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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's up Wednesday

What’s up Wednesday

(a new thingy I’m trying out)

Hey everybody! How are you? I hope this finds you well. The weather is gorgeous right now! Night and day compared to last week. I have been trying to make the Suddenly Sunday posts, but my schedule has changed and I now work on Sundays. Stinky I know, but we do what we must. By the time I get home on Sunday, the last thing I want to do is stare a screen and use a mouse. It’s easier for me to do personal posts during the week, hence What’s Up Wednesday? Also, truth be told, Molly’s recent post about having an event on your blog has had me thinking, so I figured this would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. I can either post something personal, or discuss a subject that bugs or interests me, or really just post about anything. And then when I get time again, I can go back to Suddenly Sunday, and use What’s Up Wednesday For anything my little heart desires.

So what have I been up to lately? Not much aside from reading, working, sweating and going to the gym. This weather doesn’t inspire me to do much outside of that. As for reading, I have been quite selective in what accept for I review, leading to less pressure to get books read and reviewed. Unfortunately instead of reading my own books, I ended up requesting a few from the library, and now I’m trying to get through those. Two library books didn’t work for me so I returned them quickly. I’ll do a combined DNF post on them. I also wanted to read a Classic before Labor Day for the Classic Bribe but that’s not going to happen, so now my goal is to read it by the end of the year.

I am in a “clean up” kind of mood in many aspects of my life right now: the house, my knitting, my book reading, my desk at work, etc. so with regards to reading, I’m setting a schedule for myself. For October I am going to concentrate on creepy reads and after that it will be East of Eden by Steinbeck. I WILL read this book by the end of the year. I have other books I would like to “clean up” and read until then. At least this way I will feel as though I accomplished a few of my goals for this year’s Reading Resolutions.

That’s What’s Up with me right now. Next time I will try and post a picture of a knitting project I finished. I can’t get a goods photo of it, and that’s the hold up.

What’s up with you today? Anything exciting or that you want to share? Feel free to answer in the comments or leave a link.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guest Interview with Mina Harker, courtesy of Karen Essex, author of Dracula in Love

In Dracula in Love, a new novel by Karen Essex, Mina Harker finally comes clean about what happened between her and a certain Count. Ms. Harker agreed to a short telephone interview under the condition that she not be asked about her present identity or her life today. Here is what the vampire’s eternal muse had to say:

Q: Ms. Harker, journalists and vampire hunters have been trying to track you down for one hundred thirteen years. Why did you choose now to come out with your own—and, may I say, startlingly different—version of the story?

Ms. Harker: As you can imagine, I needed to wait until some people died, and in my circle, death can take a very long time, if it comes at all. Also, for a long time, I thought my story too outlandish for the public to accept. I did not wish to be scorned as a fantasist or attention seeker. But whereas humans once shuddered at the very notion vampires, now more and more “normal” humans are fantasizing about becoming one. The timing seemed perfect.

Besides, this is the age of the tell-all, so I am telling all; I’m just omitting the modern habit of going into rehab first. I find this need to repent for, be cured of, and then confess one’s “transgressions,” a tedious aspect of today’s culture. I prefer to keep a stiff Victorian upper lip. I am telling my story; I am not confessing it. Do you know the expression, “never complain, never explain?” My version is “never repent, never recant.”

Q: Well, I confess that I found some of your revelations surprising and shocking. You didn’t hold back on the sexual exploits, did you?

Ms. Harker: When I was a young woman back in the 1890s, women’s sexual pleasure was a taboo subject. We do not want to return to those days, do we?

Today’s world is drenched in sexual imagery. I admit that I, too, have surfed the ‘net and seen its pervasive porn. In such an environment, how could anyone find the erotic scenes with the man I love shocking? Many of today’s vampire stories are written for young girls, and it would not be appropriate to expose those gentle maidens to the spectacular eroticism that one can experience with an immortal. However, my story is for the more discriminating adult reader, who is bound to be curious about these delicious details. Besides, my ghostwriter, Ms. Essex, tends to lean in that direction. “God is in the details, Mina,” she always says. “Don’t be shy. Tell me more.”

