Saturday, 27 February 2010

Winner of the...

to Baldly Go giveaway was...


Drop me an e-mail and I'll get your copy of Sweet and Deadly on its way.

Meanwhile if anyone comes across some excellent balding/skull trimmed heroes. I still want to know.

So far we have:-


Tom Paoletti


Patrick Stewart (Jean Luc Picard on ST: TNG)
Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47 in the film Hitman
Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in Smallville
Richard T. Jones (of Judging Amy and Terminator : the SC Chronicles)
Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus in the Matrix

It's a pretty short list for the fiction guys.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

How Did That Get There?

Do you ever look at the books on your wishlist and wonder how they got there? Most of the books on my wishlist I've put there as I've read recommendations on various blogs - usually Lurv a la Mode as KMont reviews a lot of UF.

Sometimes by the time the publication date arrives I've completely forgotten what intrigued me about the book and why I put it on my wishlist. I reason to myself that there must have been SOMETHING about the book that interested me.

At the moment the following books have me somewhat bemused by their appearance...

And Falling, Fly - Skyler White

Unclean Spirits - M.L.N. Hanover

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

I must have put them on there for a reason, I guess it will be fun when I get them to find out what it was. :)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

DIK Challenge Review - Soulless by Gail Carriger

I'm on something of a role with my DIK picks. My February choice is Soulless by Gail Carriger one of Katiebabs picks (and I think also recommended by Renee). Soulless is the first in the Parasol Protectorate series and begins the story of Alexia Tarrabotti. Alexia lives in an almost Steampunkian version of Victorian England, where vampires and werewolves are an accepted part of society. Alexia, herself, is a preternatural, her touch renders both vampires and werewolves human, but only while she maintains contact with them. However, not everyone is happy with the integration of human and supernatural in society and when vampires and werewolves start to disappear, Alexia finds herself in the middle of a very dangerous situation.

(Just a little aside. If I have a problem with the book it's that Alexia is described as soulless. This is how the Victorians have explained the existence of supernatural and preternatural. An excess of soul allows an individual to survive the transformation into vampire or werewolf, whilst an absence of soul allows the individual to nullify the supernatural aspects of other characters. I guess it's the idea that a good person doesn't have a soul - it's one of my bugbears. I didn't like it when Freds soul was destroyed when Illyria took over her body on Angel. So for my own purposes I think of Alexia as being a null, and that her soullessness is simply a 'Victorian' explanation, kind of like them saying an excess of bile causes flatulence.*)

Anyway, on with the review. I kind of imagine that if Jane Austen were alive today and writing Urban Fantasy that what she would come up with wouldn't be a million miles away from Soulless. The point of view is omniscient mainly focalized through Alexia - I think, grammar isn't my strong point, but I can tell you that it isn't a traditional third person point of view. I think for some people this may take a little getting used to, but you just have to go with it. For one thing, the slight distance it initially gives you as a reader really helps with the Victorian setting. You get to know the characters through observation rather than immediately being plunged into their heads.

This is a book peopled with delightful characters, Alexia, Lord Maccon (werewolf), Lord Akeldama (vampire), Ivy (Alexia's friend), Professor Lyall (Lord Maccon's beta) and Alexia's less than perfect family.

What I perhaps most enjoyed about the story was the developing romance between Alexia and Lord Maccon, their history together involves a nasty incident with a hedgehog. You don't expect 'Bollocks!' to be the first word the hero utters on seeing the heroine. That's one of the things that makes this story so refreshingly different. Alexia and Lord Maccon do not have what could be considered a traditional courtship, that would be impossible given what they are, but it's clear from the outset that there is a chemistry between them and that even though they may not realize it at first, they each care for the other. (Though it is somewhat up to the brilliant Professor Lyall to explain to Alexia that Lord Maccon is a werewolf, and to explain to Lord Maccon that Alexia is not (a werewolf), and that he should refine his courtship techniques accordingly).

