SciFi

Bitter, Sweet, Delicious!

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg was an unexpected delight!  Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down.  It was like eating the perfect piece of chocolate cake, eager for the next bite and disappointed when you look down and the plate is clean with no more to eat.

This is the story of a young lady without a memory beyond the last few years, who manages to bake sweet treats which are, somehow, magically infused with different emotions or things like luck.  One day, her village is attacked by some marauders and while she survives, she is kidnapped and sold into slavery.  A mysterious man, not completely right in the head buys her and forces her to use her magic to make them money for different customers.  But there is a mysterious being who visits her – he is like a ghost or a spirit – and he wants her to get her memory back.

The creativity, both in the acts of the characters, and in the author’s plot and execution, is on full display.  While there was very little that was truly happy about this story, it was original and well crafted.  I found it nearly impossible to put down.  There was such a lovely mix of a few fairy tales (in their own way) and the new story here.  From the allusions to the story of Hansel and Gretel, to Alice in Wonderland, there was whimsy in the misery.  It was such an interesting juxtaposition, even knowing that whimsy was rooted in misery and had what were really in some cases evil purposes.  Seeing the power of naming something is typically reserved for books dealing with Fairies, but here it had entirely different, even though ultimately sad, purposes.  It was also a great surprise to see the direction the story ended up taking.

I particularly enjoyed reading the scenes where Maire is baking.  Seeing her work, and then learning how her magic worked, was so interesting and unique.  Like the range of treats she baked, I was filled with a range of emotions while reading the story, with all its twists and turns.  Sadness, fear, hope, love, all seem to have their moment for Maire and the reader.  The only ingredient missing?  A way for me to see that a sequel would be possible that wouldn’t distort the original story too much.  Either way, I now need to see what else there is to read by this author.  Hopefully, her other stuff is just as delicious!

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The old Showalter is back in Black and Blue? Maybe.

How funny, just last week I wrote a review about how much I missed the old Gena Showalter, and then last night I got to the first real juicy scene in the sequel to Last Kiss Goodnight, Black and Blue (#2 in the Otherworld Assassins series).  BB OA2And, it was a nice surprise.  I am not sure that Black and Blue is still quite up to par (based on standards set by the first Lords of the Underworld books) but… it was a huge improvement over Last Kiss Goodnight.  So, maybe I need to eat my words.  At a minimum, I feel like I found Waldo!  And I am stoked.  I then realized that Showalter’s website says she’s not under contract for any more in this series and I admit to being disappointed.

First, the relationship between our two characters of Blue and Evie was great.  Finally, someone I would call a strong woman.  She’s smart, sarcastic, and totally deadly.  Yippeee!  I loved seeing the contents of her purse.  At first I didn’t get the seemingly random objects and when we find out what that’s all about, it was an awesome little treat.

I liked that while Blue was sort of a little damaged, he wasn’t the typical male with the  “oh no one can love me syndrome”, instead it was all about his respect for Evie’s father.  And while she had her issues too, and was super insecure at times (mostly about her looks), she wasn’t so super damaged that I was constantly reading the “nobody could ever love me” from her perspective either.   And I liked that there was a ton of action. While the action seemed a little repetitive it was still fun to read. The problem with books like this and it’s predecessor is that there are only so many times a reader can take seeing failed escape attempts, rescues where the rescuer ends up kidnapped, bad guys who get away for the sake of stretching the plot further than it should be stretched, and dialogue – in the characters head or out loud – where the same stuff is told to me over and over and over. Although that last point seems to be indicative of this genre, not just a failing of this book or author in particular.

I admit to being a little confused at times who was doing the speaking – and which point of view we were getting.  Again, that too seems to be a failure of this genre (or should I said bad editors in this genre) since I would sometimes need to read a conversation from the start a few times to know who was saying what – new paragraphs don’t always indicate the other person is now speaking and with the “he said” (or equivalent) sometimes it was tough.

