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Win a copy of Nobody and Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (ends 2/20)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Books by its Cover (September) Winner!

Week 1:
X marks the truth
If X is the skull
And the truth is the red-headed girl
Where does it leave the dogs?



Week 2:
3y = x
One y = an old VW bus
Another y = shhh
The final y = the bottom half of a school uniform
What is x?


Week 3:
15 Cups + 1 Girl
= a book cover


Week 4:
Started off with 10 pieces of chocolate
I ate 1
Now we have 9 pieces of chocolate


This month's winner is BrittLit (Brittany M.) who happened to have gotten all 4 weeks right! Wow! Congrats!!

Next month's prize is is winner's choice of either TWENTY BOY SUMMER (hardcover) or an ARC of FIXING DELILAH (which has the old cover) :) Sound awesome? Then stop by this Saturday for your chance to win!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blog Tour: The Exiled Queen

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

Grade: 4 stars out of 5
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford.   But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean danger isn’t far behind.  Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets.  Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford.  If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen. [description from Amazon]
This review is going to be much shorter than The Demon King, just FYI.

With The Exiled Queen, the plot begins to thicken and quicken as well. The world of magick unravels more and exposes several paths that some might not have foreseen. There are several introductions to numerous additional characters.

Cinda Williams Chima retains the flow of the novel and presses forward without a hitch in this sequel. One of the biggest concerns I had was if the transition would be awkward and clunky and delivered different than The Demon King. It wasn’t happily enough 

The novel focuses more on character development than with the big picture. Here is my analysis for the trilogy: The Demon King is the heavy-handed background and general set-up; The Exiled Queen is the development of characters; and the final installment will be the giant climax and pow. Stepping back, this formula makes sense. In the here and now, however, it is a bit unfulfilling unless you have all three books at the same time.

The characters are definitely a joy to read especially Han. Readers, prepare to be swooned. I love the dynamics of the relationship between characters even more so than individually. I love the shy talks, the familiarity that comes through with dialogue, and the strong sense of justice. In particularly I think it is possible to find a relatable character for each reader.

This review is far more general than I had hoped, but here is a little warning: be on your toes. Also prepare to cyber-stalk Chima once you finished.

Cover: B+
Source: Hyperion for blog tour
Published in hardcover: September 28, 2010
Purchase via Amazon

Cinda Williams Chima: On Gender Voices

I’m honored to be writing a guest blog for Books by Their Cover. But my glee is tempered by the fact that Yan has given me a really difficult topic—differentiating gender voice. Says Yan, “Is there a distinctive way how a male character would sound versus how the female mind/voice?

No matter how I approach this, I’m going to get into trouble. (Cautiously pokes topic with stick. Topic explodes in face.)

Should an author take gender into account when developing character voice?

As if writing a novel isn’t hard enough!


DRY SCHOLARLY PART: Research into differences in communication between men and women suggests that women tend to use conversation for relational purposes—to connect with others. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to use conversations to get things done or to persuade others. Popular books such as Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus perpetuate the notion that men and women communicate differently.

I’m no expert, but actual experts have reviewed the research and concluded that true gender differences (biology) account for only 1% of variation in communications styles. The rest is driven by socio-economic factors, socialization, and expectations. http://www.awn.mtansw.com.au/gender_differences.htm

Not only that, but the content of women’s communications is changing as societal expectations change. These days, women’s conversations are as likely as men’s to focus on work and money, as opposed to men and appearance.

END OF SCHOLARLY PART

Full disclosure: I read none of that before I began to write.

Bottom line: it’s a minefield.

Some even say that it’s impossible for an author of one gender to write in the voice of the other. I once had a writing teacher who said that you can’t get into the head of a person that you’ve never been.

Well, that certainly narrowed my options! So I didn’t listen to her.

My first two books (The Warrior Heir and The Wizard Heir) are written from a male point of view. Somehow I felt more comfortable with that voice, maybe because The Heir Chronicles are contemporary fantasy, and maybe because I had two teenage males living right in my home. I have trouble keeping up with popular culture as it is—I knew nothing about what was au courant with teen girls.

And even when I was a teenage girl, I had trouble fitting in with conventional notions of what I should be thinking about and how I should be acting.

