Monday, February 28, 2011

Mystify by Artist Arthur + Contest!

Published January 25, 2011.

Sometimes being an outsider is the best way to fit in…

Sasha Carrington has grown up feeling like an outsider, and her parents are too concerned with scaling the Lincoln, Connecticut, social ladder to even notice her. They’d be really horrified to know about the supernatural abilities Sasha and her friends Krystal and Jake possess. But as part of the Mystyx, Sasha has found her place.

Now her parents have suddenly taken an interest in everything she does, and their timing couldn’t be worse. Sasha’s father wants her to become BFFs with snooty Alyssa Turner, who hates Krystal for stealing her boyfriend. Then there’s Antoine Watson, the boy Sasha has liked forever, the boy her parents would never approve of. But with the dark side getting more dangerous by the day, and the Mystyx’s own powers growing in unexpected ways, Sasha is facing choices that could affect her friends, her love life—and even her destiny…

I have to say, I wasn't a fan of Sasha's side of the story. Not because she was a spoiled little rich girl (quite the opposite, actually). Not because she was a drama queen (which she wasn't but drama always seemed to find her). Not because she just couldn't make up her mind about the boys flocking around her (it was just one boy but she actually couldn't really make up her mind, so that's partially true). I just didn't like her voice. I didn't find all that much compelling about it and when it ended, I was glad to be out of her head.

Now with that aside, I liked everything else. I actually really liked Sasha as a character. Despite her upbringing, she's pretty grounded in reality and thinks for herself. I really liked that about her. She's an immensely loyal person and doesn't cave on her laurels very easily. She swayed back and forth with Antoine because of what her parents would think but considering everything else she could have done considering her parents, I think that was pretty minor and I could easily accept it as a character flaw. She's a very strong-willed girl and I wish there were more like her in YA all around. I just didn't like her voice. I didn't like the way she relayed information to the reader. Despite the situations she was in, at times I found her descriptions boring. But other than that, no complaints.

As I was saying above with her and Antoine, well, I'm not an Antoine fan. Any guy that doesn't get the hint does not rank highly on my list. I found him forceful and pig-headed, constantly in Sasha's face when she was trying to get away from him (not in an attacker sort of way but just 'I said no now leave me alone' sort of way). That's not to say he wasn't a nice guy when Sasha gave in to him, but she gave in. Did she start liking him because she really liked him or was it all a result of consigning to his persistence? I have a hard time telling. And the little fit he threw when she couldn't hang out? I didn't think Sasha was the one that should have been apologizing. But that's just me.

For the overall story arc, it's getting interesting. Characters that were merely a passing reference in Krystal's story are front and center in this one, and not in a good way. The Darkness is getting more and more desperate and resorting to more horrifying things to achieve its end. And this "club" Sasha's parents want her to be a part of? Sketchy at best. Considering all of the elements around the club, Sasha would do well to find her own apartment.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Mystyx series. I'd really like to get inside of Jake's head and Lindsay? What's her deal? Poof she's there and she has powers too? I want to know what's going on with her. Overall Mystify was a pretty good sequel to Manifest. I don't think Sasha's voice was as strong as Krystal's was but it was entertaining. I can't wait for the next one!

Contest Time!!!

Thanks to Lisa Roe, Arist's awesome publicist, I have a brand new copy of Mystify to give away to one of my readers! Want it? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends March 21st at midnight, EST.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver + Contest!

Published February 1, 2011.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn't understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold.

Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she'll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment,
Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (book back blurb)

Wow. There are few words to describe this book but one of them is that. Wow.

Every word of this story burrowed under my skin and festered there, leaving me starving for more once the story ended. It's funny because as much as I loved the story, I want to say it was too long. And I really think it was. For every lyrical word I read, I felt a good third of them could have been chopped and still maintained the dignity and integrity of the story in its entirety. If it were shorter, I don't think I would have missed anything. I would have still found myself as attached to the story as I am now. But at the end of the day, I didn't mind reading all of those extra words. They just put more fluffy in the bed of story I was lying in.

I loved seeing Lena change as the story progressed and watching her become her own Hana without realizing it until it'd already happened. I'm not a big fan of playing up the "I'm so normal" schtick that YA female protags have a tendency of doing but it's what's in the seemingly "normal" that the story lies. There is a point to it so if you find yourself rolling your eyes as you read about yet another teen MC finding herself plain next to her gorgeous best friend, just hold it out. It redeems itself. Although what I found pretty pointless was the constant mentioning of Lena's height. By the end of the book I couldn't place its relevance to the overall story. I didn't get why it was mentioned constantly. Can anyone else help me out here?

What I really liked was how Oliver had a way with such seemingly little lines that did such an amazing job of portraying Lena's naivety exactly how it was, without pretenses. My favorites:
"I hate it when my aunt looks at me like that, like she's reading all the bad parts from my soul." (pg. 71)

"It's [The Telltale Heart] supposed to be a story about guilt and the dangers of civil disobedience, but when I first read it I thought it seemed kind of lame and melodramatic. Now I get it, though. Poe must have snuck out a lot when he was young." (pg. 117)
I'm a fan of Romeo & Juliet and I really liked the way Oliver bled that theme over into Delirium. In reality, it's a pretty commonly-used trope, especially in YA, but I really liked it here. Alex is the type of YA guy that needs to be permeated throughout YA fiction. He's not a dick, he's not a stalker, he treats Lena how she should be treated. Shock! So I was really pushing for the two to end up together because I found him such a redeeming and valuable character to the story.

