Friday, April 3, 2009

No Good Very Bad Day

So I’m having one of those days.

You know the kind of days.  The ones where the universe is merrily doing a tapdance on my head.  I’ve had leaks in my carport, leaks in the bathroom, a hole pushed in the ceiling in said bathroom, fallen boxes, much argh…  One of those kinds of days.

For me there are a few ways to deal with those kinds of days.  Usually there is a lot of comfort food involved, but most particularly I find myself diving headfirst into a book.  It’s nice to take a break from the crazy of the day to go visit someone else’s little world and someone else’s concerns.  I like books for these days which are fast reads which don’t tax my brain too much but have a satisfying combination of plot and character.  Today I’m reading Magic Strikes.  I say now…BUY THIS BOOK.  Tomorrow will be the review.

What comfort books do you reach for when you’re having one of those days?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Jana

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday Review: Nymphos of Rocky Flatts

Please go see the review at www.realitybypassbooks.com! Today is the official VERY LAST post on Realitybypass.blog.com.

We hope to see all your comments on the new website which is all our very own!

-Kristen

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Magic Strikes Today

It’s time for “Magic Strikes” by Illona Andrews, the wonderful husband-wife writing team of the Kate Daniels series. I can’t wait to get more of the Atlanda paranormal team. Illona is particularly good with her (their?) world building, I find the setting fascinating and the magic well done. The writing is quick and easy to read and Magic Strikes has earned 4.5 stars on the Romantic Times review. The balance between action, romance, mystery and character development is well done.

Magic Strikes Sales

“Andrews’ crisp dialogue and layered characterization make the gut-wrenching action of this first-person thrill ride all the more intense. … Place your book orders now; it’s worth every penny!”
–Jill M. Smith, Romantic Times, 4.5 Stars, Top Pick, GOLD standard

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games – an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament – she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book/Movie Pet Peeves: Stupidity

I went to see “Haunting in Connecticut” with a friend this weekend. While I do admit to watching much of it from behind my fingers, or over her shoulder, my fear subsided near the middle/end to simple irritation. The story started well, and you could even understand why everyone ignored the obvious creepiness: the protagonist was on medication that could cause possible hallucinations and “strange and psychotic” behavior. So even the protagonist believes he’s seeing hallucinations, at first, rather than ghostly manifestations. I was pleased with this, it seemed to explain why the family would stay in an obviously terrifying situation, which is usually where horror movies fall down. But then it fell apart: They all experience these terrifying visions and find light scares it away, but then when drunken husband comes and destroys all lights they huddle in the dark and don’t even try to explain what happened? They don’t /leave/ the house and go somewhere safe? Um… They had it revealed, without a doubt, that the house was possessed; but then… when they’re warned that “spiritual aftershocks” will happen for a few days, not only do they not GO anywhere else, they leave the children alone in the house? Hellloooo. Then the protagonist, who realizes that the dead bodies must be released and burned, returns to the house he, for some inexplicable reason barricades himself in to set it on fire? Again, umm… And the mother goes racing into the barricaded, burning house to sit under a table in the fire while it burns around her, so she can hold her (should already be dead from cancer) son… umm… Blah. The fire department could have saved him, or frankly… he never should have barricaded himself in in the first place? So… rant off, but my moral is: your characters can be duped, misled and misconstrue information. That makes a good twisty plot, but if you have to rely on stupidity to move your plot forwards, come up with another way! You may want the kids to be endangered by ghosts, but why would any sane protagonist leave them in the haunted house? You may need for your villian to escape custody, but the ‘leaving the door unlocked’ is just not the way. Creativity before stupidity! Woohoo.
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Friday, March 27, 2009

Writing “cranky”

It’s funny, I see a lot of people worrying about “writer’s block” and similar problems. I find that I don’t get “writer’s block” per say, I get a case of the crankies. A piece gets into an advanced enough state and I start feeling like “nothing is coming out like I wanted”, or “The characters are boring” or “there’s too many plots, I can’t keep it all together” or “There’s not enough plots, and I hate it all!” I’ve realized this is a point in the book when I’m about halfway into it, and I have such hopes for it, but it starts feeling like it’s spiraled out of my control. The writing goes forwards easily, so it’s not an issue of not knowing what to write, I just start feeling like everything written isn’t “good enough.” Does anyone else get this way? How do you handle it?
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday Book Promo: Deader Still

So if you’ve followed our blog you know that we’re fans of Anton Strout and Dead to Me around here.  This year the sequel to Dead to Me, Deader Still was released in February.  I finally sat down and read it while on my trip to Disney…well, sat down, stood in line and read on the plane.

