Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review Wednesday: After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

After Tupac & D FosterAfter Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, let me start this review with a disclaimer: I am not impartial in this review. Also, this review is just as much about me as about this book, so if you have no interest in my life, hit the snooze and go to the next review.

That said, let's get on with it. This book was amazing. I realize it's not exactly heavy stuff, and that it seemed a little...I don't know, simple. But it took place in what is basically my time of greatest character development, my most impressionable of times, that young adult age where tragedy of all sorts fascinated me and I secretly wished I had been a black man instead of a mousy little white girl. Naturally, I was obsessed with Tupac.

So when I saw this book I knew I had to get it, and when I saw it was written by Woodson, an author I greatly admire, it just made it better. During the parts of this book about Tupac, I cried...yes, every time. Every mention of him brought tears to my eyes like I was still a pre-teen trying to figure out if I wanted to wear a black trench coat and a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, or Vans and a flannel shirt, or baggy pants and a bandana. Or something like that.

The rest of the story in this book is about three little girls, D Foster being one of them. Some of the parts about the three girls were great (the friend going to visit her gay brother in prison--swoon). Some parts didn't hold my interest and bordered on purple prose (going to some sort of outdoor theater and making snow angels? I can't remember, I seem to have zoned out during that part). But the friendship between the girls was touching and tender and wonderful. Their interactions with each other and the way their eyes are opened by D and her experience in foster care was genuine and engaging.

Overall, a sweet, sad book, and bonus points for making me cry a lot of times and taking me back to my own formative years with my own messed up friends and love of music and the tragedy of the rappers of that time. A bit of a nostalgic guilty pleasure book, so it's hard for me to be objective. I don't pretend this review is aiming for that.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Death in Venice and Other TalesDeath in Venice and Other Tales by Thomas Mann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a really weird book. It was super short but full of lengthy, wordy sentences, and half of them I had to go back and reread because I forgot what the sentence was about by the end of it. I also really should have had a dictionary next to me--I didn't realize how lacking my vocabulary is!
About the story itself: the first couple chapters (and there are only 5 total) took me a few days. They were pretty dull and it def. is not a book that sucks you in right away; rather, it grows on you slowly and finishes more powerfully than it begins. I ended up really liking it although it was totally creepy and I had no idea it was a gay book, or that it was so creepy and pedophilistic (again, apologies if i’m making up words). The whole creepy old guy in love with gorgeous young boy thing was a bit different, but I thought the parts about love and obsession were right on the mark. Overall, I really liked the book despite its slow start. It's sort of like a gay Lolita, but WAY less disturbing.
I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 rating--recommended to gay men, or anyone who likes literature.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger: Show Me Your Teeth Giveaway Hop - Interview and Gi...

Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger: Show Me Your Teeth Giveaway Hop - Interview and Gi...: If you haven't noticed yet I love giveaway blog hops.  This one hosted by Fictitious Delicious and Me, My Shelf and I is to celebrate...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird PondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Danger! Forbidden romance! An outcast heroine! A mysterious hot guy!

Sound familiar? Yes, I know. It sounds like all the YA fantasy books out now. But wait, there's more.

A kick-ass heroine who doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself, but does something good (and that doesn't benefit her directly--wait, it's not possible!), and stands up for herself at least sometimes, is more worried about what's right than being a rebel, and is concerned about something other than snagging a supernatural hottie. Wait, you say, something's wrong with this picture.

Actually, something is refreshingly right with this picture. This book is NOT fantasy but historical fiction, but it has a lot of the same elements. However, the similarities stop there. Written in the 'old days,' when writers cared about writing good books and good stories and not just making a buck by copying everything else, this book is still one of my favorites. Of all time. I'd gladly take it over every YA fantasy out today bundled into a huge anthology of unoriginality. Yes, this one small book is worth more than all of those books put together.

The characters are actually developed beyond their feelings for each other. The family is more than filler between the love scenes. The guy has more going for him than the fact that he's hot. And most of all, the heroine is pretty much awesome. I don't remember her ever whining, although she has plenty of reason to. She definitely never stomps into her room, slams the door, and throws herself onto her bed in a grade-A temper tantrum (although she's tempted when they take away all her pretty clothes and make her dress like a Puritan). And she never treats her friends or family like they aren't worth speaking to, even when they are awful to her. Which, incidentally, is a good thing, because if she really had been awful to them, she probably wouldn't have been saved.

I don't speak for anyone but myself here, but I'm so ready for a change in the direction YA literature is going. Please bring back books with substance. This is my plea. I don't know how many more Twilight rip-offs I can handle.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Creating Believable Characters, a Guest Post by Ben Wallace

Hello, everyone!

Today's guest is author Ben Wallace. He's going to talk about creating believable characters in fiction. So please read, and if you like what he has to say, check out his inspiring, informative blog!

Creating Believable Characters
By Ben Wallace

Creating believable characters is critical to good fiction. Characters are the bedrock, the foundation, on which your entire story rests. If your characters aren’t believable, your story won’t be believable. Here are some tips on how to create believable characters.

