Saturday, June 30, 2012

Books We Did Not Finish June Edition

By Blood  by Ellen Ullman
I got about 1 disc in and just had to stop listening.  The main character is narrating the story.  He tells the reader about his "sabbatical from his teaching job.  He takes an office in a shady part of town.  After he is there for a couple of weeks, he starts listening in on the weekly therapy session of a mysterious woman in the office next door.  The guy is unhinged and the whole thing was just too creepy.  He was also really depressing. I decided it just wasn't for me. 

Island Flame by Karen Robards:
How can I abuse you? Let me count the ways.  That is what was going through my mind through the whole half of the book that I managed to stomach. I love this author, but I just couldn't finish the book.  The heroine, Cathy, is raped repeatedly by the hero, Jonathan, in the beginning.  She is also beaten and berated by him, but she falls for him anyway.  I know this was supposed to be a bodice ripper, but this was just abusive and I couldn't understand how readers think this behavior is even remotely romantic.   I like alpha males, but Jonathan is nothing but a bully and a rapist.

Home by Toni Morrison 
I got about 30 minutes into to the audio of this one, and I was confused and bored. I can't really pinpoint what it was about the book that I didn't like.  It could be that I didn't like listening to Ms. Morrison reading her own book.  It could also be that I had no idea what was going on.  Normally, I can orient myself in a story pretty quickly, as in by the end of the first chapter.  I couldn't do that with this one. It has gotten great reviews, but it just wasn't for me.

Grossed me out!  I understood going in that it was about a middle aged woman that kidnaps a teenaged boy.  While that's kind of ew, I thought maybe it might get a Gillian Flynn type treatment.  The subject matter is just so messed up, but the writing is awesome and the characters are train wrecks but you love them anyway.  This wasn't that book.  The main character would drug the boy then do things like lick his stomach.  When she got to sucking his earlobe, that was enough for me.

Triple Crossing was confusing.  Maybe if I read it in print form, with some highlighters and post-its I could have had a better time with it.  It started off fine, but I was listening to the audiobook and I had trouble keeping all the characters straight and who they were and how they fit into the story.  The reader made everyone sound like Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite, even the main character who was supposed to be an Argentinian Italian from Chicago, yes he was Spanish speaking with a funny accent, but I didn't think he sounded like Speedy Gonzales.  Anyway, so that was my gripe with that book.

Friday, June 29, 2012

2nd BLOGAVERSARY Giveaway!

It's our Second Blogaversary here at From the TBR Pile!  We're going to celebrate by giving the presents away to you as thanks for reading what we have to say.  We have some really great prizes and we'd appreciate everyone spreading the word about our Blogaversary and Giveaway.  This contest will run until July 6, 2012 when we will randomly select 6 lucky winners.  Good Luck!!

Pack #1-YA Pack
The Raft by SA Bodeen, Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo, and Before You Go by James Preller

Pack #2-Mysteries Pack
Sanctus by Simon Toyne, White Heat by MJ McGrath, Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

Pack #3-Adult Fiction
Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand, When She Woke by Hilary Jordan, The World As We Know It by Joseph Monniger

Pack #4-Thrillers
Speed of Light by Lee Baker; Best Seller by Timothy Sagges; Daddy’s Home by A.K. Alexander

Pack #5-Adult Fiction #2
Finding Katie by John. J. Smith; Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kaufman; Chasing Mona Lisa by Tracy Goyer

Pack #6-Mysteries #2
Ex-Pats by Chris Pavone; Dark Room by Joshua Graham; Daddy's Home by A.K. Alexander

To enter please fill out the form below.  Shipping to US addresses only.

Guest Blog: Kathleen Toomey Jabs

Today we welcome author, Kathleen Toomey Jabs who is promoting her book, Black Wings. She writes about what inspires her to write. Click on the banner above to check out the rest of her tour!
Welcome Kathleen!

Author: Kathleen Toomey Jabs
Publisher: Fuze Pubishing
Date of Publication: December 2011

LT Bridget Donovan suspects the worst when her former Naval Academy roommate, Audrey Richards, perishes in a botched take-off from an aircraft carrier. The Navy says it's an accident, but facts don't add up. Could it be suicide, or murder? Donovan's unofficial investigation into what really happened, both during their past Academy days and in Richards' final hours, forces her to examine the concepts of honor, justice and the role of loyalty in pursuit of those ideals.

Kathleen Writes:

I am drawn to questions of justice, to complications, to situations that don’t resolve themselves easily. When I’m faced with all that chaos, I want to make order. I want to understand the motivations behind the actions. I want to dramatize scenes. I’m interested in people. In Black Wings, I explored the world of the Naval Academy during the early years of female integration as well as the world of Navy combat aviation, but mostly I explored the conflicts and struggles of Bridget Donovan and Audrey Richards, Academy roommates, rivals and dear friends.

