Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren [Review] [YA]

Plot Sketch:  Gabriella and Evangelia (how cool is that name, btw?) Bettarini, or Gabi and Lia as they call each other, are daughters of archaeologists.  Losing their father just six months ago has left a raw spot, but their mother presses on in search of Etruscan sites in Italy during their summer vacation nonetheless, needing a find to support her family.  Mom finds it.  She finds an ancient Etruscan burial site in Toscana (I'm thinking Tuscany to us American-folk) and when Italian officials show up to close the dig citing a lack of proper paperwork, the girls decide to break the rules and enter a tomb.  They find some super fun handprints, place their hands on them, and get catapaulted back to 14th century (1332 I believe) Italy amidst the Florence (or Firenza)/Siena tensions.  Literally.  Gabi arrives in 1332 minus Lia, but gaining a whole lotta knights fighting right outside her tomb, and she's in skinny jeans!  The Forellis save her, and take her to their castle, where she begins her journey to find Lia, encountering total Italian hotties, ancient Italian politics, jealous girlfriends, and too-short dresses along the way.

Verdict:  Dude. I loved this book!  Had a really hard time putting it down!  It was engaging, both emotionally and intellectually.  Though, I couldn't really figure out why it was titled Waterfall since there wasn't a waterfall in the book or any mention or reference to one.  I loved that the main character was a TALL girl who was smart, beautiful, and capable.  YA lit seems to trend toward the short girl, leaving all of us tall girls wondering why.  Part adventure, part romance, part amazing, part girl power, Waterfall is sure to make you laugh, squee, and grit your teeth.  Plus, it's clean.  Squeaky clean.  Only one mention of intestines spilling out - but lots of dead knights, and no shortage of blood.  But it's not graphic.  And there's plenty of kissing ;o)

And I swear when I picked it up I had no idea it was from a Christian publisher, until I googled 'David C. Cook' and found their website. There are mentions of God in Waterfall, and Gabi's complete lack of faith and doubt in God, but it's not preachy at all.  I applaud the weaving of a basic teen struggle such as one's belief in a higher power throughout this story, without making it overbearing. As a religious person myself, I often find it hard to read Christian lit.  Its contents are so often sold as fact instead of belief and I often don't agree with the tenets of religions similar to mine.  This is nothing like that, no selling, no conversions.  So don't fret it if your belief in God and eternity and whatnot isn't the same as the masses, and don't let a fear of Christian lit keep you from feasting on this abundance of awesome.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa [Blog Tour] [Giveaway]

The hut was old and wooden, creaking faintly though
there was no wind. The most unusual thing, however, wasn’t
the house itself, but what held it up. It stood on a pair of massive
bird legs, gnarled and yellow, blunt talons digging into
the mud. The legs were crouched low, as if sleeping, but every
so often they shifted restlessly, causing the whole house
to shudder and groan.

The conclusion to the Iron Fey series was not, I repeat, not disappointing.  I'm not gonna lie.  I had The Iron King and The Iron Daughter in my library for oh, since they came out.  So, when I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour, I accepted, thinking that it would give me motivation to pick up and read these books that have been physically in my TBR pile, but had been surpassed by more pressing book club books and other books with deadlines.  I've read the entire series in the last two days.  I've been pushed and pulled in so many directions!  Some little book gremlin was trying to make me miss out on this book tour.

But I have triumphed!  I have finished the series!  And I have to say that I am over-freakin'-joyed that Julie Kagawa wrote The Iron Knight.  I hated The Iron Queen.  Loathed the "Ultimate Noble Sacrifice" ending.  Wouldn't have read the fourth book either if it wasn't for this blog tour...  and I'm so glad I did.

I entered the book skeptical that Kagawa could write an entire book successfully from Ash's point of view.  After the first five pages, I sighed out loud, growled, and said, "No.  You can't write Ash the same as Meghan."  It's true.  Five cats as my witness, but then after page ten, I was like "There we go!  Now we're cookin'."  And it just got better from there.  I enjoyed the banter and tension between Puck and Ash, but most of all, of this series packed with epic quests, I loved Ash's final one the best.

Of all of the journeys throughout this series, The Iron Knight details the most emotionally charged, the most riveting, and the most human.  I both squealed with elation and cried tears of sorrow while joining Ash on his mission.  I was more emotionally attached after the first chapter of The Iron Knight than I was after reading the entirety of The Iron Queen.  As the pages and words flew past me, this world was created around me and I was tossed and tumbled through all of it - the relationships, the feelings, the conflicts.  A really, really good read.  In fact, the more I reflect on it, the better it gets.  I love those kind of books.  And I adored the ending.  The only thing that I didn't adore was the amount of impertinent detail throughout the series.  Though it gave me as a reader a great sense of place, I felt like it impeded the flow of the story in many a place.  But that's a personal preference thing.  Monster would probably adore these books; they're right up his alley.

There's one last little issue I must address.  And that's the blurb on the cover that calls this series the next Twilight.  In fact, I think the only thing that these two series have in common is that there are four books in them, and a girl who has a choice between two love interests.  But the length and conflict of the love interests is not nearly the same.  And neither are the sacrifices and motivations.  There are actually reasons for those in this series.  I think it would be better compared to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  All of the epic adventure and danger at every turn is more similar to his work than anything else I can recall reading.  The Iron Fey is more of an epic urban fantasy, heavy emphasis on the fantasy.  The plot, characters, and writing are 400% stronger than those of Meyer's Twilight, and it's an insult to Kagawa to insinuate that they are even on the same plane.

