Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren



Title: How Beauty Met the Beast (Tales of the Underlight #1)
Author: Jax Garren
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: Out Now!
eISBN: B0092MPT80






Look at that cover. Isn't that the most enticing thing you've ever seen? I'll fully admit that I was drawn in by the kick butt cover that had a beautiful and strong looking woman on the cover that wasn't the typical "porcelain doll" perfection that you often see on romance covers. Well, that and I loved her outfit.

The Beast 

Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley "Hauk" Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He's starting to lose hope...and then he sees her. 

The Beauty

Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn't see. After she's kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed. 

Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more? 

Now doesn't that sound cool? Not only do you have a book based around a burlesque dancer, but you also have an updated telling of Beauty and the Beast. Ok sure, I know that this is far from the first, but I really do love fairy tale re-tellings because most authors will put an interesting spin on the tale. That the "beast" in this one is scarred from fighting for his country is a nice twist because of what it might bring in the future of the trilogy.

First let me tell you the good. This has a good premise, that of an underground society, a rich girl turned burlesque dancer drawn into a conspiracy that applies to her more than she could imagine, and teasings of a potential romance between her and her occasionally rough savior Hauk. We're given a nice little sex scene early on in the book, which I'll warn you- is the only sex scene you'll get in this novella. There's some nice actions scenes here as well that occur later on in the book.

The bad? We don't have a huge amount of world building early on in this book. We're told some things, but by large this felt like it was part two of a larger series rather than the first book. I kept feeling like I was missing out on a lot, which kept me from getting as immersed in the book as I'd otherwise like. Every time I started getting really pulled into the story I'd read something about the Underlight in an offhand way, reminding me how little I knew about the world and reinforcing the "second book" feel. I think this was deliberately done so that we'd learn about the world along with Jolie and empathize more with her, but it just drew me out of the tale. I'd like to say that this wasn't a big issue, but I know that for some this will be a deal breaker. Some won't mind this, some will, and while I know that part of this was because of the huge secrecy requirements of the Underlight, it still bugged me. It also didn't help that at times we went from no information to total information deluge. I just think that if it'd been a little more spaced out info-wise, it would've made it a more even experience.

Overall though, this wasn't a bad read and I'll say that it's worth the two dollar "cover charge" to read. I've read a lot worse that I've paid a lot more for and despite feeling occasionally lost, I'm curious enough to see what will happen next.

3 out of 5 stars


(eARC provided by Netgalley)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Goggles' best and worst of 2012

Hi all! I figured that I should detail some of the best stuff I've read this year. Some of the things I'll mention here are books, others will be things in slightly different formats. Not all of these were released this year, but are books or things that I've just recently discovered.

First off will be the best:

2012's best


1.  Jeanine Frost's Vampire Huntress series

I recently started this series this year and already I'm hooked on the audiobooks. The series is entertaining enough to where I think I'd like it even without the audio narration, but Tavia Gilbert really is one of the most talented narrators I've ever listened to as far as audiobooks go.



2. Trish Milburn's Coven series

While I admit that the series felt more compressed than I'd like, partially hampering my enjoyment of the trilogy's finale, this was an incredibly fun series to get into. I liked the characters and I especially liked that there wasn't that much of a love triangle in this as there could've been. Such things can be fun, but it's also nice to see things get more quickly resolved. 


3. The Infinite Wait by Julia Wertz

If you're not aware of her, Julia Wertz is the insane mind that brought you Fart Party, a fun and fairly random webcomic about her life. In Infinite Wait Wertz talks about how she came to discover that she had lupus. It goes over her life in general as well, but all in all it's a sometimes sad, sometimes funny look into what was a pretty tumultuous time in her life. Not only does she dig into her feelings over the diagnosis, but she also touches upon her realization that she had become an alcoholic.


4. All things Junko Mizuno

Love the weird? The really, really weird? Then you'd probably like Mizuno's work. It's candy-colored bizarreness wrapped up in what has to be some of the cutest artwork I've seen in a while. If we were to mix Bjork with the Birthday Massacre, then crack them open to see what makes them tick, I think the resulting imagery would probably resemble Mizuno's artwork.


5. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

This is the comic book series that has pretty much taken a lot of people by surprise by how popular it's gotten. Not only is the artwork freaking amazing, but the story line is just as good. It's your basic space saga mixed with a war between rival planets, with a pair of lovers caught in between it all. Definitely one of the stronger series out there. 



Worst of 2012


1. Becca Battoe's narration of Fifty Shades Freed

Out of all of the audiobook narrations I've heard this year, Battoe had to have been one of the most ill fitting narrators out there. She's not completely talentless, just a poor choice to narrate such a sexually charged book. Sure, sure, you could argue that it wasn't helped along by the book being completely repetitive, far too long for the story it tried to tell, and that the writing itself wasn't all that great. The thing about narrations though is that a good narrator can make any book 500% better. Battoe just made Ana seem like more of a vapid moron than what she actually was. She's probably great in her YA and kids books, but putting her to work reading an erotic novel is like getting Clay Aiken to play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys: it's just not going to work.


2. The Revealing Eden fiasco

Here's the thing about the whole Save the Pearls scenario: I honestly don't believe that Foyt meant to come across as racist, clueless, and inept as she came across. If she'd done more research for the book, worked out the inconsistencies more (of which there are many), and taken the criticism from various ethnic groups more graciously, much of the scandal and outrage would never have developed. It's just that in trying to insist that she was right, that her book wasn't offensive to many different people, and that everyone else had the problem and not her, she made more people upset because if she couldn't see where her book was being offensive, she pretty much missed the whole point her book was trying to make in the first place. What pushes this up into the "worst of 2012" is that some readers didn't act much better, with at least one person trying to publish her personal information on the internet.


3. Shenanigans by Ian Shaughnessy

I think this has to have been one of my least favorite comic books of the past 3-4 years, let alone of 2012. An unbelievable plot (even for fiction) is further ruined by characters that are so unlikable and annoying that you just wish that a blimp would fall on them or that a zombie would come across and eat someone. It doesn't help that the romantic paring in this series is fairly unhealthy. Even Edward "Red Flag" Cullen and Bella "blank stare" Swan had a healthier relationship than these guys do.


4/5. Online Bullying

I'm not going to name names or point anyone out in specific because most could probably find this information out fairly easily. There are entire blogs and groups out there that covered most of the online author and reviewing wankery this year. What makes this worthy of two entries is that occasionally you had some poor behavior on both ends. While it's never OK for an author to go onto a review and bash someone's opinion for not liking it, it's also not cool to go around publishing their personal information and habits online. That goes for everyone, not just the people who claim to want to "stop bullying" by putting out information that people wanted to keep private. (And yes, there are screencaps out there with this info!) Even if you disliked her, putting out Foyt's home address and phone number is a pretty dick move. If you want to comment on something you view is unfair, comment on it nicely and step away if you think you're going to get heated. Don't go overboard by doing stuff like that. Even if all you don't intend to do that person any harm, that doesn't mean that someone else will share those same sentiments. We're readers. Not freaking Encyclopedia Dramatica. 

Press Release: IDW Heads into Darkness!