We live in a world of unprecedented military power and activity—from surges in Afghanistan to extended ship deployments to drone strikes. Every day military news is blitzed on the front page then quickly replaced. Amidst the slew of facts and official statements, I find myself wondering about the private dramas unfolding. I’m hungry to write stories about the characters who witness, train for, and, ultimately, are affected by these events. People like Bridget and Audrey. People who often don’t have a voice in the news.

I write because I have questions I can’t answer. Because writing helps me make sense of the world. I am motivated to write to face my doubts and fears, to try and understand the world through people, and because I think that words matter.

Some days it seems impossible to understand even our own actions, motivations, memories. The search for explanations leads me to fiction. Fiction is my attempt to know the world through people—at their best, at their worst, in moments of suffering and despair, in times of discovery, in love and in death.  Stories, for me, take the very ordinariness of life and make it extraordinary. They show a profound paradox: we are all unique, but all the same.

I’m constantly inspired by other writers. As a lifelong reader, I love books. I love to be drawn into the story, hooked into a character and carried along as she faces a conflict and makes decisions. Once I started writing, my reading changed. I began to read as a writer. Now I study the scenes for the craft, the art, the way perspective shifts, and characters are inhabited. I love to unpack the structure and analyze the voice.

Some of my favorite writers are: Alice Munro, Wallace Stegner, Robert Stones, James Salter, and DH Lawrence. I read Stone and Salter for the way they describe the military world and complicated global interactions. I read Munro for the way she gets inside her characters’ heads.

I needed to up the ante in one of my arguments in Black Wings and I turned to Munro for help. I had a particular story of hers in mind and I reviewed the gradual, escalating tension, the shock and surprise at how people are sometimes goaded into saying things they regret. I looked at Munro’s scene then at my own. Mine faltered in comparison. I kept rereading Munro then I started in on my revisions. Today that’s one of the more powerful (and painful) scenes in Black Wings. I was holding back, protecting my characters and Munro reminded me to rip off the band-aid and expose the rawness.

Good writing does that. A good story offers you a glimpse of life’s dichotomies, a heightened awareness, a sharpening of the senses. Ultimately, I’m motivated to find truth and inspired by all those who have gone before me. I want to bring characters to life and tell their stories.

 About the Author:

Kathleen Toomey Jabs is a 1988 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. She served on active duty for six years and is currently a Captain in the Navy Reserve. She holds an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Her stories have been published in a number of literary journals and received several prizes, including selection in the National Public Radio Selected Shorts program. She lives with her husband and two children in Virginia.

Price: $19.95 paperback, $9.99 ebook
ISBN: 9780984141272
Pages: 314
Release: December 2011

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blog Tour: The Queen's Vow by C. W. Gortner

Author: C. W. Gortner
Publisher: Random House
Date of publication: June 2012
No one believed I was destined for greatness.
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. 

I'm not normally a reader of historical fiction that involves a real person.  I normally shy away because there is no way anyone would know what a person was thinking so many years ago.  But, I am always up for trying something new.  The Queen's Vow is the story of Queen Isabella of Castille and is told from her point of view.  I knew nothing about this queen going into the story.  I only knew that she financed the Columbus's trip to the Americas. 

The author did a great job of capturing the feel of the time period. Isabella did not live a charmed life as one would think a future queen might.  Instead it was hard and filled with danger.  She seemed to be a brave woman with very strong religious convictions.  Together with her husband, they were able to take back Spain and become powerful rulers.  I liked their love story and can only hope that their relationship was as happy in real life.  I thought the book was well written and interesting.  There were a few times that I thought the book dragged a bit. Overall, I think anyone who likes this genre will enjoy the book.  One thing I did enjoy was the afterward by the author.  It give some more insight into the queen and her history.  It's worth checking it out!

Throwback Thursday: A World Apart by Nora Roberts

Author: Nora Roberts
First published in the anthology Once Upon a Kiss in 2002 by Jove
Audiobook:Brilliance Audio (2011)
Narrated: Angela Dawe

A ravishing medieval demon slayer arrives in 21st-century New York to brave a strange new world--and a man who will be her destiny.

A World Apart was a very different story than I am used to from this author.  I have read some of her other fantasy tales, but this one was a bit more gruesome. The scenes in subway were reminiscent of any creepy vampire-demon movie. The evil demon, in this case, is changing the homeless into his minions by giving them a nasty kiss.  Gross. Cadre has come from another world to try to defeat this demon and stop him from destroying both worlds.

The love story was a bit rushed, but what else would you expect from a novella?  I loved Harper and how he was so accepting of Cadre.  Cadre took me a bit longer to warm up to.  It was also amusing to watch her discover the technology of this world.  

I love these quick older stories by Nora because they are great when I need something short and sweet in between heavier books. It's only 3 CDs long, so if you have a long work commute, it's perfect. This story was originally published in the anthology, Once Upon a Kiss. The book also includes stories by Jill Gregory,  Ruth Ryan Langan, and  Marianne Willman.  If you are looking for just the Nora story, try out the audio.   The narrator Angela Dawe was great!

