Review: Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt

Heirs of GraceHeirs of Grace by Tim Pratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recent art school graduate Bekah thought she’d hit the jackpot: an unknown relative died, and she inherited a small fortune and a huge house in the mountains of North Carolina.

Trey Howard, the lawyer who handled the estate, is a handsome man in his twenties and they hit it off right away-and soon become more than friends. Bekah expected a pleasant year to get her head together and have a romantic fling. Problem is, the house is full of junk…and siblings she didn’t know she had are willing to kill her for it.

More important, the junk in her new house is magical, she’s surrounded by monsters, and her life seems to be in mortal peril every time she ventures into a new room. As Bekah discovers more about her mysterious benefactor and the magical world he inhabited, she’s realizes that as tough and resourceful as she is, she might just be in over her head…

Heirs of Grace is a tale of family and magic, action and wonder, blending the strong heroine, cheeky humor, and dark fantasy that have become the hallmarks of Tim Pratt’s writing.

Sound the alarms, I’ve found a new author to obsess over! Tim Pratt did such an amazing job with this book, I really can’t emphasize that enough.

Such a good book! It combines all of the elements of a book I’d love to read into a perfectly executed mélange of I-want-to-read-this: The South, big old magical inherited houses, cool objects of power, female protagonists that are kick ass, etc.

Tim Pratt writes like Ilona Andrews and Diana Wynne Jones had a beautiful, witty, male, also-writerly baby. Bekah, the protagonist, is so refreshing. It’s strange to say that I loved a female character written by a man so much more than any female characters I’ve read written by anyone else, recently, but I really did. Granted, men have been writing good female characters for the entirety of human history. It’s just rare, like most excellent things.

Also, the setting of the story being in and around Boone, North Carolina was just funny, because one of my best friends in Denver lived there and talks about it every now and again, so I feel like I know it.

Also, I had a fun exchange after the laugh I got on the second page:


The old woman gestured vaguely at me. She was wearing white gloves, which fit her general level of dress, but seemed better suited to high tea or church than general sitting around. She clarified: “Are you [so]me kind of Mexican?” That was a new one. Sometimes on forms I check “Other” and sometimes I check “Pacific Islander” and often other people mark me down as “Black” (which my adoptive parents are, and almost certainly some of my biological ancestors, too), but I’d never been self- or other-identified as “some kind of Mexican.” Welcome to the South, I guess. I hadn’t spent much time in this part of the country, and the first person I spoke to in my temporary new home wasn’t making me look forward to future human interactions. “Sure,” I said. “Some kind of Mexican.
Buenos días and vete a la chingada.”  

I laughed so hard I had to call my coworker Val over to laugh with me.
Me: “Wouldn’t it be ‘va te a la chingada?'”
Val: “I don’t know, I don’t really write in Spanish.”
Me: “Well how would you tell someone to go fuck themselves?”
Val (with a completely straight face): “Go fuck yourself. You gotta say it so they understand.”

Val is great. Anyway, you should read this book. It probably won’t change your life but you will probably like it and laugh at least once. I almost never laugh at books. I think Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher and JK Rowling are the only other writers who have ever made me laugh. Pratt has a series about a woman named Marla Mason which I intend to start reading immediately. Well, immediately after the 37 other books I have waiting in the wings. We will see which priority wins out.

Review: Tell The Wind And Fire

Tell the Wind and FireTell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.

Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Celebrated author Sarah Rees Brennan tells a magical tale of romance and revolution, love and loss.

Full disclosure, I have never read A Tale of Two Cities. I KNOW, I should, and I’ve lost some Brit Lit cred in your eyes. This book is a fantasy retelling of the Dickens novel, set in an alternate future where Dark and Light magic have torn society apart, to the point that the two cities are vastly different parts of New York.

The protagonist, Lucie, differs from the Dickensian Lucie Manette in that she is the central figure and the narrator. She also has a lot of dark secrets. For being 17 in the book, Lucie is incredibly mature, and very socially adept. She is famous on both the Light and Dark sides for being “The Golden Thread in the Dark,” a symbol of hope and devotion, and also of resistance.