IDW Heads Into Darkness!
Publisher Announces Prequel Series to J. J. Abrams’ Upcoming STAR TREKTM Movie


San Diego, CA (December 14, 2012) – IDW Publishing will publish STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS, the official prequel series to Paramount Pictures’ upcoming movie, Star Trek Into Darkness. Like the best-sellingCountdown series before it,COUNTDOWN INTO DARKNESS will be the only place for fans to experience the events that set the stage for J.J. Abrams’ sequel to the 2009 blockbuster film Star Trek.
 

Written by Mike Johnson with a story by Roberto Orci and art by David Messina, this 4-issue miniseries will lead directly into the May release of Star Trek Into Darkness, bridging the gap between the two films and giving fans an exclusive peek at the film’s mysterious story.
 
“We were thrilled by the reception that the original Countdown prequel comic received in 2009,” saysJohnson. “We're excited to be working again with David Messina and the team at IDW to bring fans an all-new original story that leads directly into the next film. Star Trek is back in a big way in 2013!”
 
Packed with the high-stakes adventure and sci-fi intrigue that has made the Star Trek franchise a global institution, STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS is sure to delight the legions of fans anxiously anticipating the continuing adventure of the intrepid crew of the USS Enterprise.
 
STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS #1 ($3.99, 32 pages, full color), licensed by CBS Consumer Products, will be available in stores in January 2013. 

Diamond order code: NOV12 0340

STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS digital comics will be available via the iOS Star Trek Comics and IDW Comics apps, online at read.idwpublishing.com, and in the Apple iBookstore.

“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” is written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof, based upon “Star Trek” created by Gene Roddenberry, and directed by J.J. Abrams.  Abrams will also produce with Bryan Burk through Bad Robot Productions, along with Lindelof, Kurtzman, and Orci.
share on Twitter Send IDW Heads "Into Darkness" with STAR TREK Movie Prequel! to friends on Facebook  

About IDW

IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, Paramount’s Star Trek; HBO’s True Blood; the BBC’s DOCTOR WHO; Toho’s Godzilla; and comics and trade collections based on novels by worldwide bestselling author, James Patterson. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio.
IDW’s critically- and fan-acclaimed series are continually moving into new mediums. Currently, Warner Brothers and Barry Sonnenfeld are attached to adapt LORE into a feature film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Disney are creating a feature film based on World War Robot, with Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes and Sony bringing Zombies vs. Robots to film.

Note: I'm fairly excited about this. My inner trekkie fangirl squealed over the Dr. Who and Star Trek crossover, so I'm excited about this as well!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Romance at Random's Hot Holiday Hop

Hi all! I'm just writing this quick blog to let you know that Romance at Random is holding a holiday giveaway for some really great prizes! They're giving away a $25 giftcard to the retailer of your choice, but they're also giving away copies of Julie Kenner's Release Me!

I have to say that I'm more excited over the potential to get a copy of Kenner's book than the giftcard, so part of me wants to snarl and keep this hop quiet to increase my chances of winning. (But I won't because that's mean and besides, being a bibliophile means sharing good books and chances to get them, not hoarding them like a dragon!)

For more information check out Romance at Random or click the links below! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bow Chica Wow No: Universal sues over Fifty Shades porn

Apparently not all is right in Fiftyville, as Universal has their knickers in a twist over a porn version of Fifty Shades of Grey entitled Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX adaptation. I know, creative title, right? My first thought upon hearing this was that Universal needs to lighten up since a porn adaptation of the title is inevitable and from some angles, porn is pretty much the only way you can have a true adaptation of the books without the MPAA going insane.

It's fairly normal for the adult film industry to create versions of mainstream things, normally based off of TV shows and movies but occasionally dabbles in other popular things. They usually slap a "pardody" label on the title and insert a few lame jokes at the expense of the original idea, which allows them to skate by as a parody. It's something that isn't always liked, but is generally ignored and tolerated by the owners of the original product/idea.

The difference with this one? Evidently they decided against the parody angle and straight up adapted book one and parts of book two of the Fifty Shades trilogy. If this is the case then Universal does have the right to sue the company that made the film and keep it off of the shelves. Part of me still thinks it's silly since it won't harm the sales of the movie if it ever actually gets made (which I don't think it will), but another part of me knows that you can't really slide on stuff like this because in the end it's still a blatant copyright violation.

All I know is that the clicking you hear is probably the sound of a million keyboards looking around to see if there is a leaked copy of the movie on the internet. It looks like it was available for a brief period of time, but has been pulled off the market.

Further reading:
*'Fifty Shades of Grey' Porn Adaptation Sued by Universal

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And you thought your review was bad?

Hi all!

I couldn't help but post what I think has to be one of the most negatively reviewed books out there:


I came across these Amazon reviews while going about my merry way, looking for things to report on. I'll just say that this has to be one of the nastiest, yet funniest, negative reviews I've ever read. It's so over the top that you honestly can't say that it's really offensive. At least not when you compare it to reviews for books such as the Maradonia series by Gloria Tesch. But then again, that's a different story since she managed to somehow get the attention of ED.

Reviews for this book on Amazon have nuggets such as:

"Sweet mother of pearl! Cynthia Soroka has created a masterpiece. This book should be purchased by every aspiring author for inspiration. If (...)this can get published, then so should just about any author who can string a couple words together."

"This book was so bad, the bookstore owner tried to talk me out of buying it!"

"The characters are such hollow cliches that you will laugh at their illogical (and pointless) predicaments, and cry when you realize that you still have more pages to wade through. You will find yourself unable to choose between reading more of the horrid, soap opera dialogue and being punched in the stomach repeatedly by a random thug."

All culminating in the following review:

"this is the worst book i have EVER tried to read. bar none, totaly the worst. i would rather roll over tiny bits of broken glass, then jump into a vat of lemon juice than ever have to even look at the cover of this book ever again. i can only guess the ONE 'fan' must have read a different book. 

random S&M bits, bad soap opera dialog, senseless plot changes (when you could find the plot), zero demensioned characters, over simplistic explainations....GRRRR.... i am so stunned at how bad this was, i can't even spell right!! neither could the author, nor can she write anything beyond an 8th grade level, as far as i could tell. this book begs the question, was it blackmail or what, that got this drivel published?

 i have half a mind to email the writer so i can demand back the half an hour of my life i gave to this 'book'! i can't even bring myself to take this back to the used shop i bought this in, i just threw it away. i didn't want anyone to see that i had actually spent money on it...did i mention this book was horrid? yes, i thought so....."

I actually feel a little sorry for the author, if she read any of it. It's all valid criticism but ouch. The reviews on Goodreads aren't much better.  So next time you think that your negative review is bad, just remember that that person probably isn't stating that they would rather roll in glass and bathe in lemon juice than to read the book again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Get it free: Kitty Glitter

Hi everyone! I'm following up the previous post with a blog entry that's entirely Kitty Glitter themed. Yesterday I posted a link to her book The Color Purple 2, a timeless classic about unruly kitties and their owners. Today I'm going to bring you some of her work that you can currently get for free on Amazon.

Yes, that's right. The fabulous Miss Glitter is taking on the true spirit of Thanksgiving and giving us some of her sweat, blood, and tears for absolutely nothing. Right now you can get the following:



Thrill to the latest adventures of Meow Solo and friends. For a side bonus, Zooey Deschanel dies in the first page after getting pistol whipped by Meow Solo. Then everyone runs off to have an orgy. 




There's a reason that Bill Murray said that cats and dogs playing together was a sign of the End of Days. Now you can see why, in this taunt thriller about a dog that just won't let go of the cat it desires.

