Wednesday, January 27, 2010

REVIEW: Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder

Took me awhile to finish this, but in the end Lucy A. Snyder's first book in a new urban fantasy series wasn't too bad. Dealing with a young sorceress trying to rescue her boyfriend from Hell, I think this might be the only story I've ever read where the main character lost half an arm and an eye in like the second chapter and kept them lost for most of the entire book. And even then what she gets back is hardly the same. The world is one that runs parallel to our own, where people referred to as "Talents" are able to weild various sorts of magic and the beasts of myth and lore are a lot less theoretical than we thought. Jessie, the story's heroine, is a Babbler, using various odds and ends to draw on their ambient spiritual power and perform various spells. With her is her familiar, a ferret named Pal, who possesses a wealth of magical intel and is actually a giant spider whose spirit inhabits the ferret's body as part of his criminal sentence. Blocked at every turn by a corrupt political leader only too happy to paint Jessie and anyone who could help her as the villians.

Honestly, while the story was awesome, there were some funny antics, and I really loved Pal, I found that there was just something off about the way the story flowed. Sometimes it was quick, other times she'd be doing things and I'd just be like "Um, don't you have something you have to be doing right now?" There was no character development that I could see and at times Jessie would say or do things that were just plain stupid. And then it's over and I was...surprised. I expected there to be something more to the story but aside from incurring trouble while rescuing the boyfriend this book really is about rescuing a man from Hell. Once he's rescued, the story is over. The End.

Don't get me wrong - it's a good book and well written - it's just that there's something off about the plot and its flow that irked me. I'm hoping the next book, Shotgun Sorceress due out in October, is better.

Oh - and lookey over to the right and check out the widget for Kelley Armstrong's The Summoning available for reading free online right here. And it comes with a contest you can learn all about with a click here. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

INTERVIEW: Eileen Wilks

So, this week's interview is with the very talented Eileen Wilks, author of the World of the Lupi series as well as several Silhouette Desire installments. The World of the Lupi series originally began as the short story Only Human in the 2003 anthology Lover Beware. The following year the story of Rule and Lily was given a major face-lift and republished as a full length novel, Tempting Danger. Since then the series has grown to include four more books published with a fifth, Blood Magic, due out just week and s couple more short stories including Originally Human in Cravings with Laurell K. Hamilton, Inhuman in On the Prowl with Patricia Briggs and, just this year, Human Nature in Inked with Karen Chance. Now, without further adieu, the interview (Hey! That rhymed!)

(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Eileen Wilks break into the publishing world?

Slowly! I wrote 4 complete novels plus a couple false starts before I figured out the whole "write to the market" thing and sold. That book was a short contemporary romance I specifically targeted for Desire.

(2) In addition to a bunch of Silhouette romances, you’ve got the World of the Lupi series which seems to have a lot of mythology and tradition tied to it. How ex actly did inspiration for that series come about?
Well, my first two books--the ones that didn't sell--were a mix of sf and romance. I've always thought in terms of mixing romance with sf/fantasy, and I'd been thinking about various elements of my lupi world for some time before I had a chance to incorporate them into a story. That story was a novella, but it wanted to be a book. Or a series. I had a terrible time keeping it within the page count for a novella. After I turned it in, I asked my editor if I could make it into a book. She said yes--and backed it up with a contract. (I love my editor.)

(3) With the exception of the fourth book, Night Season, all of the novels have focused on the characters Lily and Rule. What sort of creator insights can you offer on these characters? How exactly have they developed for you? Are they turning out like you thought they would?
In many ways I write in order to further discover the characters, so I can't say they've turned out like I expected. I didn't expect. I yearned to find out. That said, Lily showed up pretty fully formed right from the start. She's grown and changed over the course of the series, of course, but she was vivid for me from page one.

(4) There are also short stories dealing with fringe characters Kai and Nathan in the anthology On The Prowl, Molly and Michael in Cravings. Have you currently plans for any other short stories? Do you find it more difficult to write short stories compared to novels?
I love to write novellas. They're a change of pace for me. The challenges are different from those involved in writing a long book, and that helps me stay fresh. I've got a couple idea nudging at me for a novella, and hope to be able to pull one of them together after I finish the current w.i.p. (That's writer-speak for work-in-progress.)

