Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bookanistas: The Demon Trapper's Daughter

The Demon Trapper's Daughter is the first YA from author Jana Oliver. 

The back cover says: 
It’s the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheavals, demons are overrunning all major cities. Atlanta is no exception. Fortunately, humans are protected by Demon Trappers, who keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night. Seventeen-year-old Riley, only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing attraction to fellow Trapper apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving citizens from Grade One Hellspawn. Business as usual, really, for a demon-trapping teen. When a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood, she realizes that she’s caught in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell.
I say: 
I’m going to tell you up front that this is a positive review. I liked THE DEMON TRAPPERS DAUGHTER, and I think lots of you will like it or even love it. 
But let me tell you...
I bought this on the premise alone: girl with a destiny, battle between good and evil, heaven and hell, love triangle (sort of) with an older bad boy and a do right paladin... I couldn’t wait to read it.
First chapter. The greebly little demon is flipping her off and peeing on everything. Hm. She catches it in a sippy cup. Hmmmm. But it’s early yet, so I’ll trust the cover quotes and I keep reading. 
Second chapter, new POV. Boy POV. Older boy POV. Hmm. Interesting. Not sure I like it, but I do think I may like HIM. Except...
His dialog is written with an accent. Not just the occasional dialect thrown in for flavor, but when he speaks, every you is a ya, every you’re/your a yer. Now this book was pushing all my buttons in the WRONG way. 
Ugh. So I flip to the end and see if the apocalypse happened and if I should care.
I’m not going to tell you what happened in the book, but I ended up going back to the beginning and giving everyone--greebly demons, eye-rolling protagonist, drawling other protagonist--another chance. 
The Demon Trapper’s Daughter really is original and the world building is so clever. It starts with the potential to be a bit silly, what with little greebly demon and the sippy cup. But the story itself takes a quite dark turn when Riley’s dad is killed early on. The s*** gets real--there are big bad forces at work, and they want Riley. 
True, the writing wasn’t quit as smooth as some of the books I’ve read and reviewed recently, but to hold that against it is like saying Independence Day (a movie I freaking love to watch) isn’t 2001: A Space Odyssey (a movie I appreciate). 
One thing that was a little jarring for me was the chapters in the viewpoint of Denver Beck. He’s 22, I think, but he’s done Army service, and very... worldly. He won me over, but he didn’t read like a YA character. He was just a little more adult in his perspective than I’m used to seeing in this genre. The parts in his POV could have been in any book on the urban fantasy shelves. 
But weirdly, I like his chapters better. I kept wanting to get back to those parts. Riley was solidly a ‘teen’ for me, so when we popped back to her point of few I had to reorder my thinking not to think of her as a kid. Also weird, because I read more YA than anything. Maybe it was the contrast. I liked Riley, I wanted her to succeed and I felt for her, but she just didn’t fully resonate for me.  
But I love the magic, loved the action, love the whole concept and the twists and details of this world. I love that a book about angels and demons bothers to mention God and the Church. (This should be no surprise to people who have read my books.)
I think people who read for a rollicking good story--especially readers who like to read from the genre (non-ya) shelves--will dig this. It’s very Urban Fantasy lite--the ‘lite’ being less sex (none), more homework, and no tramp stamped heroine. (There are F-bombs, though, and Beck’s POV makes me hesitate to recommend it to younger YA readers.)
If you've read this, let me know what you think. I'm curious, because some of it felt so not-YA. (And some did.) 

Here's what the other Bookanistas have to say this week: 



If you like the Bookanistas reviews, check out the Bookanistas Book Club at The Reading Room.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flashback

Five years ago, Mom and I were enjoying a brisk and blustery day at Fountain Abby in Yorkshire.


(This picture was taken by two really nice looking French tourists. Hence my big smile, despite freezing my butt off, not to mention that I look like a Spinster School Teacher on Holiday.)