Still, it was suggested that I might want to use my initials (a la J.K. Rowling) since I was writing a book in a boy’s voice for an audience that includes boys.

I declined.

In The Dragon Heir, I used alternating point of view: a boy, Seph McCauley, and a girl, Maddie Moss. They have distinctively different voices, but it has more to do with differences in temperament and upbringing, not so much gender. Seph is a trust-fund child, raised in Toronto by a French guardian and educated in private schools all over the world. Maddie Moss grew up in Coal Grove, a small town in Appalachian Ohio. She is trying to break free of her hardscrabble roots and her mother’s low expectations. Maddie’s voice is the voice of my Appalachian ancestors.

The Seven Realms series is high fantasy. The action in The Demon King takes place in the medieval queendom of the Fells. Here, inheritance is matrilineal, with a rough equality between genders in society at large.
Again, there are clear educational and class differences between the two viewpoint characters. Raisa ana’Marianna is a princess—the heir to the Gray Wolf throne. She rebels against the prospect of a political marriage by taking risks when it comes to romance.

Han Alister is a reformed thief who grew up on the streets of the slums of the capital city. Though only a few miles divide them, they live in two different worlds, and speak dramatically different versions of the same language. Han’s use of thieves’ slang or patter makes his voice distinctive as the story begins. Han is something of a romantic player himself—because he knows he’s unlikely to survive his teens.

In The Exiled Queen, both Han and Raisa are on the run from dangers at home. They leave the Fells, coming together at the Academy at Oden’s Ford, a school that draws students from all over the Seven Realms. For the first time, Raisa encounters gender bias on the part of some of the faculty and other students.

Han asks the girl he knows as Rebecca to teach him to pass as a blueblood. His voice gradually changes as he learns to negotiate the higher levels of society.

So—back to the question: Should an author take gender into account when developing character voice?

My answer: it depends on the context.

In The Dragon Heir, Madison Moss’s mother has a traditional view of gender roles, and tries to force her daughter into them even as Maddie rebels. All of this takes place against the backdrop of a star-crossed romance between Maddie and Seph and a rebellion of the magical guilds.

In the Seven Realms series, Raisa ana’Marianna hasn’t been socialized to meet the gender expectations we know. The conflicts between Han and Raisa are driven by the growing attraction between them and the magical, societal, and class barriers that keep them apart.  Oh, and a whole lot of other stuff.

So, in developing gender voices, consider—where and when does the story happen? Has your character been socialized to meet certain gender expectations and roles? Is this a period piece that takes place in the 1950s or Victorian England or a post-apocalyptic future world? What are the personal attributes of your character? Is he or she likely to rebel against socialization and expectations, or conform to them?

What is your story about? Does the conflict derive from differences in men and women and how that affects relationships? Or is the focus elsewhere?

My opinion is that gender does affect voice—but compared to other factors such as class, education, context, and socialization, it’s pretty far down on the list.

The Demon King is now available in paperback, and The Exiled Queen released September 28. Excerpts from each of my books are available on my website, www.cindachima.com. Help for writers can be found under Tips for Writers, including a document called, “Getting Started in Writing for Teens.”

I blog at http://cindachima.blogspot.com/, where you’ll find rants, posts on the craft of writing, and news about me and my books.

Blog Tour: The Demon King

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Grade: 3.8 / 4 stars out of 5
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari.  Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell.  For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes.  They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.

Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight.  She’s just returned to court after three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai camp – riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets.  Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense and new skills for etiquette tutors and stuffy parties.
Quite honestly The Demon King is a fantasy adventure readers' dream come true.

The novel is told through two perspectives, Han and Raisa, where they each live separate lives in two distinctively different worlds. This enables the reader to fully grasp the dynamics the political and physically world. A world that stretches from the countryside, to the alleyways, and to the crevices of the castle. Even without the aid of a map one can easily picture the world in the mind through the descriptions and hints.

This separation of worlds also creates this juxtapose that the reader finally sees in the end as Raisa travels throughout her land without the carriages and guards and Han discovers the truth behind the silver cuffs.