Guest Blog: Molly Best Tinsley

 Today we welcome author Molly Best Tinsley who is promoting her book Entering the Blue Stone. Click on the banner above to check out the rest over her tour!

Publisher: Fuze Publishing
Date of Publication: May 2012

What happens when one's larger-than-life military parents--disciplined, distinguished, exacting--begin sliding out of control? The General struggles to maintain his invulnerable façade against Parkinson's disease; his lovely wife manifests a bizarre dementia. Their three grown children, desperate to save the situation, convince themselves of the perfect solution: an upscale retirement community. But as soon as their parents have been resettled within its walls, the many imperfections of its system of care begin to appear.

Charting the line between comedy and pathos, Molly Best Tinsley’s memoir,
Entering the Blue Stone dissects the chaos at the end of life and discovers what shines beneath: family bonds, the dignity of even an unsound mind, and the endurance of the heart.
Molly writes:

I spent a lot of my childhood overseas, beyond the reach of television.  Books from the Air Force base library were the main source of entertainment, and I was addicted as a kid to mysteries and baseball fiction, particularly a series modeled on the Brooklyn Dodgers back when there were Brooklyn Dodgers to battle the New York Yankees for the pennant.  Every month or so my mother would pry one such book out of my hands and replace it with a “classic.”  Oliver Twist, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre.  I remember reading Gone with the Wind over a weekend, curled in a particular wing chair in the living room.  

My mother was an avid reader too.  Over-educated and underemployed as a stay-at-home mom (where else was she going to be with four children?), constantly having a work of literary fiction or a biography going must have kept her brain challenged and alive.  She took her reading seriously, too—she was a one-woman book club. That was a far better alternative than attending a meeting of the Officers’ Wives Club back then, when one program consisted of a demonstration on how to make a penguin centerpiece from an eggplant.

Reading wasn’t just a matter of pleasure; books were also connected to education, and education was my parents’ obsession.  My mother’s father had been an immigrant from Spain, his English heavily accented and ungrammatical, a source, I suspect, of embarrassment when she was young.  Her achievements in school, capped by a full scholarship to Barnard College, paved the way out of the lower class for her, into acceptance and respectability.  My father’s parents were well-educated—a physician and a teacher—and he went to Princeton.  The Air Force might have seemed a strange choice for a Princeton grad, but it offered the opportunity and technical resources to pursue meteorology, his intellectual passion and a higher priority than making a lot of money.

Today I’m grateful to my parents for the high value they placed on books and learning, their emphasis on the life of the mind.  Their relative indifference to material things gave me the gift of freedom.  I don’t watch television because I can’t stand the barrage of commercials; I rarely set foot in the sacred shopping mall.  Thanks to them, I’ve stayed off the consumer merry-go-round, which keeps upping the price of the ride.

About the author:

Air Force brat Molly Best Tinsley taught on the civilian faculty at the United States Naval Academy for twenty years and is the institution’s first professor emerita. Author of My Life with Darwin (Houghton Mifflin) and Throwing Knives (Ohio State University Press), she also co-authored Satan’s Chamber (Fuze Publishing) and the textbook, The Creative Process (St. Martin’s). Her fiction has earned two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sandstone Prize, and the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been read and produced nationwide. She lives in Oregon, where she divides her time between Ashland and Portland.

Price: $14.95 paperback, $9.99 ebook
ISBN: 9780984990818
Pages: 195
Release: May 2012

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest post: Andy Gavin, Author of The Darkening Dream

Ali ibn Hammud al-Nasir: The Vampire

I knew from conception that The Darkening Dream needed a badass boss vampire. Al-Nasir, as I affectionately like to think of him, is mid-upper management, like an undead Executive Vice President of Acquisitions. I wanted a personage of exceptional age, power, and menace, yet also no CEO or CTO level player -- even if he has aspirations. That higher level of villain -- like the Emperor in the original Star Wars -- is not appropriate to bring on stage too soon.

That meant that my badass vampire had to be from the Dark or Middle Ages. A force to reckon with, but not too old. To be properly menacing, old vampires must be rare. Perhaps, no more than two or three vampires have survived from antiquity. And we dare not utter their names.

I also wanted my villain to be exotic, so I he's from Al-Andalus, Moorish medieval Iberia (Spain). In life he was the sixth Nasrid Caliph of Cordoba: Ali ibn Hammud al-Nasir.

When al-Nasir was alive, he lived like this
Young al-Nasir was a fierce Berber gazi (holy warrior) who died in 1018. This was a man who saw things in stark black and white. Faithful and Infidel. Friend and Foe. He was convinced of his role as sacred bringer of Allah's light to the world.

But what becomes of a man after long centuries of feeding in the dark?

