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Review: Claudia’s Story: An Interview with the Vampire grahic novel adaptation

I grew up on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I read the first book when the movie came out in 1994 and the rest of the series, to a point, and I’ve reread them a lot since. I’d always loved vampires in various forms, but something about Interview with the Vampire brought out the richness and realism of what being such a creature who used to be human might be like. I’m also a sucker for a good story framing and having a quirky reporter taping the interview was awesome. To this day, the first four books in that series remain some of my favorites.

Claudia’s Story, an adaption by Ashley Marie Witter, is Interview from her perspective, which is dark and disturbing. It tells how she was turned, how she grew from a true child vampire into a woman trapped into a child’s body for all eternity, and how she puts up with Louis (doting but self-hating) and Lestat (Monsieur Can Do No Wrong). I’m a huge fan of swapped POVs and unreliable narrator, which is part of the reason I love The Vampire Chronicles. One book is Louis’ take and the next book is Lestat going “Pfft yeah right, here’s how I saw it.”

So to give us an entirely new perspective is a great idea for a fresh way to retell the story. We get bits and pieces of Claudia’s diary in the third book, Queen of the Damned (which bares little resemblance to its movie incarnation), when Jesse, a supernatural investigator, recovers the journal. It’s always something I wanted more of, and here we are.

It is impossibly creepy to see it drawn out on the page. Claudia is small, maybe five in the novel, and in the graphic novel there are scenes where that alone is enough to make my skin crawl.

Louis' expressions of frustration, angst, and sadness are as perfect as Lestat's grin.

(Child monsters are always the worst, aren’t they?) Witter doesn’t shy away from the gritty darkness of a child who is not a child, nor does she avoid the uncomfortable conversations that arise because of it. It is Claudia’s story, after all, and Witter tells in all of its twisted, strange entirety. It’s devastatingly heart-breaking and completely disturbing at the same time.

The art work is breathtakingly gorgeous, too. Even if Louis looks constantly depressed (accurate). And finally, finally, we get a depiction of Armand that doesn’t make him look like a middle-aged man with a bear hide on his head. (I’ll concede Antonio Banderas played the hell out of that part in the movie but the costuming.. yikes.)

It works as a stand-alone story, but I suspect its best audience will largely be fans of the book and/or the film. Although if you like pretty and haunting vampire comics, this is definitely one to add to your collection.

 

(Also I forgot how much of a jerk Lestat is in Interview. Seriously, like, I know he’s the quintessential teenager pretty much always, but if he did like three things differently, everything could have been puppies and roses and sparkl–err… Well.. Maybe it’s better that he didn’t.)

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Review & Giveaway: “Clockwork Angel” manga adaptation

So you guys might remember that I basically threw my hands up in the air and let The Infernal Devices fandom suck me in. I regret nothing. But thanks to the talented artist Hyekyung Baek, they’re making a manga adaptation of the series, starting with the first book, Clockwork Angel. This volume covers the entire plot of that novel by Cassandra Clare.

It goes without saying that fans of the books will love the manga. The illustrations by Hyekyung Baek are gorgeous and the story remains true to the plot, managing to somehow get a lot of side-plots into the book even though it’s necessarily shorter. The manga keeps a lot of Clare’s jokes and wit, too, and they’re actually funnier with the visual aid. This cuts both ways, of course, and things like Jem’s illness are more striking with illustrations. But it’s a really fun way to reread the books and relive your love of the characters.

The best thing about the manga version is that it might appeal to people who otherwise won’t read the book, either because it’s in the YA section (don’t get me started) or because they prefer comics (nothing wrong with that). It’s a story that lends itself well to a visual format

Jem and his violin are my OTP.

The plot is, obviously, the same as the novel: Tessa arrives in London at the behest of her brother, or so she believes. But she’s taken by the Dark Sisters, who reveal that Tessa is a shape-shifter and they plan to use her for their own nefarious purposes and then marry her off to someone called The Magister. She’s rescued when Will Herondale and other Shadowhunters end up at the Dark Sisters’ house during a murder investigation. She stays at the institute where she meets Jem, the violinist with a secret, and Jessamine, who doesn’t want to be a Shadowhunter at all, as well as Charlotte and Henry, who run the London Institute. She agrees to help them and they agree to help her track down her brother. Turns out the Magister is trying to build an army of automatons which are very creepy and faceless.