The romance between Lucie and Ethan Stryker, the son of one of the most important men in the city, is a constant source of conflict and drives most of the plot. Despite this, the emotions she carries didn’t become cloying, in my opinion, although it did seem a bit unrealistic that a 17 year old could be so steady and self aware.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has read A Tale of Two Cities, and those who have not but would be interested in a female protagonist with an unwavering focus.

Advance Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows (Untitled, #1)Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My short, to-the-point review is that Mask of Shadows was good, but it was trying too hard. Not in reference to the plot and writing, not at all! Linsey Miller cooked up an interesting world, an entertaining plot, and one of the most memorable, ultra immersive romances I’ve read in quite a long time. Unfortunately, what could be one of the most interesting aspects of this book, the gender fluidity of Sal, the, protagonist, is thrown into the mix in a strange way.

Sal’s nonbinary gender is almost nonchalant for a character who grew up in the streets. There’s a strange unreality to a character growing up with such an impoverished, desperate background not having experienced any discrimination for not conforming to a gender expectation, which would lead a reader to ask if the society in which the character lives has a general acceptance for nonconformists. This question isn’t addressed in Mask of Shadows; at least, not in a clear way. In addition to being sort of unscathed by society in regard to gender, Sal is remarkably well-spoken, to the point that Elise, the love interest, remarks upon it. Sal quickly puts Elise in her place, by calling out her assumption that Sal couldn’t be articulate, rather than addressing the unlikeliness of a street kid attaining an education while trying to stay alive and conduct a life of petty crime. I have to take a step back and acknowledge that yes, this is a fantasy world, therefore the society, from bottom to top, can operate any way the author dictates. The issue then is that it’s not clearly dictated. Miller is a good writer, and subtle, but the choices Miller made in choosing not to replicate the way human societies in reality work makes it difficult to relate to as a Eutopian goal. The reader is shown a great deal, but not told a whole lot, and in this one particular aspect it hinders the book. In every other sense, Miller’s style and writing are super.

The romance between Sal and Elise was really enjoyable to read. It’s difficult to really nail down the roiling emotions of a crush but Miller does it perfectly. The romance is also not a terribly huge part of the plot, not the entire focus of the protagonist’s arc. It’s just a nice, delightful little detour in the the otherwise action packed plot.

Very similar to Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass, Sal and a number of other hopefuls are competing to be the monarch’s assassin.The competition takes place at a royal estate and there is murder, intrigue, and mayhem. Sal is kind of disappointingly good at everything, having never done much of what she learns before. The other competitors are unfortunately not very likeable nor are they easy to get attached to. Miller does make it feasible that Sal might lose and not become one of The Left Hand, which was believable enough to me to make me want to find out how the plot ends.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the competition plot, books that go light on the fantastical aspect while still incorporating elements of the genre, and strong, non-entirely-masculine characters. Disclosure: I received an ARC of Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller from the publisher via NetGalley.

Review: Star Witch by Helen Harper

Star Witch (The Lazy Girl's Guide To Magic #2)Star Witch by Helen Harper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Helen Harper is a gem and a fantastic writer. That being said I’m not a huge fan of Ivy Wilde, which makes zero sense given how much we have in common, i.e. we are both quite lazy.

I think that three inconsistencies make her difficult to like. First, the way other characters react to her is all over the place, and this makes it difficult to determine much about what she is like, as if she were a real human. I appreciate that Harper didn’t spend paragraphs describing Ivy, but I am the sort of reader that needs a lot of context to form a solid picture of a character.

The second inconsistency is Ivy herself. Harper is funny, so it follows that Ivy might be funny. However, in this book it’s sometimes hard to tell if Ivy is making a joke or is just having a stupid moment. Is she clever? Is she of average intelligence? I couldn’t tell you.

The final inconsistency is that Ivy is supposed to be a talented witch, but in this book she doesn’t do anything particularly clever. In fact, at one point she nearly dies of exhaustion from doing spells. Is magic supposed to be like a muscle? Didn’t she just spend the entirety of the previous book working out/using magic? I’m confused.

Still going to read Spirit Witch. But confused.

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Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I saw The Dark Days Club title I was intrigued. That it was by Alison Goodman, who wrote Eon, probably the best damn YA fantasy book I’ve read in the past five years, I was over the moon excited.