All in all I have very mixed feelings about this book.  I very much like the world that Strout has created and how it overlays modern day New York.  I also like seeing him touch on some of the lesser used powers and legends within his stories.  The use of psychometry makes Simon very different from a lot of UF heroes which is interesting.  The premise of this volume is fun and boils down to:  How to fight evil while on a budget, constrained by red tape and trying to deal with girlfriends and a past come to bite Simon in the butt.  So there is a lot to like, and it did keep me reading to the end.

However, you knew there was going to be a however, I have some big problems with the character progression, or lack there of, in this book.  In Dead to Me, Simon starts out as a well meaning, slightly pathetic rookie, but he learns about trusting his team and trusting his partner and by the end is much less pathetic and has created strong ties with the people around him.  In Deader Still, Simon seems to revert to exactly what he was before.  He argues with everyone he encounters sooner or later, particularly his partner and his girlfriend, often for reasons which make little to no rational sense.  I don’t want to give away plot points in specific, but I was going to strangle both Jane and Simon for being stupidly stubborn and not listening to each other and Connor was next on my list.  There were moments where I felt kinda like it was supernatural 90210 instead of a novel about grownups which was frustrating because of all the things I liked and wanted to like more.

Also, as much as I enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there were about a million Buffy references in this book and I felt like it weakened the writing.  It’s one thing to toss off a reference and pay homage to a series you like and your audience likes, but when it is continual it becomes old and made me feel like it was a ploy to keep me reading.  To say ‘see, my book is like this, so if you like Buffy you should keep reading.’  It wasn’t needed.  The book is strong enough on it’s own merits.

All in all I’m not sorry I read Deader Still and I will read the next one, but I’ll likely borrow it before buying.

~Jana

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Age: Teen, adult

Content: Violence, smoochies, blood drained corpses, giant crabs

Overall: Borrow

Deader Still
Deader Still
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kindle Versus Paperback at Disney World

Much to my great sorrow I have returned from Disney World exchanging temperatures of around 80 for snow and temperatures around 50.  I miss Florida already, dangit.   However, while there I was able to make some interesting observations about paperbacks and the Kindle so I thought I’d share.

The Kindle

Truthfully I only saw one person with a Kindle during the whole vacation.  He was a middle aged business sort reading on the plane.  The Kindle always strikes me as being a pretty unit and the clarity of the pages was good even from my seat.  The interesting bit which had never struck me before was that the airline made him turn his Kindle OFF until we were at cruising altitudes and again on landing.  The Kindle counts as one of those sneaky electronic devices which might take the plane over and launch it into the sun.  The single device was much smaller than my stack of books and he didn’t seem to have to juggle it around to catch the right light nearly as much.  It seemed an enjoyable way to read, but I wasn’t sure it was worth the price tag for the device much less the cost of books on top of it.

Why Paperback?

One of the selling points of the Kindle is how easy it is to take on vacation and have all your books with you in one compact package.  My sweetie and I spent at least 20 minutes sorting through books and trying to decide which ones could come in the luggage.  We each ended up with four and both finished most of what we’d brought.  We’re both lovers of mass market paperbacks for their size and weight.  Mass markets fit neatly in a bag, purse, jacket or random jacket and they have enough bend to them that if they’re in a bag which gets shoved under the seat of a rollercoaster there’s no harm done.  I also like the price point which means if there’s a water explosion (Like when you go on Splash Mountain and the entire car gets soaked) it’s only 8 dollars to replace.  This seemed to be a shared viewpoint as I saw people reading at the airport, on the plane, in lines at Disney, on the busses and pretty much anywhere where waiting was required.  We were in several lines for over an hour a piece and having a book at hand made the wait time go by much more quickly.

The Conclusion

All in all I think there are a lot of interesting features in the Kindle, but for my vacation bang for my buck the paperback still comes out on top.

~Jana

Posted by Kris and Jana in 15:44:17 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Child Appropriateness?

