Mar 31, 2012

In My Mailbox #22


Welcome to In My Mailbox #22. I'm doing this one quickly because I am pooped and I want to be done blogging for the day. But you know how that is. I want to get this post up before I relax for the night. It's a slow week anyway. I only got one book for review this week and it's from Penguin. Thanks Penguin!

That book is Legend by Marie Lu. Here's a pretty little picture of said book. It's a finished copy too!


And then I got a finished (SIGNED) copy of The Humming Room by Ellen Potter. I got this book for helping with the blog tour and I owe a huge thanks to Ksenia at MacKids and Ellen for this book. Here's a picture of the book and the signed inscription. 



Finally, I received a finish copy of Scent of a White Rose from Tish Thawer. I was the editor for this book and my name is in the acknowledgments. I hope Tish doesn't mind that I have posted a photo, but here it is. 



I start editing book two in the series this month! So if you are waiting patiently for it to be released, you don't have to wait that much longer! 

And that's it for me this week. Not much to show, I know. But I haven't sent in any requests because I am working through my review pile. Especially on Netgalley. YIKES! Leave me a comment and I will try to visit your mailbox!



Review of Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
Pages: 320
Genre: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Source: Edelweiss from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Masque of the Red DeathMasque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Everything is in ruins.


A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.


So what does Araby Worth have to live for?


Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.


But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.


And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.


Review:


Masque of the Red Death was all kinds of awesome. Mostly because of the atmosphere. Bethany Griffin brought creepy to a whole new level. I don't know about you, but those are the kinds of books that really make me shiver. I don't really get scared by gore, blood, and guts. But when the fear becomes psychological and messes with my brain, that's when I keep my eyes open at night, unable to fall asleep because I am creeped out and can't stop thinking about what I just read. This book was like that for me.


I liked it a lot. I really did. The story was fantastic and so were the characters. More on that later. But. I wish the dystopian world had had more details. I realize that it was based off of a Poe short story, but still. I wanted to know how the masks worked and how the contagion happened. How Prince Prospero came to be in charge and all of that. The background information was lacking. It's the same issue I had with Divergent and Underneath the Never Sky. Both great reads, but lacking in background details. Part of the importance of a dystopia is knowing how the world got to be the way it is. So that's why I knocked a star off.


As for everything else, I pretty much loved it. This was almost a 5 star read for me. It was so close it was ridiculous. The writing was beautiful. The entire book was full of lines I could have quoted. But I didn't. Not because I was lazy, but because I want YOU to read it and discover them for yourself. The imagery was so vivid. That added to the creep factor for sure. It was easy to place myself right in the steam carriage next to Araby and picture the men in the shadows just waiting to attack her. Or the plague victims just waiting to infect her. Gross, but awesome at the same time.


The l-l-l-l-love triangle. Yeah, there was a stinking love triangle. I can honestly tell you that it was one of the less annoying love triangles I have read about though. I actually enjoyed it. To a point. I'm still sick of love triangles, but I really loved the characters in this book, so it really pulled me in and I didn't know who to root for. At the beginning it was Will. But now I am firmly team Elliot. And I'm not giving details. But I can tell you that both guys are worth rooting for. There is no insta-love here. And Araby was an easy protagonist to root for. Her heart was huge, she was a fighter, and I love how devoted she was to her friends and family. When you like all the characters, the overused tropes are not so annoying.


This book was a very strange read for me. I found it incredibly depressing. It didn't bring me down in real life, but while I was reading, I found myself having a tough time reading certain scenes. Almost to the point where I felt claustrophobic and stifled. And again, I think that comes down to just how utterly atmospheric this book was. And the tone it was written in. Very somber. And again, this was just my experience. But it was something important to note about how the book made me feel.


Final note: I loved it. For lovers of dystopian, and even paranormal reads, I think this is one that can be enjoyed by all. It also has some delightful steampunk elements. Overdramatic crocodile scene, however. I could have done without that. I know it was used as a method to convey Elliot's lack of sanity, but I thought it went to far. Other than that, lovely book.


Someone get me my Team Elliot badge, stat!

Pre-order a copy from Amazon here: Masque of the Red Death.

Other reviews of Masque of the Red Death:





Mar 29, 2012

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriot

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
Pages: 464
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Shadows on the MoonShadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:


A powerful tale of magic, love, and revenge set in fairy-tale Japan.


Trained in the magical art of shadow-weaving, sixteen-year-old Suzume is able to re-create herself in any form - a fabulous gift for a girl desperate to escape her past. But who is she really? Is she a girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother's new husband, Lord Terayama? Or a lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama's kitchens? Or is she Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands? Whatever her true identity, Suzume is destined to use her skills to steal the heart of a prince in a revenge plot to destroy Terayama. And nothing will stop her, not even the one true aspect of her life- her love for a fellow shadow-weaver.


Review:


I honestly don't even know where to begin. I loved this book. It was one of those reads where you want to go slow and absorb every word. It was truly an epic tale. Every scene was memorable, and the characters touched me in a way that I don't find in most books. A lot of times I have difficulty connecting to the characters in the books that I read.