Ashton Kutcher's Space-Sex Rampage


When one Hollywood star goes to far and begins to fuck everything to death, only one being can stand in his way: Meow Solo.




-------------

On a more sedate side note, I'd like to encourage everyone to check her stuff out not only because Glitter is incredibly funny, but to show encouragement for her right now. She recently discovered that she's HIV positive, so go make her feel better by talking about and getting her books!!

They published what? 5 of the WTF-iest books on Amazon

Ah Amazon. Home to some of the most strange things that the Internet can hold. Here are some of the strangest books I could find on Amazon. Note that these aren't necessarily the strangest, just the strangest I've found so far. Unsurprisingly, many of these are self-published, not that there's anything wrong with that.


Remember Wesley Crusher: Teenage F*ck Machine? Yep. We all do. Now the same person who brought you that timeless class also brings you a sequel to The Color Purple. I honestly don't think I need to write any more than that.

Yes, that is a book written by a licensed physician about masturbating your way to success. While I'm certain that the book isn't as simple as "whip out your wangdoodles and shake it all over your boss/client's vicious knid", but I will say that if masturbation really had a secret technique that unlocked success, then we'd have a lot more Donald Trump type people out there.
I'm fully aware that most everyone out there has seen this book, but it still takes one aback that someone actually took the time to not only create recipes that used semen, but to (presumably) perfect them. I suppose asking "do you swallow" in Photenhauer's house is an easily answered question.


What makes this book so particularly WTF? It's not the book as much as it's the claims behind the book. According to the author, the material in this book is so outrageous, so controversial, that the government has been following him to various websites and ensuring that it would be removed somehow. Apparently Wikipedia is part of the conspiracy, making up rules just to ensure that his "truthful" tome would remain obscure. Considering that this is the same website that has an article for alien abduction insurance, I can't help but think that this is less a conspiracy and more that the article was so crazy that even Wikipedia cried uncle. Tin foil hats are not included with this book.



Ever wonder what you should put hydrogen peroxide on? Ever wonder what you shouldn't? Luckily for you and I, Lisa Barnes is here to tell us. Some of the information does seem to be interesting, such as the ability to use HP to clean contact lenses, much of this falls under the "well duh" category. I think most of us ladies are pretty aware that you shouldn't use HP to clean your hooha.



This one is just because of its name. No matter how great the book is, most of us will never get past the title.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fanfiction for sale: SOLD!

Hi everyone!

I was just informed of two upcoming fanfics that will be getting an official publication. I think this makes it the fourth book in the last year or so that has its roots as a fanfic of one work or another.

This brings up a question that really makes me wonder: is it really right to profit off of a work that was originally based on characters another person wrote? My first reaction is that it's not right, that the characters are based off of someone else's creativity.

Fifty Shades of Grey is one example of a fanfic turned published work where you can see the book's roots as a Twilight fanfic. Ana is Bella, right down to the repetitive lip biting and several times during the story you can see where James drew heavily on the original Twilight series.

Then you have stuff like the upcoming book Beautiful Bastard, also a Twilight fanfic. (The other book, if you're curious, is a One Direction fanfic. Go figure.) I dug a little and found that the book will only have a fraction of the original fanfic in it, the rest of it being rewritten for publication. Of course, James made those same claims, that she rewrote parts of Fifty Shades, only for comparisons to show that the only big change she made was to rename all of the characters. Does rewriting a fanfic make it OK?

Part of me thinks that it's a little unethical to publish fanfiction and get paid for it. Then I did a little research and realized that honestly, it's not uncommon at all to see people base fictional works off of other people's creations. A look at the Wikipedia page for stuff based on Alice in Wonderland shows a plethora of works where people have directly based their works on the various characters. Heck, there's even an adult movie based on Alice, called Alice in Wonderland: An X-rated Musical Fantasy. It's a little hypocritical to say that some artist in Japan can create an entire franchise around Alice dating various characters in the Caroll books, but James can't create three books worth of original fanfiction about Twilight characters and publish it herself.

I do realize that Alice in Wonderland is in the public domain and Twilight is not, but a lot of the arguments about fanfic-ing for profit tend to go beyond copyright laws themselves and usually center around whether or not it's really right for someone to write a work based on someone else's characters, regardless of legality. I'm still mostly unsure as to where I fall on this. Obviously the legal standpoint is shaky on either side.

Here's how the law pretty much stands:

You can write whatever you want about works that are in the public domain as long as you credit the original creator somewhere in the work and do not try to pass off the basic designs as entirely your own stuff. You can pretty much even publish the original work as long as you don't try to say that you wrote Pride and Prejudice. This is why you see so many copies of public domain works from different publishers and companies. It's when you get into specific translations of works from another language or Ye Olde English to modern phrases that copyrights can be claimed. When it comes to stuff that's currently under copyright, you can do what you want when you have permission from the author/owner to do it.

But when you don't? That's when it gets shaky. You can write that you were "inspired by" the story and say that it influenced you, but that your story is your own. Or you can say that everything is a coincidence, as is the case with Jude Law's Repo Men and Repo!: The Genetic Opera. (But to take a look at the two plots, many of us are calling BS on those claims.) If you did base your story off of someone else's copyrighted work, you can publish the work legally if you change enough of the stuff to where you say that everything is entirely your own. This is where it gets really difficult to win a lawsuit if you're the one that wrote the original work that the fanfic is based on. You not only have to prove that the original work was based on your own stuff, but that the characters and situations are so close to your own that it's a copyright violation and not just the other author pulling in common tropes and situations. Most times it's just not worth it in the long run to bring to court, partially because it's so hard to prove copyright violations, partially because it costs so much, and partially because nobody comes out of it looking good.

But the concerns over whether or not it's legally right to profit off of other people's works does not answer whether or not it's morally right. It's easy to say "copyrighted", but like I said above- people often end up arguing over reasons that don't entirely have a lot to do with copyright and everything to do with creativity. There's no easy answer here, that's for certain.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Paula Broadwell: And you thought YOU were an author behaving badly?

Hey all, long time no write, I know...

I just had to stop in to comment on the whole Paula Broadwell fiasco. For those new to the situation, Paula Broadwell is a writer living out of North Carolina that has written a biograpy on a guy that a lot of us probably have never heard of. Which is probably how he sort of wants it.

Now I bet you're asking "but why is she an author behaving badly"? Did she flame a reviewer? Post five hundred five star reviews for her own work? Post just as many negative reviews for her competition?

Nope, she held an affair with David Petraeus, the director of the CIA. Which lead to him eventually resigning from his post due to the fallout.

That, my dear readers, is an author behaving badly. Yes, I'm fully aware that she didn't hold Petraeus down and force herself on him and I'm equally sure that he has to have been fairly charming and offered a level of excitement that her husband and regular life didn't offer. I mean, hello- a spy and a position of power? James Bond fantasy, anyone? But at some point you have to just shake your head and acknowledge an author behaving badly when you see one.

Further reading:

*Woman Linked to Petraeus Is a West Point Graduate and Lifelong High Achiever

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Magick by Trish Milburn



Title: Magick (Coven #3)
Author: Trish Milburn
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: 09/27/2012
ISBN: 1611941784





I'm going to be very, very honest about this and say that despite how negative this review might occasionally come across, I did greatly like this book. It's just that the biggest flaw of this was that it was far too condensed and would have been greatly improved by stretching it out for at least another 100 pages, if not another book entirely.

