Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And now it's time to say goodbye . . .



I'm done.

This is not a test.

I am not joking.

It is not April 1st.

In fact it's October 24th.

Nothing direct happened to me.  This isn't a result of internet douchebags getting their dicks in a twist about something I said.  It was just time for a change.

A change I couldn't make here.

I'm sure this seems rather out of the blue since I've been posting regularly for nearly four years now with barely a break thrown in.  Except for these last couple of weeks of radio silence.  I was busy building.

I guess you could say I got tired of the same old thing.  And tired of ALL THE FUCKING DRAMA.  And tired of being a little pigeon-holed.

I've been swishing this around in my head movies probably since the beginning of the year.  Some kind of major reformation.  A change.

Except once you've branded yourself it's kind of hard to make that change.  Buying another pretty layout won't change your content or reputation.  Especially for someone that's been around as long as I have.

And that's okay.  I'm at a point now where I can walk away and be okay with it.  I've had my run here at Bites.  Now it's time for something different.  Time for something more MATURE.

Yeah . . .

Little did I know that my evil twin, Laura from A Jane of All Reads, was feeling the same way.  With the will to blog all but dead inside of us, and both of us in dire need of a change, we came together, knocked each other up (hey, if you can have MPREG, you can have girl on girl internet babies) and pushed out our loinfruit -

This is where we us are now.  The theme is far more adult, there's a fuck of a lot more swearing and there are cookies.

Will I be gone from Bites?  Yes.  But I'm not done blogging.  I just needed something new.  Bitching, Books and Baking is that newness.  We're still loading content but you'll still see my familiar reviews along with a rather new voice or two.

I'll still be checking my litbites email and I'll still be reviewing the books I've already received for that specific purpose.  It'll just be done over there.  Rip the bandaid off quick and all of that.  I do have a winner to email for Margaret Willey's FOUR SECRETS.  I won't forget about that.  Thanks to everyone who make my time with Bites awesome.

So come see me (and Laura) at our new home and come bitch, read and bake with us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not In My School (20)

Not In My School is a weekly feature that throws out one YA lit cliche a week to compare to my own high school days. Because we all know how accurate those fictional nuances are . . .


Really?  We're STILL thinking that some dude breaking into a girl's house in the night to watch her sleep is romantic?  Or threatening her with bodily harm?  Or disabling her car engine "for her safety?"  Guys that don't grasp the concept of personal space?  Close talkers?  No.  This "fad" really needs to pass and/or people really need to grow some much needed brains.  If there were stalkers in my school they'd go directly to jail without passing Go and without collecting $200.  I'm with Buffy on this one; stalking isn't a turn-on at all.

And the winner is . . .

The winner of a copy of SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick is . . .

Mary D.!!!

Congratulations, Mary!  I've already sent over an email so be sure to get back to me ASAP!  And a huge thank you to everyone who entered!

Just a reminder to those who do enter my giveaways, if I require you to do something in order to enter, say follow a blog, that means it's a REQUIREMENT.  Not an option.  If I give you a yes or no option, the no option being facetious since it's a requirement and I expect entrants to actually comply with requirements, you need to select yes (or otherwise comply with the requirement).  If you select no IT WILL KICK YOU OUT OF THE GIVEAWAY.  While my no option may be facetious I will not consider your answer of a joking manner.  I'll take it as no, you didn't comply with the requirement and yet entered anyway and I'll delete your entry from the form list.  I don't believe this is all that difficult.

Hell, YOU CAN LIE TO ME.  I don't actually confirm the winners are followers.  I work on the honor system out of no other reason than I'm far too lazy to follow through on that.  I'm comfortable in the knowledge that people may be humoring me.  If I give you a silly answer option and that's what you pick I'll default it to you complying.  If you tell me yes I'll take your word for it.  Tell me no and I'll roll my eyes and delete your entry.

Bottom line - DON'T ANSWER IN THE NEGATIVE.  It seriously boggles my mind how many people do.  That just shows me that 1) you didn't read the directions, 2) you blatantly ignored the directions and/or 3) you figured I wouldn't care either way and I wasn't really being serious about the requirements.  None of these things are good.

Am I asking for too much?  I don't think so.  I'm giving you a chance to win something for nothing out of your pocket except a few seconds of your time.  Some people think that's too much for me to be asking.  Those people can blow me.  For me to get in a position to be able to give these books away was a basket of dicks in work so forgive me for wanting a modicum of return on that.  Silly, Donna, I know.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Four Secrets by Margaret Willey + Giveaway!

Published October 1, 2012.

Author website.

"To you the idea to kidnap Chase Dobson might seem like a mistake. But to us... we were just trying to stop him from being so...evil. We just...we had to stop him. No one helps kids like us. Not at my school. We aren't the important kids. We knew it wouldn't stop unless we stopped it ourselves." 

Katie, Nate, and Renata had no farther to fall down the social ladder. But when they hit bottom, they found each other. Together, they wanted to change things. To stop the torment. 

So they made a plan. One person seemed to have everyone's secrets—and all the power. If they could stop him... 

But secrets are complicated, powerful things. They are hard to keep. And even a noble plan to stop a bully can go horribly wrong.  (

The most prominent issue I had with FOUR SECRETS was the age of the three protagonists and the talked-about antagonist.  They're all supposed to be in eighth grade but I kept finding that I had to remind myself that these weren't kids in high school.  Just the extent of the issues they were having, how they spoke about it, how they carried it out it, just seemed so far beyond someone still in middle school.

Granted have it set their freshman year in high school and I probably wouldn't have batted an eye.  Not much of a difference age-wise in the slightest but the association is different.  In my mind there's a pretty big gap between middle school and high school and the voices I kept reading, at least to me, were high school age.  I just wasn't convinced they were middle school, especially when body sizes came into play.  All except Renata were described as large, either in stature or bulk (and by bulk I mean muscle).  It just didn't fit for me and it was a point of contention throughout and every time I was reminded of their ages it wrenched me out of the story a little bit.

But other than that it was a really good, pretty fast, read told from the perspectives of four different people, Chase excluded.  I could wholly empathize with the feelings of the social worker whose job it was to get to the bottom of why these kids kidnapped their classmate.  Because they entered into some kind of pact they wouldn't talk and she ended up getting the creative runaround from all three of them.

Nate told his view in story form, referring to the people involved by assigned fantastical names and set in a scene that only vaguely alludes to what actually happened.  Yeah you can get what he's saying but his was the portion of the book I liked the least.  I was over his method of storytelling pretty quickly and while I'm sure it helped him to cope with the situation he was seeking solace in a fantasy world instead of coming to terms with what happened.  He frustrated me the most.

