Saturday, March 31, 2012

2010 ARC Reading Challenge Completed!!!

My first challenge of the year completed! Check out my final list here. I banged out a bunch of ARCs in the first quarter but I still have a bunch to do. I'm determined to review everything that I've let pile up for far too long. At least I can still apply them to my running Off The Shelf Challenge list!

Kiss Me Deadly edited by Trisha Telep + Giveaway!

Published August 3rd, 2010.

For those who thirst for accounts of paranormal romance, Trisha Telep has compiled some of the most thrilling takes of forbidden love in this collection. First crushes and last rites; dark spells and bright magic; forbidden lovers and enchanted beings -- and always, always the hungry games of desire. Pucker up for a darkly sweet collection of ghosts, shape shifters, fairies, unicorns, vampires, and demons in tales from today's biggest writers of the paranormal persuasion. (

I came at this one with two minds. KISS ME DEADLY has been sitting on my review shelf for far too long and I remember when I initially took it on it sounded really interesting and just dark enough that I thought I would enjoy it. When I picked it up to read a few weeks ago, I asked myself, "what the hell was I thinking?" PNR? ME? Do I know me right now? I try to stay as far away from PNR as I can right now. I don't do romance as a default, PNR especially because not only does it not interest me but the stuff I've come across . . . not good. But I said I'd review it so I read it. And loved it.


Small doses, people. Small doses. I think that's what really does it. Each story is at most 50 to 60 pages long so there isn't time enough to dwell on the romance. It's shit or get off the pot territory and there were really only a couple that I was less than thrilled with. The rest I was like "Yeah!" Now don't expect me to run out and start gobbling PNR. Not going to happen. But KISS ME DEADLY was a good foray into the genre for someone like me that would rather run away screaming. Telep did an excellent job of compiling a variety of stories that focused on all aspects of paranormal love, from the sweet to the sinister, the light to the dark. There is literally something for everyone and more than one of the stories got this book blogger's black heart beating again.

Here are my thoughts on each individual story -

THE ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE by Michelle Zink - I think this might have been the precursor to A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS that just released this month. The time period for the story was maybe a day so it's more of an insta-love that I really try to veer away from. It was okay but like AToA it didn't really blow me away.

ERRANT by Diana Peterfeund - aka I need to read more Diana Peterfreund. Nasty unicorns and the warrior virgins that hunt them. Yes. Dementing more classical creatures. Yes. There wasn't anything not good about this one.

THE SPIRIT JAR by Karen Mahoney - An excellent premise but had me questioning why the MC was a vampire because it wasn't really relevant to the story. It was all about the boy's love to his dead girlfriend which was actually really sweet. It was refreshing.

LOST by Justine Musk - A great retelling of Persephone and Hades just with a choice. Brings in reincarnation and opening doorways to other worlds. The love aspect was kind of weird but not off-putting. Just an odd set-up.

THE SPY WHO NEVER GREW UP by Sarah Rees Brennan - This one was more about demented love and, of course, this demented chick really liked it. Granted I found Peter wholly annoying but the twist Brennan gave on Peter Pan darkened it enough for me to get invested.

DUNGEONS OF LANGEAIS by Becca Fitzpatrick - I didn't really get the context because it's a HUSH, HUSH story but removed from that, it's another demented love tale that brought me in. I couldn't help but think of whore complex, though, when it came to the MC's lover so that kind of tampered it. Neat premise despite some awkward elements but it was dark enough for me to like.

BEHIND THE RED DOOR by Caitlin Kittredge - This one was my absolutely favorite. Screw PNR. It was totally YA horror and showed succubus love for what it really was (not literally, no succubus in this one). It was dark and scary with the right amount of light at the end. I need to read more Caitlin Kittredge.

HARE MOON by Carrie Ryan - A FoHaT story, it's context was much easier to grab as the world was more familiar to me. The best part was the religious brainwashing and what can happen when one strays off the path. Yeah it can be read as love being a downfall and that is partly it. But I think it goes beyond that, maybe even a little bit of a satire, a comment on it all. I liked the ending especially.

FAMILIAR by Michelle Rowan - This one was sweet but a little too sickly sweet for me. It was cutesy in the sense that this is the type of PNR I stay away from. They're super hooked on each other at the end and kind of just had me going, "yup, moving on."

FEARLESS by Rachel Vincent - Another awesome one. Again super dark, a girl who needs to feed on people's fears to survive gets to know what it feels like on the other side of the wall. Boyfriend rescuing going on but I was okay with it. It rounded out the strength of the story nicely.

VERMILLION by Daniel Marks - A story from the other side, Purgatory, it was kind of odd but not necessarily in a bad way. There were confusing elements about it that all ended up being part of the greater plot. And I liked the Hulk-Smash ending. The crazy things people do for love!

THE HOUNDS OF ULSTER by Maggie Stiefvater - The first piece I've read by her where the character actually sounds like what I'd think the character sounds like instead of her writing the character in her own author voice. I have to say, I enjoyed it. Of course it's faeire-centric but I was just so floored that the MC sounded genuine that I didn't want to stop reading. I may have the courage to tap into her later books. Maybe.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS by Daniel Waters - I wasn't a GENERATION DEAD fan (far too preachy) but this was a good snippet into the world. Told from the POV of a girl's father so it was a nice departure from the rest. It really hit me because it's about the love of a father for his daughter and I'm totally a daddy's girl. So yeah, I liked it.

Overall an excellent selection. Even if you're not a PNR fan (Hi! Have you met me???) I still think you'd find something you liked in KISS ME DEADLY. The stories are just so varied and come at the topic from so many angles that if you don't find at least one you like you might just be dead on the inside.

Ban Factor: High - Teen love, sex and the paranormal? Need I explain that one?

Giveaway time!!!

Want my copy? You know you do! Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win it!
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Entrants must be a follower of Bites via one of the following mediums: GFC, RSS, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook.
  • Giveaway ends April 14th at midnight, EST.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 153

Remember these stupid things? Play some music or clap in its vicinity and it'd start writhing and twisting like it were dancing? How many people had these in their cubes thinking they were cute? Yeah, right up there with Beanie Babies in the 90s. This is another one of those toys that would come alive in the night and try to stab you. It can't really be too sneaky what with it hopping around in that big plastic pot. But still. No thanks.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Win a Trip to BEA!

