Monday, November 1, 2010

Mass Market Monday: Moon Sworn by Keri Arthur

Moon Sworn 
9780440245711, Bantam Dell (Random House), $7.99

So, when I said in my first Keri Arthur post that I wanted to read more of this series, apparently what I meant was I'm going to read #1 and #just released and skip all the ones in between. The problem with this is now that I know what happens in the latest book, I don't want to go back and read the heartbreak that happens in the previous ones! Moon Sworn is such a great plot, and Riley Jenson is in such a good place at the end of the novel that I don't want to go back and read about a time when she wasn't doing this well. That said, if you're new to the series and haven't already read the latest, I highly recommend reading them all in order because though you can understand it even if you skip around, the stories do build upon one another.

I really enjoy the depth of Keri Arthur's characters. The action scenes are well-written, the dialogue is funny, the sex is hot, but most importantly, the complexity of her characters doesn't read as banal drama but real human (or not-so-human, as the case may be) interest. She's not afraid to kill off characters you've come to love, but she also doesn't make her main characters suffer endlessly. There's a happy ending wrapped up in there, and that's something I can get behind.
In this latest novel of the Riley Jenson Guardian series, old foes turn up to get their final revenge. Using nanotechnology, Riley's enemies find a way to strip her of her identity, her shapeshifting, and everyone she loves in this ultimate game of payback. Payback's a bitch, though, and her abductors better watch out, for Riley has too many secrets and too much to live for to let some twisted psychos take her life from her. After a murder occurs that is similar to the case Riley was working on prior to her abduction, Riley begins piecing together her fractured memory, needing to regain everything from her true name and true forms to her true loves. While not giving anything away, let me just say the book finishes very well with both Riley and her tormentors getting exactly what they deserve.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Dominoes


Thank you to Mattie for this!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mass Market Monday: Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Kiss of Midnight 
9780553589375, $7.99, Bantam Dell (Random House)

Gabrielle Maxwell is a photographer with a special gift - she is a magnet for supernatural activity. Drawn to random, apparently abandoned locations around town, she photographs stark landscapes and buildings, creating art for a living. Just one problem: she doesn't realize she has this gift and so narrowly escapes with her life again and again, often without knowing it. It isn't until she witnesses a murder outside a club that she is exposed to the realm she has been inadvertently been exploring for years. She is saved from murder herself by Lucan Thorne, a vampire Breed warrior, sworn to protect other vampires and humans from the lawless violence perpetrated by the growing threat of the Rogues. He doesn't want to involve Gabrielle, and he doesn't want to get involved with Gabrielle, but when someone on the Rogues' side recognizes the locations in her photographs, Lucan has to take her into protective custody - his protective custody. They can't deny their attraction to each other, and though both have dark secrets in their pasts, they must learn to trust the knowledge the other person has if they're ever going to avenge their fallen brethren and fight against the Rogues.

This is the first book in the Midnight Breed series and I'm looking forward to reading more.

My favorite part was the unique plot tie-in of Gabrielle's artistic profession. The descriptions of her photographs made me want to go out and take some more photos of abandoned buildings myself.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mass Market Monday: Bite the Bullet by L.A. Banks


Bite the Bullet
9780312949129, $6.99, St. Martin's (Macmillan)
Kick-ass, action-packed, and drama-packed. If you're in the mood for gun-totin' shapeshifters and elite trained operatives, rouge werewolves, a supernatural war fought on multiple planes, and drama between lovers, then pick up one of the Crimson Moon series today. This was my first foray into this world, of course it's the latest book, so I did have a bit of catch-up to play, but the author explained previous events fairly well while maintaining the plot and not making the series history feel like an information dump.

Sasha Trudeau is an elite, highly trained operative bent on saving both the human and supernatural worlds. She's also mated with Max Hunter, the Alpha of a werewolf pack, making her an important figure in a world where the rules are very different than what she's used to. Her team was ambushed while on their last mission; only Sasha and two of her men survived. Their mission was to find and destroy anyone who has been infected with a deadly toxin that poisons the blood of any shapeshifter. What she doesn't know is that the man she loves was infected with this toxin as an infant. At each major stage in his life, his good wolf side and bad wolf side have to fight an internal battle for supremacy. As Sasha struggles to trust Max and her mate bond with him, Max is struggling to control the outbreak of another battle within - right when Sasha needs to rely on him the most as a no-holds-barred, all-out war for supernatural supremacy breaks out. Max fights his inner demons while Sasha and Max's grandfather fight to keep him safe and alive on the eve of battle. Meanwhile, the vampires are taunting the misguided werewolves who are now addicted to the toxin like it's the latest new high-inducing drug. It's the rogues versus the pack, as many packs come together to battle this new evil, with Sasha, her trained operatives, Max, and his grandfather right in the middle.

My favorite part: Sasha really knows how to fight. Readers of the Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake series will appreciate a woman who can use her weapons well.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mass Market Monday: Born to Bite by Lynsay Sands


Born to Bite: An Argeneau Novel 
9780061474323, $7.99, Avon Books (HarperCollins)

Armand Argeneau is a vampire-turned-farmer in the boonies of Canada. This isn't so odd when you consider he's tried to cut himself off from most of the world. The women in his life, most particularly his three wives, have all met with strange accidents over the years - accidents that left them dead. Armand hasn't shared his suspicions with anyone, but he suspects foul play. In order to keep his daughter and other various female relatives safe, he has retreated to a mostly solitary life, with the occasional visit from his brother and his second.

When his brother, Lucian, does visit, he tells Armand that he needs to have Armand hide someone away for a little while. Eshe d'Aureus is one of Lucian's best enforcers, but has caught the attention of some fiends and needs a place to lay low. Armand reluctantly agrees, but it's when he gets a glimpse of the 6-foot tall, gorgeous Egyptian woman with the golden eyes that he perks up about the arrangement. Unfortunately he doesn't know the real reason Eshe is there. Other people have become suspicious of Armand's wives' deaths, too, and as someone who brings rogue vampires to justice, Eshe is there to figure out if Armand is really the killer.

It's when they're both almost burned to a crisp that they realize neither one is the enemy, and they need to find out who really is. Of course, though, they've just realized they're each others' second life mates and so their attention is a little distracted as they tear each others' clothes off, gain new traits like the need to eat real food, and lose control of some pretty important powers like the ability to not broadcast their thoughts to every mind reader in the vicinity. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily for two people who want to be naked and alone for most of the time, Lucian was smart enough to send in backup.

