May 31, 2009

Review: Santa Olivia

By Jacqueline Carey

Book Cover

It took me awhile to pick up the Kushiel books. In fact, all of Phedre's trilogy had been published when I started. I fell in love with Carey's writing, though I know some found it too purple. Then I was impressed by BANEWREAKER and GODSLAYER, where she wrote a different type of fantasy and used a different style. Then came Imriel's trilogy, where she used the same style as with Phedre, but managed to convey a completely different voice. Now she's ventured into the realm of standalone, with SANTA OLIVIA. In this one, the fantastic elements are highly limited and of a more scientific nature.

It begins with the story of Carmen Garron, who lived in Texas near the Mexican border. Not a bad place to live, until the area is cordoned off due to a pandemic and a search for a criminal. Now the villagers live in a military zone, forgotten by the rest of the world. But Carmen falls in love twice, and has two very different kids.

Boxing is the way out. There's a prizefight periodically, in which a civilian winner can leave with the person of their choice. Tommy Garron is the most promising contender yet. He's loved by the people and his sister, Loup Garron. But they were separated when their mother died - she lives in the orphanage. With her fellow orphans, they seek to teach the soldiers to respect the villagers, using the abilities Loup inherited from her father.

Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong. Loup must make some tough choices, and could end up hurt no matter what she chooses. I enjoyed reading about the fearless but loving Loup, who desires to protect those close to her and give hope for a better future. I liked how Jacqueline Carey handled her sexuality, making it not that big of a deal. I liked Tommy, who was a good kid, and the orphans, who were also good kids. I liked Miguel, who wasn't a good kid, but was learning to be a better man once he started associating with people who expected more of him that thuggish behavior.

Carey developed a harsh setting, but she populated it with motivated and good-hearted characters. (Not to say there aren't those who aren't filled with spite and ruin things for other people.) She uses language well to evoke the setting, though it begins with way too many uses of the word "fuck." It either lightens up when the story focuses on Tommy and Loup, or I started blanking it out more.

I enjoyed the fairytale ending, even though many fates were still unknown. Loup deserved her happiness. While I am partial to superher stories and Jacqueline Carey, that does mean there's more room for disappointment. But this one satisfied me quite well. (For the younger readers of my blog: You might want to wait on this one due to the sex and language. Or not, if you an handle it. Know what you're comfortable with.)

May 30, 2009

Review: Dull Boy

Book Cover

By Sarah Cross
You can also visit her el jay.

Sarah Cross is a Taurus born in the year of the Monkey. She is four inches taller than Wolverine, but does not have adamantium claws ... yet. Fierce but cute Pallas' cats are her favorite animals--and if you don't think that is relevant, then you really don't know her. She grew up in Ohio and now lives in New York. DULL BOY is her first novel.



Sometimes I wish I didn't care what would happen if anyone knew the truth about me. But I do care. I have to keep this - super strength, flying - a secret. No one can know - not my parents, not my friend . . . It's just that it's getting harder to hide it.

Superpowers are awesome - unless you actually have them, like Avery does. There's only so much he can pass off as "adrenaline" before people start to get suspicious. Probably it's best to lie low, so guys in white lab coats don't come to carry him away, to find out what makes his freakish body tick. Who wants to be vivisected? But flying under the radar becomes a whole lot harder when you can actually fly. It's dangerous to be different, so for now he'll pretend to be normal, unremarkable Avery - a dull boy - anything to keep his secret safe.

What he doesn't expect is the horrifying truth about where his powers came from, who else might have them, and the madness of one villain's plan to turn this superpowered dull boy into something even more powerful and amazing.


This book was waiting for me when I moved back home from the dorms, and I picked it up and devoured it that night. (And I went to sleep early, since I needed to wake up the next day to drive.) Boy, did it hit most of my <3 buttons. (It does star a group of superheroes. That's number one.)

I liked Avery, who doesn't really think of using his superstrength and flight for anything other than protecting those who need it. Of course, he has some control issues that end up making him look like a delinquent. (Not to mention he keeps breaking things at home.) Of course, his power incontinence is nothing compared to Nicholas's.

I think I loved Darla most. (Well, aside from Catherine, but that's a given. She's sarcastic, hard-working, and has way cool powers.) Her power is her intelligence - and it didn't come with social skills, though she seems to think so. She's the uber-geek, ready to form them into a team on par with the X-men. Of course, some of the others doubt there is practical application for their powers. It's fun to watch them all go out together and find lost girls or stop a mugger. All of them want a place to belong, like any teenager, with or without superpowers.

And that's exactly what Cherchette is offering. But she gives off a bad vibe that has nothing to do with her ice powers. Should they trust that she can help them with their powers, or should they continue to stumble along on their own? And if one of them does accept her offer, what about Sarah, whose power wasn't considered valuable enough?

I really enjoyed this origins tale. (I also really hope the ending was a set-up for the next adventure.) It's pretty light, but Nicholas's power might be disturbing to some readers. I know I found some of the implications creepy. Sarah Cross does paint a believable dark side to waking up with superpowers. Along with the ending, I hope that there's a sequel because I believe there's still more of these characters to explore. We know some about their home lives and dreams, but there's more to be plumbed. (And more romance to develop too!)