When it came to Suzume though, I truly felt for her and was able to place myself in her shoes easily.


How do I describe this girl? She was flawed like we all are, for one. She was beautiful, determined, and highly intelligent. She was maddening at times and I wanted to choke her for the bad decisions she was making. The thing is though, even though they were terrible decisions, I can understand her motivation and why she was making them. Her life was tragic. Some very bad things happened to her and her family, and she would not rest until she was able to get revenge on the person that did this to them--even if it was in the face of true love.


Which brings me to my next point. The love story in this book. Holy crap. I know that is not very eloquent, but I'm not sure how else to describe it. The tension is intense. It was riveting. I just wanted those two kids together so badly. Otieno is a character that is easy to fall in love with. Every time Suzume turned him down or ran away, he would just keep coming back for more. Because he knew they belonged together. He loved her like nothing else. And you could totally feel it too. It took my breath away. When they were together in scenes, the world stopped. I could not put the book down.


Zoe Marriot's writing? Unfrickingbelievable. Not only is she really great at creating emotions in her characters, but she really knows how to make the reader feel too. There was not one character in the book that didn't make me feel something. In some cases, adoration, but in others (Suzume's mother), murderous.I haven't felt such tragedy in a work of literature since I read Romeo and Juliet. Truth. The writing itself is gorgeous too. She puts words down on a page in ways I cannot describe. Every page is filled with beautiful passages, description, imagery, and emotions. The way she describes this world she has created really makes it come to life for you. It sounds an awful lot like Japan to me but she says it isn't. But it is distinctly Asian. And it is stunning. 


Before I go, I will tell you that this is a retelling of Cinderella. But it is a very dark retelling. And I did feel that it was very different from the original fairytale. Quite a few of the details are different. And I almost feel...that if you aren't looking for Cinderella in the pages, you won't even notice.


This is a story that evokes many feelings in the reader, draws you in, and doesn't let go until the last page turns. I know that sounds cliche, but honestly, it's true.

To pre-order a copy of Shadows on the Moon from Amazon.com, click here: Shadows on the Moon.

Other reviews of Shadows on the Moon:





Mar 27, 2012

Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
Pages: 549
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Romance
Source: Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?


Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.


Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?


Review:


In the interest of full disclosure, I had no intention of reading Grave Mercy. But then, everyone else was reading it and they had that 4 day promotion, and I thought, why not? What if I miss out on a great book? Some of the reviews I was seeing were glowing and raving and so I decided to go ahead and read it. I generally shy away from books which have religious undertones, which is why I had decided to not read it, but something about it was calling to me.


Well, I'm glad I decided to read it. It was a great book. It won't be a favorite for me, mind you, but I did enjoy it. I thought it was written well (for the most part), had some great characters, and the story was one I ended up getting really involved in. As far as the religion goes, I did not find it to be offensive in the least and it did not turn me off or sour me on the story.


It is about assassin nuns, yes, but other than the fact that Ismae was loyal to St. Mortain (the saint of death and dying), I did not find religion to play a large part in the story. It was more about court intrigue, politics, a very tense romance, and a sort of revenge plot. The nuns are man-haters. That I wasn't too sure about, but it ended up working out more than I thought it would. It could have been very offensive, but I didn't think it was. It was all very strange to me.


This was what I would call fantasy light. There were some small elements of fantasy (a bit of magic), such as the marques Ismae would look for to determine if someone was to die, and the poisons she used (that was her specialty), but that was about it. If I had to categorize this one, I would say it was more historical romance than anything. Because of Duval.


Duval...sigh. What can I say about him? Well, like anyone I started out hating him. He was a dick. But the more you learn about him and his reasons for the way he is, the more it makes sense. I'd like to talk more about this, but I try to stick to spoiler-free reviews. Just know that I felt he changed as the story went on. He developed as all well-written characters should. I ended up loving him. He was perfect. Maybe my favorite male character so far this year. I have a huge crush on Duval.


As far as the man-hating goes, I can kind of understand why Ismae was that way. Her character develops as well, but part of the fun in reading is to see how a character changes. So I won't ruin that either. To make a long story short (too late), I thought the characters were extremely well-developed. Maybe not all of them, but the ones that counted were.


The writing was gorgeous. It flowed well, and I really enjoyed the beauty in the prose. The pacing left a bit to be desired for me, and that's to me where this book's biggest flaw was. The book was simply too long. I found some of the political garbage a little too tedious. It bored me to a point. There was a small lull in the middle of the book that I could have done without. I feel this book could have had 100 pages knocked off of it and still been just as good.


Final note: Read this book. I usually hate historical romance, and even I enjoyed this one. I recommend this one to men and women. I think there is something here for everyone. The things I was annoyed with another reader may not be. I was seriously impressed.

To pre-order a copy of Grave Mercy from Amazon.com, click here: Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy).



