Sunday, February 28, 2010

Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy

flat-out sexy cover

Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy*

This is a sexy contemporary romance.  I thought it was okay--the sex scenes were hawt, but when the main characters weren't having sex, I wasn't really feeling it.  Fortunately, at least forty percent of the book is sex, so the majority of it is good.

Tamara is the widow (or widowered, as Meg Ryan might say) of a race car driver and raising their two kids on her own.  She's trying to date again, but the guy she's seeing is kind of a dud.  Then she lays eyes on sexy Elec.  It's lust at first look, and a few short pages later they wind up sleeping together, even though she's not that kind of girl at all! (Sure you aren't, honey.)  Elec is whipped from the word go and spends the rest of the book chasing her around and giving her fabulous, life-changing orgasms while she worries about stretchmarks and whether or not her tummy is flabby.  But now I feel like I'm giving away too much of the plot, so I should stop.

I know lots of people love this book, but for me it was meh.  Basically the characters are what did me in.  Elec has no verve, no charisma.  He's just a nice guy with, you know, washboard abs and a really big penis.  And while I would certainly appreciate some of that IRL, I don't find it particularly interesting to read about.  Not after a hundred pages, anyway.  And Tamara's insecurities became annoying after awhile.  Yes, I can sympathize with her--what woman on earth doesn't have insecurities about her body?--but I think anyone with resonable observational skillz can see that guys usually aren't that picky.  So there came a point at which I wished she would just shut up and enjoy herself, but naturally she does not.  Oh, and did I mention she's also a clean freak and a worrywort and just about every other stereotype you can think of for the modern mom?

Basically, when the characters weren't having the sex, I thought the romance was lacking... well, romance!  Even though I just made fun of it, I loved the first part of the book where Tamara breaks up with Mr. Boring and then invites Elec to join her for the night.  I don't usually like instantaneous lust plot mechanisms like that, but I this one I enjoyed because it felt organic and different.  After that, though, I felt like the characters where shoved into these types to make them more sympathetic, and I lost patience with them.  The trials and tribulations put in place to test their relationship seemed tacked on and almost silly, as well.

That being said, I did finish it.  And it's not awful--in fact, in the normal scheme of romance novels, it's actually pretty good.  Just not my cuppa.

*Is this a link to Amazon or to kitty porn?  You'll never know!

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TSS--Insufficient Reading

The Sunday

From Booking Through Thursday:

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?

I know I'm really late with responding to this (as usual), but after considering it, I thought it was worth a post.  Then the post turned into a rant and I decided to make it my Sunday Salon post.

I think a bibliophile's first reaction to the above quote is probably defensive, especially in regards to the "insufficiency" portion.  After all, it's probably been assumed for most of us--at least by some people--that we read because we don't have a life, not because we enjoy it.  Of course that's bull, but it's still annoying. 

However, I don't think that's what Sven Birkerts is talking about at all.  I think he's saying that by opening a book and reading it, voluntarily and purely for our own enjoyment or edification, we're admitting we don't know everything there is to know.  Books open up another viewpoint to a reader (that's what I love about art, by the way--not just books but all art--that it gives you a chance to experience the world from another person's point of view), and by searching out that viewpoint and agreeing to go on the journey of the book with the writer, we're admitting that our own world view and experiences are insufficient for understanding the world or our own lives.  So I actually think that describes most readers to a tee, at least in the general sense.

That being said, I don't agree with the majority of Birkerts' ideas.  Robin from My Two Blessings wrote a great response to this quote where she actually read The Gutenberg Elegies and listed some of his main theses.  I recommend you go to her blog to read the whole thing, but suffice it to say that Birkerts thinks civilization is going the way of Babylon, and it's all because of reading electronically.  Language and historical perspective are all deteriorating because we're hooked on computers.

People who make claims like this strike me as elitist snobs.  Whatever issues you have with reading eBooks, being able to access them online has made learning, academia, and knowledge much more egalitarian.  Why are universities like Princeton and Yale famous?  It's not because they're "better schools" than any place else--a student will learn or not learn whatever they put their mind to no matter where they go.  It's because of their libraries.  Universities are repositories of knowledge because of their libraries, not because of their students or their professors.  The better the library, the better the school.  Now, however, you don't need to attend or teach at the big schools to access their libraries, because you can access them anywhere, online.  The "historical perspective" Birkerts values so highly is in all likelihood a historical pedagogy that he feels is being undermined by broader access to people who haven't jumped through the hoops of higher ed.  As Birkert says in an article in The Atlantic (side note:  isn't that magazine going bankrupt?), "The book is part of a system....  Literature—our great archive of human expression—is deeply contextual and historicized."  Yes, it is, especially when that context is provided by a system that just happens to favor those who are wealthy and of a particular race and gender. 

Furthermore, while I would agree that language is becoming less formalized (English, anyway, I don't know about other languages), that's not a result of the interwebs.  That's been happening since, oh, the eighteenth century???  To go along with our society as a whole becoming less formalized.  I wouldn't say I want to read an entire book in netspeak, but personally I don't have a problem with language changing.  It happens when people are using and engaging with words; get used to it.  Or better yet, celebrate it.  But trying to stop it is like sticking your finger in a dam.

People like Birkerts want to limit reading--he says you should only read "real" books.  I'm sure he also thinks you should only read "real" literature--as defined by him, of course.  It's just all rather restrictive, isn't it?  Yes, eBooks have their issues and problems, but they are just a format--it's what the format allows for that Birkerts objects to.  Although I'm sure he knows a lot about reading, I don't think crying the sky is falling because of Kindle is helping readers at all.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Musical Notes: Darkfever & Flat-Out Sexy

read or listen Image by suchitra prints

After reading Memory's post about music and reading the other day, I realized that while I do love to set books to soundtracks, I rarely remember what music I pick out to accompany them. That gave me the idea to add a "musical notes" section to my blog.

Here's the music that has been accompanying my reading this week:


One would think I'd go for Irish music with this one, since it's set in Dublin, but I actually found the mix of sexuality, cynicism, romanticism, and good vs. evil that populates Leonard Cohen's music to be more appropriate. Here are two of my faves:

Wow, Leonard Cohen is really old!

Flat-Out Sexy

I'm also reading Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy (review forthcoming). With a NASCAR-set book and a Southern hero, how could I resist listening to some country music?

Do you like to listen to music while you read? What songs have you been setting to books this week?

