demons

The Midori Ito of Paranormal Mystery

I am three books complete in 4 days.  Even for me that is a record.  Unfortunately, however, it isn’t per se a sign of three great books that I couldn’t put down.  There was one really goo, one mediocre, and one, well… read on and you can decide after reading the review.

A Slaughter of Angels by Matthew Angelo was, if nothing else, a quick read.  In e-books, on my phone, it was only 319 pages.  So, it was pretty short.  I can’t decide if that should be in the “helped it” or “hurt it” column.

I feel like this particular book should be graded the way figure skating is (or was, I’m not really a fan of the sport so I am not sure which tense of that verb is accurate, but given that I am just trying to illustrate a point, it doesn’t really matter): one score for technical merit (aka, execution, grammar, etc.) and the other for artistic merit (aka, the story/plot).  Because this is a book (or short story, since it really isn’t terribly long) that really suffers in one area but had such promise in the other.  And where is suffers?  It doesn’t just stumble a little.  No, it flat out falls on its rear end and the routine never recovers.  And yet, there was the potential to be so beautiful and graceful.  Why the figure skating analogy, you might wonder.  Because figure skating looks easy, but it is phenomenally difficult, takes tons of practice to get right, lots of coaching is absolutely necessary, it take a lot of courage to attempt some of those cra-zy jumps and spins and even those really, really good at the sport fall on their butts.  A lot.  That, to me, is the perfect analogy to writing a book.  And the scoring system, with two scores, seems to be a good way to describe things here.

Here’s the way it really breaks down – there was just way too much of each of the following: grammatical mistakes, clunky sentences, choppy sentences, tense-mixing, typos, inconsistencies (from small to large) in the little aspects of the story or the plot itself, to have been an execution that score anywhere but “on its ass.”  I counted nearly a dozen glaring issues (e.g., “to” instead of “too” – where earlier in the same sentence “too” was correctly used – yikes!) that were either typos or bad, bad, bad grammatical mistakes.  Some of the more subtle grammatical issues were things like using the past tense and present tense in the same paragraph, which could be missed a little easier, but they still made reading the story a challenge.  And then there were the inconsistencies that are typical of self-published works – where there is no (decent) editor:  page 50 (of the iphone count epub) discussed the European clans of Nephilim and yet page 51 contains the following thought “[i]t would be arrogant of me to think I was the only Nephilim in the world.”  The page before he was talking about clans of them.  Clans.  Yes, that word is plural.  And that word typically indicates a number at least a little larger than one or two.  Decent editing would have picked this up.  Hell, decent story boarding would have picked up most of the issues like this.

And then there is the lack of development of anything that has any real meaning.  The character tells us he is nervous and scared and that Axel (the Detective in the story) is angry and Axel only does XYZ when really pissed off… etc., but we have to take  it all on face value.  There is no supporting evidence for most of what the book is trying to lay out, and as a result, I never for a second felt invested in the story or any of the characters.

All of that is the really, really low technical score.

So, the logical question seems to be, why did I continue to read it?  Well, the artistic merit had promise.  I will tell you, because the idea of the paranormal, angel/demon detective is something I love.  And the murder mystery?  Well, lets just say that I was trying to fill a Castle size hole in my heart with something that sounded like it could be fun and Castle-like, even if it was without the Kate-Rick romance (oh, ABC, how I HATE you for cancelling my absolute favorite TV writer/detective and show, and I do so hope Nathan Fillion lands somewhere awesome so I can watch more of him).  Throw in some paranormal, coupled with the essence that the cover had (another great example of things being off – the main character doesn’t have wings, but look at the cover!!!)? I was itchin’ for something good.  The main character was sarcastic – but to his determent because it was over the top and the author was clearly trying to hard.  And there was a whole lot of stuff that was set up for a finish that never really came.  And the epilogue?  It looks like a set up for more books, but while the overall idea is intriguing, unless the author can graduate from fan-fiction like writing (and not the sophisticated fan-fiction writing) and get some serious editing help, then I am not sure I can bear to read more about Rian MacCaren and his Midnight Agency, no matter how awesome the premise sounds because one really low score in each is enough for me.

 

p.s. if you are wondering about Midori Ito and why the comparison, I was specifically thinking of a particular fall, highlighted in this list of the best of figure skating falls: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever.

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Will we be Blest with a sequel?

Blest by Blaise Lucey started off slow, but boy, it is take off in the end.  After the first half, I found I had trouble putting it down.  I love stories about angels and demons falling in love – and this one was no exception.  While I had some little issues with the beginning, specifically pace (insta-love) and world-building (background for it), by the time I was half-way through I was so very sucked-in I was sitting on the edge of my chair while reading because I was desperate to know what happened next.

Since the book begins with the first half, however, let me address a few of the short-comings.  First, there was a lot of love between two character who merely spent a few minutes, and one afternoon, together.  Even for the PNR stuff that I read, which is usually all about insta-love, that is giving the relationship development shot-shrift.  There is no reason why the characters couldn’t have developed the feelings over a little bit of time, a month or two for example.  Then, frankly, some of the vitriol towards Jim by the demon kids would have been more on display and a deeper connection to Claire and Jim would have been easier to feel.  There was no need for their birthdays to be quite so early in the school year – or the story – a little more of the suspense as to why the two characters were this books version of Romeo and Juliet would have only added to the plot. The acceptance of why they were different was also a little quick (and this is the second book I’ve finished in the last 3 days that treated this the same) – way too quick  – like, the Flash might as well be moving in slow motion compared to the speed at which they all accept the supernatural and paranormal and that angels and demons are real.  It was just too quick.  It didn’t give me time as a reader to adjust and again, I think a little more page time spent on that would have added to the overall plot and pace of the story.  Once things got going though, there were a bunch of reveals – and that was great as I felt much more involved in the story and it was easier to stay engaged.  I am just a little curious – as I don’t see this being billed as the start of a series, and lots of loose ends were tied up, but there is still certainly loose ends that aren’t tied up, including the events of the epilogue, so I hope there is at least one more coming.

