A Chilly Winter’s Tale: SUBLIME by Christina Lauren – Review

Sublime 3D

Sublime by Christina Lauren
Genre: Young adult paranormal romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Release date: October 14 2014
Source: ARC from San Diego Comic Con/eGalley from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 336

three stars

The nitty-gritty: An atmospheric and creepy tale, written in gorgeous prose, heavy on the romance, but ultimately confusing in the end.

The girl is bent into odd angles when she wakes. It doesn’t seem possible that she could have been sleeping here, alone on a dirt path, surrounded by leaves and grass and clouds. She feels like she might have fallen from the sky.

This is one of my favorite covers of the year, and I was hoping for an amazing story to go with it. Unfortunately, Sublime wasn’t quite what I had hoped it would be. It starts out very strong, as we are presented with a mystery (OK, a mystery you will be quite familiar with if you read a lot of YA): a girl wakes up on a forest path with no memory of who she is and what she is doing there. (Honestly, I can count at least fifteen examples of this premise that have been used in the last couple of years—writers, please come up with something new!)

But despite the familiarity of this concept, I was immediately drawn into the mystery. The authors (Christina Lauren is actually two authors, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) have solid writing skills, and they really know how to create an eerie atmosphere and grab the reader with lovely and flowing prose.

Lucy finds herself in the middle of nowhere, wearing odd clothes—a flower-patterned dress and sandals (it’s the middle of winter!)—and completely lost as to what she’s doing there. Even stranger, she doesn’t feel the cold at all. She’s curiously drawn to the nearby Saint Osanna’s Prep School, but when she walks through the hallways, no one seems to notice she’s there.

Until she comes face to face with a boy named Colin. She doesn’t recognize Colin so much as know that he’s important to her, and that she is somehow connected to him. Colin is stunned by Lucy’s perfectly white and clear skin, long white hair, and “mood ring eyes.” In fact, she seems to glow when he looks at her. It doesn’t take long for these two to realize that a) they are completely attracted to each other and b) there is something very different about Lucy: everyone else who sees her thinks she has brown hair. They finally piece together a few of Lucy’s scattered memories and make a startling discovery: Lucy is dead, and she is a ghost.

The rest of the plot—and trust me, the plot is pretty thin—concerns Lucy and Colin trying to spend as much time together as possible. They’re also trying to figure out why Lucy is here. Is she haunting Colin? Does it have something to do with her death? Why is Lucy drawn inexorably to the lake? And how can these two lovebirds possibly manage to do the one thing they’re dying to do: touch each other in every way possible? And then they find a way to do that, but it’s pretty dangerous, not to mention stupid.

Everything you need to know about the story is in the book blurb, unfortunately, so if you plan on reading Sublime, I suggest skipping the blurb. In order to preserve some of the surprises, I’m NOT going to talk about the one element I’d really like to discuss (see above: dangerous and stupid), which frankly shocked and surprised me, since I forgot to read the blurb first. Two stories came to mind as I was reading this book. First, I thought it was going to turn out to be a teen version of The Lovely Bones (it isn’t even close). And later, I was reminded of the 1990 movie Flatliners (and if you’ve seen Flatliners, then you can most likely guess the dangerous and stupid thing I mentioned before).

My biggest reaction after reading Sublime is that it had so much potential to be more. The idea of a ghost girl and a human boy falling in love is a great one, and there was so much the authors could have done with it. Instead, we get a typical YA romance filled with lots of longing glances and angsty drama. The most interesting part of the story was Colin’s tragic past and how he’s coping in the present. His entire family is dead, and he’s become a daredevil on a bike, doing dangerous jumps and stunts on cliffs and such, in an effort to cheat death, or die and join his family, or…I’m not sure I understood why he was so reckless.