My favorite part: Eshe is a leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding hellion. Gotta love a chick who makes an entrance.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mass Market Monday: Demon From The Dark by Kresley Cole


Demon from the Dark
by Kresley Cole
9781439123126, $7.99, Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)

This is the first book I've read from the Immortals After Dark series, though apparently it's installment #10. Luckily, I didn't find I needed to read books 1-9 to understand what was going on. It's a very interesting world! I'm looking forward to reading more. In the context of this book, there are many worlds - maybe alternate planes of existence is a better way of describing it - and bad things are happening in almost all of them. The supernatural creatures in the world of Earth are being hunted down and kidnapped, brought to a secret laboratory on a hidden island, where a madman performs nasty experiments on them in an attempt to explore each supernatural power so that he can create the ultimate weapons to wipe out all supernatural creatures.

Carrow Graie is a prank-playing, partygirl witch who has just been captured and brought to this place. Her best friend's daughter, eight-year-old, Ruby, has been kidnapped too. Carrow is offered a deal: the madman will let her and Ruby go, if she travels to another dimension and brings back a demon. She has no choice but to accept and hope for the best.

Malkom Slaine is an outcast among everyone he once knew. Originally demon, he was made part-vampire during his own capture during a wartime centuries ago. After killing his own best friend and the evil sorcerer who turned them, Malkom retreated to the caves on top of a mountain to plan his revenge on the man who betrayed him. Living alone, he has terrorized the other supernatural beings of his own world by keeping control of the water supply. It is this tormented soul Carrow must somehow seduce in order to bring him back to Earth.

They don't speak the same language, physically or emotionally. He's a brute, but she needs to rely on him, as she's relatively helpless against the creatures of this new dimension. Yet, as a demon, he has the power to know who his true mate is, and as fate would have it, it's this green-eyed witch who's just fallen through the magic portal. Can he trust her after he's been betrayed so often? She's the first soft touch he's ever known, but is it enough to save them both against all the evil in the world? And if they save each other emotionally, is that enough for them to save the rest of the poor souls held in this horrible captivity?

My favorite part: Malkom has piercings and a hot tattoo wrapped around a gorgeous body Carrow bathes between pages 145 and 184. Any scene that lasts that long you know has to be good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Snooki Venn Diagram

Sorry, I normally don't take cheap shots like this, but I couldn't help myself on this one:

Thank you to Mattie, The Daily What, and Flickr for this.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing Advice: By Writers, For Writers

A recent post on The League of Extraordinary Writers blog inspired my own post, as I began thinking over all the writing advice I've read over the past few years. This is particularly helpful to me right now as I haven't written anything other than an email or a letter to various relatives the past 3 weeks. If I'm not writing, I'm still reading, and as cleanliness is next to Godliness or something of the sort, so reading about writing should be next to actually doing it.

What a treasure trove of advice I've rediscovered!  The first advice that comes to mind is Elmore Leonard's essay for the NYTimes series "Writers on Writing". A complete archive of that column can be found here. I believe writing advice is as personal as shopping advice: if it doesn't fit your style, you're not going to pay attention to it. I want my writing to be the spare, pointed, hooptedoodle-lacking writing Elmore Leonard is encouraging, and so I take his advice. (Blogging is different, this is more like chatting to strangers.) But his advice might not fit you, which is why you should read through that archive; I know I'm planning to.

I also take the advice of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, because even if I don't remember everything she says, that core concept is comforting - we all have to begin somewhere, and might as well take it bird (word) by bird (word). Though I read this before grad school, I believe it was suggested or required reading for a course or two, and so I enjoyed it again, along with Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster, books I'm not sure I would have picked up had it not been for classes Writing I & I.

Some of my favorite books on writing are actually for children, most notably Avi's A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing, illustrated by Tricia Tusa.  This book is a sequel to The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant), which, while not about writing, does make some clever commentary about the nature of books and fables. As extra prizes for the Odyssey Book Shop's annual children's writing contest last year, I had the pleasure of handing out both A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End and another book on writing for children, one about the more technical aspects, entitled Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter, Anne Mazer, and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Both present encouragement and advice for aspiring young writers.

Just at the time I began writing this post, I discovered two more books about writing I need to look through. One, How Fiction Works by James Wood, has been compared to E.M. Forster's work mentioned above, but the second is the one I'm most interested in. Off the Page: Writers Talk about Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between is a compilation of authors' input marketed as a "literary tell-all". Edited by Carole Burns, with an introduction by Marie Arana, authors are quoted under section titles such as "Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?: How Characters Come to Life", "All That Jazz: Playing with Language and Style to Suit the Story", and "Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal: The Writers Whom Writers Love and Why". The list of authors includes Tobias Wolff, Colm Toibin, Art Spiegelman, Marisha Pessl, Tim Parks, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Alice McDermott, Andrea Levy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edward P. Jones, E. L. Doctorow, Michael Cunningham, A. S. Byatt, Russell Banks, and Paul Auster to name a few.

What books about writing inspire you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review: Blameless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger

I've decided to begin a series called MASS MARKET MONDAYS

I prefer to read my guilty pleasure mass markets when I travel. Having no car, traveling anywhere outside the city of Boston usually requires at least two T-lines, a bus, a train, possibly a taxi, and a different type of subway depending on what city I'm going to. In other words, hours and hours of travel, and the inevitable waiting in stations. Reading as quickly as I do, mass markets are the perfect book size (I believe that was the intent behind their creation in the first place) and topic - I can bring several of them along, put them down when I need to, and quickly become engrossed again to the point where I can ignore the smelly person sitting next to me or the baby crying three seats behind.

Blogging about them is a different matter. I'm not ashamed of what I read, but reading so many of them at one time (usually three or more to a trip), means after coming back from a weekend away, I would overrun the blog with them. I don't think that's fair, as I read loads of other things too. So, to blog about my urban fantasy romance mass market travel books, I've created MASS MARKET MONDAYS. Enjoy!

Blameless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel
by Gail Carriger
9780316074155, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette)

Blameless is third in the Parasol Protectorate series by first-time author Gail Carriger.