I thought the world Oliver developed was absolutely amazing. More than once I found myself getting audibly revolted with how that society functioned. Lobotomizing the population as a means to control them? How terrifying is that? It's the nineteenth century redux. I also liked how the vantage point rose up off of Lena's shoulders every once in a while so the reader got a better view of the world. How it's all fenced in and electrified and the crazy that lies behind its borders (and within it). I also liked how the illusion broke down as the story went on, shattering the safe indoctrination Lena got as she was growing up. Really I liked how Delirium can be viewed as what can happen when the government takes protecting us from ourselves a little too far. It's scary and who's to say it couldn't happen? Really?

I haven't read Before I Fall but if the writing is anything like Delirium, I'm going to swallow the thing whole. This book induces some serious writer envy in me. It's a level that I would strive to reach and can only dream of achieving. I have no doubt Delirium will prevail as one of the defining novels of dystopian literature for years to come. It doesn't always have to be about society totally breaking down. This one's all about society winding itself far too tight. If you're looking for a dystopian book that doesn't involve society functioning at its basest animal instincts for survival, Delirium is it. And the writing and plot and characters are all fantastic enough to suck you in and hold you strong as well. I wouldn't want to forget mentioning that.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? Just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends March 20th at midnight, EST.

Added to the Pile + 68

Only one surprise book this week from HarperCollins. Thankfully it only added mass to the pile and not words since it's been a NetGalley book for me for a while. Now I have something to give away when I post the review of it.

First there are nightmares. Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories. When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt. Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember. (book flap blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 90

Despite life-long indoctrination and partial lobotomies, teenagers are still capable of revolting against society to do their own thing. Why does this still surprise people?

80s Awesomeness! ~ 99

Another term you can thank the 80s for providing. Used to describe one that parks their ass on the couch, usually in front of the TV or other boob-like tube, for extended periods of time, the term couch potato has traveled the few ages since and stuck. While not in super heavy use anymore, the term is still majorly relevant in today's culture.

Freaky Friday :|: 99

Title: U is for Unbeliever, HAUNTS #3
Author: Celia Rees
Published: June 1999
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 120
A new teacher at Davey's school is not what she seems, and she has everyone under her spell. Will Davey survive her terrifying, ghostly plan for him? (from
Elusive but considering the other books, it could be intriguing enough to be good. I'd probably give it a shot. And Amazon pegged this one for the 4 to 8 year old age group. Where do these books fall???

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And the winner is . . .

The winner of Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler is . . .


Congratulations! I've already sent you an email but I've yet to hear back. If I don't hear from you by midnight EST tomorrow (2/25), I'll have to choose another winner. And again, a big thanks to everyone who entered!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Published February 22, 2011.

A mysteriousoutbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.

Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement andcharm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential causeof the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.

A behind-the-scenes look at Typhoid Mary told in epistolary form from the point of view of a teenage girl with a curious mind, Deadly was a swift, fascinating read that had me running from one cover to another. Despite the fact that the letters were mere snippets in Prudence's life, despite the fact that the world is viewed very narrowly through her eyes, I felt everything she felt. I could see her mother, her boss and the female doctor she idolized as clearly as Prudence did.

The voice, while set firmly in the time, was every bit as relevant and poignant as any other voice in a modernly-set YA novel. Prudence had all the issues of a growing woman, only exacerbated by the era that held her brain hostage. Not only did she have to contend with boys, an absent best friend and standards held to her by her mother and her school's owner, Prudence was fighting the tide of female empowerment. She wanted to be a doctor. She held more interest in germs and how they worked than being a counter girl at a department store and marrying well. Prudence stood out against the backdrop of Victorian New York and she did it subtly.

Prudence's voice wasn't loud and brazen. She was timid, afraid, hesitant. She was trying to function outside the norms of women of her time and she was only a teenager doing it. Her personality reflected that yet she remained strong despite all the nagging coming at her, trying to get her to act "proper."

The far away love she carried for her boss was heartbreaking. When she took a leap of faith, one that could have rightly ended her career, she had all the normal doubts and regrets of doing it yet she soldiered on. She didn't cave and bury herself far away from him. She faced him and continued doing what she loved.

Chibbaro wrote an excellent story, one that could have rightly been the diary of a real girl during that time. Every word was believable, every emotion tugging. The simplicity of the story, how mundane it is to us in this century, was made vivid and alive. Frightening in all the right places, endearing and empowering in the rest. I wish there was more there but we're only allowed this small peek into Prudence's life. We must make up the rest.

If you're looking for an historical fiction piece that feels like it was cut right out of history itself and served to you on a platter, Deadly is it. You will feel New York for what it once was. You will feel and understand Prudence in her daily life, feel her struggles, her choices, her pain. For the short time you're reading it, everything will fade around you and you'll end up on a bench in Victorian New York, watching the story unfold around you.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Added to the Pile + 67

This week I got three surprise publisher-sent books and I bought two to aid in my weekend trip to New York. Yeah, I used to live there but even near-natives need some assistance every now and then.

