Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public Service Announcement

All you knitters and bloggers - Beware!

From the great site

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Twin Non-Laughter Twin Reviews: UF / PARANORMAL

BLOODY GOOD by Georgia Evans (Paranormal)
Book 1 in Brytewood Trilogy

DOOMSDAY CAN WAIT by Lori Handeland (Urban Fantasy)
Book 2 in Liz Phoenix Chronicles

1. Vampires collaborating with the Nazis parachute into rural WWII Britain, and it falls to the supernatural among the villagers to thwart their plans.

2. Bartender turned epic supernatural warrior seeks to avert the Apocalypse with help from like-minded beings.

1. Folkloric art reminiscent of Marc Chagall's style is oddly appealling. Title is a pun as well as pointing to British setting; Books 2 & 3 in the trilogy are 'BloodyAwful' and 'Bloody Right'.

2. Typical urban fantasy female protagonist cover: seen partly from the back, skin-baring top, jeans, equipped with a weapon, only thing missing is a tattoo. Nothing wrong with the art, but nothing distinctive, either. What is clever is the title; Book 1 was 'Any Given Doomsday' and Book 3 'Apocalypse Happens'.

What Works
1. Apprentice Writer has read a great deal of non-fiction about WWII; for obvious reasons, educators take the topic very seriously in Germany, where AW went to high school. She has not read much fiction, though, and that was from the civilian German population's point of view. So a story from a fictitious British civilian POV captured her interest. The descriptions of village life, with people pulling together to combat bombing damage, disruption of regular life due to influx of city dwellers escaping urband danger, and deprivations calling for a black market were evocative. Also enjoyable was the diversity of Others (as they are called in Brytewood) and how they are both forced to recognize their Otherness and reach out to one another despite ingrained habits of either denial or secrecy for the sake of self-preservation. Apart from the Teutonic vampires plus a homegrown one, there is a Dragon, a were-fox, a fairy, and some Pixies. How pixies are different from fairies, elves, or imps she still does not know; perhaps this is explored in future volumes.

2. AW is not very widely read in urban fantasy, and she enjoyed getting her feet more wet in the subgenre, getting to know the various beings, and learning how their individual gifts applied. In AW's opinion, UF authors are among the most imaginative people of all. Her favorite character in the story was a young lionesque shapeshifter whom the heroine hopes to recruit into her army of evil-opposers. His backstory is tragic and lonely, and the theme of oppression experienced due to otherness which he can't help meted out by closed-minded 'regular' people threatened by anyone different from them lent a kind of X-men flavor to the story.

What Doesn't
1. AW won both these titles through the collaborative generosity of and the authors. It is ironic that of all possible people, 'Bloody Good' went to someone who caught the German errors. Not a big deal, and AW actually gives full marks for effort of inclusion of the German snippets, but she made a mental note to herself to always (ALWAYS) have a native speaker check the complete sentences in future manuscripts because in many foreign languages, it is not enough to know the straight translation of the root word. It's correct conjugation may depend on grammatical context, identity of the speaker, and relationship to speakee.

There is much introspection on the part of the vampires as to their innate superiority. Consequently, it was puzzling why one would be defeated by an electric fence (given ability to fly) and the final battle seemed somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps the battles in future volumes will progress in intensity.

Finally, readers who like loose ends tied up may be frustrated that the explanation of why vampires would ally themselves with a political party is not answered in this volume.

2. This is Book 2 in the series. Though enough backstory was provided for AW to be able to follow along, there is one significant aspect where it is possible that beginning with Book 1 may have made her more willing to accept the worldbuilding altogether. As it was, disclosure of how the heroine gains additional powers released a near fatal 'Oh, come on, now' response.

MODERATE SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!(for Book 1; if you've read it you're safe)

Imagine, if you will, the standard methods of infection: airborne (as in the common cold), congenital (as in a mother passing HIV on to her unborn baby), introduction to bloodstream via transfusions, wounds, or needles inserted into veins (as in hepatitis), and sexual transmission. One guess as to how things work for Liz Phoenix.

Released all sorts of incredulous questions: does the power transfer still work if a barrier method of contraception is used? Does any type of sexual act qualify? What if the person hoping to gain powers is attracted to others of their own gender?
In the end, AW decided the answers didn't matter to her; willingness to suspend disbelief had been well and truly punctured.

END SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The heroine also tends to go on about her irritation that a male character (who is in himself fascinating) is involved with so many women. Not a characteristic AW finds appealling in a man, however at the same time that Liz is grousing about this she herself is involved with him as well as another supernatural male character. If it hadn't been for The Big Turnoff (described in spoiler), AW may have simply accepted Liz' blindness to her own hypocrisy as a human flaw. As it was, the combination proved too much for this reader.

1. An entertaining tale set in a fictitiously unusual time period.

2. For readers who can live with the heroine's method of self-improvement, this could well be an entertaining, action-packed series. Readers who can't may wish to seek urban fantasy set in other worlds.

Learn more about the authors here:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Author Interview - DIANA HOLQUIST

We interrupt this blog for an announcement: Apprentice Writer experienced technical difficulties today, delaying author interview festivities. We regret any inconvenience. As the web appears to have finished its hiccups, we rejoin our regularly scheduled program.

Today, we end Book Blogger Appreciation Week with a bang by welcoming the delightful Ms. Diana Holquist, author of 'How to Tame a Modern Rogue'! Here Ms. Holquist's gracious replies to our raving reader curiosity.

1. First things first: The cover of HTTAMR is lovely! Did you have any input regarding art, and did you choose the title?

DH: My original title was HOW TO TAME A MODERN JERK. My editor, as any good editor will do, made it much better. (Just kidding! It was originally called, HOW TO TAME A 21st CENTURY ROGUE. Still, my editor made it better. Okay, I promise I’ll be serious now…)

I didn’t have much input for the art. Mostly stuff like, “Um, she’s not a blonde…can we darken that hair?”

2. Not just the title, but the story also feels like a kind of hybrid between contemporary and historical. It was wonderful! Might there be more such books in store? Is HTTAMR a stand-alone or the first in a series? Might you be tempted to branch out into 'pure' historical?

DH: I’m so pleased you liked it! Thank you. I wrote this book with a “historical” voice because I wanted the richness of language I love in historicals in a contemporary setting. This is a stand-alone book, although I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve gotten begging for Mateo’s story. I’d love to write a historical one day. But if I do, it’ll be YEARS in the making. So much research!

3. "Comedy is the hardest thing to write." Agree? Disagree?

DH: I have no idea. I never try to write a joke or anything funny. I just try to tell a story. If it makes people laugh, that’s gravy. I’d also never try to write a scene to make someone cry. It all has to be part of the story to work. All that matters is being true to the story.

4. What comes to you first: the hero? Heroine? Ending? Punchlines of the jokes?

DH: The theme. Always, always, always the theme. What the book is about, deep down. I have to want to write something that’s incredibly meaningful to me, or I can’t do it. In the case of ROGUE, I was exploring the idea that the crazy people are the sane ones. I wanted to explore this as thoroughly as I could: no one finds love until they get a little crazy.

5. My favorite scene is when the hero and a friend discuss the phenomenon of romance novels, and what it means for them personally in terms of the women in their lives. I think I read it five times in a row, because it was funny on so many levels - two guys trying to wrap their heads around an enigma, the gentle mocking of some well-loved tropes in the genre, the way they decide how best to apply the hard-won knowledge - it all worked. Not just in that scene, but later, when the hero puts theory into practice. What's your favorite scene in the book?

DH: That bar scene, where Sam and the bartender discuss how to be a romance novel hero (“two words: chest waxing”) was originally all in the hero’s head. My brilliant critique partner, Ellen Hartman, made me change it to dialogue. I think my favorite scene in the book might be when Sam discovers the coachman’s true identity. I had been working toward that scene for most of the book, and had no idea what would happen. It ended up as surprising to me as it was to readers. I love it when it all comes together like that—unplanned and spontaneous.

6. My saddest moment was when I realized the promised elephants would not make an appearance. Dare I hope for a glimpse in an epilogue on your site, sometime?

DH: Oooh…good idea! Deleted scenes. I’ll get on it!

7. What's a typical writing day for you look like? Has it changed since Book #1 ("Make Me a Match")?

DH: I have no typical day. Sometimes I write all morning, sometimes, all night. Sometimes, not at all. I do a lot of staring out the window, thinking. But I am much more disciplined now. I wrote Make Me a Match without a contract or a deadline, so it took a full year. Now I have to write a book in seven months.

8. Your best writing habit? Worst writing vice?

DH: My best writing habit is listening. I think the worst thing a writer can do is to try to go it alone. It’s just too hard. Every single person has something worthwhile to say about my manuscript. I read my reviews and take notes.

