Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Kiss of Snow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

KISS OF SNOW (Psy-Changeling Series #10)

Nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance
June 2011

From author's website:

Since the moment of her defection from the PsyNet and into the SnowDancer wolf pack, Sienna Lauren has had one weakness. Hawke. Alpha and dangerous, he compels her to madness.

Hawke is used to walking alone, having lost the woman who would’ve been his mate long ago. But Sienna fascinates the primal heart of him, even as he tells himself she is far too young to handle the wild fury of the wolf.

Then Sienna changes the rules and suddenly, there is no more distance, only the most intimate of battles between two people who were never meant to meet. Yet as they strip away each other’s secrets in a storm of raw emotion, they must also ready themselves for a far more vicious fight…

A deadly enemy is out to destroy SnowDancer, striking at everything they hold dear, but it is Sienna’s darkest secret that may yet savage the pack that is her home…and the alpha who is its heartbeat…

So, I have a confession to make. I'm nursing a truly spectacular crush on Hawke (perhaps you can see why based on this cover) and have been blatantly book-stalking him. By book-stalking I mean I've been reading this series out of order and picking the books that feature members of the SnowDancer pack of which he's Alpha to read in the hope I'll get some delicious Hawke snippets, so I feel it goes without saying that I'm hugely excited to read his story. I think it takes a pretty special person to stalk a fictional character, so I find I'm rather proud of myself in this situation;)

Seriously though, if you like paranormal romance and you haven't yet read Nalini Singh, get on it!

Review: Shades of Gray

SHADES OF GRAY (Jude Magdalyn series #1)
L.M. Pruitt

Urban Fantasy
Available Now
Received from author for review

Though she is named after saints, Jude Magdalyn's life has been anything but blessed. The death of her parents resulted in life in an orphanage, and then life on the streets forced at times to sell her body for survival. Now, she lives the life of a con artist, reading tarot cards for tourists wanting the authentic New Orleans experience.

A reading with what she assumes is one such client yields highly atypical results as events take place and information comes to light revealing Jude to be the preordained leader of the Covenant, a group of powerful individuals warring with an organized group of vampires. Now she finds herself in the middle of a life she never thought possible, surrounded by people with whose hopes and dreams she is burdened, destined to fill a role she's not sure she can handle.

With the guidance of her mentor Gillian and the occasional pointer from vampire warrior Williams, Jude begins to hone her powers and train for the war everyone says is coming, and coming quickly. Jude has only ever had to care for herself, but now she bears the responsibility of dozens of lives, young and old alike, and as much as there are those outside the Covenant who wish her harm, she may face an even greater threat from within.


Shades of Gray wastes little time introducing us to the action, immediately catapulting us into a richly diverse and slightly eerie post-Katrina New Orleans as our heroine realizes she's an intrinsic part of a war humanity has no idea is being waged. Typically, finding ourselves in the middle of events quickly is welcome, as world building and extensive descriptions of characters and locations make for a slower pace where our involvement in the story is delayed considerably. However, the lack of history in this tale keeps us on the fringes of the battle as opposed to being on the front lines, our limited knowledge preventing us from fully ascertaining the magnitude of what Jude and company are fighting for. The villain is clear, but the specifics of how the opposing factions came to be and why their hatred burns so bright remains muddied. Therefore, our emotional response when good lives are lost is stunted, our hearts merely bruised instead of shattered beyond repair as the full weight of their sacrifice remains outside our realm of understanding.

Jude has an incredibly smart mouth and a bottomless reservoir of pithy remarks, and while this makes for some extraordinarily entertaining witty repartee, her sarcasm is sometimes layered so thick it forms a coat of armor around her we are unable to chink, thus keeping the sentiments underneath out of our reach. She also at times makes herself difficult to like, one instance in particular with regard to Williams, engaging in an activity during a time of grief from which she knows she should walk away, having the presence of mind to know it's wrong but not the emotional strength to refuse the comfort. When the dust settles, she immediately cries foul, making a monster of a man who, based on the information we've been provided, doesn't entirely deserve the label. Her attention shifts from Williams to Covenant member Theo quickly and easily prior to the grief episode, and when he provides her with an out from blame for the entire ordeal she latches onto it with a shocking intensity, assuaging her guilt and transferring her hurt and pain to Williams's broad shoulders. She is strong and independent, but her shortcomings force us to keep our distance when we might otherwise be drawn in by a friend, a confidante, and an able leader.

The secondary characters are beautifully portrayed however, a wide array of personalities overflowing with flaws and vulnerabilities as well as unique gifts and inherent strengths that add a fascinating layer to the story. Our affection for Williams is instant and unwavering, one of the reasons why his quick dismissal by Jude and his subsequent treatment at her hands leaves us a bit confused, wondering if we agree with her that our loyalty has been misplaced. He is a vampire of many secrets who acts in ways that, despite their mysteriousness, are in her best interest even if she fails to view them as such. As much as we would like to hate Theo and render him a usurper of Jude's attentions whom we adamantly deny the gift of our affection, Ms. Pruitt makes him very difficult to dislike. He takes Jude's snarky comments in stride and instead of meekly accepting them or lashing out in anger, absorbs them and slings them back at her with the added facet of guidance, helping her to extend her powers and be the ray of hope they need her to be.

We are left with an interesting development in Jude's personal life, one with far-reaching implications for both the war itself and her existence as a whole. It's clear we have as much to learn as Jude, and here's hoping we get a touch more information in book two so that we no longer have to crouch on the sides of the fighting ring, but rather get to have our hands tagged so we can cross the ropes and enter the fray.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Once A Witch

ONCE A WITCH (Once a Witch #1)
Carolyn MacCullough
Paranormal Young Adult
292 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available Now

She was supposed to be the best of them. A beacon, her grandmother predicted when she was born. One of the most powerful witches in their family everyone said, her mother should be so proud. Only when Tamsin Greene turned eight, the age she should have come into her powers, nothing happened. Not the slightest inkling of Talent emerged.

Nine years later Tamsin is still dealing with the repercussions of her perceived failure as a witch. Her family loves her, but they treat her differently, an outcast among blood relatives. So when a mysterious NYU professor approaches her at her family's bookstore and mistakes her for her older and very Talented sister Rowena, Tamsin doesn't have strength to correct him, instead offering her help to assist him in finding an object he's lost.

Luckily for Tamsin, childhood friend Gabriel has recently moved back to town with his mother, and he just happens to have the Talent for locating lost objects. With his help, Tamsin locates what the professor so desperately seeks, but it's retrieval sets into motion an irreversible set of events with extreme circumstances for the entire Greene line, and reveals a long hidden truth about Tamsin herself.