The story mostly revolves around Lucy and Colin, and although there are a few other ancillary characters—Colin’s best friend Jay, Dot and Joe, the couple who Colin grew up with after his parents died, and a few two-dimensional students who attend Saint Osanna’s—the story is pretty much Lucy and Colin and the very strange world they inhabit. I very much wanted to learn more about Lucy’s murder, which is barely touched upon. I also wanted more depth to the other characters, because while living in Lucy and Colin’s heads was strange and oddly compelling, the story would have had more depth had the other characters been more developed.

Several too obvious story elements made me roll my eyes. Colin and Jay go out on the FROZEN LAKE and do foolhardy stunts on their bikes. I won’t spoil things by telling you what happens *rolls eyes* And when Colin first meets Lucy, her voice is described as “raspy” several times. I wonder if we can guess how Lucy was murdered? *rolls eyes again*

The writing is lovely, however, and the present tense narrative—which I have to admit usually drives me nuts—does a great job of making everything seem much more intense. I especially loved the descriptions of the way winter affects the characters. Everything is ice and snow and vapor breath, and I loved when these chilly images were contrasted with the heat of Colin’s skin. I could see the glittery, secret world where Lucy and Colin meet, it was so well described, and frankly, I wanted to go there myself!

But while I hoped for an ending that explained all the metaphysical puzzles about why Lucy is haunting Colin, I ended up more confused than ever. The ending was so abrupt, that at first I thought it was a cliffhanger, and that a sequel might be forthcoming. (Not according to Goodreads). Perhaps the authors are leaving their options open? All in all, this isn’t a bad book, despite my review. For YOUNG ADULTS who are looking for an otherworldly romance, a bit of unexpected danger, and more otherworldly romance, this book is for you. Me? I’m beginning to suspect I might be getting too old for YA.

Big thanks to the publishers for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

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Tough Traveling: MONSTERS

tough-traveling

Hey, this is my first time participating in Tough Traveling, a weekly event created and hosted by Nathan from the Fantasy Review Barn! I’m finally joining the party this week, because the theme is “Monsters,” and I tend to read lots of books with monsters in them.

Nathan’s idea for Tough Traveling is to follow along with Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which is a funny and irreverent send-up all of the fantasy clichés and tropes you can think of. Each week, Nathan picks one of those tropes, and bloggers are encouraged to come up with a list of books that fit the category.

This week, we’re talking about MONSTERS:

MONSTERS are likely to lie in waste areas, caves, and old ruined cities. You can usually detect their presence by smell.

If I didn’t limit myself, this list could seriously get out of control! So I selected the first six books with great examples of monsters that popped into my head:

City of Stairs

Urav from City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. Urav was one of my favorite things about this book, even though he only plays a small role in the story. Urav is a many-tentacled sea monster that devastates the city of Bulikov. Scary yes, but I sure loved him!

The Blue Blazes

Gobbos (goblins), Vollraths, Trogbodies, Snakefaces and more from The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig. This was one of my favorite books last year, and is a great example of a creative use of monsters. In The Blue Blazes, the underground world of New York City is alive with monsters, because of a hole that leads straight into Hell. The kicker—you can only see them if you take a drug called Blue Blazes.

Full Fathom Five

Penitents from Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone. Max’s Craft Sequence books all have monsters in them, but I particularly liked the Penitents from this book. Penitents are huge creatures made out of rock that act as prisons for humans who break the law. These unfortunate people are trapped inside the body of a Penitent and must go after other law-breakers, in order to force them into the same horrific situation. It’s an extremely painful process for those unfortunate enough to be caught.

The Shotgun Arcana

Gerta from The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher. I haven’t posted my review of this book yet, but it has one of the most interesting monsters I’ve run across: a Frankenstein-like creation. Auggie’s dead wife Gerta’s head has been kept “alive” by mad scientist Clay since the first book in the series, The Six-Gun Tarot, and you won’t believe what happens to Gerta in this follow-up book!

Three

The Weir from Three by Jay Posey. Weir are humanoid-like creatures with glowing blue eyes that live in the desolate Strand, a dangerous place where humans are prey. If you are caught by a Weir, you may become one yourself.

