Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Good review - bad review Rollercoaster Rides

The charismatic villain in DORIANNA
I had two books launch last fall, and reviews are coming in. I hate to admit it, but as seasoned as I am, reviews can deflate and anger me, or totally make my day. And yes, I do read them. Sometimes the gap between how one reader reacts to how another reacts is beyond baffling! I'll give you an example. The following review of Dorianna thrilled me because this Netgalley reader totally got what I was trying to do. However, the next was a painful two-star one. Feels as if they read two different books. But hey, I just put on my big girl pants and take it. Because that what writers do, right? See what you think...

Review #1 - 5 stars from a Netgalley reader:
"So I'm just going to assume I don't need to point out that a gender-swapped YA version ofA Picture of Dorian Gray is basically the greatest thing ever, right? Good. Just making sure we're all on the same page here.

I've never read Dorian Gray, but I am familiar with his character. Even after 100+ years Wilde's flamboyant, sexy, hedonistic asshole of an anti-hero still somehow manages to work his way into pop culture. And honestly, it's fucking great. Dorianna takes a unique and clever twist on Dorian's character and creates a smart and terrifying novel of lust and power. It's dark, creepy, and full of glamour that hides a sinister grin.

The main character is Dorianna, a girl fresh off the boat from the Hoosier State and plopped right in the middle of Brooklyn. Honestly, the first twenty some pages were pretty annoying, because all Dorianna did was talk about how plain she is. We get enough of that "plain Jane" speech from every other YA heroine and we defiantly don't need it here. Thankfully, her character because a lot more...well interesting to say the least, but we'll get to that eventually.

Our Plain Jane attracts the attention of Ander, her love interest. What was interesting about him, is that Dorianna knew he was using her to get back at Lacey, his ex-girlfriend. As the story progresses, we get to see just how fucked their relationship is. Because this is YA, we need some semblance of a love triangle, which is where Wilson comes in. He's our suave, melodramatic, Victorian-era dressing bad boy of the book, who convinces Dorianna to sell her soul to him in exchange for eternal beauty and internet followers. While I may have my own qualms about Dorianna's character in the beginning, I could see how desperate she was to fit in, but the moment she makes that deal with Wilson...BAM. She's a million times more interesting and complex.

Stine does not shy away. This new Dorianna is bitchy, materialistic, manipulative, and downright cruel. She's ambitious and is willing to crush anyone underneath her boot to get more followers. While she's not likable, she's complex. Her drive and ambition give her layers. To her, the power and fame is addictive, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she knows what she's doing is wrong, but justifies it at every turn. As her powers grow, so does her ambition. Soon she can't control either of them. 

From what I've heard, it took a while for Dorian Gray to realize something was wrong, but in Dorianna her powers are evident. She has heightened senses, read and control minds, and even burn people with her jealously and hate. Dorianna knows it's wrong to manipulate her followers, but, in her mind, the end justifies the means, and eventually grows to enjoy and relish in the manipulation.

Dorianna is the perfect anti-heroine. Her internal struggle against her own demons and trying to maintain her humanity gives this book depth. No matter how bad things get, she always chooses her fame over the people who actually care about her. And honestly, that's what makes Dorianna an amazing character. She's relatable. We've all wanted to be famous and no matter how much we lie to ourselves, we know that if it got to that point, we would turn our backs on the ones who care about us if it meant retaining our fame. Dorianna is a blunt look on how anyone can turn to darkness if it meant they can still hold onto that taste of fame.

The concept of using her YouTube videos as the picture of her soul is brilliant. Those scenes of her videos are truly bone chilling and terrifying. Readers can truly feel how sinister Dorianna has become without Dorianna realizing it herself. Stine's writing style has a contemporary feel to it, but easily transverses into a realm of dark fantasy and horror in the blink of an eye.

The other strong point of this novel is Dorianna's interaction with Lacey. Lacey is the Queen Bee (you know the trope) and Dorianna is the new girl (again, you know the trope), but as the book progresses, Stine manages to flesh out Lacey and Dorianna into something akin to mirror images. Both girls use every supporting character as a pawn in their power play. Dorianna and Lacey both think the other is bad, and thus justifies destroying her opponent. The parallels between Lacey and Dorianna are subtle, but it's obvious that they're essentially one in the same. Both awful.