There were some little jewels throughout the book as well as rough spots.  References and jokes about the rubick’s cube and the other stuff Evie carries in her purse were awesome.   And the reaction that Blue and the other characters have when looking through the purse – even better.  The sarcasm between the characters was amusing.  And it was nice to see that things were occurring over time and that is how the relationship blossomed.  It was also nice to see that Evie’s dad didn’t just do a complete 180 on how he felt about Blue and Evie so that felt a little more real too.  So, despite the repetitive nature of some of the plot, things moved along at a decent pace to be able to stomach the deja vu feeling that crept up on me from time to time as I read.

And, while I still am not sure the steaminess is 100% back, it was an enormous improvement over Last Kiss.  It didn’t feel gratuitous but natural and didn’t leave me annoyed that what is a common key element of this genre was missing.

All things considered, Black and Blue was a much better book than the first in the series.  And leaves me a little bummed that I may not be able to see how John recovers.

Where in the world is Gena Showalter?

I mean the old Gena Showalter!!!  The one who wrote heart pounding, flushed-cheek inducing, graphically detailed steamy scene writer, Gena Showalter.  Does anyone know?  Can we find her and bring her back?  Please?

Some say she has found religion and that is why her books have lost that steamy goodness, and you can certainly see more theology in the books, but I am not sure I buy it.  Why would someone drift from the steam into violence because of religion? Ok.  I just wrote than and then realized that maybe that’s a stupid question given how often the “love thy neighbor” religion really is a facade for violence, discrimination, and all sorts of other bad things that have lead to more wars on earth than anything…  but, leaving politics aside – I miss the author I used to love to read!!!

Which book brought me to the brink, asking these questions?  Last Kiss Goodnight, by Gena Showalter.  LKG OA1Everything I have read, and the cover of LKG itself, proclaim this to be the first in a sizzling new series (the Otherworld Assassin series and it seems this is some sort of spin-off or something from her Alien Huntress series, but I’ve never read any of the AH).  But, like with many of the other folks who have read and reviewed this book, I think sizzling is a little misleading.  The author has every right to write what she wants and not write what she doesn’t.  But I think the publishers shouldn’t try to sell me something – when this book is clearly not what they claim it to be.  As a result, I really struggled with where to even categorize this series’ pages here on this site.  It’s certainly romance, because we are faced with the love stories.  And it’s alien, and I don’t usually separate out alien into another category, instead they usually sit in the PNR category too.  But, the steam, spice, sizzle, what ever you want to call all that juicy blush inducing stuff that is typically in the PNR books, and was in the start of Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series (and not so much now – see my latest reviews) is not here.  Neither is her wit and dark sense of humor.

This book is missing so much of what made me read the first few Lords of the Underworld books without putting them down.  Sure, there’s some kissing and we know that eventually the characters have sex but it’s just not what it used to be.  And I don’t mean we need to have them together in the first 5 chapters.  But when I wait until the last ten percent of the book to finally see the couple in fact couple, I want more than one line and the inference of what happens.  And that’s really all we get here.

I will also note that there is significant violence.  We see Solo ripping a man’s throat out, we see Vika get repeatedly beaten, we see animals being senselessly tortured and we see emotional abuse galore (forcing a child to kill her prized lion).  And yet, the good, the love, is limited.  It’s a shame.

I read a few other reviews that talked about being hit over the head with the theology.  I admit, five chapters in I started skipping the bible verses at the beginning of each chapter.  So maybe that’s what helped limit the feeling of being preached to (and I have read a fair share of those – and hate them – so I would be honest if I felt that way here).  Don’t get me wrong, its obvious that X and Dr E are the little angel and little devil, feeding Solo with choices always trying to show Solo to be good or to convince him to embrace evil.  And good does prevail – as it usually does in these books.  But I didn’t feel like I was having religion shoved down my throat.  Although I can see where that perspective comes from.  I guess I just tried to continue to remember that Dr E and X were aliens, from Solo’s home planet too, and purposefully tried not to think of them as an exercise in religious theory.  The once or twice I felt like I was sitting in the pew at Sunday mass, I skipped to the end of the paragraph and intentionally moved on.  It worked for me.  Although, if this keeps up, it doesn’t bode well for my desire to purchase more of Showalter’s books.