Did I mention it’s gorgeously drawn? And that Will and Jem were basically born to be manga-bishounen? Because they were.

So if you haven’t read The Infernal Devices and you like manga and comics, you should check this out. If you have read them, I assume you’re already a rabid fan of Will or Jem or Tessa or Magnus Freaking Bane, and therefore I don’t have to tell you get yourself a copy. You probably already have 50 and are now using it to wallpaper your room. I mean… I’m certainly not doing that….why do you ask? That would be insane. Speaking of, I HAVE AN EXTRA COPY! You know what that means! GIVEAWAY!

To enter to win one (1) new copy of the Clockwork Angel manga vol. 1, just leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, Oct. 31st. I will have Magnus Bane use his warlock magic (and/or use a Random Number Generator if he’s unavailable) to pick one winner.

Rules: Winner must live in the US or CA. The winner will be drawn on Thursday, November 1st, and posted here in the afternoon. The book will be happily shipped to the winner as soon as possible after they send me their address. Void where prohibited and all that jazz. Entries must be posted by midnight PST on Halloween, 10/31/12. Any comments after that are not eligible. If you comment and do not wish to enter, please say so and I will merely draw a new number (or have Magnus pick a new winner) if it lands on you.

Good? Good.

FTC Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. Nothing else was exchanged.

GGC12 Panels: Why Men Write Women Poorly, With Greg Rucka

This panel was inspired by a piece comic writer and novel author Greg Rucka wrote for i09 and can be found here. But it seemed like a good topic to address at Geek Girl Con, so he took the stage with Susana Polo to talk about his article, his method of writing believable, realistic women, and answer some questions.

When Polo started reading comics it was for one character. She says it takes a while for you to pay attention to the names of the authors on the comics. And one of the names that kept coming up was Greg Rucka. No Man’s Land, Batman, etc. Rucka is also the author of the Atticus Kodiak series.

Rucka says he wrote the i09 piece in response to being asked how he writes realistic female characters. There are two part to the question: 1) how does he, having a penis, write characters without a penis? And 2) why aren’t more people doing it. “How do we do it?” Rucka asks. “I try to treat all characters with respect…. Characters are never all one thing. That is bad writing.” To assume that is the same thing as saying Harry Potter is a scar. Characterization is a million things. They are built on their history, education, experiences, sexual orientation, etc.

But when it comes to men writing women, we have to acknowledge we live in a sexist society. Rucka says, for example, he can walk down a Seattle street at 3 am, and doing that is a different experience for him than a woman. So it needs to be acknowledged, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you think about. “We ignore gender and characterization at our peril,” he says.

Of course, like any writing advice, Rucka reminds us, “Any writer who tells you this is how you do it, eye with suspicion.” One of the reasons writing works it that it’s an individual voice. There is no one right way.

His fourth Kodiak book is his first told from another character’s POV. That character is Bridgett Logan, Atticus’ ex-girlfriend, and a woman. In first person, everything is character because it is a character voice. Atticus might describe a chair as “sickly green” but Bridgett would call it “a piece of junk.” Bridgett is an Irish catholic girl from the Bronx who is a recovering junkie. Her perspective and narration are affected by those things.

Continue reading

Blog Tour: Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett

Dr. Elyse Morgan is in trouble. Her whole life has been destroyed around her, and she is now under the custody of the United Nations, who believe that she is close to finding the cure for the HTN4 virus. The virus is a deadly weapon that has been used by terrorists, and was responsible for the deaths of Elyse’s parents. A prodigy in the field of medicine, Elyse’s obsession with finding the cure has attracted attention, resulting in her present position. In order to assure her compliance and keep her away from others after the same information, Elyse has been given access to a high tech lab on an undersea warship which rarely remains in the same location unless necessary, and several pounds worth of chocolate. On the warship, her assumed identity as a cadet begins to cause complications when she catches the attention of one Captain Nicoli Marek, who is attractive, intelligent and patently unavailable, as he is already engaged. What ensues is an unforgettable battle of wits as Elyse’s race to acquire the cure keeps pace with her weakening defences against Captain Marek, who seems determined to make her life even more complicated.

