Sunday, November 28, 2010

Added to the Pile + 56

Just one book this week, from the author. Because us Lost Boys fans have to stick together -

After their parents' shocking revelation about their fairy heritage and an attack on their lives, the McDonald twins find themselves on the run - forced to hide out at Riverdale Academy, a boarding school for vampire slayers, deep in the Swiss Alps. With no cell phones, no Internet, and no way to contact their vampire boyfriends - the twins are on their own.

Being a vampire stuck in a school full of slayers isn't easy. Especially with no blood substitute stocked on campus. Soon Rayne find herself succumbing to her bloodlust and losing control - especially around the arrogant but devastatingly handsome Corbin Billingsworth the Third - who isn't sure whether he wants to kiss her . . . or kill her.

But when Sunny starts acting strange, Rayne realizes Riverdale Academy may be hiding some deadly secrets of its own - leading to a showdown in fairyland that may cost the twins and their loved ones their lives . . . (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 77

Surfing puts you on the path to mermaids. I'm thinking it has something to do with the water. Don't hold me to that, though.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Arson by Estevan Vega

Published 2009.

Arson Gable feels like a freak. He can create fire. He never asked for it. He never wanted it. But he can't shut it off.

Before now, three things were true: he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone. But when a strange girl - who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin - moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he's never had: purpose. Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster. (book back blurb)

I just have to say that the mask on the cover of the book truly freaks me out. It's like something out of a horror movie that'll be waiting to stab you in the dark. Out of context, anyway. Well, even in context I wouldn't want that thing sneaking up on me in the night but still. It's freaky.

I loved the story between Arson and Emery. It was both painful and heartbreaking and I was rooting for them to end up together. Vega did a good job portraying the dichotomy between the two "freaks," if you will. Both are social outcasts through no fault of their own and they both find each other in the dark, whether they want to be found or not. They see past each others' freak show for the person underneath, something that no one else could to. Of course, that plays into my niggling that not one person could see past "the freak" in either of these characters; that only other "freaks" could manage that because they knew the pain such social outcasting caused. While I liked the heart-wrenching, I wish that cliche was used less.

Like Arson, I both loved and hated his grandmother but I couldn't help but wonder about her purpose in the story. By the end it looked like she was hiding something from Arson about his past, or maybe his father but even as the story was ending, that reveal is never made. The connections are just insinuated, not confirmed. That nagged at me because, for the most part, Grandma just played the role of Mommy Dearest to Arson for no apparent reason other than she was a bit bat shitty.

Ultimately, up until the last few pages of the book, I felt that the whole fire starter premise could have been removed entirely and replaced with something completely mundane and it would have had zero effect on the overall plot. I just really couldn't help but think that for nearly the length of the book. Why did Arson have to have this magical element to him? It's not affecting the plot at all. He could have been just match happy and it wouldn't have made a difference. So remove the fire starter and you still have a really good plot but that underlying irrelevance would be gone.

And then at the end, with the man in black it just threw everything for a loop, and not necessarily in a good way. Because the reveal of Arson's fire-starting relevance was dragged on for the majority of the book, by the time some semblance of explanation comes in, it's a little late. Not to mention it's lacking an actual explanation. It's 'we're men in black, you're different and we're taking you. End.' I'm not a big fan of books that so blatantly set up for a sequel like that, especially when the problem at hand in the greater length of the current book is never actually resolved. Yeah, people were burnt to shit Carrie-style (again, cliche popular kids totally taking advantage of the freaks and freaks freak out) but it's the first time Arson's abilities come into play and it's the penultimate chapter. Live by that old saying if you have a gun in the first act, it better go off by the third. Well, I saw the gun, I saw it cocked but it appears to have jammed.

Like I said, I really liked the premise between Arson and Emery. It's a great story that I think Vega wrote really well. He had an excellent dynamic between the two. But there were just too many niggling nuances that bugged me. If you're going to read it, I'd say read it for Arson and Emery's story because that's really where the love is for me. I just really couldn't care less about the whole fire starter thing because it was pretty irrelevant for about 98% of the story.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 86

Let's forget about the level of suck the franchise became for this movie and just focus on the original, shall we? While the movie is pretty drastically different from the short story of the same name, it's still a creep factory what with that redhead with the gigantor mouth and that little short dude with the creepy voice that may have just been 53 and not a teenager. And then there's the corn. Miles and miles of corn. I can guarantee that after watching this movie, you will never look at corn fields nor their maze-like counterparts the same way again. Freak show. And people wonder why I am not kid tested nor am I mother-approved.

Freaky Friday :|: 86

Title: Resolved: You're Dead
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins
Accidentally causing the death of Lisa Enright's boyfriend, the members of the debating team decide to keep their secret when no one suspects them, but when Lisa realizes the truth, the group decides to get rid of her. (from
Looks like another copy and paste plot to me. I doubt I'd give this one a second look if it were put in front of my face. It's have to be pretty remarkable for me to read through to the end.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice by Ann Finnin

Published 2010.

Condemned to death by the Holy Office for sorcery, fifteen-year-old Michael de Lorraine is rescued from the flames by Abbot Francis and granted refuge at Sainte Felice, a Benedictine monastery in fifteenth-century France. Michael learns that this strange and wonderful place, famous for its magical healing wine, harbors renegade monk-sorcerers, enchanted gargoyles, and a closely guarded secret that could spell violent death for the Abbot.