My worst writing vice is chocolate. Isn’t it everyones’?

9. Social networking: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing or Blessing in Disguise?

DH: Do what you can, but don’t get carried away. Anything that takes you away from the writing is your enemy.

10. Nightstand inspection! What was the last ________ you read?

DH: Contemporary: Robin Wells, How to Score

Historical: Eloisa James, Duchess by Night

Paranormal/UF/Fantasy: Don’t read them. They frighten me. I’m a total wimp.

Mystery: Don’t read them. I cheat and look at the endings. Very bad.

11. Who is your writing idol and why?

DH: I have two. One is my critique partner, Ellen Hartman, for more reasons than I could ever list here. She writes amazing contemporaries for Harlequin Superromance. I have SO MANY others, but I’ll keep it one here: Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I started writing after reading First Lady. My goal in life is to write a book as perfect as that one. I shared an elevator with her once at RWA, but was too tongue-tied to say anything. I smiled a lot.

12. Which literary character do you wish you thought of first?

DH: Hamlet. Also, Don Quixote.

13. Best piece of advice for aspiring writers?

DH: Talent borrows—genius steals. What I mean by that is, don’t try to re-invent the wheel. No story is original. Heck, I stole the plot and character of Granny Donny for ROGUE from Don Quixote, the first book ever written. Start with something great, and make it your own. “It’s Don Quixote—but a romance novel!” So much easier to sell and to write than a long, complicated explanation. Stand on the shoulders of giants. I promise you, you’ll come out with something completely original because no one will do it like you’ll do it. The good stuff is out there. Work with it. Embrace it. Make it yours. Don’t make writing harder than you have to. It’s too hard already.

14. Anything else you'd like to share with Apprentice Writer's readers?

DH: Please come and visit my website,, it there’s anything else you want to know about me. Or drop me a line at

Thanks so much for having me here, Maya. It’s been tons of fun.

Thanks to Ms. Holquist for this small glimpse into author life, and especially for penning such a great story! (AW's review here.)


Our giveaway for a brand spanking new copy of 'How to Tame a Modern Rogue' is still open! Comment on today's Q&A in addition to yesterday's review and receive an exta entry to win.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Laughter Reviews #29 - KEEPER - "HOW TO TAME A MODERN ROGUE"

Giveaway! Details Below

by Diana Holquist

Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Opposite personalities must co-operate to maintain a historical fiction for the sake of a medically fragile senior.

Eyecatching, attractive turquoise color, playful couple (reminiscent of Julie James' covers) not really indicative of much of content - but Apprentice Writer gives extra points for the fact that the male is not only clothed, but wearing cufflinks. What really works is the clever title - alluding to both time periods involved, and tweaking hot-button terms in the genre.

What Works
A whole lot, actually.

Beginning with the epigraphs (you know - those little snippets some authors use to crown their chapters to give readers a hint about what's about to happen). AW is a sucker for epigraphs, and these are really good. The author has quoted from the fictitious historical tome 'The Dulcet Duke' (that title alone makes AW grin), and the language and scenarios are pitch perfect.

Next, the hero. Loved him. Loved his strengths, believed from the beginning that his flaws had a good reason (they do) and would be overcome (they are), loved the way his mind worked, most especially loved the way he made AW laugh. He regularly doesn't even pretend to listen to the heroine, and rather than seeming obnoxious and male chauvinistic, it comes off as cheeky and funny (isn't the most frequent female complant about men that they never listen?). And the way he goes about transforming himself, and figuring out what it is the heroine really needs was genuine and endearing.

Great secondary characters? Got 'em. A wonderful senior character (of which there are too few in fiction - at least, the books AW has been reading), and an exotic mystery man - not to mention his horse - lend charm and substance.

Believable, zippy writing? Got it. One of the things that irritates AW no end are covers/and or descriptions of heros that are ONLY achievable through many, many hours a day spent at the gym plus ingestion of banned substances, with the actual day-to-day hero activities including at most a mild gallop through the park or a round of golf. This hero is a dedicated soccer player, and the sport has signficance throughout the story. AW's household is a soccer-watching one, so the references to 'elbows', the descriptions of how the players interact with each other, and the process of demasking the mystery man were all very well done in her eyes. Another place that got the checkmark for 'mission accomplished' was the way the hero and heroine recover from the so-called 'Black Moment' (when they each believe the relationship is doomed). The way they built their road back to each other was charming and apropriate to the big picture.