In death, al-Nasir is a different beast indeed. Spawn of one who can not be named, the song of the ancient blood gods sings loudly in his withered veins. Like his flesh, his faith has putrefied, becoming a seething pit of fury and hate.

I imagine that vampires, like mortals, fix their sense of self and the world in youth. Al-Nasir is a medieval man, even if he walks the nighttime streets of the 20th century. Brilliant, yet not intellectual, he has a natural cleverness and charisma, and above all else a keen nose for survival. But as powerful as he is, surviving through the long years is not so easy. The vampire must avoid the sun at all costs, even a glimmer can be deadly. So he must slumber by day, nestled in the dirt of his grave. And he must feed. Daytime help is a necessity so al-Nasir invests heavily in loyal familiars. In 1913, when the book is set, he has five: Fouad, Nabil, Tarik, Tahar, and Ahmed. Nasir prefers physical strength and loyalty. He chooses fellow North Africans of enormous girth and he binds them in more ways than one.

In death, this is more his style - all he sees during the day is the cover of his sarcophagus
As a first line of attack, al-Nasir will act through these intermediaries, guarding himself from the world. Should that fail, he will next employ his charm and glamour. As a man twisted honor and great pride, this usually serves him well. But when the need is enough, there's nothing he considers more persuasive than the awesome power of personal violence.

Al-Nasir is a collector by nature. He collects things: being partial to gold and gems, particularly those owned by kings. And he collects powers. Having spent the centuries mastering not only the glamour, but the cloak of shadows, the fast-step, and his personal favorite: the much coveted and rarely achieved ariel bat form.
His sigil (at the top) is the winged sword: A pair of bat wings sprouting from a Nasrid blade.
But back to the story. Al-Nasir has been sent west from Europe to Salem Massachusetts. This is no small thing for a vampire, particularly in 1913. A steamship is a dangerous place for the daylight challenged -- especially if they have a habit of snacking on the crew. But come he does, under mysterious orders from the loose cabal of occult baddies with whom he works. Al-Nasir finds things. And with the patience and tenacity only the dead can muster.

But what is he looking for?

Find out about developing al-Nasir's sigil here.

A Big Giveaway for The Darkening Dream

This week, through June 29th, Author Andy Gavin is running a big giveaway to celebrate his 99 cent promo sale.

The Darkening Dream Rafflecopter Giveaway

Tweet, like, follow, share, blog and grab a copy of his book to enter.

About The Darkening Dream

As the modern world establishes itself and pushes the supernatural into the shadows, the supernatural fights back.

An ominous vision and the discovery of a gruesome corpse lead Sarah and her friends into a terrifying encounter with a fledgling vampire in 1913 Salem, Massachusetts. Eager to prove themselves, the young heroes set out to track the evil to its source, never guessing that they will take on a conspiracy involving not only a 900-year vampire but also a demon-loving Puritan warlock, disgruntled Egyptian gods, and an immortal sorcerer, all on a quest to recover the holy trumpet of the Archangel Gabriel. Relying on the wisdom of a Greek vampire hunter, Sarah's rabbi father, and her own disturbing visions, Sarah must fight a millennia-old battle between unspeakable forces, where the ultimate prize might be Sarah herself.

The critics love it

"A vampire novel with actual bite." ~The Kirkus Reviews
"A gorgeously creepy, strangely humorous, and sincerely terrifying tale." ~Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Read the first two sample chapters here.

Get your 99 cent copy of The Darkening Dream today on Amazon only.

About the Author

Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes. Find out more here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Blog & Review: Finding Home by Lacey Wolfe

Welcome author Lacy Wolfe, who tells us about secrets in books.  But first, I'll share my thoughts about her latest novella, Finding Home.

Author: Lacey Wolfe
Publisher: Ruby Lioness Press
Date of publication: May 2012

Julie Miller has returned to her home in Clearwater, Wyoming after discovering she is pregnant. All she wants is her mother to comfort her after her boyfriend told her to either have an abortion or leave. The only problem is, when she gets to her mother’s house, she doesn’t find her mom—she finds a half-naked man cooking breakfast.

Finding Home is a really sweet romance.  For those of you who have read her erotica. this one is mild in comparison.  But, the love story is still very satisfying.  Julie has come home to seek counsel and comfort from her mother after finding herself homeless and pregnant.  Instead, she discovers that her mother is traveling and has rented the house to Mark.  The attraction is strong, but Mark has a heart breaking secret.  Mark is such a sweet guy and I was so rooting for their HEA.  This story also features a great town as the backdrop.  I wish the book was longer because I would love to have read more about the town and the other characters.  Hopefully, Lacey will revisit this town in the future!

Lacey Writes:

Thank you so much for having me! I’m excited to be here today.

