Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nowhere Fast reveal!

So I'm still deep in editing, and will be for quite a while.  But I'm releasing Nowhere Fast in December, and I've put up a tentative description on GoodReads.  Want to see what you might be getting into?  Look here. Add it to your to-read shelf, if you'd like.

I'm also close to done with this round of editing.  If someone would like to be a beta reader, I'd be more than happy to receive as much feedback as possible.  Let me know through the contact form!

Book review: Beta (Annex #1) by Rachel Cohn

Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist. 

Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island's workers-soulless clones like Elysia-are immune to. 

At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care-so why are overpowering sensations cloud­ing Elysia's mind? 

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi­ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive. 

I had mixed feelings about Beta.  On the one hand, the concept itself is great, and for a lot of the book, it's carried out beautifully.  Even when it takes a darker turn it's not bad.  I'd say it's average, but 'average' means it certainly didn't live up to the apparent hype that was around it, or to the name of the author.  Rachel Cohn is pretty well-known in YA book circles by now.

I think most of the problem I had was with the ending.  I don't normally put spoilers into reviews, but I'll say what I want to emphasize my point.  After Elysia's raped by her brother, strung-out on drugs at the time, she escapes to an island at the end of the chain Demesne is in, where she meets up with M-X, who turns out to be the clone who was in her orientation video at the start of the book.  This is the first thing I wondered about: M-X rebelled, saying she escaped after they found out about her healing powers.  Why?  She isn't shown to have magical powers.  She just uses some herbs from the jungle to help Elysia heal.  Anyone with knowledge of plants could do that.

Then we find out Elysia is pregnant, presumably from when her brother raped her.  We find this out because M-X apparently did a blood test?  If I'm remembering correctly, blood pregnancy tests involve testing for elevated estrogen levels.  How in the world could they do that in the middle of nowhere?

Finally, the biggest twist of all at the end.  I won't say it, but it makes me wonder about several things in the book, including Alexander supposedly imprinting on her if she's not really her First.

I guess what I'm saying here is that it was a good concept and a good start, but it slowly descended into madness.  I might read the sequel just to see how she explains the very end.  Although I'm a little tired of authors continually putting huge, rough cliffhangers at the ends of their books.  It's happened in three I've read now!  The kind of cliffhangers that make you flip forward and think "Wait, that's it?" because it's not really an ending.

Book review: Cross My Heart, Hope To Die (The Lying Game #5) by Sara Shephard

When I died two months ago, my killer told my twin sister to become me—or else. Now Emma has it down to a T. She tosses her hair with the signature Sutton Mercer flip and can lead a Lying Game prank with the best of them. She’s even repairing my relationship with my adoptive family. The only thing she hasn’t done is solve my murder.

Then our birth mother, the woman who abandoned us, showed up in Tucson. Emma hasn’t seen Becky in twelve years, but Becky recognizes Emma immediately—as Emma. Is it a mother’s intuition . . . or does Becky know I’m already gone?

So even though I haven't reviewed them all, I have read all of the Lying Games series so far.  I have to give Shepard credit for one thing: she knows how to write series that will make you want to come back for more.  I wouldn't be this far into a series I absolutely hated or couldn't care less about, right?

On the other hand, at this point, I feel like the mystery and the logic being used on Emma's part is a little... not there?  I won't spoil anything for this book since the entire point of the series is the mystery, but something happens near the end that's a little too convenient for any normal person to ignore, and yet Emma does.  I certainly wouldn't want to leave my life in her hands!

As a final note, I realized that this is the kind of series that would SUCK to read after the fact.  As in, y'know, it's finished and all the books are out.  I say this because there has literally been at least one new suspect every single book, so someone reading early in the series who knows how many books there are in it will lose a bit of the suspense about it all.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Manga Monday #1

I've actually been thinking for a while that I wanted to do Manga Monday, both to get this blog more active and as an excuse to read more manga.  So here's the first in an on-going meme, I hope!

Café Latte Rhapsody by Touko Kawai

A bookstore employee, Serizawa - a short, comical, and adorable young man - spots Keito - a immensely tall and intense-eyed man - in the store. It was a love at first sight for Serizawa! However, Serizawa realizes that Keito is extremely shy and meek. What's holding him back? Can Keito overcome his shyness and show his true feelings?