Sweet and endearing with a touch of intensity and intrigue, Once a Witch is an engrossing tale of finding oneself and understanding that who we are supposed to be isn't nearly as important as the people we actually are. Predictions of the future only have credence based on the strength of the belief we put into them; they are not solid and unyielding, but rather viscous, ever-changing and altering with our every action. Laced with humor but counterbalanced with a dark edge of mystery, this tale is one where we ultimately lose track of the pages, finding questionably valid reasons for procrastinating on day to day matters so we can stay in thrall of the story unfolding before our eyes. This isn't a read that will necessarily haunt us with the magnitude of the events or the profundity of it's message, but it is certainly one that solicits our rapt attention, putting us fully under it's spell from page one and not releasing us from it's hold until we've reached the conclusion.

Tamsin is a girl of striking symmetry and balance; a dry wit accompanies a vibrant personality, an intellectual confidence is paired with an innate vulnerability at her lack of Talent, and a desire to prove her worth is paralleled by an admirable loyalty to those from whom she's so very different. No single trait overshadows the others to make her a more dramatic or outrageous teenage character, instead she is a blend of charming and relevant attributes that combine to form a well-rounded heroine onto whom we can so easily project ourselves. We share in her sense of being tainted and an utter failure to her family line, we smile gamely at her witty retorts and snappy one-liners, and we stand resolutely beside her as she attempts to wash away the perceived stain of normalcy and find a place in the hierarchy of witches.

In addition to a truly wonderful heroine, we also get a refreshing break from relationship drama and suffocating teen angst. The romantic element between Tamsin and Gabriel is extraordinarily subtle, one that provides just enough tension a dreamy exhalation still escapes our lips in anticipation of increased affectionate attention, but not so much as to be the very epicenter of the story around which all the other elements revolve. Our appetites are nicely whetted, our toes just breaching the bottomless pool of emotional connection as opposed to being swept away in an inescapable tide of hormones, pheromones, and endless pining. Tamsin and Gabriel are clearly destined for great things, each individually a force to be reckoned with on a variety of levels, and if this story is any indication, it will be an absolute pleasure to watch their strength and loyalty coalesce into something more spectacular than the sum of it's parts. With that in mind, however, an increase in the romance between them will be more than welcome in the sequel.

Once a Witch is an enthralling read, one that hasn't been given due credit up to this point, overshadowed instead by scores of other paranormal young adult books. Make no mistake however, this story is a pop of color amongst a sea of gray, a blissful single voice ringing out amidst a cacophony of sounds, and a steadying hand anchoring us where the teenage drama might otherwise pull us under.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jenny Pox Giveaway Winner

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my Jenny Pox giveaway! According to Random.org, the winner of an e-book copy is:

Inspired Kathy

Please check your email for my notification and Mr. Bryan will be contacting you with the file!

Friday, November 26, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

I'm really excited to be participating in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge next year. I'm a challenge first-timer and can't wait to dive in to some fabulous books! Below is some basic information about the challenge, but you can find full details at The Story Siren as Kristi is hosting the event.

- The objective of the DAC is to read at least twelve novels from Young Adult or Middle Grade Authors. While twelve is the minimum there is no maximum limit! I encourage readers who can read more than twelve to do so!

- Anyone can join. You don't have to be a blogger, and you don't have to live in the United States.

- You do not have to have an blog written in English to participate.

- You can join at anytime. The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.

Here is a list of the books I'm hoping to read each month for the challenge. More will be added I'm sure!

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher (1.1.11)
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (1.4.11) - review
XVI by Julia Karr (1.6.11) - review
Timeless by Alexandra Monir (1.11.11)
Across the Universe by Beth Revis (1.11.11)
Vesper: A Deviants Novel by Jeff Sampsen (1.25.11) - review

The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver (2.1.11) - review
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney (2.8.11)
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (2.15.11)
A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford (2.22.11)

Clarity by Kim Harrington (3.1.11)
Wither by Lauren DeStefano (3.22.11)
Entwined by Heather Dixon (3.29.11)
Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter (3.29.11)
Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach (3.31.11)

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (4.12.11)
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton (4.26.11)
Bumped by Megan McCafferty (4.26.11)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (5.3.11)
Die for Me by Amy Plum (5.10.11)
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky (5.23.11)
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini (5.31.11)

Possession by Elana Johnson (6.7.11)
Hereafter by Tara Hudson (6.7.11
The Revenant by Sonia Gensler (6.14.11)

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter (7.4.11)
Bad Taste in Boys by Carrier Harris (7.12.11)

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (8.2.11)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cover Critique: Wither

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts stemming from my design experience.

It's been a while since I've critiqued a cover that I think is particularly well done, so I figured it was time to take a break from some of the absurdity and focus on something gorgeous. Have no fear though, we'll return to the hilariousness next week! I've been increasingly impressed with the quality of young adult book cover design, and one of my favorite covers thus far for the 2011 releases is Lauren DeStefano's Wither.

Perhaps my favorite part of this cover is the combination of photography, design and layout. So many times on book covers we have a beautiful image or illustration as the focal point with an interesting typeface above, below, or simply across it. While this makes for innumerable lovely possibilities, the overall layout is basically the same. With Wither, we have a stunning image as the primary focus but we also have an interesting use of type. It doesn't merely run horizontally across the cover, but is incorporated as an actual design element, blending with the linear structures to create a progression of words from top to bottom. The young girl's face surrounded by the giant circle is our starting point, and we are then led via horizontal line to the name of the book series. From there, we are guided to the title of this particular installment, and finally we are drawn vertically down the author's name and then on to other items meant to be of note.

In addition to merely enhancing the overall design, the geometric elements are reminiscent of scientific diagrams, making us feel as though with this read we will be provided an interesting study, perhaps one involving human nature if the young lady on the cover is any indication. I particularly love that the "w" in the title is enclosed in a square, a possible reference to the periodic table of elements and yet another beautiful, subtle element enhancing the stunning eeriness of this cover, as well as an allusion to the "chemical garden" portion of the title. Also fascinating is the emphasis on this young girl's left hand and the presence of a ring on a very significant finger. Has she been taken from someone she loves and is now under scientific monitoring? What's special about her that would draw such interest? So many intriguing questions are raised without even having to read the back cover, all as a result of good design.

Lastly, though the cover has a unified look with the use of cooler colors and a soft pink accent, I love the disparity that exists between the two main objects in the photograph. We have the loose and wild hair of our protagonist, teased impressively and flowing carefree about her shoulders, paired nicely with an equally voluminous dress scattered about her legs as though she is unconcerned with the state of her appearance. In stark contrast, we have the pristine presence of a small bird – utterly unruffled and controlled in it's gilded cage. Where one is free the other is contained, though the meaningful placement of the circular elements suggest this young girl is as much a prisoner as her feathered friend, the bars of her prison are just less recognizable and definable.