However, The Demon King is definitely on the slower side in terms of pacing and development. It becomes obviously clear that The Demon King is the first installment of a series and that it is merely the set-up for the main plot. It’s a tedious read, I will admit, with loads of background information and history contexts that will leave readers frustrated. [Trust me, I had my brother read the series first and whenever I asked how he was liking the novel, he kept saying that there was no plot yet.]

But do not give up just yet. The novel does reward the reader in time.

Because I find this statement hilarious I have to just say it. My brother calls Raisa a slut. While I will not go as far as calling Raisa a slut, I did find Raisa to be promiscuous. She has had her fair share of kisses at the age of 15, which is the opposite of what I had pictured for a princess: pure, shy, and sweet. Instead Raisa takes charge and has a firm desire to be a good queen to her people. Lessons taught to her from the other side of the family—the clan side—where girls can become warriors.

It is different a modern twist to the novel where girls can more than one first kisses just as boys do (especially Han).

The Demon King does have plenty of twists, some predicted right from the very beginning and others that came from left-field (ensue: holy WTF!). Though it could just be me. See, now that I think about it, a lot of it makes sense. Okay I am totally losing my train of thought and gibbering along nothing.

I would definitely, positively recommend this novel for readers who enjoy fantasy novels with 80% action and 20% romance. The Demon King is a detailed orientated novel that has its pros and cons.

Cover: B+
Source: Hyperion on behalf on blog tour
Published paperback: August 31, 2010
Purchase via Amazon

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wicked Game

Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready

Source: Won from Brooke at Brooke's Reviews

Grade: 3.8 stars out of 5
Ciara Griffin is a con artist trying to go the straight path, but old habits die heard and turning WVMP into a vampire radio show maybe the biggest con of all. Because it’s true. But the truth is deadly and the stakes have been raised—literally and figuratively. 
Wicked Game was a different sort of paranormal romance than I have read in my time. Why? Because of the novel had a surprising strong plotline and focused on that plot and characters. One most occasions there would be a heavy dose of sexual tension and dragged-out scenes of releasing that tension that the reader loses track of what is the actual book about. Or the plot can be overly simplified and the sexual tension is the main focal point of the entire novel.

With Wicked Game there are several layers to the plot: the big picture, the radio show, the multiple relationships (inner/external), etc. With Ciara, there were layers that I think she didn’t even know she had and that like Shane, I am interested in peeling back those layers.

However I felt that the build-up, slower than I wanted, to the grand finale was better than the actual climax. It was understated and big twist had me cringing just a tad. And I have to admit, when this is my second attempt reading Wicked Game because the first time it was boring that I had to stop.

Cover C
I am never a fan of paranormal romance covers. They just lack *something*

Purchase Wicked Game: Amazon / Indie Bound / Book Depository

Monday, September 27, 2010

Manga Monday: Karakuri Odette

Karakuri Odette by Julietta Suzuk

Genre: Drama, Comedy, [smidgen] Romance, Fantasy
Art: 3.8 stars
Plot: 3 stars
Characters: 3.8 stars
Serialized: TokyoPop

"Odette is an android created by the young talented scientist Dr. Yoshizawa. Wanting to find the ultimate difference between humans and his android, Odette decides to persuade Dr. Yoshizawa to enroll her in a local high school. Follow Odette's adventures as she ventures through high school, in search of the true meaning of being a human." (from Amazon)

Volume 1 / Volume 2 / Volume 3 / Volume 4

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Books by its Cover: I Can't Count

So this Saturday's riddle poem for Books by its Cover was "incorrect" I guess you could say. I had originally written 7 pieces whereas it was supposed to be 10. The 6 pieces therefore should have been 9. So for those of you who thought that you had it, but the math just didn't add up, it was probably my fault. Sorry!

The poem has been updated. 

I also have no idea where the 7 and the 6 came from.

Bargain Books (14)

An Abundance of KatherinesSoldOnce Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery, Book 1)After

The Real RealViola in Reel LifeWWW: WatchArtemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel
The Real Real (less than $4 O_O)

The Supernaturalist (Golden Duck Awards. Eleanor Cameron Award for Middle Grades (Awards))The Boy Next Door: A NovelStarclimberSlam
The Supernaturalist (less than $3 O__O)

Demon Princess: Reign Check