Surprisingly, the weather on this Texas afternoon is just ask brisk and blustery. But my taste in jeans has remarkably improved.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ninja Critique


And WRITING!

But I wanted to tell you about THIS AUCTION for charity. There are an amazing collection of books and writing things to bid on, including this item from yours truly:

One (signed) copy of The Splendor Falls. One ARC of Texas Gothic. One critique of up to 20 pages of manuscript. And I am HAPPY to critique a teen writer. If there's a teen in your life (or, you know, in your head), this is a great thing.  It ends tomorrow (Wednesday!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Office Excavation with Pictorial Evidence

How can I tell it’s spring? Let me count the ways:

  • My allergies have given me the wet wheeze of an overbred pug.
  • Kids in my neighborhood are out playing on their yard forts.
  • The subdivision pool was getting serviced the other day.
  • The donations at Goodwill are piled up like Mt. Kilimanjaro.
So obviously it’s not just me who gets an insatiable urge to get out with the old and in with the new when the weather turns nice. I think this much go back to some Jungian memory of clearing out the nasty rushes on the floor and the last mouldy turnip in the cellar as winter ends and you can finally open the windows of the castle. (Or hut, as the case may be.)

Yesterday I got the wild hair that I wanted to rearrange my office furniture. Forget that this is a herculean task, given my overstuffed bookshelf and the geologic strata of clutter on my desk. I was going to do and I was going to start Right Now.

First order of business, move my sofa. One the plus side, I found:
  • two art museum posters I don’t even remember buying
  • a bag of 14 signed books (ditto)
  • three pieces of posterboard, now permanently curled
  • one box each of file folders, fancy business stationary, address labels and sheet protectors
  • five years worth of Christmas cards I bought but didn’t send
  • the pieces for the keyboard drawer for my desk
  • some ugly curtains I put up and then hated
  • six desiccated june bug corpses.
On the down side, now I have to figure out what to do with these things. The redecorating has now become a clear out.

The problem with having a clear out (a phrase I picked up from BBC America) is that things have to get worse before they get better:

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At this point, I’m thinking about leaving the door open and hoping the hoodlums across the street with their pants around their knees will come in and steal everything. Only I know they’ll only take my stereo and leave all the crap.

Here’s the refrain that gets me in trouble:

But I might still need it!
I swear I’m going to read that soon.
But someone gave that to me! It doesn’t matter if I don’t remember who.
But I can’t recycle that and I hate to put it in the landfill...

I was extremely proud of myself for whittling my lip gloss collection by half.

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This is the half I kept. (I may have a slight addiction.)

Here’s one thing I know I don’t need:​
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But how can I get rid of THIS find?

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Look at my desk! This will last for five minutes.

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By bedtime, at least I could see the floor again.

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What about you guys? Does spring give you the urge to out with the old? Are you piling up bags for the Salvation Army? Do you know anyone who wants an Apple bluetooth mouse or an old style Apple USB keyboard (pre-chicklet style)?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pssst. Hey... Want some free Books?




Of course you do! Want some stolen books? Your answer would (probably) be different.

When you come across a site where you can download an author’s work for free--it’s not free, it’s stolen. It’s called piracy, and it’s not cool like Jack Sparrow. And even though I’m really flattered that my books are good enough to want to steal, it’s kind of a problem.

2653_JackSparrow300-2011-03-21-10-16.jpgWe watch TV for free, right? That’s because the TV show is paid for by the advertising. Even if you watch it streaming online, you still have to sit through a couple of ads, right? That’s so the actors, scriptwriters, directors, crew, janitors in the studio can all get paid. Sure, they make money if you buy the Blu-ray or buy a copy from iTunes. But the main way they make money is advertisements. Even movies get money for product placement.

There are no ads in my books. Starbucks is not paying my publisher to have Maggie Quinn addicted to coffee. Nor, by the way, do they pay me to tweet about them. Ditto The Cheesecake Factory. Ditto Russell Crowe. (Though if Mr. Crowe wrote and asked me to tweet about his movies, or rugby, or just about anything, I would. But for free.)