Overall, I adore this cover. I love the combination of elements and I thoroughly enjoy the story being told. It piques interest but gives nothing away, and would certainly draw my attention on the bookshelf. What do you guys think? Do you have a favorite cover out of the 2011 releases you've seen so far?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Hard Bitten

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

HARD BITTEN (Chicagoland Vampires #4)
Chloe Neill
Urban Fantasy
Releases May 3rd, 2011

From Goodreads:

Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals--and they're camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are ... tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.

Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn't help that she can't tell who's on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who's tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago's supernatural society--a world full of vampires who seem too ready to fulfill the protesting human's worst fears, and a place where she'll learn that you can't be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands...

This is one of my favorite book series. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, pick it up immediately! Merit is a brilliant heroine and her struggles with Ethan are sublime – both incredibly satisfying and maddeningly frustrating and I can't wait to see what book 4 has in store for the two of them after everything that happened in book 3.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review + Giveaway: Jenny Pox

J.L. Bryan
Paranormal Young Adult
Available Now

Everything Jenny Morton touches without a clothing barrier dies a horrible death. She learned this the hard way, picking up a snake when she was little thinking it would be a suitable toy only to watch in horror as bloody sores broke out all over it's body. She's never had extended skin on skin contact with anyone, forced to wear long sleeve shirts and gloves even in the balmy weather of the South.

Now starting her senior year of high school, Jenny is as alone as ever. Forever an outsider due to her quirky habit of wearing gloves to school and the lingering rumors of an unbelievable elementary school battle with popular-girl Ashleigh, she's just waiting for the moment she graduates and can get a local job away from the probing stares of her classmates. Senior year proves to be anything but easy, however, as all the past years of flying somewhat under the radar come to abrupt halt when fortuitous circumstances cause Ashleigh's boyfriend Seth to take notice of Jenny.

While wanting to avoid confrontation with Ashleigh at all costs, Jenny can't help but want to get close to Seth, having learned he possesses the ability to heal and is thereby immune to her curse. Finally she gets to experience physical contact, but her euphoria is short-lived as Ashleigh too has a unique ability, and no one will take what's hers without consequence.

Jenny Pox is a darkly fascinating story, Jenny's ability to spread infection seeming to seep through the pages themselves, searing an everlasting mark on our hearts and minds as permanent as the scars she leaves on those she touches physically. Only instead of leaving pustules in her wake as she embeds herself firmly under our skin, Jenny creates a thriving conduit through which her overwhelming loneliness, misery, and constant longing for even the briefest of touches is transferred, forever linking us together as fiction and reality come together to share a story of forlorn beauty and haunting circumstance. This tale highlights both the inspiring strengths and the abhorrent cruelties of human nature, forcing us to run through the full gamut of emotional responses and refusing to let us return to reality until everything Mr. Bryan wants us to experience has been felt, seen, and fully absorbed.

Jenny is a beautiful heroine; strong of mind and spirit, and born with a curse no human being should have to endure. Her desolation emanates from the story in thick waves, hovering around us like a suffocating cloud through which we struggle to breathe, while the torture of her necessary solitude invokes a devastating sadness in us as we wish with all our strength for a shift in her situation. Her relationship with Seth is characterized by both an undiluted elation at her moments of shared contact with another person and a scorching pain when we realize Ashleigh will retaliate for Seth's change of heart with an unparalleled vehemence. Their attempt at happiness makes us smile through a sheen of tears, but a prevalent sense of dread is our constant companion as we know the pleasure will be fleeting, replaced swiftly with a venomous attack delivered under the guise of good intention.

Ashleigh is monstrously despicable, a girl absolutely devoid of any emotional attachments and someone around whom the dangerous tentacles of blind ambition have strongly coiled. Perhaps most disturbing is her outward appearance of purity, the mask of beauty and perfection so impeccably maintained not even the faintest wisp of villainy escapes it, her true identity buried far below a dazzling smile and hypnotic eyes. Even without her added ability to create love and desire with a simple touch, it's clear the world would still fall prey to her charms, enslaving all those she meets with an expert bat of her eyelashes and a practiced sway of her hips. She is a true master of manipulation, a girl who causes bile to rise in our throats as we choke on her sickeningly saccharine public personality.

The ending is a bit of a departure from the tone of the rest of the story, the paranormal element ratcheting up a drastic notch from it's more subtle presence in the beginning, and culminating in a truly gruesome display of the extent of Jenny's capabilities. This surprisingly graphic turn of events is a bit disconcerting after the mental anguish and quiet conniving leading up to the final showdown, but Mr. Bryan adds a little twist once the horror subsides that provides a viable resolution and believable reconciliation between the events of beginning and end. Though the ages of it's characters might suggest a young adult story, it does contain several scenes that extend beyond a mere implied sexual relationship and are a bit more explicit in detail, therefore better suited to an older audience. There is also some casual drug use that is a bit bothersome at times due to its lack of necessity to the plot, but despite that shortcoming, this story is intensely emotional, brilliantly told, and absolutely worth reading.

Rating: 4/5

GIVEAWAY: Mr. Bryan has agreed to provide an e-book of Jenny Pox to one lucky commenter. If you wish to be entered to win, please leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you. Contest will run through Friday, November 26th after which a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Matched

Ally Condie
Paranormal Young Adult
366 pages
Available November 30
Received from Publisher

Life in the Society is perfect. Genetics have been successfully conquered. People are living longer lives, are matched with their ideal reproductive mate, and provide individual services that benefit the Society as a whole. There's no depression, no ambition, nothing beyond toting a predestined line.

Cassia is one such member of Society, and it's the night she's been waiting for her entire seventeen years. Her Match Banquet. Tonight she will see the boy meant for her, and her life can truly begin. It turns out even better than she could have hoped, as her Match is none other than childhood best friend Xander. Beautiful, intelligent, perfect-in-every-way Xander. Things couldn't be better.

Only when she goes to review Xander's data on a microcard after the banquet, it's not his face that pops up on screen as her Match. It's another neighborhood boy named Ky whose face she sees for the briefest of moments. That fleeting image changes everything. Which Match is her true Match? Should she follow her heart, or follow the rules of a Society that has never lead her astray? Is her destiny the one already planned out to the last detail, or the one she makes it? Never before has Cassia questioned anything, but the time for sitting idly by has passed, and a new time has come where questions become vital to survival.

