Thursday, April 30, 2009

Minimal Investment: The Hermit's House


Today, I'm sharing a podcast of The Hermit's House with you for this week's Minimal Investment.  Click the title to begin playing the story.

As Told By: S. E. Schlosser
Source: AmericanFolklore.net
Run Time: 6min 32sec

Things to note if you're not familiar with American history:
  • Iroquois are Native Americans who historically inhabited what we now call Vermont and upstate New York.
  • Mocassins are footwear.
  • Iroquois were known for being fierce warriors.
What I Heart Monster Wants To Know:
  • Did you find the story interesting?
  • Did you find it scary?
  • Had you ever heard the story before?
  • Would life be different for you if you were a member of the tribe after this incident? How?
  • Did you like the podcast format of this week's Minimal Investment?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Inspection: Wicked Lovely

Plot Sketch: Aislinn has always seen fairies. The little buggers chased her when she was young, but she couldn't let them know that she saw them. Her family has always had the gift of Sight. Since Aislinn's mom died during childbirth, she lives with her grandmother. Her best friend, Seth, lives in a couple of old railroad cars transformed into a home. She likes it at Seth's because the fairies can't come in because of all of the steel. She's relatively happy until she's at the coffee shop and Keenan, a fairy, asks for her number. She gives him the cold shoulder and he starts to follow her. That's when Aislinn gets scared, and the story really gets interesting.

Verdict: I Heart It!! I think Wicked Lovely lived up to all of the hype. It was a great book, and I've already lent my copy out to a good friend with an avid recommendation. I started reading this during the read-a-thon, but finished it the next day. I thought the story was great and can't wait to read the companion novels, Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity.

The Gauntlet:

At what location does most of the story take place?
I can't seem to remember or find out. But, it was in a city. Those of you who have read it, help me out here!

What is the main character's name?
Aislinn

Does I Heart Monster like the main character?
Yes, I do.

How long did it take I Heart Monster to finish the book?
1 day

Did I Heart Monster get stuck at any points in the book? If so, why?
I got stuck at page 44 because I was falling asleep during the Read-a-Thon, beyond that, I didn't have any problems.

Is this a good read for Monster?
I can see some men liking this novel. They have to like fantasy though. I did recommend it to Monster.

What, if anything, would I Heart Monster change to make the book more interesting?
Nothing.

Does the author have a website?
Yes! http://www.melissa-marr.com/

Stats:

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: June 12, 2007
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061214655

Acquire It:

Hardcover
Paperback

Notes:

  • Rath & Ruins, the Wicked Lovely forum is a fun place to check out.
  • The Wicked Lovely podcast hasn't been published in a few months, but is nonetheless quite interesting.
  • Extras are fun too. Look at the avatars and desktop wallpaper.
  • Publisher's Weekly did a great interview with Melissa Marr.
Check out other reviews of Wicked Lovely:


Have questions you'd like to see added to The Gauntlet? Email me.

Our Terms: s-e-r-i-a-t-i-m, ,seriatim

seriatim \sir-ee-AY-tim; -AT-im\, adverb:
In a series; one after another.

Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs thanked every lady and gentleman, seriatim, for the favour of their company.
-- Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickelby

Two days from the opening of the impeachment debate, gangs of television crews moved through mostly deserted corridors, doling out their 15 minutes of fame seriatim as individual lawmakers stepped up to batteries of microphones.
-- New York Times, December 16, 1998

In his company one found oneself supposing, on hearing Walters handle German and Spanish, French and Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Russian, that his mind traveled from any one language to any other seriatim, because his mind worked that way, taking it all in.
-- William F. Buckley Jr., "Dick Walters R.I.P.", National Review, February 15, 2002

Can you use this term in a sentence? Give it a whirl in the comments section!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Agency by Ally O'Brien [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch: Tess's boss at The Bardwright Agency, where she is a literary agent, dies unexpectedly. This gives her a segway in to opening her own representation agency since she has a really hot client right now. As far as I read, this was about all of the industry ins and outs and how she had to maneuver her way through filth to get what she ultimately wanted.

Verdict: No Love. I couldn't get past the language and crudeness. I read a lot of great reviews of this book, so I was astonished that I just couldn't get through it. No, I did not finish it. I got about one hundred pages in and had to stop. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean you won't though. I really wanted to like this one. Some examples: Tess's lover, referered to as Darcy, is married. Guy, the hot writer she represents' manager, looks at nothing but her breasts. Mr. Boss Man dies of erotic asphyxia. I will say this: I hope that Tess succeeded in getting what she wanted.



The Gauntlet:

At what location does most of the story take place?
London, UK

What is the main character's name?
Tess Drake

Does I Heart Monster like the main character?
Yes and no. I liked that she knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it.

How long did it take I Heart Monster to finish the book?
I didn't finish the book.

Did I Heart Monster get stuck at any points in the book? If so, why?
I got stuck several places. I kept evaluating whether or not I wanted to go on. I finally decided that I didn't want to keep going because even though the plot was interesting, I didn't want to keep reading what I felt was inappropriate.

Is this a good read for Monster?
Not a book for a guy.

What, if anything, would I Heart Monster change to make the book more interesting?
I'd tone it down. If there wasn't so much language, sexuality, and other elements of brash nature, I may have enjoyed the story.

Does the author have a website?
I found the author's Myspace.

Stats:

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: February 3, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312379447

Acquire It:

Hardcover

Have questions you'd like to see added to The Gauntlet? Email me.

D-d-d-d-d-d-Deadlines?

Don't worry, these aren't the bad work or school related deadlines, these ones are actually kind of fun! Thursday is the last day to enter for both the Pretty Face Giveaway and the Mother's Day Bookplates Giveaway. Make sure that you leave your comment with the required information to enter.

Emily the Strange Blackmail is open until June 2, 2009, so there's still plenty of time for you to enter!

