Monday, July 28, 2008

Dear Newcastle-Upon-Tyne,

I get a hit almost weekly on the following google search:

"When is the next JR Ward book due out?"

So, just for you, the answer is:

October 7, 2008 is the due date for The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide.

It's expected to include a short story about the birth of Zsadist and Bella's child; an "interview" between JR Ward and Tohr and Wellsie dated from a few week's before the end of Lover Awakened; and a sneak peek at...

Lover Avenged, Rehvenge's story, to be released in May of 2009.

In between, Ward is contributing a novella to the anthology Dead After Dark, along with Sherrilyn Kenyon, Susan Squires, and Dianna Love.

If you need a vampire fix in the meantime, you can 1) search this blog on the tag "vampires;" 2)Check out everyone's favorite vampire blog or 3) check any of the book lover links in my sidebar -- pretty sure there are vamps to be found in all of those.

Hope that helps!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Teaser - Into the Shadow by Christina Dodd

This is book 3 of a 4-book series, and the last one is due out in a couple of weeks. So I'm going to wait for that one to do a full-up review.

But I just finished Into The Shadow and WOW. Dodd takes us into some really dark places with this one, and it's just... wow. It's really good. Go read this series if you haven't started it.

I will say that there's a level of non-consensuality about this story that some may find uncomfortable. It's definitely politically incorrect. This is a hero who starts out pretty damn evil. And yet.

Anyway. Watch for a more thorough review of the series in a couple of weeks. Meantime, get caught up, cuz it's a good series that's getting better and better.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Suzanne Brockmann – Author Profile

I don’t get it.

Brockmann, a consistent NYT bestseller, has scads of awards and legions of fans, particularly among those of us who really really like alpha heroes in our romances.

Sadly, I won’t be joining their ranks.

So maybe it’s me, but I’m just… underwhelmed. I think I’ve read enough titles to have given her a fair shot and it’s just not working for me. I read:

Everyday, Average Jones
Forever Blue
Cisco's Kid
Breaking Point
Force of Nature

The first three are category from Silhouette (currently in reprint from Mira), which explains why I haven’t run into them before. I don’t read category – they’re over too fast to suit me. I like a longer read and I like the extra complexity I get with a properly executed longer book.

OK, so Breaking Point and Force of Nature. Recent full length offerings from Brockmann…

I’m sorry, but BP annoyed the crap out of me:

Prologue: nineteen years ago
p. 13: today
p. 17: seventeen months ago
p. 25: today
p. 28: four months ago
p. 33: twenty-two months ago

Arrrggghhh!! This kept up fully through at least 2/3s of the book before the backstories converged on the present day. There are at least five point of view characters which is, IMO, about three too many. I have gathered from here and there that Jules, the assistant of Our Hero in BP, is a much-beloved secondary character, so it may be that his POV is something the fans have demanded—and I’ll grant you, he is a pretty great secondary character. BUT switching into his POV not only did nothing to enhance the story, it took a lot away from my ability to see inside of the hero (Max).

Force of Nature was better. No flashbacks, thank you patron saint of romance (Barbara Cartland?). A corny tribute to film-noir-Sam-Spade-style mysteries, I suppose it might appeal on that level to some fans. Lillian Lavelle: would-be killer ex-porn star with a ridiculously pat motive? Ummm, okay. Maybe it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek? Either way, it didn't work for me.

I found the Big! Thrill! Scene! at the end of both books to have a pacing problem, although they were creative and had interesting twists, mainly along technical lines. Some potential for great special effect if the movies are ever made. But overall way too slow.

Now generally speaking, I like Brockmann’s characters. The secondary ones really shine, and I can’t do a Brockmann review without bringing up Jules, the openly gay FBI agent. This is a subplot that arcs across a number of books—more than I’ve read. His scenes are really well done and I doubt that anyone who’s not completely homophobic would have a problem with them. The scenes between Jules and the het male characters are really interesting too – they tend to be very accepting after maybe some initial discomfort or awkwardness. I can’t really imagine whether they’re “real” or not… but I’d like to think that they are. Brockmann has personal reasons for including this storyline—her son is gay—and her treatment of it has won her a lot of well-deserved loyalty from the gay and PFLAG communities. I’ve been in conversations where the romance genre as a whole has been rightly criticized for essentially ignoring the existence of homosexuality or using gay characters as villains, and it’s nice to see that changing. One message that comes across loud and clear is this: Romance is Romance. Jules and Robin? Total romance.

