Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bonded By Blood Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Lacey
You've won a signed copy of Laurie London's debut PNR novel Bonded By Blood! 
Happy (and steamy) reading!  ;)

Bonded by Blood (Sweetblood, #1) 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie ★★

CrusadeI received this book as part of an ARC tour from Star Book Tours. I had actually forgotten that I had requested it, and when it showed up on my doorstep, I was a little surprised. But opening it up, I can see why I would request it - it looks like it would be awesome. Dark and gritty and bloody, just like a vampire book should be.

In in many of those aspects, this book delivered wonderfully. The vampires were vicious and cruel and bloodthirsty, and there wasn't a sparkle to be seen. The fights were pretty intense, and the action was written well and was exciting. I also liked the political facets of the story, and how they corresponded with other wars from our past. History repeats itself, just with a new bad guy each time around. If these are the things that you're looking for, you will enjoy this book, and probably the series.

I was hoping for a little more, and so I admit that I am a bit disappointed with this one. I think that this book had great potential, but I think that it got lost on the way.

First, the characters didn't feel authentic to me. Almost all of them were very stereotypical and one dimensional to me, with few exceptions. Holgar was one exception. I loved his character throughout the story until the last 50 pages or so, until he seemed to change before our eyes into someone suddenly dark and secretive - most likely a lead-in to the next book in the series. The same with Father Juan. We're supposed to ask: Who are they really?

The rest of the characters didn't do much for me. Jenn was at her most interesting when she was on her own. With the others, she was bland and boring. The group dynamic quickly got on my nerves with all of the in-fighting and I kept thinking that they would be better off if they went their separate ways and each had a book to follow their adventures alone. Maybe then we'd get to see more of their character and the focus would help them to come alive. I doubt that will happen though.

Then there is the writing itself, which was inconsistent. I know that the edition I read was an uncorrected edition, so I'm not talking about the grammatical errors or spelling errors, but the writing itself. For example, in the midst of running for her life from a pack of vampires who want nothing more than to kill her, and trying to rescue her sister from still more vampires, we have this:

"The sun was setting; she could feel it as surely as she felt the pounding of her own heart.
The heart that beat for Antonio."

It then goes on to talk about how afraid she was that she would never see him or her sister again. And then back to Jenn trying to save her own life so that she could try to save her sister. It just seemed incredibly out of place to insert a line about her heart beating for someone else when she is literally running for her life. I know that in times of stress and fear, we think about those we love, but the line itself is strange and awkward to me, like it was inserted to create a relationship link to him.

Not to mention the chapter headers that contain Jenn's diary entries. These are written in such flowery and formal language that it doesn't mesh with the self-conscious and unsure 17 year old "Just Jenn" from the rest of the story.

And then finally, my biggest issue with the book is the way that religion and faith is handled. This book could be considered a Good vs Evil story, and so it stands to reason that a certain amount of religious comparisons could be made. That isn't really my complaint, although it does get quite preachy at times.

My complaint is that in this mixed cast, we have several different religions and belief systems interacting with each other, but no matter which belief system a character lived by, they approached it in a Christian-oriented way, or otherwise acted in Christian ways that did not fit with their own beliefs. I felt like, since it seemed that it was a deliberate choice to have so many different personalities and faiths, they should have rung more true, rather than all centering around what is referred to more than once in the book as the "One True Faith".

For instance, we have a Wiccan "White Witch", who practices magicks and worships the Goddess and the moon and nature, etc. But then, in a moment of uncertainty, she considers going to a Catholic priest to give her absolution, rather than relying on her own beliefs. This is just one of the examples of this from the book, and there are quite a few. This, more than anything else, made this book less than enjoyable for me. I couldn't help but wonder: Why go to such an effort to include the variety of religions and faiths if the characters do not act according to them?

I think that if handled differently, this book could have been a very enjoyable one for me. I think that people should believe what works for them, but this just felt like the message we were supposed to take away is "You can believe whatever you like, but in the end, it's all the same thing, you'll see."