(5) On Feb. 1 the next Lupi book, BLOOD MAGIC, is due out. What can you tell us about it?
I hope you don't mind if I just quote the blurb I've got up on my site. I worked hard on it, and like to use it as much as possible. Lily Yu’s world changed when she met Rule Turner, known to the human world as “that werewolf prince.” It’s been eight months since everyone else’s world changed, too—when the Turning hit. That shifting of the realms has magic seeping back into the world in quantities unseen since the hot news story concerned a pair of human babes raised by wolves who went on to found a new city: Rome.

Lily is a homicide cop turned FBI agent. She works for a special Unit within the MCD—that’s the Bureau’s Magical Crimes Division. Lily became a cop to stop the monsters , though it was human monsters she had in mind at the time. These days, the perps she tracks may be a lot more—or a lot less--than human.

In Blood Magic, Lily and Rule are faced with their most dangerous opponent yet, one the law can’t touch. One who can’t be killed. One whose like hasn’t been seen in our world since long before those wolves fostered Romulus and Remus.

Oh, one more thing about Blood Magic: Grandmother is back.

Those of you who haven’t read the previous books in my World of the Lupi series may be scratching your head about now. Someone’s grandmother shows up and you’re suppose
d to get all tingly? You might be more interested in some of the other characters in Blood Magic, like the assassin. Or the dragon. Or the ancient, undying enemy willing to wait for centuries to achieve what really matters.


(6) Afterwards, there’s been mention of another book, BLOOD CHALLENGE, to follow. Obviously, it’s too early for you to talk about it, but, on a related matter, do you already know the direction this series is taking or is it open-ended and you’re playing it by ear? How many more Lupi books do you plan for/are in the works?
I don't have a set number of books planned, but I do have an ending in mind. I figure eventually the time will come that I want to wrap things up, though I'm not there yet. Right now I'm contracted for 3 more Lily & Rule books. The first of them in BLOOD CHALLENGE, which I'm working on now. I have an arc in mind for those three books--beyond that, I don't know.

(7) In a perfect world, if your publisher suddenly gave you carte blanche and told you to go crazy, what would you like to do with the series? (i.e. like giving a particular character a novel of their own)
Hmm. I might write a book about a character I've mentioned in a couple books--the Etorri Rhej. I'm fascinated by her. I don't think anyone else is--at least, I haven't heard from readers dying to hear more, and that isn't surprising, because she's barely mentioned. But I know a lot more about her than has appeared in any of the books.

(8) In what genre would you classify the Lupi books? They seem to have a little bit of everything.
I try not to classify them. They get shelved in romance, but the world-building is more urban fantasy. But they're also police procedurals--sometimes--or more straight fantasy (Night Season) or even thrillers. This cross-genre-fication may make it harder for new readers to find the books, but I can't seem to help myself.

(9) Aside from the Lupi and the Silhouette romances, have you plans for any other series in the same or similar genre?
No definate plans. I'd love to write more about Kai & Nathan one of these days. I also have a very different "magic is real" kind of world percolating in the back of my brain. Don't know if it will turn into a book or series.

(10) Finally, some random questions about you:
a. What are your hobbies aside from writing?

I love to read, obviously; I also love to garden and to quilt. I exercise because I have to--my brain doesn't work well when I neglect my body. I also like to paint things--walls, furniture, canvasses--though I haven't done that much lately. Not enough time. I'm thinking of trying origami.
b. Could you please describe your dream day?

My dream day varies, depending largely on where I am in a book and what's going on otherwise. Today I'd describe it as a day when I wrote 10 brilliant yet almost effortless pages, had supper out with friends, then went home and started reading a new book by one of my favorite authors. Charlaine Harris, maybe, or Kelley Armstrong. Though I'd love to visit Butcher's Harry Dresden again soon, too.
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes?
Three wishes? Oh, my. I guess I'd wish that Borders, B&N, and Walmart would order in all my backlist--all of the lupi books--and keep them in stock at all times, lol. Then I might be very cliche and mention the lottery. Not a whopping huge lottery, mind, but it would be nice to be able to buy health insurance and have a comfortable cushion. Then I think I'd ask for great health, because I'd just as soon not need that health insurance.

And there it was. A major thanks to Ms. Wilks for taking the time to answer some questions; it was great having you. Be sure to keep an eye out for that aforementioned Lupi book coming out next week: Blood Magic, and try to swing by and pay a visit to Ms. Wilks' website which can be found here.

Over and Out.

