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WoW (aka Start Up the DeLorean) for 1/5

January 5, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Start Up the DeLorean is a feature I was already doing that was basically the same thing. Only, I put it differently. It’s a reference to the fact that time travel is the only way I can get my hands on the book(s) listed.

This week I’m featuring a title I scoured the internet for. It’s by a debut author and it’s listed as Urban Fantasy. It’s Under Wraps by Hannah Jayne. It has a potentially interesting heroine and a (swoon) a werewolf boss. You know that he’s gonna be a love interest because he’s described as “handsome.” There’s also another man mentioned in the description. Might this book feature a love triangle? You can decide for yourself. Here’s the book cover and description.

 

March 1, 2011

Sick of wrongful-death lawsuits every time a full moon comes around?
Call the Underworld Detection Agency.

As a human immune to magic, Sophie Lawson can help everyone from banshee to zombie transition into normal, everyday San Francisco life. With a handsome werewolf as her UDA boss and a fashionista vampire for a roommate, Sophie knows everything there is to know about the undead, the unseen, and the uncanny. . .

Until a rash of gruesome murders has demons and mortals running for cover, and Sophie finds herself playing sidekick to detective Parker Hayes. Dodging raging bloodsuckers, bad-tempered fairies, and love-struck trolls is one thing. But when Sophie discovers Parker isn’t what he seems, she’s got only one chance to figure out whom to trust. Because an evil hiding in plain sight is closing in. . .and about to make one wisecracking human its means to ultimate power. . .

 

Crimson Wind by Diana Pharaoh Francis

January 4, 2011

December 28, 2010

Publishers: Pocket

Publication Date: December 28, 2010

Format: Mass market paperback

Status: Second in the Horngate Witches series, following 2009’s Bitter Night.

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Witches

Location: This book takes place on the road, though the Hornsgate covenstead is in Montana. Some of the action takes place near Mount Shasta, which is located in Nothern California and Max’s ultimate destination, Winters, which I think must be in Napa Valley.

Other Info: Francis is also the author of the Path series and the Crosspointe series.

Book Description (from Goodreads):

THERE ARE GOOD GUYS. THERE ARE BAD GUYS. AND THEN THERE’S MAX.

Max knows what trusting the wrong person can cost you. Her former friend Giselle, a powerful witch, enslaved Max years ago, turning her into a Shadowblade—a deadly warrior compelled to fight for Giselle. But there’s more at stake now than Max’s thirst for revenge. The Guardians, overseers of the magical world, have declared war on humanity and on any witches not standing with them. Max and Giselle have come to an uneasy truce in order to protect what’s left of Horngate, their coven’s home. Max would do anything for Horngate—even give herself over to a mysterious otherworldly creature in the nearby mountains in exchange for his help. But first, she intends to save the mortal family she left behind. And Alexander, the Shadowblade warrior who could be her closest ally or her deadliest enemy, is going with her.

On a road trip into the unknown, Max and Alexander face wild magic, desperate enemies, and battles that bruise both body and soul. But the greatest challenge will come from unexpected revelations that test everything Max believes about who she is—and where her loyalties lie. . . .

Okay, first of all, how awesome is the name “Diana Pharaoh Francis”? I mean, it has Pharaoh in it. And it’s not Diana “Pharaoh” Francis. It’s actually part of her name. Although I suppose it could be a pseudonym. If so, it’s a cool one.

Sadly, my experience reading Crimson Wind was not as enjoyable as my fancies surrounding the author’s name. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I have not read Bitter Night, the first book in the Horngate Witches series. Darn these publishing companies! They’re determined to prevent me from keeping my promise about reading series books in order. Um, joking. I’m grateful for each and every book I receive. Honestly. But, now that I’m reviewing books as well as reading them, I have a much harder time reading books out of order. I think I may actually have been converted to the cause instead of just paying lip service. Silver Zombie is the case in point.

Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it–my issues with Crimson Wind were bigger than the fact that I read it out of order. But before I get into that, let me back up a sec and give you some of the plot. Crimson Wind‘s heroine is Max. She’s a kick-butt heroine of the over-the-top variety. Thirty years ago she was betrayed by her friend Giselle. Giselle is (and was) a powerful witch and she believes that Max is the key to the survival of her coven, Horngate. Since Horngate is  all Giselle’s concerned about, she felt justified in turning Max into a Shadowblade. And not just any Shadowblade, the Prime Shadowblade. Sadly for Max, the process has involved long hours of tortuous proceedings. It also resulted in an ability to go out in the daytime. She is even susceptible to the reflection of the sun from the moon. She is bound to Horngate and to Giselle by compulsion spells. Furthermore, Max had to leave her family and never see them again and that’s really the crux of Max’s hatred of Giselle.

