Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

I didn’t manage to get my post up on time, but better late than never. This Friday I read Good Bones by Kim Fielding.

“Dylan knew right after lunch that today he’d be cutting it close.”

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

Fielding has a nice way with words and managed to convey a great story in less than two-hundred pages. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but overall it was a great novella.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Skinny, quiet hipster Dylan Warner was the kind of guy other men barely glanced at until an evening’s indiscretion with a handsome stranger turned him into a werewolf. Now, despite a slightly hairy handicap, he just wants to live an ordinary—if lonely—life as an architect. He tries to keep his wild impulses in check, but after one too many close calls, Dylan gives up his urban life and moves to the country, where he will be less likely to harm someone else. His new home is a dilapidated but promising house that comes with a former Christmas tree farm and a solitary neighbor: sexy, rustic Chris Nock.

Dylan hires Chris to help him renovate the farmhouse and quickly discovers his assumptions about his neighbor are inaccurate—and that he’d very much like Chris to become a permanent fixture in his life as well as his home. Between proving himself to his boss, coping with the seductive lure of his dangerous ex-lover, and his limited romantic experience, Dylan finds it hard enough to express himself—how can he bring up his monthly urge to howl at the moon?

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

This week I’m waiting on Mortal Ties by Eileen Wilks.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

FBI agent Lily Yu is living at Nokolai Clanhome with her fiancé, lupi

Mortal Ties by Eileen Wilks

Rule Turner, when an intruder penetrates their territory, stealing the prototype of a magical device the clan hopes will be worth a fortune–if a few bugs can be worked out . . .

But the prototype can be dangerously erratic, discharging a bizarre form of mind magic—and it looks like the thief wants it for that very side effect. Worse, whoever stole the device didn’t learn about it by accident. There’s a Nokolai traitor in their midst. Lily and Rule have to find the traitor, the thief, and the prototype. One job proves easy when the thief calls them–and his identity rocks Rule’s world.

As they race to recover their missing property, they find Robert Friar’s sticky footprints all over the place. Robert Friar―killer, madman, and acolyte of the Old One the Lupi are at war with―an Old One whose power is almost as vast as her ambition to rock the entire world . . .

Wilks has consistently written one of the best werewolf UF’s out there, perfectly straddling the line between plot and romance. I admit, I’ve had the last book, Death Magic, languishing on my shelf for a long time now, so I’ll have to catch up before this one comes out.

This title is released on October 2, 2012.

Review: Beauty in the Beast by Christine Danse

Perhaps I didn’t read the summary well enough, but Beauty in the Beast surprised me with its mix of genres. Danse managed to incorporate steampunk elements rather gracefully in her world, immersing the reader in her worldbuilding without superfluous explanation. Her atmosphere spoke for itself, and I’m rather intrigued to see if she bases any further work in this world she has created. Though the details were somewhat sparse, I sensed room for growth and am particularly taken with the idea of mechanimals that she introduced in this short story.

Beauty in the Beast focuses on a traveling troubadour group of puppeteers, singers, and

Beauty in the Beast by Christine Danse

storytellers stranded on a winter night. Though the story is short, Danse manages to allow all the main characters to have their own storytelling peace, telling tales that range from fae folklore to a startingly unique take of werewolf lore grounded in the novel’s steampunk premise. Danse utilizes the stories-within-a-story format to give us a glimpse at each character’s persona as they all contribute their own tale to the fireside storytelling roundabout. The stories themselves were quite charming, somewhat reminiscent of Patricia McKillip’s style of fairy tale retelling while never sounding rehashed or dated. I could easily see Danse filling an entire anthology with original fairy tales and would gladly pay to read it.

Had Danse chosen to stretch her short story into a novella, she might have managed to make the overarching plot more believable and compelling, but unfortunately I wasn’t sold on the quick connection forged between Tara and Rolph. I wish Danse had opted to push herself to embrace a novel-lenth format, because the bones of this story are quite good. Her writing is fluid and engaging, and the manner in which she ultimately ties together seemingly disparate plot threads is novel. Yet she never really reaches her destination, despite how pretty the ride there might be.

I’ll be looking out for more from Danse in the future, and recommend Beauty in the Beast as a worthwhile contribution to the steampunk genre, original fairy tales, paranormal romance, and Beauty and the Beast retellings.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

This week I can’t wait for Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong.

