Archive | March, 2013

Review: DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers

We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, a week-long celebration of the His Fair Assassins series by Robin LaFevers and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph. To check out all of the great events going on this week (and to enter a giveaway!) check out my introductory post.

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

It’s heeeeeeeere! It’s here, it’s here, it’s here. The sequel to my #1 favorite book of 2012 is finally here. Hot-diggity-dog! I waited many long months to get my hands on this book, and it was a sore trial for me to restrain from calling off work so I could sit and read uninterrupted.

But I’ve read it and finished it, so here are my thoughts to the best of my ability to transcribe them.
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An Assassin In Love (The Unlikely Romance in Grave Mercy)

We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, a week-long celebration of the His Fair Assassins series by Robin LaFevers and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph. To check out all of the great events going on this week (and to enter a giveaway!) check out my introductory post.

Today we have a guest post from the lovely Molli Moran of Once Upon a Prologue, who is here to talk about one of my favorite literary couples ever, Ismae and Duval of Grave Mercy. Take it away, Molli!

An Assassin in Love

The Unlikely Romance in Grave Mercy

by Molli Moran

I recently received an e-galley of Dark Triumph, and after a good long squee with Shelver and a few other friends who enjoyed Grave Mercy as much (and in some cases, more) than I did, I was thrilled to participate in Shelver’s celebration of the His Fair Assassin series. These books are admittedly something I wasn’t sure I’d love as much as I did, but having now read both the first and second books, I’m officially a Robin LaFevers fangirl. This lady is seriously talented when it comes to spinning tales of court intrigue, romance, and the macabre. It’s her penchant for creating swoon-worthy romances that I want to talk about today.

There are a few tropes I’m guaranteed to fall for just about every time, and one of them is the “I-hate-you-and-could-never-love-you/holy-crapola-I’m-in-love-with-you.” What really tickles me is when an author can take that trope and make me really BELIEVE it, and breathe new life into it. And that’s exactly what Robin did with Ismae and Gavriel Duval.

I can feel Duval studying me; it makes my skin itch. After a moment, he shakes his head, as if unable to believe the trap that has been sprung upon him. “They will think me a besotted fool.”

I shrug and keep my attention fixed on the stables, willing the old sailor to return with our horses as quickly as possible. “If the boot fits, milord…”

He snorts. “I am many things, but besotted with you is not one of them.”

Forced to work with Gavriel to do her convent’s bidding, Ismae grudgingly accepts her mission, and her unlikely alliance with the duchess’s bastard half-brother. Although they exchanged some powerful snark, sprinkled in with a healthy dose of mistrust at first, there was just SOMETHING to their banter – something undeniably strong between them.

“What is my fair assassin so afraid of? I wonder.”

“I’m not afraid.”

Duval tilts his head to the side. “No?” He studies me a long moment, then rises out of his chair. I hold my breath as he crosses to my bed. “Are you afraid I will draw closer, perhaps?” His voice is pitched low, little more than a purr. My breath catches in my throat, trapped by something I long to call fear but that doesn’t feel like fear at all.

The more I read about Gavriel, the more drawn I was to him. And the more Ismae learned about him, the more drawn SHE was to him. Ms LaFevers did an amazing job of showing – and not just telling – their chemistry, that mutual attraction between them. She didn’t rush anything, but rather, let it evolve organically, and it was so beautiful!

It is Duval who sets my heart to racing, who addles my wits, who makes me short of breath. For even when he is angry, he is kind, and not the mere surface kindness of good manners, but a true caring. Or at least, the appearance of true caring, for I am well aware it could all be an act. An act designed to earn my trust. And just like some poor, dumb rabbit, I have stumbled into his snare.

Ismae, who has only known cruelty from men, and never tenderness, or longing, struggles with what she is feeling for Duval. It’s hard enough to wonder if she can trust him, without having to wonder if she’s falling for him. The attraction turned to a bone-deep connection and need between them, and it was heart-wrenching seeing their back-and-forth take on a new level – from sarcastic banter to a growing, true, caring, as in the quote above. They began to truly SEE one another for who they were, but as a reader, I was always aware of how precarious their situation was.

His hand moves up to cup my face. Slowly he draws me closer, lowering his head to meet mine. His touch is careful, as if I am fragile and precious.

It was impossible to do anything but cheer for Ismae and Duval. They got under each other’s skin, and under MY skin. Even as I fell hard for their relationship, and loved watching them begin to trust one another, I was terrified of the surrounding circumstances…but wanted nothing more than for them to get their happy ending.