What Doesn't
This question led to a whole philosophical debate for AW, as she has always considered herself the type of reader for whom a heroine need not be likable so long as she is interesting. This belief was tested. The heroine starts out stiff, somewhat self-involved, judgemental, and not especially convincing in her profession as school teacher, considering her erroneous belief that penguins live at the North Pole (junior apprentice writer #2's animal habitat project taught AW that the polar opposite is correct) and her deficiencies in basic courtesy towards the hero - something one would think is second nature to professionals trying to drum the essentials into young skulls. At several points, the hero asks himself why he's attracted to her, and in the beginning this reader echoed the question. Which led to another: why was AW more forgiving of the hero's flaws than the heroine's, and more ready to believe they would be overcome? Is she harder on protagonists of her own gender, and if so, why? She did not arrive at an answer, but thankfully, by the end of the book, the heroine has indeed transformed, and AW liked and was rooting for her well before the HEA came along.

A wonderful example of how a book with a known ending (it WILL be happy, even though in between both main characters think it won't) can nevertheless be non-formulaic.

But does it make you laugh? Yes, yes, yes
Anyone who has read a number of romances, of whatver time period, will delight in how certain recurring situations and stereotypical language are gently, lovingly, and effectively mocked. One word: rippling.


Celebrating Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Apprentice Writer is delighted to host her first ever giveaway for a new copy of HTTAMR, courtesy of the generous people at Grand Central!

The Fine Print:
1. Tell Apprentice Writer of a sport you either love or detest that was mentioned in a novel, and the title of that novel.

2. Be sure to leave a way for AW to get in touch with you.

3. For an extra entry, come back tomorrow and leave a comment on the Q & A post with the author.

4. For another extra entry, tell AW whether you participated in BBAW, and if so in what way.

5. US/Canadian addresses only, no post office boxes.

6. Contest closes 30 September 2009.

Good luck!

Page 1 & Giveaway Announcement

"The duke made his way out of Hyde Park with his usual loose-limbed, easy gait...Ahead waited his luxuriously appointed townhouse, a snifter of brandy, and not a woman is sight to scold him. In a word, perfection." From The Dulcet Duke"

Chapter 1:
"Sam Carson strolled out of Central Park, a long blade of grass between his teeth... (His humming) petered out on a single flat note of dread. Across the street, Veronica paced in front of his building, looking (angry) enough to vault the six lanes of streaming traffic in a ferocious leap, plant one of her red stiletto heels in his chest, and then fling him under the tires of the nearest SUV , after first, naturally, retrieving her Jimmy Choo."

from 'How to Tame a Modern Rogue' by Diana Holquist
Grand Central Publishing, August 2009

Please come back tomorrow for Apprentice Writer's review of 'How to Tame a Modern Rogue'.

Also, in honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Apprentice Writer will hold her first ever giveaway!

And on Saturday, a Q & A with the lovely Diana Holquist in which she shares her favorite scene from the book, among other things.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, 2nd Edition - Day 4

Today is the day that book bloggers reminisce about books they found and loved due to recommendation from other book bloggers.

Here is Apprentice Writer's triple shoutout.

To Sarah and Candy at SmartBitches, Trashy Books, whose uniquely expressed insights, snarky humor, willingnesss to engage in passionate discussion and book love resulted in a number of BBAW nominations and a win -

THANK YOU for introducing AW to Loretta Chase! Still can't believe how many years went by without discovering this peerless author on own initiative - AW suspects it may have been a simple case of book covers acting as repellant - but the fact remains, they gave a glowing review of "Mr. Impossible", AW gave it a try, and has not looked back since. Well, except for right now!

To Tiffany Clare, soon-to-be debut author and one ofthe founding members of the grog Vauxhall Vixens along with J.K. Coi (author of dark and intriuging paranormal romance), Elyssa Papa (newly agented aspiring writer of refreshing contemporary romantic comedy), and Maggie Robinson (soon-to-be author of historical romance) -

THANK YOU for introducing AW to Sarah Monette! As regular reader of this space know, AW can't stop talking about her dark fantasy 'Doctrine of Labyriths' series, beginning with the stunning 'Melusine'. AW now actively seeks out dark fantasy, and may not have done so without your help.