Upon reading the synopsis for the book, I was really looking forward to seeing what the author would do with the ideas she had discussed. Having heard very good things about her other work (Anna also writes as Of Poseidon author Anna Banks), I opened the book with all the anticipation of a small child presented with their favourite sweets. Cliché, perhaps, but true nonetheless. I wasn’t disappointed.

The plot itself has plenty of pace and didn’t leave me wandering off in incomprehensible directions, confused as to where it was going. One scene clearly moved into the next or had an effect on something later; nothing was written without purpose. When we first meet Elyse, she is busy stitching up a soldier who has been hurt in the line of fire on her island. What she doesn’t realise is that she is the main objective of all the armed forces presently there, because of her knowledge of the HTN4 virus. While Elyse treats him, she is operating in degrees of wrong, deciding what she can and cannot do. This gives us a good look at Elyse’s moral character, something which sets the tone for the rest of the book. When dealing with someone’s injuries as a doctor, she decides what is right and what is wrong with clinical precision. All of that is about to become immensely difficult for Elyse. She has lost a great deal at the beginning of the novel, and is given very little time to absorb it before she is taken almost immediately into UN custody; initially against her will. Rather than crumpling, however, once she is told what they want, her instinctive reaction is anger. Even once she agrees to try and find the cure to the virus, she never really loses that fighting edge. I think that this directly influences a lot of her interactions with Captain Marek, and what makes this an infinitely different type of romance for the reader.

Elyse is one of few heroines that I’ve encountered recently who really does have both brains and guts. She shows realistic reactions to difficult situations that most people would struggle to bear up under while also maintaining the strong morals set from the word go. Elyse has one hell of a temper and it proves to be her defining characteristic, as well as being the thing that I like the most about her. She’s vulnerable without sacrificing her personality or her strength to be deliberately appealing, and best of all, she’s absolutely oblivious to anyone who is attracted to her. I know that sounds like an odd thing to say, but it’s not the carefully crafted kind of oblivious that I tend to see a lot of female characters play. She genuinely doesn’t notice when other people find her attractive, and she peppers that trait with a burning sense of sarcasm that could literally raise blisters on the skin. It’s heartening and encouraging to find a character like Elyse in the midst of the sci-fi/romance genre, because she really is remarkable. Anna Scarlett has really thought things out beautifully.

Now, Captain Nicoli Marek. Where can I possibly begin? A conundrum from the word go, there is an instant connection between Nicoli and Elyse – and it isn’t immediately hearts and flowers, either. Nicoli is infuriating, authoritative, strong and stubborn. And I don’t mind telling you, he commands your attention whether you want it that way or not. Through Elyse’s eyes, you really do get the full blast of exactly how charming and exasperating Nicoli can be, while also being responsible and careful. He’s a man who goes after what he wants, even with circumstances set against him. For a lot of male characters, I tend to find that kind of attitude proprietary and off-putting. In Degrees of Wrong, it was done in such a way that I couldn’t help but smile or be frustrated along with Elyse. He’s an immensely likeable character and incredibly magnetic. The constant exchanges of banter between himself and Elyse are the highlight of the entire book. They range from intense to touching to absolute comedy gold.

In addition to the above, the author has made the wise choice of having a very good cast of minor characters to support the two very charismatic lead characters. Of these, my absolute favourite has to be Lieutenant Frank Horan. He and Elyse get off to a very bad start and the friction between them is brilliant. There is a particular scene involving these two, which I shall not spoil for those yet to read, that had me applauding. To cast this into understanding for you, I am very picky with minor characters. For one to grab my attention and hold it the way that Lt. Horan did is very rare, so I must once again extend my congratulations to the author.

Overall? Brilliantly done, Anna Scarlett. I can only hope that there will be a sequel. If not, I’ll simply have to re-read Degrees of Wrong again and again!

This blog tour has been hosted by Lynn Marie over at Bringing The Epic. Thank you, Lynn, for allowing me to participate. Thank you also to Anna Scarlett for the ARC and the many, many wonderful lines that this book contains.

If you would like to read some of the other responses to the book on this blog tour, feel free to visit the links below. These include interivews with Anna Scarlett, interviews with the characters of Degrees of Wrong, other reviews and ARC giveaways!