The nights are our own. We sit in front of the fire Duval has built, our bodies touching from hip to shoulder, and share wine from a skin and roasted meat from a spit. We talk of small things, private things. It is a sweet, glorious time, and I know it will be over far too soon.

Ismae and Gavriel have the sort of relationship that I crave to read about – despite their shaky start, they become an incredibly strong couple that I really believed in, and could put credence behind. They become not just two people who are together, but a team – imperfect, yes, but better because of it. Robin LaFevers wrote them so beautifully that even though it’s been some time since I read Grave Mercy, I know I’ll re-read it time and time again to watch Ismae and Duval fall in love all over again.

Great post, Molli!

She hits every point perfectly on why I adore Ismae and Duval. It’s taking all my self-restraint not to read Grave Mercy right this second. If you love a quality, slow-burn romance, you NEED to read this book.

Alright all, it may be Saturday, but the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour is nowhere near finished. Check out the calendar of events to catch up on any posts you might have missed, find out what you have to look forward to next week, and enter our giveaway!


Interview With Robin LaFevers, Author Of The HIS FAIR ASSASSIN Series

We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, one whole week devoted to celebrating the His Fair Assassin series and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph.

Our treat for today is an interview with the creative mastermind and wordsmith behind the series, Ms. Robin LaFevers. This is actually my second interview with Ms. LaFevers, my first being after reading Grave Mercy for the first time. You can read the first interview here.


Shelver: Welcome back, Ms. Robin! I’m thrilled to have you back here, especially since today we’re talking about the dark and mysterious Sybella. I never thought of describing as Ismae as naive, but she’s certainly no match for our cloaked lady. How did Sybella’s character affect the narrative in Dark Triumph?

Robin L. LaFevers: Well, the entire narrative was built from her character out, so I would say quite a lot. I knew going in that her story would be dark, and part of what I wanted to do was recreate for the reader the same claustrophobic sense of drowning in darkness that Sybella was struggling with, so they could experience it right there along with her.

And because her story was so much more of a personal one with fewer ties to the political backdrop, I think it ended up narrowing the scope of the book, as well.

Probably the hardest part was trying to write from the POV of someone so filled with despair and self-loathing, yet at the same time still let the reader see there were things to like and admire about Sybella, things that would give the reader hope she could find her way out of that mess.

S: Going along with the increased maturity and darkness in Dark Triumph, the ages of your main characters aren’t mentioned explicitly like they are in other novels. If we sat down to do the math, we’d be able to figure out approximately how old Ismae and Sybella are, but I have no clue about Duval and Beast. Was this a conscience choice on your part? And how old is everyone?

RLL: I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret, I just didn’t state it up front. Duval is 24. Ish. That’s talked about during a conversation between Ismae and the duchess when she describes how old Duval was when she was born and he became her protector.

Beast’s age is in the same area—23/24. Part of the thing that was hard about ages is that men really did court much younger women, just as part of their custom. Often a man wouldn’t wed until his 30’s, and he would become betrothed to a 14 or 16 year old. No one even blinked an eye at it, yet it greatly offends our modern sensibilities. So I was trying to straddle a line between being historically accurate and not having the age issue knock anyone out of the story.

Also, when I was Ismae’s age, I never found guys my own age attractive. I was always drawn to older men. My husband is five years older than I am, very close to the spread between Ismae and Duval.

[Shelver note: I may or may not have “awwww’d” at that last sentence.]

S: We meet a slew of new characters in Dark Triumph, including the previously unmentioned charbonnerie, a group of ostracized charcoal-burners living in the forests of Brittany. How did you come up with them? (I loved them, by the way, because I completely wasn’t expecting them.)

RLL: Well, through research, of course!

I wanted to recreate some of the colorful characters that inhabited medieval Europe, and at the same time fill out more of the His Fair Assassin mythology that I had created. I spent a lot of time considering who Beast and Sybella would run into during their mad dash for escape, and who among those would be willing to help. I knew there were charcoal-burners who lived in the forest, but it wasn’t until I researched them that I learned that they had ties to political movements, possibly as far back as the Middle Ages. Once I had that spark, the rest came together fairly easily.

S: With the charbonnerie come their god who isn’t one of the nine approved saints. If you had to pick one of the old gods to serve, either one of the saints or the charbonnerie’s personal favorite, whom would you choose and why?

RLL: The Dark Mother, hands down. I don’t care if she isn’t part of the sanctioned Nine, I am a huge believer in her message of rebirth and hope out of the ashes of despair.

