Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Betrayal Of Love And Freedom -Paul Huljich

Title: Betrayal Of Love and Freedom
Author: Paul Huljich
Publisher: Mwella Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0615368177
Release Date: October 2009
Page Number: 624
Price: $15.95

After witnessing the death of his immediate family in a car crash at a young age, Luke Powers is sent to live with his grandparents in New Zealand, where he is sent to a high class boarding school. During his time in school he meets Hughie, a Maori boy who, like Luke, is considered an outsider, and they boys become quick friends. Luke sets himself up as a business man early on, and this drive continues after his graduation and moving on into college. Betrayal of Love and Freedom portrays Luke's life from his family's death onward, covering his schooling, love life, and everything in between. Just that was more than good enough for a book, and I actually enjoyed Luke's story a lot. Except that Betrayal doesn't just end there. No, that's only part one.

The second part of Betrayal covers the story of Rick Dellich, a man with bipolar disorder who struggles to overcome his disease and fix his home life and business life without the disease ruining him. The only connection between the two parts of the book was that Rick and Luke met as teens, raced against each other, and Luke stayed at Rick's house for part of a day with his family. Afterword they don't even keep in contact.

Now, I'm not saying that the second part of the book was bad, exactly. It might have been an okay read if it had been a stand alone and I'd picked it up. But it wasn't, and the two parts have very little connection to each other. The second part was flat out dull after reading the story of Luke Powers, with all the gritty romances and power trips and culture.

Now, there was a third part of the book that was probably meant to pull the whole story together. The book starts off with an intro where Luke is on trial for the murder of an unnamed former lover, and the third part is the conclusion to that intro. In the third part, Luke is suddenly engaged to a woman that is just thrown into the story, with no character development or reader interest on my part toward their relationship. During the course of Luke's first part of the book, Luke has several relationships that are built up and explained. I loved reading about each one. But the sudden engagement to a woman that wasn't in the story before was just...boring. There was no appeal, because there hadn't been enough interaction or development. As far as I was concerned, this made the entire last part of the book more of a chore, reading just to finish, than it was reading for the sake of fun.

Betrayal of Love and Freedom was pretty good to start, but as far as I am concerned, everything past the first part failed to entertain at all. Maybe if Luke Power's story was a book by itself, or if there hadn't been an in-depth story on Rick and he'd just been an interesting side character, Betrayal might have been better. As it was, I doubt I'll be rereading it anytime soon, if at all, and I'd only recommend reading the first part to anyone, unless they have a particular interest in the plight of a man suffering from bipolar disorder and a shitty marriage life or absolutely MUST know what happens in the trial mentioned in the prelude. Although, to be perfectly honest, I'd just suggest skipping the prelude too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Inventor's Companion - Ariel Tachna

Title: The Inventor's Companion
Author: Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 978-1-61581-822-8
Release Date: 2011
Page Number: 338
Price: $17.99

Gabriel Blackstone is an inventor in the merchant caste of his society. Lucio is the companion from the pleasure caste that Gabriel's assistants bought him for the night as a gift. The two were meant to meet up, have dinner, get what was paid for, and part ways. Instead, Gabriel refuses to touch Lucio in the name of his honor and support for Caste Equality. Thus Gabriel secures a place in the heart of the companion, and the two struggle to keep their love strong when their very society seems to be against them.

The Inventor's Companion is a novel about the love of two men and the lengths they're willing to go to make their relationship work. From the very first chapter, the relationship between the two main characters is visibly strong and very sexually charged. Despite this, the relationship is developed, not just assumed and pushed onto the readers in the way of many novels in today's romance genre, something I appreciated.

The characters of the novel appealed to me early on. Gabriel is an honorable man with a love of machines and creating. Lucio is a surprisingly innocent character for the profession he follows, a product of the novel's setting. More than just the main couple, the side characters were lovely and fleshed out throughout the story as well, instead of just being a backdrop for the romance. Lucio's friend in his trade, Cressida, was probably my favorite character in the novel despite not being a main star, and Lord Stuart and his guardian friend are equally appealing.

