Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Seven Souls a Leaping by Lisa Pietsch, K.F Zuzulo, & Heather Long

Writing a novel is not an easy accomplishment. Developing a world in your mind and giving it form and function that leads readers to feel as if they can step in the pages and live life along side characters that are a figment of your imagination can be trying on anyone. Sometimes it takes the effort of more than one imagination to bring that world to life. I have noticed a trend in the literary world of authors teaming up to create the fictional universe the characters in their minds live in. I was informed of a book that was developed by three friends who happen to all write for the same publisher and was intrigued. Lisa Pietsch, K.F. Zuzulo and Heather Long did not stop at collaborating on a story together. They created the world and circumstances the characters lived in, but wrote stories about characters who were connected by family ties. Each story is separate but flows together using time line and a dreadful situation. These ladies came together to create a unique anthology but ended up developing a novel without compromising their personal creativity.

Book One - Frozen Hell by Lisa Pietsch

Dani Roy is a private investigator. Well, she was until the recession and people stopped paying her to spy on cheating spouses and help someone find the parents that gave them up for adoption. Times are tough but she can always go to an old family friend who happens to be a bail bondsman. Nothing helps pay for the bills like a quick bounty hunter gig. That is what Dani thought before she took the job to find Jeffery Wiles, a repeat criminal who jumped bail.

She is partnered with Duncan MacDougall, who seems to be your typical uptight Brit. It doesn't take long for her to realize that not only is he easy on the eyes but he seems to know how to handle a gun. It doesn't take her long to realize that the bail jumper they are looking for is dealing in things out of the normal realm she is use too. Duncan opens her eyes to the paranormal world around her and his true profession as a sensitive for the family business, New England New Age Investigations.

Frozen Hell is a story that tells us not to let our first impressions make us think we know a person. Duncan and Dani wrote each other at first but realized a special connection was developing between them. It's amazing what a shower can do for someone after a really bad day. This story gets hot and steamy once the main characters actually notice the person who is standing next to them.

My favorite part of this story was the opening. Normally you would jump into the main character's life directly before the plot starts to develop but Pietsch took a drastically different approach. The story opens in the point of view of who we find out is the villain through the entire book. We walk in the shoe of who seems to be a normal man until his thoughts turn to sneaking up into a kitchen and up a flight of stairs. It only took a few paragraphs to have me hooked on the story and in turn the book as a whole. I can easily say Frozen Hell had the best opening of the three stories.

I had a few issues with certain sections of Frozen Hell. Duncan is said to have the power of "sensitivity" to the paranormal. I don't feel this power was explained to the reader as it should be. I was left with a feeling of wanting knowledge about what Duncan felt when his power was activated. It was a small thing but still left me wanting more when the story was drawn to a close. Another issue I ran into was a feeling of choppiness during a section of high pace scene changes. It could of been writing in this way on purpose to make the reader experience the chaotic feeling of the situation but it just left me asking myself what just happened and needing to re-read the scene changes. The last thing I had a problem with in the story was something that was mentioned at the very end. We meet the main female of book two, Sam, as she arrives to help her brother Duncan. A comment made towards the end about Sam's ability failing her when she meets Dani but it is never fully explained. I have a feeling the answer is given in the second story but it doesn't seem to be a strong one to me.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Frozen Hell by Lisa Pietsch. It was a wonderful romance that drew you into the minds of the main characters. The action was wonderfully written and the dialogue between the main characters always left a smile on my face. I would give Frozen Hell four out of Five stars if it were a standalone piece.

Book Two - Star Light, Blood Bright by K.F. Zuzulo

Star Light, Blood Bright starts where Frozen Hell left off. The reader is now following Samantha MacDougall, the sister of the hero we met in the first story. Sam developed the ability to read the auras when she was a young girl. Her Aunt helped her develop the skill to the point that she is able to tell if the person she is looking at strives to save someone, nurture them, or has no other drive then cause pain to those who are around them. She has used this skill to help her brother and cousin run the family investigation business. During, what she thought was a routine closing interview with a local police officer about her involvement with the situation from Frozen Hell, Sam meets Ike Starr, a detective who makes her feel things she has never felt before.

Star Light, Blood Bright uses emotions and psychology to get into the mind of the reader. The use of innocent people including a young teenager and the sweet elderly neighbor as the pawns of the villain helps the reader feel the terror and emotional pain Sam feels in the situations she finds herself in. At one point, Sam finds herself in the situation where she is about to be raped by someone she cares about but they are not in control of their actions. The thought of what that would do on a person terrified me as I was reading. This is probably one of the first times I was happy I was reading a work of fiction.

