Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Carol Book Tag!

Merry Christmas Y'all!

I was tagged by the lovely ladies, Fari and Kitty, over at My Little Corner For Books to do the Christmas Carol Book Tag.  Go check their blog out, it is wonderful!  This may be my last post for a week or so, depending on how present wrapping goes in the morning.  I'm off to Tennessee for another week with the family so only my phone and Kindle for internet access.

1.) "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" - Name a villainous character that you can't help but love to hate.
Good gravy, this is a hard one.  I'll always lean towards Draco Malfoy with this, mostly because he is so overly damaged. I know he is a coward but I always felt like he was just manipulated and I wanted to help him.
Only somewhat related but it cracks me up
I do have a close second and it's the Darkling from The Grisha series.  Perfect bad boy that you adore.  He has become the standard for most for their evil male leads.

2.) "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - What book do you most want to find under your Christmas tree?
I have a funny story about this song involving a bunch of fraternity guys, Southern Comfort and Mariah Carey playing over the speakers during a party.  Moving on...I'm going to have to dive into my TBR list for this one.
It has beautiful photographs. I can't help it.
It has amazing photography and is a wonderful portrait of the region that I'm in.  Also, if you are going to do a photo book, do a hardcover and that is a bit out of my price range.  Do want.

3.) "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" - Name your favorite character that had to overcome a major obstacle. Why are they your favorite?
Can I pick two?  They are from the same book.  I have to go with Mr. John Thornton and Margaret Hale from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Their obstacles are basically self-created, be it prejudice of location or pride but I love their story and I adore the BBC mini series.  They have a perfect love story in my mind and it is because they both realize their mistakes and atone for them.

4.) "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Which character to do you think is at the top of Santa's "Nice" list and which is at the top of his "Naughty" list?
Jeb from  Splintered has to be at the top of his "Nice" list just because he is so flipping good.  On the other hand, Morpheus is at the top of his "Naughty" list, from the same book.  I mean, they are perfectly opposite of each other.

5.) "Frosty the Snowman" - What book just melts your heart?
I have to go with Mariana by Susanna Kearsley.  All the feels.  The story of Mariana is just so sad and if I could write a cross time love story, this would be it.

6.) "Feliz Navidad" - Your favorite book that takes place in a country other than your own.
I have an entire shelf for these books on my Goodreads page.  The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning is pretty much on target for this one.

7.) "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" - What book do you read to get you in the Christmas spirit?
My mother would read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry to my brother and I every year before Christmas when we were little.  Now that there are little babies in the family (older cousins, not me), we are passing it on and it always puts me in the right mind set for Christmas.
Also, the illustrations are magical
8.) "Sleigh Ride" - What character would you most want to spend the holiday with?
That's such a hard one!  The Weasley's would be pretty awesome to spend Christmas with.  They have a wonderful family atmosphere and are so welcoming to all.  

9.) "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Which book do you hate so much you'd sacrifice it to the fire to stay warm?
I'm one of those people that blocks out the memories of horrible books so I have to go to my 1 star list on Goodreads for this one.  Ah...yes...

My friend in high school gave me the entire series for my birthday one year before a long trip and I read them all on the 16 hour total drive.  I should have just watched the trees pass on the highway.

10.) "Do You Hear What I Hear?" - What book would you recommend to everyone?
The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden.  I cannot say enough good things about this book!

And that is all for this tag!  I feel like I'm the last one in the blogosphere that hasn't done this tag but if you haven't YOU ARE OFFICIALLY TAGGED! 

I hope everybody has a wonderful and safe holiday!  Spend time with loved ones and spread the love and joy of the season around!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is a retelling of the classic fairytale, Beauty and the Beast.  It follows a young girl, Nyx, who was raised to be the killer of a demon called the Gentle Lord who torments her world and killed her mother.  She is forced to marry him by her father who keeps her twin sister safe at home in his palace.  The Gentle Lord tricks people into bargains and if you watch Once Upon A Time, you know that all magic comes with a price.  But there is other life in her gilded prison than just Ignifex, her husband.  A shadow moves and he may be her only hope to kill her husband and free her world of his reign.

This was such a cover bait and switch.  I adore the cover simply because it is beautiful.  However, it has no relevant meaning to the actual plot.  No staircases. No roses (but the cover led me to expect one like the movie).  That is sort of the first strike with me.  I hate irrelevant covers since all they do is draw the eye but provide no real substance.  I mean, is it *that* hard to incorporate elements of the story into the cover?  There could have been a heart here or a ballroom or anything but what is actually here.  Badly done.

So First Strike, the cover.  Second Strike...

What I expected out of this book:

Maybe I was a bit naive.  I wanted a beautiful love story where a girl sacrifices herself to save her family and her kingdom out of the goodness of her heart and discovers that there is a wonderful man hidden behind the beast.  I would have even enjoyed it if the author had explored a bit of Stockholm Syndrome or even broadened the "Lumiere" role from the movie into a deep and interesting character.  I went into this craving a slow burn romance where they both struggle with their new affections but desperately want to do what is right.  It could have been a beautiful book but...

What I got out of this book:

So much angst. I can understand a lot of it to be honest though.  I mean, her father does sacrifice her to be the bride of a demon so that she can make up for his mistakes.  I can see why Nyx would be resentful and angry about things.  But that doesn't have to be the whole book.

Also, Nyx is supposed to be the assassin of a demon.  Now, you would think that logically that would lead to her having some sort of productive training in some of the kick ass arts.  Maybe poisons or how to use a knife or something.  She would have been as prepared as possible going into this situation.  Is that what happened?  No.  All her life she has been taught to draw 4 symbols over and over until she can do it without thinking.  She can also find them when they are hidden in other drawings.

Of all the silly things to bring down an evil demon, flipping scribbles are his kryptonite?  Ridiculous.  Give the poor girl some practical skills instead of training her to doodle.  It was the silliest weakness that I have ever heard of and for it to be the real flaw for Ignifex just made my blood boil.