What makes so many of the characters of this novel interesting is likely the world they're settled into. Tachna's vision is an endlessly alluring, from the caste system which is represented by tattoos--or lack thereof--on each of the characters to the fan system used for communication among the society. In Tachna's world, the caste you are born in dictates everything in your life from the people you can marry to the job you have to work. This is despite the fact that you may not like or even be suitable for the profession, such as in the case of one guardian in the novel who can't get work because he has such a small build. I adored reading about the companion's lives, essentially the sex slaves of the world. I loved the absolute grittiness of the caste, the breeding farms, the life.

I started The Inventor's Companion prepared for it to be the typical drivel I've come to expect from so much of the romance genre's world. I was prepared to enjoy it as a nice way to pass the time, but I was not expecting what I received within the pages of Tachna's work. Despite actively looking for something to dislike about this book, at one point, I find it may have earned itself a place on the bookshelf I keep for only my favorites, and the only flaw I can find is that the book actually ends. The ending matches the story fine, mind, but it simply isn't enough. I can only hope that there ends up being a companion work where the world is The Inventor's Companion is further explored and explained, and where I might see some of my favorite side characters get their own happy endings.

Fracture - Megan Miranda

Title: Fracture
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Walker & Company
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2309-3
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Page Number: 272
Price: $17.99/21.00 Can.

"I didn't have the presence of mind to think, Please God, don't let me die. I wasn't brave enough to think, I hope Decker stayed back. My only thought, playing on a repetitive loop, was No, no, no, no, no."
It was a cold winter day in Maine when Delaney followed her friend, Decker, onto the ice on their way to a game with friends. It was just as cold when Delaney slipped, falling onto the ice hard enough to shatter it and send her down into the ice topped water. For 11 minutes, Delaney stays underwater until Decker can pull her out. By all rights, she should be brain dead if not dead entirely. Instead she's perfectly okay, needing only a day or two to get ahold of herself before she's ready to leave, feeling almost just like before. Almost, because she still feels this odd pull, an itch, that pulls her into a woman's room just as the woman begins to convulse in death throes.

Fracture was one of the many ARCs I found at Book Expo America. The ARC has a limited cover design consisting of black text on blue, with no pictures in the design to suggest what the novel is about. Regardless, the short passage from the novel on the back and the summary on the info page, which suggested Delaney's connection with the dead, led me to think that Fracture was going to be one of the best books I'd picked up. I wasn't even home yet before I gave into the temptation to read it.

I was hooked within the first two pages of the story. The story starts with Delaney's death experience and hospital recovery, spoken in Delaney's voice. It's dramatic without being too much, and sets a good tone for the rest of the novel. Miranda is particularly talented at descriptive writing; I reread the drowning scene, for instance, several times just because I enjoyed the way her writing flows.

Sadly for a book with such a promising beginning, after a few chapters the story begins to drag. This is mostly because the point of the novel stops being about Delaney's ability to sense death, and more and more about her boy problems. Delaney's power, while still being present in the story, became more of a plot device to introduce a secondary love interest and connect him to Delaney. Her ability still plays a part, but the novel becomes less of an interesting fantasy about a girl who can sense death and more about a teenage girl with boy problems, and because the character relationships are more given than explained for most of the characters, I didn't feel enough of a connection to find the romance more than just something I had to drag through in order to finish the story.

All in all, Fracture was an alright book. It was far from amazing, and I feel it would have been better with less emphasis on the romance, but it was still an okay read. That was the only major flaw I could find in the story, and like I said, I loved the author's writing style in the beginning. Should the author end up writing another novel, I would probably check it out.

As far as Fracture goes, I'd recommend it to the sort who enjoy teenage romance and drama. Fracture wasn't really my sort of thing after all, but for someone who enjoys teen romance, I'd suggest picking it up when it comes out January 3, 2012.

Join me soon, readers, and I'll be reviewing Ariel Tachna's The Inventor's Companion, a vaguely steampunk novel about the forbidden love between two men from very different castes in a twisted society where status determines everything.

