Books that got my attention at the Baltimore Book Festival

A book festival is like eye-candy overload for a booklover like me. So many tents full of authors and their latest creations. So many postcards, bookmarks, posters, even Kleenex packets advertising new books, new series, new authors. It’s like an endless opportunity to fall in love with different characters, unique worlds, and authors I’ve never read before. I didn’t know where to look first, and I am sure my eyes were moving like a tennis ball at Wimbledon. Fortunately, I was eventually able to settle down and start taking it all in, and I walked away with a few books that definitely got my attention. Maybe you’ll like them too.

I.R. Harris – irharrisbooks.com

Harris writes the dark adult fantast series The Bound Trilogy. Here is the book blurb from her website:

To Ana, the Bonding ritual is a dangerous part of being human. She herself hasn’t been chosen–yet. However, her dear friend Kai has, and on the surface he seems happy. However, Ana knows that Kai was lucky; his Bonder didn’t make the choice to kill him. When it is her time, she might not be so fortunate. As it so happens, the choice to take Ana as a Bond was made years ago and her time is now. When Ana’s peaceful life in Indonesia is suddenly intersected by a Bonder Demon named Nathanial, she is thrown into a roaring tempest of choices, of love, of ever changing loyalties, and of lies. She quickly realizes that loving someone is not the same as knowing them, and that having either of those things offers no guarantee that her heart will be protected or her life will be spared.  For Ana, does being Bound mean to live in the absence of love, of autonomy, of trust or does it mean she will have to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to reclaim who she is and to save not only herself, but also the lives of those to which she is forever tied? 

Harris also writes the Legion Series and The Dark Hunger Chronicles.

Andi O’Connor – www.andioconnor.com

Andi O’Connor brings readers to a world of sorcery and treachery in The Dragonath Chronicles. Visit her website to read the first two chapters for free. Here is the book blurb:

 Always a meticulous planner, Darrak Hunter leads a typically dull life until his dreams unexpectedly become plagued with visions of a peculiar and distant world.  Waking up to a brilliant purple sun looming ominously in the sky, Darrak is met by a mysterious violet-eyed sorcerer who whisks him away from the struggling Earth. Thrown into the clutches of a foreign world where magic is reality and not all is as it seems, Darrak embarks on a journey where he is forced to come to terms with his past and do what he can to shape the future.

Look for O’Connor’s new book Silevethiel coming in October.

Kacie Bawiec – www.kaciebawiec.tateauthor.com

Kacie Bawiec is a high school student from Joppa, Maryland whose first book, Silver Dagger, has just been published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC. Read the premise for Silver Dagger below and look forward to the sequel which is currently being written:

Cassandra Monroe felt like the world ended when her younger sister, Emery, committed suicide. She couldn’t understand why a girl from a stable, loving family would want to leave them. Together with her boyfriend, Riley, Cassandra spends the next few months after her sister’s death trying to find the answers. But the answers are not anything like she imagined.

Other books that caught my eye at the festival:

Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye

Death Benefits by Sharon Saracino

The London Undead Series by PJ Schnyder

 

Did you go the festival? Did I miss a book that should have been featured here? Share your thoughts.

Notes from the Baltimore Book Festival

Hello readers. I attended the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend and was lucky enough to catch a panel discussion about writing a fiction series. The panel included AC Arthur, Andrew Grey, Brigid Kemmerer, Jean Murray, and Elisabeth Staab.

Check out the series they write:

            Brigid Kemmerer – The Elementals

            Elisabeth Staab – Chronicles of Yavn

            Jean Murray – Key to the Curse

            AC Arthur – Shadow Shifters, Mystix, The Donovans

            Andrew Grey – Bullriders, Range, Senses, Farm, Seven Days

It was a great panel discussion with a lot of insight about writing a series, so although I usually review books here, I am going to pass on some helpful hints just in case some of you are crafting a series of your own. And please note that I was writing all this as they spoke, so I may have a few words off, but you get the gist of what was said.

On why series are appealing to readers:

“It’s hard to want to leave a world at the end of just one book.”