As the church intensifies its cruel pursuit of Michael, Abbot Francis and the wizard monks find themselves in grave danger. Michael will do anything to protect his mentor, but are his own magical powers great enough to save the monastery from the merciless, bloodthirsty Inquisition? (book back blurb)

I gave this book until its halfway point before I decided to put it down. I figured if nothing nominally interesting had happened by that point, chances are not much else was going to happen after it and if it did, I probably wouldn't care.

The beginning started off strong enough. It intros right into Michael being lit on fire on a stake and then gets rescued by the Abbot. I zoomed through the chapter, holding my breath, wondering if he'd make it out okay (obviously it's the first chapter and he'd make it out but in what condition?). And that's where the action and anticipation ended for me. It just fizzled out once Michael got to the monastery and the most engrossing aspect was how to make the magic wine.

I think what helped play into the lackluster plot was the voice. It's not a current voice, and it shouldn't be since the main character is living in the 1400s. But it's also a very droll, very proper voice that really doesn't lend itself to action. I was supposed to be frightened when the search party came to the door but I just couldn't feel the fear or anticipation. I was just going through the motions of reading the words and turning the pages.

Michael's a likable enough character, if not a little boring considering what he'd just escaped from. But ultimately I felt a little gypped from what the blurb on the back of the book offered. It made the story seem more intense, more mystical than what it actually was. Instead we get Michael making wine and a former sorcerer puttering around as an abbot. Yeah, they're a motley crew of people from a bunch of unsavory backgrounds but that's about where the excitement ends for them.

Maybe I missed a big crazy climax where the powers come out in order to defend the monastery against the Inquisition. But at the halfway mark, I was pretty bored and looking for things to do around my house so I didn't have to pick this book back up. When I'd rather scrub my bathtub than read my current book, all signs point to a Did Not Finish roundup.

Maybe someone else with a much greater appreciation for that time in history would be able to overlook the language and lack of expectancy and read through until the end. Maybe someone else would be able to actually draw urgency from the words on the page. But it wasn't for me. I had to stop because, by the halfway point, it became a chore to read. I don't like being bored by my books. Nor do I like going in expecting one thing and getting another. Like I said, maybe if the voice were different it would have better portrayed the action in the book but as it was, I don't think it worked.

Things I've Learned from Books + 76

Be lucky we all aren't living in the 1400s because we would have been kabobbed in the village square by now for all of this magic and dark arts book learning we do. Of course we wouldn't be roasted by the pious. Oh no. Right old hypocrites they'd be. You shouldn't expect any less.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

80s Awesomeness! ~ 85

I would love to meet the chick that had even close to the entire My Little Pony collection. This franchise is massive in epic proportions. The body/hair color combinations were endless. The storylines, infinite. The playhouses expensive. But if you were a chick, you had to have them. And maybe you watched the TV show too. I'm pretty sure I had a few. In fact, I think one of the ponies I owned had this heat-sensitive decal thing on its butt that if you rubbed would appear like a tattoo. Kind of demented in hindsight.

And I chose this particular My Little Pony commercial for dear old Edward Cullen. May you unbury yourself from fangirls eventually. You know he has a collection somewhere.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 85

Title: Mr. Popularity
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: July 1994
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
Dreaming of dating the most popular boy in school, Cassie is never suspects that Brad is a merciless killer despite his adorable face, wealth, and fancy sports car, and when Brad begins paying attention to Cassie, she is unaware of his true desires. (from
Seems a little . . . Lifetime channel-esque. Kind of blah. Probably wouldn't pick this one up based on blurb alone. It's been done before, you know?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas + Contest

Published June 2010.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Peters is over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, agrees to act as her personal mentor. But when Father Mark's enthusiasm for Olivia's writing develops into something more, Olivia's emotions quickly shift from wonder to confusion to despair. Exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can Olivia get out of it? (book back blurb)

It starts off innocent enough. Kind words. Little notes. But then it morphs. You don't see the shift at first because it's subtle. And really, it's not too much different than it was before. But then the hand comes down and you're left with a ruffled brow and a question mark over your head. The next thing you know, you're desperate to get out of the situation but you're in so deep, you don't know how.

As someone that's been in a very similar situation to Olivia, I could automatically sympathize with her. Even if I hadn't been, Olivia is a very commanding character. She's very likable, very honest. Really, it's hard not to like her. If you're a writer, you can share in her enthusiasm when she wins a coveted writing prize plus a chance to learn from a literary master. Who wouldn't love that? But it's when that power figure starts to abuse his power that things start to get ugly.

Olivia was such a pretty girl but the things Father Mark did to her (he never touched her inappropriately, in a sexual manner, mind) caused her to spiral. Her worry and her distress at the situation she was in started to show on her face. When a person you love starts to downward spiral like that, it's hard not to notice. I could actually see her at the end of the book; her face sallow, her hair lackluster, her eyes red and puffy from crying. I wanted to tell her I understood, that everything would turn out okay.

Freitas' writing just sucked me right in (obviously). She got it right. The reactions of the power player, the reactions of Olivia, they all hit home. They all rang true. I felt every twinge, every bit of happiness, every threat of fear. I could feel it in my bones. Trust me, it's a shitty feeling. But I almost wish Freitas would have done the power play with a younger man just so we could have another Albatross, another rejection of the stalker = love notion that's so dominant in YA right now. But it was amazing as is.