The romance was okay. Both Wilson and Ander were used as props in Dorianna's rise to fame, and I truly believed that they both got what they deserved in the end. The original Dorian Gray ends on a rather obvious note, but Dorianna takes a different approach I honestly wasn't expecting. It worked perfectly with the story and I honestly want to buy a physical edition of this book, I loved it so much.

This book is about a girl's ambition and rise to fame, and the horror she becomes on her way to the top. It's dark. It's horrifying. It's Dorianna!"

Review #2 - 2 stars from another Netgalley reader:
With a nod to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Catherine Stine’s novel imparts the message that, while popularity, youth, and beauty are important in a superficial society – like high school, for example – the price one pays for them is exceedingly high.

In the middle of her junior year of high school, Dorianna’s father is incarcerated. With her household ripped apart, she is sent to live with her aunt in New York. The drastic change from Indiana gives her the chance she needs to reinvent herself and start over.

She meets Ander at the lockers on her first day of school, and is immediately smitten. A casual friendship grows between them, and her crush turns into obsession. However, by the time Dorianna learns Ander is the ex-boyfriend of Lacey, the most popular girl in school, Dorianna is already far too emotionally invested to follow the rules of high school hierarchy.

Plain, shy, and unsure of herself, Dorianna is desperate to gain the love of Ander and the admiration of everyone around her. Seeing the perfect opportunity to do so, she enters into a pact that will change her – and her life – forever. The question is: Will she change for better, or for worse?
The idea was an excellent one but poorly executed. To begin with, the main character is incredibly obnoxious. I did not see a single redeemable aspect to her personality and, as a result, the novel was hard to read... Second, I am all for fantastical plots – which is, after all, what this novel’s plot is – but there does need to be a realistic foundation upon with the plot is built. I did not find that in this novel. It is highly unlikely that the parents of these characters just let them do whatever they wanted, which means it is extremely doubtful that any of the events in this novel would have taken place.

All that being said, the writing was pretty good and the pace was steady. It could have been executed better, as I said, but I still wanted to know what would happen next. I read the entirety of the novel in one evening. HOWEVER, a male character being described in narrative as a “fruitcake”, the unnecessary mention/subplot (it could have been any other crime), and the unnecessary attempted rape (towards the end) all made it REALLY hard for me to give this the three stars that I wanted to award it.

To this reviewer's line: "The main character is incredibly obnoxious. I did not see a single redeemable aspect to her personality"...

My reaction: She's invaded by a DEMON, folks! Why would she be all light and sunshine?!
My reaction to a bad review

Ok, trying to calm down... taking deep breaths, and maybe even chuckling over the whole thing because the reviews for Dorianna are mostly fabulous.

Do you read reviews? If so, how do you handle getting past "bad" ones? Are you as cool about it as Jeff Bridges?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Evernight Teen turns two, & there's a huge party & giveaways this week, including an iPad Mini!!!

Happy Birthday 

Evernight Teen turns two this month and we’re having a HUGE party to celebrate! It may be Evenight Teen’s birthday, but YOU get the presents. So, grab a piece of cake, hop from blog-to-blog and discover EVERNIGHT TEEN!

Be sure to visit every stop on the hop and answer each question. The more you blogs you hop, the more chances to win the GRAND PRIZE of an iPad Mini sponsored by Evernight Teen (one entry per blog). Plus, hop each blog for a host of other fabulous prizes.

Have your TBR list handy. We have lots of new titles for you to add, including my featured book DORIANNA, which just won 2014 Best Horror Book in the Kindle Hub Awards!

Here are two key songs from the Dorianna playlist to entertain you... or creep you out, followed by a mini-excerpt. Hey, this is dark fantasy, peeps.
Bring Me to Life by Evanescence
Demons by Imagine Dragons  
Evanescence's Bring Me to Life
Imagine Dragon's Demons
Now, a mini-excerpt. This scene comes after Dorianna discovers weird changes on the videos made of her by videographer Wilson:

This isn’t happening. I hunch over and clutch my ribs as I play the thing again. At least the YouTube verbal shit-storm isn’t as bad as the one on my DVD copy, I rationalize. What can I do? Each video is changing in its own way, at its own pace. It’s horrid not being able to control this. It’s as if some insidious spam keeps infiltrating no matter what.

