Monday, February 28, 2011

Penguin Launching 50 Book Collection

This year, '11, is the 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics (those books your school library had and some readers borrowed). Thanks to @Dhar, I came across this interesting tidbit below:
In the spirit of celebration, Penguin has launched this gorgeous box collection of 50 short novels/stories. The authors include Kafka, Saki, Ian Fleming, Kipling, Shirley Jackson, J. Joyce, H.P. Lovecraft, and other Greats.
At only 3 pounds each, these make a great gift collection and stand independently as cool introductions to these literary heavyweights.
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My Guest Post and Review of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark side

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

 The undead can really screw up your senior year ...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.
Summary from Good Reads

Grade: B
I usually enjoy YA books, and frequently read them - Pratchett's Nome series, The Maximum Ride series, Neil Gaiman's Days of the Week series, Cassandra Clare, are amongst my favorite authors and books. So I picked up “Jessica's Guide to Dating..” and it started off promisingly. 
Plot:Jessica is the adopted daughter of the Packwoods, who were in Romania when her parents begged them to take their child to safety. When her betrothed shows up in her small, hick town, she discovers she is a Vampire princess, with only one drink needed to turn her into a full vampire. 
Plus: Jessica's conversations with Lucius are really well written, totally believable and hilarious. Her parents in their vegan farmhouse entertaining a bloodsucking Vampire created some funny scenes over the dinner table. She starts wearing dresses, and Lucius learns how to iron his clothes; she learns to dance, he learns how to wear jeans and play American sports. Lucius' letters home are a highlight with their outside-in look at America.
 Minus: Perhaps a little more action could have helped the entire middle section of the book. It seemed to stall entirely. The subplot of Lucius' revenge-romance with her best enemy, Faith, didn't really work when I discovered the extent of his duplicity.
Characters: The character of high-school student Jessica was realistic, and snarky. Her friends were interesting, and the sense of small-town america was spot on. The multiple love interest angle J. struggles with was fun too! 

The biggest problem here? Well, the issue for me is that this is a classic case of a good author rushing into writing a sequel-style novella.

The Wedding of Antanasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu
This is available for free download off the author's website. Personally, this novella is way too sweetly romantic for me -- it felt like being in a dream produced by a 15 year old with a wedding obsession. The title gives it all away – the entire novella revolves around the wedding of t.he hero and heroine from the previous book. There is no further character development, even though opportunities are introduced. A new brother of the groom, jealousy from the best friend, discovering her real Mom's journal could have occupied far more space and been developed more than they were. In the end, everything came back to the central piece of the book, the wedding, its preparations, wedding gowns and location. Thank god this book wasn't full-sized, it was a struggle to finish as is.
Still, it remains the perfect read for someone young and a true romantic!
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #29 - Jaz Parks and The Silmarillion

Two for One special today! I'm reading a book on the commute and one at home, so I've got teasers from both books:
One More Bite (Jaz Parks, Book 5)Teaser #1: 
About halfway through the Jennifer Rardin One More Bite (Jaz Parks, Book 5) novel:
“Magic’s in the air already,” I murmured. “And it feels different than before. I don’t think they’re doing the same spell.”
“Can you tell at whom it is directed?” 

“Can I    .    .    .    Do I look like a bird dog to you?”
The Silmarillion Teaser #2: 
This second novel is a little harder to read, written as it is in a deliberately archaic language. However, it is immensely quotable! 
From The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (the precursor to Lord Of The Rings):
"Thus it was in and amid all the bliss of that realm, while its glory lasted, a dark seed of evil was sown." - Page 139
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Let me know what you are reading - recommendations are awesome.
If you follow, drop a note, so I can follow back!
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Review: Spirit Dances by C.E. Murphy