Father Mark had something of Olivia's that he knew he could manipulate to make his own. She's young, naive, afraid of losing it all. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to shout at the book, "drop him! Your writing life won't end! He's lying!" But she had to see it on her own. It still didn't suck any less to watch someone, even someone fictional, go through something like that. But at least she had the support structure around her to help her through it, once she brought them in, anyway.

Making Father Mark the community pillar didn't help Olivia either. It made her wanting to turn him in even harder. Who would believe her? He, a nationally recognized novelist and priest, over some pretty little blonde kid? The ending wasn't a perfect wrap-up either. A switch wasn't flicked that made everything all better. It was a slow process that we just start to see unfold as the final pages pass by. And I liked that. In a situation like this, it's not all cookie cutter. It's hard and it's painful and it's going to take a long time to heal. I'm glad Freitas didn't gloss over that fact.

You will not want to put this book down once you pick it up. You will want to soak in every single word, cheer with Olivia, cry with Olivia, scream at her, help her. So go ahead. Do it. You won't regret it. It's a hard topic but one that needs to be discussed and Freitas does an excellent job of that.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? Just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends December 9th at midnight, EST.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why We Blog

I think between all of the ARCs, giveaways, BEAs, dramas, lulz and blogginesses, we forget why we become book bloggers to begin with. So I took it upon myself to spam my Twitter feed with the simple question, "Why did you start blogging?" for a few days and thankfully, people responded! Yay Twitter! And then I thought maybe this wouldn't be so bad every once in a while, to poll my fellow book bloggers about random bookish stuff and post the results. But we'll see on that.

I was going to write my long-winded story about how I came into book blogging but ultimately, that isn't important. I came in for a couple of particular reasons but they're not the reasons why I've stayed for coming on two years now. I love being able to put my thoughts about a book out there and getting a response from people, good or bad. Instead of finishing a book, shelving it and moving on, I can revel in it with fellow book lovers. And the people are kind of cool too. :) I love the connections that I've made because of this blog and it's just so awesome to be surrounded by such intelligent and thought-provoking people.

What were other people's responses? Let's take a look -

Started blogging abt books to share love w/ students, other readers; to develop community of readers; to spark conversation abt books. ~ Mary @ Mary Brebner

I am a book blogger because it is a joy to finally be able to share my love of reading books with others who love to read as much or more! ~ Jackie @ Housewife Blues and Chihuahua Stories

Ive been blogging over a year now & I still do it because of my fellow bloggers and my ever growing appetite to find the next amazing book or author. Its also fun and has become part of who I am. I feel like I'm just getting started. ~ Lisa @ A Life Bound By Books

I started 2 chat up my favs-I am stil going simply 4 the love o'books+it's sort of an escape(books+blog)-Despite the work-I enjoy it-mostly ~ Elie @ Ellz Readz

I became a book blogger just so I could talk about books! (& squeal w/excitement for new books. I don't know many people irl who do that.) ~ Sandy @ Pirate Penguin's Reads

For a long time, I kept a list on excel of all the books I read and tried to organize them via author, genre and star rating. This past spring I discovered blogging and more specifically book blogging. Blogging was another way to keep track of what I've read and it's a bit more creative than just a spreadsheet and more fun. I think it's also because I found a community that loves reading as much as I do and is willing to have a continuous dialogue about it. It's almost as addictive as reading! ~ Pam @ Midnyte Reader

I've been blogging since January 2010. I started off writing reviews so I could remember books that I read (since I read so much). But the community kept me around. Everyone is really amazing and giving and it has been a pleasure doing it. I still keep my main focus on my passion but I keep doing it so I can share my love for books and also keep in touch with some amazing people. ~ Kate @ I Just Wanna Sit Here And Read!

I am a book blogger because I love to spread book knowledge, especially for self-pubbed authors and Indies! ~ Jessica @ A Fanatic's Book Blog

I discovered the world of book blogging by accident. Thought it fit who I am and decided to give it a shot. Been 1.5 years now. ~ Ziara @ My Life In Not So Many Words . . .

I have been book blogging for four years, but originally just started to keep track of the books I read. Good reads helped that, but last fall I decided to try and make my blog more and post more often. I really just enjoy writing about books. I have no aspirations to be a writer, I am just a reader! ~ Jana @ Milk and Cookies: Comfort Reading

simply to share my love of reading with others, and discuss books. ~ Ash @ Smash Attack Reads!

I'm a book blogger because all my friends are losers and don't see how freaking awesome reading is. I needed to connect with other readers. I started the College Students group on Goodreads and 2 years later I started blogging bc I am a nut and wanted even more bookish community! I've been blogging since June 2010 ~ Jamie @ The Broke and the Bookish

Old but I keep going because I love the community & talking about books. It feels like a job but the best job in the world. ~ Katie @ Sophistikatied Reviews

soon to be new -- to be part of the book blogging community, to remember what I read, and to be creative ~ Joy @ The Spiral of Seasons

I am just starting because I love to write and network. I hope to bring healthy food awareness to moms and dads :) ~ Bea @ Fresh Bananas - Life of a Happy Banana

Do you see the love there? I do and I think it can be forgotten all too easily with everything else thrown in the mix. To quote The Beatles, all you need is love! If you haven't already, follow me on Twitter so you can catch my next question, whenever that happens to pop up. I have that Twitter widget at the top of the right sidebar but you run the risk of missing is there.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth Volumes 2, 3 & 4 by Jake T. Forbes and Chris Lie

Published 2007, 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Secrets are revealed as the reign of power passes from one heir to another...