Q: Without revealing any spoilers, you take us on a journey that crosses centuries and introduces exotic mythological creatures into what used to be a traditional vampire tale. Are we really to believe this hidden history of blood-drinking?

Ms. Harker: Modern readers have no idea of the real roots of the vampire. Bram Stoker gathered a lot of information, some of it true and some of it based on old wives’ tales. He simplified a very complicated matter for easier public consumption, creating rules for the vampire’s creation and destruction. Please! As I say in the book, crosses and garlic have no power in the supernatural world!

People love things served up in the form of good versus evil, though we all know that reality is always more complex. There have always been sexy, scary blood-drinkers, and there have always been immortals—obviously. I’m not going to explain it to you again. You did read the book, didn’t you?

Q: Yes, and you do make a good case for the history of these immortal blood drinkers. I just had no idea that it dated back to pre-biblical times.

Ms. Harker: It predates Time itself, my dear.

Q: In Dracula in Love, you accuse your tormentors, who were the heroes of Mr. Stoker’s classic, of some appalling behavior. How do we know that you are telling the truth, and moreover, how did he get your side of the story so wrong?

Ms. Harker: Bram needed what you now call a “blockbuster.” He had spent years and years as a theater manager living in the shadow of the actor Henry Irving. He had written a few books that didn’t sell very well, and he was determined to reverse that. Besides, he needed money! And to be fair, he was completely under the spell of the man he named Van Helsing, who as you now know, had some very strange ideas about blood and about women! I don’t hold any grudges. Men of that era had absolutely no clue into the female psyche, nor did they want one. Today’s men are much more understanding.

As to my telling the truth, well, madam, you did not live in the 19th century! I decided to reveal what life really was like back then. “Career” women like you were considered freaks. You have no idea of how “fallen” women were treated. Despite all of that, I miss those days—candlelit rooms, feather beds, soft velvet gowns, satin gloves, not to mention the beautiful lingerie. Don’t get me started! As you know, sometimes the forbidden enhances eroticism…or is that all lost now?

Q: Why did you allow Ms. Essex to call the book Dracula in Love when it really is your story? Why not Mina in Love?

Ms. Harker: I’m a little miffed about that. I thought I was being clever, telling my story at a time when the world has a mania for vampires, and when women have made unprecedented gains. I gave the story to a writer known for retelling the stories of history’s misunderstood women, and I certainly have been one of those. But she sat me down and explained that, feminism be damned, the Count is still the bigger draw—at the box office, on bookshelves, everywhere! “Face it, Mina, in the eyes of the public, you’re nothing without him.” Indeed! I don’t want to imply that he and I are competitive with each other; we’re not. I was just hoping that in the 21st century, a woman could get equal billing.

I guess I’ll have to wait another hundred years.

Q: Whoa, are you saying that you and he are still together…that he is still…but at the end of the story….

Ms. Harker (interrupts): This interview is now over. (Click.)

Well, my opinion of Mina Harker is now changed ever so slightly.  I might like her just a bit, but just a little bit.

Thanks to Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for including me on the tour.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Tobacco Wars by Paul Seesequasis

Set in the early 17th century, Tobacco Wars follows the mythical and rollicking adventures of Pocahontas and playwright Ben Jonson, from the inns, alleyways and royal courts of London to pirates, perilous crossings and hostile warriors in the New World. And as worlds are turned upside down and irrevocably altered, a new commodity, tobacco, intoxicates the Old World just as an “Indian princess” undertakes her own age of exploration

First Thoughts?

This book was not what I thought it would be.  I knew it was short, a novella, and I was fine with that.  However, the story is actually two stories that kind of parallel one another.  One story takes the Indian belief of the Bear as the Mother of the World.  The Mother Bear gives birth and shape to the world, including the many languages that are spoken among it's people.  We then find Bear in modern times in a big city, lamenting what the people have done to her world. 