You can read my review of Soulless, the first book in the series, here.
Watch a Soulless book trailer here.
To recap: in Soulless (9780316056632), the reader is introduced to Alexia Tarabotti, who is a preternatural - someone who has no soul. When she touches a supernatural being - a being with excess soul - they lose their supernatural ability while her hands are on them. She can retract the fangs from a vampire, make a werewolf human, and permanently dispel a ghost. Living in London during the reign of Queen Victoria, the dark complected, half-Italian, intelligent and educated, secret preternatural often feels stifled and maybe even a little bored with her idiotic mother, absent step-father, and two silly younger sisters. After accidentally killing a freshly-made rogue vampire who was trying to drink from her (with her incredibly handy, personalized parasol), Alexia gets mixed up with Lord Maccon, the large, shaggy, uncouth, unwed Alpha of the local London werewolf pack. Soon they are off on a supernatural London-wide adventure involving disappearing werewolves, rogue vampires, new scientific supernatural inventions, a scientific organization known as the Hypocras Club, and just maybe, a romance neither of them expected.

In book 2, Changeless (9780316074148), Alexia, now Lady Woolsey, is suddenly left alone to deal with werewolf pack politics while her husband runs off on a secret mission. Her investigations introduce new characters such as Madame Lefoux, the men's suit-wearing French woman who owns a delectable hat shop and a fully-equipped scientific laboratory, and ends with a trip to Scotland. Unfortunately, there's a traitor on board her dirigible and Alexia has quite a few narrow escapes on her trip as someone tries to kill her. She does manage to solve the mystery, and finds her wayward husband, though a surprise twist at the cliffhanger ending is very abrupt.
I didn't review book 2 because I didn't like it as much as book 1 and I don't like to write negative reviews. Yet, if you would like to read a proper review, this reviewer on Amazon has basically said everything I wanted to say, and in a very well-spoken, respectful way, so check it out.

Now, considering my disappointment with Changeless, I picked up Blameless with some trepidation. I am happy to report, I was about 70-80% satisfied with book 3. Alexia has returned from Scotland the scandal of the London season. Dismissed from her secret position on the Shadow Council of advisers to the queen, kicked out of both her husband's house and her parents' home, Alexia turns to her famous rogue vampire friend, Lord Akeldama, for answers. Unfortunately he's disappeared, leaving Alexia with a short, somewhat cryptic message: "Leave England. And beware Italians who embroider." Leaving London again with Madame Lefoux and her father's trusty butler Floote, Alexia is chased through Paris and into Italy by vampires who want to kill her. Seeking refuge with the Knights Templar turns out to be a bad idea as they alternately ignore her, use her as bait, and then kidnap her, holding her prisoner. Meanwhile, back in London, Lord Maccon is getting increasingly inebriated, leaving his second, Professor Lyall, to hold the pack together and deal with the sudden disappearance of Alexia, Lord Akeldama, and all of Lord Akeldama's drones. Luckily this is not the first time Alexia's had to keep her wits about her, and with the help of Madame Lefoux and her scientist friend, Floote, a mysterious white werewolf who keeps showing up at just the right moment, and a beefed-up parasol, Alexia's not going to stay kidnapped for long. Blameless has the strong characterization, familiar laugh-out-loud wit, and steampunk elements mixed in with history that had gone missing in book 2.
Watch the creation of the Blameless book jacket design in sped-up time here.

Book 4 is apparently called Heartless and I can only imagine what on earth that's going to be about. No pub date as of yet, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover's Dictionary
by David Levithan
9780374193683, $23, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (Macmillan), Pub. Date: January 2011

akin, adj.
We were painting by numbers,
starting with the greens. Because
that happened to be our favorite color.
And that, we figured, had to mean something.

This novel is so quietly brilliant, it's a wonder David Levithan can stand his own talent. His first book published for adults, I see no reason why this can't be enjoyed by the same teenage audience that loves his Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (written with Rachel Cohn, 9780375835339) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (written with John Green, 9780525421580), favorites among the other YA novels he's written.

cadence, n.
I have never lived anywhere but New York
or New England, but there are times when
I'm talking to you and I hit a Southern vowel, or
a word gets caught in a Southern truncation,
and I know it's because I'm swimming in your
cadences, that you permeate my very language.

The Lover's Dictionary is, according to Publisher's Marketplace, “an alphabetically episodic narrative that traces the ups and downs of an urban romance.” This is a truly genius way of telling a story that allows the reader to be at once an observer and a participant in this relationship. The couple is never identified as individuals by name or physical descriptions or a list of attributes. We come to know them slowly, as each definition unfolds a piece of the story and a piece of each person, and ultimately, a piece of you. There are words and definitions that make you laugh out loud, remembering a scene so similar in your own life. There are words that make you catch your breath as the ache of it settles deep within your chest.

candid, adj.
"Most times, when I'm having sex, I'd rather be reading."
This was, I admit, a strange thing to say
on a second date. I guess I was just
giving you warning.
"Most times when I'm reading," you said, "I'd rather be having sex."

Though not told in a linear fashion, there was never a point when I questioned what was happening, and though the end doesn't leave you with a typical conclusion, these characters had so seamlessly blended with my own life, my own subconscious - despite my life being nothing like theirs - I still haven't felt as if the book is really finished, because these words live inside me now. Reading it felt like taking a shot of whiskey: the initial hit of flavor - the initial joy of beginning a truly great read; the burn down your throat - the gut reaction to a deeply meaningful passage; lighting a fire in your heart - remembering what in your own life made you feel this way; and the liquid warmth sliding all the way down into your belly - enjoying how that experience is a part of you now. It gave me goosebumps at times to read a definition about love or type of lovesick behavior that I always thought (was worried about) only happened to me; but in reading whatever that particular definition was, somehow knowing there is at least one other person in the world who has felt this way too, makes me not feel so alone.

suffuse, v.
I don't like it when you use my shampoo,
because then your hair smells like me, not you. 

Especially to someone like me who collects new words as a hobby, using them to tell a story in this way was deeply meaningful. As a writer-of-sorts, I often have plot ideas, snippets for a story, a passing fancy that something might be really neat if done right and well. As a full-time reader, I constantly run the risk of reading the very brilliance I long to create. Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks series was one such instance for me, and now David Levithan and The Lover's Dictionary.

yesterday, n.
You called to ask me when I was
coming home, and when I reminded you
that I wasn't coming home, you sounded
so disappointed that I decided to come home.