What bothered me most about this book was the female lead.  I saw a review that pointed out Vika’s courage and strength – but I am not sure I see it that way.  Sure, she seems to be planning an escape.  And she seems to be willing to eventually follow through with doing it, but she is a doormat the rest of the book.  She gets abused over and over.  The dialogue is crappy – the pleading Vika does with her father… the conversations between Mata and Vika… the way her being deaf is convenient but so unrealistic – I know deaf people can “hear” music and sounds because of vibrations, but to actually be able to understand a conversation that you can’t see because you are underneath a trailer through the vibrations… please that’s just too much – none of this lives up to the standards I have set for Showalter based on previous books.

We had some good plot holes too – why Vika doesn’t feel the effect of a vow with Solo the way others do; why X knows from the start they are meant to be together; Vika’s ability to hide that she is deaf is way too perfect; how and why did the whole switching eye color thing work, and Solo becoming deaf and them then “sharing the ability to hear” at the end; what the heck to solar flares have to do with traveling and how the heck is that tied to black magic and the no lands; were those supposed to be zombies in the no lands… the list could go on.

I miss the author who wrote all the great dialogue, characters, plot, sex scenes and stories that were the start of the Lords of the Underworld series.  Can someone figure out how to get her back, please, even if we need to use solar flares?

UPDATE:   found the following on Showalter’s website about this new “series”:  “

Q: Will Dallas get a book?  What about the Otherworld Assassins series?

A: Right now, I have no more Alien Huntress or Otherworld Assassin books under contract.  However, Dallas appears briefly in Last Kiss Goodnight but has a bigger role in Black and Blue.  BUT.  I would like to write his happily ever after one day, one way or another.  Nothing is currently in the works, however, and I’m sorry for that! “

Sooooo… might really only be 2 books, which is really more like a book and a sequel, not a series.  But that’s just my opinion…

Furious Over Tempests’s Fury

Tempest’s Fury, the fifth installment of the Jane True series by Nicole Peeler packed another powerful punch.  Unfortunately, the end left me fuming.  Why?  Because I have what I think is going to be a very long wait until the next installment so that I can find out what happens next!!!

We pick up where the last one left off with Jane, Blondie,  Anyan and friends having defeated some of the bad guys as a result of Jane’s interactions with the creature.   Jane now has discovered how very powerful she and she can telepathically communicate with the creature as she is the creature’s champion.  She has a magical weapon – an awesome axm-  and she and her pals are headed to England to fight a war.  We meet a new cast of characters and learn that the politics of the territories and the Alfar in the US in some ways are child’s play compared to what’s going on in Great Britain.  Jane finds herself faced with a historical enemy u like the Alfaro because it is much more powerful. It is actually a pair of creatures called the Red and the White.

Now here’s one of my favorite parts… we get Dragons!  Yippee!Unfortunately, the dragons are the Red and the White and they were chopped into tiny bits years ago and are  out to get resurrected.  They want to take over all of the planet and crush humanity.  And, once we learn that, we are off to the races.Orr really, the race since our crew is racing Morrigan to stop the White from being resurrected while she is trying to find the necessary pieces to do the resurrecting.

I wasn’t disappointed by the pacing, the plot, the development of the relationship between Jane and Anyan, the politics of the rebels versus the Alfar (which are the leaders here) or, of course, the dragons!

James libido has only gotten more awesome in this series and now we see not only her libido but more of her virtue.  The interplay between the two of them bring some great comedic relief to all of the action that is seen.  Throughout the story Jane continues to also have a great quick wit, always cracking jokes at inappropriate times.   The way she references other characters is pretty awesome, let’s face it for the original to be referenced as Blondie throughout, is a great expression of Jane’s personality.

And the relationship between Jane and Anyan has progressed in an interesting way too.  There is quite a bit of steam in this particular installment that i found myself wondering why these books aren’t in the romance section like the rest of the paranormal kind of stuff that I love so much (especially now that so much of the paranormal romance stuff is really urban fiction with a few steamy scenes showing up here and there).  Jane True can certainly hold her own in comparison of those other series.