-Elisabeth Staab

“As a reader being taken on a journey and at the end saying, I gotta know what happens [next].” – AC Arthur

 

On why series are appealing to writers:

“You don’t give up those relationships [that authors have with their characters]” – Jean Murray

 Publishers are looking for series now as opposed to a single book. (General consensus among panelists)

What you need to make a series work:

“A large cast of characters” – Brigid Kemmerer

“Continuity” – Andrew Grey

“Emotional bond of characters” – Jean Murray

“Publishers like it when every book in a series reads as a stand-alone book.” -Elisabeth Staab

 

So check out these successful authors and good luck with your own writing. Check back in tomorrow where I’ll be posting some new and some little-known books that might be just the fresh read you are looking for.

When Hollywood ruins a perfectly good book…

You all probably know exactly where you were and what you were doing the moment you heard the news. Maybe you were pouring a cup of coffee and let it overflow and spill all over while the terrible reality set in. Maybe you were driving and the shock made you crash right into a building. Maybe you were secretly looking at your phone in the middle of a test that you failed once you read the awful, devastating news.

You know what news I am talking about…

That moment when you heard who was going to play Jace in the Mortal Instruments movie.

My reaction: Who? You mean the dog-faced boy from Sweeney Todd? Are you effing kidding me?
What the hell happened to Alex “Prettyface” Pettyfer?
No! No! No! Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
Why, God, why????

Then I went through the stages of grief. I denied that this was happening. I prayed that the gods of film would intervene and cast ANYONE ELSE as my beloved Jace. Once I had to accept the truth (which only happened after I accidentally saw 3 seconds of a preview), I cried. Then I boycotted. I refused to watch the previews or read articles about the movie. I un-followed Cassandra Clare on Goodreads and unliked her on Facebook. It was nothing personal, but she kept talking about that abomination of a movie, and I simply couldn’t tolerate it. I cheered when the movie tanked. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that it didn’t go straight to DVD.

So, of course, this got me thinking about all the great books that Hollywood has turned into mediocre or downright awful movies, so here goes:

Eragon – The book is a well-crafted world of fantasy, magic, dragons, protagonists, and antagonists. Sort of like Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones, if you will. The movie was just bleh. Dull cast, dull characters, and the plot was so hacked to pieces that I found myself wondering if the screenwriters had even read the book. Very disappointing.

Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand crafted one of the greatest horseracing books of all time. She captured the people, the horses, the time period, and America perfectly. Page after page, she made the people and the horses come alive and transported us readers back to the glory days of American horseracing, which used to be one of the most popular sports in this country. Then along comes the movie and one of the worst directing decisions of all time. I can forgive the casting of Bug Eyes Maguire as Red Pollard, but what I can’t forgive is the director’s decision in the middle of the match race (which is the height of tension, the point that the entire movie has built up to) to cut away from the race and show people listening in on radios. Are you kidding me? Get back to the damn race! Cutting away from the horses at that crucial moment killed the momentum and ruined the movie for me.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Director Alfonso Cuaron was praised for his “amazing vision,” and many critics said it was the best Harry Potter film yet. Uh, what movie were they watching? I could barely follow the film because I was too busy trying to figure out what on earth had happened to Hogwarts. The once beautiful castle now looked dark and foreboding and even the layout of the grounds had been changed to suit the director’s “vision.” The pacing was off and so much of the story had been cut that my friends who hadn’t read the books (yeah, I actually hang out with people like that – hard to believe, isn’t it?) had trouble understanding what was going on. The movie has grown on me somewhat over the years, but it is still far from my favorite.

Confessions of a Shopaholic – While I think this books series has gone from fun and entertaining to utterly ridiculous, the movie went straight to unbearable. How do you take a British book by a British author about a British girl living – you guessed it – in Britain, and then have the movie take place in NYC? As the salsa commercials used to say, “New York City? Get a rope.” Better yet, get a ticket to any other movie playing. I refused to watch this movie based on that fact alone. And judging by the money the movie didn’t make, other fans of the books apparently felt the same way.

I am not saying Hollywood always gets it wrong when converting a book to a movie, but if given the choice, I’ll take a book in my hands over a movie on a screen any day. Did I miss a terrible movie? Toss in your two cents, and thanks for visiting.