Another secondary character from FoN that I really, really enjoyed was Martell, a friend of Ric’s with some of the funniest dialog and one-liners I’ve seen lately. Would’ve liked to have seen a lot more of him.

All her characters are diverse and that’s really fun. Her women are unique, skilled, forthright, and while they inevitably end up on the “get me out of here” end of a big rescue scene, they’re smart and do all the right things, including what they’re told when that’s the smart thing to do. The men are strong and tender and grovel nicely after they do the dumb things that heroes always do.

I mean, they all seem very nice and they have a great personality and everything, but, well….

<shrug> Sorry.

I don’t get it.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lara Adrian – Midnight Breed – Series Review

So, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m guessing JR Ward is really, really flattered by this series. There are so many similarities that I almost believe it’s completely coincidental – setting out to do it on purpose would be just too obvious, and, well, tacky.

I’ve had a few conversations with fans and several of them have insisted that any similarities are merely superficial, and the books are entirely different. This truly mystifies me. There are so many commonalities, I couldn’t help but start making a mental checklist. So here we go:


The BreedThe BDBDescription
LucanWrathPurest of the breed, leader of the warriors
CamlanDariusKilled early in first book. Damn nice guy.
DanteRhageThe pretty one with intimacy issues
Tegan Zsadist“Broken, not damaged” – even the other warriors are a little scared of him and don’t fully trust him.
RioTohrmentLoses his mate tragically. Goes off to die alone in a cave. (are you kidding me? both of them? in a cave? No, yes, and yes.)
GideonVishousTech-head IT genius
Chase*ButchCivilian cop caught up in the warrior world.
Andreas TBD...
Niko TBD...
Phury*(no parallel)
*is tragically and misguidedly in love with his brother’s mate.

Seriously, there’s a boy-band joke in here somewhere. I just can’t quite get it to gel.

Then there are points that revolve around the world-building, the “mission” of the warriors, the structure of their race’s society, and, since these are romances, certain aspects to the emotional/physiological connections in the mating process:

Plot points:

The BreedThe BDB
Live together in a militaristic compoundLive together in a militaristic compound
Chartered with protecting civilian vampiresChartered with protecting civilian vampires
Viewed with suspicion and some contempt by civilian aristocracy. Feeling is mutual.
Viewed with suspicion and some contempt by civilian aristocracy. Feeling is mutual.
Keeping the race a secret from humans is a paramount concern. Largely accomplished by “scrubbing” human minds (erasing their memories) Keeping the race a secret from humans is a paramount concern. Largely accomplished by “scrubbing” human minds (erasing their memories)
Vampires may have a variety of paranormal talents/skills. The purer the vampire pedigree, the stronger the skill is likely to be. (granted, this is a bigger deal in Adrian’s books, more of a sidenote in the BDB)Vampires may have a variety of paranormal talents/skills. The purer the vampire pedigree, the stronger the skill is likely to be.
Typically older generation vampires, but not necessarilyDeliberately bred as a subspecies of the larger vampire population
Origin of the species is pseudo-scientific/biologicalOrigin of the species is pseudo-religious/spiritual
Fights hopelessly blood-addicted vampire Rogues.Fights undead, soulless lesser (former humans)
Requires human blood for sustenance. There are no female vampires.Requires blood of female vampires for sustenance. Human blood can work, but not well and the vampire’s health will eventually suffer.
Can blood-bond to and procreate with certain human women who carry a particular genetic compatibility and are conveniently marked with a distinctive birthmark. Once made, the bond is permanent and the males are fiercely territorial.If lucky, “bonds” to a mate. Generally represents a life-long, unbreakable tie. Bonded males are fiercely territorial. Can mate without bonding.
Cannot turn humans into vampires but can create Minions who are enthralled to their maker. Not common among “civilized” vampire society.Can turn humans in very rare circumstances if the human has any vampire DNA.
Series arc develops along warfare/battle strategySeries arc develops along warfare/battle strategy

O’Donovan has talked about the BDB’s slang before and how much it bugs her – I actually like it and find it more believable than Adrian’s. I suspect that O’Donovan would make boggley eyes at me and completely disagree. But regardless of what you think of Ward’s vocabulary choice, the rhythm and pacing of her dialog is compelling, and to my ear, Adrian’s is more labored and less believable.