And can I mention that I loved the use of comic book font? It was a nice touch of design.

Traveling to Teens is a tour event for authors of any genre. If you're an author (or blogger) who wants to participate, please check out the TtT blog.

May 29, 2009

Review: Fault Line

Book Cover

By Barry Eisler

I hate generic thriller titles. Luckily this one gives a good idea of what you'll find inside with the blurb - a mix of military and techno thriller. Alex Treven is moving quickly up his law firm's ranks, and knows his new client is what he needs to make it rich. All they need to do is secure the patent on his program - until both the client and Alex's insider at the patent office turn up dead. Unsure of what to do, Alex calls his estranged brother Ben, who turns out to be a government spook rather than the simple Army guy Alex expected.

Complicating things is the other person who needs to be protect - Alex's Iranian assistant Sarah, who isn't happy with Ben's scrutiny. She pays attention to politics and doesn't like people judging her based on her race. (Who would?) It doesn't help that Ben doesn't respect the lawyers' profession and they don't respect his.

Barry Eisler does a great job of presenting each of the character's beliefs on good and evil, worthy pursuits, and the necessity of the means without necessarily condoning any of their points of view. But while Alex is against killing, his reactions do seem out of place sometimes. Sometimes Ben does go overboard but Alex sometimes gets pissed when Ben clearly was helping him stay alive.

The secret ability of the software did sound far-fetched, especially when FAULT LINE aims for a realistic feel. (Eisler includes a list of websites about real world incidents mentioned in the book.) Luckily, no one really uses the software so it doesn't matter that much. I did enjoy how things played out - who the bad guy was, how one of the brothers finally got them to stand down. Brains and brawn learned to work together, a little.

I really liked Alex, when he wasn't yelling at Ben needlessly, because he was rather capable for the damsel-in-distress figure. I'm used to the hyper-competent military man in thrillers, but I liked that the intellectual wasn't a total dweeb. Sarah, while likeable enough, was a little flat. She was mostly there for love interest and catalyzing the hero's maturation. I did like Ben, though he fit a more standard mold, and though his and Alex's misunderstandings about each other played well. Eisler also uses the setting to good effect.

Despite it's title, FAULT LINE wasn't an overly generic, cookie cutter thriller. Yes, it obeyed the genre's tropes, but it had interesting ideas, a tight story, and characters worth reading about. I might wait for the paperback, but this one is good for an afternoon of distraction.

FAULT LINE is a stand-alone novel and available now. Eisler's previous six novels center around assassin John Rain, starting with RAIN FALL. He can be found at his website, MySpace, and blog. I particularly recommend the entry titled "Gay Cooties vs Terrorist Mojo."

Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

May 28, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week Twenty-One)

Week Twenty-One

Book Cover

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (Contest)

Book Cover

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade (Contest, signed)

Book Cover

She's So Money by Cherry Cheva (Bought)

Book Cover

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (Review copy, hardcover)

Book Cover

Eon: The Dragoneye Reborn (Dragoneye, Book One) by Alison Goodman (Review copy, ARC)

Book Cover

Fault Line by Barry Eisler (Review copy, hardcover)

Book Cover

Breath and Bone (Lighthouse Duet, Book Two) by Carol Berg (Bought)

Book Cover

Kushiel's Mercy (Imriel Trilogy, Book Three) by Jacqueline Carey (Bought)

Book Cover

Carpe Corpus (Morganville Vampires, Book Six) by Rachel Caine (Review copy)

Book Cover

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Bought)

Book Cover

Willow by Julia Hoban (Contest, ARC, signed)

Review: tales of the MADMAN underground: An Historical Romance 1973

By John Barnes

Book Cover

John Barnes has written buckoos of SF books. I must now pick up some of them. TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND is non-genre YA but writing this good should not be missed. The subtitle calls it a historical romance, but that's a little misleading. There are several girls in Karl Shoemaker's life, and while he basically ends up with one the rest are still there. (And it's oh-so-easy to see why they fall for him. For those who I know in real life - like my former roomie who always hopes I'll mention her - he's a literary Justin Su.)

To be honest, TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND is all over the place. All of the members of the Madman Underground, the school therapy group, do have serious issues. Those issues are given the weight they deserve even while mocking the therapy the kids are offered. Karl's decided he's going to act normal for a week, so that he won't get sent to therapy this year. Then he'll go the week after that, taking things one bit at a time. It's hard when things at home haven't let up - his mother's still an alcoholic who steals the money he saves for after he leaves the army. He's working too much to sleep well, and that takes a toll too. Plus, Karl just isn't the kind to ignore his friends when they need him. And the madmen . . . they need him. He's also got instant chemistry with new girl Marti, which gives him another connection that's not "normal" since she's a new madman.

This book is funny, irreverent, heart-breaking, hopeful, and utterly absorbing. It's 500+ pages and I'm not even sure it took me four hours to read. (And believe me, my niece is a distraction. She's too cute not to be.) I love Karl's snarky, cynical narration. I love that he's been hardened by life but he's still the kind of guy who would do anything for his friends. (Even though he's trying not to be that guy because it would ruin his shot at getting out of therapy.) I love that he is messed up and knows it but still tries his hardest. He's got motivation. And though he wouldn't like to think it, he's laden with scruples. (Why do you think all the girls go for him? Scruples are hot.)

