Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

It's been about a week (hopefully not more!) that I've read Kazuo Ishiguro's widely talked about novel Never Let Me Go. My own experience with Mr Ishiguro has not been a completely successful one. On my postmodernist college course, we've dealt with The Remains of the Day extensively. I even wrote a paper about it, but it wasn't the most exciting (or interesting) book to read. Stylistically, it was amazing. On a more personal level, not by a long shot. So imagine my surprise when my next Ishiguro read turned out to be possibly the best book I've read in 2010!

The protagonist and narrator of the story is a girl named Kathy. Kathy relates the story of her childhood in the school named Hailsham, of her formative years spent on a farm after graduation, and of her (young) adult years spent working as a sort of nurse. Reading the book, there is an uncomfortable feeling. Although the book feels very human and real, Ishiguro's England doesn't quite seem like the England we know, and although the twist is really quite predictable and not at all shocking (nor should it be!), it is still a chilling story that bears more meaning than it might seem. (very mild spoilers ahead)

You see, Kathy (along with her two friends, the fiery Ruth and the absent-minded Tommy) is a clone, her life designed only to be spent living healthily and caring for other people of her "kind" until she becomes a donor and ultimately completes. Ishiguro intentionally doesn't go into detailed explanation of what all this means, however, it's more than enough. I liked how the book, although it may seem a bit futuristic, is really very much grounded and more concerned with emotions and allegorical social criticism than its own universe. It is surprisingly human and sad, a sort of warning that sounds very nostalgic. Kathy is a very unreliable narrator, which is a big part of the book's charm - the character's are so naive and clueless as to what is going on with and around them, that they often provoke the saddest of emotions.

To simplify, it is a book about all of us - about first love, adolescence and growing up - set in a world which doesn't value its people and where feelings always have to bow down before function.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book for some wonderful, warm (and not at all pretentious!) Christmas reading, especially with the movie coming out soon. It is maybe the best book I read this year and one I'd love to hear some feedback on.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giveaway: TLA Releasing DVDs

As you may have noticed in my sidebar, I am participating in the 2010 GLBT Reading Challenge, that explores and celebrates the GLBT culture in art. The November mini-challenge has to do with watching a queer-themed movie and I decided I should do a guest post on their blog. In the post (click here to check it out), I talk about what makes a movie queer and the difference between Queer as Folk and Brokeback Mountain. I think you'll like what I have to say.

It is now my honor to have my email answered by Mike from TLAVideos, the biggest online retailer dedicated to gay cinema. Mike is really cool and has offered three romantic titles for a giveaway on my blog Boy Culture, Coffee Date and the hot new release, Is It Just Me? What are you waiting for? The rules are below and the DVDs are waiting!

Giveaway rules:
US only
Giveaway ends December 11th
Enter by commenting and leaving your EMAIL
18+ only (as the movies are unrated)

Bonus entries:
+2 for following (old and new followers)
+2 for leaving a link in your sidebar (+4 if you leave a graphic)
+2 for tweeting about the contest
+4 for blogging about the contest
+4 for visiting TLA and coming back with a title that seems interesting to you.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book to Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One

Yesterday, I got this amazing opportunity to attend the press screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I am a movie and theatre reviewer for a local website and my editor was so anxious for me to go, then come back and write my review. And now that I've done it, I wanted to share some of the excitement with you - in advance of the big premiere tomorrow. Don't worry, no spoilers here.

The first thing that comes to mind is how truthful to the book this movie is. It almost reminds me of The Philosopher's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, which were almost annoyingly by-the-book. I guess splitting the book into two movies allows for more details to be shown. However, I am not completely satisfied with the splitting - it leaves us without a proper ending of Part One and although the movie is more than exciting, the final product has absolutely no resolution. Although the final scene is art in itself, it seems almost arbitrary, as it could have happened anytime in the past two and a half hours. Not to mention, there are seemingly endless scene that could easily have been cut.

I was really happy that the movie was not released in 3D. I believe 3D just keeps reminding you you're at the movies and that you're supposed to scream and laugh (kind of like a theme park). And trust me, although the action sequences are jaw-dropping, this movie is much too poignant and emotional to be seen as light entertainment. Unfortunately, Part Two will be released in 3D, which I hope will not interfere with the movie's emotional tone. And here's a big surprise: there's an animated bit in the movie. Now, I'm not going to tell you what, but it is beautiful and creative and I was really happy (although shocked at first).

The actors are all amazing, of course, but no one more than Emma Watson, who's really grown into a strong actress. The opening scene of the movie is all about her, as Hermione casts Obliviate on her parents, and it instantly got me to start crying. Rupert Grint is fun as usual, though he does get a dramatic moment or two. Daniel Radcliffe is also good, though the weakest of the three. Anyway, Part Two will be his chance to shine. There is also a (surprisingly graphic) nude scene involving two of the main characters, though that's another surprise I won't ruin. And don't worry, it's all in good taste.

All in all, though not my favorite movie of the bunch, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a fabulous piece of movie-making and a satisfying beginning of the end of my childhood. Make sure you bring tissues, as well as a friend to clutch to when things get especially tough. That Nagini sure gave me a heart attack!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Literary Blog Hop #1

Literary Blog Hop

This blog hop is open to those bloggers with substantial number of reviews and post featuring literary fiction. This week's question comes from Debbie Nance at Readerbuzz.

What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?

I gave this question a lot of thought. I am a student of English literature, so naturally, I kept thinking in those terms. Beowulf? The Canterbury Tales? Shakespeare? Not really. Although these weren't exactly easy, I find it's easier to read a book once you know its literary context.