The Scar

The Remade and more from The Scar by China Miéville. It’s been YEARS since I read this book, so my memory is a bit hazy. But Miéville is one of the grandmasters of monsters. Just about every character in this book has some monstrous quality or other. The Remade are slaves who have had their bodies physically altered. This book also has grindylows (like the ones in Harry Potter!), sea creatures who drown their victims in the ocean. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of other great examples from this book, but like I said, I read this a really long time ago.  Just READ THIS BOOK if you haven’t already.

That was fun! I’d love to hear from you. I’m sure I missed many great examples of monsters:-) Thanks to Nathan for hosting! Check out the link above if you’d like to join in the fun.

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Waiting on Wednesday (123): GET IN TROUBLE by Kelly Link

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books you’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. I was just approved for this book on Edelweiss, and I’ve very excited! Kelly Link is one of my favorite short story writers, and this is her new collection (although it’s unclear whether these are new stories or reprints).

Get in Trouble

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link. Releases in February 2015 from Random House. The cover makes this look like literary short fiction, but believe me when I say that Link’s stories are full of the best sort of magic realism out there. For those of you teetering on the edge of how you feel about short stories, I highly recommend reading something by Kelly Link. I guarantee it will push you over to the “I love short stories!” side. Here’s what Goodreads has to say about the collection:

She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction”; by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure”; and by Karen Russell as “Franz Kafka with a better understanding of ladies’ footwear and bad first dates.” Now Kelly Link’s eagerly awaited new collection–her first for adult readers in a decade–proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have.

Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The eight exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a onetime teen idol takes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, “The Wizard of Oz, ” superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty–and the hidden strengths–of human beings. In “Get in Trouble, “this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.

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Let me know what you’re waiting on this week!

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Welcome to the Seedy Side of Los Angeles: PREMONITIONS by Jamie Schultz – Review

Premonitions 3D

Premonitions by Jamie Schultz
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Release date: July 2014
Source: Paperback from author
Pages: 333

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A high-octane urban fantasy, full of guns a-blazin’ and dark magic, with plenty of flawed and damaged characters, not to mention a two-hundred-year-old crime lord with a lethal and magical sword.

Something pale shifted, flashed in the water ahead of her, and was gone. Was that actually there? she wondered. The water wasn’t deep enough to harbor much of anything beyond a few frogs and odd billion or so mosquito larvae, or at least she didn’t think so. But if it wasn’t really there, what was the message? What was it trying to tell her?

One way I can tell that a book has really worked for me is that I get so wrapped up in the story, I forget to take notes. This can be a problem when it’s time to write the review, of course, as I tend to forget story details if I don’t write them down. Premonitions was one such book for me. I’m looking over the very sparse notes that I took while reading it, and I’m wondering if I’ll be able to remember everything I want to say. Hey, I’ll do my best! I knew immediately that I was going to enjoy it after reading this self-deprecating statement from the author’s acknowledgement pages:

“…Their input and encouragement helped give me the momentum I needed to spin first-draft straw into final-draft, um, spun straw.”

Ha ha!

Schultz’s characters are on the edge. His motley band of thieves—Karyn, Anna, Tommy, Nail and Genevieve—are more or less living paycheck to paycheck. They are paid to steal magical artifacts, a very dangerous occupation, especially when they have to deal with demons and sorcerers. Karyn is the leader of the crew, and she usually keeps them out of trouble by being able to see glimpses of the future, and thus avoid danger. But Karyn’s “gift” is also her fatal flaw. Without a very rare and expensive drug called “blind,” she is barely able to function, since the visions threaten her sanity if they aren’t kept under control with the drug.