Here’s the summary, taken from Amazon:

It’s been more than ten years, a dozen installments, and hundreds of

Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

thousands of copies since Kelley Armstrong introduced readers to the all-too-real denizens of the Otherworld: witches, werewolves, necromancers, vampires, and half-demons, among others. And it’s all been leading toThirteen, the final installment, the novel that brings all of these stories to a stunning conclusion.

A war is brewing—the first battle has been waged and Savannah Levine is left standing, albeit battered and bruised. She has rescued her half brother from supernatural medical testing, but he’s fighting to stay alive. The Supernatural Liberation Movement took him hostage, and they have a maniacal plan to expose the supernatural world to the unknowing.

Savannah has called upon her inner energy to summon spells with frightening strength, a strength she never knew she had, as she fights to keep her world from shattering. But it’s more than a matter of supernaturals against one another—both heaven and hell have entered the war; hellhounds, genetically modified werewolves, and all forces of good and evil have joined the fray.

Uniting Savannah with Adam, Paige, Lucas, Jaime, Hope, and other lost-but-notforgotten characters in one epic battle, Thirteen is a grand, crowd-pleasing closer for Armstrong’s legions of fans.

Since my “Waiting On” post last week featured the penultimate book in this series, it seemed only fitting to showcase the upcoming final book in Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series this week. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to so many characters I’ve come to love, but I’m sure Armstrong will leave readers with a satisfying conclusion.

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at A Few More Pages designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

This weekend I’m reading Hidden by Kelley Armstrong.

Hidden by Kelley Armstrong

“‘There’s a werewolf in the forest.”

Peyton’s big sister, Piper, looked up from her homework.

“What?””

Clay and Elena are one of the best couples in UF, and the Women of the Otherworld series one of the best for worldbuilding. I’m glad Armstrong gave us one more story with this central pairing before the series is finished up this year.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Hiking through the snow, holiday baking and playing board games by the fire – what’s not to love about an old-fashioned family Christmas?

Werewolves Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers want to give their four-year-old twins, Kate and Logan, something their parents never had: a nice, normal holiday. No Pack responsibilities, no homicidal half-demons or power-hungry sorcerers to deal with – just the four of them, alone, at a chalet outside Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

Then a strange werewolf shows up at their door…while the town is buzzing about a young man, back from college, found half-eaten in the woods. And there’s the missing little girl …

With all the signs pointing to a rogue mutt with a taste for human flesh, Elena and Clay have no choice but to investigate. But are they the hunters – or the hunted?

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Considering the sheer volumes of mediocrity that I’ve been reading lately, it was refreshing to come across a title (paranormal young adult, no less) that offered a fresh plot spin. Paranormalcy often treaded too close to the line of ridiculousness at times, yet overall it managed to portray a fun new world with a mostly relatable heroine. Evie’s job as supernatural bag-n-tag field op might be a bit unbelievable if you consider that, at sixteen, with no increased physical abilities, she is going up against supernaturally enhanced men twice her age and size. If you let that slide, however, you’ll find that White’s worldbuilding is actually quite good; unlike many authors I could mention, White manages rework classic supernatural archetypes such as mermaids and vampires into portrayals we haven’t seen before while, at the same time, coming up with some original creatures that were quite compelling to read about.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

While her character development was by no means bad, I felt she could have done more to make them stand out. Evie’s personality was pleasant enough, though I could have done without the occasional attempts to make her seem like a barbie doll from the eighties. Sweet Valley High-esque television obsession plus hot pink weapons seems less original to me than it does overdone. The supporting cast has potential, and I’m not sure what didn’t work for me, but I never felt that any of the characters exhibited the extra spark needed to take this novel from good to great. I will say that, as far as YA paranormal romances are concerned, White took her time with this one (relatively speaking) which I appreciated. Nothing kills my good-book buzz more than instalove.

I’ve got Supernaturally waiting patiently for me on the shelf, and while I’m looking forward to it, I hope that White surprises me by further developing her intriguing world. It’s disappointing when an author doesn’t capitalize upon the potential of a debut in the follow-up, and White displayed so much potential with this first effort.

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a meme started over on Should Be Reading that presents a different literary-themed question every week.

This week’s question is:

I once knew a man who read about WWII. He read everything he could get his hands on on the subject. He had a whole wall of books that were all about WWII. It amazed me. How could he continue to find one subject that engrossing? My mother, on the other hand, loves to read best sellers. I’ve known other people who read science fiction to the exclusion of everything else; for others it was philosophy, self-help, or history.

