Monday, November 29, 2010

Review — American Vampire Volume 1 by Scott Snyder, Stephen King, Rafael Albuquereque

Summary (via Goodreads): This volume follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King. Snyder's story is set in 1920's LA, we follow Pearl, a young woman who is turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European Vampires who tortured and abused her. This story is paired with King's story, a western about Skinner Sweet, the original American Vampire— a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before with rattlesnake fangs and powered by the sun.

Review:  I thought I'd review something different this week and talk about a graphic novel I just finished.  Even if I wasn't intrigued by Stephen King's involvement, the cover alone had me waiting impatiently for the first volume of this series.  It combines two genres you would think wouldn't mix: the Western and the Roaring 20s.  Two eras that marked a dramatic change in American culture, moments of growth and change for the country.  As we follow two stories, one charting the origin of  Deadwood-esque vampire, Skinner Sweet, and the other a rising 20s starlet, Pearl.  Both characters are intriguing representations of the American spirit.

The two stories are told simultaneously, and sometimes it does get a little confusing, but ultimately it works, allowing us to see how both Pearl and Skinner deal with their fate.  Snyder, the creator of American Vampire, has done something I wouldn't have thought possible: made a vampire story that isn't just fresh, but is a whole new look at the genre.  His vampires aren't sparkly or swoon-worthy (er...okay, 1920s Skinner was kind of hot), but brutal and violent and, yes, scary.  There's nothing nice or pretty about these vampires, yet they're entirely compelling.  

My only gripe is the sudden romance toward the end involving former Pinkerton, Agent Book.  It felt a bit forced and something that was there to appease some sort of male fantasy.  Though his character was a little boring to me next to the badass Skinner Sweet who you can't help but kind of root for (or maybe that's just me).  And, like I said, there were some structural issues, but I was so wrapped up in the story I didn't mind much.

I loved Albuquereque's art, which perfectly captured the spirit of the West and the vivacious Twenties.  He depicted Pearl's attack and transformation with the brutality it needed, but never went overly gratuitous.  His rendering of the vampire's "face" was something new and savage, and pretty awesome to see in contrast to the vein-y, dark-eyed vampires out there today.

The best thing?  It's about vampires.  It's not about a girl in love with a vampire or inspiring some sad-sack vampire to lead a better life.  It's actually about creatures that were created to elicit fear and horror.  There's no whitewashing the fact they kill, and they don't try to.  Watching them survive in a world that's not ready for them is far more interesting to me than any love story or redemption tale.

I can't wait to see more of Pearl and her boyfriend Henry, who are like an even more savage version of Bonnie and Clyde, and how their paths cross with Skinner Sweet, the most disturbing, yet enigmatic vampire I've seen in years.  Whether your a fan of the vampire genre or not, a King fan or not, hell, if you just like a good story, give American Vampire a chance.  It'll make you forget that there are even other vampire stories out there. 

Lit Snit Verdict: A-

Monday, November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo—Day 22

Well, we're over halfway through NaNoWriMo and I'm...really behind.  I don't know how it happened.  I took a writing retreat with a friend (which I feel was more an eating and drinking retreat than an actual writing retreat.  I got work done...just not as much as I hoped.  I blame the man in our Inn that kept me up all night with his snoring and completely ruined me for an entire day), I downloaded this awesome writing software Scrivener (which is half off if you win NaNoWriMo), but somehow I missed one day, then another and suddenly it was the 22nd and I only had 22,000 words.  Granted, that's nothing to sneeze at, but it's definitely a far cry from where I should be.  And I've heard some people have already finished! (Jerks)

I'm just looking forward to this four day weekend so I can get my butt into gear and get some writing done.  Right now it's 50,000 words or bust.

What about you guys?  How are you doing?  Anyone (gasp) finished?

If you're in need of some inspiration, GalleyCat has been having some great NaNo daily tips for those of us struggling through this month of writing.

Every year this is what I think my NaNoWriMo experience will be like

This is the reality (only, you know, I'm female...and the wine glass is bigger)

In other news, I recently read Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian, which I really enjoyed.  (Plus, the guy on the cover looks like Nicholas Hoult to me and I couldn't resist) It was a great look at the complexity of female sexuality, particularly in teens, and was just generally an engrossing read.  I think I finished it within two hours.  The main character, Natalie, reminded me more than a little of myself.