Toby has been named the next Goblin King and Lord of the Labyrinth, and the goblins are in an uproar. As heir to Jareth's throne, Toby hopes he can be more successful than he was in the human world, but first he must earn the respect of his subjects and learn to control the Labyrinth. His tutor in leadership and magic is Mizumi, the icy Queen of Moraine, but with each lesson, the young king finds himself drifting further away from his friends. Toby may have what it takes to rule this unruly kingdom, but at what cost? (vol. 2, book back blurb)

For Toby, as it is for all who enter the Labyrinth, the way forward is sometimes the way back . . .

Through danger untold and hardships unnumbered, Toby has finally arrived at the day of his coronation. But he is still unable to control the Labyrinth, treachery and deceit surround him, and worse yet - it's become clear that some of his soon-to-be subjects are less than happy about his recent appointment. Toby will have to keep his wits about him and his friends by his side if he's going to survive his first day as king! (vol. 3, book back blurb)

Can Toby, the new Goblin King, find his way in an aimless Labyrinth before everything he cares about disappears like the shadows of a dream?

All Toby Williams ever wanted was a purpose in life, which he thought he'd found when Jareth, the Goblin King, made him heir to the Labyrinth. But one should always be careful about what they wish for, as powerful forces still consider Toby a mere pawn. And he's not the only one - Jareth hasn't given up on his quest to dominate Toby's sister, Sarah. Her dreams live on within the Labyrinth in the form of a masked girl named Moppet, who may very well hold the key to everything . . . (vol. 4, book back blurb)

I wouldn't get much by the way of reviews if I split all of these up, plus there's more to comment on when targeted as a whole series instead of individual books so a combined review it is.

I read the first volume of this Labyrinth sequel while I was on vacation and pretty much as soon as I was done, I had to order the rest because I needed to see where these writers took the story and the world and I have to say, as a hardcore Labyrinth fan, I wasn't disappointed.

First a comment on the artwork. The covers are gorgeous. I don't think there's much denying that. The artwork within the pages itself, the one that tells the story, isn't as beautiful (I just don't think there was the room and I think it would have rocketed the cost of the book itself) but it really portrayed the world without being too angular anime-looking. The only characters that looked even remotely close to that angular look that kind of freaks me out was Toby, Jareth and that's pretty much it. The rest of the humans had some slight angles but nothing serious and the rest of the creatures, the goblins and faeries and whatnot, looked like they did in the movie which was all sorts of awesome. I liked how the artist didn't stray from that look too far.

As far as the story goes, considering the interest Jareth took in Toby and Sarah in the movie, I felt that it was an almost natural progression to go where it ultimately went. I could have lived without the Ice Queen spurned by the Goblin King but what fantasy story would be anything without some good romantic conflict? Actually, it wasn't all that great. It was okay and it served its purpose in the plot but really, I could have lived without it. I think the Queen consigned a little too easily at the end there, relinquishing her hold that she held so steadfastly to for so long. Maybe when she realized that she'll never have him she felt why bother anymore. Hey, at least she realized it. It's more than what a lot of chicks do in that situation.

I loved the tie-in between Moppet and Sarah. I don't want to spoil it because I was pretty shocked to find out just what Jareth did (I'll give you a hint, it's along the lines of Spike's Buffy-bot, but not quite) but it suits his persona and the world as a whole. Yeah, as the Goblin King who totally doesn't like getting pwned by a 15 year old girl, I could see him holding a grudge and taking it out on her like he did. I wish Sarah was a stronger character within the series, though. I kind of get why she wasn't up until the end, but the correlation between the why there and her personality originally, they don't match up. She was such a strong character that barely even considered taking the King's offerings in the movie (she barely paused a second when he offered her his balls . . . er . . .). But in the story, she damn near concedes. I found that out of character for her even outside of her character transformation.

As I said above, I could have lived without the Queen being there, especially her two daughters, although I liked what they ended up being. And associated to that, how they were their own individuals despite the circumstances (read the books, you'll know what I'm talking about, I'm trying not to spoil). The chubby one was just obnoxious and I was kind of glad when she was taken out of the picture. The emo one, I kind of like the 180 she did but ultimately, I didn't feel her being there all that important to the story as a whole except functioning more as a guide. And there are plenty of other creatures in the Labyrinth that could have done that. I did like how the story branched out beyond the Labyrinth and created other kingdoms but I think it could have been melded together differently.

At the end of the day, Toby's story was the one I kept pushing to the side because I wanted to know more about Sarah and Moppet. All of the teasers that centered around them were just too juicy to resist. I mean, it's not that I didn't like Toby's tale, but it's a pretty standard one. A hint of Chosen One Syndrome with a bit of coming of age mixed in. His surroundings were kind of cool but other than that, I wasn't too interested. Let's face it: I wanted more Jareth and Sarah. So I kept reading for that.

While I think I would have liked to have seen actual novelizations over manga, I still liked the visuals and I was able to follow along with the story just fine. These books are a definite keeper if you're a Labyrinth fan. And you'd better hurry up. Pretty soon they'll be nothing but a dream (or a costly keepsake) soon enough. No, really. BN doesn't list them at all and Borders only has the last two in the series. So snag them while they're cheap. You'll be kicking yourself if you wait and end up paying $200 a pop like the movie novelization is.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Clearing by Heather Davis

Published April 12, 2010.