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary

the treasures of venice cover

The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary*

This is a fun, escapist novel filled with romance, set in a great location.  Not exactly literary genius, but it is enjoyable.

Samantha is sitting in a cafe on St. Mark's Square, when suddenly a handsome stranger walks up to her and acts like he knows her!  Intrigued (didn't you ever hear curiosity killed the cat, Sam?), she follows him into the Doge's Palace and learns that the sexy Irishman is named Keirnan Fitzgerald.  How... Irish!  She also gets the sense that he's hiding from someone or someones unknown.  Even though Sam knows better, her libido starts making noises with her mouth, and pretty soon she's showing him where she's staying.

Keirnan leaves and Sam thinks that's the end of their association, but the next night she finds him in her hotel room with a bullet wound!  In short order, she discovers that Keirnan is searching for the Jewels of the Madonna, a legendary treasure, so that he can save his sister's life.

This book is old skool romantic suspense.  In fact, the beginning is almost exactly like the beginning of a Mary Stewart novel I read when I was younger (can't remember which one--they tend to blend together).  But that's mostly what I liked about this book.  It feels comfortable and familiar, and you can just shut off your brain and enjoy the adventure and setting.

I got this book from Meghan at Medieval Bookworm (thank you, Meghan!), and she enjoyed it more than I did.  For me, the story started to fall apart in the second half.  I expected the stakes to go up a lot more than they did, and Keirnan to be involved in a much bigger, sketchier operation than he was, so the suspense started to seriously wane on my end.  I also didn't buy Keirnan and Sam falling in love so quickly or so hard--but then, I skimmed through most of the historical sub-plot, just because it was actually sillier than the contemporary one, and that's what really set the stage for them to have a huge romantic connection.

Even with those drawbacks, however, I did enjoy the book and the setting.  If you like old-fashioned romantic adventure or books set in Venice, this is a good bet.


Speaking of the setting, have I mentioned I LOVE Venice, and love books set in Venice?  One of the things I really liked about the novel was that I'd been to most of the places mentioned.  Check out my photo album on Flickr to see a few of the touristy spots featured in the book.


Meghan is also reviewing a book today that I sent her at Medieval Bookworm!  Go to her site to see what books we swapped.

*Click on this link & buy because Mama wants a trip to Venice.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

darkfever cover

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning*

A few months ago on Twitter, I joked that these books are like crack--without ever having read them. Now that I have bitten the bullet and tried them out, I can definitely say that they ARE like crack, and everyone should try them out.

MacKayla Lane is a twenty-two year-old who doesn't have much to worry about beyond what music to listen to, what shade to color her toenails, and which college course she should sign up for next semester. Then her sister, studying abroad in Dublin, is murdered. Mac is determined to force the Dublin police to reopen the case, so she journeys to Ireland, where she discovers all the legends about Irish fairies are true, and then some.

This is a very well-crafted, well-told story. One of my favorite aspects of the book is how the author uses foreshadowing, which is kind of a lost art form, in my opinion. Not that the foreshadowing is subtle or artful at all, but it is very effective at keeping the reader engaged with the story and guessing what's going to happen next.

Since the novel is told entirely from Mac's perspective, the main character is key to one's whole enjoyment of the book. Personally, I'm torn when it comes to Mac--I found her at turns to be very likable and refreshing, and then at other times she was just plain annoying. For an urban fantasy novel (which is what I would definitely classify this book as), she's certainly atypical. Mac is very girly, with a love for fashion (supposedly she's a reader--OF COURSE--but the only thing we catch her reading are fashion magazines), and no desire to get messy or kick anyone's ass. She's an anti-hero, basically, but with a fun twist. During the course of Darkfever--and, I'm assuming, the rest of the series--she gains wisdom and seriousness of purpose and all that good stuff. Unfortunately, I thought that process in Darkfever felt forced. Maybe it was just the fact that she whined and angsted over things way too much for way too long, but I just found it annoying and a bit nonsensical.

Before you start to worry, no, I am not going to conclude this review without talking about Barrons. Barrons is the mysterious and fabulously wealthy owner of Barrons' Books and Baubles, who teaches Mac everything she knows about the Fae. Although I do like his character, at this point I'm having trouble seeing his potential love interest-nish. Not to mention V'lane, the Fae prince, who is just gross at this point. Even without a lot of romance, though, this book still sucked me in and keep me involved in the story, which is really saying something.

Overall, this a great, refreshing twist on the UF genre. I can't wait to get the other books so I can find out what happens next!

Other Opinions:
A Buckeyegirl Reads
Monkey Bear Reviews
Stacy's Place on Earth
This is me....

*This is an Amazon Associates link. If you buy this item after clinking on the link, Santa will give me coal at Christmas. Or is it that he won't give me coal? Have to think about that one.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Searching for Donatello

donatello and his world cover donatello cover

Donatello and His World: Sculpture of the Italian Renaissance by Joachim Poeschke*

Donatello by Charles Avery*

A few weeks months ago, I finally resolved on a theme for my Art History Challenge--works of art that deeply moved me.  While I've viewed a fair number of artworks in my time, some of them more memorable than others, only a few have seemed to come alive and change the way I look at art, or the way I look at myself.  One of those pieces is Mary Magdalene by Donatello.  Check out the video for a good idea what the Mary Magdalene looks like:

This sculpture is ahmazing.  It's hard to describe how much like encountering a living person seeing it is.  It's like when you're walking down the street and there's a pile of trash on the side, but then all of a sudden the pile shifts and you realize you're looking at a human being, not a bunch of rags at all.  And then you lock eyes with the person and you feel slightly ashamed for thinking they were a pile of trash, and more than a little thrown, and you don't want to look away.

Yeah, that's exactly what seeing this statue for the first time was like for me.  In fact, I'm half-convinced Donatello performed some evil voodoo and there's a real woman trapped inside the Mary Magdalene somehow, trying to get out.

I don't have a lot of database resources at my local library, so I decided to go with some good ol' books to find out more about Donatello and the Mary Magdalene.  Little did I know how scant the scholarship is on Donatello!  Considering how famous he is, you'd think there would be A LOT more out there about him, but no.