The other story is of Pocahontas at the time when tobacco was being cultivated in the New World.  Pocahontas travels to London and sees the opera, meets royalty and engages in intellectual conversations with some of the writers of the day.  She meets the Royal Playwright, Ben Johnson, and he follows her back to the Americas for probably, not all the right reasons.

While both stories were semi-interesting, I'm not sure I wholly understand what the Seesequasis was trying to convey.  I think they were meant to be at odds, yet together with one another.  Showing the past and present and what has happened to the Native Americans.  As inquisitive and welcoming as Pocahontas was, she was not treated with mutual respect and admiration.  The Americas are a far cry from what they started out as being, but isn't most of the world nowadays?  America probably is more so than Europe though.

What I expected to read is not what I read in this book.  I was expecting a short adventure story, surrounding the birth of tobacco as the American crop, with Pocahontas involved.  There were adventures to be sure, just not what I expected.  I almost feel as though this was thrown in to get the other message across: what Europeans did to the Native Americans and their land.  

I have no problem with that.  I of all people feel as though, Native Americans still get shafted and say nothing about it; not like others have done.  Now, while I appreciate the message, I didn't fully enjoy the way that it was portrayed.   Mother Bear and her amorous adventures with the wolves and/or the boy were a bit much for me.

I never felt like I truly got to know anything about Pocahontas, and for that I am disappointed.  Maybe I did get a snippet of her, who knows.  But that's ok, I'll research more about her on my own.

Hmmm...if you like artful literature then I think this is for you.  I do not like books where I have to guess that this is what the writer wanted to portray, or guess that I am interpreting things correctly.  I know that's part of reading and analysis, but I'm not sure I fully understood what I read either.  That may be due to the choppiness of both stories, because the book switched back and forth every two pages or so between stories.  As soon as I settled into Pocahontas, I was back with Mother Bear.  Now see, or they supposed to be one in the same?  Not sure.  

Would I change anything?

The description of the book.  I feel like it says one thing but the book is something else.

My Rating: 82/100.  This book was just  not for me.  However, it has piqued my interest in Pocahontas and Native American literature, so that's a good thing.  Also, was I possibly expecting too much from this story?  Did I misinterpret the description?  That is also quite possible.

To read what others thought of this book, please stop by the tour home page.

Publisher: Quattro Books
Genre: Fiction
Paperback, 113 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

Publisher: Anchor Books (Random House)
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Trade paperback, 368 pages
Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book  Tours
My Rating: 90/100

"Reader, you are about to enter a world that exists simultaneous with your own. But be warned: in its realm, there are no rules, and there is certainly no neat formula to become—or to destroy—one who has risen above the human condition…The truth is, we must fear monsters less and be warier of our own kind."

London, 1890. Mina Murray, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula’s object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male “defenders” rush in to rescue her from the vampire’s evil clutches. This is the version of the story we've been told. But now, from Mina’s own pen, we discover that the story is vastly different when told from the female point of view.

In this captivating, bold act of storytelling, award-winning author Karen Essex breathes startling new life into the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, transporting the reader into the erotic and bizarre underbelly of the original story. While loosely following the events of its classic predecessor, Dracula in Love deviates from the path at every turn.

The result is a darkly haunting, propulsive, and rapturous tale of immortal love and possession.

From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Dracula’s eternal muse—the most famous woman in vampire lore—vividly recounts the joys and terrors of a passionate affair that has linked her and the Count through the centuries, and her rebellion against her own frightening preternatural powers.

Mina’s version of this Gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into Victorian England’s dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and terrifying asylum chambers, revealing the dark secrets and mysteries locked within. Time falls away as she is swept into a mythical voyage far beyond mortal comprehension, where she must finally make the decision she has been avoiding for almost a millennium.

Stoker’s Dracula offered one side of the story, in which Mina was a victim bearing no responsibility for the unfolding events. Now, for the first time, the truth of her secret history, and of vampirism itself, is revealed. What this flesh and blood woman has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than the Victorians could have expressed or perhaps even imagined.