Renata you see very little of within her own viewpoint, told, or rather shown, through her drawings.  Otherwise you get a picture of who Renata is by the way Nate and Katie describe and talk about her.  That would have been annoying to me if it weren't such a perfect way to get across Renata's personality.  She is very much a background girl that doesn't speak very often but when she does, whether it's actually with her vocal chords or with her drawings, it's so poignant you can't help but listen.  She's described as incredibly small and for most of the book that's the image I had in my mind: someone who was frail, tiny and needed rescuing when in fact she was exactly the opposite.  Next to the social worker I think I liked Renata the most.

Katie is the most prominent voice in the story aside from the social worker and its through her you learn the most information in a manner that won't have you trying to put puzzle pieces together.  Her method is very straight forward and when she started the second "rouse" journal I grunted in agitation.  I WANTED her to reveal what happened because I knew it wasn't what the situation looked like.  I think that was pretty evident from the beginning.  But there wouldn't be a story if that happened so I bided my time reading Katie's story broken up by lunches and homework and recreation time.  She was the most readable in terms of figuring everything out.

All three were hard-set in their ways when it came to not breaking this pact.  For the life of me I couldn't figure out why and while it worked out in the end I don't feel there was proper punishment doled out for the responsible parties.  The story resolved itself nicely enough but it was a little on the abrupt side and lacking in satisfaction.  I wanted more.  Comeuppance, maybe.  A knock off one's high horse, if you will.  The story resolved itself within one book which is a plus all around but there's a little bit more there, even if it's just ten or twenty pages.

While not my favorite Carolrhoda Lab book that's not to say it wasn't a good read.  FOUR SECRETS has points of view for every type of reader of a multitude of ages telling a story about bullying and how NOT to go about remedying it.  I don't want to give away the ending but through the eyes of the social worker you can see just how hard the gears are grinding, what's up against these kids and just how thin of a wire they're all walking on.  Bullying sucks, sure, but there are ways to go about fixing it that won't land someone in jail.  There's an air of noble cause and valiance in the book as well that may sway towards, in my eyes, the wrong way of fixing things but there is a balance there and Willey does a good job of playing both sides of the game.  It also goes to show that everyone has secrets, even the most perfect of people, and sometimes they're far darker than bad hair days.

Ban Factor: High - Kids taking matters into their own hands and being OKAY with going to juvenile detention?  Le gasp!

Giveaway Time!!!

Want to win my ARC?  Then just fill out the form below for your chance.
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Entrants must be a follower of Bites via one of the following mediums: GFC, RSS, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr.
  • Giveaway ends October 23rd at midnight AZT (3 am EST).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Last Call for Booksahol!

My giveaway for Ilsa Bick's latest, SHADOWS, ends tonight at midnight, AZT (3 am EST)!  Be sure to get your entries in by then for them to count.  You wouldn't want to miss this chance!  Good luck!

WORD's Got Strength

Today I'm over at WORD for Teens talking about strong characters and why showing me their strength  will always win over telling me about it.  I can tell you about my purple dinosaur pet but if only I can see it does it still exist?  Come find out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Added to the Pile + 125

Technically I only received one book this week that's getting added to my pile.  The other, BLOOD FOREVER by Mari Mancusi, was graciously sent to me, signed, by the author for reading and /or promotional purposes even though I already had a digital copy.  It's for this reason, among MANY others, that Mari is awesome.

Via PaperBackSwap -

WHITE CROW by Marcus Sedgwick
Some secrets are better left buried; some secrets are so frightening they might make angels weep and the devil crow. Thought provoking as well as intensely scary, "White Crow" unfolds in three voices. There's Rebecca, who has come to a small, seaside village to spend the summer, and there's Ferelith, who offers to show Rebecca the secrets of the town...but at a price. Finally, there's a priest whose descent into darkness illuminates the girls' frightening story.  (
Horror!  Yes!  I have another one of Sedgwick's books in my review pile and I can't wait to get to both of them.  I may need to bump them up just for ambiance purposes.

Things I've Learned from Books + 168

Posted weekly, you get, for absolutely free, a bit of knowledge learned from the books I read. I just couldn't keep this wealth of information to myself. That would be cruel. It will keep your gray matter happy. And happy gray matter keeps it from de-evolving. De-evolving is bad. You don't want to be sludge, do you? Or a fish?

Using the term 'Titanic' in reference to a book is one hell of a marketing ploy.  People will eat it right up.  But if you're going to use it be sure to actually include something substantial about the ship in the story.  No one wants to read what they're told is a story about the Titanic when it's barely more than a headline in a passing newspaper in the plot.  Hulk likes to smash things like that.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 175

80s Awesomeness! is an original concoction of my insanity need to live in the 80s. The flashback started here and posts weekly on Saturdays, highlighting the best of 80s fashion, music, movies and whatever else the coked up, yuppie Rubik's Cube decade can throw at you.

Look vaguely familiar?  Did a particular song pop into your head and now won't leave you until at least Friday?  It should.  This is the original Baywatch cast from 1989.  I know The Hoff is kind of unrecognizable with his shirt on but the bathing suits on the women should be a dead giveaway.  Baywatch originally ran from 1989 to 1990 and was cancelled because no one was watching.  Surely you jest.  The Hoff, being the repository of genius that he is, kept pushing and brought the show back in 1991 with a cast that'll be more familiar to many, including myself.

Yes, I was an avid Baywatch fan back in my youth, mainly for Hobie.  I loved Hobie.  Remember when he got all wrapped up in the jellyfish tentacles and almost drowned?  I was traumatized.  I also didn't understand the slow motion running scenes that plagued every episode.  Oh what innocent eyes I had.

Here's the pilot intro.  It may throw your senses into a state of confusion -

And the one that most of us know and tolerate. Try not to sing too loud. You'll scare the children.

Freaky Friday :|: 175

Freaky Friday is a weekly post highlighting YA horror published between 1980 and 1999, originally inspired by Sharon's (Loves Books and Cats) Flashback Friday.