I only make money if people (or libraries) buy books. Not only that, my editor only makes money if people buy books. So does the copy editor, and the printer, and the person who reads through the slush pile, and the janitors, and the cute security guard in the lobby of the Random House building. (No. Really. The time I was in New York, there was this really hot guy in the lobby. He was probably an out of work actor, but I’m not complaining.)

But this is not, entirely, about the money. It’s about not-supporting book piracy. Here’s the deal: When you download one of my books to a pirate e-book site someone is making money off of us both. Why? The site has ads and sponsors, and that money isn’t going to me, my editor, or the hot security guard in the lobby.

What’s a pirate site? ANY site were you can download my book for free. You can read my books online on Google Books, but you cannot download a copy legally.

If you can’t afford to buy the books you want to read, go to the library. Team up with friends--if four of you each buy one book to share among you, that’s four for one! Heck, I would rather you go to a used bookstore and buy a copy of my book (recycling!) than download it from a pirate site.

You may think you’re doing me a favor if you upload my book to one of these sites. More people will discover the awesome RCM! And don’t think I don’t appreciate the thought. There’s even a certain logic behind it, like giving away free samples.

But the better way to help spread the RCM love is to tweet about my books, leave reviews onBarnes and Noble and Amazon and Indiebooks and other commercial sites. Review and recommend me on Goodreads and Library Thing and the Reading Room.

Heck, pass your hard copy around your school. Not only that, if you write to me, I’ll send you bookmarks you can pass out to your friends and classmates. (I have brand new ones, with The Splendor Falls on one side, and Texas Gothic on the other.)

It’s not that I’m greedy. It’s just that I have dogs to feed. But if my books don’t make a profit, the publisher isn’t going to want to put out any more from me. And that will make all of us sad. You, me, my dogs... probably not Russell Crowe, but I can dream.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bookanistas: Across the Universe

So, Across the Universe, by Beth Revis. Part science fiction, part dystopian novel, part murder mystery, part romance... though not as much as the cover would indicate.
Here’s what the back cover says: 
Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years early, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.
Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.
Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.
Here’s what I say: 
Whoo boy.  My friend Jenny the Librarian says that this book hits the sweet spot between literary and genre or commercial fiction. Revis tells a thrilling story in a really interesting (and yes, literary) way. 
The book is told in alternating first person present tense viewpoints: Amy, the girl in the back cover copy and first chapter, and Elder, the boy in training to be the ship’s next leader. He is as much a protagonist as Amy--possibly even more so. (I particularly liked Elder’s voice and character.)
Now, I’m going to be upfront and say that (1) I really don’t like first person present tense and (2) I really REALLY don’t like alternating first person present tense. This isn’t a fault of the book, it’s just a personal preference. So this was a lot for me to get over.
But it was such an interesting use of POV.  The switches at the chapter breaks gave Revis an unusual control over the pacing of the narration, almost choreographing it, in a way, as chapters are sometimes pages long, and sometimes mere sentences. The voices were distinct, and I particularly liked Elder’s voice and character. In the end, it was such an intrinsic part of HOW the author unfolded the story, the book wouldn't be the same written any other way.
And I was completely drawn into the mystery part of the story, and then each reveal of the dystopian facets and The Big Secret of this book. It was definiteIy a page turner. I loved every reveal (even a few that I saw coming), the world building was fantastic, and there was a great depth of emotional resonance. Just staggering, really.
The end of this book is somewhat unresolved--it’s not an end so much as a pause before the next book. It’s clear that the solution to book one’s problems are going to set up new problems in book two, and I’m okay with that. I’d rather have a planned trilogy, than a conflict that’s stretched out unnaturally for three books. There is definitely enough story here for two more books. I'll be very interested in what happens next.