Like Ward’s, Adrian’s heroes are tortured souls, trying to do good in spite of their own certainty that they themselves are NOT “good.” Personally, I think Ward does a better job of tapping into her alpha’s hidden tenderness, making me ache for his pain. It’s not that Adrian’s are terrible, but they are SO similar to Ward’s, I can’t help but make direct comparisons and I think Ward just gets it really really right.

It’s not all bad news. Adrian is a competent writer and puts together a good story. You can't fake that, no matter what your inspiration is. I like her heroines better than Ward’s; they’re more fully developed. I think that if you can’t get enough of JR Ward, Adrian is a reasonable second choice to turn to.

If you'd like to read Adrian's take on the similarities between the series, she does talk about it here: Interview with Lara Adrian. The authors share an agent, and Ward provided a cover quote for the series, so I'm guessing there's no bad blood** over the subject.

**sorry, I couldn't resist.

A rave, not a review

So what kind of vortex does it create when Gail Collins — she of the pithy political colums, she of the incisive wit — is writing about vampire novels and the Twilight series in particular? It's too much good stuff, that's what.

Favorite bit: "'Twilight' and its successor novels are about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. There seems to be a lot of this going on lately. If you want to become a best-selling novelist, I would defnitely advise that you start by making your hero a little bit undead."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Immortals After Dark, by Kresley Cole – Series Review

Sad to say, I’m still kind of a snob about vampire romances. Cuz when they’re bad? They’re just way more extremely bad than any other kind of bad romance. I think so, anyway. “Mwah-ha-hah, I vant to suck your bloooooooood.” Uh huh.

You’d think that after getting hooked on JR Ward, Lynn Viehl, Christine Warren, and Meljean Brook I’d’ve learned. But no. And this cover art didn’t help:

It took quite a bit of nudging for me to give Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series a try. But, finally I did, and..... I LOVED IT. So, to the nudgers out there (you know who you are): thanks. Seriously, THANK YOU.

Fairy Tale + Wacky Humor + HOTT (omg, SO hott) Sex = Kresley Cole.

It also sort of sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’m frankly not sure how Ms. Cole managed to make everything work, but she does.

The Immortals After Dark tap a number mythologies for inspiration. The dainty, fragile-looking Valkyries are a particularly unique addition to the crowded paranormal romance shelves, if not especially true to Norse mythology. Fiercer than any other of the Lore kind, they are a sorority of foul-mouthed immortal warriors who enjoy movie nights, X-Box marathons, mani-pedis, and beheading vampires. Their only weakness? They are easily distracted by shiny objects, especially high-quality diamonds. Seriously.

Cole’s heroes so far are vampires, werewolves, and demons – of the three, the vamps actually rank last among my favorites – they’re still good, mind you, but the werewolves and Cadeon the Rage Demon fairly set the pages on fire. And how can you not love a romance where the big bad werewolf is chasing a girl in a red hooded cloak? (Fortunately, there was no mention of grandma or a basket of goodies; that would’ve been taking things a bit to far.)

I mentioned in a previous post that Cole’s paranormal world isn’t high up there on my infamous credibility index. Suspension of disbelief is something of a conscious decision. But the Lore world is such a rockin’ good time, why wouldn’t you want to? These books are pure escapism. Cole goes for the wink and the nod rather than the mysterious, dark, gritty "realism" that’s currently in vogue for paranormal romance, and succeeds brilliantly at sheer entertainment.

Each individual book is a fairly straightforward quest sort of story. In each, there is a prize sought by one or both of the protagonists, and the other poses either the key to the prize, or a barrier to it. Or both. Plotting isn’t a weakness of Cole’s, but it’s not the main attraction, either. Clever, unique characters are a big part of it, but for me, the development of the attraction between the hero and heroine is the real gem here. Setting up a couple whose backgrounds are completely incompatible is certainly not new territory in romance. The journey up over, around, or through these incompatibilities to a believable happily ever after is what either makes or breaks a romance author—whatever the subgenre—and in my not-so-humble opinion, Cole does a stellar job.

I like to keep this blog fairly family friendly, so on the topic of teh hott, let me just say, READ CADE & HOLLY’S STORY. And if you want really steamy, check out Cole’s novella in the anthology “Playing Easy to Get,” which pretty much falls off the edge of romance and into erotica (or “romantica.” Whatever that is.)