Back to the fun part... At the end of the book, there are three supplements.  The first, Survival Guide To The Nevernever.  The second, a very enlightening interview with Julie (and Ash and Puck).  The third, a set of discussion questions for reading groups.  Being a book group coordinator, I wish that these were in each of the four books, but alas, I'll take what I can get.

The last of those questions asks this, "One of the premises behind Julie Kagawa's fairy world is that faeries exist and become more powerful when humans remember them, tell stories about them, and dream of them. What kind of power do dreams and the imagination have on humankind?  How are they important in our lives?

Answer that in the comment section below to be entered to win your own copy of The Iron Knight.  One entry per person.  Ends 11/24/11 at 11:59PM.  A black friday gift for the winner!  Open internationally.

Also, check out another take on The Iron Knight at Harmony Radiant Reads.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Book Tattoo? [You're The Expert]

As with almost everything I discover lately, I found this tattoo on Pinterest and it got me thinking.  I'm not a tattoo kind of gal.  I don't get them personally.  It's probably because I'm totally fickle, and can't dream up something I'd put permanently on my body.   I'm not considering this tattoo at all...
...but it's kind of fun to look at it and wonder if I did get a similar tattoo, what books would I put on it?  This one has six.  Would I have six books that would for sure be on my favorites list forever?  Am I old enough, have I had enough experiences in life to be sure that those six would never change?  Probably not.  And I'm closing in on thirty.  These books have to have had a significant impact on my life so as to shift my entire paradigm...

So here goes. Fountainhead?  Uh. No.

  1. 1984. Orwell. 
  2. Willow.  Hoban.
  3. Dracula.  Stoker.
What would yours be?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Justin Cline, Author of Master of Voodoo & Vampirium [Interview]

Next up in our interviews with Actionopolis authors... Justin Cline!  He's a Cancer from Overland Park, KS (which I totally drove through once) and loves chocolate and peanut butter icecream... or just chocolate and peanut butter without the icecream too.  Here we go.

IHM:  In Ten Words or less, tell us about your most recent book.

Justin Cline:  Small-town kid travels through shadows, attempts to save town.  (Vampirium - Millennium of Shadows)

IHM:  Why are you a writer instead of a car salesman or a shrink or a teacher or any other profession?

JC:  I've always enjoyed telling stories.  My dad was talking to me recently and saying that he had no idea where I got that drive from, and I had to point out that it was most likely from him.  He's always had  a natural ability for telling jokes or just entertaining people with tales of the things that have happened to him.  The only difference between the two of us is that I started writing my stories down.

IHM:  Who is your most interesting character never published in the series (yet)?

JC: There's a villain coming up in the Master of Voodoo series who's pretty entertaining to me.  Although I'm not at liberty to disclose the nature or identity of the character, suffice it to say that he/she really turns Gibson's world upside-down.

IHM:  Who is your hero?

JC: I don't know that I have one particular hero to single out, but I think that anyone who has ever said "I have a story to tell" and then actually told that story is a hero in my book.  I'm a big proponent of put up or shut up.

IHM:  What is the message you want readers to gain from your work?

JC:  If there's a central message that runs through all my work--Actionopolis titles or otherwise--, it's the notion that identity is something that's constantly changing.  How an individual is perceived by others or by him or herself is not a static thing.  Black and white can be interesting, but gray is what makes a character fascinating.

Justin is the author of Master of Voodoo - Rise of the Dead!  and Vampirium - Millennium of Shadows, both available on Kindle for $2.99, pick one up today from Amazon!  You have a question for Justin?  Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey

Plot Sketch: Girl is born and mother dies.  Father heads back to court, never seeing new daughter.  New daughter to be raised in country by nursemaid.  Father comes back and drops off baby boy saying he is supposed to never leave the father's lands.  Nursemaid raises them together as equals.  Father remarries, brings new wife and her daughters to live at the stone house by the sea, fulfilling daughters wish, and you probably can guess the rest of the story... except that the steps are not mean to the girl...

Verdict:  At times, I found the prose slow-moving and less melodious than the author thought it was.  When it finally started moving, half-way through the book, it was interesting, but I still stumbled over the plot holes and even biffed it a couple of times, feeling lost wondering where elements of the story came from.  They seemed to arise out of convenience rather than preparation, and that is never a good thing to me, especially with a retelling.  I liked the twisty take on Cinderella, but think that it would be more suited if it had been in another time period or perhaps some other country, to make the retelling more complete.  It still felt like while reading Cendrillon's story, I was reading Cinderella's story and I didn't like that.  Plus, I thought it needed four more chapters to resolve all of the conflict that it started and didn't finish.  We know there's no sequel, so it would have been nice to have resolution.  Like I said, I liked the concept, but would have liked to have seen it better played out.  The writing was adequate, and for some, would be considered wonderful, but for a 190-ish pager, I thought it dillydallied around too much.  The End.  Wah.

Location: I think... rural France mostly in a stone house near the sea.
Favorite Character: Raoul.  He was the only one that actually made sense to me, even though I saw his plot line from the moment he was mentioned.
Would Change: organization of the story mostly.  and lack of resolution.
Favorite Line: I don't have one.
Good for Monster? Perhaps. He does enjoy a bit of fantasy and intrigue, and the writing style is definitely up his alley.
People Who Will Like: Love At First Sight junkies, the wistful girl over yonder who yearns to be a princess, the woman cooped up with her cats all day (oh wait, that's me, nevermind), and Cinderella herself, I'd assume.
People Who Won't Like: picky readers like me, Robert E. Lee, Charlamagne, and most definitely Napoleon.
Chapters: 19
Author's Website: does not appear to be one, but here's the very lean publisher's profile:  http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Cameron-Dokey/1332941