Review + Giveaway: Blade Singer

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I’m excited to announce my blog stop for Blade Singer, a middle grade fantasy by Aaron de Orive and Martha Wells.  The tour runs September 29th – October 10th with reviews, author interviews, guest posts and more. To see all the tour goodiness, visit the tour schedule page.

Title: Blade Singercbbtourhost
Author: Aaron de Orive & Martha Wells
Publisher: Cloak & Dagger Studios
Release Date: July 2014
Length: 202 pages
Series?: no?
Genre: MG, fantasy
Source: CBB Book Promotions

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

*****Synopsis*****

Manuel “Manny” Boreaux, a troubled adolescent from Texas, is magically transported into the body of a goblin pickpocket in an alternate world inhabited by faerie creatures. Manny must quickly adapt to the danger all around him and try to find a way to get back home, a feat complicated by the pickpocket’s association with a notorious gang of thieves. But when Manny uncovers a plot to assassinate a young king, he must enlist the aid of an elf cavalier and a cat burglar to thwart a Sidhe witch’s scheme to ignite a civil war between humans and the Fae.

*****Review*****

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Manny hails from the capital of Texas: Austin! I had an instant connection with him. He’s been taken in by his aunt and he’s a bit of a handful. She’s not very happy with his doings and troublemaking.

One day Manny gets transported to an alternate world after riffling through some books at the local, independent bookstore. He finds this book that is very old, and a coin inside. The coin is like a portkey to the other world.

When Manny arrives, he has no idea what is going on. Things are so different and strange. There are all kind of creatures, and he comes to learn he has inhabited the body of a young goblin pickpocket. All Manny wants to do is get back home. He can’t help but wonder what his aunt is thinking – is he unconscious in his world? Does his aunt think him dead?

Little does Manny know that the body he now has ownership of – belonging to one Remy – belongs to a gang of thieves. A wanted gang of thieves. It kind of reminded me of the gypsies in The Hunchback of Notre Dame II and how they have taken up a hiding residence within the city. Like in his world, Manny is also in a bit of hot water and has to get himself out of some scrapes.

With a shake of his head, Etienne started away down the side street. 

“Dad, wait!” Manny called after him. “You have to tell me -“

Etienne waved a hand without looking back. “I have no time, boy.” 

He doesn’t recognize me? Manny started after him. 

Manny stumbles upon an elf guard who has a striking resemblance to his father. The guard just thinks he’s crazy. He also stumbles upon fellow thief Adrianna, who also bears striking resemblance to his mother. Adrianna is like a mother to Remy, so she kind of takes him under her wing. She doesn’t know what happened to Remy, but she doesn’t want anything happening to his body.

The figure leaned close to whisper. “Don’t panic,” it said, adn the voice was familiar. “It feeds on that. You can hide from it, trick it. It can’t catch you if you use your head. Trust your instincts.”

But Adrianna and Remy (or as the table turns, Manny) are indebted to one hag witch: Morrigan. And a powerful witch she is. Through happenstance, Adrianna and Remy uncover a sordid plot for revenge and power – and the real identity of Morrigan.

Manny and Adrianna do their best to gather all the help they can – starting with the elf who so resembles his father, but someone has other plans for Manny.

This book was full of action and fast-paced. I did go through a couple of lulls when there was so much action and no dialogue, but I would recommend this book. It is interesting and yes, it does play off of some Arthurian legend, with Morgan le Fay and Merlin both appearing in the book, as well as a sword that is basically Excalibur (but called Amechanteur).

“But only when wielded by a swordsman whose cause is just and whose heart is true. The spirit of the blade bonds with the soul of that swordsman and he becomes a Blade Singer, a champion without equal.”

*****About the Authors*****

Aaron De Orive

A graduate of the University of Texas’ film program, Aaron de Orive began his professional writing career in the video game industry, serving as a lead or senior writer on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption,Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided, Tabula Rasa, Anarchy Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. He is also the creator of the fantasy role-playing game SHARD: World of the False DawnBlade Singer is his first novel. Aaron lives in Austin with his wife, daughter, and two very spoiled terriers.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Martha Wells

Martha Wells is the author of a number of fantasy novels, including The Cloud Roads, The Siren DepthsThe Wizard HuntersWheel of the Infinite, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer. Her YA fantasy, Emilie and the Hollow World, was published by Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in April 2013, and the sequel, Emilie and the Sky World, was released in March 2014. Two collections of Books of the Raksura novellas will be published in September 2014 and Fall 2015. She has had short stories in Black Gate, Realms of Fantasy, Stargate Magazine, and Lightspeed Magazine, and in the anthologies Elemental, The Year’s Best Fantasy #7,Tales of the Emerald Serpent and The Other Half of the Sky.  She has essays in the nonfiction anthologies Farscape ForeverMapping the World of Harry Potter, and Chicks Unravel Time. She has also written media-tie-in novels, Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary and Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement, and a Star Wars novel, Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

*****Giveaway*****

There are TWO $25 Amazon or B&N gift card up for grabs! Open internationally.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Next Month: October Outrage!