Mar 25, 2012

In My Mailbox #21

Welcome to In My Mailbox #21. In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's been a few weeks since I've participated in IMM, but that's because I haven't gotten many books. Now I have a nice little collection to show you guys, and a few I didn't think I was going to get approved for. But I did. So I'm really excited. I haven't bought any, and I've put myself on another book buying ban. The reason for this is because I really want to have money when we move. And I can't keep spending money on books that I will probably never get to. I'm not saying I'll never buy books again, I just need to be smarter about it. Not to mention, all those hardcovers get heavy. And I feel sorry for Dan having to lift them in boxes every time we move to a new apartment. So once I get quite a mew of my own books read, maybe I will revisit my no book buying policy. But until then...

Okay, so let's get started with all the lovely review books! First, the ones I got in the actual mail.


For Review:

Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge (Thanks to Goodreads and Penguin)
Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton (Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Crown Publishing)

And that's it for physical review copies. Now on to the E-books.


The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (Thanks to Harlequin)
The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda (Thanks to St. Martin's Press)
The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross (Thanks to Harlequin)


Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss)
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss)
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss)

I know a few of these are highly anticipated titles for this year. So I am very thankful for getting my hands on them. I don't really have a lot else to say, except that I know I haven't posted much the last week or so, but I've been sick and I'm trying to get caught up on everything. I have a book review for Grave Mercy coming up either tomorrow or the next day, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for sticking with me through the downtime. What's in your mailbox this week?







Mar 17, 2012

The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: June 1st, 2008
Pages: 402
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: I own a physical copy of this book.

The Juliet ClubThe Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Italy . . . Shakespeare . . . but no romance?


Kate Sanderson inherited her good sense from her mother, a disciplined law professor, and her admiration for the Bard from her father, a passionate Shakespeare scholar. When she gets dumped, out of the blue, for the Practically Perfect Ashley Lawson, she vows never to fall in love again. From now on she will control her own destiny, and every decision she makes will be highly reasoned and rational. She thinks Shakespeare would have approved.


So when she is accepted to a summer Shakespeare symposium in Verona, Italy, Kate sees it as the ideal way to get over her heartbreak once and for all. She'll lose herself in her studies, explore ancient architecture, and eat plenty of pasta and gelato. (Plus, she'll be getting college credit for it--another goal accomplished ) But can even completely logical Kate resist the romance of living in a beautiful villa in the city where those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet met and died for each other? Especially when the other Shakespeare Scholars--in particular Giacomo, with his tousled brown hair, expressive dark eyes, and charming ways--try hard to break her protective shell?


"In fair Verona, where we lay our scene . . . "


This one was just okay for me, but I'm glad it's over because it has been sitting on my shelf FOREVER. Full review to come, but it will be a short one. I just don't have a lot to say.


Review:


There is nothing wrong with "fluff" books. I like to read them sometimes, depending on my mood. That's what The Juliet Club was. But it also wasn't even a very good "fluff" book. It was overly corny, the dialogue was ridiculous, and the characters were cliched. And that was just the beginning. The plot was too far fetched, there was hardly any conflict--which consequently made the book boring--and the characters' motivations just didn't make much sense. I could just state that the writing was pretty terrible and the characters were flat and be done with it, but I need to go more into depth than that.I finished it because it was mindless and I was in the car on the way home from Florida, so why not finish it? But to be honest...it was a pretty lousy book. I do wish I had taken a different book along, but alas, I did not.


Let me put it this way. I was able to finish it, so there must have been something I liked, but I can't figure out what it was. It was a remarkably easy read. It only took me a few hours to finish, so it was fast. Here's a quote from the corny dialogue collection.


Instead, feeling saintly, he said, "Perhaps you will meet a new girl this seminar. Perhaps she will be beautiful. Perhaps she will fall in love with you--"


See what I mean? Nobody talks this way. And it went on for. The. Entire. Book. It was almost like the author was trying to make her characters speak like Shakespeare's characters but failing miserably. I hated it. And I wanted to punch them in the face. Not only did they talk stupidly, but they acted stupidly. Hard to explain. I found Kate's (the protagonist's)actions the hardest to understand. Just because she dated a loser who supposedly broke her heart before she went to Italy, she decided to never be in another relationship again and to make her decisions only based on logic and never on her feelings. Which would be okay if it worked, but every human in the world knows that would never happen, including the one that currently is making said decision. Stupid. This entire book was just stupid.


Stereotypical characters? Yup, there were those as well. From the cliched Southern girl without brains but lots of charm, to the people from the host country being rude towards foreigners who can only speak English. I know most of my grievances with this book are minor, but when you add them all together, it was just a time-waster and I wish I could get back the 3-4 hours I spent reading it. Read at your own risk. And I will laugh at you. You have been properly warned.



Mar 13, 2012

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Release Date: March 27th, 20120
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult, ParaScifiContempThriller...yeah.
Series: Slide #1
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Slide (Slide, #1)Slide by Jill Hathaway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.


Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.


Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.


Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.


Review:


I loved Slide. I had seen some bad reviews before starting the book, so I was a little worried about what I was going to find in its pages. I'm not sure I really understand where the negative reviews are coming from. If you read Slide and you didn't like it, can you please help me out by telling me why? I'm just curious. Am I missing something? Because I really loved it. It was a bit of a strange book, but nothing too strange. I just thought it was really unique. I read about 5 pages and I knew already that I was going to love it.