As the description tells us, in Bitter Night, Max and Giselle reached a kind of truce in order to save Horngate. In the thirty years that Max has served the covenstead, she has come to care for the community. Her desire to save the covenstead–and the people within it–comes from Max herself more than the compulsion spells that Giselle has put on her. Max also cares for all the Shadowblades that serve under her. In fact, she’s willing to sacrifice herself for them. As Crimson Wind begins, Max is anxious about the family she’s left behind. Part of the agreement that she and Giselle made will allow Max to bring her family to Horngate and safety. Max’s journey to bring her family to the covenstead is the novel’s ultimate destination.

I wish I could say that Max makes the trip on her own, but she doesn’t. Alexander, a fellow Shadowblade Prime, goes with her. Alexander was bound to a different covenstead and a different witch, but the binding was dissolved in the first book. Alexander is sent with Max because he would be a threat to her status as Prime at Horngate if he stayed behind without her. I really, really wish he had stayed behind. He was boring. Francis wavers between making Alexander Max’s equal and making Max such an incredible warrior/leader/Prime/Shadowblade that no one can match her. It’s mentioned several times that Alexander is the only Prime that could challenge Max for her position at Horngate. He speaks without contractions because he was born in a time of precise speech. Okay, fine, but it still irritated me. Alexander is also Max’s romantic interest, which is not a relationship I cared to see develop. Personally, I thought the angel Tutresiel was more interesting and showed more promise. The chemistry between Max and the angel was far more interesting, but possibly that was because they spent so little on screen time together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why the Max/Alexander pairing held so little interest for me. It has some of the elements that make me (slightly) swoony in other romance novels. Alexander is clear that he wants Max and she’s resistant. I usually love it when the hero pursues the heroine with deadly intensity. But I felt like yawning when Alexander did it. Maybe because it was a pale echo. I can’t articulate the difference, so I’ll just reiterate: I give the romance a big “F”. And if you should know anything about me as a reader, it’s that enjoying the romance is central to my enjoyment of a book. If it’s not satisfying, it’s not for me.

That said, Crimson Wind failed for me in other ways. As I mentioned earlier, Max is an over-the-top kick-butt heroine. She can do everything, she’s stronger than everyone, everyone admires her, she’s self-sacrificing, she helps those in need. In short, Max is like a really strong Girl Scout with a foul mouth. Also, she gives everyone stupid nicknames. I never connected to Max. And since she narrates the half of the book that Alexander doesn’t, I confess I was relieved to reach the last page of this book.

There was a moment when, despite the endless, ridiculous detours, Max and Alexander finally reach her family, that I thought things might get interesting. They didn’t. There was a spark of hope and it was snatched from me. I can’t say anything else because that would involve major spoilers. Let’s just say there was a plot twist that had potential. I’m very sorry to say that Diana Pharaoh Francis wasted it. But she still has a cool name.

Shifter Challenge 2011

January 3, 2011

 

I’ve been searching the net for challenges to enter and, lo and behold, when I visited Parajunkee’s site today, I found this one. It’s totally right up my alley. I love shifter books, so reading twenty of them will be as easy as…I’m having trouble coming up with an adequate analogy. Also, I don’t want to jinx myself. I take it back. It won’t be easy. It’ll be gruesome and difficult but I’ll manage somehow. That’s why it’s called a challenge, people! There, do you think I’ve successfully eliminated the risk of a jinx? Or did I just double jinx it by asking that question. D’oh! I better quit while I’m ahead. Or behind. Whatever.

Here are some shifter books on my 2011 list:

  • Third Blood by Kalayna Price
  • Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
  • River Marked by Patricia Briggs
  • Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
  • Untitled Alpha and Omega Novel by Patricia Briggs

Obviously I’m gonna need some more books. Any suggestions?