Another problem I had with Nyx was the insta-love.  She pretty much immediately trusts a weird shadow on the wall and within a very short time span, is following him around the castle like a cow off her feed.  

Come on girl! He is the employee of a demon!  Shouldn't you have a little bit better sense of self-preservation and be at least a little bit cautious?  She then quickly switches sides and decides that maybe her captor that has basically ignored her this entire time is the one she should be devoting her life to.  Talk about whiplash.  She pretty much goes from zero to sixty with him and it made very little sense.  One second, she wanted to kill him.  The next, not so much.

My last bone to pick with Nyx and then I'll move on.  She is easily swayed.  She never questions her fate.  Sure, she is mad about it but she never tries to take things into her own hands.  Her sister is able to manipulate her.  Her father manipulates her.  Shade manipulates her.  Ignifex freaking owns her.  She is like playdoh and whoever is "handling" her at that point is the one that she is agreeing with.  Nyx really wasn't much of a character, overall.

Third Strike:


I adore the name.  It sounds so evil and wonderful and you expect someone truly mad to go along with it.  Is that what we get?  No.  He is instead the laziest bad guy I have ever read.  He lounges around all day waiting for someone to try to make a bargain with him.  If he were truly bad, he would be out roaming the countryside making offers to people of bargains or actively trying to ruin peoples' lives.  Or, if he were in some way good, he would be out trying to subvert the evil in the world and he would at least be busy some of the time.  Every time we encounter him though, he isn't doing a damn thing.

So his fatal flaw is really laziness instead of those hearts.

And Nyx's flaw of self loathing and jealousy at first makes you sympathetic but after a while, you just get sick of it. Stop talking about your family problems and get something done.

Look, I understand that retellings can be tough in many ways.  I once had to write 2 for a creative writing project and half of the problem is that the story line is already there and it is very difficult to change preconceived notions about the plot.  You have to make your story different enough for it to be unique but still true to the original story.  I could have read this story without it being associated with Beauty and the Beast and I probably would have approached it better.  It is one of my favorite fairytales and I feel like I had some pretty high expectations for it.  This book utterly fell flat.

There was far too much emphasis on world building and ceremonies.  There were quite a few info dumps and I just couldn't get into all of the tradition and rules.  It felt like the author was trying too hard to cram a lot of information into a small book.  The gods and wine pouring ceremonies just weren't necessary to the plot.  Too many details, too much going on and too much emphasis on what the world was like instead of the characters.  

If your characters and plot are strong, then the world will build itself.  Like the Harry Potter books and Lord of the Rings, there is a time and a place for explanation but it has to be done sparsely and concisely so that you can hang onto your readers.  A lot of this may have been solved by a map or simply better descriptions.  Things frequently got over-explained.  Editing could have been better for this and the idea of  "Don't tell me, show me" got overlooked.

Overall, I really did not like this book, mostly because I found myself rolling my eyes throughout it.  I didn't enjoy the plot, the main character was just a silly little girl and the danger was never real in my eyes.  The world building was far too complicated and I wanted at least one strong character to crop up.  That never happened.

 Would not recommend.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: Guilt Trip by Maggie Farrell

Alright y'all...I know I went AWOL for a week or two but I have a really good reason!  I was down at the beach and didn't have a lick of internet access besides what was on my phone.  We spent the entire week eating good fried food, walking on the beach, collecting shells and generally having a nice relaxing time.  Oh, and....

Yup! I got engaged over the weekend.  He proposed at the beach Saturday morning while we were on vacation and it was perfect.  Everybody I know is really excited but apparently I have been remiss in my upbringing as a Southern Lady as I do not have a date, location, caterer, cake and wedding colors already picked out and on deck.  Ah, well at least I have some ideas.  The color pink is already off the table as well as there is a requirement of bourbon and or scotch to be at the reception.  I think I can accommodate both fairly well.

Moving onto a book review.  This isn't a wedding blog, it's a book blog!  Time to get back into the rhythm of things and I have lots of books coming your way!

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through the Goodreads group, Lovers of Paranormal.

I've honestly been in a bit of a reading slump as far as Read 2 Review stuff goes.  It has been hard to find a really good well thought out book that was intriguing enough to keep me happy with it.  This book broke all my expectations and blew me out of the water!

Guilt Trip by Maggy Farrell is sort of an unassuming book at first.  It is about a young girl who is suffering from Survivor's Syndrome after she escapes a car wreck and her mother does not.  As a way to take her mind off things, her father takes her on a holiday while he photographs the geologic features of the English moorlands and judges a photography competition.  Melissa has been struggling to cope with the events of the last year and is medicated to take the edge off the hallucinations and nightmares that plague her.

Melissa thinks it is just another symptom cropping up when she starts to recall memories that aren't hers but when they start to involve the older yet attractive landlord of the hotel, she realizes that something much more than nightmares is going on.

The cover itself isn't all that thrilling but as I understand it, it is a depiction of some interesting limestone cave features that are somewhat prominent in the book.  I loved that this book included so much as far as geology.  It helps place the setting well and adds to the spookiness of the book.  The pitch black of a cave is a great location for some of the action.

Melissa is a wonderful character to read, mostly because it is so easy to sympathize with her.  She is a victim from the beginning and plays the role well.  I mean, her mother died right in front of her.  I can understand how that would torment you and follow you around everywhere.  Melissa pushes her father away to some extent in order to protect him from her sad realities and instead becomes attached to a much older man.

Luke is somewhere in the range of 35 and she, I believe, is 16.  Yes, it's creepy.  Yes, it is a bit of insta-love but it really works in this context.  He is also the landlord so it adds some more of that forbidden nature to the relationship and local people keep saying that she reminds them of someone else that Luke was somehow connected to.