Good First-person narratives are hard to find.
Grade: A
The Story: Detective and Shaman Joanne Walker is accepting her dual nature as a healer and warrior. She has a long-running "Not a Thing" thing with her boss, the handsome Captain Morrison. Her mentor, Coyote, is her spiritual and shaman guide into multiple planes of existence and she is learning and sometimes going beyond his teachings. 
Jo is at a dance performance on a date with her boss when the lead dancer is murdered using psychic energy. She is immediately swept up in this new case, and begins attempting to trace the murderer and stop this evil power.
"God, I was talking and I couldn't shut up. I seized the program from Morrison, willing to start gnawing on it to give my mouth something else to do."
Plus: Jo's self-aware dialogue is refreshing to read! Her entire journey over the past few books is just amazing, and I can't get over how much fun she is when she accepts the magic in her. Jo learns to really get into the magic, and to spirit dance herself, to get up when she is beaten down. The shamanic drumming is brilliant to read - language is fantastically used to give a reader the feel of the drums throbbing:

"At first it was just the drummers, sound pulsing in almost invisible waves, for all that my eyes were closed. Then someone else joined in, using heavy steps to make a counter rhythm, one-two-three";

In other news, I'm happy to see Billy's wife being more involved in the story, and becoming much more three dimensional than before.
Overall: I'm excited about Spirit Dances and the magical steps Jo takes in her life and in her path as a Warrior Shaman. The ending was fantastic, and a perfect teaser for the next book in the Walker series!

Thanks to NetGalley for the Spirit Dances advance reader copy for review.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Blogger Hop #19 - Feb19-20: Movies and books

Book Blogger HopWelcome to e-volving books! If you've been here before, you know that this site is about ebooks, epic fantasy, blogger spotlights and the Kindle/Amazon.

The Book I'd like to see made into a movie?
Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time)
Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series! Though I'd combine several books into movies, as so much of the books is purely descriptive, world-building material.
Another book I'm excited is already making it to the wide-screen thanks to HBO is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice. The HBO Mini series is called Game of Thrones after the first novel, and will be out mid-April - how exciting!
 If you want to find an entertaining minute or two:
If you follow, let me know so I can follow you back! Have fun hopping and following.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Blogger Spotlight #6 - Alisha!

Alisha @ My Need To Read is our featured blogger. This is one of the best interviews so far, so read on!
Give us an idea of who you are: I'm a native Californian currently residing in the musical capital of Vienna, Austria. The city happens to have one of the biggest cafe cultures (sorry, Seattle)…which lends well to being a bookworm and a fanatic of hot beverages. Score!!!

E-Reader: The now old-school (but classic!) Sony Reader PRS-505. It's still a tough act to beat.

Recent Read?: The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton. It was such a fun little steampunk tale, old-school mystery style.

A haiku about your blog: So I sort of need to read. A lot. If I don't have a book on me, I'm not happy. But what I don't like is reading in a proverbial vacuum. I love to swap thoughts on books, muse on reading-related topics, and connect with other readers. Thus, My Need To Read.

Did you consider other readers in the market? Why did you pick this one? 

I did do a lot of research. At the time the two biggies were the Amazon Kindle (version 1) and the Sony Reader 505. I really love libraries--borrowing, browsing, connecting with other local readers--and with the expanding e-holdings of these institutions, I wanted to be able to partake. The Kindle didn't allow that, so it was the Sony for me!

What's the top thing you like about it? 

Access to e-libraries, for one. But absolutely the best thing has to be the portability. Given that I'm currently living abroad (and this probably won't be the last time I do), it's such a blessing to keep belongings to a minimum. And for short-term trips? No more extra "book bag!"

When do you read a paper book and when do you pick up an ebook? I still vastly prefer hard copies for reference material. I've learned to embrace using an e-reader for fiction titles…although I will likely always have a problem with leaving a bookstore/library without a having bought or borrowed a book.

Have you transformed your reading style or frequency? For short-term trips, e-readers have made a huge difference. And instead of the previous ritual of visiting the bookstore once a week for a "fix," finding interesting material is now a constant possibility.