Overall, I thought that this book was OK. I think that people who are just looking for an exciting read will really enjoy it, especially those who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Author Interview & Giveaway: Laurie London, Author of "Bonded by Blood"

Laurie London is the author of the Paranormal Romance novel Bonded by Blood. I recently read and reviewed the book, and I loved it, so I am thrilled to have a chance to chat with Laurie about the book. If you haven't already checked out my review, please do so. I definitely recommend checking this one out!
Laurie has also offered to give away a signed copy of the book as well, so read on to learn more and be sure to sign up!

Thanks Laurie! 

Q: I believe your debut novel, Bonded by Blood, is being released on February 1st. Can you give a brief overview of the book? 

A: First of all, thanks for having me on today, Becky. And actually, it’s my understanding that it’ll be out on shelves starting today! If you hear screaming coming from Seattle, don’t worry. It’s just me seeing my first book on store shelves.
The Sweetblood world follows a team of Seattle-based vampire warriors, Guardian enforcers who safeguard humanity against Darkbloods, rogue vampires who kill humans and sell their blood on the vampire black market. The rarest blood type, called Sweet, commands the highest street price and is highly addictive to vampires.
Bonded By Blood, the first book in the series, is the story of Dominic Serrano, head of the Seattle field team, and Mackenzie Foster-Shaw, a sweetblood human who works as a movie location scout, a job that takes her into some pretty unusual places.
From the back cover:
Movie location scout Mackenzie Foster-Shaw has always known that she’s cursed to die young. No one can protect her from the evil that has stalked her family for generations—vampires who crave her rare blood type. Until one afternoon in a wooded cemetery, she encounters an impossibly sexy stranger, a man she must trust with her life. 
For Dominic, a man haunted by loss, Mackenzie satisfies a primal hunger that torments him—and the bond they share goes beyond heat, beyond love. She alone can supply the strength he needs to claim his revenge. But in doing so, he could destroy her…

Q: In Bonded by Blood, vampires live amongst humans, but in secret. Many recent vampire stories have featured vampires revealing themselves to humanity. Why did you decide to not reveal vampires' existence?

A: What a great question! I think it’s because I grew up in the Pacific Northwest at a time when several high profile serial killers were active. I can remember driving on the freeway, wondering if the guy in the next car over was the Green River Killer. In fact, my grandmother, who was a legal secretary, remembered meeting Ted Bundy and thought he was such a nice young man. It turns out that many of these killers were the guy next door. Call me twisted, but the idea of being surrounded by something sinister, yet being totally clueless, is strangely fascinating.

Q: Your vampires differ from the traditional vampire lore. Can you give an example of this, and what inspired the decision behind the change? 

A: Again, I think it stems from how my environment influenced me. During the long winter months, many people here suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, myself included (but hopefully, I don’t get as bitchy as Corey’s girlfriend, Vanessa). When I’ve traveled to sunny climates during this time, the rise in my energy level is amazing. To combat the winter blues and give us energy, we exercise, take lots of vitamin D, and use full spectrum lightboxes. I got to thinking—what if these symptoms weren’t all caused from a lack of sunlight? Maybe there are vampires out there secretly drinking our blood and stealing our energy, and that the reason they can’t go into the sunlight isn’t because they’ll burn up or sparkle, but because it greatly saps their strength. They need humans because their bodies can’t convert sunlight into energy like ours can.

Q: I loved the characters in the book, but especially Mackenzie's independence and feisty personality, and her unique way of seeing life. Was she based on any real person?

A: Aw, thanks! I’m so glad you liked her. I’ve guess I’ve always admired women who are nurturing and creative, yet independent and feisty. Both my grandmothers had professional careers at a time when most mothers stayed home. They were fun, witty, sometimes bitchy, and they didn’t take crap from anyone. Back in the 50’s, one of them actually bought a house and told my grandfather after the fact. Now that’s ballsy!

Q: Both Dom and Kenzie have painful pasts that make it difficult for them to move forward and be at peace with their lives. So, one of my favorite scenes in the book is when they discuss their happiest childhood memories with each other. What is your happiest childhood memory?

A: That was one of my favorite scenes too. In fact, I had to cut some of it out because I got too carried away at first.
One of my favorite childhood memories is when I was about ten years old and my horse and I won the grand championship at the county fair. She was very high spirited, but I got her to go over all the obstacles that other horses wouldn’t. The judge came up to me afterwards and said something like, “Young lady, you had your hands full dealing with that horse of yours, but you made the best with what you had and you out-rode everyone.” I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to win. You just have to make the best with what you have and, if you work hard, it’s possible to beat those who are better than you.