Unfortunately I ended up being disappointed somewhat. First of all the setting, Regency London, is so t i r e d. Enjoyable still? Yes, but I have read so many books set in this time period and social sphere that even Goodman’s carefully researched 1812 fell flat. Not to mention she emulated the writing style of so many contemporary authors writing in this time period that I often forgot it was freaking Alison Goodman writing these characters, this plot. It read a lot like something Libba Bray wrote.

Don’t mistake me, the book is good. The plot is a bit thin and the characters a bit flat. Even the Reclaimer/Deceiver premise and the mention of alchemy didn’t draw me in. But I look forward to reading the sequel. If you start this book and hate it, I suggest the Gardella vampire series. Similar setting and plot, but much more complex and riveting.

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Review and Rant: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

Daughter of the Blood (The Black Jewels, #1)Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I visited the main branch of the Denver Public Library this week, so naturally I left with armfuls of books. Bless you, library card. One of the books I checked out was Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop, the author of The Others series, which I adore. Daughter of the Blood is a markedly different type of novel, more high fantasy, but I quickly noted one very similar characteristic of Bishop’s writing.

*Spoiler alert* Both central protagonists in the series are young girls who have suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of depraved men and this hampers them from developing their powers and forming friendships, familial bonds, as well as romantic and sexual relationships with the intended love interest of their respective series, all of which are much older than their object of romantic and sexual desire, and take the role of guardian, mentor, and at times, paternal figure.

It bears mentioning that I stayed up all night long to read this book. It is good, but I do find the choices made in regard to character development a bit disturbing, mostly because I recently encountered it while reading nearly the entire published works of author Connie Suttle, whose female protagonists are, without exception, victims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Notice I didn’t say survivors. The abuse is continual throughout the entirety of their story arcs.

When I examine my reaction to the use of abuse as a plot device and character development, most of the aversion comes from the fact that it is extremely common in Western Literature. Anne Bishop herself makes reference to the archetype of Cassandra, Princess of Troy, who in the myth was punished by Apollo, the Greek god of light and music, for refusing him as a suitor. Cassandra was cursed with prophesy that no one would heed, and was later captured by the Greeks during the Trojan war and sold as a slave. In Bishop’s The Others series, the cassandra sangue is a female seer who prophesies through self-mutilation, which will ultimately kill them. In addition *spoiler alert* the majority are enslaved and used for sexual pleasure in addition to having their visions sold for profit.

Daughter of the Blood starts in a world that is tenuously clinging to a magical and political matriarchy that is slowly being dismantled by a tyrannical female ruler bent on complete domination of her world, at the cost of killing every woman with enough power to challenge her. She’s enslaved the most powerful living men of the Blood (a magical nobility) and as a result the entirety of their magical lineage is declining. The book centers around a young girl, Jaenelle, who is a, or the, Queen of the Blood. She is only seven years old at the start of the series, but already possesses the power of the Black Jewels, which are a combination of indicators of power and also like magical power banks.

The entire plot line of Daughter of the Blood revolves around three powerful men who are determined to shape her future to become the Queen the realm needs. Their names are Saetan, Daemon, and Lucivar. I am not kidding. Only Saetan and Daemon have much of a part to play in this first installment, but the enslavement of Daemon and Lucivar is a major plot device, in that both are fitted with “Rings of Obedience,” magical metal cock rings controlled by the women (witches) who command them as sex slaves. The men take great pleasure in killing the witches, and do so many times throughout the story, and the sense I perceived was that the reader was expected to condone their homicide as justifiable because of the cruelty they experienced in being used as sex slaves. Many, many times throughout the book the term “shave” or “shaved” is used to refer to genital mutilation. It is used as a form of entertainment by the more despotic members of the Blood. This practice is reacted to with much more horror than that of sexual assault, with a subtle implication that the value of the person lay fully in their sexual commodity. Daemon is repeatedly noted to be impotent, and experiences no small amount of self-hatred because of it, even going so far as to compare his lack of sexual arousal to being shaved, though it is made clear that his flaccidity is due to his contempt and hatred for the women who use him.