Every once in a while a story comes along that electrifies you into having a deep, visceral reaction of which you didn't know you were capable and certainly weren't expecting. Matched starts out so simple, a perfect society full of perfect people living perfect lives so spectacularly detailed there's not the slightest opportunity or inclination for change. The story moves very slowly, like a watched pot waiting to boil. There's insubordination and discontent simmering just beneath the surface, promising complex interactions and intricate emotional conflicts, but that first defiant bubble refuses to break the smooth surface and come to a full boil until midway through the book. Though it begins slowly, this story is not boring. Never boring. Rather, the plot progresses at a pace that allows the reader to think, to question, to relate, and ultimately to savor. It doesn't necessarily inspire late-night, frenetic-pace reading, but it does creep into our consciousness at every available opportunity, leaving its permanent brand on our psyche as we find ourselves reflecting on everything we've experienced.

There's something overwhelmingly intimate about Cassia's story, a quiet but potent camaraderie existing between character and reader, allowing us feel that no matter how many other people share this same story, we will always have an individual relationship and our own unique, unbreakable bond to hold tight and treasure. The stolen moments between Cassia and Ky are beautifully portrayed, the simplest of actions taking on a heartbreaking significance. Plain alphabet letters morph into unspoken declarations of love, the briefest of touches becomes more potent than the most passionate of embraces, and hushed exchanges transform into life-altering events.

The writing itself seems to reflect the rigid parameters established by Society. There are no unnecessary, flowery descriptions of characters or places, just matter of fact details illustrating an unquestioning acceptance of day to day life. At first, this sterile approach keeps the reader at a distance, never letting us fully into Cassia's heart and mind so we may connect to her as we follow on her journey, but as soon as Cassia begins to question and to feel, we start to feel with her. The writing then provides yet another type of unity, creating a bond between us that strengthens as each new emotion she feels adds a strand of fiber to the steel cable now holding us together. Real affection, true sorrow, and a brand new anger begin to replace the Society-preferred contentment and complacency, and though it doesn't show on Cassia's exterior, we have the privilege of seeing the maelstrom of rebellious emotions swirling through her veins.

Both gloriously simple and deliciously complex, this story is a joy to read. To bear witness as Cassia discovers the point at which the level of control over her life is no longer acceptable is incredibly powerful, and there's a haunting satisfaction in watching as complexities begin to infect the pristine monotony the Society has worked so hard to perfect. Life is effortless when everything is decided for us, but infinitely more intricate when we are gifted with the ability to choose. Following dictation is easy. Making decisions and facing the repercussions of those choices is far more difficult. More life-affirming. More courageous. And, at the end of the day, what makes life worth living.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In My Mailbox #11

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!


The Candidates by Inara Scott
Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Free on Kindle:
Rebel by Zoe Archer

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cover Critique: The Romance Novel

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts stemming from my design experience.

Today's critique is going to be in fictional conversation format, this time between an art director and a class full of designers. Hope you enjoy:)

Art Director: Alright everyone, last week I gave you an assignment to design and execute a cover for a romance novel. You were asked to find models, oversee the photography, and create a finished layout. I believe some of the guidelines were the male models should be in good shape, we women like to ogle, and it was entirely up to you as to whether they were alone or accompanied. Let's see what you've all come up with!

Andrea, we'll start with you.

Art Director:
Gorgeous! The use of monochromatic colors is very appealing, and I like that you went against the grain and used cool blues and greens despite the title having the word "passion" in it.

Andrea: Thank you. I'm quite fond of the final product. I kind of want to lick him.

Art Director: Please refrain from saying things like that in my presence. If you feel the urge to say something along those lines coming on, I'd like to request you make a concentrated effort to suppress it. That being said, your choice of model was spot on, and props to you for including his entire head instead of just his mouth, chin, and chest as so many romance covers do.

Andrea: Heads are important.

Art Director: Thank you for that statement of fact. I'd say heads are doubly important in a romance novel, wouldn't you? Heh. Okay, moving on.

Jason, what have you got for me?

Shazam! I think what I've come up with is electric. Get it?

Art Director: Yes, and you think wrong. Very, very wrong. First of all, your model looks as though he's admiring himself in the mirror instead of giving potential readers the "come hither" stare. Second, what is that necklace?

Jason: I thought he needed a prop.

Art Director: And that necklace is the best you could come up with? Why is your model on the cover twice? Does he have a twin brother, or does he just like to watch himself with women?

Jason: Well, I thought I'd illustrate his abundance of masculinity by showing him standing alone in all his shirtless magnificence, and then also show the readers how he can pleasure a woman...magnificently.

Art Director: I suffer you to live. And stop using the word "magnificent", when used in reference to your cover it loses all meaning.

Travis, please show me all my teachings have not been lost on you as they so clearly have on Jason.

Art Director:
Well done Travis! Another beautiful use of color. Like Andrea, you chose a lovely model and created an image that's sexy while remaining tasteful. I like how all we see are the woman's hands, now we know she's there but we can project ourselves onto her and imagine ourselves in her place. It's dramatic and enticing without resorting to absurdity.

Travis: Thank you. Love it when the ladies use their nails to scratch.

Art Director: Ungh. That was entirely too much information about you. I think we're done here.

Susannah, round us out would you?

Art Director:
Care to explain yourself?

Well, I know some people like to um, dress up, in the bedroom so I wanted to illustrate that particular kink on the cover.

Art Director: I see. And when women ask their men to dress up as you say, do you think it's fuzzy pink bunny ears they want to see them in? And don't you think for a romance cover, if he's going to be in bunny ears, they should both at least be upright? Limpness is not something we want to advertise in this situation Susannah. And what's wrong with his face? He looks as though he's been mauled and can only see out of his right eye.

Susannah: I had some trouble there.

Art Director:
Clearly. A mutilated bunny is stalking this topless woman. That is terrifying Susannah. You fail.

Okay, everyone. Some of you did very well this week. Susannah and Jason, I'm going to need you both to be smarter and more talented before you can continue in my class. See you all next week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blog Hop November 19-21

This week's question: How long have you been book blogging?

I've had the book review blog for just under 6 months and I've loved every minute of it. I'm still figuring things out in terms of writing reviews that people hopefully find interesting, and it's been a blast getting to "meet" other bloggers who share the same passion!

A big thanks to Parajunkee for hosting the Follow Friday!

This week's prompt: Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!

Like probably everyone else, I'm extremely thankful for my friends and family and their good health. I'm especially thankful to have a husband who supports my book buying addiction, and doesn't care that I frequent the bookstore multiple times a week even though I have a stack of books waiting to be read at home:) We live very close to my in laws, so Thanksgiving is typically spent with them enjoying eating way more than we should and watching football!

Thanks so much to Crazy for Books for hosting the hop each week!

Review: Unraveled

UNRAVELED (Intertwined #2)
Gena Showalter
Paranormal Young Adult
572 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available Now

Warning: This review contains spoilers from Intertwined, but no spoilers from Unraveled.