Play by Play is played out by the end

Play by Play

By Kate Donovan

Published by Beyond the Page Publishing, Sept. 2013

I wish I could review this book from Jake’s POV only because I loved his blog posts. I thought they were funny, honest, and entertaining. I liked the character behind the posts. As readers, we meet him through his blog, but we get to know him in the way he responds to his readers’ posts. He would be an easy character to hate because he’s lying to a woman about who he really is, but he tells us why and he kind of has a good reason, which is that she’s anti-sports fans and he’s a sports blogger whose been publicly blogging about her on his sports blog. That’s like throwing an interception in your own end zone. BAD BAD BAD. But at the same time that he’s digging his own grave, he’s kind of charming too.

Unfortunately, Jake’s blogs weren’t the only POV and that is where the story starting going down hill for me. Elevator Girl, while fun on the blog, came off as flat in the pages about her. When I read her third person POV, I felt like someone was reciting a bunch of text at me. She seemed completely detached from the story, and I found myself wondering if she would seem real to me if we got her side in first person point of view. I didn’t understand her character. One minute, she’s rejecting her elevator stalker and the next she’s practically mauling him in her condo. What changed for her? Was it a few jogs in the park? And what is her deal with sports? How can you hate guys who like sports, but not hate sports too? I needed a little more insight into her character, which I felt was generic and underdeveloped.

I found myself wishing the whole story was just Jake’s blog posts because they were the best part of it, and I found myself skimming the text to get to the next blog post.  While I think the idea for the story was cute, the execution needed improvement.

Kicking a series to the curb

Ever read a series that got so bad you just couldn’t finish it? I find this happens fairly frequently and for many reasons. Too many new characters get introduced. Every book seems the same as the last one or two or three you read – same plot, different character names. Or maybe the series just went on for way too long. Or they killed off my favorite character, and I refused to read so much as another word in the series.

Here are some of the series that I have given up on:

House of Night by P.C. Cast

Why, why, why won’t Zoey cuss? She is fighting an evil Queen. She has a dark lord-esque guy who is either in love with her or trying to kill her (I never did figure that out). She’s watched a close friend die and others die only to be reborn, and yet she can’t bring herself to use four-letter words. That gets on my last nerve. As do Zoey, Kalona, Neferet, and the revolving door of guys that Zoey develops an interest in. For me, this series just went on way too long. I read the first eight books and thought, how is this battle not resolved yet? By book 9, my interest was so low I was reduced to skimming it and can’t remember a single thing of importance from it. Each book in a series should advance the plot and move towards the denouement. If it doesn’t, then does it really have any point? When it comes to House of Night, I guess I’ll never know.

Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris

Which reason to choose from? Sookie was possibly one of the most annoying leading ladies ever. How many times can one person experience near fatal injuries before they decide that hanging out with werewolves, vampires, and fairies is maybe a really bad idea? She went through men the way most people go through socks. I had a chronic urge to drive a stake through each book in the hopes that Vampire Bill would die a permanent death. I think the final straw for me was the shape-shifting tiger boyfriend in book 6. After that, the series was dead to me (which would have made a great title for one of the books in the series).

Lux by Jennifer Armentrout

Book four was my breaking point. Up until then I liked the series a lot. Then along came Origin, and I thought I was stuck in a Twilight novel. Kat and Daemon got on my nerves so much I almost wished Daedalus would off the two of them. Their constant PDAs, gooey-eyed professions of love, and total dependency on each other got on my last nerve and were far too common. They love each other. We get it. Message received. No need to beat us over the head with it. How many times do we have to be told they love one another? About 3,000 times too many, apparently.

For most of the book, I missed the cast of characters that made the first three books so entertaining. Once Origin became the Katy and Daemon show, my interest in the story plummeted. I found myself thinking this book would be so much more interesting if it was about Dawson and Beth or Dee or Archer or just about anyone else. And when the cliffhanger ending finally came, I was done. Done with the book and done with the series entirely.

Other series that landed on the curb:

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

I made it through book three, where I thought the series lost momentum, and I lost interest.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

The second book was dreadful and by the third I just didn’t care anymore.

Fallen Angels by J.R. Ward

Gave up when a certain character died but didn’t stay dead. When that happens, I feel like the author is afraid to pull the trigger (pun intended).

The Demon Trappers by Jane Olivia

Book two was the end for me. Riley was so whiny and made such stupid decisions that I ceased to care about her and the world she lived in. Maybe it got better in book three, but I never gave the series another chance.

The Immortals by Alyson Noel

I read the first three books and was left feeling like no progress had been made in the third book. The series had become stagnant, and there were too many other books I wanted to read more than the fourth one in this series.