The covens are coming for her. But is she a White Witch or a Dark Witch? 

In a war for control of the witch world, the answer will save-or doom-everyone she loves. In White Witch, Jax gained friends she'd die for and a staggering power that threatens them all. In Bane, Jax did the unthinkable and killed a supernatural hunter to protect her friends. She found herself lost in darkness and prisoner to the Bane, a secret society of witches sworn to prevent the use of the dark magic. 

Now, in Magick, the powers of Jax and her friend Egan have been magically bound by the Bane. She must convince the Bane she can learn to control her power and become a White Witch in truth. She's their only hope now that the dark covens have called a Conclave with one purpose-to kill this generation's White Witch and anyone who has ever stood with her. If Jax can't amass an army of her own, rebuild the trust of her friends and boyfriend, and find the White Witch's elusive weapon against the dark, it may be too late.

OK. Here's the skinny on the book: it's very skinny. As in everything happens far too quickly. There are some excellent ideas in here and the plot is fantastic. So fantastic that it really needed more time to unfurl and let things happen at a slower pace. There's such a rich story line, from ancient evils to white magic, to predictions for the future that I couldn't help but feel slightly cheated that this book was only 166 pages. Milburn does a decent enough job to where you won't pitch the books afterwards, but you will sigh and wish that she'd gone for a 300 page work instead.

That aside, there is still a lot that Milburn can do with this series and she leaves it open for further books if she were to choose to do so. And I'd really like for her to continue on. The world here (what we can see of it) is fairly rich with history and descriptions of various magics. Jax is likable for the most part, which means that readers will be able to commiserate with her pretty easily and her relationship with Kellan is sweet.

It's just that throughout this I couldn't forget that this progressed far too quickly and even with the consideration that this book was written for younger readers, it's still hampered by a far too quickly moving plot line. It's like putting size four shoes on a track runner that wears a size eight, then asking them to sprint. They still perform, but not nearly as much as they would otherwise. I do recommend it and I can say that I'll re-read this in the future, but this could've been so much more.

3.4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rape Erotica Part Deux: It's been going on for a while

Recently I posted a blog about a mini-brouhaha surrounding writer Marata Eros, who writes in the genre of rape erotica. It basically boiled down to readers downloading the book without realizing it was rape erotica, then posting one star reviews to Amazon and other sites detailing their disgust. Eros said she had a disclaimer all along, others said she didn't. The author was a little defensive, but ultimately the true gist of the reader response was because the idea of rape as erotica was disturbing to many.

I'd mentioned this to some of my friends on Facebook and was pretty surprised to be told that rape as titillation has been around for years and used to be a fairly common plot device in romance. For example, Catherine Coulter's Devil's Embrace features a female character that is stalked, kidnapped, and repeatedly raped by her captor... who she eventually returns to because she's fallen deeply in love with him. A little more sleuthing brought up Savage Surrender by Natasha Peters, where you have a fair young maiden getting her booty forcibly and repeatedly plundered by several scallywags, one of which is- you guessed it, the guy she is obviously destined to fall in love with. There's others, such as Christine Monson's Stormfire, where the guy not only rapes her but also backhands her, starves her, and generally humiliates her in about every way possible. You could look back even farther and find the writings of the Marquis de Sade, which is considered classic erotica by some.

I could probably find more, but you get the gist of things. Rape as erotica and entertainment has always been around. I'd elaborated on some of the reasons psychologists gave for people enjoying the genre and writing fiction, most of which center around the concept of freedom. By having their choices taken away from them, the women are free to engage in encounters where they have various sex acts done to them that they might not otherwise have done, with there being the implication that since they didn't have to assume guilt or responsibility afterwards. At least, that's what was in the reports. It's pretty freaky but the studies are an interesting read and if you're like me, researching this sort of thing helps to demystify something that baffles and quite frankly, frightens me.

I just wanted to elaborate a bit more on this, as it's pretty intriguing. It almost makes me wish that I was taking a degree is psychology, because this would be an excellent senior thesis.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Manga Review: Strobe Edge Vol 1 by Io Sakisaka



Title: Strobe Edge Volume 1
Author: Io Sakisaka
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: 11/06/2012
ISBN: 1421550687





There are some definite pros and cons to this manga. The pro is that quite obviously, the artwork is rather nice. One of the cons is that at times I felt that the lead character of Ninako was a little overly dippy. Luckily for you, the reader, the two sort of balance each other out and the promise of more character development kept me interested.

Having no experience in romance, the vibrant Ninako curiously explores the meaning of what "love" really is, and is surprised to feel a colorful range of emotions as she grows closer to the school heartthrob, the quiet yet gentle Ren, who also happens to be involved in a longtime relationship. With every intention of keeping her head held high, Ninako prepares to face the mental pain of this one-sided love that she had allowed to take root, facing a series of trials that would either contribute to her growth as a headstrong woman, or break her as it did with other girls. However, is this really a one-sided love? Or had something been silently sown in the most hidden part of Ren's heart?

Ninako is a huge trusting ditz in this book. She's far too trusting and while part of me wonders how she survived this far in life without being mugged or smacked around by irritated peers, Ninako also has sort of a cute charm to her that kept me from being truly irritated by her to the point where I'd stop reading. It's also part of the story line, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for the time being, but I'll warn potential readers that if you have a low tolerance for happy-go-lucky ditzes, you'll either want to approach this with caution or avoid it. It'd be a shame to completely dismiss  it for this factor alone, as the artwork in this really is nicely done. The other big problem is that there are a lot of traditional manga tropes. I've peeked around on the internet for reviews of the later volumes and I've been reassured by them that the series will improve.

Although at the end of it all, there's still a charm to this manga that convinces me that many of the manga's initial faults won't really bother that many people and that this will more than likely get a nice following. There's a lot of potential here to grow and despite all of this, I can't help but get drawn into the cuteness of everything. This won't bring in people looking for series with more edge to it, at least not yet, but it's something that I'll keep my eyes on as far as future volumes go. The artwork is really what I love the most about this and I've bought entire series of manga just because the artwork hit some sort of quirk with me.

Overall, my recommendation is that this is something that die-hard fans of shoujo should absolutely get. The rest of us? Other than the groups that obviously wouldn't like it, this will be something that I'd recommend flipping through at the bookstore first, although don't be surprised if you end up getting it.

3.9 out of 5 stars

(Review copy provided by publisher)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rape culture: The case of Marata Eros

I recently came across a discussion on Goodreads about a book by a relatively new author, Marata Eros. The book is Reapers and it's getting quite a bit of discussion.

Why? Well, as you'd expect by now, there's a bit of an issue involving the author posting the following:


*REAPERS is a 21,000 word/72 page mixed genre paranormal novella (1-2 hours reading time) in the following categories: Erotica/horror with an undertone of romance. 

**WARNING- possible objectionable material: This book is intended for an adult audience and contains marginal consentRAPE, multiple partners, forced breeding, vampire sex, and oral play.

** **A note from the author: the above cautionary qualifier is in place (as it has been from the beginning), so that readers may make an educated choice prior to the download of this erotic story. After receiving twelve, one-star reviews in which the reader chose a story that did not suit their taste, I elected to bold the key wording above. Further: TDB novella series is an erotic-driven romance. This means that the sexual context of the story is primary and the romance is secondary. In subsequent installments, romance is flavored a little more strongly but does not overtake the erotic element. This is the first installment and is not a "stand-alone" as such. Thank you.