So, to the questions…

What kind of books do you like to read? 
Why? Provide specific examples.

I read primarily three types of books: contemporary fantasy, young adult, and romance. My genres aren’t mutually exclusive, and usually the book I’m reading is a combination of at least two of the above. Because the love I have for my book collection defies limiting each category to one specific example, I’m offering seven.

Contemporary Fantasy

Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman

Cal is one of the best protagonists I’ve come across. He’s cynical, he’s complex, he’s more often than not insufferable, and at the same time is one of the most relatable narrators I’ve had the pleasure to accompany on his literary journey. If you’re at all a fan of fantasy, fae, mythology, adventure, and sibling relationships, check this series out.

Young Adult

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Yes, I’m mentioning this one again. I doubt there will ever be a favorites list of mine that doesn’t mention this one. Don’t discount it for fear of the YA genre; this is a story to be savored no matter your age.

Romance

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

I’m a bit surprised with myself that I didn’t go with an historical romance for this selection, but Bet Me is simply too good to exclude. Hilarious, witty, and woo-inducing even for the most skeptical non-romantics.

Contemporary Fantasy/Romance

Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost

Cat and Bones epitomize the paranormal genre. The worldbuilding is top-notch, and the romance is slow-burning yet enduring.

Contemporary Fantasy/Young Adult

Curse Workers series by Holly Black

I wasn’t a huge fan of Black’s Modern Faeries series, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first two installments of this series chronicling teenage Cassel’s attempts to out-maneuver both local mobsters as well as his own con-artist family of curse workers.

Romance/Young Adult

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

There’s a reason why this book made nearly every blogger’s top ten list last year. Few books have so perfectly captured the agony and ecstasy that having a crush entails. Anna is a character that it’s easy to root for, and Etienne is perfectly imperfect.

Contemporary Fantasy/Young Adult/Romance

Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater

This lyrical, sparse love story is beautifully woven throughout three books. It can be infuriating at times, as are all books with high-school age protagonists, and the world-building doesn’t add as much to the werewolf myth as it could, but in all it is a lovely trilogy.

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

While I adore folklore and fairy tale adaptations, I find that oftentimes the story seems rather incomplete when I reflect back on it. The plot might be engaging enough to keep the pages flying past, yet for some reason, I feel the characters to be somewhat two-dimensional. Their connections are often told rather than shown, perhaps due to the author’s focus on plot over characterization in giving a new spin to an old tale.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Despite a difficult beginning with Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series, I soon fell in love with her writing, owing in large part to the lyrical quality of her prose but also to the strength of her character-building. Some have criticized her writing for lack of world-building, but I appreciate the fact that she tends to take a well-known bit of folklore and change just a few elements to made it her own. Yet this strategy only works when she gives adequate attention to the development of her characters, and unfortunately, I felt she fell short of the mark in The Scorpio Races.

The opening to the book is brilliant, particularly if you go into it without any knowledge as to what it’s about. The imagery of the capaill uisce is brutal and beautiful as we are thrown right into the mysterious nature of Thisby island with its population of ruthless fae horses from the sea. Yet whereas the simplicity with which Stiefvater wove her werewolf legend worked so well in Shiver, I never really got a handle on what was going on in this novel. It has atmosphere in spades, yet I can’t quite place where or when the story is taking place.  While the writing is stark and lovely, the pace is too slow. One would imagine that a story entitled The Scorpio Races would be filled with action and intrigue, but the actual races do not occur until the last twenty pages of the novel, leaving the three-hundred-plus preceding pages to seem rather unnecessary. Perhaps if Stiefvater had achieved the complexity and intensity of relationships that she did in Shiver this wouldn’t have been a problem, but here I never even got a grasp on either Puck or Sean separately, let alone understood their connection to each other.

Though I often give fairy tale adaptations much leeway in establishing relationships without giving much justification for how the characters’ feelings arise, I expected more from Stiefvater, particularly given the fact that the novel is told from alternating first-person narrations that should have given more insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Perhaps my standards were simply set too high by my love for her previous series. Still, while I left The Scorpio Races feeling slightly disappointed, it is a good story and leagues above many of its peers, particularly as it steers clear of the typical paranormal tropes. Reminiscent of the writing of authors like Melina Marchetta and Kristin Cashore, Steifvater’s The Scorpio Races never achieved its full potential, but what it does achieve is worth a read.

Fanart: Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series, which I believe is one of the best examples of young adult paranormal romance out today. I decided to revisit some previously posted fanart, as well as featuring a few new pieces.