Here are some actual reviews since I'm in NaNo panic mode and have a little voice screaming at me that I should be writing, not blogging!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I'm ashamed to say that I haven't actually sat down to read a book in WEEKS...
Me. Clearly, I'm not at my finest...

This is where I've been a good 50 hours a week (I'm actually here now!), so when I get home I'm just drained from playing Office all day. My natural inclination is to go asleep, so I do. I see my friends on Saturday nights only (unless they come over to watch football on Sunday). This is okay. But...

I miss my books.

I MISS them. I tried picking one up a couple of weeks ago, The Bell Jar...this was not a great idea because I was already blah and this book took that blah, rolled it around in dirt and then kicked it. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautifully written book but I felt like my life was OVER when I finally finished it.

So here's my question, fellow bloggers--when do you find the time to read? With you being full-time college students, mothers, etc. I imagine it's just as hard for you to find the do you sneak that precious reading time in?? Help a girl in need!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Daniela

From Notting Hill with Love...Actually
by: Ali McNamara
release date: November 25, 2010

Summary: (via Goodreads) Scarlett O'Brien is in love . . . with the movies. Utterly hooked on Hugh Grant, crazy about Richard Curtis, dying with lust for Johnny Depp, Scarlett spends her days with her head in the clouds and her nights with her hand in a huge tub of popcorn. Which is not exactly what her sensible, DIY-obsessed fiance David has in mind for their future. So when Scarlett has the chance to house-sit an impossibly grand mansion in Notting Hill, the setting of one of her all-time favorite movies, she jumps at the chance to live out her film fantasies one last time. It's just a shame that her new neighbor Sean is so irritating and so irritatingly handsome, too. As a chaotic comedy of her very own erupts around Scarlett, she begins to realize there's more to life than seating plans and putting up shelves. What sort of happy ending does she really want? Will it be a case of Runaway Bride or Happily Ever After? The big white wedding looms, and Scarlett is running out of time to decide.

This book has one catchy (or maybe cheesy?) title and I’m intrigued. I feel like I haven’t seen very many of those really enjoyable sappy romantic comedies like Notting Hill and Love...Actually lately and I miss them a that it’s getting progressively colder outside and staying indoors on the weekend watching something light-hearted is becoming more and more appealing. Hopefully,  Ali McNamara has something good in store for me (for all of us) with “From Notting Hill with Love...Actually.” It comes out on November 25.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review - Slacker Girl by Alexandra Koslow

Summary: (via Goodreads) Jane Cooper's lifestyle is unfamiliar to most of her fellow workaholic New Yorkers. When she is not putting in the absolute minimal time at her job as a relationship manager for an investment firm, she's most likely to be found at her favorite cafe, staring into space, obsessively creating embroidery art, hanging out with friends, listening to music, and/or drinking coffee. In truth, Jane believes that corporate life was unfairly glamorized by "propaganda" films of the 1980s such as Working Girl or Secret to My Success. She dodges the effects of these programs by working as little as possible.

Review: I can say one thing for sure, this book is not for everyone. Although it is a heck of a fun read, it does lack a bit of sophistication, even for the chick-lit novel. The main character, Jane, is drawn up as the ultimate slacker: she wants to work as little as possible and enjoy a leisurely life type of lifestyle as much as possible. But how does that work in NYC without the risk of homelessness? Well, Jane has a good (if not entirely plausible) answer, and she meticulously walks you through the process of acquiring what she’s got. In brief, this involves a lot of good budgeting and some very intricate work-time/play-time maneuvers.
Her narrative has it charms; her reasons for striving to be a twenty-something slacker girl are not entirely unfounded (and I’m saying this as a New Yorker who has some first hand experience at the competitive professional nature of the people that inhibit this city.) But somewhere between trying to create a really fun, really light story about a girl who’s chasing personal gratification over professional success, Koslow doesn’t strike gold. When we first encounter Jane, she seems like an intelligent character with philosophically sound leisurely pursuits that might make you envy her bold decisions in life. But as the story proceeds and the circumstance of her life become naturally more complicated, Jane, in conjunction with her leisure lifestyle motto, starts to make a lot of careless and silly decisions that just make you question her mental capacity for handling life. So, before you decide to read this book, you should ask yourself if you’re interested in reading about a woman who tries very hard to make the mentality of a college party animal work for her at age 28. The story is a journey nonetheless, and Jane does mature a bit before the story comes to an end.
    What I absolutely adored about Slacker Girl was the leading male interest. Jane is a slacker and a bit of an airhead in many departments including romance. However, Ray, the guy who eventually becomes Jane’s The One is so great, it was worth reading through all the not-so-enjoyable sections of the book. I don’t know what I look forward to in my perfect fictional leading man, but this guy gets pretty close. I’m not typically interested in the macho, brooding tough guys or bad boys with a chip on their shoulder. I like those other rarer ones, who are quiet, and awkward and stumble over theirs words every once in a while. Ray is definitely my second favorite leading male character in all books I’ve read this year (the number one spot is currently occupied by Get Lucky’s Everett Thompson.)

