Monday, October 31, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: Celebrating the Supernatural!

Welcome to Miscellaneous Mondays! Happy Halloween! As you might guess, Halloween is probably my favorite holiday. Unfortunately, I'm not doing much to celebrate this year due to time and money constraints. But, in place of the costumes and candy deal, I'm going to talk about some of the creepy/cute/fun supernatural stuff in my life!


This week's Supernatural revisited another classic motif of the show: The bad guys pretending to be our heroes, and thus getting them in a ton of trouble. Personally I think shapeshifters that have the ability to look like anyone are freaking terrifying. Hunting monsters that look like monsters would be bad enough. Hunting monsters that might look like your brother or your best friend or your grandmother? That seems impossible.

In other monster news, here is my updated Monster High doll collection.

The three new dolls are Draculaura, Clawd, and Holt Hyde. All were birthday presents from Josh.

Fairy Tales!

Watching the premier of Once Upon a Time kind of got me on a fairy tale kick. It appears to be a show that's going to mix fairy tales with contemporary drama. It remains to be seen how successful the blend will be, but I love the concept.

I also watched the premier of Grimm online, since it's on at the same time as Supernatural. This one seems to be a crime show mixed with fairy tale characters. Again, I love the concept, but I have no idea if it will be something that the writers and cast can continue to make interesting week after week.

All of this called back to mind one of my favorite obscure shows--The Tenth Kingdom. This was a miniseries that aired back in 2000. It's basically about young woman named Virginia who, along with her father, gets sucked into a world where fairy tales are real. It was a fun show that didn't take itself too seriously--it's delightfully awkward and cheesy. It is also, unfortunately, very hard to actually find. If you can track it down online to watch it, it's totally worth it. I introduced it to Josh, who enjoyed it quite a bit. We're both bummed that there was no sequel or follow up of any kind.

Weekly Poll Results: Beauty and the Beast Wins!

I chose this poll because of my aforementioned fairy tale kick. Here's what the results look like in pie form!

It was a pretty close race between Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but in the end Beast prevailed. I love all fair tales, but yes, Beauty and the Beast is my favorite too...

See, I have evidence!
  ...This is from last Halloween. Yep, you never quite outgrow the awesomeness that is Beauty and the Beast. And yes, before anyone seeks to educate me in this matter, I realize that all fairy tales have been around long before Disney came along and sanitized the hell out of them. But it was the Disney version that I saw first, so that's what started my affection for it.

Leaving aside cartoons for a moment, beauty/beast stories are used pretty frequently in romance novels. Sometimes it's as a deliberate  retelling, such as in When Beauty Tamed the Beast. But in other cases, it's a subtler thing. One of my favorite examples is J.R. Ward's Lover Awakened. You have a hero who is horribly and permanently scarred, and has zero social skills. The heroine, seemingly his opposite in every way, has a herculean task in even getting him to trust her. In the end, the story is surprisingly touching. Do you have a favorite beauty/beast book? Do share!

In keeping with the fairy tale theme, this weeks poll is Favorite Disney Heroine. Please take a second to vote, on the right of your screen. Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Following Friday (9)



Q:  If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

 Oh, good question! Ok, I think I'd want to make breakfast for Elena and Clay from Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld books...And I'd make them pancakes and ham because that's Elena's favorite food! Or, because I just read and love Hounded, I'd invite Atticus and Oberon from The Iron Druid chronicles by Kevin Hearne to dinner and there would be sausage for everyone! LOL... 

New followers, be sure to take a second to participate in my weekly poll (whats your favorite fairy tale) on the right side of your screen! Thanks in advance, and Happy Reading!

On Male Virgins: A Review of Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan is the second book in the Turner trilogy. Let me say right up front that I highly recommend both books to anyone who likes historical romance, or even someone who thinks they might be curious enough to try one. You can find my review of book 1, Unveiled, HERE.

Mark is a highly intellectual man who has written a book on the importance of male chastity. To his great surprise, the book has risen to astonishing popularity, garnering him a knighthood and a swarm of fans. Unfortunately it has also attracted some enemies. One such enemy puts out a reward to any woman who can seduce the virtuous knight and ruin his reputation. Jessica has spent seven years as a courtesan and is determined to get out of the life. Knowing that the reward money would set her free, Jessica sets out to seduce Mark.

Positive Comments:

This is a highly character driven story, and fortunately the characters are quite likeable. Mark is genuinely noble and ethical, but desperately wants someone to see beyond all of that. Jessica is a strong, somewhat hardened character who's sole focus has been survival for a very long time. Yet Jessica does have a sense of morality, and right from the beginning she didn't really want to hurt Mark.