For 2011: Book Covers That Make Me Glad I Bought My Kindle

January 2, 2011

I am totally one of those people who hides the covers of the books she reads. It’s been a constant battle for me. I don’t like to bend the covers of my books so I either end up using a canvas book cover or refusing to lift my book from the table. I confess I’ve even read a book while keeping it inside my purse so no one could see the scantily clad, tattooed and armed heroine on the cover. And while I have mixed feelings about the Kindle (you can’t loan Kindle books to people, you won’t have physical copies of the books, it can’t show book covers in color), one thing I am not going to miss is concealing embarrassing book covers. In the spirit of the new year, here are some books that make me oh-so-glad I bought my Kindle after all.

  1. Now, I absolutely love the Kate Daniels books. But I feel certain even the heroine herself would be mortified by the covers of her books. In this one, the model looks about a kick-butt as Annie from Community. And her “simple” white tank top only serves to emphasize her large bust. I do give the cover artist points for portraying Curran in his lion form instead of as bare-chested, six-packed man candy. Though the greater proportion of Urban Fantasy books feature female figures instead of male ones. If the author is female, the percentage increases exponentially. What’s more, the model’s expression is more bored than…actually, I’m not sure what she was going for. Fierce? Determined? Or perhaps the photographer was waving a stuffed animal in the air trying to get her to smile. Her look is as unimpressed as those of the infants this technique is generally used on. Finally, I can’t tell what’s going on with Kate’s sword, Slayer. Is it disintegrating? I can tell you, Kate would be pissed if it were, not impassive. I’m not sure she wouldn’t sacrifice Curran for that sword.
  2. Now, as you know, I am impatiently awaiting Hawke’s book. I have been for several books now. But this book cover is basically the inspiration for this post. I don’t have a problem with the male form, but it really irritates me when they’re the main feature of Romance book covers. It’s as objectifying as the scantily clad women. It also suggests that I’m reading the book out of a desire to salivate over the hero’s six-pack. I agree that it’s part of the allure of a romantic novel, but it demeans the author’s writing to suggest that she’s written three hundred odd pages in ode to Hawke’s abs. Also, I’m really freaked out by the excessive veinage in his left arm. His left, not mine. They make me afraid they’re going to spontaneously burst. The worst part is that very little of this book cover really relates to Hawke and Sienna at all. I don’t see Hawke hanging around with his thumbs hooked into the top of his jeans. The key word for Hawke and Sienna’s relationship (heretofore) has been restraint. This book cover? Not so much.
  3. First of all, what is this guy wearing? And what kept him from putting on a shirt? He had time to grab his gun and some kind of utility vest, but not a shirt? Fine. But did he also neglect to explain the gravity of the situation to the woman he’s with? I’m just guessing, but I think that if his gun’s out then they’ve got some company. Maybe the woman took some ecstasy. That would explain why she’s leaning against the man and…er, never mind. An amorous heroine would make for an amusing get-away scene, though. Also, I think that the man is doing a Zoolander face. Heh. Finally, I think he should sue the artist who designed his tattoo because it looks like the needle slipped.

Top Ten for 2010 (Or, Is This Seriously ANOTHER List of 2010 Favorites?)