As you guys know (if you’ve been keeping up for the last month), this month I started a monthly feature where I am reviewing only one genre all month long. As a companion to those reviews I am also featuring authors who have input about the featured genre or write within that genre.

This entire month-long feature came about earlier this year after I participated in a couple of March clean-your-reader/spring cleaning challenges. I went cold turkey on downloading free books. The rate at which I was downloading free books each week was higher than most people’s reading goals for the year!

I needed a rehaul. The blog needed work, I needed work, my processes needed work. But I was still getting flooded with books. So I took the plunge that some book bloggers have (which I thought didn’t work very well) and stopped accepting books for review. Since May, I have stalemated all review requests. It has helped tremendously!

I wasn’t sure how well this month-long feature would go over, but I surprised myself. September was the first month I started, and I feel like a lot was accomplished. True, I didn’t get much cleaned out of my Kindle, but it’s a start!

In September I featured these September Sizzlers:

 

October will be a month of Outrage!

Scary. Dangerous. Mysterious. Criminal. Murder. 

18759482A while back – before summer started – I read this GREAT crime novel, Enough Rope by P.L. Doss, that solidified my decision to do these month-long review features. I was thirsting for more crime and mystery novels! I knew October would be the perfect time to share these, even though I wanted to get started right that minute and read everything crime/mystery/suspense that I owned.

Here are a few of the titles I am planning on featuring:

19561924   19058665   21863863   11512394   19040024   20586931   21850762   

 

September Monthly Chit Chat

September News

September went by in a flash! This is the last week in the first six weeks of the school year, and as the year has gotten underway I have become exhausted.

Daniel got rear-ended this month AND messed up his knee at work. His truck had minimal damage (even though it was $1600!) and was paid by the insurance of the guy who hit the lady who then hit Daniel. I’d hate to see that guy’s insurance costs now! Daniel was cleared to go back to work with no further need for therapy, but I am nervous that he might have another mishap. I know part of it is me just being paranoid, but he works HARD everyday delivering in the downtown Austin area. He goes up and down more stairs now than we did at Texas State going up the stairs in front of the Alkek Library.

fcc1a76b998893b11e5adee850b2e319   Steps1-1

Thoughts on Thursdays ~ Discussion Post

I feel that I stepped up my discussion posts this month. Well, except for my confessions one. Go check out the discussions and chime in!

Tours & Blasts

I really parred down my commitments this month. Here’s a quick recap of September tour reviews, blasts and giveaways:

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Challenges

Oh, September.

In September I participated in the Tackle Your TBR Challenge. My goal was six books. You can check out my challenge post here, and my wrap up post here.

September 30 also brings the Summer Bookish Bingo to an end. Check out my original post here, and my wrap up post here.

In September I completed…

As you can see, I am getting making a little headway for some of my goals. I really need to work on my NetGalley/Edelweiss Challenge and my Non-Fiction Challenge. I think I have a few books I will review in November that will boost me closer to these two goals.

Next month I am taking part in the So Behind! Review-A-Thon hosted by Krystal at Books Are My Thing. The Review-A-Thon will run from October 10-12.

Fall Months of Reviews by Genre

Folks, it’s here!! Yep, we are fast approaching fall, and with that I will be featuring one genre each month. This idea came upon me in the spring as a means to clean out my ever growing TBR pile on my Kindle. September will be sizzling with romances!

October will be dedicated to reviews of all crimes and mysteries.

November will be dedicated to reviews of diverse reads.

December will be dedicated to reviews of all things Christmas and winter.

Reading Updates

Read in September:

Bluegrass Undercover  Bluegrass State of Mind  Brazilian Job  17255938  Scornfully Yours  396000

On My Plate for October:

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Review: Scornfully Yours

Scornfully YoursTitle: Scornfully Yours
Author: Pamela Ann
Release Date: January 2013
Length: 362 pages
Series?: Torn #1
Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

NOTE: Contains adult language and situations intended for readers 18 and above.

When Emma realized that she fell in love with the notorious womanizer, Carter Mason–the badass soccer athlete—she bailed and jumped ship, knowing quite well how this will turn out if Carter ever finds out about how she felt about him.

Newly single, Emma parties in Hollywood amongst her friends—determined to enjoy her new status.

Enter Hollywood’s sexy heartthrob and sought out actor, Bass Cole.
Bass was clearly smitten when his eyes captured the raving beauty that is Emma Anderson. Without ado, he pursues her.

Being with Bass opened a lot of doors for Emma. But as much as she was attracted to Bass Cole, could she simply put her feelings towards Carter Mason aside?