So, am I too quick to slam the door on these series? Should I have kept reading or do you agree that giving a dull series the heave-ho leads to reading more desirable books? Let me know what you think, and thanks for stopping by.

Windle Turley’s The Amazing Monarch is a must have for butterfly fans

The Amazing Monarch: The Secret Wintering Grounds of an Endangered Butterfly by Windle Turley – Published by BenBella Books, 2010

Breathtaking.

If I needed to sum up The Amazing Monarch: The Secret Wintering Grounds of an Endangered Butterfly by Windle Turley in one word, that would do it. Fortunately, I have room to expound.

This book is stunning. The photographs are beautiful. I felt like I had escaped into a secret world of wintering monarchs as I turned the pages. From images of single monarchs to images of tens of thousands of them covering trees like a tapestry of black, orange, and white, readers will linger over every photo. The details are exquisite, and Turley captures the monarchs from every angle, allowing a complete study of the butterflies as they take flight, land, alight on a flower, or flutter away. Having hauled my trusty Canon to many butterfly gardens, I know how difficult it is to capture a good image even in the most accommodating environment. How Turley managed to capture captivating images in the real environment of monarchs, I do not know, but I am very impressed.

The Amazing Monarch isn’t just a collection of beautiful images. Turley shares fitting quotes about butterflies and gives readers a lesson in the lives of the monarchs from their migration patterns to their reproduction cycles to the numerous threats that make them an endangered species. People of all ages will enjoy this book and, hopefully, become advocates for the monarchs and their wintering grounds.

The Cast of Altered (if I got to choose them :)

So Jennifer Rush, author of Altered, is running a contest to win an ARC of Erased, the second book in her series about four young boys who have been genetically altered by a secret agency called the Branch to become almost superhuman soldiers. If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy. Altered is a real page-turner, an interesting and unique story with characters who will steal your heart and leave you wondering what really happened to them, what will become of them, and if they’ll ever have a chance at a normal life.

So to win an ARC of Erased, Jennifer Rush has challenged readers to choose the cast of Altered if it were a movie. After a lot of thinking, googling, and stalking young actors and actresses on IMDB.com, here is who I think should play the characters in a movie version of Altered….

(Warning: My casting selections contain what I like to call spoiler hints. I don’t come right out and say it, but you might be able to draw some conclusions from what is stated below. Just putting this out there in case you haven’t read Altered yet).

Jason Dolley as Sam

Jason Dolley as Sam. Yeah, yeah, I know. His hair isn’t quite dark enough, but that’s what hair dye is for. Sam is intense, not much of a talker, and definitely a thinker. He is also leader of the four “units” as the Branch calls the boys. Dolley has that serious expression down pat and can shoot some no-nonsense looks from those eyes. I think he could play the role of Sam well.

Lucas Till as Cas 2

Lucas Till as Cas. Cas is that hyped-up-on-sugar-always-going-100-mph-little brother we all wish we had. He’s the youngest looking of the bunch with his spikey blond hair and dimple-cheeked cuteness. Till would capture both the exubrance of youth and Cas’s mischievousness perfectly.

AnnaSophia Robb as Anna

AnnaSophia Robb as Anna. Anna starts out as shy, compassionate, and a little intimidated by the boys. In the end, she proves her mettle and learns a lot about her inner strength. Robb has the acting chops to show Anna’s growth throughout the story and allow movie-goers to see how Anna changes.

Avan Jogia as Trev

Avan Jogia as Trev. Trev is smart, quiet, honest, and trustworthy. Or is he? Trev needs to be played by someone who is believable as both a good guy and a villain, someone an audience can love and hate. Jogia has that two-faced appeal and would be convincing no matter if Trev is trustworthy or not.

Raviv Ullman

Raviv Ullman as Nick. Ah, yes. I have saved my favorite for last. Nick is dark-haired and blue-eyed. All sharp angles and sharp edges. He’s moody, angry, and aggressive. Ullman is exactly who I picture when I think of Nick. His face, his hair, that jawline. All Ullman and all Nick.

I hope you agree with my casting choices or at least had fun reading about them. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an actual Altered movie instead of just the ones in our heads.

Check out Jennifer Rush at http://www.jennrush.com, and If I am lucky enough to win an ARC of Erased, I will post a review here on my blog. Thanks for visiting.