However, I remember struggling with a book that was required reading in my high school - Homer's Illiad. Of course I never finished it (I never even read more than a couple of dozen pages), but it's funny how I tried to read it so many times, that I now know the first few lines by heart (in Serbian, of course). Another hard read was Ulysses by James Joyce, and only because I started reading an edition with no footnotes and explanations. Which is suicidal. But it is a great book and I love it.

The Literary Blog Hop can be found here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Interview & Giveaway: Roxanne St. Claire

Fellow book bloggers and readers, it is my honor to welcome Roxanne St. Claire on my blog today. Roxanne has written everything from chick lit to category romance to suspense - and she has just recently launched her new trilogy, Guardian Angelos with the first novel entitled Edge of Sight. Let's welcome this New York Times bestselling author to Nikola's Book Blog!

Thanks for having me here at your blog.

Is it exciting to be launching a new series? What are your ambitions with the Guardian Angelos?

Of course it's exciting to launch a new series, and daunting, too. After eight books and two novellas under the Bullet Catchers umbrella (my previous series), it's a little scary to create an all-new cast of characters and put them in compelling, unforgettable situations. I've written the first three books in the series, and found they were grittier, more emotional and tougher than I'd expected, but I loved the challenge.

My ambitions are to continue the series. Publishing is a grueling, difficult business and genres are cyclical. I hope that Guardian Angelinos has lit a chord with readers who love "romantic suspense" - a fast-paced, sexy, emotionally charged story that follows a stand-alone adventure within a bigger world.

Not only are you a prolific writer, but you've written romance, chick lit and suspense! That's amazing! What's your favorite genre to write?

I love to write whatever I'm writing at the moment. I have recently sold my first Young Adult novel, which will come out in hardcover from Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, in 2012. So right now, I'm loving the fresh, unexpected, pure stories that appeal to teen readers. I'm so excited that this book has been optioned for a feature film, and hope to write many more for younger readers.

When we were talking about this interview, you described my blog as "eclectic". If I were invited over for coffee at your place, how do you think I would describe your bookshelves?

A mess! I stash and stuff and rarely reorganize. My bookshelves have everything from classic to trash. I love Bronte (both of them!) and Austen, spent my teen years devouring hardcore mainstream commercial fiction (Sydney Sheldon, Judith Krantz, Jacqueline Susann) and then moved into the romance genre that I love and write - Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown and Debbie Macomber. I have at least a hundred Young Adult novels, rows of Harlequin category and my share of literary works as well. We're both eclectic!

One of the hot topics in the book bloggers' community is piracy. Do you have any experience with book piracy and what are your thoughts?

I just don't know what to say about this. I don't understand it, I don't appreciate it and I certainly don't condone it. Book piracy takes bread off my table, gas out of my car and tuition from my son's college funds. It's stealing what an author has a right to be paid for. I sweat, bleed and struggle to write the best books I possibly can and someone believes it's perfectly okay to take my work and enjoy it without any compensation to me. I realize there are geographical restrictions on books that I have no control over. I also believe these will be changing over time, and readers in other countries will have access to e-books on an international basis, with appropriate compensation for the publishers and editors. In the meantime, please go to the library, buy a used book, borrow from a friend or seek out the zillions of free reads on the internet. But don't download a stolen book.

The next chapter of the Guardian Angelions is set to be published in March 2011. Are you working on the book or is it almost done? Also, what should we expect?

The next two books are "in the can" as they say - completed, revised, copyedited and on their way to production. They'll be released back to back in March and April. First up is Shiver of Fear, a thriller set in Northern Ireland where Marc Rossi is sent to track down a woman on a secret mission and finds her far more attractive and dangerous than he expects. That will be followed immediately by Face of Danger, the story of Vivi Angelino, who bucks the FBI to step into the shoes of an Oscar-winning actress as a body double and becomes the target of a serial killer. I hope readers love these and all of my books!

Thanks for the interview, Roxanne!

Thanks for inviting me!

Roxanne is very cool and has offered one copy of Edge of Sight to one lucky winner. The rules are as follows:

US/Canada only
Giveaway ends November 27th Extended until December 4th!
Enter by commenting and LEAVING YOUR EMAIL.

Bonus entries:
+2 for following (old and new followers)
+2 for leaving a link in your sidebar (+4 if you leave a graphic!)
+2 for tweeting about the contest (leave the link!)
+4 for blogging about the contest
+4 for visiting Roxanne's website and coming back with a title you'd love to read, other than the Guardian Angelinos series

Good luck!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thanks to Amanda, who posted about this last night, I too have been observing the Amazon controversy. And I am outraged - though not in the sense everyone else is. If you don't know what's been going on, here's a short version for you: Amazon was peddling a book entitled The Pedophiles Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child Lover's Code of Conduct by Phillips Greaves. Here's what was in the product description:

"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certain rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should the ever be caught."

The whole nation outraged, people started boycotting Amazon via Twitter (hashtag #amazonfail), Facebook (groups such as Boycott Amazon for Selling Pedophile Guide) and finally Amazon itself, via reviews. At the same time, defenders (of sorts) have spoken, with comments mocking the protester's shock ("It eliminates the need for candy and a van", says a commenter on Facebook). Finally, the book was pulled.

Here comes the part where I tell you what I think, but not before I make it perfectly clear that I am not a pedophile and do not condone pedophiles. In fact, I think it's cowardly and disgusting. I'm all for whatever two consensual adults wanna do together, even if it seems disgusting to me. However, pedophilia, rape, necrophilia and other situations where it's not consensual and/or not between two adults are not okay.

