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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: Highland Rebel by Judith James

Title: Highland Rebel
Author: Judith James
Genre: Fiction - Historical Romance
Finished: August 31, 2009

In Judith James’ Highland Rebel Jamie Sinclair is a solider, a master of disguise, a little bit of a rogue, and almost penniless. Nevertheless, the ladies love him and he has a promising future with a woman waiting for him back home in England who has money. His hopes of a well off and comfortable future are dashed in the heat of battle when he meets and marries a young Scottish girl-- Catherine Drummond. Jamie does not know it at the time, but she is rich... very rich. Jamie’s intention for marrying her is to save her from the evil thoughts and hands of his bored, blood thirsty soldiers. Catherine soon pays him back for his ‘kindness’ by nursing him back to health when he is all but beaten to death trying to get her back once she inevitably runs from the marriage. Beaten over the head and sent back to England in disgrace, Jamie is left penniless again and falls out of favor with the King for snubbing his former soon-to-be wife for a Scottish rebel girl. Catherine, however, finds that she quite likes being married without the burden of having a husband around. Years pass, but circumstance takes Catherine to England to meet the King and hopefully begin to sell her people’s whiskey to the court for a profit. When she sees Jamie again, they come to an understanding that they will pretend to be married for a while before splitting amicably. Catherine promises Jamie that she will pay him handsomely for playing his role. Problem is, they soon begin to develop a powerful attraction toward one another. It is hard for Catherine to endure Jamie playing his charms on other women and not her, and Jamie feels increasingly possessive of the beautiful and charming Catherine. Because the two of them knock heads relentlessly, they convince themselves that they should not pursue one another, which only causes more confusion and anxiety. And, of course, more attraction.

If you do not like the typical “gasp and passion” romances that populate bookstores, Highland Rebel is a book that you will like. The characters are well relayed and have depth, each with their own personality and motivating forces. The romance itself is slow moving and complex, so there is a realistic and often times wonderfully frustrating progression from disdain to friendship and ultimately to love. Jamie and Cat do not fall all over each other, so the plot is not cliche as so much romance fiction is. Judith James knows her history and it shows in the elegant way she presents the English Royal Court of James, as well as the harsher but beautiful Scottish Highlands of Catherine’s heritage. My area of history, as anyone knows, is Rome, so I fully enjoyed what I was able to learn from Highland Rebel. Subtle beneath the passion and romance is a variety of great, valuable historical information. I was absolutely delighted by the matter of fact way James presents her world such that we absorb without feeling inundated by details and facts. Highland Rebel is also very well written and I like how it plays out the way that Jamie and Catherine slowly come together. I dislike the brand of romance that has the heroine in the arms of the man as soon as they meet. The best female counterparts are strong willed and resistant. The greater the conflict, the greater the reward at the end when all differences are mended and the couple finally comes to accept the feelings they have. Jamie seems to be worth it, though, because he is the right kind of rogue-- rough, smart, and misunderstood. And Catherine defies the expectations placed on women to achieve independence as much as any woman can. I can’t say that I blame her. Naturally, this makes her the perfect fit for the unconventional Jamie. Too bad they didn’t see it earlier! You will quite like Jamie at the end, rogue though he is. You come to understand why he is the way he is due to his own father and upbringing. Cat, too, comes across as a bit cold. However, once her character comes out, you really learn to respect her for her boldness, her wit, and her strength. She is a take charge kind of girl, but not kick butt; Cat is weak and flawed in her own way, which makes her more of an engaging and believable character. There are some definite character changes that occur toward the end, as the two of them change each other enough to allow love to take hold and come to fruition.

Highland Rebel is a truly entertaining story, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes heated, sometimes absolutely frustrating. A page turner, for sure.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blog Tour & Author Interview: Dark Hunger (Demonborn, #2) by Rita Herron

About Rita Herron

Rita Herron is an award-winning author of more than 30 romantic suspense novels for Harlequin and Dorchester. In 2007 alone, she was nominated for two Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards, including a Career Achievement Award. Five fun facts about Rita Herron: 1. I set Dark Hunger in three of my favorite cites, Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans because they’re all haunted and possess an eerie atmosphere -- perfect places for the Death Angel. The B & B with the outdoor garden where Annabelle stays in Savannah is fashioned after a B & B where my husband and I stayed. And Shayla Larue is modeled after a voodoo priestess I met at the RWA conference in New Orleans. 2. Emily Nelson, the social worker in the book, is named after my daughter who’s a dedicated social worker in real life. 3. The idea of the Death Angel taking a vulture’s form came from a brainstorming session with two author friends at a writer’s retreat near Charleston. I’d been flirting with other forms but, when the vulture idea came up, I knew it was perfect--creepy and symbolic of bad luck, evil and death. 4. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds inspired me as I was writing Dark Hunger. I also envisioned David Gray’s song “One With the Birds” as the soundtrack for the movie. 5. When I was a child, I knew a preacher who inspired me to create Reverend Narius. He was a hellfire and damnation type who yelled and stalked up and down the aisles during his sermon. It was as if he was singling you out to let you know you were going to hell. I was terrified of him! For more information about Rita Herron, visit her official webpage.

About Dark Hunger

Reporter Annabelle Armstrong will go to any lengths to deliver a story, even track down Quinton Valtrez, a man she believes is a coldhearted assassin. Yet the truth about the darkly sensual Quinton is even more shocking...and the overwhelming desire he ignites is one she vows to resist. Quinton has fought his demonic powers since he was a child. Now using his gifts for the good of national security, he can't let himself be distracted by the beautiful, determined Annabelle. But his need for her is sudden, fierce--and could soon cost Annabelle her life. For a wicked enemy is out for vengeance, a demon who wants to draw Quinton into a life of pure evil and is willing to use Annabelle as bait. To save her, Quinton must achieve the near impossible: tame the sinister force that is both his inheritance and his curse before it claims him forever. 