 Like most things in life that make you laugh and make you cry, The Lover's Dictionary is bittersweet, but you know for sure that you weren't unaffected.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Picturebooks for Adults, Part I

Going through the slush pile a few weeks ago, I came across an artist who layers photographs and clipart pieces to create ethereal digital collage artwork. I wish I could show them to you, but unfortunately the artist doesn't have a website. While the project wasn't right for Houghton Mifflin, the illustrations were beautiful, and for me, immediately brought to mind the song used in this video:

(The song is Strange Love by Little Annie, and it's eerie, and a little weird, and I love it. If you want to hear the whole song, click here, though I have to warn you that the typewritten lyrics on the YouTube video are a little off.)

I could envision full-color, full-bleed pictures adding their surreal quality to the already haunting lyrics. Of course, with the heavy, sexy lyrics and accompanying illustrations, this picture book is more appropriate for adults than children, and that thought made me consider the concept of picture books intended for adults as a whole.

The picture book that immediately came to mind was Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (9780877017882, $19.95, Chronicle) by Nick Bantock. There are four books in this series that is a mysterious love story between two people named Griffin and Sabine, spanning continents and time continuums. Each book contains gorgeous hand-designed postcards and letters between the two lovers as they unravel the mystery of their romantic communication. Perfect for fans of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, though not quite as dark.

Speaking of Audrey Niffenegger, she has created several picture books for adults: The Adventuress (9780810970526, $27.95, Abrams), The Night Bookmobile (9780810996175, $19.95, Abrams), and The Three Incestuous Sisters (9780810959279, $27.95, Abrams). In keeping with the classic Audrey Niffenegger style, these picture books are dark and fantastical while exploring complex emotions of primarily female characters.

Not all picture books intended for adults are as serious as these. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had quite the naughty side. In addition to writing beloved children's books, Dr. Seuss was also a political cartoonist during World War II; his cartoons have been collected in Dr. Seuss Goes to War (9781565847040, $19.95, Perseus). He also wrote several picture books that are much more adult-themed in nature, including You're Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children (9780394551906, $17.99, Random House), detailing the hilarious medical checkup one of a certain age might go through, and Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family (out-of-print), a book featuring seven naked ladies romping through tongue-in-cheek explanations of common idioms. Then, of course, there are other Dr. Seuss classics that are favorites to give to adults upon certain graduations and employment transitions, such as Oh, the Places You'll Go! (9780679805274, $17.99, Random House).

Other children's books are often given between adults for various holidays. Two of my favorites make perfect Valentine's Day presents for both friends and loved ones: I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast (9780395071762, $6.95, Houghton Mifflin) and A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund (9780152296780, $9.95, Houghton Mifflin). Both of these offer adorable illustrations accompanying sweet, child-like text celebrating like, love, and friendship. Though those were published as children's books, their full value is understood more by adults, I think, who can better appreciate the nuances of both text and illustration.

This is true for many other children's picture books, whose humor, while appealing to children, is of a particularly cheeky, sarcastic, implied, or ironic nature that is greatly enjoyed by adults. Some of my personal favorites catering to the dual audience are the Knuffle Bunny trilogy, the Pigeon books, and the Elephant & Piggie series created by Mo Willems. A classic of this genre is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (9780670844876, $17.99, Viking/Penguin), hilarious retellings of classic fairy tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith. Lane Smith is quite the connoisseur of this type of work, both by discussing children's books in an adult way on his blog Curious Pages, and by creating books of this nature, such as the recent release It's a Book (9781596436060, $12.99, Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan), a book about the introduction of a hard copy book in a digital age.

It's a Book walks that fine line between being really intended for an adult audience but being published in a children's market. There are many picture books published in this vein, such as All My Friends Are Dead (thanks to A. Neff for this!) by Avery Monsen and Jory John (9780811874557, $9.95, Chronicle), just published in June, about all the people, animals, and objects who have deceased friends. I can't think of a single friend who wouldn't snort with laughter at this snarky book.

What are some of your favorite picture books?

Stay tuned for Part II!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop

This is only my second Book Blogger Hop for my adult book review blog. This Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy-for-Books, discovered (by me) through Presenting Lenore - thanks to both these blog/gers for providing a great way to meet new blog/gers!

To see the amazing blogs I discovered previously, visit my first hop.

As this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, as part of the Hop, I will be sharing my "favorite book bloggers and why [I] love them".

I, of course, have to begin with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, commonly known as Seven Imp, a book blog about children's books that is (if I may give my humble opinion) the preeminent children's book world blog. Interviews, artwork, children's book world discussions, this blog is a treasure trove of goodies waiting to be explored almost every day. Also, personally, they're named after a Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland quote, so how can I not love that?

a thousand Books with Quotes is another blog I look up often, as I appreciate the sampling of quotes from each book with the general synopsis. Better than any "look inside!" preview, it whets the appetite even more to find out what those quotes are about and where they fit in to the overall plot.

Last, but not least, As the Crowe Flies and Reads by my friend and former co-worker Ms. Emily Crowe is a fabulous read-and-travel-log. Sharing informed opinions, asking critical question, reviewing great books, and showcasing incredible photography and travel stories, this is one of my favorite blogs whether I'm looking for a literary book recommendation or my next dream vacation.

Blogs I have discovered today through the Hop include:

1. Pen and Paper, who gave me a great idea for a post about a Shelf of Awesome, coming soon, I hope!
2. Blkosiner's Book Blog hosted the original Shelf of Awesome idea.
3. A Trillian Books has an adorable blog design and great YA and adult book reviews.

4. For What It's Worth also has a stylish blog design and combines book reviews with music reviews - how great is that? I love discovering both!

As always, check 'em out!

Also just discovered this Follow My Book Blog Friday:

Hosted by Parajunkee, this is very similar to the Book Blogger Hop mentioned above. Today they are featuring Bailey of IB Book Blogging, and the question is: Do you read YA or stick with adult?

Both, of course! (Of course for me, anyway.) But this blog is for my children's/YA book review-related posts only. My adult book reviews can be found on Afterthoughts for Adults.