Despite the need to pay attention to some of the terminology, lest you get lost, this reminded me much of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments – and some of the hints that were dropped had me holding my breath that the reveals weren’t going to be the same as with City of Bones, and thank goodness, they weren’t.  But to me, Blest had tones of City of Bones with the love between our main protagonists and the good vs evil nature of things.  Unlike Mortal Instruments, however, I have enough details to hold me to book 2 (assuming there is one **fingers crossed**) and enough to make at least another good book or two out of the things that aren’t solved and the stuff we don’t know.  And some of what we don’t know has such potential – like the back stories to the parents of all our teenage cast, the mythology of the Tribunal and how the demons were originally banished, exactly what the feathers that each of Claire and Jim have that are “opposite” the rest of their respective wings… there quite a bit of fodder to serve as the basis for some excellent follow-up books.

Even out the pace a little with the second, balance the relationship building and world building to give me more, and we may have a new favorite YA/Angel and demon series!  At least, I really hope there will be a second!

p.s. LOVE the cover!!

Scared $*%&less by The Spirit Chaser

Wow.  It’s been a long time since I read something that scared the ever-livin’ you know what out of me as I read it.  The anxiety, the butterflies in my stomach, finding myself literally-sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat as I read, the pure hatred that I can’t speed read 1,000 words a minute because I have to know what happens next, and the creepy goosebumps because the story is scary and – like while watching any horror movie – the feeling in the pit of your stomach that you just know that things aren’t going to end well…. well The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor had it all in spades.  OMG.  It was Awe.Some!  And I so hope there is a sequel of some sort!  I haven’t had a book run me through this particular gamut of emotions since Michael Scott’s Image (and sequel, Reflection).  Creepy!   I would say Anna Dressed in Blood did this too, but Anna was YA (aka PG-rated) and this one had the added bonus of being adult (between all the blood-draining-from-my-face scary as crap scenes there were some rushing-blood-to-my-face steamy as crap scenes between Austin and Casey), so if you are looking for something totally scary but a little steamy too, this is where it lives!

Austin Cole is the star of a TV show called SCI – Spirit Chaser Investigations – where he and his team investigate homes and other places, looking for ghosts.  When an investigation goes wrong at a warehouse and his best psychic (and best friend) ends up injured and refuses to be part of the team anymore, Austin needs to find a replacement.  Enter Casey, a tough psychic who steps into place and becomes part of the team.  But, the warehouse was just the beginning of a terrifying story.  Two more super creepy places are tainted by so much evil that Austin, Casey and the rest of the SCI team have a huge battle to face.  There are ghosts, demons, and terrifying exorcisms between the pages.  Need to be convinced as to how creepy this book is?  All you need to do is look at the cover picture as it sets the perfect tone.

I got goosebumps more than once while reading this.  And shivered from the chills plenty of times.  The temperature in the rooms with the ghosts was not the only chilling going on while reading this.  The settings were downright disturbing and the action while trying to chase the ghosts and/or demons away was excellent.  The character building was great, and the scenes with Austin and Casey’s families made their characters so much more real and likeable.  Austin, for the most part, is a dream.  Ok, maybe he’s a little over the top in a few areas, but really he’s pretty innocent and looking to to make sure Casey is happy.  Casey and all the other characters were easy to like and despite the ghostly elements, it was also pretty easy to feel like this was grounded in enough reality to make the story that much scarier.  I loved that I was able to picture it all in my mind so easily while reading.  This would make a phenomenal scary movie!

Only criticism, in the very first chapter, the first few pages, referring to Austin as “the Spirit Chaser” instead of simply identifying him in that way and then using his name, was a little confusing and lead me to re-reading the first 5 or 6 pages twice.  That could have been avoided with a slightly more discerning editor/editing job to those few pages.  But, once I caught on to who was who, it was smooth, albeit spooky, sailing.

**spoiler alert** One of the most tragic yet brilliant parts of the story?  The heartbreak at the end.  This was also part of how I knew I found a book that I loved.  The fact that I felt so attached to the characters that the last 10 (or so) chapters were so hard to read as they were so heartbreaking, drove home the fact that I had become invested in the story and the characters.  To be honest, I don’t mind sad endings, but the “closure” here, I could have done without as it took things from sad and a little unknown to downright cruel.  I think I would have preferred the loose end of not knowing what happened to Austin than the heartbreak when I read the last chapter.  It felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  Conversely, it again was a win for the overall book because I was able to feel that strongly about the characters and story.

Bottom line, The Spirit Chaser is filled with all the frights, spookiness, sexiness, and wonder of an excellent ghost story.  I’m just glad I wasn’t sitting around a campfire having this read to me right before bed, or I might never have gotten to sleep.  I loved it!!!

 

 

 

A Little About a Lot

While my reading has suffered, my posting has suffered worse.  I just realized that I have read about a baker’s dozen books, across 4 series, and haven’t added a page or post or review on any!  So, this little “data dump” will be to give a few little tidbits on each (by no means am I catching up and reviewing 15 or so books all in one shot – that post would be epically long and take forever to finish, only exacerbating the lack of posts problem).