Physical description:
Don’t give your character four arms. Who’s going to believe that? Go out on the street right now and tell me how many people you see with four arms. Zero. Right? Four arms may make your character a better combatant or really good at stocking vending machines, but it’s just not very real. Extra toes, fingers or nipples are acceptable.

Note to Fantasy, sci-fi, and cyborg-lit authors: Load ‘em up.

My neighbor recently told me that he had a hobby. You know what? I believed him. Because, having a hobby is believable. That being said, you must make it a believable hobby. Whittling, guitar, outdoor recreation – all believable. ABBA album collector or Right Said Fred enthusiast? Not so much.

Mannerisms are great and believable. Everybody has mannerisms. Just look at how people walk. Everybody has a different walk. Some people even look like they worked on it and practiced in front of a mirror. Some people swagger. Some people strut. Some creep. Some hop (if they just stubbed their toe). But, remember, if you give them a mannerism, you have to stay consistent with it.

Randomly levitating while in deep concentration would be an unbelievable mannerism, however. Your characters shouldn’t levitate unless they have the power to levitate.

Naming a character can be difficult. A cool sounding name like Blade, or Wolf, or Trigger Finger McGee will be hard to swallow if it’s not a nickname. A good way to find a believable name is to look at what Hollywood stars are naming their kids and then never give your character that name. A fake sounding name like that can make your character unbelievable.

Also, don’t name your character Thad. I don’t have a really good reason except that I knew a Thad once, and the guy was kind of a jerk.

Fantasy authors, if you’ve created a new world, the naming conventions may be totally different.

Believable people have pets. Dogs – okay. Cats – okay. Ferrets – um, okay? Griffins – totally unbelievable.

Again, fantasy authors, knock yourself out. Actually, you folks can pretty much get away with anything.

About Me: Benjamin Wallace is the author of Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors, the #3 top rated comic fiction book on Amazon, and the action and adventure comedy Tortugas Rising. And, yes, he thinks he’s being funny.

You can learn more at

Show Me Your Teeth Blog Hop!

Hi guys,
I'm honored to be part of this awesome vampire-themed blog hop in honor of Rachelle Mead, author of the Vampire Academy series. As my giveaway, I'm offering a free ebook copy of my own vampire novel, The Superiors. The contest starts at midnight, August 15 CST and ends at 11:59pm on August 23. Check out the other blogs, too, there are tons of awesome giveaways of all kinds of vampire loot.

To win my giveaway, do the following:
Follow my blog (1 entry)
Follow my twitter @lenahillbrand (1 entry)
Like my FB page (1 entry)
Retweet, repost this on your blog, or link it on FB. (1 entry each).

Please post a comment letting me know which of these things you've done, and please include links so I can verify! Thanks and good luck!

Show Me Your Teeth

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dark-Readers: Glossary of Terms for THE SUPERIORS!! (( Vote & En...

Hey guys! If you've read my book and weren't totally clear on a word or something in The Superiors world, or if you're thinking of reading it, check out this handy glossary!

Dark-Readers: Glossary of Terms for THE SUPERIORS!! (( Vote & En...: "Throughout the month of August, Dark Readers is representing THE SUPERIORS by LENA HILLBRAND as part of the August's BlowOut Hop held over a..."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Shining by Stephen King

The ShiningThe Shining by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't read any Stephen King for a while, so I forgot how awesome he is. It's wonderful (and wonderfully rare) to find a writer who can maintain suspense while creating such beautifully real characters. He never sacrifices character development for plot. Which is a good thing for readers like me, who can't really care what happens at all if I don't care who it's happening to.

I know people who can't read King because of his descriptions and development, people who think he's too slow to get to 'the good stuff.' Personally, I wish a lot more writers would take his lead and stop shoving 'the good stuff' down our throats from the first sentence to the last. Stephen King writes whole, complete novels. They have real, fully developed characters as well as action, and if he sacrifices some fast-paced action to make the characters real, it only adds depth to the story. Too many of the fantasy and suspense novels I’ve read have pretty much nothing going for the characters. They are flat, Barbie-and-Ken cutouts from magazines, with only physical description and no development past what they look like. If that’s what you’re looking for, King isyou’re your ‘cup of tea.’ His novels rarely have sequels. He says all he needs to say in one book, and it's plenty, and the endings of his books are, well, endings. Not teases for a following book. They are final, wrapped, complete. And usually good, although I didn't really care for the ending of this one.

In this book, as in many of King's novels, the hero is a child. I have come to understand King's fascination with child characters in horror novels after reading a couple of his nonfiction books. Children are more innocent, and therefore more psychically receptive than adults. They haven't quite yet internalized the impossible, and therefore, they are usually (in King's novels) the ones who figure out what's going on, and usually the ones who try to do something about it, often with the help of a receptive adult father figure. And it's a good thing the protagonist in this novel has one, because we all know what kind of man his father is.