Karyn’s supply of blind is dwindling when the gang is offered the job of a lifetime—one that comes with a two-million-dollar paycheck: infiltrate and steal a jawbone from a group called the Brotherhood of Zagam, a jawbone that is supposedly a piece of a dead god. Crime lord Enoch Sobell wants it for his macabre collection, but Karyn knows that doing business with Sobell could be a huge mistake. But the money is too good to turn down, especially since Karyn desperately needs more blind, and they begin to make plans to steal it. But it turns out that crime lords and folks who worship jawbones are unpredictable, and things don’t go quite as planned. When the bullets start flying, Karyn and her gang will need all their skills to stay alive. And that jawbone? Well, there’s something a little strange about it…

I had so much fun reading Premonitions, and I was thrilled to find out that a sequel called Splintered is coming out next summer (although I couldn’t find it on Goodreads). Jamie Schultz has a great ear for snappy dialog, and his pacing was really good. I especially loved the relationships between his characters, and this is one of those rare books where the relationships are so awkward and uncomfortable that I found myself actually cringing at times. Karyn and Anna are close friends and have worked jobs together for the past ten years. But when things go horribly wrong during a heist, Anna blames Karyn for the mistake, and the two stop talking. Not only is Karyn barely functioning, because she needs her drugs so badly, but she’s also lost her best friend and confidant, at a time when they need to pull together to survive some very bad shit. Schultz doesn’t shy away from these moments, and I thought they felt very real and personal.

Premonitions takes place in Los Angeles, mostly in the seedy and abandoned parts of town where danger lurks in the shadows. In order for Karyn to score blind, she must visit the worst of these places, and I loved the author’s descriptions of the dank, water-filled basement where her drug dealer Adelaide lives. Most of the characters in this book are desperate and nearly broke, and the Los Angeles they live in mirrors their situations.

It wouldn’t be a heist story without lots of violence and double-crossing, and Schultz gives the reader plenty of both. At times I was so caught up in the action, that I forgot I was reading a fantasy. But then the author hits you with characters who use blood magic to cast spells and humans who make deals with demons, and you remember: these characters are not your ordinary criminals packing heat. They are far more dangerous.

Schultz leaves a few threads dangling to entice the reader to come back for more, but the story ends on a satisfactory—and even emotional—note. I rooted for Karyn and her team from page one, and I can’t wait to see what trouble they get into next.

Big thanks to Jamie Schultz for providing a review copy.

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Waiting on Wednesday (122) – CRIMSON BOUND by Rosamund Hodge

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books that you’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. I adored Rosamund Hodge’s first book, and now this:

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Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. Releases in May 2015 from Balzer + Bray. So, according to Goodreads, this is not a sequel, or even set in the same world as Cruel Beauty. And yet—that cover, it screams “sequel!” to me. In any case, who cares? This is a freaking book by Rosamund Hodge! And I am over the moon about it. Can you tell from the girl on the cover which fairy tale this is based on?

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

(This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.)

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Oh yes, Little Red Riding Hood! Let me know what you’re waiting on too:-)

Cruel Beauty

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Tammy’s Top Ten New(ish) Series I Want To Start

Top Ten Tuesday new 7-14 copy

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week’s topic is very easy for me, unfortunately. (Unfortunately because there are so many series I want to start but haven’t had time to fit in.) I’m breaking the rules a bit, because not all of these can be considered “new,” but they are all definitely series that I am determined to get to soon. Here are my Top Ten  New(ish) Series I Want to Start:

1. American Vampire series by M. L. Brennan. I just purchased the first two books, and I’m determined to read the first one this month.

2. Miriam Black series by Chuck Wendig. It’s a crying shame I haven’t read these books, being the huge Wendig fan that I am. I think I own all of them, too, so there really isn’t any excuse. Plus, Chuck just got an awesome book deal with the new Simon & Schuster imprint, Saga Press, who is re-releasing the books, and will be publishing three new ones!

3. Paradox series by Rachel Bach. I bought all three of these books after reading many gushing reviews, and I can’t wait to start!

4. Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Here’s another series where I own the first two books but haven’t made time to read them yet.

5. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I bought the first book when it came out, and since then it’s been gathering dust *weep*. I hear this series is a must-read, and I know lots of bloggers who love it. The fourth book in the series has not been titled yet (as far as we know).