I guess have to take a moment to mention the virginity thing. Male virgin heroes are quite rare in romance novels, where as female virgins are a dime a dozen. I'm not sure whether this is supposed to reflect real life, or if it's because male virgins are thought to be unappealing. Personally, if it's the latter reason, I think that's codswallop.There is something oddly appealing about male virgins in a romantic book. I can remember two off-hand: Jamie from Outlander (a 5+ star book IMO) and Conrad from Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark books. In both cases the virgin factor was a huge positive for me. Anyway, in Unclaimed Mark is a virgin, and it does make for interesting plot and character developments. Not to mention the tension it creates.

The plot is mostly driven forward through internal conflict. Both Mark and Jessica have some scars from their past to be dealt with. The nature of these past hurts are revealed at a pace that built anticipation but did not, for the most part, feel drawn out. Between the well crafted plot and the Victorian country setting, I found it easy to immerse myself in the story.

Critical Comments:

Two very minor things. First, Mark was almost too perfect. Usually, even a brilliant and loveable hero will, being a man, screw up at some point in the story and make the reader just a little peeved at him. To me that moment is kind of crucial, because it puts the reader on the heroine's side and makes you root for her. It also helps the hero to seem more real. Without it, Mark comes across rather like a Prince Charming figure. But hey, who wouldn't marry Prince Charming, right? Second, Jessica's ongoing worry that she will hurt Mark or ruin him just by being with him wore a bit thin for me after awhile. Her worries were understandable, but somewhere around the second time she thought she might leave him for his own good I lost some patience. Thankfully the problem is resolved in a satisfactory manner, but it still bugged me just a bit.

Overall, it took me a total of a couple of hours over a two day span to read this book--very fast for me. That's a testament to how well written and enjoyable this novel is. Historical romance fans won't want to miss it! 4 stars.

*Speaking of Prince Charming, don't forget to vote for you favorite fairy tale. Poll ends Sunday! Happy Reading!*

Monday, October 24, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: On Buyings Ghosts

Yep, it's that time again: Miscellaneous Monday, the post chalk full of topics you may or may not care about!

The Secret Circle

Well, after watching episode 5 (Slither), I've decided I'm done with this show for now. When a primary character dies, or even "dies" as is typical in paranormal shows, and all you feel is apathy, it's time to throw in the towel. Why did this show fail for me? The first and most pressing issue is that I really don't care for the characters. Cassie still feels bland, even after going through so much stuff that should have helped her develop. So, until I have more free time to waste or I get word that the show is improving, I'm done.


Ah, I love the witch ones. Witches have been a "staple monster" in the show since their first appearance in season three. I find them pretty scary and fascinating in that they kill from a distance, leaving magical booby traps in your home and cursing you from the comfort of their cozy suburban mini-mansions. This particular episode featured a husband and wife, both witches, hell-bent on taking each other down with magic. I found this one pretty amusing.

Sweeney Todd

My fiance and I went to the local production of Sweeney Todd. I love the movie version, but that can obviously never compare to the fun of seeing a live production, even a low budget one. The actor playing Todd pulled it off really well, with the perfect look and voice for the part. Our Mrs. Lovett was decent as well. The actor cast in the role of the Judge was less than impressive, but no one was going to live up to Alan Rickman standards anyway. The bottom line is, if you haven't seen the movie version, I highly recommend it. That recommendation is doubled if you have the opportunity to see it live. It's good, dramatic, and horrific fun.

The Monster High Crew Welcomes Spectra and Clawdeen

First, I added two new dolls to my collection: Clawdeen and Spectra. I'm super excited to have a werewolf doll of any sort. The only major crisis was that her ears make her a bit too tall to stand on the shelf where the others live, so she has to stand. Josh found Spectra for me, and I was incredibly excited because she's pretty hard to come by. So now I have a Frankenstein, a sea monster, a zombie, a werewolf, and a ghost doll. It's geektastic.

I also got Ghoulia a new outfit. In the webisodes, Ghoulia is a comic book geek. The extra outfit comes with a t-shirt, action figure, and tiny comic book.

Weekly  Poll: What helps you choose a book?

According to the poll, the most important factors are author and series. That's certainly true for me. If an author is new to me, I look him/her up and figure out what single title or series most interest me. I'm far more inclined to read series with several books already out. I also rely pretty heavily on reviews, when I can find ones that seem reliable. So to everyone out there who strives to write good thorough reviews, keep it up!

"New Weekly Poll: What's Your Favorite Fairytale? "can be found on the right side of your screen. Please take a second to participate!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crazy Covers: Props Edition

Yep, it's crazy cover time again. The theme this time around: props. Giving your model something to hold is a lazy way to convey what the book is all about. Let's take a look...