So the summary kind of sucks.  Cafe Latte Rhapsody is actually a lighthearted manga about two men falling in love, taking care of kittens, and enjoying cafe lattes.  I decided to start doing this meme with this one because it's my favorite manga right now, and has been since I read it.  There's drama near the end because of Seri's lack of confidence in himself, but for the most part, it's an easy, light read for when you just want to feel good!  And the art is cute.  If you don't read yaoi manga, it's certainly an easy way for you to get into them; there's one short sex scene around the middle of the book.

Also the drama CD is adorable.  Even if you don't understand Japanese.

Book review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

I was told that Days of Blood and Starlight was supposed to be even better than Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I can definitely believe it.  The problem I had with Daughter of Smoke and Bone was that the romance was unrealistic, with no buildup for either Madrigal or Karou.  It made me less sympathetic with the characters when things went bad.

However, in Days of Blood and Starlight, the focus shifts from the romance that Daughter of Smoke and Bone was so intent on laying out.  It’s been completely dismantled, in fact, and the focus is put more on world building and the war between seraphim and chimera.  It’s refreshing. The book is full of twists and turns that keep you guessing.  The writing itself has changed; it’s not so much like a fairytale in most places.  The contents of this book are harsh, full of death and disappointment for the characters.  I guess what I’m saying is: this book is brutal, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that’s needed in fantasy these days, I think.  Then again, I think it’s needed in every genre: hard truths and characters working hard only to lose what they were so sure they’d get.  It’s a refreshing change.

There are more differences between this and the first book as well, though; it’s in multiple points of view.  Not first person, but close third.  I was somewhat thankful for that, mostly because I’ve read so many books that have failed to make first person multiple POVs sound any different from each other, and Karou, Akiva, and everyone else that the book follows throughout the chapters are very much different from each other that it’d be a shame if the author had tried it and fell into the same trap.  There’s even a chapter that follows a guard in the seraphim capitol as he watches one of the emperor’s concubines make the walk to his chambers that night.  Between that and the civilian chimera you see for much of the book, I feel like the book gives you a good grasp on just how the war affects the common person, not just the soldiers like Akiva and the people working behind the scenes like Karou.

As a final note, I’m pretty sure Akiva goes Super Saiyan near the end. I won’t give details, but it was epic and it amused me.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cover reveal: Roman Holiday by Ashelyn Poston

I have another cover reveal for you guys today!  This time it's a self-published book, one I've had the pleasure of reading in one of its early forms.  Roman Holiday was a top pick on the now-defunct website inkpop, where I met the author and started talking to her.  She's a wonderful person and you all should support her in her endeavors.  That includes taking over the world.

Anyway, here we go!

Roman Holiday Summary: 

When the death of his bandmate forces twenty-one-year-old rockstar Roman Montgomery to return to his real hometown to do some damage control, he runs into the last person he ever wanted to see again―his childhood sweetheart.

Eighteen-year-old Junie Baltimore has problems of her own. Heartbroken from her first love and mourning the death of her father, Junie isn't ready to return to the small coastal town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for her mom's remarriage. When she runs into Roman with his cheshire grin and emerald eyes that still make her weak in the knees, she's determined not to swoon―or be swooned.

But when an obsessed paparazzo hell-bent on destroying Roman slut-shames Junie on every tabloid in the country, she begins to understand why he left, and broke her heart, in the first place. Maybe it wasn't because he's ashamed of his past. Maybe it's because there is something here he wants to protect.

And maybe it's time someone protected him.

Roman Holiday will be out soon!  You want a part in promoting this lovely book?  You can sign up for the blog tour here.  You can also go to her blog here, and follow her on Twitter here. Finally, don't forget to add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On writing LGBT YA books

In every area of writing, you find things that you shouldn’t do.  My specialty is young adult, specifically writing YA novels with protagonists who are on the LGBT spectrum.  The internet has created a bigger literacy of the terms among people who aren’t on the spectrum.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and the focus of this article isn’t on the allies but on writers in general.

What shouldn’t you do when writing a novel that has an LGBT lead?