S: Any chance we’ll get a His Fair Assassin novella? Maybe from an alternate character’s point of view or of the girls’ time at the convent?

RLL: Well, funny you should ask…We’re doing a pre-pub blog tour that involves a series of deleted scenes from the girls time at the convent.

Also, I must confess that I suspect there is a novella there about Sybella’s time at the convent. As soon as I finish up Annith’s story, I might revisit that.

I’d like to thank Ms. Robin for her time and her delightful answers. I, for one, would eagerly snap up any and all novellas from the His Fair Assassin universe, and I loved learning more about the characters!
Don’t forget that the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour is still going full steam. Check out the entire schedule of events here and enter to win either Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph – your choice! The concurrent event for today is Girls in the Stacks’ review of Dark Triumph. You definitely don’t want to miss it.

Cover Love #25

We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, a week-long celebration of the His Fair Assassins series by Robin LaFevers and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph. To check out all of the great events going on this week (and to enter a giveaway!) check out my introductory post.

Given the ongoing blog tour, this week’s Cover Love is going to be completely HFA-focused. From what I can find online, though both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph have been published in other countries, there have been no major cover changes. Grave Mercy still features Ismae in her red dress, brandishing a crossbow, and Dark Triumph still shows Sybella in her claustrophobic stone alcove, even if the titles involved change.

However, back before Grave Mercy had its iconic red dress and crossbow, an illustrator named Phroilan Gardner did a mockup of a possible Grave Mercy cover for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Taken from Robin LaFever’s Tumblr

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I looooove it. Love love love. I love the illustrated look, the gloomy setting, and how FIERCE Ismae looks. From her hair to her clothes to the ever-present crossbow, she looks ready for battle. For comparison, the final cover for Grave Mercy is below, and while I think the red dress was the best choice, as it pops off the shelf, I will forever love the mockup cover. Really, it would make gorgeous wall art.

Which cover do you like better, the mockup or the final product? And what cover are you loving this week?

Don’t forget to check the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour schedule of events to catch up on all the fun this week, including today’s concurrent event, True Love = A Maggoty Carcass (A Dark Triumph post) from Mary Gray.


Guest Post: A Beast And A Monster; DARK TRIUMPH’s Fairy Tale Influences

We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, one whole week devoted to celebrating the His Fair Assassin series and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph.

Today we have another guest post from the creator and author extraordinaire of the His Fair Assassins series, Ms. Robin LaFevers, in which she discusses the fairy tale influences behind Dark Triumph. As someone who adores fairy tales, I was delighted to learn how some of my favorite tales came together to shape Sybella’s story.

A Beast and a Monster; The Fairy Tale Influences of Dark Triumph
by Robin LaFevers

While Dark Triumph is not a true retelling, it does contain echoes of at least two of my favorite fairy tales: “Beauty and the Beast” and “Bluebeard.”


I suppose it’s inevitable to be influenced by “Beauty and the Beast” when one has a hero named Beast. I was drawn to his character in the first book because as a child, one of my greatest early literary disappointments was when the beast turned into a handsome prince at the end of that tale. I was heartbroken and felt I’d been cheated. I had grown attached to that kind, ugly, dear monster and I greatly resented the boring handsome dude who replaced him. So when I was casting around for some of Duval’s companions in arms, I came up with Beast. Like Sybella, he was larger than life and threatened to take over the story in Grave Mercy. That was when I realized he would need his own book. And who better to pair him with than a tortured beauty who also threatened to steal every scene she was in.

Also, I thought the themes touched on in the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale worked well for the story I was telling in Dark Triumph—that love can see beyond the external to our true essence. In fact, I think that is what makes a compelling romance; when the hero/heroine is able to see things in the other that no one else can. They recognize our secret hidden selves and respond to that. But there is a strong influence of another fairy tale in Dark Triumph as well. As I researched the history and folklore of Brittany, I discovered that the two historical seeds of one of the most fascinating fairy tales of my childhood—”Bluebeard”—had its roots in ancient Breton history.

The earliest seed for the “Bluebeard” tales can be found in Conomor the Cursed, who had been told that he would be slain by his own son. Consequently, whenever one of his wives became pregnant, he killed her. The second historical basis for Bluebeard occurred only fifty or so years prior to the events in Dark Triumph. Gilles de Reitz had been the Marshal of France and a nobleman who fought alongside Joan d’Arc in the Hundred Years War. But once the war was over and he returned to his holding, he is rumored to have been at the root of over a hundred gruesome child murders, and was tried and hung for those crimes.