One of the things I loved most was the pacing. WOW. This book moves lightning fast. It's smattered with abrupt sentences, short chapters, and it flashes from scene to scene in a very cool way. I liked that because it was almost like the writing was doing its own "sliding." I loved it. What is "sliding"? It's moving into someone else's body and being able to see what is going on where they are through their eyes. It is with this skill that Vee witnesses a murder.


This was a thriller and a whodunit. But it was also much more than that. It was one of those books where you just lose yourself in the narrative. At least I did. It was a fast read and I finished it in a few hours, but while I was reading I was unable to do anything else. I even loaded it onto my Kindle so I could read it while I was working out. That's devoted. Ha.


One of the things I was worried about from reading other reviews was being able to figure out who the villain was too easily. I saw someone say they figured it out right away. That SO didn't happen to me. My opinion of who the bad guy was changed constantly. First of all, there were about 5 different suspects. And I alternated constantly between one or the other. I spent a good portion of reading this book talking to myself. "It's too obvious for it to be that person. It's not obvious at all that it's this person, so it has to be this guy. No, wait. It would be really cool if..." Yeah, it got bad. Funnily enough though, the ending did disappoint me a little. It's just with all that build-up, I was expecting something way wackier than what I got. It was still good though.


I don't know. I don't expect everyone to love this book, I'm just confused as to why I seem like the only one that did love it. I didn't give it 5 stars because I didn't love the ending, but I love the author's writing and I am desperate to read the next one. Desperate. This book was so awesome and so unique. If you try reading it and it isn't working for you right away, give it a little bit longer. Maybe it takes a bit to grow on you? I have no clue.

To pre-order a copy of Slide from Amazon.com, click here: Slide.




Mar 12, 2012

Book Review of Walter's Muse by Jean Davies Okimoto and a Giveaway!!

Publisher: Endicott and Hugh Books
Release Date: December 9th, 2011
Pages: 300
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Source: TLC Book Tours and the author for an honest review. 
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb:


It's the first summer of her retirement and librarian Maggie Lewis is relishing the unfolding of sweet summer days on Vashon Island: walking on the beach, reading the classics, and kayaking. But in June when a sudden storm hits the island, Maggie's summer becomes about as peaceful as navigating whitewater. Not only does her wealthy sister arrive uninvited with a startling announcement, but Maggie finds herself entangled with her new Baker's Beach neighbor, Walter Hathaway. A famous children's author and recovering alcoholic, Walter has a history with Maggie they would each like to forget.Delightfully told with humor and insight, Walter's Muse is a page turner for romantics, writers, and the young at heart at any age.


Review:


There were a lot of things to love about Walter's Muse. The characters were awesome. The setting of Vashon Island was a character in itself. I love the way the author wrote the characters in this book down on the page. My favorites were definitely Walter and Martha Jane. Walter, because I felt he developed and changed so much from the beginning of the story until the end. Martha Jane, because I just loved her personality. Some of the things she did made me giggle, and also, I loved her approach to aging. I found it to be inspirational. At 90 years old, she could have been dwelling on the fact that her life was almost over, but instead, she's enriching her life by taking painting classes and trying to remember some of her favorite quotes and inspiring her neighbors. 


All of the characters in this book felt very real. That's because this is definitely a character driven novel and not a plot driven one. I'm not saying there isn't a plot, because there is, it's just more of a quiet one, and it does take a backseat to the actions and motivations of the characters. This is a book about island life and relationships. It is subtle and grows on you. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't sure whether or not I would like this novel at the beginning. But by about halfway through, I had begun to feel pretty attached to these characters and I had to find out what was going to happen. I think if you go into this book not expecting a fast-paced novel, you will like it a lot more. I didn't know what to expect and that's why it took a bit to get going for me. Simply put, I have been reading too many young adult novels that move quickly. This book was a serious change up for me, and it ended up being quite a delight. 


Things I loved about Walter's Muse:


~The character development-They truly jumped off the page.


~The setting-You can tell it's really a beautiful place. You can tell the author is passionate about where she lives, and the way she describes it has me really wanting to see it for myself.


~The imagery-Really. Vashon island was beautiful. I loved the way I pictured Maggie and Walter's houses in my head. Seriously some place I would like to stay. The storm in the beginning was written brilliantly.


~The slow burn of Maggie and Walter's relationship. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say it was fun to watch unfold. I loved Walter, so this was definitely my favorite part of the book. 


~Maggie and I didn't get off to a great start. For a good chunk of the beginning of the book, I didn't really like her. I thought she was whiny, crabby, and a complainer. I didn't care for the way she treated her sister. Even though Leslie was a selfish person, it bothered me. That's family you are hating on. By the end of the story, she had grown a lot and also grown on me. I knew when I finished the final pages that I would miss her voice and hearing her thoughts. She was very real, flawed, and well-developed.


Things that I didn't love about Walter's Muse:


~I loved the opening of the book. It was awesome. Then not much happened for awhile and I became disillusioned with the story until it got going again. The pacing was a bit off in the first eighty pages.


~There were a few times where the verb tenses switched. That threw me off and I didn't care for it. Pick a verb tense and stick with it. Just my opinion, but there it is.


