The Smell of New Books in the Mailbox...

I'm so crazy excited to break into my new book. I ordered signed copies of Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound back in January, but then I had to wait for Crimson Bound to be realeased and then the author had to get to the local bookstore to sign them before they could ship them to me. And then apparently it takes books a century and a half to get from Oregon to Florida... but now they're here!!

Look at those beauties - in all their crisp, new-book glory! The covers are velvety and gorgeous... I absolutely adore the rich colors of the design. They are gracing my Instagram (feel free to follow me!) feed right now, that's how in love with the covers I am.

I absolutely adored Rosamund Hodge's first book, Cruel Beauty (you can read that review here). Her writing is whimsical and romantic and classically eerie, like a true creepy and wonderful fairy tale. I cannot WAIT to tell you what I think of Crimson Bound.

The real challenge will be keeping myself from staying up all night to finish it in one go.
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It Ain't Easy

"If it feels hard, don’t assume you’re doing something wrong. All writers find it hard at some point (and if they tell you differently, they’re lying).” — Sarah Morgan 

This was my motivational quote from RWA this morning. Good to know I'm doing it right, I guess... But seriously is good motivation to know that it's normal to find parts difficult. It's the pushing through it and actually finishing the damn thing that makes the difference between the professionals and the amateurs.
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Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers

Cover Beauty Score: 7 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 1 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Ismae is a poor commoner whose abusive father is about to marry her off to an even more abusive husband. She escapes to a convent called St. Mortain where the nuns are all female assassins that worship the god of death. She grows into her trade and her first assignment takes her to the royal court in Brittany where she has to work with Gavriel Duval, a good looking dude that rubs her the wrong way, to carry out St. Mortain's ultimate objective.

My Reaction: Well it's not often I put a book down. But this one was a DNF. I tried... I really did... I read well into this one - I even shelled out full cover price for it at my local independently owned bookstore (yay small bookstores!!). I mean - just look at that cover! Badass medieval lady assassin out to kick ass and take names? Where do I throw my money?!

So sitting here trying to figure out what went wrong and I realize that I just got bored. It had small elements of fun sprinkled in with large amounts of snooze-ville. I know a lot of people complained because it was too romance-novel-y, but let me tell you... I know romance novels and this was not one of the them. If there had been a little more sexy time, maybe it could have brought this book up to mildly interesting... but alas, Grace Mercy was stuck in limbo. Not quite an action/adventure, not quite a feminist diatribe, not quite a romance novel, not quite a YA... I just felt like LaFevers couldn't quite pin down what she wanted this book to be and it suffered because of that. The pacing was fast and slow and everything in between, leaving me feeling confused and dissatisfied during the whole process.

Besides the sloppy commitment to character, we get quite thoroughly sidetracked by the extensive politics of history. Elements that seemingly have no point to the overall story as a whole. I can barely handle preachy history even when it IS necessary for plot development. There's nothing that makes my eyelids droop closed faster than an author trying to show off their research capabilities. Entertain me, please! Don't give me a textbook! Historical details should supplement a story, not navigate them completely.

And then we come to the actual writing style... I'm hesitant to berate this, because I know everyone has their own favorite type. But it was mediocre, even at the best of times. LaFevers gives us predictable cheese without the subtle charm that makes it work, leaving a bad taste overall. As with her pacing issues, her writing style is so all over the place that it leaves you feeling like you're not reading anything at all. And who wants to read a book that leaves you feeling like you haven't really read anything?

Ok, so now I feel a little mean with what I've written, but I'm going to stick to my guns. The high ratings for this one on GoodReads are overstating its worth... which fits in with my theory that the majority of readers today like to indulge in dribble.

If you were able to get through this one, I bow down to the power of your will. (If you read it and liked it... I just don't know what to say. Wow, this is awkward. Sorry.)

Ultimately, not the book for me. But for now I own it and it's going to have an obligatory spot on my bookshelf until I can find someone to pawn it off on.

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Demon Love Spell Vol 1

by Mayu Shinjo

Cover Beauty Score: 4 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Miko is a girl who works at her family's shrine, and they have guarded it for hundreds of years! Because of their rich history, everyone in her family has powers to see demons and ghosts and supernatural beings so they can defend the world of the living from these evil spirits. Unfortunately, Miko has never had any kind of special ability. Seizing her chance to save a crush of her best friend, Kagura, she uses a spell to banish the demon that is possessing him. And it works! Sort of... She soon realizes Kagura is a full demon and he is determined to have her undo the spell that sealed his powers.