“The Tale of Bluebeard” fascinated, even as it horrified me and hinted at a darkness and depravity my seven-year-old mind could only guess at. I was outraged on behalf of the young wife whose only sin was curiosity, and equally outraged that such a blood punishment should await her. And Bluebeard himself gave me nightmares, with his aggressive, bristling blue-black beard and the fleshy lips that were so often portrayed in the accompanying illustrations. I felt there was a warning there, although I was too young to grasp it.

All of those elements were definitely echoing in the recesses of my mind as I wrote Sybella and Beast’s story. Since Sybella’s story was so dark and dealt with many of those very themes I was so disturbed by when younger, it seemed especially important to give her a message of hope as well; that love had the ability to see beyond the façade she presented to the world and recognize her true essence.

Thanks, Ms. Robin!
I personally am overjoyed that one of my favorite characters of all time (Beast) was inspired by my favorite fairy tale of all time (“Beauty and the Beast”). I had always hoped it were so but never knew for sure. Beast is everything a character with such a name should be. He’s gruff and ugly, scary and fierce, but also kind and even gentlemanly. 
He’s a great counterpoint to the true “beast” of the story, the Bluebeard-esque d’Albret. D’Albret, Conomor, and de Reitz would have had quite the vile little tea party back in the day. Believe me when I say that d’Albret is one of my most loathed villains of all time.
Be sure to grab a copy of Dark Triumph for all your lovely and loathsome cravings when it releases on April 2. Also, check out the other events scheduled during this week’s Attack of the Assassins! blog tour for a chance to win your own copy, including today’s concurrent event at In Which Ems Reviews Books.

Robin LaFevers’ Top Five Heroines Of All Time

We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, one whole week devoted to celebrating the His Fair Assassin series and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph. Rather than pull focus away from the celebration with an unrelated Top 10 Tuesday post, I have for you all a Top Five post from the author of the His Fair Assassin series, Ms. Robin LaFevers.

As a woman who knows how to write a kick-butt heroine, I was excited to see who Ms. Robin looked up to for inspiration in the female protagonist department. Let me tell you, she did not disappoint. I give to you Ms. Robin’s top five heroines of all time (with occasional notes from me).
Robin LaFevers’ Top Five Heroines of All Time

Sabriel (SABRIEL by Garth Nix)

Sabriel was the one of the first kick-ass heroines I ever read about. The closest I ever got to kick-ass as a child was Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Sarah Crewe, so Sabriel was a huge eye opener for me! I loved that she could travel into death. I loved her bandolier of bells that could control the dead, not to mention her sword. She was fearless and determined. And she had Mogget—the most awesome cat EVER.

[Shelver note: I haven’t read Sabriel, but you better believe it just jumped up my TBR list. Bandolier of bells that can control the dead?!]


Beka Cooper (BEKA COOPER: TERRIER by Tamora Pierce) 

This was the first Tamora Pierce book I’d ever read, and I was immediately hooked. One of the things I love about Beka is her scrappiness. She comes from the streets of Tortall and it shows. I love that she wants to bring protection and justice to her own poor neighborhood. Also? She wields a wicked baton.

[Shelver note: Ditto. Beka was my first Pierce heroine as well. Also, she talks to pigeons and dust storms to glean secrets from the dead. Totally cool.]

Attribution (fancasting)

Irene (Queen of Attolia) QUEEN OF ATTOLIA by Megan Whalen Turner

One of the things I loved most about this character is that we first come to know her as a seemingly cruel and heartless person, but as we spend more time with her we learn what sort of woman she really is. We learn how she has a spine of steel and has had to beat her power hungry barons at their own game, and we begin to understand just how events have shaped her. She is a strong, strong character, with more layers than a Viennese torte.

[Shelver note: Unintelligible screaming combined with frantic flailing.]


Katniss Everdeen (HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins)

How can one not love Katniss? She comes from humble roots and never, ever loses sight of what is important to her. She will fight—to the death—for those she loves and resists being a pawn in one of the biggest examples of political showmanship and propaganda ever concocted. Plus? Most. Resourceful. Figher. Ever.

[Shelver note: And she’s such a good big sister. I’m sorry. I need a moment.]


Ista (PALADIN OF SOULS by Lois McMaster Bujold) 

What I love so much about Ista as a character is that, at forty, she is the dowager mother of the ruling queen and is convinced her life is over. Yet she has lived so much of that life doing her duty, pleasing others, and then later under a cloud of suspicion and madness. But she gets an itch to set off on just a tiny trip—just something to keep herself from calcifying—and ends up having an incredible adventure and coming to face with the destiny that’s always awaited her. I love this idea that all our adventures are not over by the time we’re forty!