*****Review*****

Umm, well then! This book is a step above “romance” and straight down the line to erotica. In fact, there was little romance at all, but the situations presented in Scornfully Yours are very true of relationships and feelings today.

Emma is a contradiction of a young woman. The focus of the book is on her and her relationships. She’s a college student, but none of her true college life (the academic side) is presented in the novel, so for me it was hard to value the book without this authentic piece. It seemed as the book went on that Emma never went to class because that’s how little focus there was on college.

The college life that was presented was the party scene, in which Carter Mason and several of Emma’s friends are embroiled in. In fact, Emma’s best friend Lindsey is Carter’s sister! Despite the blood bond, Lindsey knows when Carter’s being an ass, and she doesn’t let that get in the way of her friendship with Emma. She is 100% supportive of Emma and her decisions, and I appreciated that aspect of their friendship.

Carter is a womanizer. Everyone knows it. He also doesn’t “do love.” He will run and turn tail at the merest hint of FEELINGS. Emma has discovered she really does have feelings for this bipolar asshat, and tries to keep it under wraps. When it becomes too much to bear, she walks out.

Enjoying the single life and seeing the interactions of Emma with Lindsey and Lindsey’s (and by extension Emma’s) friends was also interesting. There’s a lot of back story about a few of them, and some of them seemed very flat and stereotypical. They’re an odd mix, and after some revealing information comes to light throughout the book about several of them, I was very mystified as to why Emma remained friends with them.

One of these nights, none other than celebrity hottie Bass Cole sidles up and consumes Emma in a dance. After that moment, she is his – in his eyes. They begin spending inordinate amounts of time together, staying up all night and bonding, but never anything more. Bass realizes Emma has unresolved baggage, and one night comes face to face with Carter.

Bass Cole is not your typical Hollywood blockbuster star. Yes, he is sexy. Yes, he has a bazillion dollars and it shows in what he owns. Yes, he has a million people who are in his backpocket. But he doesn’t act like it, at all. He is a very down-to-earth and sweet guy. He doesn’t use his fame and success to impress, and he wants to get to know Emma on a personal level. He opens doors for her and helps her realize what she really wants to do with her life. Because of Bass, Emma takes a major plunge for her future.

The whole time Emma was debating about Bass and Carter, I couldn’t help but scream. Hello? Soul mate or ass hat? Make your choice. But Bass Cole is a womanizer, too. He never gets dumped, like Carter Mason. Emma Anderson surprises both of them.

I could understand Emma’s dilemma about Carter, who is very persistent in the “I miss yous” and “I can’t live without yous” and all that non-commitment crap. I know exactly how Emma felt, because three years ago I was with a Carter Mason. But like Emma, I fell in love with a womanizer (and a user, to boot!). And he kept breaking my heart for a year and pulling the same kind of stunts that Carter does in Scornfully Yours. I knew exactly how Emma felt, the power that Carter had over her, and how easy it is to give in to him because you keep hoping. Unfortunately, like Emma, it took something monumental to see the true Carter Mason.

And then Emma has to face Bass for the new direction her life is taking. It is heartbreaking the way Bass treats Emma, but I get it. Who wouldn’t be hurt that they were led on when there was really no contest?

This book was very graphic and erotic. More so than what I am used to, and there were some parts that I think it was just taken way too overboard, but others that done perfectly. I hurried through the parts I didn’t like, but I will say I was ready to put the book down and go get Daniel! 😉

*****About the Author*****

d8b9a09af995d4f4a302641c9b5399a1Pamela Ann is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Lily’s Mistake Series, Chasing Series, Torn Series, British Billionaires Series, Pieces: The Duet.

An avid reader of steamy angst-filled romance and history-based novels, Pamela currently lives in Los Angeles with her son and three devoted dogs. She studied Fashion Marketing in United Kingdom and has a degree in Business. She has a penchant for pastries, renaissance paintings, and traveling.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Sunday Post (September 28)

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things received, and share news about what is coming up on the blog for the week ahead. To get in on the Sunday funday, see the rules here: Sunday Post Meme.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Whew! One more week until the end of the grading period. Hello, everyone’s late work! 😉

Last week was a fantastic week on the blog. I feel like comments were up, and I was getting more meaningful comments from new people. Hello, new people! Thank you. 🙂

Even though this is the end of September and I didn’t read all of my September Sizzlers, I’ll get to them. Maybe I’ll schedule them for next September!

We have had a lot of rain in the Austin and Central Texas area, and it has been great. We needed it very much, and I’m hoping it’s not over. Thanks to the rain, I haven’t had to water my plants for an entire week!