This series, and this installment, I think are best appreciated by PNR fans looking for a little change to the standard formula. It’s not all vamps and Weres in this series, but lots of very different types of paranormal creatures populating universe that we don’t typically see.  Jane is also a sarcastic little bundle who is so totally spunky that her wit and humor seep throughout the book into every scene. It makes her such a joy to rEd – even when she can be annoying!

We’re also certainly not short on action in this installment.  We get explosions and destruction galore!  There is a killer kick ass scene in Paris where we got to see the destruction of Notre Dame (I wonder what it is about my luck that I seem to keep finding books and series where Notre Dame takes a beating?) There is magic, death, death by magic, oh, and did I mention explosions and the destruction of some famous sites?

Jane continues to be an awesome hero.  She doesn’t really want the title but recognizes that to save the world there’re things she just might have to do.  And who doesn’t love a hero who wields a magic axe?

So why am I furious?  Because with an ending like the one we get here, I don’t want to wait for the next!  And I couldn’t even find an expected publication day so I assume it will be a while. NOOOOOO!  I need more Jane True!  I need to see what happens to Anyan!  I need to see how Jane saves the world!  I need Jane!  **stomps feet** So, I am furious that with a cliff hanger like the one we get at the end of this book I have to wait.

What’s coming in 2012

In honor of the end of 2011, which is rapidly approaching, I thought I would work on some year end/new year lists to recap.  Especially since the end of 2011 means my little blog experiment is approaching its one year mark.  So, I might as well start recapping the events of the year and planning for what I am going to read next year.

And I am so excited for some of the books coming in 2012.  Getting through 2012 will be so exciting.  No, it’s not just about watching December 2012 come and go and watching another group of doomsday-sayers be wrong (the Mayan calendar is pretty cool, but I don’t believe in the end of the world scenarios and that’s part of why reading The Daykeeper’s Grimoire by Christy Raedeke was such a huge disappointment – review for that is forthcoming)… but it’s about some huge expectations for sequels in some of my favorite series.  Boy, I hope I am not disappointed.  There are so many books where the first one was great but the second, well, sucked.  And they didn’t get better after that.  So… with those high expectations in mind, here’s MY 5 (or so) most anticipated YA and PNR books coming in 2012, in no particular order!  I have a few hopefuls and a few that are fit in other categories too.  I would be interested in the ones you are looking forward to most!

YA:

  1. The White Glove War (Magnolia League #2) by Katie Crouch
  2. Until I Die (Revenants #2) by Amy Plum
  3. The Enchantress (the conclusion 😦 to the Secerets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott
  4. Spellcaster (Spellbound #2) by Cara Lynn Schultz
  5. The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (Steampunk Chronicles #2) by Kady Cross
  6. Make Me (Demon Underground #4) by Parker Blue

PNR:

  1. Darker After Midnight (Midnight Breed #10) by Lara Adrian
  2. Werewolf in Seattle (Wild About You #3) by Vicki Lewis Thompson
  3. The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underworld #9) by Gena Showalter
  4. Lover Reborn (Black Dagger Brotherhood #10) by JR Ward
  5. Lethal Rider (Lords of Deliverance #3) by Larissa Ione
  6. Accidentally Dead, Again (Accidental Friends #6) by Dakota Cassidy and Accidental Genie (Accidental #7)
  7. Tempest’s Fury (Jane True #4) by Nicole Peeler

Others (note about the category:  some would put these into the PNR category but I most often see them in the mystery category.  And I put them in the mystery category for the blog, so… after all it is my blog so I can do it how ever I want! 🙂 And, there aren’t many of the “others” since I tend to stick pretty much to the YA/PNR/mystery/SciFi/Fantasy and for the most part the sub-generes I read end up looking like one big lump of a category because they all tend to have a paranormal bent!): 