First I started with Donatello and His World by Joachim Poeschke.  This is actually a fairly good introduction to Italian Renaissance Art for those that don't know anything about it, but the information about Donatello was merely cursory.  I didn't find out much about the Mary Magdalene beyond that fact that its origins are very mysterious (gawd, I hope I never leave tantalizing clues like that in my book without explanation, should I ever write one--so frustrating!).

So I decided to go with a promising-sounding biography of Donatello next (I also picked up another book in between, but I hated it and have already erased it from my mind), this one by Charles Avery.  This book was suuuuper-short.  Again, Donatello is one of the main figures of the Renaissance, so why am I having all this trouble finding books that go into detail about him???  I ask you.  Beyond that, I enjoyed learning gossipy things about the artist, like that he was the first bohemian and refused to dress nice.  That was all scrunched up in the beginning.  The rest of the book was dry descriptions along the lines of, "Donatello worked in X workshop and created Y artwork for such-and-such patron using Z technique."  LIKE ZOMG kill me now.  I'm all for facts, but writing like this gives art history a bad name.  What happened to writing with passion about art that you loved and getting people excited about it? 

Which leads me to another personal pet peeve of mine: making the Italian Renaissance seem as boring as possible.  I don't know how these guys do it, because it is a challenge to take all the interesting, combative, passionate personalities all scrunched into Rome and Florence at the same time and make it so dull anyone with half a brain wants to move IMMEDIATELY on to Bosch and Breughal, but somehow they do it!  I mean, this stuff is like reality TV, fifteenth-century style, and for some reason the major Renaissance historians of the last generation feel this need to make it as academic and uninteresting as possible.

Anywayyyy, as far as the Mary Magdalene was concerned, it was only mentioned in conjunction with another, earlier statue, as an example that Donatello's style isn't easily segregated into timely progressions.  KTHNX.

As you tell, I'm feeling a little frustrated with my quest for knowledge at this point, but I will perservere!  Although not with Donatello--him, I've given up on.

Have you seen the Mary Magdalene?  What did you think of it?

*These are Amazon Associate links & I got both of these books at the library.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Book Group

the book group

Tagline:  Sex, drugs, and literature.

I spent most of Sunday watching The Book Group, which aired in the US on Ovation TV a few months ago and originally was broadcast in the UK in 2002/2003 (I think you can still catch it on hulu).  The story centers around Clare, an American who moves to Glasgow for reasons unknown, and the book group she starts in order to meet people and make friends.  The members are Barney, a stuck-up grad student; the instantly likable Kenny, Rab--not sure what he's doing there--Dirka and Fist, who are both Swedish and married to soccer players; and Janice, who is also married to a soccer player but I don't think is Swedish.

When I first started watching the show, the only thing I liked about it were the discussions about books (of course); but luckily there was Kenny, who is really the only likable character on the entire show, to keep me going.  The series reached a turning point when they read a made-up book and the whole thing started focusing more on all the characters sleeping together--or wanting to sleep together--and not really on books at all (although I did LOVE all the shots of people reading, especially the Swedish housewives).

I genuinely liked this very short (12 half-hour episodes total) series.  Although the beginning is a little rough and strays into ridiculousness on occassion in a grab for cheap laughs, by the third or fourth episode I got to know the characters and was entertained by them.  The second season, though, really is funny, with Clare's new boyfriend and her sister arriving in her life to give her more problems.  And speaking of Clare's sister, Jean--when I first met her I thought she was a bit of a shrew, but she quickly became my favorite character, dispensing advice like, "So what if you hurt.  People are sick all over the place; GET OVER IT."

I also liked that the writers made reading seem sexy (they really did) and drew a parallel between all the characters' desire to escape and how reading helped them not only do that, but broaden their outlook and experiences.  This is definitely a good series for bibliophiles to try out!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

TSS--Announcing Classics Month!!

The Sunday

Peering into my crystal ball, what do I see as the next big trend in reading fiction? Classics! Classics are readily available on the web through Google Books and libraries, as eBooks on readers, and as audiobooks on Librivox for a very good price--free! So why wouldn't you at least give a classic novel a try?

classics month button

As I mentioned briefly before, in March I'm gearing up to do a classic literature-themed month with Meghan from Medieval Bookworm. We have lots of things planned! Meghan's planning to read at least four classic novels (go to her blog to see what books she's picked out). Here's what I'm planning to try out:

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  • Monkey by Wu Cheng'en
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (it's a classic cook book!)
  • Colette and I will be reading the classic historical romance Katherine by Anya Seton for Romance Readers Anonymous

What would Classics Month be without a few friendly challenges? Meghan has challenged me to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Since Meghan picked a book in her specialty (medieval), I hereby challenge Meghan to read Nadja by the Pope of Surrealism, André Breton! Just be glad your library didn't have Hebdomeros, Meghan!

We'll also be reading one novel together--we just haven't decided which one yet.

Guest Posts!

My favorite part of theme months are guest posts! I have a great line-up of posters in March who will lend their superior words to my humble blog:

March 8th Mjmbecky from One Literature Nut
March 15th Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot
March 22nd Rebecca from Lost In Books
March 29th Colleen from Bookphilia

You Pick What I Read!

Yes, I am seriously letting you pick out a book for me to read in March. Take the poll below and I will read the novel that receives the most votes.

What classic novel is a must-read in March?
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence
A Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Ethan Fromme by Edith Wharton
A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Epic of Gilgamesh
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Other--leave suggestion in comments! free polls

Want to get involved, write a guest post or just read along? Contact me or Meghan with your ideas. And here's to a fabulous March!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Great Libraries by Konstantinos Staikos

the great libraries cover

The Great Libraries: from Antiquity to the Renaissance 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1600*

I think I should get a degree in library science just for reading this book.

This massive book is filled with the story not just of libraries, but of books and reading and learning.  I don't know why I was surprised by this, since it makes sense; but learning, books, and cities have had a parallel relationship since the first civilizations in Ancient Sumeria.  There is amazingly detailed information even about the first libraries, thanks to writings from scholars--whose admonisments to students make it clear the trials and tribulations of going to school haven't changed at all in the last 6000 or so years.  Here is an example cited in the book:

This chronicle is moralistic in tone and was evidently very popular, to judge by the fact that over twenty copies of it have survived.  It opens with a question: "Where did you go as a small child, young one?"  And the pupil answers, "I went to school."  Then follows a description of the start of the day, with the pupil snatching a hurried breakfast so as to get to school on time and escape a caning from his teacher or another member of the staff.  However, having avoided the first pitfall of unpunctuality, the unfortunate child incurs one punishment after another, for standing up in class without permission, being caught talking in class or running through the Great Gate in an unseemly manner.  Then, as if all this were not enough, his teacher takes him to task for carelessness in copying out his exercise and he receives another beating.