In case you weren't aware, voting for June's Book Faction book closes on Thursday. Navigate over to the sidebar and you'll find the poll. Right now, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is winning the vote. Book Faction is the I Heart Monster book club. We read one title a month and discuss it online. You go at your own pace and add to the discussion as you are able. No deadlines, no stress, no obligation! If you start hating the book, don't feel like you have to finish it. We're just going to discuss it as we go along. Read more about Book Faction.

If you want to join up with Book Faction and read what we're reading, we start Bram Stoker's Dracula on Friday. Friday is the day that we actually start reading, so don't worry, you still have time to either check-out the book from the library or pick it up at a bookstore. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you even have time to order the paperback or the hardcover. Be sure to check back on Friday for the reading schedule and for some discussion questions to get us started. If you've already read Dracula and would like to join in, we'd L.O.V.E. to have you!

I'm taking suggestions for July's books to vote on as we speak. Just drop me a comment to suggest one or drop me an email if you have a few.  I'll pick four out of the suggestions and the vote will be open for a month starting Friday.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Operative Factors: Book Army


Have you seen Book Army yet? I know there are a zillion sites out there just like it, but MakeUseOf.com published about this beta. It's more about reviews and recommendations than about groups and friend feeds. I've been playing around with it for a couple of days and thought I'd share it with you.

It's not really an engine for keeping track of what you want to read, rather what you have read, rating it, and recommending it. I like the 'quick add' feature, as I found it easy to add multiple books at one time. Tip: Hit save, otherwise you'll lose all of the books you've added. I noticed that a few of the books that I've read are not available to add. I'm not sure if that's because they haven't been released yet or if it's because they just weren't very popular, but I did find that kind of annoying.

Aside from being another place to add and track your books, authors can friend their readers and updated their bibliographies. You can watch interviews and trailers; when I clicked on the Video tab, the first video was Christopher Paolini and the Vroengard Academy, the second was The Alchemyst book trailer, and the third was Libba Bray's A Great And Terrible Beauty Trailer. I'm guessing they were pulled in association with the books that I have in my profile. The People tab lets you find people to network with, but I don't think that this is the strength for this site. The Groups tab I find utterly useless because it doesn't make it clear how to use Groups. Forums has the potential to be fun, but I'm not sure it's well enough organized yet. Events could be cool, but I'd like to be able to search by location.

Here's what Book Army has to say about their site:

Bookarmy is a social networking website for every sort of reader. Whether you’re a bookaholic or someone who picks up a book only once a year while relaxing on holiday, bookarmy is the place to discuss and review books, build reading lists, get the best book recommendations, and where you and your friends, family or classmates can read books together.

What makes bookarmy different from other book sites is that here you can make direct contact with authors; see what star rating they have given books, browse their reading lists, ask them questions about their own writing, and recommend titles to them.


So, I say give this a try, but hang in there for a while until it's out of beta before you make up your minds completely.

What I Heart Monster Wants To Know:
  • Had you heard of Book Army yet?
  • Have you tried Book Army? Like/Dislike?
  • Do you think you will try Book Army?
  • Do you think there are too many book sites that have you track your reading list?
  • Which book site are you the most fond of?
  • What are the criteria for you to try something new?
  • Do you like the name of the site?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ambitious Edition: Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

Title: Being Nikki
Author: Meg Cabot
ISBN:0545040566
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Point
Website: http://www.megcabot.com/airhead/airhead2.php

The Usual Questions:

Is this the first in a series?
Second, actually. The first was called Airhead. You can read more about Airhead at Meg's site.

What is the basic concept?
from Amazon.com:
Things aren't pretty for Emerson Watts.

Em was sure there couldn't be anything worse than being a brainiac the body of a teenaged supermodel.

But it turned out she was wrong. Because that supermodel could turn out to have a mother who's gone mysteriously missing, a brother who's shown up on her doorstep demanding answers, a former best friend who's intent on destroying Stark Enterprises to avenge the death of his lost love, and a British heartthrob who's written a song about her that's topping the charts.

How can Em balance all that with school, runway shows, and weekend jaunts to St. Johns - especially when she's got ex-boyfriends crawling out of the woodwork who want more than just a photo op; a sister who is headed to the high school cheerleading championships; a company she represents that seems to be turning to the dark side...

Not to mention trying to convince the love of her life that models aren't really airheads after all...especially one model in particular.

But then, nobody said it was going to be easy being Nikki.

Is the cover art favorable?
Yes. It picks up on where Airhead left off.

What are some of the author's other works?
Can't even begin to name them all. The Princess Diaries are probably the best-known of her work. Like I said in my post about Meg Cabot, Meg's writing is what convinced me that writing isn't all like what you read in your AP English class in high school.

Preorder Being Nikki.

Notes:
You can find chapters eight through ten in an exerpt on Meg's site.

To see our other Ambitious Editions posts, click here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

World Malaria Day

*This is not a donation solicitation. I do not expect or request a donation. I just wanted to share this information with you!*

Since today is World Malaria Day, I thought I'd share some Malaria related facts with you about this completely preventable and treatable disease:
  • Forty-one percent of the world's population live in areas where malaria is transmitted (e.g., parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, Hispaniola, and Oceania).
  • Each year 350–500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and over one million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In areas of Africa with high malaria transmission, an estimated 990,000 people died of malaria in 1995 – over 2700 deaths per day, or 2 deaths per minute.
  • After a single sporozoite (the parasite form inoculated by the female mosquito) of Plasmodium falciparum invades a liver cell, the parasite grows in 6 days and produces 30,000-40,000 daughter cells (merozoites) which are released into the blood when the liver cell ruptures. In the blood, after a single merozoite invades a red blood cell, the parasite grows in 48 hours and produces 8-24 daughter cells, which are released into the blood when the red blood cell ruptures.
  • Four Nobel prizes have been awarded for work associated with malaria, to Sir Ronald Ross (1902), Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran (1907), Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1927) and Paul Hermann Muller (1948).
  • The average cost for potentially life-saving treatments of malaria are estimated to be US$0.13 for chloroquine, US$0.14 for sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and US$2.68 for a 7-day course of quinine.
  • Of the ten species of Anopheles mosquitoes found in the United States, the two species that were responsible for malaria transmission prior to eradication (Anopheles quadrimaculatus in the east and An. freeborni in the west) are still widely prevalent; thus there is a constant risk that malaria could be reintroduced in the United States.
Source: CDC