~ Last Week on G1000W ~

~ This Week on G1000W ~

  • September Sizzlers Review: Scornfully Yours (Pamela Anne)
  • Next Month: October Outrage!
  • September Monthly Chit Chat
  • Review + Giveaway: Blade Singer (Aaron de Orive & Martha Wells)
  • WWW Wednesday
  • Blast + Giveaway: Roxy Rogers (Emily Siskin-Toy)
  • Top 10 + Giveaway: Into the Arms of Morpheus (Jessica Nicholls)
  • October Outrage!: Seven Deadly Sins
  • Feature Follow Friday

~ Other Open Giveaways on G1000W ~

~ New Arrivals to Land of 1000 Wonders ~

I received a children’s book series to review. I actually had to go pick up the package at the post office! The last time that happened (right before summer) they LOST my mail! I don’t know what it was or who it was from. Needless to say, I hate our post office.

~ Around Town in the Spotlight ~

FYI: The YA Scavenger Hunt will be Oct 2-5. That’s this week! Here are the teams!

Review + Giveaway: Neurotica

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Welcome to my tour stop for Neurotica by Eliza Gordon. This is an adult romantic comedy and the tour runs Sept. 22-Oct. 3 with mostly reviews and a few interviews, guest posts and excerpts thrown in. To check out all the tour stops, visit the tour page.

cbbtourhostTitle: Neurotica
Author: Eliza Gordon
Publisher: West 26th Street Press
Release Date: August 2014
Length: 312 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Source: CBB Book Promotions

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

*****Synopsis*****

If you find yourself talking to Jayne Dandy, keep the conversation on Star Wars and rubber ducks—best not to mention men, dating, or S-E-X. Because Jayne is fine with the way things are: writer of obituaries and garage sale ads by day, secret scribe of adventures in distant galaxies by night. But her crippling fear of intimacy has made her the butt of jokes since forever, and hiding behind her laptop isn’t going to get her lightsaber lit.
After her therapist recommends that she write erotica as a form of exposuretherapy, Jayne joins forces with pen and paper to combat the demons that won’t let her kiss and tell. Unexpectedly downsized at work, she adopts a pseudonym and secretly self-publishes one of her naughty books to make ends meet. When her adorable, long-time friend Luke, co-owner of the popular Portland food truck LukePiewalker’s, hears she’s been demoted, he insists on hiring her to sling éclairs and turnovers at his side. Her secret must be kept, but sparks ignite between them, sending Jayne and her X-Wing into a tailspin that will either make her face down her neuroses or trigger a meltdown of Death Star proportions.

*****Review*****

I loved this book. It was hilarious, and all of the characters fit together really well in their specific roles in relation to the main character, Jayne.

“Sex smells funny.”

Dr. McCoy chokes on her coffee. “I’d say ‘come again,’ but I’m afraid to.” She dabs at sputtered drops before they soak her blouse. “How would you know, Jayne?”

Jayne is…odd. She sees a therapist, Dr. McCoy, about her neurosis about sex. She admits there’s no reason for her hold up – she wasn’t abused or anything. She blames it on the church ladies from her childhood and how they fire-and-brimstoned the talk about “the birds and the bees.” Jayne’s sister, Margaret (known as Maggot) and brother Frankie (known as Farting Frankie) don’t have issues, but Jayne is working through it.

Awesome. I can now say “boobs” out loud without begging forgiveness from a bearded, robed man living in a posh, pillowy cloud house. Money well spent.

Jayne also has a thing about ducks. She helped rescue some ducks in the local park, and works at a shelter every weekend taking care of them. She even collects rubber ducks. Throughout the novel, she gets a few unique rubber ducks from various characters.

Jayne’s family knows about her fear, and so does her best friend, Gretchen. Gretchen comes from a wealthy family and only works to pass off to her family that she’s productive (even though they pay the bills). She works with Jayne at a newspaper office under Mr. Clark, where Jayne writes the ads and obits and Gretchen has a feature about fashion. After the paper’s food critic quit, newbie Holden is set out in the world with no idea of what he’s walking in to.

The friendship that Jayne and Gretchen have is so incredibly odd. They are opposites in almost every sense, but they compliment each other so well. Gretchen is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Jayne in terms of sex. Gretchen is daring and bold and outgoing, and Jayne is homebody-ish and likes the regular, like going to Luke’s.

What is it with guys and long eyelashes? I spend six minutes per eyeball every morning just to get my nine eyelashes to look double that number.

Luke is a local food trailer entrepreneur…who has a sister named Leia. And they are twins. Their parents are Star Wars fans, just like Luke and Jayne. Luke and Jayne get along really well, even though Jayne is having to keep herself in check. It seems that Jayne and Gretchen eat at Luke’s for breakfast and lunch almost every day, and eventually Holden joins in. Luke’s food is legendary in the book – he’s won many foodie awards and been featured all over, and even invited as a vendor for Comic Con.

Gretchen opens the paper sack and shoves her patrician nose inside to suck in the chocolatey fumes. “Oh God, these are going to be good.” 

“Don’t get boogers on the brownies.” 

“Booger brownies are my favorite,” she says.

