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

I recently read comics of huge dimension, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland by Winsor McCay, written back in the early part of last century, when Gibsons, big-brimed hats and a "new, columnar silhouette" defined women's fashion. Nemo is a young boy who when asleep travels to Slumberland, and begins to have adventures with the Princess of Slumberland, Camille. They pick up Flip as a traveling companion after having some altercations with him, which I did not read about, but were briefly mentioned. Flip in turn picks up a young black boy who is member of a tribe, and is known as The Imp.

I didn't start at the beginning, though. Apparently I lack a lot of contemporary historical knowledge, as the stories get really absurd at one point, and as much as I loved Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in 2009, I'm still not ready for a re-read of that!

That aside, the illustrations are the real reason I looked into these comics in the first place. The perspective and is incredible, and the detail in every single page are really worth peeking at in a quick Google search, if nothing more.

Nemo's traveling companions are like-wise caricatures of their time. Princess Camille, incredibly passive yet wise, left after a while and Flip, green in the face from too many cigars, one supposes, took the comics from a serialized story format and into that which resembles the modern Sunday comics of today.

One is always amazed at the treatment of dark skinned characters in older works; while there is some attempted cannibalism when they go ashore in the pseudo-Pacific, the chief of the tribe speaks impeccable English. A member of the tribe accompanies them as Flip's ... property... for a while, then when Flip is separated from this caricature, Nemo travels with him, and finds him creating trouble slightly less often than he is helpful. He and the Imp, never mind the language barrier, are pretty evenly matched.

The illustrations are the real reason I looked into these comics in the first place. The perspective and is incredible, and the detail in every single page are really worth peeking at in a quick Google search, if nothing more.

Originally serialized in New York Herald from 1905-1911, but then switched to the New York American newspaper, where it was re-titled: In the Land of Wonderful Dreams; it ran there until 1914.

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.

First things first, Malinda Lo: she's well known for her retelling of Cinderella, Ash, which I have heard many good things about. Huntress is a prequel to the story told in Ash, inspired by Imperial China and the I Ching, and also had people excited. However, Malinda Lo finally got me to read one of her books when her SciFi YA novel, Adaptation, came out last fall. I read it within weeks of it's release, surprised that I didn't have to wait for 4 people to finish and return it before I got it from the library's pull list. I've heard it wasn't as smooth a story as Ash or Huntress, but considering it's a gear shift to something more like the books being churned out like chickens these past few years, set in the near future, and it's plot sharing more in common with the X-Files than either of the aforementioned novels, I wouldn't expect the transition to be smooth. I liked Adaptation because it was authentic to it's roots and unique in a sea of similarities. I'll have more nice things to say about it when I re-read and review it.

Sappho's Fables by Elora Bishop and Jennifer Diemer is a recent discovery, and I've been avoiding reviews aside from the initial positive ones on the bookseller's website. This wife-and-wife team of writers has published their first three novellas of retellings as one book. Seven is a retelling of Snow White, Braided is Rapunzel, and Crumbs is Hansel and Gretel. It's also 'Volume 1' of an unknown quantity, so here's hoping to many interesting lesbian retellings.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters is well known to people who've British-TV fans long enough to have heard of it. It was successful not only because of it's entertainment value, but because of it's historical accuracy. I finally own it. Affinity by Sarah Waters is a book I've had on my shelf for a while, but haven't read yet. The Cover is what pulled me in for this one, but I have much higher hopes for this than the last cover that had me at first-sight. Sarah Waters is probably as well known as lesbian literature as Malinda Lo, and she brings something very nice to the discussion: historical romance. Fantastic.

Lastly come the two romances I bought from Carina after realizing I was on the verge of owning all of Harper Fox's books. There were only 3 or 4 in Carina's ebook store to begin with--pickings were slim. But! Last Car to Annwn Station by Michael Merriam looks very interesting, seems to be more ghost story than lesbian romance, so I may have gone off track here, and may also be inducing nightmares for the next week, but the cover is very pretty. I have mixed feelings about Cathy Pegau's Rulebreaker already. Not because of the spotty edit done for the cover, but more because I know lots of people were disappointed by it. Samhain will probably have some better offers when I look in on them in the future.

That's a lot. And I already had a full contingent of ikea shelves before this... I'll let you know how it goes.