That being said, I think that this is most likely much ado about nothing. First of all, I couldn't find any information about this book, and I've looked. Nothing! No synopsis, no reviews. Sure, it's entitled A Pedophiles Guide, but that does not mean anything. Is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy really what it says in the title? Perhaps this is a big case of judging the book by its cover. Secondly, there is the issue of the author - the name is obviously a pseudonym, Google is no help, and the only thing we know about him is what he posted (quoted above). And this could very well be a marketing trick.

Finally, the issue of censorship. After Amazon pulled the book, I am a bit disappointed. Does this mean that now all the books by Marquis de Sade (especially 120 Days of Sodom) will be pulled as well? And then the movie version? And what about A Single Man and Lolita? If these books and movies get pulled, that will be the biggest #amazonfail of them all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Right, so here's the deal: My blog's been on the long 2-month or so hiatus, I may have lost some followers and I failed to keep up with the giveaways I was hosting (this is being fixed). But now I'm back. Like, Mariah Carey back. My incredible humor aside, I am happy to be back at something that is so fulfilling. I knew this to be true after my last post - and all the lovely, heartfelt comments by my fellow bloggers. You guys are my friends, although I don't know you. I'm grateful for each and every one of you.

Now, on to the review. I finally read Breakfast at Tiffany's, a book that is as iconic as the movie that was based on it. It's a story about a young writer reminiscing of the year he moved to New York and met Holly Golightly, a girl who would change his life. This is in fact a novella - it could easily be read in one sitting (though I savored each and every word, so it took me a bit more) and it is incredibly easy to digest. However, the things that are kept under its witty exterior are far more interesting than the plot itself.

Holly Golightly, the object of our narrator's affection, can be easily described as a gold-digger. Yet, she is also innocent and naive and sweet. She is a mystery, we are not certain about her past and much less about her future. However, she is the ideal of change and of the American Dream. Making your dreams come true, no matter how much you have to suffer for them, is the driving force behind this character. And since her dreams are as far-fetched as having breakfast at Tiffany's, the plights are never-ending.

I actually preferred Breakfast in its paper form, as opposed to the movie. There is no romance in the book (in fact, the nameless character of the narrator is implicitly gay), yet the relationship between him and Miss Golightly is far more believable. Also, the plot is not burdened with the romantic context, therefore it's much more real and to the point.

I guess I'm not completely smitten with this book. While it was generally pleasant and inspiring, I thought it lacked a final punch, sort of like a firm conclusion to the story. Nevertheless, it's a contemporary classic that is a joy to experience.


Monday, September 27, 2010

When Life Takes Over

Dear readers, authors and fellow bloggers,

This is just a short note from me to explain why my blog has experienced a hiatus of sorts for the past month or so. It has been an incredibly difficult time for me and it's been increasingly hard for me to keep up with reading, reviewing, etc.

This September, my relationship of 15 or so months of incredible love and emotion reached its conclusion. Naturally, this leaves a huge stain on one's emotions and I was am still very emotional and sad about it. It also was a very strenuous time in school, with six exams I have to pass and very little time to do it.

I am very aware that this sort of post can seem unprofessional. The truth is, I'm not a professional blogger. I don't make any money off of this. And when I (as I'm sure many other bloggers do) review a book, it's because our passion for the industry, for the authors and for the written word.

So I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the month of September - the reviews I failed to write, the giveaways I failed to wrap up (and which I'm going to do very soon, the best way I can) and the posts I failed to comment.

This blog is my baby, but I had to temporarily abandon it. Life took over. And I'm happy to continue balancing everything the best I can.

Thank you everybody. Just following your blogs in my Google Reader and reading your books is making my world a better place.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Giveaway Winners Galore!

Finally, here are the winners for the giveaways that were just standing there on my blog for a very long time. I hope the winners are happy to receive the books and that I will see those reviews up soon! :)

Kiss of the Rose goes to:


The Human Bobby goes to:


His Last Letter goes to:

The Book Pixie and Spring

Thanks for entering, everybody! I have the next giveaway in store, and it is going to be epic! Think a celebrity author, whose book has been made into a cult TV show and who has recently published her first YA book... If anyone can guess, well, let's just say I'll keep that in mind. And you'll want to win that signed copy, trust me!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest Post + Giveaway: Jeane Westin

I am sure everyone here will agree that there is nothing worse than a month full of exams - well, at least it's in the top 10. This is how it's been for me lately, and I'm very sorry I had to hit the pause button with the blog lately.

Today, I hope to make up for this by introducing historical fiction author Jeane Westin to the blog, who has prepared a guest post concerning her book His Last Letter. Please give a warm welcome for Jeane!

Hello Nikola, I'm so happy to hear from you and know you have an interest in England's Queen Elizabeth I and my book His Last Letter:Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester. The book is a novel about Elizabeth's lifelong love, Robert Dudley as I imagined it. Their story started when they were children of eight years and continued until her death nearly 70 year later. Although she was called, and called herself, the Virgin Queen, their long, romantic relationship raise doubts and I decided to imagine that theirs had been more than a deep friendship, although it was always that.

They were playmates first, impetuous companions as adults and the center of each others' lives for decades. Astute to the dangers of choosing any one man, the Virgin Queen could never give Dudley what he wanted most, to be her husband and England's king, she insisted that he stay close by her side. Possessive and jealous, they survived quarrels, his two disastrous marriages to other women, her constant flirtations and political machinations with foreign princes. Yet still, there is no written evidence that confirms the depth of the love between Elizabeth and her "sweet Robin".