He's thinking "I really should have pulled out."
Yeah...see? Right here, a baby! That's their way of saying "This is an oops! We made a baby!" book. I have to admit, surprise baby/pregnancy books are not my cup of tea. But if that's what you like, this cover would probably suck you in right off. Never mind that he looks NOTHING like that child. Get a paternity test, dude.

Umm...How long to I have to hold these things?
If one baby is good...two is twice as good? I'm not sure. But in any case, this one is funny because of his facial expression. He appears triumphant, surprised, and disturbed all at the same time. "I have procreated! I am all powerful!"

Anyone ever notice that it's the guys that are holding the baby on these covers, 9 times out of 10. Is mom off having a margarita or getting her nails done? I guess it's wish fulfillment for a female audience--a hot guy doing all the parenting!

That's a cruel trick to play on a sleeping person.
Putting food on your cover always draws me in, because I'm basically always hungry. This one is really dangerous though! You shouldn't eat laying down! And cherries have pits! Is he "Tempted" to choke her to death?

I bet the photographer made her hold that pose for like 20 minutes, just to be mean.
Ah, the giant sword. Good for letting potential readers know that this is a fantasy book (or in some cases historical) and that there will be lot's of magical stuff, in case the "Dragon" in the title didn't tip you off. This one bugs me though, because nothing about her stance or grip on that thing suggests that she actually knows how to use a sword. I'm pretty sure she's going to lose her grip and slice her own head open. Plus, what the hell is she wearing? Did she make a slutty tank top out of the last dragon she killed? I guess that would make sense.

That glowing necklace can't be good. Radiation like that will give you cancer.
And then there's this stupid chick. Brandishing her gun ineffectually. Holding her...magic necklace of doooom? The whole pose looks like an awkward dance move in a crowded club. Plus it looks like her pants are literally on fire. This is not a person I'd expect to live very long.

Hey there, Mr. Model Guy, if you could clench a few more muscles that would be great. Thanks.

For fans of sports! And shirtlessness! I'm pretty sure no one plays baseball shirtless and in jeans, but whatever. I won't spoil the fantasy. Hey, if we photoshop a baby in there somewhere he could be the PERFECT guy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On Gremlins: A Review of Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

When I first started getting into urban fantasy, Patricia Briggs was one of those authors that was on everyone's list of recommendations. I quickly discovered why. With her unique characters and simple story telling, she keeps her readers immersed for hours. In my review of book 2, Blood Bound, I discussed all of this in more detail. Iron Kissed was equally impressive for me, although for different reasons. Now on to the review.

Mercy's mentor, Zee, has been accused of murder. Zee is an iron kissed fae (a metal worker), which is a breed that humans have little understanding of and therefore fear. When the fae community fails to jump to Zee's rescue, Mercy is determined to find the real killer herself.

Positive Comments:

I had some pretty strong emotional reactions to this book. I've resolved to keep these reviews as spoiler free as possible, so I can't get too specific. I'll just say that Mercy goes through quite a lot of trauma, which I did not see coming. I really felt for her, and I applauded her recovery. The visceral reaction that I had to this book is something that I don't think was present in the previous books, so I'm counting it as a major positive. Maybe it was an intentional ploy on the part of the author, but if so, it worked on me.

The character development is intense, but without being overdone. Obviously, Mercy's world view is altered several times throughout the story. But equally impressive, to me at least, was the efficient way that Briggs started to develop her secondary and background characters. From the important one like Samuel and Adam, to the minor characters of Ben and Zee, you gain insights into what makes them who they are.

Critical Comments:

The world building part of the plot gets buried in drama. There's some interesting mythology being invoked in this book, but it was in no way explained to my satisfaction. There are a lot of magical objects being used, and we are given very little information as to their origins or how they actually work. Since these things were extremely important to the plot, I felt they deserved more page time.

I also had some issues with the pace of the book. It jumps from mundane things into action so abruptly I felt dizzy. Overall, the tone of the novel just isn't consistent. It goes from intellectual murder mystery, to action/chase scene, to tragic drama, all with very few transitions.

I'm having trouble grading this one. Going purely on emotional impact, it would be a 4. Taking that out of the equation, it's more like a 3. I'll split the difference: 3.5 stars. In any case, the Mercy Thomson series is a must read for any urban fantasy fan.

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Druids: A Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne

By now, I hope that I've made it abundantly clear that I love mythology of any kind: Celtic, Greek, Norse, Jedi, anything goes. I especially love books with a mix of pantheons, so Hounded seemed to be exactly my kind of book.