Thanks to Bloggin' 'Bout Books for turning me on to this!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Guilty Pleasures

This post comes to you via Erika Breathes Books and Breaking the Spine. "Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme where you post upcoming titles you're eagerly anticipating.

I'm disturbingly behind in my book blogging; I blame that on all the traveling I've been doing lately, so please forgive me. Something else to blame on my travels - my guilty pleasure reading is disproportionately higher than my non-guilty pleasure reading. So what does this mean I'm looking forward to? These two:

Prince Charming Doesn't Live Here
by Christine Warren
9780312947941, $7.99, St. Martin's Press (MPS), Pub. Date: November 2010

Publisher's description:

Danice Carter is not one for glass slippers. A stilettos-wearing lawyer at one of Manhattan's most elite establishments, Danice has a very strong grip on reality. So when she's asked by one the firm's founding partners to take on a personal case, Danice knows she's in for the opportunity of a lifetime. All she has to do is convince her top boss's granddaughter, Rosemary, to file a paternity suit. Sounds simple enough...until Danice arrives at Rosemary's home and is pounced on by a handsome stranger.

Private investigator McIntyre Callahan's was only following his powerful client's orders: Find Rosemary--"at all costs." Instead, he's found a super-hot lawyer prowling around looking for answers he can't give. The half-human, half-Fae Mac tries to warn Danice that she's way in over her head--that Rosemary may roam among The Others, and may have dangerous ties to the Unseelie Court--but she won't be deterred. Even if that means following Mac to the ends of the earth to find Rosemary...or surrendering to his supernatural powers of temptation...until death do they part.
Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet #4) 
by Nora Roberts
9780425236758, $16, Berkeley (Penguin), Pub. Date: November 2010 

Publisher Description:
As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride's vision. She just can't see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcomb Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker is no exception. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart. 

Looks like late October/early November is going to be a busy time for me!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Library Love

Feelin' the library (and Old Spice guy) love today.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague
by Geraldine Brooks
9780142001431, Penguin, $15

Beautiful, heartbreaking, well-researched, richly envisioned, this book is a must-read for all lovers of historical fiction. Geraldine Brooks imagines what it must have been like for the people of the village of Eyam, in England, who, in 1666, voluntarily isolated themselves from the rest of England and Europe in order to contain the ravages of the Plague to their own village.

Told from the point of view of Anna Frith, a housemaid to the new pastor and his wife, the reader is introduced to this simple, ordinary village, who attempts an extraordinary, self-less act. We learn of Anna's family, her miner husband and two sons; her drunken father, neglectful stepmother, and younger step-siblings; the village healer and her granddaughter; the politics of the new Pastor and his beautiful wife; the rich family on the hill who are patrons and the social leaders of the town; and the various other townspeople - miners, farmers, blacksmith, tavern owner, etc. - who make up small-town life.

When the Plague strikes, it is to a boarder Anna has taken in after her husband was killed in a mining accident. Coming from the city, the boarder doesn't realize the material he has brought as part of his tailor trade is infected with the seeds of Plague. One-by-one, villagers are struck down. The inspiring young Pastor must do what he can to hold the people of the village together, and also to keep the Plague from spreading. As the village closes themselves off, they're left with nowhere to turn with their sorrow and anger but upon themselves. Rumors run wild as people try to determine what keeps causing the spread of Plague; neighbors will not help each other for fear of catching it. It is up to the Pastor, the Pastor's wife, and Anna, to tend the sick, minister to the dying, and try to keep the civil unrest under control.

When will the sickness run its course? When will the year be over? And who will be left alive at the end?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book Review: First Contact, Or, It's Later Than You Think by Evan Mandery

First Contact, Or, It's Later Than You Think (Parrot Sketch Excluded)
by Evan Mandery
9780061749773, Harper, $13.99

First Contact combines Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams into sci-fi literary fiction that will have you chuckling almost til the very end. The one problem with it is that the author couldn't keep his own two cents out of it, so begins to interject with his own drivel, particularly toward the end. While I do recommend reading this because it was funny, relevant to the recent political state (as in pre-Obama) of the US, and if nothing else, will instill in you a desire to reread the original great gentleman, do prepare yourself to have the author talk out his own problems at you.

The story is really about Ralph Bailey, the current U.S. President's attache, and the course of his life pre-and-post alien contact. The hyper-intelligent beings from the planet Rigel-Rigel have contacted Earth. They've calculated, you see, that the people of Earth are on a bad personal trajectory, heading for the ruination of the entire planet if they don't change their lifestyles soon. Using drugged bundt cake and fruit punch, the aliens attempt to encourage the people of Earth, or certainly the President and those at the official first dinner, to have an enlightened experience and reevaluate their course in life. As humans tend to have a contradictory nature, not all goes according to plan.

The reader is also introduced to Ned, a Rigelian ambassador, and his wife Maude, who is having some driving issues on their home planet. Jessica Love, Ralph's girlfriend, features heavily, as well, as do Woody Allen movies, Dr. Pepper, Orthodox Jews, hip-hop, YouTube, and the quite religious views of the President of the United States.

Does First Contact work as political commentary? Yes. Does it work as a comedy? Assuredly. Does it work as a platform for either therapy or a personal ad for the author? No. But once you get over that bit, enjoy the other bits, and laugh out loud.

For an excerpt, go to the author's website here, and a big THANK YOU to him for linking to IndieBound.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
by David Grann
Hardcover: 9780385513531, Doubleday (Random House), $27.50
Paperback: 9781400078455, Vintage (Random House), $15.95

This was the most fascinating book I've read in a long time. It combines the very best of good reporting, action-adventure novel, history, anthropology, and biography. David Grann seamlessly weaves together his modern-day search for  what happened to the lost explorer Percy Fawcett, and Fawcett's own quest for a city he labeled only as "Z", an El Dorado-like city supposed to exist deep within the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett was a British explorer in the late 1800s, early 1900s who mapped great portions of South America. With the constitution of an ox, he survived extreme conditions of the worst kind in jungles where it seemed every aspect of the environment was trying to kill you. Unlike most other explorers, Fawcett advocated peaceful interactions with the Native tribes living in the jungles, and survived many tense situations. As he got older, Fawcett became obsessed with the idea of a lost village deep within the Amazon rainforest, one filled with gold and other riches. He gathered Native stories, read the accounts of other explorers, and kept his own journals chronicling his theories and his searches for this city he called "Z". As a member of the Royal Geographic Society, Fawcett expected them to fund his expeditions. Unfortunately, they did not, so Fawcett and his family spent many years in poverty, as Fawcett was equally unable to earn money as he was unable to stop going into the South American wilderness. In 1925, having finally secured enough money for another expedition, Fawcett departed with his son Jack, and Jack's friend Raleigh Rimell, into the Amazon in an area close to the region of Mato Grosso. [This is probably why I find this so fascinating, as my parents spent a year or more living with the Bororo Indians in that same region in the 80s before I was born.] The three explorers were never heard from again.