That's another well written aspect of this book.  There is a small town feel with small town gossip.  While people talk among themselves about rumors and scandal, they do not let outsiders in and that contributes to the thriller feel.  There are closed doors and whispers behind backs that make up a decent portion of the story.

And the plot twists.

This book cannot be predicted in any way.  In the middle of it, you are sort of going "Alright, so x, y, and z are going to happen" but it was so different that what I expected.  It had me flipping pages back and saying "No way!"  It takes a lot for a book to catch me off guard in such a way that it makes sense but this was perfectly done.

So overall, 4 out of 5 stars.  Some aspects of the story could have been written better but it was a great read.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Reader Problems Tag

I have been tagged by Izzy over at The Reading Izzy to do another tag! I love stuff like this because it makes us explore our reading habits and what we read.  I know I've put a weird emphasis on that in a few posts but I think it is tons of fun.  Y'all go check out Izzy's Blog!

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?
Well, 20,000 is a lot more than I have on my TBR.  I think the actual number is somewhere in the 300 range which feels a bit excessive sometimes.  I have a kindle so some of my choices regarding books take price into consideration.  If I just bought a book that was over $7, the next book I buy is usually less than $3.  The bigger factor, however, are the reviews.  I look at my friends' reviews and the overall star rating as a good indicator of the quality of the book and it has only failed me a few times.  I notice frequently that the classics have fairly low ratings but I read those mostly based of reputation.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?
I am fully 100% committed. I always finish what I start.  I have a few compulsions in my life and a good number of them are based on books.  If y'all could only see my notes from high school and college, you would see just how neurotic I can get.  (I may be exploring this in a later post)  It drives me absolutely up the wall if I do not finish a book.  I can walk away from them for a short time but if there is a bookmark in them, it is pretty much a guarantee that one night I will stay up until it is finished, just to get it over with.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?
This goes back to the compulsions.  I make it a point to always be ahead on challenges like this.  I'm one of those people that sees the ETA on my GPS as a time to beat and I'm always early for everthing.  This year, I put 60 books down for my challenge which I thought was a fair and reasonable goal and I'm almost at 100.  In theory, if I was behind, I would basically lock myself in a room and read as much as possible. I couldn't just not beat the challenge. 

4. The covers of a series you love do not match. How do you cope?
Kindles are extremely handy for this reason.  Once you have a book open, you don't really have to look at the cover if they are hideous or don't match and then you can stash them in a bookshelf when you are through.  The biggest problem with this is that you also don't get to enjoy the pretty covers as much.  I value consistency in my covers. I could never understand it when the style changes halfway through a series.

5. Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
Goodreads is great for bonding.  No matter what book it is, I don't care if it is the best seller of all time, there will be at least a few people that don't like it.  The opposite is true as well.  Goodreads helps you connect with these rare few and commiserate a little bit.  I don't believe in bashing books because people put a lot of time and effort into them but if I am just confused as to why people like it so much, I'll reach out to the Goodreads world.

6. You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
It takes a lot for a book to make me cry in public but on the rare chance that it does, I'll switch out for another book (hopefully a funny one) so that I can compose myself.  If I know a book will be sad, I try to read it out of public eye so I don't make a fool out of myself.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a synopsis on Goodreads? Cry in frustration?!?!?!?
I re-read. I re-read series even if there isn't a new one coming out any time soon.  The biggest problem I have, and this is the only time I break my "If I start something, I'm going to finish it" rule is if/when I stop caring about the characters from the first book(s).  If I am not thinking about the characters, I don't feel compelled to learn more about their lives.  Or if I got spoiled, I won't pick up the next book.

8. You do not want anyone—ANYONE—borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?
Ugh, this used to be a big problem for me.  I HATE it when people crack the spines of books when I would lend them out.  It makes the book weaker and more prone to falling apart.  I used to dread getting school books passed down from my older brother since there were always drawings from his friends in the margins and the spines were broken.  I had a friend (frenemy?) in college that broke the spines on all of the books in a series and I haven't let anybody but my boyfriend borrow books since.  I'm possessive and a bit of a hoarder with books.  So if someone asks, I usually just say that the book is on my kindle or that I don't lend books.  One person ruined it for the rest of y'all.

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?
If I'm in a slump over reading, I usually do one of two things.  I either pick up a classic or an old favorite or I binge watch a series on Netflix.  Both help me cleanse the palette in a way and get me out of a perpetual grump cycle that I can get into.  Classics are familiar and often live up to the hype so I never regret reading them.  I re-read a lot of my older books and the reason I started Once Upon A Time was to get over a few books that had left me mad that they wasted my time.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
One at a time.  Otherwise, it would drive me bonkers.  If I had more than one book that I was looking forward to, I would rush through one just to get to the other.  I don't want to rush my books because I'm too eager to get to another one.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?
It depends on what is going on in my life.  I'll usually start reading them within a couple of hours or days.  I rarely have a book that sits for more than a week.  I've had a few shoulder surgeries/back procedures and and if one is coming up and I am in anesthesia recovery or in physical therapy icing joints, it takes me longer to get to a book.  I'm always a little bit too ambitious about my focusing abilities after sedation or whatever.

This was so much fun.  Thanks to Izzy fog tagging me!  Since I want to hear everybody else's take on this, I'm tagging a few more people:

ParanormalBlogger at Paranormal Book Reviews

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Book Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard (Splintered #1)

I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving or weekend if you are not in the States.  I spent time with way too much family and had a wonderful time.  I was in Tennessee from Tuesday until tonight and as much as I love my family, it was time to come home.  I participated in a buddy read over the break though and absolutely adored it.  It kept me sane which is ironic considering the book...


Look at this cover. This one was definitely not a bait and switch because the story is just as wonderful as the art.  It shows how twisted and messed up this book is and it really gives it a Wonderland feel.