Atticus is a 2000+ year old druid masquerading as a harmless young bookstore owner. He is under the dubious protection of the goddess Morrigan, who comes to warn him that his life is threatened. Atticus possesses the magic sword Fragarach. The god Aenghus Og wants the sword and has been tracking Atticus for centuries. When it becomes clear that Aenghus is now serious about killing Atticus, the druid is left to call for help from his varied list of friends. To my delight, we are then introduced to a cast of witches, werewolves, vampires, and gods. But most importantly we meet Oberon, Atticus's beloved dog and best friend.

Positive Comments:

Since I mostly read female-centered books, reading something told from a male perspective was different and refreshing. Atticus is a very well written character. At times you do get the impression that he is ancient and wise. Yet he has adapted well to modern times, has a sense of sarcasm and humor, and does not take himself too seriously. I also really liked the way that his druid powers were explained and utilized throughout the plot.

As I said above, I loved the supporting cast of characters. Oberon makes a delightful sidekick. Atticus has two lawyers: one a vampire, and one a werewolf. I'll admit, they aren't well fleshed out in this particular novel, but I still found their presence in the story amusing. I enjoyed the way that the gods were portrayed: powerful, selfish, and out of place in the modern human world.

There is a decent balance between world building and action within the plot. I never felt overwhelmed by information, and I was never bored. At the same time, I was never confused. To me this shows that the author has the ability to deliver information in a concise and entertaining manner.

Negative Comments:

As I said, I love the side characters, but Hearne walks a fine line in that he has so many of them. Having a large cast of characters can be fun, but it can also be confusing for readers. In addition, it means that each character might not be as thoroughly developed as you would hope. Several of them are introduced well into the book, and then set aside without being given full character arcs.

This brings me to my second complaint, which is that this book is full of sequel bait. It doesn't have a cliffhanger, but there are a lot of loose ends. Don't get me wrong, I was already looking forward to reading book two, and this will no doubt motivate me to pick it up soon, but I like my books to be self contained and stand alone as much as possible.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely. If you like urban fantasy, especially the kind filled with gods and magic, I highly recommend picking this one up. 4 stars.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: Dinosaurs and Zombies

Terra Nova

I watched the first three episodes of this online. I was curious because the premise is so cheese-filled and outlandish, it rivals even to most contrived dystopian YA novel. For those of you that missed the commercials, it's about people from the year 2149, when the Earth has become overcrowded and polluted, that travel through a rift in time to the age of the dinosaurs in order to start a new colony. Ridiculous? Yes. Delightfully cheesey? Absolutely.

I ended up really enjoying this first episode. We meet Jim and his wife Elisabeth. They have 3 children, and in 2149 families are supposed to be restricted to two. One thing the show did really well was that it established, in very little time, how harsh the conditions of the 2149 world are. You see the family get really excited about and orange that Jim found. And then you see population control come and raid their house, where they find the third child and send Jim to jail as a result. Jumping ahead in the plot, once the family travels through the time rift the show takes a turn from gritty dytopian to bright fantasy world. The thing is, though, even here I can't fault them. The show is very imaginative in it's vision of humans coping in a world dominated by dinosaurs. The show stumbles on it's own "science" a bit, explaining (in awkward dialogue) that this is in fact a separate time stream from the own they were living in, so no worries about those pesky paradoxes.

Episodes 2 and 3 confirmed to me that there are a lot of interesting stories that could be written in this universe. I find the character's likable, the setting and plots interesting, and the overall tone to be good dramatic sci-fi fun. I'm caught up now, so I may be able to watch the shows at the time they air (if I remember) from here on out.

The Secret Circle, Episode 4

This was actually a surprisingly good episode. Cassie wants to use the magic in her family's spell book to help a woman who appears catatonic, in order to get some answers about the fire that killed everyone's parents. I liked seeing Cassie actually take some kind of action, even if the decisions she made were rash. And as I've said before, I like the fantasy element of this show, so having an episode that's more focused on that than anything else was a big plus.

Clothing My Wedding Party...

...has certainly been an adventure. I picked out my dress in July, and it was the third one I tried on. I went in pretty much knowing what I wanted, found the perfect dress, and that was that. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be about three times as hard to find bridesmaid dresses that I really liked.  It was really important to me that my minions friends have something that they like and feel pretty in. I was well prepared to be flexible, and I told them they could pick whatever they liked as long as they were all the same color. They really wanted to match though, so the search was on to find something that would flatter three very different body types. We finally found this one, and I have to say I'm quite pleased with it. The waist is designed to create a nice hourglass shape. There's some subtle beading on the bodice and underskirt that compliments my dress (which has quite a lot of bead-work).

I still have to find something for my junior bridesmaid, who will be 9 at the time of the wedding. I have no idea what a 9 year old would feel comfortable in, so that will be interesting. Plus we have to figure out what the guys are wearing, but boys have it easier, right?

