Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Insatiable

Meg Cabot

Fiction/Romantic Suspense

451 pages
Available Now


Meena Harper possesses a unique gift, though "gift" may not be the word she would choose to describe it. She is able to see how a person is going to die by merely making eye contact. She can tell this about everyone she meets. Everyone, that is, except herself. Though the futures of those around her are clear as day, she is blind to her own. As a result, she leads a sort of half life where she fears meeting the eyes of strangers, yet when the inevitable contact occurs, she feels compelled to drop hints that warn them of their impending demise. She has learned the hard way that not everyone cares to listen, and her guilt over those she couldn't save stays with her.

Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, she meets Lucian Antonescu, an alleged Romanian prince and relative of her extremely nosy neighbor Mary Lou. Something is very different about Lucian. When Meena meets him, she gets nothing. No sense of how he's going to die. Instead, she gets the sense that he's
never going to die. Most likely, this is because he's already dead.

Lucian and Meena's attraction to one another is instant, but it's not entirely as euphoric as newfound love is supposed to be. Lucian has secrets darker than Meena's own, and as a serial killer rampages New York City exsanguinating his victims, Meena's perception of reality begins to shift. She comes to believe wholeheartedly in vampires, vampire hunters, and wars amongst the undead inhabiting the city.

This story is thoroughly enjoyable. I love when a book is able to poke fun at itself, and this novel is most certainly a little self-deprecating. It adheres to the classic vampire mythology: wooden stakes, sunlight, and shifting into bats, wolves, mist and the like. It's protagonist however, abhors anything relating to vampires, finds them to be "monster misogynists", resents having to write about them for her television show
Insatiable, and straight out laughs at the mythology the book itself embraces.

Meena is completely relatable as a heroine. She has normal problems, such as being passed over for a work promotion she deserved, despite her supernatural ability. She is quick-witted, and has a wry sense of humor that comes out at the most inopportune moments, providing levity to an otherwise dark tale.

Lucian is a vampire reminiscent of the Stoker-brand of vampire. He's dark, brooding, and quite literally, the prince of darkness. Humor is most often lost on him, and he rules his throng of followers with a lethal brutality. Though his relationship with Meena is a little sudden, their interactions are interesting and heartfelt.

Where Meena's relationship with Lucian is quick and intense, her relationship with vampire hunter Alaric develops more quietly in the background. Though he dislikes her intently at first and thinks of her as nothing more than a vampire's minion, his feelings for her grow as the storyline develops, and I look forward to following their story in the sequel.

The plot moves quickly, and Ms. Cabot ends each chapter with a mini-cliffhanger which makes it nearly impossible to stop reading. There is one scene toward the end, however, that made me go "really? This is what's happening?" Though, upon further reflection, I realize I should have seen it coming as clues are deftly woven throughout the entire story. I'm not sure if this is going to be a series, or if she will end it at next year's sequel, but I know I will be at the bookstore the day it's out to see what becomes of Meena, Lucien and the rest of the wonderful cast of characters.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cover Critique: The Headless Torso

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.

This week's critique isn't about a single cover, but more of a general trend in paranormal romance covers. What is that trend you ask? That's right, the headless torso. Here's how I picture a conversation between the book designer and the marketing department going regarding a cover similar to Lion's Heat.

Designer: Here's the first proof of the cover design. We've got the toned pecs, washboard abs, and tawny skin featured prominently.

Hmmmm. I don't like that he doesn't have a head. I think it will be disconcerting for readers if we don't show his head. We want them to know it's there.

I think it's implied that he does, in fact, have a head and this is not a book about a headless gentlemen.

Well, you know what they say about "assume". I think maybe you should fix it so that we can see some of his chin and mouth. That way, it will be clear that he has a head. When I look at him without it, all I can see is the headless horseman. The headless horseman is not sexy.

Yes, a black-clad, sword-wielding, pumpkin-headed murderer is decidedly unattractive.

Marketing: Agreed. So just add some chin.

You want me to re-crop this image so we can just see some of his chin?

Marketing: Yes. I want readers to be aware that he has a head.

walks away muttering They'll know he has a head, they're going to be reading all about both his heads when they buy the book. (Silly designers, minds always in the gutter;)

An hour later...

Designer: Here you go. I re-cropped the image and you can see his chin and a little of his mouth.

Excellent, so much better. He's much better looking now, don't you think?

Oh yes, he wasn't much to look at before, but that chin really catapults him into sex-god territory.

Marketing: Right you are. Glad we could see eye to chin on this. Eye to chin. Get it?

Designer: Your humor never fails to impress.

I know. Next project!