Here’s what I have read:

  • The Jolie Wilkins Series – all 5 – by HP Mallory
  • The Bryn and Sinjin Series – both (although I would argue these really are just an extension of the Jolie Wilkins Series) – HP Mallory
  • The Hot Damned Series – 5 of the 6 published so far – by Robyn Peterman
  • The second in the Lynburn Legacy – Untold – by Sarah Rees Brennan
  • The first two in the Magisterium Series – The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet – by Holly Black

And I think I am missing something….

Anyway, let’s have a little fun with all that.  Here’s the quick and dirty on each series.  Bryn and Sinjin are hot, Hot Damned is much hotter, Jolie Wilkins has its moments, the Lynburn Legacy is a YA and therefore pretty cold but not completely as there is a love story to it, and the Magisterium The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)books are also YA and colder than Lynburn.   Jolie Wilkins is Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble (Jolie Wilkins, #1)your typical girl didn’t know she was a witch, man comes to rescue her from that boring normal non-magical life.  She is destined to be queen or something like that and save the world.  Cue the sexual tension, love story, bad guys wanting to take over the world, blah blah blah.  Not terribly unique or original, but a fun little escape just the same.

Bryn and Sinjin is a shift from the perspective.  What I mean is that instead of Jolie’s destiny being the primary focus, Bryn (Jolie’s twin sister) and Sinjin (the loveable handsome ancient Vampire who was previously in love with Jolie but lost to Rand) and their developing relationship are the focus.  Another fun little outing, a little more steam.  But a cliff hanger big enough to leave me pretty annoyed if there isn’t another.  There are only 2 listed on goodreads but I swear I saw something on facebook or somewhere about at least one more coming.  And heaven forbid, it looks like they will be from Sinjin’s perspective.  Yikes.  I personally am not a fan of the romance novel from the guy’s perspective.  Even worse, the statement on HP Mallory’s facebook page says:  “…decided to make this book (and maybe the next one.  Not sure but going to switch back and forth, I think) in Sinjin’s perspective!”  There are very few novels I have read where the flip-flop in perspective works.  So, fingers crossed that is not what we get next.

The Hot Damned series is… well… in a word: weird.  Out of the first 4, 2 is more about Dixie, the cousin of Astrid our main protagonist from 1, 3 and 4.  I 1 Astrid gets turned into a Vampire.  And kills her wack-job of a mother and her demon father.  And she meets her Hell on Heels (Hot Damned #3)destined mate, a Vampire prince.  In 2 she finds herself in Hell with a cast of characters too weird to do justice to: Mother Nature (her Grandmother), Satan (her Uncle), God (another Uncle), Dixie (cousin), Seven Deadly Sins (all more cousins), Mister Rogers, Hemingway, and others.  And we discover **spoiler alert** she is “Compassion”, a True Immortal.  In 3 Dixie is sent to Earth to find herself of something like that.  And she meets and falls in love with the Angel of Death.  In 4, Astrid’s baby with crazy growing power and all sorts of magic turns out to be the most powerful Immortal ever.  And there are Fairies with names like The Kevin (with “The” being the mark of an old fairy), trolls, demons, and all sorts of other craziness going on.  Another fun little romp, with some steam, if you can get past that there are moments when it felt like the author was trying to do too much with the vampire, demons, family tree thing.  And don’t, like I did, be expecting the Rogues that were such an issue in book 1 to really mean anything in 2 through 4, they just don’t really ever turn into anything that matters.

The second in the Lynburn Legacy, which while I am dealing with before the Holly Black books, I read after and just finished.  About 20 minutes ago.  And I am furious.  Furious at some of the characters. Untold (The Lynburn Legacy, #2) It is a little hard to consider some of the “good guys” good.  Lillian, while on the same side as our young adult Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)protagonists is such a snotty bitch, who has delusions of grandeur, and wants to rule the town is just not quite as loathsome as Rob who wants a sacrifice of blood but otherwise feels exactly the same way. And, some of the plot holes were hard for me to deal with.  That said, I love the relationship between Kami and the other young folks the story is really about.  And the connection between Jared and Kami and the complication that Ash becomes was great.  There are really some sad moments on the pages of Untold.  And there are a TON of unanswered questions, that I hope get answered in the final book, Unmade (which I will be starting tonight). I will note that of all the 15 books I have neglected to write reviews on, this one, to me had the highest “can’t-put-it-down” rating.  I will note, however, that I liked the cover for the first book, Unspoken (seen on the left), better and like the cover of Unmade even less.  And, the short stories for this series – get them free or don’t bother.  They don’t really add to the story and they, in some cases, are super short.

And the last Image result for magicians syfyseries to get some reading time was the Magisterium by Holly Black. I admit to thinking of these books when I saw the first few episodes of the new show on SyFy – The Magicians – which I understand is based on a book of the same name by Lev Grossman.  Especially the part about the testing and kids not succeeding and getting dumped back to their old lives seemed, in so many ways,  so similar to the scenes in the Magisterium’s testing scene.  These are a little like Harry Potter (kids away at school, sorted into groups, learning magic) meets Seeker (who knows which is really the good side, which is the bad) meets a number of other things.  Biggest twist in the beginning is that the main protagonist wasn’t the big deal magician that the school’s staff was looking for.   But, there’s a big bad guy attacking children and there were some really creepy things in this book.  Not spooky ghost story creepy.  But adults praying on and using children and other stuff like that creepy.  But, interesting and Holly Black is magical herself in her ability to write something that I can conjure in my head in great detail and it is like watching a movie as I read.  It is so easy to get lost in her worlds, emersed in the characters and the story, and to become so invested that I am desperate to read what is next.  So… my message to her and her publisher:  let’s get on with it and release #3!!