  But was there such evidence? At the moment of her greatest victory over the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth receives news of Robin's death along with his last letter to her. Elizabeth kept one page of that letter inscribed in her hand His Last Letter in a locked treasures box by her side until the day she died and that page survives in the UK files to this day.

His Last Letter asks: what if there were a second page to Robin's passionate missive, a page confirming the passionate love affair Elizabeth and Robin engaged in for decades, and a page that the Queen had to destroy?

Upon receiving the letter and overcome with grief, the Queen locks herself in her rooms for three long days, refuses all food, water and comfort and lets Robin's letter transport her back to their last years together, the most dangerous of her rule, as well as to the most passionate moments of their affair. Elizabeth loved Robin until her very last breath, but as queen she loved the throne and her independence more...and that love ultimately forces her to burn the second page of sweet Robin's missive, breaking her woman's heart for good.

Doesn't that sound intriguing? And, since Jeane rules, she has offered two copies of her book to two lucky winners! Here are the giveaway rules:

-US only
-the giveaway ends September 9th
-make sure you leave your email in the comment (no email, no entry!)
-two winners

+2 for following (old and new followers)
+2 for leaving the link in your sidebar (+4 if you leave a graphic!)
+2 for tweeting about this (leave a link!)
+4 for blogging about this

Good luck!

Special thanks to Kaitlyn Kennedy for making this giveaway possible.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview & Giveaway: Gabe Rotter

Today we welcome Gabe Rotter, whose sophomore novel The Human Bobby is out today for an interview and a giveaway. Welcome, Gabe!

Thank you for featuring The Human Bobby on your blog!

The book seems heavier in tone than your previous, Duck Duck Wally. Is this a good observation?

Yes, The Human Bobby is certainly much darker than Duck Duck Wally, which had a decidedly sillier tone. I wanted to attempt to write something in similar voice to my first book, but that went on a completely different place. But at their core I think they could both be said to be about the unraveling of a man, which is a theme I'm very interested in writing about.

Where did The Human Bobby come from?

I've always been completely fascinated by homeless people. I look at them and I desperately want to know their back-stories. How does one get to that point? What was their childhood like? Did they ever have a normal life? A spouse? Children? What are they like in their moments of clarity?

What would you say the most rewarding part of getting your book published is - seeing it on the shelf at your local bookstore, doing a book signing or receiving fan mail?

I think those are definitely three of the best things about it! Seeing it at a book store or in a library is always a thrill. Book signings are completely awesome. I think getting fan mail is probably the most rewarding. There's nothing cooler than when someone enjoys your book so much that they take the time to write you a note about it. That always makes my day and makes it worth all the hard work.

What's your focus group when it comes to readers of The Human Bobby? What's the emotion you're trying to provoke in your readers?

My focus group consists of my wife, my father and a few of my closest friends and family. In this book, the emotion I was trying to provoke was surprise. I was very taken by the idea of writing through the POV of an unreliable narrator. Someone you come to trust but whose perspective you are forced to question at some point during the story.

Would it be okay to say that The Human Bobby is a story about the state of the modern man?

I think with the state of the world economy, natural and man-made disasters, wars, etc. that most people today have a sort of tenuous grasp on their possessions, because the reality is that most of us could lose everything very easily. One of the themes of The Human Bobby is, "What are we?" - in other words, are we the things we own? Is that what defines us? The house we live in? The car we drive? Is it the people we love that makes us who we are? Once these things are taken from us, who are we?

One copy of The Human Bobby has generously been offered for a giveaway. Here are the giveaway rules:

-US/Canada only
-the giveaway ends August 31st
-make sure you leave your email in the comment (no email, no entry!)
-one winner

+2 for following (old and new followers)
+2 for leaving the link in your sidebar (+4 if you leave a graphic!)
+2 for tweeting about this (leave a link!)
+4 for blogging about this

Good luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Necessary Madness by Lisabet Sarai

"Necessary Madness" is Lisabet Sarai's first gay novel - and one could never guess! An established romance/erotica author, she has written a somewhat paranormal thriller with an abundance of romantic and sexual situations that are sure to get your blood flowing faster.

The protagonist, Kyle, is a homeless man with a curse - he is haunted by visions of future deaths and he is unable to do anything about them. After a particularly intense vision, he ends up in the hospital, where he is interrogated by Rob, a handsome policemen. Rob offers a spare room until Kyle can get back on his feet and it is not soon before they start a passionate relationship. However, Rob's ghosts of the past are threatening to compromise their relationship - as well as a mysterious man from Kyle's visions.

There are two things that should be talked about when it comes to this book. The plot and the sex scenes. Plot-wise, the book is a tight, solid thriller. Although I would have preferred to find about a little more about the antagonist's background, the cast of characters is a solid, interesting bunch. On the other hand, the sex scenes are always explicit and arousing - Sarai knows her way with words and I'm certain veteran erotica readers will enjoy Necessary Madness immensely (on the other hand, less experienced readers are certain to blush throughout). Another thing I loved about the book was that the paranormal element wasn't overused - it is there and crucial to the story, but the two lovers are human.

What I had a minor problem with was the way the plot and the sex were combined. There are fantastic instances where sex itself is a major plot device (the chilling finale is a great example of this). On the other hand, it sometimes feels like filler - as well as the reason for Rob and Kyle's romantic co-dependence. This is a small bone to pick, especially when the sex scenes are written so deliciously. Luckily, there is room to extend the story to a second book and I sincerely hope this will happen.