Weekly Poll Results: Your Favorite Classic Monster

Zombies prevailed over all contenders with 21% of the votes! I was pretty surprised by this, because I was so sure it would be vampires or werewolves. But not even close! Ghosts came in second place by only one vote! Apparently you guys like dead things.

I think my favorite zombie book would have to be one of the early Anita Blake books, most likely The Laughing Corpse. I don't really have a favorite zombie movie. Possibly Shaun of the Dead, but I've only seen it once. Anybody have good recommendations for zombie books or movies? Share!

Finally, don't forget to participate in the new weekly poll: What influences your reading choices? Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Following Friday (8)


Q.If you could have characters from a particular book meet and form an epic storyline with characters from a particular TV series, which would you choose and why? 


1. I want Sam and Dean from Supernatural to meet the "vampires" from Twilight and go on a mass killing spree. Sorry Twilight fans.


2. I'd put teenage Savannah from Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Other World books in The Secret Circle. She's a more interesting character than any of the six teens in that show, and she could probably help them get their issues in order faster than they can by themselves.


3. Finally, just for fun, I want to transplant Harry Potter into True Blood for a season. It could be the evil wizard season! I think it would be hilarious to stick a relatively wholesome (but still pretty tough) character into the violent oversexed world of Sookie Stackhouse.


I could invent more, but I'll just leave it at three. 


New followers (and old ones too) please take a moment to participate in our weekly poll--Your Favorite Classic Monster! Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Magic Sources: A Review of Stranger by Zoe Archer

Back in May/June, I read the first three books in the Blades of the Rose series. You can find my review of book 3, Rebel, HERE. After reading all three in a row, I decided to take a break from them, and that break went on longer than I meant it to. But here, finally, is my review of book 4, Stranger.

Catullus Graves is the primary inventor for the Blades of the Rose, a society responsible for the protection of the world's magic. While on a mission in Canada, he encounters a beautiful American reporter, Gemma. Gemma senses that Catullus and the other members of his party are up to something extraordinary and, desperate for their story, she follows them back to England. Soon she's caught up in the Blade's quest to stop the villainous Heirs of Albion from using the Primal Source of magic to enslave all of the world's magic. Along the way, Gemma and Catullus face vicious fairies, enormous monsters, and even King Arthur himself.

Positive Comments:

As usual with Zoe Archer's books, there's a ton of action and adventure. The mythology feeds the action, and is so imaginative and varied that the reader is never sure what to expect.

I loved Graves in the previous books when he was a secondary or background character. Now, as a hero, he measures up pretty well. I was surprised when he was revealed to be awkward with women, but in some ways it was charming. He's clever, original, and very sexy. I didn't connect strongly with Gemma, but I did find her likable. She's charming, smart, and readily accepting of Catullus and all of his eccentricities. They were a bit of an oddball couple for me, but I found their romance fairly enjoyable.

I really liked seeing all of the Blades, especially the couples from the previous books, come together to fight and save the day.

Critical Comments:

The conflicts in this novel are almost entirely external. There's nothing wrong with that, especially in an adventure based novel. But the effect, for whatever reason, is that I connected with the characters only on a shallow level. It's not the kind of novel where you really feel the characters' pain, or rejoice in their happy ending.

Similarly, the character development feels shallow. Catullus and Gemma have a goal, they accomplish it, and then they end up together. There's no big shift in paradigm for either character. I bring this up as a flaw because given the social positions that they occupy (Gemma as a working woman, Catullus as a black man), there could have been a lot of deep character development.

Overall, this is a good book, but it isn't fantastic. I do recommend the Blades of the Rose as an entertaining historical fantasy series. 3 stars.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Couple of Reviews: Time Travel!

Welcome to A Couple of Reviews, by Penguin Egg Production! This is an idea that Josh, my wonderful fiance and sometimes proofreader, decided we should embark on. The basic idea is that we watch and review two dissimilar movies that happen to have one unifying factor--be it a theme, an actor, or whatever. It's a fun way for us to discus the movies we inflict on one another enjoy together. For our first video we reviewed The Time Traveler's Wife and Terminator. Enjoy!

To anyone artistic out there, our channel requires a title card! Special love and brownie points (and possibly a small prize) will go out to the follower that comes up with something we love. It must say "Penguin Egg Productions" and can have any clever associated drawings. Please direct ideas to Happy Reading (and drawing).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Miscellaneous Mondays: Brains and Brainlessness

Welcome to Miscellaneous Monday, the post about everything and noting in particular.