LitSnit Verdict: B (C for overall story + A for romance)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review — Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Synopsis (via Goodreads): It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who's just walked in to his band's show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you'll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

Review:  The book is always better than the movie.  (Okay, maybe not always but usually.)  I don’t know why it took me so long to read Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  I really loved the movie so I think I didn't want to taint my love of the film version if the book was really fantastic or kind of sucked.  The movie is a great homage to New York and the music scene.  Kat Dennings and Michael Cera were adorable (though after reading the book, Michael Cera is an acceptable Nick, but nowhere near as complex and awesome), and Ari Graynor might be the funniest drunk girl ever.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered the book had everything I loved about the movie and more.  Sure, Nick was insanely emo and made outlandish statements about the state of his broken heart that made me want to smack him and Norah was so incredibly neurotic and paranoid that I…well, actually I saw a lot of myself in Norah so that’s probably why I loved her so much.  She was a little more angry that I think I am, but her insecurities and crazy self-defense tactics were a little familiar.  The dual points of view was a fun way to see how words and actions can be misinterpreted despite the best of intentions.

What I loved most about the book compared to the movie (sorry, I can’t separate the two, though I know I should.  I think it'd be the other way around if I read the book first): Tris.  In the movie she’s a throwaway one-dimensional character.  She’s a bitch.  Yet, in the book there’s so much more to her and you see why she does certain things.  It’s a great peek at the dynamics of female relationships and what we’ll do to “fit in.” 

Sure, the plot of kind of meanders at times, but I found myself not really interested in finding “Where’s Fluffy” (though that isn't as central to the plot in the book) but watching two broken people fall in love.  It might happen fast, but that’s the thing about New York.  One night can feel like a month and that’s all it takes to really connect with someone. 

If you’ve seen the movie, definitely read the book.  If you’ve read the book, give the movie a try.  They’re similar in spirit and both are infused a frenetic energy full of pop culture and New York tidbits, but each will surprise you in the turns they take with the same story.

Lit Snit Verdict: A-

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday -- Janelle

Vixen (Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin
Delacorte Books
Publish Date: December 14, 2010

Summary: Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . . Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes

I love books set in Chicago and I love books set in the Roaring Twenties, so I was sold immediately. 

I'm not familiar with Jillian Larkin but I look forward to checking this out as it has been compared to the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen, which I've enjoyed. Here's crossing my fingers to what I hope will be a great series!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review - Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Summary: (via goodreads) Seven Stones of Power. No one knows when they were created or by whom, each said to represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
For centuries, treasure hunters have been eager to possess the stones, undeterred by their corrupting nature. The list is long -- Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, to name a few. Now the Stones have found their way to Salem, Massachusetts, and so has Gerwulf Grimoire, adding himself to this rogues' gallery of power seekers. He's an uncommonly dangerous man, with a hunger for the forbidden, and a set of abilities that are way beyond ordinary. Abilities that he feels entitle him to possess anything he might desire.
That would include Elizabeth Tucker, the woman he needs to find the Stones. She's freshly transplanted from New York City to Boston's North Shore. With a new job as pastry chef at Dazzle's bakery and an old house inherited from her Aunt Ophelia, her life is pretty much on track …until it's suddenly derailed by a guy named Diesel, a rude monkey, and a ninja cat.
Lizzy can handle the monkey and the cat. She's not sure about Diesel. He's offering up his own set of unusual talents, promising to protect her from Grimoire. The kind of protection that Lizzy suspects might involve guarding her body day and night.
The Seven Deadly Sins are pride, greed, lust, envy wrath, sloth and gluttony. That pretty much covers everything that is wicked. Diesel thinks it also pretty much covers everything that's fun. And Lizzy thinks Diesel and the Seven Deadly Sins cover everything her mother warned her about.