This book counts towards my GLBT challenge.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interview & Giveaway: Kate Pearce

Today I have a very special treat for you - a mix of the Tudors, vampires and romance. That's right - please welcome the prolific romance author Kate Pearce, here to talk about her latest novel, Kiss of the Rose, the first in the upcoming (and I'm sure, bestselling) Tudor Vampire Chronicles. It seems like Henry VIII will never go out of style!

Henry VIII is a pretty popular guy nowadays, don't you think? The Tudors are everywhere, so tell us what your particular reason was to use him in your novel. And where do the vampires fit in?

I studied Tudor politics as part of my degree and I've always enjoyed reading novels about them so when my agent suggested I try and write Tudor Vampires, it all seemed to click! As my starting point, I used the notion that the Tudors came to power unexpectedly and that it would've been a great opportunity for them to win the crown with some paranormal help. In my mind, this resulted in an alliance with the Druids. The Tudor family are from Wales and I reckoned the young Henry VII might well have been exposed to some pagan religion as well as Christianity. In my paranormal world the Vampires are an offshoot of the Druids, so there is a natural enmity between them which leads to all sorts of problems over the centuries.

Did the book require a lot of research?

Yes it did. But then as a history major I love to research and know how to do it competently. For example, the costume book I consulted had about 6oo pages of text in it which proved a little time consuming! And after all the research only a tiny proportion of the history ended up in the book because it is primarily a paranormal romance.

Tell us a little bit about the heroine.

Rosalind Llewellyn is an anomaly in her own time, the first woman to be born with the mark of Awen which means she is entitled to train as a Vampire slayer - a most unladylike thing to do. She is very strong and a great match for the arrogant hero, Christopher Ellis who begins by underestimating her and ends up respecting and loving her.

How is this book different than your other titles - and there are many of them!

I've written a few, haven't I?! My books for Kensington Aphrodisia, Ellora's Cave and Virgin Black Lace 'Cheek' are all classed as erotic romance and brought out as e-books or trade-size paperbacks. Kiss of the Rose is different because it is a paranormal, historical romance in mass market format. I like to write different things and this was a new challenge for me.

Tell us about your writing routine. Also, what's next in store for Kate Pearce?

I write about 4 hours a day when the kids are in school and the house is relatively quiet. Along with writing new stuff I also have to deal with edits, copy edits, galleys, blog writing, promotion, etc. This means it gets very busy sometimes. I try and write a minimum of 2000 words a day to keep on my tight deadline schedule.

Coming up next is a novella in a Kensington Brava anthology called "Lords of Passion" with Virginia Henley and Maggie Robinson, which comes out in early December and then next year I have 2 books out around February, 2011 Simply Forbidden from Kensington Aphrodisia which is the 6th book in my Regency erotic romance House of Pleasure series, and Blood of the Rose, part two of the Tudor Vampire Chronicles which centers around Anne Boleyn.

Brace yourselves - Kate has generously offered to give away a copy of Kiss of the Rose to one lucky winner. Read it before it's all over the blogosphere! Here are the giveaway rules:

-the contest ends August 25th.

-there will be one winner.

-make sure you leave your email in the comment - no email, no entry!

-the giveaway is open internationally! (Kate rules!)


+2 for following (old and new followers)

+2 for leaving the link in your sidebar (+4 for leaving a graphic)

+2 for tweeting about this (leave a link!)

+4 for blogging about this

+4 for visiting Kate's website and coming back with the title that you find most interesting

This giveaway has been advertised on Giveaway Scout.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

I may be the last person on earth to read Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark - but I'm definitely not the last person to fall in love with True Blood, the racy HBO show based on the book. In fact, I consider myself a huge fan. So I was beyond excited to read the book that started it all when I bought my paperback copy in Dubrovnik. And I enjoyed it immensely.

Set in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, the story revolves around a telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse. The vampires have just recently come out of the coffin and Sookie is excited to meet one. The vampire in question is the mysterious Bill Compton, but when Bon Temps is struck by a tragedy - which soon escalates into a killing spree - Sookie fears she might be in danger.

As a writer, Harris writes with assurance, so I ultimately forgave her the shameless 1st person POV - even when it came to the corniest sentences. She utilizes the mysterious and dark Louisiana atmosphere to the maximum, and in the context of the story, it works out perfectly. The story itself is a perfectly balanced detective story that is never too obvious (unless you've seen the first season of the TV show). However, there are enough surprises in the book to keep you reading, even if you did.

I loved how vampires are sometimes used allegorically to represent real-life minority groups. It's very cool to see them represent people of a different race or sexual orientation. However, I didn't like how in the end, the book ends very lightly, when I feel like it could have packed more impact. However, it is an excellent mystery book and the basis for a fantastic TV show. I can't wait to read book two!


This book counts toward my GLBT challenge.

Monday, August 9, 2010

100th Post! 200 followers! Blogoversary!

Dear readers, reviewers, followers, commenters, authors, publishers, etc.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank every one of you for helping me make it to 100 posts, or in other words, 200 followers! Or, if you're into dates, one year of blogging!

Starting this blog, I never knew this might happen. Let's go back in time - I've always loved reading and browsing the internet one day, I stumbled upon a number of book blogs and was highly impressed by this fabulous community. So, on Monday, August 10 2009, I created my very own book blog, entitled Nikola's Book Blog. Simple, huh?