Aden Stone used to think his life was empty. He had no friends. No family. No one to care about him outside of the four souls trapped in his mind, their constant rambling his only form of social interaction. Now, Aden's wishing for the time when his life was a little less crowded. He's down one soul, but is up one girlfriend, two close friends, and an entire town full of supernatural creatures eager to end Aden's life, thereby releasing them from his inexplicable magnetic pull. Oh, and if that weren't enough, he's the new leader of an entire coven of vampires.

While Aden struggles with his newfound popularity, Mary Ann has problems of her own. Her relationship with her father is still tense due to the weight of his recent revelations, and she's found herself increasingly averse to eating any solid foods. She thinks it's due to stress, her knowledge and involvement in the paranormal world messing with her mind, but her boyfriend Riley realizes it could be something more. A symptom of something potentially dangerous not just to Mary Ann, but to all those around her.

Individual problems pale in comparison, however, to the looming threat of a death curse hanging over the heads of Riley, Mary Ann, and Victoria, and every time the four of them turn around a new threat presents itself, this one more disastrous than the one before. And Aden's time is running out. The premonition he was given by one of the souls showing his own demise is inching ever closer. Just when he's found so much to live for, it's all starting to slip away, his only hope being he doesn't take his friends with him when he goes.

True to its title, this second installment begins to disentangle some of the plot intricacies thrust into prominence at the end of Intertwined. As expected, Ms. Showalter does a beautiful job of smoothing out and refining some of the layers so quickly stacked together initially, allowing for quick, even pacing and a more concise understanding of the different villains and their respective roles in the characters' lives. The disparate elements begin to merge together, with independent enemy factions still in place but more unified in purpose, seeking to achieve a common goal while the protagonists try desperately to prevent it. In typical Showalter fashion, the plot is still complex, packed with emotional depth, physical action, and mental intrigue, but the rough strewn paths from the first book have been paved for the most part, providing a more stable journey devoid of the jostling caused by the swift introduction of multiple new elements in a short period of time. New dimensions are of course added, but their placement is less shocking and disorienting, and we find ourselves plowing through the story desperate for more, hindered only by the limitations of our fingers as we clumsily try to turn the pages as quickly as possible.

Where Intertwined spent a great deal of time establishing the various relationships between Aden, Mary Ann, Victoria, and Riley as well as the obstacles each brings to the table individually, Unraveled explores the more subtle nuances of the dual romances. Part of the appeal of this series is the connection we have to both a male and female protagonist and their participation in separate, but ultimately linked, relationships. Both Aden and Mary Ann have inadequacies stemming from their mostly human status amidst a collection of powerful supernatural beings, lacking the brute strength of their partners and wanting passionately to be anything other than the weak link. The differences in the way they each handle their shortcomings is endlessly entertaining, a true testament the great chasm separating the workings of the male and female mind. Mary Ann finds herself plagued by her own inner voice, listening intently as it whispers poisonous half truths that soon cause rational thought to be overshadowed, while Aden, who has actual souls in his head speaking to him at all times, often ignores his voices completely and blunders forward intent on proving his worth through physical means, checking any ruminations of deficiency at the door.

Though the romantic element is augmented, it remains a secondary storyline as several new dimensions concerning our four protagonists are presented. Each of the four has a unique ability, and it's endearing to watch as they struggle individually with the limitations of their gifts, shrouded in a power they thought they mildly understood, but quickly come to see the implications of their capabilities extend beyond the realm of their current level of comprehension. Things are certainly never easy in Ms. Showalter's world–a glistening expanse of glass serves as a surface layer on which we carefully tread in the beginning, and as we continue reading, that pristine smoothness shatters as great fissures appear, providing numerous points of contact with the vast expanse of possibilities waiting for illumination below. There's always something extra beyond what we are currently experiencing, and part of the fun of her world is knowing we understand only as much as we are meant to understand, everything else revealing itself in due time.

As usual, we are left with a rather unexpected turn of events at the conclusion, and we sense the cart of our roller coaster has just reached the top of the hill, teetering precariously before we plummet into the unfamiliar, but we can smile knowing we'll be guaranteed one heck of ride. For those who were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information imparted in Intertwined, take comfort in the fact that though this world will always be more complicated than most, this installment does a nice job of wrangling some of the wayward plotlines and streamlining them into a more succinct, linear story.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Abandon

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

Meg Cabot
Paranormal Young Adult
April 26th, 2011

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Pierce knows what happens to us when we die.

That's how she met John Hayden, the mysterious stranger who's made returning to normal life—or at least life as Pierce knew it before the accident—next to impossible.

Though she thought she escaped him—starting a new school in a whole new place—it turns out she was wrong. He finds her.

What does John want from her? Pierce thinks she knows... just like she knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly Heaven. But she can't stay away from him, either, especially since he's always there when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she might find herself back in the place she fears the most.

Um, yes please! I'm really looking forward to this one and the cover I think is just beautiful. Come on April!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between

J.A. Saare
Urban Fantasy
244 pages
Eternal Press
Available Now

Rhiannon Murphy is a necromancer, disturbed on a daily basis by ghosts still bearing the gruesome markings of their violent deaths when they occasionally pop into her line of vision as she goes about her daily routine. Aside from her unique ability, her life is pretty simple. Her job as a bartender isn't much, but she's in control of it and every other aspect of her existence. She'll never let someone else be in control again.

Unfortunately, her life doesn't seem to want to remain simple, and she is doggedly hounded at work by Disco, a vampire who seeks her assistance. Several of his brethren have gone missing in the span of a few weeks and it seems Rhiannon's necromancy is even more rare than she imagined: she not only sees the dead, but the twice-dead as well, able to contact vampires that have died the permanent death.

Though reluctant to clutter her life with complicated entanglements, she agrees to help Disco figure out what's happened to members of his vampire family, teaming up with a fellow necromancer to combine their gifts and find an undead murderer. As if hunting down a serial killer isn't enough of a distraction, Rhiannon also finds herself uncomfortably attracted to Disco, his subtle charm wreaking havoc on her defenses and chipping away at the death grip she maintains on her sense of control. Control is vital to Rhiannon, and as much as she fears that which is destroying the vampires, she finds Disco may perhaps be both a bigger threat than the killer and also a chance at a happiness that has evaded her her entire life.

Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between is a delicious surprise full of multifaceted characters who refuse to be anything less than their true selves, and a story pulsing with action but not so complex as to be difficult to follow. Reading this story is like attending opening night at a performance that has garnered positive reviews, but yet we don't entirely know what to expect until the curtain rises, or in this case the first page is turned, and we find ourselves pleasantly shocked and absolutely engrossed by the richness of the experience. While the vampirism and necromancy are nothing groundbreaking, we are granted access to characters who are damaged but mending admirably, with histories that would render lesser people useless, their minds shattered and broken by an unfathomable cruelty. We are instantly involved and irrevocably bound to the protagonists from the start, a relationship forming in the blink of an eye and deepening with every turn of the page.

