Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Can you see my sidebars? I can't see my sidebars. I don't know why.

If they don't magically re-appear shortly, I'll contact Blogger. In the meantime, sorry and please join me in a hearty WTF??

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil, by Barbara Monajem - Review

Publisher's Pledge
In Dorchester's press release about their new marketing program, the Publisher's Pledge, there's a quote kind of buried in the middle that makes me really happy:
“Our strength has been identifying emerging voices and trends in the industry rather than chasing bestsellers. Our intent is to reestablish ourselves in the market as the publisher authors and agents turn to first to introduce new talent. " (Brooke Borneman, Director of Sales and Marketing.)

I just really like that there are publishers out there that are specifically looking to give aspiring authors their big break. The bottom line on the Publisher's Pledge is YOUR bottom line: according to the note in the review copy,
Dorchester's Publisher's Pledge program is our way of identifying particularly special books by giving readers a risk-free guarantee. We feel so strongly about Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil, we're willing to pay a full refund to anyone who doesn't find it everything they want in a paranormal fantasy.

Well. That's promising, isn't it?

I don't know if I've been getting burned out on paranormals or what, but I've been finding myself reluctant to try out new authors lately. Ho hum, another vampire. Does this one sparkle, or poof? However, I put aside my reservations and cracked this one open.

Which is all it took. One page, and I'm hooked. It's pretty hard to resist a female vampire named Ophelia Beliveau, whose chief challenge in life is fending off hapless human men who fall under her pheremone spell. Monajem manages to make this aspect of vampirism feel truly inconvenient and occasionally tragic, yet leavened with laugh-out-loud slapstick.

There's plenty of chemistry and conflict between Ophelia and Gideon and they work through it while untangling a couple of related mysteries. Plotting is tight and fast paced. I tend to think of it as a good sign when the guy I'm pretty sure dunnit turns up dead just when I'm starting to be sure. (That might sound like I'm calling it predictable, but that's not what I mean.)

I think my favorite piece of this book is the way the cast of secondary characters come alive. No doubt there will be sequels, but it really didn't feel like sequel-baiting. It felt more like Season One of a new show with a great ensemble cast, and I'm already looking forward to next season.

There's a second "moral of the story" in this post -- I need to take a page from Dorchester's book (so to speak!) and bust out of this new-author-reluctance I've fallen into lately. I'm not always like this, and I should snap out of it already! Truthfully, I love more new authors than I hate, and I like lots more. And the last couple that I've taken a chance on have been really really excellent.

Who have you discovered lately?

Other Reviews:

Patricia's Vampire Notes
The Deepening
Vampire News

Note: if you have reviewed this book, feel free to leave a link in comments!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trendspotting: Not-So-Urban Fantasy

According to Wikipedia, Urban Fantasy is:
a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. However, this is not the primary definition of urban fantasy. Urban fantasy can be set in historical times, modern times, or futuristic times. The prerequisite is that it must be primarily set in a city, rather than in a suburban or country setting, which have their own genre subsets.

Maybe it's because I run primarily in romance circles, but it seems to me that the category I think of as "Urban Fantasy" isn't really urban fantasy at all. The UF books I read blend fantasy, horror and suspense; sometimes a little romance; they're always contemporary or near-future; and there are always some characters with supernatural abilities. The "urban" part seems largely irrelevant to me. "Fantasy" somehow doesn't seem specific enough; I generally think of swords and sorcerers when I think of the general Fantasy genre. ( Also, I think wikipedia might be lying about the other "genre subsets." I've heard the term "pastoral" as relates to romance, but if you asked a book store clerk where they shelve the pastoral fantasy? Thinkin' you're gonna get a blank look there...)

I asked my husband, who's a huge fan of classical (not so much current) Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Horror, what's the difference between fantasy-style paranormal or magic stuff, and horror-style paranormal/magic? He thought that horror is a) usually more graphically violent and b) overlaps the "real world" more; while fantasy is usually some entirely other world with its own rules. I say that's a line that's getting blurrier every day.

It's really time to re-name this category of books that includes Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Kat Richardson, Vicki Pettersson, Jenna Black, Christine Warren, Mark Henry, Jim Butcher, Keri Arthur, Kelley Armstrong, and a hundred others, if for no other reason than books that are the same category in every way except setting are starting to crop up everywhere.

For me it started with Ilona Andrews' On The Edge. No reasonable person could describe this story as Urban-Anything. But it's very much the same kind of story as the Kate Daniels books set in Atlanta.