One thing as a reader I love, is the mystery of the secret in a book I’m reading. One character has one, and the other character is dying to know what it is. So they do everything they can to find out what it is. Is the secret one of loss, pain, humiliation, or just something no one has ever known? Sometimes we can get a sense of what it is as the story unravels. And other times, the author really surprises us.

Finding Home is the first story I’ve added the secret too. And it wasn’t just one secret, but two. Julie and Mark each held a secret they didn’t want to tell anyone else about. Only, Julie’s secret wasn’t going to be easy to hide for long. Especially with morning sickness, Mark had her’s figured out in no time. But, it took more time for Julie to learn Mark’s and what had made this mystery man leave everything behind to start his life over in the small town of Clearwater.

As the author, I didn’t want his secret to be easily figured out. I wanted a little mystery behind it. Hopefully once he reveals what he’s hiding, I’ll leave readers with a little of a shock. Don’t worry, he isn’t a mass murder who then takes Julie captive. It’s a contemporary romance. A very sweet one at that. At least in my opinion.

As a reader or author, tell me what type of secret is your favorite kind in a book you’re reading.

To learn more about Lacey, check her out on her website

And to connect with her:

 Buy Links: Amazon / Nook / Smashwords / Ruby Lioness Press / All Romance

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

by:  Alyssa B. Sheinmel
published by:  Random House Childrens
publish date:  August 24, 2012

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower.

So this is a book about anorexia in teenage girls.  I don't generally read those.  It's not something I can relate to so I don't tend to connect with the main characters very much.  However, somewhere I read that there was a paranormal element.  I don't know where I read that because I can't find it anymore, but my first question upon finishing was: Where was the paranormal element??  So maybe I dreamed it?  I was thinking it was going to be like Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler and it definitely wasn't.
Now you know what it wasn't.  What was it?  It was about Sethie, a fairly average girl trying to fit into a group of rich kids that weren't really that into her.  She was obsessed with "boyfriend" until it was pointed out to her that she was the only person that considered him that and he was messing around with other girls.  Sethie hates herself and punishes herself because she doesn't weigh less than 100 lbs, because she can't live like her rich friends do, and for various other reasons.  She's not a character most readers will like.

I can't recommend this book to anyone younger than like 16.  Maybe even 18.  It's all sex and drugs and parties with sex and drugs.  Definitely not one of my favorite books this year.  I didn't rate it horribly on Goodreads because it did engage me enough to finish the book.  While I didn't like the main character, I did feel something towards her, she didn't bore me.  I think this book will probably be a love/hate thing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fated by Alyson Noel

Author: Alyson Noel
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date of publication: May 2012

Lately strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, and glowing people appear out of nowhere. Worried that Daire is having a nervous breakdown, her mother packs her off to stay in the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico with a grandmother she’s never met.

For a YA novel, this was just an OK read for me.  Fated is about Daire who is apparently a Soul Seeker.  The problem?  After reading the book, I'm still not sure what a Soul Seeker is supposed to do.  I get that she can walk through dimensions and that she can move things with her mind.  Oh, and she can merge with animals for a time, including cockroaches. Other than that, I'm not really clear on her purpose.  Throughout most of the book, Daire says she is confused.  Yeah, I could sympathize with that.  I think I'm getting tired of reading books where the main character gets seemingly important  information doled out to him or her in little spurts, "for their own good".  It's very frustrating for the reader; at least to this reader any way. 

I thought I would be getting a romance in this book, but there really wasn't one that I could see.  She has romantic dreams about a boy, but when she meets Dace in real life, it takes a while for them to get together.  Apparently, he isn't having the same dreams. Even after her own grandmother tells her she can trust him, Daire takes her sweet time. I did like a few of the peripheral characters.   Xotichl seems like she will be a good ally for Daire to have in future books.  I also liked Dace.  He is a likeable hero. I just hope their love story doesn't become angsty in the next book.  For once it would  be nice to have a "normal" teen relationship.  (Is there such a thing?)

This book really felt like it was a set up for the rest of the series.  Not much really happens and the ending was a let down.  I haven't read any of the author's other books.  I'll probably pick up the next one just to see what becomes of Daire in her fight against Cade, the evil twin.  Have you read it?  What did you think?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

by:  Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
published by:  Hogarth
publish date:  June 5, 2012

Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced witha lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body.

The Watch is based off the ancient Greek tale of Antigone.  Don't remember that one?  Don't feel bad.  Neither did I.  Basically Antigone's brother dies in battle outside the gates of the city.  Antigone wants to bring his body back inside the gates for a proper burial but he's branded a traitor and the punishment is that he has to rot out there.  The Watch is kinda flip flopped.  The sister is outside the gates of the base and the dead brother is inside, but she wants his body for a proper burial.

The Watch is told from various view points starting with the sister who may or may not be an unreliable narrator.  Then the rest of the story is told by various soldiers in the compound.  They're all trying to determine the intent of this woman.  Is her story really that simple?  Does she have more malicious intent?