This new deal, the Independent Book Blogger Awards, co-sponsored by The Association of American Publishers and Goodreads, is giving away four trips to BEA that include travel, hotel and an all-access pass! All you have to do is nominate your blog, or have someone nominate you, at the special Goodreads site and then wait. Voting will open to the general public on April 10th, the shortlist to be judged by a panel will be announced the week of May 1st and the winners will be announced the week of May 7th. So go get nominating!

Some general contest rules -
  • US-based bloggers at least 18 years old who dedicate at least ¾ of their blog writing to coverage of books and publishing and have posted regularly between 2/1/2011 and 2/1/2012 are eligible. The blog cannot be affiliated with or compensated by any commercial or academic publication but may include those who blog for institutions such as libraries or bookstores with no commercial media ties. Contest terms
  • Submission categories are Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Children’s/Young Adult and Industry News. Judging will be based on such qualities as writing, analysis, design and presentation and reader impact. More information on the judging process at Contest terms

Freaky Friday :|: 153

Title: The Mall
Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick
Published: October 1992
Publisher: Pocket Books
When strange voices and a lurking figure complicate her job at Muffin Mania in the mall, Trish soon realizes that a man with a thousand faces, who knows her deepest secrets, is watching her every move. (
A man with a thousand faces eats at Muffin Mania? Well, there goes my mind. Yup. I went there. Still this book is epic in cover alone. I'd still read it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Liability and Book Blogging: An Introduction into the Scary

When I'm not book blogging I underwrite insurance in order to feed my face, feed my dog's face and feed my book habit. When I say I underwrite insurance, are you wondering what the hell I mean? Are bridges involved? Don't worry. When I started this job I couldn't even define it. I was poached from accounting.

To underwrite insurance means to evaluate a particular risk (let's use a driver looking for car insurance since most people are familiar with that) in order to determine whether it fits the guidelines to write with a particular carrier (like Progressive, Allstate or Geico). If it fits, in the case of auto insurance a driver's motor vehicle history (accidents and their severity, moving violations, etc.), age, sex, type of car and a bunch of other factors get weighed together and priced based on that information. Someone that's been in 6 accidents is going to have a much higher premium than someone that hasn't been in any. A 16 year old's premiums are going to be through the roof compared to a 35 year old's. It is I that sets your premium. I'm the one that takes a look at your life and puts a price on it. I'm usually the one people hate because those price increases? Oh hey! This is, of course, assuming I underwrite personal auto insurance. I don't. But it's an example people are most familiar with.

What the hell does this have to do with anything, especially book blogging? Well as an underwriter I have a tendency of looking at the world in terms of insurance, whether I want to or not. It just comes with the territory. When people talk about buying houses in Florida, instead of commenting on beach location and proximity to Disney World, I'm all like, "Dude you're totally not going to get wind, you're fucked on flood and the NFIP isn't writing policies." To which they go, O_o. My brain just automatically goes there. As an underwriter you're taught to look at the world differently and it bleeds.

So when I see all of the shenanigannery going on regarding negative reviews, my brain starts going, "oh shitballs . . ." Why, you say? People are just being assholes. Authors are just losing their shit. It just makes THEM look bad. Well yeah but when accusations like libel and career sabotage start floating around, however frivolously, them sirens start whooping in my brain. Because that's insurance.

All we do is give opinions on books. We are not professionals and we don't pretend to be. But we have HUGE voices and people know that. Otherwise why would they go insane about a less-than-stellar review or what kind of shelves people are using on Goodreads? Words like blacklisting get thrown around. Slander for those of you that vlog. Ruining someone's career. Sure they may look like your standard internet douchery but to these eyes they're a lawsuit waiting to happen.

We live in an insanely litigious society and while I hate it, and while I believe it has created a hypochondriac society for insurance, the courts enable this kind of sue-happy behavior and the reality is we should all really be wearing internet condoms to protect ourselves. You never know when that one bad review will hit that one author in just the wrong way at just the wrong time that'll send them into a frenzy that involves legalese and a monetary value.

This is more than just owning your words. As we all know the internet is forever so no matter how many times we hit delete, like herpes, it'll never completely go away. We are LEGALLY liable for our words and that's scary. First it was the FTC. Seriously, we're just book bloggers! No. We need to declare our books or face potential fines. Did you really think it was going to stop there? We work with professionals: publishers, publicists, authors, in some cases agents. They're protected out the nose. Yet here we are running our mouths off about books to THOUSANDS of people. We can literally hold the success or failure of a book in our hands. We rightly can amp up or crush an author. That is an insane amount of power and we're not even wearing oven mitts in this fire.

I'm still in the information-gathering phase of this excursion but I wanted to get the ball rolling on the few posts that I'm going to spend discussing liability in book blogging and what we can do to protect ourselves. I am by no means an expert and I'm not pretending to be. I'm just using the knowledge I've garnered as an underwriter, along with the resources at my disposal, to better educate the book bloggers out there about the real power of their words and the serious repercussions they could have.

So stay tuned. I didn't intend to have this be a "something is killing your children, find out what tonight at 11" type of post. This is just a bookmark, a discussion-starter. Just what are you liable for in this book blogging world?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Published February 28th, 2012.

After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it. (

I wanted to like WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED so bad I can't even tell you. Just read the premise. How does that NOT sound interesting? I was so intrigued by it that I really couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately I got my expectations dashed, mainly because I obviously set them way too high. Maybe it's my fault. Or maybe I've genuinely run into another lackluster book. But here we go.

First impression, the voice was horribly pretentious and stilted and I immediately hated Felicita. Initially I believe she was supposed to be a product of her environment, growing up uber-rich and privileged and taught to sneer down on everyone else. But when she breaks away from the life she found so horrible and actually lives with the people she wants to spit on her views don't change. She almost pines to give up the hard life (after 12 hours, seriously) but is constantly doting on how shamed her family will be if she returns. Constantly. And the way she kept saying Hob about the people around her, to me, always sounded derogatory. Like "oh yeah, that's a nice jacket, for a Hob." Not an exact quote but the situation matches. She wanted, pretty much begged, for help from these people but continued looking down her nose at them. And I hated her for it. She was such a snatch that I honestly couldn't tolerate her. I might have hated her even more than the world, and that was pretty bad. So probably not.