Scrolling down to see the latest YouTube comments, I gasp.
The lady doth protest too much—cackle, cackle, cackle
u might b hella changin but u still shine big
Sungirl’s turning into a sun-witch. Bring it on, evil girl
Hangin’ out at to watch u turn b-b-bad to the bone

There's a huge amount of hits—over five thousand. Where do these flipping trolls come from? I can’t take my evil outburst, even if my viewers can. I make a beeline over to my bookshelf to get my aunt’s money. “I’ll return it,” I pledge, but my hand freezes in mid-stream. Finally, I understand the phrase “frozen in place”—more than I ever wanted to. 

Wilson might’ve lied about not altering the YouTube beach scene, but this DVD copy? He had nothing to do with this. He was right after all. These consequences are unacceptable. I’ll have to work harder to thwart them. That revolting DVD cannot stay on my desk. No one can ever, ever see it. I hide it in my bookshelf, behind a row of novels.

Where does Wilson—the so-called Prince of Darkness—get his powers? How exactly has he transferred them to me? And who’s behind the whole operation? That question is almost the scariest part.

You could win the mug AND ebook!
Enter for a chance to win EVERNIGHT TEEN’s GRAND PRIZE of an iPad Mini and my blog prize of a Dorianna coffee mug with an ebook of Dorianna by answering this question (be sure to include your email address to be eligible to win):
What book scared the bloody effing bejezus out of you, and WHY? (If you absolutely cannot think of a book you can say a film, but props go first to peeps who think of books).

The ET birthday blog hop continues here:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Loose Corset by Christine Rain - Fun, geek-lovers romance! My review & fun giveaway prizes!

I am thrilled to present Christine Rain's romantic comedy series Dice and Debauchery, and the first, which is called Loose Corset. I know, even the name makes me giggle. I snapped up a review copy as soon as they were available, and I laughed myself silly all the way through it. My review is below, but first, some info:
Loose Corset
Dice and Debauchery, Book 1
A Romantica® contemporary erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave, for 18+
The blurb:
A weekend away at a convention is exactly what overworked student Morgan needs. Dressed as her character from her favorite online game, Morgan is braced—seriously, could her corset be tighter?—to meet the other players. As Lady Gyrfalcon, she’s ready for everything—except her intense attraction to Dean. A clandestine meeting in the hallway of the hotel and Morgan’s corset is looser but now she can’t breathe for entirely different reasons.

Utterly charmed, Morgan decides to roll the dice and indulge in a fantasy-worthy weekend of sexy roleplaying, scorching sex and life-altering orgasms. Still, through it all Morgan is too smart to believe the chemistry constantly stripping her of costumes and control can last more than the length of the convention. But if she wants to keep a relationship so intense she thought it only existed in fiction, she’s going to have to let go of her cool-headed logic and allow herself to fall far and fast for the perfect guy.
Shop for Loose Corset at: Amazon, B&N, Ellora's Cave, Kobo

My review- 5 stars!
I appreciate a tale that makes me laugh and Loose Corset accomplished that to the max! What could be more entertaining than a bunch of horny geeks who all knew each other from an online gaming community finally getting to meet one another--in full-out Comicon type costumes!? Ms. Rains turned the stale formulaic romantic trope on its head and succeeded in making awkward, intellectual nerds super-sexy. Love, love, loved it, from the moment Morgan hurries to escape the con floor to loosen her suffocating corset in the ladies room, to the fumbling first kisses in the dark con hallway, to Dean's surprisingly masterful moves.

The rub? Morgan is insecure. Does Dean love her fictional online character more than her real, live one? Should she continue to role-play to keep him hooked? The sex is hot, the chase is fun, and her friendship with her roomie, Emily - even the angst over sharing the hotel room while Morgan is trying to have alone time with Dean is realistic. We've all been there at one time in our fumbling youth.

Even Ms. Rains' chapter heads are fun. They consist of Geek Girl Problems, each numbered the way a brainy girl would, of course, be compelled to do. I so look forward to the next in the series.