Lord Maccon can be blunt.
"You are about as covert as a sledgehammer."
and may not always know exactly the right thing to say or the right way in which to say it.
"I have spent a good deal of time and energy during the course of our association trying not to like you," he admitted finally...
"And yet I find not liking you comparitively easy, especially when you say things such as that!"
But in the end he gets it completely right.
...he touched the side of her face..."I understand that you have been taught for far too long that you are unworthy."
The relationship is just one part of this story. And I think the reason it works so well is because it is set against the backdrop of an incredibly well-realized world. There is a depth and believability to the story. Alexia doesn't exist in a vacuum, she has friends, family, there's a whole social minefield that she has to walk through. As well as humans, she also has to deal with vampires and werewolves, who each have their own etiquette and sensibilities that can be offended.

There are little touches throughout which may not add that much on their own but together they make the story so rich. For example Alexia wears two hairpins - one of silver and one of wood - it's these details which lift the story. Gail Carriger also keeps her fingers on the plot points - she doesn't forget about the octopuses (if you read the story that will make sense :))

To some extent the denouement does rely on the convenience of the bad guys being gullible. But that's something I can easily overlook when the rest of the story is so well told. I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment in The Parasol Protectorate series and I highly recommend Soulless.

* - completely made up Victorian saying there.

Monday, 22 February 2010

To Baldly Go...

There are old heroes,
There are bold heroes,
But there are no old, bold heroes

Okay, possibly that's pirates but this post isn't about that sort of boldness.

Where are all the bald heroes? Why aren't there more of them. Or even the guys who have skull trims?

Two of my favourite heroes have skull trims. Though in the case of Zsadist of the BDB it's not because he's losing his hair. However, D, of Zero at the Bone is described as having hair that is barely more than stubble all over his skull.

I don't think it's because there aren't any heroes in the media who are/have been bald or who have skull trims - Patrick Stewart, Jason Statham, Michael Rosenbaum, Richard T. Jones, Lawrence Fishburne to name but a few. So why aren't there more in romantic fiction?

So does anyone have any bald/balding heroes to recommend? I'm serious about this. :) There's a copy of Sweet and Deadly by Charlaine Harris for one poster to this thread. Poster to be chosen at random on Friday by random number at

Saturday, 20 February 2010

UK vs US covers - Lover Mine by J.R.Ward

Be warned. Snark follows. But after you've looked at the UK cover can you blame me?

Okay the UK cover is on the left and the US cover is on the right.

Take a moment to appreciate the true awfulness of the UK cover. This is possibly the worst UK cover ever. I've wiped the Kim Harrison UK covers from my memory so this might be wrong.

The UK publisher has somehow succeeded in making John Matthew look like a demented slightly pudgy green troll. Whoever approved this cover a) needs to get their eyes tested b) seriously needs to reconsider their career choice.

I would gladly take the generic blandness of the US cover - naked male torso, yawn - at least it's aesthetically pleasing. Or even better just the title and author in a lovely gothic font. Because it couldn't possibly be worse than the horror up there on the left.

Of course there's always the possibility that the internet doesn't do the real cover justice. But there is no way I am having that thing on my book shelves.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

When the Cure is Worse...

...than the problem.

Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time knows that I suffer from migraines. After a particularly hellish week a fortnight ago - four in seven days. I decided to go to the doctor to get something.

Noting that the side effects of these tablets include drowsiness I waited until this week off from work to start taking them.

Now to me, drowsiness means feeling sleepy; not they will remove your capability to hold a thought in your head leaving you all alone inside your skull with a void where your thoughts and personality used to be.

My sister (the nurse) assures me that if I keep taking them my body will get used to it and this won't happen any longer.

Erm...let me think about thanks.

I now know what it's like to be a zombie I don't need to repeat the experience. I'd rather suffer the migraine.

Regular blogging service will resume very shortly.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Winner of...

the 'I Love You' better felt than heard giveaway is...


A copy of Halfway to the Grave is waiting to wing its way to you.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Typos - Unavoidable, Expected , Annoying?

For the most part I accept that - every so often in a published work of fiction - there are going to be typos. Authors, beta-readers, editors, line-editors, copy editors are only human after all. Every so often a mistake is bound to creep through.