Then I got the ARC for Barbara Monajem's Sunrise in the Garden of Love and Evil (review coming up 3/30), and shortly after that picked up Diana Rowland's Blood of the Demon, both set in rural Louisiana. In Elisabeth Naughton's upcoming Marked, the "our world" parts of the story are set in a small New England town and the countryside around it. And most of the action in Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series is fairly countrified (another way she polarizes the Psy and the Changeling races, but that's another post!).

These are heroines that are comfortable with shotguns, The Dixie Chicks, and good old boys. They're more likely to encounter tobacco chew than Jimmy Choo.

Although I don't have a cite, I recall one of the actresses from the 1980's show Designing Women talking about audiences being "ready" for the slower, slyer pacing of "southern" humor, as opposed to the typical city settings of most of the popular shows of the time-- it seemed like everything was set in LA or New York.

What about you? Are you ready for Non-Urban Fantasy? What the heck do we call it? And should it have its own name? Or do we need a new name for these books... and what would it be? I'm thinking something like... "contemporary paranormal". Descriptive, but not restrictive.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Best Gift, by Wendy Markham - Review

Timeline of a Convert
8:00 am, Page 1. Setting: On the Bus. Dialog: Internal.

Man. Is this really written in present tense for the whole book? *flips pages* Auugh, I hate that.


12:15 pm, page 38. Setting: Mostly empty office, remains of Lean Cuisine at elbow. Dialog: with Co-worker (Lit major, fluent in 4 or 5 languages, works as a tester in our lab).

Coworker: Whatcha reading?
Me: A romance.
Coworker: Is it any good?
Me: Not really. Someone sent it to me. I'm going to review it. It's all in present tense, augh, I hate that. But it's a time travel thing, so I guess it kind of makes sense for that. You know. It's the Douglas Adams problem.
Coworker: *Laugh* *wanders off*
Me: *still reading*


6:00 pm, page 100. Setting: On the bus. Dialog: Internal.

Auuugggh, something horrible is going to happen, I just know it. I need to know what. And when. *turns page*


7:30 pm, page 186. Setting: My house. Dialog: with my kid.
Kid: Mom?
Me: *still reading* Go away.
Kid: But, mom...!!
Me: *still reading* Seriously. Go ask your father.


9:30 pm, page 236. Setting: On the couch. Dialog: Internal.

I'll just read for a half hour or so. *yawn* This time change is killing me, I need to get to bed early.


11:15 PM, page 304. Setting: On the couch. Dialog: Internal.

Crap. I have to finish this. *yawn*


11:50 pm, last page. Setting: On the couch. Dialog: Internal.

Wow. That was incredible. *reads prequel excerpt* I might need to read that. God, I hate that it's in present tense though. Augh. I hate that.


This book is a really unusual reading experience. It takes place almost entirely within the span of 4 days - two in 2009, and two in 2012. I was tense, anxious, filled with foreboding, and mildly confused for almost the entire stretch, which normally doesn't make me like a book, but in this case, it was very effective at keeping me turning the pages.

I still can't figure out if I liked it or not.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mind Games Contest

I have to tell you, I am totally staging a coup on the local Borders as of next Tuesday morning. I cannot tell you how much I'm anticipating Carolyn Crane's debut novel. When I started up Alpha Heroes, Carolyn was one of the first bloggers to really make me feel like someone was out there paying attention to this little blog *sniff* -- I feel like we're friends even though we've never met.

More importantly though, I love her writing. I find The Thrillionth Page so entertaining -- insightful, thoughtful, hilarious. I particularly like when she has those psychotic breaks guest posts by Little CJ and Miss Doreen. I just enjoy the way her mind works, which I think bodes very well for my chances of loving her fiction too.

So natch, I'm happy to help spread the word about her big day. And since I must admit, I do like to eat, this sounded like an especially fun contest.

The Trapped in a Restaurant meme game
Okay, Carolyn made up this meme game to celebrate one of the many mysteries of Mind Games: Why does tortured mastermind Sterling Packard NEVER ever set foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant? Anybody anywhere can to play.

First Prize: One randomly chosen player will get $100 toward a fancy dinner at a restaurant of their choice! (Any restaurant anywhere that accepts plastic or sells gift certificates. You don’t have to choose until you win.) Second prize: $50 toward a dinner.

How to play:

Just post the questions, your answers, meme icon and meme game line on social media site (blog, facebook, livejournal, other).

Below is all you have to put (but make up your own answers! LOL):

1. In MIND GAMES, hypochondriac heroine Justine Jones can’t figure out why tortured mastermind Sterling Packard never sets foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant. What if you were somehow trapped in a restaurant, what sort of restaurant would you prefer?