I am going to try to add pages for all of these – in some form or another.  But I ask that you be patent and I will try to write more reviews and pages.  Goodness knows I need the pages as a lot of this is all swirling together into a big mixed up mess.

p.s. – to any worpress folks paying attention to my tiny little site:  I F’ing HATE, HATE, HATE, DESPISE, LOATHE, ABHOR, DETEST, [add your own synonym here] the “new posting experience”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Give me back the old way, without all the extra steps.  I beg of you.

 

How to categorize the Grim Reaper?

I don’t often review a series at a time, instead of reviewing each individual installment.  But, in the case of the Lana Harvey series (at least as of the end of book 4), Graveyard Shift (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #1)I am going to make an exception.  Not because each book doesn’t deserve its own review, but purely as a matter of efficiency and because I read them each over the course of a day or two (tops) and back-to-back so they really felt like one big book to me.  And, well, this is my little blog and I set the rules.  Ok, I feel like my 2 year old now and feel that I should be sticking my tongue out at somebody in an act of pure juvenile defiance!

The Lana Harvey series, by Angela Roquet, stands at four books so far: (1) Graveyard Shift, (2) Pocket Full of Posies, (3) For the Birds, and (4) Psychopomp.  The fifth is coming soon – Death Wish.

first things first, let’s explain what this series is all about.  It’s about a Reaper (yes, as in Grim) who is charged with transporting souls right after death to their particular after life.  And each soul’s particular  afterlife is determined by their faith while living.  So, the Christian’s version of things is right beside the Muslim, right beside the Jewish, right beside the Egyptian… (you get the idea).  Pocket Full of Posies (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #2)That makes for a vast and interesting well of deities and beliefs to draw from and to build a world around.  Pretty clever, and the world building was pretty well done.  Now, this series isn’t just about the escapades around the transport of random souls in each installment.  There is an overall story arc that drives Lana and Grim and all the others, while transporting souls of course.  And it has to do with keeping Eternity from collapsing into War.  It’s pretty original.

I realize that I think I need to add another category to this little blog of mine, as this was “billed” as a horror, but it certainly didn’t meet my standards of horror.  I thinFor the Birds (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #3)k of Michael Scott’s Reflection or Steven King when I think horror.  This never had the fear factor or the blood and guts spewing that I think requisite for books in the horror category.  And while one might thing that a story about a bunch of grim reapers would naturally fit into the horror category, the little bit of death and danger is no where near significant enough to justify the horror categorization.  Instead, I found myself chuckling more than cowering and smiling more than nail biting.  It wouldn’t exactly call it a dark comedy (not quite enough chuckling or LOLs for that) but there were funny moments.  And, with the exception of a few scenes in Posies, even with the “romance” that goes with the main protagonist dating I am not sure I would classify this as PNR either.  So where does that leave me?  I’m going to categorize them in the PNR category because of the second book and because it seems after four books that Lana’s love life is at least semi-important to the plot of the overall series.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed the stories, some of the installments have much sloppier editing than others and some of them were littered with grammatical issues and typos. That was kind of frustrating. I really do credit (or I guess really it should be discredit) the self-publishing trend for that.  I don’t know if these are self published books (goodreads doesn’t note the publisher but says “Kindle”) but the ability to turn out books by anybody without a professional editor is really making things hard for readers. It’s not just limited to grammatical mistakes and typos either.  No, it perpetuates much deeper issues such as keeping track of overall plot points and issues around story editing too.  I will note here, however, while there are a few blips on the radar Psychopomp (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #4)from a story perspective the bulk of the issues I have with this series seem to be around the grammatical mistakes and typos.  But they weren’t big enough issues to keep me from reading all four that are currently published, and they definitely weren’t bad enough to keep me from looking forward to the fifth book.

I do wonder what’s with the quote at the beginning of each chapter? Is it an attempt by the author to show how well read she is? An attempt to show off and show the readers how well educated she is? A way to rub it in your face the fact that some of those quotes and people are unfamiliar? Frankly it feels a little… well annoying is the best word I can think of at the moment.  Again this isn’t enough to prevent me from looking forward to the next book however.

The author clearly was well researched and spent a lot of time learning what she needed to to create a detailed and fairly complicated world for our characters to be living and working in.  And the best part is, most of it works.  There are few places where I am left scratching my head thinking that there might have been an easier way to do something and something felt a little convoluted.  But overall, it worked.  The characters worked.
The story worked.  And I am happy to say that when you put all of the different faiths together there was a way to make that work. It feels mostly like the author took a very complicated puzzle and somehow managed to get all of the pieces put them together and give me a great and complete overall picture. There are funny moments and there are sad moments. There are characters you can root for and characters you can root against. And there some real human emotion coming from characters who aren’t even close to human. I have been enjoying this series very much.  I will say, one of the funniest things, throughout the series, has been the mental picture of Lana donning her “reapers robe”….  but again, it works!

So, I am not sure what else there is to ask for.  Except to hurry up and get Death Wish published!

What a Roller Coaster Ride!

I am taking a turn now, from the YA to the more mature side of things.  That is, into what is probably classified as erotica – if the warning at the beginning of the book is the authority anyway.  I picked up (through Netgalley, free in exchange for an honest review) Ecstasy Unbound by Setta Jay last week.  And darn it, it was a roller coaster ride.  Getting up that first hill was rough – all that anticipation of what was to come – followed by some fear as the car hesitates before plunging far and fast over the precipice into the heart of the ride… to be followed by an end that came all to fast, and a little (or a lot) flush in the face and sweat on the brow from all the excitement and heart pounding moments.  There were also peaks and valleys, twists and turns, and moments when I felt I was hanging upside down and not sure which direction things were headed to next.  So, yep, I felt like I had just stepped off Griffon (one of my favorite roller coasters, which is located in Busch Gardens Williamsburg).  And I loved it!

