Short Hiatus into May

I've been trying to work quickly to review enough books to post every other day, and as much as I like this schedule, I'm running out of material. I'm also trying to prepare for six months abroad, so you know, there's that. So while I will be taking a few weeks off to write and read and pack, but I can tell you what the beginning of May will look like in terms of reviews.

In the pipes, I have reviews of both Labyrinth by Kate Mosse and Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, narrated by the astonishing Katherine Kellgren who I have developed a bit of an aural crush on. I'm also reading, and enjoying The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, and have been granted permission to read Swans & Klons by the lovely Nora Olsen. I'm still reading Solaris by Stanislaw Lem and listening to The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherill, narrated by Holter Graham. I've also received some more books, Saving Fate and Iron Flower by Billy Wong, and Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian.

Also, in response to Amazon's acquisition of GoodReads, I am going to turn all of my links to book pages now link to LibraryThing. This change, along with a few others, will slowly appear in the next few weeks. I hope this will only be of slight annoyance. And in the way of LibraryThing, I leave you with a haiku:
books are stacked,
piled high--can I
read them all?
Catch you on the flip side!

Prequel for Joelle Charbonneau's The Testing

"Ready for a new dystopian heroine to cheer for? Then we suggest you check out Joelle Charbonneau's The Testing, the first in a new YA trilogy... An electrifying debut."
"There is nothing standardized about this Testing. Charbonneau's imagination will surprise readers at every turn."
~Jennifer M. Brown, Shelf Awareness

"Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games." 
~Hannah Johnson-Breimeier, Boswell Book Company

I was invited to have a look at the
battle royale-esque novel, The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau which will be published by Houghton Mifflin on June 4th, 2013. They also sent me an email informing me that you can read a prequel and watch a trailer on the books website, the banner also links to the prequel.

Already The Testing is being called a Hunger Games rip-off, and while it is true that The Testing, like Divergent before it, is derivative of the aforementioned book, it's not a rip-off. Unless you mean, Joelle Charbonneau's novel was in part inspired by, and is riding on the coattails of success that The Hunger Games has enjoyed, then yes, it might be called that. But many times derivative works can outshine the original one. I don't think Hunger Games was better than Battle Royale, but to dismiss a book on it's derivative value alone is to dismiss some of Studio Ghibli's best works, Castle in the Sky being derivative of Gulliver's Travels, Ponyo by the Sea being derivative of Wagner's Ring Cycle (however slight), and The Cat Returns being a derivative sequel of the studio's own, Whisper of the Heart.

The Testing shares slight similarities with Divergent already, the graduation ceremony being an auspicious occasion. However, Malencia "Cia" Vale's narrative voice is much more stilted, more formal and awkward. I liked how in the Dust Lands series, Saba's speech is that of someone who has learned English away from books and most grammar, making sense for someone who lives so far away from civilization in a post-apocalyptic world. Here, Cia's speech makes sense if we imagine her world as one rebuilt to be better than the last one. Emphasis being on re-population and survival of humans.

The prequel is short, from Cia's older brother Zeen's point of view. He's looking forward to being selected for the testing, and from my exposure to him in the book so far, I am hoping he will Go West, Young Man as they say. The prequel gives me hope that he will.

As of yet, I don't have much more to say about The Testing. Whether it will outshine any of the YA post-apocalyptic novels that have come out in recent years, or just as well stand among them as something new and exciting, remains to be seen. All I know is people are going to die. Like students need more pressure, right?

Showcase Sunday #2

Showcase Sunday is a feature on Vicki's book blog, Books, Biscuits and Tea, which shows off the books which one has acquired in the past week, from any and all sources. Whether purchased online as an ebook or in hardback from a brick and mortar store, received for review or as a gift, it's just another way to make all your blogging acquaintances jelly.
This week features a lot of books for writers, so, fair warning.

This one was long ago recommended to me as a really grounded book of inspiration and advice, spiced with personal anecdotes. Not looking to find much new here, but her book on the writing life has been praised by several goodreads friends of mine.
Bringing the Devil to His Knees edited by Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi
A collection of essays put together by Charles Baxter, I'm not sure what else I can say, hah!

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and David King
There are so many books on how to write, how to write better, to write for various audiences and with such an amount of time, and while being a mom, or a dry-cleaning assistant. This one has received high praise for accompanying a writer into the second part of the writing process.

I have been looking forward to this since it's publication, but never got around to purchasing it. Finally it was given to my as a (late) birthday gift; I am thrilled.