6. The Others series by Anne Bishop. Oh how much I want to read these books! I might have purchased the first one, but I honestly don’t know, and I’d have to search through many many piles to find out.

7. The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters. This series about an asteroid that is about to hit earth has received some very good reviews.

8. The Golden City series by J. Kathleen Cheney. I won the first two books in a giveaway (yay!) so they are right here waiting for me. Book three comes out next year but doesn’t have cover art yet.

9. The Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to love The Lies of Locke Lamora, so of course this series is on my list!

10. Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson. You may think the more obvious Sanderson choice is The Way of Kings (which I haven’t read either), but I decided to choose his superhero series instead.

So there you have it. I’d love to hear if you’ve started (or finished) any of these series.

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A Big, Bold Series Ending: INTO DARKNESS (Night Prowler #6) by J.T, Geissinger – Review

Into Darkness 3D

Into Darkness (Night Prowler #6) by J.T. Geissinger
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release date: October 21 2014
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Pages: 400

five stars

Wow, what a ride it’s been…a six book, two-year wild ride full of big, bold characters, sizzling sexytimes, and first-rate world-building. It’s rare that I ever make it through an entire series these days, and even rarer when the series is six books long. But I’m so happy I’ve stuck with Geissinger’s Night Prowler books, because I’ve enjoyed every one immensely. This is one series that could go on and on, in my humble opinion, because even in this last book I could see plot threads that begged to be expanded upon. But all good things must come to an end, yes? And no matter how much Geissinger must love her characters, I’m sure she’s ready to move on as well.

One big difference with this book is that I wouldn’t recommend reading it as a stand-alone. The previous five books worked well in that respect, because they each encapsulated their own plots and characters. But this time around, you will get more out of Into Darkness if you read the previous five books first.

I know how difficult it can be to read a review of the last book in a series, especially if you haven’t started that series. Will there be spoilers? Will the review make any sense if you aren’t already invested in the characters and world-building? Will you even read this review? I personally tend to skip reviews like this one, for all the above reasons, and so this time around, I’m leaving out spoilers for those of you who may want to start this series, but don’t want lots of plot details. Instead, I’m giving you my top ten reasons I loved Into Darkness, and some reasons in general that you should read the Night Prowler books:

1. Geissinger brings back all the characters from her previous books. This book was, in many ways, like a family reunion. Each couple (remember, these are romances, people!) from each book makes an appearance, and I can’t tell you how much fun I had reacquainting myself with them!

2. We get to see “what happens next” after Darkness Bound‘s startling events. At the time I wouldn’t have called those events “cliff-hangers,” but reading more about them made me jump up and down with glee!

3. Sisters! In this book, we meet twin sisters Lumina and Honor, who were separated as babies and are now reunited for the first time in twenty-four years. Can I just say, this may be my very favorite “sister” relationship ever? These two girls have some baggage to get past before they can really get to know each other, and each time they are in the same scene, the story leaps off the page. And for the first time during this series, I’ve actually enjoyed a sibling relationship more than the romantic one.

4. The Ikati. I’ve grown to love this race of shape-shifters more and more as the series has progressed, and Geissinger makes me love them even more in her final book. They are a race of great power and beauty, but they are also hunted and must stay hidden if they are to survive.

5. The Ikati’s gifts. Each Ikati has special gifts that add to the strength of the group, and in Into Darkness, Geissinger really steps up her game and gives her characters some very unique and cool gifts. Color me jealous! I would love to be able to turn solid matter into dust like Magnus, or foretell the future in my dreams like Demetrius.

6. Into Darkness takes place in the future. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this is more of a post apocalyptic story that I expected, but by setting her story in the future, Geissinger is able to not only show the horrible effects of a certain event from the past, but also to give her characters more devastating problems to overcome.

7. Dragons! I don’t want to spoil the actual reason for dragons being part of the series, but let’s just say I was surprised and delighted by the unexpected way that the author uses dragons, especially in this book.