 Update: Reviewers who post a one-star rating for content they've been warned about, have only one review (for this work) and whom are not verified purchasers of said work are suspect.


Needless to say, if the term "badly behaving author" isn't being bandied about now, it's only a matter of time. All I'm going to say about this is that it's entirely possible for someone to leave a review without a "verified purchase" point. It's optional and not everyone likes using it. It's also available on Barnes & Nobles, and there are some that like posting reviews on multiple sites or specifically on Amazon because it's more visible. Specifically saying that a review is suspect for this is sort of bad business because while it is slightly suspicious, you could say the same for the reviewers that gave positive reviews to this book and other books by indie authors. Especially since not all of the positive reviews have the "verified" label on them either. That label is no guarantee of the review being genuine. There's also some drama over someone going into various reviews and commenting.

Now here's where it gets interesting. Does a book deserve a lower rating for having content the reader finds controversial? Yes and no. In the end it boils down to whether or not the reader likes the story and when you write erotica with predominant rape themes, you're going to get criticism. ESPECIALLY if you publish in any format where it's accessible by the general public. After posting some content warnings, readers should expect to see rape portrayed in an overly glamorized and romanticized manner. However that doesn't mean that they can't comment on the way the story is written, whether or not it's believable for the main part, yadda yadda. If they went into it expecting to dislike it due to the rape themes, they need to be honest about that in the review and use it as a disclaimer at the top. There's no shame in getting a book due to hype, whether negative or positive. It's how I discovered Fifty Shades of Grey, the book everyone loves to hate or hates to love. You just need to be honest about what your mindset was going into it because that very much plays a part in how you perceive the book.

Rape erotica does exist, obviously, but I do need to stipulate that while it endorses it within the bounds of the story, most authors and readers do not endorse it in real life. It's akin to how you can have people that enjoy watching things like "Faces of Death" or play violent video games, yet wouldn't harm a fly. This isn't always the case, but I need to stress that these are are not the norm.

So other than the idea of a blossoming potential author drama, this brings up a more interesting question and something that really should be more of a topic for discussion than whether the author should or shouldn't have commented at all on the negative reviews. Why is it that people like reading rape literature or indulging in rape fantasies in general?

One answer is obviously that it is a form of escapist literature. An article for Psychology Today states that many women feel that it allows them to go into fantasies and actions that they wouldn't otherwise have liked. It also plays into the idea that the woman in the fiction or the woman in the roleplaying is such a hottie that the guy can't help them self. There are other reasons, but ultimately they fall along similar themes to where the women feel like they're entertaining ideas that they wouldn't otherwise have.

But this brings up the idea of whether or not it's healthy. There are different levels of fantasies involving rape or force. Some involve a token amount of protest before pretenses are completely thrown to the wayside in favor of completely consensual sex. Others continue the roleplaying until it's completely over.

I honestly don't know what to think about the idea of rape as erotica. On one hand I find it disgusting because I don't understand how anyone can romanticize rape. It's disturbing to me and I can understand why so many people are having such a strong reaction against the book and against the idea of anyone conceivably enjoying any rape erotica or rape play. Then again, another part of me keeps reminding me that liking such things does not mean that they actually condone the actual act of rape. After all, the fictionalized portrayals of rape are usually so overly glamorized to where they rarely resemble the actual act. While I've not set out to read rape erotica, anyone that reads online erotica as a whole will inevitably come across it in some format. Most of what I've read, which admittedly isn't much, is about as accurate a portrayal of traditional rape as "Debbie Does Dallas" is an accurate portrayal of the cheerleading profession. I want to stress traditional rape, as rape isn't limited to the traditional perception of such an encounter. Rape can happen in so many different formats, such as one person using something to get a consent they otherwise wouldn't have gotten (usually drug or alcohol related). For some rape lit might bring up shades of rape that they or someone they have known has gone through. Rape isn't just "pin her down and take her while she's screaming no", after all.

In the end this is a rather grey area that isn't easily solved by saying "don't read" or "you should expect this". Anyone writing in the rape erotica genre and publishing it in any mainstream format should expect a backlash. You might write something that is perceived as being well written (as in the case of the Marquis de Sade). You might write something that has a huge following. But as soon as it's out there in the mainstream, you're going to get flak for it. Look at the reaction to FSOG, where the sex is entirely consensual. If people are going to talk about a little slap and tickle in their erotica, they're going to talk about it when you're portraying outright rape. It's the responsibility of the author to understand that there will always be people complaining about this sort of literature based upon its content. Then again, as readers we need to try to approach the situation and any reviews about this genre with extreme caution and diplomacy. After all, this is a situation that isn't easy to paint in black and white. It's really hard for me to type out anything that provides an argument in defense of rape lit, as I find it morally disgusting, but I feel that outright condemning it without at least trying to discuss it in some depth isn't really explaining either side.

The only thing I can say without hesitation in this scenario is that Eros should have clearly marked the book with a disclaimer from the start. It would have circumvented a lot of the controversy over this book, which pretty much all started from people picking up the book without knowing it was rape erotica. After that point? It becomes a little harder to pick sides as to whether rape erotica is right or wrong since it ultimately boils down to individual cases.

EDIT:

I do want to state that this disclaimer has not always been labeled as such on the books. The series was initially entitled The Druid Breeders and the content was originally labeled as such: (taken via Barnes and Nobles)


Overview

A paranormal erotic vampire romance novella.

Novellas 2 & 3, BLED & HARVEST, available now!

The vampires are a dying race, their females sterile. When it's discovered that human females of Druid ancestry can be viable breeders...the harvest begins.

The thing is, this doesn't openly identify it as rape erotica or erotica that plays with rape or forced consent. I again must stress that when you release controversial erotica into the mainstream public, you have to be extra careful to specify that this features the concept of rape as a form of erotica. The author isn't legally obligated to specify this, but when you figure that the general public has freaked out over books that feature BDSM between two willing and fully consenting adults, they're probably not going to react well to "Surprise! Rapesex!" portrayed as something to be titillated or aroused by. The public reaction to the Japanese game RapeLay would also second this, and the "rape as entertainment/erotica/gameplay/etc" subculture is marginally more visible there. Even if everything was clearly labeled, at some point you're still going to get some guff over it because the idea of any subversive behavior being placed in a positive light is going to attract debate. That's ultimately it. At some point you can either embrace the dialogue and use it as an opportunity to open a conversation about the merits and/or downfalls of rape literature. I'd imagine that there's a good many that just saw "free book" and downloaded it, having never experienced rape erotica. This is a good chance to educate rather than lambast.

Of course us readers now have an obligation too. Since the theme is now very visible, it's not fair to negatively rate a book because you dislike the idea of rape as entertainment. The author does have the freedom to write as she pleases as long as it's obviously fictional. If it were to be about the stalking, abduction, and rape of a famous person like Snooki, then it'd go into the greyer area of whether or not it'd be acceptable. If you read the book and feel that the writing wasn't good enough, or because none of it really made for interesting reading for you, that's fine. But writing a review with the purpose of negging it because you personally don't approve of rape as erotica isn't really fair because that's not really you reviewing the book itself. It's you reviewing the concept of rape as erotica and while everyone is free to have an opinion, such debates are best kept to non-review formats unless you are going to work it into a valid review for the book.