To Ana and Thea of The Booksmugglers (which just won the BBAW award for Best Collaborative Blog) -

THANK YOU for introducing AW to new author Kate Noble! They kindly shared a copy of Ms. Noble's debut 'Compromised' which AW thoroughly enjoyed. Meaning another auto-read author for her.

Gratitude and shiny good karma points to you all.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, 2nd Edition - Day 3

Today is meme day. Play along or leave your preferences in the comments!

Do you snack while you read?

Absolutely. Tea and a piece of the latest baking venture.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Color me horrified.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?Laying the book flat open?

Dog ears make me cringe and laying the book flat ruins the spine, so I bookmark with whatever is to hand - grocery receipts, overdue notices, elastic bands....

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Both, but my fiction-to-non ratio is about 4:1

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Just now venturing out into audiobooks. A friend swears it is the miracle incentive to exercising.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

Used to be a chapter reader, now tend to stop at the point when I suddenly wake up again after having fallen asleep, a sign I should go brush my teeth and call it a night.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

If the computer and trusty is closeby, right away. Most recent: 'matutinal', from Georgette Heyer's 'No Wind of Blame'.

What are you currently reading?

Always have a half dozen going on simultaneously:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (lit fic, for my bookclub)
No Wind of Blame (period mystery)
Seduced by a Stranger (Gothic)
Julie & Julia (memoir)
Highland Rebel (historical romance)
Wife of the Gods (contemporary multicultural mystery)
Harry Potter #2 (with my son)

What is the last book you bought?
The Flower Poet from A-Z

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
At breakfast, after everyone else is shipped off to school or work, and as last thing in the day.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
It's all good!

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Yann Martel, Jasper Fforde, Loretta Chase, Lindsey Davis, Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
Any way they stack neatly under my bed, so usually by size.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, 2nd Edition - Day 2

Today is devoted to interview exchanges between bookbloggers who likely did not know of each other before this year's BBAW event.

Apprentice Writer was twinned with Raidergirl, blogging out of the beauteous Prince Edward Island, and this was our first introduction to each other!

Here's what Raidergirl had to say in response to AW's

1. How did the name Raidergirl come about?
I liked how people online had a handle, so when I started at livejournal, I wanted a name to represent me. The high school I teach at, and graduated from, has the nickname 'raiders' so since I am a raidergirl through and through - the only high school I've been at ever, it seemed perfect. That reminds me, tomorrow is Raider Day at school - I must dress in red and white.
Explained like that, the name makes total sense. I had had visions of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, and suchlike.....

2. What type of genres to you read/review?
I always enjoy mystery series, and general fiction - from around the world and from home (Canada.) I also like the prize winners, but that may be my love of lists as much as anything. I won't turn down chick lit, but I don't read it all the time. What ever books fit in the RIP Challenge are my favorite - mystery, suspense, horror, spooky.
Another RIP participant! Just got started with the gothic novel 'Seduced by a Stranger' which is seriously creepy (in a good way) and looking forward to dark fantasy 'Corambis', Book 4 in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series.

3. Which genres do you read more/less of compared to five years ago?

I never used to read classics, but I'll try them a bit more often; translated books is a whole new area; and it may not be a genre, but I read a lot more newly released books compared to five years ago. I never used to buy books at all.
Ref: Translated books - if you like reading challenges, there's another lovely one wherein readers tackle Japanese literature.

4. What are your five favorite books of all?
1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Bridget Jones
3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
4. I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman
5. Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
Hmm. Suspect that PEI dwellers who don't list 'Anne of Green Gables' as their #1 choice might be taken to a remote location, far away from Lucy Maud Montgomery memorabilia stores, and shot!

5. Ever read a book in a language other than your mother tongue? Which language?
No, the only language I know any bit about is French, and 9 years of French in school certainly didn't make me able to read a book. Maybe a menu.

6. Apart from your own country, is there another part of the world that you especially enjoy reading about?
It would have to be Great Britain and Ireland, from many different eras - Victorian, wartimes, modern day. I guess I'm a bit of an Anglophile.
Agreed! Of course it helps that there is such an incredibly rich literary body out of the UK. Maybe something to do with all that rain, and having to find ways to occupy oneself.

7. Which literary character do you wish you could be yourself? Do you wish could be your love? Do you wish could be your business partner?

8. A book you loved most other people hated, and vice versa?

I loved The Bone People but I understand how other people might not like it - it must have been perfect time, perfect place for me.
Two books that I did not finish: On the Road by Jack Kerouac and There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Huston, both of which are classics and have lots of fans.
That point about perfect time, perfect place for any given reader is a good one. Probably applies even more so to movies - you have to in the right mood for certain kinds of movies or it doesn't work even a little bit.