Title: Watcher in the Dark
Author: Beverly Hastings
Published: 1986
Publisher: Berkley
A misleading cover and a spooky title promises more than this first novel delivers. In a contrived story with a number of holes that leave the reader asking too many questions, Erin Moore, a high school senior, babysits for four-year-old Abby when her father goes on a business trip. Tension mounts as one by one, the people Erin could turn to in a time of crisis are conveniently inconvenienced, while Erin becomes convinced that someone is after Abby. Is it Abby's college-aged half-brother? An unknown watcher? Unfortunately, the reader knows the answer all along, and there's not much mystery here, although suspense is high. Readers with a penchant for thrillers may enjoy this adequately written story about a teen caught in a babysitter's nightmare.  (
1) Yes, I'm late again.  There are actually things to DO here in AZ that I find more entertaining than being on the interwebs.  So, you know, priorities.  2) New author!  This list will be short because Beverly Hastings wasn't what you'd call prolific.  Plus her catalogue is a mix of adult and YA so it'll be even shorter as a result.  Expect another new author rather soon.

It would appear Publisher's Weekly (the author of that blurb there) was not impressed with this title, consisting, or so they say, of standard babysitter stalker fare.  RL Stine already did this, that I know.  It looks like your standard whodunnit with a scared teenager.  I'd probably pass this one up even without reading PW's added disdain.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

YAckers Review - Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Published September 11, 2012.

Author website.

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head. 

But all that changes when the Lynburns return. 

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?  (

UNSPOKEN was September's YAck pick.  I had to gracefully bow out since that was during my time of state transition so I have absolutely nothing of value to add about this one.  But you should still check out it's YAck over here.  The response appears to be rather positive.  Except for my evil twin.  I wouldn't expect any less.

Ban Factor: Unknown - I didn't read it.  I have no idea.  Since it deals with head voices and words like 'eerily' I'm going to hazard a guess it might be on a few radars.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Not In My School (19)

Not In My School is a weekly feature that throws out one YA lit cliche a week to compare to my own high school days. Because we all know how accurate those fictional nuances are . . .

Writers everywhere

There appears to be an inordinate amount of parents who are writers in YA lately.  And children.  And the kids aren't just your standard 'I write bad poetry to the tune of Fall Out Boy' writers but SERIOUS novelists.  And the parents are some level of established author.  I don't know if all of these manifestations are authors' dream worlds or what but while there were a fair share of writers in my high school only a very small handful were something beyond teen angst serious about it.  None of the parents were anywhere near published.  Read YA novels and authors/writers are EVERYWHERE.  As if that's the number one job in the created world of the books and the number one thing for all involved to aspire to.  I wish but it just wasn't so.  At least not for me.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

August and September TBR Pile Update

Moving cross-country has a tendency of rattling things up a bit.  My one month of being an Arizona resident comes up on Thursday and I'm still trying to settle into some kind of routine.  The prospect that we're moving again soon doesn't help things any but I'm trying.  At least I have something down.  Let's take another step toward settling, shall we?

The pile at the beginning of the year -

And ye olde digital list -

DREAMING ANASTASIA by Joy Preble (free copy from BN)
MESMERIZE by Artist Arthur
ESCAPING TITANIC by Marybeth Lorbiecki
TITANIC by Philip Wilkinson
TIME VOYAGE by Steve Brezenoff
THE LIBERATION OF MAX MCTRUE by Kim Culbertson (from the author)

By the time I moved I was trekking about 197 books 2,600 miles.  To get technical Soldier Boy was driving the truck and since I spent a fair portion of the unloading with my head in the toilet he was the one that actually brought the boxes in.  But, you know, technicalities.  So where am I now?  At 195.  It's starting to feel like a slow crawl.  Yes, I'm dropping but it feels like water weight at this point that keeps collecting around my lower belly and JUST WON'T GO AWAY.

What my pile looks like now in it's new location -

At least now I don't run the risk of slamming my head into the rather hard beam of a pitched ceiling.  That hurt a bit.

And my most recent digital pile (from NetGalley unless otherwise stated) -

THE POISON DIARIES by Maryrose Wood (Epic Reads deal)
ASHEN WINTER by Mike Mullin 
TWO AND TWENTY DARK TALES edited by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink
MORE by TM Franklin
THE LOST PRINCE by Julie Kagawa
MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick
IRON'S PROPHECY by Julie Kagawa (a .79 steal from Harlequin)

I'm down to a little baby digital list now but now I have a job where I actually don't have time to read at my desk for hours on end so don't expect me to crank through these like I've been.  I'm back to reading like a normal person now.  Chagrin.  That number whittling down is going to go even slow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm Pretty Sure I'm Not Being Boycotted by the Internets

You may or may not have noticed that, if you click on my stat counter at the bottom of my site, you'll see some rather screwy numbers.  Namely none at all.  My counter was working fine until a few days ago when my stats started to drop rather significantly.  I've seen drops like that before a couple of times so it didn't really dishearten me although I did get a bit of a frownie face.

Then the counter just stopped logging altogether and it looked like literally no one was coming to my site.  I checked a further few days back and noticed that all of my stats were wiped out back to last Monday, looking like no one's been to my site in a week and they're still not coming.  Apparently not even bots like Bites anymore.

Except I know I don't suck that hard that I went from 250 unique views a day to zero in a span of 48 hours.  I didn't post anything THAT offensive.  At least I think.  So I'm looking into it.  I have a ticket into the stat counter people so we'll see what happens.  Sometime last week the server was unavailable and my stats started dropping off just after it came back up so methinks there's a correlation.

Just to let the publishers, authors and my readers know that I do still have a readership according to my Blogger stats.  At least I have those to fall back on.  Sort of.  It's something showing people are visiting my site.  I'll take it.  Hopefully this gets fixed quickly because seeing big fat zeroes for daily page views is a total downer even though I know it's not true.  Help me feed my ego, Stat Counter!  Please!

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff

Published August 1, 2012.

Three Author Websites.

From acclaimed YA authors Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff comes The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories. 

- A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck. - Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing. 

- A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream). 

These are but a few of the curiosities collected in this volume of short stories by three acclaimed practitioners of paranormal fiction. But The Curiosities is more than the stories. Since 2008, Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna have posted more than 250 works of short fiction to their website Their goal was simple: create a space for experimentation and improvisation in their writing—all in public and without a backspace key. In that spirit, The Curiosities includes the stories and each author's comments, critiques, and kudos in the margins. Think of it as a guided tour of the creative processes of three acclaimed authors. 

So, are you curious now?  (


NetGalley noted the pub date for this book as today but Goodreads is showing back in August.  Considering Goodreads has the bump-up date for Meagon Spooner's SKYLARK I'm going with the Goodreads date for accuracy.

Okay, so book?  Andrew Karre is a publishing genius, never pandering to a wave or reading fad.  He's his own dowsing rod of incredible works, sniffing them out like a nifler and finding precious, precious gold.  Instead of lifting debuts out of the publishing ashes this time he's taken the minds of three already-established authors and exposed their twisted brains in bound book form.