Splintered by A.G. Howard is the story of Alice in Wonderland but not as we know it.  Alyssa is terrified that she is becoming her mother the day she starts hearing bugs talk to her.  The last thing she wants is to be in an asylum for the rest of her life but as things are going right now, that is exactly the road she is heading down.  After all, every other Alice in her family since the original Alice has traveled the same path and ended with the same result.  A padded room and a straitjacket.

So Alyssa hides her delusions behind her artwork and is just hoping to make it through high school without losing her mind.  That is hard enough just being a normal teenager with a unrequited crush on her attractive neighbor and lifelong friend, Jeb.  Adding the possibility of insanity on top of that is enough to drive someone...well...

But what if her mother isn't insane?  What if she isn't either and everything that she sees and experiences is real and it is her turn to right what is wrong?  Alyssa falls down the rabbit hole to make sense of things and encounters a very different world than what we have all grown up with.


I couldn't have done it if I were her.  I couldn't watch my mother go slowly insane and realize that was my future.  Knowing that whoever I fell in love with would end up with that same wearied look that her father had and familial love would eventually be rendered via a supervised and planned visit at an asylum.  That being said, Alyssa is awesome.


Jeb is one of those characters that you either love or you hate.  Most people I know kind of hated him and I totally understand.  Jeb is the ultimate good in Alyssa's world.  He is loyal and steadfast as and friend and a born protector.  Sometimes the heroine has to fall in love with the white knight and that is ok.

I found his loyalty and determination endearing but it wasn't like he was without faults.  He lies to Alyssa, in his mind for her best interests, and keeps her at arms length in many ways.  He is a jerk at times and a cliche at others but I liked him and sort of wished more guys were like him.


I have to admit that I came into this book with massive expectations for Morpheus.  I was thinking a sick, twisted and wrong sort of guy who was oozing raw power and control.  He was the nighttime and the depravity to Jeb's goodness and the seduction and manipulation to Jeb's reason.

He is the perfect antagonist because his logic is incredibly sound and he works it perfectly. You want to trust him and his methods are smooth and he seduces Alyssa effortlessly, using her past and her future to sway her to his side.  Morpheus is the underworld bad boy that is wonderfully juxtaposed to Jeb's white knight.  And Alyssa has to choose.

He is not the type you bring home to mama.  Morpheus is the boy you keep to yourself and don't tell anybody about because you don't want them to steal him.   He is the one that brings out your dark side and shows you how good it can feel to be bad.

I don't remember the first time I read Alice in Wonderland but it has been a long time.  I loved the recent movie with Johnny Depp and that sort of kept me familiar enough with the story line to understand what was going on.  You can't really reach into this book and understand it without a basic knowledge of the original plot.

It was beautifully written and I honestly struggled to put it down.  The plot was absolutely mesmerizing.  The descriptions were rich with color and detail but never overloaded the story.  I felt like I could see the characters in these environments and they fit.

So what happens after Wonderland? 

I'm excited for the novella and the next book.  My book group, Book Talk, will be starting The Moth in the Mirror on Tuesday and moving onto Unhinged soon after.  I'm super psyched about the series.

Has anybody else read this?  What did you think?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving and a Buddy Read!

Hello all and Happy Thanksgiving!   

The dam at the lake on a nice summer's evening
I'm going ahead and doing this post right now before I leave for the lake where there is little to no internet.  I'll be able to check messages and email and such but it involves a hike and searching for 4G connectivity.  I'm also having struggles with my laptop as well, as it takes a significant amount of effort to even charge the damn thing.  It may be a power cord issue or it may be a time to get a new laptop. We shall see after the holiday I guess.

So yeah, Thanksgiving with my family is always chaos.  We will be cramming 20+ people into a house and trying to all get along for a couple of days.  There will be 11 cousins, a bunch of aunts and uncles and parents, some second cousins, some little children and my father who will probably be in the kitchen laughing and causing subtle chaos.  There is a reason he is called The Puppetmaster.  I have some family members who are somewhat easily offended and he owns them during the holiday season.  The general rule with my father is if you find your blood pressure rising and the hair on the back of your neck standing up, he is just screwing with you to try to get a rise out of you.

There is also the Iron Bowl this weekend, if that means anything to the football fans out there.  I'm from Alabama and I apparently have to pick a side in all of this Alabama/Auburn debate.  Personally, I like Auburn but there is no rhyme or reason to it.  My brother is an Alabama fan and after last year, he is sort of looking for redemption.  It doesn't really matter to me but it is fun to watch him get all upset.

Both of the dogs got baths last night for the occasion and neither was very happy about it.  These are the faces of good dogs who didn't deserve this and are very upset with me right now.
Why did you do this to me? I love you and I never do this to you!
I will be traumatized for the rest of my life!

Tara hates baths to begin with so we usually give her a bath in the laundry sink in the basement where it is easier to contain the escape attempts.  However, Beulah is too big for the sink and it is too cold for the hose so this fiasco got moved inside.  Beulah was so upset that she couldn't figure out how to get out of the door and Tara didn't look at me for the rest of the night.

It will be a 4 hour drive tonight up to Tennessee where my mother and I will spend the next day and a half prepping for dinners and football and such.  Hopefully, I'll be given the opportunity to sit down and relax at some point though which brings me to my next order of business, NEW BOOKS!

Some GR friends and I have started a group that is basically buddy reads for fun, mostly with series or YA books.  We were getting bored with some of the stuff we were reading and realized we were all reading the same books anyways so we started the group just so we can talk with each other about the books and not cram up our reviews.  

This sort of started with the Ghost Bird series and snowballed from there.  We were fangirling (really bad) about our book boyfriends and debating with each other on our reviews and it was hard to keep everything straight.  There was finally a breaking point when we made a list of the next books we wanted to read and then the thread was starting to get long and we had that "Ah, screw it" moment.

We called it Book Talk and anybody can join in!  

Our first read will be Splintered by A.G. Howard and we will start it on Thanksgiving.  Look at this cover. Just look at it.

