Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Loving Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre holds rank as one of my very favorite writers of romantic science fiction in the form of her Sirantha Jax series. She also writes the unique and refreshing urban fantasy series titled the Corine Solomon series that begins with the novel Blue Diablo. In addition, Ann writes paranormal romance as Ava Gray, of which her first novel titled Skin Game is to be released on November 3, 2009. While I have yet to write a review of one of Ann's books on my blog, I cannot emphasize enough how much I admire Ann and love her written work.

So how do I love Ann Aguirre? Let me count the ways.

1. Sirantha Jax.
2. Sirantha Jax.
3. Sirantha Jax.

(There's more, but these three are my favorite ways.)

The Sirantha Jax series is a romantic science fiction series that follows the adventures and misadventures of Sirantha and her crew as they struggle to do the right thing as they jump through space on various missions and sometimes they aim just to stay alive. Sirantha is an invaluable resource throughout the universe as she carries an extremely rare gene that allows her to be the tool to literally jump a ship through space, traveling unfathomable distances in short amounts of time. She can't jump alone, however. She needs to be jacked in with a capable pilot whom she trusts in order to jump successfully.

When the reader first meets Jax in Grimspace, she's sitting in a jail cell, numb from loss and uncertain of her fate. As the sole survivor in a horrific crash, she's lost her entire crew, including her pilot, friend and lover, Kai. She doesn't remember the crash, and is being blamed for the crash and consequently the deaths of important officials whom she was transporting for the Corp when they crashed. A small rogue faction breaks her out of jail on the condition that she be their jumper for their mission to overthrow the Corp. Of course, the rogues are not completely forthcoming with the details of their mission until she's jumping for them, but needless to say, she's jumped feet first, so to speak, to the point of no return.

So what exactly is it about Sirantha Jax that makes me stumble over my words when I want to articulate how this character moves me? As I read the Sirantha Jax novels, I feel Jax more than see her. She's like a bundle of complex, often dichotomous emotions that play into my own. She starts out numb, cold, selfish, rash and even hostile. For someone who has the ability to jump all over the universe, she doesn't know a whole lot about the world. In the company of the rogues, however, she gets a crash course, so to speak. Jax slowly begins to thaw and mature as she gets to know and care about her crew and their mission. She starts to learn to trust, care and even love, sometimes resulting in the most unlikely of friendships. She starts to recognize her ability to and the opportunity to do something to make a positive influence in the universe. Disaster still seems to follow in her wake, but she becomes more admirable and heroic as the series progresses. To make things more interesting and complex, her pilot and lover in the series--March, is as much her opposite as he is her match. Almost extremely so by the end of Wanderlust, which has made the anticipation of Doubleblind doubly intense. Thankfully the wait is over. Doubleblind releases today--September 29, 2009 and I've already scored my copy!

Even if you don't think you like science fiction, the Sirantha Jax series will change your mind. The world is smart, creative, and complex--yet never confusing. The characters are flawed, but genuine and realistic. The story is full of political intrigue, controversial scientific advancements, and even issues of equality among the species. There are intense action sequences, shocking plot twists, and emotional impact when least expected. And there is a love story that is crucial to the emotional development of the Jax and March, but is seamlessly written within the story as a very natural extension to the relationship between pilot and jumper, friends and lovers. It's almost subtle. But it's not. Just read the series yourself and see what I'm talking about.

Visit Ann Aguirre at her website at http://www.annaguirre.com and at her blog at http://www.annaguirre.com/blog/.

On a side note, I was invited to write a guest column for the October edition of Ann Aguirre's monthly newsletter Action and Attitude. In my column, I discuss why I read YA and how it was my gateway genre to reading across the spectrum of romance and fantasy fiction genres I do today. You can download the newsletter by subscribing to Ann's Google group or directly from her website at http://www.annaguire.com/touch/. Please check it out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Library Loot IV

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. FYI, this week's Mr.Linky is at Marg's.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan is a young adult novel that I probably would have skipped right over if not for the glowing review I read by both Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers a few weeks ago. The cover didn't necessarily grab my attention and the book blurb sounded a bit generic to me. In The Book Smugglers' joint "What She Said" review, however, both reviewers were so clearly impressed with the author's ability to write such a compelling story about a truly dark, distant character that obviously affected Ana and Thea immensely. Obviously, I just have to read it now.