Jamie Manning – What’s On The Bookshelf – The Book Addicts Guide – Ems Reviews Books – Liana Brooks
The Fairy Tale Nerd – Moonlight Book Reviews – The Fuma Files – Confessions Of A Vi3t Babe – Cover Analysis
Book Brats – Cover2Cover – The Book Cellar – We All Make Mistakes In Books – Mandi Baxter – Nite Lite Reviews

Common Mistakes YA Dystopian Novels Make

In MY first YA Dytopian novel, animatronic dinosaurs take over and people have to fight the robot dinos to survive. In Space.

I was talking to a friend the other day about all of the recent dystopian novels that have come out and tried to tout themselves as “The Next Hunger Games!” It’s a silly, but understandable marketing tactic, because people are always looking for the next big THING.

The Next Harry Potter or the Next Twilight or whatever THING is going to be the year’s newest break out money-machine. It’s impossible to predict, of course, and the fact that so many dystopian YA novels came out recently is less due to The Hunger Games than weird market trends and coincidence. Besides, the next THING is never the same as the earlier THING (Twilight was not like Harry Potter, really at all).

But it got me thinking about all of the Dystopian Books I’ve read in the last year or so, and why some work better than others. Obviously, this is a list of what didn’t work for me as a reader, and is no way meant to be universal. These are just the same gripes I tend to have with a lot of Dystopian Books (and, sometimes, in the whole YA market). I would love to hear what elements worked or didn’t work for you, especially if any of them are deal breakers.

Book One Lacks An Ending

This is the new biggest sin awful trend in the YA world if you ask me. Not only are lots of books coming out that are super short because they’re the start of a series that could probably be one novel, but they’re coming out with cliff hanger endings that don’t bother to conclude the first part of the story. There’s nothing wrong with leaving some loose ends and unanswered questions, especially in an intended series. I’m talking about books that literally lack an ending. They might as well print the last page with the words “DUN DUN DUN….” It happens a lot in dystopian novels, especially, and this is a problem there for one main reason (besides, you know, the fact that a book has no end):

Leaving dystopian novels with a million questions hanging in the balance creates the feeling of shoddy world building. It doesn’t matter if the author has maps and entire histories for this Awful Future charted out on their wall. When none of the reader’s questions about how, when, why are answered in the first book, it makes the book feel hollow and lacking.

Characters Raised in the Dystopian Society Still Oddly Shocked & Awed By It

This is a personal pet peeve of mine, but it comes up in so many dystopians that it breaks my brain. A character who’s lived their entire life under the Evil Overlord who makes everyone where Pink Sweaters on Tuesdays is not going to be outraged by the fact that mom set out a pink sweater for Tuesday morning. They just won’t.

And yes, anyone might be alarmed when something that happens all of the time to strangers–say, being arrested quietly in the middle of the night–happens to their own friends or family. But when someone is used to drills or spot checks or whatever has a Fit of Righteous Indignation during one of these, I get irked. As a writer, I think what these authors are trying to do is  show what a moral center the character is by detailing their outrage at the Bad Guys. But it often doesn’t jive with how the protagonist should react, at least until they have some larger revelation about the world they live in. Say what you will about Matched, but at least Cassia’s mindset made perfect sense given the world she was raised in.

Alternatively, you have characters who, by all rights, should be extremely genre savvy, like kids who have grown up surrounded by zombies/rebels/robots/random bad future thing and should know how to survive in such situations. Like, it’s probably taught in their schools (if they have schools). But then you end up with characters like Mary, from The Forest of Hands and Teeth, who literally cuddles a zombie baby and then taunts the zombies beyond the fence. TAUNTS THEM. I mean…. I just… That is Too Stupid to Live territory from a girl who knows better because she knows what zombies are and how they happen.

A Love Triangle Romance That’s Wedged in Is Really Not Necessary

I know, I know. Romantic tension is awesome and the love triangle thing has worked so well. But really, if it doesn’t happen naturally as you start drafting your characters, and even if it does, you have to ask yourself if it’s really crucial to the book. Because if no one cares whether Lucy ends up with James or Thomas, but are forced to read pages and pages of Lucy trying to decide whether she likes James’ aloof and quiet demeanor more than Thomas’ quick wit and sexy lips, they will toss the book out the window.