Throughout the book, the men often express a desire to serve a worthy Queen, but every single adult witch of the Blood introduced is either cruel (those who use them), or a victim of sexual or physical abuse. Tersa, the first character introduced, has slid into madness because of a violent rape. Bishop uses the euphemism “spearing” to describe the act of rape, and witches of the Blood may be “broken” and lose their powers as a result of rape. This is problematic given the removal of agency of the women, many of whom possess powerful magic, but only until the loss of their virginity. Without exception, none of the rape survivors are able to mentally or magically recover from their assault. Whether this was intended to underscore how severely the culture of this world has backslid in terms of gender equality, or Bishop deliberately constructed the nature of the female power this way is unclear in this book. Perhaps this will be further developed in the series. I doubt this however, given that one of the major point of view characters, Surreal (yes, that is her name), a high-end prostitute, is repeatedly told her profession is shameful and immoral, and despite being powerful and well educated, she is looked down on by her society, including by men who patronize her services.

Another troubling element is that Jaenelle is a child throughout the entire book, making her first contact with the three men at age seven and then for the majority of the story at age 12. Daemon, as previously mentioned, feels no arousal with any of the women in the books, except for this child. He repeated chastises himself for his sexual attraction to a child, but continues to think of her sexually and romantically throughout the book. He is territorial and jealous of the other men who pay her any attention, despite the fact that Jaenelle is the bastard child of a man who refuses to claim her, to the point where Jaenelle is punished for revealing her paternity to her mother, grandmother, and uncle. In addition, the unprecedented acquisition of enormous power at an unheard of young age sends the major players in her world scurrying to form some sort of authority or control over her. Even the most benevolent characters, in terms of Jaenelle’s mental and physical well-being, Saetan and Daemon, both step into roles of mentor-ship, the former more paternalistic than the latter, given his romantic and sexual desires. Both set rules and chastise her for her behavior, while acknowledging how beyond their knowledge and control she is growing, refuse to give her the information she might use to make determinations for herself, such as explaining innuendo or the nature of romantic and sexual relationships, and about the dangerous consequences of misusing her enormous powers. This contrast is troubling because the male characters often note that they find her oddly precocious, and that her stare seems “ancient,” yet they make many attempts to retain her perceived “innocence.”

The penultimate plot point is that the hospital where Jaenelle has spent much of her childhood is discovered to be a front for many of the male antagonists to gather female children, under the guise of treating them for emotional disturbance, and then sexually assaulting and killing them. Jaenelle is drugged and brutally raped, and it is inferred that this particular assault, the loss of her “virginity,” though her innocence was probably lost years earlier, will cause her to slide in to madness if her body doesn’t succumb to the mortal wounds she has suffered.

Rape as a plot device is unfortunately common point of character development in fantasy. The fear of rape equally so. I don’t say this to downplay the horror of such an act, but to point out how misogynist it is that the ultimate violation is that of being treated as a sexual object. Women can be equally traumatized by other violence, but the continual removal of agency, and the fact that in this case and many others the female characters are never able to overcome the circumstances that led to this trauma paint the characters as intrinsically weak.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did. I stayed up all night reading it. I devoured all of Bishop’s The Others series, and I have read numerous other books that employ the same tired tropes, and enjoyed them. But I do find it concerning that modern writers are still writing for medieval readers, no matter how well they do it.

Thanks for reading!

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Truly wonderfully fantastic.

I like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Quite a lot. But I ADORE this book.

I can’t gush enough. I was recommended this book by a friend and didn’t take the recommendation seriously enough.

The raw creativity of this world, the complexity of the plot, and the perfection of the characters.

Just, read it. There are cats.

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ARC Review & Blog Tour for The Guardians by T. M. Franklin + Interview!


The Guardians (More, #2)The Guardians
by T.M. Franklin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Published November 7th 2013 by TWCS Publishing 

Ava’s life is . . . complicated.

After all, it’s not every day a girl learns she’s not entirely human, or unlocks hidden powers strong enough to make even the First Race sit up and take notice. After surviving an attempted kidnapping and standing up to the Race’s Ruling Council, Ava Michaels returns to college and what she hopes is a normal life. But Ava quickly realizes that for her, normal may not even exist anymore.

In fact, the Council wants her under their control, and they’re not the only ones. The mysterious Rogues have a plan of their own, and it turns out Ava’s a big part of it, whether she wants to be or not.

On top of that, her new relationship is tested in ways she never expected. Her boyfriend, Caleb Foster, has disappeared—accused of betraying the Race—and Ava herself stands implicated in a crime she didn’t commit.