My favorite part of the story would be the invasiveness of the villain throughout the story. Sam and Ike could not let their guards down at any point because the bad guy could literally be right behind you one minute and gone the next. The choices of victims throughout the story were perfect to give you the creepy factor all the way to the end.

Overall, Star Light, Blood Bright was one of the creepiest stories I have read in a while. I am not sure if Zuzulo meant to write it that way but I am happy that I did not go straight to bed after I finished reading it. The romance was written very well but was lost in the feeling of terror I felt throughout the rest of the story. I would give this story four and a half out of five stars if it had been written as a standalone.

Book Three - 13th Night by Heather Long

The third and final story of the anthology focuses on Tara Conroy, cousin of the brother/sister duo we met in the previous stories. Tara's ability has always been more of a curse then a gift. She has been a source of communication for ghostly beings since she was a child. They channel a message through her using ghost writing. Until the age of twelve, Tara and her father had to battle off pushy ghosts who wanted to use her abilities constantly. She wasn't able to live what she considered a normal life until a spirit she knew as Darren started protecting her from the invading spirits. Thanks to his help, she was able to attend High School and College without worry about zoning out in the middle of class because a ghost wanted to say something. Darren became her security blanket when having to emerge into society and a comforting presence when she was alone. Everything seemed normal until a spirit Darren couldn't over power wanted all of Tara's attention and more.

Tara and Darren's story was unique. They are two characters who rely on each other for everything but Tara has never seen him and Darren has never spoke to her. Darren was cursed to roam earth as a spirit without the ability to vocally communicate after his death in 1929. After he found Tara as a child, the only communication he was able to deliver was through her and her special talent. Through the years together, a fondness for each other developed and love bloomed. The big issue is that they are on separate plans. In the story the characters go through the emotions of being in love with someone they cannot physically be with while dealing with an outside threat they can't get a handle on.

13th Night is a great mixture of action and emotions. The fight scenes bring you into the story wanting to swing your fists and save these characters that you become very attached too. The emotional struggles you feel them going through pull at your heart strings all the way to the end. All you want is for these two confidants to be able to be together but that seems to be impossible. The story flows in a way that keeps you clued to the pages. I was sneaking out for a break during work so I could read a few extra pages throughout the day. It is easy to say that this story was the most addictive of the three. I would give 13th Night four and a half out of five stars if it were a standalone story.

Book as a whole

I am incredibly impressed that three authors were able to write three separate stories in a way that flowed together as well as they did. The only reason I use the word "anthology" through this review is because that is what the publisher called this book. The feel that radiates from these pieces of work is not one of three stories that are bound together but of a continuous plot told from different points of view. I tip my hat to the ladies who created this wonderful piece of literature. I give Seven Souls a Leaping four and a half out of five stars.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

     Unless you have been living under a rock the past few years, a trend of Paranormal Romance has developed in the literary world. We have hit the mark when everybody and their mom has started writing about vampires and were-creatures. It is also the point where the genre starts to incorporate new characteristics to make the books seem fresh and new. From this evolution, the reader normally discovers a new subgenre developing from the parental unit. I have discovered a great book that has the essence of a Paranormal/Urban Fantasy book but weaves the page turning effects of a suspense novel within its cover.

     Nature has been at the core of literature since writing fictional stories to paper began. Prime Evil by Heather Long, is a story about a hedge witch named Chance Monroe who is given power from mother earth to keep the many aspects of the environment in order, including those pesky imps and fairies who always find the perfect home in an area already occupied by humans. Chance has developed a carrier relocating the imposing creatures to an area that would better suit them and the homeowners of their current location. She learned the trade from her Grandmother, a well respected hedge witch in the greater Virginian area. Chance loves her work even if she gets looks from friends she has known for years.

     Chance has a violent past that haunts her present . While attending college with her best friend, Jack Parker she was attacked and left for dead by the serial killer Randall Oakes. Now, a decade later, the nightmare she thought she left behind her has taken center stage in her life. Prime Evil is a suspense filled adventure following Chance and Jack trying to figure out how a person thought to have died years before, could be murdering young college aged woman again. The murders feel the same but something just doesn't seem right to Chance.

     Prime Evil is a well written suspense novel with a paranormal twist unique to the genre. There are no vampires that pop up out of nowhere which give the book a fresh feel. The lack of the usual paranormal elements does not leave us wanting, but instead brings the avid PNR reader access to a new world to explore. The connection to modern day America leads the reader to believe that this story really could happen in a rural town down the road.