Stiefvater, Gratton and Yovanoff have been experimentally writing as the Merry Fates for years now, stretching their writerly fingers beyond the scope of each of their perceived comfort zones.  The end result in THE CURIOSITIES is a peek behind Oz's curtain, complete with handwritten cliff notes and StiefTonOff (I need to copyright that) doodles to compliment the shorts scattered throughout.  They banter back and forth about each others' writing styles, throw comments about and generally boost each other up as they dip their toes into unfamiliar, and oftentimes murky, water.

The style of each author emerges almost immediately and you get an almost intimate sense of what each is comfortable writing and what was really a stretch into no-man's land.  It got to a point in THE CURIOSITIES that I didn't need to read who the short was written by, they were that distinct from each other.  You get to see some of their prompts and how each author sometimes interprets something as simple as a single name and even when they reach beyond their zone they all cling to something familiar, something stylistic that grounds them in the unknown.  They wax writer-like about drawing blanks, building a story from a single image or a single sentence or even a snippet of some weird dream.  It's a true look into the heads of authors without the classroom lessons of writing.  All you're getting are real world examples and they're so much more poignant.

Maggie is consistent Maggie even when she's trying to be Brenna or Tessa.  I will admit I was not thrilled with her Ballad of Faerie series.  While her writing was beautiful I felt it was more author than character and as a result I stepped away from her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, not wanting to read more of the same.  But what with her story in KISS ME DEADLY and now all of these it's only a matter of time before I pick up another Maggie book.  I just like her shorts far too much.  Her voice is so much more than just her and her range as an author is astounding.  She can flit in and out of genres as if she were skipping despite how taxing some of those stories were to write.  I am coming around again.

Tessa has a thing for grim fairy tales without really broaching into horror.  She plays at the line with her freaky dolls and pokes brownies in their eyes just for shits and giggles.  She takes a fey world and by sheer will of style turns it into something not only eerily dark but captivating and something wholly other, spinning metaphors into pure gold.  I love it when she dredged up barely touched lore and adds her platinum touch to it.  THE SUMMER ENDS IN SLAUGHTER is one such example that blends lore and darkness and Tessa touch into something that's captivating, drawing you in and not letting you look away.

Brenna prances across that horror line and plays with the dead, dressing them up in decaying dresses and stringing them up like marionettes to put on a show.  NEIGHBORS blew me away to the point of speechlessness.  The opening blurbs even warn about the stereotypical twist.  You know what's coming as you read but you don't because Brenna, in all her twisted horror glory, twists the twist and while you may see one you won't see the other.  By god I loved it.  I need more Brenna stories in my demented, horror-loving life.

THE CURIOSITIES is not only an excellent collection of short stories meant as a glimpse into the legwork of writers but an amazing introduction to the authors StiefTonOff.  See the genius that is Andrew's editing skills in compiling this novel of awesome and then read the expansive minds of three authors with rather set comfort zones shatter their own walls and wander into the wild.

Ban Factor: High - From vampires to fairies to a libido-laden dead teenager there is a veritable smorgasbord of screech-worthy banstuff in here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dumpster Diving, Not A Fan

There's no problem with dumpster diving if you find a shiny CD and clean it up. There IS a problem with dumpster diving if you find a moldy couch that lots of people have clearly loved and just leave it in the condition it's in.
Nicole at WORD for Teens
No, I'm not attempting an alternative lifestyle.  I'm not even talking about myself.  I'm talking about publishers and Nicole's quote there sums it up wonderfully.  I may get some shit for this but quite frankly I just don't care.  I'm tired of reading more shit than not and publishers dumpster diving plays into this.  If I see one more headline of this person or another getting culled from free access serial posting sites (or fucking fanfiction, seriously???) I'm going to give up reading (probably not but I will, at minimum, throw my hands up in the air in frustration and utter expletives not under my breath).  I'm not going to name names because this isn't really about the author.  Not really.  It's about dollar signs in publisher eyes and the erosion of quality as a result.

First and foremost I'm not talking about self-published authors; the people that actually publish to the likes of Amazon or Lulu and then go off and sell their product.  While I am not a fan of self-published works my first reaction to seeing one of these guys get culled is 'good for you' instead of 'are you fucking kidding me? not again.'  Why?  What's the difference, you ask?

The difference is actually selling a product and getting eleventy billion people to leave comments like 'omg i luuuuuuuuuuurve this plz post moar soon' on your work.  The difference is a proven sales record versus people that like free shit online who may not translate to actual sales.  That's why.  Being able to sell a half million copies of your book all on your own (through word of mouth, a hired publicist, etc.) is an astronomical feat and not something to be taken lightly.  Quality of the written work aside this person actually has a bonafide, PAYING fanbase behind them.  People have already proven they want to spend money on this person.  Getting a million likes isn't asking very much of anyone except for clicking a button.  While it may have been heinously time consuming for the person shilling you're merely asking for votes for prom king or queen.  Hell, Tila Tequila did it.  Why don't we give her a book deal too?  She's super popular on the internets.  Or was.

When a publisher snatches up some super popular story from Fiction Press or WattPad or LiveJournal or wherever the hell they're getting these novels from it's such a shameless grab for money that it actually puts me off reading the book now.  All they see is a fanbase: 10 million fans already built in, less money spent on marketing, as close to a guarantee as a publisher can get when releasing a book by someone otherwise unknown.  Ejecting one more person from the slush pile because sorry this was already picked up from a free site and the agent won't be able to sell it now although it's really good.  Quality?  Who the FUCK cares about that?  People are already going to buy it by default no matter what it looks like so bind it up and release it.  Let's go.

And fanfiction?  Seriously?  The very function of fanfiction is that it's not publishable because it would be a massive copyright violation because, you know, you're using characters you didn't create writing in a world you didn't build and using a plot that's probably more contrived than a scarf on a hipster in July in Arizona.  Now apparently it's publishable.  As someone that's been reading fanfiction for years now I can tell you that about 95% of the fanfiction out there is total dog shit.  The most popular stuff?  Suethor fic that panders to reader wants.  I've seen the comments.  I've attempted to read some of the stories.  My eyes have bled.  This is what the pubs are pulling from?  The slush pile wasn't enough?

This isn't about the right way and the wrong way to do something.  If a writer gets published, hooray!  I personally prefer the traditional route mainly because I suck at selling myself (a requirement for self-publishing) and I want the satisfaction of an objective third party looking at my work and going 'we can sell this' and pulling me from the mire.  Most writers I know want that feeling.  We don't want to circumvent it and we're okay with that.  Are we bitter because these people are throwing up whatever online and getting attention for it?  I'm sure a lot of people would say yes but I can assure you we're not.  I'm not.  Does it make me die on the inside that publishing is basically turning into an interweb popularity contest?  Yes, but I still have faith in the gatekeepers and the reading public that will eventually tire of the shit being released.