Enjoy the book trailer:
For more information, visit The Demonborn website. Watch out for my review next!

Interview With Rita Herron

Q: What do you think draws readers to the paranormal? What is the appeal?
A: I think readers are drawn to the paranormal because it presents a mystery and delves into the unknown. How many of us haven’t wondered if there is more to life than our life on earth? If there is truth to reincarnation? If ghosts exist? If there are extra terrestrial creatures out in space?
Also, the dark sexy vampire represents the alpha male to the upteenth degree. He’s sexy, mysterious, tortured, and exudes masculinity and sexual prowess. 
The paranormal also offers new, different and creative story lines. Even if we don’t believe in fairies, vampires, werewolves, witches, etc., it’s just plain fun to visit a world of make-believe where virtually anything is possible. 

Q: Why do you choose to write your characters the way they are rather than make them average every day people?
A: Hmm, this sounds like a trick question. I do write some every day normal people, LOL. In fact, I chose to plant my demon characters into the real world because I think it’s actually more frightening to think that these evil creatures might exist among real people in a real town.
That said, I’m writing fiction, so writing “larger than life”, unique characters is much more interesting to write -- and read -- about than the average person. After all, most of us lead fairly normal, lives, and on a daily basis, fairly boring lives. That’s not bad, it’s just not the stuff that holds the reader’s attention! A: For fiction, we want drama, action, comedy, stories to make us escape, to entertain and take us out of our real world, stories to make us think: what if I was in that situation? What would I do? 

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story? 
A: Physically writing and laying out a story are two different processes for me, just as revising and editing are. To physically sit down and write, I set daily goals (page count) and try to stick to it. But at that point, I have a synopsis and an idea where my story is going. In the beginning, I write slower because I’m setting things up, working out plot points, getting to know my characters. Midway, I seem to hit my stride and write much faster because I’m mentally into the story, seeing the scenes in my head, and can’t wait to get to the end. 
As far as laying out the story, that’s a different tune. I spend a lot of time “thinking” about the story ahead of time, letting the plot percolate, asking myself “what ifs”, making notes on characters, scenes, twists and turns, suspects, and doing some research (although I’m not a research junkie. I research on a need to know basis.) I also have to spend time thinking about the setting, what place will most enhance and help drive the plot and add to the story. I’m not exactly organized, but have a yellow legal pad (I love the sight of a new blank pad of paper!). On the pad, I make notes, draw lines to indicate plot points, etc. 
I really love this creative part of writing -- there are so many possibilities, it’s like working a puzzle to see how to fit the pieces together. 

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: Most of my characters are composites -- not in looks necessarily, but I do draw character traits, mannerisms, speech patterns, values, strengths, flaws, likes and dislikes, job choices, etc. from various people I’ve met or known. As far as putting myself into the character, sometimes certain characters reflect my values or views on life, even represent questions and issues that I might have. Mostly though, the characters are born from my imagination, and I actually have fun getting into their heads. It’s interesting to stop and put yourself into the mind of someone who might not think like you. A: And with every main character I write, I try to put some “heart” into the character. That doesn’t mean that character can’t be evil; it just means I try to portray how he or she might actually think and feel. And even though the characters may not be your average Joe, I try to give them conflicts and problems which the reader or average person can relate to.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: I wish I’d known how important marketing was to both selling a book to a publisher and to selling it in a bookstore. I came from an education background, and had to learn the business side of writing fast. Unfortunately it’s not always about the best book; sometimes marketing or lack of can make or break a deal or a book’s success. 
Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know all this -- I might have given up! 

Q: What is one thing you’ve never done but would love to do?
A: I’ve never traveled extensively and would love to visit Sweden, Italy, Japan, Australia, Argentina...the list is endless. 

Q: Say your books were being made into a movie or TV show, who would you want to play them?
A: I’d love to see the Demonborn made into a series or movie. I picture Alex O’Loughlin (from Moonlighting) as one of the brothers. Other male actors who would be great in the roles: Clive Owen, Bailey Chase, Eric Bana, Brad Pitt, Dylan McDermont...
I also have imagined David Grey’s song “One With the Birds” playing during the opening scenes. 

Q: What have you always wanted to write about but have yet to? Any particular setting? Creature? Historical era?
A: Having grown up in the South, I’ve always wanted to write a southern women’s fiction novel, and have actually started one book already and have some other ideas. Maybe some day... 

Q: What would your ‘theme’ song be on the soundtrack of your life?
Everyone has obstacles to overcome, and I had those in my personal life growing up and definitely in my career. So far, I’ve survived, and love the positive attitude that song exudes.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: Hmm, this is not from a famous person but someone who is famous and special to me: my mother. She always said, “Can’t Never Did Anything.” 
That’s my favorite quote of all time and the motto I try to live by. So never say never or that you can’t do something. If you try, you’re a success.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: The Dysfunctional Father's Guide to Pregnancy Birth and Babies by XY

Title: The Dysfunctional Father's Guide to Pregnancy Birth and Babies 
Author: XY 
Genre: Fiction - Humor 
Finished: August 20, 2009