     Once the reader gets past the development chapters, the book is filled with twist and turns of who-done-it and how can that be. The character development leads you to truly feel for the characters you meet along the way. There is no black and white within this book. All the characters have flaws that at the end make you care for them even more. The real world is lived within shades of grey and so does the world within Prime Evil.

     One of the things I like most about the book is the story development. Knowing this will be a series, I was very happy that nothing was rushed. For those who read mostly PNR, I am sorry to say that the main characters do not jump in the sack after eighty pages. The relationship is given time to develop in our eyes. Through the book, you can sense what the characters truly mean to each other. I know there will be romance in the future, but I was very happy with how the relationship is grows and hits road bumps through the story. You get the sense that the story being told could happen between two people instead of the ever popular, "you are my soul mate... let's make babies!" that you see over and over again.

     Reading Prime Evil left me wanting to spy more into the lives of Chance and Jack. It is an excellent first book in the series I know is to continue. I am happy to give Prime Evil five out of five stars. I can't wait to read what Heather Long has for us next.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Randomness: How far should you go for a Convention Costume?

I am going to try something different tonight. I normally only post reviews but a question has popped into my mind that I would truly like an answer too. When you are going to a "insert nerdy passion" convention, there is normally a time and place to dress up. I was just in this situation last weekend but I chickened out and stayed in my T-shirt. Main reason for this is because I feel like an idiot dressing up, but seeing so many people dressed as favorite book characters made me want to join in the fun. The dire question is... What is the fun part of playing dress up?
We have all seen the pictures from Comic-Con of dozens of Darth Vaders and Klingons running around. I just don't know if that is going too far. Klingon makeup has to be expensive! But the people who fly from around the world to show off the time and skill it took to look exactly like the characters they cherish inspire me. To have that kind of passion and not let the cat calls of nerd or geek bother them shows how much pride they have in their personal interests. But who really wants to walk around all day wearing 20 lbs of pour clogging goop!
My idea for a costume would be, I hope, a little more practical and a lot less stress on my pours. It involves a Victorian dress and what will most likely be a painfully tight corset and bustle. Without give too much away, it will also include a horribly ugly hat! The idea seems simple enough until you start looking into the price of purchasing these pieces of clothing. Oh my gosh! It is amazing how much someone will try to charge for pieces of cloth! It reminds me of going to one of the chain Halloween stores to purchase your costume and getting a few scraps of cotton held together by Velcro for $80. I am praying that the Victorian dress sellers have higher quality products but I have my doubts. Being a cheap skate makes me realize that creating the costume is suppose to be the fun part of the whole extravaganza. Where is the excitement in buying a ready made costume off a store shelf? I may not be an expert embroider but mom could give me a few pointers from her High School Home Ec class and maybe even find the sewing machine that is buried in the shed!
I spoke to people who had created their costume last weekend and they seemed so excited to show off what they had done even if it wasn't the fanciest at the party. The pride in their work seemed to glow from their expressions. Their joy is what made me want to join in the fun. Those who purchased their costumes seemed to be having a good time too. The costume ball turned into an outlet for all those who wanted to show their favorite authors who the books changed the reader's lives. And yes, silly vampire books can change someones life even if it is fantasy.
I am not sure if I will buy my costume out of laziness or if I will make it myself just to see if I can! It will most likely be a little bit of both, but one thing is for sure. I will be dressed up at the next gathering that gives me an opportunity to show off my new digs and I will most likely be embarrassed. That is just the way I am!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

A trend in today's book loving world is the genre of YA or young adult. Many known adult authors have started writing for this genre so they would have something their children could read. We have seen many new names as well who seem to popped out of nowhere within this genre. The secret of YA books is that they are not only read by the younger generation around us. There are hoards of adult readers of all ages who rush out to the local bookstore on Tuesdays to pick up the latest YA release. I admit that I am one of them.

The latest book I have chosen to relive the angst of my teenage years through is Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. This book is the second of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series, and the second series from Ms. Stiefvater. I was excited for the release of Linger due to how much I enjoyed the first installment of the series, Shiver. I had read a review for Shiver that described it as "if Jacob had won" and was immediately intrigued since we all know I have a thing for shifters. Linger continued the love story of Grace and Sam from where we left off.

Grace is your normal seventeen year old from a small town. Well, almost. When our your heroine was a small child, she was bitten and taken by a pack of wolves who lived in the woods that line her backyard. She survived the attack but felt a pull to the woods ever since her rescue. The drawl to the unknown was intensified by a single wolf with yellow eyes who stopped at the property line and watched her through the years.