9. Favorite book-turned-into-a-movie? Favorite movie?
Favorite movies: Braveheart, Dead Poet's Society, Mary Poppins

Favorite book turned into a movie - Bridget Jones' Diary, Harry Potter movies, and while I've only seen it once a few months ago, Fight Club might make the list in a few years. It takes time to make it onto my favorites' list.

10. How many blogs/grogs do you visit regularly? What are your three favorites?
I have a little over 100 blogs in my google reader. Three favorites? That's tough. I'm thinking if everyone updated, the first three I'd look at, even though I'd read them all eventually would be, at the risk of offending everyone, ...nope can't pick three. I could maybe pick 10.
100 regularly visited blogs ! o'O

The thing is, as I thought about this, is that my favorite blogs are more about the people, the friendships that I've made. I like getting a little update from pals, regardless of what they write. The friends you don't need to talk to every day but still fall into a conversation so easily.
Well said, Raidergirl

11. The blogosphere seems to thrive on brouhahas (I love that word). What's your philosphy: "Leap in and share your views", "Don't comment personally but lurk to see what happens", "Can't be bothered with that kind of silliness" ?
How timely! I mostly can't be bothered with that kind of silliness, but I do lurk occasionally, after the fact, and see what happened. (I can be a bit nosy.) The little area of the blogosphere I tend to inhabit is pretty drama free and I like that.

12. Do you have an IRL book club in addition to blogging? Why or why not?

Just our little Ramona book club - me, my daughter and my mother. There's a profile of us here.
I'd like to be in a book club, but it's not something I've found in real life. In some ways, blogging is easier, because it is on your own time, and you don't have to meet at the same time. Much more convenient for everyone to add their opinion when it is convenient.
Last year, a group of us friends from high school tried to have a book club, but it was so hard to meet regularly, and it evolved into dinner out and exchanging books to read, which was a pretty good book club all in all.
An intergenerational book club - what a lovely idea! And dinner plus book exchange could work well, too - especially if the discussion takes place later online.

13. Ever met another blogger?
I did! Two summers ago, Booklogged was planning a trip to the Maritimes, and I sent her some ideas of places to visit. We met and had a lovely meal before she and her husband went to watach Anne of Green Gables the Musical.I was a little nervous, but she was wonderful, and we have a great connection. I hope she'll come back to visit PEI someday.
I have not yet cybermet Booklogged, and will do so as part of the BBAW celebrations.

14. Best thing about blogging?
Making friends with like minded people, sharing good books and getting recommendations, thinking more about my reading,

15. Most anticipated upcoming book?

There are so many books around to read, that I hardly notice books that are coming out. I'd look forward to a new Maeve Binchy if she was writing a new book, or Sophie Kinsella. I did order Catching Fire as soon as it was released, but that was a much for my son as for me.

Thanks for stopping by, Raidergirl!

Gentle Readers - you can visit Raidergirl at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, 2nd Edition - Day 1

Here we are, arrived at Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day1.

Ushered in on a wave of kerfuffle, brouhaha, and hubbub. (How Apprentice Writer loves using those words!).

Much cyberspace has been devoted to that excitement so this blog shall not go over the same ground. AW shall simply note that the organizers of this event, which is intended to be a joyous celebration of the book blogging community and its dynamic role in the industry, society, the world!....are extraordinarily responsive to input and have recommended that today's common theme be recognition of blogs that deserve such but for whatever reason did not make it onto nominations and therefore shortlist.

One of the ones that springs to AW's mind is not there due to self-elimination from the process. Due to choice of own exit, AW shall not drag it back in. Instead, she shall salute all those bloggers out there (you know who you are) who devote time, energy, and finances to pursuit and praise of words - regardless whether written in crayon, hieroglyphs, or ink, whether by quill, pencil or keyboard. As a group, writers' efforts elevate us all - and for that, book bloggers are grateful and supportive in our own individual ways.

Authors - write on. Book bloggers - cybercomment on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

R.I.P. Challenge

"....It was a desire to celebrate and share that love of the elements of gothic fiction that inspired me to create the first R.I.P. Challenge, four years ago.

Readers Imbibing Peril, that is what it is all about. I hope you’ll consider joining us on this more eerie road less traveled.

Walk this way.