And I'm hardly the queen of grammar and eloquence to be standing on a pedestal casting stones - though I will stand there and mix metaphors. :)

But on some occasions - specifically two - it really does annoy.

1) Getting the name of a character wrong. I don't think anything knocks you out of a story quicker than if characters start talking to another character who isn't currently present or worse who died earlier in the story. There's a moment of uncertainty - What's happening? Have I suddenly switched genres to ghost story? - Followed by the realisation oof what's happening and then having to go back and unravel who is actually saying what.

2) The substitution of a word which sounds the same/similar to the word that the author intended to use, but because it's a real word it's not picked up by spellchecker.

Sometimes the meaning of the sentence is changed very little and you can understand how it wasn't picked up in the editing process. Sometimes however, the meaning of the sentence is changed completely.

For example:-

The famous use of penile (relating to the penis) when it should have been penal (pertaining to or involving punishment). The author was referring to incarceration.

So typos - unexpected, unavoidable. annoying? And have you come across any real humdingers that stick in your memory?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Let's Hear it For The (Bad) Boys

So The Vampire Diaries and Caprica both started in the UK over the past couple of weeks. And believe it or not these two programmes have something in common (for me anyway) - the fact that the main reason to watch them is because of the bad guy.

The Vampire Diaries.

Oh dear. It's really not that great is it? Kind of Twilight Light if that isn't too much of an oxymoron. But it has one redeeming prospect - Ian Somerhalder who plays bad vampire Damon, and seems to be acting on a completely different level to everyone else in the cast. He has a sexual chemistry with whoever he's in a scene with regardless of gender. Though he does have that slight look on his face that he might lose it at any moment, like he's aware of the joke but it's okay. Even so, I'm not sure if his character will be enough to sustain my interest in the show.


I have to admit I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to watch this. I loved Battlestar Galactica right up until it went to crap in the last episode. There is the benefit in watching Caprica that you know where this is going so you can look out for various signposts but in a way that's also the handicap. And I know that I should be invested in the whole loss of father/daughter relationships that seem to be the main thrust of the show at the moment but I'm finding it hard to care about any of that.

However, what is holding my interest is the character of Sam Adama played by Sasha Roiz. I love his relationship with the young William. And I also love how we're finding out about the Tauron culture through this, and also through his relationship with his brother Joseph. Okay, he's a gay hitman (if he had a skull trim I'm sure that I would be picturing him as D, but he doesn't, so that doesn't work).

I was a little bit meh about the pilot when I started watching it. To begin with I didn't have the faintest idea what was going on. But I decided to stick with it at least til the end of the opener and I'm glad I did. In one of the most powerful scenes we have images of Joseph grieving for his wife, juxtaposed with scenes of Daniel making love to his wife, whilst at the same time a shirtless Sam Adama ascends the stairs of a government minister's house and assassinates him.

What's most interesting is all the little pieces of knowledge that Sam is passing on to the young William. You're thinking when you hear these phrases - that's how he learned to deal with the Cylons in BSG. Their relationship is just fascinating and worth tuning in for alone.

And unlike The Vampire Diaries I know I will be sticking with Caprica as long as they don't kill Sam Adama off.

In other TV watching news.

Still loving Glee. (So light and fluffy compared to everything else I'm watching)

And the second series of Being Human has gone very dark - very good, but very dark. I'm currently an episode behind because I have to be in the mood to watch it. Loving the bromance between George and Mitchell. :) And loved the original way they dealt with George repressing his wolf - the fact that it then manifested as a form of Tourette's. I like the fact that there is still some humour there especially as it's become more disturbing for want of a better word.

Monday, 8 February 2010

'I Love You' - Better Felt than Heard?

So last week I reviewed Bound and Determined and noted that one of the things I liked was how Sterling held back from saying 'I love you'. Meaning that when he did finally say it, it felt more honest and real.