Thus, as a result of conversations like this, I present to you the now
semi headless torso:

Seen a cover that's either gorgeous or absurd? Email me at and let's have a look!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: The Darkest Pleasure

THE DARKEST PLEASURE (Lords of the Underworld #3)
Gena Showalter
Paranormal Romance

374 pages


Available Now

So, apparently I'm a little late to the Gena Showalter party. How embarrassing. She currently has 5 books in this series out now and the newest release,
The Darkest Lie, will be out on June 29th. I'm currently working my way through the first five and should be just in time for the next installment.

The Lords of the Underworld series focuses on a group of immortal warriors who fell from grace. They were once in the employ of Zeus himself, and spent their time frolicking on Mt. Olympus with the gods. Zeus then decided to give the all important task of guarding a box full of demons to a female warrior, Pandora. Being the alpha males that they are, their egos couldn't handle being passed over for a woman, and they sought to teach Zeus the error of his ways by distracting Pandora from her duty. They were successful, the box was opened, and a horde of demons so evil even hell itself didn't want them in residence were released on an unsuspecting human population.

As punishment for their actions, Zeus gathered up the rampaging demons and charged each warrior with the keeping of one. Thus, each of the warriors responsible was possessed by a demon from the box and bound to him for all eternity, and the Lords of the Underworld were born. Each book tells the tale of a warrior possessed by one of the following: Violence, Death, Pain, Doubt, Wrath, Lies, Disaster, Misery, Disease, Promiscuity, Distrust and Defeat.


The Darkest Pleasure
is Reyes's story, keeper of Pain, but his tale actually begins in book two, The Darkest Kiss. The world as the Lords have known it has been completely turned on it's head as the once-imprisoned Titans have overthrown Zeus and the Olympian gods, locking them away. The Lords now have new masters to whom they must answer, and these new masters are not content to leave them in relative peace as Zeus did. Instead, one of the warriors, Aeron, is given the task of eliminating four human women, with no rhyme or reason as to why he is to do so. Reyes is sent to kidnap the women and return with them to their fortress in Budapest.

Once the women are there, Reyes begins to have feelings for Danika, a fiercely protective young woman. She is taken along with her mother, sister and grandmother, and places herself in harm's way to keep attention off them and only on her. Danika eventually escapes from the Lords' control in Budapest and is on the run from Aeron, who is trying his hardest to fight the task he's been given. Reyes is haunted by his short time with Danika, and when Aeron escapes his imprisonment (the other Lords deemed it necessary to chain him in the dungeon to keep the women safe) and goes after her, Reyes feels he has no choice but to come to her aid.

The Lords are in the dark for the majority of the book as to why these specific women were chosen for assassination, but eventually the truth surfaces and Danika becomes vital to their very survival. Her life, once marked for death, becomes a beacon of hope not only for Reyes as he struggles with his demon, but also for the fate of all the Lords.


This story is my favorite of the three I've read. For me the second book, Lucien's story, had a little bit too much back and forth with the romantic feelings. There was a lot of "I want you. But I shouldn't. But I do. I should push you away. But I need you. You should go. Wait, I love you!" Some back and forth is fine, but in Lucien and Anya's case, I felt it was a bit overdone.

The relationship between Reyes and Danika is much more believable. She feels a connection to him despite the danger he's placed her in, and they both struggle with caring for someone with whom they see no possible future. Reyes, as the keeper of Pain, is forced to inflict bodily harm on himself to satisfy the demon's urges. Deep slices with a knife and leaps off rooftops to shatter all the bones in his body are the only ways he gets any relief from Pain. His demon is particularly interesting, and I found myself wondering how he's going to reveal what's he's forced to do to Danika, and what her reaction would be.

From her introduction Danika is strong and capable, she doesn't go all damsel in distress and shrink back from anything frightening. Instead, she takes her situation in stride and seeks to make herself more formidable so that she doesn't need to rely on anyone else for protection. I like how her relationship with Reyes is gradual, and they aren't instantaneously in love and declaring their undying feelings. The progression of those feelings seems natural, but there is still plenty of conflict to make you unsure as to whether their ending will in fact be happy.

One other aspect I enjoy about Ms. Showalter's series is the side characters. Much in the same vein as J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood (though I don't feel her character development is as strong or as intriguing as Ms. Ward's), she switches point of view and focuses on the other Lords regardless of whose book it is. The other Lords are equally tortured and interesting, and add depth to the overall story.