Even though modern-day punishments might be less harsh, the rules seem almost exactly the same!

You might be intimidated by the sheer size of Great Libraries, but the writing is actually the perfect mix of accessible and scholarly.  The translators did a great job of keeping Staikos' personality in the prose, and that's what really makes the book readable.  Plus, there are tons and tons of pictures.  Not just of libraries, but of their most famous and valuable books.  There are gorgeous shots of places like the Biblioteca Laurenziana, which has a staircase famously designed by Michelangelo; Duke Humfrey's Library in the Bodleian, which served as the model for Hogwart's library in the Harry Potter movies; the Vatican libraries, Bibliotheque Nationale de France--just about every great library you can think of.  It's enough to make my bibliophilic heart go all a-flutter.

How much do I love this book?  I want to write a fangirlish letter to Konstantinos Staikos that goes something like this:

Dear Konstantinos, ZOMG your book about libraries is the greatest thing that has ever happened to my life!!!11!!  Your brain must be huge.  Can I hug you?  Love, me.

But he probably doesn't speak English so he wouldn't understand it.

I love libraries and books, but I never thought the story of libraries could be so interesting and full of so much art, science, philosophy, politics, and drama.  I appreciate my small local library even more now that I know about the great libraries it was modeled after.  If you're at all interested in books, you really need to check out Great Libraries--and I know the price is really steep ($125 is the lowest I could find), but I think for this book it's actually worth it.

*This is an Amazon Associates link.  I will earn a small commission if you purchase this title after clicking on the link, which I will promptly spend on hookers and cheap booze.  So click away!
I got this book, appropriately enough, at the library.  I am considering not returning it.  But that would probably make me feel guilty.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Quick Ode to Bookmarks


As bibliophiles, we do enjoy the accoutrements of our pastime--bookshelves, bookplates, and also bookmarks.  Once upon a time I didn't use bookmarks; I just dog-eared the pages.  The horror!

Nowadays I have a teensy-weensy obsession with bookmarks.  Not that I buy a lot of them; most of them just wind their way into my hands somehow.  Here are a few different types of bookmarks:

magnetic clip

Magnetic bookclips--These small bookmarks attach to your book pages with magnet.  I actually don't llike these type of bookmarks much--they're too heavy and tend to bend/tear the pages of my books.

book thong

Book thongs--These bookmarks are basically strings or ribbons with weights at either end.  I do think these bookmarks are lovely and own several.  However, I hardly ever use them because they're too fancy, too long for paperback books, and too easy to lose!  Also, if you use them a lot, the weights at either end tend to get lost.

book clip

Bookclips--An old-school version of the magnetic bookclip.  I don't like these, either, mostly for the same reasons as the magnetic clips.  They also get lost very easily.

shepherd's crook bookmark

Metal bookmarks--Shaped like shepherd's crooks, these bookmarks remind me of swizzle sticks; and I honestly think they would be better as stirrers than as bookmarks!  I really don't like them at all because they tend to bend the spine of the book, and they fall out of the book.

flat bookmark

Pasteboard or paper bookmarks--The classic, old-school bookmark, and still the best!  They're light, stay in your book, do minimal damage to it, and can be very pretty and decorative.  The only problem is they don't last forever; but you can offset this by buying them in plastic sleeves.

What is your favorite type of bookmark?  Did I miss any types of bookmarks that you like?

All the pictures in the post feature bookmarks available at

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interview with Chloe Neill + Giveaway

rra button

Last week, Colette from A Buckeye Girl Reads and I had a smack-down with Mandi from Smexy Books over who the best hero from Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series is (naturally I won ;). Today, Colette and I are interviewing Chloe for our book club, Romance Readers Anonymous.

twice bitten cover

The Chicagoland Vampires series centers around Merit, a grad student who is turned into a vampire without her consent after a vicious attack. So far there are two books in the series, Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites. Twice Bitten, the third book in the series, will be released in July.

Colette's Questions:

1. What made you decide to have the series set in Chicago?

I wanted to set the series in a city that was generally familiar to people, but which hadn't been overly done before in the vampire genre. And you can't beat the food and politics in Chicago!

2. Did you have to do any research for the books? If so, what kind of research did you have to do?

LOTS of research. I research a little bit of everything along the way, from information about Chicago (food, geography, architecture, politics, neighborhoods), to magic, to feudal customs, to the French Revolution. I try to infuse the books with factual details to give them context.

3. Do you follow any kind of writing schedule? Do you watch any tv or listen to music to help you write?

I have a day job, so I usually have a minimum per-day word count unless I'm on an editing deadline. Usually the television is on something like Discovery or the Travel Channel while I write.

4. How did you come up with the idea of vampires being in different houses?

I wanted allegiances and alliances to be a crucial element in the story, so I used the House ideas to give the vampires something to root for (their own House) and "enemies" to root against (the other Houses). Humans have baseball and football, so I figured vampires needed teams of their own.

5. I loved how you mention Eureka and Gilmore Girls in the same sentence in Friday Night Bites! Are you a TV science fiction and Gilmore Girls fan? (Am I wrong to think that I see a little Lorelai Gilmore in Merit?)

Thanks! I watch a lot of sci fi (including Eureka), and I LOVED Gilmore Girls. I think Merit has a little Lorelai and Rory in her. Especially the snark.

6. Will Ethan and Morgan have competition for Merit in the third book?

Sorry--can't answer that one. You'll have to wait until July!

Tasha's Questions:

1. Merit's favorite story is that of Tristan and Isolde. Is that a foreshadowing as to how her own story will wind up?

Sorry--that one's a spoiler, too! I will say that I include very few random red herrings in the novels, so if something's in there, there's usually some reason.

2. Is Merit related to the shifters somehow?

Not that I'm aware of.

3. I was a little unclear about the status of the vampire in Merit at the end of Friday Night Bites--is it normal for the vampires to feel separate from their vampire natures like that?

It is very unusual for a vampire not to feel fully and completely connected to their vampire. Merit only knows that it feels "wrong," which is why she's so hesitant about raising the issue to her friends and colleagues.