Too often I feel that the words 'I love you', don't come with the emotional punch they should have. Usually I think because they crop up too soon in the story/relationship. As regards m/m e-books I think this is linked to the fact that there sometimes feels like there is more story that needs to be told, and as such 'I love you' comes too soon.

Part of me thinks it would be better never to hear the words and really believe that the characters felt the emotions. I only know of one series of books where that happens - The Administration Series by Manna Francis. Toreth is a sociopath and he can never vocalise what he feels for Warrick. As the series progresses, their relationship deepens but there's a sense that if Toreth ever said the words, or Warrick ever said them to him, that Toreth would literally have a stroke. His brain just cannot accept those emotions. Of course, this requires a degree of trust between author and reader, both have to take a leap of faith - the author that the reader will be able to read between the lines, and the reader that the author can be trusted. (There's also the risk that the reader will go down a blind alley with their assumptions instead of the correct plot path.)

I can understand why it's not something that happens very often - it's a risk not to spell everything out, to hope that the reader will be able to see what's there without being told. It requires more of an emotional and mental investment on behalf of the reader. And it's not something that every author would be able to pull off. To be honest, as a reader sometimes all you want is an easy read to take your mind off the crappy day you've had at work. But those are usually disposable reads.

Something that pulls you in and drags you under is more consuming. It's why I'm happy to wait for the 'I love yous'. As far as series are concerned - two or three books is great - I don't want to get to the end of book 1 and feel like everything was rushed just so we could have a fairytale ending. I think patience is a virtue. (lol).

So, what about you? Do you need to hear 'I love you'? Are you happy to wait? Would you be happy never hearing it, but knowing that the characters loved each other deeply? Do you think we hear the phrase too often, too soon, too easily?

I have a copy of Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost to give away to one commenter on this post. Poster chosen on Friday by random numbers at

Sunday, 7 February 2010

DIK Reading Challenge - What Next?

So my January pick - Almost Like Being in Love - was a great choice.

Already reading my February pick - Soulless by Gail Carriger - another great pick by me, as I'm loving it. Though bearing in mind that these are books that people would take to a desert island over all the other books in their collection I've got a pretty good cross-section to choose from.

DIK Book List

Having made such a good start with my first two picks I'm kind of stumped as to which book to pick next.

Obviously my own six books are out and I'm trying to avoid books I've already read. And I'm also trying to pick books from different DIK ladies.

For March I'm quite drawn to The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, even though it's a dreaded historical.

That still leaves me nine books to go. I have The Vampire Shrink on my TBR pile so that's definitely going to be one of them. And after reading Pride and Prejudice last year I also bought the rest of Jane Austen's novels so Persuasion will be one of my other choices (probably).

So that then leaves seven or eight books. Does anyone have any MUST reads from the list. I realize that some of you may be biased. :)

Friday, 5 February 2010

A Quickie at Ursula V's LJ

Quickie at Bark Like a Fish Damnit!

If I have never before mentioned how much I love Ursula Vernon's live journal, I'm doing it now! Lol

Winner of the...

Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone giveaway is Sarai.

So drop me an e-mail with your snail mail addy and I'll get your copy of Grimspace on its way.

The eagle eyed (and not so eagle-eyed) amongst you may have noticed that I've changed my blog template. I really like the colour scheme on Scribe, but (not being technically minded and therefore unable to do anything about it) I got fed up of my photos and links being too big to show up properly - hence the change.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

M/M Challenge Review - Bound and Determined by Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow

When Sterling Baker discovers the wonderful world of BDSM, he's ready to literally throw himself at the feet of the spectacular Owen Sawyer, but Owen is unwilling to take on someone so new to the scene—or so he says. Determined to get what he wants, Sterling sets out to convince the doubting Owen that he can be the best sub in the world, the fastest learning, the most obedient.