Sources:
*Why do women have erotic rape fantasies? Psychology Today
*Women's Rape Fantasies: An Evaluation of Theory and Research
*Reapers on Amazon
*Reapers on B&N

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery by Jim Bernheimer



Title: Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery
Author: Jim Bernheimer
Publisher: EJB Networking
Release Date: 08/20/2012
ISBN: 1479165077





If I can be honest, I'll say that most sci-fi is wasted on the likes of me. I'm not a huge sci-fi buff, my experience with the genre peaking in high school with my lust for all things Star Trek. As a result, I'll openly admit that I'm really not the target audience for what I call "hard core sci-fi" (ie, anything on the level of Blade Runner), but my experience with Bernheimer has shown me that he's a rather clever author. So with that mindset, I had to give it a whirl. That this was partially typed on a phone keyboard was pretty neat as well.

Homicide Detective David Bagini awakens on a strange world only to discover that he is, in fact, the forty-second clone of the Bagini line. With no memories of why his Prime entered into a clone contract, he wants answers. The first problem is his Prime is dead and Bagini Forty-Two is in charge of the investigation. The second problem is all the clues point at a clone from his line and they already know all his tricks. How can he solve his own murder when every suspect has his name and face?

I have to admit that I was fascinated by the technology in this and some of the implications of the clones' treatment was something I could sink my teeth into. One thing that specifically intrigued me was that the original person (AKA Prime) could take a portion of each clone's pay. For some of the wealthier clones this might not automatically seem like a lot, but for the ones making less money this could mean the difference between living in a garbage dump or living in a place where muggings aren't the typical way of greeting someone. Is it right to do this, considering that each of the clones are a copy of you and your memories, especially since so many in the book's universe and IRL consider clones to be lacking souls? The concept of a clone's humanity is a reoccurring theme here and despite this being somewhat of a well-used theme in fiction overall, it's always one that can set up a story fairly well. Especially since the gist of the mystery is that one of the clones of David Bagini Prime supposedly killed him. Does this mean that the capability of murder is always there or is this something brought out by the situations the clone was placed in? No spoilers, but again- the discussion points for something of this nature are pretty endless. I could write an endless review just based around this idea and believe me, I was awfully tempted to.

Now for the story: like I said, I'm not a huge reader of anything beyond the lightest and fluffiest sci-fi stuff, but this was pretty good. It took me a while to kind of catch up to speed on all of the technology, but the idea behind a lot of this was pretty interesting. Clone therapy? I bet that could fill a book to itself. I also liked how detached 42 was at times, despite others thinking he might not be as such in the case with him discovering his Prime had a wife and daughter. What really sets this apart is how well the ending was. I could sort of predict what was ultimately going to happen to a certain degree, but that didn't make it any less fun. After all, isn't one of the goals of mystery lovers is to try to guess the whodunit, sometimes almost like it's a contest? (If you're curious, I was only half right, so point to Bernheimer on this one.) I still couldn't get the nagging feeling that I wasn't the right audience for this out of my mind, though, as I hit points where I kept wishing for a leather wearing witch or a vampire to jump out from somewhere. Fans of sci-fi will undoubtedly love this, though.


If you're looking for something nice to snuggle down with and read, give this one a try. Despite it not being my thing, I liked the mystery and I loved the questions it brought up.

3.7 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by author)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fifty Shades of WTF: The top 5 most unlikely candidates for the upcoming film adaptation

If you've even remotely paid attention to any of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie hype, you've seen that just about everyone under the sun has been rumored to either be interested in the movie or have been asked to perform in it. Ryan Gosling? He's been asked. Emma Watson? She's supposedly a likely candidate. My aunt's mother's second cousin's roommate's father? He's totally up for the role of Christian Grey.

Here's a listing of some of the more outlandish people that have been fingered as being involved, mentioned as likely candidates, or are interested in the movie in some form or fashion.


Selena Gomez. While it'd be a little awesome to see the white-washing of various book characters go in the opposite direction with the casting of a Hispanic actress, I just don't see her as being really right for the role. Maybe it's because she's too young. Maybe it's because she's too dominant. Either way, the rumor of her being Ana just seems really silly, but since Gomez has already shot down rumors of her being in the film I suppose we don't have to worry about this overly much.

Shia Lebouf. No. Just no. While Lebouf does seem to have the douchebag aspect of Christian Grey down, I can't see him being dominant enough to play Grey. Every time I imagine him trying to top someone, I just picture the other person getting irritated and turning him into a Shia sized floor mop.

Miley Cyrus. OK, so she's been listed on a website as being a likely candidate for the role of Anastasia Steele. I'm now picturing her as Ana to Shia's Christian. It's not a pleasant image and I'm currently wondering if I can self-lobotomize if I shove a pencil far enough up my nose. I know that Cyrus hasn't really acted up that much lately, but I just imagine her wandering around Grey's apartment stoned out of her gourd while Lebouf just sits in a corner and practices being the world's largest wet rag. Imagining them in the infamous tampon sex scene is a little warped because I keep seeing the roles switch around and having Cyrus remove Lebouf's tampon because she's just that much more masculine and dominant than he is. 

Justin Bieber. That's right folks, Justin Bieber. Depending on where you go, he's either up for an undisclosed role or he's been asked to play the role of Christian Grey himself. All jokes of him being more likely to play Ana aside, I'm finding it highly unlikely that the Biebs would be capable of playing a guy that's in his late 20s, unless he's supposed to be playing a teenaged Grey and that character doesn't entirely appear until book three. And yes, I think Bieber could kick Lebouf's butt.

Charlie Sheen. Somewhere, someone has said that he was in the running to play Grey, to which Sheen actually said that he wasn't interested. Sort of. I'm actually a little sad that this one is so obviously false, because it'd be kind of awesome if he was. The producers could put him and Cyrus together in the film and let them "do as they will", resulting in a drunken drug filled bacchanalia that would go down in history. They're already friends, so you wouldn't have to worry about them fighting on set. On a side note, I can see him being dominant enough to play Grey and if the movie was going to be a parody of the book,  Sheen would be their best bet by far. 

Book Review: The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa



Title: The Lost Prince (Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Release Date: 10/23/2012
ISBN: 0373210574





If you've read the previous books in the Iron Fey series, you need to read this book. If you haven't, I'll be blunt and say that this probably won't be the best book to start off with. Since this is the start of a new arc within the series there is a little going back over of back story to where you might not be completely lost, but you'll definitely feel like you missed out on a huge chunk of story. This means that you won't enjoy it as much otherwise.

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them. 

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’s dare to fall for. 

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myths and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten. 

My name is Ethan Chase. And I may not live to see my eighteenth birthday.

I have to say that I'm glad that the story changed narrators. I liked Meghan and she was a likable heroine, but I'll admit that I was getting a little tired of her at times and I wanted to see a fresh angle for this story from another mortal's eyes. I know that Iron Knight was Ash's story, but I wasn't as happy with that as I wanted to be. We're given new characters, new situations, and best of all: new fae. Ethan is a moody and sometimes bullheadedly stubborn character. You won't know whether you want to smack him upside the head or agree with him. He's a jerk to a good many people, but for pretty good reason. Ethan hasn't had it easy since his sister took off to be the Iron Queen. (Although neither has she, I'd wager.)