Three Reasons Review
1.) Reasons you chose this book

I accepted this book for review because I had read good things about it when it was first released.  Also, I read the original Dracula about two years ago, and enjoyed it a great deal.  I was curious as to what Essex created and the point of view she chose, Mina, is quite interesting.  It's about time Mina told her side of things.

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

I have mixed feelings about this book.  The story started off strong and drew me in quickly, however, somewhere in the middle, I became lost.  I was starting to ask myself, "Where is Dracula, and how the heck is he in love, if he only flits in and out from time to time?"  I understand it was Mina's side of the story, however I lost interest in her.  Mina captivated me at first, but then I became increasingly frustrated with her.  This is probably due to Mina being the quintessential Victorian lady, well mannered, quiet, not as strong as I like my female characters to be.  And that is where the strengths of this story lie, the Victorian setting.

Essex's writing planted me firmly in Victorian London.  The conversations, behaviors of people, manner of dress...this story could have been written by someone who lived during the Victorian age.  One aspect that annoyed me at the time, but I have come to understand and respect is Essex's depiction of the asylum.  Her descriptions of treatments and diagnosis of women during this time are scary spot on. (I know from personal research.)  I wondered at first why Essex was going down this road, however it goes with her premise.  This is the true story, and not what you have been told.  Scary that women were thought of and treated this way.  Makes me shudder.

I also adored the way Essex described how Dracula and Mina came to be, their love story.  Essex's history of vampirism is one of the best I have ever read.  Very creative and totally plausible.  This history doesn't come until the last 80 pages or so, so i am glad I stuck around.  I also feel sorry for Dracula.  He has been waiting an eternity for his beloved, and I don't believe Mina is very sympathetic towards him.  I don't think she realizes how much he has done for her through the ages.

3.) Reasons you are recommending this book

I would recommend this book because it is so well written, and the story is creative and different.  I did almost put this down half way through, but have come to realize it was because of Mina and her behavior.  I don't like Mina, and without giving anything away, that's all I can say.  Nope don't like her and have no sympathy for her.  Dracula on the other hand....he is quite devoted.  The word doormat comes to mind.  All in all Dracula in Love is quite an interesting tale, and worth a try.

Please stop by on July 21st for a guest post by Karen Essex, and for more information, please visit one or more of the following:

Karen's Website:

Karen's Blog:

Karen's Facebook Page

To read what others thought of Dracula in Love, please visit the virtual book tour page.

Thanks to Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for including me in the tour. 

 2011 Challenges Met:  Historical Fiction

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: What a Goddess Wants by Stephanie Julian

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Romance (explicit and graphic sex scenes, but love story just as important)
Trade Paperback 352 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks
My Rating: 90/100

Tessa, aka Thesan, Etruscan Goddess of the Sun, is running for her life. Her powers have been waning for centuries and now Charun, Etruscan God of the Underworld, is hunting her to consume her remaining magic, and is tracking her through her dreams to find where she is… Tessa needs a hero and fast.

Caligo is a warrior who doesn’t feel pain, heat or cold though he’s been burned before by spoiled deities. Still, there’s something about Tessa that makes him lust for a delicate golden blonde goddess. Caligo has never met a woman as warm, sunny and inviting as Tessa. She is a sun goddess, after all.

Their sizzling attraction overwhelms them from the start, and since Caligo has to protect Tessa while she’s asleep, he’s forced to share her bed. They figure, as long as they’re there, they might as well explore the incredible heat their togetherness is producing, and the journey of discovery that starts from there quickly sweeps the two of them into a love story that’s worthy of the gods...

First thoughts:

Different, enjoyable, and surprised I liked it more than I did. I accepted this book because Tessa was a goddess and there was the mythology aspect to it. For some reason I like mythology and all that it entails. At first I wasn’t sure about this book but as I continued, both Tessa and Caligo grew on me. Tessa is a forgotten goddess. The Greek and Roman gods and goddesses pretty much steam rolled over the Etruscan religion, making everyone forget about the Etruscans, even their “parents” have pretty much forgotten about them. But Tessa is happy to just exist and enjoy life, that until she finds herself in trouble and in need of help.