  1. Let Them Eat Stake (Vampire Chef #2) by Sarah Zettel
  2. In a Witch’s Wardrobe (A Witchcraft Mystery, #4) by Juliet Blackwell

Those without listed (in goodreads anyway) sequels that I really hope get them:

  1. Misfit by Jon Skovron
  2. Out in Blue by Sarah Gilman
  3. Strange Neighbors – a new one would be #4 – by Ashlyn Chase
  4. Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Collette Freedman (the synopsis says Thirteen Hallows is the first in a new saga, so…  sequel to come at some point!)
  5. Runelight by Joanne Harris (the sequel to Runemarks – listed in goodreads as published in 2011, but not available on amazon or anywhere yet)
  6. Bewitching Mystery – would be #9, what ever would come after In Charm’s Way – by Madelyn Alt

Next year end list to tackle – best covers and covers that suckered me in the worst!

Catchin’ Up and Totally Confused!

New pages!  Yippeee!  Added pages for the next installment of Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Wild About You series (#2 is Werewolf in the North Woods).  And the novella in between books 1 and 2 (#1.5 is Werewolf in Greenwich Village).  Added the details about the latest in the Lords of Deliverance series (#2 is Immortal Rider) to that page.  And working on trying to add all the details in the LOU next installment Darkest Surrender.  That one is taking a little while since the plot points abound in that book…  enough so that I think I might need to re-read it to accurately get all the info on the page.  It really was the best in that series yet!  Then there is the Witches of East End new page.  I know, I have a lot of catching up to do since I am sooooo behind on the books I have read the last two months. But… hope the new pages and reviews help.  Happy reading!

To wet your appetite, here’s the review for Witches of East End, Melissa De La Cruz’s (attempt at a) first “adult” series.

The first few chapters of Witches of East End, Melissa De La Cruz’s (attempt at a) first “adult” series seem promising.  We meet three women who, we don’t know why, aren’t permitted to use their magic.  They live in this town where something is clearly different on Long Island.

While we get a few adult scenes they were neither necessary nor well written.  The author tried to squish way too much into this series.  Not only do we get the close look at the adult scenes (which are disappointing comparatively to other authors in the PNR genre – even to authors like Nicole Peeler who sits in the SciFi genre with a tilt towards the adult) but we get a few scenes with Mimi force and the Blue Bloods from that series.  Which if you haven’t read the Blue Bloods would be awfully confusing because the author clearly assumes the reader knows things about that universe (and I quite a few books ago so I was confused by what Mimi was asking and why).  But, then, when we start to find out some of the details of the ladies’ story it gets even more confusing.  We are told that they are goddesses.  But witches.  They need wands but are all powerful goddesses?  The yggdrassil and Norse mythology is at play behind the story and all the happenings but the potions and workings of witches is how their powers manifest.  It was confusing.  I think she tried to find a unique take on magic and witches – which isn’t a bad idea – but it was too much.  Just way too much.  And too predictable.  That Ingrid’s secret partner was her father could be seen almost instantly.  That there would be more to Johanna and her husband’s split – same thing.  Of course that Bran and Killian would be other than what who we thought was also so very apparent.  To tell us that the women are stuck since the collapse of the bridge – but not explaining the bridge until 80% through the book was just frustrating.  It wasn’t clever or motivating or enticing – it was just frustrating.  I hate reading a book where my thoughts are “I need to finish just so I can figure out what the hell the author is talking about”.  Clever and subtle foreshadowing is a different story – that works and makes me want to read more.  Here, I just didn’t get that.  I am also not sure that the Norse mythology that is used is twisted well enough to make the story feel like anything more than a boring – and failed – attempt at a genre that this author might not belong wading into.  Throughout most of the book, I was totally confused.  And by the end, I was totally relieved it was the end.

Jane True, Strange Neighbors and Royal Houses of Shadows

So, while I was away my blog may have been quiet, but my reading didn’t take a break.  I read the latest installments of Jane True (Eye of the Tempest by Nicole Peeler), Strange Neighbor’s (The Vampire Next Door by Ashlyn Chase) and Royal House of Shadows (both ARC’s: Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe and Lord of the Wolfyn by Jessica Andersen).