Clearing their names will mean uncovering a web of deceit and intrigue with Ava woven right in the center. To unravel the strands, she joins forces with some unlikely allies; a Protector who once haunted her nightmares, a young girl with secrets as unexpected as Ava’s, and a group of rebel Guardians who have their own fight against the Council.

Together they stand in a battle to find the truth, bring Caleb home, and secure Ava’s freedom—not to mention save her life.

More Information | Goodreads | The Guardians Book Trailer

Review:

After racing through More, I was really excited to start The Guardians. Ava is a likeable character, and I really enjoyed how her relationship with Caleb developed in the first book; no insta-love, a not-super obvious attraction (aside from Ava’s roommate being a little pushy), and totally self-aware semi-creepy stalking.

One of my FAVORITE things about this book, and the series in particular, is the idea that this superhuman race are separate but entwined with humanity throughout history. The powers that the First Race have reminded me a bit of the movie “Push” actually, if only in the way they are named. They’re powerful, but Franklin keeps the narrative on course, without exploding it into a Bruckheimer-esque overdone too-big situation.

In The Guardians readers find out more about Ava, her background i.e. being adopted, and why/how, and get to see more of Caleb, but more importantly, TIERNAN.

Why am I so partial to him? He’s kind of unlikeable in the first book. In fact, he’s the BAD GUY for the greater part of it. I think I have a soft spot for meanies who get softened down by the protagonist. Like cats, once you win them over.

Will he be a love interest? Won’t he? (see my interview with T.M. Franklin below, where I ask her this question.)

To be honest, I won’t be too sad if he isn’t, the love triangle is kinda tired in YA, in my opinion. Tired, but somehow still engrossing enough that I yearn for it?

All in all, this book is a very good follow-up to the first in an excellent series. A fast-paced, quick read, with a sort of fantasy-meets-science-fiction premise that is accessible to fans of both genres. It’s blended enough that science nerds won’t be tripped up by technobabble, and fantasy fans get kick-ass characters with fantastical powers.

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Author Bio:
T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. After writing and unsuccessfully querying a novel that she now admits, “is not that great,” she decided to follow the advice of one of the agents who turned her down—write some more and get better at it. Her first published novel, More, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mike, is mom to two boys, Justin and Ryan, and has an enormous black dog named Rocky who’s always lying nearby while she’s writing. Whether he’s soothed by the clicking of the computer keys or just waiting for someone to rub his belly is up for debate.
In addition to More and The Guardians, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short story, Window, as well as another short story, “A Piece of Cake,” which appears in the Romantic Interludes anthology.

Connect with T.M. Franklin: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Interview:
MORE  was a NaNoWriMo novel, right? I love to see NaNo novels in print. What kept you in Ava’s world during those 30 days?
NaNo was so good for me. I really needed the daily accountability to keep myself writing. NaNo really emphasizes that you should just keep writing – and not go back and try to edit at all. That was really hard for me to do. In the end, though, it helped a lot. I was able to get about 2/3 of the book done during the month of November. They key, for me, was my outline. It allowed me to keep writing and avoid those times when you just don’t feel inspired. Since I knew where I was going, I just focused on getting the words down and going in the right direction. I went back later to clean it up and make it better.
Do you have any tips for WriMos getting bored with their stories (coughmecough) or having trouble with discipline and writing every day?
Ugh. I’m one of you this year! It’s really difficult to focus on writing when I’m so deep in promoting my new release. I don’t have any great tips other than the old Nike adage – just do it. Even if you put your novel aside and are writing something else. Just write something.
 