8. A fast-paced plot that is perfectly balanced with quieter, more emotional moments. You may not equate “romance” with “fast-paced plot,” but let me tell you, Geissinger is a master at pacing, and she really does know how to strike a satisfying balance between action and romance.

9. The relationships. I already mentioned how wonderful the relationship is between sisters Lumina and Honor, but there are other emotional and heartwarming bonds as well, like the one between Lumina and her father. Yes, the romance between Lumina and Magnus is hot, but this time around, I was more interested in the other relationships.

10. Happy endings! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that all ends well at the end of Into Darkness. After all, this is a romance at heart, where such things as happy endings are expected. (And for those of you with smut on your minds, this book has a satisfying amount of that type of happy ending as well!)

And so I bid a fond “farewell” to the Night Prowler series. I can’t wait to see what J.T. has in store for us next! I, for one, will be the first in line. Now please excuse me while I go cry in the corner…

Big thanks to Montlake Romance for supplying a review copy.

Find Into Darkness:

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Over-Booked (12) – A Book Haul Post

Over booked banner

Over-Booked is my version of the book haul post, where I am linking up with Stacking the Shelves at Tynga’s Reviews and The Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s been an entire month since I’ve done an Over-Booked! What with my daughter’s choir show taking up most of October so far (and it’s over now, so *sigh of relief*), I just haven’t had time.

Luckily for my teetering review pile, I don’t have too many review books, but I was lucky enough to win a giveaway, so you can see my winnings below. Here are my new books this week:

Won:

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I entered a blogoversary giveaway on a whim, and was lucky enough to win $50 worth of books from The Book Depository! I couldn’t have been more excited when I got the news! HUGE thanks to Carrie at The Mad Reviewer for these awesome books:

Winger and Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. After finally reading my first Smith book (100 Sideways Miles), I was hooked, and I wanted to go back and read some of his earlier books. These two have been on my wish list for a while!

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. This is one of Beukes earlier books, and I’ve heard it’s pretty amazing. Plus Angry Robot published it, and I love most everything they publish.

Generation V and Iron Night by M. L. Brennan. Many bloggers love this series, and I finally took the advice of MogsyTabitha and Nathan, and now I have my own copies of the first two books (book three comes out soon!). My plan is to read Generation V this month, review pile be damned!

Review books:

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The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue. I got an unsolicited ARC of this a few months ago, and then this finished copy showed up. Now I must read and review it! Thanks Tor Books:-)

J by Howard Jacobson. Big thanks to Blogging for Books for this one. I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw it on their website, and it’s a bit risky for me, but I’m giving it a shot!

Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell. Thanks to Pyr books for this ARC. Although this is Book #4 in the series, I believe it can be read as a stand-alone. (And if not, I’ll let you know as soon as I read it). This doesn’t come out until February, so it will be a couple of months before I get to it.

Digital ARCs from Edelweiss & NetGalley:

Young Woman in a Garden: Stories by Delia Sherman. I have a book by Sherman in the older part of my personal library, and I didn’t realize she was still writing. This short story collection looks really good, and big plus, it’s published by one of my very favorite small presses: Small Beer Press. Thanks Small Beer!

Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne. This one sounds like a bunch of fun! Girl superheores…Yes! Thank you, Harper Voyager Impulse!

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick. I was excited to be approved for Sedgwick’s latest, after really enjoying We Are Not Invisible. Thanks to Roaring Brook Press.

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley. I’m taking a chance on a new, small UK publisher with this title. They claim to publish “weird” fiction, and I am looking forward to checking this one out. Thanks to Unsung Stories for the review copy!

That’s my haul! Have you read any of these? What’s your haul like this week?