Well the things vary.  LGBT stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender” which are all different experiences a human can have, even if the first three might seem the same to some.  Like any human experience, though, no two people going through the same one are going to have the same story.  What one person sees as stereotypical and degrading, another finds as their truth.  Stereotypes do often come from (stretched) truths at first, and to dismiss someone’s experience is to do them a disservice.

There are butch lesbians, effeminate gay men, bisexuals who enjoy a life of sex with both men and women, and transgender people who follow all the usual tropes of “feeling different” from a young age.

But that shouldn’t be all of who they are.  It’s true that many people with differing sexualities and gender identities participate in pride parades, in gay-straight alliances, in rallies for their country’s government to give them the same rights that are afforded to everyone else.  However, have you honestly ever met someone whose entire existence revolved around being different?  What a boring existence that would be, though I suppose this is where a hipster joke would go, huh?

Just because a character is different doesn’t mean you have to make them dwell on it the entire book, putting every free thought and moment into pounding it into our heads that they’re trans* or bisexual or anything.

With the uprising of self-publishing, you find more and more books with main characters who are on the LGBT spectrum, and that’s a good thing.  Commercial publishing houses aren’t always willing to take the risk of straying too far from the norm, not because they don’t want to, but they don’t have the faith that they’ll sell enough for it to be worth putting all the effort a commercial publishing contract entails just for one book.  Any company’s bottom line is its profit, after all, and in a society that is progressively becoming more accepting, the story of a white, straight girl falling for a handsome guy who sweeps into her life sells better.

I’m not saying issue books don’t have their places.  But we as a society are never going to get past seeing other sexualities and gender identities as different if that’s all that’s portrayed in fiction, which is more readily accessible to us than real life examples; only about one in ten people are gay, which is quite a high number in the big scheme of things, but statistics don’t tell us the whole story. You could have a whole town made up mostly of those groups of nine people, especially here in Maine where some town populations barely reach a thousand.  And while it’s true that sexuality is fluid, you’re more likely to meet an openly bisexual or gay person who admits that than someone secure in their heterosexuality.  Gender tends to be less so, from a combination of society’s expectations and how a person feels about it themselves.

Teenagers are more accepting of things that their parents and grandparents will shun.  While not all know exactly what to do or how to voice this, there’s still the chance in there to let them know that being accepting their gay friend or their trans* friend is okay, and doesn’t need to be a big deal.  Someone being on the LGBT spectrum doesn’t stop them from doing anything their friend who’s not can do.  So why aren’t there more books where an LGBT teenager worries about college, or is suffering a broken heart, or tries to mend their life after the death of a close friend or family member?  Why aren’t there more books where what they do is more of important than who they are? 

My guess is that it’s because with all the hoopla about gay rights and marriage and the effort to suppress them, society has shown us that it DOES matter that we’re different.  It extends everywhere, from looks to body type to things you have control over, such as your past times.  Comic book conventions aren’t seen as a gathering of people who appreciate the arts, but as a smelly, geekish festival to be mocked and avoided.  I would, personally, love to go to Comic-Con.  I pity the soul who wouldn’t! Comic book fans might get ferocious, but they have just as much excitement in their eyes when they meet Stan Lee as a teenage girl might get if they had the chance to go backstage with One Direction, or any other singer or band that’s popular right now.

People might be different from you, but they still enjoy doing things.  They’re not trying to oppress you by being LGBT or black or a comic fan.  They’re happy being left alone so they can live their lives as they see fit.  And that more than likely involves wondering what to have for supper more often than “What gay thing can I do today?”

Just think about it next time you read a gay YA book and have to consider how realistic you think it is.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a blogging meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, for the purpose of increasing follower and view counts, as well as getting to know each other!

This week's question:

Activity! Hopefully warm weather for most of us is here soon…so tell us about your favorite outdoor reading spot. Or take a picture.

During warmer weather, my mother and stepfather set up a screen house in our driveway (a very big driveway).  They put benches and chairs in it, along with a table and a candle.  Given that we live outside town, it's rather relaxing to just go out there and prop my feet up for a few hours.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. 