Rhiannon is blunt, crude, and has the mouth of the most well-versed of sailors, and though her language and demeanor might be off-putting to those around her (as intended at times), we have little choice but to find her refreshing, coming to appreciate her no-nonsense attitude and tough-girl exterior. Her foul language and thick skin protect her from those who might try to breach her defenses and exert any sort of control over her, whether physical or emotional. She has a brutal past, one all the more disturbing due to her refusal to speak or think of it, allowing our own minds to fill in the gaps with images more, or perhaps less, horrifying than her truth. Though she's strong, she's not so overwhelming in her brashness as to push us away as easily as she does those around her. Little glimpses of vulnerability peek through every now and again, giving us enough of a connection to feel protective of her as we both admire her fortitude and long for one or two of her walls to crumble so Disco may take up permanent residence behind her carefully constructed facade.

Disco, for all the flamboyance of his moniker, is blissfully unassuming; a vampire that doesn't throw off testosterone in blanketing waves or seek to assert his alpha male dominance through presumption or possession, instead displaying an understated nature that is certainly no less masculine for it's reserved quality. He's not the type to be cool and calculating, merely biding his time until the object of his affection succumbs to his roguish charms, approaching Rhiannon instead with patience and control, and treating her with a reverence more effective in winning both her heart and ours than a persistent, undaunted pursuit could ever be. He doesn't want mere capitulation, he wants a trust he's earned, and he's content to maintain a comfortable distance until she's ready to give it. Their chemistry is undeniable, the quiet build up of it resulting in a more cataclysmic romantic pairing, one that burns bright enough to singe away the remnants of a nightmarish past, and hot enough to fuse together open wounds with an unmatched tenderness and mutual affection.

The story moves forward at a perfect pace, slow in parts that bear explanation and lightening-quick when the pursuit of our villain becomes vitally important. We are left with an ending that forces us to adopt a few choice words from Rhiannon's extensive vocabulary as a piece of Disco's own history makes an inopportune appearance, and I cannot wait for the next installment to see how this last-minute development will play out.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In My Mailbox #10

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

For Review:
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Branded

Keary Taylor
Young Adult
370 pages
Available Now
Received from author for book tour

Every time she sleeps it's the same. Her hands are tied. Her face is covered. She stands before a cadre of angels, both exalted and condemned, judgment passed down to her for crimes not of her making. Then she is burned. A searing red X at the nape of her neck every time the one for whom she stands trial is condemned. But even more disturbing than the nightmares is the fact that when she wakes, her brand is there, a glaring testament to the reality of her daily punishment.

Such is the way of Jessica's life. It's been this way for as long as she can remember, and has caused her more pain than just the burning of her skin when she dares to sleep. Her mother has disowned her, tired of her lies regarding angels and judgment, and she now works alone as a caretaker for a lake house in a fairly isolated area. Her solitude is interrupted with the arrival of Alex, the grandson of the couple who owns the home, and he informs Jessica of his grandparent's passing and his subsequent ownership of the property.

Alex agrees to keep Jessica on as a caretaker, and though she fears the repercussions of living with someone who will be able to hear her screams as she wakes from the nightmares, she begins to find comfort in living with someone else. While Jessica works up the courage to tell Alex the truth, her dreams begin to change. The leader of the condemned is missing. Her one saving grace, the bag over her head hiding her true identity from the angels, has been stripped away and all have seen who she really is. Voices plague her. Blackouts consume her. And the nightmares are only getting worse...

Branded has a powerful and memorable premise, pumping us full of a vicarious adrenaline and a very real fear our own dreams may come to reflect some of the terror of Jessica's now that we have knowledge of them. The thought of enduring constant persecution night after night for the sins of strangers is horrifying, a fear only compounded by the fact that Jessica's waking hours provide little escape or solace, her brands a permanent reminder of what awaits her when her eyelids fall. This story is one that forces us to think, to question, and ultimately to worry about the possibility of finding ourselves in a similar situation when the time comes, facing judgment as a detailed list of our rights and wrongs are read aloud, and a simple vote of up or down seals our everlasting fate.

While the overall concept is thought-provoking and mesmerizing in it's ability to stay with us once the covers of the book have long since closed, the characterization doesn't entirely match the book's potential. Though Jessica has an undeniable fortitude and we are instantly sympathetic to her plight, a connection never fully forms beyond a phantom tug at our heartstrings every so often. A strong pull to her remains elusive, as though we are watching her through a frosted plate glass window where her voice, her fears, and her actions are effectively muted, and we receive only the moments extreme enough to make their way through the barrier, the full spectrum of emotions still locked behind the cool surface.

The romance between Alex and Jessica is sweet, and while we're glad she has a sliver of happiness to counter her slumberous torture, the relationship seems almost too easy. He shows up, there's an instant attraction, and then he breezily accepts the part of her past boyfriends and her own family have vehemently pushed away, irreversibly denying her the comfort of their understanding. There's no real challenge for them as a couple, nothing to make us want to fight with them and beside them as they attempt to interpret the new developments of her nightmares. The relationship quickly becomes everything to Jessica, and though it's understandable based on her previous solitary existence, her actions toward the end blatantly contradict the strength of will she's shown up to this point. She attempts to take the easy way out when things take a final disastrous turn, giving up entirely, abandoning all hope, and surrendering body and soul to the epic battle that has crossed the threshold from nightmare to reality. All along she's shown immeasurable strength, constantly raging against her dire circumstances, and it's not until a boyfriend enters the picture that her courage begins to wan, her overwhelming attachment to Alex seeming to leech her strength instead of bolstering her against the onslaught of an unimaginable horror.

Overall, Branded has a great deal of promise and a truly enticing concept, and though certain elements are predictable and a bit too convenient, the conclusion provides quite a few surprises and leaves events open enough that we know this story is far from over, but also gives us enough of a resolution that we aren't screaming out in frustration. I look forward to reading more of Jessica's story with the hope she'll find a balance between the strong, lonely girl who's fought alone her whole life, and this new girl who's found a partner she can trust but also one on whom she's become dangerously dependent.

Rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Nevermore

NEVERMORE (Nevermore #1)
Kelly Creagh
Young Adult
543 pages
Available Now

Getting stuck with black-clad, lip-pierced, goth-infused Varen as a partner for an English presentation is not ideal. For Isobel Lanley, it's downright unfortunate. But from the moment he seizes her hand and presumptuously writes his home phone number down in distinctive purple ink with strict instructions not to call after 9pm, her initial hesitancy begins to fade, replaced instead by a strange curiosity and a mild yearning.

Varen has an unusual way of looking at things, keeping a journal full of fascinating sketches and odd writings with him every moment, and as they work together on their project with Edgar Allen Poe as a subject, Isobel's priorities begin to shift, becoming more attuned to Varen and less interested in her previous popular-girl life.