It's not as easy as he thinks it will be, and things get even more complicated when Sterling realizes that he's fallen in love with Owen. With the stakes that much higher, Sterling's more determined than ever to win Owen over. But now he'll have to convince Owen they can have more than a teacher/student relationship, more than just good kink.
I first read about this on Jenre's Well Read blog. Though I think I've read reviews of it in a couple of other places. I highly recommend you follow the link if you haven't already read Jenre's review as she's far more eloquent than I. :)

What I enjoyed most about this story was the intensity of the interaction between Owen and Sterling and the BDSM was a big part of that. Perhaps more intense and detailed than I've read previously. (With the exception of The Administration Series, but in Bound and Determined there is a clear emotional involvement that develops between the protagonists that exists outside the sex). If you prefer only very light BDSM this may be too strong for you.

I really liked the fact that Sterling didn't feel able to say 'I love you'. (Which may seem a strange thing to say but it gave you such an insight into the two characters). He clearly wanted to but there was almost the sense that he felt if he said it that it would push Owen away, that it was the wrong thing to say, that it wasn't appropriate. When he finally says it you can almost feel the tension that has been building release. And I would rather wait to hear an 'I love you' and believe it, than hear it too soon and have it knock me out of the story. (In fact I'd go so far as to say I'd rather not hear it at all but know that the characters do love each other, than have them say it and it feel fake).

I do agree partly with Jenre that Sterling's father verges on a caricature, we never find out the reasons for his bigotry. Perhaps if we did, he wouldn't have felt quite so two-dimensional. However, having said that, such people do exist in real life, I just wish he could have been developed a little more.

One of the problems I've had with the m/m stories I've read recently (referring to e-books here) is that the length of them hasn't seem to done the stories justice. Too often I've felt dissatisfied with the ending of a story because I felt there was more story to tell. That wasn't the case here. I felt that even though the end is kind of 'in media res', that it was perfect. The relationship developed between the two men, went through a crisis and came out stronger on the other side.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Breaking Out of Your Reading Comfort Zone

funny pictures of cats with captions

So last week I reviewed Almost Like Being in Love, which is an epistolary novel. And I kind of mentioned I had had a prejudice against the format (until I read The Color Purple for my English Lit. course last year and discovered it wasn't so scary after all). It made me think a little about the reading prejudices I've broken and those I've left to break.

I'm not talking about genre here, more about technique, style and presentation.. Whether or not there are things that put you off a book, whereby all you do is open the book, look at the first page and put it back on the shelf.

First up is a biggie - the first person protagonist.

For the longest time I wouldn't read a book if it were written in the first person - a case of open, scan, see the word 'I', and shelf return. Then one day the book I picked up from the shelf started...
"There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever."*
And suddenly I didn't care that this was first person I just wanted MORE, and because of that a whole new world of stories opened up to me.

Funny how it often just takes one book or author to expand your horizons.

At the risk of sounding odd (lol), another shelf returner for me was the character list. Opening a book and finding a five page list of characters - Yeesh!. I think this is partly to do with the anticipation that you aren't going to be able to keep all these characters straight in your head, that you'll get halfway through and have to give up through sheer confusion so why waste the time in the first place?

Then one day I started reading the Falco series by Lindsey Davis, broadly speaking a detective series set in Ancient Rome. Actually the first book of the series I picked up was The Accusers (14th in the series, but that's another story). And there was a list of dramatis personae.
M. Didius Falco - a principled informer (who needs the money)
Helena Justina - the guardian of his ethics
Julia Junilla & Sosia Favonia - their children (never ill; never naughty; never loud)
Now the reason I've come to love them in the Falco series is because they're usually quite witty and actually tell you something about the characters so they're well worth reading before you start the book proper. Suddenly it was amusing and actually part of the book - rather than being intimidating.

I admit I haven't lost all of my prejudices. I still shelf return books written in the present tense because it makes my brain hurt when I read it. (Though I am giving serious consideration to picking up The Strongest Shape and giving it another go.)

What about you? Any reading prejudices or am I alone in my quirks and foibles? There's a copy of Grimspace by Ann Aguirre up for grabs. It will be given away to one of the commenters on this post, commenter to be chosen at random by random numbers at Hopefully on Friday if I don't have a migraine again! If not, then on Saturday.

* - One for the Money by Janet Evanovich