She Wolf by LuHander

Run by LuHander

Isabel by LuHander

Visit LuHander’s deviantart gallery here.

Forever by xDeviNx

Visit xDeviNx’s deviantart gallery here.

Love At First Sight by jai-ho24

Visit jai-ho24’s deviantart gallery here.

Review: Linger and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Two weeks ago, I picked up Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater where I had left off nearly two years earlier, and was I ever glad I did. I decided to devote this weekend to finding out how Sam and Grace and the rest of the wolves of Mercy Falls fared after Shiver.

Linger starts off pretty much where the previous book ended, as Sam struggles to accept the fact of his new, human body and the potential for a future with Grace. As with Shiver, Stiefvater’s writing is flawless; the prose flows beautifully from passage to passage, never

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

seeming forced as it propels the story along. That being said, I spent the majority of my time reading Linger trying to talk myself out of throwing it against a wall. After having adored the first book, this came as quite a disappointment, and I can pinpoint exactly what elicited this reaction.

Unlike many reviewers, I actually enjoyed the addition of Isabel’s and Cole’s points of view. While the trilogy is and will remain a story about Sam and Grace, I appreciated the juxtaposition of Isabel and Cole as the symbol of a different kind of love, jagged and stark in contrast to Sam and Grace’s lovely, loving interactions. My issues with the book centered entirely on plot, as Stiefvater gives Linger an adrenaline push of angst that was frustrating and frankly unneeded. Perhaps it is because I am past my teen years, and thus Grace’s parental issues concerning her relationship with Sam seemed less romantic and more like a reminder of that awful not-quite-adult phase that no sane person would want to return to, vicariously or otherwise. Whatever the reason, I was disappointed with Stiefvater’s decision to undermine the inroads that Grace and Sam had made with her family in the first novel in order to artificially insert tension in their otherwise perfect relationship.

In fact, I was prepared to give this installment a rather poor rating until the last fifty pages, when Stiefvater finally acknowledges the entirely unsubtle health problems that have been afflicting Grace throughout the novel. Despite having known what was happening to Grace for the majority of the book, I liked the way Stiefvater explained Grace’s condition, though I thought that her science was once again lacking. Moreover, I really enjoyed the vehicle by which Stiefvater relates these revelations, as it gave dimension to a character for whom, up until this point, I had been on the fence. Still, while the very end did elevate the book somewhat, I was left disappointed after having anticipated so much.

Yet, out of darkness inevitably comes light, for I think it was that disappointment over Linger that led me to enjoy Forever as much as I did. Upon Linger‘s completion, Sam and Grace’s relationship is left in a truly tenuous position by forces beyond their control. In fact, their lives seem to be unraveling around them as both must deal with the ramifications of Grace’s seeming disappearance and the wrath of a community that wishes to see the wolves gone from Mercy Falls.

Many reviewers have expressed their dissatisfaction with Stiefvater’s resolution to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy; I didn’t expect too much going into this final book, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself truly enjoying it, not as much as I had Shiver, but enough to envision myself reading it again. Many feel that Sam and Grace are out of character in this book, that their relationship is too strained and their interactions not passionate enough. Again, having emerged from the tumult of the teenage years, I am able to see the beauty in

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

how Stiefvater aged her characters just enough to reflect the weight that comes with maturity. While neither has fully shed their youthful propensities to overdramatize, both Sam and Grace have necessarily grown up since the last book, and their relationship shows that toll. While many readers interpret this as a failing on Stiefvater’s part, I found it to be beautiful, an acknowledgement that with love and maturity comes comfort and a measure of complacence. They both have many difficult decisions to make in this book, and the stresses of life can put a damper on many things, including carefree passion, but I took this change in their relationship to be a sign of their love’s endurance, not its extinguishment.

Similarly, I had no problem with how Stiefvater chose to end the novel. Just as Sam and Grace are forced to revel in the beauty of love amidst the difficulties of life, they do not know what the future will bring. As a reader, if given the choice between an open ending and one that would clearly upset a majority of readers, I would choose the ability to create the ending that I envision for the characters. Likewise, I felt that Isabel and Cole’s relationship ended not without resolution, or even with a question mark, but rather as the beginning of a road that is up to them to navigate.

Overall, I loved Stiefvater’s conclusion to the trilogy and am so glad to have gotten the chance to read the series, which I count as among the best of its kind.