David Grann admits he is one of the least likely people to go exploring in such conditions. Without even a boyscout background, he nonetheless gathers equipment, Fawcett's research, and contacts people in Brazil who may help him find out what happened to Fawcett. Grann is hardly the first to try this; reportedly over 100 people have died during various rescue, information-gathering, and other attempts to enter the Amazon specifically looking for Fawcett and his lost party.

Grann, with a reporter's instinct for hunting out a story, manages to find a guide, then an interpreter, and eventually speaks with the Kalapalo tribe, who may have been the last tribe to see Fawcett and his group alive. What's even more incredible is that archaeologist Michael Heckenberger was living with the Kalapalo when Grann arrives. Heckenberger, and other archaeologists, may have recently discovered the remains of Fawcett's "Z".

Due to the hot and humid conditions of the Amazon, unlike a stone-based city such as Machu Picchu, any civilization built with jungle materials (wood, vines, etc.) would have rotted away and been swallowed by the jungle within 10 years of desertion. Due to the diseases brought by the first early explorers, hundreds of thousands of Native populations were wiped out, ravaged by diseases their immune systems had no experience with, before the next group of explorers came by. It could be that tragedies of this atrocious nature, combined with the accelerated breakdown of the natural materials used to build the great cities, caused the disbelief of early explorer accounts that detail great, prosperous cities with hundreds of people living in them. By the time a second wave of exploration began, the Native peoples, having been decimated to only a few hundred people, were living in small bands and villages, rather than in large cities. Archaeologists such as Michael Heckenberger are just beginning to map out and put together diagrams of huge, complicated cities, entire civilizations, that existed, often with technology and scientific knowledge that was far superior to that being used in the Western cities at that time.

A true adventure story, I was racing through the last few chapters, marveling at how Fawcett's story and Grann's story were coming together in a climactic ending. We're still learning so much about ancient civilizations thanks to modern technology, there was really no way Fawcett would have found his lost city of "Z". Yet, that doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Also, stay tuned for the 2012 movie version of this story that's reputed to star Brad Pitt.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Book Review: The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett

The Clothes They Stood Up In
by Alan Bennett
Out-of-print hardcover: 9780375503061
Paperback: The Clothes They Stood Up In and the Lady in the Van, 9780812969658, Random House, $14

Why, you might ask, did I give you the out-of-print hardcover edition ISBN? Because it's such a great size - at about 8 inches tall and 5.5 inches wide, this book can be easily slipped into a small purse, backpack, or cargo shorts pocket. Much like the last book I blogged about - the tall, thin, apartment building-esque Keys to the City - the unconventional format is half the draw.

The Clothes They Stood Up In is about the Ransomes, a British husband and wife living in Notting Hill, who arrive home one day to find everything in their apartment is gone, including the furniture, the fitted carpet, and the roll of toilet paper (a hard-to-find shade of forget-me-not blue). The rest of the novel is spent watching Mr. and Mrs. Ransome deal with the outcome of this in their own ways. Mr. Ransome, a solicitor, takes refuge in filling out the insurance forms for a bigger and better sound system than the one stolen; he is a great lover of Mozart. Mrs. Ransome, a housewife, begins to redefine herself by the new possessions she brings into the home, purchased at local shops she had never visited before.

Mostly funny, occasionally sad, often poignant, this little book packs a punch in the range of emotions it evokes as you watch the couple struggle separately and together to come to terms with the loss of all their worldly goods. When their belongings are returned to them just as mysteriously as they were taken, a whole new set of questions must be asked about who would do such a thing and what that means for the Ransomes.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review: Keys to the City by Joel Kostman

Sorry, all, for the long hiatus, and for leaving you with urban fantasy mass markets as the last few posts. I've been reading up a storm in the non-urban-fantasy part of the adult market (okay, and a few U.F. in there, too) and finally have made the time to sit down and tell you about them. One at a time. Over the next few days/weeks. Brace yourself.

Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith
by Joel Kostman
Hardcover: 9780789424617
Paperback: 9780140279474
Dorling Kindersley (Penguin)

Sadly out-of-print, those are the ISBNs you can have your local independent bookstore look up for you, or check out yourself for a copy.

This is a non-fiction work of short vignettes by an actual locksmith about the places he's seen and the people he's met during the course of his time serving New York City. The stories are charmingly real, in that they give the reader brief glimpses into the human experience, both good and bad, and both of the author and of his clients. Simultaneously "very New York" and accessible to people who've never even seen the city, all of the stories will touch your heart and/or make you consider your own life for a brief moment.

Highly enjoyable, this was the perfect book when I was on a roadtrip - I could quickly read a story or two and then put it down to take a nap. This doesn't have to be devoured in the first sitting, but I guarantee you'll go back for the rest.

The hardcover edition is worth getting for the retro jacket design alone, as well as the unique tall, skinny, apartment building-like shape of the actual book. My only complaint is that I want to read more.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review: Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

Full Moon Rising
by Keri Arthur
9780553588453, Bantam Dell (Random House), $7.99

Sizzling! Riley Jenson and Rhoan Jenson are both agents in an organization created to police the supernatural races. Most people don’t know about the organization. Within the organization, most people don’t know Riley & Rhoan are both half-werewolf, half-vampire. And almost noone knows they’re twin brother and sister.

When Rhoan is taken hostage, it’s up to his sister Riley to maintain focus and go in after him, even if the moon lust is particularly hard to ignore this month, and even when a hot, naked vampire shows up on her doorstep. Who can she trust? It’s certainly not her hormones. Can she trust either of her two steady lovers? Can she trust this new vampires? And what if her brother wasn’t the intended target? What if he’s merely bait…for Riley herself?