Dark Fantasy.

The desire for the thrill that comes with this kind of reading drifts in on the autumn winds. You breathe it in and it takes hold of you, tempting you to late nights, book-in-hand, turning pages and starting at every unknown noise. Something wicked this way comes…"

So reads 'Stainless Steel Droppings' invitation to join in on this challenge. For the full description, go here.

As per suggestion, Apprentice Writer will share her 'reading pool':

GOTHIC: 'Seduced by a Stranger', by Eve Silver

Why This One? Fills criterion of '...can cut the atmosphere with a knife' in spades. Consider the first sentence:

"At the age of eleven, Catherine Weston was buried alive in a shallow, wet grave."

Status: Just started. Review to follow.

SUPERNATURAL: 'Trouble in Mudbug' by Jana DeLeon

Why This One? A ghost appears on the first page and stays till the last. Not a very scary one, true, but we'll still count this for the sake of ticking the genre box.

Status: Reviewed.

DARK FANTASY: Book 4, 'Corambis', Doctrine of Labyrinths series by Sarah Monette

Why This One? Because the subterranean water creature, the psychiatric hospital, and all the labyrinth scenes from Book 1 on gave Apprentice Writer the serious willies (in the non-British sense) and Book 4 will not be any different.

Status: Three books down (Melusine, The Virtu, The Mirador) , one to go.

HORROR: Apprentice Writer doesn't usually venture into this genre, due to being highly impressionable while also wimpy. She will therefore stretch definitions to include

'Demon Bound' by Meljean Brook (Book 7 in the 'Guardian' series if you count all the novellas), because some of the characters from Book 2, 'Demon Angel' (which AW liked very much) reside in hell, and repeatedly go through the tortures of the damned (in a minimally graphic way, thank the gods of fiction for small mercies), and if that's not horrifying AW doesn't know what is.

Status: Four previous installments in the series read, selected title to go.

MYSTERY: 'No Wind of Blame' by Georgette Heyer

Why This One? Because AW received it in the mail today and it looks really good. Since it is not remotely eerie, she will bend the definition again, and say the horror of this story lies in the views of many characters on the appalling manners of other characters rather than actual gruesomeness. How eerie can things get over an ever-present pot of tea? But this is the mystery AW has at hand, and since it's her blog, she's going to do what she wants.

Status: Twenty delicious pages in. Review forthcoming.

SUSPENSE/THRILLER: No idea what to insert here. Suggestions?

ETA: Gentle Reader and Debut Author Thomma Lynn Grindstaff has suggested

'Haunting Beauty' by Erin Quinn to fill this slot.

There we go. All boxes checked. Now AW just has to collect the actual volumes and commence.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Regular readers of this space will be aware that Apprentice Writer has previously mused about the currect fate of that lipsticked and stilettoed subgenre: Chicklit.

She has now recieved more official notification of the dire state it's in.

A few days ago, she wrote to Harlequin regarding their much-publicized 60th anniversary celebrations. Specifically, she noted the free ebook downloads being offered for all sort of Harlequin lines, and asked what the free ebook for the Red Dress Ink imprint (i.e. their chicklit line) was.

This is what the Harlequin powers-that-be replied:

"We regret to inform you that the Red Dress Ink series has been discontinued."

So there you have it. Straight from the horse's mouth. Though why a horse gets to be the official symbol of authentic authority, AW hasn't a clue. Perhaps it would make more sense if the horse wore lipstick.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Twin Reviews: Mystery on the Light Side

Jana DeLeon
Paranormal Mystery


Kathleeen Bacus
Comedic Mystery

1. Louisiana scientist helps newly-deceased and non-lamented ghost mother-in-law identify her murderer while trying to divorce her husband and remain unattracted to a colleague.

2. Iowa cowgirl/investigative reporter overhears plot to kill a spouse and spends her weight-watching cruise trying to foil it while choosing between two men pursuing her.

1. Vintage truck hovering in the air like the American cousin of Harry Potter's flying car, a title that points to quirky small town, wibbly wobbly font - for this reader's money, a fantastic cover.

2. Bikini top tossed (presumably) overboard by a female hand for seagull audience. Relevant in the sense that there is a bikini top scene included, though not in the 'naturist' lifestyle way the cover implies.