The Dysfunctional Father's Guide to Pregnancy Birth and Babies is a humor guide book for expectant fathers penned by a two man team who call themselves XY, and is illustrated by David Shaw. The book is an amusing look at how the ‘dysfunctional father’ views the road to pregnancy, the pregnancy experience, childbirth, and the first year of a child’s life. It is an advice book, a guide book, and a collection of personal stories somewhat exaggerated for comedic effect. Sensitive men and women should not read. If you are predisposed to the idea that all men are piggish jerks, you might also not want to read this book because it will just confirm your opinion. The tone of the book comes off arrogant and misogynistic, but the humor itself is meant to be tongue in cheek, so the authors are not trying to be politically correct or kind with their words. I have to admit, sometimes I quite disliked the authors, especially when I read the section on how to make your post-birth wife feel fat enough to go on a diet. It was absolutely horrible. You will probably also ask yourself at some point, “do these men actually love their wives?” While I don’t think that any man in his right mind would follow the advice given, I do think that it’s worth a laugh because some of it is quite outrageous and cruel. And the book itself might not be insight into the average male mind, but it is a peek into what I am sure every man thinks at least once in a while. I had a lot of fun reading it once I got over myself and decided not to be offended by the obvious disrespect shown toward women. Sometimes that made it really, really hard to like and enjoy, but I did manage quite a few laughs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: Bone Chiller by R.M. Heske

Title: Bone Chillers: Tales of Suburban Murder & Malice 
Author: R.M. Heske 
Genre: Fiction - Horror 
Finished: August 19, 2009

Cold Blooded Chillers: Tales of Suburban Murder and Malice by R.M. Heske is an anthology of three previously released comic books. The ten comic book stories presented are sectioned off into subcategories: Femme Fatales, Mistrust Thy Neighbor, Someone is Watching, and Extra Pieces. Some of the stories, such as False Pretenses, are quick and to the point, while others like Alibi offer very little graphics and tell the story as if it were a script. Within you have everything from women murders, rape, child abuse, false accusations, to serial killers. The art styles vary because the artists themselves do, but the stories are all written by R.M. Heske, who has a knack for the creepy and the bizarre, as well as for revealing the darkness inside of people. Heske’s characters are common people, housewives and next door neighbors, so some of the chill comes from the fact that they could be living next door to you. The mystery and suspense in some stories is palpable, and some have twists at the end that take you by surprise and thoroughly disturb and amuse you. Some of the stories will definitely make you feel ill at ease because they deal with subjects that people might consider taboo, but I would hope as fans of horror, readers would not worry so much about what is taboo and instead enjoy the feeling of being unsettled. As for the art, I was very impressed with it because the panels are executed beautifully and go perfectly with the story told. I had a great time lying in bed reading this anthology. By their very nature, the stories are all quick reads compiled together into a book you can get through in an hour. I love instant gratification. Each one is like an episode, as vivid as if you were watching it on television. I recommend this comic to anyone who likes the horror genre.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blog Tour & Book Review: Bleak History by John Shirley

About John Shirley

John Shirley is the author of numerous books and many, many short stories. His novels include Crawlers, Demons, In Darkness Waiting, and seminal cyberpunk works City Come A-Walkin', and the A Song Called Youth trilogy of Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. His collections include the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild award-winning Black Butterflies and Living Shadows: Stories: New Pre-owned. He also writes for screen (The Crow) and television. As a musician Shirley has fronted his own bands and written lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult and others. For more information, you can read his bio, visit his approved fansite, or view his website.

About Bleak History

CLASSIFIED: APPARENT SUPERNATURAL Subject: Gabriel Bleak. Status: Civilian. Paranormal skills: Powerful. Able to manipulate AS energies and communicate with UBEs (e.g. "ghosts" and other entities). Psychological profile: Extremely independent, potentially dangerous. Caution is urged.... 

As far as Gabriel Bleak is concerned, talking to the dead is just another way of making a living. It gives him the competitive edge to survive as a bounty hunter, or "skip tracer," in the psychic minefield known as New York City. Unfortunately, his gift also makes him a prime target. A top-secret division of Homeland Security has been monitoring the recent emergence of human supernaturals, with Gabriel Bleak being the strongest on record. If they control Gabriel, they'll gain access to the Hidden -- the entity-based energy field that connects all life on Earth. But Gabriel's got other ideas. With a growing underground movement called the Shadow Community -- and an uneasy alliance of spirits, elementals, and other beings -- Gabriel's about to face the greatest demonic uprising since the Dark Ages. But this time, history is not going to repeat itself. This time, the future is Bleak. Gabriel Bleak.

My Review of Bleak History

Genre: Fiction - Paranormal 
Finished: August 18, 2009
Gabriel Bleak is part of the Shadow Community, a group of humans infused with special powers granted from a Hidden world. Some of them can enter minds, some see the future, some carry familiars, and some, such as Bleak, control energy to make it both weapon and tool. He also has a talent for seeing and speaking to ghosts. The CCA, a division of Homeland Security, investigates people like Bleak. They are following him closely, trying to capture him and bring him into their facility. Very troubling is that the wall up North, a barrier against the flood of supernatural that could enter the living world, has weakened and is letting in things unseen before. New powers are cropping up in the hands of people who will not use them for good. A dark force is gaining strength and searching for a way to enter fully, only able to extend tendrils used to control others. Loraine Sarikosca works for the CCA, but the more she sees them in action, the more doubts she has. She also feels a strange compulsive force towards Gabriel Bleak, just as he does to her. Locked within the fortified walls of their fortress, the CCA imprison and experiment on members of the Shadow Community. They want to capture and control, use the Shadow Community to their own wishes. But a darker plot is at hand when it is discovered that the darkness behind the wall has one of its tendrils in the CCA and his plans are quite different and far more threatening. 
I very much enjoyed Bleak History because the concept is so unique. Rather, we have recently been experiencing an influx of ‘humans with powers’ stories because of the popularity of comic book adaptations, but Shirley has managed to make a distinctive and interesting world of his own within the genre. I liked reading about the different Shadow Community members and their specific talents. I only wish that we could have entered that world a bit deeper and met more of the people, or had more people around Gabriel helping with their own special talents. Most of the Shadow Community members are secondary and have their specific, defined roles that come and go. Characters like Scribbler could be much deeper and more defined, and very interesting. Shirley puts a lot of detail into his descriptions of the Shadow Communities powers and visions. When Shoella creates her own world, we are given a beautiful picture of it. 
I was fascinated, too, by the way Scribbler is portrayed in the small part he plays. His obsession and nature comes through very clear. I suspect that Shirley’s knack for detail is derived from his background as a screenwriter, but it also comes from natural talent. Shirley has an easy, clear way of writing, though sometimes the lengthy descriptions, especially when they speak of more spiritual and less tangible matters, got me a bit lost. There is a lot of action in the book between getting chased, darker forces committing crimes, and seeking out the truth of what is happening. The book barely lags or takes a breath, but there are a few moments of quiet reflection for the characters. Though there is a small love connection, the book isn’t a romance at all, which is refreshing when so much of the paranormal genre is half as much romance as it is supernatural. With an open ending, we are left to wonder what becomes of Gabriel and Loraine as they embark on another journey together.