Though her unexpected attraction to Varen is exciting in a way she doesn't want to admit to anyone, most of all herself, the eerie shadows and voices she's been hearing since spending time with him are decidedly less encouraging. Parallels between the mystery of Poe's death and the strange things now inserting themselves into not only her waking moments, but her sleeping ones as well are only able to be drawn through one person: Varen. Dreams and reality begin to merge, and the more time Isobel spends thinking of Varen and wishing to understand things that seem to hover just beyond her comprehension, the more danger she puts them both in.

Nevermore is a beautifully understated tale that fuses seemingly disparate elements together, blending opposing characters, dual realities, and limitless imagination into a harmonious unification that leaves only a sense of contentment and an acute longing for for more page time in it's wake. Everything is exquisitely balanced, light suffusing a constantly encroaching darkness, humor holding a threatening sense of foreboding at bay, and a delicate romance searing our hearts and providing hope in the face of utter despair. It's a story where we start on page one and in the blink of an eye find ourselves on page three hundred, the entire world having dropped away and sounds of reality silenced so all that remains is our unbreakable tether to the fascinating world that has thoroughly consumed us.

Both Isobel and Varen are fairly stereotypical at first glance, occupying common high school roles, and it would have been so easy for Ms. Creagh to allow them to snuggle into their respective cliches and move forward with a still enjoyable, but typically predictable, story that would leave this book lost in a stack of other stories from which it would be virtually indistinguishable. Fortunately for us, however, the easy route is quickly abandoned in favor of characters who are sumptuously layered and possess qualities that cause the pages on which they exist to slip away, leaving in their place a transparent screen through which we experience the events in multiple dimensions, driven to feel, see, and be touched by their experiences. Both characters are beautiful in their quiet nuances, their stereotypes never ostentatious nor overdone as they certainly could have been; instead they are reserved in a way that is incredibly beseeching, one that implores us to become emotionally involved on a level far deeper than the initial cliche would suggest.

The relationship between Varen and Isobel is perfectly depicted. There is no undefinable paranormal element that propels them together while they seek to seal their fates through desperate, forbidden kisses as their combined conflicts try to rip them asunder. Isobel is instead drawn to Varen out of simple attraction, her feelings and reactions riveting in their realism, and her interactions with him are all the more intimate for their subdued quality. Their passion doesn't ignite instantly, but rather simmers slowly but constantly, and with every page we wish them a happiness free of the darkness we know must be fast approaching.

So much of our focus is concentrated on Varen and Isobel the danger sneaks up on us, tearing us from the relationship we've come to hold dear in a short amount of time, and cleaving us from a reality we recognize to a realm that defies explanation and convention. Here, the limits of the imagination are the only parameters, and no positive outcome, however much we might wish for it, is guaranteed. The challenges Isobel and Varen face are utterly unique, and all the more frightening for their newness. We quickly come to realize we in fact know nothing, and like our hero and heroine, are but pawns awaiting instruction to aid us in our search for answers as we crave knowledge that can only be bestowed upon us by the incredibly inventive Ms. Creagh.

Stunningly tragic and resplendent in its restraint, Nevermore is a story where the quiet romance grabs hold of our emotions and refuses to let go, and one where our minds must stretch to accommodate new and fascinating possibilities. While the end forces our hearts to constrict dangerously, we are given a sliver of hope as Isobel's renewed determination to fight for what she loves takes hold, letting us know she's more than a blond cheerleader, more than a teenager in the throes of first love, and more than her new foes might accredit her. She's made a promise to Varen, and I'm anxiously awaiting book two to see that she keeps it.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Die For Me

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

DIE FOR ME (Revenants #1)

Amy Plum
Paranormal Young Adult
May 10th, 2011

From Goodreads:

DIE FOR ME is the first of three books about Kate, a sixteen-year-old American who moves to Paris after the death of her parents. She finds herself falling for Vincent, who she discovers is not the typical French teenager he appears: he is something else entirely.

That's not the most descriptive of blurbs, but when combined with the cover, it's more than enough to pique my interest and find it's way on my TBR list!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Once A Witch

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading and here's how it works:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share a snippet from somewhere on that page but be careful not to include spoilers

My teaser this week is from Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough:

All too soon we approach his office. My sister raises one white knot of a fist and gives the door more of a caress than a knock. I roll my eyes–only for my own benefit, I know, but being snide gives me something like courage. Which I need now more than ever. Pg 220

ONCE A WITCH (from Goodreads)

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Review: Crescendo

CRESCENDO (Hush, Hush #2)
Becca Fitzpatrick
Young Adult
427 pages
Simon & Schuster
Available Now

Warning: Contains spoilers from Hush, Hush.

Two months ago Nora's life got extremely complicated. Still grieving the mysterious death of her father the year before, she focused all her energy on her schoolwork until mysterious new boy Patch made himself a presence in her life she was unable to ignore. As it turned out she had link to Patch, discovering she was a descendant of Nephilium and therefore an intrinsic piece to Patch's plan of becoming human and no longer a fallen angel. To become such he either had to save her life or destroy her.

Ultimately, saving her life gave Patch back his wings, becoming Nora's very own guardian angel. Now, she's looking forward to spending as much time as possible with her new angel, but as she tries to draw closer, Patch begins to pull away, focusing instead on the bane of Nora's existence, Marcie Millar. Though Nora questions him on his relationship with Marcie, Patch remains tight-lipped and their relationship ends as quickly and intensely as it began.

Nora's boyfriend troubles aren't the only thing occupying her thoughts, however. She swears to seeing brief glimpses of her father and hears him whisper to her mind, an ability of which only Patch has been previously capable. Reeling from a shattered heart and the added weight of a renewed grief for her father, Nora struggles to understand the reality of her changed world since learning of the angels' existence, only now realizing a war is brewing between the Nephilium and those fallen like Patch, and it's a battle that will alter the face of humanity forever.

Crescendo is a decidedly unexpected read, one that, interestingly enough, is as such in both positive and negative ways. This story forces us to tip our hats in acknowledgment of a truly impressive turn of events full of complicated developments and startling realizations while simultaneously causing such profound irritation no amount of measured breathing will reduce the level of our frustration. On the positive, Ms. Fitzpatrick does a stunning job of imbuing this second installment with layer after layer of mysterious subtext, tantalizing us with fragments of a dark past that provide just enough information to send our minds reeling as we feebly attempt to connect the dots she's so beautifully positioned. This is not a lulling read, not one that progresses at a leisurely pace where we can read a chapter and calmly set it aside to be picked up at a later date; instead the pace is positively frenetic, catapulting us forward as we devour whatever crumbs of knowledge are tossed our way until we reach an end that startles a groan from our throats as we shake our heads in denial that we've truly reached the last page.