 

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Guest Post With Catherine Egan: Meet Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

As you may know by now, I am (and always will be) a HUGE Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and when author Catherine Egan approached me about doing a guest post on villains, in particular one of Buffy‘s most interesting villains—Mayor Richard Wilkins III from Season Three—I couldn’t say no! Catherine’s third book in her Tian Di series, called Bone, Fog, Ash & Star, has recently been released, and she’s celebrating with a blog tour. So please welcome Catherine to Books, Bones & Buffy!

Author Guest Post

(This is one in a series of blog posts on villains; you can check out my blog for a list of villain-posts.)

Sometimes the Bad Guy just wants to be a Big Snake

The third and final book in my fantasy series The Last Days of Tian Di is in bookstores now. It’s a funny thing, finishing a series. It feels strange to be done when I’ve lived with these characters for so long. I’ve moved on to the next thing, but if I stop to think of what I’ll miss most about writing in that world, the answer is easy: the villains.

I love my villains. I love villains in general. I love writing them, reading them, watching them, thinking and talking about them. When done well, they can be such beautifully complicated characters, and the best of them are scary as hell while also being weirdly compelling or even sympathetic. As a book-writer doing a blog series on villains, I am focusing my posts on villains from books – but here is the exception, because I simply could not write about villains without including Mayor Richard Wilkins III from S3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The genius of BtVS lay at least partly in its agility – pulling off a Hunger Games-esque level of angst, terror, and high stakes, while also making fun of the very tropes it employed, and seamlessly blending in the show’s comic tone without detracting from the drama. J.K. Rowling has this agility as well, but I can’t think of many other writers who combine drama and humor quite so successfully, showing equal deftness with both. The Mayor is the show’s supreme example of this agility, and while much of the credit is due to Harry Groener’s flawless, gleeful performance, he was given first-rate material to work with.

He seems normal, doesn’t he?

At first, the Mayor is a spoof of the ruthless, conservative “family-values” politician. He won’t tolerate swearing, he is obsessively clean, jolly but firm, one moment giggling over the Family Circus (“That PJ, he’s getting to be quite a handful!”) and then organizing his monstrous underlings to kidnap newborn babies as payment for a demon. He could turn on a dime and be terrifying, too. Think of the scene when he confronts the Scoobies in the library, remarking to Giles that he’s done a fine job “raising” Buffy, and then baring his teeth and growling, “I’m going to eat her.” These moments when the mask drops are used sparingly, but to tremendous effect.

He starts out as a cleverer version of S1’s Vampire king, The Master, who was legitimately scary but also a hilariously hammy send-up of the kind of villain he was portraying. The Mayor is funnier, and he is scarier, but what makes him a truly great villain is his budding father-daughter relationship with slayer-gone-bad Faith. His growing love for her, and hers for him, is one of the most moving elements of the series. Making the viewer / reader feel for a villain while also putting that villain quite beyond redemption is powerful stuff. And there’s no better way to make us feel for them than to make them feel.

Faith

Faith and Mayor Wilkins

Faith is a heartbreaking figure – unloved, traumatized, an outsider, and going terribly, terribly wrong. She wants most of all what Buffy has: friends, parental figures, love. When the Mayor tries to cheer her up after a showdown with her ex-friends, he suggests a game of miniature golf, and our bad girl actually cracks a smile at his goofy delight. He is Faith’s undoing – turning her into a cold-blooded killer, cementing her transition to the Dark Side – but in a lovely twist, he is also exactly what she needs. He is the wrong man for a job that simply has no other applicants, and so he becomes the firm, authoritative but loving father she never had. When she puts on the pretty dress he has bought her (for his ascension to demonhood), she is awkward and pleased and uncertain: “It just isn’t me, though.” In one of the sweetest scenes the show ever devised, he tells her: “Nobody knows what you are. Not even you, little Miss Seen-It All. The ascension isn’t just my day, it’s yours too. Your day to blossom, to show the world what a powerful girl you are. I think of what you’ve done, what I know you will do… no father could be prouder.” And the ever-cynical badass Faith says, with absolute love and sincerity: “I hope I don’t let you down.”