So, despite mentioning this book in my review of Hero by Perry Moore, I've never actually read it. It's a short little thing, and it's actually been turned into a movie while I wasn't looking.

 Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
A late night acquisition that reminded me of Hero, but is about a (peripheral) lesbian. She's latina, she's got were-wolf powers, and she's going to show this town who's boss. It sounds peachy.

In related news, it turns out I had an ancient ARC I got from HarperTeen of Hartinger's Grand & Humble. See what organizing your library does for you? The more you know...

Mini-Reviews: The Hot Floor - Josephine Myles + Promises - Marie Sexton

While these are both reviews of adult m/m romance, I have attempted to keep them as safe-for-work as possible.

The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles is possibly the hottest romance I have ever read, and has good character building, good dialogue, good flow... It's only flaw may not even be a flaw, in that the plot is mostly about the boys getting together. But, and correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't that mean the story is character driven? Forgive my enthusiasm on this, but it seems to be an awesome step to have a book filled, practically, to the brim with sex, and still be a dynamic read.

Okay, on with this: It's menage à trois, or a poly-amorous triad, if you prefer. When the lonely Josh Carpenter, living in the upstairs apartment, becomes infatuated with Rai Nakamura and Evan Truman, the sexy couple downstairs, he begins a tentative friendship with them, and the hot summer heat drives Josh down into their apartment almost every evening. Almost unbearably tempted to turn their friendship into something more, Josh consoles himself with the fact that this is the best relationship he's ever had. Beyond his wildest dreams, Evan and Rai invite him into their bedroom and begin to bend the rules for him. But will it go beyond these hot summer nights? Josh isn't sure, but he's going to make the most of it while it lasts.

Josephine Myles's wrote about her motivations in writing The Hot Floor over on Goodreads. She's done a fantastic job with something that's hard to make work in real life, never mind on the printed page, and won a new fan in me. I wish I had a more balanced review to give you, but I suppose... there is a lot of sex in this, so maybe it's not for you? If it is, you will have a hard time putting it down, and may pick it up again and again. Fair warning!

228pp. Samhain Publishing. Aug. 6th, 2013

In Promises by Marie Sexton, Jared Thomas is a recently certified physics teacher who has returned to his hometown of Coda Colorado to... well, he didn't return to work at the family hardware store, even if it's what he's ended up doing. But seeing as he's the only gay guy under sixty in the whole town, he's trying his best to make it work. Until of course, Matt Richards walks into the store to inquire about the jeep for sale out front. Their friendship starts out with Jared's slightest bare minimum of curiosity about the new cop of the Coda police force is nudged forward by his sister-in-law until he subtly asks and is told that, no, Matt is not gay. But then there are these mixed signals, and some ridiculously hot chemistry!

Not everything is peaches-and-cream though, Matt isn't gay after all, and when he outright denies the sparks flying between them and begins dating a woman that Jared went to High School with, even their easy-going friendship begins to wear thin. Between Matt's need to make sure everyone knows that hanging out a gay man doesn't mean he is gay as well, homophobic parents and a murderer on the loose, things could be going better. There's also mountain-biking.

Promises was definitely a light-weight and does not land high on my list of recommendations. Between the hilarious sister-in-law and the waitress whom Matt is dating, the calibre of female characters is too variable, a weighted check on my how-good-was-this-romance? list. The murder was just a plot point, and ultimately wasn't as big a deal as it should have been. What Marie Sexton really nailed was the sensuality. The attraction between male leads is something that is built upon from Matt's first entrance, and his mixed signals toward the openly-gay Jared read extremely well. While I maintain that this isn't a great romance novel, the romance in it is fantastic, and you will not be able to put this one down either. By the by, and a slight spoiler, this book is not GFY.

Read Josephine Myles's review of Promises on Goodreads.

216pp. Dreamspinner Press. Jan. 8th, 2010

Review: Hero - Perry Moore

Review: Little Nemo in Slumberland - Winsor McCay

Showcase Sunday #1

Showcase Sunday:

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme brought to you by Vicki from Books, Biscuits and Tea. In this posting, one discusses books that one has acquired through various means in the past week, those recieved for review, borrowed from libraries, purchased from stores--even stolen, one supposes, from friends, although I doubt Vicki would approve. She appears to have a good head on her shoulders, so we shall hope for the best, and not make any flippant accusations about you, cautious reader.

This edition will be a lesbian edition for no reason other than Malinda Lo has charmed me with her writerly wiles and one feels one has been neglecting her feminine side in her reading diet. It's April Fool's Day (and a Monday!) so anything could happen.