I creeped on your NaNo profile a little bit, and I noticed your working title for book 3 of the MORE trilogy is Twelve. Will readers get to meet all of the Twelve?
Yes, to a certain extent. Some you’ll get to know more than others.
You’ve mentioned before that you get to know some of your characters as you write them. I love Tiernan, his character, his internal conflict between being a loyal Protector and his loyalty to his friends. How was getting to know Tiernan for you? Did anything surprise you? (I laughed out loud when Ava said that under his Veil he looks like Michael Cera/Jesse Eisenberg, I did NOT see that coming, but I loved “Zombieland”)
I’m so glad you enjoyed him, because I loved expanding on Tiernan’s character in The Guardians. That was probably the most fun I had writing the story, along with developing the relationship between him and Ava. I always knew he’d play a bigger role in the second book, and that there was more to him than initially met the eye in MORE, so I don’t know if I’d say anything about him was surprising to me. I would say that I smiled a lot while writing his scenes, however. I like him a lot.
Speaking of Tiernan, in the first part of MORE, Ava mentions to her roommate Lucy that she finds Tiernan attractive, even though she was terrified of him at the time. You’ve decided to avoid the love triangle route (thank you), but is the book completely closed between them, or is it possible the attraction will resurface later on?
Ava knows who she’s meant to be with. As for Tiernan, well, he’s a bit broken from a past relationship, so we’ll just have to wait and see how he deals with that and what his romantic future looks like.
You wrote Ava’s heartache with Caleb so well! I haven’t felt a YA rocky relationship so deeply since (don’t laugh) Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon. Ava’s situation in The Guardians is so much less…pathetic because she empowers herself to find him. Did you write the situation with that in mind?
One of the things I like about Ava is the way she deals with all the craziness that’s thrown at her. Instead of whining or falling apart or relying on others, she keeps pushing forward. She may not always make the right decisions, but she really tries to do what she thinks is right. An important aspect of the whole trilogy is that it’s not all about Caleb rescuing Ava – sometimes (to quote Pretty Woman) she rescues him right back. 
I’m a mythology nerd, and I love the idea that mythological figures like the Titans of Greek mythology and the biblical Nephilim were actually members of the First Race. Can you talk a little bit about your inspiration for that? Will readers get to see any historical or mythological connections in the final book of the trilogy?
I had all of this backstory in mind about the Race when I was writing the first book – all of these characters in myth and history that either were Race or Rogues or Half-Breeds. For example, maybe Attilla the Hun was a Rogue who was trying to seize power for himself, but was taken down by the Council. Or that Jonas Salk’s assistant was Race and he was the one who actually pushed him in the right direction to develop the polio vaccine. Maybe Medusa was a Half-Breed whose power was uncontrollable, so she had to be stopped – that kind of thing. A lot of it has fallen to the wayside because it just didn’t seem to fit anywhere. There’s a possibility some of it may come up in the final book, though – perhaps the true history of Merlin and King Arthur. 
What inspired the characteristics and abilities of the First Race, and how did you decide which abilities (such as tele- and pyrokinesis) to give them?
I sat down and thought of all of the cool powers I could think of (and then Googled some more!) Then I sat down and connected powers to characters. Protectors, like Tiernan, Katherine, and Caleb needed to have gifts that would aid them in their jobs, of course, so tracking and shifting made sense for them. Same for the Council, which I talked about more in The Guardians.

The powers for the Twelve were even more of a challenge. I don’t want to say too much about that yet, but it should be fun to see some of those revealed.

Will readers see more variety of abilities in the next book, such as, I don’t know, flight, or underwater breathing?
Maybe not those particular gifts, but yes, you’ll see a lot more.
Could the First Race be responsible for mythological creatures like angels and mermaids?
Yes, that was kind of my thought process behind the Race in the first place – that maybe these mythological creatures weren’t really what you think. I hinted at that a little in MORE in describing some of the Race who couldn’t leave New Elysia because they were just too beautiful. People could easily mistake them for angels. Maybe mermaids didn’t really have fish tails but could swim really fast and breathe underwater – and the storytellers added the fish tails along the way.
Ok, last question: if you could cast a TV series for the trilogy, who would you cast, and would you go cable or primetime network, say, the CW vs. HBO?
Oh wow – this is a hard question! I mean, this is so far beyond what I could hope for, but if we’re dreaming, let’s dream big, right? Lol!
I think the most important thing to me would be that whoever made it had the budget for the special effects – in particular, the Veil would be a concern for me – the rest shouldn’t be too difficult. So whoever could do that I’d be happy with.
Odette Annable
Sarah Roemer

As for a cast, I think I’d prefer an unknown for Ava – someone who could make the character her own. But Sarah Roemer has a good look for her. Or one of my readers suggested Odette Annable, who is beautiful and would also be a good choice.

For Caleb, I’m kind of torn between Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty, Covert Affairs) and model Mark Ricketson, who was suggested by another reader. (Although who knows if he can act? LoL!)