That's not to say all culled material is shit or all shit comes from culled material (I've read quite a bit of shit that never touched online serialization).  I'm just dandy with guilty pleasure reading but does all of it really need to be published?  Can't it just stay in the bog (of eternal stench) it's currently dwelling in and let another author with extraordinary talent get that slot even though they don't have a billion fans from the beginning?

This is about quality over quantity.  People are saying shit like this is the fault of book bloggers; our inability to fully contemplate literary criticism is what's destroying literature.  Frankly those suede-elbow-wearing, puckered asshole types can just shut right the fuck up.  Book bloggers alone, and citizen reviews, are not to blame for the deterioration of literary society, I assure you.  There are more than enough people out there putting more than fan praise into their thoughts on a book.  While publishers have a tendency of listening to what readers want and hopping on waves in the hopes of riding tails we're not dictating terms to them.  We're not saying you need to publish more of this or we'll stop reading.  Nyah.  Publishers are actively seeking out lower quality material for release in the hopes that it's what the readers want.  Sure some will want it but I can guarantee many are getting fed up with the low quality of what they're reading.  I've been seeing far too many reading funks going on for it to just be coincidence.  Trying to figure out whether the chicken or the egg came first isn't going to help anyone.  Editors can easily say you know what, we're good with that.  We need to move on to something else.  And some are but more are still clinging to waves.  That's the fault of book bloggers?  We crave copycats or are they thrust upon us in the hopes that we'll like it just as much as the more popular one that came out?  Let's grow a brain about this.  Not everyone wants to be surrounded by piles of total trash.

This is about me not having to wade through a pile of shit in order to find a diamond to read.  I don't want my local bookstore to turn into the live action version of or FictionPress or WattPad where it's mostly crap and I'll have to be searching for days in order to find something good.  Yes, people like mindless shit and most readers don't really care about quality (which chagrins me to no end) but it manifests differently than just coming right out and saying it if it's getting to be too much: calling out copycat covers, copycat plots, pointing out overused tropes and cliches, characters blending together, noticing crappy editing in final copies (I've been seeing a lot of this lately), people not loving what they're reading more often than not.  They may not come out and say the quality isn't up to par but they're saying it in other, more passive, ways.

The more dumpster diving that occurs I think the lower the quality will dip.  If publishers think we only want fluff to read and to hell with editing that's what we'll get.  I think self-publishing started this trend but at least there it was merited with accounting reports to support it.  Now we have a slew of catastrophically misspelled fan comments as a means of justifying acquiring an online serial to turn around and sell.  And hell, they loved it unedited and all so why change it?  Just repackage it, run it through spell check really quick and we're good.  

No.  Times infinity plus one.  No.

The publishing world needs gatekeepers to preserve the quality of literature because obviously leaving it up to the public just runs it right into the ground.  Not every book needs to be Moby Dick (or insert dense classic here) but agents and editors edit and like Nicole said to me while sometimes things were missed (was that series called Dusk?  That time right when the sun's setting . . .) more often than not quality was maintained.  Not all books are for all people but there used to be a higher integrity of books out there.  Now not so much, whether that's because publishers are pandering to the public because that's what the collective we actually want, they THINK it's what we want or they just don't care and they'll publish it to ride a wave/because it already has a huge fanbase/because it cashes in on an already popular trope (PNR with vampires, for instance).  Quality is already deteriorating and culling from the online sludge and just throwing it into a bound version with the pub's logo on the spine is not the way to correct that.

Maybe cutting off that festering spot on that otherwise "good" tomato may save you some money in the short term but when you end up in the hospital with food poisoning that investment ultimately wasn't the wisest one to make.  Next time you might want to just go buy some fresh tomatoes at the store.  A littler pricier, yes, but at least you know they're GOOD.

Added to the Pile + 124

Two more books wending their way into my pile this week.

From Tor -

IRONSKIN by Tina Connolly
Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.  (
I've seen this one in my peripheral for a little while now.  Just the title and cover have drawn me in a bit.  I'm glad that Tor sent it on over.  It'll definitely be going into my pile despite the fact that I've never read Jane Eyre (it's a retelling).  The blurb is enough for me.

And from Macmillan -

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.

An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? This is a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.  (
How does that NOT sound interesting?  There's so much going on here but the prospect that they're all interconnected keeps tugging on me.  How, dammit?  HOW?

Things I've Learned from Books + 167

Posted weekly, you get, for absolutely free, a bit of knowledge learned from the books I read. I just couldn't keep this wealth of information to myself. That would be cruel. It will keep your gray matter happy. And happy gray matter keeps it from de-evolving. De-evolving is bad. You don't want to be sludge, do you? Or a fish?


The brains of writers are very scary places indeed.  For all involved.  When one becomes afraid of their own head it has a tendency of causing an issue or two.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 174

80s Awesomeness! is an original concoction of my insanity need to live in the 80s. The flashback started here and posts weekly on Saturdays, highlighting the best of 80s fashion, music, movies and whatever else the coked up, yuppie Rubik's Cube decade can throw at you.

Today is catch-up day!  Hooray!

Look familiar?  The original incarnation of The Simpsons, making their first appearance on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1989.  They've, um, reformed since then, streamlining the look just a smidge.  Quite frankly they look like something out of a nightmare here.  But yes, you can thank the 80s for the cartoon powerhouse that is The Simpsons.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Freaky Friday :|: 174

Freaky Friday is a weekly post highlighting YA horror published between 1980 and 1999, originally inspired by Sharon's (Loves Books and Cats) Flashback Friday.

Title: Zodiac Chillers - In Leo's Lair
Author: Carol Ellis
Published: September 25, 1995
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 164
After breaking up with Eric, Nina is alarmed when Eric and her new boyfriend, both determined Leos, become jealous of each other and dangerously possessive of Nina, and Nina's soulmate, Jess, must come to her rescue.  (
A bit late, I know.  I was busy falling asleep to the movie Clue last night.  Anyway, I'm wondering how all of this zodiac stuff comes into line other than a contrived mention of the characters' astrological signs.  The dreaded 's' word gets me a bit twitchy but the whole zodiac thing has me intrigued.  Plus I want my free astro-pendant.  Think it's still available?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two More Reading Challenges COMPLETED!