I've come to the conclusion, pretty much as of yesterday, that good world-building is a requirement for my reading enjoyment. If the story it set somewhere other than the here and now the world better be it's own damn character. So when a world fails if the remaining elements, like the story or the characters, don't keep my attention, the book's going to flop for me. This one was a fish on land.

Almost the second I started reading WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED I knew I was going to have to tap into the Turkey City Lexicon because the "world-building" found here belongs in those quotations. I was robbed of what sounded like an absolutely amazing world for what was nothing more than a Victorian-era set story where some of the mundane, normal elements were searched and destroyed at the Word phase to be replaced by pretty "world-relevant" words for no reason other than to look like world-building. To define -

“Call a Rabbit a Smeerp

A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. “Smeerps” are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.) (Turkey City Lexicon)

To say this is a pet peeve of mine is to say Santa only kind of likes Christmas. This was the world-building here and it drove me up a wall worse than Felicita's atrocious personality. The world itself is not built. There's very little going on there that sets it apart as some kind of fantasy land. There are Hobs but really they're people with browner skin, not actual faery hobs. There's a vampire, whom you'd never know was one if it wasn't for Felicita mentioning it. He doesn't do anything vampirish other than be pale and he may have pointy teeth. There's the mention of scriv, which is some kind of addictive drug that allows those with so-called magic to use their magic. Except scriv is never really defined except mentioned as a magic-enhancer made from unicorn horn. That's about as deep as it gets. I read to the halfway point and the only actual use of magic I saw was from Felicita's brother who held her in place with magic, rooted her to the spot, I guess. Although from how much of a dick he was he could probably do that with fear alone.

The "real world-building" existed in the switched out words: look-far (lookout), Gris (seemingly their god, not defined or elaborated on to the point I read), dragon-dogs (no definable difference from hounds), uni-foal (I'm assuming a baby unicorn as opposed to the literal 'one foal'), nilly-flesh (I have no idea, I'm assuming fish flesh, it's never explained), and sea mews (which I assume are seagulls although just before she mentions white gulls but sea mews aren't explained and they're a flock so I have no idea what else they'd be, according to Wiki they're your standard gulls but by context I'm led to believe they're something else and just not explained), just to name a very few. Throw in some random unicorns and funky names for the town and some rivers and OMG NEW WORLD! It's cheap and I felt cheated. This is not world-building; it's cloaking. It's a beautiful, super-repressed, super-caste Victorian society but lets not pretend it's something it's not. I did really like the family set-up that was going on, between the high-Lammers and the vampire houses. The society alone was the best part of it all. That's a story in and of itself but that's pretty much all the originality this story can boast. I just wish there was more of it.

The story itself, buried under all of this, seemed to be okay. Extenuating circumstances not withstanding I would have liked to have seen how Felicita fared and just what Ilven's death conjured up in the deep. A kracken, maybe? But between a heinous MC and a poorly-built world I just couldn't get involved. I had too much pulling me away from the story and not anywhere near enough to keep me interested. If I have to admit it to myself, the shoddy world-building hurt worse than the MC. It's just so cheap. As if the author picked random elements out of a hat and though "I can use this . . . and this . . . and this . . . and this . . ." and BAM! "World." If I have to even more admit it to myself, I'm actually insulted. Lipstick on a pig. Now there's just whale fat on my perfectly good bacon. Take it away.

I know I didn't mention it before but I did mention I only got halfway through this one, it's a DNF. I tried. I really did. I wanted to like it but I just couldn't. Cinda Williams Chima? THAT'S world-building. This is a t-ball player in the major leagues. Sorry, but it affected me that much. I'd like to know how it ends but I can't bring myself to keep reading. It's Goodreads rating is pretty high so there are people enjoying it. I guess if you're not as picky about world-building as I am then you'll probably enjoy it. Even I had a few pieces that I liked. Although I didn't find anything redeeming about Felicita.

Ban Factor: High - Vampires and magic in a world without Christianity as the driving pious force? Are you kidding me?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Those That Will Be Reread

In the spirit of balance, and not making myself look like a total snatch (a little snatchy, okay, not total) I give you the opposite to Sunday's post, Those That Cannot Be Unread, Those That Will Be Reread.

Just like there are books that have the potential to send one into a homicidal rage, there are others that bring such overwhelming joy and awe and total fangirl/boying that they become a rereading requirement. Not only that, you take the opportunity, every opportunity, no matter if it's a legitimate opportunity or a random name-drop that makes you look a little crazy, to talk about these books, for they are that awesome.

These books make me want to drop them on the ground, open to a random page and scent them like a dog finding that perfect spot in the grass to roll around in. They are the books that are so amazing that forming intelligible, coherent thoughts about them is flushed down the toilet, to be replaced by quiet weeping with a squeal that grows into a scream, as if you were 13 and at a New Kids concert in 1990.

Like the unread-able, I've limited this post to 3 titles, otherwise it'd require 846 scrolls to get to the bottom. Frankly it's late and I don't want to be formatting forever.

My sister in snark will disagree with me on this but sometimes I question her tastes. I was so blown away by Beddor's bastardizing of Alice in Wonderland that I was in shock. The world . . . it's so rich! And genius! And totally upfront about its adult themes! Not to mention it contained my first, and quite possibly only, book crush, Hatter. For serious. I want to keep that dude in a cage in my basement. Want. Really it's the world that sucked me in, as I'm a world sucker. Er, a sucker for good world-building (as regular readers of my reviews would know). Reading this is like watching a movie. One that I want to jump into. Hatter?

DRAW THE DARK by Ilsa J. Bick

Seriously? Because I haven't completely fangirled every word Ilsa's ever written on this blog and everywhere I even remotely have a voice? My Ilsa love started here, with DARK THE DARK. I wasn't hooked initially but once the story started rolling I sure as shit wasn't about to get off. Christian's story, the history, the maybe-supernatural-but-maybe-not element all rolled into Ilsa's words had me in a happy coma by the end of it, perhaps drooling a little. Again, totally flabbergasted by the awesomeness of this title. I honestly don't know what else to say about it other than it's awesome. AWESOME.