This book is a new take on Alice in Wonderland and I am super pumped for it.  I've already put it on my kindle and it keeps staring at me.  I will resist though, for just another couple of days. Probably.  It's calling to me though and it is so pretty. I'm like a moth to the flame, I can't resist a beautiful and well rendered cover. It looks like it even has some hints about the plot!

The goal is to finish this by Sunday so we can talk about this book next week and possibly get to the next book in the series soon.  I've heard only wonderful things about Splintered and I am really looking forward to this.  It will be a thing to look forward to over the holiday.

Does anybody else have big plans for Thanksgiving?  Major turkey day or just a day to relax and watch football? Drop me a comment!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Insta-Love is Insta-Boring

We've all read those books. You think it is going to be a story about a young heroine, overcoming massive obstacles and fighting for what is good and right in the world.  And then they find the guy of their dreams and OMG he is so hot and I am already in love with him even though I barely know him and he may be a rapist or a murderer or have weird fetishes about feet and I don't know but he is perfect for me for ever and ever! 

In some ways, Disney sort of had the corner of the Insta-Love market for a while. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin...all of them fall under the same balloon of the girl making her first impression of a man, mostly by looks or outward charm, and going "Yup! This is it!"

I never really minded it in animation.  It simplifies the plot for kids in many ways and the target audience is generally not looking for a long drawn out courtships.  Disney has even started to roll back this idea of falling in love with a guy as soon as you meet him with movies like Tangled and The Princess and the Frog.  It was refreshing to see these role models for girls more concerned with their future than some handsome guy who randomly pops up.  They are grounded girls who have goals.  Those are the kinds of characters that modern girls should be looking up to.  That is not to say that the old Disney movies are completely without merit because they aren't.  Many of them were revolutionary in the animation world but their plots are dated now and have been rejected by many because of their emphasis on a man making your world complete.

But insta-love has worked its way into books and it sucks. Not a fan. Will never be a fan.

Instant attraction is real. Once again, we have all been there and it is pretty much based on first impressions.  You are at a party and you see someone across the room and your first reaction is somewhere along the lines of "Hot damn!". That's normal.  People do that all the time and can be the start of a relationship but probably shouldn't be the basis for one.  It is not normal for your first thought when seeing someone to run along the lines of "MINE FOREVER!" 

I can respect books that have instant attraction but this whole falling in love with a guy you have talked with once or twice is ridiculous.  The words "lamb to the slaughter" come to mind.  Insta-love is often paired with a girl that "isn't judgmental" or is an outsider in some way which is even worse.  So not only are you dangerously naive, but you are a hypocrite and this is the one that is supposed to be the heroine and fix everything?

One of the few books where insta-love has worked for me is Shatter Me with the character of Warner.  You know why it works well?  It's because he is a broken and obsessive guy with human interaction issues.  He isn't normal and his immediate possessiveness of Juliette is a symptom of his problems.  Also, Juliette doesn't love him back instantly and he has to work for what he wants.

The stories where people have to work for each other are the ones that capture my attention and admiration and many of the classic love stories focus on that.  Pride and Perjudice and North and South are two stories that contain wonderful love stories that took time and energy to come to fruition.  Those are the stories that stick with you and should be examples for writers.  Other more modern examples include the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning even a book like Austenland where the idea in the long run is about making a connection and finding love but the kicker is finding the right love for you.

All of these cliched stories of people finding their true love and happily ever after are unrealistic in a way that makes me want to throw things.  What is the worst book for insta-love that you have read? Have you read a book where it actually worked? (Outside of fairy tales) I'd love to hear your opinions on it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time slip novels by Susanna Kearsley

Everybody has that author that every time they put out a book, you read it. Maybe they have a theme that works or things are always thought out well. Maybe their characters are developed well or there are real surprises and twists in their books.  For me, that author is Susanna Kearsley.

Kearsley, for the most part, writes what she calls "Time Slip" novels.  They focus on a modern character somehow being incorporated into past events.  They can be passively involved, watching scenes unfold from an outside perspective or the characters can be active in past events.  The best part of these stories is that it never happens in the same way twice.

Also, look how pretty her covers are! Sure, there is a theme going, at least with her kindle covers but it works for me.  Her paperback covers are a little more diverse and the ones that were written most recently are equally beautiful.  Each one reveals a tiny piece of the story, even if they all seem very similar.  I personally like the Mariana cover the best.

Kearsley writes mostly about the English countryside and the history associated with it.  Often, the stories are set in the shadow of a beautiful castle or manor house with its own stories to tell.  But still, every one of these books is different from the others.  Three of them, The Shadowy Horses, The Winter Sea, and The Firebird (in that order) all tie together in their own ways but can be read separately.  They are great books to pick up on a cold winter afternoon with a massive cup of tea, a blanket and a fuzzy dog to keep you warm.

Two of these books also have one of my favorite book boyfriends in them.  The Shadowy Horses focuses on Robbie as a child, where his unusual talents with communication with the past are explored by an eccentric archaeologist on the Scottish coast. He is a smart kid to say the least and even as young as he is, Robbie is comfortable with who he is and what he can do.  He accepts himself and everybody respects that, for the most part.  The Firebird catches up with Robbie (Rob now) as a 28 year old man and shows how much he has grown.  I fell completely in love with Rob and it was impossible to resist his charms.

That's how well this author writes her stories.  Kearsley can take a child and turn him into a man without it seeming silly or focusing on his past too much.

So, do y'all have an author that you are obsessed with and read everything they write?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why I Read What I Read

As readers, most of us have been asked questions about the reasons we read what we read.  Usually, we have a stock reply and we move on with our lives.  
"It was a pretty cover."
"I like the author."
"I find the story inspirational."
Which ever was you answer, the questions are normally harmless and we move on with our lives.  However, sometimes these questions make us consider things a little bit more.

Why do you like fantasy and paranormal stuff so much?