Review: It is no big secret that Janet Evanonich’s Stephanie Plum series was one of the reasons Janelle, Erin and I started this blog. And even though the three of us could never really agree on whether Stephanie was better off with Ranger or Morelli, their twisted love triangle was a heated topic of conversation many a time in our pre-LitSnit days. And so, when word got out that Evanovich had decided to start a brand new series, I knew I had to pay some sort of homage to Evanovich’s LitSnit contribution, and give her newest work a try.

Evanovich’s new series (I think it’s officially known as the Unmentionables Series) has a really simple premise. Our main heroine, Elizabeth, is a pastry chef living right outside of Salem Massachusetts. Her life is pretty dull and normal until she discovers that she has the supernatural ability to sense empowered objects. This ability, as it turns out, is of pivotal importance to two men: Diesel and Wulf, who are in the hunt for seven special stones (one for each of the seven deadly sins) that if combined have the ability to ravage the world. In Wicked Appetite, Lizzy’s mission is to discover stone #1, the one representing gluttony.

All in all, this Diesel series is Stephanie Plum all over again, except with an interesting supernatural twist, a new set of love interests, crazier mysteries to solve, and a monkey (instead of a hamster) as a pet. I don’t quite know whether these alternations are for the better, but they work. For the most part, as I was reading this book I got the sense that Evanovich had decided that solving mysteries with Stephanie as we knew her had gotten a little stale, and had tried to find a way to change as much as possible without loosing that same fun, funky and addictive core momentum she had going with the Plum books. Lizzy might be a little weaker as a character compared to Stephanie (I definitely missed some of that Jersey flare), but Evanovich manages to balance this out by giving greater focus on the male leading character, Diesel, who is just as charming as Morelli, if not more. Even the subtle supernatural additions, which I felt uncertain about in the beginning, worked out well and allowed for more playfulness in the story. 

Wicked Appetite is enjoyable because it’s entreating, and easy to read. A definite must for anyone who loved One for the Money, or anyone who has never tried reading something by Janet Evenovich but is up for a fun leisurely weekend read.

Lit Snit Verdict: B

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review - The Psycho Ex Game: A Novel by Merrill Markoe & Andy Prieboy

Summary (via Goodreads)--Lisa Roberty is a successful screenwriter with an impoverished social life who’s enduring a demoralizing job at the mind-numbing sitcom You Go, Girl. Grant Repka is an obscure indie rock musician who, in his forties, finds his career surprisingly resurrected with the success of his comic operetta about the doomed romance of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson. When Grant and Lisa meet after one of his shows, sparks don’t immediately fly—but e-mail addresses are exchanged. A my-book-for-your-CD trade and a couple of e-mails later, Lisa tells Grant that she enjoys his song “My Psycho Ex,” but warns him that where psycho-exes are concerned, she’s pretty sure she “could drink him under the table.”

Little does she know that this will become the opening salvo in an epic e-mail battle dubbed the Psycho Ex Game, a storytelling competition in which horrific tales of dysfunctional love and living with lunatics are volleyed with glee. The rules are simple; the point system, unique: the experiences that would normally leave someone running for the therapist’s office (humiliation, degradation, and complicity in psychotic behavior) just might win match point in the Psycho Ex Game. Now it’s Grant vs. Lisa as the wretched tales of his ex, the Junkie Queen of Darkness, vie with the woe inflicted by her ex, a tantrum-throwing actor/director widely known as Mr. Summer Box Office Record-Holder.

As the correspondence evolves, it surprises Lisa by offering her the kind of intimacy she has never shared with a man in the same room. Before long, what started as a friendly competition becomes a road map to an unlikely couple’s growing involvement, leaving both Grant and Lisa secretly wondering, “If we were to get involved, which one of us is potentially the next Psycho Ex?”

Review: I came across this book by accident. It called my name while I walked around the Strand. "Janelle", it said, "Pick me up. I'm bitter. I'm cynical. You're bitter. You're cynical. We are a MATCH." 

I walked away from it. Who wants to admit they're bitter and cynical? Not me. So I walked around the bookstore trying to find happy, uplifting, fairy tale novels. Books that spoke of true loves and happily ever afters. Nothing caught my eye so I turned to leave and, as I did, the stupid book caught my eye and laughed at me from the shelf. 

*sigh* FINE. So I picked it up.