I can easily give this one 4 out of 5 stars. Not more than that because I didn't love it as much as I wanted to. But it was a good book. I would recommend this one for fans of vivid settings, great character development, relationships, and character driven plots. I would not recommend this for fans of quickly paced stories. 

To order a copy of Walter's Muse from Amazon.com, click here: Walter's Muse. Or you can purchase it from Barnes and Noble here.

Also, a set of up to ten copies of Walter's Muse is going to be given away in TLC Tour's Book Club of the Month Contest in March. If you have a book club and you want to enter, click here: http://tlcbooktours.com/book-clubs/.

Now for the giveaway. Up for grabs is a paperback copy of Walter's Muse. This is for US/Canada entrants only. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Mar 10, 2012

Just a Short Note...

To say that Great Imaginations is going on a small hiatus this coming week. I have posts scheduled for the 12th and the 13th, but after that we will be down until at least the 17th. I am going on vacation. Also, because I have been packing, cleaning, and preparing, I have not gotten as much reading done as I would have liked. The last book I finished was Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and that review has to wait for a few months yet. I am taking a couple of books with me, but I doubt I will be doing much reading there either. So, I will see you on the 17th on twitter and facebook, but I might not have a new blog post for you (after the 13th of course) for a little bit until I have a new review written.

We are off to Universal Orlando and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!! Woot!! I will take lots of pictures, don't you worry about that. But until I get back, I am forgetting this blog even exists. Have a great week!

Mar 9, 2012

Interview with Becky Banks, Author of The Legend of Lady Maclaoch, Giveaway, and a Book Review




Welcome to The Legend of Lady MacLaoch Spring Break Tour! I have author Becky Banks here today to talk about her book, The Legend of Lady MacLaoch, and a bit about her writing process and how she became a writer.



Without further ado, here's Becky.




1. What is your writing process like? Outlines? Music? Time of day? Where do you write? That type of thing.
Great question, and before we dive in, thank you very much for having me! So, up until several years ago, I didn’t think I had a process for writing since I would simply sit down and pound it out. But then I realized that is exactly what my process is. I do what some authors call pantsing (versus plotting). I write by the seat of my pants. :0) For The Legend of Lady MacLaoch, it was written solely from my gut with a whisky at my side and Celtic music in my ears (think Susan McKeown, Natalie MacMaster, Meav, etc.) to keep me in the moment of when I was there last. This is what I now know as “feeding my creative," the internal critic is drowned out allowing me to write unhindered until the end of the story. :0)  
Regarding where I write, I feel I should mention that during the writing of The Legend of Lady MacLaoch’s manuscript I was working full time. I wrote before I went to work, during my lunch break, and after work until bed, then got up and wrote all day during the weekends. Since I write on a laptop, I write anywhere. Currently I’ve remodeled my attic and work there with a great writing station, but before that I was just on my couch or floor or wherever I wasn’t cramped from sitting too long. :0)
2. Where did you get the ideas for your characters and setting?

For this book, it was directly from my trip to Scotland. Scotland has a mysticism about it; the history that is seeped into its soil and etched into the stone of its castles is pure muse. I came back from Scotland with wild fantasies and stories all clamoring in my head, and I simply sat down and started writing. I’ll be honest--and you can ask my initial peer reviewers on this--the first edition of this manuscript was a little schizophrenic. I think one of my reviewers said, “This is ahhh...good. In some places it actually reads like a book.” LOL!
Castle Laoch in the book is inspired by Dunvegan castle on Skye, home to the MacLeod clan who still operates with a clan chief. Regarding the characters, Cole is a mix of women I know, but is loosely based on a coworker of mine who’s an engineer, very analytical and is known to see things in black and white--it is or it isn’t. For Rowan, he’s a bartender we met while in Portree (the town that the fictional Glentree was based upon) on Skye. He’s a MacLeod and charming and looks much like Rowan, though he is NOT a clan chief, and I’d bet dollars to donuts he’s never seen the inside of a RAF fighter jet’s cockpit. :0)

Dunvegan Castle

For the secondary characters, they all resemble one person or another that I have either met personally or know of through various means. The MacDunnah brothers, however, came right from my subcortex. I woke up one morning in the midst of doing massive edits and they simply clamored right out of my mind and onto the page. These two hilarious lovable old Scottish twins are my favorite, though Wanda comes in as a close runner up. She’s pretty fun too. :0)

3. Did you go to college? What did you major in?
Yup! I was a hardworking science chick. I studied at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, earning a bachelor's in natural resources and a minor in science education. It wasn’t until much later that I thought maybe I should have taken the hint from my fiction writing course instructor and changed my major. But I was just semesters away from graduating at that time, and was focused like a laser on graduating then starting my career instead. Though looking back now, I’m happy to have taken the path I did--the sciences give my writing a depth, or as my dad says, it builds character. :0)
4. At what age did you figure out you wanted to be a writer? Is there anything else you want to do besides write?