I was asked this the other night and frankly, it made me mad.  It was asked in the tone that implied that all books about magic were silly and I guess it is what spurred this whole post.  The question can apply to any genre really and I hate this idea of people being critical of entire categories of literature, as if one is so much more valid than another.  

The majority of what I read is called paranormal, fantasy or urban fantasy.  The reason I invest so much of my time and energy into the magical genres is because it usually provides a battle to be won.  Evil is present and it can be touched and seen.  Evil is experienced in the flesh instead of it being a concept that is hard to pin down.  The bad guys in these books tend to be really bad.  Not only can they kill your entire family like a normal villain can but they can also make you watch as your soul is sucked out by a dementor.  

Another aspect of fantasy/paranormal stuff that is so appealing to me is the fact that there is always hope. I have read some of the more contemporary novels and I am somewhat disturbed by an emerging trend.  I am all for realistic writing.  I think that is important in many ways.  I don't, however, seek out the books that are sad just to be sad. You know the ones.  They end with something along the lines of "and everybody died and that is good because that's life.  Suck it up." I can see how those books can be inspiring for some and necessary for others but for me, they are too difficult to read.  I can read about death and destruction as long as there is some light at the end of the tunnel saying it is all worth it.

Fantasy/Paranormal books can also take the most mundane (haha...mundane) characters and give them power and strength.  It gives everybody potential to defeat the giant and I think that is incredibly important.  I don't want to be told that cancer or a car wreck or whatever may kill me someday.  That's too grim and if that is what I was reading, I would probably be constantly paranoid and be a hypochondriac.

I want to be told that I can have the power to bring down walls.  These books are inspiring and hopeful while often having true joy in them.  The really really good balances with the really really bad and it all works.  The battles between good and evil are epic in proportion and somehow validate to me that everything in the real world isn't as bad as it seems sometimes.  

By the way Hogwarts, I'm still waiting for my letter. It's over 12 years late now.

So what do y'all think? Why do you read the books that you do, be it fantasy, YA or whatever?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: The Storm and the Darkness by Sarah M. Cradit (House of Crimson and Clover #1)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Lovers of Paranormal

The Storm and the Darkness by Sarah M. Cradit is a wonderful beginning to a series. You can sort of tell that it is a set up book where characters reveal themselves and settings are established, but it is well done. It never feels like you are walking through a receiving line at an event going "Hello, my name is _____ and I do _____ for a living and my emotional scars that have shaped me are ______, _____, and _____." The characters and their motivations are introduced slowly and appropriately. The reader is left to form their own opinions and that is awesome.

There is a lot to be said for a simple cover and this is a good example of one. There are no hidden images and no subtext that explains part of the plot.  It shows a storm and an island.  It implies isolation which is exactly what this book is all about.

Ana is a young woman who has left all of her life back in New Orleans in order to hide from her mistakes and protect her friends and family from them. When she arrives on Summer Island in Maine, she realizes quickly how radical a change she has made. Gone are the magnolias and proper manners of the South. Her neighbor, Jonathan St. Andrews, is cold and reclusive. His brother, Finn, is friendly enough but just the kind of man she was running away from. Alex is the old caretaker of the house she has moved into and is supremely helpful but decidedly odd.

What she has left behind is a lot of drama involving friends and family, including her dedicating and loving cousin, Nic. She says that she needed some space and a chance to break away from a sheltered life as a daughter of a wealthy business owner but what she really wants is a place where nobody knows who she is.

There is more to all of this than it seems. The island hides an awful secret and when a winter storm hits, everything is exposed.

This book is billed as paranormal but it isn't an overwhelming thing. The story had the potential to work without it but it was a lovely addition. It wasn't like some modern paranormal stuff where vampires, fae, and werewolves are leaping out of the woodwork and trying to kill people right off the bat. This is a thriller and mystery book with an element of the paranormal, not the other way around.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Looking forward to the next one!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

I read this book a while back but I just reread it, trying to put a bit of a buffer between spending money on new books.  I love to come back to books over and over again, trying to discover new bits and pieces that I missed the first time around.

The Casquette Girls follows the story of a young girl and her father after they return to a decimated New Orleans after what was called "The Storm of the Century". Adele comes back from France where she had been sent in shelter from the storm to live with her estranged mother and snobbish grandmother. Her beloved city has been ripped apart by the storm and amid the recovery, there have been strange happenings and even stranger murders...

"Time after time, I have seen secrets tear people apart."

Look at that cover. Isn't it creepy? I should have read this over Halloween. A significant amount of this book is spent in attics and I believe that's what this cover depicts. It shows a girl that seems to be trapped, looking out into the world beyond. So much about this book is about being stuck and about witnessing events and being powerless. This cover evokes this feeling with the dark negative space in the front, drawing the eye to the "hope" of the light through the cracks.

The Casquette Girls is a mixture of genres in a way. It has a little bit of historical fiction, a good bit of urban fantasy/paranormal and a healthy dose of modern disaster.  It was filled with wonderful world building and unique compelling characters.

Adele sees the destruction and horrors that have wrapped around her city and is struck by the stillness of it all. She keeps saying that she has never heard it so quiet and how eerie it is. The creepiness factor is in the book from day one and it really set the tone. People are dying, the water lines on the houses are high and there is mold everywhere. You go on a tour of the broken New Orleans with Adele and you can truly feel her despair. The South loves the grotesque, the freaks, and the broken souls and this book celebrates them.

I find it interesting that every book that I read about New Orleans, there is this deep unrelenting feeling of possessiveness from the characters.  It is rarely addressed as a city but rather as their home or their city.  There is so much pride when talking about the resilience of the city and all of its culture.  Rarely do you find a book that doesn't celebrate the good aspects of New Orleans while also acknowledging its deep underlying problems as far as infrastructure, government and humidity go.   There is such romance in the city that ties in with poverty, strength and desolation.