Amy is drawn to the misty, mysterious clearing behind her Aunt Mae’s place because it looks like the perfect place to hide from life. A place to block out the pain of her last relationship, to avoid the kids in her new town, to stop dwelling on what her future holds after high school. Then, she meets a boy lurking in the mist—Henry. Henry is different from any other guy Amy has ever known. And after several meetings in the clearing, she’s starting to fall for him. But Amy is stunned when she finds out just how different Henry really is. Because on his side of the clearing, it’s still 1944. By some miracle, Henry and his family are stuck in the past, staving off the tragedy that will strike them in the future. Amy’s crossing over to Henry’s side brings him more happiness than he’s ever known—but her presence also threatens to destroy his safe existence. (from

I'm a little late to the game getting to this one but better late than never, without a doubt. Oh. My. God. What a great book.

Amy is standoffish, not trusting of anyone and rightly so. But because of this attitude she adopts in order to protect herself, she doesn't let anyone in and she doesn't let them know why. Until Henry. Henry allows her to open up. He doesn't put on a show. He doesn't make her promises. He's as come-as-you-are as you can get and Amy is wholly attracted to that.

I'm not a romance person by any means. I like the characters I read to suffer, as sadistic as that is. I want them to earn the love they're seeking. I don't want it to be easy. And man did Amy earn Henry's love. I don't mean by being a performing chimp at an organ grinder for him. She just went through crap and a half before getting to him and it's about damn time she found someone to love that loves her back just for being her. Her ex is a dick. Her former friends are dicks. She's earned Henry and everything he has to offer. And he has so much to offer her, so much he can provide for her and ultimately he gives it to her. He just can't give himself to her and that, my friends, had me in tears.

I felt for what Amy went through, her character was totally believable. And when she stood up to her ex, when she told him to FOAD that final time, I was cheering for her. Yes! A protagonist that stands up to the dick! That won't let him push her around or hurt her anymore! While she went into a push and pull with Henry, she ultimately accepts what he is to her and, in the end, that's okay. It has to be. It's not like she has a choice.

I just can't say enough wonderful things about this story without sounding like some drooling fangirl. It's a love story that'll have you screaming at the end of it because it's a happily ever after but not in the way you think it's going to be. The past has finally been righted and that's all the happy there needs to be, for everyone.

I couldn't help but wonder why no one had gone through the mist before. I know it has some physical effects on whoever walks into it so maybe that would be enough of a deterrent. Plus there were some haunting stories surrounding the property, so add those two elements together and it might be enough to keep the superstitious at bay. But it still made me wonder.

At the end of the day, Amy's a strong character that deserves everything she gets in this story. Davis isn't afraid to try her even more than she's already been tried, but she just ends up coming out the other end even stronger than when she went in. Amy learns not everyone she meets is a total douche. Real, genuine love is possible. It's okay to be happy. But I warn you all, you may cry at the end. And damn it all if I wasn't at work reading this. Thankfully I was able to keep my head down long enough to dry my mascara.

Added to the Pile + 55

This is what I've collected over the past couple of weeks since I've moved and regained internet access. Thanks, AT&T. I'd better see a prorated charge on my next bill. Anyway, it's a pretty big pile (for me, anyway) so just pictures linked to info.

From PaperBackSwap -

From Random Buzzers -

From HarperCollins -

From Positive PR -

Things I've Learned from Books + 75

Between time-traveling fog and water with a vengeance, there's a lot on Mother Nature's arsenal that can really spank our asses. Guns need not apply.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Question - Answered

Weekend Question is hosted by Liz at Cleverly Inked.

This is the first time I'm participating and I figured I might as well jump in. Looks like fun. So this week's question is -

Do you hide any books from people? What books are you embarrassed by owning?

Probably the only books that might have people raising their eyebrows at me are the manga editions of Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth. Those might make me blush a little. But other than that, I'm quite proud of the books I have on my shelves and I'll defend them to the death. I don't read romances or anything so I don't run the risk of near-nakedness exposing itself. That would be the only thing I might want to hide. But I won't hide those manga. Why? I'm a huge Labyrinth fan. I'm not going to hide that. Plus they're good stories.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 84

What better way to kill Dot Matrix bugs without getting grossed out than through your most excellent Atari system? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is kill as many barely recognizable bugs as possible. And not forget the centipede himself! Otherwise he'll eat you. Not really something you want to happen, right?

And be warned about the commercial below. It's a little disturbing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 84

Title: Witchlight, Night World #9
Author: LJ Smith
Published: December 1997
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Pages: 227
Keller is a black panther. She will do whatever it takes to survive. Keller meets her match when she’s hired to protect Iliana Harman, a blond ditz whose only concerns are clothes, boys, and parties. Can Iliana be the legendary Witch Child, one who can fend off the end of the world? Galen, the gorgeous boy destined to be the Witch Child’s soulmate, and Keller are falling in love, but it’s a love that will destroy everything. Keller knows she has to give him up — but her heart won’t listen.