One For the Money by Janet Evanovich.
A Stephanie Plum Novel, Book 1

I've heard so much about these Stephanie Plum books for so long and always wanted to check them out for myself. I hear the books are really fun and the series takes place in right here in New Jersey, USA. I'm hoping that that familiarity will add to my enjoyment of the book and not detract from it. I know it's fiction and all for fun, but I hope the Jersey stereotypes aren't overboard. That'll just drive me nuts. ;)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Moment to Remember

Just taking a moment to remember this day eight years ago when so many innocent lives were unjustly taken due to the tragic events that unfolded on the morning of September 11, 2001. My thoughts are especially with my neighbor and her three young sons as they lost a husband and father that day, but also with the other families in my town and those in the many surrounding communities who lost loved ones, as well as with our entire nation as we still mourn the losses that can never be repaired or replaced.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I did over my summer vacation . . .

Today is the last day of summer in our little world as my girls go back to school tomorrow. My youngest is entering 5th grade--her last year in elementary school. My adorable baby. A fifth grader. And don't even get me started on the other one. My oldest is off to high school! High School?! I can't believe it. I grew her in my womb! Nourished her at my breast. And then in the blink of an eye, she's this beautiful young woman going off to high school! Poof! Just like that.

Whereas most of our summer was just how I like it--quiet, low key, relaxing, and lazy--parts were also exciting and adventurous.

Like going on an African Safari!
National Geographic is sure to be knocking on my door once they get wind of these . . .

Check out the eye contact I got with this cat! Scary!

Nothing like a nice mud bath to help you cool off in the heat of the day.

I think they spotted dinner? Left overs again.

Those wart hogs aren't interested in left overs. They're looking for something fresh!

Okay, okay, the truth is we went on safari at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Ha, ha. Did I fool you?

I just love the American Museum of Natural History and the newer Rose Center for Earth and Space that's attached to the museum. My first time visiting the Natural Museum of History was on a class trip when I was in the 4th grade, and quite frankly, I'm still in awe of the place to this day. The museum is so old and beautiful and the Rose Center for Earth and Space is fantastic. I love all the exhibits at both places and the IMAX films at Rose Center. I always learn something new.

This photo was taken from inside the Rose Center for Earth and Space:

We also journeyed to the center of the Earth World New York City!

In other words, we spent a day exploring Central Park in Manhattan on hot day in July. I've been to Central Park before, but I've always just been on the fringe of the park at the Central Park Zoo and along the upper west side along Central Park West and 59th St. I always wanted to see more of this huge and amazing park, so we did, but only covered about half of the park in one day, and even then, we didn't see everything there is. It's really an incredible park, and I had fun shooting photos while we were there.

What else? I rode 75 miles on my new road bike! It was over the course of two weeks, but still. Thanks to my husband, I have this awesome new road bike --it's actually a Quintano Roo entry level triathlon bike-- and I've been going on road rides ranging from 7 miles to 17 miles every few days. Between road rides a couple of times a week and continuing with spin classes at the gym, I'm hoping to do some 30-60 mile bike rides on the weekends next summer. It's very exciting.

I also broke some personal records this summer that I'm very excited about. For starters, I broke my own reading record in August when I read THIRTEEN books in one month! My average is 4-5 books per month, so I was so excited to have read thirteen. I wasn't even trying, it just happened.

The other personal record that I broke was my summer attendance at the gym. I work out at a gym regularly throughout the year from September through June, averaging 4-5 days a week (I love Zumba, spin, and kick boxing)! and for the last several years have only gone maybe 2-3 times in the whole month of July and not at all by the time the lazy days of August rolled around. Until this past summer, that is. This summer, I continued working out 3-5 days a week at the gym both July AND August. Except for one week during which I had hurt my back, but that was injury related, so I'm claiming excused absence. I'm so proud of myself for staying dedicated to exercise this summer.

My teen daughter made the High School Volleyball Team! She attended volleyball camp and clinics over the summer with plans of trying out for the high school volleyball team and she did it! She's been having 3-4 hours of practices every day for the last two weeks or so and has her first scrimmage game this evening--and school hasn't even started yet! This is going to be a great experience for her. Dance has pretty much monopolized her recreational activities since she was four years old, and she's been on the dance studio's dance competition team for the last four years, so participating in a team sport is so new and exciting for her. She's not giving up dance entirely. She's going to take a few classes a week after volleyball is over in November, but she won't be spending 14 hours a week there like she's been doing the past few years. Only six.

My tween daughter (10 year old) mastered the FIOS remote and menu!
PLUS, she may have set the record for watching the most Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez TV shows, movie specials, and YouTube Videos over and over and over.
And a healthy dose of Taylor Swift, as well. (I love her!)

She's also a voracious reader and has been reading the entire Harry Potter series on her own since we saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in the movies earlier this summer. She's reading that book now. She also spent countless hours at the computer typing away on her own stories. She's very creative. I sometimes help her pick out names for her characters, or names of towns, schools, teachers, things like that. She also had a lot of sleepovers with her friends throughout the summer. So cute.

Other highlights of our summer include continuing to settle into the house after the construction. (Still waiting to pass final inspections. Grr!) I finally finished putting curtains up in the whole house, which was quite the feat. All that measuring, buying rods, curtains and blinds, installing them, . . . phew! That was a big job, but everything looks great. I've also enjoyed getting my cooking groove back over the summer. I really love my new kitchen---everything including the kitchen sink! I love our master bedroom, too! Sometimes I don't want to leave it in the morning. Seriously. And the master bathroom. Ahhh . . . so nice. We also caught up with a lot of friends this summer-- some whom we see regularly during the year and others whom we haven't seen in a long time like one of my college roommates who I saw last week for the first time in 14 years! That was really wonderful.

As you can see, we really did have a fairly quiet, low key, relaxing summer with a little bit of excitement and adventure thrown in. So as another summer comes to a close and a new school year begins, it's time for morning alarm clocks, packing lunches, keeping tabs on homework, driving kids all around town, enforcing bedtimes, setting curfews and looking forward to Friday nights. Life is good.

What were some of the highlights of your summer?

Monday, September 7, 2009

REVIEW: Open Season by Linda Howard

Published in 2001

Open Season is one of the books I brought home from the library last week upon a recent recommendation from Nath at Books, Books and More Books and other romance reading friends, so I decided to give it a go.

Open Season is a stand alone contemporary romantic suspense novel.

Daisy Minor is the town librarian and lives a quiet, simple life. She's 34 years old and still rather inexperienced with men and hasn't had a date in years. Still living at home with her widowed mother and aunt, Daisy decides to put an end to her boring, lonely life and makes some changes in order to be more independent and accessible to single men. Essentially, she declares it open season for hunting for a husband. She finds a small cottage to rent across town and with the help of a seemingly gay antiques dealer and friend, Daisy gets a makeover including a new hair color and cut, a new wardrobe and a new passion for line dancing.

Before even having made these exciting changes, the local police chief, Jack Russo shows up at the library a couple of times for assistance and on both occasions, they frazzle each others nerves, yet there's a subtle attraction between them nonetheless.

After her makeover, Daisy sets out on the weekends for evenings of line dancing and meeting men. Heads are definitely turning her way now, and she is drawing the attention of all sorts of men at the bar, including those with nefarious plans. Trouble seems to follow Daisy, and she barely manages to sidestep being the victim in a seriously disturbing crime ring that's taking place within the community that deals with date rape drugs and the sale of young, foreign teenagers who are being sneaked into the country and sold to rich perverts and gangs.

As Daisy and Jack continue to bump heads, the sexual tension between them increases, and then when Daisy witnesses something that puts her life in danger, Jack realizes his interest in her is deeper than just a fling, and in fact, he's falling for her. Daisy doesn't think Jack is her type and accuses him regularly at foiling her plans for finding herself a husband, all the while she's falling for him as well. Daisy may have declared it open season for husband hunting, but it's quite clear she already caught the right one from their first encounter at the library. No one she meets is as exhilarating or as comfortable as Jack. No one makes her feel as safe and as cherished as Jack. Daisy may have declared it open season for husband hunting, but it's quite clear she's already caught the right one for her right from the beginning.

The romance between Daisy and Jack is fun and sweet. Although at first I found Daisy's inexperienced librarian character too cliche, I couldn't help be entertained by her honest, open and somewhat naive approach to the world as she explores her independence. She has such verve for life and her desire for a simple, happy life full of love and laughter. She effortlessly drove Jack crazy and I appreciated the ease at which he came to realize that she drove him crazy in a good way and that it made him crave her company even more. Why wouldn't he? She's kind hearted, honest, adorable and fun! There's never a dull moment with Daisy.

The suspense plot of Open Season is based on a serious and disturbing crime ring involving date rape drugs and the sale of young, illegal immigrant women that felt a bit incongruous with the fun, light hearted nature of the romance plot. I also felt I couldn't quite take the suspense element seriously enough because the men organizing the crimes seemed so stupid and careless. I suppose one could argue that that's why they got caught in the end, but I still thought they were too stupid to have even taken the crimes as far as they did in the first place. I think the novel would have been more cohesive and realistic if the crimes were simply less severe in nature for this fun loving romance between Daisy and Jack. Despite these issues, however, Open Season is well worth the read due to Daisy Minor's high spirited, warm character and the amusing, sweet romance between her and Jack.

Overall, Open Season is an entertaining romantic suspense novel--the romance being this story's strength with generous doses of humor and tenderness that leads to a delightful story book happily ever after.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Library Loot III

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that I recently joined that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. FYI, this week's Mr.Linky is at Marg's.

To tell the truth, I didn't think I was going to borrow anything from the library this week. I'm currently in the middle of reading Branded By Fire by Nalini Singh--which is very, very good so far, by the way--- and then I'm anxious to start reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the very highly anticipated sequel to the amazing book The Hunger Games that I read and reviewed last October. I'm so excited that Catching Fire finally out and very thrilled to see it receiving rave reviews so far. Needless to say, I didn't think I'd have time to read a library book this week-- or next for that matter since the new school year starts up next week in my part of the world and that's always a busy time in our household. But I did have to go back to return Perfect Chemistry, anyway. And I couldn't just leave the library empty handed now, could I?

So here's my library loot:

Open Season by Linda Howard.

Even though this is a 2002 publication, Open Season still happens to come up in circles whenever someone blogs about all time favorite romances. Or when romance readers participate in a Re-Reading Challenge like the one Nath at Books, Books and More Books hosts. It seems I don't come across a lot of reviews for Linda Howard's novels, although the ladies at Book Binge are very good posting reviews of Howard's latest releases, but when someone does review a Linda Howard novel, everyone is a fan. Readers come out of the wood work commenting on their favorite scene in the book or what other Linda Howard novel is their favorite. So when I saw that Nath read and reviewed Open Season for her August Re-read Challenge, I thought it was time I check out this much loved Linda Howard novel. So I went to the library and literally . . . checked it out! The only copy my library had was the Large Print version and uh... when they say Large Print, they mean REALLY LARGE PRINT. I'm not so sure I like it and hope it doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of reading the book. It's kind of odd to read.

In the front vestibule of my library there's a bookshelf of used books for sale, proceeds from which benefit the Friends of the "my town's" Library Association, a group that sponsors all kinds of great programs at the library. I always check out the selection on this sale shelf because you never know what kind of bargain you'll find. Usually I forget to bring money and by the time I come back a few days later, the treasure that I spotted is gone already. But this time I was prepared and look what I found for 50 cents!

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.

This is a much loved and much talked about young adult novel that was originally published in 2004 and is the winner of several notable literary awards, including The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the ALA and The Guardian Award for Children's Fiction. The protagonist is a 15 year old girl named Daisy, a Manhattanite who is sent to the countryside of England to spend the summer with her cousins in a time in the not so distant future. When England is attacked by an unnamed enemy, the country goes to war and Daisy and her cousins are left to get by on their own. How I Live Now sounds like a tense and riveting story with life lessons on how teens view and deal with the realities and terrors of war and how it helps shape a self centered teen into a compassionate young woman. At least that's what it sounds like to me. I'll let you know what it's really like after I've read it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Very Own VERY FAKE Debut YA Book Cover

I noticed that most--or is it all? --of my last several posts have been about young adult fiction. I didn't really plan that. I've always been a fan of YA, and do regularly read novels of that genre, but I guess I read more YA than usual over the summer. Not to mention I find writing reviews for YA easier than non-YA fiction, so I just went with it.

I've also read a slew of other non-YA fiction this summer--in fact, it was my most productive summer reading yet! So if you want to know what I've been reading, I do keep a running list at the happily ever after . . . book archives. It's also a spot for me to keep notes on books before I get around to writing reviews. IF I ever get around to writing the reviews. ;) You can click on the link or click on the little graphic on my sidebar with the girl carrying the huge stack of books that looks like this -->

Now on to my debut YA book cover!

In my recent travels to one of my favorite YA book blogs, Tales of a Ravenous Reader, which happens to be my dear friend Nancy's very informative, very successful blog, I found this neat activity to create your own debut YA book cover. It looked like fun, so I gave it a go. Within 10 minutes, I had my very own, albeit very fake debut young adult book cover!

I confess that when I did the random name generator part, I must have hit refresh at least twenty times looking for a really catchy pen name, but in the end I kept the first one that came up. It was meant to be. Also, with the FlickerCC generator, I didn't use the first photo that came up because it was a picture of an adult male wearing only a sarong and I didn't think it was very YA, so I went with the second photo. I don't care if that's cheating, the second photo was perfect!

I think the title and cover art would be great for a young adult paranormal. Or maybe a novel about a troubled teen fighting depression or trying to overcome a tragedy in her life.

What do you think?

If you decide to do your own, be sure to let me know here so I can come by and check it out.

To create your own debut YA book cover, follow these directions:


1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or click http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/

The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or click http://www.websitestyle.com/parser/randomword.shtml

The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.

3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click http://flickrcc.bluemountains.net/index.php

Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 – Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.

5 – Post it to your site along with this text.