BEA Review

As of 11pm today, I got home from my very first BEA convention in NYC. Sadly I am too much of a poor high school student to manage to go more than one day, particularly when that one day involved skipping school, so I sadly won't be able to manage the rest of the week. But that's okay, because if there's one thing I've learned in my con experience, it's that even one day can leave you completely exhausted. I don't think I could handle a second.
I went in with a group consisting of Zee from Lost Train Of Thoughts and a mutual friend, Candyss. Despite waking up at 4am to catch trains and rides and arriving a full HOUR before the start of the con, we arrived at the con too late to get our hands on any of the special autograph tickets. Needless to say, I'd like to suggest to all the people who work on BEA that they put together a system that's a little more fair than 'arrive 2 hours early or no tickets for you!' But we got over it, and headed out, picking up our badges and checking luggage. We arrived too early to start anything, so we headed out to grab breakfast, arriving back at the con 10 minutes after what we later heard was pure chaos to get in.
My first sight of BEA was stunning. People, books, chaos, it was beautiful. The group and I spent the first half an hour looking around and getting a lay of the place, at least until we stumbled upon the gorgeousness that was Penguin, where ARCs and other books were laid out in abundance in every corner. Our morning was looking up, particularly after picking up gorgeous tote bags from DK to carry some books in.
After the first few minutes, the day gets a little fuzzy. Most of BEA was spent wandering, waiting in lines, and marvelling. But there were plenty of interesting key points that I doubt I'll forget anytime soon.
Harlequin had a series of author hours, for instance, and I went to three of them. The first hour was paranormal, and while the line was long, it was worth it because the end of the line took you by each of the authors signing their books instead of individuals. Thus we joined the forming line for the young adult line early, and spent 30 minutes waiting, then another 10 because of a delay, only for someone to finally tell those of us waiting that this hour was going to be individual lines instead. Needless to say, the place erupted into chaos with nobody being entirely sure where each line lead and people completely ignoring the fact that there had been people already waiting in line, and jumping the lines entirely. I was far from the only person displeased with the situation, if the mood of the crowd and muttering was anything to go by. However, I was pleased to get a copy of the two books I wanted, even if I did miss out on spellbound. The third hour was back to one line for all authors, thank merlin.
The girls and I spent a few hours line hoping in the autograph area, jumping into the short lines and getting multitudes instead of picking a long line and waiting. We probably missed out on a few good things, but we found some really interesting authors we wouldn't have otherwise noticed, so it was pretty epic.
Between the bags, books, and random freebies, I must have brought home over 900$ worth of awesomeness, the majority of which you can expect reviews on over the next few months. It was an interesting attempt to get the bags back to my bus, needless to say. Overall, BEA was a fun and really interesting event, and I can't wait for next year.

Key Points of BEA:
The Good
  • Free arcs and books everywhere!
  • Incredibly friendly authors and fellow bloggers that I managed to speak to in the lines.
  • Getting to meet favorite authors and learn about ones that might be just as good
  • Friendly, helpful staff
  • Multitude of food and drink options everywhere
  • A wide range of different genres, from the dictionary to warhammer books.

The Bad
  • A horrible lack of manners and abundance of rudeness in the crowds, to the point that while I was attempting to get through a crowd and apologizing, a woman shoved into me to force her own way through instead of waiting.
  • Incredibly crowded walkways, particularly near places such as Penguin, which had popular booth signings
  • Unorganized signing systems, such as changing systems midsignings and giving out numbered tickets without organizing by number
  • Rushed authors, to the point that at least one didn't have time to talk to fans, let alone personalize signatures
  • Overexpensive food everywhere. 4$ for an ice cream bar, anyone?
  • Needing to arrive needlessly early to get tickets
  • Mixed signals. The staff discouraged starting to stand in line for booths too early, but then gave out tickets to people who did.
  • Bring a rolling suitcase, particularly if you need to walk anywhere with your load of books
  • Make and bring business cards, no matter if you're a blogger or salesman.
  • Network. The lines are long, make conversation.
  • Don't be afraid to jump in the lines that nobody else is in. Sometimes those books end up being really good.
  • Arrive early if you want to get ticketed events.
  • Bring a sturdy, comfortable bag you can carry with weight in it.
  • Check your bags. It's pretty cheap, and it saves a lot of time and effort, particularly after those bags start to weight 30-40 lbs from books.
  • Have fun. You're there because you like books, or you should be. Mellow out, go with the flow, and let yourself enjoy everything, even if you don't get everything you want.