I love the supporting characters too. Paul, who picks up men in his drum major uniform. Cheryl, who has the world's creepiest family but still manages a full social life. Darla, who's scary and awesome and scary and fascinating. (And scary.) And Marti, who's really just as nice as Karl. (This could go on for awhile. There are loads of characters, all magnificent. Except maybe the super super ladies.)

I have to admit: I wanted to read this from the moment I got it. Bright, eye-catching cover, cool title, mysterious blurb . . . but I really didn't know what I was getting when I opened it. I wish every book I picked up blew me away like this one. Barnes may like writing SF better, and I sure am giving those a chance, but I hope he has another YA in him. If all he gives us is TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND, I will be satisfied. Step into Karl's shoes for a week. You won't want to take them off when you turn the last page.

(Seriously, the cover pic will take you to Amazon, where you can pre-order it. I was about to put that the book is out now since my ARC says May 2009, but it turns out the current release date is June 25. But now you're forewarned to buy/check out the book when you see it. MEMORIZE the cover.)

May 27, 2009

Book Review Policy Update, Summer 2009

*updated from 3/31/09*

I've told many people this already, but I wanted to announce it on the blog as well: if your address for me says I live at BLD #126, then it is no longer valid. That is my campus addres and I will not be returning to the same location next August. I do not yet have the address for my apartment. If you need it, please contact me for my permanent address. (Need to know if you have the correct address? It should say I like at Birch.)

I will be in England from 11 July - 15 August. I am not sure yet how this will affect my acceptance of review copies. Likely I won't accept any until a couple of weeks before I'm due to return to the US.

Because of this trip, my theme from June to August will be England, specifically Shakespeare and Jane Austen. (I am going to study them, not for fun. Not that I don't plan to have fun.) If you're an author or publicist representing a book set in England or relation to Austen and/or Shakespeare, I'd love to hear from you. (The Matter of Britain counts too, since I am an Arthur fangirl.) I already have many books scheduled for the theme, but I am still looking to add in more. On the other hand, I'll probably be turning more book requests away. This is more because I'm receiving more requests than because I plan to review less.

I will update my policy again in the fall or if anything changes.

Review: Mating Rituals of the North American WASP

By Laura Lipton
You can also visit her blog.

Book Cover

I must admit, I partially wanted to read this one because the main characters got married in Vegas. No, really. I think I have a Vegas obsession. Luckily, I've never woken up there (fully clothed), next to a man, while I needed to catch my flight, like Peggy Adams.

Peggy runs a bath accessories business with her best friend, but it's no longer posting profits and a bigger store is moving in just across the street. Luke Sedgwick, her new husband, doesn't have much of a head for business and his family's finances were already in disrepair. Almost all the family has left is the Sedgwick house, in equal disrepair. But his Aunt Abigail refuses to sell. That is, until she realizes Luke intends to divorce.

She makes a deal: if they stay married for a year, she'll give Luke the house with no stipulations. The money from the sale could save Peggy's business and give Luke enough money to get on his feet. So, the two agree to pretend to be a happily married couple for the year. But as New Ninevah and Luke grow on Peggy, she begins to realize her fiance Brock's shortcomings. Luke begins to draw away from his on-again off-again girlfriend as he becomes closer to Peggy.

And this is when I knew Laura Lipton had sucked me in, as she kept me reading despite a plot that relies on Big Misunderstandings. I hate when the character's problems could be cleared up if they bothered to talk to each other for a minute or two. How hard is it to say, "I'm no longer engaged." The two act more like high schoolers with a crush than adults. But I still enjoyed the story.

Peggy's a little neurotic, but she clearly cares for her friends and business. She bonds and sticks with Tiffany, a fellow WASP-wife who isn't a WASP, though it could blow her cover. She quickly becomes passionate about New Ninevah. It's easy to like her, since she has a good heart, even if she does need more of a romantic spine. Everyone has flaws.

Luke wants to be a poet, but knows there's not enough money to support that inclination, so he tries to be an investor. He dislikes his WASP heritage, but he isn't giving up the trappings lightly as people suspect. And he's not just doing it so he can live comfortably - he wants to be able to afford a home for Abigail, where she can get the care she needs instead of the little he can offer. He's a little cold and childish, but I liked him.

Yes, I did want the characters to talk to each other more, but I enjoyed the novel. At least Peggy and Luke talked to the supporting characters, who were smart enough to take matters into their own hands when it was needed. Lipton's conceit was fun and she managed to present convincing reasons of why Peggy and Luke would put themselves through the trouble. Not the best read, but a good choice if you like your romance with a literary style.

Lipton is also the author of IT'S ABOUT YOUR HUSBAND, which was recently featured on Alexa Young's Worst Review Ever.

This was part of an Early Birds Blog Tour. You can read the other posts at the following sites:

May 26, 2009

Review: Initiation

By Susan Fine
Read my interview.