Whew!  What a great week of reading.  I am going to tackle the reviews and pages book at a time.  To start, I am going to talk about Jane True.
First, let me say this about the cover.  I am so TOTALLY bummed about the rebranding of the covers.  While we still get a pretty good part of the cover showing the awesome cartoon that has become the Jane True novel covers, with the bands of red along the top and the bottom we loose a good part of the great artwork that made me pick up the first installment in the first place.  So, I say it again.  Total BUMMER!!  (See both covers for what I am talking about….) 

As for the book – well, there was so much to like.  And a few things that frustrated me about as much as Jane’s libido was frustrated.  The frustration first – we see so little of Anyan.  And since if you read the last installment you know that a Jane/Anyan pairing has been set up – it was a little bit of a let down to not see any of that come to fruition (really, I won’t spoil the end in the review, but since we don’t see much of Anyan except the beginning and very end, well… there isn’t much time in between to give Jane’s libido a good workout).  And, as a result of this – we see not nearly enough of Jane’s libido – which is one of my favorite characters (yes, I consider it a separate character!).

So, on to the good stuff.  And there was lots of it.  I loved Blondie!  While I would like to have gotten a name, the stuff about not being able to pronounce her name was good fun.  The nature of her tattoos was a pretty cool device too.  The humor, action, magic and characters we have gotten to know and love so far were back in full swing.

So, the premise here is that when Jane and Anyan return to Rockbill to tell Jane’s dad about her mom’s death they are attacked.  But, not by magic, by humans.  And it turns out that there is some big creature that if released will destroy half the eastern seaboard – and that’s what Pheadra and her folks are after.  Blondie appears to know more then she lets on.  And when Anyan is turned into a dog, Jane and Blondie are left to save the world, starting with themselves and Rockbill.

Jane’s wit is as awesome as ever.  She’s come into her own and she really figures out a few things about herself during this book.  And Blondie looks like she should be a great addition.  We see little of Ryu, and I must admit, I kinda liked it.  I was worried about the Anyan/Jane ship because I was really on the Ryu bandwagon, but I think I have been won-over and am now totally a team Anyan gal.  Especially after the whole whiskers t-shirt thing.

The story was a good one – even though it was really more set-up for the next (few) book(s) then a stand alone story.  But it was still great to see all the action!  Also, while the foreshadowing and hints made a number of things fairly obvious, it was a fun ride.  I am really looking forward to the next installments!

Break Out is a nice little break from reality

Break Out, the first in the Blood Hunter Series by Nina Croft was a short little trip through space.  Although, this won’t be a very long review, in part because its not a terribly long book (which is fine given the uncomplicated plot), and in part because it’s your typical PNR (which is fine by me, or I wouldn’t keep reading them!).  It was an interesting cross between the PNR and scifi space adventures.  It was a fun little read.  Predictable as all in this genre are, but fun nonetheless.

We are in the future, where space travel is normal.  And there is a group called the Collective – a group of people who have all had some sort of treatment from an ore of some sort – which has made them immortal and a group (think Star Trek Borg).  Skylar, a member of the Collective’s military unit, gets dispatched to carry out a mission and she hires Rico and Tannis and crew to assist, despite the fact that she lies to them and we don’t know the real purpose of the mission until near the end.  The plot follows the characters through the completion of the mission, and the coupling of Skylar and Rico.

One of the interesting things about this book was the lack of profession of undying love.  Skylar stays with the crew to be with Rico and she wants to be with him and he wants to be with her, but there was never the “I love you” scene.  And it was sort of refreshing, and leaves me wondering if book 2 and 3 will be about others in this universe or about the continued relationship between Skylar and Rico.  There were a few nice and steamy scenes.  The plot has some action and wasn’t a bad story.  Totally formulaic, not badly written, and fun little characters make me intrigued to read the others when they come out.  I especially liked Al, the little girl disguised as a boy who is convinced Rico is going to eat her and who tries to protect Skylar.  There were some nice funny moments and the interaction of the characters was enjoyable.