Kick-ass action sequences, snappy dialogue, hot sex: what’s not to love? I can’t wait to read more of this series.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

Any Given Doomsday
by Lori Handeland
9780312949198, St. Martin’s Paperbacks (Macmillan), $6.99

This is the first book in a supernatural fantasy series. Elizabeth Phoenix used to be part of the Milwaukee Police Department until one of her “hunches” got her partner killed. The police force and Liz herself want nothing more to do with the fact that she might be a psychic. Liz finds herself unexpectedly working for (and becoming friends with) her dead partner’s widow, bartending first shift at a cop bar. All’s as well as could be expected until Liz has a sudden urge to visit her foster mother.

Paying attention to the call, Liz finds her foster mother murdered, her ex-love(r), Jimmy, falsely accused, and herself the new leader in a supernatural war of good vs. evil. In order to fully claim her power, Liz will have to face her past by facing her ex (who still holds her heart), traveling back to the Navajo land she lived on when she was 15, and trusting Sawyer, the man who will help her become who she has to be in order to win. Though battles are lost and won, at the end of the book, the war still rages, and it looks like everyone’s past, Jimmy’s, Liz’s, and Sawyer’s, will all play a part in the final battle.

The supernatural elements are explained well, to define the world of this book as separate from worlds found in other series. The sexual tension and chemistry between Jimmy & Liz and Liz & Sawyer will evoke thoughts of a Team Jimmy/Team Sawyer face-off by the end of the series.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Review: Orchid by Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle

by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
9780671569020, Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster), $7.99

I first discovered this series in either junior high or high school. I think it was out of print already, and I picked up a few books at a local library for about a quarter each. I rediscovered this series about 2 weeks ago on a road trip when I wandered into a bookstore and saw these were being reissued with new sexy covers! I hadn’t read this one yet, so I picked it up. Happily, it’s lived up to memory and expectations. I hope you check it out!

This is the third book in a paranormal series taking place in the lost colony of St. Helen’s on a new planet that somewhat resembles Earth. Amaryllis and Zinnia are equally compelling reads if this is your genre. As a top psychic prism for Psynergy Inc., Orchid Adams has found it hard to get a date. Not many people out there who can handle an off-the charts talent like hers. Maybe that’s why she’s so fascinated by her new client: Rafe Stonebraker, a rough-and-ready, rich, unlicensed P.I. who’s hired Orchid to help him on some cases. When one case turns into a murder involved people Orchid knows, too, the case brings them closer and closer to danger, and each other. Why not have a torrid affair while working on a case? It’s not like either of their marriage agencies have found matches for them yet. Maybe natural synergy is taking over where modern society has failed, making the match for them…

Book Review: Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin

Once Bitten, Twice Shy
by Jennifer Rardin
9780316043540, Orbit Books (Hachette), $7.99

This is the first book in a supernatural/urban fantasy series. Meet Jaz Parks. That’s Jasmine Parks, CIA operative, one of the most lethal killers on the planet. She’s just been teamed up with Vayl, a top CIA assassin, and did I mention vampire? Jaz doesn’t have a problem with the vampire bit; it’s that she has the hots for a guy who’s basically her boss that’s wigging her out. That, and the fact that she has some supernatural power of her own she’s still working out. Oh, and the fact that she’s trying to block the memory of gaining said supernatural power during a horrific slaughter when her entire team got killed including her fiancĂ© and sister-in-law. So, yeah, Jaz has a few issues.

But right now, she and Vayl are on assignment in Miami where they’re looking to perform a routine assassination on a plastic surgeon who has ties to terrorist organizations. Unfortunately, the plot, as it usually does, thickens, when Jaz and Vayl discover the plastic surgeon is in league with some very nasty vampires and demon-summoners. Time to save the universe again.

Well-written plot and nice kick-ass action, but I could have used a little more sexual tension between Jaz and Vayl. There was mostly emotional tension, which is nice, but hey, a girl’s gotta get her kicks in somewhere. Maybe subsequent books will be a little steamier on the romantic side of things…

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Librarians Do Lady Gaga

This is not an adult book review, but it's definitely worth a post.

Thanks to Boing Boing (and a FB friend's post) for introducing me to this video of "students and faculty from the University of Washington's Information School perform[ing] a Lady Gaga remix."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's my first Book Blogger Hop for my new blog. Hosted by Crazy-for-Books, I've participated before with Afterthoughts... (my children's book review blog) but this is Afterthoughts for Adults' inaugural hop. Thanks to all those stopping by!

Hello, in particular, to everyone who was just at BEA! This is my BEA post on Afterthoughts...

Here are some great new blogs I discovered today:

Book Review: On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor & Sharon Kedar

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from its original version.
by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar  
9781598691245, Adams Media Corporation, $12.95

On My Own Two Feet is knock-your-socks, stockings, or stiletto high heels -off enjoyable! This book is amazing for what it accomplishes without making you feel like a complete moron for not knowing it in the first place, and building you up so you believe you can actually be financially savvy. I realize I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks learning about financial planning is fun, but this book makes everything having to do with money so easy to understand, it's actually not scary! That's probably one of the best ways to recommend this book. Everything is dealt with so matter-of-factly, there's no chance to be scared. Things you sort of knew about, things you sort of heard about, and things that haven't yet crossed your mind are all addressed in a comprehensive, yet not overloading, fashion. The first part of the book is all the basic stuff - budget, what you should be saving for, and how to go about doing that. The second part of the books delves a little deeper into things like investments. A very good introduction for any woman 18-118.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: Serena by Ron Rash

This was a post I intended to publish over a year ago. Now in paperback, I'm finally going to post my review of Ron Rash's Serena.

Hardcover: 9780061470851, HarperCollins, $24.95
Paperback: 9780061470844, HarperCollins, $14.99

Serena blew my mind a bit.

You wouldn't think upon first picking up a book about a timber empire in North Carolina during the years leading up to the Great Depression that it would be a gripping read for anyone other than a history buff. Yet the cast of characters and the stark reality of Ron Rash's writing creates a compelling and bone-chilling story.