This is always an interesting question for me because I came late to the realization that I was a writer, as in, I realized I wanted to be a writer about five years ago. But as I’ve learned over these past few years, you don’t just wake up and be a writer; you’ve probably been writing for years not realizing that writing is your craft. I’m one of those people. I’ve been doing personal creative writing since I was a child. Diary entries, bad poetry, emotional diatribes--things like that. It wasn’t until the college fiction writing course I mentioned above that I realized I had any knack for it.
Because I’ve just arrived onto the writing scene, there is little else I want to do besides write right now. Though I do fill my days when I’m not writing with working part time at my old career in the environmental field, gardening, bossing my dogs and husband around, and generally being a nuisance to people I know. It’s quite fulfilling! :0)


5.Which classics are your favorites, if any? Why? Favorite book? Favorite band?
Ah, the classics. By far it has to be To Kill a Mockingbird. It was the first time that I realized that books could “show” you things. That you could be so immersed into the words that it was as if you were walking in the character’s shoes. I loved it, and hated the injustices that I was shown.
Favorite book, I have several. I’m a moody reader; sometimes I love Phillipa Gregory, and other times she’s not smutty enough for me. So, my favorite book vacillates between Lord of Scoundrels (smutty well written awesomeness) and The Help. The Help is the latest book I’ve read that sucked me into the story and moved me as well as educated me. And there is always the classic epic romance, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
My favorite band? The Black Keys. But I feel with their latest megastar status, I should qualify that with I also love Audioslave, Azam Ali, Madeline Peyroux, Adele, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Presidents of the United States, Cee Lo Green, Cake, Flogging Molly, Fiona Apple... 


6. Finally talk about your book. Obviously. What was difficult about writing it? Easy? Can you talk about your next project?
The most difficult thing about it was trying to figure out what in the world I was doing. It was the first manuscript that I’d finished and I had no formal training on how to craft a novel, so I winged it. I just wrote the progression of the characters moment by moment, unwrapping their emotional journey page by page. Then when I finished it, I was giddy for weeks that I’d finished it and I didn’t care how it read. But then reality hit, and I spent the next year editing and rewriting it. And THAT was hard. Rewrite a novel--five times--and you’ll learn a few things on novel writing. What was easy? The creative. The pouring myself a glass of whisky, turning on the music, and slipping back to Scotland. Though all in all, compared to my statistic class in college--it all was duck soup. :0)
The next project is very different from The Legend of Lady MacLaochVery different. The story takes place in Portland, Oregon, it’s about one man’s violent past and the loss of his first and only love. It’s a gritty, dark, fast, and redeeming love story that explores the question of first loves: what if your life moved in a way that brought you back together with the person you first gave your heart to? The novel is due out later this year and on Sunday I’ll be posting more about it on my blog www.beckybanksonline.com.
Thanks again Kara for having me!!


And now, my review.

I’ve never been into reading books set in Scotland. But when I was approached to review this book, there was something about the blurb that really piqued my interest. I’m glad I took it on. It was a great book. I also want to note that historical romance is totally not my thing, but since there was a paranormal aspect, I figured I would give it a shot.

The setting of Scotland totally won me over. It was so atmospheric and the imagery was fabulous. I could picture all the green rolling hills, castles, and wonderful little walled gardens as if I was there myself.  The author did a great job of setting the scene.  I can tell she did her research as well with the talk of Scottish clans and the different types of plant life that grows in Scotland.

One thing I really loved about The Legend of Lady MacLaoch was the dialogue. I thought the way the Scottish dialects were written was absolutely brilliant. It only added to the overall atmosphere of the book, and I found myself really wanting to visit there and see the place for myself. Awesome job, Mrs. Banks.  I could not put this book down.

Here comes the part where I turn into a crazy, raving lunatic. The characterizations. Out of this world. I loved Wanda so much. She was just this side character who was in a very small part of the book, but I fell for her. Oh did I ever fall for her. I wanted to know her so badly and wished with all my heart that she was real.  The MacDunnah brothers? Hah, I loved them! And Rowan? Holy hunk muffin! What a guy. I can easily understand why women were fighting over him. That’s not actually what happened, but it was sort of along those lines. I try not to reveal storyline in my reviews, so that is all up to the reader to understand.  Even the villains were written well. Every character had multiple dimensions and jumped right off the page. Oftentimes the villains are one-dimensional, and just have the bad side. I didn’t find that to be true here at all. I was blown away by the characterizations. Completely wowed.

The writing was superb. If every historical romance novel was written this way, I would be all over this genre. But alas, they are not. So I will walk away from this book knowing that there are some gems out there. Also, I will read everything this author writes. Her voice was amazing. I rarely say this in my reviews, but buy this book!! I recommend it for everyone. Honestly, everyone.  I want to thank the author for allowing me to read her book. It was certainly worth the time I invested reading in it.

To purchase The Legend of Lady MacLaoch from Amazon.com, click here: The Legend of Lady MacLaoch. The Kindle edition is only $0.99!



And now for the giveaway. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!



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Mar 8, 2012

Spellcaster by Cara Lynn Shultz

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: March 27th, 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Spellcaster (Spellbound, #2)Spellcaster by Cara Lynn Shultz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Finding your eternal soulmate - easy.