Now you know a little more about malaria. The thing that freaks me out the most is that it could be reintroduced into the United States. I just wanted to help educate you on the subject a little bit in case you were like me and thought that it was eradicated. I mean, silly me for listening to my Health class instructor in elementary school, right? It was eradicated in the United States in the 1950s, but not in the rest of the world. Check out these countries still affected:



People are having fundraisers all over the world for this cause, check this map out to see if you have any near you. Again, I'm not asking you to donate or participate. I Heart Monster supports Nothing but Nets, a UN charity that provides mosquito nets to families in Africa, helping to stop the spread of malaria and will be donating a net today in honor of World Malaria Day.

So that you get a little something book-ish from this post: there is a book out called First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Waite-Brown. It's a nonfiction tale of a woman on an adventure. (vague much? IHM? *sorry*) I first heard about it when Devourer of Books reviewed the book. I've since added it to my to-acquire pile because it sounds like a fun book. You should check out Devourer's review to see if it's something you're interested in!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shareworthy: Friday, April 24th [Volume 1, Edition 5]

Welcome to this week's list of links to fun, interesting, educational stuff around the web and the blogosphere! I heart these links, so I deem them Shareworthy:
  • Seth Graham-Smith, author of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies just got a new deal to write a book called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with Grand Central Press. I first heard of this at OCD, rants, and vampires.
  • Sarah Maclean wrote at MacLeanSpace about the Regency Dress Up Doll, which I find totally fun and amusing. She's right, it's a time suck! I'm sharing my latest one with you ------->
  • A Bibliophile's Bookshelf wrote about The Ultimate VampList, a nearly comprehensive listing of vampire books.
  • Barnes & Noble is offering 9 audiobooks for free until May 16th. You have to download them with Barnes & Noble's downloader, but they're free. Add them to your cart and when you check out they are taken from $0.01 to $0.00. Tip: Select Paypal as your payment option, it won't redirect you.
  • Get a Gravatar! Natasha over at Maw Books Blog taught me that if you sign-up for a Gravatar, it'll automatically populate when you go to a site that uses Gravatars. As of yesterday, I Heart Monster's comments use Gravatars too!
  • I was chatting with Chelsea over at the The Page Flipper and she introduced me to Supernatural Summer. I just so happen to be vacaying near a couple of these events, so I'm going to try to make it to one! If you are in Ohio, Illinois, Oregon, or Washington, check out these events in June.
Now, in case you missed something IHM this week, here are some links to some of the fun stuff we featured this week!

Ambitious Edition: Emily Strange: The Lost Days
- check out the video, it's my favorite part!
Emily Strange Blackmail Contest - open until June 2!
Winners of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming - Congrats winners!
Gifts for Moms Who Heart Books - Contest too! Check this out!
Book Inspection: Tantalize - No one has claimed my copy... check out the notes section for details!
IHM is now on Facebook! - Become a fan :o)
Savvy Scribblers: Lisa Mantchev - featuring Lisa's Top 7 Places to Live! (congrats to Jessica for winning the preorder!)
Minimal Investment: Rachel Caine's Falling For Grace - hosted in its entirety here at IHM via a Creative Commons license.

Oh and pssst. If you usually read me on a reader, I've tweaked the site a little. Come over and check it out. Tell me what you think!

Book Inspection: Pretty Face by Mary Hogan (And Contest!)

*Contest Now Closed*
Plot Sketch: Hayley is thirty pounds overweight. Her mom is a gung-ho member of Waist Watchers and rides Hayley constantly about going to the Doctor about her weight. She even buys her a talking scale. People always tell her what a pretty face she has, but never tell her she's pretty. Hayley has been crushing on Drew Wyler for a while, but when the opportunity to go to Italy for the summer arises, she snaps it up. The only bad thing is leaving Jackie, her best friend, behind. While in Italy, she finds a different lifestyle, embraces it, and finds a new Hayley in the process.

Verdict: I Heart IT!! Great read. Seriously great read. It deals with issues that teens find it hard to deal with in a practical, real manner. Heads up to the moms out there, there is some sex in this book, but it's not graphic, not at all, you just know its there. That said, I would recommend this to every high-school-aged teen girl I know. It's wonderful! I literally laughed out loud at least 15 different times over the course of 224 pages.

The Gauntlet:

At what location does most of the story take place?
Santa Monica, California, USA and Asissi, Umbria, Italy

What is the main character's name?
Hayley

Does I Heart Monster like the main character?
Yes. She's funny, smart, and down-to-earth.

How long did it take I Heart Monster to finish the book?
4 hours

Did I Heart Monster get stuck at any points in the book? If so, why?
Nope. Great book.

Is this a good read for Monster?
Nope, this is chicklit. YA chicklit.

What, if anything, would I Heart Monster change to make the book more interesting?
Nuffin, muffins.

Does the author have a website?
Yes, she does. http://www.maryhogan.com/

Stats:

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: March 24, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060841133

Acquire It:

Softcover

Notes:

  • My favorite line: Hayley says to a snooty A&F worker: "Oh, I'm sorry. My mistake. This must be Abercrombie and Bitch."
  • Pretty Face also got a haiku during the Read-a-Thon.
  • I wrote a letter to Hayley during one of the mini challenges as well.
Contest:

If you'd like to win my copy of Pretty Face, leave a comment telling me the worst thing someone has ever told you about your appearance to your face.