4. Do vampires have pets?

Absolutely. I think Merit would enjoy having a dog. Problem is, there's no one to take it out if it needed to go out during the day.

6. What is your favorite pizza place in Chicago?

I recently had pizza from CRUST in Wicker Park, and it was fabulous! Four stars.

7. I love the inspiration boards on your website! Do you have one for Friday Night Bites that you're planning on posting?

Thanks! The SOME GIRLS BITE board was actually prepared by Anne Sage of design blog The City Sage. I haven't had time to prepare any inspiration boards beyond the smaller FIRESPELL board, and I didn't even keep a file of materials for Friday Night Bites. I do have some images for TWICE BITTEN, but since the vampires are pretty consistently living in the same House and wearing the same outfits (ditto for FIRESPELL), I only really need one inspiration board per series. :)

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Chloe! Plus, Chloe is generously offering a signed copy of Firespell, the first book in her new YA series, to a lucky commentor on this post! I will chose a random winner later this week. CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

*Please note that the links to books on this post are Amazon Associate links.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

gringolandia cover

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann*

To be honest, I don't know how to feel about this book.  On the one hand, it was a quick and engrossing read that I enjoyed; on the other, I thought its point--assuming it had one--was murky.

As a twelve-year-old in the early '80s, Daniel is living in Chile with his family.  One night, soldiers come in looking for his father, Marcelo.  One of them points a gun at Daniel's head so his mother will tell them where Marcelo is.  Daniel's father is arrested and taken to prison; soon after, he, his mother, and his sister leave Chile for Madison, Wisconsin, where Daniel's mother continues to fight for her husband's release from prison while going to graduate school and raising two kids on her own; and Daniel and Tina are pretty much integrated into American culture.  Then Daniel's father is released from prison and exiled to the US, and their peacefull family life is shot to hell.

One of the things that bothered me about Gringolandia is that the politics were presented in a laughably simple format.  To tell the truth, there wasn't any politics in the book at all, unless you consider good v evil political.  Considering Marcelo is a raging Communist (which made me wonder how the heck he got into the US, especially in the '80s) who is willing to put not only his own life but the lives of his children in jeopardy for his political beliefs, I find that a bit ironic.  Even with the sympathy he garners for being tortured and his painful recovery, Marcelo is a tough sell as the hero of this tale.  And he is the hero:  it's his journey and his story we're told, while Daniel and Courtney, the two narrators, are merely sidekicks along for the ride.

Which brings me to Courtney, Daniel's "gringa" girlfriend.  She's an odd one.  Her obsession with Marcelo is quite honestly a little creepy.  I don't know about you, but if my s.o. started hanging out constantly with one of my parents and recording everything they said, and giving them back rubs, I would be bothered.  Plus I felt that her storyline was left hanging and we were never given a conclusion to her side of the story.  There were a lot of storylines left hanging, actually.

Don't get me wrong, I did like most of the book.  I liked that Daniel beat up a kid who was bullying his sister and was charged with assault for it.  I liked Marcelo's response to the charges that his actions resulted in the deaths of several people (that was actually the point at which I started to warm up to him).  And I loved the writing, which is very readable and drew me into the story even though there's not that much there in the way of plot.  In a lot of ways, this book feels very personal, as if it's a diary, and it's hard not to feel involved with the characters.  But the ending felt very anti-climatic and left me wondering what the point of the novel was--unless the point is that it's a good idea to give up everything--family, love, safety, morality--in pursuit of a political cause, which is bull hockey plain and simple and not something I can really get behind.

Maybe if the story had been fleshed out more, or if I knew more about Chilean history (at this point anything post-1600 is pretty much a question mark in my head), it might have worked better for me.  One review on Amazon mentioned that the situation in this book mirrors the one in Iran currently; my question would be, how can you even tell?  The glimpse we're given of life in Chile and what Marcelo and the compañeros are fighting for is so brief and shallow that it's difficult to support Marcelo, sympathize with Daniel's decision to follow in his father's footsteps, OR to draw parallels to modern day.  But then how can you do that with such a short book, right?

Gringolandia was a good novel, but I was expecting something different from what it turned out to be.

*This is an Associates link. I will receive a super-small commission if you buy the book after clicking on this link. 
Also, I received this book from BronzeWord Book Tours.  But they sent it to me by accident, so... not sure what that means.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Interview JMW Turner


Inspired by Colleen at Bookphilia, who did an awesome interview with Christopher Marlowe, I decided I wanted to interview my own dead person!  Joseph Mallord William Turner agreed to sit down and talk with me...

Heidenkind:  Hello, Mr. Turner.  Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me!

JMW Turner:  'Allo, luv.  Don' be gushing too pre'y now, no' many people wot's wanting ta sit down wif brown bread fo'ks leik me.

H:  I find that very hard to believe, Mr. Turner--

JMWT:  Bill, me Cadbury, Bill! 

H:  Bill, you're considered the greatest British painter who has ever lived.  Is that what you set out to accomplish with your work?

Bill:  I woul'n' say I se' ou' ta accomplish it, no, alvough I am fin'in' i' a bi' gra'ifyin' tha' you're sayin' so.  I's simply tryin' to pain' wot I sees--in me loaf an' in me strawberry.

H:  Oookay.  How about your critics?  One said Slave Ship, which Simon Schama called the greatest British painting ever, looked like a kitchen accident.

Bill:  *laughs* Luv, if I lis'nd ta fose cab rankers, I woul' been a boa'man on fe Thames!  Cri'ics ain' nuffin'.  Bu' who is vis Simon Schama China, fen?

H:  He's a historian who likes to pretend he knows stuff about art, then makes crappy television shows about it. 

Bill:  Can' be too "crappy," seein' as 'ow ya knows abou' 'em.

H:  I guess.  You also wrote a poem to accompany Slave Ship and many of your other works. *clever book blog tie-in*  Do you think they help people understand your paintings better?

Bill:  We Cockneys do enjoy a gran' rhyme....  I woul'n' no' a'mi' ta li'era'y ambitions, bu' even I 'afe ta a'mit me poems were nuffin' bu' a pale reflection of me pain'in's.  An' fey neva be 'elpin' anyone un'erstan' 'em when I wars alife.

H:  Your work inspired the French Impressionist Claude Monet and arguably led to modern art.  Do you have an opinion on any modern artists?