Unbeknownst to all, Jayne has actually taken to writing sci-fi fan fiction on the internet under the name Jaina Jacen, and she’s pretty popular. There are chapters in the book of Jaina’s new work, Eider, which Jayne later actually gives to someone.

She’s also started writing sci-fi romances with some super steamy scenes. After bad foodie reviews at the newspaper, a restauranteer has taken to sabotaging the building…and when things blow up, Jayne’s left with few options.

But thanks to one deranged chef with a knack for pipe bombs – it’s amazing how nuts a man can become when your paper writes the review that allegedly sinks his restaurant – Surly Brian is now a necessity.

So she does something crazy, and Gretchen helps Jayne keep her cover. It is going brilliantly, and Gretchen is full-on dedicated to helping Jayne, who is supposed to be taking up her author’s pen again, all while on the sly.

As her friendship with Luke progresses, Jayne is hoping he’ll never find out her secret…that no one will ever find out her secret. She gets a hard lesson from Dr. McCoy and Luke about being true to herself, which I would have liked to have seen a little more development of, but it was still given appropriate life in the book.

The funny thing about happiness – it sometimes sneaks up, taps you on the shoulder, and then tiptoes away, leaving only shadowy footprints behind.

Two things that I felt made this book were Jayne’s narration and inner dialogue, and the easy banter between characters – especially Jayne, Luke, and Gretchen. Their characters and relationships are captured so well in the novel, it’s almost effortless in how they interact.

“It’s January. We don’t have to shave in the winter. Or didn’t you get the memo?” 

She helps herself to my supply of feminine hygiene. “The only memo I’m concerned with is the one where Operation Get Jayne Laid is a go for launch.”

“It’s speed dating, not speed copulating.” 

“What do you think speed dating leads to?” 

“Dinner. A movie. Two years of holding hands before we going our separate ways.”

“You’re a terrible Jedi.”

“I’m still in training.”

 ****About the Author*****

Eliza-Gordon-208x300A purveyor of fictions, Eliza Gordon has excellent taste in books, shoes, movies, and friends, and questionable sanity in the realm of love. Best leave that one alone.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

*****Giveaway*****

There is a $25 Amazon gift card up for grabs in this giveaway.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Feature Follow Friday (September 26)

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowIt is the Friday Feature Follow!

This is a weekly blog meme hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read.

Here are the general rules to Follow Friday:
1. Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (links above) and any one else you want to follow on the list
2. Follow our Featured Bloggers
3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can
6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love…and the followers
7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
8. If your new to the follow Friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
email
bloglovin

The Question:

Book character(s) you’d like to see with their own Twitter page?

My Answer: 

I would really like to see Twitter pages from these characters…

  • Claire from Outlander – I’m sure she’d have a lot to say about the stupidity of men and outrage over the unhygienic practices
  • Jackie from Bloody Jack – pictures of exotic places, damage to her ship, her amazing crew and so much more
  • The Rose sisters from Kathleen Brooks’ Bluegrass Series and Bluegrass Brothers series – there would be no need for a rumor mill phone tree
  • Hermione from Harry Potter – just to see the things she would tweet about
  • Pudge from Looking for Alaska – I wonder if he would still post philosophical things, like famous last words and The Great Perhaps

Which characters would you like to see having their own Twitter pages? Leave me a comment with your response and your Friday Follow. 

Review: Venice in the Moonlight

Venice in the MoonlightTitle: Venice in the Moonlight
Author: Elizabeth McKenna
Release Date: October 2013
Length: 194 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Romance
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Take a vacation from the London ton and visit Venice in the Moonlight!

A Story of Vengeance, Forgiveness, and Love 

After her husband’s untimely demise, Marietta Gatti is banished from the family’s villa by her spiteful mother-in-law. She returns to her hometown of Venice and her only kin—a father she hasn’t spoken to since her forced marriage. Her hope of making amends is crushed when she learns she is too late, for he recently has died under suspicious circumstances. Grief-stricken, Marietta retraces her father’s last night only to discover someone may have wanted him dead—and she may be next. When the prime suspect turns out to be the father of the man she is falling in love with, Marietta risks her future happiness and her life to avenge the death of a man she once hated.

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel takes you back to eighteenth century Carnival, where lovers meet discreetly, and masks make everyone equal.

Review

Marietta Gatti is the daughter of an artist, and as such she is not in the upper echelon of the nobility in Venice. Not until, that is, her father forces her to marry into it. Marietta hates her husband, and I can’t say I blame her. She is an independent woman in a time when women were playthings, and this quote was my favorite:

The family money could buy almost anything – anything except a place in heaven. Her husband roasted in hell.

She also harbors hatred for her father, who not only left her to this terrible marriage, but forced her into it. (It really was for her own good.) She has shunned him and his letters, until the unfortunate (or fortunate for her) death of her husband. She now goes to seek her father out and uncovers something sinister hiding within the most noble families of Venice.