Book Cover

I've been e-mailing Susan Fine, and was going to send her some of my comments when she asked once she knew I'd finished the book. Since I am a crap-tastic correspondent, those comments are sitting in the drafts folder of my inbox. Fortunately they made a great template for this review. I read this one on a bus, where it very much kept me distracted from my cramped legs. And I am in love with Flux's design team, because every book of theirs I own has a beautiful, sleek cover that feels good in my hands. It's easier to relax with a book that feels good. (For those wondering: yes, I have had passionate debates with people over the best trim size and paper type. This would be part of the reason I burst out laughing when I heard of the Kindle. It sounded way too passionless for me.)

I think Fine tried something very interesting with Mauricio as the narrator, and it's a choice that won't work for some. For me, it was perfect. Most books, of course, but their protagonist firmly in the action. But Mauricio is an outsider to St. Stephen's. Not only that, he's naive. Drugs, sex, and manipulation weave around him, but he doesn't have the knowledge to decode the implications of what he sees and hears. In high school, I too was blissfully naive. (Probably still am. Just less, in some ways.) Finding out who had sex or did drugs always shocked me. So I liked reading about a boy with the same issue - especially since I do know enough now to pick up on the insinuations Fine left for the reader to pick up on, even if Mauricio didn't.

I expected INITIATION to be more sinister, from the cover to the foreshadowing in the frame story: "Yet I had managed to survive ninth grade, and all the rest of it, when five of my classmates hadn't. There were a bunch of casualties from that whole mess freshman year." But things fell out in an unexpected way. The major action revolves around Mauricio's fellow nerdy friend Henry, cooler Alex, despised Zimmer, the wrestling team, and Henry's sister Biz. These kids live in affluence, and need to keep up appearances.

It's very sweet how Mauricio falls for the extremely hot Biz, his hormones blinding him to the fact she's a bit easy. Though I found it odd that despite his desire to protect her, he didn't understand Henry's actions to keep Biz out of trouble. But anger does make people ignore logic. And I liked Mauricio's foil, Alex, who was clever and scheming and managed to distance himself from the whole thing. I suspect he was more deeply involved in the events of the novel than he let on to Mauricio, knowing no one else would enlighten him. Of course, we're limited to Mauricio's point of view so we'll never know.

I also liked how the online aspects were presented. I was a little afraid that it would be an adult's paranoid imagining of what social networking is like. But most of it was pretty realistic and the warnings useful. Don't give away your password. Don't let people take photos of you doing something stupid. Definitely don't let anyone post those photos on the net. Pretty much, control how you're presented in a public and ineraseable form. (Me? I'm hard to Google. I like it. Pretty much, all you can find out is about my most prestigious academic accomplishments when you do find me. Not exactly incriminating.) There were some l33t h4xor skills employed, but nothing too implausible for an intelligent computer geek.

INITIATION was a strong debut, so I'm happy Fine is already working on her next YA novel. I've certainly never been to an all-male prep school, but she did evoke my high school days. (She has an unfair advantage, being an English teacher.) I think many outsiders will enjoy this tale of bullies and more clever bullies told by an outsider.


The five winners of MADE IN THE U.S.A. are:
A Stationary Addict
Debs Desk

The FCBD/ENEMIES & ALLIES winner is:
Ann Diana Dinh

Please e-mail me at inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com with your address to claim your prize.

May 25, 2009

What's a vacation without books?

No, that's not a riddle. And if you want some books for your vacation, enter my two contests that close today. Winners will be announced tomorrow.

On mine, I managed to buy two books in one of the town's used bookshops. (They had stuff for more than 50% off!)

YVAIN: The Knight of the Lion by Chretein de Troyes, trans. Burton Raffel

I'm excited about this one because I'm a huge de Troyes fan. I've read William Kibler's line-by-line and prose translations of this piece, so I was excited to find another translation.

THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence

I haven't read any Lawrence yet, but my mom likes him and I hadn't seen this one before. It looks pretty cool - I just hope I can get to it with everything else I have to read!

On the trip, I read many of the books I packed:


A full review of this one is coming, but I can pretty much tell you that it was awesome. It looks thick, but it was really fast reading.

CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers

I won this one from Liv, who is taking a vacation herself. It wasn't quite what I expected from reviews, but I really enjoyed it. I think I actually enjoyed it more now than I would've last year, since I've had some more experience with drunk people. Generally, they're seriously ineffectual.

JOLTED by Arthur Slade

I won this forever ago from the author and thought it looked really cool. I promptly never had time to read it. It was a little young for me, but I enjoyed that Slade played around with format. I do wish we learned why lighting was attracted to the Starkers, but I accept that sometimes these things aren't explained.

SANTA OLIVIA by Jacqueline Carey

A full review of this one is coming, but it lived up to my expectations of Carey. Romance, action, superheroes, minor political intrigue . . . everything I like wrapped up in excellent prose.

BLOODY GOOD by Georgia Evans

A full review of this one is coming, as well as a giveaway and interview. I'll give you a hint: it's gonna be part of my summer theme. I liked that the vampires were bad guys - it's different from most of what's on the paranormal market right now.

EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev

A full review of this one is coming, and it luckily falls neatly into my summer theme. The first chapter didn't quite pull me in, but then I fell in love. I can't wait for the other two acts to fill in the plots and questions left dangling. Mantchev gives enough to satisy and still have you come back for more.

SHE'S SO MONEY by Cherry Cheva

I bought this one after meaning to read it for a long time. So, so cute, and Cheva did a great job with the love interest. Really, I think colleges should be impressed by Maya's multi-thousand dollar cheating ring. That shows she has a head for management.

THE LOST HOURS by Karen White

A full review of this one is coming, and my mom read it after I was finished because she thought it looked interesting. It had it's problems, but it did finish strong. Not the best I read on vacation, but still fine for relaxing with.


My full review is already posted. It pretty much says it all.

WILLOW by Julia Hoban

I'm about 100 pages away from finishing this one, so it doesn't really count. But here's how to freak yourself out: read a book about a girl dealing with killing her parents in a car crash on a rainy night. Then drive your mother while it's raining. Although I realize I'm a very experienced 20-year-old rather than a 15-year-old with nothing but a permit. And I'm really glad I'm liking it because I enjoy e-mailing Julia and was afraid to tell her I didn't like the book.

This one managed to sneak out of the photo, but I did read it:

EON by Alison Goodman

This one may or may not have a full review. I must say, I had to put it down at one point. Then I had to remind myself that Eon was sixteen and rarely had to make decisions for himself before the book's beginning, as well as being mostly uneducated. I'm a trained intellectual with a talent for proofs and a feminist side. I cannot expect the character to put the pieces together in the same way I can. It would be stupid.

Of course, I packed several I didn't get to:





GOING TOO FAR by Jennifer Echols

INDA by Sherwood Smith

Most of these are for review, though INDA is just because I like the author. I also own the rest in the trilogy already, so I need to get cracking.

And I also need to organize. Here's one teeny piece of my room:

That's a box of books and three piles, by my reckoning. Just in case you couldn't tell.

May 24, 2009

Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This is the last day of vacation, but I'm actually writing it beforehand. Therefore, I can finally say I've left the country!

Customs: Where are you from?
Mom: Texas
Customs: Why were you in Canada?
Mom: Well, we went to eat lunch.
Customs: . . . but why were you up here?

Book Cover

By Jamie Ford

Sometimes I just want to take issue with covers. Yes, there is a parasol on this one, but would you think this is about a Chinese boy and Japanese girl in WWII Seattle? It's just a generic literary fiction cover. You have to look close to notice details of the clothing.

The "present" strand of the narrative is set in 1986, as Henry Lee's son Mary is graduating. He's also getting married and ready to introduce his father to his girlfriend. At the same time, belongings Japanese families left hidden when they had to go to internment camps are found in the Panama Hotel. It's a cache which Henry knows contains the belongings of his old friend Keiko Okabe.

This leads to the past narrative, which goes from 1941 until the Japanese surrender. Of course, during this time the Chinese hated the Japanese. (Not that they're really fond of them now. Their trading partnership has been affected both by edited textbooks and official visits to the Yakusuni Shrine by politicians.) But at this time the Japanese Imperial Army had invaded China and the soldiers were not treating the people well. (WWII began in Asia with the 1931 invasion of Manchuria. The most notorious incident is the Rape of Nanking on December 9, 1937.) Henry's father, born in China, is strongly involved in the Kuomintang's efforts in the USA.

But as a scholarship student, Henry helps out at his school's kitchen. He's joined by the only other Asian student, Keiko, a nisei. He's young enough to realize she's a nice girl and also into jazz. As they develop a friendship, Henry questions his loyalty to his family and what he's willing to give up for her. Their problems deepen as the war continues and Keiko is eventually put into a camp.

Jamie Ford manages to capture the atmosphere of WWII Seattle very well. The 1986 sections tend to pale in comparison to the adventures of Keiko and Henry, and their older friend Sheldon the saxophonist. The 1986 sections often seem more like placeholders to offer some parallel to Henry's earlier life. It seems like some of them could be cut. I did like that Henry was nostalgic but not regretful. He did live well.

I really enjoyed HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. For one thing, it was structured perfectly for reading in the car. The chapters are short, meaning I could easily reach somewhere to stop when I needed to stop. However, they flowed well and kept momentum moving while I didn't need stop. The 1986 sections did make me curious about what happened to Henry and Keiko's relationship.

It's emotional but not overly sentimental, and it's an interesting slice of history. Henry does have a rather progressive personality. His and Keiko's relationship felt real, though a little adult for two twelve-year-olds. (They were culturally expected to be adults at thirteen, but I know I wasn't ready to make big decisions at that age.) It's also easy to see how Henry and Ethel, his future wife, fell in love. You don't begrudge her for being who he marries. I can see why HOTEL AT THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has become popular.

Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

May 23, 2009

Books of Summer 4/7

Book Cover


Like DUST OF 100 DOGS, this one is about the summer after graduation. Aside from that, no resemblence. Okay, there is one more: it rocks pretty hard. How hard? I gave away the ARC (which Robbie gave to me) and I'm going to buy it when it comes out in paperback.