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Here we have another example of a book that’s written like a fairy tale.  It’s not the same as the Guardians series that I’ve mentioned has that type of convention, mostly because it’s clearly written for an older set (though not too much, given that this is a YA book).  I really did like this book, at the end of the day.  There’s such a sweeping mythology, and so many twists and turns that it keeps you on your toes and keeps you reading.  Or, at least it did me.  There aren’t too many books that make me want to read them rather than do things I should, like cleaning or editing (although when I have to do those I usually just end up on Tumblr).

The book also manages to make connections to things in the early pages that you might not have even paid attention to, which is the sign of a good story that was thought-out in either the planning stages or the editing stages, unlike many books that have obviously had plot points added on later when the author wanted more going on.

There were things I didn’t like about it; the relationships both seemed… rushed.  There just didn’t seem to be enough thought between “I hate him, he’s horrible” to “He’s the love of my life!” for both Karou and Madrigal, and it made the relationship, while sweet, seem artificial and not necessarily based on what was inside as it was supposed to be intended.  The relationship itself was nice, but as I said, I just didn’t feel like there was enough lead-up or getting into the character’s heads to understand why they fell in love with him so quickly.

Still, a good book, and I have the sequel up next, which I’m a lot less reluctant to read than the sequel to some of the books I’ve reviewed in the past.  Non-reluctance is a lot better than contempt for an author.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cover Reveal: Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans

Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans
Publication date: March 15th 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal

Even being dead isn’t enough to get you out of maths class.

Dying wasn't on sixteen-year-old Riley Richardson's to-do list. And now, not only is she dead, but she's stuck in a perpetual high school nightmare. Worse still, she's stuck there with the geekiest, most annoying boy in the history of the world, ever. In a school where the geeks are popular and just about everything is wrong, Riley has become an outcast. She begins a desperate quest to get back to her perfect life, but her once-perfect life starts to unravel into something not nearly as perfect as she thought it was.
And maybe death isn’t really that bad after all...

Welcome to Afterlife Academy, where horns are the norm, the microwave is more intelligent than the teachers, and the pumpkins have a taste for blood.



Jaimie is a 27-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, drinking tea and watching horror movies. She hates spiders and cheese & onion crisps.

She has been writing for years, but has never before plucked up the courage to tell people. She writes mostly chick-lit and young adult. Kismetology is her first novel and there are plenty more on the way!

Author Links:
Jaimie's Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly book meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, with the goal of increasing followers and letting book bloggers get to know each other.

This week's question:

What is a book you didn’t like that all your friends raved about or what book did you love that wasn’t popular?

I try not to read other book reviews unless they're by friends, at least if I plan to read the book.  It kind of tends to tilt my opinion one way or the other.  However, a book I reviewed when I first made this blog, Starseed, only had one other negative review and the rest were raving about what a treasure it was.  If you've read the review, you can understand why I'd wonder about their taste.  I found absolutely no redeeming qualities in the thing!  Ah well.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Can Actually Work!

I feel like I procrastinate too much, but that's not entirely true.  I get a lot of stuff done, just not things I should do, like editing my novel.  But when I do?

Track Changes is a glorious feature.  I need to start talking more about my novel on here if I'm gonna build up hype, huh?  Guess when I get more edited.

Book review: Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (The Guardians #3) by William Joyce

When last we heard, the guardians were resting easy with the knowledge that the children of Santoff Claussen were finally safe from Pitch's dastardly plans.

But is it all a ruse, a scheme, a lull the evil Nightmare King has deviously concocted?  Whatever Pitch's plans, what he doesn't know is that there's a new Guardian in town, and she's not the type to forget old grudges.  Actually, she's not the type to forget anything, because this Guardian is none other than Toothiana, the Tooth Fairy herself.  She's fierce and fast, and crossing her will lead to a multitude of troubles.  And it turns out that, well, all those teeth she has been collecting?  They contain memories: the forgotten memories of childhood.  Young Katherine hopes that these memories might help her to remember her parents.  The Guardians hope they'll offer even further protection from Ptich.

You can see how this information would be invaluable to our heroes.

But it could also be invaluable to Pitch...