Will this series steal my loyalty from my beloved Black Dagger Brotherhood? No. But are they fun reads? Absolutely. Will I keep reading? Without a doubt.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, June 25, 2010

Follow Friday

I just started this blog a week ago and look forward to following and chatting with fellow book lovers and bloggers. Thanks to Parajunkie and Crazy for Books for making this happen!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: Sizzling Sixteen

Janet Evanovich
309 pages
St. Martins Press
Available Now

This series strays from my preferred Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy genre, but it's absolutely hilarious and completely entertaining.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter. Sort of. She tries to be one anyway, though she's fairly inept at it. She has full custody of a hamster named Rex, partial custody of a dog with a eating disorder named Bob, an on again off again relationship with sexy Trenton, NJ cop Joe Morelli, and a family that is 100% certifiable. Not to mention a sometimes partner named Lula, former ho (her words, not mine) and now full time file clerk at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. And then there's Ranger. Ranger is everything a bounty hunter should be. He dresses in all black, owns and runs Rangeman security, and is the ultimate mysterious bad boy. He also sometimes fills the "off again" spot in Stephanie and Morelli's relationship.

This installment of the Plum series opens with Stephanie's cousin Vinnie going missing (he also happens to own Vincent Plum Bail Bonds). Stephanie, Lula and their co-worker Connie decide to hunt for him more to ensure they still have jobs than to secure Vinnie's well being. Vinnie is a shameless womanizer and his sexual preferences don't always come to a halt at the species line (there was once a notable incident with a duck, but no one speaks of it). Aside from being a sexual deviant, Vinnie also happens to be a bit of a gambler, and has run up $786,000 in debt to a notorious invidividual named Bobby Sunflower.

Thus, Stephanie and team decide a rescue attempt might be easier than coming up with the money. Stephanie and Lula drive all around Trenton looking for any places Bobby might have stashed Vinnie. I should mention that utterly ridiculous things tend to happen to Stephanie and Lula. Stephanie's cars often meet a fiery end, they get shot at by everyone, garbage and other interesting substances find a way of landing on their heads, and they often have run-ins with a variety of furry creatures. Their search for Vinnie puts them in many such amusing situations.

Eventually, they find Vinne, only to lose him again less than 24 hours later. Turns out that Vinnie's gambling debt has more far reaching repurcussions than anyone originally thought and Stephanie, Lula, and Connie find themselves neck deep in quite a bit of trouble.

I love this series, and this installment is particularly good. Sometimes these novels can get a bit jumbled and weighed down with large numbers of secondary characters. In addition to the main plot, Stephanie often goes hunting other FTAs (failure to appear) and we get introduced to a lot of names that come and go quickly, and it's not always easy to keep characters straight.

Ms. Evanovich sticks to the main plot more closely this time and doesn't introduce quite so many side characters, so it's much easier and more interesting to follow along. Stephanie and Lula are hilarious as always. Lula is forever trying out a new and absurd diet (this time is the "eat only one" diet. Lula interprets this diet to mean eat only one of everything). And Stephanie's Grandma Mazur is up to her typical antics at funeral home viewings. She winds up with a broken foot and has to wear a boot. This is a very bad situation all around:

"'I feel gimpy in this boot,' Grandma said. 'And my butt cheeks don't match up. One feels higher than the other. I can't squeeze to keep the breezers in.'

'We'll keep the windows open on the way home,' Lula said."

Stephanie and Morelli are currently in the "off" phase of their relationship, so her sexual tension with Ranger is at an all time high, which I thoroughly enjoy. I wouldn't mind if the entire series was only about Stephanie and Ranger.

All in all this was yet another laugh-out-loud Stephanie Plum extravaganza. I only wish I didn't have to wait until next year for number seventeen. The good news is that a character from the Between The Plums novellas is getting his own series, the first of which comes out September 14th.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Have Hot Dogs

I'm waiting not so patiently for Janet Evanovich's Sizzling Sixteen to arrive, so I thought I'd deviate from reviewing books today and give you a little slice of my life.

These are my dogs, Griffin and Gatsby. They are both brindle boxers ages 2 and 3, respectively. Before I get into the explanation for the title of this post, I would like to entertain you with an anecdote from awhile back:

The boys and I were going on our daily walk down a neighboring street where a house recently had some severe fire damage and was under construction. The house is swarming with shirtless, sweaty construction workers and as I'm walking by a loud whistle rings out. I do a quick once over of myself and determine that I must be having a "pretty" day (aside from the bag of poo I'm holding. Poo is most definitely not sexy). Go me. Then I hear this:

"Wow, those are really beautiful dogs."


Clearly, my self assessment a minute earlier wasn't entirely accurate, and I was not, in fact, having a "pretty" day. We continue on our walk and I get home and call my husband to fish for a compliment. Nothing fancy. Something along the lines of "I think you're better looking than the dogs" will do. Instead, peals of laughter come through the phone. Apparently my husband thinks this is the funniest thing he's heard, well, ever.

As a result of the above incident, my husband and I now keep track of the number of people that stop us when we're out walking and compliment the boys. Don't get me wrong, it's incredibly flattering that people take the time to ask us questions about boxers and want to heap piles of attention on them. And the dogs just eat it up. One little boy even decided that Gatsby's name was actually Lincoln, and now refers to him as such whenever we see him. Not sure why.