Secret Circle, Episode 3

As usual, I'm a week behind in this show because I'm forced to watch it online due to my work schedule. Episode 3 was titled "Loner", in reference to our protagonist. Cassie is a loner in the way that TV likes to portray loners. By which I mean she's alone voluntarily--there's nothing obviously wrong with her. She's pretty, smart(ish), and more importantly, people seem to like her, despite the fact that she's deliberately  stand-offish and a bit socially awkward. They like her on sight, without knowing anything about her. This bothers me a great deal, actually. The same thing happens with Bella in Twilight--she's the new girl in school, she's bland and awkward, and yet everyone can't wait to make friends with her. Anyone who remembers anything about high school knows that this isn't how things work. If you happen to be self-isolating or even a little shy, people mostly leave you alone. You might make a friend or two, but it is highly unlikely that the most popular kids in town are going to be clambering for your company.

I've come to the conclusion that this show is really two shows--a good fantasy show and a crappy (but marketable) teen drama, squished together like play-dough. Episode 3 was less bland than Episode 2, but it still gets caught up in silly and predictable relationship drama. I'm much more interested in the magic and murder than whether Diana and Adam's relationship will survive (HINT: it won't).

Supernatural: Brains!

For whatever reason, I always enjoy the flashback heavy episodes, and this was a good example of that. The Winchester brothers were brought up in the most insane and dysfunctional manner possible. Catching glimpses of that is always fascinating. Furthermore, this episode was yet another example of Sam's fondness for making friends (special friends) with monsters. You'd think that if you're going to hunt monsters, "Don't Have Sex With It" would be rule number one. But I guess if everyone followed that, we'd have a lot fewer paranormal romances.

The Book Buying Dilemma

I dearly love book stores, but they seem to be disappearing. For a very long time our city had two Borders: one large one, and a smaller Borders Express. We also have a B&N,  and one or two small independently owned places that cater mainly to used books and trade. The large Borders used to be my favorite by far. It offered great selection, was well organized, offered reasonable discounts, and the employees were fairly laid back but helpful. But, of course, both Borders shut down. I was left with severely reduced buying options.

Our Borders Express was taken over by Books-a-Million. At first this seemed like a glimmer of hope, giving me back at least one place to browse and buy. Unfortunately, the store sucks. Right away I had trouble finding the things on my list. Not because they didn't have those things, but because they put them in the oddest places. Several series were split up, with some of the books in "SciFi" and some in "Fiction". Or in some cases, the same author might be put in both "Romance" and "SciFi". It was explained to me that they put books in sections based on whatever arbitrary label they carry on the spine. The employees don't know and don't care how the books should really be classified, and they aren't even concerned with being consistent. Furthermore, my GOD are these people sales focused. Their entire mission is to selling you things, from their membership card to magazine subscriptions, most of which you probably don't want or need.

The end result of all of this is that I'm now without a bookstore that I really like. Our Barnes and Noble has terrible selection. The used book stores rarely seem to get new product. This leaves department stores and the internet. I love ebooks, and I do appreciate the ease of shopping online. But it isn't the same. Physical book stores allow you to browse in a way that no site, however impressive, can ever offer.

My solution? My loving fiance got me a new library card. It still isn't quite as nice as browsing new books to buy, but it's the best I can do for the time being.

Weekly Poll: Helpful Reviews

Thanks go out to those of you who participated in this weeks poll!

I chose this particular question because, after years of reading and writing reviews I've realized that there are about a million different ways to go about organizing a review. No one way is right or wrong, but there are definitely some styles that I personally find more helpful than others. For example, I'm very fond of the list format (31% of you agreed). People who are able to intelligently break their thoughts and criticisms into bullet points are awesome. I find this type of review easy to read and, when it's done well, very persuasive. Unfortunately, I can't seem to write "List Style" reviews very well--my brain doesn't work that way.

Interestingly, the poll showed that short, concise reviews are strongly preferred over long reviews. I don't really have a strong preference in this regard, but the results do make sense to me. People don't have time to read super long reviews. Plus, long reviews can often get repetitive. I often have to remind myself to limit the length of my reviews. It's hard to be concise when a book get's you really excited or angry.

Finally, objective reviews and emotional reviews both got pretty low votes. Personally I find overly analytical reviews to be dull and unhelpful, unless of course it's for a text book or nonfiction. On the other hand, I've read some reviews that are so emotional and subjective that they don't manage to convey anything meaningful. Angry reviews can be funny though.

Don't forget to participate in my new poll: Your Favorite Classic Monsters. Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Following Friday (7)

Q.If you could pick one character in a book, movie or television show to swap places with, who would it be?


Good question! Do I have to pick just one? Too bad, I refuse...


1) The first one that came to mind was London from Scoundrel by Zoe Archer (which is the second book in her very awesome Blades of the Rose quartet). The reason is that she has an adventurous, interesting life and a really sexy husband.