Marietta stared at her father’s painting. There were so many things she wanted to say when she saw him in a few days. She was still furious, but she was also thrilled that he had regained his inspiration.

After the death of her husband, Marietta sets off with her maid in search of her father. All of a sudden many characters are introduced and for a while I had a hard time keeping up with who was who, because they then separated out into groups. But eventually I got back on board and could place everybody.

Marietta’s first discovery in Venice is that a few noble families, the rulers of Venice, owe her father quite a bit of money for his paintings. Shortly after he made his rounds to collect, he was killed. Marietta sets off in the dark of night to uncover the truth behind these matters, and discovers even more. In her journey, she meets and befriends her father’s mistress and best friend. Both of the people who her father last saw try to help her.

“The rich no longer are so rich, yet they act rich.”

Marietta also is thrust into the world of nobility when Nico Foscari comes to the rescue of a traveling carriage and takes the ragtag group of vagabonds under his roof. Nico is a man of many things. He is partially blind, and wears darkened glasses always. He is one of the biggest rakes in Venice, and his father was one of a few who commissioned paintings from Marietta’s father and never paid up. Now, Nico has also commissioned a Gatti artist.

“How did you do that?” 

Nico shrugged. “I’ve learned a few things over the years. You’d be amazed at how many people think nothing of taking advantage of a blind man.”

“Were you following me?”

“Me? No, how could I do that?” he replied.

As Marietta puzzles through the nitty gritty of her father’s death and the craziness that she has uncovered, she is also spending much of her time painting Nico at his private townhouse.

Nico’s best friend is Casanova, who is an odd duck to say the least. In the debauchery sense he is Nico’s equal and they enjoy many a night out on the town…until Marietta comes along. Nico trusts Casanova because he has no intentions or motivations in his friendship with Nico…until Nico hears Marietta’s story. Then things start to change rapidly. He is left wondering who he can trust, and how to make things right.

As the book progressed, I saw a lot of character development in Nico. I was very pleasantly surprised with the inner workings of his mind, but it also made sense. It was just a little heartbreaking to spend your whole life thinking something like this:

Part of him hoped she was here to see him and not his father. But his father spoke the truth as harsh as it as. Only courtesans could love an almost blind man, so courtesans would have to do. 

I enjoyed this book immensely. The plot line centering around Marietta’s father’s death was very well planned out and implemented in the novel. Marietta’s social standing, tarnished in a way by her father’s habits, is something she has to strive to overcome – as well as the whisperings of why she is not with her late husband’s family. Nico is a man well accustomed to the privileged life – even as a blind man – and that in itself is what creates his very flawed character.

Venice in the Moonlight was a relatively quick read, and I enjoyed the historical aspect of this period of time in Venice. It also had a few scenes for the much celebrated Carnival!

About the Author

Elizabeth McKennaElizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene). She had always wanted to write fiction, so she combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel Cera’s Place. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her websitehttp://elizabethmckenna.com/. She hopes you will enjoy her latest novel, Venice in the Moonlight, as much as others have enjoyed her previous works.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Thoughts on Thursday: What Makes A Good Romance?

What Makes A Good Romance?

September is drawing to a close, and with it we must say goodbye to the September Sizzlers. 😦

I know, right? We all like a little happy in our cup of coffee when we sit down to read our favorite love stories. However, I’m not letting them go without a proper goodbye send-off.

What is it about love and romance stories that make us happy? Usually there’s some major drama and heart-wrenching upset, but things typically keel over by the end of the novel. We know that’s usually how things go.

But…what are the other components that make up a good romance novel? 

When I was thinking about this post, I kept wondering what standard (and which books) we use as our guides to help answer this question. The books I chose to help navigate through the pieces of this question are Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. Ironically, both of the male love interest characters are named Jaime (spelled Jaimy in Bloody Jack).

Disparity

First, there is usually a disparity of some sort (even if it is only perceived) between the love interest characters.

In Outlander, Claire came from a totally different time period and everyone thought she was either nuts or a witch. She is also a strong, independent female in a male-domineering society. In Bloody Jack, Jackie is a girl of the London streets, an orphan girl in a street gang, while Jaimy has grown up his entire life privileged in a pretty prominent London family. Like in Outlander, Jackie is a strong female in a patriarchal society where women are seen as mothers and hostesses. This disparity creates an uneven, unmatched playing field for the two love interests.

Power Imbalance

I have also noticed that sometimes there is a clear power imbalance. When I say power imbalance, I truly mean that in the sense of one character having authority or supervision over the other. This can be in part because of the disparity between the two love interests, or it can be completely unrelated.

In Outlander, Claire is an outsider while Jaime is a leader within his clan. Claire is a nobody, everyone is suspicious of her, and her words fall on deaf ears. Jaime is level headed and uses logic to solve problems and is always heard. The clan may not fall in line with Jaime’s ideas, but there is always value placed on his voiced thoughts, very much unlike Claire (at least for a good portion of the book).