From Harper Teen -

Father of Lies by Ann Turner
Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

From Sourcebooks -

Haunted by Joy Preble

And the two I bought from Barnes & Noble -

Things I've Learned from Books + 89

Germs are everywhere. Inside your nose. On your eyeballs. Eating at your tongue. Your intestines. Your skin. You can be a peatree dish without even knowing about it. They can make you a murder while you remain oblivious. They can also make you a victim in a heartbeat. Sleep well!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 98

Who is this guy? See the video below. An expert blend of synthpop without being totally grating, Peter Gabriel is the quintessential kickass of well-blended 80s music. You have not walked out of the 80s truly experiencing it until you've pitied yourself to the sound of 'In Your Eyes.'

Freaky Friday :|: 98

Title: A is for Apparition, HAUNTS #2
Author: Celia Rees
Published: June 1999
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 122
It is Hallowe'en, and Davey, Kate, Elinor and Tom go trick-or-treating. But not all the ghosts and phantoms that roam the village tonight are harmless. Some are truly the living dead. (from
I don't know if I could get past the cover. That clown is truly terrifying. And according to Amazon, this is a chapter book. Does anyone know anything about this series?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Published February 8, 2011.

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? Andhow can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried. (


I'm just saying. Young adult novels as a whole today have a deep void, a precipice if you will, where horror should be. And not the glittering, pussy, it-has-fangs-lets-call-it-horror type of horror either. The good horror. The horror that has you looking over your shoulder, sleeping with a nightlight or just not sleeping at all. I saw this in Cryer's Cross.

Now I have to say, my expectations for a horror novel is pretty high and while Cryer's Cross didn't hit the top, it was still up there.

Here's a story not bogged down with romance (point 1). Yeah, it's kind of there but it's not front and center and the point of the story. It proves for a good distraction but that's about it.

It relies on the creep factor (point 2). It's not about gore. It's about scaring the everloving crap out of the main character. She's not supposed to have a good time. She's supposed to be worried. She's supposed to be hearing voices. She's supposed to be pushed to the edge.

It's filled with fearless author (point 3). I haven't read McMann's other works but let me tell you, she's wearing her ovaries on the outside for this one. She is fearless with her characters. No one is safe. No one's sacred and everyone can be a victim. Love it. She's taken that security blanket you were holding on to and damn near strangled you with it. You should feel uncomfortable. You should be worrying about whether Kendall makes it out alive. You should feel insecure. Nothing is clear and everything's fair game.

It has evil history (point 4). It's the basis of so many good horror novels. The little hick town hiding a deep, dark secret and now that secret is salivating for the children of those secret keepers. It's kind of like Freddie but without the unadulterated access. History alone can be the monster in the closet. No need to have actual monsters in the story. And McMann utilizes that. Buried secrets were all she needed.

It doesn't end happily. Not really (point 5). There's always that lingering thing. The problem's solved. For now. Until the secret finds a new home and a new way to manifest. And from the looks of things, it could very well do that. This should loop you back around nicely to point 3 and feeling ill at ease.

Now, what I wish the story had was more of the dark history. I felt it was such a fleeting element in the story, brought in to serve a purpose and then brushed away. I would have been wholly happy with another 50 pages fleshing the history out a little more. As I read I kept wanting to pull it out, will it further away from the pages and into life. I felt it was always just out of reach. It was there; I could see it. But I could barely touch it. It kept slipping out of my fingers. I wanted more.

I wasn't all that convinced with Kendall's OCD though. I felt it made things a little too easy. I get the hindrance becomes a help factor with it all but I felt it played too seamlessly into the story. I like my horror a little more rugged, a little harder to earn. While I like that Kendall did suffer (as demented as that sounds), the stepping stones were placed a little too neatly for my liking. That's not to say it wasn't good. It was fantastically written but like I said, I like my horror a little rougher around the edges. A little less neat.

Please, please, PLEASE! I'm begging the authors of YA to write more horror like this. Ms. McMann, please tell me you have more creepy stories up your sleeves. I honestly can't get enough of these stories and I think there's such an excellent gap waiting to be filled with a proper creepfest. Cryer's Cross is an excellent throwback to the YA horror of yore where it was more about keeping you up at night than keeping you swooning the rest of the time. You want horror? Read Cryer's Cross. Preferably with the light on. And if you happen to have an antique school house writing desk in your home, you'll probably want to get rid of it after you finish this. You don't want it to start talking to you or anything.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin + Contest!

Published February 2011.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a truly original and darkly hilarious update of classic pulp noir, in which hard-boiled seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn't whether Dalton's going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he's gonna get the girl. He always sometimes gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and power-hungry cliques in time to solve the mystery of "The Body" before it solves him. (book back blurb)

Before you even begin the thought of reading this book, check your normal meter at the door and rev your suspension of disbelief as far up as it can go. If you go into this one thinking a semi-normal who-dunnit story is going to ensue, you're grossly mistaken. This is Sean Beaudoin remember. He eats mind fucks for breakfast. Hello? Fade to Blue anyone?

Once you get over that, expect nothing and anticipate everything, you'll begin to settle into the story nicely. Of course, you need to get over that slapped-in-the-face-by-a-fish feeling that hits the second you start reading it because everything is just so absurd. But that's the beauty of it. Just go grab a brain condom and hop on for the ride.