If your e-reader could have one magic feature, what would it be? Water-proof reader. Then I could read in swimming pools and other bodies of water…who hasn't wanted to read while scuba-diving? Really, though…I can't wait for color e-ink to become widely available.


Meet and greet Alisha over at  My Need To Read 
(p.s. by Dee - can I just say how much I love *LOVE* this photo of her reading spot?)
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For Gentlemen Bastard fans

The Republic of Thieves (Gollancz)All you Gentlemen Bastards out there, I know it has been a long wait for the third installment in the Locke Lamora series by Scott Lynch! The publishing date has been pushed back form 2009 to Nov '11. However, we do have a 5000+ word uncorrected excerpt of The Republic of Thieves available at the Camorr site here exclusively.

If this series is new to you, my reviews are here:
Review of The Lies of Scott Lamora (#1)
Teaser from Red Seas under Red Skies (#2)
It's available for FREE - Go for it!
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #28 - The White Road by Lynn Flewelling

The teaser for this week comes from the fifth book in the Nightrunners series by Lynn flewelling: The White Road (Nightrunner). I'm not crazy about this particular book, but I think this author has some strong novels which I love to read and re-read.
"It's been years, and you look just the same, you shameless bastard. What brings you here after all this time?"
 A second one from the same chapter:
"According to the Heralds, Queen Phoria has the upper hand for now. It's stretched on far too long, if you ask me. Shortages of everything. The sutlers have bought up meat, flour, sugar, horses, leather, even candle wax!"
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
What are you reading today? I'm curious to know!
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen (Harlequin Teen), the third in the Iron Fae series, I was lucky enough to find via NetGalley.
We discover that our heroine has Grown a backbone, practices her magic, and wants to learn how to fight! YES YES YES! *punches the air*
This is a very different almost-17 year old Meghan than we have known in previous books. Her knowledge of the trials she has won help her face the unknown with skill instead of bravado.
The Story: Having escaped from Queen Mab, Meghan wants to fully understand her powers and learn to defend herself. Her family will be in danger if she goes back to them, so she must eliminate the threat of the courts. She also needs to find her father and rescue him first. To keep her family safe, Meghan agrees to kill the enemy Iron King, and end the war.

Plus: Great descriptions of the Fae worlds, the Nevernever, and the human world keep the narrative absorbing. Ms. Kagawa knows how to draw out the pace of a story well, and the action-filled chapters are interspersed with relatively quieter times of self-discovery and learning. There's plenty of other-worldly fae - redcaps, goblins, cat siths, trolls and court royalty in the books. It's a more-the-merrier attitude towards fae creatures that makes the book fun to read.
Minus: My usual crib about YA books is either that the character is incredibly whiny (why me, oh why me) or just able to be strong without any character development. Luckily, we didn''t see that here :). I was a little surprised that Meghan was able to battle without any advisors. Perhaps an older, wiser character/advisor would have added more verisimilitude to battle scenes and her strategy.
Overall: A very inspiring tale.
I would recommend it to: Not just readers who enjoyed Melissa Marr's books, but also those who read any Supernatural fantasy. This transcends the YA genre, and I would encourage adults to read it also.

Thanks to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing the review copy.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Poll: Shorter Posts vs. Longer

The recent reviews I've seen online tend to be really long, and I know I tend to go that way and write longer reviews sometimes.
Some of the best replies and most read posts I have up are quite short:
One idea, one quick review, one thought.
Do reviews always have to be long? 
Should I add on to my post schedule, one short review a week and one short idea-post every other week?
But what do you prefer to read: Long posts, long reviews or shorter ones?
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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The recent bunch of books I've been reading have gotten me thinking about what makes a successful story.
I'm sure a lot of very seasoned publishing professionals have put years of analysis and study into this one question that supports their bread and butter. So really, I am probably not coming up with anything radically new here. Still, there remains several angles you and I can approach this idea from: Marketing, Editing, Publicity, Author availability, Story stickiness, getting into the right best seller lists, etc. From a readers point of you, being emotionally invested in a story is HUGE! You tell friends about it, it gets you up in the middle of the night and more.
Here is one more suggestion for things that contribute to a successful book - 
My idea: The Law of Unintended Consequences coming into effect for characters.