I liked The Watch up until the end.  The entire book is told in a non-linear format and some parts are repeated from different viewpoints.  The end repeats a part in the beginning and I felt like it didn't match up.  It didn't work for me.  Up until that part, it was good and I enjoyed it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beautiful Sacrifice by Elizabeth Lowell

Author: Elizabeth Lowell
Publisher: William Morrow
Audiobook: Harper Audio 
Narrator: Richard Ferrone
Date of publication: May 2012

According to Maya legend, December 21, 2012, will mark the end of the world as we know it. Is it myth... or will their prediction become reality?

Archaeologist Lina Taylor has devoted her life to studying ancient Maya artifacts, splitting her time between digs in South America and the classroom teaching college students. But the professor's structured, academic life is about to spin out of control. Some extremely valuable and important Maya artifacts have gone missing. Are the culprits fanatics determined to create chaos and usher in annihilation?

Being a big fan of Elizabeth Lowell's,  I have been eagerly waiting her new book since it was not a continuation of her St. Kilda series. With December 21, 2012 approaching,I was looking forward to seeing Ms. Lowell's take. Sadly, I have to admit, Beautiful Sacrifice was a disappointment to me.  I'm not saying I hated it, I just thought it was an OK read. I was hoping for a real adventure with a romance, but the book fell short of my expectations. I was expecting some exciting time in the jungle with treasure hunting.  In reality, they spent very little time in the jungle and the romance was not very exciting.

I felt like there was way too much information dumping involved.  I often felt like I was listening to an archeology text book about the Mayan culture.  It got kind of boring and I stopped caring about the background information. I was eager for the story to just keep moving.  As to the romance, other than the love scenes, I didn't really feel the connection between Hunter and Lina.  Other than being told over and over that there was an attraction, I never would have seen them together.  I just didn't feel it, which is unusual in her books.  Finally, I'm still trying to figure out how some of the characters fit into the story and why they were included. There as just too much going on and when the reveal came, I was a bit puzzled.  Looking back, I didn't see how any of it pointed to this person.

I will say that I did enjoy the audio part of the book.  Richard Ferrone has an excellent reading voice.  It's probably the thing that kept me from turning this book into a DNF post.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that her next book is better.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Throwback Thursday - Taken by Storm by Tami Hoag

Author: Tami Hoag
First published in 1992 by Loveswept

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag comes this bittersweet romance classic about a woman who’s rebuilt her life—and her heart—after the disappointments of the past, only to find her carefully laid plans shattered by a knock on the door.…

I'll admit, I wasn't sure I was going to like Taken by Storm.  After reading the synopsis, I thought it was going to be an infidelity story, since Julia is supposed to be engaged when Storm comes back into her life.  I'm not a fan of those. But in the end, I enjoyed the book.  Julia isn't really engaged. She and the guy she is seeing have talked about it, but something has been holding her back from looking for a ring and setting a date. She hasn't even committed herself to a physical relationship with him. 

Yes, S.T. ( a.k.a.Storm) has walked away from her three times, but he is just too cute and so eager to get her back.  The lengths he goes to in order to profess his love for her are amusing. Anyone reading the book can see that they are really meant for each other. Sometimes, it just takes the other person time to grow up and be ready to commit. Along with all of his fans, I was rooting for S.T.   Having said that, I was happy that it took Julia a while to admit she still loved S.T. and was ready to start trusting him again. It made the story more realistic. I have read negative reviews for this one, but I thought it was entertaining.  Try it out and let us know your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

by: Robin Wasserman
published by:  Random House Audio/Knopf Books for Young Readers
publish date:  April 10, 2012

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.
There seems to be a bit of trend going on in YA right now.  Here we have The Book of Blood and Shadow that takes place partly in Prague.  There's Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor which also takes place in Prague.  Most recently on the YA scene is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo which again takes place in Eastern Europe/Russia.  Interesting eh? 

The Book of Blood and Shadow tells the story of Nora a high school student that is taking part in a Latin translation project at a local college with her friends Chris, Adriane and Max.  After long hours together in the library and encouragement from lovebirds Chris and Adriane, Max and Nora start dating.  This is an aspect of The Book of Blood and Shadow that I was fairly impressed with.  I didn't feel like it was an insta-love situation.  Their relationship seemed genuine and realistic. 

The lives of the foursome are shattered when they are attacked for what they have begun to learn in their Latin translation of an old and mysterious book.  Max disappears and a cryptic note to Nora says that he is in Prague and needs help.  Adriane and Nora  runaway from a school trip to Paris and search Prague for Max.  They become embroiled in a centuries old mystery and battle over control of a device said to channel God.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was full of twists and turns that I wasn't expecting.  I read so many mysteries and thrillers that it's pretty hard to surprise me, but there were a few at the end that got me.  This book is appropriate for most YA.  It might be a little advanced for under 16 just because a lot of it was in other languages and there was a great deal of historical information being thrown at the reader.  However, because of that, I think a lot of adults would probably enjoy this book too.  I also highly recommend the audiobook.  The reader did an excellent job with all the foreign languages and if you're a reader like me, and tries to sound them out, she saved me from that laborious task!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Author Spotlight: Caridad Pineiro

Today, we are featuring author Caridad Pineiro who is promoting her latest book The Claimed.