Q: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer, and who are some of your inspirations?

A: Although I’ve always enjoyed writing, it took me a long time to consider myself a “writer.” My stories were just my private indulgences. My biggest inspiration would have to be my sister who is now a published author too. Unlike me, she wasn’t afraid to tell people she was a writer. For many years, she belonged to writers’ groups, entered contests, and attended conferences. When she became a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest, it inspired me that maybe I could do the same thing one day too.

Q: What do you most hope that people take away from the book?

A: First, I sincerely hope people enjoy the Sweetblood world and Dom and Mackenzie’s story as much as I enjoyed writing about them. But on a deeper level, I hope the reader takeaway is that the power of love changes everything and makes the impossible, possible.

Q: I know that a sequel, Embraced by Blood, is due out later this year. Can you tell us how many books are planned?

A: The Sweetblood world is big and the possibilities are endless. I hope to have news to share with you soon.   

Q: What is your favorite vampire book or movie?

A: I’d have to say the old vampire movie Fright Night is one of my favorites. My sister and I saw it eight times in a row as teenagers. I had a mad crush on Chris Sarandon’s vampire character and imagined myself as Amy. If you’re not familiar with the film, the club scene and the seduction scene are both on Youtube. I just wished he hadn’t turned into such a monster at the end.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Thanks so much, Becky, for having me on today. These were fun questions! I’d love to give away a signed copy of Bonded By Blood to one lucky commenter.

Thanks Laurie! :) 

So here are the giveaway details:
  • The Giveaway is open in the US and Canada only. 
  • You do not need to be a follower to enter for the giveaway. 
  • All that is required to enter is to fill out the form below. 
  • Entries will be calculated on January 25th and a lucky winner will be drawn via 
For Extra Entries!
  • Spread the word by Tweeting a link to this giveaway with the hashtag #BondedByBlood and you'll earn an extra entry. Max 1 extra entry & you must link to the tweet for verification. 
  • Share your favorite vampire book or movie and why, or your favorite childhood memory and earn another entry. Max 1.
That's it! Good luck everyone! :)

Review: Bonded By Blood by Laurie London ★★★★

Bonded by Blood (Sweetblood, #1) 4.5 stars -- I am pretty open to reading all kinds of books, but I haven't read all that much paranormal romance, so I was glad to have the opportunity to review Bonded by Blood for my blog. I read the excerpt on Laurie London's site, and was drawn into the story almost immediately... I wanted to know who Mackenzie was, what her story was, who this mysterious injured man was... Intriguing!

Once I started, I found I couldn't stop. Bonded by Blood was very readable, and the pace was great. I didn't put this book down very often after I started reading it, and when I did, my mind was drawn back to it again and again, wondering what was happening to them, who they were, and what was going on around them while I wasn't looking. I love when this feeling happens, because then I know that the characters in a book aren't just 2D creations on a page, but are real, well-written characters that I can identify with and care about. And I did care about Dom and Mackenzie. Both intrigued me, and as their lives continually crossed paths, and as each of their histories were revealed and the links between them shown, I was drawn into their lives and felt that the connection between them was tangible.

Their relationship was great as well. I loved the way that they interacted with each other, and the tension and suspense was palpable. Kenzie's history makes it hard for her to commit herself, and Dom being what he is (a predator, really) he feels he should stay away from her for her own protection. But they are drawn to each other, and Dom has the further complicated issue of protecting her from Darkbloods as well as himself. So naturally, things reach a breaking point in the tension between Dom and Kenzie, and ohmygoodness when it does... get out your fans, ladies. It's steamy.

I enjoyed the progression of their relationship, and how each seemed to open up due to it. I love how Kenzie's deep-seated tension and need to control everything in her life, which is understandable given the circumstances, eases up, and she is able to relax and let go when she is with Dom. I also like the fact that she has a similar effect on Dom in that his anger and desire for revenge are softened around her. I felt like this was less a change in personalities, and more an effect of their bonding and connection and understanding with each other.