Ok, the characters. Adele is, in many ways, a typical teenager.  She is frustrated with her parents, is très désolé over leaving her romance in Paris and is struggling to deal with going to a new school and making new friends.  She speaks French frequently and it honestly made me want to learn French. (I mean, I speak Spanish fairly well but French is such a pretty language. I wish I had studied it in high school.) Her father, Mac, is a typical dad in that he wants to protect his baby girl but he struggles with his parental duties since he also runs a nightclub and is a metal sculptor. Alcohol and hot metal are great for parenting, right? Isaac is somewhat of an enigma.  He initially shows up as sort of an odd bystander as Adele gets her feet underneath her in the beginning of the book but proves to be a loyal and steadfast friend.  And really attractive. Desiree comes off as the typical high school bitch but grows beyond that role quickly. The handsome Italian brothers, Niccolò and Gabriel, are initially the good guys but also change throughout the book.  Nothing is as it seems in this book.

"Every species has their monsters."

The modern market has been inundated with stories where the vampires and other preternatural beings are no more terrifying than a puppy. They may have a hint of danger and show their teeth but you never really feel threatened. These characters are different. They are vengeful and have lived far too long to not be bitter and disenchanted with human lives. They are manipulative and calculating.  Talk about patient hunters. One character seemed to plan his return for decades, not letting his anger get to him.  The hurricane coming through was just the opportunity they needed to burst free and start terrorizing the villagers, so to speak.

Another part that I really enjoyed was that Adele was never really alone in her fight. There was always someone there, even if she hardly knew them, to help. Her new relationships are strong while the old ones seem to fizzle out. Adele definitely grew as a person in a perceptible way throughout the book. She was not the only one that changed as well. It seemed that everybody grew up as they confronted their wrecked home town and the creepy-crawlies that were out to get them.  This book does not have any stagnant main characters.  All of them grow and make progress as the city recovers around them.  In the climax of the book, New Orleans is having its first big celebration of strength and recovery as the main characters flex their muscles for the first time.

Finally, the part that really hooked me with this book and kept me reading was the historical aspect of it. Written like a diary, it captured so much more than flashbacks or secondhand stories or accounts. I had never heard of the casquette girls of New Orleans but it was a wonderful way to introduce history and flavor into the story. It made it so much more than just a modern fantasy story but took it back in time as well and gave it a past.

5/5 stars. I can't wait for the next one to come out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: The Ghost Bird Series by C.L. Stone (up to Touch of Mischief)

BIG WARNING: If you like to read classy well thought out books with relatively few cliches and at least a chance at being realistic, these books are not for you.  If you like strong female leads who can take care of themselves, then the Ghost Bird series is not for you.  If the idea of a reverse harem freaks you out, walk away now.

All that being said, I am obsessed.  I've turned into a fangirl again.
These books have made me a little stupid. Let me explain why...

I started out reading the Ghost Bird series a month or two ago with a direct warning from a friend that they would ruin my life. Something about unrealistic expectations in the future.  Did I pay attention? No.

I am obsessed with covers and these covers drive me crazy. They all feature the same girl (up to House of Korba) and all of the girls have the wrong color hair. She is supposed to be a dirty blond and an excessive amount of time in the books are spent going on about her hair.

They are pretty covers, despite having the wrong model for them but I could nit pick all day about them.

These books are a slow burn romance.  Think glacial pace.  The wait for something to happen can be torture at times but when something happens, it is like magic.  I can feel the chemistry between the characters.

The main character, Sang Sorenson, is a perfect example of the "helpless heroine".  She has been locked away all her life from the outside world, barring school.  Her mother is insane, her sister is a bitch and her father is rarely, if ever, around.  Her mother forces the idea that if she goes outside, she will get raped and die. Sang takes a chance and tries to run away but ends up running straight into the arms of her savior...

Ok, the real reason I read them.  The boys.

There is this new trend somewhat emerging of the "reverse harem".  That means lots of boys, one girl.  It can come off as kind of weird and society sort of demands that the girl picks one guy.  That's the best part of these books in that she doesn't have to.  The main character, Sang, is surrounded by nine (that's 9, nueve, neuf, neun) men and they all get along with each other.  They are like family and they will do anything to protect her.  Check out the author's interpretation of her men on her twitter. These guys are all part of a secret group called The Academy that influences everything that they do.  The more that Sang tries to pry into their lives within the Academy, the more confusing it gets.


Kota Lee: The first one that Sang meets. The fearless leader. The nerdling. Kota is the one that first runs into Sang as she is running away from her home and convinces her that he can help her.  He is compassionate and really works to listen to what others are saying.  Generally, a great guy.  The type of guy you bring home to meet your parents, grandparents and dog.

Victor Morgan: Victor is sort of the logical thinker of the group.  He is patient and quiet.  He plays the piano and is good with computers, both self taught and only achieved with an extreme amount of effort.  Sometimes, he comes off as kind of distant but he has his reasons.

Gabriel Coleman: Gabriel fills the role of the fashionista in the group.  He bosses the other guys around, telling them what to wear, how to do their hair and every other aspect of appearance.  Gabe may seem like a soft guy sometimes but he can hold his own and can be just as tough as the other guys.

Nathan Griffen: The fighter. Nathan is a big burly guy who is wonderful at martial arts.  Nathan makes me mad sometimes because he seems like he has so much potential to be play a much more passionate person.  He holds back to protect himself.

Lucian Taylor: I love his name, even though he goes by Luke. Lucian is such a wonderful name.  Luke is the happy-go-lucky one.  He jokes around and can lighten the mood. Luke can always be counted on to cheer the others up or sneak into to other people's houses without them noticing much.

North Taylor: One of my favorites.  The BFG (for everybody that watches Chelsea football) and part of the muscle of the team. He rides a motorcycle and is generally a BAMF. He plays football but hates being told what to do.  North is one of the characters that seems to have the most depth, at least to me.  He puts on a front of being tough and an enforcer but he cares deeply for his family and is willing to do anything to protect him.