I'll tell you mine right now: A couple of months ago, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from the gym to pick up some water (read: stinky, sweaty, red-faced, messy hair). Our house is under renovation, and for ten months, I didn't have a mirror, not a single one. I also live in Arizona where we have a lot of snooty winter visitors. The city I live in is especially swarming during the cooler months. So anyway, I'm in line to check-out with my water and this lady turns to me and says, "Don't you have a mirror at home?" I gave her a wicked evil eye and said, "As a matter of fact, no." And thought to my self, what a stuck up *c-e-,n-s-,o-r-e-,d*. (check out Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?'s post about swearing)

Extra Entries: Gain +3 entries by linking this contest on your blog, either by sidebar or post. Leave blog address in comments.

Contest ends 11:59PM on April 30, 2009 and is open worldwide.

Have questions you'd like to see added to The Gauntlet? Email me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Twitterpated!

When you follow me on twitter, I have it set-up to automatically send you a direct message asking you who your favorite paranormal fiction character is. I don't specify 'literary character,' I just want to know who people like! A lot of people don't answer, but some do and I thought I'd share some of those responses with you because I think it's fun to see a sampling of what people like the best.

@ljreader hearts the Vampire Lestat

@CelebrityMonkey & @uBid_RedTag heart Casper the Friendly Ghost

@ScarletCorset hearts Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews' Magic series.

@chaplainwinston replied with "What is your favorite paranormal fiction character?" I only have a non fiction one, Jesus!

@tbbycat hearts the characters from Rogue by Cheryl Brooks

@UPSCommercial hearts Batman!

@daniellefab hearts Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (oh so do I! So do I!)

@LizUK hearts Sookie Stackhouse (from the early books)

@GWPStudio can't pick. They have toooooo many.

Now, for a little twitter tip. I was reading some great tips for finding new music on Twitter over at Wired's Epicenter blog. If that's something you're interested in, you should check out their article.

Minimal Investment: Falling For Grace by Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine is the author of one of my favorite series, The Morganville Vampires. She has a plethora of free short fiction and offers this one to us under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. Thanks Rachel, for being so awesome and letting us use your work.

Title: Falling for Grace
Author: Rachel Caine
Web Location: http://www.rachelcaine.com/Free_Short_Stories/Entries/2008/12/4_Original_Fiction__Falling_for_Grace.html
Word Count: 4501

Falling for Grace
by Rachel Caine

Angels and Demons. Mankind has proper names for us, rankings in Heaven and Hell, as if he could understand such an alien hierarchy. He thinks of us as distinct and separate, as constant in his universe as the pillars of the earth beneath his feet.

Yet the earth shifts, and men die in its throes. The greater truth is the more heartbreaking -- Heaven and Hell shift as well, boundaries stray, Angels and Demons transgress. Nothing is certain, not even the most perfect of creatures.

The truth is, the difference between Angels and Demons is so small, sometimes even we are deceived.


Once a month, at an Irish bar called the Tipperary Inn, Raphael and I met to play a game of chess and hoist a pint. I drank Black and Tans, he drank Guinness, and we sat in the darkest corner while Irish bands wailed wild and beautiful music in the next room.

I always lost at chess, but then I didn’t try very hard. It was the struggle I enjoyed.

Gordian Knot was playing the night he took my queen with a rook, sipped brown velvet Guinness, and said, "I will be leaving soon."

"Oh?" I studied the board carefully. He was going to trap me, skin me, and wear my pelt. I knew that gentle glint in his eye. "Going where?"

"Home."

That arrested my attention, and our eyes met. His were wide and blue as an untarnished summer sky, and I had to look away to keep from tumbling up into them. "Fortunate for you. Your work is done, then?"

Raphael punished my next ill-considered move with pawn-takes-knight. His silver-blond hair netted stars as he turned to signal the bartender for another pint.

"You would know better than anyone," he said. "Is it? Is yours?"

My work was, in fact, going as poorly as my chess game. Of the three thousand souls I had been assigned, fewer than twenty-five hundred had fallen; it was a terrible percentage, and I knew it. Worse yet, on the more than five hundred failures, two thirds of them were guarded by the Angel Raphael.

I look down at the board, sighed, and said, "I will miss you." It was truth, but I would have a better chance against a lesser player, and I knew it. I was no match for Raphael and never had been. "When do you go?"

"Soon." As always, vague. It was always soon and patience and someday. It had taken us more than four hundred years to agree on the chess game, and another hundred and fifty to choose a place and time. I shuddered to think how long it might take him to choose another ale if ever the Tipperary ran out of Guinness. "Your game is getting better, Ariel."

He spoke the truth, but it was no compliment; my game had been abysmally bad, and was only a little better. I made another foolish move, and said it for him: "Checkmate. I concede."

I tipped my black king over and sat back to drain the last sips from my glass. Raphael picked up my fallen royal and toyed with it idly in his long fingers, his blue eyes half-closed as he watched me. Something of gentleness in him tonight, a hint of sorrow that made me wary.

"What is it you know that I don’t?" I asked. A young laughing couple took a table near us and ordered Pete’s Wicked Ale, fish and chips. Their American accent felt jarringly out of place for a moment until I remembered that I was, indeed, in America. One place was very like another, for my purposes. Temptations were universal. So easy, in fact, to tempt that young man into drinking too heavily, veering on the busy highway as his girlfriend screamed in alarm. I closed my eyes on the thought of the tearing metal and flesh, that Raphael might not see it.

Or perhaps, more appropriately, the young man might simply be tempted to pleasures of the flesh, and those twisted into my own purposes. Easy enough, especially now.

And yet, paradoxically, not so easy as it had been.

"I know very little," Raphael said at last, and I opened my eyes to look at him again, the hunger fading out of me. He sounded sad and defeated, and would not meet my eyes, hiding his thoughts as I’d hidden mine. "We’ll meet again, brother. I feel certain of that."

He paid for his Guinness and went out into the cool clear night, a tall young man in faded blue jeans and a flannel shirt, nothing exceptional about him except a pure and burning spirit, radiant as a star. I hungered for him.

And I feared him, too.