I've heard a few people say that the father is the most tragic 'victim' in this haunted house classic, but I'm not sure I agree with that. The father was never a very likeable character for me, no matter how victimized he was. Sure, he was an addict, and trying to recover. But I never really got the sense that he loved his family as much as he loved the bottle. I thought that he was not only picked off because he was the weakest link, but also because perhaps there was something inherently evil in him, something that responded to the evil in the hotel. One of my only complaints about this book was the swiftness of Jack’s transformation. It seemed like in one chapter he’s a loving (if guilty) father and husband, struggling to put his life back together. Then suddenly in the next chapter he’s fantasizing about twisting his wife’s nipples off? It seemed too sudden for this kind of evenly-paced book. I skipped back to see if I’d missed something, or if it really was almost instantaneous. I thought the suspense of him going crazy could have been drawn out a little more.

I did thing that Stephen King did a great job capturing the emotions of the mother towards her son. I'm sure his wife helped him with that! I had a bit of a hard time relating to her white-bread personality, with how passive she was and how she could still love someone who had turned into a monster. But that was how she was supposed to be. Although I didn’t relate to (or even like) most of the characters in this book, it was still a superb read. Not one of King’s creepiest, although the hedge animals were pretty great.

Overall, this was a good book. I like King’s classics, and if you do too, this one is it.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dark-Readers: Grab the Button & Vote for The Superiors!!!

See that cool button on my blog, right there to the right? Yes, you too can have one. Join Team Superiors and vote for my book! And while you're at it, grab the code from Dark Read's blog and post the button on your blog!

Dark-Readers: Grab the Button & Vote for The Superiors!!!: "We are doing a Blog Tour and need your help!! Throughout the month of August, we will be representing the book The Superiors by Lena Hillbra..."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review Wednesday: Nightlight, by Harvard Lampoon

Nightlight: A ParodyNightlight: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was funny and clever. But after a few chapters it just got to be too much. Like a friend who makes jokes nonstop, and at first you think he's so funny, but after a while it's just annoying because you can tell he thinks he's just SO clever.

There was a lot of funny stuff in here, though. I especially liked the parts making fun of the whole Twilight phenomenon, not necessarily the plot. Like at one point where she says something like, "It was nothing like I'd ever experienced, but familiar enough that 3 million girls around the world could relate to it."

There were a lot of great one-liners, but after a while it was exhausting. So, cute, but nothing spectacular. I guess reading someone else's plot is boring after a while. I did, however, like the little twist and the ending. Josh was an awesome character, and I liked how the writers used two different characters to make fun of Edward's two sides.

I'd recommend this book to people who like parodies. I'd never read one, but apparently, I don't like them as much as I thought I would.

funny quotes: "I unconditionally, irrevocably, impenetrably, heterogeneously, gynecologically, and disreputably wished he had kissed me."

"I shuddered and smiled coyly, terrified." (p17). "I looked in the mirror. Staring back was a sallow cheeked girl with long, dark hair, pale skin, and dark eyes. Just kidding! That would be so scary." (p8)"

"I breathed. I exhaled. Then I breathed again."

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

SeeitORreadit: Week 1 (Aug 1st- Aug 7th)

Want to Know what's going on this week in the Summer Blowout? I'll tell you:

Fan art!

SeeitORreadit: Week 1 (Aug 1st- Aug 7th): "Hello Everyone and Welcome to the Start of August's Blowout Summer Blog Hop! This is the first week and our representatives and author's a..."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dark-Readers: August's Blowout Blog Tour!!!

OOPS! It has come to my attention that my book links didn't post on Friday's blog. Please check this out to see the books competing with The Superiors in August!!!
And if you don't mind, follow the blog while you're there--this is my Sponsor for the Blowout Tour!

Dark-Readers: August's Blowout Blog Tour!!!: "Hi Everyone! Darkreaders is excited to announce that we will be joining the fun for an August Blog Tour that is hosted by See It Or Read It ..."

Guest Author: J.D. Stroube

Today I'm getting some exposure to this very great lady and her awesome book, Caged In Darkness. Read about it below.

A witch raised in a cage of darkness...

Savannah Cross was born into a life of isolation and abuse. As a child, she witnessed her parents perform acts of malevolent evil, and now feels permanently tainted by their dark deeds.

When a coven discovers a tear stricken child, wounded on their elders lawn, they offer her a sanctuary she has never known. Savannah spends the next several years shattered, continuously looking over her shoulder, waiting for the darkness to claim her.

On her 16th birthday, Savannah’s life takes a drastic turn.She is consumed by overwhelming power that forever alters her emotionally and physically.

She must choose between two loves; the one who taught her to smile or the darkly seductive stranger who tempts her towards another path. Savannah must decide between the coven that was her haven and another one vying for her initiation. Just as Savannah begins to grasp what fate has in store for her, an evil looms over her loved ones; coming to claim an unbreakable debt.

How will she choose and survive the greatest evil she has ever witnessed... long enough to have a choice to make.