January 1, 2011

Everybody’s doing it. I guess now that Santa’s already made his lists and checked them twice, it’s time for book bloggers to do the same. This was difficult for me. I only started blogging in September, so I don’t have a database to check and, frankly, it takes a really, really long time for me to slog through all my books. I haven’t managed to scan everything into LibraryThing or Goodreads yet. I also couldn’t decide how I wanted to organize my list. Should I do a Top Ten of the Decade? I was tempted. In the end, I decided that I’d list my top ten favorite book covers for 2010. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. I fell in love with this cover the moment I saw it. I love the moss on the rocks and the medieval-looking arch in the background. In my review of this book, I said that the cover deserved a better book. I stand by that.
  2. I doubt that Nightshade would fail to make any list of favorite book covers in 2010. And why should it? It’s beautiful. What doesn’t transfer over the internet is that it’s sparkly. It’s a lovely, moody cover that manages to convey the cold and the snow of the opening scene of the book.
  3. I read Brightly Woven before I started this blog so you haven’t had a chance to hear me wax poetic about it. It’s a wonderful historical fantasy that I’d recommend for those who enjoyed Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.
  4. I loved the cover of this book more than I loved the book itself. It’s simple and evocative. I also appreciated the nod to the heroine’s green dress. It’s nice when you can tell that the designer of the book jacket has at least been told a little bit about the book.
  5. I haven’t read this book, but I can tell you what I like about it. First of all, I’m a sucker for anything that evokes a period. Usually my tastes run to the nineteenth century and everything after. I’m also especially fond of the new trend of embossing a floral design around the edges of these covers.
  6. Another book jacket that uses the embossing technique. But I think that my favorite aspect of this cover is the neat balance of the girl’s face with the red stripe down the left side. Though one would expect the eye to be drawn heavily to the left, the eye-catching crimson balances things out.
  7. While I think I would like this cover even better if it didn’t have the eponymous sapphire talisman dangling from the top, I like the blue-y feeling of this cover. It was probably done in ten minutes on Photoshop and I don’t know if it fits the story as I haven’t read the book, but it definitely looks like a book I would pull off the shelf.
  8. Did I mention that I’m heavily influenced by a book jacket that evokes a period? Well, here’s example number two. I like the dress and the slight overexposure caused by the light from the window. Plus, I like the title font. Together these things contrive to allow me to overlook the fact that the model’s hair is more messy than Regency.
  9. Any book cover by Kinuko Craft is going to be worth a glance. She doesn’t disappoint with The Bards of Bone Plain. It’s lush and fantastical. The children’s books she’s illustrated are among my favorites.
  10. I love how delicately pink this is. It shows that I have a well-developed girly side, I guess. I can’t tell you how many times this book has caught my eye in the bookstore. Then I’m disappointed when I pick it up and read the back cover blurb. Not of interest to me, but still: a lovely cover.

Tomorrow I’ll be introducing a new feature. It’s the opposite of this one: Book Covers That Make Me Glad I Bought a Kindle. See you then.

Follow Me Friday (12/31)

December 31, 2010

Happy New Year everyone! It’s almost 1/1/11. For me, the new year mostly means making lots of mistakes when I write the date. Also, the end of my Winter Break and family time and the festive season. 😦 . Still, here’s a little Follow Me Friday New Year’s Cheer for you to enjoy.

What are your new years’ book blogging resolutions?

  • I resolve to be a little more realistic about what I can do. I tend to aim for the stars then panic when I run out of time or am unable to finish reading a book according to the schedule I’ve set for myself. I still want to post every day, but in order to give books the kind of attention they deserve, I have to scale back my book reviews. I also want to add more to my blog. Which seems counter-intuitive, but isn’t. I want to do other stuff besides book reviews (though I love doing them). I just haven’t decided what I want to do. I’m still trying to find my niche.
  • I also really want to get to know some other bloggers. In that vein, I’d like to do a guest blog on someone else’s site and maybe have them do a guest blog in return. If they’re interested.
  • I’d like to do things to feature authors I like, as well as new authors. I’m thinking more than interviews, which are awesome, but can be same-y.
  • I need to learn more about the technical side of blogging. My attitude is generally that I’m hopeless at computer stuff, but I think there are things I could learn how to do if I put my mind to them. My current challenge is figuring out how to move my blog to Blogger and still keep my domain name. I’m starting to think that if I can do that, I’ll be ready for anything!

Happy new decade everyone!

Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward

December 30, 2010

March 7, 2006

Publishers: Signet

Publication Date: March 7, 2006

Format: Mass market paperback

Status: Second in Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are eight books in the series so far, with book nine coming out in March 2011.

Source: My local used bookstore

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Vampire

Location: Caldwell, New York

Other Info: Ward is also the author of the Fallen Angels series: Covet and Crave.

Book Description (from Goodreads):

In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war raging between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret bound of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Possessed bu a deadly beast Rhage is the most dangerous of the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

Within the brotherhood, Rhage is the vampire with the strongest appetites. He’s the best fighter, the quickest to act on his impulses, and the most voracious lover-for inside him burns ferocious curse cast by the Scribe Virgin. Owned by this dark side, Rhage fears the time when his inner dragon is unleashed, making him a danger to everyone around him.