Christopher Gorham
Mark Ricketson

 I’d love Charlize Theron for Madeleine and Billy Burke for Gideon. A bald and scarred Colin Egglesfield for Tiernan, Asli Tandogan for Katherine, and there’s a Japanese actress named Maki Horikita who has the right look for Emma.

But a lot of that’s based on looks alone – to be honest, I’d be happy with a cast of new actors to try and bring the story to life. Actually, I’d be thrilled if anybody anywhere ever wanted to actually see it as a TV show! Lol!

Thanks for reading!

And thank you to The Writer’s Coffee Shop for the ARCs, and to T.M. Franklin for being generally awesome!

Review: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published 2011 by Viking Penguin
ISBN 0670022411

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

This book had a LOT of problems. Really kind of troubling problems. I liked it anyway. Sit down, I’ll tell you why.

I’ll start with what I loved with this book: the settings were excellent. I love coming to know a place through a book. I’ve never been to Oxford but I think I caught a sliver of it through the narrative. I loved the academic parts of it, and I loved that I learned things about history from it. I always enjoy picking up tidbits of practical knowledge from fiction. The premise of the book was interesting. And here is where we run into my issues.

This book is disturbingly like Twilight. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Twilight, despite my better judgment and its many flaws, but this book is supposed to be a book about a witch and her personal struggle against fate, or the underground political struggles between the supernatural races. This would have worked out in a really interesting way if not for one thing: homegirl falls in love with a vampire.

There is something about [male] vampires in urban fantasy acquiring the power to utterly ruin any story the minute the heroine falls for them. It doesn’t happen every time, see Sunshine or Rachel Morgan, but it seems to tap into this dark well of perverse desire to be absorbed entirely into someone else’s life in certain authors of certain books. The relationship turns into this black hole that seems to swallow everything else. Granted, relationships often do, but you can’t realistically let your life be subsumed into that of a really old dead guy when you are just beginning your own journey of self discovery without your readers thinking you’ve lost your damn mind. Which is pretty much what happens here.

Luckily this guy is ptherwise pretty interesting and you get to go to France and find out a buncha stuff. But the original plotlines suffer for this.

Don’t even get me STARTED ranting about the whole alpha male/pack business. We get it, vampires are animalistic. Let’s just go ahead and disregard all feminist social progress. Because he just can’t help himself. EYE ROLL

I really enjoy reading books about witches. Unfortunately, this book was almost entirely hijacked by vampires from the beginning. I really would have liked to learn more about Diana’s parents and her Bishop lineage. I would DEFINITELY liked to learn more about daemons. Not the secrety things, just more about what they are like and what differentiates them from…well, mentally gifted and disturbed humans. Because aside from being savants, I can’t pinpoint a single thing.

All in all, a good/ruthless editor with a scalpel and an aversion to vampire hijacking would have done this book a world of good. It was about a hundred, maybe two hundred pages longer than I expected it to be (ebook), and about the same length stretched out/overwritten. Despite all of my issues and opinions to the contrary, I did really enjoy this book and can’t wait to read the next one.

I know. I’m hopeless.

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Review: The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1) by Amanda Stevens

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)The Restorer
by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published April 19th 2011 by Mira
ISBN13 9780778329817

  

My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

I really wanted to like this book more. It has all of the ingredients to bake up into a beautiful cupcake of favorite book, for me anyway. Ghosts, Charleston, NC, hot guys, murder. The reason the first half of the book took me forever to get through (or at least it felt like an eternity) was due to the style of the writing.

This is SO unlike me to say, but the narration style was overdone. It was too…stylized, too over-written. No one thinks in such a flowery, erudite way. But people sure do write that way. I’m sure I’ve got pages and pages of abandoned writing that read exactly the way the beginning of The Restorer does.

It’s too bad, really, because what was shooting to be beautifully written, almost literature, wayyyy overshot, but had atmosphere and intrigue. Luckily it eventually did get better. That or I just got used to it.

Amelia Gray isn’t a very interesting or well fleshed out character (I can tell you exactly one thing about her personality: that she’s reserved) but her circumstances make up for it. Lots of stuff happens to her. Interesting stuff. And all of the information about graveyards is fascinating!

Definitely a good summer read, with lots of ghosts and southern gothic settings. My cup of tea, mostly.

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