Bill:  Monet can kiss me Aris!  D'ye see fa' pain'in' 'e di'--Impression, Sunrise?  Wot a tea leaf!  I pain'ed work be'er fan tha' in me sleep!  An' exac'ly like, too.

H:  I know, it's eerily similar to The Fighting Téméraire, among other works.  But what do you think of other modern artists?

Bill:  I fink when one's an ar'ist, one ha' be'er follow 'is own vision--no' tha' ov cri'ics or family or fellow ar'ists.  uverwise, 'e risks losin' 'is chinese. *taps head*  Vere wore times when I fough' meself goin' the way o' me mum--bu' the work always saved me.  An' makin' no mistake, pain'ing is work, a craf' an' a discipline.  I can' tell ya 'ow many times a pride an' joy 'as asked me fo' a'vice on 'is ar', wi'ou' a mark on 'is lilly-whi'e 'ands.  Tha' ain' an ar'ist.  Ar' 'as no room fo' vani'y or cleanliness--i' takes ye by your nanny an' don' le' ye go.

H:  Is that why you've been connected to several women, but never married any of them?

Bill:  Ah, ducky, I ne'er tawk abou' me ladies!  Fey were nice rolls in the 'ay, nice to 'afe aroun', bu' me passion was always pain'ing.  When fey's go' too deman'in', fey'd 'afe ta go.  An ar'ist--a grea' ar'ist--lives an' breaves 'is ar'.  Like Raphael--ne'er allow a woman ta be ya weakness!

H:  Thank you so much for the interview, Bill.  I can't tell you how much I admire your work.

Bill:  Any time a'tall, lovey. 

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Addicted to Blogs

me on the internet Image by greengardenvienna

A post by Pam from made me start thinking about a blurb I heard for one of those news magazines--I never saw the actual report, but they mentioned social networking can get the same reaction from people as gambling.

I think there might be something to this, since using sites like Twitter and Facebook do seem to feed on themselves. And I have noticed that a lot of us make resolutions to spend less time on the internet, only to wind up spending the same amount, if not more. I myself am guilty of this--remember when I decided I would take one day off from the webbernets every week? Yeah, that totally lasted more than two weeks. /sarcasm

The reason Pam's post reminded me of this is NOT because I think she's addicted to social networking. But I do think the urge to pull back a bit from blogging is our brain telling us that we need a breather and a return to RL (and other addictions? :P Hey, we all have them to one extent or another). How is social networking like gambling? Well, you hang out on the interwebz and wait for something "exciting" to happen--i.e., a conversation on twitter, someone comments on your blog, etc. Hooray! You get a little thrill, and it's that sense of reward that you become addicted to, not social networking--soc. net. is just the way you acheive it.

Of course there are different levels and different ways people are addicted. According to this study, only about four percent of people become addicted to the internet, about the same amount that become addicted to gambling. So the chances that you are addicted, even if you do spend a lot of time online, are pretty small.

What do you do if you think you have a problem? The docs in the study suggest limiting the time you spend online to certain hours--for example, 9 AM-11 PM. Haha, kidding! About the last part, anyway. Ahem. Limiting your hours reduces the feeling of risk/reward that ensnares people.

Does this mean I'm going to be limiting my hours on the internet? I actually have been doing that lately, I think. But I'm probably never going to go back to the days when I spent one hour online in the morning and that was it. I need my internets now! I could wean myself off it I wanted to, but... why? It's fun.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Battle to the Death

morgan button

Today I'm fight--uh, I mean, respectfully discussing--who is the better man for Merit from Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series with Mandi from Smexy Books and Colette from A Buckeyegirl Reads.  In case you couldn't guess, I am totally Team Morgan.

To read our catfight lively debate, go to Chloe Neill's blog, The Daily Snark!  And stay tuned for an interview with Chloe by me and Colette, coming next week.

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Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

glass houses cover

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

This is the first book in The Morganville Vampires, a YA series.  Although I liked the premise of the book, the execution was illogical, and the book as a whole felt like the author was just making up stuff as she went along.

Claire Danvers is very young freshman in the college town of Morganville, Texas, and her life is miserable.  Basically, she has no friends, and is the object of mean girl Monica's severe bullying.  One day Monica pushes her down the stairs and promises more, and Claire panics.  Looking through the paper, she finds an add for a room to rent at Glass House, off campus.  Even though she can't live off campus, and isn't really allowed to sign a lease because she's a minor, the three people at Glass House--Eve, Shane, and Michael--are convinced by her bruises and general pitifulness to let her stay there.  That's when Claire discovers Morganville isn't what it seems:  the town is actually ruled by vampires, who control the place like it's another Stepford.  Any human who doesn't wear a bracelet declaring "protection" by a vamp is fair game for munching. 

This book isn't completely terrible--I did like the idea of a town that's controlled by vampires, and the story flows along nicely with some interesting twists.  But I had a hard time getting through it simply because Claire's actions make nooooo freaking sense whatsoever.  In fact, as I was reading, I was mentally composing a letter to her that went something like this:

Dear Claire,

I know you like school--hell, I spent ten years in college, so believe me, I can sympathize with having a sick enjoyment of studying--but you know what?  If I, or any SANE person, was being put through as much bullying as you, I would have dropped out.  Especially if I was at a university I was only attending because my parents were making me, and the academics sucked, and I had no friends, and I was sixteen.  I would have called my parents to come pick me up when Monica pushed me down the stairs.  I would have asked them to pick me up when they called me and offered to let me come home.  I would have left Morganville when I found out it's a psycho town full of evol vampires, and that I was putting the only three people who'd been decent to me in danger by my very presence.  And then I sure as heck would have gotten out when someone threw acid at me.  In other words--YOU ARE FREAKING IDIOT.  I don't understand why you didn't leave, especially as you were given plenty of chances to, and probably should have done so from both a moral and survivalist standpoint.  If the university was your dream college, I might let it slide.  If you were enjoying your independence or your parents told you they never wanted to see you again, I might understand.  But as it stands, you don't make sense.  Kthnxbai.

Oh, and by the way, another main character who reads.  Yawn.