I went to the bar for another Black and Tan, and when I returned I found a young woman sitting at my table in Raphael’s abandoned chair, methodically resetting the chess pieces. It didn’t happen often, but from time to time a woman would take an interest in me; it wasn’t something I was at all averse to. I sat down in my accustomed place, cocking my head to get a better look at the pale sharp planes of her face. She looked up at me and I felt a stab of terror such as I had not felt since last I stepped through the Gates of Hell more than a thousand years ago, man-time.

I straightened slowly, setting my ale aside, and bowed my head to her.

"Your slave," I said. Her eyes were black holes to Hell, filled with things that even I dared not look on closely. I felt her pull like gravity on my flesh. "How may I serve you?"

My obsequiousness pleased her. "I am not as tolerant as your last overseer, Ariel. You do well to show me obedience."

This, then, was what Raphael had known in his sad eyes. My old overseer, Valariel, had been lax and more happily corrupt than most; he had allowed me liberties, such as these small pleasures of conversation with the enemy. My sense was that Valariel had been bitterly punished for his transgression. I turned away from the possibilities in her face.

"Always and ever obedient," I said. "May I buy you a drink, Belial?"

She ignored the offer. My glass of Black and Tan began to bubble and steam unpleasantly. I took the hint and waited while she considered the board.

She opened with a sally of pawns, a demonic frenzy of suicidal charges, no surgery to it, no skill. I took her pawns, and they reappeared on the board, no worse for the experience.

When she took one of mine, her pawns turned to red-eyed lurching fiends and devoured mine as they screamed.

I played on, because she wished it, until my pieces were slaughtered and the board awash with their blood. When my king was dead, his severed head lifted by a victorious white queen, I whispered, "Concedo," and the illusion snapped and faded, and the board was only a board, the pieces neatly ranked. A drop of blood shivered dark down the side of my king.

"You have one chance to save yourself, Ariel," Belial said conversationally. "Bring me the soul of a child that Raphael guards. Bring me Raphael. Then I shall spare you."

Whatever my terror of moments before, it was nothing to the black-ice pain that went through me then. Belial was setting me a task beyond possibility – worse, beyond my desire. I did not wish to corrupt Raphael. Perhaps, on some shameful level, I even respected him.

But I could not refuse.

"The next time we play," she said, and smiled so that her bloodied pointed teeth showed, "we’ll play a different game. Perhaps you shall win."

My flesh crawled. I knew better.


Her name was Grace Langer, and she was all of five years old. I had looked her over before but left her alone, because though sin certainly can begin early in life I sensed no predilection in Grace, and therefore more work. I had inspected her, marked her down, and gone on to easier prey.

But now Grace was perhaps my saving grace, if all worked correctly.

She had little to interest me in her, on the surface; a good child, loving, not rebellious (at least not yet). No siblings to fight with, but not much tendency to bratty selfishness, either. She had a precociously bright mind which with training might become brilliant. She had faith in God.

Faith, especially the faith of a child, is the weakest of all links. Strike at it from the corners, where it is weakest, and it frequently falls to pieces on the first blow. I studied Grace’s family carefully before I sensed weakness in the mother, a pretty young woman named Iris with a deeply buried hunger for sex.

I met her in the grocery store, helped her with her bags, exerted my not inconsiderable charm and took her to a bar – not Tipperary’s – where we sipped wine like civilized people and talked. I did not attempt to bed her that day.

By the fourth meeting, I had corrupted her so thoroughly that she felt no shame at all for what she did, only a vast and frenzied hunger. I buried my own fear and frustration in her with my thrusts. It could not be called making love, not even in Iris’ mind. Whoever her guardian angel was, he stood no chance at all; there was no sin I liked better than lust.

Iris and I satisfied each other many times, in many places, in many ways, before I arranged for her husband to discover us. I had Grace’s mother, but it was not her soul I’d come for. I left her to her own damnation or redemption, left her to a screaming, weeping fight with her husband Douglas, and went outside into the bright August sunshine.

Grace was sitting on the steps, crying. Not the most beautiful child, but her soft brown hair and big brown eyes gave her a certain appeal. I considered several approaches, but settled for the simplest. I tucked my shirt in and sat down next to her, both our feet dangling over the edge of the porch. As we swung our legs, the soles of our shoes brushed the fluffy grass. The day smelled of rich hyacinth and roses and approaching rain.

Grace said, in the way of five-year-olds, "I’m not supposed to talk to strangers."

"I’m not a stranger," I said, which was nothing but the truth. I had known her since she was born. I had seduced her mother. How much of a stranger could I be? "My name’s Ariel. You shouldn’t be crying, Grace."

She cried harder, her thin shoulders shaking as if someone beat her. I put my arm around her and rocked her close. The heat of her body against mine was utterly unlike her mother’s – a gentler heat, stirring an emotion in me I didn’t recognize or like.

"He hit her. My daddy hit my mommy."

I smoothed her soft brown hair. "You should pray for God to make everything all right."

This was the crucial point, because God would not answer such a prayer. Free will being what it is, God will not solder together the broken pieces of a marriage; he relies on humans to make those kinds of repairs, and is often disappointed.

Unanswered prayers were death to faith, and once faith was gone –

"Ariel."

The voice was Raphael’s, but the tone was not the one I’d become accustomed to over our chess and ales. This was the stern, steel-bright tone of an Angel.

I looked up to see him on the sidewalk, and a surge of another unfamiliar emotion shot through me – love? Sorrow? Loss? There was no forgiveness in his eyes today, no gentle good humor.

He said, "Let her go, Ariel. She is not yours."

"She may be," I said, and comforted Grace with a small rub of my hand on her still-trembling shoulder. "Her parents are fighting. Grace is upset."

Bright as the heart of a sun, the light at the core of him. He stepped closer, and Grace, sensing his anger, shrank closer to me.

In that instant he faltered, and I knew that I would win. She was not perfect, his little Grace, any more than her mother had been, or her father. She was between Heaven and Hell, and would fall.