We now know that the wolf of her childhood was Sam, the love of her life. They have had a blissful few months together since he discovered a cure to the issue of shifting into a wolf when the weather turned cold. Their happy ever after has been compromised by the actions of Sam's adoptive father, Beck and Grace's parents discovering they don't really like the boy who has been hanging around their daughter. To add to the issues, Grace starts to feel ill and Sam is afraid to admit that he knows what is ailing her. Will they be able to overcome the obstacles in their way or will the consequences of other's actions tear them apart for ever?

Linger is a well written book about the emotions and issues of being a teenager with a few added conflicts added in for fun. The story is told from four different character's points of view so the reader knows what emotions are being felt from all sides of the story. Stiefvater portrays the issues of young love and conflict so well that you feel as if you were in their shoes. Many issues are dealt with including untimely death, drug addiction, unrespected love, and teenage sexual pressure. By showing the multiple points of view, answers are given for attitude and choices that would seem idiotic to the average person. You really feel for the characters, especially the ones that you would write off as crazy or just plan mean.

Overall, I thought Linger was a well written story about teenagers trying to survive in an adults world without any help from those they have grown to trust while growing up. There are many issues touched that sensitive topics and I feel they were handled in a graceful way. I feel this book helps enlighten adults into the teenage mind and lets teenagers know that they are not the only ones dealing with the issues they face. Even if those issues don't include an ex-werewolf boyfriend. I give Linger by Maggie Stiefvater Four out of Five Stars.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson is installment number two in the Millennium Series. Anyone who has read The girl with a dragon tattoo knows to expect twist and turns like you find on a mountainous back country road but Larsson out did him self with this story. The same characters are present and it seems Lisbeth has found herself in a pickle and is the the number one suspect for three murders on one night. It seems that she has been a busy girl! Mikael takes position to be her knight in shining armor by trying to prove that she did not kill victims and figuring out who the true culprit is. One thing has stayed the same and the main characters soon find themselves in deep water and mortal peril.

I may have jumped on the Larsson bandwagon a little late but it is easy to tell how these books became international best sellers and are going to be a future Hollywood goldmine. The story is intense, keeping you up way to late because you want to read just one more chapter. The violence is raw but the revenge issued leaves a justified sweet taste for your senses. Lisbeth is odd compared to the majority of the population but you grow to love her for her quirks and the moral standing she does not falter from. Mikael is the typical guy next door trying in every way to do the right thing and sometimes messing up the situations with his good intentions. The relationship between the two main characters has grown disconnected due to fear of emotional attachment which I believe every reader can comprehend. Watching one character run and the other slowly pull them back in makes me feel that these characters could live down the road or in this case, across the ocean in Sweden. When things seem to be too outrageous to believe a local reason is always given.

The phenomenal story of how Larsson planned and wrote this amazing series and then suddenly died before seeing his master plan brought into reality is devastating. I wish he could of had more time to finish what I believe would have been a masterpiece series with ten installments but we have been given three wonderful books to peak our imagination. I am some what worried how book three will be closed off and what cliff hangers will remain unanswered but that will not stop me from continuing this intense thriller to the end as we will know it. I give The girl who played with Fire four and a half out of Five stars.

Book Review: Alpha by Rachel Vincent

First, I must wipe a tear from my eye. The book I am about to talk about is the end of a great series. It is one of about three series that I suggest to everyone, no matter if they want to hear about it or not. I have even given my cherished copy of the first book to my co-worker hoping that if she ever finds time to read it she will be hooked. I am of course talking about the Shifter Series by Rachel Vincent. I am almost to full stalker status for this poor young lady and I have a feeling that is why she never seems to visit Dallas. I was caught up in her whirl wind of a writing style when I bought Stray off of a suggestion I received on Goodreads and I have been hooked ever since. The Sixth and final book of the series is Alpha, and once again I have been left breathless.

A little background on the series with as few spoilers as possible. Faythe Sanders is your typical Texas girl. She loves her family, especially her father, but she struggles with how how much they control her. She goes away to college instead of marrying her High School sweetheart and starting life on the ranch owned by her family. The one difference between her and any other twenty something across the country is the fact that Faythe is a Shifter. A werecat to be precise. In her tightly controlled society the only thing she is expected to do is marry a strong werecat and make babies. Female werecats are so rare, for the sake of her species, it is her duty in the mind of some to keep trying until she has the much sought after baby girl. Faythe decides to be more then a baby maker and revolts and in the process makes many powerful enemies within her world.

Poor Faythe has had a hard nine months (the length of the series). Not only does it seem that everyone is trying to either imprison or kill her but she has lost those that she loves in the process of fighting back. Not only are her enemies trying to subdue or kill her but it seems they are content with bring down her family in the process. On top of all that, Faythe has made some really stupid decisions throughout the entire ordeal which has turned her life even more upside down then it already was. On the brink of war with her own kind, will Faythe have the control and knowledge needed to save everything she considers special in her life? No matter what you know this fiery feline will not go down without throwing her claws around.