Beaudoin has this ability to write the psychotic that makes it come out almost believable. Everything is so absolutely insane and so over the top that no one could make this kind of thing up, right? Not really. But that's how it works. It's like pulp noir and crack had a baby but instead of being this huge ol' mess, it's so well put together that you're almost afraid to touch it. Is it real? Is it delicate? Will it all come crumbling down at the end under the weight of its own insanity?

No, it won't. The story isn't sitting on toothpicks. It's sitting on granite columns. Beaudoin has woven a crazy storyline together so intricately that it actually ends normally. For everything that happened, all the rush rush rush running of the plot, you actually get to walk it off at the end. Take a breather. Let it all sink in. And you're not left disappointed. Nothing's hanging by a thread, any perceived plotholes are firmly closed up and you're left with the greatest happy ending ever. The skeevy "massage parlor" type of happy ending anyway. You might feel a little dirty, maybe a little used and thrown away, but you're done. You're completed and while you can ask questions about the future of the story, there's nothing left to ask about the present. It's finished.

I'm amazed at the writing that Beaudoin does. Despite its insanity, he creates characters that are relatable. You can feel Dalton's frustration at every turn and his ultimate surprise when it creeps up out of nowhere. Every character is a caricature but they're grounded at the same time. They're crazy mirror images of their own selves but you believe them. Everything they say and do, it all makes perfect sense within the context of the story. Just don't walk outside that context. Your head might explode.

If you liked Fade to Blue, you'll certainly like You Killed Wesley Payne. If you haven't read either yet, then what the hell are you waiting for? But like I said, remember to check your common sense at the door. It'll only hinder your reading ability with Beaudoin's work. You need to go into it with a truly open mind. Only then can you enjoy it.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC of You Killed Wesley Payne? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends March 8th at midnight, EST.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Funny Thing, Professionalism

There are two things to remember regarding professionals and professionalism:
  1. Just because you act professional doesn't mean you are A professional.
  2. Just because you are A professional doesn't mean you are professional by default.
As book bloggers we are well-advised to act professional in a professional setting, whether that's at a convention or in an email to a publisher/publicist/author. That's just common courtesy and sense. Act like a lobotomized chimp and you'll be treated in like kind. Have we ever, as book bloggers, cloaked ourselves as being professional book reviewers? Not that I'm aware of. In fact, we're all pretty adamant that we're not. Does that mean we can act unprofessionally? No. As book bloggers it's our job is give honest reviews/opinions/recommendations of books we receive/read, not bash the hell out of a book or author for the sheer fun of it. The majority of us follow this credo pretty closely. Of course there will be a few lemons in the bunch but that's to be expected. We're unregulated and function with a concensus on how we should act as opposed to a hard and fast set of rules.

So when I see authors coming out and bashing, by name, book bloggers for their supposedly "unprofessional" reviews (read: negative), I can't help but consider the source. When I see an author having actually formulated a blog post naming names, questioning the literacy level of these bloggers, questioning their intelligence level, belittling their reviews and condescending to them because of the unprofessional nature of their own posts, it kind of makes my eyes cross. Really, it's like trying to pull perfume from a trash can. When you criticize someone that you claim to have unprofessionally criticized you in an unprofessional manner, it kind of negates the very basis of your argument, doesn't it? You've effectively made yourself unprofessional in your deluded bid to be professional.

And then I see teachers and librarians harping at book bloggers about what they receive, about how they don't sell books, about how all they do is whore swag and ARCs. This misdirected anger is quite frankly disgusting. Why are you getting angry at book bloggers, guys? All we do is ask. In many cases we don't even do that. Many of us have publicity stuff sent to us without us asking, without us being asked and entirely unprovoked. What are we doing wrong?

The way I see it is Mommy and Daddy (publishers/publicists) have gone and had a new baby (book bloggers). As all good siblings (teachers/librarians/any other complainers) get, the green-eyed monster starts to rear its ugly head because Mommy and Daddy are paying more attention to their new bundle of joy. The baby is getting all the gifts and are getting fussed over. The siblings, instead of going to the parents and asking 'hey, why don't you pay more attention to me?', start beating the hell out of the baby. It's not the baby's fault it was born. It's not the baby's fault it's getting more attention. It just is. Bitterness at its best.

That's not to say book bloggers are bigger and better, but why doesn't some of that anger get redirected to its proper location? IE, not in our laps? Others have already come out and outlined how they help to sell books doing what they do so go hunt those out. We are not useless pieces of internet space. If we were, those publicists and publishers wouldn't be providing us with the material needed to help market their books. Can we please think this out here? We are obviously a commodity. We're not here to replace anyone. We're just here to help. So instead of flicking out those fangs, retract them, stop brow-beating us and help us. It's not going to help anyone when we're all in a boat rowing and some people stop because they think the others are doing it wrong.

And In My Mailbox? Let me make this very clear. The FTC, that's the Federal Trade Commission, a professional organization that can lay the smackdown when it needs to, views receipt of ARCs as a form of payment. Considering that, all review copies we receive must be declared. How excellent of a way to do that than in a weekly post highlighting where we got books that week? OMG, genius! That's not to say that's the intention of everyone's IMM posts but I'd say a fair number of people do that.

So let's not say IMM is a glaring example of everything that's wrong in book blogging. What a horrible thing to say. Right, how dare book lovers get excited about the books we receive. Disgusting, I know. Why would we want to share that with other book lovers? Crazy ideas, these are. Why would we want to provide exposure to these stacks of bound paper? Those aren't our intentions. We're whores! Whores, I tell you! Whores for books!