So, people find my dogs quite attractive, and today on our walk no less than 3 people stopped us. Good day. If we were keeping an accurate tally, that would be dogs: 111, 234 compliments, Jenny: 0. Excellent:)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cover Critique: Torment by Lauren Kate

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.

I heart this book cover. Big time. It makes the graphic designer in me very, very happy. I want my hair to look like this. I want this dress. I don't so much want to stand on a frozen lake with Hitchcockian birds circling ominously, but if that's what it takes to wear this dress, I'll take it into consideration.

Both this cover and the cover from her first novel, Fallen, are absolutely stunning. I love the use of a single image, as sometimes covers can get very busy trying to include all the little details from the book into one small space. This instead utilizes a very memorable, very haunting image, that despite it's cool colors, will still pop off the shelf.

And don't even get me started on this font. I adore this font. I adore this font so much I cyber-stalked it and bought it for myself (yes, I'm a dork, but I embrace it to the fullest extent). This font is gorgeous in it's simplicity, much like the image. It has an antique feel to it which suits the storyline, and the little flourishes off the serifs (such as on the "R" and "N") add extra visual interest. The overall look is elegant, eye catching and beautifully done. It very much makes me want to design book covers for a living:)

Review: Mind Games

Carolyn Crane
Urban Fantasy
371 pages
Available Now

Justine Jones is a hypochondriac. Her personal mental malady? Vein Star Syndrome. Justine fears that at any minute the pinpoint pain and tingling sensations she feels in her head are going to result in a ruptured vein and inevitable death.

This overwhelming fear makes it hard for Justine to have the normal life she craves. Her relationship with her boyfriend Cubby is strained at best, and her financial situation leaves something to be desired as late night ER visits and continuous cat scans have left her bank account a little sparse.

Enter Sterling Packard, the handsome, mysterious owner of Mongolian Delites restaurant. Justine runs into him at a dinner with Cubby and feels an instant pull toward him. A short time after their encounter, Packard sends for Justine and asks for a meeting in person. Here, he divulges that he can give her the fear-free existence for which she's been hoping. He tells Justine that he and those in his employ are a group of unlikely crime fighters who, instead of embarking on vigilante killings, "disillusion" their targets by infusing them with a fear to which they are vulnerable. Once their mental state is compromised, they are able to reboot and return to society as useful members. Each member of Packard's team has an all too common vice (gambling, alcholism, rage) they are then able to "zing" into their target. Zinging is the transference of their vice or fear into another person. Once the target is zinged, that hypochondria, anger, urge to gamble, etc takes root and they begin to self destruct. The team member who did the zinging is left in a state of euphoria, completely free of the vice that previously consumed their lives.

This prospect holds a great deal of allure for Justine and she agrees to join Packard's group of misfits after he provides a quick demonstration of zinging. The story progresses to her taking on a couple targets who are susceptible to different physical afflictions, and thus perfect for her brand of attention. Once Justine becomes Packard's minion, she begins to realize that things aren't quite as black and white as Packard made them seem. She starts seeing the humanity in her targets, and questions Packard's motives for disillusioning them. As with many of the characters in Mind Games, there's so much more to Packard than what's on the surface. His ability to read people is infallible, but yet he himself is impossible to read. Questions continue to be raised as Justine discovers tidbits about Packard's past, about the city she lives in, her targets, and the people she thought could do no wrong.

This story started out a little slow for me. The premise itself is intriguing and original, but it took a while for everything to be explained, the characters to be in place, and the real plot to start. Once it got going however, I couldn't put it down.

Justine is an extremely likeable heroine and her bouts of hypochondria add quite a bit of humor. For instance, when she finds herself in an extremely precarious and threatening situation with a target, instead of devising a plan for self-rescue, this is what's running through her head:

"And he's so heavy on me, it's hard to breathe. Is he collapsing my lungs? And what about my head? The pain in my temple is back."

Not what my thought process would be in that situation, but that's just me. Ms. Crane does a fantastic job of blurring the lines between good and evil, and she has created characters who don't fit neatly under either definition, but rather posess qualities that straddle that fine line. The more information Justine, and thus us as readers, receives the more confusing the truth becomes. Furthermore, it becomes clear that there can be more than one truth in a single situation, and both sides have extremely convincing stories to support their point of view. Heroes could possibly be villans, villans could be heroes and we all just have to wait for the next installment to see what happens.

Another well executed aspect of this book is the sexual tension between Packard and Justine. She's drawn to him, but there's so much she doesn't know and he has enough aces up his sleeve to outfit several decks. I thought about their relationship long after I finished the book and I found myself running to the computer to find the release date for the second one.

Overall, it started slow, but finished very strong and left me wanting more:)

Rating: 4/5