25797414 The warning in the beginning was well warranted and deserved – there are definitely a large number of extremely explicit scenes, so if that kind of stuff isn’t your slice of pie, then this series probably isn’t for you.  There is story around all the sex, but I’d say the book is split about 50/50 between actual plot moving “stuff” and sex.  Since both of that “stuff” doesn’t scare me off I dove right in, despite the warning, and plowed through from cover to cover.  And, when I got to the end, I was desperate for the next.  (By the way, after book 2 I was even more desperate for the next. This is a review of the first book, however.)  And desperate in a good way.

The first hill, the tough part, was tough because it was a fair bit of world building that was a little too complicated and the mythology mixing felt a little like migraine inducing strobe lights.  It was hard to keep it all straight and the variety with respect to the different types of beings was overwhelming.  This portion of the book, especially the prologue, set my expectations poorly as the rest of the story wasn’t so hard to keep track of.  Don’t get me wrong, the world building is a must have.  And, it needs the right amount of details so the readers understand the rules of the universe we are diving into. But all the Greek Gods, Hellbeasts, half man-half animals/shifters, demi-gods, children of who-ever, Guardians who aren’t related really but call each other siblings, different magical powers for each type of being, curses, exceptions to the curses, weird names… (and I am probably forgetting at least 2 or 3 elements here in this laundry list) well, it was all just a little overwhelming.  The good news though?  Hang on to your hats, the ride gets better.  My advice – skip to the back where there is a glossary, when ever needed (I didn’t realize it was there until I finished the book, dang nab-it!) and don’t stress over learning too much of the mythology at first.  Seems that the more time on the ride, the easier it is to be familiar with the rules of the universe we have.

Know that there are Immortals, Guardians, Magiea (magicians, essentially), humans and others.  The Guardians are watch-dogs, good guys, and males (generally – there are a few female guardians too, but so far the males are the focus through book 3) in line to be mated throughout the series.  There is a bad guy, Cyril, and he has a few minions too.  And I swear, I pictured them as minions (yes, Despicable Me minions) from the start and it made things even more entertaining!    Here, we get the first guardian to find his mate, Uri, and his mate is a demi-god, Alex.  The pair come together and have to battle Cyril.  I’ll leave the rest for the book’s page.

As the pair come together as a couple, things get awful steamy.  Quite often.  So, if you like that kind of reading it is quite enjoyable.  Just be prepared to have a fan handy, or a cold beverage, or run the cold water for a cold shower…!  Note, I thought it was a good enough read (and overall story arc) that I needed to get right back on the ride and picked up book two immediately.  Boy, was I glad there wasn’t a long line (aka, wait for it to be published… yes, I am sticking with the metaphor!).

Ok… now for the low points.  The “Island Temple of Consummation, Tetartos Realm”?  Really?  Yes, that is the bold line under the chapter 31 title.  Cheese-y.  Way too corny.  Couldn’t there have been another name for the temple?  I mean at this point in the story, we all know what the main couple is going to be doing.  If the author intended that to be concupiscent or titillating, that was a fail.

And could we not have found a different word than preternatural?  There are only, like, 50 synonyms.

The final thing I will note is that there were a few moments when the author should have used names instead of pronouns (and I wish some of the names for places especially were easier to “pronounce” in my head) as there were a number of sentences that dealt with multiple subjects and the use of “he” or “she” didn’t make it easy to decipher who the “he” or “she” was when used in the next sentence or paragraph.

Like all roller coasters, there we have one most important thing to deal with – did it get juices flowing and riders excited and wanting more?  Absolutely!  This was one of the with some of the most sexy-steamy bits I have read in a while.  The author didn’t shy away from explicit scenes.  And they were some of the more well done scenes I have read in a while.  They were tasteful, even though racy.  They were not given short shrift as their page time was well balanced with the rest of the story.  And they were just dirty enough to be salacious yet totally readable without feeling like they were too much of a fantasy.  Add to that the fact that the characters and story line were enjoyable and it was a roller coaster well worth the ride!

I found Waldo!

I should play the lottery!  I have just read another near perfect book – that makes two in less than 3 months!  I almost can’t believe it.  Why I feel that I have had a string of good luck lately, in that it has been some time since I read something I really can’t stand, reading two books that I thought were so amazing, so close in proximity, makes me feel like I hit the lottery already.  What book am I talking about?  The Secret Fire by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld.  It was awesome.  Pure awesome.  In a year of mostly books that were decent, and the rare exception being exceptional, I felt like I hit the lottery (or found Waldo)!

YA books all sort of start to look alike.  Who can tell them apart?  The plot of one is like the plots of ten others.  Finding a new and interesting story can feel like a Where’s Waldo exercise.  You know he’s there somewhere, in the midst of all these others who are oddly similar and yet slightly different simultaneously.  There are distinct groups of items or people too, which have something that is fundamental and different from the rest, yet they are all still so similar that they all look alike and make it super hard to find that little Waldo man in his red striped hat.  You know it shouldn’t be that hard to find him, but you look and you look and it seems to take forever to find the one truly unique part of that puzzle.  That’s what the YA genre feels like these days.  After all, I wouldn’t need this little blog, really, if the stories were so unique that it was easier to keep the details of one series separate from the details of another series.  There’s lots of vampire stories: Twilight, House of Night, Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries, Blue Bloods, the Originals….  And lots of angel/demon stories: Fallen, Hush Hush, Unearthly, Guardians, Mortal Instruments….  And lots of shifter stories, witch stories….  The lists go on an on.  So, when something unique comes along, it is a breath of fresh air.  the Secret Fire wasn’t filled with the same old stuff.  The Secret Fire is different.  In fact, I am not even sure which little sub-category to file a page for this one under.  Witches?  Demons?  I don’t have an alchemist category…. so where to put it?  I don’t know – maybe I will after I see where this story is going.  But for now, it is just so different!  It is awesome!

