amazon and become a man of the tribe. In a parallel story, a boy of the tribe is preparing for his own soche sente tente.

N. A. Nelson manages to pull off a clever twist in the story about what you think is happening. I thought I saw the direction the two stories were moving in and completely missed the mark. I do love surprises (even if I could tell the orthodics would be important). Nelson creates an interesting culture, to the point where I wondered if the Takunami were real. (She confirms in her author's note that they're made up.)

BRINGING THE BOY HOME is written for middle grade readers, but some older teens will probably enjoy it. It's a well-paced adventure story, perfect for a boring day. It doesn't hurt that it addresses several identity issues.)

La Petite Four

Book Cover

By Regina Scott

Emily, Priscilla, Ariadne and Daphne know exactly how the ball that will present them to Society will go, and they have a number of plans for the Season. Unfortunately, Lord Robert announces his intention to marry Emily, making him an obstacle to the girls' debut. They set out to prove he's no good.

What follows is a charming, light mystery. The girls do little detecting; most of that is left to James Cooper, Emily's real love interest. And despite the title, this is really Emily's story. The other girls could be fleshed out quite a bit more. The story is fun enough, but it has the potential for more substance. (And I'll just plug the blog Scott co-authors with Marissa Doyle because I like it that much.)


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