And we have to watch these characters defeated and destroyed! There is such a cruel artistry to the set-up. When he finds her apartment wrecked and Faith missing, the Mayor is distraught and the emotional drive of the narrative flips, so that we are briefly, confusingly on his side, this man whose beloved daughter-figure is missing, who will do anything to save her, to find her. He will level the town if that’s what it takes. How can we not empathize with him completely at that moment? In later seasons, Faith’s painful journey towards atonement wins her real allies and friends (in Angel most particularly), but nobody else in the show ever loves her like the Mayor did. She doesn’t find that again.

When developing a character, the writer has to ask herself, “What does s/he want?” That’s crucial to how we understand our heroes and our villains alike. If the answer is “rule the world” or “become a big ol’ demon,” well, fine, he can still be a great character but it’s not all that interesting. In seeking to make our characters truly human (even if they aren’t), we need to ask “Who or what do they love?” For the Mayor, that’s what changes everything. That’s what raises the stakes for the final showdown, heightening the viewer’s emotions by creating an emotional conflict. We get the Mayor as goofy spoof-villain, the Mayor as doting father, and the Mayor as terrifying, invulnerable monster. This multi-layered and multi-toned character portrayal requires a tremendous amount of agility both from the actor and the writers, and the resulting villain is a near perfect piece of work.

Buffy about to destroy Mayor Wilkins!

Thanks, Catherine, for stopping by today! 

About the author:

me_picCatherine Egan grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and wrote her first novel at age 6. It was about a group of kids on a farm who ran races. Each chapter ended with “Cathy won the race again!” Since then, she has lived in Oxford, Tokyo, Kyoto, a volcanic Japanese island that erupted and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband, Beijing, an oil rig in China’s Bohai Bay, and now Connecticut, where she is still writing books (but Cathy doesn’t win every race anymore). Her first novel, Shade & Sorceress, won a 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (Gold) and was named an Ontario Library Association Best Bet for 2012 in the Young Adult Fiction category.

Find Catherine here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

About the books:

The Last Days of Tian Di book 3: Bone, Fog, Ash & Star

Eliza hoped she could start a new life and avoid the Oracle’s terrible prophecies. That hope is dashed on her sixteenth birthday, when her best friend Charlie is nearly murdered. To find out who tried to kill him and why, Eliza must return to the life she swore she’d left behind forever in the Mancer Citadel. Soon, Eliza is pushed to her very limits, struggling to protect those she loves and pursued unrelentingly by powerful enemies as she undertakes a quest to collect four ancient treasures with the power to change the world. Impossible choices and shocking truths lie in wait as Eliza and her friends band together for a final confrontation in this conclusion to the series.

Add to Goodreads: Shade & Sorceress | The Unmaking | Bone, Fog, Ash & Star

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Waiting on Wednesday (121) THE VANISHING THRONE by Elizabeth May

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books that we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. I think I’m jumping the gun a bit on this one, but I was so excited to see a cover and title for the sequel to the amazing The Falconer! There isn’t even a U.S. release date or cover yet, but that’s not stopping me from sharing it:

The Vanishing Throne

The Vanishing Throne (The Falconer #2) by Elizabeth May. Releases in September 2015 in the UK. U.S. date: UNKNOWN!! I really loved The Falconer, and even though I suspect the U.S. edition is more than a year away from publication, I’m already excited about the next book in the series. Here’s what Goodreads says:

My name is Lady Aileana Kameron.

First the fae murdered my mother. Then they destroyed my world.

Now I’m fighting for more than revenge.

Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility. But when she gets her chance, she seizes it . . . to rejoin a world devastated by war.

The future is bleak. Hunted by the fae, running for her life, Aileana has only a few options left. Trying to become part of a society scarred by – and hiding from – the Wild Hunt; trusting that a fragile alliance with the fae will save her; or walking the most dangerous path at all: coming in to her own powers as the last of the Falconers . . .

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Have you read The Falconer? Are you as anxious to read The Vanishing Throne as I am?

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