I couldn’t put the darn thing down.  And that is an accomplishment these days.  I was eager to read during my lunch hour – and lately I haven’t been taking lunch hour.  Then, when I hit the end, I felt like I had been hit in the chest with a medicine ball.  I 22911719couldn’t believe it.  I had to double check the page count.  I was so lost in the story that I hadn’t realized I was nearing the end of this installment.  And I don’t want to wait for the next one.  I felt like my two year old – I wanted to throw a temper tantrum.  Because I want to read more of this story!!!!!!

What do you need to know about the plot?  Sacha and Taylor are two teenagers, living in different countries, but thrown together by circumstances.  And, as it turns out, a really old curse by one family onto the other.  They hit it off, end up talking, discovering that they each have a secret, and it looks like fate has something in store for them.  Something that has to do with demons and the fate of the world.  Folks don’t want them together, but they become fast friends and want to be together.  In a race against time, and to save Sacha’s life, they end up discovering that together, they are extremely powerful.

If you are looking for magic, ancient spells, family curses and secrets, secret societies (of a sort – I don’t want to spoil much since this hasn’t officially been published yet, but suffice it to say that a particular college at Oxford is super selective and important to this story), all going on in the regular world around us with only a select few in the know, action, history, mystery, and a potential love story, then this book is for you!  The book wasImage result for perfect balance perfectly balanced – character development, plot (and it’s pacing), secrets and mysteries, setting and their descriptions, moments of shock and surprise – all of it was well done.  There were moments when I laughed, moments where I gasped in surprise, and moments where I knew I could not read fast enough because I had to know what was going to happen next.  Nothing felt particularly lacking, too sappy or overdone (there was a little teenage swoon going on, with Taylor blushing, but that’s to be expected – it is YA after all), or too predictable.  At exactly the right moment the pace picked up and we watched characters zoom off into the night chasing their adventure and fate.  We got to know our two main protagonists pretty well, but it wasn’t too slow an introduction or set up.  The collateral characters all seemed to serve a purpose and they were not just page fillers.  I love Louisa, by the way…  read it and you will see why!  It was amazing!  This is clearly a stand out in the sea of same-ness that the YA market place has become.  My only complaint?  That it ended and now I need to wait.  I must know what happens next.  I must!!!!

The End of the (Demonica) World as We Know It!

Oh no!!!!! It’s the end of the Demonica, Lords of Deliverance World!  I had no idea.  I am so totally bummed!  I loved the Demonica7970070_f496 books when I read them.  That is, I loved the first 5 books because I was reading them as they were published since I found Pleasure Unbound when it was brand new, and the first 5 were really written so that they looked like a single series.  I was bummed when I hit Sin Undone and at the end, was thinking that it was the end of a great series.  Then, I was totally excited when I heard about the Lords of Deliverance series, starting with Eternal Rider.  At first, it didn’t seem that they were the same series, but that quickly changed and we were seeing loads of Underworld General and all my favorite characters.  So, I was happily just reading away, picking up the next installment when ever I could and devouring each one of them.  I wasn’t paying attention to anything that would give me any clue that with Revenant, that would be it.  The end of the world.  **sniff sniff**

Jeez, the snippet could at least clue us addicted readers into the fact that this is the last full length installment.  Instead, it felt like getting hit by a bus coming out of nowhere.  I wasn’t prepared.  The end and the message from the author directing us to her website for the scoop on the whole thing… well… I was blindsided.  I was totally flattened.  And it hurt.  Especially since I think that Revenant was the best book yet.  It was smart, captivating, sexy, fun, creative and a total joy to read.  To it is painful to say that this is really the end.  Now, I know that the author said the world will be continued in some sort of series about the Horsemans’ and Sem demons’ kids.  But I don’t know how I feel about that.  As Black Dagger Brotherhood started to move to the next generation of members, the series lost a lot for me.  I don’t want to see the same thing happen here.  I know these are different series and different authors, but I have yet to see a successful transition like that – or at least one that was as captivating as the original books.  And I know there are a bunch of “novellas”, but my regular readers know I have a hard time with them.  I would prefer longer, more well written, better plotted, full length novels.  I won’t rule out reading them, but I will probably read other stuff first.  That, and I need time to mourn this story arc.  Because it was so very good.  And it was such a shocker to have it so abruptly, although so artfully and perfectly, come to an end.

Revenant is, despite the fact that this is the last book, absolutely amazing!  If a series is going to end, this is how it should be done.  There wasn’t a moment of disappointment (other than the general mourning I will now need to do over the series as a whole) with the story.  And the use of the characters other than just the two that make up our main couple, was wonderful.  It was a great way to pull everything together.  Better, it didn’t feel like a rush to tie up loose ends just to tie them up.  Neither did we see a whole lot of things not addressed.  It was perfect.  I haven’t read a perfect ending to a series since Deathly Hallows.  It reminds me a little of when an athlete (or athletic team) is heading into a tournament, you want to peak at the right time – do well enough to get you to the finals and then peak there so you win.  This book did just that.  It was the absolute best I have seen of the series.  That is part of what made it so hard to stomach that this is the end.  **tears**

If you are a fan of the series – this is a must read.  If you haven’t read the other stories first, you will probably be pretty lost and the rest of the series is good – so go back and read those first then read this!  For fans of the PNR genre looking for a little steam, it’s here.  A great couple, a great story, an ending that didn’t feel contrived yet had twists that were satisfying and a surprise, all here.   It is everything I could have asked for out of this series.  Well done!  Even though we really a bidding a sad goodbye to this world.  For now anyway.