[Shelver note: Normally, the idea of following a heroine my mom’s age would not interest me, but the synopsis on Goodreads sounds pretty good! My to-be-read list is groaning under the strain.]

What do you think of Ms. Robin’s list? Have you read any of the books she mentioned? What heroines would you put on YOUR list? Chime in below and then check out the other fun stops this week, including today’s concurrent event, Margo Berendsen’s post on why someone might choose to become an assassin. 


Attack of the Assassins! Blog Tour

Welcome one and all to the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, a tour put together by fans of the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers to celebrate the release of the second book, Dark Triumph.

The His Fair Assassin series, set in fifteenth century Brittany, follows three daughters of Death as they fight to secure the realm against the encroaching French – and their own hearts against the prospect of love.

That above is my attempt at a short, concise synopsis, but even if I had pages and pages, I couldn’t do the series justice. The first book, Grave Mercy, was my favorite book of 2012. I fell in love with its unique premise (nun assassins!), rich, historical world-building, high stakes, and vibrant characters. (For more gushing, read my review here.) Indeed, I was nigh on insufferable for many months, as I pushed my new favorite book on every person I talked to, both online and in real life.

Then, the news broke. Grave Mercy was to have a sequel. It was given a title (Dark Triumph) and an (oh-so-pretty) cover. The more I learned about Dark Triumph, the more excited I became until I couldn’t bear it any longer. I needed to share my love! I need to proselytize! To convert!

Thus, the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour was conceived. I contacted several fellow bloggers whom I knew were fellow HFA fans, and they in turn contacted several other bloggers whom they knew. We were not contacted by the author. We are not sponsored by the publishing house. We are merely a group of fervent fans who want the much-anticipated sequel to a beloved book to have an excellent debut week.

And here’s how it affects you.

The coming week, from today through April 3rd, is dedicated to celebrating and promoting Grave Mercy, Dark Triumph, and the His Fair Assassin series as a whole. We are using this blog, Bookshelvers Anonymous, as the command center of sorts, but each day will feature at least one HFA-centric post either here or on one of the participatory blogs.

Those of you who are already HFA fans will get to enjoy the gushing of fellow fans, as well as contributed bits of information from Ms. Robin LaFevers herself. Those of you who are new to the series will receive enough information and shiny lures to hopefully send you dashing to the nearest bookstore to buy your own copies. And those of you who just like getting free stuff… Well, what’s a blog tour without a few giveaways?

The full tour schedule is listed below, as is a giveaway just for you! As the posts go live, I will edit the post to add the direct links, so keep checking in for more fun. Thank you all for joining us, and get ready for a killer week.

Official Attack of the Assassins! Tour Schedule

Monday, March 25: Attack of the Assassins! blog tour introductory post @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Tuesday, March 26: Heart of a Female Assassin + giveaway @ Delusions at High Altitudes; Robin LaFevers’ Top Five Heroines of All Time @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Wednesday, March 27: Why I love the His Fair Assassin series @ In Which Ems Reviews Books; Fairy Tale Influences of Dark Triumph @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Thursday, March 28: True Love = A Maggoty Carcass (A Dark Triumph post) + giveaway @ Mary Gray Books; Cover Love #25 (The HFA edition) @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Friday, March 29: Review of Dark Triumph @ Girls in the Stacks; Interview with Robin LaFevers @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Saturday, March 30: An Assassin In Love (The Unlikely Romance in Grave Mercy) @ Bookshelvers Anonymous (a guest post from Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue)

Sunday, March 31: Review: Dark Triumph @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Monday, April 1: Review: Dark Triumph + giveaway @ In Which Ems Reviews Books; The Mythology of the Nine @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Tuesday, April 2: Author Interview with Robin LaFevers (+Giveaway!) @ Blue Sky Bookshelf; A Special Message from St. Mortain @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

Wednesday, April 3: Interview with a fellow fan @ Burgundy Ice; Giveaway! @ In Which Ems Reviews Books; Tour Wrap-up @ Bookshelvers Anonymous

For the giveaway, I’ll choose two winners, and each winner will pick either Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph for their very own. Also, this giveaway is INTERNATIONAL as long as The Book Depository ships to your country.

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Review: VENGEANCE BOUND By Justina Ireland

Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.

Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work? As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build.