The absolute lack of morality and concern for anyone other than herself makes Serena a heinous individual. You want to hate her, but her intelligence and self-possession make her fascinating. In a harsh land, building a harsh timber empire, Serena is a beautiful, feminine, immovable steel rod who has a blow as heavy as one of the trees felled by her timber crews. Recently married to owner George Pemberton, Serena is as obsessed with power and the unplumbed Brazilian forests, as George is with her. Together they form an nearly unstoppable team of knowledge, money, and Serena's ruthlessness. If someone stands in their way, they will be taken down - whether by a swift knife across the throat, a hunting "accident", or Serena's right-hand man who always gets his prey.

An unnerving subplot involves George Pemberton's illegitimate child, mothered by a local mountain girl, conceived prior to George's marriage to Serena, but birthed afterward. Distracted by her ambitions in other directions, Serena does not focus on the mother and child until later in the book. Then, for reasons of her own, Serena turns her obsession toward them - and it is time for them to die.

Much like the trees now clogging the riverways, Serena will cut down everything in her path: Teddy Roosevelt's plan for a national forest, a local sheriff who is the only man with backbone enough to stand up to her, and the mother and child who retain a claim on the man and the empire that must be solely hers. Serena doesn't share; she takes, eliminates, and possesses.

A frighteningly compelling read, you won't want to put it down until you find out how, why, and who is the next to die.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review: Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
9780385342308, $23, Delacorte Press (Random House)
Paperback: 9780385343497, $15, Bantam (Random House)

Intriguing cover. Interesting premise. Snotty British accents. Child narrator interested in chemistry and the properties of poison. Murder over stamp collecting.

It all sounds like it would lead to a rompy, well-written, literary, murder mystery of a novel doesn't it? And it almost does, with the slight exception that (to me, my own opinion here) it's just pretentious and aware of itself enough that I kept getting pulled out of the story, had to put the book down, go away for a while, and in the end it took me about 2 months to finish! But, for all of those readers out there who enjoy a book about the English countryside, and all manner of things relating to people in the English countryside - nosy neighbors, privileged family with land but no money, boarding school chums, custard pie - this is the perfect read.

Flavia De Luce could easily be the criminal mastermind of post-World War II Britain, despite being only 11 year's old. She's fascinated by all things chemistry, but especially the chemical properties of poisons. When a red-headed midnight visitor to her father is discovered dead in the cucumber patch below her bedroom window, Falvia sets out to solve the mystery of the stranger's death - partially to prove her father's innocence (he's been charged with the murder), and partially because she's fixated on the mysterious death and wants to unearth the chemical properties that might have caused it. Despite of (or with the help of?) the Inspector in charge of the investigation, Flavia manages to make her way around the English countryside with the help of her trusty bicycle Gladys. Searching people's rooms, breaking into the library archives, investigating her father's old boarding school, no place is off-limits to the insatiable curiousity of Flavia. And wouldn't you know it - by the end, murder solved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review: Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah's Kiss 
by Jacqueline Carey 
Hardcover: 9780446198035, $26.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Paperback: 9780446198042, $7.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

Naamah's Kiss is the first book in the third trilogy in the fantasy world created by Jacqueline Carey. The first trilogy followed the as yet unsurpassed story involving Phedre and Joscelin, Terre d'Ange, Kushiel's blessing/curse, and the fate of the world. The books in the first trilogy are Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar. The second trilogy followed Phedre and Joscelin as their lives intertwined with the fate of the nation and the fate of Imriel de la Courcel, son of D'Angeline royalty and the nation's most famous traitor. This series is comprised of Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, and Kushiel's Mercy. The third trilogy follows the story of Moirin, a descendant of Alban/D'Angeline royal lines. Only the first two books of this trilogy are out: Naamah's Kiss and Naamah's Curse.

Naamah's Kiss is a softer read than the previous trilogies. I'm sorry, but nothing has come close to touching the political intrigue with fascinating historical and religious references and wrestlings combined with the compelling (and at times heartwrenching) love story. Not to mention, let's be honest, Jacqueline Carey knows how to write a smokin' sex scene. In Naamah's Kiss, we lose a lot of (my personal favorite) the interesting bits - the politics, the way Carey alludes to our own knowledge of world history and religions morphed into the world she has created, and the sacrifices made in the name of honor, duty, and most importantly, love. There is a certain passion missing in Naamah's Kiss, despite the very evident passionate love scenes. Or maybe it's not missing, entirely, maybe it's just quieter, and as I'm used to this bold, reckless style, it's hard to switch gears and properly appreciate the quiet dedication of a softer personality, a softer love.
Whatever the reason, I was a bit disappointed at what I saw as the lack of additional interesting story elements to pad out a so-so twisting plot. The part of the book that held my attention the most was actually the beginning, when we learn of Moirin - the main character - and her childhood spent with her mother, living in a cave, learning the wild ways of the Maghuin Dhonn, the oldest tribe in Alba. Descended of Alban/D'Angeline royalty, half Maghuin Dhonn, half D'Angeline by birth, Moirin's secluded upbringing has allowed her to grow independent, wise, free-thinking, yet naive in the ways of the rest of the world. This naivete, while originally charming, quickly irritated me when she failed to have a backbone at certain points in the story. I'm sure it's not often that a reader asks for more plot complications, but there were a few elements in the story that seemed far too pat for me to believe; knowing Carey's writing as I do, she is capable of more.

The second half of the novel, when Moirin (who left Alba for Terre d'Ange,
at which point the plot and her personality had the consistency of a wet blanket) leaves Terre d'Ange for Ch'in, is where I was expecting to find that fascinating filler of information on this new culture, but was left a little disappointed. The high point of the second half of the novel was not actually the love story between Moirin and Bao - which, btw, I called the moment his character was introduced, and I'm not saying that in a complimentary way - but instead was the 3-way relationship between the Princess, the dragon imprisoned within her, and Moirin - the only person to whom the dragon would listen. Carey does write a good adventure story from this point on, but the tentative, lukewarm, barely blossoming feelings between Moirin and Bao paled in comparison to the begrudging respect, agonizing courtship, and eventual passionate love between Phedre and Joscelin (who you can't help but compare them to).

This book did end well, and I look forward to reading more about Moirin's trek into the land of the Tartars, following the other half of her heart and soul. Perhaps she'll find a little more plot, my favorite - cultural, religious, and historical elements, and some backbone there.