Author: Caridad Pineiro
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date of publication: May 2012

Victoria Johnson loves her life. She’s her own boss in a quaint beach-side town, and has great friends who keep her grounded. If only they knew who she really is: an heiress to an ancient race who possesses astonishing superhuman powers. It’s Victoria’s duty to restore her clan of Light Hunters to their former glory by choosing the perfect mate. In Christopher Sombrosa, she just may have found him. Strong, smart, and successful, Christopher exudes a powerful energy. Their connection is sensual, irresistible-and forbidden. 

A member of the Shadow Hunter clan, Christopher has defied his own father to lead his people away from affliction and violence. Yet he cannot ignore his duty to carry on his ancient bloodline. Stunningly beautiful and brimming with an erotic life force, Victoria is everything Christopher ever hoped for in a mate . . . but as a Light Hunter, she’s his mortal enemy. Together, they could unite their warring tribes. But murderous factions on both sides don’t want peace-and they’ll stop at nothing to keep light and darkness apart forever . . .

Barnes & Noble

About the author:

Caridad Piñeiro® is a multi-published and award-winning author whose love of the written word developed when her fifth grade teacher assigned a project – to write a book that would be placed in a class lending library. She has been hooked on writing ever since.From the start, Caridad’s novels have received acclaim and have helped redefine the landscape of modern romance novels. In 1999, Caridad was published by Kensington as part of Encanto, the first line of bilingual Latino romance novels. In 2000, Caridad was one of the first Latino authors featured at the launch of BookExpo America’s Spanish Pavillion. In December 2006, Caridad helped Silhouette launch its successful Nocturne paranormal line with DEATH CALLS, one of the novels in the award-winning THE CALLING Vampire series. In addition, Caridad has appeared at BookExpo America on numerous occasions and has captained both the multicultural and vampire genre panels at the RT BookClub Conventions.Caridad’s CHICAS novels, including her seventeenth release, SOUTH BEACH CHICAS CATCH THEIR MAN from Simon & Schuster’s Downtown Press, have garnered praise from both fellow authors and reviewers and are helping to make Latina fiction a vital part of the publishing mainstream.

In recognition of her work, Caridad has received various awards and honors. In 2007, a year marked by the debut of six novels from Harlequin and Pocket Books, Caridad received the Golden Apple Award Author of the Year Award from the New York City Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Other honors that Caridad has received include the selection of DANGER CALLS and DEATH CALLS as the Top Fantasy Books of 2005 and 2006 by CATALINA magazine, the Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award for Best Nocturne in 2006 and the New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf award in 2001 for Best Short Contemporary. Her other titles have received a number of nominations, such as the Harlequin Readers Choice Awards and RIO Reviewers Choice Awards. Both DANGER CALLS and SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS have been book club selections.

Caridad’s eighteenth novel, MOON FEVER, a paranormal anthology with Maggie Shayne, Susan Sizemore and Lori Handeland, debuted in late September 2007 as #32 on the New York Times Extended Bestseller list and #123 on the USA TODAY Bestseller List. HOLIDAY WITH A VAMPIRE, a paranormal anthology with Maureen Child, made the BookScan Top 100 Adult Fiction list.  In 2009, Sins of the Flesh was released with Grand Central Publishing.

Caridad has appeared on Romance Novel Television, Fox Television’s Good Day New York Early Edition , New Jersey News’ Jersey’s Talking with Lee Leonard and WGN-TV’s Adelante Chicago. Articles featuring Caridad’s works have appeared in the New York Daily News, Catalina, RT BookClub, NJ Monthly, Star Ledger, Home Tribune News, Sun Sentinel, Variety Yahoo! Online News, Latina and the Waterbury Republican-American.

When not writing, Caridad teaches workshops on various topics related to writing and heads a writing group. Caridad is also an attorney, wife and mother.

Her latest book is The Claimed.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Guest Post and Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

Please welcome author, Ruthie Knox, as she tells us about the complicated editing process.  But first, I'll share my thoughts on her latest book, About Last Night.

Author: Ruthie Knox
Publisher: Loveswept
Date of publication: June 2012

Sure, opposites attract, but in this sexy, smart eBook original romance from Ruthie Knox, they positively combust! When a buttoned-up banker falls for a bad girl, “about last night” is just the beginning.