The series that shouldn’t be a series: Forever Twilight

Darkness Fallen, the first in the Forever Twilight series, by Peter Crowther is the first in a new series.  But it felt like it should have been the first few chapters in one book, not the first book in a series.

I made the mistake of reading a review by someone else of this book.  Now I can’t find anything original to say.  But I guess that’s fitting since the book too wasn’t very original.  At least not to someone who has read Steven King’s various versions of the end of humanity as we know it (or has seen the TV versions of the same.  Or really, has seen any number of flicks on the SciFi network (and yes, totally off on a tangent, I refuse to use the rebrand of that network since since then, it totally sucks!)).  Not to mention the repetitive nature of the book itself.    The narrative style, where we get the events from different characters, in this case made for a very repetitive book since we got the aftermath of the flash from everyone, we got the sense of desertion after the flash from everyone, we got the realization that everyone else for some reason disappeared when the flash happened – after the flash – from everyone….  See how that gets annoying?

The plot looks like this:  there’s a bright all consuming flash of light and most of the world disappears in that instant.  Except for the few who don’t disappear.  And, with the first character we meet there’s an airplane involved (“The Stand” sound familiar?). We don’t know why they aren’t “taken” but each of them comes to realize that there is something going on and they don’t know what.  Then, 24 hours after the first flash, wham!  There’s another flash and everyone (although I am not sure it is everyone, but it doesn’t really matter, at least not yet) is back.  But they are different.  They are all zombie like.  And, the individuals and small groups of those who weren’t taken the first night slowly come together.  And they slowly discover some weird things about those who have returned (in my head, I dubbed them the “originals” and the “remakes” as far as groups go.  Because remakes are never as good as the originals).

When the book ends, the story is really just beginning.   And after 416 pages, that’s sort of an accomplishment itself.  See, as I see it there are two different types of serials:  those with an overall story arc, but individual stories which are concluded in some way in each book (think Harry Potter) and those which simply march towards the conclusion of the overall story arc (think… Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel).  I prefer series in the former category, but can enjoy a well written series that fits in the later category (hence the reference to the outstanding Flamel series).  Problem is, so many series in the latter category are not well written.

When the character development is all there is and there is no plot, I can’t enjoy it.  There needs to be both.  The plot that existed in this book could be summed up in 3, maybe 4, sentences.  Despite the nature of this type of serial, there needs to be more to the story arc than that.  I can sum it up this way:  there’s a bright light, most people disappear, then they come back zombielike.  I need more!  I need more to make me feel invested in the story so that I come back for the next installment.  Often, character development can make up for the lack of plot development, by having great characters that a reader gets attached to.  Then, I can get pulled into something even if the plot isn’t sufficient.  But here…

…the character development should have been better given how much time we get with each of the few “main” characters.  Ronnie, for instance, is likable, but that is all.  He’s one of the originals.  His inner dialogue was awful, his development started out promising but as soon as the light happened, his development hit a wall.  Then, when we see the other characters, their stories, while different hit the same wall (and some of them never really had much development before that) when the light happened.  And after the light, well, their experiences were just too similar.  It felt very repetitive.  Even the quirkiness of some of the originals – the little girl who is psychic, the resident serial killer, and the multiple personality Sally – were really not all that interesting, nor did they add to the story.  At least not yet.  And since this was really all set up and no plot, no teasers of what is to come, it is hard to look forward to seeing if anything will come of those folks and their uniqueness.

I felt more like I was reading the script for a movie – since so many of the details would be background and all scenery and therefore the 400 pages would be the first 30 minutes of a movie.  But when I pick up 400 pages, I want a story, not a tiny tiny little portion of the beginning of it.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t read this.  It’s just that I would personally prefer to wait until all the installments are published (since this seems to be one of those series that should have just been one long book, but the publishers don’t make enough money (however, not every story should be a serial, no matter how much the publishers may want it to be) that way and since serials seem to be more popular then ever I don’t think we will be seeing an end to them) so I could read them all at once.  There were a few starts to interesting ideas here (the alien influence, the little centipede creatures, the flying cars, and the notion that there might be another light and more changes in the future), so it wasn’t a total waste.  But again, I would wait for other installments and read it all at once.  The cover promises that this is book 1 in the Forever Twilight series.  I don’t know out of how many, but I will wait to read 2 (and any subsequents) until we get the final book in the Forever Twilight series.