The writing was okay, although very simple and probably geared more toward the middle school crowd.  As far as plotting goes, however, this novel is just sad.  It's one step above cartoonishly simple and really does feel as the author was just making stuff up as she went along and not thinking about the book as a whole or how all the pieces fit together.  Making the college in Morganville a good school instead of a bad one, for example, would be a quick fix for a lot of the holes in the plot--not just why Claire stays there, but why anyone goes there who isn't born in Morganville.  I mean, the school is quite violent, and apparently several students "disappear" from there every year.  Their crime statistic reports has to be through the roof; why would any parent let their child go there?  And when I can see the quick fix for problems with the plot, that's pretty sad.

For older readers who have some idea of what college is like, I wouldn't recommend this as anything but a time waster read.  I would say it might work for younger readers, but I'm afraid the vision Caine paints of college--which is completely unlike any university I have ever been to--will scare them off ever wanting to attend.  And we can't have that, now can we?

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Urban/e Vampires

classy urban scene Image by Daniel John Riedl

What is the appeal of vampires to modern readers? Many have asked that question, coming up with everything from sex to sex, and also sex. But while vampires are definitely sexy, I don't think that accounts for their escalating popularity ever since Stoker's Dracula.

How would one characterize the typical vampire in fiction? He/she is elegant, well-dressed (one might say urbane), probably lives in a city, and is part of some sort of clan or hierarchical system that controls their behavoir. They live in a world filled with an unnatural amount of sound, color, and scent, yet seem weirdly disconnected with nature. And they stay up way too late partying and lusting after people they barely know.

In other words, I would argue that the modern vampire is a metaphor for urbanized humans. Modernity is, after all, characterized by cities, stalking through and claiming the urban landscape, disappearing into a crowd of strangers, spending all night in a cafe, and embracing the anonymity a city provides. Perhaps that's why so many fictional vampires, including Dracula himself, are to be found in cities.

The vampires are dead, cut off from the judgement of both nature and god. Yet they still find their actions controlled by politics and politesse. In other words, they have to kiss someone's ass. Their hunger is never-ending, unreasonable, and unsatiable--for blood, and for power, entertainment, money, fashion, and whatever keeps the rest of us going. With their stalking capabilities, specialized to hunt human prey, they really are the perfect urban animals.

Vampires first started to become popular with Dracula, which was published just when the massive urban areas we're familiar with today were forming, due in part to the advent of railway travel. With cities came night life, strangers, and mysterious pathogens. Vampires as monsters have been around for millennia; but our ability to sympathize with these monsters didn't arrive until the nineteenth century, when a growing urban population that stayed up all night, were strangers in a strange city, and knew people who died of strange diseases.

And now that over half of the planet lives in cities, vampires are more popular than ever. Coincidence?

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Love Triangle Paradigm

love triangle Image by jin.thai

With the popularity of Twilight, it seems as if there's been an explosion of love triangles in fiction recently, especially in YA novels.  What I find interesting is that the two guys the girl has to choose from seem to follow a paradigm.  I.e.,


Take Twilight itself for a moment:  Edward is Bella's love-at-first-sight, ring-my-bell kind of guy.  Then she meets Jacob and they're friends and then she falls in love with Jacob as a friend.  Does she actively get all hot and bothered over Jacob the way she does Edward?  No, but he's still a good mate candidate, right?  Despite the fact that the author seemed to disagree.

Right now I'm reading a book called Friday Night Bites, and there is a bit of a love triangle between Merit, the girl; her boss, Ethan; and cute, funny, and awesome Morgan.  Ethan is definitely the one who lights Merit's fire, but Morgan is a great guy who is more of the friend type.  Although this love triangle hasn't shook out yet, I have the depressing suspicion that it will predictably fall in favor of the loins.

Even classic love triangles, like the one in Wuthering Heights, follow this pattern.  Despite the fact that Linton is a good man, he's not good enough for Cathy, who can only be broken out of her passionate narcissicism via her passion for Heathcliffe.  Who, FYI, is an ass.

In all of these love triangles, one thing is clear:  lust trumps friendship every time.  I would say it's another example of nice guys finishing last, except that none of the guys in these examples are very nice after the girls get through with them.

So, if you had to pick, what would you chose:  lust or friendship?  Do these love triangles offer good examples of how to pick one's future S.O.?

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Franklin W. Dixon

hardy boys cover

In 1899, Edward Stratemeyer founded the evil-sounding Stratemeyer Syndicate, a "factory" that produced children's books.  He would hire writers through newspaper ads to write books according to idea and plot points that he mapped out.  Why, one might ask?  Because a writer eventually dies, leaving their series defunct and likely unfinished (obviously this was before VC Andrews, who can write from the dead).  To avoid this, Stratemeyer theorized, one could simply hire a bunch of writers to write under a single psuedonym and the series could go on and on.

Some of our most beloved children's series were produced under the Stratemeyer Syndicate:  Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys just to name two.  Franklin W. Dixon was the designated psuedonym for The Hardy Boys Mysteries; but he was actually many authors including Leslie McFarlane, William Dougherty, and James Buechler.  And, if you think these writers were the main creative force behind the books, think again:  Stratemeyer, and later his daughters, Harriet and Edna, were the ones who plotted out the course of the books. 

My first question is, why bother with the psuedonym at all?  It's not as if kids pay much attention to who the authors of their books are, especially when they're looking for "Hardy Boys."  Just stick the name of the author for that book on the copyright page, take the author name off the cover, and no one would probably notice.  Does there have to be an author for a book?  Or do they feel the need to attach an author for credibility?

Which leads me to my second question: does knowing these series were created by a corporate syndicate, and were mass-produced like those bagels you buy in plastic bags at the grocery store (eugh) change how you feel about them?  I've never read Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, but I have to admit I'm a tad bit more leery of them now than I was.  How about modern books that are produced the same way--Gossip Girl or Luxe, for example?

If you were a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew fan growing up, what was the appeal of the series?

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who Is the YA Audience?

Or, Does Age Really Matter In Books?

teenager reading Image by Vanessa Yvonne

As several bloggers have mentioned before (My Friend Amy, and I think KMont from Lurv A La Mode and Katiebabs from Babling About Books, and More--sorry, I'm too lazy to look up the actual links), young adult as a genre modifier is pretty hinky.  Basically it's any book published with a teenage character, right?  Except I do think there are at least some books in all other genres that feature teenage characters... but let's not muddy up the issue.  YA=teenage protagonist.  That's all that we need to know.

But is it?  I talked a few weeks ago about how every main character in books seems to be a bibliophile; do teenagers or even younger kids need a character the same age in order to connect with them?  I would say... hell to the no.