The Off the Shelf and Titanic 100th Anniversary Reading Challenges are both completed!  Woohoo!  How accomplished do I feel right now?  The only challenge I have left is my Goodreads goal that I set for myself: 100 books this year.  I'm eleven away from my mark.  I think I can manage that between now and the end of the year.

This was the year of reading challenges for me.  I actually completed them.  I most likely won't be competing in any next year because I'm simply just going to read the books I already have without having to worry about quotas so I'm happy to be ending this year on a good note.  Go me!

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Published April 15, 2009.

Author website.

Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla's inventions dooms them...and one could save them.  (

For the first half of DISTANT WAVES I was wondering what the hell this book had to do with the Titanic.  It was mentioned once or twice in off-hand remarks, and not by name, and a couple of the people that were on board made appearances within the story but other than that it was a story that centered around Spiritualism, a mother defrauding people with her mystic "skills" and her daughters' lives as a result of this woman's charade.  The story in and of itself wasn't bad.  I actually found it pretty interesting and I liked Jane but don't give me 'A Novel of the Titanic' and not have the ship make an appearance until halfway through the book.  That's going to make me cranky.  I don't like to be cranky when I read.

Once the Titanic did show up it played its role like it does in any other story about it; you're reading the melodrama occurring on it all the while just holding your breath to see how the main event is going to destroy everything nice that's seemingly going on.  I didn't like how the sisters got onto the boat.  It was just far too contrived for my tastes and I really don't think the people letting on passengers would have let stowaways slip by.  Considering the ship and all the hype it should have been something the White Star Line was prepared for.

The ending pretty much murdered what was otherwise and interesting story.  I'm okay with authors taking liberties with history but to take major events and alter their causes for the sake of the story is really bothersome.  To the point where I was audibly going 'what???"

All sense of immediacy was gone as the iceberg was approaching.  No one seemed to be all that worried about it from those watching it head right towards the ship.  Then Tesla tests his magical mystery machine and supposedly breaks the ship.  It didn't REALLY hit the iceberg.  Excuse me?  And as the ship sank?  Poof, gone.  The major cataclysmic event was literally blinked out of the plot.  Gone.  Ground zero happens, people start running around a little confused, poof Jane is being rescued by the Carpathia.  I'm not even talking about a sentence to say it sank.  An element happened that actually eliminated the sinking from the story and skipped right to the rescue.  Infuriated would be a good word to describe me.  How do you have 'a novel of the Titanic' and just skip the sinking?

The individual elements of DISTANT WAVES were good; I liked the Spiritualism aspect, how historical people were factored into the plot, all of the characters were likable on some level and it even got a hint steampunky.  But I think the Titanic itself ruins this story of the Titanic for me simply because it was so bastardized.  The author actually altered history to serve her plot.  No.  Me no likey.  If that kind of thing doesn't bother you then you might just like DISTANT WAVES.  Like I said it's a pretty good story.  But the Titanic is killer.  No pun intended.  Too much was changed in a story that was only supposed to be historical fiction, not alt history or the like.  It's unfortunate but that's the way it is, I guess.  Titanic in one book and the rest of the plot in another, yes.  Both would have been good.  But they just didn't mix well, like a recipe whose ingredients didn't quite mesh.

Ban Factor: Low - An historical fiction centered around the Titanic.  One can hardly pick a more prudish time in our history.  The Spiritualism might offend but that's assuming they know what the word means.  One mustn't overestimate the banners.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not In My School (18)

Not In My School is a weekly feature that throws out one YA lit cliche a week to compare to my own high school days. Because we all know how accurate those fictional nuances are . . .

Weird character names

Judging by this list you'd think people are rather tame with their children-naming.  If you happen to read, well, anything in the YA world it would appear parents are hitting the acid in the maternity ward. With names like Serenity, Destiny, Mystical Moon Beam (I may have made that one up just now) or anything with at least one apostrophe I can't help but wonder what particular pipe Mom and Dad are hitting before putting pen to birth certificate.  I'm not even considering ethnic names (since those are in their own category).  Just the funky ones that lend credit to hints of THC in the blood.  Why must we name our characters as if it's 1967 or we passed out with our faces pressed into the keyboard?  What's so wrong with Tom?  Or Michele?  I'll even throw in Rupert.  Why can't we have characters with parents that actually put some thought into how naming their children might affect their later years?  Please?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Author Bites - Sean Beaudoin on All Things Rotting

Sean sure knows how to rock out with his cocks out.  He's made this chicken funky since I started reading his epic mind-fuckery years ago.  His most recent incarnation of a literary acid trip, THE INFECTS, had no less of an effect than previous works but I noticed some differences.  I had to ask Sean about them and he even answered.  I'm the luckiest little fangirl ever.  Fried chicken, zombies and Sean Beaudoin make for an insane combination.  If you haven't read THE INFECTS yet be sure you do.  It's available today and I'm pretty sure it'll make you boycott all forms of fried chicken, not just the homophobic kind.  Thanks for stopping by, Sean!

What made you decide to mutate your zombies, make them, for a lack of better words, evolve? 

What is it about the human brain that we always have to envision ourselves at the height of culture and physiological development? The Sumerians thought they had the best religion, political system, and literature in the history of the world. And five thousand years ago, they were right. The Romans were right too, until the Goths sacked them into submission. France was right at the time of Louis the XVI, the Germans were right at the time of Weimar, and we’ve been right in 1776, 1876, and 1976. The thing is, we have no clue not only who we’re going to be, but what we’re going to be in 2076. Or if we’re going to be at all. In three hundred years we may all have insect wings, or be disembodied heads floating in vats of saline and electrolytes. Or we may devolve and live underground like voles. I guess my point is that all of us becoming zombies seems as likely an outcome as any other. Why would zombiedom necessarily be a step backward?

THE INFECTS appears to be tamer in terms of your usual mind-fuckery.  Is this just me or have you toned it down a tad when compared against FADE TO BLUE or WESLEY PAYNE?  

Well, if there’s any toning down it wasn’t a conscious choice. I think zombies inherently bring a lot of blown minds to the table without needing to be larded with the metaphysic or overly conceptual. On the other hand, maybe the mean nurse on the ward has started to palm my medication and sell it in the alley out back.

Is there really a not-so-subtle and nominally serious bit of commentary on America's fast food nation and the over-production of meat a la Perdue and Tyson in your book or am I simply having a stroke? 

You are having a stroke. And your response in the first three minutes is vital to your future quality of life. Here is what I suggest: locate a salt shaker and immediately swallow the entire contents. Next, cook and eat several steaks and then down an entire jar of peanut butter with a spoon. Finally, change into some sweats and watch a Million Dollar Listing marathon on Bravo.