If I were to give my reviews fun, unique titles, this one would probably be titled “In Which Shelver Rips Apart A Perfectly Fine Book.” Because Vengeance Bound really was perfectly fine. It was better than I expected, and I enjoyed myself. However, making me enjoy myself comes with a great cost. If I have low expectations that are barely met, then I continue to expect very little from the book in question. I don’t demand much, and I analyze very little. If, on the other hand, a book takes me for a good ride, the parts that irritate me stand out in high relief.
Continue Reading →


Paper Lantern Lit UPDATE


Do you remember the post I did a few weeks back about Paper Lantern Lit and its work as a “literary incubator” (read: book packager)? In it, I puzzled over the PLL model and tried to figure out how I felt about the fact that some extremely popular books (Meant To Be, Venom, Fury, etc.) were essentially a think tank’s brainchildren. PLL crafts an outline, but paid writers are the ones who step in and attempt to breathe life into the constructed frame.

We chatted about it. A consensus was reached… sort of. Judging on the comments, you all (and I) agreed on the following statements:

1) The PLL model is not that different from ghost writing, which has been around a long time.

2) It’s a really cool idea in theory, because it gives fresh talent a boost.

3) One big caveat is whether the model is inherently fair to the writer, given the flat fee involved. We will not let our writers be taken advantage of!

4) It also is cool only as far as the writers involved are allowed to voice their opinions. Don’t put the authorial Baby in a corner!

5) Despite the positive feelings in 1 and 2, and even if the concerns in 3 and 4 are proved invalid, it still makes us feel squicky.

Some of that squickiness is, I suspect, due to the lack of information. It’s hard to feel comfortable with something new and untraditional without a full plate of information to feast upon. We as humans are wary of angles. What’s the catch? What aren’t you telling us?

With that in mind, I thought it best to update you all with the information that has come to light since I posted my ramblings.

First, we received clarification via the gracious Beth Revis regarding which books are certainly not from the PLL stables. It turns out that Fast Company, the site that had originally posted the article that I used as the starting point for my own post, had used a very misleading photo. In their original photo (which I should have saved, dagnabit), they featured PLL books such as Venom and Fury, but behind those books were other books such as Across the Universe (Beth Revis), Origin (Jessica Khoury), Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta), and Matched (Ally Condie). I and others mistakenly assumed that these books were PLL books as well. However, it turns out those other books were NOT PLL books, and after a push from Ms. Revis, Fast Company changed their photo to better reflect the PLL catalog. (Though, as Ms. Revis points out, Matched is still incorrectly lurking in the background.)

Second, Ms. Fiona Paul (a.k.a. Paula Stokes) decided to take the initiative and write her own blog posts about her experiences with PLL while writing Venom and its sequels. I LOVE that she’s doing this, because knowledge is power, right? The more you know, the more you grow, or something like that. At her invitation, I emailed a bunch of questions I had about her experiences, which she in turn incorporated into her posts.

The first post, which explains what work-for-hire is and how she first started working with PLL, as well as answering some of my questions, appeared on March 12. The second half of the Q&A appeared on March 14 and finishes answering my questions. Granted, it’s all based on Ms. Paula’s personal experiences, but I thought the answers were very enlightening.

For instance, I loved learning about the give and take between PLL and Ms. Paula when it came to changes to the outline. Also, Ms. Paula is a BEAST when it comes to writing. Seriously, I am in awe of her stamina. I also really enjoyed that PLL gave her little “homework” assignments in the beginning, such as character interviews and analyses of scary books. (Oh, and the big question about Venom‘s six-figure deal is answered as well.)

The big takeaway for me was a truth that Ms. Paula eloquently summed up in our email exchange, which she has allowed me to quote directly. The underlined sentences are my favorite bit.

In the end I get that a lot of people wouldn’t want to do work-for-hire and I would NEVER advocate it for anyone if it meant putting their own writing on hold, but I managed to do both so it felt beneficial without hindering my dreams. It’s a pretty common business model though … and I felt the need to speak up for that part of it. We writers aren’t talentless hacks who can’t make it on our own or schmoes being victimized by corporations. We’re just people who like to write and so why not get paid for freelance stuff along with doing our own things?

Take some time and check out both parts of the Q&A and let me know what you all think. And if you’re interested in reading more about work-for-hire, check out the the final part of Ms. Paula’s series, where she helps readers figure out whether work-for-hire is right for them. It’s a great list, and she has a whole slew of links at the bottom for further reading.


My Very First Book Signing (+ Giveaway!)

At some undisclosed time in the last month, I went to my very first book signing. Actually, it was an entire festival settled in the heart of downtown next to the biggest park in the city. There were free books (to kids and teens only, so I didn’t qualify), food, and music everywhere. It was amazing. The organizers of the festival had also gathered together over dozens of authors, both traditionally pubbed and self-pubbed, to sign books and sell their wares.