I started this section with love triangles, but really it applies to all romances that feel forced or weird, especially when they come at the expensive of actual plot/interesting things happening around them. I’d really rather read about the Robot Army laying seige to the Dragon Lord’s castle than why Sir Allen has the best hair and tastes like strawberries due to his love of fruit gum.

And I say this as a pathetic, full-on shipping fangirl who will sink with the Good Ship Tamani in the world of Wings before I ever accept David might have been the right dude. I like romance! I even like good love triangles! But not when it feels forced in for the sake of having one.

The World Building Does Not Exist or Makes No Sense

Look, a book set in a future where Alien Unicorns have taken over the world and burned all of our technology except digital watches and make us grow rainbow colored hay to ward off the evil SeaHorses who are allergic to the color red might be the Best New THING to hit book shelves. But if the reader can’t believe how the Alien Unicorns took over without opposable thumbs (let alone built space ships), it won’t work. And yes, that’s a ridiculous example, and this goes back to the first point, but seriously. Leaving the entire world situation vague and unexplained does not make it suspenseful, it makes it frustrating.

Eve does this: a generic “plague” decimates the populous and a strange government with a King of America is set up in under 30 years. Despite the pointless years Eve spends in school (until she’s 18) she never even gives the reader the government’s official version of events, and we’re left wondering what happened. (Maybe Once, its sequel, answers more questions, I haven’t read it yet.)

It also has to make sense. Pledge is set hundreds of years in the future and we’re never given so much as a hint about why the only acceptable government leader is a Queen, or how America became divided by class languages. Even just a few lines about the ancient past of our present day would make the experience so much richer, rather than plunking down the system and saying “Eh! It’s in the future. Who knows how it happened?”

The best books, regardless of genre, have detailed and thoughtful worlds built into them to give the story depth, but it’s so important in a dystopia to show how the world of present day got to The Evil Awful Future.

 

So now you have some of my thoughts. And I am out of thoughts. Time to watch The Glee Project and see if I can avoid crying when whoever is sent home has to do the Sad Walk Away.

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Yes. It’s a book about mermaids. (Okay, Syrena.) I know what you’re thinking. Or at least, I know what my close friends are thinking which is probably along the lines of, “Dear god, this is going to be like Wings and the faeries isn’t it?” Possibly they’re already planning an intervention.

The truth is, I didn’t expect to love to Of Poseidon by Anna Banks. I figured it’d be a short and sweet paranormal romance that would be fun if I could just accept mer people as a premise. And it’s not easy. I don’t know why I have no issue with demons or vampires or wizards but mermaids cross some line beyond my suspension of disbelief. Except that Banks pulls it off. Beautifully, if I may say so. But it’s not only the world building or Syrena ability to blend (effectively camouflage in the water, like an octopus). No. It’s that Banks is freaking hilarious. She’s great at telling a story, developing characters, and all of that good stuff, but her narration had me from page 2.

For example, we meet Emma, the protagonist, at a beach in Florida where she’s just run face-first into a stranger who happens to be a hot teenage guy (Galen, whom we later learn is a Syrena). Emma is mentally running through her options of what to do since she’s basically been standing there like an idiot against him for a very long, awkward moment:

“Option 2: Pretend I’ve fainted. Go limp and everything. Drool, even. But I know this won’t work because my eyes flutter too much to fake it, and besides, people don’t blush while unconscious.
Option 3: Pray for a lightning bolt.”

Here’s the other thing that basically blows my mind about this book: it has so much in common with your standard paranormal romance–no, scratch that. It has so much in common with Twilight--that if I’d ticked off those points, you’d probably groan and put it on your shelf of lost causes. But it works. Because unlike so many other similar premises, this Girl-Discovers-She’s-Special story is built on characters that feel real and behave like sane, normal people. Emma doesn’t stay out of the water when Galen tells her to with vague comments about keeping her safe. And it’s not because she’s needlessly defiant; it’s because he doesn’t give her real reasons and he’s not the boss of her. Emma is awesome.