In Bloody Jack, Jackie and Jaimy start out as ships boys together. As the series progresses and they each progress up through the ranks, at various time Jaimy has authority over Jacky, or Jacky seizes authority over Jaimy with her piratical ways.

Something That Must Be Kept Hidden

A.K.A. “A Secret”

I have found time and time again in various romance novels that there exists something from one of the characters that must remain secret until the best possible moment as determined by the secret-keeper. The secret may be something that we as readers feel is very inconsequential, but to the character it is something that is a very real threat to the stability of the relationship.

In a recent read, Bluegrass State of Mind, Kenna is on the run from some very powerful and dangerous men from New York. She can’t share with anyone in Keeneston, KY the true reason she has arrived and applied for the prosecutor position. A danger draws nearer, Kenna continues to keep her secret until she is running out of time and things are about to come to a head.

In Bloody Jack, Jackie’s secret is obvious to readers: she’s a girl, masquerading as a boy on a ship full of men. Yes, eventually her secret does come out, but Jackie works very hard to keep up appearances so that she may experience life and not be stuck working for some pig of a man back in London.

A Snitch

On some occasions, but most definitely not all, there may be a snitch who gives away the secret-keeper’s secret. It may be purely by accident, just a murmur of something that strikes the non-secret-keeper as odd, and thus leading to an investigation. Or the snitch could very well deliberately be dropping intel about the secret-keeper’s secret. Sometimes this may be given out of context, leading the non-secret-keeper to believe only certain aspects and truths about the secret (and consequently, of the secret-keeper). Other times this can be done with only a bare hint of the truth while saturated in outright lies.

Usually the snitch is one of two people. In the first scenario where information given is entirely innocent, the snitch is usually someone the secret-keeper knows well who has good intentions. In the second scenario, the snitch is usually someone who wants revenge on the secret-keeper to keep him/her from happiness (an ex-lover, an ex-spouse, parents/friends of an ex-lover/spouse, etc.).

In Bluegrass State of Mind, the snitch is none other than Will’s ex-wife, who comes parading back into town acting like she is still married to Will. She even goes so far as to try to hire Kenna as her attorney to write up her own prenuptial agreement!

A Grand Adventure

Typically in romance novels there is some kind of adventure. It could be a small as trying new things together, like a cooking class, or big things like a skiing trip or hot air balloon ride. No matter what it is, there is usually some grand adventure that happens.

In Bloody Jack, the ships boys all take an oath to keep Jackie’s secret. In the second book, they all get identical tattoos to represent their brotherhood (which for Jackie later becomes known as “the curse of the blue tattoo”).

And this leads to…

Bonding

Through some kind of adventure, the two love interest characters bond. This is usually when those arrogant, flat characters reveal some true depth. We learn the reason(s) behind the wearing of the mask, so to speak.

This bonding time furthers the stability of the relationship…except in the secret-keeper’s mind. At this point, the secret-keeper is on Cloud 9, except for the niggling fear that the secret will be revealed. What then?

Imperfect Timing

The thing with secrets is that they are bound to come out, whether by fault of a snitch or just through natural occurrences of life. We all know what happens when we keep a secret from somebody, even if it is with the best of intentions. In romance novels, when the imperfect timing of revealing the secret happens, it’s almost like the perfect imperfect timing, because there IS still time to fully reveal the secret and all of the reasons for it.

I have found in many novels that the secret is revealed in some kind of public forum, so it is embarrassing and also puts the secret-keeper on the spot and gives the non-secret-keeper a leg up in terms of both disparity and balance of power. This is usually when these two components show to be true to their nature. If social standing or money is involved in disparity or power balance, it is made clear that acceptance into a group or family (by way of marriage) is clearly out of the running. The reasons for falling in love are forgotten in this heated moments of betrayal.

Sometimes at this point the secret-keeper reveals the full breadth and depth of the secret, and exactly why he/she kept the secret. Other times, the secret-keeper holds on to the secret, only giving out minimal answers to the non-secret-keeper’s questions because all of the secret-keeper’s fears are becoming a reality.

This is where that heart-wrenching angst comes in, for both the secret-keeper and the non-secret keeper. It’s as if all of the dreams they’ve been having (whether voiced to readers or not) are crumbling down around their ears. Sometimes as readers we can see the non-secret-keeper’s side of things, but I have often found myself with tears streaming because the non-secret-keeper won’t listen and understand the secret-keeper. Heart. Wrenching.

A Realization

Finally, there is a realization. Now, this realization could occur naturally by the non-secret-keeper alone, or there could be some prodding by other characters in the novel to get the non-secret-keeper to consider the secret-keeper’s dilemma and true merit and get the ball rolling toward this realization.