Written as, literally, the antithesis to TWILIGHT, Bloss shows what an Edward relationship really looks like and it's not all sparkly pretty cock. It's ugly and uncomfortable and ostracizing. The physical reaction this book made me have was enough to ratchet it up to the top of my list. It reminded me. While not having lived this to such an extent, I remember the feelings when I didn't necessarily want to. It should be required teaching in high school. Even middle school. The awareness that it elicited should be enough of an eye-opener to women. Edward isn't all he's cracked up to be and Bloss cracked his ass wide open.

No, I did not intend for all of my reread authors to be B's. They just happened to fall in line on my squeemers shelf on Goodreads. So, what books have you read that absolutely demand they be reread?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Body at the Tower by YS Lee

Published August 10, 2010.

At a young age, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. The school turns out to be a front for a private detective agency. At age 17, Mary takes on her first case (A Spy in the House). In this, the second book of the series, Mary Quinn sets out to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at St. Stephen's Tower, better known as the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The accident occurred after hours in a highly public part of town and despite the presence of night watchmen. Mary, disguised as Mark Quinn, becomes a builder's assistant to find out the truth about the body at the tower. (

I didn't realize THE BODY AT THE TOWER wasn't the first book in THE AGENCY series until well after I received the book for review. But I'd already said I'd review it and unfortunately I didn't get a chance to read the first so I could have a good segue into the second but really I don't feel I needed to. Sure, Mary's backstory from the first book would have been wonderful to have and would have fleshed out her character so much more but she was pretty stand out in THE BODY AT THE TOWER. I got the information I needed to accurately gain her perspective and the story immediately started. And then enough of her background was drizzled in throughout the book that I didn't feel I was missing anything at all. While there are little subplots that link the books, the greater story arc stands alone and make for a pretty easy read, even for the second book in the series.

Mary is an immensely interesting character and it's because of this book that I want to go back to the first and get her full history. The snippets I got throughout THE BODY AT THE TOWER were little teasers, reminders of what those coming from the first missed and just enough for the rest of us to get by. She's a character torn by her race and her station in life but still bucking the trend of society. Love it. To have the balls to gender cross nowadays is awesome but back then? During a time when women had a certain place, usually nestled into a tightly knotted corset, Mary threw the convention away and did her thing regardless of how it made her feel.

This particular case was difficult for her because it forced her to relive a part of her life that she was more than willing to forget. Her reaction to the slums, at times rather violent and physical, was telling of just how horrible she had it. But she survived. She escaped thanks to The Agency and it's a puzzle piece I'd like to fit into it's slot. I know they saved her; I just don't know the particulars and I'd like to.

The Agency's mission is bucking the trend, employing women to solve these kinds of cases and again, love it. And it's written in such a way that I could actually believe that something like this was going on during that time. That there was this whole underground society of feminist movement that was really working in conjunction with the authorities and had far more reach than anyone could dream. It's such a wonderful thought.

The plot itself was interesting. I'm not a big fan of mysteries to begin with. Not that I don't like them; they just generally don't interest me a lot of the time. But I liked THE BODY AT THE TOWER, probably moreso for its historical setting than anything else. I love London and Lee has written an historical scene for the city beautifully. The slums especially were vibrant in their dirt and mire and poverty. At times I could actually taste it. Equal parts amazing and horrifying.

I wasn't blown away by the book but it was good. I had a 'huh' moment at the end with the reveal and it was neat. Again mysteries aren't my normal forte but I was entertained by THE BODY AT THE TOWER. Lee set the story up well and sowed the seeds of intrigued from the beginning. Of course I was trying to figure it out as soon as it appeared on the page but I'm never any good as those things. I guess I wasn't surprised by the ending but there were other elements thrown in that kept it from being completely predictable.

So you historical fiction lovers, this one's definitely for you. I wouldn't count on the romance because I think Mary's love interest is a jerk but that's a part of the story I'm missing from the first book. So there could rightly be information there I just don't know that would offer some kind of explanation. Still, from what I see on the page, jerk. The mystery's well-laid and it'll have you trying to connect the dots just like I tried to. Hopefully you'll be better at it!

Ban Factor: Low - No swears, no sex, nothing supernatural, nothing paranormal, nothing more gratuitous than a slanted fart joke. Unless the banners have something against female empowerment . . . which they might . . .

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Those That Cannot Be Unread

Every once in a while I'll come across a book that just transcends bad. Whether I finish it or stop at some point, it's still managed to sink its tentacles in and no matter how much bleach I pour into my ear the pain just won't stop. These books, while they may not be unreadable, for me they certainly can't be unread. I put them down, at whatever part I happen to land on, and think "Well, that's time I'll never get back." Or I'll come across a part that my brain doesn't properly process as horrible until minutes later and then it hits and I'm left scratching at my eyes except the image is in my brain. No matter how blind I make myself, I can still see.

We've all had these moments with something, whether it be a stupid question (What's a Fig Newton made out of?) to a terrible movie (Beerfest) or your book du jour, there have been things that rob you of time and sanity and never give it back. Bastards. Here I'd just like to highlight a few of the titles that, no matter how hard I try, I just can't unread and it's slowly eating my soul.

Why rehash the pain? Sometimes it helps to talk about it. Or so they tell me in therapy.

Written by the seventeen-year-old reincarnation of Jerry Falwell, or perhaps just a distant relative of Fred Phelps, HALO is chock-full of self-aggrandizing, moralizing, women-shitting talking-at that gelds angels as they traipse through fields of flowery prose sprinkled with hypocritical blasphemy of the highest order. For the mere 100 pages that I read I was lectured at by a WHITE (emphasis on white because that's all angels can be, white, and the community in so desperate need of saving, white and rich) televangelist with wings ready, willing and able to shit on every fallacy she found in those around her while at the same time forfeiting all she stood for for a studly rugby player with turquoise eyes. Do as I say, not as I do, as it were. I might as well get some dining etiquette from Jeffrey Dahmer for all angel Bethany's lessons are worth.

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

Things would have been okay had the world been adequately built. Statutory rape, Stockholm syndrome, the functionality of the disease would all have been fine if the world were okay. Unfortunately it wasn't. In fact it was such a massive failure that a kindergartner playing darts could have hit better points than what DeStefano made trying to explain, well, anything. Proof positive that beautiful words alone does not a book make nor fill in plot holes that could be seen from space. Nor make Rhine any less of an asshole than what she was. Of course it's okay to push off the rapist and have him go screw the thirteen-year-old. Rhine is far more important, as is her hymen, than the likes of the little slut that actually LIKES it. There was so much potential and one of the things that kept me reading was the hope that it would all come together. It didn't. In fact it fell even further apart leaving everything of worth strewn about and unexplained but sooper speshul Rhine got her token plot and love triangle and got to ride the wave of dystopias out there. So surf's up, I guess.