The end of THE INFECTS leaves a few doors open.  Have you fallen into the pit of YA series or are you just a horrible, horrible tease? 

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to write an Infects sequel. I guess the sales numbers will let me know if I need to. The end does sort of leave it wide open for another book, but it really wasn’t as intentional as it might seem. Since I’m such a famous and powerful author, I was able to work into my contract that I have the option of whether or not to continue the Nero saga. In the meantime, my next book is a punk rock diary called Wise Young Fool that will be out August 2013, and it has zero zombie content. 

If you could draft your favorite zombie writer into your evolving zombie army, who would it be and why?  Would you want to collaborate with him or her (in zombie form, of course)?

My favorite zombie writer is Jonathan Franzen. I definitely want to go (zombie) bird watching with him, but I don’t know about writing a book together. I guess if Oprah is into it, I’m in.

Discuss, in a short paragraph, your feelings regarding SEAN OF THE DEAD.

You are speaking, I take it, of the one-man rock opera that I wrote and performed for my extended family in my grandmother’s living room when I was twelve?

Or do you mean Shaun of the Dead? I dug that movie. Like all of the best zombie fare, it was amusing without really trying too hard to be.

What's your favorite artery-clogging fast food joint and has your own book made you shy away from it a bit more as of late?

Fast food freaks me out. I literally haven’t eaten McDonalds since 1986. My abstention is not so much political in nature--although I’m sympathetic to that line of thinking--as it is that factory scale meat processing strikes me as hallucinatory and demented. To be able to sit down and eat a Quarter Pounder with bacon and cheese you simply can’t allow yourself to ponder the steps required for it to arrive boxed and steaming in front of you. I wanted readers to think about that just a little bit, without being preachy. Personally, I’d always rather hear a good chicken-anus joke than listen to a lecture. And the bottom line is that people are going to eat what tastes good to them, regardless. But so are zombies. And, as we all know, zombies mostly prefer sweaty, alienated teenagers.

Brains or intestines? 

I’ve had sweetbreads before and I’ve always found them to be slick and unpleasant. They taste like debauchery. Or maybe they just taste like death. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed tripe tacos in Mexico a number of times. It helps to have had some tequila. So, I’m going with intestines. Hands down.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Win SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick!

Tomorrow Ilsa J. Bick's end-of-the-world story continues on.  The sequel to ASHES, SHADOWS, drops like it's about to get eaten.  Now if you're a good reader you should be salivating at the face for this title.  I mean the end of ASHES was so incredibly infuriating and cliffhangerish  that I started frothing about a year ago (maybe a bit more).  If you haven't even read ASHES yet then what the hell are you doing?  You have homework to do.

For the rest of you, in case you need a refresher you can head on over to Ilsa's site for a quick recap.  SHADOWS doesn't sucker into the standard billion-page recap that seems to creep all over YA series so if you don't know what's going on, or can't remember, you'll be rather lost.  I know I'll be diving into that ASHES cheat sheet.  I remember quite a bit of what happened (a rarity for me) but I figured anything that's pertinent to SHADOWS Ilsa will mention on her own recap.  Safe bet, right?

Coincidentally SHADOWS is also this month's pick for my fantabulous sooper sekret book club, YAckers.  We plan to YAck it good.  And we may even have a copy or two to give away when we post the YAck on the YAcker's site.

Not sure what's headed your way in SHADOWS?  Check out the blurb from Goodreads -
The Apocalypse does not end. The Changed will grow in numbers. The Spared may not survive.

Even before the EMPs brought down the world, Alex was on the run from the demons of her past and the monster living in her head. After the world was gone, she believed Rule could be a sanctuary for her and those she’d come to love.
But she was wrong.

Now Alex is in the fight of her life against the adults, who would use her, the survivors, who don’t trust her, and the Changed, who would eat her alive.
Rather elusive but there you go.  It's a tease, I'll admit that.  A big one.  Have you READ the end of ASHES?  This is nothing compared to that so I'll take it.

Now is your chance to win a finished copy courtesy of Egmont.  What do you need to do?
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Entrants must be a follower of Bites via one of the following mediums: GFC, RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Goodreads.
  • Entrants must follow the YAckers site (and be sure to come back to it to check out our YAck of SHADOWS, yes, I'm shamelessly whoring for followers here, sue me).
  • Giveaway ends October 8th at midnight, MST/Arizona time.
Now just fill out the form and have at it.  Happy release day, Ilsa!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Added to the Pile + 123

One lonely book this week, of which I'm okay with.  It came from PaperBackSwap and it's one I've wanted to read for a while now, mainly because it's a matriarchal post-apocalyptic world.  A rather rare point of view for this type of genre so I'm interested in seeing how Patneaude handles it.

EPITAPH ROAD by David Patneaude
2097 is a transformed world. Thirty years earlier, a mysterious plague wiped out 97 percent of the male population, devastating every world system from governments to sports teams, and causing both universal and unimaginable grief. In the face of such massive despair, women were forced to take over control of the planet--and in doing so they eliminated all of Earth's most pressing issues. Poverty, crime, warfare, hunger . . . all gone.

But there's a price to pay for this new "utopia," which fourteen-year-old Kellen is all too familiar with. Every day, he deals with life as part of a tiny minority that is purposefully kept subservient and small in numbers. His career choices and relationship options are severely limited and controlled. He also lives under the threat of scattered recurrences of the plague, which seem to pop up wherever small pockets of men begin to regroup and grow in numbers.

And then one day, his mother's boss, an iconic political figure, shows up at his home. Kellen overhears something he shouldn't--another outbreak seems to be headed for Afterlight, the rural community where his father and a small group of men live separately from the female-dominated society. Along with a few other suspicious events, like the mysterious disappearances of Kellen's progressive teacher and his Aunt Paige, Kellen is starting to wonder whether the plague recurrences are even accidental. No matter what the truth is, Kellen cares only about one thing--he has to save his father.  (

Things I've Learned from Books + 166

Posted weekly, you get, for absolutely free, a bit of knowledge learned from the books I read. I just couldn't keep this wealth of information to myself. That would be cruel. It will keep your gray matter happy. And happy gray matter keeps it from de-evolving. De-evolving is bad. You don't want to be sludge, do you? Or a fish?

When life is the abortion of a bad acid trip you'll long for the days when the walls were simply bleeding.  Things were so much simpler then.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

80s Awesomeness! ~ 173

80s Awesomeness! is an original concoction of my insanity need to live in the 80s. The flashback started here and posts weekly on Saturdays, highlighting the best of 80s fashion, music, movies and whatever else the coked up, yuppie Rubik's Cube decade can throw at you.