What Works

1. Apprentice Writer does not recall reading a story set in Louisiana before, and swampy landscape, flora, fauna and heroine's habit of going everywhere in her boat as naturally as AW would jump into her minivan were very appealing. The heroine is a woman torn in many directions: urgently wishing to divorce her whereabouts-unknown and good-for-nothing husband, irritated beyond belief that being able to see and hear her mother-in-law means being roped in to help her, grieving the loss of her cancer-stricken father, trying to be a supportive friend to the local sham-psychic, and resisting attraction to the zoologist who's commandeered space in her tiny bayou office. It's no easy balancing act and was generally well depicted, with all-too human frustrations and grouchiness sometimes taking their toll. Also nicely done were her gradual realizations that there there was more to her mother-in-law, her spouse, and her zoologist than she first gave credit for. Loved the name 'Mudbug'.

2. AW has never had the good fortune to go on a cruise. Being vicariously on board with the heroine, taking part in wacky holiday life, and going ashore at a beautiful Caribbean destination, were all fun.

What Doesn't
1. This book is the first of a series so not all questions are answered at the end, possibly leaving some readers with a sense of dissatisfaction. In terms of character interaction and motivation, the heroine seemed overly and undeservedly antagonistic to her eventual love interest for this reader, to the point that she questioned why he was so attracted to her. Similarly, she goes on and on (and on) about how worthless her flown husband is - begging the question of why she married him in the first place. There is eventually some degree of explanation, however by the time it rolled around it was too little, too late for this reader. Still, these points were not dealbreakers, and AW was easily able to chalk them up to human flaws of the character.

2. *Sigh* AW wanted to like this book. Travel, zaniness, eccentric primary and secondary characters - should have been right up her alley, right? But then, the puns and popular culture references and spun-out-till-they-were-paperthin similes and metaphors and word associations set in, and never, ever stopped. It is a very specific type of writing style, and one AW found confusing and tiring. Still, this could have been surmounted, if it hadn't been for additional factors such as the characters who always spoke of themselves in the third person (yes, AW is aware of the irony in making this statement! In her defence: a blogpost is not equivalent to a WHOLE BOOK), the tediousness of the heroine running back and forth literally and figuratively between two men for the length of the story, the heroine talking about having a 'blonde moment' (AW has never been naturally blonde or with assistance, but she can't help but think blond people deliberately perpetuating the dim stereotype can't really be a good thing), the weight-watching element never really figuring into the crime as far as this reader could tell and so feeling a bit gimmicky, and, the straw that broke the camel's back: The villain who goes on, paragraph after paragraph, explaining actions and motivations in minute detail to the heroine - rather than the heroine figuring out more of this for herself.

It is possible AW could have lived with all of this better if she had been with the series since the beginning. This story is the sixth, and maybe the heroine would have grown on her more naturally if she was aware of the full story. As things stand, AW is not much tempted to go back and start from the beginning. Gentle Reader - if you have read the first book(s) in this series and think AW should reconsider - please advise.

Jana Deleon and Kathleen Bacus both blog at 'Killer Fiction', together with fellow 'light mysterians' Christie Craig, Leslie Langtry, and Gemma Halliday. Having visited a number of grogs whose common theme remained a mystery (ha!) to this cyberspace traveller, it is a relief to find one where it's clear why the participants got together. Even if every author's personal style does not fit all readers' tastes, there is certainly enough variety available to find one or more who will entertain. Apprentice Writer will continue working her way through the members, shall look forward to Ms. DeLeon's next title ("Mischief in Mudbug") and peruse what Ms. Bacus' next title to see if it draws her in more.

But does it make you laugh?
Mildly (but that's OK!)
& Not Me Personally (YMMV)

1. For AW, the milder funny moments in 'Mudbug' (such as when the heroine has moments of insight at the absurdity of what she's doing in between all the running around) worked better than the ones that seemed to be intended as the 'big' ones (such as the way the mother-in-law's difficulties in learning how to be a ghost manifest themselves), which felt a bit like they were trying too hard. This reader recommends that others approach this book simply as a paranormal mystery, and enjoy the occasional amusing bit, rather than approaching it as a comedy per se.

2. The Calamity Jane series has a style which readers will immediately like or dislike, with no inbetween. AW suspects that those who like it, like it a LOT and would laugh long and often at the situations the heroine gets in. For this reader, it was all a bit too much, but since this is the sixth book in the series it means there are certainly many Calamity Jane afficionados out there. AW recommends the back blurb as a fairly reliable test on whether a reader will like the story or not, as it is quite typical of what's in store.

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