REVIEW: Twice as Hot by Gena Showalter

So last Friday I picked up Gena Showalter's Twice as Hot, the long-awaited second book in the Tales of an (extra)ordinary girl that tells the story of Belle Jamison, a young twenty-something who, after a host of other small-time jobs like maid and coffee house girl, ends up a government agent when a mad scientist spikes her latte and she ends up being able to control the four elements with her emotions. While the first book followed her adapting to her abilities, defeating a bad guy and falling in love with Special Agent Rome Masters. In the second book...well, here's the blurb:

Set the world on fire? With Belle Jamison, it’s always a possibility. Literally.

Planning a wedding is tough. Especially when the bride can shoot fireballs from her eyes and accidentally torches her dress, the groom returns from a dangerous mission with selective memory loss and the man responsible now desires Belle for his own.

Any other time, Belle would turn to her ultra sexy fiancé Rome Masters for comfort. But the only thing he can’t remember is her – and now his ex is determined to win him back. With the help of her trusty empath sidekick, an optimistic Belle continues to plan her wedding, fight a new band of supervillans, and tries not to accidentally on purpose start too many fires. . . except when she gets Rome into bed. . .

Covers of first book: on left, the reissue which came out in Nov. '09

You've got to admit - while it sucks having your fiancé get hurt in and of itself, and having him wake up with no memory of you is pretty bad too, having the love of your life who doesn't remember you tell you he's not marrying you because he plans on remarrying his ex has got to be freaking unbearable. And as one by one (and, ok, once by twos) her friends leave her, Belle is left alone to deal with the mess her life as become. The growth and maturing Belle undergoes is bloody impressive as events conspire to show her that (1) she can handle anything the world cares to throw at her and (2) sometimes you ARE strong enough to handle things on your own. And considering that her fiancé is behaving like a total ass, the lessons could not have come at a better time.

The book is laced through with hilarity, new characters and a boat-load emotion. The only thing I wasn't thrilled about was Rome's treatment of Belle. Yes, he's got memory loss - but some of the things he does/says to her are just plain cruel (i.e. asking her if because of her powers there is some addictive agent to her saliva - because, you know, god forbid he likes kissing her because of her - there has to be some other reason). The scenes with Sunny, Rome's daughter with his treacherous, back-stabbing bitch of an ex-wife (who, FYI, was actually almost-likeable before she pulled this) are adorable - and to see how different Belle and Sunny's relationship is compared to the first book is heart-warming.

Ultimately, by the time that last page has been read, I was wishing for the third book (which I don't believe is planned for at the moment - Ms. Showalter mentioned on her blog that it depended on the success of this book).

Check out Gena online at her site here and be on the look out for titles in her two other big series, Lords of the Underworld and Alien Huntress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

REVIEW: The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

So, I've just finished reading Jim C. Hines' The Stepsister Scheme and I've got to admit it had one of the most original spins on an old theme I've ever seen, basically taking the traditional fairy tales and twisting them in ways Christensen and the Grimm brothers never saw coming. The fairy tales, based off their original incarnations as opposed to the Disney-fied creations of today, Take Cinderella, for instance. We all recall how she was virtually enslaved by her Wicked Stepmother following her father's death and who doesn't remember Jacques and Gus helping their "Cinderelly" with her chores along with the other mice and birds. And then, with the aid of her fairy godmother, she sneaks out, goes to the ball, meets Prince Charming, runs off, losing a glass slipper, is found by the prince and happily ever after ensues. And for the most part, this holds true in Hines' adaptation. The fairy godmother is actually a tree enchanted with the spirit of Cinderella's mother, but otherwise is mostly in agreement - right down to Cinderella chatting it up with the household rodents and birds.The hitch arises when one reaches the "happily ever part."

After Cinderella (a.k.a. Danielle de Glas) accidentally has doves attack her stepmother and stepsisters at her wedding, the stepsisters seek revenge by kidnapping her prince and running off to fairyland. Fortunately, the Queen Beatrice has her super secret princess force (Bea's Princesses - like Charlie's Angels but with gowns and manners) to embark on a rescue mission. Sleepy Beauty is Talia, a desert princess turned ninja assassin extraordinaire; Snow White is a kickass sorceress whose magic is based on - what else? - mirrors and neither of them had their princes survive to live happily ever after so now work for Queen Bea, acting as bodyguards slash...well, they deal with security, enough said.