Unlike interests such as reading, I would argue age is not something a lot of people connect with.  I'm not saying experience doesn't impart wisdom or confidence or whatever adjective you tell yourself you've gained when you blow out yet another candle on the birthday cake; just that some people gain a lot more of it in a shorter time span than others.  And said experience doesn't really preclude one from connecting with people older or younger than oneself.

For example, when I was in grade school I was reading books with main characters who were in their twenties and thirties, and I had absolutely no trouble connecting with them.  I might understand their characters differently now that I'm older, yes, but I still connected with them.  Now that I'm in my twenties, I read books about teenagers and kids.  Do I have any trouble understanding where they are coming from?  No. 

So why are books for the under-eighteen crowd grouped and marketed by age?  I think it's clear age has no sway over reading tastes or connecting with characters.  And don't say it's to protect teenagers from sex and bad language, because you can find both in YA novels these days.

How much do you think age matters when it comes to books?  Does the YA genre label have any use beyond marketing?

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Cibolero by Kermit Lopez

cibolero cover

Cibolero by Kermit Lopez


For years, Antonio Baca lived the wandering and restless life of a Cibolero, or buffalo hunter, following the great herds that roamed the endless Llano Estacado-the high plains of a region that would one day be New Mexico. After marrying and settling down, Baca has finally found a modicum of peace in the home he built for his growing family.

But Baca witnesses the transformation of Nuevo Mexico from an isolated colonial outpost of the Spanish empire to a province of the newly independent nation of Mexico and, finally, to a land conquered by the avaricious americanos. Following the United States's seizure of New Mexico, Antonio and his countrymen find themselves treated as foreigners and second-class citizens in their own land.

When his daughter, Elena, is kidnapped by a band of invading Texas Rangers after the American Civil War, Baca desperately tracks them across the llano of New Mexico and into Texas using his skills as a Cibolero. Terrified for his daughter's safety, he plunges into the world of the gringos, and discovers just how much the americanos have changed his homeland. But as the days pass without any sign of Elena, Baca fears for her life-and his own.

I had some misgivings about reviewing this book. The last time I'd read a Western was... oh, that's right. NEVER. So why did I read it, you are undoubtedly asking yourself. Well, what attracted me to Cibolero was that it takes place in an area not far from where I live. I was intrigued by someone setting a story in a place and time period of which most people remain totally ignorant. Happily, I did end up enjoying the book, and really loved the main character, Antonio.

The summary for Cibolero makes it sound like one of those epic novels that spans generations; actually, it's a very focused story. Although we do get glimpses of Antonio's life as a cibolero, or buffalo hunter, through flashbacks, the actual plot of the book takes place over a relatively short time period.

Antonio Baca is a subsistence farmer living, I'm guessing, in the mountains north of Santa Fe (I'm a little confused by this, as I'll talk about later). Although his life isn't easy by any means, it is happy. One day, Antonio needs to go to Las Vegas to pick up supplies. When he returns, he finds his farm has been set upon by Texas Rangers who have stolen his oldest daughter, Elena. Using the mad skillz he learned as a cibolero in his youth, Antonio decides to track his daughter and the tejanos and get her back.

Cibolero didn't exactly start off with a bang, and the first few pages seemed fairly pedantic; but the novel improved quickly as it focused more on the characters. As I mentioned before, I quickly fell in love with Antonio, and as long as the story was focusing on him it was very interesting. The Texas Rangers, however, on a whole seemed dumber than a box of rocks. There was one decent guy among them--Captain Russel--and he couldn't control them to save his life. The others were almost cartoonishly greedy and amoral. I do wish the character of Elena had been developed more and that we would have seen the Rangers' actions through her eyes instead of Russel's (who, quite frankly, is completely uninteresting).

Also, another weird thing that drove me absolutely crazy was figuring out where the action in the story was taking place. I assumed before I opened the book that Antonio lived north of Taos, just based the photograph on the cover--maybe in the San Luis Valley. But if he's a day ride from Las Vegas, he must live quite a bit farther south. And where and how big exactly is the Llano Estacado?? And what path are the Rangers taking as they're trying to get back to Texas? I think it would have vastly helped me to understand and visualize the story if there was a map in the book showing me these things, and I'm actually pretty disappointed with the publisher for not including one.

Other than that, though, I think this book is worth buying just for the glimpse it offers into a fairly insular society. Lopez shows very well in the novel how and why the nuevomexicanos are so reluctant when it comes to giving an inch to American ways--and still are. Not that I know anything from personal observation, but one hears things. Such as the fact that the Spanish Inquisition is still alive and well in the form of Penitentes, a secret society (mentioned in the book, btw) that still survives in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. No one knows exactly what they do, but that's part of what makes them so powerful--the threat of their actions, fed by rumors of what they've done to people in the past, is likely a better deterrent against bad behavior than the actual men themselves. Most of the ranchers there still don't use electricty--but then that's true of ranchers on the Eastern plains of Colorado and New Mexico, too. I've also heard that the majority of people in the area still only speak Spanish (or rather, their dialect of it), although I doubt that's true any more. But then it could be--who knows! Only the people who are from there. My point is, it was isolated and strange to outsiders at the time Cibolero takes place, and it's still that way; but the book does a good job of transporting you to that time and place. And really, how awesome is that?

Cibolero isn't my typical read, that's for certain; and I wouldn't say it's the next Bless Me Ultima. But I am really happy I got a chance to read it. I learned quite a bit about an area and time period that I was already interested in, and I hope Lopez writes another book so I can learn more.

Want to win a copy of Cibolero for yourself??? Yes, of course you do. Just leave a comment and I will draw a random winner on Tuesday night. The winner will be notified by e-mail, so make sure you use a valid e-mail addy when you enter your comment.

And check out these other stops on Lopez's book tour:

Mon Jan 25th: Sandra's Book Club
Tues Jan 26th: Musings
Wed Jan 27th: Latino Book Examiner
Thurs Jan 28th: Mama XXI
Frid Jan 29th: Latino Musings on Literature & More
Mon Feb 1st: Heidenkind's Hideaway (that's me!)
Tues Feb 2nd: Efrain's Corner
Wed Feb 3rd: BronzeWord Latino Authors
Thurs Feb 4th: TBA
Fri Feb 5th: Regular Rumination

Thank you to BronzeWord Latino Book Tours for sending me this book to review!


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