Rachel Vincent has created a world of powerful characters. With every turn of a page, you feel the emotions they are going through. I will not lie and say I did not shed a tear or two while reading Alpha. I cried a bloody river! The sadness, pain, and fear of what is going on around these characters is so well expressed that you would have to be an android not to feel it as you read. You want the good guys to win and you want the bad guys to feel more pain then they have ever had to deal with in their pathetic lives. This is not a fairy tale where the immature main character makes a few mistakes and then lives happily ever after. This story is full of sorrow that changes the characters down to their little fictional souls. At no point in the book does the reader get the feeling that the good guys are going to win. You are just wishing and praying they will get out of the mess in one piece.

The relationships that are developed between certain characters is another amazing feet. There isn't just one knight in shining armor and the stain between the triangle that has been developing over many books as reached a boiling point. There is Mark, her first love and the foundation of her strength. He would go to the moon and back for her, and pretty much has since she left him at the alter before disappearing to college hours away. Then there is Jace. The guy who has always been in the family as her brother's best friend but she has only recently realized that she had more then brotherly feelings towards him. Both characters make you want her to choose them but there is a strong possibility that the boys will kill each other before she ever makes up her mind.

I know I haven't hidden the fact that I am a huge fan of Vincent's writing, but there is a reason for this. When I open one of her books, I am transported into the world she has created and feel as if her characters are real, flaws and all. I am sad that she has closed this chapter in her literary worlds but the way she finalized everything was perfect. Not everyone had the happy ending you may think they deserve but all loose ends were tied up and overall the endings of each part of the story just fit. Sure I wish some characters did not have to go through what they did but these books are developed on realistic human reactions and emotions and had realistic endings even if the characters are based in a Paranormal world. I am more then happy to give Alpha five out of five stars. This series has easily found a place on my re-read shelf.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review: Blameless by Gail Carriger

Normally I wouldn't follow a book review with a review of the next book in the series since variety is the spice of life but the The Parasol Protectorate Series is an exception to this blunder. I have been waiting on baited breath to read the third installment, Blameless, to the point that I would stop at every bookstore I passed to see if they had the book for sale when I heard a rumor from Gail herself that the book was available early in Texas. I finally found it at a Barnes & Noble, which was the last place I expected since when I had heard the same rumor about Changeless, they told me that in no way would they place a book on the self before the publisher's release date. Funny how that works out for me sometimes. So I have the book in my possession and what happens? I get so slammed between work and school that it takes me close to 3 weeks to read it. Not my style or to my liking. I finally finished it last night and all I can say is wow!

As previously stated in the Changeless review, Gail Carriger has created a world set in Victorian England which includes Vampires, Werewolves, and Ghosts, oh my! In this installment, Lady Alexia Maccon finds herself in a delicate condition while it is widely known that her husband, a werewolf of considerable age, could not possibly father children. The whole idea is absurd according to all desirable social circles. Poor Alexia is rejected by her husband and the pack, asked to leave not so nicely from her mother's home, and discovers the one person she thought she could always count on, the vampire rogue Lord Akeldama, has up and disappeared. What is a somewhat well bred lady to do? Go to Italy, the land of coffee and pesto, of course!

Blameless continues Carriger's tradition of the perfect amount of action, controversy, and good ole British humor. The characters each handle the disastrous scandal of unknown paternity in the exact way you would imagine. Alexia decides to travel, Lord Maccon gets drunk even though that should be impossible, and Floote decides it would be an excellent time to carry two petite single shot handguns. All the characters you have grown to love or tolerate, the case may be, make cameos through out the story including Ivy and the wicked half-sisters. The story is well written and slightly complex just like the previous novels in the series. There is also excellent character development while you watch Alexia wrap her head around a pregnancy that should never have come to be. By far, my favorite aspect of the book is the use of language. A wonderful aspect of historical novels is the opportunity to hear a familiar language used in a way that seems foreign. Carriger does the magnificently. At some points I had to stop, re-read the section in question, and laugh hysterically at the ingenious phrasing. Most enjoyable is the name Infant-Inconvenience for the baby who has stirred up a whole lot of trouble in London.

I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys British humor wrapped in a fun, intellectual story. The saddest thing I can think of right now is the fact that I have to wait until July 2011 to read more on the antics of Lord and Lady Maccon and their friends. Excellent work Ms. Carriger! I give Blameless and the series as a whole 5 out of 5 Stars.