Consider this – In the latest Wheel of Time, Perrin moving one element in his dreamscape results in the Aes Sedai being unable to travel within the area, and hence he unknowingly foils the ongoing Forsaken plot against the Aes Sedai.

In George R.R. Martin's  A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) we see dragons flying. One nation knows the reason for this, but the rest of the world immediately form their own interpretations of this omen. Harsh consequences result.

In Harry Potter too, I'm sure this happens. We see Rita Skeeter's writing affecting Harry negatively, and hence helping Voldemort in his attacks.

Overall, what keeps me coming back to books is if the story is intricate and interesting enough that it seems like the characters are living real lives, with uncontrollable elements. Just like in reality, we don't always get the right omens, and we don't always understand situations and people correctly. 
The unintentional consequence makes the book closer to our reality, and perhaps we get more emotionally involved in the story?
What do you think? 
Any specific examples, readers?
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Grade: A-
GoodReads Page for Incarceron
Page 1:
"He felt them before he heard them; vibrations in the ground, starting tiny and growing until they shivered in his teeth and nerves. Then noises in the darkness, the rumble of migration trucks, the slow hollow clang of wheel rims."

Page 30:
That was the first time he had heard the Prison laugh.
He shivered, remembering it now, a cold, amused chuckle that had echoed down the corridors. It had silenced Jormanric in mid-fury, had made the hairs on his own skin prickle with terror. 

The Prison was alive. It was cruel and careless, and he was inside it.

My Summary: 
Incarceron is a thought-experiment in prison science. It is a sentient building set in a dystopian future, meant to house criminals and any undesirables in a location unknown to anyone but the Warden. The entire infrastructure is separate from any external factor by sealing it with its original inhabitants and now their descendants. The rest of the world believe the prison experiment to be a success, and imagine the prison to be filled with content souls living a sybaritic life.
Inside, it is a barbaric story. The local thug-King of a roving band within the Prison keeps a rough court inside. Within it is Finn, who remembers flashes of his rich past, despite being told he is cell-born. 
The Warden's daughter Claudia, is also in a prison. One of her father's making - meant to marry the heir to the Kingdom  in The World Outside. Finn and Claudia strike up an unlikely connection and their struggle to escape their respective prisons begins.

The Good:
Each chapter begins with a quote, which gives us glimpses into why and who/what Incarceron is. Very interesting to me was the description of the prison and its dystopian life. The outside vs. inside juxtaposition kept me thinking, as the folks outside who have hi-tech medicine, gadgetry, have chosen to live in a frozen 17th century world (almost a kind of prison, really). 
The Bad:
While clearly targeted at a YA audience, I would have liked to see some more characters and a more detailed understanding of the political clime such a world would have risen in. There were issues with the changing viewpoint of the storyline, it seemed done with a heavy hand. My benchmark for this has to be The Time-Traveller's Wife (A+ Review) which did a great job of moving across space and time and the two main characters.
A SOLID tale, one I would recommend to all my YA readers. Enough intrigue and excitement to keep the reading going, and fast-paced enough to satisfy a thriller/mystery fan.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #27: The Devil in Music by Kate Moss

 "The Devil! And of course the inn servants won't remember after all this time. The marchess could have retired to her room, saying she didn't want to be disturbed, then travelled here, committed the murder, and been back in Belgirate in fifteen hours, while the servants thought she was merely resting after her long journey."
Mini Review: The Devil in Music, which I am right in the middle of, is a really good mystery - intriguing and filled with interesting characters. Set in the midst of  Italian politics from just after the Napolean wars and dives us readers head-deep into Milanese nobility.
While this is the fourth book in the mystery series featuring Julian Kestral, I haven't read any of the others. So far, that hasn't hampered my enjoyment! 
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