Kenzie, his potential love interest in the book is nice, although at times Kagawa is a little overly obvious that she has A Hidden Secret about her that will eventually be revealed. No worries though, as it actually explains a lot about some of the character's drive throughout the novel, even though I was expecting it to be slightly different. Also given a fair amount of time to shine is a new character, Kierran. Readers will be able to guess at his part in the story and why he's associating with Ethan somewhat easily, but the point of this is less to surprise the reader and more to set up the plot for the next book. (I can't say much without spoiling this, but there's been forshadowing about this previously in the series.)

I'll admit that occasionally there were some things in here that kept it from being absolutely perfect. Every once in a while I got a little impatient because things seemed to take a little longer than I'd like and sometimes the characters just seemed a little overly quick to jump to one thing or another. Despite her later reveals, Kenzie just seemed to jump to certain choices a little quickly, although I'm sure that this will probably be a plot point further in the series. This isn't really any big failing on Kagawa's part, mind you. This is the type of thing that I feel is completely subjective to the reader in this case.

Overall this book is pretty freaking nifty. It's a marked improvement over Iron Knight and I found it really, really hard to put this book down once I started reading it. If not for the demands of work and non-book life, I'd probably have devoured this in one sitting. This is an absolute must read for anyone who loved the earlier books in the series. It just stinks that now we have so long to wait until the next book in the series comes out. (Although on a positive note, 2013 will have us receiving book 2 in both this new arc as well as in Kagawa's Blood of Eden series. So the wait will be rewarded greatly.)

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Manga Review: Demon Love Spell Vol 1 by Mayu Shinjo


Title: Demon Love Spell Volume 1
Author: Mayu Shinjo
Publisher: Viz Media
Release Date: 12/04/2012
ISBN: 142154945X






I've liked Shinjo's work in the past, although I'll admit that after a while some of her work just seemed to be a little bland, too much of a copy of Sensual Phrase. This was partially due to a publisher Shinjo had been working with, but for a while afterwards I just couldn't seem to get into the stuff she'd released even after she broke off with her old publisher. I'm officially digging her work with Demon Love Spell, though.

Miko has a lot of problems. She's the daughter of a prestigious family that's known for having an impressive ability to see and dispel demons, yet Miko herself lacks the power to even see the supernatural. So when she manages to bind the super sexy incubus Kagara, no one is more stunned than her, especially when she traps him in a chibified version of himself. The two soon discover that Miko does have power, but it only seems to manifest when she's touching him. With extremely powerful demons beginning to circle the now weakened Kagura, Miko must find a way to restore him to his true power as well as to find a way to confront her own increasingly complicated feelings towards him.

If you're wondering, the smut level in this actually isn't that bad when you consider how mature some of her other works are. It's relatively tame at this point in time, with sex being referred to and there being sexually charged moments but no actual depictions of sex to the degree that you see in some of her other works. This doesn't mean that this won't change as the relationship between our two main characters changes, so if you're someone who doesn't like seeing smut in your manga then I'd approach this with a degree of caution.

The story here is rather straight forward. It's your typical "boy meets girl, enter the supernatural creatures and romantic entanglements" stuff that you've come to expect from manga and Shinjo, but it's just so incredibly cute that you won't really mind that you've seen a lot of this before in various incarnations. The chibified version of Kagura is fairly cute and it's one of the first things that drew me into the volume so quickly. It hits a lot of my manga quirks pretty hard (chibi versions of things, romance, a little light smut, etc), and I have a feeling that this will do the same for a lot of other readers. My only true complaint is that this does seem to suffer from "first volume-itis" because there's one or two tedious parts where the action slows down so we can have some groundwork laid for future story lines and plot arcs. It doesn't ruin the overall fun of the volume, but it is slightly noticeable.

Now when it comes to the artwork, I'll warn you: it's your typical Shinjo. By this I mean that the artwork is well done and the guys are all suitably hunky bishies, but that they also all look like various incarnations of male characters from her other works. Shinjo's style is fairly distinctive and her habit of making the main romantic lead resemble the main romantic lead from other works still applies here. As the series pretty obviously makes a point to show that Miko will eventually end up with Kagura at some point, I can overlook this for the most part. I would like some variety, but I do love the way she draws her men.

I have to say that I'll undoubtedly collect this series and store it next to my Sensual Phrase books. It's fairly well done and I couldn't help but love the setup. It's fun, it's cute, but most of all, it's something that I want to read the next volume of.

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided through Edelweiss)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Contest Winner! Jim Bernheimer's Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery

Hi everyone! I'm announcing the winner for the free e-book copy of Jim Bernheimer's new work!

Using random.org I chose Skyjammer as the lucky winner!

I'll email the author with your information!

Friday, September 14, 2012

An interview with Pam van Hylckama!

Hi everyone!  Pam was gracious enough to give me a little mini interview about everything and to set a few things straight! She's pretty awesome like that and I have to say, if anyone wants to submit to an agent I don't think you'll find many more people more straight forward and fair than her!


First off, how has all of this affected you? I thought it was pretty scary when I heard about this. I can only imagine what it must be like for you, the person who actually went through all of this!

have no new updates at this point. Also, at this point, it could still be just a random incident. I'm waiting for more information other than a call I had when a suspect was apprehended. To be fair, I just wanted to put that out there, that maybe there isn't a disgruntled author at all, innocent until proven guilty and all of that. 

The way this is changing how I do things online. I'll be talking to Tee Morris tomorrow about online safety. I will be giving my children aliases and not posting pictures of them anymore. If anything this whole situation has taught me that a lot more people pay attention to what I say online than I had thought. I still want to be open with everyone, and with a lot of aspects of my life, but not my family or my whereabouts.


I noticed that you mentioned that you’ve received “go die” letters before. Is that sort of normal for being an agent? I can see getting the irate “I’m a genius, why can’t you mortals see perfection when it’s in front of you” e-mails, but death threats and stuff to that nature? How do you deal with authors like this other than just ignoring them?

Death threats to me are "I'm going to come and kill you". "I hope you die", or "You probably would reject Jane Austen!" are just frustration. While I don't like getting frustration in my inbox, it is easy to understand and I would still consider work from the authors in the future. 

It's not like we all haven't said something dumb online before.


On a side note, I’m going to take this opportunity to ask you some questions about the job in general. What advice can you give to authors looking to submit their work to an agent? Is there anything special that makes a book stand out and sparkle?


Don't submit before you are ready! It becomes incredibly hard not to submit after you finish that draft! Put it in a drawer for two weeks, and send it out to a critique group. Think hard about your submissions.


I’ve heard some people show an interest in becoming a book agent. Are there any special classes or training for this that you can recommend?


I honestly don't know of any classes. The exciting thing about being an agent is that it's one of the last careers where apprenticeship is still in place! Finding internships and helping out in query boxes is the first stage of becoming an agent. 

I have to say though, don't expect to make any money your first year, or to make a living for the first five years!



Thanks Pam!! And everyone, make sure to check out her websites and Twitter!


Authors Behaving Badly: The attack on Pam van Hylckama

Hi all! Today I've got a rather frightening case of "author behaving badly" for you. I don't have all the details but I'll update as I find more out. All of this is taken from the agent's twitter account. (BTW, thanks go out to author Naomi Clark for originally finding and pointing this out!!)