The very first book review I posted was on Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal. Since then, I tracked my reading habits and reading choices, learning that I in fact had very diverse taste in books - I love literary fiction, but I also love to relax with chick flick or thrillers or even a romance or two.

The community part of book blogging was always so vital and this is why I would like to thank some fellow book bloggers. Amanda of the Zen Leaf, thank you for being one of the first people to visit my blog and comment on it. Also, thank you for always being up for a chat, for creating the GLBT challenge (this one I am so grateful for!) and for your amazing posts - I love your mixture of personal thoughts and general info on books. Also, Sheila of Book Journey - thanks for being one of the first blogs I stumbled upon and also the one I still visit almost every day. You have such a great track record with your posts and reviews and I love that you are addicted to coffee and Gilmore Girls. I am too. Ryan of Wordsmithonia for being a great friend and a regular visitor. Melissa of Mel's World for being so sweet. Wendy of ItsJustMe for being so loyal. Brent of The Naughty Book Kitties for doing an interview with me. I'd love to meet all of you in person one day!

Another thing I got into since I started blogging was the book industry - I feel like I've learnt so much! This is why I try and feature authors on my blog as often as possible - interviews, giveaways, etc. The first one was Katherine Neville - one of my favorite authors and I remember I was shaking when I sent her the email. However, her publicist Lisa Barnes was super sweet and so my first giveaway was very high-profile! After her, I hosted M. D Griffith, Suzanne Selfors, Ben H. Winters, David H. Burton, Dan Begley, Lisabet Sarai... Thanks to all these authors for trusting in me.

So there you have it. 100 posts, 200 followers and my blog turns one tomorrow! After a year, I don't feel much smarter, just a bit more informed. So tell me - what is it you like and what is it you'd like changed. Questions, comments, concerns.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Interview: Kate Emerson

Please welcome Kate Emerson, the bestselling author of the Secrets of the Tudor Court series of historical novels. With the third installment, By Royal Decree, coming out in December (have you seen the gorgeous cover?), Kate has stopped by to answer a few questions about historical fiction, the Tudors and herself.

Why the Tudor Court? Do you find it more fascinating than some other period of British history and why?

I've always been interested in this period of history. I can remember reading a juvenile biography of Queen Elizabeth I when I was only ten years old. The Tudors and everything that surrounded them were bigger than life, making a wonderful backdrop for the individual stories of courtiers who served them. Before this series, I wrote mysteries set in the early Elizabethan era (Face Down in the Marrow Bone Pie, etc) under my real name, Kathy Lynn Emerson. The Secrets of the Tudor Court series is written as Kate Emerson to let readers know that, although there are always elements of intrigue in the books, they are not mystery novels. The secrets have to do with spies, treasonous plots, and the personal mistakes that haunt characters' pasts.

How extensive is the research you do for a novel? Does it take a lot of time and energy?

I've been researching the era, one way or another, for over forty years, so I have a huge library and many file folders full of notes on all aspects of life in Tudor times. For each individual novel, I have to do specific research into the lives of the real people I intend to use as characters and into any specialized areas (for example, how to play tennis and how "disguisings" were prepared and performed for The Pleasure Palace and how travel to and from Calais was accomplished for Between Two Queens). It is time-consuming, but also fascinating---what I term "painless research."

How would you characterize your heroines?

Jane Popyncourt in The Pleasure Palace, Nan Bassett in Between Two Queens, and Bess Brooke in By Royal Decree were all real people who had a connection to the court of Henry VIII and a personal connection to Henry himself. Women in those days were considered to be the property of fathers, husbands, or guardians and did not have a great deal of freedom, but they could work behind the scenes to achieve their goals. All three women were all trapped, in one way or another, by the politics and intrigue of life at court, but they were all survivors. In my fictionalized accounts of their lives, I try to make the choices history tells us they made understandable to modern readers.

What do you think about the ever-growing genre of historical fiction? Is there anything that bothers you?

I'm frequently frustrated by the tendency some novelists have to change history, especially when what really happened would, in my opinion, have made an even better story. Historical movies and television series are the worst offenders, since they don't hesitate to, for example, combine two sisters into one character and then marry that character to someone neither sister wed in real life.

Could you at least hint at what you’re writing next?
I'm just starting work on the 4th Secrets of the Tudor Court entry. This one will focus on Anne Stafford, Lady Hastings, younger sister of the Duke of Buckingham who was executed by Henry VIII in 1521. As I work on the novels, I also add entries to and expand the existing entries in my Who's Who of Tudor Women, which can be found online at my website.
Thanks for stopping by Kate! I'm sure we will see more of you by December. Good luck with the upcoming book!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Booking Through Thursday #2

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme. Questions and links to other participants can be found here.

What is the first book you remember reading? What about the first that really made you love to read?

Tough question - ever since I could read (which I taught myself), I was constantly reading something. However, I do remember certain books that surely cemented my love for reading. I believe the earliest example is Enid Blyton's Five on Kirrin Island Again, which is the sixth book in a fantastic children's series. I remember being totally engrossed and excited about the plot.

Other two books that I remember loving were Dickens' David Copperfield and Emil and the Detectives, a mystery book by the German author Erich Kastner. The reason I loved David Copperfield was probably because I felt like I understood the gist of the story, though I was too young to appreciate its many layers. Dickens continues to be an author I respect, especially his novel The Great Expectations. On the other hand, I found Emil completely fascinating because of the well-written personalities of the boys in question and in my head, this created an image of what sort of friends I myself would like to have.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Today's review is of a very special book which grew on me more and more with each page and ended up becoming one of my favorite books of all time. Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man is an intelligent, well-written novel of a day in the life of George, a gay man who has recently become single again, after the death of his long-time lover.