Meanwhile, the Night World is closing in, to kill all three of them. (from
And . . . scene. I think I've had it up to here with the soulmate books. I just may have checked out about 4 steps ago. Why MUST these stories center around a soulmate issue? Why? I think it would be a perfectly good story without it. You know, I get the teen love thing. I really do. But soulmates? Is that the only way to propel plot? Yeah, I know. These books came out before the craze but suffice it to say, there's a definite motif running through Smith's books that would have kept me away even in 90s context.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Drowned Sorrow by Vanessa Morgan

Published December, 2008.

Megan Blackwood has just lost her son in a terrible accident. Now she has come to Moonlight Creek with her teenage daughter Jenna, hoping a change of scenery might help to put her life back together.

But something odd is going on in Moonlight Creek. When rain falls over the village, its inhabitants commit grisly murders, leaving the place deserted with the first rays of sunshine.

Beneath the lake's surface, an eerie presence watches... and waits... Waits to reveal a tragic past drowned in mystery and fear. One that doesn't bode well for visitors.

By the time Megan realizes that her daughter's life is in danger, it may be too late to escape.

This is the second self-published work I'm reviewing of Morgan's next to her short story 'The Strangers Outside.' Drowned Sorrow is a novella coming in just over 100 pages and I have to say, I think the length proves a better friend for Morgan's writing.

I'll start with the good - I loved the premise. As someone that has a not-so-irrational fear of natural bodies of water (hey, there's a lot of shit in the ocean that can kill you), the concept of the water being a source of unknowable fear kind of creeped me out. But what I liked most was the execution of how the villagers played it all out. I wish there was a little more exposition for the whys of why the lake was what it was but I thought how the people were one with the water, literally, was great. I actually felt a little dank reading it considering water was dripping and running everywhere. That part, the horror of the water, was done pretty well.

And for the not-so-good - I still wasn't too fond of her characters. The main character starts off really hard to like and even after the incident with her son, I just couldn't shake her unlikeable attitude. She's just a very selfish person and what happened to her son happened because of her. I guess I couldn't forgive her for that. Jet pack moms aren't my thing.

The daughter was neither here or there for me. I just didn't feel anything for her. I watched her play around on the pages but as I read, I didn't really see her involvement as necessary for about 95% of it. Her voice as a teen also didn't strike right for me. It wasn't horribly off but it wasn't hitting home as a teen voice. It read a little too young for her age.

In all honesty, I preferred the subplot between the boy and his mother and father. I just wish what happened to them at the end was drawn out a little more. I loved what happened to them (if you read it, you'll realize just how demented that statement is) but I think if the process itself was expanded upon a little more, it would have been even creepier.

The biggest kicker for me, though, was the fact that this story is placed in Connecticut. Well, I live in Connecticut so the fallacies with the geography really pulled me out of the story. When I read the protag saying that the next town was 3 hours away, that just isn't believable. Even in the sticks of Southern New England, you're no more than 20 minutes away from the next town. And you have to be really far into the woods and travel 10 miles an hour on a dirt road to get that. I believe the story is placed at the mouth of the Connecticut River. That puts them in the Lymes. Kind of boony but not like the story insinuates. Drive 3 hours west and you're in New York. Three hours north and you're broaching New Hampshire, let alone Massachusetts. Three hours east and you're in the Atlantic. Connecticut is rinky dink. You can drive border to border in an hour, not to mention you're right off of one of the busiest highways in the country. And we're not a high rain area except in the spring maybe. So I just couldn't suspend my disbelief for the locale, which was a major part of the story. I would have liked to see better effort on the geographical research done.

Overall I still felt the writing needed a little more polishing but by far, this was the better story out of Morgan's two and I really think it has to do with length. I'd like to see what she can do with a full length horror novel. She definitely has the flare for it, and far more talent that I ever had for writing it. With some fine tuning, I think she could write some genuinely creepy stuff. She has the mind for it, that's for sure.

Of all the self-published books, I'm glad I got this one. It's really not bad. In all honesty, it doesn't compare to the House books I get but for someone doing it on their own, it's good. I'd like to see Morgan take more chances with her writing. Don't be afraid to make the paths hard, the endings hard. One could argue this ending was hard and I guess it was but, personally, it wrapped up a little too sweet. I guess I like my horror just a touch more unforgiving. I'm a sadist that way. Ha! But really, this story wasn't bad at all. I found myself wanting to keep reading to see how it all played out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unthinkable by Shirley Duke (Night Fall Series)

Published 2010.

Omar Phillips is Bridgewater High's favorite local teen author. His Facebook fans can't wait for his next horror story. But lately Omar's imagination has turned against him. Horrifying visions of death and destruction come over him with wide-screen intensity. The only way to stop the visions is to write them down. Until they start coming true . . .

Enter Sophie Minax, the mysterious Goth girl who's been following Omar at school. "I'm one of you," Sophie says. She tells Omar how to end the visions - but the only thing worse than Sophie's cure may be what happens if he ignores it. (book back blurb)

It's Goosebumps for a new generation. It's comforting to know that horror, true horror, isn't dead. This book might not be dripping in the blood of its protagonists, but it brings with it a sense of spook, a creepy feeling that makes you think maybe you should read with the lights on.

The story is young adult but it's told in a very middle grade language, which would be my only complaint about the book itself. I don't think I would have liked it as much if it were a MG book because the tone would have been completely different. But I did want some more depth to it than what was given. It read kind of like a campfire tale but without the camp. Where Goosebumps (although awesome) could run a little goofy, Unthinkable didn't really have that. Omar writes awesome horror stories. That start coming true. Oops! There isn't any kookiness and I don't think the story renders it. It works well as it is. I just wish the language was closer to being YA.