Participating Sites:

I Heart Monster: http://www.iheartmonster.com/ 
Debbie’s World of Books: http://debbiesworldofbooks.com/ 
Sci-Fi Guy: http://www.scifiguy.ca/ 
A Journey of Books: http://ajourneyofbooks.blogspot.com/ 
Simply Vamptastic: http://www.simplyvamptastic.com/ 
Starting Fresh: http://startingfresh-gaby317.blogspot.com/ 
Booksie’s Blog: http://booksiesblog.blogspot.com/ 
Readaholic: http://bridget3420.blogspot.com/ 
Falling Off The Shelf: http://fallingofftheshelf.blogspot.com/ 
Patricia’s Vampire Notes: http://patricias-vampire-notes.blogspot.com/ 
My Friend Amy: http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/ 
Reading With Monie: http://www.readingwithmonie.com/ 
Cheryl’s Book Nook: http://cherylsbooknook.blogspot.com/ 
Drey’s Library: http://dreyslibrary.blogspot.com/ 
Temple Library Reviews: http://templelibraryreviews.blogspot.com/ 
Jeanne’s Ramblings: http://jeannesgifts.blogspot.com/ 
Never Not Reading: http://nevernotreading.blogspot.com/ 
My Guilty Pleasures: http://www.mgpblog.com/ 
Fantasy Freak: http://fantastyfreak.blogspot.com/

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Eddie Godshalk

Today at Morbid Romantic I welcome Eddie Godshalk, who has been kind enough to give us a guest post of great relevance to something a lot of us the US are experiencing. Let me tell you, as I drive through the condo complex I live in, I see 'For Sale' and 'For Rent' signs everywhere. The Housing Crisis we are experiencing is large and troubling, yet so few of us understand the complex factors in what caused this.

How Did Macroeconomics and Flawed Market Information Cause the Housing Crisis?

Macroeconomics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroeconomics) is the broadest view but important measure of the economic system. As applied to housing it would address influencing factors such as disposable income, migration, available usable land, interest rates, etc. Macroeconomics in real estate applies to national or regional data. The regional data typically being the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), what is more currently called the CSA (Combined Statistical Area) or which there are approximately 400 in the US. The MSA or CSA, is often referred to as a “market.” All this data was available and many eyes were watching so how did all macro data fail? Part of the problem is that most professionals only have access to free or inexpensive data or information. You cannot make better assessments than the data available. Not only is much of the relevant data not free, it is very hard to find. Then integrating the data into meaningful results is a no-trivial task. In assessing a real estate investment decision, you can examine data from various sources that consider the property itself, the block, the Census Track, the Zip Code, the County, the MSA/CSA, the state, and the country. Certainly the farther and farther you go out, the less relevance and meaning you have in trying to assess any particular valuation.. Any of us in real estate know you can drive around any area beyond a very local area, and see that nothing homogeneous about any city or neighborhood in America. While this is intuitive, you cannot find any free data or readily available data to make a true assessment of a specific local market condition. The more uncertain or unstable the conditions the riskier and evaluation becomes. We have now gone through a time that exposes the weaknesses in the tools we have been using.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Review: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Title: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre 
Author: Amanda Grange 
Genre: Fiction - Paranormal 
Finished: August 14, 2009

In this fan follow up to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre beings with the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy. The happy occasion is only momentarily sullied by Darcy’s silence and reserve, as well as a moment where Elizabeth reads a particular expression of distress on his face. The two of them embark together on their wedding tour throughout Europe, and the good spirit in Elizabeth’s heart is slowly cast into shadow the more aloof Darcy becomes. Rather, though he is affectionate, there seems a wall that Elizabeth cannot penetrate and she begins to question his love for her. Despite being married, Darcy is refraining from physical affections and Elizabeth wonders if she is the cause, and if Darcy regrets their union since many in his family are not too pleased with their marriage. Strange things begin to happen as the newlyweds travel and visit various cities on their tour. Bats are found flying around the windows, ethereal and beautiful friends of Darcy recall memories of times long past, reflections in mirrors are not cast, and there seems a strange pull to Darcy that is hypnotic and unnatural. While in the castle of a distant uncle of Darcy’s, a Count, an omen is cast that says Elizabeth will cause the death of Darcy. Also, they are driven from the castle by an attack of villagers brandishing weapons and torches, very Frankenstein. During the attack, Elizabeth glimpses something strange about Darcy that she readily brushes off. But the strangeness does not end there. In the palazzo of a Prince, Elizabeth find a book full of illustrations that leave her with a sense of deja vu and a vision of a fire that she couldn’t possibly remember. During this visit, she again glimpses something in Darcy that causes her to faint and promptly forget. About this time, tired of Darcy’s lack of affection, Elizabeth decides to leave for home. Everything that has happened is all very strange and upsetting to Elizabeth who soon learns that she is the target of something more sinister than her ill-feelings could have predicted. 