All of this book blogger hate is a disgrace and the people contributing to it should be ashamed of themselves. You call yourselves professionals. You stand on your high horse and berate us, denigrate us, belittle us, chastise us, spit on us. And for what? What does that do for you? You're not deterring anyone from starting a book blog. What you are doing is rallying a community of book lovers, of READERS, to fight for what they're doing.

While we may not be crossing uncharted land or standing up for the rights of this, that or another people, we are pioneers in what we're doing. Book blogging was all but nonexistent five years ago. Now? Look at us. The readers have risen and have taken a more active roll in their reading. They're interactive with authors, publishers and publicists and all for the love of books. Yes, free books are a big benefit but the majority of us didn't start our blogs because we were snouting for free books. We started it because we loved reading, we wanted to share that love and interact with other book junkies. The free books are just an excellent side effect of all of those intentions.

So. Just. Stop. It. You are doing nothing but hurting yourselves when you kick us down and keep stomping. Saying all book bloggers are unprofessional idiots that couldn't write their way off of a grocery list is no more true than us saying all authors are explosive asshats that couldn't handle negative reviews if they were wrapped in bubble wrap. Or all teachers are gray marms that are resistent to change and lash out at any rift in their bubble. Or all librarians are ancient, too busy huffing old book spine in the back of the library to really find out what's going on out here.

The legs have been chopped off of your high horse and you've fallen. Don't demand our professionalism when you're adamantly unwilling to give it yourself. Don't demean our writing and then expect us to write something akin to what could be found in The New York Times. Don't chastize us for getting free books when you're getting pissy because you want more. Can we please look at this rationally? Because it's just downright absurd. There are bad apples everywhere. It doesn't mean we all are.

To the book bloggers out there, I understand that all the hate, and from some people deeming themselves professionals no less, is really off-putting. Please don't let it get to you. Our voices are loud and it makes them afraid. Who was it that successfully changed the covers of two white-washed Bloomsbury titles? Book bloggers. Who gets buzz going for books? We do. We yell and people listen and it's drowning out some other voices. But instead of working with us, they're trying to work against us, break our spirits, make us feel like nothing. We are not nothing. We're far from nothing. Look at all we've accomplished already. Imagine what more we can do. We're stealing thunder and that's okay. Most of us don't view this as a competition. Obviously some do. Hopefully they'll get over it. It may be tiring to constantly defend book blogging but in reality, it's not very many that don't take us seriously. It's just that those dissenting voices are so much louder than the ones that pat us on the backs. Just turn off the volume and push them away. Remember all of the good you've gotten from being a book blogger. All of those books you've helped get the word out about, all with one little post on one little blog in a vast sea of internet space. And keep soldiering on.

We're good to go. Are you?

Added to the Pile + 66

Another two books this week; one from PaperBackSwap and the other from BookMooch, respectively.

She is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Unlike her prissy sister, Clytemnestra, she takes no pleasure in weaving and embroidery. And despite what her smother says, she's not even close to being interested in getting married. Instead, she wants to do combat training with her older brothers, go on heroic adventures, and be free to do what she wants and find out who she is.

Not one to count on the gods - or her looks - to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with determination and an attitude. And while it's the attitude that makes Helen a few enemies (such as the self-proclaimed "son of Poseidon," Theseus), it's also what intrigues, charms, and amuses those who become her friends, from the huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the Oracle of Delphi. (book back blurb)

Meet Will Carter, but feel free to call him Carter. (Yes, he knows it's a lazy nickname, but he didn't have much say in the matter.)

Here are five things you should know about him:

1. He has a stuttering problem, particularly around boobs and bellybuttons.

2. He battles attention deficit disorder every minute of every day . . unless he gets distracted.

3. He's a virgin, mostly because he's no good at talking to girls (see number 1).

4. He's about to start high school.

5. He's totally not ready.

Join Carter for his freshman year, where he'll search for sex, love, and acceptance anywhere he can find it. In the process, he'll almost kill a trombone player, face off against his greatest nemesis, get caught up in a messy love triangle, suffer a lot of blood loss, narrowly escape death, run from the cops (not once, but twice), meet his match in the form of a curvy drill teamer, and surprise the hell out of everyone, including himself. (book flap blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 88

Crime only pays if you're smart enough to use it properly. This does not include the use of duct tape or liquid crack.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 97

Moon Patrol. Another super-exciting 80s arcade game where you drove around in a dune buggy, going only one way, and having to jump over craters and such. Joy! I've never played this one but apparently it did exist. I really shouldn't judge, though. I still heart Mario Brothers like whoa.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Freaky Friday :|: 97

Title: H is for Haunting, HAUNTS #1
Author: Celia Rees
Published: 1998
Publisher: Hodder General Publishing Division
Pages: 136
It's Midsummer's Eve, just before dusk. Davey, Kate, Elinor and Tom embark on the city's ghost tour. It becomes an unforgettable journey back and forth in time, crossing an unknown, terrifying threshhold. (from
Sounds intriguing. I couldn't find anything other than that about it but I might just read it. After I make a nominal dent in my TBR pile. Has to be after.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Author Bites - Kurt Tarot Hijacks Sean Beaudoin's Space

I did ask Sean Beaudoin to come back to Bites and do another guest post leading up to my review of his newest book, You Killed Wesley Payne, but it appears Sean is indisposed. And apparently it involves duct tape and Red Bull on steroids. I just kind of nodded and looked the other way. Instead I got Kurt Tarot who knows all about this Body incident if he'd just cut the tough guy act for a nanosecond. Anyway, if he doesn't have you flinching at his fist, here he is. Thanks for stopping by, Kurt! And make sure you punch some air holes for Sean, wherever he is.