This story about two victims of 'psycho exes' could easily have turned into a whiny novel about who was wronged more. There's nothing worse than reading about reading sob story after sob story. Instead, however, this a cool, snarky tale about past experience and how you learn from it (or try to). Lisa and Grant's exes are SCARY. They're the type that make you grateful for your own ex. We're talking about narcissistic, emotionally abusive junkies. Each story boggles the mind and makes you wonder "Are there people like this out there FOR REAL??". 

Markoe and Prieboy don't make Lisa and Grant victims, though, and that's what makes this story. They're just as dysfunctional as their exes, in some form or fashion. Why they are the way they are is only hinted at, which I appreciated because sometimes you don't need all of the exposition...sometimes people just are. It's as simple as that. 

The story starts off slow (about 20 pages slow. Oy.) but once it gets moving, you're hooked. Each installment of the game is like a train HAVE to pay attention. It's the fodder in between each installment that drags it down somewhat. There are unnecessary characters, side stories, blah, blah, blah. I wish the writers had focused on the game and the thoughts of Grant and Lisa alone. The rest became slightly annoying. 

Would I recommend this book? Not necessarily. Still, I got something from it. I can now say, "Well, so-and-so will never be as crazy as THAT."

LitSnit Grade: C

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday — Erin

SynopsisFollowing his bestselling 2006 debut, Before I Wake, Wiersema returns to his exquisitely plotted blend of supernatural thriller and domestic drama.

Novelist Christopher Knox began his writing career with a bang. The echo of that success still rings in his ears as he sets to work every morning on his second novel, ten years later. His wife feels like a single parent, and with Chris living in exile in a studio above their garage, it won't be long before she is.

Chris discovers a fantasy novel by an obscure author he loved as a child and gives it to his son, David. Father reads to son nightly, and To the Four Directions soon enthralls him. Until one night, when young David is reading alone, an inexplicable seizure leaves him in a mysterious state of unconsciousness. As his seizure recurs every night, his father learns that only one thing will calm it, a bedtime story from his strange new book.

Convinced that the secret of David's collapse is within its pages, Chris traverses the continent in search of the truth. Meanwhile, David wakes up within the story he has been reading, and as his father struggles to free him David struggles to survive, facing perils unimaginable in a world created to capture the hearts and souls of children like him. Both father and son are headed toward a fateful collision of worlds, and a showdown with ancient evils, both fictional and very real. 

This apparently just came out yesterday (I think.  All they show on Amazon is the Canadian version that was published in October, but  Robert Wiersema's website says it is on sale 11/2), but I wanted to mention Bedtime Story this week because it's been a while since reading a synopsis has hooked me like this one did.  It reminded me a bit of The Book of Lost Things, only perhaps from the father's perspective.  I really love that idea of getting literally sucked into a book.  It sounds like both a dream and nightmare to most book lovers.

I can't wait to get my hands on this one!  What are you guys looking forward to reading?

**Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo—Day 1

No time to review today.  It's the first day of NaNoWriMo

That first day sets the bar for the entire month.  With a monthly word count of 50,000 words, you're striving for your goal of 1,667 words a day, but it's tricky.  You don't want to start out too strong, overshooting the goal by an insane number, thus burning yourself out early.  On the other hand, you don't want to fall short, ensuring you'll be playing catch up for all 30 days, only to be a blithering mess on November 30th and completely useless for the holiday season, or that you'll fall so far behind you'll just give up and just say "eh, I'll finish next year."  (Not that I've done that...four years in a row...)

I've found myself in a precarious situation of working on an idea I've been playing around with for a long time.  I've recently re-tooled it and think I know what I'm doing and where I'm going with the story, but as I sat down this weekend to outline I realized I'm already behind because I can't really "see" the entire big picture and I don't know what the hell I'm doing anymore.  The characters I thought I knew so well now seem like strangers and every word I write leaves me more and more unsure I really know anything at all. 

And this is day one!

This process always makes me fairly in awe of anyone that can actually finish a book, let alone get it published.  That's the thing they don't tell you: writing is HARD.  (Actually they say that a lot, but I always think they're lying somehow and there's some kind of video game cheat for writing a book...the same can be said for my views on my career, love life, and losing weight.  I'm still waiting on those cheats as well)

But my motto this year is "you can always revise later."  Now just remind me of that on day 15.

How about you guys?  Anyone else having day one jitters?