2) Clair from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for similar reasons, but also because I she got to travel in time a bit. And time travel, even the accidental kind, is just plain cool.

3) Jax from Ann Aquirre's Sirantha Jax series, because she gets to travel through space using weird science and psychic powers. Very cool.


Those were the ones that immediately came to mind for me. There are a lot of characters who I love but would NOT want to live as. Pretty much anyone in a dystopian novel, for example.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Cross Dressing: A Review of Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

When Sea Changed was announced as the October book club pick over at SBTB, I was really excited. I've never read anything by Darlene Marshall before, so I didn't know what to expect style wise, but I saw that it was about privateers during the War of 1812 and featured an amateur surgeon as it's heroine. I really love adventure filled historical romance, and I love nautical stories, and I have a gross fascination with medicine: In short, this all adds up to a winning story for me.

Charlotte Alcott has lived a large part of her life disguised as a boy, going by the name of Charley and acting as an apprentice to her father, who is a doctor. When her father dies, Charley wants nothing more than to continue practicing medicine. In her disguise, she books passage on a British ship  to Jamaica in exchange for acting as the ship's surgeon. She hopes to apprentice herself to her uncle, who is also a doctor. But the ship is attacked by American privateers, who capture Charley and demand that she treat their gravely injured first mate. The captain, David Fletcher, is all too grateful to the young surgeon for saving his brother and treating his men--too grateful to see past the disguise. But as Charley and David form a friendship, David worries that Charley may be developing an attraction to him--and that the feeling may be mutual.

Positive Comments:

The characters are extremely likable. Charley is smart and competent. Her actions struck me as incredibly brave. Marshall does a good job in examining the identity issues that Charley faces, both from an emotional and professional standpoint. This makes Charley a character that a modern woman can easily sympathize with and relate to.

David is, perhaps, not as interesting. He's dashing, patriotic, and makes an excellent leader. His struggle with his attraction to Charley (especially before he discovers her full identity) is extremely amusing. Otherwise he's very much a typical romance hero. Given that our focus is primarily on the heroine, I thought David's lack of interesting development was forgivable.

The plot has a good balance of internal and external conflict. There is just enough action to keep things suspenseful. The medical details added intrigue for me. There's also plenty of humor, both in the situations and in the dialogue. Overall the story is emotional enough to draw you in, but does not get caught up in angst.

Critical Comments

The only thing I can really say is that I felt the ending wrapped up a bit too neatly. All of the conflicts are wrapped up and swept away with great ease, rather abruptly clearing a path for David and Charley to be together. However, this is such a frequent occurrence in romance that I can't really count it as a serious flaw.

In sum, I found this book to be extremely enjoyable. It's a fun adventure story for those who enjoy historical romance. 4.5 stars.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Crazy Covers: Awkward Position Edition

When it comes to romance novel covers, there are a few classic techniques used to catch a prospective reader's eye. The most obvious is to show a person, or more often a couple, in a seemingly intimate situation. But not too intimate. Like, right before the clothes come off. We're not talking erotica here, because in that context awkward positions are likely to land our characters in the hospital.

I covet this woman's dress.
Isn't that beautiful? I call this sort of thing The Vampire Pose. He's smelling her neck like it's a delicious steak, and she's loving it. Notice that he has to stand to the side of the enormous (but gorgeous) dress just to get anywhere near her. Find true love AND triumph over fashion.

She's either turned on or exhausted. Possibly both?
Where I find the first cover to be enticing, I find this one a bit disturbing. Can anyone tell me what the f*** is going on in this picture? No, really. She's kneeling and leaning forward with her dress pulled up, possibly getting her ass grabbed, but you can't really see a hand or anything else behind her. In fact, it appears to me that she's alone, despite the look of ecstasy on her face. I honestly think the cover artists were just screwing with us on this one.

Picture taken right before our male model got up and beat the camera man mercilessly. Or made love to him.
I like this one not just because of the pose, but because of the looks on our models' faces. She looks all smug about the fact that she's...humping his side? And he looks super intense, like he's pissed that someone is snapping a picture of this very serious side-rubbing/shirt removing action. Please, Mr. Model, don't hurt me.

This lovely gem can be found on the inside cover of Lisa Kleypas' Devil in Winter.
Never mind that the heroine is outdoors in her nightgown kneeling on the ground. Never mind that she looks like she's fainting (from the cold...or from the PASSION?) What has always bothered me is...where is his freaking shirt? He has a cape on! Who puts a cape on without a shirt? What kind of person wears a cape, for that matter? I know, maybe it's appropriate to the time period, but I doubt it. And I don't think there has yet been a time period when a cape paired with breeches and boots and NO SHIRT has been socially acceptable.