Hey. I’m Kurt Tarot. Pretty much the bad dude character in the new book You Killed Wesley Payne. You can call me Mr. Tarot. Actually, you don’t really have to call me that. I like you. I’m just so used to doing the tough guy routine, I forget to take off the mask sometimes, you know? Hey, have you checked out my band, Pinker Casket? We rock. Have you heard There’s a Shocker in My Locker? Totally has single written all over it. What I don’t get is why everyone thinks I’m such a bad guy. I mean, sure, I have to stomp someone every once in a while. And, there’s the whole leather cloak and leather pants and leather boots thing. But that’s just a look! Hey, you got to work it hard to get anywhere in the music word. I guess my metal teeth don’t help any. And that whole rumor about me drinking blood. Totally false! That was only Diet Coke! Man, this vampire nonsense has everyone losing their shite. Grow up, already! There’s no such thing! Anyway, you seem like a cool dude. You want a backstage pass? I’ll get you in free. What do you mean, no? What do you mean you’re not coming to our next show down at The Morgue? Why not? What, are you a baby? Hey, where are you going? You don’t need to run. Hey, you! Hey, come here. I swear, if I get my hands on…..huff…puff…puff.

Man, I got to quit smoking.

Wow, I really feel like punching someone now.

Or writing a song

Or writing a song about punching someone.

Hey, that’s it!

The Three (3) Pinker Casket Albums You Can’t Live Without:

1. The Groupie Bus Is Full, So Take a Cab.
2. Dainty Ain’t My Middle Name.
3. Meatway to Heaven, Stairway to Your Airway.
4. Playing Makeup and Wearing Guitars.
5. Katy Perry’s Just A Flotation Device, We Are Rock And Roll.

You Killed Wesley Payne
is a murder mystery. Who killed Wesley Payne? You did. Probably. Either way, It wasn’t me. And, I swear, if you tell anyone it was, there will so totally be a Tarot-sized shadow looming up on your doorstep soon.

Now give me a cigarette.

You’re My P.A.L.

-Kurt “dead Elvis” Tarot

January TBR Pile Update

What better way to gain perspective on my massive TBR pile than to have a monthly update? Kind of like a monthly weigh-in, I'll be comparing my TBR pile from the beginning of the year at the end of each month to see how I fared during that time. Did I make a dent? A scratch? Fleck off some dust? Only time will tell. Let's see how I did for January.

First the starting TBR pile -

And let's not forget the digital copies -

Crazy by Han Nolan
Alison's Wonderland by Alison Tyler
Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton
The Secret of Ka by Christopher Pike
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Demon Hunts by CE Murphy
Eight for Eternity by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Lovely by Kris Starr
Captive Spirit by Liz Fichera
Ghost Shadow by Heather Graham
The World Above the Sky by Kent Stetson
Tricker's Girl by Hilari Bell
Roman Games by Bruce MacBain
F**k it by John C. Parkin
Views from the Loft by The Loft Literary Center
My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent
The Hypnotist by MJ Rose
Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Carrie Pilby by Caren LissnerLosing Romeo by AJ Byrd
The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey
The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt
The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks
Those That Wake by Jesse Karp
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Grilled Cheese Please! by Laura Werlin
Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Mystify by Artist Arthur
Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby
Everything I Was by Corrine Demas
What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
One Hundred Candles by Mara Purnhagen
My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek

So how much did I knock off in January? The physical TBR pile as of February 1st -

And the digital copies -

Alison's Wonderland by Alison Tyler
Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton
The Secret of Ka by Christopher Pike
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Demon Hunts by CE Murphy
Eight for Eternity by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Lovely by Kris Starr
Captive Spirit by Liz Fichera
Ghost Shadow by Heather Graham
The World Above the Sky by Kent Stetson
Tricker's Girl by Hilari Bell
Roman Games by Bruce MacBain
F**k it by John C. Parkin
Views from the Loft by The Loft Literary Center
Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Losing Romeo by AJ Byrd
The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey
The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt
The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks
Those That Wake by Jesse Karp
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Grilled Cheese Please! by Laura Werlin
Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Mystify by Artist Arthur
Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby
Everything I Was by Corrine Demas
What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
One Hundred Candles by Mara Purnhagen
My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek
This Girl is Different by JJ Johnson
#01 I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang
Fail Harder by community
In the Arms of Stone Angels by Jordan Dane
The Poison Eaters by Holly Black
Stay by Deb Caletti
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

Holy crap, nothing's changed. But it appears my TBR pile has grown a mole of a seventh pile off to the left there. Why are they separate? So I don't pull them for the Off the Shelf Challenge. I don't want to cheat. Thankfully none of them are review copies. At least that pile appears to have not grown. Doesn't appear to have shrunk either. Son of a bitch! Must. Keep. Reading.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Immortal by Christopher Pike

Published July 1993.