Uppity Eye-talian. Mmmmm, pasta, fancy sauces, and rich desserts.

2. What if you won the fancy $100 dinner to a restaurant of your choice, and you could dine with any character from any book, movie, or history. Who would you choose?

Rhett Butler

3. Choose three characters to dine with for a lively dinner party (you can define lively however you want).

Hmmm. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Lady Whistledown, and Sam Donovan (a/k/a Mr. Perfect) . Buncha wordy smart-alecks. Though... if it were the kind of dinner party where someone were to feel, you know, obligated to put out afterward, I might sub in pre-Jane V for Sam, even if his conversation skillz aren't quite up to Holmes' standard.

Meme Game! Send meme game link by 4/8 to meme@authorcarolyncrane.com to enter. Anyone can play. Details at www.authorcarolyncrane.com.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekly Geeks - Author Interviews

Aha! a Weekly Geek topic that I've been meaning to talk about! Bernadette of Reactions To Reading, poses us this challenge:

Having recently been told that I'm odd because I'm not terribly interested in author interviews I've started to ponder whether there are two types of readers...those who stick to the books versus those who like to know more about the author's background, thoughts, motivations and writing process.

I must be odd, too (like that's a surprise). I like to know a little bit about an author, but to be perfectly honest, I find most of the author interviews in the blogosphere kind of boring, and especially when there's a "tour" and there are a 6 or 8 bloggers asking the same questions of the same person. Truth be told, I'm just not that interested in what inspires the author or what color their cat is or what music he or she listens to while writing. I know that sounds cold. Sorry.

There are exceptions. I'll confess I went a little cuckoo for JR Ward's site and forum when my fandom was at its most rabid. Eventually I eased out of that "world" for a few reasons not really relevant here, and I mostly don't participate heavily on author sites any more.

So, what about you?

* Do you seek out interviews with authors of books you've enjoyed? Why or why not?

* Do you interview authors on your blog? If yes what did you gain from the interview process? If no is it because you don't want to or because you haven't felt able to ask an author yet?

* Do you subscribe to the blogs of authors you like? Which ones? All the authors you like or only certain ones?

So, no, I don't do interviews here for the most part and I rarely go out of my way to read them. Not because I find authors unapproachable (quite the opposite, usually!); it's just not my thing.

I don't put author blogs on my blog roll, just as a matter of policy. I would feel pressured to add someone to the roll if I feel friendly toward the author but found the last book just OK, as a for instance, and I don't need that kind of angst about something I do here for fun.

I do follow some author blogs more than others but I'm not really religious about following any of them. I mean, good writing is good writing, whether the result is a book or a blog post, so yeah, many of them are entertaining. But honestly, just in general I'm in kind of a lull right now about how many blogs I want to read regularly; I've been reading fewer of my "regulars" and less often as it is. I do like to check in and see what the news is about their releases though.

* Do you track down author websites or look for biographical information about them elsewhere? Would you skip reading a book if you couldn't find out anything about its author?

* Have you hosted an author on a blog tour? Was it someone whose books you already read or did it introduce you to a new author?

When reviewing a new author, I usually do check out the website. I like to know about the book in context with the author's other work; sometimes my review will take into account whether it's a debut book or not. Sometimes authobiographic information is interesting relative to the story -- like JR Ward's previous profession as a lawyer, or Robyn Carr's nursing education.

I am sometimes frustrated if there's no site, or a badly maintained site, but it absolutely won't stop me from reading a book. (I mean, I started reading when the only way to contact an author was to write an actual letter, on paper, and send it to their publisher.) It makes it harder to help promote an author though, if I haven't got a clue about what's coming out next from them. I've seen a big improvement on this in the two years I've been blogging. It used to be that a lot of established authors would have a really crummy site, or maybe a beautiful site with a letter to the readers dated a year and a half ago. I don't see that as much any more.

I've done some blog tours but I usually just do a review and maybe a giveaway.

Bottom line is, I'm afraid I can't deny that when it comes to authors, I'm really just after one thing. I'm not that interested in developing a relationship or indulging in small talk. Don't really want to know about your baggage. I just want to run my fingers over the luscious swells of your embossed titles; inhale that new-book smell; and plunge into the depths of your pages.

Authors, I'm sorry. The truth is, I'm only using you for your stories.

For more thoughts on this topic, please visit The Weekly Geeks, check out the links, and add your voice.


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