Here's what else the Bookanistas are talking about this week:



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On the trail of El Cupacabra

I am delighted to see that Amazon recognizes the value of books on cryptozology. Today in my inbox, I got this:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,
Customers who have purchased or rated Highway to Hell (Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs Evil) by Rosemary Clement-Moore might like to know that Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore is now available.  You can order yours for just $14.91 ($10.04 off the list price) by following the link below.

Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore
Benjamin Radford

(I’m including the link, because the book actually sounds cool, and I have already ordered my copy. If for no other reason than to find out what OTHER awesome works of fiction include El Chupacabra.)

Even more awesome were the other books in the e-mail:
Tracking the Man-beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More
Joe Nickell

TRUE GIANTS: Is Gigantopithecus Still Alive?
Mark A. Hall

The Michigan Dogman: Werewolves and Other Unknown Canines Across the U.S.A. (Unexplained Presents)

Linda S. Godfrey

Don’t know what Gigantophithecus is? From the book cover, it’s nothing I would want to meet in a dark alley.

Okay, so I’m poking a little fun, but I LOVE tracing the folklore of boogeyman legends. To me, the overlap of culture, geography, snippets of history--heck, even meteorology--that conspire to create enduring legends is fascinating. This should surprise no one who has read my books.

So what was YOUR favorite boogeyman story growing up? The more regional and wacky, the better!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent: It's not about the fish

Today is Ash Wednesday, for those who observe Lent. The fast food places have been leading up to this by advertising their fish sandwiches and shrimp baskets. Sometimes I think non-Lent-observers must think this is International Fish Season.

It's not about the fish. Here's my (completely unofficial and totally biased) observations about observing Lent:

  • It's a period of fasting, abstinence and/or discipline for spiritual growth and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. It commemorates the 40 days that Christ spent in the wilderness in fasting and temptation to prepare for His sacrifice.
  • Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, when you will be able to tell who is Catholic (or other observing denomination) by the smudge of ashes on their forehead after they go to mass/services that day. (The ashes are a reminder of our mortality, not a membership badge for the Holier Than Thou Club.)
  • Some people give up meat for all 40 days, some just one day a week. But fasting is not really about giving up meat; it's about eating small, simple (meatless) meals all day--enough to keep your body healthy, but not for enjoyment. (Usually people do this just one day a week.)
  • Passing up the BBQ for an all you can eat fish fry does not count as fasting.*
  • Often people will give up something they really enjoy--something that is a luxury, extravagance or vice. I have given up (not all in the same year): Coke (cola, not blow), meat, video games, the Internet (except one email check a day), television, bread, chocolate, desert, and coffee (the longest 40 days of my life).
  • The flip side of that is adding a discipline, like daily prayer or going to mass every week (if you're not good about that, which... I'm not), or volunteer work.
  • Working to improve your hand-eye coordination by playing Rock Band does not count as self-improvement.
Lent is not a 'diet' but a sacrifice. Every time I pass up something I love, I think about how lucky I am to have it, and how others are less fortunate.** It's not about how strong my willpower is, but (for me) a reminder how much I have been given, and how I should not waste it on self-interest, but use it to make the world a better place (even if it's just with my books).

Even if you don't observe Lent (or Christianity), we have a tendency as a culture to take non-essentials for granted. My cell phone has become indispensable to me--but even I have to admit that the games and apps are a complete luxury. All that I really NEED is for my family to be able to reach me in an emergency.

This year I'm giving up "empty" carbohydrates: White bread, white rice, white sugar... which means muffins, scones, pastry, cake, cookies and yes, pancakes. Basically the stuff that's luxury, not nutritious. This is going to be hard, because I love pastry more than chocolate.

What luxury or extravagance would be hard for YOU to give up?




* The (completely illogical) "fish doesn't equal meat" thing is more about tradition than biology. I think it's a cold-blooded/warm-blooded thing.