Josie is on vacation in Greece with her father, his new girlfriend, and her best friend. While visiting the sacred island of Delos, she accidentally stumbles upon an ancient artifact - a tiny statue of a Goddess. Immediately Josie is enchanted by the statue and she takes it with her when she leaves the island.

Then the trouble starts. A guy takes her for a boat road and she is almost killed. Then the image of the Goddess begins to haunt her dreams. The Goddess wants something from Josie that she doesn't want to give.

The immortal wants to be mortal.

The goddess wants Josie's life. (book back blurb)

First, the chronology of that blurb is off. Josie stumbles upon the statue after a few of those events already occur and she starts dreaming about the goddess. Second, personally, I think that blurb is a little misleading but once you start reading the story, it makes more sense in context. But from just reading the blurb, the story's not exactly how it sounds.

My biggest (and pretty much only) issue with this book was the voice. It makes me wonder about the difference in perception of the YA voice from 20 years ago against what it is now. There were just some parts that I felt were so contrived I couldn't help but laugh. Like when Josie was snorkeling and she saw some fish. She then thought to herself that they made her horny. I was so jarred by that I actually laughed out loud. Aside from the complete blindside of that statement, am I missing something? Are swimming fish supposed to be an aphrodisiac? Not to mention Josie isn't a very likeable character. Not that I wanted to stop reading about her, but her actions were on this side of bitchy and uncaring. She's a very self-centered chick but it all works itself out. There's a redemption of sorts to her actions.

While I feel the plot meandered a little too long at the beginning, fleshing out Josie's life up until things start happening, I felt like I was propelled through the story. I felt a little like I was on sea legs reading it. Things were a little choppy, a little discombobulated and some of them didn't make a lot of sense, but once things started to round themselves out, all the little seemingly uneven nuances pulled themselves together in a nice straight path.

I'm amazed by the ending. Pike has this uncanny ability to weave all of these little bits and bobs together to create a climax that'll blow you away. I'm so glad I picked up The Immortal first. It has a great balance of history and present, not eye-rollingly blended at all but convincing enough that maybe, just maybe, if you went to Delos, it might just happen to you. It weaves two seemingly unrelated plotlines together excellently, only coming together completely within the last few pages, leaving you salivating for more because while it ends nice and completely, it doesn't really end. Catch my drift?

The best part? Pike isn't afraid to royally screw with his characters. They will be put from one end of the ringer to the other and back again before the book is over and you will love every second of it. He's fearless and it makes the story all the better. If you have to start somewhere with Pike's work, make it The Immortal. You won't be disappointed. While it's not crazy spooky ooky horror, it's got a creep factor to it that may just leave you questioning your friends.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Added to the Pile + 65

Two books this week, both from PaperBackSwap -

In Mary's world, there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she much choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death? (book back blurb)

First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia is responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 87

Avoid the Greek Isles. Shit still harbors on those spits of land that render various levels of blood sacrifice and unadulterated worship. You've been warned.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 96

Side Ponytails!!!

I'm not sure what kind of look chicks were going for with this one but it sure screams quintessential 80s. Perhaps it was for those girls that still wanted to remain in touch with their inner children but at the same time didn't want to be weighted down with the burden of a set of pigtails. The solution? Just the one. We're meeting halfway here. I think.

Freaky Friday :|: 96

Title: The Trap
Author: Cynthia Blair
Published: March 1994
Publisher: Lions
Pages: 320
Miranda is an ordinary high-school girl in love with a werewolf. She believes her love will be strong enough to help Garth rid himself of his terrible curse. (from
Oh don't they always think that? I'd read it just to see what the author puts Miranda through. Hopefully it's something broaching the realm of realism and not something ripped from the sparkly pages of today.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writers As Book Bloggers Do Not Mix!

I know a lot of us here in the book blogging world are writers aspiring to one day get published. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's been a pretty constant debate as to whether writers should be book reviewers due to the fact that they're criticizing work coming out of an industry they're trying to enter.

From a professional standpoint, would you publicly talk trash about a product you buy and then go try and work for that company? Seems silly, doesn't it?

"But we're not talking trash! We're giving our honest, critical opinions on books!" I get that. Trust me. I do. I say it all the time. Give honest reviews but be sure to support your opinions.
"Even if we're writers we're readers too!" That we are but as readers, we're not applying for jobs in the publishing industry. We're just buying the product. As writers, we're vying for coveted job positions but at the same time we're shooting ourselves in the foot as we try to sell ourselves and criticize the product being produced. Seems kind of defeatist, doesn't it?

Susan Dennard lays it all out for you in her guest post on writer Regan Leigh's blog. Coming from agents and editors, why would they want to take on someone that's criticized one of their clients? Now I have heard different things from different people. I have heard of agents that don't mind a writer book blogging. I've seen agented (and in some cases published) authors book blogging) so I'm not convinced it's a hard and fast rule but it's something to take into serious consideration if you choose to intermingle your writing self and your book blogging self.

The short of the long of Susan's post is writers should write book recommendations only and leave no trace of criticisms behind them. I urge you to read the entire post and then the comment thread at the bottom. It's very informative and it provides some lovely brain fodder.
What are book recommendations? Well, only posting about books you'd actually recommend others read. For me it'd be like posting only four or five bite-rated books. And I can hear the collective community screaming now! I know. We rally against doing such a thing. But if you're a writer, this is something you need to think about. Remember, you're criticizing the product of a company you're trying to become an employee of. Would you hire you?