And unlike what REM would like us to believe, this end of the world does not leave me feeling fine.

NOTE:  I am ignoring the Azagoth novellas, the ones in the 1001 Dark Nights… I haven’t read them, and while I might, even if they play into the overall story arc of the Demonica/Lords of  Deliverance, the arc that started all the way back in Pleasure Unbound ended with Revenant.

Looking for Vengeance on the Synopsis Writers

Dupped again by the synopsis!  When, oh when, will I ever learn?  Since I got Salem’s Vengeance by Aaron Galvin from Netgalley, I will post the description that made me do the downloading:

“Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kelly never expected to meet the Devil’s daughter. She only sought innocent dancing in the moonlight, not a coven entranced by their dark priestess. When her friends partake of a powder meant to conjure spirits – and the results go horribly awry – Sarah is forced to make a choice. To keep their secret risks her own damnation, but to condemn them may invoke the accusing remnants of Salem to rise again.”

The expectations that I had from reading that – let’s just say it didn’t match up.  This isn’t a knock on the book.  Because I really liked it.  But, boy, I wish I had been better prepared.  I expected actual supernatural (you know, the reference to the devil’s daughter sort of set that expectation) and found myself facing down another historical.

Well researched, fast paced, and intriguing, Salem’s Vengeance is the story of both what really happened during the Salem Witch Trials and the aftermath of all that lunacy.  It’s not non-fiction but in many ways (just the good ones) it feels that way.  Upon laying my eyes on the words on the pages of this book, I was transported from my 21st century setting with an e-reader in my lap and a cell phone in my pocket to a time of candles and horse-drawn carriages.  Filled with mystery and intrigue, as to who the characters really were, I knew there were surprises coming, and I knew characters weren’t who they professed to be but I was surprised at every turn as to the exact identities of almost all of them, as they were revealed in time.

Know going into this that the language takes a little getting used to.  Written in an old English style, similar I would guess to the writings of the time,  I did at first find that the reading was slower.  The pace of the story wasn’t impacted by it, as that moved fairly quickly.  But my ability to read the story was slowed slightly in the beginning by the exact turn of phrase used by the author.  Narrated from the perspective of Sarah, our teenage protagonist, her thoughts (and the journal she reads) must have taken considerable time to craft in the language of he 17th century.  It was quite impressive.

Maybe I am reading too much in to the story, but it felt a little like a commentary on society and society’s ability to work itself into a paranoid frenzy without having  all the facts (or perhaps precisely because of that fact).  And, I am reminded on a great quote from the ever wonderful Agent Kay: ” A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it”. And that is what is described here – not once, but twice as we see the events of Sarah’s present day and the events of Salem through a journal Sarah is reading.  It is well done too.  The author gets just the right amount of facts in front of the characters in each parallel event and the mob mentality takes over, without any logic or reason peeping their head up for even a quick look around.  Instead, both have their heads buried firmly, and far, into the ground and events spiral out of control until lots of people are dead.  I would like to say that in the world we live in today that could never happen, but it happens more often today with the ability for anyone to push information, on a mass scale, regardless of the truth of it.  So, it was interesting to see the parallels between the Trials and what Sarah faces and what society is facing on a near daily basis, across so many aspects of society today.  I won’t name any so as to keep this review apolitical, but I conjured many analogies in my mind as I read this book.  But, there are a number of excellent lessons here in history repeating itself as well as society’s inability to think rationally at certain times.   Even the title, to me, seems to represent multiple things: Hecate’s vengeance, Bishop’s vengeance, Sarah’s once **spoiler alert, highlight to read it** her father is killed.   But… oh well… again, maybe I was just reading too much into things.

The funny thing about my expectations not being met is not that I was disappointed.  Far from it, in fact. I truly enjoyed this – from start to finish.  Even with the need to chart out a few of the characters (especially those in the journal as we read the events of the Salem Trials unfolding) to keep them all straight, I am hard pressed to point to any criticism.  The characters were well thought out and obviously the author did significant research.  I am sure that added to the genuine historical feel to the book.

One other thing to know – and this is not a criticism either – it is fairly dark.  The entire tone of the book (and this too might be in part based on the speech patterns used to tell the story) is dark and creepy.  The notion of witches and the devil’s daughter, even without any of it working out to be paranormal in any way, is moody and brooding.  It is a revenge story after-all; the telling of horrendous crimes against those in Salem and a fitting (from Hecate’s point of view) fate for those who inflicted the damage upon Salem.  It is also the telling of a vicious and evil plan to hunt down and kill others.  Darkness is required to pull that off without it seeming comical or melodramatic.  I could picture the creepy woods and the tiny little colonial town.  The ability to conjure those images with the right amount of sinister-ness was something the author excelled at.  I found it easy to form the mental pictures of the forest and the witches dancing around their priestess.  And I didn’t feel like the images were from some horror spoof.  The author found the perfect balance – I was fearful for the fate of Sarah and her siblings but wasn’t creeped out or rolling my eyes that it was overdone.  Again, it was near perfect.