And a huge fucking thanks for sending my brain into a lobotomized tizzy trying to figure out how the ice caps were vaporized yet Manhattan and Florida still existed. Let me guess, we were being lied to all along and thus all half-assed world-building efforts better made by a one-armed paraplegic with Tinker Toys can be lazily explained with a brush under the rug instead of a revisit to writing class.

This is the one author that I can honestly say whose integrity as a human being I can question (except for maybe Adnoretto above but at least she has youth as an excuse, barely) based on the books she's written. Mary Sues, romantic stalkers, pedophilia, deus ex machina, Edward eating Bella's baby out of her uterus, there couldn't have been more things wrong with this (or any of the other) book if SMeyer tried. Unless maybe if they were Nazis. That might have pushed it all over the edge. Pure, unadulterated filth on how to enter into an abusive relationship and fuck a baby, the two not necessarily mutually exclusive. Yes, as a result of these books I question SMeyer's ability to raise her own children, what moral plane she's actually existing on and why she insists on equating abuse as love. As a reviewer I always try to disassociate the author from the work but here it's too pervasive not to. Not to mention, if I haven't already, Edward eating out Bella from the inside and Jacob wanting to bang sweet baby ass. Where does one have to be mentally, physically, or both, to think these things as anything other than prison fodder with a pit stop on the sex offender's list?

So, what books do you so desperately wish you could unread?

Last Stop by Peter Lerangis

Published March 20, 2012.

It’s been six months since David Moore’s father disappeared. After months of strange behavior—baby talk, forgetfulness—he simply vanished forever. The Public Guardians searched Franklin City, but they couldn’t turn up a single clue. David is beginning to give up hope when his subrail train stops between stations at the abandoned Granite Street platform. On the other side of the glass he sees a crowd of people. In the middle is his father, waving.

When a psychic suggests that David may have the power to see into another dimension, he and his friends scour the city in search of a portal to the other side. To learn if his father is alive or dead, David will need to discover the secrets of the abandoned station.

I just wanna hug Open Road for re-releasing all of this epically awesome cheese. I'm loving it. And LAST STOP is at the top of the cheese pile in a good way.

It's a quick read in more of a middle grade way than in an old school YA way but aside from the age of the MC (13, I think) it could definitely pass for one of your Diane Hoh's or insert your favorite old school YA horror writer's name here. It's got a creepy element to it that'll have you thinking one way but end up on a completely different path by the end of it. I really liked the twist, the explanation as to why David was seeing what he was seeing and it definitely made me want to keep reading in the series. It had me asking, "where is this going, exactly?"

Like a lot of the other old school YA cheese I've been reading the characters aren't immensely likable, especially David's female friend, whose name escapes me at the moment. But they end up having this rapid growth spurt once the story really picks up that kind of washes away their childishness from the beginning and hands them this wisdom that's required to make it all the way to the end.

The whole psychic element that the blurb talks about I felt ended up being really contrived but I was easily able to overlook that for the greatness that is the rest of the premise. I like how it ended up not going where I thought it was going to go. I liked how it opened up these crazy new doors because of that derailment (no pun intended) and now it has me jonsing for the next installment. Thankfully this series is an older one so the titles are available now. But that doesn't erase the giddy of Open Road re-releasing them. It's like having a Christmas present that you already know about but you're still genuinely surprised to see it anyway.

LAST STOP is one of the few cheese books that I think the majority of people will genuinely like for something other than its cheese factor. The ending is the real beginning and it's such an effective hook that I'm mentioning how I want to keep reading the series for what, the third time now in this review? That's something.

Ban Factor: Medium - It could end up on their radar for children bucking the system but its innocuous enough to skate by them. This is one of those titles that they'd probably have to actually READ in order to get a feel for it and we all know that's not going to happen.

Things I've Learned from Books + 144

Nothing good will come out of falling in love with a dead person. Whether you can't actually touch them, no one else can see them or they just want to eat you, the cons far outweigh the pros in this situation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

80s Awesomeness! ~ 152

Oh yeah. Twisted Sister. They didn't dress themselves to make themselves look pretty. They're SUPPOSED to, on purpose, look like drag queens from hell. And Dee Snider is kind of a scary guy without all of the make-up. But he was totally awesome when he did his radio show in Hartford a few years ago. I miss it. But his music lives on.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Freaky Friday :|: 152

Title: Vampire
Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick
Published: June 1, 1991
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 214

It's Darcy Thomas' summer home: the Dungeon of Horrors, owned by Jake, the gorgeous green-eyed uncle she's just met. But the gory fun turns to terror when real bodies are found with the mark of a vampire on their throats--and Darcy is targeted as the next victim. (

Well, it loses points for its unoriginal title (most likely not the author's fault) but I'm a bit squicked out by the premise: is the MC lusting after her uncle? Is this where Jerry Springer got his inspiration? I'd want to read it but that's really freaking me out right now. Goo.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And the winner is . . .

The winner of one of Mari Mancusi's favorite zombie things and a copy of BLOOD COVEN VAMPIRES, VOLUME 1 is . . .


Congratulations! I've already sent you an email so get your information to me ASAP! And a huge thanks to everyone who entered and to Mari for putting up the giveaway goodies!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

But i Love Him by Amanda Grace + Giveaway

Published May 8th, 2011.

Author website.

Ann was a smiling straight-A student and track star. But after she meets Connor, it all changes. She surrenders everything to be with him, and by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high-wire act. One mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything--and everyone--in its path. (

At the beginning I was really afraid that I wasn't going to be able to finish because of Ann's voice. Just this very submissive, rationalizing, excuse-making person telling this story and that was ALL of the story (meaning no sidebars or alternate lines, just pure domestic violence for 90% of it), I didn't know if I could take it. Not because it was so hard to read but because it was so infuriating. Weakness angers me and to read about girls and women in this situation really irks me because they just lay down and take it. I don't understand why. Of course there's a psychological reason and all of that, personal history and whathaveyou. But how can a person get to such a low point that they equate love with physical and verbal abuse? I can sympathize but I'm nowhere near empathizing. I seriously don't think I'm capable because it's a notion that's so far from my logic center that I can't comprehend.