My Reaction: So who says I can't review manga? Technically this counts as reading. Even guilty pleasures deserve critical attention!

I found this manga while perusing my local Barnes and Noble for the first volume of Kamisama Kiss (which I'm sure I will review shortly as well). The cover was a little cheeseball for me, but when I read the synopsis I was definitely on board to give this a shot. And I was delightfully surprised! What an adorable idea for a story... Miko has a tsundere tenacity about her that I particularly enjoy and Kagura is generally a good dude with just a hint of asshole to really polish off his character.  It makes for a super entertaining read - their interactions are great!

The artwork was very well executed - great attention to detail and clean lines... I love the artistry in this. The little chibi-Kagura is just adorable!

In terms of the story as a whole - it's a great read with a unique approach. Kagura becomes dependent on Miko when she seals his powers and makes him chibi which forces him to really get to know her. She has to do the same as well, and through Kagura's powers, she finally finds a way to see other evil spirits and to use her training to fight against them. Of course they become much closer until they fall for each other and begin to fight the bad demons together.

This is just the kind of manga/anime I enjoy - romance and action and a ballsy heroine that kicks ass and takes names with a leading man that challenges her right back. Great option for you manga lovers out there!! I am sitting on pins and needles waiting for them to develop this one into an anime series - it will be totally worthy of it!
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by April Lindner

Cover Beauty Score: 10 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 2 out of 5

Plot Blurb: A modern retelling of Jane Eyre, we follow the story of Jane Moore who drops out of college following her parents' deaths and takes a job as a nanny for a famous rockstar, Nico Rathburn. Jane becomes closer and closer with Nico and secrets from his past surface, forcing her to make a decision that will change her life.

My Reaction: Man, I wanted this one to be good. I actually found this book on the employee recommendations shelf at Barnes and Noble. Anyone who knows me knows that Jane Eyre is my favorite classic novel - it has slowly been vying for a position against Pride and Prejudice for a solid decade now. So when I saw a book that was a retelling of one of my favorite stories in modern times with a rockstar Mr. Rochester and a freaking awesome cover? Color me sold!

Unfortunately, just like the beguiling charms of Miss Blanche Ingram, Lindner's Jane left me feeling underwhelmed.

When I think of Jane Eyre, I think of a dark story. One that is poignant and solid and nearly tangible in its realness. Her internal struggle throughout the original story is one of importance and personal growth that allows the story to hold the weight it does.

Jane Moore, on the other hand, gives us a look into her life that is loose and poorly translated to modern times. Lindner, at least, can write efficiently enough to not force me to put the book down. But again, the prose wasn't really creating life of its own, either. Lindner essentially took my favorite characters (which are arguably some of the best examples of complex characterization in literature), and stripped them down until they were flatter than a French crepe.

Did I finish the book? Yeah, I did. Although I think it was out of loyalty to Eyre and Rochester that I did so. Ultimately this reincarnation of my favorite novel just couldn't live up to its hype. I felt like I just saw a movie adaptation that ripped the original power of the story away and left a crude imitation in its wake.

Although the cover is admittedly beautiful and haunting and slightly modern and feminine, the book in no way compares to that. Alas... another case of "Jessica got fooled by the cover." If you want to read this one, go ahead. But please please PLEASE promise me you'll also read Jane Eyre. This one will creep you out and make you think that Rochester is just some creepy pedophile that uses his fame to take advantage of an innocent girl in his employment (a la 50 Shades).

In the mean time, at least it will look pretty sitting on my bookshelf.
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A Little Reminder About Perseverence

So I'm participating in this writing challenge with RWA which conveniently sends me little motivational quotes to my inbox every morning. I realize now that I've been putting off writing for going on an entire month. What is wrong with me? I was going so strong for so long, but I feel like I traveled down the wrong rabbit hole and now the story is all tangled. I know that when I sit down with it again, I'm going to have to throw out 20k or so words. The thought of doing that makes me want to shove my face into a carton of Ben and Jerry's and watch Ever After until I forget about the cruel nature of trying to write a novel.

However, I can't really do that. I mean, I could but I don't think that it would really make me feel any better in the long run.

So when I got this quote in my email this morning I realized something. I can't give up. The only way that you won't see your goals accomplished (and this is for anything, not just writing), is if you stop working towards those goals.

So today when I get home, I will sit my butt down in my big comfy chair and tackle the knot I've managed to create with my plot. I'll get past my block and actually finish this book.

It's about damn time.
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