My thoughts:

Ruthie Knox is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine! I thoroughly enjoyed About Last Night.  Nev and Cath may be opposites, but they are so suited for each other.  The chemistry alone just sizzles off the page.  Nev is definitely smitten from the first, but Cath takes a bit longer to admit how she feels.  I loved both characters because while they are opposites, they are really searching for the same thing..their true self.  I don't want to give away the end, I'll just say that what Nev does for Cath in the end had me choked up.  If you haven't had a chance to pick up this book, take some time to check it out!

On Writing, Editing, and Errors by Ruthie Knox

Recently, I read an amazing book — Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. The hero is a starving ex-con, the heroine a pregnant, widowed mother of two who needs a husband. The romance is knock-your-socks-off fabulous. Super-awesome-amazing.

Morning Glory is an older title, originally published in 1989 but reissued for Kindle. And I love that — I love that it’s possible for me to hear from a friend about a book issued thirteen years ago, to find it immediately, and to buy it and download it and start reading it on my Kindle.

There was really only one thing I didn’t like about Morning Glory, and that was this: every time the word “preciate” was supposed to appear in the text — which was pretty often, given that this is a book set in late 1930s Georgia, and people were polite back then — the book actually said “predate.”

As in, “I predate that, ma’am.”

This is the kind of error that makes readers scratch their heads and wonder, “Did anybody even read that book? What do editors do, anyway, if errors like that can show up in print books? Do they just spend their days sipping lattes, or what?”

Now, in the case of Morning Glory, we’re almost certainly looking at an OCR error. That is, a print version of the book was scanned, optical character recognition software was used to turn the scanned image files into text files, and then some combination of spell-checker and human eyeballs checked over the files for errors but missed the substitution of “predate” for “preciate.”

Fair enough. But we’ve all seen worse errors, haven’t we? I know I have, and I used to wonder how they got in there.

I mean, the author writes the book, right? And then the editor combs over it and helps make sure every word is in the right place, and someone checks all the grammar and whatnot, or maybe that’s the proofreader, who knows, and somehow in the end the book comes out. How can they fail to catch the errors? Where’s the quality control?

Except, the thing is, that’s not really how it works. The book you buy isn’t so much a perfectly combed-through finished opus as it is a snapshot of where the manuscript was at on the day it finally got transmitted from editorial to production. Which isn’t to say that perfect isn’t the goal — it is. It’s just to say that humans aren’t perfect.

Here’s how it really works: The author writes a manuscript, and probably rewrites it, gets opinions from friends, rewrites it again, sweats blood over it, etc., until by the time the author thinks it’s good enough to submit to her agent or editor, she can’t even really read it anymore, because she’s read it so many times, she’s lost the ability to see it. But her test-reading friends tell her it’s good, so she sends it off. The editor reads it and loves it (except for A, B, C, and D, which are totally fixable), so she offers a contract, and the book gets bought.

Next, the editor tells the author about A, B, C, and D, and the author revises. And it’s difficult, but the author still loves the book, and the editor has a fresh perspective and also loves it, so that’s gratifying for everybody. The editor reads the revision. So much better! Except maybe C still needs a little work, and also now that A, B, and D are fixed, she’s noticed E and F are problems. Can the author fix those? Sure!

Once the author has worked through E and F, it’s time for “line edits” — that is, line-by-line, nitty-gritty adjustments to the whole darn book. These are hard work for the editor, sometimes painful for the author, but all in the interest of making the writing livelier and the whole book sharper. But unless they’re very carefully done and very carefully checked, line edits also lead to new errors, new repetition, new weirdness — some introduced when the line edits are inputted by the editor, some when the author reads and makes changes, and some more when the tracked edits are “accepted” into the manuscript file.

And by the time the editor’s been over the book with a fine-toothed comb, she’s read it four or five times and lost her fresh eyes, too. So now the editor can’t really read the book anymore without missing problems, and neither can the author.

Next comes copyediting, where clarity, consistency, and correctness are the goal. Fiction copyeditors do things like change “10” to “ten.” They also look at timelines and consistency errors, so they tend to ask questions like, “Is she still carrying her purse?” and (in one memorable case for me) “Did she ever put her shirt back on?”

Copyeditors bring fresh eyes to the project, which means they find new errors in the book and suggest new ways to fix them. Which is awesome. But unless they’re very careful and their work gets very carefully checked, they can also introduce new errors to the text. And so can the author when she checks the copyedits. And so can the copyeditor when she accepts the changes.

Sensing a theme?

Finally, the edited book gets laid out by the production department, and production also sometimes introduces errors when it’s coding e-books for vendors or laying out print books for the page. The laid-out and/or formatted book gets proofread by several sets of eyes, most of them weary because they’ve read the book nine times already,  and then it’s off to an e-reader or bookstore near you.

Probably with some errors in it.

So on behalf of editors and authors everywhere, I just want to say that we do try to bring you the cleanest possible product. It’s just that a book is a moving target, and perfection is difficult to achieve.

We predate your understanding.

Where to find About Last Night: