Thursday, January 31, 2013

A peak inside the Love Triangle Rule Book

Are you currently in the middle of reading a series (or several) that has a Love Triangle? Are you worried about which guy the heroine is going to choose in the end? Does this wondering keep you up at night? Well I'm about to help you figure out the answer to your question, with a peak at five of the rules listed in the super secret Love Triangle Rule Book. Every author has a copy, and now you do too. 

Of course there is always the contrary author who doesn't like to Follow The Rules. But for the majority of YA books written, there is a clear way to determine how a Love Triangle is going to progress, and who is going to end up with whom. This information works best with the Paranormal Romance genre, but is applicable to essentially all speculative fiction - dystopian, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. Contemporaries are less predictable, but generally they don't drag out Love Triangles to the degree of multi-book series.

I'm also aware that not all Love Triangles involve two guys and one girl, and some progress very differently. There are even reverse love triangles, and other love shapes. If you want to know about love squares and other geometric shapes, visit Jen @ YA Romantic's awesome post on The New YA Love Geometry. (It includes graphs!) Obviously, you'll have to adapt these rules to those situations, accordingly. 

I will use the following key: 

Heroine - the person at the point of the triangle 
First Love - the person the heroine falls for first after the book begins
Other Guy - the second person in the love triangle

Rule #1. The rule of firsts - In 95% of Love Triangle series you read, the Heroine will end up with her First Love, i.e. the first guy she falls* in love with once the book begins, which is most often also her first love. You will avoid most Love Triangle confusion by remembering this rule.

*The falling in love part is important. If for some reason the Heroine is already in a relationship with someone when the book begins, don't get too attached. He is not likely to last for long. However, if the Heroine is already in love with - but not dating - her best guy friend when the story starts, he has more of a chance of sticking around. 

Rule #2 If you are reading a multi-book series and the first book ends happily between the Heroine and her First Love, expect that they will be torn apart in some way in the second book. Authors must keep up the tension! Sometimes that means distance or misunderstanding, or a love triangle. The difficult problem for authors is adding in these elements and making them feel necessary and not like filler. (This is actually a general rule for multi-book series, but can be added to specifically fit Love Triangles).

Rule #3 If you are reading a three book series and the first book ends happily between the Heroine and her First Love, but there is an interested third party, you can be fairly certain that the interested person will become the Other Guy in the Love Triangle. Learn to spot these potential interlopers, but remember rule #1 and don't get too attached to the Other Guy. 

Rule #4 If you are reading a three book Love Triangle series and the Heroine ends up firmly with the Other Guy by the end of the second book, expect that everything will be reversed in the final story. This almost certainly means that the Heroine will end up back with her First Love by the conclusion of the series.  This is when it is especially important not to forget Rule #1.

Rule #5 If a Love Triangle enters a story because it looks like there is some HUGE reason that the Heroine and her First Love can't be together, don't panic. This technique is being used to throw you off. Everything will end happily for the Heroine and her First Love by the conclusion of the series.

I know what you're thinking: If there are exceptions to the rules, maybe the book I'm reading is going to be the time that everything is different. I still wonder that for many books I read, and it's certainly possible. But it is also rare, so don't pin your hopes (or fears) on that unlikely scenario. 

Of course I have tons of examples of books that fit each rule, and even a few exceptions. But unfortunately, sharing them would be a spoiler. 

Any more rules you know of? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Conspiracy of Kings

by Megan Whalen Turner
Read: December 25-28, 2012
Published: March 23, 2010 by Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins 
Source: Library book
Category: Fantasy 
Series: The Queen's Thief book 4

NOTE: A Conspiracy of Kings is the fourth book in The Queen's Thief series. If you have yet to start the series, see my spoiler free thoughts on the first two books, HERE. My review for the third book, The King of Attolia is HERE

Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father's villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. 

In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. 
Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever. (from Goodreads)

I know that many people do not love this book as much as the previous three, because the focus of the story shifts from Eugenides to Sophos. But for me, A Conspiracy of Kings is where Megan Whalen Turner's vision for her Queen's Thief series reaches new heights of brilliance. What Turner does not do is follow a set form for her stories, instead she employs whatever means she feels is necessary to unfold her tale. Eugenides narrated The Thief in first person; The Queen of Attolia switched to third person limited and rotated between Gen and a few other characters, while The King of Attolia was mostly written in the point of view of Costis, a palace guard. Each perspective adds another layer of complexity to this world and the people that inhabit it. Especially the character of Eugenides. That is no truer than in A Conspiracy of Kings, where the series returns to first person, and we finally learn what has happened to Sophos since we met him in The Thief

I enjoyed getting Sophos' story. He is so very endearing and much more open and transparent than the ever whiney and crafty, Gen (my love for Eugenides knows no bounds, btw). Poor Sophos can't catch a break. All he wants to do is sit in a library and learn, but he is first in line to the throne in Sounis, and his father has very specific ideas about his education. Unfortunately, none of those ideas involve books. When armed men swarm the villa where Sophos lives with his mother and sisters, his life veers even more off course. 

In A Conspiracy of Kings, we get to see Sophos grow into a man, and in true Turner fashion, the process is painful at times. But it also gave me a great sense of pride in Sophos. What is fantastic about this book is that as I followed Sophos' journey, including his triumphs and failures, I could tangibly see him begin to understand his own strength and power. As he started to believe in himself, he became a great leader. And he did it all without loosing the person that he was to begin with. I am constantly in awe of Turner’s ability to develop her characters through moments that are both small and subtle and vastly important.

However, A Conspiracy of Kings is not just Sophos' story. Although the majority of the book is about him, it is also another piece of an enormous puzzle that Turner is constructing out of these characters and their world. Even in this book, it is clear that Gen is at its heart. What is most fun is seeing Eugenides, Irene, Helen and Sophos all together.  Each is amazing in his or her own right, and they are all very different from each other. But I can’t even describe the force that they are together. Book by book I've soaked up the new perspectives I've gotten of each of them, and especially Gen. I cannot wait to see what they accomplish next.

Cliffhanger Scale: Low (But huge hints of what is to come.)
Love Triangle Factor: None

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish

Top Ten Most Frustrating (or Strangle Worthy*) Characters Ever

Some of these people I could not connect with on a fundamental level, some were adorably insane, some I wanted to give a hug and a good slap, and a few I went from loathing to loving so fast that they threw me completely off course.  

1) KELSEY from the The Tiger Saga by Colleen Houck. I'm honestly embarrassed that I made it through 4 books in this series, mostly due to a LOVE TRIANGLE OF DOOM and the girl caught in the center of the madness. This is actually a direct quote from my review of Tiger's Destiny: "I did not like this book. And it all comes down to the fact that I LOATHED the heroine Kelsey." 

2) EMBER from Article 5 by Kristen Simmons. Despite a pretty cool name, this girl and I did not get a long. According to my review on Goodreads, "She made poor decisions, had no ability to read people or the situations around her and generally drove me insane." I honestly have no idea why Chase worked so hard to save her. I've actually requested the second book Breaking Point from the library to see if she gets any better. But I'm not sure I can face her again. 

3) CLARA from the Unearthly Series by Cynthia Hand. Up until a few weeks ago, she would be on my list of favorites. Let's just say that Clara and I never arrived on the same page in Boundless. It's not who she picked, but how she went about it that greatly disappointed me. If you want to know why, read my review

4) BECKY BLOOMWOOD from Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. After reading SIX books staring this chick, I can pretty safely say that she is never going to change. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry, she gets her self in situations that you would never imagine could be possible, and she Never. Stops. Shopping. I will probably read her next book too. 

5 and 6) JUDE and SUE from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. Oh goodness, these two make an insane mess out of their lives. Nothing about this book is happy, and the end is probably the most tragic I have EVER read. 

7) EMMA, the character and book by Jane Austen. Such a well meaning girl, who couldn't see what was happening right in front of her face, or the man who would do anything for her. (Mr. Knightly you are amazing, as always.**)

8) RICHARD CARSTONE from Bleak House*** by Charles Dickens. Although charming and likable, he is so sure that he's going to win money in the never ending Jarndyce and Jarndyce case that he looses all ambition and essentially destroys himself.  (Dickens has many other fascinatingly frustrating characters.)

9) THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA from The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. (possible spoiler) Darn you Irene, my feelings for you were not very nice at all, and then one of my most beloved characters fell in love with you. Maybe it is him I should be frustrated with. Why can't I stay mad at you? 

10) WARNER from Shatter Me and Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. GO BACK TO BEING A VILLAIN and quit complicating everything. 

(Regarding my final two picks, see my post on Character Redemption)

What characters most frustrate you?

Don't miss my giveaway of 

*This is for you, LH.
** Dearest, April, I always think of you when I think of Mr. Knightly. I thought you'd like that :). 
***I know I've said it before, but if you don't think you can make it through this larger book (which is fantastic, by the way), don't miss the BBC mini-series of Bleak House. It's 9 hours of AMAZING. 

Monday, January 28, 2013


by Jennifer Rush
Read: January 24-25, 2013
Published: January 1st 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Library book
Category: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi, YA

When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them. 

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away. (From Goodreads)


I started Altered after a serious case of book burn, when I needed to read something fast paced and fun. Thankfully, that's exactly what I got from this book, as well as four genetically altered guys who are all channeling Jason Bourne. 

The set-up
Anna lives with her father in a farmhouse in rural New York. It's the type of place where nothing much happens, except that you never know what's going on below the surface. Literally. Underneath Anna's house is a lab where her father monitors and tests Nick, Cas, Trev and Sam, four boys that are being developed into super-soliders. But when the Branch - the organization funding the project - decides it's ready to use them, the boys decide that they're done being research. When the boys' plan to escape the lab escalates into violence, Anna is forced to flee with them. While on the run, they begin to piece together who they are and how they are all connected. (Adapted from the description above)

Anna is the narrator of the story. She lives with her dad, is home schooled and likes to draw. Her only peer interaction is with the four boys isolated below her house. It is no surprise then that she has grown attached to them (all but Nick, because she doesn't get along with him).  

Sam is the brooding leader.
Nick is angry and resentful.
Cas is a mix of easy going and ADHD.
Trev is the intellectual one.

While the guys are all different, most of what made them unique was fairly stereotypical and flat, and Anna read as extremely sheltered and vanilla when the story began. However, many details about the characters that I questioned at first, made a lot of sense eventually. I also think that the fact that the boys were all suffering from amnesia and had no idea who they were and where they came from, plays into this. Thankfully, Altered is fast paced, and a few of the characters even surprised me along the way. Anna, especially, became more interesting as the story unfolded. I think (hope) that there will be more dynamic character growth in the next installment.  

Although I was immediately intrigued by why the boys were being isolated in an underground lab, with only a scientist and his daughter to monitor them, I had a lot of questions that made me worry that Altered would be riddled with plot holes. Thankfully, most of the elements that I was initially skeptical about, were clarified later on. Although I'm still a bit confused about the science behind the genetic alterations (aka 'how does it work?'), the story became more logical and complex as it went along. And though I do wish that the book had felt stronger from the beginning, the fact that it appeared weak at first, made me more impressed with later explanations. 

The romance
The love story is another piece of this book that I initially thought was weak. When Altered begins, the reader is told that Anna has already fallen for Sam. But because we were not shown the evolution of their attachment, it was hard to decipher why she chose him over the other three guys. Thankfully, the further I read in the story and the more I got to know the characters and their connections to each other, the more it made sense. Even so, the romance remains fairly subtle throughout Altered, which I always prefer for the beginning of a series. Although there are no triangles here, I can see the possibility that one could develop, or even another love shape could form in the next book. This makes me nervous, especially in light of my recent POSTS. But I'm fairly confident that those relationships will just add tension, and not be a problem in the long run.

The cover 
More than just a half-dressed boy, this cover is actually very meaningful to the story!

A note on the violence
The more horrific school shootings I hear about, the more uncomfortable I become with violence on TV and in books. Although it is clear that Altered is a work of fiction, the story does include teens who carry guns and kill 'bad guys.' I really enjoyed this book, but reading about characters shooting each other, especially when the book is set in the real world, has started to make me slightly uneasy. This is in no way a critique of story, but more a personal discussion that I've been having with myself. It is also a note for younger readers that there are a few scenes when multiple people are shot and killed. 

I picked up Altered because I was looking for a light story with lots of action and some romance. Thankfully, that is exactly what I got. Although some details of the plot appeared to be weak at first, the more revelations these characters uncovered, the stronger the story became. Even better, Altered quietly asks some complex questions, especially regarding its characters and their relationships. I'm really looking forward to what happens next. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - Altered wraps itself up nicely while leaving room for future books. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Blog Design

I am very excited to be revealing my new blog design by the amazing Paige @ Paige by designTHANK YOU, PAIGE! 

I'd also like to thank my dear sister, Allison @ Whatever the Circumstances who told me about Paige, and gifted me the free blog design that she won: LOVE YOU, SIS. 

If I'm being honest, I was really nervous about having my blog redesigned. I knew that I wanted my blog to have a certain feel, and that I wanted it to visually say "this is a book blog." However, I am not artistically inclined at all, and had no idea what that would mean practically. I also worked for several years in the marketing department at a museum that had a very specific brand, and am quite familiar with the fact that it is difficult to articulate verbally what you want someone to create for you visually. It can be a frustrating and time consuming process when their vision is not your own. 

Thankfully, Paige got what I was looking for right away, and she turned it into a design that was even BETTER than anything I could have imagined. You're AMAZING, Paige!

Please bear with us over the next day or so as we make a few last updates to my new 'look.'

Friday, January 25, 2013

Avoiding Book Burn + Giveaway

Last week I read a book that I'd been anticipating for nearly a year. It was the end of a series that I had loved, which is why when the finale didn't exactly live up to my expectations, I was extremely disappointed. That got me thinking about what I could do to avoid feeling such an intense case of book burn again - besides not getting so emotionally attached to my characters, because I don't think it's possible to give that up. 

I came up with two main reasons for my book burn. 

1) The series featured a love triangle. I've come to the realization that it is not the first book in a series but the last, which can really make or break an entire triangle for me. I don't mean WHO the person ends up with, but HOW it all plays out at the end. Plus, you all know how I feel about them to begin with. 

2) The longer I wait between books, the higher are my expectations. The more time I have to wait between series books, the greater time I have to analyze  and anticipate what is to come next. If I read series books close together, I tend to just enjoy them and not over think about what I expect to happen in future books. 

How do I avoid future book burn? 

1) I am done with love triangles. I know I can't completely avoid triangles, because sometimes they pop up unexpectedly. But I don't plan on starting any more series where the description explicitly - or implicitly -  says that the main character is 'torn between two people,' unless a trusted friend has read the book and told me that the description is misleading.

2) I will wait to start new series until multiple books are released. This was already a bookish resolution of mine this year, but I'm even more determined to be much more selective about starting new series. I prefer to read series in larger chunks anyway, but it will also help me get a feel for the series from others before I invest in it. I know I won't completely stop this practice, but I do want to be more careful about what I pick up.

How do you benefit?
I am cleansing my shelf of love triangle books that I don't plan to read. 

I am giving away an ARC of Masque of the Red Death* 
(No, this is not the love triangle series I mentioned above.)
(No, my business cards have nothing to do with this, except to show you how serious I'm getting about my dislike of love triangles. Also I'm excited because they arrived today!)

Giveaway is for US or Canada residents only (sorry other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE

*The book is new, but does have a small crease in the upper right corner of the cover, just in case that will bother you. 

SUMMER SERIES CHALLENGE: Are you in the middle of several series that you've yet to complete, although all the books are released? Are there any finished series that you'd like to tackle in one chunkStay tuned for details on my upcoming series challenge.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ethan: A Brightest Kind of Darkness novella

by P.T. Michelle
Read: January 19-20, 2013
Published: January 11, 2013 by the author
Source: Gift from the author*
Category: Paranormal Romance, YA
Series: Brightest Kind of Darkness, prequel

Ethan Harris never thought monsters and darkness would consume his daily thoughts, but every night the same visions repeat in his dreams. He’s careful to project a semblance of normalcy, keeping the suffocating darkness locked inside. As much as he wishes he could focus on girls, sports, and cars like other seventeen-year-olds; nothing distracts him from his own demons or shines through.

Until Nara Collins crosses his path. The blonde fascinates and intrigues him, giving him a measure of peace he’s never felt before.

When Ethan discovers there’s more to Nara than she allows others to see, that she might have a unique secret of her own, suddenly his world comes into focus.

Note: Ethan is a novella PREQUEL to Brightest Kind of Darkness. This story will give some of Ethan’s background and lead up until the day he tells Nara there’s a bomb in the school. (From Goodreads)

Because Brightest Kind of Darkness and Lucid are both written from Nara's point of view, we've only ever seen Ethan from her perspective. Ethan has an edginess about him that Nara senses but never quite grasps, and it was difficult to fully understand what that meant without getting inside of his head for ourselves. After doing just that in Ethan, the novella that bears his name, I feel like I'm able to see him much more clearly. Now I am an even bigger fan of Ethan than I was before. 

Ethan is the definition of a tortured soul. He is haunted by frightening nightmares that are  beginning to seem real; he has started developing abilities that he cannot explain; and he is estranged from his parents, who haven't even tried to understand what is happening to him. He doesn't like to let anyone close to him, because he can't even explain to himself all the crazy things going on in his head. Physical contact with people also make him uncomfortable, so he has closed himself off to nearly everyone around him. But Ethan is an observer who is emotionally in tune with the world around him, although he tries to stay invisible from it. He is also deeply compassionate and not afraid to help those in need, whether it be humans or animals. There is one particular scene in this novella that happens at the animal shelter where Ethan volunteers, that had me in tears, because of the depth of his compassion. 

Ethan also gives us a glimpse at how he sees Nara. It is immediately clear that there is something more than attraction that connects them, and I am eager to find out more about what that means for Nara in Destiny, the third book in the series. Despite the questions I still have about Ethan, and the darkness that he believes surrounds him, it is obvious how good his heart is. 

Ethan is a fantastic edition to the Brightest Kind of Darkness series, and can be read before you start the series, or at any point during it. Don't miss this look into Ethan's mind and heart. 

Cliffhanger Scale: Series prequel. Events take place before, and lead up to the start of Brightest Kind of Darkness.
Love Triangle Factor: None 

KISS OF FIRE ~ Cover Reveal and Giveaway

by Rebecca Ethington 

Joclyn Despain has a scar. In fact, it is almost like a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why it appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.

The scar is the reason she is being hunted.

If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.

Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; but he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

Find Rebecca Ethington...

Books Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

GIVEAWAY: Paperback copies (US ONLY) of Kiss of Fire and Eyes of Ember, or, if you live outside the US and you win this giveaway, you will automatically win ebook copies. :) 

Good luck! 

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