Miscellaneous Monday: Gnomes and Other Magic Acquaintances

Welcome again to Miscellaneous Mondays, the post where I share my non-book related thoughts and activities.

Meet Krebs

Krebs is my very own foot gnome (named after the Krebs cycle, because I'm a geek). He's been with me for several years now, and is my favorite tattoo.

I don't think I've had a chance to mention my love of tattoos on this blog yet. I really, really love getting tattooed. Fortunately I have good restraint (and limited financial means) so I'm not covered in them. At present I have four small tattoos, one of which matches my mother's. Have I ever mentioned how awesome my mom is?

Anyway, I have these girlie little tattoos, and I get asked about them a lot. First, everyone always wants to know if they're real. I guess because I don't seem like the type to have real tattoos? Then everyone always asks "Did that hurt?" Which strikes me as silly; it's done with a needle, of course it hurts a little. Truth be told, Krebs is the only one that really caused significant pain. Turns out there are a ton of nerve endings in your feet, especially near your toes.

You'd think I'd have a penguin tattoo by now, but sadly, I don't. I'm pretty sure that will be my next one, if I can ever settle on a design.

Episode 2 of The Secret Circle...

Was bland. Seriously, nothing of particular interest happened in this episode. It rehashed the same issues and situations from episode one. It was all filler and repetition. Very poor writing. I understand that not every episode of a show can be filled with big revelations and intrigue, but I do expect a little more effort than this. I'm hoping that, because this episode ended with the introduction of the new status quo for the circle, that the next few episodes will have better, more self-contained plots.

Supernatural, Season 7, Episode 2

This one was super angsty. We have the apparent death of a much beloved character, all kinds of psychological torment for everyone, plus possible references to self-mutilation. Oh boy. Now, one of the things that makes this show work for me is that it can have story arcs that are very serious and emotional, but also occasionally have some humor and silliness. I'm really, really hoping for a little silly to balance out the angst sometime soon.

 Frankie and Lagoona

It's official, I'm collecting Monster High dolls.

I just found Frankie Stein on sale at target. Josh and I had an extensive discussion on whether she is the daughter of Frankenstein or Frankenstein's monster.

Lagoona Blue was an early birthday present from my mother. I like her particularly because she is wearing a lab coat.

To finish off this week's miscellaneous Monday, have a video.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Free Will: A Review of Matched by Ally Condie

Matched (Matched, #1)I've had my eye on Matched since it came out last year, but never quite got around to reading it. Then it showed up at the library where I work, and I finally made time for it. I'm so happy that I did!

Matched is set in a futuristic world where people's lives are controlled by the government. The Society decides everything from where you live and work, to the food you eat and cloths you where, to who you marry. It is this process of Matching that is the main subject of the novel. Cassia is told that she has been matched with her best friend, Xander. But when she goes to view a mircrocard with Xander's information on it, another boy's face appears--Ky. This leads Cassia to question whether the society makes mistakes, who she is really meant to be with, and why she cannot make that choice for herself.

Positive Comments:

I loved the concept of this book. I was reminded of The Giver, one of my favorite books from my childhood, which is also set in a tightly controlled Utopian society. Matched is intentionally thoughtful, asking big questions about free will, choice, and the nature of love. Yet it isn't pretentious or sanctimonious in it's message. We see both the good and bad sides of the Society, from the protection it offers it's citizens to the fear it instills in them.

Our heroine, Cassia, is intelligent and likable. I didn't mind following the story through her perspective. Her emotional journey and development felt real. She goes from blindly trusting and accepting, to questioning everything and trying to make choices for herself. This is a struggle that I found easy to relate to.

I enjoyed the gentle touch of romance that overlays the story and drives the plot forward. Even as she loves Xander and is loyal to him, Cassia feels real love for Ky. As Ky and Cassia discover one another, they build trust, understanding, and affection. I liked that this emotional connection built slowly, but ran deeply. It made me long for the two of them to have a happy ending.

Critical Comments:

The pace is extremely slow. It isn't an action filled story, but rather a slow and contemplative one. As a result, it takes patience on the part of the reader and might be frustrating to those accustomed to more tightly written plots.

Finally, the parallels to The Giver, while delightful, made me just a bit uncomfortable. Some of the details were, in fact, so close that I'm suspicious that they were lifted directly. The story itself goes in another direction and deals with some slightly different themes, but the world building is the same. While I don't think this is intentional plagiarism, I still have to mention it as a minor drawback.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Matched, and I look forward to the rest of the series. I'd recommend it, particularly to fans of slow and thoughtful YA literature. 4 stars.
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