The story was from Danielle's POV and written in third person. Being just as new to the world as the reader, Danielle was the perfect narrator, always asking the questions the reader wanted answered, always having the necessary things explained to her which gave the story a different sort of flow than usually experienced. Indeed, if only Danielle wasn't so blasted nice to the point of being sickeningly so she'd've been perfect. Oh, and did I mention Danielle turns out to be pregnant? Husband MIA, off on wild adventure, evil stepsisters out to kill her AND pregnant - talk about a bad day.

With fairies interfering and making things worse, goblins being helpful and trolls a la Cousin It look, Hines' The Stepsister Scheme puts a unique spin on the fairy tales you thought you knew.

Book 2, The Mermaid's Madness, will be dealing with mermaids (yup, like Ariel only, you know, not) and is something I'm really looking forward to, especially if it goes anything like the first one. Also, look for the third book, Red Hood’s Revenge, to hit shelves in July and be sure to visit Jim C. Hines online here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

INTERVIEW: Ilona Andrews

So, special treat today is an interview with Gordon, one of the masterminds behind the pseudonym Ilona Andrews, author of the simply amazing Kate Daniels series. This series began back in 2007 with the publication of Magic Bites, and has since grown to include two more published novels with a third due out in late May and a short story published in last year's Must Love Hellhounds anthology. It is such a pleasure to have been given this opportunity and the time and effort that went into answering these questions is truly appreciated. I hope y'all enjoy!

(1) ILONA ANDREWS is a pen name for your husband-wife team-up. Why did you decide to use a pseudonym at all and once you had, how did you decide on the name?

We took our names and sort of put them together. Andrews is my Grandmother's maiden name and Andrew is also my first name, but I prefer Gordon, Ilona is my wife's first name. We did not feel comfortable using our real names as we are somewhat reclusive and the publisher also said that for the genre a female name would appeal more to the fans.

(2) How do you guys divide the work-load?

We sort of discuss or hash out the plot before we sit down to write it out. If we both agree on an idea we like then Ilona writes the first draft and I edit or change it and send it back to her. This happens several more times until we finallysettle on a finished draft. Honestly Ilona is more the go over it and over again type, while I am more of a "it's done, leave it alone, next", type person. So we fuss and fight until we are both happy with it.

(3) Right now you’ve got two series going; Kate Daniels and the Edge, both with very unique takes on our world. I’m sure you get this a lot, but what was the inspiration for these worlds?

Well, we do live in Georgia, so that has to be some of it. Also, we are both Sci-fi and fantasy fans who are intrigued with the idea of the Earth going through cycles of tech and magic. We both grew up with cartoons likeThundarr and He-Man in which sorcery co-exits with super-science and advanced technology. As far as the Edge goes I think we all would like to believe that we could leave our mundane world and step into a new and frightening one.

(4) Coming up next for you is the publication of the much-anticipated fourth Kate Book, Magic Bleeds. Now, if I’m not mistaken, this series is set to be seven books long, so Magic Bleeds is right in the middle; does this have any impact on the events taking place in the book?

I don't want to be to spoilery, wait that is not a word, but everything changes and not just for Kate. This book is sort of the transition from the early books where Kate was sort of unsure and outmatched to a more confident and capable Katewho knows what she can and what she has to do. Perhaps most importantly the nature of Kate and Curran's relationship is resolved, for better or worse.

(5) It’s been said that this is a rather emotionally-charged book; did you have any sort of aids to help you get the mood right? (i.e. particular music, images or movies)

We watch a lot of anime with our daughters and they usually have conflict and emotional content. As far as music goes Nine Inch Nails, Stabbing Westward and Rage Against the Machine are good if you want to get all worked up.

Also coming out this year is the second Edge book, Bayou Moon. What can you tell us about it?

Bayou Moon is William the wolf's story. It is his chance to be the hero and get the girl.

(7) These two series are unquestionably different; was it difficult for you to go from writing Kate to writing an Edge book before going back to writing Kate?

No, actually it is very nice to take a break from Kate and write something different. I think it helps to make both series better than if we wrote them all back to back.

Recently, you’ve had the publication of a couple of short stories, among them the adventures of Andrea and Raphael while filling in for a recovery Kate in Must Love Hellhounds and the upcoming story of Saiman and Kate’s first meeting in Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod. What other short stories are in the works?

Yes we will have a story in an as yet unnamed anthology to be released in 2011 with Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn. The stories all center around angles or angelic beings.

Did you find it difficult to write short stories compared to the novels?

I think we have always found it harder to write short stories. There is a definite talent to it and I think we are better at novels.

(10) As mentioned previously, Kate’s story is set to end at book seven and the Edge, as it stands now, will be finishing with Bayou Moon. Have you considered what will be coming next for you?