Dade's a gay boy in a small town, and he's fed out with Pablo, who won't go public. (Even though everyone knows they're together - which Pablo's girlfriend does not appreciate. She's not nice, but her motivation is understandable.) But he starts to hang with a neighbor's niece who moves in and finds a new romantic interest, Alex, at the taco place. Dade's choices aren't always smart, but he's figuring out how to be comfortable with who he is. Pablo, on the other hand, is unhappy to be left behind.

The ending did not turn out how I expected, but it worked. And usually I dislike protagonists who drink and do drugs, but Nick Burd presented it well. This isn't an action packed book by any means, but it's a good examination of character. This one is perfect for a hot day best spent indoors.

Warning, since I'd want to be warned about this: you might cry a little, but it's not an overly sad ending.

May 22, 2009

Books of Summer 3/7

Book Cover

DUST OF 100 DOGS by A.S. King

Wow, these things are just getting more expensive. This one is a ten-dollar committment, but it's still paperback for easy carriage. You've probably already heard of this one, and while it does move back and forth in time, Saffron Adams is a girl heading to a Caribbean island after graduation. Definitely summery.

Long ago, pirate queen Emer Morrisey was cursed to live the life of 100 dogs. The book unfolds with both the story of how an Irish girl became a pirate queen, and how her new human incarnation plans to recover her treasure. There's also a dirty old man living on an island, near where the teenage Saffron must go. Some of the twists are pretty obvious, but A.S. King's strong writing disguises that fault.

DUST OF 100 DOGS blends things together, making it a good story for people who like historical, contemporary, romantic, and paranormal fiction. This one is great for a day where you don't have much to do, so that you can read the book in one sitting. You'll want to put the pieces of Emer and Saffron's lives together.

May 21, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week Twenty)

My niece was in a bad mood today. Luckily she's been happier after her nap.

After I get home from vacation, I promise there will be more reviews. Plus, I have a theme planned for later in the summer!

Week Twenty

Book Cover

Dull Boy by Sarah Cross

Book Cover

Bloody Good (Bloody Trilogy, Book One) by Georgia Evans (Review Copy)

Book Cover

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (Review copy)

Book Cover

Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance 1973 by John Barnes (Review copy, ARC)

Book Cover

Eyes Like Stars (Theatre Illuminata, Book One) by Lisa Mantchev (Review copy, ARC)

Book Cover

The Lost Hours by Karen Harper (Review copy, ARC)

May 20, 2009

Books of Summer: 2/7

Book Cover

CRUEL SUMMER by Alyson Noel

Alyson Noel has hit it big with EVERMORE, the first in her Immortals series, but her previous books were not paranormal. And CRUEL SUMMER is a perfect for keeping you entertained in teh sun while you wait for your tan to develop. (Or, in my case, tuck yourself under man-made shade because your skin does not know the meaning of the word "tan.")

Colby's been out with the in crowd most of her life, but she's finally made it in. Of course, her summer of partying and developing a relationship with the hottest guy on school is put on hold when her parents ship her off to Greece to live with her aunt for the summer. Normally I'd hate Colby's whining about being sent to Greece, but Noel does a good job of preventing her point of view.

Of course, her point of view does change as she realizes she's in GREECE, and meets hot local Yannis. And as she continues contact with home through e-mail and a blog she comes to realize what makes a good friend.

Just a look at the perfect blue sky on the cover tells you what most of the book is going to be like. It's simple and predictable, but still fun and affecting. And if you don't get to it this summer, maybe it will brighten up your winter.

May 19, 2009

Books of Summer: 1/7

I came up with something to do: seven books of summer. These are books for summer, about people doing summery things, and convenient for summer.

Choice number one?

DEATH BY DENIM by Linda Gerber

Book Cover

Okay, so you should read DEATH BY BIKINI and DEATH BY LATTE first. It is a mystery series and this is the one that reveals the Mole's identity. In Paris!

But seriously, this series is cheap and pocket-sized. You can toss all three in most purses and have something to read in the bus/car/plane. And believe me, these books will make the trip far more exciting. (Especially if you're driving through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you live in those states, please tell me what you do for fun.)

Back to the book: Aphra and her mom have escaped to France, but they're about to be separated after an unexpected death. And it seems that her path is about to cross Seth's again . . . perhaps my favorite touch was the return of a character from DEATH BY LATTE. I liked him in his brief previous appearance and really worried when he got hurt since he didn't have main character immunity.

Linda Gerber answers many questions in the third DEATH BY . . . novel, though I hold out hope the series will one day be continued. But with all the murders, spies, and explosions of DEATH BY DENIM, you'll definitely be distracted from the more boring parts of summer.

And if you finish the book before you reach your destination, you can play with the cover cutout.

May 18, 2009

Coming Soon . . .

Since I've made my burning hate of the HOTTIE cover clear, Jonathan Bernstein e-mailed me to say HOTTIE is getting a new cover. I hope the new one will appeal to both YA readers and bookstore buyers!

(Check out the trailer, which is pretty cool.)

Sorry I went silent - I've been in transit for days now. I'm vacationing right after finals, so I had no time to pre-write posts. So be prepared for whatever I come up with while I'm away!