What I would recommend is, if you have a book blog, keep it a book blog. Do not overlap your writing with your reading. If you're super-studious and don't every want the risk of getting caught doing anything that could be deemed critical, only post high-rated book recommendations and wipe your bloggy slate of anything critical (apparently unless it's a classic, those seem to be okay to criticize). Or, if you don't want to do that, make damn sure you can't link your book blog to anything of yours that's writing related. I'm sure, on some level, the two can be connected but at that point, someone has a personal vendetta against you and you're pretty screwed anyway.

I really think this is some major food for thought, especially since there are so many writers in the book blogging world. How we are recommended to act by other book bloggers is detrimental to our writing. So do we stop book blogging entirely? Do we conform to the recommendations only method? Or do we try to split our personalities and lead multiple internet lives?

I personally do the last of those. I keep my full name off of the internet to begin with just for privacy purposes but I am a writer in one place and a book blogger here and, for the most part, the two have never met. You see me mention that I write on here but that's pretty much the extent of it. I am, however, deleting my writing person from the interspace just because it's been neglected far too long. Plus it'll tie up some of those danglies that are hanging around. I know I'm not entirely safe but I enjoy book blogging and I don't want to stop. I'll just keep my writing self to myself until the time comes when it needs to be released to the greater world.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you connect your writing and your book blog? Are you worried that the reviews you post could have an adverse effect on you getting published in the future?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Published November 1, 2010.

Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a son with Caesar and - after his murder - three more with his protege. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way the supple personality has been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order a generation before the birth of Christ. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life. (book flap blurb)

First and foremost this is a history book. The plot is taken from real time 2,000 years ago. It hasn't been bloated with fantastical elements or intense drama. In fact, if you were reading this book as you would a work of fiction, you'll find yourself sadly lacking that same kind of connection to Cleopatra as you would to a main character in a novel. Why? Because Cleopatra is nearly unknowable. And she's not a fictional character. She's spoken of from a distance, seen more through the eyes of men around her than through her own lenses. If you're not interested in Caesarian Roman or Ptolemaic Egyptian history, you might not get much out of this book. But if you are, and you want to know more about the elusive Cleopatra, not the Elizabeth Taylor or Shakespeare version but the real person garnered from first hand accounts and a few words out of her own mouth, you'll guzzle this book up as if it were your life force.

The person of Cleopatra is the center of this book's universe with which all other events orbit. Unfortunately, the only way we can truly get to know Cleopatra now is by analyzing the events happening around her through the eyes of the people she's come in contact with. As I said above, this creates a sort of distance from her but it allows for a more objective look into her life. With these elements Schiff allows you to dissect her life and get a better hint of who Cleopatra was as a person, what her personality really was like and whether something of those scandalizing rumors really were true. Augustus Caesar did a good job of striking her from the history books. But not good enough. Here she remains to this day and Schiff did an excellent job of digging up the truth behind this woman we know next to nothing about. We barely even know what she looks like save for some sanctioned Ptolemaic coinage with her bust stamped onto it.

Despite the rampant incest (holy god, we're talking about a family stump here, ew) and homicidal tendencies, Cleopatra's ability to rule a kingdom was astonishing compared to any ruler, let alone a woman living, quite literally, in a man's world. That's not to say her reign was full of smooth sailing, but she knew how to talk, walk and act in order to get what she needed for her country. She put her country first above all else (except maybe her children). Just like the accounts of this book orbit around Cleopatra, every piece of minutiae of Cleopatra's life orbited around the success of her kingdom. It's hard to determine if she did something genuinely out of love or if it was show, but it was all for Egypt, ultimately. Even when she tried negotiating with the immovable Augustus after she swindled Antony into his own suicide, it was all political. It was Antony's only way to die on his terms and Cleopatra's last hope of saving her country.

Despite the distance I say this book creates between the reader and Cleopatra, it does an excellent job of forming a more accurate image of her in your mind's eye. That Elizabeth Taylor hussy image gets pushed aside as all of these missing pieces replace it, forming this real live person that feels more a part of history itself than just Hollywood. While the puzzle isn't complete, and probably never will be, Schiff does an fantastic job of digging up absolutely everything she can on this amazing woman and giving it to us as straight as can be. She doesn't hide what Cleopatra is, or what she potentially was. No secret is safe, nor even skewed. I felt like I was back during her reign, sitting on a cloud with the gods and watching all of these events unfold. Some of the images were blurry but they were clear enough to determine just what was going on.

While it took a little while for me to get through, this book is an excellent historical read. A must read for anyone interested in the life and times of Cleopatra without the fabrications of storytelling and millennia of innuendo. It's raw, it's unforgiving and you will come away from it being more knowledgeable about such a shadowy figure in history. And then you'll want to read it again to be sure you picked up all of the historical tidbits you may have missed.

If you want a good piece of fiction to follow this book with, you should pick up Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. It picks up almost right where Cleopatra ends and Moran sticks pretty closely to the facts Schiff writes about. Honestly, I don't think you'll be able to stop at the end of Cleopatra. She's just far too interesting of a person.

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