A show before my time, Square Pegs was about two girls (does one of them look familiar?) just trying to fit in at school.  You know, square peg, round hole?  Ha ha?  Right.  I've never seen an episode and the series only lasted a season but I do know they padded Amy Linker's outfits (the one that isn't Sarah Jessica Parker) to make her look heavier.  Apparently that made her even more uncool.  Add in the fraulein hair, weird clothes and braces and I don't think she could have gotten any squarer.

Freaky Friday :|: 173

Freaky Friday is a weekly post highlighting YA horror published between 1980 and 1999, originally inspired by Sharon's (Loves Books and Cats) Flashback Friday.

Title: Zodiac Chillers - The Scorpio Society
Author: Carol Ellis
Published: July 25, 1995
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 168
Belonging to an exclusive and secret club at her gothic-style boarding school has more of a sting to it than Elizabeth imagined, when the Scorpio Society's leader, the mysterious, charismatic Rachel, sets out to enlist Elizabeth--whether she wants to join or not.  (
Few things are worse than a person that just doesn't get the hint.  Seriously, I DON'T WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND.  Some people are exceptionally desperate, I guess.  I'd read it just to see what angle the story takes; creepy stalker?  Overwhelming force?  Passive-aggressive under-handing?  Who knows?  Someone must.  There had to be at least ONE reader of this book at some point in time . . .  It wasn't me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bad Glass by Richard E. Gropp

Pub date: September 25, 2012.

Author website.

Something has happened in Spokane. The military has evacuated the city and locked it down. Even so, disturbing rumors and images seep out, finding their way onto the Internet, spreading curiosity, skepticism, and panic. For what they show is-or should be-impossible: strange creatures that cannot exist, sudden disappearances that violate the laws of physics, human bodies fused with inanimate objects, trapped yet still half alive. . . . 

Dean Walker, an aspiring photographer, sneaks into the quarantined city in search of fame. What he finds will change him in unimaginable ways. Hooking up with a group of outcasts led by a beautiful young woman named Taylor, Dean embarks on a journey into the heart of a mystery whose philosophical implications are as terrifying as its physical manifestations. Even as he falls in love with Taylor-a woman as damaged and seductive as the city itself-his already tenuous hold on reality starts to come loose. Or perhaps it is Spokane's grip on the world that is coming undone.  

Now, caught up in a web of interlacing secrets and betrayals, Dean, Taylor, and their friends must make their way through this ever-shifting maze of a city, a city that is actively hunting them down, herding them toward a shocking destiny.  (

BAD GLASS is something different.  In a good way.  It's part horror, part apocalyptic, part science fiction and fantasy, hitting on every thread that each of those genres can unwind.  I had moments reading this book that actually made my stomach churn.  Of course I was eating lunch at the time and vomiting all over the lunch room table at a place I've worked at less than a week would certainly leave an impression.  Not a good one.  I really like where I work so I breathed through it.

In terms of character I felt it was a little thin.  I didn't really have any motivation to care about any of the characters and when things really started to happen I felt more like I was watching the news than I was invested in reading a novel.  The emphasis of the story was on Spokane.  It was the antagonist here, as the blurb says, hunting them.  Literally.  I LOVED Spokane and I talk about it as if it were a fleshy type of character.  It was the most dynamic thing here, morphing itself to engulf the more static characters.

Taylor was your typical hard ass, stand-offish girl that leads by example.  Not unlikable but she wasn't anything I warmed to.  Then her character took a major shift towards the end and I don't think it quite fit.  It was too out of character and felt more like a contrivance to catapult the story forward than anything else.  I didn't mind per se because I was still interested in the story but it was a point of contention.  I'm not a fan of characters deviating for the sake of plot.

Amanda is one character one day and then goes off the deep end the next without much segue, throwing another shock factor into the spokes of the plot.  Charlie was endearing, being the youngest of the group.  He was the techie, helping the rest of the gang keep in contact with the outside world all the while continuously searching for his parents whom he KNOWS are still in town.  Floyd is hung up on the death of his brother, Mac's a clingy dick from the beginning and Dean himself wants to believe he dissolves into the town with the rest of them but I didn't buy it.  He's there for less than a week, put through all kinds of shit for the sake of his art but won't simply walk away when things get really bad (and everything will gladly get out of his way to walk and once he gets out of Spokane all the craziness will stop but nooooooooo).  He sacrifices his life for Taylor, whom he's known A WEEK but will not return the affection nor even much of a hint that it's reciprocal, because he just can't leave her.  No.  I don't buy that either.

I don't buy it as much as I don't buy Taylor's character shift.  Dean's very presence beyond the first few days felt forced, his reasons for staying insubstantial at best.  Eventually it stopped being about his photography and started being about Taylor, again a stand-offish girl that would barely look at him.  I'm going to keep driving right past that tag sale and move on to the next one.

Spokane on the other hand was a living, breathing character consuming all the others, eventually literally.  The things that happen within the city, whether they just happen to the surroundings or to the people themselves, were so incredibly vivid that I could almost feel all of the panic and worry and wonder at what was going on.  From the weird bodily mutations to nature bucking it's own trend, I believed it all.  It was the most vivid part of the story.  If it weren't such an integral part, if the story focused more on the characters than on the surroundings, I would have lost interest pretty quickly.  But I kept reading for Spokane.  I wanted to see what the hell was going on with it.

I almost expected the ending to crap out.  I don't know why but I was anticipating the whole thing ending up being a dream.  It was alluded to.  I'll spoil it for you: it's not.  Thank god.  I would have been so incredibly pissed off I don't know what I would have done.  You get an answer but it leaves a lot of whys hanging out there and you still don't REALLY know what's going on by the time the story ends.  You have an idea and I think it's enough to satisfy the curiosity that the plot brews but there's definitely room for more.

BAD GLASS is, atmospherically, a great blend of horror and apocalyptic, the latter really just on the edge of the world about to go to hell in a Pinto.  There are some truly terrifying moments and the way Gropp wrote all of the changes it really plays with your mind and you won't know what to think about everything that's happening.  You'll start to second-guess things and you'll be trying to figure it out right from the moment Dean gets into the city and starts seeing these things first hand.  It's light on character development but the city itself is such a huge personality in the book that it'll just overwhelm everything else.  Really I don't think there's room for much else in terms of the other characters.  And I'm okay with that.

Ban Factor: High - Swearing, m/m sex, drug use and the world going to hell.  Not a good combination for the banners.
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