We are not sure. We have sent out proposals for Edge 3 and 4 as well as a few chapters of other stories which we hope Ace will pick up as a series, fingers crossed. As far as the Kate books, if people want to keep reading them we would be more than happy to keep writing them.

(11) A number of your readers have expressed interest in having various characters having their own series (such as Julie and Derek or Nick the Crusader). Is there the possibility of spin-offs?

I think that goes along with the previous question in that if we do more Kate books or books in that world they would eventually have to be about other characters. I started a Nick book but need to work more on it, a grown up Derek and Julie could also be an interesting idea for a series.

(12) Finally, some random questions about you:
a. What are your hobbies aside from writing?
a. We work out, Ilona dances and I lift weights. Ilona knits and I play computer games. We read when we can, Ilona likes romances while I prefer heroic fantasy as well as Sword and Planet books.
b. Could you please describe your dream day?
b. My dream day would involve a big breakfast followed by a day at the beach or on a boat. That evening we would eat take out and watch cheesy movies.
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes?
c. I guess I would wish for and end to hunger and war, for myself I would want to be immortal or simply to stay the same age and to be able to speak all languages

Awesome. Magic Bleeds is due out May 25th and look for Bayou Moon to hit shelves (always wanted to say that) later this year. To learn more about Ilona Andrews and her books please check out her website by following this link.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cover Themes

Has anyone else noticed that all of the sudden cover art seems to be getting rather...generic? Don't get me wrong: urban fantasy has some of the best covers around but, I don't know, maybe with the sheer number of books out there a set number of templates have come into use or something. I mean, check it out some examples:


Here you have books with the classic male/female team up. Magic swirls and sparks around the man's hand, identifying him as the big, strong, magic weilding hero, while the female stands just behind him, shielded by his magical experience it would seem. There is a gritty, shadowy feel to the colouring, as if a film covers the scene, setting the scene before the first word is even read.


A lovely new trend where kickass heroines are shown before desolate landscapes with a post-apocalyptic feel to them. The heroines are dressed in skin-tight dresses (usually black) with low or no backs, a hand or two visible, their head/face kept out of shot or turned away. I can appreciate that; the idea likely being so that you can use your own imagination or insert yourself as the heroine. Bars of solid colour across the top, coordinated with the landscapes, provide space for the author's name or the book's title to be written. Interestingly, in this case, Caine's book was released November '05, Harrison's June 'o6, just seven months between.


Continuing with the same reader-insert/imagination concept, there are covers which show their female lead with their back (covered this time) to the reader and weapons often in hand, as they peer forward in the direct their adventures, their story. I like to think it's as if the heroine is posed set to start in on the story, ready to undertake her adventures every time the book is opened.


Again the heroine has her back to the reader, but now her face is turned slightly towards the side, almost as if she's trying to see the reader from the corner of her eye. In these instances, she stands before windows, both standing indoors and yet in darkness as though in the act of searching, and each carries a characteristics that hint at the plot; Mercy holds a book, Cassie stands in tendrils of ghostly smoke. The...point though is that these women are posed, their clothing designed, specifically to allow the tattoos on their backs to be seen.


Wrapped in a passionate embrace with their lovers, these male vampire/female human pairings have someone a little more interest in fixing the reader with a sexy, come hither stares - hers with an innocent, virgin air further inferred by her white gown and stark contrast to her pale, all-in-black vamp boytoy, his with a feral and possessive edge that's only intensified by his partner's apparently willing offering of her neck. Both are set against essentially solid-coloured backgrounds with the clothing being likewise simplistic which only serve to give more forcus to those stares. Don't they just give you chills?


So, just in case there was any confusion, doubt or misunderstanding regarding a book's romantic element there is nothing that clears it up more than the main characters in mid foreplay right there on the cover. Really, what more is there to say on this?

Obviously there are tons of other variations, but you get the idea. My final observation is the trend in the covers of a series.


Common to all the covers is a lion visible only from the head to about his shoulders and a red-haired girl weilding a sword with some indication of the book's setting seen in the background. The similarities in the covers allows for a easy, visible association of the books as belonging together - something particularily useful should there be no handy note made on the books (FYI: I HATE it when serial books failed to have their series title printed somewhere on the books and I bow to Orbit Publishing for not only writing it on the cover AND the spin, but for numbering the books as well. INGENIUS! If the other publishers would follow suit, it would be perfect!)