I loved the world that London created here, where vampires are real and live amongst humans while still remaining secret. I immensely enjoyed the modernity of the story, how vampires have adapted and adjusted to changes in the world around them, welcoming scientific and technological advances and discoveries. I also thought that it was interesting how the Darkbloods embraced scientific methods to further their aims, while still keeping the old world mentality about what it is to be a vampire. I wish that the Darkbloods had a little more face-time in the book, and that more of their ideals and goals were examined, but maybe this will be coming in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and cannot wait for the next in the series, which is out later this year.

Stay tuned in just a few minutes for an interview with Laurie London. She's generously offered to give away a free signed copy of Bonded By Blood!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (10)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

Wow... It's been about a month since my last IMM post, and I've missed sharing my book acquisitions with everyone. So without further delay, here are my goodies! :D

You might remember late last year, the awesome people over at The Broke and the Bookish blog did a Secret Santa swap. This is what I got:
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
A whole buncha bookmarks  - some signed! Squee!

Here's what I received from a Secret Santa swap we did in one of my Goodreads Groups. I'm excited for both of these books:
Handling The Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Halfway To The Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Crusade (Crusade #1) by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie (Received ARC from Star Book Tours)

I actually received this one a while ago from my boss, but I plan on reading it soon and figured that I'd mention it. I hope it's awesome. :)
Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Before I move on to the rest of my IMM post, I just thought I would share a little bit of the difficulties I face in getting decent pictures to share with you all. Bloopers, if you will. Uncooperative extras?

I'm talking about stuff like this: 

And this:

But it's worth it... Silly cats! :P

OK, let's get back to business!
You all know that I got a Nook for Christmas (well, pre-Christmas), right?... Well... I have a problem. By problem, I mean addiction. I've had my Nook for one month and three days, and I've already acquired 98 ebooks for it. Some are duplicates of what I already own in deadtree format, but lots are new. But... many were free. FREEEE! *dances around in free ebook bliss*

Sorry 'bout that. I'll wait while you all go wash out your eyes. 
Here's the list of my new ebooks (in no particular order):
  • Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
  • Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks
  • Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
  • A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin
  • A Clash of Kings by GRRM
  • A Storm of Swords by GRRM
  • A Feast for Crows by GRRM
  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
  • Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  • A Medicine for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury
  • All 11 of the Wheel of Time Series (plus short stories, etc) by Robert Jordan
  • Swan Song by Robert McCammon
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (Currently Reading)
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
  • Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings
  • Magician's Gambit by David Eddings
  • Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings
  • Enchanter's End Game by David Eddings
  • The Gateway (Harbinger of Doom 1) by Glenn Thater
  • Reaper by Rachel Vincent
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
  • DEAD(ish) by Naomi Kramer
  • The Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher
  • 10 Lost Vintage Sci-Fi Masterpieces by Various authors
  • Reckless by Cornelia Funke
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
Whew! I think my keyboard is smoking. But how awesome is that?? I ♥ Nook!
Alrighty, that's what I got in my mailbox (since last time)... what did you get in yours? :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday Flashback Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss ★★★★

Friday Flashback is hosted by Jen @ The Introverted Reader.

This review was originally published on on September 27, 2009. Since the second book in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, will be released soon (March 1st, I believe), I thought that I would share my original review. :)

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)I haven't read a LOT of fantasy. I've read a lot, to me, but when I look at the amount of fantasy that some people have on their shelves here, I am daunted and feel like I've read practically nothing at all. But there is a reason for this: I tend to rely really heavily on recommendations with fantasy because 1) there's so much of it! and 2) browsing the bookstore and looking for fantasy is an effort in frustration for me. They all sound the same from their description, and they all have (in my opinion) awful cover-art that makes the book look as though it would be a Harlequin romance with Elves and dragons, etc.

So, I generally steer clear of the fantasy section in the bookstore and rely on recommendations. Goodreads has helped immensely with this, and lately I have been reading a lot more fantasy, and it's been good. But I don't think I've read anything like The Name of the Wind before.

Before we really get down to business, I have to mention that I'd had no intention of reading this book for a long time (at least until the series is finished). I loathe waiting for the next installment of a series that has hooked me, for one. And two, I had, as much as I hate to admit it, some preconceived notions about this book that made me think that people were exaggerating how much they liked it.