Mary Luce, a survivor of many hardships is unwittingly thrown into the vampire world and reliant to Rhage’s protection. With a life-threatening curse of her own, Mary is not looking for love. She lost her faith in miracles years ago. But when Rhage’s intense animal attraction turns into something more emotional, he knows that he must make Mary his alone. And while their enemies close in, Mary fights desperately to gain life eternal with the one she loves…

The Black Dagger Brotherhood books are on almost every list of must-read Paranormal Romance. A long time ago, I read Dark Lover, Wrath and Bella’s book and the first installment in the series. I don’t remember a lot about how I felt about Dark Lover but evidently, my feelings didn’t reach the top of the spectrum because I never got around to book two. I’ve been toying with getting reacquainted with the Black Dagger Brotherhood for some time. What I couldn’t decide was whether to reread Dark Lover. In the end, I ran across a list of books featuring wallflower heroines. Lover Eternal was on this list and I decided to stop angsting and start reading.

Sometimes I’ve read books and thought they were okay only to pick them up again and find that I didn’t properly appreciate them the first time around. This was my experience with Georgette Heyer. I’d hardly started Frederica before I put it back down again. But years later, when I read and fell in love with Devil’s Cub, I gobbled up most of Heyer’s oeuvre, including Frederica. What I’m saying is that I try to keep an open mind about books that underwhelm me. Sometimes those books are better read at a later point in your life. This isn’t true about all books, of course. It mainly happens with books that numerous people love and recommend but that I just couldn’t get into. However. I’m glad that I didn’t reread Dark Lover. Not because I hated Lover Eternal, but because I’m not particularly eager to keep going with the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Lover Eternal didn’t appeal to me in any substantial way.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, Lover Eternal tells the story of Rhage and Mary Luce. Rhage is a member of the previously mentioned Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of six warrior vampires that have sworn to protect the vampire race. All the warriors (except the king, Wrath, and Zsadist, whose name is an issue of its own) have names with extra h’s in them: Rhage, Phury, Vishous, Rhevenge, Tohrment, Tehrror. I’m not really sure why, except that I think it’s supposed to indicate how bad-ass they all are. All the brothers have issues, it seems, and Rhage’s is a curse put upon him by the Scribe Virgin. Rhage’s curse comes in the form of a beast that comes out when he’s angry. The only ways that Rhage has found of dealing with the beast are fighting and frequent sex. He’s a different woman every night kind of guy, whether he wants to be or not. Until Mary comes into the picture.

Mary is not so much a wallflower as a woman with low self-esteem. She’s spent a great deal of her life at her mother’s sick bed. Then, when her mother died, Mary was diagnosed with leukemia and was sent to the sickbed herself. When the story begins, Mary receives a call from the doctor that strongly suggests that she’s no longer in remission. Which she’s understandably bummed about. I’ve got to give Ward props for not going with the obvious solution to that particular problem. Mary is believably reluctant to enter into a relationship with Rhage if she’s just going to get sick. She’s been the caretaker for a dying woman and she knows it’s not pretty.

This book was okay, but I had a problem with Rhage’s “curse”. I had read that Rhage had slept with someone else during the course of the book, and I had also read that it didn’t happen after the two got together. This is technically true. Rhage does not sleep with anyone else after he has slept with Mary. But. The two are emotionally committed to each other. Which makes it cheating in my book. I also read that Rhage had to sleep with someone else as a result of his curse. I was a little wary of this argument and now that I’ve read the book, my opinion has not changed. Rhage is afraid of hurting others if he doesn’t keep the beast at bay. Though he knows two ways of doing this, the only thing that really works (in the end) is sex. I wasn’t clear on why it had to be several-different-girls-a-night-sex. I also wasn’t clear why the Scribe Virgin cursed Rhage in that particular way. It didn’t really fit the crime. I felt like it was a convenient excuse for Rhage to be promiscuous without actually wanting to be. It was the Paranormal version of “men have needs”.

The other issue that I had with this novel was that I wanted to giggle over the language of the “brothers”. To me, they sounded like a bunch of white boys playing ganstah. There was lots of “my brothers” and “you feel me?” And what was with the constant use of the word “female”? I hated it. Maybe it just made me think of the term “female dog”? I don’t know. It irritated me. In my head it sounded derogatory rather than, I don’t know, sexy and possessive.

The one thing that did interest me in this novel is the story of the boy whom Mary befriends. Unbeknownst to the boy, John Matthew, he is about to go through his transition (to becoming a vampire). I was interested in seeing where his story went. But I don’t want to read through six more Black Dagger Brotherhood books just to follow it. Maybe I’ll catch it as a stand-alone and maybe I won’t. Sadly, this is not the vampire series for me.