Like all the best books, it's hard to say what this book is about. It could be argued that it's about George dealing with his loss, but it's about a lot more than that. Isherwood writes about relationships - romantic or friendly - and how sometimes not even this is enough. He writes about forbidden pleasures - as if being gay in the 60's is not enough, George starts developing a risky friendship with one of his students. The gay history of Los Angeles is explained from time to time, but only when it has to do with George's thoughts and actions.

George is a fascinating character, alienated from everyone around him by his very existence. A gay Brit living in Los Angeles and working as a university lit teacher (lit seems to interest no one) makes his identity more than a little blurry. His best friend Charlotte, another fascinating character, is a straight woman without a husband who drinks her nights away and dreams of going back to London (somehow, one doesn't necessarily feel either Charlotte or George would be better off there). And then, with the sudden death of his life partner, George has one last chance to recuperate and move on. And we all know it's not that easy.

If you liked the book, make sure you see the movie adaptation, directed by Tom Ford. It's divine.


This review counts toward the GLBT challenge.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Giveaway Winners: Notepad/Bookmark and Lisabet Sarai E-book

After traveling to Dubrovnik (seriously, one of the most beautiful places I've ever traveled to) and the magical Greek island of Zakynthos, it's time to announce the winners of the two fabulous giveaways I've hosted.

First, here are the winners of Lark's lovely creations. Make sure you visit her store here for many other beautiful and unique hand-made beauties.

***The notepad goes to JUDYLYNN***
***The bookmark goes to ADDICTED BOOK READER***

And now, here is the winner of the Lisabet Sarai giveaway. Make sure you visit this author's website here - her books will surely get your blood flowing faster!

***The e-book goes to SHERRY***

To all the winners - you have been emailed and I ask to please reply ASAP with your postal addresses so the prizes get sent out as soon as possible. Sherry, make sure you tell me which book you'd like to receive.

To the people that didn't make it - in a little while, there will be an impressive giveaway on the blog, so keep reading. Here's a little hint - two authors of gay fiction who share the same name and write their books together. If you know who this might be, leave a comment. The first one to get it right gets 3 extra entries for when the giveaway is ready!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview and Miscellaneous Stuff

A week or so ago, another book blogger Brent, of Naughty Book Kitties, asked me to do a blogger interview with him. I did, and today I am featured on his blog. Thanks, Brent!

Check out the interview here.

I am going to Dubrovnik for (almost) a week, then come back home for a day (I'll try and post - after all, I always get quite a lot of reading done on the seaside), and then I'm going to Zakynthos, a fabulous Greek island - that's actually it on the picture above.

Until then, please take part in my giveaways and go check out what I have to say on book blogging.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Interview & Giveaway: Lisabet Sarai

Please give a warm welcome to Lisabet Sarai, a successful romance author, who is here to talk about writing steamy fiction, what bothers her when it comes to romance fiction and finally, about her latest book, Necessary Madness. Welcome, Lisabet!

Thanks for inviting me to chat on your blog, Nikola!

Let's get straight to the point - how does one get into writing steamy fiction?

I don't think there's a single answer here. I've always loved to write (I penned my first short story at six and my first poem at seven), and I've always been fascinated by sex. I was a shy nerd during high school and college but "blossomed", sexually speaking, when I was in grad school. Making up for
lost time, you might say! My first erotic stories were fantasies written for a lover.

I was inspired to write my first novel, Raw Silk, after reading Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat. I loved its diversity and intelligence. Then I thought, "With my imagination, I'll bet I could write something like that." So I did! I now realize how incredibly lucky I was to have my first submission accepted by a top publisher.

The romance market is huge right now. What sets your books apart?

Well, for one thing, I don't tend to write real alpha heros. I'm more interested in nuanced characters who might not look like Greek gods but who have brains instead.

I tend to take genres and twist them into possibly unrecognizable forms. For example, I wrote a shape shifter romance (Serpent's Kiss) but the shifter isn't a were-wolf, were-cat, were-stallion, etc. He's the reincarnation of the Mayan god Quetzlcoatl, who takes the form of a half-bird, half-snake. My paranormal books tend to be minimalist in their allocation of power, rather
than playing off rival races of super-creatures. And I write BDSM that's simultaneously extreme (by romance standards) and intensely emotional.

Compared to many romance authors, I pay a great deal of attention to setting. All my books are set in real places: Bangkok, Boston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Worcester, Guatemala. With the exception of Guatmala, these are all places I know well. I feel that a rich sense of place helps better define my characters.

Your latest book, Necessary Madness, is your first full-length gay romance. What was it like writing it?

I really enjoyed writing the book. I felt a deep connection with both Kyle and Rob, but particularly with Kyle because of his experiences with the psychiatric establishment. I spent nearly three months in a psychiatric institution when I was in my late teens, and I drew on those memories to bring Kyle's anguish to life.

As far as the sex scenes are concerned, I believe that desire is a universal experience, so I don't have any problem writing about relationships between two men (or two women for that matter). My perspective is more or less pansexual. I'm obviously concerned about whether I've accurately portrayed the dynamics of gay sex. I've read quite a bit of gay erotica, written by men, so I'm hoping that I'm more or less in the ballpark.

What's the hardest thing when it comes to writing a romance?