And this is coming from someone that has had domestic abuse in her family (an aunt), someone who died from that abuse. I support groups that advocate for abused women and children. But it doesn't mean I don't look at it and go "why do you allow this?" I can't help it. Why do these women see themselves as so worthless?

And you really see it in Ann. And Connor's mom. It's a cycle you knew would be there, Connor growing up in a violent home where his father railed on him and his mother, where he protected his mother as opposed to the other way around. This was built as a means of garnering some level of understanding or sympathy for Connor, to show him as something more than just an abuser. He has a history. This may explain why.

Except for me it's making excuses for him. It's removing his choice to stop the violence and making him, really, not all that responsible for his actions. I can't accept that. Throughout the book Connor was so adamant to not be like his father but he fell right into the trap. He didn't HAVE to hit Ann. He didn't HAVE to devalue her like he watched his father do to his mother. But he did. After caring for his mother the whole time, he CHOSE to inflict the same pain on Ann. Sorry, but that's what I believe. Being a wife-beater isn't a genetic disorder or a heredity disease. While I'm not denying passing on personality traits, flying fists, to me, don't fit in that realm. Punching is not an involuntary biological reaction. Insulting someone isn't an involuntary biological reaction. People CHOOSE to do these things.

Ann is a very lonely girl. When her father died her mother basically retreated into herself and shut Ann out. Ann says that her mother had barely acknowledged her in years, no hugs, no I love yous, nothing. That is a terrible way to be raised and it's really no wonder she fell into the first relationship she came upon with a guy. And she fell hard and fast. Someone that starved for affection? Connor was the perfect sponge for her. Too bad he was a douche. But even with all of that, I still don't understand why she stayed.

The story is told backwards, according to the information in the back of the book, in order to get a better perspective on the situation. Grace/Hubbard claims that stories like this in chronological order can get people victim-blaming because you get to see the events unfold and you can pick out where the relationship went wrong. When it's backwards that moment becomes unclear and you can't really see where it went too wrong. Is there one major moment? No. But Connor's possessiveness and control issues at the beginning should have been a clue. Except that's what Ann wanted, to some extent. Connor loves her after a month? Yes! Finally, love! Any love! I'm not saying she asked for any of this but someone that starved for attention probably wouldn't see what the real deal was until it was far too late. And that was the case with Ann.

It wasn't a bad story but I have a hard time connecting with these types of tales to begin with, as I said above. They interest me but the overarching story and the voice really need to hit right for it to blow me away. I really wasn't blown away by BUT I LOVE HIM but it's definitely an eye-opening book. No one should have to go through this and I hope any woman that reads it takes something away from it. Some little sticky note of a sign that she can reference later. It was difficult to see Ann get beaten over and over again but for me it was even harder to watch her sit there and take it. I still can't stop asking why. Even though it didn't strike me as hard as others on a purely personal level, I'd still recommend BUT I LOVE HIM to pretty much anyone. It's still a good book.

Ban Factor: High - A teen girl gets the snot beat out of her. This topic is far too graphic for banner children.

Giveaway time!!!

Want my copy? Then 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.
  • Entrants must be a follower of Bites via one of the following mediums: RSS, GFC, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook.
  • Giveaway ends April 4th at midnight, EST.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Last Call for Booksahol!

Tonight's the last night to enter to win one of Mari Mancusi's favorite zombie things and BLOOD COVEN VAMPIRES, VOLUME 1! So get your entries in by midnight, EST to get your chance to win. You don't want to miss this zombie epicness!

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Pub date: March 20, 2012.

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel. (

I have to say I'm less than impressed. My instant knee-jerk reaction was that I hated the voice. It read just far too stilted and contrived for my tastes and I initially wondered if I'd make it through the book based on that. I did. The roar of the tone leveled out for me and ended up being a dull throb right behind the eyes: not painful but manageable despite it being annoying. That same voice also lent itself to quite a few baited questions that seemed to scream at me from the pages. A lot of "whatever do you mean?"s going on. That type of thing. It stood out to me.

And really, for a story about angels, it's pretty lacking in, well, angels. You have the people that watch the angels who are human, the demon/wraiths that are, at most, glimpsed at and then you have the angels. The only way you can tell they're angels is because they can travel by light and you're told they're angels about eleven and a half million times. Other than that they show no defining characteristics of anything paranormal. Remove the word 'angel' and just leave them as human and it wouldn't have made a difference.

I was actually pretty disappointed by this. I went out of my comfort zone with A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS and while it didn't come close to the lulz category it was definitely flat compared to what I was expecting: in a story about angels, ANGELS. No wings, no ethereal glow, no halos, no crazy supernatural powers (aside from the light thing, which is kind of like Meg growing nails in a super hero family), nothing. I honestly don't know why they were pegged as angels other than to draw on the already dominant angel wave in YA. It just seemed really pointless and every time I finished a chapter without anything even remotely angelic going down I couldn't help but get disappointed.

Helen is a nice strong character that makes it to the end of the book pretty much on her own two feet and sticking it to the likes of Darius. Who is super awesome and with whom I sided from the beginning. We share non-existent patience levels. Darius's brother, whose name escapes me and for which I'm too lazy to look up was a puss (Griffin?). He was the "sensitive" one so it was only natural that Helen gravitated towards him. A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS gets points for its lack of love triangle though. It's insinuated that there is one but that's not really true. So kudos there.

The ending was a bit of flash bang, not too much going on throughout most of the story until the culmination of information and events at the end. FINALLY we get to see some semblance of the paranormal but it's over before it begins and don't expect to see any angels.

The whole alternate world kind of bothered me for its lack of presence. It's set in Victorian London but there's supposed to be this alternate side of wraiths and angels and funky globe things. But aside from that weird globe and some seemingly crazy stories, there isn't much going on in terms of other world. I feel shafted in that regard. I was looking for something more substantial but instead what I got was an historical fiction revised to fit a more popular supernatural angle. Seriously, remove all aspects of the paranormal and the story really wouldn't change.