The Last Archangel – the First in the Series?

The Last Archangel by Michael D. Young.

I was… intrigued… by the synopsis.  The idea of giants and angels put this wacky cartoon like image in my head.  But, I kept an open mind, thinking, let’s see how this goes.  It was an interesting read, and an interesting story.

There are two (sort of) separate story lines that come together about a third of the way through, but it feels tangential because while the characters come together, they do so only briefly.  And they come together again at the end, in preparation for at least one other additional book.  At least I assume that the author intends another book, since it’s not stated that this is part of, or the start of, a series.   I will address the few problems I had with the plot, but to start, let’s see if we can’t summarize the plot a little better then the synopsis.

Eden’s husband flipped a personality switch and went all weird on her.  And then disappeared.  She’s trying to find him.  She enlists the help of her friend Judy and the two start a search.  And they begin to encounter some bizarre and creepy things, like demonic snakes and demon hell fire.   It’s clear from the start that Eden’s husband is going to be found to have been possessed by a demon.  And Judy, in their travels ends up facing some life altering changes herself.  And we learn, that Eden needs some special protecting and gets assigned a special guardian angel.  How things with her end, well, that would spoil things.  But Eden, her search, and the demonic changes are one story line.

Then we have Xandir.  He’s an angel who was punished for something in heaven long ago.  His current mission is to dole out justice or mercy to those who deserve it.  His story line is clearly the much more complicated one.  And, it’s the one with a few holes and takes up the majority of the book.   Xandir’s mission changes (and I don’t really get why) part way through the book.  He ends up assigned as Eden’s guardian angel.  Meanwhile, however, he is convinced by some giants to help steal a seed from a tree located on an island sitting at the jaws of hell.  To accomplish this mission he needs to detour to the Himalayas to see the Yearti and has quite a number of adventures on the island (which according to this story, is the island that inspired the story of Atlantis).  And, at the end, Xandir’s story comes together with Eden’s.  I won’t reveal how, but it shocked me on some levels and on others, I was waiting for it to happen.  I knew it had to, I knew we had to get an explanation as to the title of the book, I just wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to happen.

A few things that I would have liked to see explained better – Xandir is told that he has to protect Eden at all costs, but he simply disappears and never really sees any repercussions as a result.  We are told that there will be repercussions if he fails, but, when suddenly an army of other angels show up to protect Eden, it’s all glossed over.   I also was a little lost when Jarom assumed Xandir’s debt and that lets them escape the island again.  And then, we know that he access to the island is conditioned on not letting anyone go, but when Tobias’s deal comes to light… again, no repercussions.  And why can some of those who are possessed survive and others can’t?  And then the references to the names of demons when the group of the demons get together – there seems to be a relationship between some of them but it’s not entirely evident what that relationship is.  I ended up re-reading a bit to see if I missed something.

The giants weren’t the comical giants my mind conjured.  They weren’t entirely not comical though either.  I mean the magma ship?  It made me chuckle.  And I am not exactly sure I see how one individual new baby giant will propagate the race (isn’t one of each required?  I am not biologist or medical doctor, but….)

Anyway, there was some action (avalanche, fighting with giants, demon snake battles, fires, etc.).  And there is definitely a little theology.  There’s some personality in some of the characters – Xandir, Li’l Halo and Judy for example.  The ending felt a little abrupt (and some of imagery in the end was a little disturbing to me).  But, overall, it was an enjoyable story, something different even for stories around angels since the introduction of giants was a unique idea.  I just wish I was prepared for what was really a cliff hanger.

It was a good story – and wet my appetite to see how the world will be saved from evil.  Hope there is a second book!