We know how this typically ends. There is a period of utter depression for both characters until this realization strikes. It’s like a light bulb all of a sudden going off. The non-secret-keeper confronts the secret-keeper, in which usually the secret-keeper visibly looks like complete shit and the non-secret-keeper reveals his/her vulnerabilities and realizations.

Are there components of romance novels that I have missed?

Please feel free to chime in, expand on my thoughts, and share your own in the comments! 

Review: The Brazilian Job

Brazilian JobTitle: The Brazilian Job
Author: Michelle Vernal
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 336 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Chick Lit, Romance, Humor

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Nobody’s perfect, are they?

Rebecca Loughton’s bumbled her way through her thirty something years making a few cock-ups along the way. Of course, these wouldn’t be so obvious if it wasn’t for her golden haired, older sister Jennifer. In a bid to escape Jennifer’s lengthy shadow and to find her happy ever after Rebecca, high-tails it out of her hometown of Christchurch to the other side of the world landing a legal secretary job in the buzzing city of Dublin. A few drinks later, all she has to show for her new life is an embarrassing one-night stand and a dollop of flirtatious banter with her boss Ciaran who just happens to have a predatory receptionist in hot pursuit of him.

Amidst plans of preventing such a merger, Rebecca receives news that Jennifer’s picture perfect life has a big, fat crack down the middle of it in the form of a philandering husband. Summoned home to look after her sister’s children and cooking school while she works on her marriage, Rebecca finds the reality of looking after two young children along with the bizarre array of guests booked into the cooking school grim. The only bright spot on her horizon are Ciaran’s e-mails but then she meets David Seagar whom she thinks might just be the ending to her happy ever after. But will he prove to be far from perfect too?

*****Review*****

I don’t quite know where to start with this book.

Becca is the younger sister, and has the prodigal older sibling who is that person who wears the shining diamond tiara while sitting on her pedestal made of gold. Becca has never followed through on anything in her life, picks and chooses at her own whimsy, and has no true direction, let alone goal, for her life. Becca has essentially run away from home to Dublin to take a paralegal position, with her no-good best friend tagging along.

Her older sister, though, is a totally different story. Jennifer was Ms. Everything, then got married, had two kids, and started a business out of the dilapidated house she bought and fixed up.

Fast forward two years. Becca is sort of on the hunt for a man, and does everything in her power to forget that one night with her boss. Her very sexy boss. Ciaran. Even his name sounds sexy! And then she gets the call from Jennifer that turns everything on its ear, especially Jennifer’s life.

Despite Becca being the screw up of the family, does what a good sister does and goes to help Jennifer in her time of need. (And her best friend tags along!) Only, Jennifer comes back from her “fix-our-marriage” vacation only a day after she’s left! Meanwhile, Becca is very interested in single dad David…until Jennifer throws up a no-holds bar.

Google Maps
Google Maps

This novel was very complex. The first thing I noticed is that this is not a traditional novel as we know them, but written more in the style of a memoir with a lot of reflection of events told through narration with little dialogue. It takes quite a while for Michelle Vernal to set the scene.

Halfway through the book I was wondering why in the world the title was The Brazilian Job. Neither Becca nor Jennifer live in Brazil. The title stems from one small incident in the novel, albeit one that is a catalyst for her relationship with BFF, but…really? Naming the entire book after a Brazilian wax job? Not only did I find it an inadequate title, but it just didn’t seem in good taste. Perhaps New Zealanders think otherwise, I really don’t know. It’s a catchy title with a bright cover, but I could think of a handful of alternate titles.

One thing that really annoyed me was Jennifer. She was such a bitch to Becca! Not only did Becca have to take two weeks of vacation – and kept the situation hush-hush to their parents – but she was there for Jennifer! She listened, tried to be helpful and supportive of her sister, and she flew all the way back home to take care of her family and her business. Before Becca even left for Christchurch, after her phone conversation with Jennifer, I was already pissed off.

And then Michelle Vernal goes and makes us feel bad for Jennifer. Then I felt like an ass. However, that sentiment did not last long at all. Not long at all after Jennifer came back to town, minus a husband. The true truth of Jennifer’s unraveling marriage comes to light. Still, Becca is there for her sister.

Meanwhile through all of it, Becca experiences a whirlwind two weeks of heartbreak, love, betrayal, forgiveness, and most of all: maturity. She stands up to her no-good friend who only puts her down. She realizes she’s at a dead end in life and decides to make a major change. She bonds with her sister. She discovers who is really the right man for her.

*****About the Author*****

7444813Michelle Vernal is a 42 year old, married mum of two boys who lives in the pretty little town of Oxford located in New Zealand’s South Island. Writing is something she has always used as a way of expressing herself and was her first foray into the romantic and humorous world of chick lit as recorded in her thirteen year old self’s compulsory school journal. In it, much to the delight of her English teacher, she described in minutiae the heartbreak of being dumped after her first school disco. It was a scene she re-wrote into The Brazilian Job.