Silas Korba: Another one of my favorites.  Apparently I have a thing for big rough and tumble guys. Silas is definitely the other third of the muscle of the team, along with Nathan and North. He plays football but loves baseball. A passionate Greek man with a penchant for sweet talk and selfies.

Dr. Sean Green: If anybody has ever had a fantasy about a doctor/patient relationship, here you go.  Dr. Green is smart and a definite flirt.  He plays the role of caretaker wonderfully but still needs, in some ways, to be taken care of himself.

Mr. Owen Blackbourne: We have gone over the doctor/patient fantasy and this one is the student/teacher fantasy.  Blackbourne has this persona that you want to please.  You want his approval desperately and when you get it, it is like the sun is shining.  He is demanding and tough on the others but he is still a likable guy.

So there we have it.  There are the reasons that I read this series, all nine of them.  The guys grow throughout the books, as does Sang.  We get back story and the reasons that they are the way they are.  I definitely care about these characters and I want their stories to work out.  I want them to be happy.

These books are guilty pleasures for me.  This isn't the best quality writing or editing but I will forgive the author since she is so prolific.  They are built to entertain and when I read them, I walk around with a big grin on my face.  They have turned me into a hopeless fangirl and I can't wait for the next book to come out and the one after that.

This author puts out a new book every 3-4 months.  She has another series in the same world called The Scarab Beetle that is a much more adult series, also dealing with the mysterious Academy.  The next book coming out is Liar which is part of The Scarab Beetle and will be out December 15th.  The next book for The Ghost Bird will be out in April.  C.L. Stone has planned 20+ books for The Ghost Bird and they will eventually turn from young adult to full on adult.  I can't wait!

Has anybody else read this series or another reverse harem story? What did you think?  Is it weird or hot?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review: Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me #1.5)

I am often drawn to books with broken characters in them.  For me, it emphasizes the idea that we, as humans, have good and bad in us and the distinction comes from how we treat others.  Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi is a novella in the Shatter Me series, in between book 1 and 2.  It focuses on the character of Warner who is the antagonist in the first book.

Another beautiful cover from this author.  The head text fits perfectly.  There is no debate in Warner's mind that he is the one that Juliette will choose in the end and this shows it perfectly.  The eye is closed, showing that he is reflecting internally and not considering the rational suggestions of those around him.  He goes above and beyond what would be normal for an escaped prisoner for Juliette because he feels like they have a connection which is rare, to say the least, for Warner.

This cover reminds me of a friend from college.  She had been out drinking and engaging in other self destructive habits and had basically hit rock bottom.  She came to me with her mascara running down her face, just like how this cover looks, asking for help.  That event looks eerily similar to this image on the cover.

Why it is such a wonderful novella...

This novella delves perfectly into the mind of someone that has been beaten down to the bottom and dragged himself up. Warner is so damaged.  His father has shown up after he was shot by Juliette in her escape. His father is really the root of all of his problems to begin with.  I love that the bad guy in this book is not Warner as we were led to previously believe.

Have you ever seen a tempered glass window shatter?  All of the glass is still there and the window is still standing up in its frame but the cracks in the glass make it impossible to see through.  It is still functional to keep the elements out but it is obviously broken.

That's Warner to me. He reached out to Juliette because he related to her.  He is obsessive, demanding and has a deep need to be in control.  He is a truly pathetic character but he is one that I want to fix and tell him everything will be okay.

I'm on Team Warner now.  I'll go ahead and fangirl about this one because it is so rare for me to sympathize so earnestly with the bad guy.

4.5/4 stars

Monday, November 3, 2014

The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

I hope everybody had a marvelous Halloween!  My family had a ridiculous marvelous party where we had homemade soup, a bonfire and lots of crazy costumes. I was the Evil Queen/Regina from Once Upon a Time and we had 3 other witches in my family, all from The Wizard of Oz. Their costumes were perfect because my aunt was Dorothy and she carried around Tara all night who loved all the attention.  Did you have fun on Halloween too? Costumes anyone?

Moving onto my review...

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have this thing about people/authors that use their full names.  It's very common here in the South and I feel like it makes me trust someone more, for some reason.  It's like "Here is my family history in my name and you can probably figure out who my father and grandfather are before introductions are over."  So when I saw that this author wanted reviewers, I was already inclined to read it.

Then I read what it was about.  A spooky haunted house?  A rogue sea captain ghost? Sign me up.

I love a good cover and this one was certainly lovely. I love that the house has a light on upstairs since it sort of pulls your eye into the center of the page, away from the boat.  That shows me, at least, that the majority of the plot will not be happening at sea in that tiny boat but in a house that is reflecting on the sea, if that makes sense.

This is an out and out ghost story.  Perfect for October.  Eli Gaspar is an old fishing captain with a tragic past that has been left in relative peace for the past few hundred years, occupying his 300 year old fishing cottage on the coast. He doesn't remember much of his past and that's ok with him.  Until Remy and Olivia move into his abode.

See, Eli doesn't much like change and his previous tenant was finally removed to an elderly care facility after revealing that he talked to Eli. Now Olivia, a precocious little girl, can see him and the new tenant Remy, is determined to stick it out by herself.

Remy is going through a difficult divorce with a crazy ex.  She wants to live on her own and show the world that she is strong and independent, especially her parents.  But things are getting weird in this big old house and her ex is acting erratically.

The After House is a good ghost story but it also has some wonderfully modern elements to it.  A woman is being stalked and the ghost is being protective.  The one aspect that I didn't really like were the guardian angels.  I think the plot could have stood on its own without them.  It would have made Eli a stronger character since he would have been making positive developmental changes on his own, without outside forces.  That being said, it really was a fantastic book.

4/5 stars.

Did y'all read anything for Halloween? Any other ghost stories?