It also does that thing that usually annoys me where it’s first person for one character and then third person for another. I don’t know why Banks did that, since I’m sure she’s talented enough to make them sound different. Heck, they do. Galen’s narration is his own, even though he’s stuck in 3rd person. But again, it works. Maybe Banks sold her soul to the Magic Narration Fairy.

So yes. This is a novel about mer-people, where one of them goes to high school in human form(!) His twin sister is bratty and suspicious and his best friend Toraf is your standard nice guy. They have to figure out how not-human Emma is. There are some Syrena politics at play(!), and there’s even, hand to god, a “This Love is Complicated By Lack of Communication” plot line between Emma and Galen(!).

And still, still it’s an awesome book. I care about the cast, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and though I think it’s a series, the end is satisfying.

Recommended for: People who want a fun and yet suspenseful paranormal romance. People looking for an entertaining and hilarious quick read. People who like other mermaid/merpeople books.

Tori (Jokingly) Schemes to Make Money For Reviews

Recently I learned about a “blog” that charges authors for “honest” reviews. This is because–they claimed in an e-mail to Michele Gorman (whom they later threatened into removing their site name**— they have too many books to review and also, they want to only review stuff they know they’ll like. How a $95 fee helps this process is unclear. Possibly because when someone pays you nearly a hundred dollars to say things about their book, anyone willing to take that kind of money has a moral compass that points east and will happily say only nice things.

I’m not going to name this “blog” (which is not a blog at all, so much as big piece of overpriced internet ad space) because people who craft such intricate scams tend to threaten lawyers even if they’re not actually litigious, and it’s Monday and I’m too tired for that crap.

I mean, at first I was disgusted. But then I was like “WAIT. Here I am BLOGGING FOR FREE. In my own spare time. When I could be knitting or clipping my cat’s toe nails, or baking pies.” And I realized I want a slice of this immoral, delicious scheme. So I present to you,

CWC’s New Fee Scale For Book Promotion*:

$1000 – I will tattoo your book title on my forehead. Imagine the amount of press covering the “insane fangirl who tattoo’d the title of X Novel by YOU onto her face before it even came out.” If that won’t get copies off shelves faster than 50 Shades of Grey, I don’t know what will.

$500 – I will wear a sandwich board with your book cover for an entire weekend in a busy metropolitan area and shout your book title and name with a megaphone at passersby.

$100 – This gets your book a review so glowing that I won’t even read it! I’ll just say vague complimentary things about character-development and your choice of setting. ($10 extra if book is set in Oakland, Redmond, or New Jersey.)

$75 – I will post a photo of your book cover with my cat. If you tip me, it’ll even be the least cranky-looking cat.

This is the cute one looking cranky. You never know what you'll get with cats.

Okay, I realize a lot of authors don’t have that kind of money. But I’m not a monster! So I’m also offering some great Economy Packages:

$50 – I will write haiku about your book. But based on its cover and title. For $50 I don’t have time to read it, obviously.

$25 – I will stand outside the local bookstore and attempt to pitch your novel to everyone who enters until they chase me away or until that cute guy who works there asks me if I want to get a drink with him because his shift is over and he’s impressed by my passion for books. (You’ll need to sign a NDA that you’ll never tell Hot Bookstore Guy that you paid me to stand out there and wax poetic about your crappy novel.)

$10 – I’ll tweet something nice about your book on Twitter and possibly imply it was recommended to me by Stephen King or author of your choice.

Bottom of the Barrel Bargains!

$5 – I will write 200 words on why your book is the best thing on the bookshelves this week, making sure to casually knock any direct competition. For an extra $2 I might even post those words on the blog.

$3 – I will mention your book to every barista I come in contact with all week long. I know you’re wondering how that will work, but trust me, I’ve taken Improv classes; I can make it sounds totally natural. “Yeah, no room in my americano, and speaking of Americana, can I tell you about this amazing book I read?” See? Easy.

Please send CASH only to Paypal. No e-checks or digital payments.

*PLEASE NOTE: This is a joke. It’s meant to be funny. If it’s not funny it’s because it is Monday and I worked 9 hours today and I’m on my third can of espresso. We never take money or any other form of compensation for book reviews–not even kitten hugs :(–and we are always honest.

**Joke’s on you! We don’t want to drive more traffic to your fake blog.