I said, quite honestly, "I’m sorry, Raphael," and looked away from the blank suffering in his eyes.

"There is no need," he said. "Don’t destroy the child. She is not guilty here. You don’t understand what you will do to her."

"I have no choice." I pressed my lips to Grace’s fine soft hair. She smelled of clean sunshine. "Consider it a game. If you lose this one, there are other boards to be played."

He shook his head and walked away to lean against the white-painted fence, head bowed. Grace looked up at me and said, "Is my friend okay?"

"Yes," I lied. "He’s fine. Come on, Grace, pray for your mom and dad. God will help you."

She put her small hands together and prayed. I watched Raphael’s back as he wept.


By the time Grace turned 16, I had done my job so thoroughly it failed to thrill me. My overseer Belial had been indulgent of my slow process, perhaps relishing Raphael’s suffering. The Angel could have turned his back and let the child go, but he tarried, his eyes full of love and suffering as I steered her down ever darker paths. She could always turn to him, but she had, instead, turned on him.

One thing I had never done, though Grace had offered often enough.

I had never laid down with her.

"Oh, come on, what’re you afraid of?" On this winter morning, the whole world was cold except for Grace, sweet fallen Grace in her needle-stitched arms and her heroin smile. She collapsed in my arms, giggling. I held her there a moment, wishing, hoping, and then let her fall to the dirty floor. She stopped giggling and began to cry. "Don’t leave me, please don’t leave me, I need you, I need – "

She was far fallen, my Grace, but at her heart she was still that frightened, lost child I had so thoroughly corrupted. She wanted my compassion, and I had none to give her.

I no longer needed to visit Grace, but I did, just as my brother did. I told myself it was purely to be certain she did not turn back toward his light, but there was more to it than that. Partly, I knew that to see Grace was to see Raphael, a haunted shadow who even now stood on the street looking up at her squalid apartment. Partly it –

Partly it was, simply, Grace. I had never been able to forget that one unguarded moment of trust, of the warmth of a child’s body pressed to mine, the feel of her silken hair against my hand.

She writhed on the floor and climbed my legs, pausing to undo my belt. She would have opened my pants and I remembered her mother Iris’ face made vacant with lust, forgetting her child, her husband, her love, everything but the need for flesh.

I had taken a lot of pleasure in that, and yet the thought of doing the same to Grace made me weak and ill. Belial watches, I remembered. Do this, and save yourself.

I reached down and put my hand on hers to still them. She looked up, and our eyes met, hers blank and dreaming, mine far too clear.

"No," I told her.

"Why?" A slow smile on her face, a knowing lift of her eyebrows. "Don’t you like it?"

I burn for it. I ache for it in ever fiber of my corrupt soul.

"No," I said again. "I don’t." I shoved her, hard, and she fell back to the floor and the tears started again. I walked past her to the door, jerked it open and started to walk out.

Raphael was in the hallway, and in the blue mirror of his eyes I saw myself clearly – oh, no less attractive to human eyes than he, but my eyes burned like Belial’s, and my heart was as gray as dead ash. In that second of clear sight I was ashamed.

"Ariel." His voice was still soft and loving, forgiving of everything. I, corrupt Raphael? How could I? Let Belial try it herself, if she was so confident.

I didn’t trust myself to speak. I nodded and turned toward the stairs, and I might have escaped all that was to come if only he had not reached out and touched my hand.

For that moment there was war in Heaven and Hell. It was forbidden for us to touch, and now we knew why; we remembered our bonds, or pain, our love, our hate.

My fingers went around his, holding him tight when he might have pulled away. We were trapped, the two of us, in a purgatory made of our own despair.

"Let her go, Ariel," he whispered hoarsely. His light was dimming in contact with the terrible gray of my soul. "I beg you, let her go."

"I can’t," I said, as I had for years. The words tore open wounds in both of us. "You must do it. Save her."

There is one gift Angels have that Demons do not share – foreknowledge. I saw it darken his eyes as he said, "It’s too late now."

This was how I might destroy him, this simple clasp of hands. The essence of a Demon is suffering and pride, and mine invaded him where he had no defenses – through his love. Only a little longer –

I staggered back, letting go of him, and it was like falling again into the maw of Hell to leave him behind. He collapsed against the wall, gasping the fetid air, his hands pressed over his face as if to block out the sight of me.

I ran like Belial herself were at my heels.


Grace died of an overdose the next day. I wasn’t there. I watched her buried in a pauper’s plain grave, her life marked with a cheap plastic tag. On the other side of the endless hole in the earth stood Raphael, his eyes no longer radiant, his light no longer bright. He had lost the game. Grace would never see Heaven.

I think he hated me then, as much as an Angel could hate. We did not speak. I went to the Tipperary Inn, that haven of our lost friendship, and ordered myself a Black and Tan, and set the chessboard in place. I would play myself. I could pretend to be an Angel – after all, I had been one before.

In Hell, Grace would be screaming for mercy.

I moved a white pawn into danger and took it ruthlessly with a black knight.

She had leaned against me, so trusting, and the warmth of her body and the sunshine-clean smell of her reminded me of – of –

I picked up the fallen white pawn and turned it in my fingers. Snapped it cleanly in half.

A shadow fell over the board, and for an instant I feared it would be Belial, her smoking eyes and hungry mouth demanding what I could not give.

But, instead, Raphael’s voice merely said, "I see you’re expecting me."

There was nothing to say. He sank slowly into the chair opposite me, his long thin fingers absently picking up the shattered white pawn’s two halves. We did not meet each other’s eyes. After a moment I signaled the bartender to bring him a Guinness, and from the other room the music began, tonight by a band named Roving Rogues. They were singing defiantly of dead Englishmen.

Raphael said, after his ale was set before him, "I knew how this would end when last we played chess, do you remember?"

"I remember."

He flashed me a gentle smile and sipped velvet foam from the top of his glass. "I knew it would not end with her death. Perhaps you know it, too."