It's definitely a super-fast read. Maybe an hour and you can read cover to cover but it doesn't hamper the story any. I was sucked in immediately, mainly because it started with one of Omar's stories that really are good. He's a talented teen author! Too bad he's probably been scared straight out of writing for the rest of his life after his ordeal. But I liked the concept behind it all and it's the main reason I think it would have been so much better in an older voice. I would have loved more exposition on the reason everything was happening. But within the timeline of the story, the pacing was good, I didn't feel rushed at any point during the story but I just couldn't put the book down.

I have two other books in this series sitting in my pile and I can't wait to get to them. I'm interested in seeing how the other stories play out after this one. It's clear that Duke didn't hold back in the plot. She wasn't afraid to put anyone and everyone at risk and that right there makes an awesome horror story; the anticipation, the fear that anyone, ANYONE, can get eaten by the big bad monster. I wish there was more horror out there for the YA category. And I hope the other books hold up to this one.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Author Bites - Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry on Research and Writing

It was only natural that after reading the awesome that is Wanted Undead or Alive that I'd want authors Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry to stop by and say a few words on it. It's obvious from the get-go that the effort that went into this book was massive, not only on a collaborative scale but on a research one as well. If what you're writing even hints at the notion of good versus evil, then this is one book you should pick up. And if you're writing anything non-fiction, or even fiction as these points travel beyond the confines of non-ficton writing, you'll want to read the guest post below. Short but sweet, Bashman and Maberry offer up some valuable tips and neat insight into their own writing processes. Thanks, you two, for stopping by!

TIPS FROM THE TRENCHES by Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry

When writing a book there’s a whole lot that goes into the process. It’s more than just putting down one word after the next and hoping it all just comes together. That’s even more apparent when you’re writing non-fiction—there’s research and interviews and facts to deal with. You just can’t pull a story out of your head and throw it onto the page to create a first draft.

In our book WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we deal with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.

To research and gather all of this information takes time, as does reaching out to hundreds of people to interview them for the book. But it’s whole heck of a lotta fun. So, how do two authors create a book that’s chock-filled with facts and also a fun read? Here’s our tips from the trenches:

1. Know Your Stuff—There’s a lot to be said about knowing your material; it’s difficult to write a book without the knowledge. So, if you’re writing about vampires or ghosts or serial killers, like we did, take the time to do the research. It’s exciting if you’re interested in your topic—there’s so much information out there. We’re not complaining though; we got to read books and comics and watch movies to research WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE. Know your stuff but enjoy the process.

2. Find Experts For the Stuff You Don’t Know—Okay, maybe this is apparent, but if you don’t know something, find someone who does. It’s not about writing what you know; it’s about knowing what you write. We reached out to sooo many authors, filmmakers, comic writers, actors, FBI profilers, and more to get their take on the subjects in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, and we’ve included their responses in the book. Sure, we don’t know everything, but we have a great gang of people who do. It’s amazing how exciting these folks get when you approach them about an interesting project—they’re stoked to help you out and want to participate. So, reach out and find those who can help. With the internet and social media sites, it should be a snap.

3. Make it Fun—Non-fiction can be boring if it’s not done right. When you make it fun for the readers, the book takes them on a thrilling ride. We delved into the whole concept of good versus evil and mixed it up with movies and books and comics and a whole slew of stuff. There’s lots of sidebars and artwork and fun facts mixed in with a quirky sense of humor. We’re already getting great reviews because WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE is a fun book.

4. Build on Your Strengths—Co-authoring a book may seem like a difficult process—two people with differing opinions and the potential to seriously butt heads—but it’s not. Know your project, know your goals, and know your strengths. If one person is better at interviewing or researching than the other, then that’s who should do that part of the project. If one person is more versed in vampire lore and pulp fiction, as Jonathan was, or more knowledgeable about FBI profilers and serial killers or ghosts, as I was, then that’s who should tackle those chapters. Of course, you have to communicate and trust your partner. Co-authoring means just that—two people sharing and executing a vision. If you’re committed and lucky, you’ll end up with something fantastic that both you and your readers will enjoy.

5. Enjoy the Ride—We had a blast writing WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE and the people we interviewed had fun too. Remember to enjoy the process, meet the deadlines, and enjoy the ride.

Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. His latest novel is ROT & RUIN. Visit Jonathan’s website at

Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. Visit Janice’s website at

Monday, November 8, 2010

Catch-Up Purge

Starting right around September 15th, I've been a bit of a space cadet in terms of this blog. While I might have been here and posting for a portion of that time between then and now, I wasn't really because my brain was pulled in so many different directions. For the last two weeks of September I was on vacation and totally MIA from blogging. How I needed that. Literally the day after I landed (technically as I didn't get home until very early Saturday morning on October 2nd), I went to look at an apartment and got it. For the majority of the month of October, I've been moving into my new place and figuring out how to fill it. It's a much larger task than what it looks like, especially when it's your first place and you're going from just living in a bedroom to needing to fill an entire apartment. How essential things like Windex become!