May 14, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Weeks Eighteen and Nineteen)

I did forget some last week! I shall now rectify that.

Week Eighteen


Book Cover

Red-Headed Stepchild (Sabina Kane, Book One) by Jaye Wells (Review copy, ARC)

Book Cover

Prey (Werecats, Book Four) by Rachel Vincent (Review copy, ARC)

Week Nineteen

Book Cover

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Laura Lipton (Review copy)

Book Cover

Bite Me! (AJ Ashe, Book One) by Melissa Francis (ARC)

Book Cover

Ravenous (The Dark Forgotten, Book One) by Sharon Ashwood (Bought)

Book Cover

Kaichou wa Maid-sama!/The Student Council President is a Maid! (vols. 1-4) by Fujiwara Hiro (Online)

May 13, 2009

"Waiting on" Wednesday (8)

This meme is hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine.

Since I just finished BITE ME! by Melissa Francis, I want to read the sequel, LOVE SUCKS! which will be available in Spring 2010 from HarperTeen. No cover or blurb yet . . . of course, BITE ME! won't be available until August.

Book Cover
AJ Ashe isn't a typical seventeen-year-old vampire (as if there is such a thing as `typical!') Her ex-boyfriend is now her stepbrother. Her two BFFs are in a huge fight and AJ's caught in the middle. She's totally framed for cheating on a Lit test. And now, apparently, the fate of humankind lies in her little undead hands. Like that's fair. What ever happened to the good old days when all a vampire girl had to worry about was the occasional zit and hiding her fetish for necks?

I have two contests that end Memorial Day, but first I need to make some notices about old ones.

Cecilia, Diana Dang, Valorie, and Polo.Pony - ya'll should get your prizes soon since I now have packaging for them. Sorry for the wait.

The blogiversary winners of CAMILEON and JANE IN BLOOM never reached me and I couldn't reach them by e-mail, so I selected new winners.

CAMILEON goes to Fatalis Fortuna and JANE IN BLOOM goes to Briana. Please e-mail me your addresses so that I can forward them to the authors.

Also, the Body Image Week winner never contacted me. The new winner of that copy of JANE IN BLOOM is vvb32 reads. Please e-mail me your address so that I can forward it to the ladies at MFA.

May 12, 2009

Review and Contest: Enemies & Allies

By Kevin J. Anderson

Book Cover

ENEMIES & ALLIES takes us back to the Cold War, a setting the Batman and Superman will always feel natural in. Thankfully, this book contains nothing about the reverse course (aka what I was studying while I read the book). The focus is on Gotham, Metropolis, a gulag, and a Caribbean island. What connects these places? The machinations of Lex Luthor.

Since Lex is the big bad, most of the focus is on Superman. This makes me a little sad as the Batman and his rogues' gallery own my heart, but it worked for me because Kevin J. Anderson's characterization of Superman is stronger than his of the Batman. (I should note that there are many valid characterizations of both men, but as a fan of the Batman I have a characterization I am partial to, which is not the one Anderson chose to write.

Anyway, Bruce Wayne is pretending to be an uninterested playboy and Clark Kent is still trying to prove himself to Perry White and to Lois Lane. (Wonderfully, this ends up with him trying to write a column to the lovelorn. The subplot lasts just long enough to be entertaining without being annoying.) It's early in the mythos, so don't expect Robin or Power Girl to show up, though there are cameos by figures like Catwoman and the Penguin. (People not familiar with the comics won't feel lost. They serve their purpose and move on, whether you know their identity or not.)

To me, the story felt a little bare. Anderson wrote the characters competently but didn't explore anything new about the friendship of the Batman and Superman. I also feel like there could be some more play with the fact ENEMIES & ALLIES is a novel rather than a graphic novel. What can a novel do better? One of the great things about things like the DCAU is they explore what you can do artistically when you move the characters into a different medium. I think fans will enjoy ENEMIES & ALLIES, but it has the potential to be more.

It is fun to go back to a world where Kryptonite is rare, instead of available on every street corner, in every corner you want. (I'm looking at you Smallville.) And, as I said before, the Cold War will always be a good time for these two to strut their stuff. There's detection, action, corporate struggles, and the American Way. It's an enjoyable story, but I'd recommend waiting for the paperback. At the hardcover price you could buy a trade of some of the best issues.

Kevin J. Anderson is also the author of THE LAST SON OF KRYPTON, as well as THE SEVEN SUNS SAGA, and the co-author of many DUNE prequels/sequels. (I first read several of his STAR WARS books.) His newest novel, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, will be released soon. You can find out more on his MySpace and website.

One commenter will receive the 2008 FCBD edition of All Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Contest ends Memorial Day. (As does this one.)

May 10, 2009

Review: Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger

By Brent Hartinger

Book Cover

We're on the home stretch to summer, so here's a book about summer. More specifically, how fifteen year old Dave, Curtis, and Spencer work all summer so that they don't have to get jobs. I've read and enjoyed many of Brent Hartinger's previous books, but the first two chapters had me wary. First I had to get over the premise - their dads want them to work, they don't want to. Dave and friends act like at fifteen its optional to work in the summer, but at sixteen it's required. (Yes, once you start working you will be expected to keep it up, but there's no set date to start.) It just weirded me out how much these upper middle class kids considered summer jobs necessary even beyond what their parents thought about it. My friends and I lived in households with less income and didn't feel the pressure as much as these kids. Plenty of sixteen year olds, seventeen year olds, and so on don't get summer jobs.