Reading a whole series at once is always fun. In this case, I thought Cole’s characters definitely got better and better, especially the female ones. Lachlain, the first hero, is one of my faves, but I didn’t love his halfling mate. By the last book, Dark Desires After Dusk, I felt like the women characters were living up to the men. There’s a scene in DDAD (and by the way, WHO comes up with these titles? ackk) where Holly is struck by lightning and receives her full complement of heretofore-suppressed Valkyrie powers… and it’s STUNNING. A fantastic scene. And I will say this: each of Cole’s heroines are extremely unique. No stereotypes, no archetypes, no recycled characters with different hair color.

I don’t always like teasers, but I have to say that I adored the scene between Cade and his brother Rydstrom at the end of the book. Cade and his brother, the heir to a demon throne, have a rocky history, and Cade’s parting line both cracked me up and left me curious as hell: "Fuckall... does this mean I'm no longer the bad brother??"

So check out the series. As for me, I’m going to look into the MacCarrick brothers, and come February, I’ll be adding Kiss of a Demon King to my Borders’ haul.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"LibraryThing" Game

I dunno who started this, but it seems fun. Copy and play along if you are so inclined, and if you want, leave a link to your blog in comments.

Here is the Top 100 Most Popular Books list on LibraryThing.
Bold what you own.
italicize what you’ve read.
Star what you liked. *
Star multiple times what you loved! ***

1. Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone by J.K. Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) by J.K. Rowling
4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) by J.K. Rowling
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) by J.K. Rowling
7. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling
10. 1984 by George Orwell
11. Pride and Prejudice (Bantam Classics) by Jane Austen
12. The catcher in the rye by J.D. Salinger
13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
14. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
15. The lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
17. Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) by Charlotte Bronte
18. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
19. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
20. Animal Farm by George Orwell
21. Angels & demons by Dan Brown
22. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
23. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
24. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
25. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Part 1) by J.R.R. Tolkien
26. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
28. The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Part 2) by J.R.R. Tolkien
29. The Odyssey by Homer
30. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller****
31. Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - I couldn't finish. It hurt my brain.
33. The return of the king : being the third part of The lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
35. American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman
36. The chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
37. The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams***
38. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
39. The lovely bones: a novel by Alice Sebold
40. Ender’s Game (Ender, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card
41. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman
42. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman***
43. Dune by Frank Herbert (my husband made me)
44. Emma by Jane Austen
45. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
46. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Bantam Classics) by Mark Twain
47. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
48. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
49. Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
50. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire--auggh, hated, could not finish
51. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
52. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
53. The Iliad*** by Homer
54. The Stranger by Albert Camus (in French </smug>)
55. Sense and Sensibility (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen
56. Great Expectations (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens
57. The Handmaid’s Tale: A Novel by Margaret Atwood* (OMG, totally freaked me out; paranoiacs should avoid at all costs.)
58. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
59. Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt
60. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery (in French </smug>)
61. The lion, the witch and the wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
62. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
63. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
64. The Grapes of Wrath (Centennial Edition) by John Steinbeck, ugh, thank you HS sophomore English for planting images in my brain that I've never quite shed....
65. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
66. The Name of the Rose: including Postscript to the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
67. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
68. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
69. The complete works by William Shakespeare - read lots of it, but not nearly all.
70. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
71. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
72. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
73. Hamlet (Folger Shakespeare Library) by William Shakespeare
74. Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by John Steinbeck
75. A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens
76. The Alchemist (Plus) by Paulo Coelho
77. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
78. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
79. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk
80. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
81. The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2) by Philip Pullman
82. Atonement: A Novel by Ian McEwan
83. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
84. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
85. Dracula by Bram Stoker
86. Heart of Darkness (Dover Thrift Editions) by Joseph Conrad
87. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
88. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
89. The amber spyglass by Philip Pullman
90. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin Classics) by James Joyce
91. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel (Perennial Classics) by Milan Kundera
92. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
93. Neuromancer by William Gibson
94. The Canterbury Tales (Penguin Classics) by Geoffrey Chaucer
95. Persuasion (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen
96. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
97. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
98. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
99. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
100. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Read: 39
Own, but haven't read: 28 (a lot of these belong to my husband)

Hope you don't mind that I scrimped on the "liked/didn't like" evaluations-- some of these were an awfully long time ago... as in, I recognize a real lot of these from my 7th grade summer reading list. As a hint? Orwell's 1984 was still futuristic when I read it.

Of the 61 I haven't read, there are a handful that I sincerely hope I die without ever reading, and maybe a dozen or so that I expect to get around to someday. The rest I'm indifferent to. Popular != good.


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