In some ways, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is reminiscent of those stunning and dark gothic fiction novels in the style of Shelley and Poe. There are a lot of shadowy undertones and a subtle, sublime feeling of dread that is sliced up by lighter, more romantic moments. In this way, you are taken on the same rollercoaster of light and dark as Elizabeth, feeling the darkness as keenly as she does, and delighting in the happier moments. Grange is very good with how she writes scenes and descriptions so that they flow beautifully and can be easily imagined with vivid detail. Yet I was ultimately disappointed by the book. The bulk of the book was spent on travels and meeting and talking to new people, and as such it was very slow and with minimal excitement. The true nature of Darcy wasn’t even revealed until the nearly the end of the book, and his vampire self was only hinted to slightly. There was very little vampyre in Mr. Darcy, Vamypre. I had expected a lot more out of the book and had thought Elizabeth would interact more with Darcy as a vampire instead of hearing his secret and promptly having a miraculous way arise to rid him of his ‘curse.’ I was even more let down by the very convenient and easy way by which Darcy was cured of his vampiric affliction. It was just so... sentimental and silly. I had at least hoped that the ending would be climactic and thrilling since it drug on so long to the big reveal only to be disappointed. Fortunately for Austen fans, the book is quite good in its characterizations of both Elizabeth and Darcy. In short: was it a good book? Yes, it was. I enjoyed reading it very much, I just think it to be a bit overrated as far as vampire books go and the ending was very quick, too easy, and anti-climactic.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blog Tour: The Calling by David Mack

About David Mack
David Mack is the national bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Wildfire, Harbinger, Reap the Whirlwind, Road of Bones, and the Star Trek Destiny trilogy -- Gods of Night, Mere Mortals, and Lost Souls. His first original novel, the supernatural thriller The Calling, debuted in July 2009 to critical acclaim. In addition to novels, Mack's diverse writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), film, short fiction, magazines, newspapers, comic books, computer games, radio, and the Internet. Upcoming novels in 2009 by David Mack include The 4400: Promises Broken, Star Trek Vanguard: Precipice, and an expanded edition of his Mirror Universe tale The Sorrows of Empire. Coming in 2010 are More Beautiful Than Death, an adventure inspired by the 2009 feature film Star Trek; and Zero Sum Game, the second book of the Star Trek: Typhon Pact miniseries. Mack has been to shows in every Rush concert tour since 1982, and he finally met two-thirds of the band in 2007. He currently resides in New York City with his wife, Kara. If you want to learn more about David Mack, you can visit his website.

About The Calling

Near the start of this uneven supernatural thriller from Mack (Kabuki: The Alchemy), Tom Nash, who can hear long-distance prayers that oblige him to respond, leaves his near-term pregnant wife and his handyman job in Sawyer, Pa., after receiving a telepathic plea for help from a kidnapped 11-year-old girl somewhere in New York City. Luckily, Nash soon comes across a poster depicting the missing girl, Phaedra Doyle, and manages to talk his way into the Brooklyn townhouse of her wealthy widowed mother, Anna. While the kidnappers have warned Anna not to go to the FBI or police, Anna trusts Nash enough to authorize him to do what he can to recover her daughter. While Erin Sanchez, a supportive local who shares his gift, tells Nash its source, Mack never adequately explains such issues as why Nash isn't overwhelmed by prayers or why he should hear ones far away but not closer by.

My opinion of The Calling so far

So far, I am halfway through The Calling and I am really enjoying the book. The story is fast paced, but full of detail and exciting. Mack hangs just enough mystery above you to compel you to keep reading for answers. The characters are varied, but not cardboard cut outs that make them hard to distinguish from others. The storyline is very creative-- Mack designed a world of his own, but made it realistic enough that one could almost believe that underneath the realism we live under, there just might be other forces at work. From what I can tell so far, this is a book that is going to demand you read it from front to back. So far, I give this book a thumbs up.

Participating Sites:

Sci-Fi Guy: http://www.scifiguy.ca/ 
A Journey of Books: http://ajourneyofbooks.blogspot.com/ 
Simply Vamptastic: http://www.simplyvamptastic.com/ 
Booksie’s Blog: http://booksiesblog.blogspot.com/ 
Readaholic: http://bridget3420.blogspot.com/ 
Patricia’s Vampire Notes: http://patricias-vampire-notes.blogspot.com/ 
My Friend Amy: http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/ 
Morbid Romantic: http://www.morbid-romantic.net/ 
Must Read Faster: http://mustreadfaster.blogspot.com/ 
All About {n}: http://www.bookwormygirl.blogspot.com/ 
Bambi Reads: http://bambireads.blogspot.com/ 
Eclectic Book Lover: http://www.eclecticbooklover.com 
Temple Library Reviews: http://templelibraryreviews.blogspot.com/ 
Jeanne’s Ramblings: http://jeannesgifts.blogspot.com/ 
Beth’s Book Review Blog: http://bethsbookreviewblog.blogspot.com/ 
My Guilty Pleasures: http://www.mgpblog.com/ 
Jenn’s Book Shelf: http://jennsbookshelf.blogspot.com/ 
Park Avenue Princess: http://aparkavenueprincess.blogspot.com/ 
Wendy’s Minding Spot: http://mindingspot.blogspot.com/ 
Fantasy Freak: http://fantastyfreak.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 7, 2009

Guest Post: Tony Deblauwe (Tangling with Tyrants)

I would like to welcome author Tony Deblauwe to Morbid Romantic! He was kind enough to grant me a guest post, which I am delighted to share with you now. Enjoy! 