It's not that I didn't like it. I found it entertaining enough to keep reading but it felt like ice cream without milk: missing something. The historical aspect of A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS is more of a driving force than anything paranormal so that should appeal to a lot of people. Just don't go in expecting a lot of supernatural stuff. You're not going to find it.

Ban Factor: Medium - Because of its actual low level of paranormal influence I can see this skating under the banner radar. At the same time playing with angels like this, even though they're not really angels (unless you count being told they're angels), still has the potential to ruffle banner feathers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Exploring the Magic World of Harry Potter by Karen Farrington & Lewis Constable + Giveaway!

Published October 1, 2010.

In this little book fans will find a surprisingly large variety of random thoughts, about Harry's magic universe, about the woman who created him, the books, the movies, and the actors in the films. (

I can tell you right now this is going to be a short review. I mean, how does one review what's really nothing more than a pile of tidbits about the first five books of the HARRY POTTER series?

At the end of the day it is nothing more than a disorganized smattering of "facts" about HARRY POTTER; the characters, the world, the actors, pretty much everything. Even real world events that parallel the HARRY POTTER world. There's a small glossary in the back defining some of the terms in the series, characters, creatures, places. Its compilings only go up to the fifth book so it is short on a couple of stories and I definitely wouldn't call it comprehensive but it is a neat little coffee table book of random HARRY POTTER knowledge.

I did notice at least one factual error while reading: there was mention of Jensen Ackles being one of the stars of Smallville. Negative. He's one of the stars of Supernatural. While he was on one season of Smallville, on a show that ran for 10 years I wouldn't exactly call that starring in. Being in every episode of a show that's currently in its seventh season, star. So yeah, in a fact book where some of the facts aren't checked, it does leave me to doubt, however little bit, what I'm reading. Call it a nit pick or whatever. But it did make me perk up my ears.

But from quotes from the actors to the whole slew of random information that can be found in EXPLORING THE MAGIC WORLD OF HARRY POTTER it's definitely something a Potter nut would want to add to their collection simply because it's HARRY POTTER. It's not comprehensive and it does read like someone on the outside looking in but it's neat. I'll give the authors credit for being able to compile all of that information into one little book and for the real world historical aspects that matched the magical world. That was probably my favorite out of it all.

Ban Factor: High - Simply for the HARRY POTTER connection. Inside it could be crayon-drawn pictures of the sun but the cover says HARRY POTTER. We all know how the banners feel about that magical boy.

Giveaway time!

Want my copy? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win it!
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Entrants must be a follower of Bites via at least one of the following mediums: RSS, GFC, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter.
  • Giveaway ends April 1st at midnight, EST.

Things I've Learned from Books + 143

Can't be bothered to properly world build? Not a problem. Just take every day mundane things and assign super new and fancy words to them. No one will know the difference and everyone will think your "new" world is epically awesome. Who needs a rabbit when you can have a chizzlebuzzle?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

YAckers Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Published January 10, 2012.

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

We read, we cried, we waxed existentialist. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS fell in the midst of a contemporary bender for me that kind of pushed me over the edge when it came to effed up kid stories. I'd had more than my fill so I probably didn't enjoy it to its full potential. I still liked what I was reading when I was trying to block out the existentialism (which is NOT my favorite subject by far) and getting over how ultimately depressing the story was. It's about cancer. No matter the amount of hope, it's going to hurt. But we still enjoyed it.

Head on over to this month's Keeper of the Book, Angie at Angieville, for more details on our inner brain workings. Kinda scary actually . . .

Ban Factor: High - Overly smart kids, difficult subject, sex. Yup. This one's on their radar.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Out of Office!

My rent-paying job is taking me away from my blog for a few days. At least it's to a nice place! I'll be sharing space with some of those super saguaros. I shall return on Sunday with yet another Things I've Learned from Books. Until then have a great rest of the week!

Author Bites - Ashley Hope Perez on Characters

Ashley Hope Perez's THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY hit my like a ton of bricks, to be horribly cliche. For a book where I didn't feel all that much for the MC, it really had an impact on me I think because the story in and of itself was it's own character and Ashley really made it come alive. It's because of that that I asked her if she'd stop by to say a few words. Lucky me she said yes! She even included an excerpt from THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY and I have to say, this particular passage actually made me really not like Azael for how unwilling (or incapable) he was of seeing a bigger picture, of seeing context. It's really telling of his character when he feels that being hungry and Hispanic is far worse than being white and molested. But if you stick with it, you get to see just how his perspective changes. And I can tell you I'm so glad I did.

Now without me hijacking anymore of this post, I'm turning it over to Ashley. Thanks for stopping by, Ash!

When I was writing the first draft of The Knife and the Butterfly, I alternated between Lexi’s point of view and Azael’s. I loved working in two such different voices, but I had the nagging feeling that the story, too, was divided.

In the end, to move forward with the novel, I needed to choose: whose story was it really? Who owned the narrative and gave it its center of gravity?

As I was thinking about this question, there were some developments in the events that inspired The Knife and the Butterfly. (Yes, I am yet another author finding subtle and not-so-subtle inspiration in the news, beginning with an actual gang fight between MS-13 and Crazy Crew and continuing with The Houston Chronicle’s reporting on what happened to some of the participants.)

I can’t say too much about the news without spoiling things for those of you who haven’t yet read the novel, but here’s what’s important: the media was still talking about the girl who inspired Lexi, while the consequences of the fight for the boy who inspired Azael—and lots of boys like him—were all but forgotten. (For those of you who have finished The Knife and the Butterfly, all you have to do is google “Ashley Benton” and “Houston” to see what I mean.)

Anyway, it began to feel increasingly important that I get inside Azael’s head and stay there—not pulling back from even the most vexing aspects of his self and his macho persona. I realized that, when I was alternating between Azael and Lexi’s points of view, I tended to dodge certain things in Azael’s sections because I could. Once I embraced him fully as my narrator, I had to come to terms with a few unsettling things and get over myself.

For example, what does a male teenager do if locked up with a LOT of time on his hands? I couldn’t ignore one obvious answer (blech, I know), but I also discovered lots of other answers. Like Azael’s drawing, which becomes increasingly important in the story. And then there are his memories of taking care of his sister and his efforts to bond with anyone around him, from the inmate across the hall to the man who delivers the meals. Crucially, though none of that is enough to occupy Azael all of the time. Despite all his resistance, he begins to care about Lexi because he can’t not think about her. She can’t get Azael out of her head, either, although the reasons are a little different.