I went with my sister Sunny and her friend Emily. We were ladies on a mission, as there were two authors in particular that we wanted to be sure to meet. Ally Carter and Gail Carson Levine were in town. Sunny was especially excited, as Ally Carter is her favorite author of all time. Before arriving, she was talking about pictures she had seen and said breathlessly, “She intimidates me, and yet she feels like my best friend.” Yeah, she’s one of those fans. [For Sunny’s take on the festival, check out her blog on Friday for her own post and giveaway.]

At the festival, every “big name” author is given a tent where they’re allowed to talk about their book and answer questions for a half hour or so. Then they and all their fans march over to the signing tent in the middle of the festival. Fans are allowed to have up to three books signed per author and have pictures taken with them. Despite running late due to a slight hitch with the parking (there wasn’t a single open parking spot anywhere near the festival), we three girls managed to snag a row in the fourth row of Ally Carter’s tent. We were pretty pleased.

In due time, the tent filled up impressively, so Ms. Carter had a decent crowd of people waiting for her. Middle school and high school girls made up the bulk of the audience, but the parents seemed just as engaged, and there were even some boys!

I’m pleased to announce that Ms. Carter is just as funny and charming as I had hoped she would be. She stated at the very beginning of her time that she wanted to skip over all the “boring parts” and go straight to the Q&A, because that was the fun part. So we did! And wow, what fun that was. Here’s some of what we learned:

  • Ms. Carter says that she first got into writing when she was sixteen and found out that S.E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, was from Tulsa (Ms. Carter lived just outside Tulsa) and was sixteen as well. She said she thought that’s what girls from Tulsa were supposed to do – write books and have them turned into movies starring Tom Cruise – so that’s what she started to do. It was also the first time it really clicked for her that books weren’t just written by dead European guys.
  • When asked which genre she would write if she couldn’t write contemporary. Ms. Carter said that at one point she seriously toyed with writing a western. (Let me add that I would totally buy a Carter western.)
  • However, she thinks she’ll always stick with contemporary, as that’s where her strengths lie.
  • Then she joked that really her genre is “unrealistic realistic fiction” and that it’s “a genre of one!”
  • Several people asked about crossovers (a la Double Crossed) and character spinoffs. Ms. Carter says she hasn’t ruled anything out. We all cheered at the possibility of a Mr. Solomon-at-Blackthorne spinoff.
  • The same old question of a HS or GG movie came up, and Ms. Carter stated once again that she would love a movie, but that she has no control over whether one is made. She did however state that if she had to cast Cammie or Kat right this second, she’d pick Emma Stone (her “spirit animal”) or Anna Kendrick, as she loves them both, and used that to prove how hard it is to cast characters when the actors keep aging.
  • Ms. Carter was pretty tight-lipped about Gallagher Girl 6, but she did joke about killing off characters. Then she backtracked and said she shouldn’t, because she joked about Zach’s funeral at one signing and made a little girl cry.
  • She also mentioned that GG6 has a shirtless Mr. Solomon scene AND a shirtless Zach scene. She said she loved the Zach scene, because it involved her two loves: shirtless hot guys and bacon.
  • She’s had a really hard time with finding a title for GG6. So far, she has a list of 50 or so, “each worse than the one before it.” If she had her way, she’d title it Gallagher Girls 6: Yeah, This Is the Last One.
  • In a rather uncomfortable (but funny) moment, an old lady in the back asked if Ms. Carter had seen the GG6 cover and if it involved a shirtless Zach. (Everyone cheered.) Ms. Carter said she had seen it, and that it featured a Gallagher Girl in a graduation gown. (Everyone awwwed nostalgically.)
  • Someone else asked if GG6 would provide any background dirt on Aunt Abby and Agent Townsend. Ms. Carter said yes, but probably not what we were thinking. We would get more dirt on Agent Townsend, but on his life before Gallagher Academy in general, rather than his life regarding Aunt Abby.
  • She also said that she would be tempted to write an Abby/Townsend spinoff story, as they crack her up.
  • She ALSO let it slip that there would be a scene in GG6 involving a protest outside the U.N. headquarter in New York.
It was a really great talk, and I was sorry when it ended. Not so sorry, however, that I didn’t grab the other girls and power-walk my way to the signing tent. I was a little worried about how the signing would go down, because the signing tent was right next to the tent where books were being sold in case you forgot to bring a copy. The tent that was being manned by my coworkers. The ones who don’t know – can’t know! – that I’m a blogger. That was a wee bit nerve-wracking. However, the book-selling tent was so busy and the festival was so noisy that I wasn’t noticed.
I went first at Sunny and Emily’s insistence. They wanted a little more time to gather their thoughts. I was nervous too, because I had brought a present for Ms. Carter. On Twitter, she had mentioned how she liked thinking of the scene in Heist Society where Kat finds W.W. Hale shirtless in his Superman pajama bottoms, and how it was okay for her to crush on her teen character, because she pictures him as Chris Pine. I decided to give her a little inspiration for the next Heist Society book and hopefully make her laugh.
She liked it.