I just saw “Coraline” this weekend and really enjoyed it; even though it definitely had it’s creepy moments. It did get me thinking, though both about Cautionary Tales and “child-approriateness.” I found some moments definitely creepy for me, particularly when Other Mother turned into some sort of half insect-like spider monster being, but she still looked like the mother. Anyway it was scary, and would probably frighten a child; but the point of the tale was to remind children to appreciate what they have and to see the truth in people, not the facades. The consequences of Coraline’s falling for the “perfect world” of Other Mother is imprisonment and she learns what happened to the other children who accepted the lies of the perfect world. I think back to the fairy tales of the past, and how many of them carried the warning of “obey your parents” or “obey the church” or you’ll run afoul of witches, demons, monsters and other worldly dangers.

If you read Chinese mythology, as well, many of their tales told to children involve wandering ghosts and vengeful spirits designed to keep children safe by presenting dark consequences for disobedience. So I suppose my question is… do we have a place for cautionary tales for children, how “scary” is appropriate and how much is too much? Should scary stories wait until children are old enough to be told “this is make believe?”

I’d love to hear your thoughts, or even your thoughts on the age-appropriateness of Coraline?

Posted by Kris and Jana in 03:04:04 | Permalink | No Comments »

Friday, March 20, 2009

“Wednesday” Review: Airs of Night and Sea

Well it turns out this is actually the last book of a trilogy, which I didn’t realize when I picked it up off the shelf. Regardless I didn’t find it difficult to get into the plot or follow the story, but I might have understood the motivations of the villian a little better. Airs Beneath the Moon and Airs and Graces are the first two novels of the series, and I’ll certainly be reading them. The strengths of Toby Bishop’s novel are an engaging writing style and a swift moving plot. There’s the intrigue of kidnappings, political problems and near war. Also the idea of incorporating flying horses into an otherwise classic fantasy world is a unique and interesting twist. The protagonist, Larkyn, is intriguing and likeable. Some of the characterizations feel a little flat, particularly with the Ultra Evil Duke Villian. His motivations and cruelty are a little hard to take, because there’s little redeeming to his personality. He’s motivated with power lust and hatred, and often acts irrationally. Another secondary character, Amelia, seems to have inconsistent characterization but as the book progresses she becomes more likeable; and fits her persona as the calm and wise daughter of a politician. All together it’s a good series, and I wish I had read them in order. Take some of the reviews with a grain of salt because I may have missed back story. Bishop is good at hinting at previous events but not leaving readers lost who do not pick up the trilogy in order. Genre: Fantasy Age: Preteen, teen, adult Content: Mild Violence, obscure references to a rape/incest Overall: Buy or Borrow Airs of Night and Sea Driven by insane jealousy, Duke William is determined to found his own flying school, where the valuable flying horses of Oc will learn to bond with well-born young men—instead of arrogant women. Now, Larkyn Hamley and her beloved Black Seraph must gather all of their allies from the air to the ground. For if they do not soar now, none will ever see the skies again.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Matter of Taste

To be truthful today has not been a great day for my brain power. I’m leaving for Disney World on Wednesday and my mind is firmly entrenched in humming Disney tunes and day dreaming of temperatures above 50. It’s such a nice thought, really. Due to this lack of brain power and a desire to stick with our Irish theme I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes for Irish Tea Cakes. I think one of the fun things about any holiday is enjoying the food which is associated with that time of the year or particular culture. I find the use of food in written matterials fascinating to as the relationship people have with food also extends to the relationships they have with each other. This is a thought I’ll expand on in a later blog. So without further ado: <!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–>

Irish Tea Cake

3/4 cup butter- softened

1 cup Sugar

2 tsp Vanilla extract

2 Eggs

3 oz Cream cheese- softened

1 3/4 cups Cake flour

1 1/4 tsp Baking powder

1/4 tsp Salt

1 cup Dried currants (or dates)

2/3 cup Buttermilk

1/2 cup Confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tsp Fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack in center of oven. Grease and flour 9-inch (7-cup capacity) loaf pan. Set aside.

FOR CAKE, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well. Add cream cheese. Mix until well combined. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Put currants (or dates) in small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of flour mixture to currants and stir until well coated. Add remaining flour to batter, alternating with buttermilk. Mix until smooth. Use wooden spoon to stir in currants and all of the flour. Stir until well combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth surface with spatula. Bake until well-browned and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour, 25 minutes (time will vary with individual ovens). Cake will crack on top. Let cake rest in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully remove cake from pan to cooling rack. Spread glaze on warm cake. Let cake cool completely before serving.

FOR GLAZE, combine sugar and lemon juice in small bowl. Stir until smooth.

~Jana

Posted by Kris and Jana in 04:32:40 | Permalink | No Comments »