Lexi’s journal entries are still part of The Knife and the Butterfly (Azael gets his hands on her notebook), but our journey “into her head” is much briefer. I put that phrase in quotation marks because Lexi, like Azael, is putting on an act—even when she is talking only to herself. In many ways, their journeys run parallel, but we see Lexi’s development in miniature via the journal. Lexi’s choices matter to the outcome of the story, but what matters more is Azael’s willingness, finally, to see her as a person, not dismiss her as a girl or an enemy.

Azael is sometimes irritating, sometimes vulgar, sometimes caring (like trimming his little sister’s fingernails… major awww there), but always human. To give you a little taste of his voice in The Knife and the Butterfly, here’s a bit from the part of the novel where Azael is just beginning to read Lexi’s journal:

I don’t want to feel sorry for her, not even when I read about her sicko dad messing with her. I want to tell Lexi to forget the boo-hoo, poor-little-white-girl bullshit. She’s never been hungry. She’s never gotten a beating. She’s never been on the run from la migra or the CPS. She’s never had to pack a baby sister off to California just to keep her safe.

But reading Lexi’s notebook also makes me think how everybody is off the record in a way. Not just fools like my pops who didn’t get their papers straightened out. Not just dropouts like me and Eddie wanting to stay out of the system. I mean that whole part inside of you that nobody else even knows is there. There’s a Lexi that talks trash to Janet, a Lexi that crosses her arms in group, a Lexi that writes in her journal. But there’s also this Lexi that nobody knows about, a Lexi inside of Lexi. That’s how somebody can be getting high or going to church but at the same time still feel like a seven-year-old kid locked out of the swimming pool. That’s how I can be clicking Eddie in, kicking the shit out of him but somewhere deep inside feel that I’m still his hermanito. Down there, there’s a little guy who just wants us to go home and make some ketchup sandwiches.

You may not be in the mood for ketchup sandwiches, but I hope I’ve given you an appetite for The Knife and the Butterfly. If you’d like to read more excerpts and insights about the novel, check out this page from my website or just cruise over to your fave bookstore and ask for it.

I’m online, blogging from and on twitter (@ashleyhopeperez). Holler my way! I’d love to hear from you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Authors for Henryville

In case you haven't heard the Midwest has been ravaged by some severe weather. Among that was an F4 tornado that ripped through the town of Henryville, Indiana, destroying it.

In an effort to help a nice big group of authors banded together to create Authors for Henryville, a collaborative auction and raffle to help raise money to rebuild Henryville's schools and their library. Check out the website to see the complete list of contributing authors, among them Ashley Hope Perez, Blythe Woolston, Josie Bloss, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Ransom Riggs, Steve Brezenoff and Sara Zarr.

There are SO many authors contributing and all of the proceeds are going to such a great cause. So check it out and start your bidding to help rebuild the community of Henryville! You can also check out the fundraising page here.

The Invitation by Diane Hoh

Re-publish date: March 27, 2012.

For the high schoolers of Greenhaven, Cass Rockham’s fall party is the social event of the year. Each October, students wait by their mailboxes, praying for the gilt-edged invitation that grants entry into theinner circle of the most popular crowd. And now Cass has planned her finestparty yet, with a new sauna, a hot band, and no parents for miles. But to make this party really killer, Cass tops it all off with a sinister twist.

Nerdy Sarah Drew is shocked when she and her friends receive invitations to Cass’s affair. For years she’s steered clear of the popular kids, and now they want her to come to their party? Sarah is wary, but her friends talk her into coming with them. But she regrets it quickly, for at Cass Rockham’s mansion, the only party favor is death.

I’m all for the re-emergence of cheese and Open Road Media has a market for that. They’ve been re-releasing older YA titles as of late and, knowing me, I’m pretty quick to gobble them up. They usually end up being short reads, concise and to the point without much depth to them. Lead-up to mystery, solve it, story ends and that’s pretty much it. THE INVITATION didn’t let me down in this regard.

The issues that I generally have with these titles is that the characters are a bit too stereotypical and they’re written so that they portray teens to how adults feel they are. The mean girls fit nicely into a little box and a character’s brattiness is usually running a bit higher than what it probably should be. What makes that last part worse is that the story doesn’t delve too deeply into the character’s head so the personality isn’t explained away or as a reader you do know what’s going on but it’s usually pretty petty. The antagonists in THE INVITATION fit this moniker. They’re one dimensional and stereotypical, one being the mean girl to an extreme and the other being a straight up crazy bitch. If this were in any other recent YA horror I’d scoff at it. But cheese gets a pass. Because it’s cheese.

The cast of protagonist characters is pretty large but they fit their own molds just like the villains with a couple that probably could have been removed entirely and the story would have been none the wiser. The characters with the most emphasis, Ellie, Sarah and Shane were of course the stand-out characters, except Ellie ended up fading into the background towards the end. I would have liked to have seen her stand up a little more, break out of her self-deprecating shell a little more but it is what it is. Riley, Sarah’s love interest, played a bit part and love was had at the end. Because it needed to end on an up note.

The biggest issue I had with THE INVITATION was the sex of the major antagonist. Once that person was introduced I went whole chapters without knowing what the sex of the villain was, despite the character actually being present on the page. Initially it was male just with a feminine name, Leslie (right up there with Shannon and Kim as male names, ugh). Even in the flashback Leslie was still androgynous. I couldn’t place the sex. I got so confused that I had to flip back earlier to see if I missed something, some tell-tale sign that this person was male or female. Nope. It started off male and ended female. I know it’s an uncorrected proof but that’s pretty major. It was halfway explained by a confusion of people but even after that it still didn’t make sense, especially with how the story was unfolding. I’d have to call that sloppy.

Overall it wasn’t as big of a fright as I would have liked. Cass was far creepier doing what she did to the outcast group of kids she invited than the real antagonist was simply because she was so heartless. I would have liked that route better than the crazy person at the end. Not my favorite cheese read but it sits nicely in the cockles. I’ll take it.

Ban Factor: Medium - It really could go either way. The violence is pretty minimal, there's nothing paranormal about it and the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end. I can see this one scraping by the censors.
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