Though the story moves quickly and has moments of sheer brilliance, Nora's character has shifted in this installment into someone almost unrecognizable. In a short two-month time period she's gone from an intelligent, fairly independent young woman to a girl who has to physically force her heart to beat outside of Patch's presence, her quality of life and entire sense of self-worth fully dictated by his thoughts and actions. Her strength seems irrevocably linked to him, her world only beautiful when he touches or looks at her and practically unbearable when he denies her those sensations. Her behavior becomes increasingly erratic, words spewing from her mouth in anger without making a pass through a rational filter first, leaving both Patch and us blinking and befuddled by the ferocity of her illogical fury. Are some of her complaints valid? Absolutely, and we've all said things we've later regretted, but Nora overreacts to such a degree it causes our blood pressure to spike to an unnatural level as we attempt to make sense of her verbal attacks and relationship sabotage.

Luckily, mid-way through the book rationality begins to creep back into place, the incoherent anger misting away into intangible vapors, and though they never dissipate completely, they begin to be replaced by a visceral, raw pain that shifts our confusion regarding her antics into a sense of solidarity for a young woman scorned. Nora and Patch spend most of the book apart, using their separation to sharpen their tongues in preparation for their next confrontation, and we can do nothing but watch with a sort of horrified detachment to see who will walk away with their heart sliced to ribbons and who will walk away feeling more guilt than pain. Both parties seek to inflict suffering on the other, choosing drama over logic, hurt over rationality, and anger over honesty. There are of course extenuating circumstances preventing an open approach to fixing their relationship, but the angst and tension are so overpowering they at times detract from an exquisitely delivered one-two punch at the conclusion of the story.

Melodrama unfurls from every page, and the unfounded hostility between Nora and Patch is difficult to digest at times, leaving us with a prevalent sense of unease that refuses to evanesce even as a captivating story moves to the forefront. I feel as though I'm at the lonely end of the spectrum with my reaction to this one, but game-playing and the I've-been-wronged-so-it's-okay-to-do-wrong-in-return tactic in relationships, though especially realistic in teens, has never been something to which I can relate. I'm more of the suffer-in-silence type, concocting conversations in my head in which I verbally eviscerate the object of my wrath, but ultimately I wake up the next morning grateful those thoughts were never acted upon or spoken aloud. This second book has a fantastic story and an incredible mystery, but those elements are periodically overshadowed by some unfortunate behavior that will hopefully be remedied in book three.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In My Mailbox #9

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing. I always love seeing what everyone else got for their week!

For Review:
Father of Lies by Ann Turner

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cover Critique: Rumor Has It

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts stemming from my design experience.

Um. Anyone want to try and explain what's going on here? I spent a solid five minutes attempting to wade through these tangled limbs in an effort to formulate a hypothesis as to what is taking place other than what seems to be a game of naked Twister gone terribly wrong. Because this cover reminds me of one of those posters where you stare at it, squint at it, cross your eyes, and then maybe you see what your supposed to if you look just right, I'm just going to list the things I think I know about what's happening as opposed to a formal critique.

1. They're in a car. (I've astounded you with my brilliance again haven't I? It's intimidating, I know).

2. As this is a Harlequin Blaze novel, I'm guessing the shirtless fellow here is engaging in a, uh, pleasurable oral activity with a female companion. If that's the case, our male friend must be endowed with the tongue of a giraffe as his head seems to be only at her knees and not nearly close enough to reach his destination for the suggested activity.

3. Her legs seem closed. How is his head in between them if they're closed? It almost looks like Ms. Calves of Steel has decapitated him. There really is no sign of life from him at all. For all I know, he's draped over the seat completely unconscious while she's acting out a praying mantis-like fantasy. Ew. That's not sexy at all now is it? No. And if his head isn't between her legs, where is it and what is he doing?

4. What is the blue bit in the lower left corner? Is it the front seat? Is he leaning over it to get to her, or are they both in the back seat? I originally assumed they were both in back, but that blue corner confounds me. If it is the front seat, our female lead has superpowers as her hand would have to have physically gone through the seat to get to him. So confused.

5. This woman, for all the femininity of her legs, has incredibly masculine hands. Are there three people in this car? Perhaps it really is a game of Twister, and this mass of body parts is the end result. Pity I wasn't invited, I rule at Twister. Rule, I tell you.

6. I think in addition to having freakishly strong, potentially murderous calves, our heroine is also graced with the ability to stretch her limbs to extraordinary lengths. Seriously. Just stare at their positions for a moment, how is it even physically possible? Quick, someone run out to your car and see if this is could even happen. She must be contorted beyond all recognition for her arm to be able to reach around his back like that while her legs are up in the air. Is her face smashed against the back of the front seat? Where is the rest of her? Perhaps I don't want to know, ignorance is bliss after all. Maybe she's related to our gumby-bride? I guess we all should sit back and admire her flexibility, he certainly seems to be enjoying it.

7. It appears as though a ghost wants in on the action as well and is attempting to invade the pants of our gentleman caller. There's an odd, white, vaporous blob hovering right over his no-doubt rock solid cheeks, what's that about? I guess he could have passed gas, but that would ultimately kill the moment wouldn't it? Nothing puts a stop to romance quite like a good fart, especially when in the confines of a car with the windows rolled up. How decidedly unpleasant.

I find this cover utterly baffling. I'm flummoxed. Befuddled. Downright bewildered. So please, please, leave me your thoughts and theories as to what is happening here, maybe we can all figure it out together. We're all intelligent people right? This cover can't beat us. It won't. I refuse to let it. Darn you Harlequin Blaze! Just give me a cover with some pecs and abs and a title having to do with a millionaire and the virgin mistress he's purchased for pregnancy and call it a day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blog Hop November 5-8, 2010

This week's question: What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog?

I would say I'm always a little disappointed to lose a follower, but ultimately book blogging is about expressing our opinions on different books and we all have a unique reviewing style that makes things fun and interesting. I'm sure my writing style and the types of books I review aren't for everyone, so I try to remember that when it happens. I review books because it makes me happy, having fabulous followers who appreciate my reviews and like to comment, to be cliche, is icing on the cake.

I have stopped following a couple blogs, but only because those individuals decided to quit blogging and were no longer updating their sites. I love to hop around to all the blogs on my list and while I don't always make it to every single one, I try to get to as many different ones as possible!

This week's question: Who are your favorite authors?

Oh my gosh, this is going to be a really long list but here we go: J.R. Ward, Jeaniene Frost, Karen Marie Moning, Chloe Neill, Cassandra Clare, Suzanne Collins, Rachel Vincent, Jennifer Estep, Carolyn Crane, Ilona Andrews, J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts), Richelle Mead and so many more!