** I also think about Christ's suffering and God's grace, but I try to avoid religiosity in this blog. Um, despite this whole post being about a religious observance.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Speaking of UK book covers...

Look what I discovered! The UK & NZ edition of The Splendor Falls has a new cover. Has anyone seen this in the wild? (It actually looks like Sylvie. Maybe a little young. But I like the scrolly things and the green background really goes with the story.)

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Texas Across the Pond

I just found out last week that TEXAS GOTHIC will have a UK edition, tentatively scheduled for the fall sometime. I am so excited about this, because I have some great reader friends from England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand...

And a ton of you from Canada, but I don't know if you get the US edition or the UK one. Maybe both.

I wonder what the cover will look like. Whenever authors have multiple editions of their books, I'm always fascinated by what different countries choose for the cover image. I'll keep you posted about mine.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bookanistas Book Review: Falling Under


I was lucky enough to get to read Gwen Hayes's marvelous YA Paranormal Romance Falling Under last year, and I loved it so much that I bought so I could read all over again now that it's out.

Here's what the back of the book says:

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Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, but when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in her small California town of Serendipity Falls, she feels every urge she’s ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black. Theia knows she’s seen Haden before—not around town, but in her dreams.




Theia doesn’t understand how, but every night has them joined in a haunting world of eerie fantasy. The only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards Hayden is stronger than her fear. And as she slowly discovers what Haden truly is, Theia’s not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul. 

Here's what I said:

“FALLING UNDER is absolutely irresistible. A lush, dark fairy tale full of magic, intrigue, and love. Genuinely scary and swooningly romantic in all the best ways, once I fell into this book, I couldn't stop reading. Theia and Haden's story utterly enthralled me, and I can't wait to read more about Serendipity Falls.” –Rosemary Clement-Moore, author of THE SPLENDOR FALLS

Said it and meant it. I read this on the treadmill, and if you knew how much I hate to exercise, you would know what a big deal it is that I actually looked forward to going to the gym so I could get back to the story.

Falling Under is unapologetically romantic and surprisingly sensual. The fantasy elements are well developed and unique. There's a definite macabre aesthetic to "Under"--that's the 'otherworld' in this otherworldly fantasy--and when Gwen said that Tim Burton was one of her influences, I can definitely see that.

The writing is so very very good, and the characterization is fantastic. Theia is a strong heroine with a strong voice. I love that she has friends--good friends, and a real, complicated relationship with her father. Haden is a brooding sort, who will draw inevitable comparisons to a certain sparkly vampire. But I think he goes back to the source--there's a lot of Heathcliff, with a healthy does of Lord Byron to give him enough dash and wit to keep him from getting oppressive.

Gosh, this was a really good read. It takes the "girl meets otherworldly boy" story and tells it really, exceptionally well, taking it in surprising directions. There's nothing cookie cutter about this, and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.

What else are the Bookanistas reading this week? Check it out:

Elana Johnson shines a light on Clarity
LiLa Roecker raves over The Rendering
Shannon Messenger loves 13 Reasons Why - with a signed book giveaway!
Shelli Johannes Wells joins The Liar Society
Scott Tracey is amazed by The Iron Thorn
Kirsten Hubbard raves over these March releases
Michelle Hodkin introduces some marvelous March books
Myra McEntire invites The Liar Society authors Lisa & Laura Roecker into the fort
Beth Revis is mad for Matched
Carolina Valdez Miller delights in Delirium
Jessica Kirby adores Across the Universe
Megan Miranda peers into Sean Griswold's Head
Bethany Wiggins marvels at Matched
Shana Silver is a super stop on The Liar Society blog tour
Gretchen McNeil celebrates The Liar Society
Carrie Harris buzzes about Blessed
Katie Anderson shows cover love for Possess       
Matt Blackstone is ecstatic over Edges
Stasia Ward Kehoe is wild for What Happened to Goodbye