By the time I "officially" moved in on November 1st, I was pretty much done moving. I just had to wait for AT&T to hook up my phone and internet. A dick, fuck and a screw later, wading through several different stories from several different AT&T departments and a slight tangent on the phone to someone (I really am very nice on the phone to customer service, don't shoot the messenger and all, but after hours on the phone and days without my service, I'm pretty much going to break, especially with 6 different people asking me the same damn questions), I finally get my internet connection today. A week late. So much for setting up a transfer date in advance. In that time I've amassed a bit of a backlog of stuff. I posted my CSN review that's been sitting since September earlier today. On top of that I have a guest post, a pending official movie tie in (fingers crossed) to post, not to mention a small stack of reviews because, well, my brain was too fried to do much else after cleaning and moving and organizing except to read. So read I did. Small stack for review. Hopefully I can get that stuff out in a timely manner.

I am still going to stick to my suspension of Book Wars. As I said before, I appreciated the input in the survey I did when I considered removing it the first time. But seeing as how that survey participation didn't translate to post participation, I didn't want to exert the energy in maintaining it, especially during the last month. What with the holidays coming up, and my soldier boy hopefully on his way back home this week, I'm not about to dredge it back up. Ask me again in the new year and I might consider resurrecting it. Or maybe I'll have an idea for something completely different by then. Who knows?

I'll start my normal memes (Freaky Friday, 80s Awesomeness! and Things I've Learned from Books) back up this weekend, along with my Added to the Pile post that I've been saving. Yes, my TBR pile just keeps growing, much to my conflicted chagrining happiness. I. Can't. Resist. Well, yeah, I can, but lately I've been getting requests from the same publicists who know my tastes and they just keep hitting it right! How can I resist? Anyway, I'm hoping to get back into my own jive within the next week. I'm still getting over my internet shock.

I have a couple of winners to announce for contests that expired during my AT&T-induced black-out phase.

The copy of Vampires: The Occult Truth by Konstantinos went to -

Vicki S.!!!

And a copy of Wanted Undead or Alive: Vampire Hunters and Other Kick-Ass Enemies of Evil by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman went to -

Amber Vargo!!!

Congratulations to both of you! And a big thank you to everyone who entered! I have a short stack of books to give away not only for the upcoming holidays but just as a trickle down for my reviews so keep on the look out for those. I don't like keeping things hanging around so those will probably come up sooner rather than later.

Other than that, I think that's it. My own book blogging self should normal out soon. I'm still getting used to my new place, not to mention my new computer set-up. Since I'm running everything through my computer, and my TV screen = my computer screen, right now I'm sitting in front of my TV with a wireless keyboard in my lap on a pub height chair. It's strange. But I see myself getting used to this pretty quickly.

And just a quick big thank you to everyone that participated in my Ban This! event in September and my Bites Hearts Halloween and Scared Sh*itless Reading Challenge last month. I wish I was around to promote it more but it is what it is. Thank you to those for getting the word out about it all. Hopefully next year I'll be able to be more vocal about my own events!

CSN Stores Review - T-Fal Cookware Set

You know, moving sucks. With AT&T screwing up my internet order and having just gotten access today (when it should have been a week ago), I fell really behind although I will say the downtime was nice. And at least I was able to cook. And cook I did. There are a few things you really need when you move and a good cookware set is one of them (and right now I could use some kitchen bar stools because, you know, when you have a pub height table, your standard extra folding chairs just won't cut it for the extra guests that come to eat your food).

Now, I'm not crazy cookware savvy. I know some brands but in comparison to what, I have no idea. But I do know that T-Fal is a good brand so I opted for the T-Fal Signature Total Non-Stick Cookware Set in black (because I think funky-colored pots are just strange, they're freaking pots).

Now I actually received this back in September but I didn't get a chance to use it until now and I have to say, I love it. I had to go with a set that had a griddle because next to a sauce pan, I'd probably use that the most. What can I say? I'm a grilled cheese nut. But these pans are great. I haven't had a chance to use the small frying pan or the large boiler but the rest of them I really like. Nothing sticks to the surface, they clean like a gem and the utensils that come with the set are nice and sturdy for what you'd be using the pans for. Let me tell you, this set has been my god send during this last week. When I'm bored, I cook. And cook I did.

Really, I'd recommend CSN products. You guys know I'm not a shill. I don't promote something on this blog unless I could personally recommend it. And I can recommend CSN Stores. And I do, even to the people I work with. They have all the selection (and probably more) of IKEA but better quality. Where else can you get a cookware set like that for $90? And a good one to boot? So if you've just moved like I have and you're looking for nice things that won't rape your bank account, head on over to CSN. Sure, the stuff might ship flat but it won't break apart when you put it together.

That's not to say I had to put my pots and pans together. That'd just be weird. But things like bookshelves. Flat. Assembly required. But it's worth it in the end.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Posting Update

Thanks to AT&T seriously fucking up my DSL transfer order, I won't have Internet at my new place until 11/8 at the earliest. Something in their system glitched and told the tech to not show up at my house when he was scheduled to hook up my Internet. After getting passed around departments like a whore at a brothel this morning, and getting told at least three different stories about my account, I finally get it straightened out but because it's so late in the week, the soonest a tech can come out now is Monday. Fail of epic proportions. So I currently don't have Internet at my house and I'm using the wireless in my work building's lobby on my iPod. Ugh.

I've never had a smooth line transfer with AT&T. Ever. But this is by far the worst. So I apologize to those waiting for me to post guest posts and reviews. I will get them up as soon as I'm connected at home. Until then, read on!
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