Why Book Covers are So Important 

When I thought about the Tangling with Tyrants(tm) cover art, I knew I needed something that would stand out on a bookshelf. When I visited bookstores and looked for books on my subject, I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me. Instead I looked around for any book that caught my eye regardless of genre. What I found was that simple was better. Short, catchy titles surrounded by an interesting graphic had more resonance with me. I also knew that as a self-publisher I had to break the stereotype that self-published books have poor covers. I didn’t get much guidance from my publisher one way or the other so I decided to come up with concepts that I could give to a designer to create. So I started to think about my subject. I thought about bosses, management, power, thinking through things strategically, etc. I used a whiteboard to come up with lists and lists of words that fell somewhere into the content I had. After struggling for a bit, I saw an antique chess board for sale at an auction and I knew I had the concept. I scoured all kinds of chess clipart. Nothing I found hit the right tone but I gathered what I had and some rough sketches and sourced a designer. After a few drafts, I finally got the winning cover which is what you see today. Everyone I showed it to loved it and without the title, knew that it had something to do with leadership or management. The king chess piece highlighted in front of pawns conveyed the idea that the employees are not in the spotlight, the manager is. The picture made sense right away and achieved the simple graphic with the bold catchy name. Cover art cannot be underestimated. I recommend getting a designer who understands how a picture tells a story but most importantly, the story you want to people to interpret. Don’t get too fancy -- just enough intrigue to draw people to your book and satisfy their curiosity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Dancing With Ana by Nicole Barker

Title: Dancing With Ana 
Author: Nicole Barker 
Genre: Fiction - Young Adult 
Finished: August 5, 2009

Beth and her three friends Jenny, Rachel, and Melanie decide to go on a diet together. They are your typical high school girls, interested in boys, looking pretty, and each with their own troubles as everyone has. The girls go in on a diet pact in order to give support to one another, and each one has a goal weight that she wants to achieve. Beth, the novel’s main character, first begins the diet with exercise and a minimal healthy diet. But soon into the diet, it becomes an obsession for her. The diet is then about more than just losing weight and being healthy, and Beth doesn’t know why she is doing it, only that she has to. Every morning when she discovers more weight lost, she feels triumphant. After the chaos of her family breaking apart, this is finally some measure of control restored to her. Beth doesn’t stop when she reaches her target weight. Her mother has noticed something wrong, and her boyfriend/friend Jeremy sees the change in her as her clothing begins to hang off of her and her bones protrude. Despite his attempts to get her to open up about her diet, she won’t. Her three friends finally find happiness and drop out of the diet, but Beth can’t seem to stop. Instead of eating healthy and within proportion, she is starving herself to the point of passing out. Beth has no energy left, her skin is pale, and she is no longer happy. Beth is undoubtedly anorexic. Anger and sadness trigger something in her that sets her off on a food binge. Naturally, her binge upsets her to the point where she engages in bulimia. As the book description says, Beth has every reason to be happy with her life, yet she is not. But we all know how teenagers are: every second is a second closer to the world ending for them. Some always fell prey to social pressures and expectations because they are so weighted and obvious. 

This book was personal for me because I have struggled with an eating disorder for over half my life. I have been anorexic since I was a teenager, and I did it for no other reasons but pure vanity and a need to control something in my life. And I continue to do so. No, I am not proud of myself, I am only disclosing this to say that I understand what Beth and her friends go through. I certainly know what it is like to be a teenage girl succumbing to all of the pressures of that age. There is tremendous stress on teenage girls to look perfect, and perfect is hard to achieve. After a while, it takes you over. I applaud author Nicole Barker for taking on such a serious and sensitive topic. It’s not something a lot of people talk about. That Barker shows us the progression of eating disorder, how it can quickly get out of control, helps people understand that sometimes it’s not always rational. Sometimes you cannot apply logic and expect that to fix the problem. Through Beth, we see the humanity behind eating disorders, and as such they are more than, “oh no, that’s bad, you should stop.” A lot of people see eating disorder as a cause-effect issue. And while there is a cause, sometimes it is so complex that it cannot be easily pinpointed and reasoned out. Therefore, it is hard to cure. Barker portrayed that accurately in giving Beth’s problem so much complication and depth. I don’t know if Barker herself has ever had a problem with anorexia, but she got a lot of the body issues and emotions involved correct. You do get weak, you do end up losing the energy that you once had, and you do end up getting depressed from lack of nutrition and body unhappiness. Of course, there are other things not experienced by Beth in the book that are true to anorexia. For example, you become very intolerant to the heat and to the cold, you get shaky, you start to breathe heavily when doing the smallest thing. I very much enjoyed this quick read. The book is 170 pages, which means you can read it in one day if you have nothing else to do. Beth’s character is compelling and honest, and it really does reflect the difficulties of being a teenager girl. Barker captured the voice of youth nicely and convincingly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: Obama's Blackberry by Kasper Hauser

Title: Obama's Blackberry 
Author: Kasper Hauser 
Genre: Fiction - Humor 
Finished: August 4, 2009

Obama’s Blackberry by Kasper Hauser (a group of people, not just one man) is strictly a humor book for those among us who are politically inclined. Each page has, with a graphic of a Blackberry, texts supposedly passed back and forth between US President Obama and other world figures, leaders, and famous people. You have Oprah, McCain, Palin, George W. Bush, Geithner, Rumsfeld, Gates, Osama... you get the picture. The book exists to let us as Americans look at our leaders and laugh a little bit. You know how we love to make fun of our Presidents! Abe Lincoln sure is having fun up there in Heaven. And, well, we love to poke fun at other world leaders, too. The book doesn’t exactly portray anyone in a serious light and Icelandic navy books ARE made fun of. The only thing I would say is that you have to understand politics and some of the issues surrounding politicians and international relations to get the most out of Obama’s Blackberry. If you don’t know what is going on as far as politics are concerned, you are likely going to be lost or else not get the full weight of the jokes. The book is light, small, and enjoyable. I finished it in an hour. It’s a good book for just sitting down for a while to have a laugh.