"Raphael – "

He set the pawn back on the board in its proper place. Mended, wholly and completely, without even a discoloration to mark the break.

"Let’s play," he suggested. "Winner takes all."

He did not, could not know what he was saying – and yet, it was no great risk for him. I was no strategist, as well he knew. Like Belial, I was brutal and crass, and I fought with brute force. It would take very little for my elegant brother to step aside.

I took a white pawn on the third move, another on the fifth. A rook on the sixth. It was not, I realized, that Raphael was playing any worse than he had – I was playing better. He showed no signs of distress as I hounded his queen to her death, butchered his bishops, felled his knights.

An hour and one Guinness later, Raphael tipped his white king and said, softly, "I concede."

I sat, frozen, staring at the board. I had won. I had harried him into checkmate, and I had won.

Raphael reached out a hand across the wasted battlefield and said, "Congratulations, my brother."

I knew what it meant to take his hand. I’d done it before, in the hallway. I’d almost dragged him to Hell then.

"No," I said. Almost a plea. "Leave, Raphael. I give you the chance. Leave."

"I can’t." His hand remained outstretched. "Please, Ariel. Do this for me."

The shock of our opposites meeting was extreme this time, perhaps because we knew it was coming. I felt breathless, exalted, orgiastic. His peace and love flowed over me, into me, and out again, and my darkness –

My darkness consumed his light. I tried to release him but he held me too tightly, his eyes gone wide and very still. His light faded, faded . . .

. . . vanished, as if it had never been.

I screamed in horror and let go of him but it was too late, too late, what had I done? No light in him, no sense of Raphael at all. I had destroyed what I most loved in the world.

A hot presence at my back. The razor edge of Belial’s fingertips sliced skin on my neck in a demonic caress.

"My lovely," she purred. "I never doubted you, my Ariel. The child and the Angel. He falls of his own free will. Will you rule in Hell, Raphael, or only serve?"

Raphael’s blue eyes had gone ash-gray. He sat as if frozen, but tears glittered like stars in his eyes. I knew what he felt, the emptiness, the anguish, the soul-eating horror. Not right. It was not right.

Grace. I loved Grace, loved her with all my heart. And I had betrayed her, murdered her spirit, raped her will –

"We will do great things, you and I." Belial came around the table in her comely woman’s form, sat on Raphael’s lap and showered little crimson kisses on his neck. Where her lips touched, blisters bloomed like roses. She slid her hands into his shirt, her talons drawing bloody inverted crosses that soaked the thin cotton. "Great things. Destroy. Torture. Murder. These things have always been forbidden to you but you’re free now, Raphael my elder brother, free as you’ve never been before. No more God to fear. There’s only yourself."

Within my breast, a bloom of heat. It caught me totally by surprise, so that I went still and turned inward, marveling. I had been cold and empty so long.

In the warmth, a light. A whisper. A word.

Raphael said, softly, "There is never anything to fear, Belial. If you had learned anything in your Fall, you would have learned that. Don’t fear forgiveness."

He was speaking to me, not only to my ears but to the light blooming within.

"You are worthy of it. Stop fearing, Ariel."

"Grace," I whispered. Tears in my eyes, tears of joy and pain and anguish.

"You can release her, if you wish." It seemed as if Belial wasn’t even there, sitting on his lap, her face contorting with fury. There were only the two of us, and my light blooming and heating like a new-born furnace. In Raphael, too, a trembling tinder-spark, shining golden. "I don’t promise you it will be easy, or painless. But it can be done."

Around us the Tipperary Inn turned ghostly-pale, the music whisper-thin. Around us, flames and screams hardened.

"Welcome to Hell," Belial said. She had grown wings, razor-edged and black as the soul staring from her eyes. "Your love has no power here."

Raphael’s eyes held mine. On the table, our chess game lay finished. I had won.

In winning, I had lost, and in losing –

Won.

I plunged my hand down into the simmering hot coals beneath my feet, reaching, reaching, calling her to me. Grace’s hand touched mine and I drew her up into my embrace, her damaged spirit shivering and crying out in agony.

I poured light into her.

"Ariel." Belial’s voice was dangerously soft. "You will never leave this place."

"The Devil is the father of lies."

I held Grace out to Raphael, who folded her in his arms. I took his hand.

My light leaped out to him, igniting the spark in him, and together we burned brighter than Belial, brighter than the flames of Hell, and the wings that formed out of the smoke and screams for him were pale as sunrise, soft as morning. In his eyes, the face of love.

"We will meet again, brother," he said, and his wings soared him high, higher than Belial’s shout of rage, higher than the flames.

I saw him attain freedom before Belial’s rage struck me down.


We are the same, Angels and Demons, with only the thinnest of lines between us. An Angel may feel rage and pride, and fall; a Demon may feel compassion, and rise to live as human, to earn another place in Heaven, though it is not an easy task, nor a small one.

Ariel remembers nothing of Grace, or Hell. He lives a simple life, resisting most temptations Hell sends his way. He still has a weakness for the flesh, but that is, perhaps, as it should be.

He does not know what he does when he goes to the Tipperary Inn and plays chess with his friend Raphael. He only knows there is a sense of peace to the ritual, and happiness.

As always, I am his Guardian. I think he never knew it, all this time.

I think, today, he will win the game.

Savvy Scribblers: Lisa Mantchev


I had the opportunity to interview Lisa Mantchev via email last week. It was a really fun first interview for me! Lisa's novel, Eyes Like Stars, debuts Tuesday, July 7th. Preorder it if you haven't already! If you missed the Book Inspection, please read it! Eyes Like Stars was also a featured Ambitious Edition. Alright, are you ready to meet Lisa?

Name: Lisa Mantchev
Place of Residence: Washington State
College: University of California, Irvine


About Eyes Like Stars:

IHM:How many of your characters had you created in your mind before you decided to write this book?