This is how a book should read.  The plot was more straightforward that it seems at first.  And it was clear that the details of the plot were calculated and planned.  There weren’t the haphazard moments where I had to wonder “where did that come from” or “doesn’t that contradict what I read earlier”.  Instead, it was near perfect.  I was engrossed in the story and had to see how it ended.  That’s the way it should be for me.  Those are my favorites.  And, it was nice to see that this was merely the first in a trilogy.  I can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next!

I just wish synopsis writers could have been as close to perfect with what they wrote as Salem’s Vengeance is!

Two for One

So having a two-year-old means I get to spend much less time reading and writing reviews than I used to. Therefore, I have decided that on occasion (or on a fairly regular basis perhaps, depending on my reading speed and as limited by the self-imposed rules I will list below) I will be posting reviews of books in the same series where the review is for one or two (or more) of the books all at the same time.

I set some ground rules for myself however. And so you know what they are here goes:

1.  I’ll never post a review for more than three books;

2. I will never review a book that’s just come out (will define that as having been within the last 18 months) with another;

3.  The last in the series will always get a review of its own;

4. I will never combine reviews where installments are written by different authors (caveat: if they are in an anthology-like single volume, all is fair for a single review); and

5.  I will never combine reviews when one of the books was received from an author or netgalley (or similar) in exchange for an honest review (I always review them too – even if it takes a little while, I believe if I get the book in exchange for the review, it deserves to be written.  Sometimes it just takes a little time to get to the book on my to read list and sometimes it takes a little longer for me to plan my reviews).

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk a little about the first two of the Ancient Legends series by Jayde Scott.  11796723The first, titled “A Job From Hell” and the second, titled “Doomed”, were interesting.  They certainly challenged my classification system in that they have vamps, demons, ghosts and who knows what else as part of the “Lore Court”.  They had promising covers, (yes, I judge books by their covers.  Or at least it’s part of how I choose what to read next, by how excited the cover gets me.  Call me superficial.  I don’t care.) and kinda crazy names – at least the original name of the second book was kinda crazy.  It was clear from the blurbs, covers and titles that these would be right up my alley.  Or at least they sit in my favorite genre.  After reading them, it seems to me that they suffer a little though because it felt like the author wanted them to be adult PNR (there’s no steamy scenes it was just a sense I had from some of the disjointedness and light speed courtship that most often occurs in the adult PNR category) but they aren’t.  We have an ancient vamp with a 17 year old girl (Twilight, anyone?).  and, in some cases I also thought that this felt like Twilight fan-fiction…  with a first published date of 2011, that’s not impossible… although they weren’t quite as terribly written as Twilight (dialogue and potential was much better here not to mention that whole stay-away-from-me-no-I-can’t-resist-you-flip-flopping-so-often-I-am-nauseated didn’t happen here) in some ways and more terribly written in others (more holes in the world building here).

As installments go, they both had some things going for them and they both had some things that made them just ok.  In the first, Amber gets a job (because her brother Dallas filed out an application for her) as a housekeeper.  Turns out the guy she is keeping house for is a vampire.  And he’s some sort of bounty hunter for the Lore Court.  He has some friends who are also vamps.  It started out super spooky – with the cab driver not willing to take Amber all the way to the house and a mysterious housekeeper.  And then it turned pretty campy.  Yep, like Buffy campy.  I was expecting it to be spookier like Anna Dressed in Blood (which was spooky and creepy, even if not THE spookiest).  Instead, these turned into a caricature.  Oh well.  They weren’t terrible, they just weren’t what I expected.  They both lacked a little in the fill-me-in department.  What I mean is that the missing plot points don’t seem to be driving much of an overall mystery or anything but I still feel like I have big gaps in what I know about the world these characters are in and the rules they live by.  What exactly is the Lore Court for example?  And what happened with Rebecca?  Still not answered.  Very formulaic in nature, at least with the first, as we have Amber the mortal falls for Aidan the vampire and he falls maaaaadddddlllllyyyyy for her, like overnight.  All the secrecy and rule breaking flies out the window in less time then it takes for Aidan to tell Amber that the second floor of his mighty mansion is off limits.  And why the race that Amber gets swept up into even exists?  Who knows and by the end, I didn’t really care enough for it to bother me.

Although I did expect to learn more in book 2.  Which by the way was originally titled Beelzebub Girl – and I totally liked that title better!  That one was all about Cass and Dallas.  Cass, who turns out to be a fallen angel and Satan’s daughter.  11952268She is being groomed by daddy to take over the family business one day (yep, he wants her to run Hell) but she’s really still to good since half her nature is angel.  There’s all sorts of shenanigans going on here, and it’s even campier than the first.  Like it makes Buffy look like Oscar winning drama worthy.  I mean really, telling Dallas that Hell is Disneyland?  And Dallas even pretending to believe her?  Sheesh.  Makes those characters both seem like total idiots.  But, all in all, still an amusing little read.  Lucifer really makes this worth the read – he’s a typical dad trying to scare off his daughter’s potential suitor.  And not in a scary “I AM LUCIFER” kind of way.  No, it was a fun, I am just a typical Dad doing slightly odd things to run him off kind of way.  So, it was in some ways a better read.  Even if it was most fun because of the way Lucifer is written.  Cass’s curse, I still don’t get.  And Dallas is big trouble at the end.  So, I guess it means I need to read the next books to see what happen.

They were fun, quick little reads.  Not wonderfully written but not awful either.  What they really lacked was the detailed world building that would set out all the rules, plug the holes of the plot, and give the characters room to grow.  Hopefully the next installments will fix some of these things – or I may never make it to book #6.