The third book in the Guardians series introduces us to Toothiana, as shown in the title and description.  She’s the tooth fairy, essentially, and like with all the mythical figures before her, she comes from an interesting background, one you wouldn’t really think of when asked about the Tooth Fairy.  That’s one of the advantages of this series; it’s creative, not dumbed-down just because it’s aimed at pre-teens.

Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies follows the same fairytale-like storytelling as its predecessors, but the tone of it is darker, getting progressively so as you get through the book.  Especially in the end, in fact, though I won’t give those details of course.  Toothiana’s backstory is quite sad, and when she goes in to get Katherine’s tooth and the Monkey King attacks, she goes crazy.  There’s a bit of talk about death, mostly aimed at the Monkey King and Pitch, whom is, of course, still alive.  There’s nothing wrong with that, though, and I think the lesson in the end is one that can be applied to anyone, not just children.

However, the end is a cliffhanger. A very frustrating cliffhanger, in a way.  However, I have read much, much worse.  It still works as an end for the book, and doesn’t leave you wondering “Wait, where’s the rest?” as other series books I’ve read have unfortunately done.  Meanwhile, however, the fourth book, The Sandman and the War of Dreams, doesn’t come out until September.  But it’ll be worth the wait!  And for those who were fans of Rise of the Guardians, the back teaser informs us that “a wayward lad of considerable interest named Jackson Overland Frost” shows up!  I personally look forward to it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB ofShould Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
 •Grab your current read
•Open to a random Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser Tuesday:
"Perhaps if you chant the ancient Atlantan phrase 'Sleep-o deep-o slumberly doo-'" Ombric began to suggest.
Bunnymund interrupted with, "Counting!"
-Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies by William Joyce

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book review: E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! (The Guardians #2) by William Joyce

Pitch, the Nightmare King, and his Fearlings had been soundly driven back by Nicholas St. North and company in the first Guardians’ adventure. But now Pitch has disappeared completely—and out of sight does NOT make for out of mind. It seems certain that he’s plotting a particularly nefarious revenge, and the Guardians suspect he might have gone underground. But how can they find him there?

Enter E. Aster Bunnymund, the only emissary of the fabled brotherhood of the Pookas—the league of philosophical warrior rabbits of imposing intellect and size. Highly skilled in martial arts (many of which he invented himself), Bunnymund is brilliant, logical, and a tunnel-digger extraordinaire. If the Guardians need paths near the Earth’s core, he’s their Pooka. He’s also armed with magnificent weapons of an oval-sort, and might just be able to help in the quest for the second piece of the Moonclipper.

Well, here's the second book in the series.  If you read my review of the first one, it was clear that I really enjoyed it.  And I loved this one, too.  These books are meant for about junior high level maybe, but there's so much to them that anyone can enjoy them, providing they haven't grown up so much that they think themselves above fairy tales.

This time we learn about E. Aster Bunnymund, the Easter bunny.  Bunnymund has invented pretty much everything useful used on Earth and will continue to do so if the book's hints are anything to go by.  He has a serious nature, but he slowly warms up to Katherine, North and even Ombric as the book goes on and he helps them find the next relic and fight against Pitch.

The writing itself hasn't changed; as I said earlier, it's like a fairy tale, telling the true origins of characters that everyone knows.  This time around, we even get hints as to Katherine's fate; she writes more stories that are common nursery rhymes and gets a goose.  Mother Goose?  Maybe.  I guess only time will tell.

Though it has the quality of a fairy tale, the writing has plenty of suspenseful parts as well, leaving you genuinely worried about the characters, such as when the Guardians get back to Santoff Clausen and find that Pitch has already gotten to the villagers and turned them into enslaved dolls.  Things don't always go perfectly, and that's the sign of a story told well, in my opinion.

There's only one more book in this series out right now, and the review for that one will be coming soon.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly blogging meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's designed to help people network and gain followers, as well as let us get to know each other a little better!

This week's question:

Confess your blogger sins! Is there anything as a newbie blogger that you’ve done, that as you gained more experience you were like — oops?

The blogs I used to run were never very popular because I'm kind of... too shy to promote myself to others? I suppose that would be a blogger sin: not putting yourself out there.  I'm still learning the ins and outs of book blogging so I hope I'm not doing anything bad right now!  Although I wouldn't be surprised if I was.