I think the most difficult aspect is convincingly portraying the powerful emotional connection between the lovers. Real romance isn't about fun and flings. It's about a spiritual bond that goes far beyond the physical, even though it is expressed in the material world. As Joni Mitchell wrote:

I remember that time you told me
Love is touching souls
Surely you've touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time.

Touching souls. Conveying that mystical dimension of love is tough to do well --at least for me.

Is there anything that bugs you about romances?

They're too predictable. Because you know that the ending will be happy, it's difficult to create convincing suspense in a romance. I prefer to read, and write, stories with more ambiguous conclusions. My erotic thriller Exposure is a good example. It doesn't have an unhappy ending--you just don't know what the main character will decide to do.

Romance these days also has an unfortunate me-too quality about it. Vampire books are popular, so everyone writes a vampire book and after a while, they all sound the same. Originality does not seem to be highly prized. Now M/M romance is
the latest hot fad. My M/M work sells much better than my heterosexual work, but I really don't want to confine myself to writing one genre. I enjoy variety in both my reading (as you obviously do!) and my writing.

What's the process like when it comes to hot covers?

Usually the publisher will ask you to submit ideas for the cover, with a questionaire that covers things like the appearance of the characters, the setting, the tone, and so on. Very often the author will get to see the initial draft of a cover and have the chance to request changes. That happened with my latest cover, for my upcoming (in August) vampire menage Fire in the Blood. In the first version of the cover, two of the characters were perfect but I thought that the third looked kind of like a zombie! (He isn't.) I requested a change and the final version is far better.

Necessary Madness was an interesting deviation. I had found photos that I used to build my mental images of Kyle and Rob. The artist agreed to use them on the cover, a rather unusual situation. My favorite cover, I think, is Raw Silk. I love Exposure, too. The former was designed by Ann Cain, who is also responsible for the graphic design of my website. The latter was done by Stella Price, who's also a romance author.

What's next in store for Lisabet Sarai?

Well, despite my comments above about not wanting to be typecast as writing only M/M, I'm currently at work on a M/M science fiction tale. It's a dystopic tale of the near future, set after a devastating plague that is blamed on the gay community. It's fairly political, as you might guess. I don't want to say any more, though.

Since you've given me this forum, I'd also like to mention that I'm the series editor for the Coming Together Presents series of single-author charitable erotica. We've already published two volumes, by M.Christian and Remittance Girl. I'm currently working on two more, which I
hope will be out by the end of the year. The first two books support Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, respectively. As an erotic author, I'm proud to work for the benefit of responsible sex education, women's rights, and free speech.

That is so great! Lisabet, thank you so much for this chat and the very best of luck with Necessary Madness!

Lisabet has graciously offered a choice of two e-books to be given away to one lucky person. The winner will get to choose between the contemporary M/F novel Getaway Girl and the M/M Tomorrow's Gifts.

Giveaway rules are as follows:
-ends July 25th

+1 for tweeting about this contest
+2 for following my blog (old and new followers)
+2 for adding the link to the sidebar
+4 for posting about it
+4 for visiting Lisabet's site and coming back with the title that you found most titillating!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Goodies Giveaway #1

Have you ever heard of the website It's a fantastic online store of many unique hand-crafted items, created by many talented individuals. There are many book-related things to find on there and I am going to try and feature some of the artists (because that's what they are!) on my blog.

Today's spotlight is on the art by Lark, of "larkscountryheart" (click here to visit her store). She has generously offered two prizes for our giveaway today. The 1st prize is the beautiful hand-made notepad/pen set, pictured above. The 2nd prize is the unique chain and charm bookmark, featured on the other picture.

Giveaway rules:
  1. Open to US residents only.
  2. The giveaway ends on July 16th.
  3. There will be two randomly chosen winners.
  4. You can obtain bonus entries by doing the following:
+2 for following my blog (old and new followers)
+1 for tweeting about the contest (leave the link!)
+2 for adding the link to the sidebar
+4 for blogging about this
+4 for visiting Lark's store and leaving a link in the comment about what item caught your eye

Those are pretty great odds for winning, right?
Good luck and big thanks to Lark for trusting me with this giveaway!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Being a major fan of both the literary and the TV version of Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City, reading a book about the protagonist's teen years and background can be more than a little terrifying. What if it's completely different than what I imagined? Worse, what if it plain sucks? Could it affect my love for the character and the story?

Because honestly, Carrie Bradshaw is an icon. Even if you haven't read Sex and the City, the book, you've definitely seen Sex and the City, the TV show (or the inferior movies). Although there are obvious differences between the two Carries in the show and in the book (Bushnell's Carrie is a bona fide bitch, whereas Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie is rather lovable), both are driven by this extraordinary character. A single 30-something New York columnist, who made her way up battling the odds and the many men in her life.

Enter The Carrie Diaries, a basically YA book that is about Carrie's teen years. In it, she falls in love, betrays and gets betrayed, makes her first best gay friend and dreams of moving to New York. And it's great. So many details about Carrie's past are in this book - and since Carrie is a sample of an entire generation of women, it's actually details about many empowered women of the late '70s. Carrie is raised by a single father and this provides Bushnell with an opportunity to use Carrie's strong mother as a symbol of feminism, which works very well in the book. It is also fun to compare Carrie's teen friends with the ones we know she will eventually make.

All in all, Candace Bushnell has revisited Carrie's past and has done it well. I imagine the book will be spoiled by a movie or a TV show soon enough, but fans of Bushnell's universe will cherish this book on its own. Watch out for that infamously magnificent last page, it almost made me cry!