LM: Beatrice Shakespeare Smith (Bertie) and the four fairies were there from the get-go. EYES LIKE STARS started life as a short story entitled "All Her World's A Stage," and that opening scene of them together was always in place. In the earliest incarnation, though, Bertie was painting her bedroom and not dying her hair.

IHM: Does Bertie have any traits that you had at her age?

LM: I was definitely a sass-mouth, and I loved the theater with a mad passion. I've also been drinking coffee since I was ten... my grandmother told me it would stunt my growth, and I'm just shy of six feet tall, so I imagine I should have been closer to ten!

IHM: Why Cobalt Flame?

LM: That's one phrase that jumped fully formed into my brain... The words don't really go together, but the images of cobalt flames burning all over the floor (once the mess is made by the fairies) wholly appealed to me for its topsy-turvy wordplay.

IHM: In what part of the world is the Theatre?

LM: It's in a city somewhere, along a main thoroughfare, with the stage entrance tucked back into one of those dim-and-promising alleyways.

IHM:Any hints for us about Perchance To Dream?

LM: The original title was "ELS 2: Eyes Starrier!" *G* No wait, come back, seriously, I was kidding! *chases after you* Bertie and the fairies are certainly in the second book, and Bertie learns even more about her past. Almost everything else I could say would be a plot-spoiler for the first book, never mind that we're probably going to do more revisions on PERCHANCE and everything is still subject to change!

About Lisa Mantchev:


IHM: What's the craziest thing you've ever fixed with your 'trusty hot glue gun?'

LM: When my husband and I first started dating, I made him an entire Renaissance Faire costume (tunic, leggings, crown and cape) using my hot glue gun. *blows the end like the smoking barrel of a gun and holsters it.*

IHM: I have to ask because I am planning a trip to Washington State and Olympic National Park this August, what is your favorite hike on the peninsula?

LM: I adore the Hoh Rain Forest, particularly the Hall of Moss Trail, which is a mile and half path that reminds me of Fairy Land.

IHM: Of all of the plays that you have attended, which was your favorite from a patron's perspective?

LM: I saw Beauty and the Beast when I was in college at the Ahmanson Theater, and because I had a friend in the production (playing a Fork!) my friend and I got to go backstage, meet some of the cast, and then climb all over the sets. I love the music from that show, too, especially Gaston's "Me" number. The tattoo on my ankle is the red rose from the movie.

IHM: If you had to pick a book to burn, which would it be?

LM: WAR AND PEACE is nice and fat and would keep me warm (which I assume is the point... I wouldn't be burning books unless there had been some kind of Zombie Apocalypse.)

IHM: What do you want to be when you grow up?

LM: Trick question! *hums "I Won't Grow Up" from Peter Pan.* Everything I want to do, I'm doing as silly-seventeen-year-old-cream-filling-Lis.
____________

Now as a special treat, I present to you:

Lisa Mantchev's Top 7 Places To Live
  1. Neverland
  2. Wonderland (both the Carroll and the Beddor versions)
  3. Disneyland
  4. Green Gables
  5. Late 1800's Paris
  6. Early 1900's London
  7. 1940's Hollywood
Wait, but number one is missing! Guess it correctly, and I'll preorder the book FOR you. First one to guess correctly wins! Open Worldwide (if you win and you're outside the U.S., I'll preorder it to my address and then ship it to you)

Congratulations to Jessica from Book Reviews by Jess! She correctly guessed Neverland, and I have preordered Eyes Like Stars for her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Create A Soundtrack: The Lorax by Dr. Suess

In honor of Earth Day, let's create a soundtrack for Dr. Suess's The Lorax, shall we?

I'll start:

Thinking Barbaloots. I'm starting the soundrack with:


1. Fields of Gold by Sting

Book Inspection: Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Plot Sketch: Quincie and Kieren have been best friends for a really long time. When Quincie's parents die, she inherits Fat Lorenzos from them. Her Uncle Davidson comes to take care of her and help her with the restaurant. They decided to change the restaurant into an upscale vampire-themed place called Sanguinis. Kieren is a wereperson, but only half. He helps Quincie through her struggles as her life changes drastically from chapter to chapter. Be prepared to read about a society that knows about vampires and werewolves, accepts their existence, and even has an Anti Bat Defamation League. This tale has it all: murder, romance, intrigue.

Verdict:
I heart it. I would recommend this to any fan of vampire novels. I like that it doesn't get into the dark side of vampirism and lycanthropy but keeps it in the scientific realm. I like the characters and the plot and Smith's writing style.

The Gauntlet:

At what location does most of the story take place?
Austin, Texas. Most of it at Sanguini's A Very Rare Restaurant.

What is the main character's name?
Quincie P. Morris. Yes, this character is named after the one in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Does I Heart Monster like the main character?
Very much.

How long did it take I Heart Monster to finish the book?
5 hours.

Did I Heart Monster get stuck at any points in the book? If so, why?
Nope. It was a great easy read.

Is this a good read for Monster?
Maybe...

What, if anything, would I Heart Monster change to make the book more interesting?
I think I would have liked to have learned more about the werecats.

Does the author have a website?
Yes she does. http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/

Stats:

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: February 13, 2007
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763627917

Acquire It:

Hardcover
Softcover

Notes:

  • My favorite line: "I felt adult. In control. Tantalized."
  • You can purchase Sanguini's Merchandise from Cafe Press.
  • Check out the Trailer for the novel on You Tube:



  • A companion to Tantalize, Eternal was just released in February and there will be a crossover novel for the characters in both tales in 2011.
  • Since it's Earth Day and all, I'm going to recycle my copy of Tantalize. If you've read this Inspection, signed up for Book Crossing, and added me as a friend on Book Crossing, leave your Book Crossing username in the comments. The first person to do so will win my copy of Tantalize. It's used and is missing its dust jacket, but it's got a BCID in the front cover! Worldwide as always.
  • I made a haiku for this book during a mini challenge for the Read-a-Thon.
Have questions you'd like to see added to The Gauntlet? Email me.