The giveaway deets:
1st prize: a set of red gem gaming dice from Chessex & a Christine Rains personalized die
2nd prize: erotic dice & a Christine Rains personalized die
3rd prize: 3 people will win a Christine Rains personalized die
***Also, Christine will be having a new Rafflecopter giveaway each month so make sure to keep checking her blog!
About the author:
Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She's married to her best friend and fellow geek living in south-central Indiana. They have one son who is too smart for his parents' own good and loves to pretend he's Batman. Christine has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not reading or writing, she's going on adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. (South Central Indiana Fiction Interface). She has several short stories and novellas published. The Dice & Debauchery series is her first contemporary erotic romance.
Visit her: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year, new releases, new awards. Any new resolutions?

Dorianna wins it!
I hope you had a wonderful New Year's. Last year, the hubs and I were trapped for two days in the Dominican Republic airport. Not a fun way to ring in the new year... except that I got a tons of revision done on my WIP as I sat, and sat, and sat there. I drank way too much burnt airport coffee, too. So, this year, we plunked in front of the TV and watched Anderson Cooper giggle over Kathy Griffin's inane jokes and Pitbull shake his rabbit butt as he entertained Miami. On a higher cultural note, we binge-watched Dave Grohl's TV series Sonic Highways, which I HIGHLY recommend! It's a series about music and how it's produced in various cities. I love Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters, He's a surprisingly good TV producer. Something about how real talent translates into fresh TV from someone way outside the stale Hollywood box.

On other fronts, DORIANNA my YA twist on Dorian Gray just won a BEST HORROR BOOK  award over at The Kindle Hub. Thanks TKH! I am thrilled about this! What a pretty gold seal.

On a third but as important note, today is Inkspeller Lisa Voisin's launch of The Angel Killer, Book Two in her Watcher series. A dark, fast ride!
The blurb:
Now she’s found him again, all Mia Crawford wants is some downtime with her fallen angel boyfriend, Michael. But the call of duty keeps him away—from school and from her—with more demons to smite than ever.
When Michael is mortally wounded by a cursed sword, Mia must perform an ancient blood ritual to save him. But the spell exacts a price. Haunted by visions of war, torture, and despair, Mia discovers the world is in more danger than she ever imagined. Behind the scenes, an evil adversary pulls all the strings. After redemption, there’s Hell to pay.

A mini-excerpt:
Light from the near-full moon shimmers off the leaves of sycamore trees, and the scent of pomegranate hangs in the air. Though my footfalls are silent on the hard-packed earth, Hell is never far away. Nor is that blood-stained rack that was my prison for millennia. The memory of my master’s claws still stings my throat; the poison of his hate burns below the skin. Perhaps it always will. The only reality I’ve come to know is that my pain satisfies him.
   Anka sleeps on a grass mat, her lithe, young form curled into a fetal position on the roof of her family’s mud brick house. Strands of her long, black hair are stuck to her cheekbones from the heat. The girl is old enough to be married but will be taken to the temple of Seth in the morning instead. Rumors of her prophetic dreams have secured her place as an oracle. Such a gift interests my master too, and as influential as Seth is among the Egyptian people, he’s a false god, my master’s rival. A demon warlord just like him.
   Her father snores deeply, but the stifling air makes her mother fitful. The woman twists and turns. Does she anticipate me? I stand over the girl and contemplate how to take her without waking them. Their terror alone would sound a call to all the scavengers along the Nile, and my master wants her soul intact. More power that way. In servitude or sacrifice, souls are the fuel that builds empires.
   My hand hovers over her nose and mouth, and her soft breath tickles my skin. I could suffocate her while she dreams, a silent, seemingly natural death. Or I could carve out her heart, a symbolic gesture. He’d take pleasure in that. If I’m fast enough, she won’t have time to cry out or wake the others. I run my fingers over the middle of her chest and extend my claws.

Shop for The Angel Killer ebook at Amazon, All Romance, KoboThe paperback is at Amazon, B&N
See all of Lisa's Books on Amazon and get the first, The Watcher for only 99 cents!

About Lisa
A Canadian-born author, Lisa Voisin spent her childhood daydreaming and making up stories, but it was her love of reading and writing in her teens that drew her to Young Adult fiction. A coffee lover, she can usually be found writing in a local café. When she's not writing, you'll find her meditating or hiking in the mountains to counteract the side effects of drinking too much caffeine. Though she’s lived in several cities across Canada, she currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her fiancé and their two cats. 

How was your New Years? Any resolutions? Anti-resolutions?