Stopping a true-love-hungry evil - not so much…


After breaking a centuries-old romantic curse, Emma Connor is (almost) glad to get back to normal problems. Although...it's not easy dealing with the jealous cliques and gossip that rule her exclusive Upper East Side prep, even for a sixteen-year-old newbie witch. Having the most-wanted boy in school as her eternal soul mate sure helps ease the pain-especially since wealthy, rocker-hot Brendan Salinger is very good at staying irresistibly close....


But something dark and hungry is using Emma and Brendan's deepest fears to reveal damaging secrets and destroy their trust in each other. And Emma's crash course in über-spells may not be enough to keep them safe…or to stop an inhuman force bent on making their unsuspected power its own.


Review:


So. This book. I don't even know where to start. I liked it a little, but definitely not a lot. There were things I loved, but there were things that also made me roll my eyes and snicker. I loved Spellbound. Well, okay, I didn't love it. But I liked it a lot, despite its flaws. To me, this book kind of just magnified the flaws even more. Because the plot was...well...not fantastic. Here I go.


First of all, the infodumps? Glaringly obvious. I know the author tried to retell what happened in the first book quickly, but man. There were pages AND pages of infodumps in the beginning. Where was the editor on this? Off dropping the ball somewhere I presume. But seriously, what happened there, huh? How did that even get through the filters? You want to refresh readers' memories, not kill them with boredom. That brings me to my next point.


The book was way too long. Way. Too. Long. First of all, the plot reminded me of a Christopher Pike or Richie Tankersley Cusick thriller from the 90s'. And yet it went on for over 300 pages. Sometimes there were chapters where almost nothing happened. The book was just way too wordy. I just found myself a lot of times not caring at all. This book could have easily been knocked down to like 220 pages. But it wasn't.


Then there were the issues I had with the characterizations. After reading over 300 pages, I still felt like I didn't know who Brendan and Emma were as people. After reading a book that long, how does that happen? I can't figure it out! The character development needed a lot of work. I just didn't feel that the characters were growing or evolving in any way. Emma thought Brendan was hot and he was in love with her. They have been soulmates since the year 1200. I get that. How may times do you have to repeat it? I need more than his eyes are green and his black hair hangs in his eyes and he's always running his hands through it. Geeze louise!


I did and still do love Cara's writing though. Her sense of humor makes me giggle. There were parts of this book that were laugh-out-loud funny. I just wish the plot wasn't so shallow! Let me reiterate. It was all about how hot Brandan was, how bitchy Kristin was, how slutty Kendall was, how witchy Angelique is, etc. It was all very surface and it hardly went deeper than that. I also found the characters to be quite stereotypical. Cisco and Kristin, mostly. Ashley was the stereotypical bimbo, but I loved her anyway. She was the one character that I fell in love with. So adorable. And then there was the dialogue. Some of it went way overboard with the cheese. There were a couple of times when I caught myself laughing or rolling my eyes. And those weren't supposed to be funny parts.


Compared to the first book, I just found the plot of this one insignificant. It felt tacked on and like this book wasn't necessary. I still kind of think this book shouldn't have been written. Spellbound wrapped up nicely. It should have been a standalone. And yet, I had to read this book because I liked the first one so much. I guess I was just hoping for more. But all this book ended up being was a thriller about a vindictive witch. Meh. If the author wanted to write this book, she should have wrote it as another standalone with different characters. I think I would have liked it better.


Things I loved:


~Ashley

~Cara's writing


Things I didn't love:


~Slowly paced

~Shallow characters

~Insignificant plot

~Everything else


Favorite quote:


Especially now that Angelique reminded me that she and Randi, two much more experienced witches, failed at a binding spell. Who are you to think you can pull off something like this? That's like Picasso not being able to paint something, so you bring in some kid that draws a bitchin' stick figure.


Mar 6, 2012

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: February 1st, 2012
Pages: 264
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: Physical copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Picture the DeadPicture the Dead by Adele Griffin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:


A ghost will find his way home.


Jennie Lovell's life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiancé falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past.


Review:


I cannot rave enough about the writing in Picture the Dead. It was awesome. It was moody, atmospheric, and I really appreciated the tone. It set the scene for a very spooky book. Not scary, just creepy. This was the kind of book you read at night in front of a roaring fire--if you have one. I didn't, but I wish I did.


I loved the plot as well, even if it was kind of predictable. It was one of those books where I figured out how it was going to end pretty quickly. At about the halfway point, I had it nailed. This has been happening to me a lot lately, so I'm either getting smarter, or I'm just reading the wrong books. I still enjoyed it, but I was looking for something more. I like to be surprised.  I finished reading because I wanted to see how the author arrived at the solution I knew was coming, and it happened pretty much the way I thought it would.


As for the illustrations, they were great except for the letters and small fonts which I could not read. I do not wear glasses. I don't need to. And I still couldn't read them. Were we not supposed to be able to? Very strange. The drawings were pretty cool though. Definitely not something you see in most books.


I found the characters a bit flat. I liked them, but I didn't love them. I found myself wanting to care more than I did. This was a fairly short book, and that may have had something to do with it. I didn't have enough time to get to know the characters. It's an issue I have with some middle-grade books since sometimes they are on the shorter side. This was not a middle-grade novel, but sometimes I felt like it was.