Less than 24 hours ago, agent Pam van Hylckama was attacked in her car. The guy came up and knocked a side mirror off, then when Pam unrolled the window to talk to him, he began slamming her head against the steering wheel. Luckily Pam's dog was there to help protect her, biting the man and causing him to flee. Pam later called the police at the urging of a family member.

Then they realized that it might not be a random attack. As stated above, Pam works as an agent and as such, both declines and accepts manuscripts and authors on a regular basis. The police believe that the guy that assaulted her (who is unnamed so far) was someone that she turned down. A look through her email showed that she'd received emails that said "The normal I hate you and I want you to die and I'll kill you". Pam had sort of just ignored those for the most part since agents get these all the time, but apparently the guy who sent these also had priors against him. The police then used the address the guy gave in his query to go to his house, where they discovered him with a bite mark on him from Pam's dog. The guy is now officially in police custody.

To put it frankly, this is pretty terrifying. Pam was just doing what agents do, yet she got attacked for it. I know that most of the irate and badly behaved authors would not stoop to physical violence, but this still is pretty scary. You never know when someone is going to take the information they discover about you, track you down, and try to physically assault you. Seriously, this is messed up.

UPDATE:

Pam has been fantastic enough to give me a little mini-interview! Click here to go there!

UPDATE 2:

I just logged on and noticed that there's been a fuss in the comments. I've deleted two of the remarks that were only made to be mean spirited and hateful. One made remarks while pretending to be someone else. Another insinuated that someone's sexuality affected their judgement. Neither contributed to the conversation at all.

But let me make this one point clear: it doesn't matter how Pam may or may not have acted towards the writer when rejecting his manuscript. Do I think she was rude? No. I don't. I think she probably gave him a form letter or something along those lines that she's given to countless other authors. She doesn't strike me as the type of person that would be rude or nasty. However even if she'd set his manuscript on fire, let her dog pee on the ashes, and made up a list of things she'd rather do than read any more of his book (such as rinsing her eyes out with lemon juice), that does NOT give him the right to attack her. That also doesn't mean that she "deserves" to be attacked. That it was fairly easy for the loon to track her down doesn't mean that she deserves the attack either. Rather than saying that she's at fault for having her personal information easily detectable, people should be lamenting that there are enough people with poor impulse control to where such things are necessary. That's blaming the victim and up to that point Pam had no reason to hide her information. She had no way of knowing that one of the people submitting to her would be that crazy.

As I can tell, the guy that attacked Pam had priors. That means that Pam was likely not the first person he lashed out against. This also means that no matter how polite Pam was, how much pains she took to spare his ego, or how kind her words might have been, this guy probably would've gone after her. It doesn't take a lot to set off someone who is mentally unstable. He might have attacked her even if his manuscript had been accepted, just because he didn't like the terms she was offering him. My point here is that the people who do this sort of thing are the type of people that would see anything as an invitation to an attack. Some of these crazies do it just because their shoe laces came untied. That anyone would ever think that for a second Pam might have done something to "deserve" this or that this crazy freak's attack was in any way justified is incredibly messed up.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. How Pam may or may not have acted is irrelevant.  There is no excuse for violence. We're human beings, not animals. The person that attacked Pam stalked her and then proceeded to smash her face against her steering wheel. The only reason that's all he did was because her dog defended her against the other person's assault. That anyone would think that a physical assault is an appropriate reaction to a manuscript getting declined is rather disturbing. Again, even if she was the rudest person on earth, which I doubt she was, that doesn't make physical violence acceptable. I'm going to assume that this person was coming on here to troll, but I wanted to make this statement because unfortunately there's always a group of people who will try to blame the victim in all of this, regardless of the circumstances.

I don't usually censor or delete posts on here, but I'd much appreciate it if people didn't make it necessary.


UPDATE 3:

I've noticed that on some of the various news sites about this, people are questioning Pam's apparent retraction of the statement that the guy had been apprehended and that it was likely to be the same guy that she rejected manuscript-wise.

I do want to make a brief statement on this, saying that until the case has been through the court system and everything has been 100% proven in a court of law, you have to be careful about how you discuss things. It's fairly normal for a lawyer to tell someone that they should refrain from making any absolute statements saying "this person did this" or "I believe it's someone I rejected at work". If this goes to court then those statements can be used in the case against the guy that attacked her. The guy's lawyer can say that she "poisoned the well" against the client and so on. There's a lot of ways that a good lawyer can twist this around, which is why she's more than likely being vague about everything now. This does not mean that the attack didn't happen or that the guy that attacked her isn't the same one whose manuscript she declined. It just means that Pam probably lawyered up and is being told that being vague right now is her friend.

Now as for the allegations that she's too calm for someone that has been attacked, people respond to things differently. We also have no way of knowing exactly how frantic Pam actually was at this time. It's very, very common for people to kind of detach themselves from everything. It's a form of denial and it's fairly common.   I've known a few people who have had some pretty awful stuff happen to them and they discuss everything with a minimum amount of fuss and screaming. It doesn't mean that the trauma didn't happen, just that they hadn't fully processed everything yet. Everyone deals with things differently and just because Pam wasn't ZOMG-ing on various social sites doesn't mean that the attack didn't happen.


Further reading:
*Pam's Twitter account

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reviewers Behaving Badly

Hi all!

Normally when someone is behaving badly and I talk about 'em, it's almost always an author. In this instance I'm holding up a reviewer as an example of something that is bad behavior. I'm not going to name this reviewer, but I will go into a little detail. If you really want to track them down, it probably won't be that hard.

Recently on Amazon someone posted a five sentence review for a Ken Follett book. That in itself isn't an automatic bad thing. Short reviews do not always mean bad reviews. No, what made this bad was that the review wasn't about the book at all. It was yet another one of those reviews that complained about ebook pricing.

It's become fairly common knowledge at this point, but in case there are still people that are unaware of how ebook pricing is done, the merchant has no control over the price. Zip. Zilch. Ebook prices are all completely set by the publisher and if the merchant tries to lower that by even a penny, the publisher goes up in arms to stop the merchant from doing so. Amazon tried to offer lower prices, but were stomped on by the publishers. The publishers ultimately gave Amazon the ultimatum that if they didn't sell them by the publisher prices, they (the publishers) would yank their books off of Amazon entirely. It was pretty much unsaid that if they ran, the other publishers would follow suit. It was pretty obviously blackmail, plain and simple. It doesn't matter if Amazon was the one getting less money by the previous sale points and the publishers still got their profits. The publishers didn't want anyone selling an e-book for anything less than what they set. Years later of course, we'd start seeing more obvious signs of publisher price fixing between the major three publishers.

So long story short, publishers are the people you need to complain to. Amazon cannot control the prices any more than they can control the rain outside their factories. If they do try to change something, they run the risk of losing books for the kindle, which would effectively mean the death of the kindle and would definitely put the company as a whole at a loss.

Don't post negative reviews for books complaining about the book prices. It doesn't do anything. People have tried this before and all the publishers have done is laugh... and then do nothing. It's only when people put their money where there mouth is and stopped buying the books as well as sending out petitions that the publishers eventually started lowering their prices somewhat, although it's been going back up since then. All that publishing negative "this price point sucks" reviews do is irritate your fellow readers. You want to make a difference? Email the publisher. Stop buying the books and go through the library instead. Do anything other than post fake one star reviews complaining about the price.