Then, the second chapter is their first plan to get out of working: they'll sell their valuable personal belongings and use the money to fake an income. The flaw they don't acknowledge: they'd get to spend the rest of the summer palling around without possessions. After the sale they realize there's no longer any comfort in their hideaway, but before it's oddly a non-issue.

After that point their plans to get rich quick became more surreal and the book became more enjoyable as it detached from reality. For those who hate plots fueled by coincidence, PROJECT SWEET LIFE is not the book to pick up. For me, the device worked. The outlandishness and neatness kept me from picking too much at the premise.

Hartinger also uses the city's geography to good effect. I enjoyed the note at the end about the actual history of Tacoma as I was wondering what was real and what was made up. He weaved it in well, so that I didn't feel lost even though I've never been anywhere near Tacoma or to a city with similar infrastructure.

I enjoyed watching things fall together, as what seemed to be one-shot episodes pulled together into a cohesive whole. Dave, Curtis, and Victor all had fun personalities and it was interesting to see what each of them proposed as a way to earn money. (My favorite was using math for a jelly beans in a jar contest - I did that as a kid and won a couple of times, for a much smaller prize.) There are two love interests for Curtis and Victor, Haleigh and Lani, but they don't show up enough for actual relationships to be developed or for their characters to be explored. The most interesting side character is the Chinese restaurant waitress. I wish I knew where she got her information.

Overall, PROJECT SWEET LIFE was a fun book for summer. The contents may inspire you to go outside and do something with friends rather than stay in and read. (Not that you can't read with friends. This is especially fun if you go to a store and sit together, reading the same book for the first time.) It is available now from HarperTeen, as are Hartinger's previous books, including THE LAST CHANCE TEXACO and the oft-banned GEOGRAPHY CLUB. You can find out more at Hartinger's website, el jay and MySpace. He also runs The Torch Online.

May 8, 2009

Bait and Switch

Today was a bait and switch day. I woke up expecting it to be excellent - I finished classes yesterday, so all I have left is two finals. Tonight is my formal and I bought a truly awesome Betsey Johnson cupcake dress on extreme sale at the outlet last weekend. So far the day has sucked. The main reason is I lost my sunglasses.

My dad gave them to me for Christmas a couple of years ago and I wear them everyday. I know when and where I lost them, since I had them when I went into the cafeteria and didn't have them when I finished my food. But my friend and I couldn't find them looking around and no one has turned them in. (The staff cleans after lunch, so they weren't found that way.) Apparently I'm not allowed to hang a lost sign on the bulletin board outside the cafeteria. So my favorite sunglasses are gone unless someone decided to delay in returning them for some reason.

I'm no longer excited about my cupcake dress. I've been excited for a week and now I just want the day to be over.

This reminds me of bait and switch books: the blurb and cover tell you it's one thing, you open it to discover another. It pisses me off. I know I usually enjoy Carolyn Mackler, but GUYAHOLIC wasn't what I expected and I couldn't enjoy it as much as her others. I expected a road trip story, when that's an extremely short part of the novel.

Book Cover

V Valentine is the queen of meaningless hookups. Ever since her mom dumped her with her grandparents, she has bounced from guy to guy. But in the spring of senior year, a fateful hockey puck lands her in the lap of Sam Almond. Right from the start, things with Sam are different. V is terrified to admit it, but this might be meaningful after all. On the afternoon of graduation, V receives some shocking news. Later, at a party, she makes an irreversible mistake and risks losing Sam forever. When her mom invites her to Texas, V embarks on a cross-country road trip with the hopes of putting two thousand miles between herself, Sam, and the wreckage of that night. With her trademark blend of humor and compassion, Carolyn Mackler takes readers on an unforgettable ride of missed exits, misadventures, and the kind of epiphanies that come only when you’re on a route you’ve never taken before.

Sometimes it takes getting hit with a hockey puck to help you see what’s good for you! Carolyn Mackler is back -- and V is off on a solo road trip -- in this funny, poignant follow-up to VEGAN VIRGIN VALENTINE.

I know romance readers have been recently annoyed by Lori Foster's MY MAN MICHAEL. The latest in a contemporary romance series, it involves time travel. No clues about this on the cover or blurb, so readers thought it would also be contemporary.

Book Cover

To you, what are the worst bait and switch offenders?

May 7, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Week Eighteen)

I really hope I'm not forgetting one. I bought a ton of books last week but haven't read them yet.

Week Eighteen

Book Cover

Skip Beat (vols 14-20) by Nakamura Yoshiki (read in store and online)

I can't believe I fell so far behind on this series. The art has some problems (small heads), but it's an excellent, funny story. SKIP BEAT is not typical shojo. Most feminists would find Kyoko, Moko, and the other girls reasonable role models.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...