These preconceived notions were:
- That the book was set in a single day. I couldn't see how a book set in a single day could possibly be THAT interesting without being ridiculously frantic and overwhelming. Kind of like the TV show "24". O_o
- I pictured Kvothe as a brilliant mini-assassin/spy/wizard/student/expert-at-everything/wise-beyond-his-incredibly-few-years hero. Boring. I'm tired of the "Wow. My life is effortless because I am good at EVERYTHING and I make no mistakes" hero.

So, thanks to a friend of mine who probably would have surgically attached this book to my hand if she could, I read it. And I was pleasantly surprised.

The writing was... I don't know how to describe it. I would read a handful of words, and then suddenly I wasn't in my room, or laying on my bed any longer, I was tagging along with Kvothe like his shadow. I'd take a break from the book, and then when I'd pick it up again, POOF! Like a freakin' vortex I was sucked right back into the story.

That is the main reason that this book is getting 4 stars. The writing was fantastic. It feels like it was a labor of love. That Rothfuss didn't just want to tell his story, he wanted for the reader to feel it, to live it, and breathe it, and BE IN IT. The way that Rothfuss writes the complex feelings and emotions and thoughts that Kvothe had was no more effort to read than any popular author could write. But after reading it, I felt like I hadn't just read words, I felt like I held Kvothe's soul in my hands. It just felt so much more profound than mere words can convey.

But, I don't want you to think that this was some gimmicky new style. This was straight prose, with full sentences and complete paragraphs and correctly used punctuation. But it just felt effortless. Like Kvothe rubbed his heart on the pages and words appeared.

At the same time, though, Rothfuss' sense of humor shines through the pages. He has exactly the kind of sense of humor that I love, cherish, and adore. Dry, deadpan, sarcastic wit. I love it. And he uses it sparingly, so that when it comes, it's like a little ray of sunshine through the clouds, not a blindingly sunny day that makes you wish for sunglasses.

That being said, I can't give this book 5 stars. In reality, the entire book felt like a prologue. (And perhaps that's what it was meant as.) We meet Kvothe as an innkeeper trying to protect and hide his true identity (whoops, sorry!), and he begins to tell his story, which is how the entire book can be set in one day. Clever.

We learn about Kvothe's childhood with a traveling troupe of performers, about his early education, about his early teen years spent homeless and destitute in a major city after tragedy strikes the troupe, then about his life in the University where he goes to study. We see Kvothe succeed beyond any reasonable expectation, but he also fails, and makes mistake after mistake after mistake. He's brilliant, but stupid at the same time.

Early on, I was a little worried about the way that the story was told. At one point, it was a story within a story within a story. I am not a huge fan of this technique, but I have to admit it was done well. I am actually quite surprised that I liked this book as much as I did, considering that two of the major themes in the book are ones that I'm not exactly a fan of. Those would be storytelling within the story and music within the story.

But, too often, I think that authors get a bit carried away and go on for pages and pages and pages of songs or lays, and I lose interest around line 4 and start looking for something shiny in the couch cushions. Rothfuss handled his storytelling and music perfectly. He managed to convey the importance of each to the overall story, but didn't whack me over the head with a thousand-line long song of lost love. *Yawn*.

I did like the story overall. It had the classic fantasy feel, while at the same time being somehow more. There were a lot of little adventures that Kvothe had, but you could tell that this book is just prologue to the larger story of Kvothe's life after he leaves the University. I'm anxious to see where Rothfuss takes us.

View all my reviews

2011 Make-over!

So, if you've made it this far, you'll have noticed that things look... different. I have been seriously slack the past couple of months keeping up with the blog. I had the desire... just lacked the gumption. December really sucked the big one with work and personal stuff. Plus, with the exception of a few books (which shall be on the blog soon!) I haven't read anything worth mentioning here... Well, nothing that I haven't already sworn eternal love and favorite status to. Harry Potter, Dark Tower series, you know who you are. ;)

Anyway, so I decided that I would do a little redecorating and in a few minutes I will post my Friday Flashback review of The Name of the Wind, even though it's technically Saturday now on the East coast. Dates, schmates, right?

Let me know what you think of the new look! Happy New year! (I'm only... two weeks late on that. Who's counting? O_o)