I did love the setting though. The Pritchett house was creepy, and the aunt herself really kind of frightened me. She was a bit of a monster. The spirit photographer, Geist, was also a bit on the macabre side. But I really liked him. I wish he had been in the book more. I feel like I never really got to know him enough.


I liked Picture the Dead enough to recommend it, and if you like good ghost stories that are spooky but not scary, I think you should give it a shot. It's a book you can read in a few hours, so it's a great one if you would like to spend an evening reading.


Favorite quote:


"I wasn't forced to love Will." A nervous laugh catches and dies in my throat.

"No. Not overtly." Quinn looks uncomfortable. "Ah, I'm being an ass. When all I wanted to comment on was your sweetness, Jennie. You give so freely of your time and good humor. I wondered if Will and I ever realized how much we depended on it."


To order a copy of Picture the Dead from Amazon.com, click here: Picture the Dead




Mar 5, 2012

Guest Post with Ellen Potter, Enter to Win a Copy of The Humming Room!!


Today I have Ellen Potter on the blog. We are of course promoting her new book, The Humming Room, which is a contemporary interpretation of The Secret Garden. I was asked to be a part of this blog tour, and I couldn't say no. Guys, I loved Ellen's book so much. I love reading middle-grade novels, but I don't always feel as enchanted by them as I would like to be. Not so with this book. I adored it. You can see my 5 star review here.

And now I'd like to introduce Ellen to talk to you about the stress and process of retelling a beloved children's classic (*cough* my favorite children's classic).



I’ve found that many children’s books have a short shelf life. Although I loved certain books as a child, I no longer love them as an adult. In fact, I sometimes wonder what the heck I loved about the book in the first place. Not so with The Secret Garden. That book has staying power. In fact, I had read my battered old copy so many times that when my editor, Jean Feiwel, suggested that I write a contemporary version of it, I thought, “Oh yeah. This is going to be a breeze.”

Then I started writing it.

Well, let me just say that if you are considering re-telling a beloved classic, you should first stock up on bottles of Maalox and some stress food (mine are Swedish Fish). Trying to live up to a classic that classic can take a few years off your life. You worry that it will be too close to the original; you worry that it won’t be close enough. You worry about how it will be received by all those people who loved the original as much as you did. 

Most of all, you worry that you will spend all your advance money on Swedish Fish and Maalox.
Once I found the setting for The Humming Room, though, things began to come together. I chose The Thousand Islands region of New York, where I was living at the time. The St. Lawrence River is wild and moody and vast, much like Yorkshire moors. My “Misselthwaite Manor” was a defunct tuberculosis sanitarium on one of the islands. Not only was it fittingly eerie, but it also isolated my main character, Roo, just as Mary was had been isolated on the moors.

The character of Roo spilled out so effortlessly that for a while I really did think The Humming Room might be a breeze to write. Tough, whip-smart girls are sort of my specialty. But when I came to the Colin character, Mary’s sickly cousin, I ran into trouble. In The Humming Room, the cousin is named Phillip, and for a few months I couldn’t figure out what his problem was. Clearly I couldn’t give him a hunchback, like Colin.  I tried out other ailments on him, but none of them seemed to make sense. I nearly gave myself an ailment trying to figure it out. So I did what I usually do when I’m stuck. I ate Swedish Fish. Then I took my dogs for lots of walks. I walked and walked, and thought and thought until a solution came to me.  Phillip’s ailment would be mental rather than physical. It made sense, and a good thing too, because even my dogs were looking tired.

I suppose the biggest change was the romance between Roo and the Dickon character. I’d always wished that Mary and Dickon had fallen in love. In fact, I think that Mary was in love with Dickon, but I suspect Dickon was the kind of guy who didn’t notice when a girl was head-over-heels for him. This time around, I wanted Dickon to notice; and to fall in love right back.

My “Dickon” is named Jack, and he lives alone on the St. Lawrence River. Mysterious and elusive, there is a local lore that he isn’t a human at all, but a sea creature. He is followed everywhere by a great blue heron named Sir and he can turn the river stormy or calm at will. When he and Roo meet, they recognize the wildness in each other, and the loneliness. Remember the first time someone you liked held your hand? And how nothing in the world had ever felt that nice before? That’s the sort of romance I wanted for Roo and Jack. That simple, melting-warmth-in-your stomach kind of romance. I like to think that Mary would be pleased.

A few weeks ago, my dog did the unthinkable. He urinated on my prized and battered old copy of The Secret Garden. I think he may have been angry at all those walks I made him take. I was surprised at how sad I was, especially after a year and half of living so closely, and anxiously, with that book. But I cried. And that, to me, is the mark of a book with an enduring shelf life—when you spend a year and half worrying yourself to death about retelling the book, and you still cry because your dog urinated on it.




McMillan Children's Publishing Group has notified me that I can give away a copy of The Humming Room as part of the blog tour!  Contest is open to readers in the US/Canada. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Contest lasts for a week and then the winner will be notified via email.
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