Book Review: Testimony by Anita Shreve

Title: Testimony 
Author: Anita Shreve 
Genre: Fiction - Drama 
Finished: August 4, 2009

In Testimony, Avery Academy is an elite private school for some of the smartest young people and most promising athletes. Three of these students, Silas, Rob, and J.Dot are popular, athletic, and intelligent, all with bright futures ahead of them. But all of that is destroyed by the events of a few minutes one night when drinking at a party gets out of hand. Caught on tape is the three boys having drunken sexual relations with a 14 year old girl who also attends the academy. Soon after being made, the tape falls into the hands of school Headmaster, Mike, who must decide what to do with the boys. It’s pretty clear from the start what sort of difficulties he is going to face. The story of the party and the aftermath is told through a variety of perspective. Everyone involved from students to parents to lunch ladies give their side, all except Rob, who is given one very significant part at the end of the novel. As the events unfold, you are witness to a number of different viewpoints, which all show different sides to how people deal with anger, fear, and sexuality. 

Testimony is about more than just the three boys, though, because the storyline exposes multiple relationships and secrets beyond the tape and the boys. The way the story is written is unique. Some of the chapters are in first person, some in second person, and some in third person. This is a bit hard to get used to, but after a while you get into the pace of the book and the switching of person throws you off less. And sometimes, like with the second person scenes of Rob’s mother Ellen, it feels surreal and dreamlike. Since she is in a state of shock throughout, I believe that this was intentional. For others, you are meant to put yourself in their shoes, and others, to watch and judge. This is a book that will leave you at war with yourself, as I did with me. You will question innocence and guilt, law and the nature of humans. You see that the boys are just boys, fallible and ultimately good. Do they deserve to have their entire lives ruined with a sexual assault charge? Do they deserve to lose their entire future for the events of one night? Is the girl to blame at least in part for wanting it; does this excuse what the boys did? Or should she be blameless because she is so young? Does the fact that she was consenting matter at all? You want to protect the child, but... who is the child? They are all children and you want to protect them all, even the girl, who comes across through her parts as very superficial and flighty. It didn’t help that the victim cried rape at first and accused the boys of giving her a date rape drug, an excuse she cooked up to keep from getting in trouble with her parents when the tape was discovered. Naturally, putting the blame on the girl makes you feel guilty as the reader, as it did with me, and the thought of a girl so young being involved with boys so much older is frightening. After all, Silas, Rob, and J.Dot should have known better. They should have. But even good people sometimes make mistakes. Yet a mistake like this is, quite honestly, unforgivable? Or is it? You see? You will be at war with yourself. It is a hard one to think about. In the end, you sort of just wish that none of it had ever happened because it’s impossible to know who to blame, who to hate, and who to pity. I obviously very much enjoyed this book because it is very poignant, and it doesn’t shy away from a subject that is sensitive.

Blog Tour & Author Interview: Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

Today we welcome Elle Newmark to Morbid Romantic, who is on blog tour for her novel Book of Unholy Mischief. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Ms. Newmark, so I hope that you enjoy reading it just as I did! I definitely now have this book on my wishlist because it sounds great. I recommend and encourage all of you to do the same. Who can resist the Renaissance?

About Book of Unholy Mischief

Luciano, the wily hero of Newmark's entertaining first novel, is only a street urchin when the doge of Venice's chef finds him, but once dragged into the kitchen as an apprentice, he discovers more bubbling than boiling water. While the town is in an uproar over the rumor of an ancient book containing magical potions and lessons on alchemy, Luciano pines away for a girl and learns the basics of chopping, sweeping and eavesdropping. As he and his maestro become friendlier, Luciano begins to learn that there's more to his teacher than a garden of strange plants and a box of spices. Newmark does a fine job of building suspense and keeping the novel barreling along, and her knowledge of and affection for 15th-century Venice adds charm to this nicely told adventure yarn.

Interview With Elle Newmark

Q: Venice is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and is has such a rich history. Why did you choose Venice as the setting of your novel? 
A: Venice is a mysterious city, a city to get lost in, much as the characters in my book get lost in their intrigues. I think the main character in my story says it best. "I've often revisited Venice since my youth if only to smile at the irony, the enduring illusion of her nobility. The water still whispers tales of death as it laps against decaying palazzi. Men in capes still appear out of the darkness and dissolve back into it. Venice has always been a perfect setting for secrets, seduction, and the melancholy thoughts of a poet. Tainted by iniquity, Venice invites moral surrender not with a playful wink, but with the understanding that she is and always has been sluttish under her regal disguise." 

Q: What sort of research went into making this book or is this a subject you know very well?
A: I did a boatload of research into Renaissance Venice and certain notable people of the time, but there is no substitute for having visited Venice. The unique sights and sounds and smells of a city built on water must be experienced. As for the character of the chef and his apprentice, I drew on the experiences of my father who is a chef and was a chef's apprentice in Italy at the age of 13. I grew up hearing those stories, watching him dice onions at the speed of light and stir a pot like a mad alchemist. All that went into the writing of The Book of Unholy Mischief

Q: When you write something based on historical figures or events, do you worry people finding historical inaccuracies?
A: I do now. I thought I was a pretty rigorous researcher and I did my best to get things right, but several readers have let me know where I went wrong. Just today I heard from a man in Italy who tells me that Savonarola was not hung but burned at the stake. I'm sure my sources said he was hung, but apparently they neglected to mention the fire he was hung over. It might seem a small thing, but it's embarrassing. I will be more careful in the future.

Q: If you could spend the day as or with any historical figure, who would it be and why?
A: Oscar Wilde, and thanks for asking. At this point, I've done a lot of interviews and answered a lot of the same questions but you're the first to ask that one. Oscar Wilde has got to be the most unfailingly witty figure in history. Even on his deathbed in an expensive hotel in Paris he said, "I'm dying above my means." He had the most unusual way of seeing things and must have been enormously entertaining to be with. At the same time, he was a poignant figure, derided and ultimately ruined by small minds. I'd like to spend a day with him if for no other reason that to say, "That-a-boy, Oscar. I think you're great."