Caligo is a Cimmerian warrior, which I knew nothing about until I read this book. You see Conan the Barbarian? Cimmerian warrior. Anyway, Caligo is special too, in that he has a mixed heritage. He had to leave his home world and now lives among humans. Caligo has been forgotten too you could say. Tessa and Caligo find each other through circumstance and they make a pretty hot pair. They bring out things in each other that no one else has in hundreds or thousands of years.

Even though this is an erotic romance story, and yes it is erotic, I liked the other elements that Julian brought to the story. The plot of who wants to hurt Tessa and why adds drama. Julian also explains quite a bit about the mythology system but in an interesting way because it is part of the story. Julian makes me want to do some research about the early Etruscan civilization, and I like books that make me do research.


Yes, I would recommend. It is not that long and it’s a way to forget your cares. Important to note though is that the sex scenes are graphic. I am not a prude but it is an erotic romance, and Tessa and Caligo like to get it on. You could skip the hot parts and read the rest of the story. I did so o9n the subway a few times because you know, I blushed!

Would I change anything?

There are two things but they are minor. One: Caligo cursing inappropriately. I can curse with the best of them, but it just seemed the f bomb or other words were used gruffly and didn’t fit. Also, there were times when there was no foreplay between Tessa and Caligo. Sometimes they looked at each other and wham they were humping. Seemed too fast and a little weird.

My Rating: 90/100

Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for my ARC.

Review style lifted from Staci at Life in the Thumb

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: A Gentleman Never Tells by Amelia Grey

From the author's website:

When a lady is in a predicament...

Beautiful, clever and courageous Lady Gabrielle thwarts the shackles of her arranged betrothal by kissing a stranger in the park. But who is this man? Finding herself stuck in yet another forced engagement Gabrielle needs another strategy that isn’t so dangerous.

A gentleman may find himself in deep trouble...

Viscount Brentwood is walking in the park early one morning when a beautiful, enchanting young lady walks out of the mist and into his arms. Now Brent has no choice but to marry the delightful Lady Gabrielle. Unfortunately his intended bride has other ideas, and the determined Viscount finds himself plunging into one scandal after another.

First thoughts after finishing this book:

Hmmm...this was ok.  Yes, I think that's about right.  Just ok.  It was a typical HF romance book. 

I liked that our couple met very early on and the circumstances were unusual, but the story felt uneven or something.  Gabrielle wants to end her current engagement.  She wants a choice in who she marries, and doesn't like society's rules on marriage.  So Gabrielle creates a scandal, and causes herself more trouble by involving the Viscount.  The Viscount I loved.  He was hot, he has outrageous brothers, and he knows how to keep a secret.

To maintain her independence or at least have a say in her future, Gabrielle tries to dissuade the Viscount from cultivating any interest in her. Gabrielle does, says, and creates these silly schemes, hoping the Viscount backs off from pursuing her further.  Unfortunately, all of this amuses him and makes him want her more.  Cute, right?  Well it was all of the schemes I thought were tiresome.  A smart gal like her and this is what she comes up with?  I guess this is only what was available to her during this time but I just thought it was a bit much.  As much as Gabrielle wants to be spirited and determined, she turns into an idiot during these schemes.  But she is an Earl's daughter, and can do as she pleases apparently.


Not sure.  I didn't find it to be spectacular, and I have read better romance books.  However, I'm not the be all, end all authority on romance novels.  I guess it would be a good mindless beach read.

Would I change anything?

Yes, Gabrielle's behavior.  Maybe flesh her character out a bit more, as to why she wants more independence and is willing to defy her father, besides the reason that is given in the book.  Also her sister is a bit much.  Honestly, her sister is quite shrill and I do not see how the two of them could be that close and loving.  I would have slapped my sister if she acted like that towards me, after all I had done for her.

Rating: 83/100

For more information about Amelia Grey and her back list, please visit her website:

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Romance
Paperback, 384 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks

Review style lifted from Staci at Life in the Thumb

Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for my review copy.