Ms. Ally signed all of our books and took pictures with everyone, which was amazing. There were a bunch of people in line, and she could have refused pictures, but she didn’t. I thought Sunny was going to pass out. It was an amazing experience, but the day wasn’t over yet!
Next, we went to Gail Carson Levine’s tent. The audience was pretty sparse, but only because GCL had already given one talk earlier in the day. I didn’t recognize her and didn’t realize the tiny little woman sitting across the aisle from me was THE Gail Carson Levine! If I had, I totally would have said hi. Instead, I moved into her seat when she went to the stage.
During her time, GCL did some readings out of a few of her books. She read pieces out of Dave At Night and her fairy books, including a scene where a baby’s laugh flies to Neverland and becomes a fairy. She also sang a snippet of mermish, which is made entirely of vowels. It was pretty funny.
My favorite part, however, was learning about her book of mean poems. She read a few, all of which were based off a famous false apology poem by William Carlos Williams. I loved the poem from Red Riding Hood’s grandmother to the Big Bad Wolf, basically saying “Better her than me!”
We also learned:
  • Dave at Night was based off of her father’s life as an orphan living in an orphanage. He never talked about his childhood, so she made up the story in honor of him after he died.
  • She was president of the Scribble Scrabble club in elementary school.
  • Her two favorite books as a child were Peter Pan and Anne of Green Gables.
  • Her most important reading experiences were when she was a child, so she writes kid lit in order to write back to that time in her life.
  • She often fights tooth-and-nail for the titles of her books.
  • She mentioned that one of the titles she had wanted for Ever was “Gone with the Wind,” which clearly wouldn’t have worked, so she didn’t fight for that one.
  • She loves names and puts a great deal of thought into character names.
  • For instance, A Tale of Two Castles is loosely based off of the French story of Puss in Boots, so all of the character names are French, including an ogre whose name means “gentleman.”
  • Hattie from Ella Enchanted was named for GCL’s Aunt Harriet, whom she hated.
  • She could get away with naming a character after Aunt Harriet, because Aunt Harriet was dead, which is helpful when plotting revenge.
  • She has published 20 books.
  • Book 21 is in the process of being published and is her second book of writing tips for kids.
  • Book 22 will hopefully be called “Stolen Magic.”
  • She’s also working on a sequel for A Tale of Two Castles and had to take a break from it for a month, because it was giving her fits.
  • She also wants to put together a book of food puns, such as “What’s a plumber’s favorite vegetables? Leeks.”
GCL and Emily

After getting our books signed by GCL (I had her sign The Two Princesses of Bamarre and Cinderellis and the Glass Hill), we went inside the nearby conference center to get a drink of water. We met an adorable self-pubbed author to whom I’d like to give a shout-out. Her name is Jennifer Martinez, and she’s the author of Don’t Kill Dinner, a NA/adult book about a vampire in New Orleans, and the upcoming novel Blossom, which is a YA book about a girl who discovers she’s a Fae princess.

Neither of these books are my taste, BUT Ms. Martinez was professional, friendly, and rockin’ a killer ‘do, so I though the least I could do is give her a boost. If you want to learn more about Ms. Martinez and her books, check her out at her website and her Twitter page.

The day was winding down, and we had to head home. We were headed out to the car when we passed Ally Carter. I’m pretty sure I bruised due to the number of times Sunny rammed her knuckles into the flesh of my upper arm.

To quote as verbatim as possible: “It’s her! It’s her! It’s her! Oh, my abs tightened. Everything tightened. I almost peed my pants. Can we follow her?”

Emily and I dragged her in the opposite direction, and we went home happy and content. Except Sunny, who still wanted to give Ally Carter a hug.

To celebrate my very first book signing and author face-to-face, I’m giving away one of the books I had signed at the festival. Specifically, I am giving away a brand-new, SIGNED copy of Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter.

Sadly, given shipping costs, this giveaway will be USA only. I’m so sorry, International followers. I do love you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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