Q: What do you do to prepare to write? What is the process that gets you ready to sit down a lay out a story?
A: I can't over think it. I just get down to business and do it. I know that once I have a game plan and something on paper to work with I'll have plenty of time to indulge the muse. But starting is so dreadfully difficult I just have to plunge right in. I write backstories for my characters, most of which I won't use, and I write outlines that I will surely discard. I end up with scads of stuff I'll never use, but it doesn't matter. I just have to start, like priming a pump.

Q: How much of yourself do you put in your characters? Are they extensions of you, or are they independent creations that take on a life of their own after coming from your imagination?
A: Naturally, they must come through me and so are limited by what I know and feel. But as they evolve they do tend to come to life in unexpected ways. At a certain point, when a character is well developed, it is very clear that he or she will simply not do this thing or definitely will do that. When the character starts directing the story things get interesting.

Q: What is the most valuable piece of knowledge that you’ve picked up after becoming a published author that you wish you knew from the start?
A: I'm amazed to say that it takes as much time and effort to promote a book as it does to write it. These days, publishers insist that authors do everything they can to help market the book, and since The Book of Unholy Mischief came out last December I've put a good six months into touring and writing promotional material. I know a lot of writers who balk at this, thinking that promotion is the publishers job, but those days are over. If you publish a book you must realistically expect to put in many months of promotion. If I had known this I would not have made so many other commitments. Next time I'll know better.

Q: What is one thing you’ve never done but would love to do?
A: Well, I'm over sixty so I've done a lot of what I've wanted to do. My biggest priorities have been seeing the world and writing books and I've done some of both but of course there's always more. I'd like to see more of Africa and India, specifically Tanzania and Rahjastan, and I'd like to write a half dozen more books. I guess one thing that would feel great to accomplish is to speak another language fluently. I speak three languages poorly and it seems like a shame not to master at least one of them. I'll have to work on that.

Q: What would your ‘theme’ song be on the soundtrack of your life?
A: There is an old seventies hit called "I Will Survive" that strikes a note with me. You can't live 60 years without hitting a few bumps in the road and learning how to roll with the punches. I must say, this is an unusual interview.

Q: Finally, could you share with all of us a quote that you love?
A: I really like the quote from Isaac Newton that I used as an epigram for The Book of Unholy Mischief. "If I have seen further than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." No one gets anywhere alone. We all owe something to those who came before and it seems right to acknowledge it. A: But I also like this quote from Dorothy Parker: "If you can't say anything nice about anyone, come sit next to me."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Book Review: Undead and Unwed (Queen Betsy, #1) by MaryJanice Davidson

Title: Undead and Unwed

Series: Queen Betsy
Book Number: 1
Author: MaryJanice Davidson 
Genre: Fiction - Paranormal Romance 
Finished: August 1, 2009

In book 1 of MaryJanice Davidson’s Queen Betsy series, Undead and Unwed, Betsy Taylor has had a horrible day. First, she loses her job as a secretary. Then, when she gets home and goes outside to retrieve her cat, she is hit by a car and instantly killed. So that’s the end of everything... right? Not exactly. Betsy wakes up in her own coffin, dressed in a cheap pink suit and horrible shoes all courtesy of her gold-digging stepmother. It seems that thanks to a late night attack outside of a Mongolian restaurant, Betsy is now a vampire. As she is soon to find out, not just any vampire. She is, in fact, the supposed Queen who has been prophesied to free the vampires from their current leader, an iron fisted man named Nostro. She doesn’t believe it at first and only wants to live her undead unlife the same as she lived her life, including shopping for expensive, designer shoes. But it is hard to ignore that not only is she unlike humans, but she is different from other vampires, too. Men and dogs are drawn to her, conventional weapons such as crosses and holy water are ineffective, and she doesn’t need to feed nightly as other vampires do. She is extraordinary for a vampire, which gives credence to the claim that she is meant to be the Queen. 

Undead and Unwed isn’t one of those serious 'the plights of a new vampire’ type novels. There’s no Louisesque pondering of the soul and spirit, that 'mortal coil’ that is referenced. No, this book will have you laughing from page one. You are drawn in by the utter insanity of this poor young woman’s life, by her failed attempts at self-annihilation, and her personal opinions about what she has become. Because, really, how would your every day girl feel about suddenly becoming a vampire? It would be a little surreal, yes, but I also think anyone would react the way Betsy did: with a logical, “nu-uh!” Though I have to admit that sometimes I was frustrated by Betsy’s inability to be serious or mature for even a moment. The conversations had throughout the novel were nothing more than witty banter back and forth... I don’t think anyone had a serious conversation the entire book without something 'clever’ being said somewhere in retort. I like the book a lot, but I do hope that as Betsy gets used to being a vampire, especially as Queen, she matures a bit and cares a little less about sarcasm and shoes and a little more about the big picture. I don’t know if I would want someone who can’t so easily look below the surface of a situation as my Queen! But, hey, that is what development is for and none of us is perfect, right? Betsy provides a lot of amusement and laughs, so I have to think her for that even as I sometimes wanted to strangle her. I mean none of the above as criticism, don’t get me wrong, because I loved the book. And I like a character that is imperfect because, come on, how many annoyingly perfect leading female characters are there out in the world of literature? Too many. We need a good, ultimately heart-warming but superficial shoe lover to remind us that some characters can be great and entertaining without being perfect. I hope that the next book is as much fun as the first. And, of course, that she continues to both love and loath Sinclair. It would totally ruin the fun if they get all lovey so soon. I really enjoyed the two of them mutually disliking but wanting each other.