Thursday, July 12th 2012

Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Title: Shadow of Night

Author: Deborah Harkness

Publisher: Penguin/Viking

Publication Date: July 2012

Genre: Adult Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book Two


Synopsis can be found here.
NetGalley review.

Review:

This second installment picks up where A Discover of Witches left off- Matthew and Diana, having to escape some very dangerous witches in the present, travel back in time. Not only are they trying to find the elusive book they are after, but they also hope this will give them a little space for Diana to hone her skills as a witch. At least, that is what they hope. But what they find for them in Elizabethan England may be just as dangerous as the dangers in modern times.

I don’t want to give too much away as most of the drama and urgency in this book is based on everything we learned about in the first.
So if you haven’t read the first book, go buy it right now. It is exquisite.

That said, Shadow of Night is a solid and moving sequel. The plot flows slowly, developing rich characters and deep histories. Remember, Matthew did exist in this world, and his former self is now not in Elizabethan England. Instead, current day Matthew has replaced him. And of course, that will change certain things about the present. I loved how Harkness devoted one chapter at the end of every section to the time travel changes that were popping up as Diana and Matthew moved through time.

If Discovery of Witches is Diana’s book, then here is Matthew’s story. His many faces, loyalties and masks are all there for Diana to figure out. Adding another layer to Matthew isn’t easy, as he could be taken as a very possessive and haunting vampire. But Harkness explores Matthew’s human side, his fears and desires making Matthew even more the romantic hero. And that doesn’t bother me at all!

The book is on the longer side, coming in just shy of 600 pages. And while a part of me says it could have been shortened, the same part of me says that it would have lost all that beautiful description and secondary character development. And that would have taken away the magic of Harkness’s writing and world. At the beginning it did take me a bit to get back into it, but the book really picks up and then I couldn’t put it down.


Get a cup of tea, and settle down for the night.

I am only sad now I have to wait til 2013 for the last book.

Rating 8 Cookie Worthy

Thursday, June 7th 2012

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Immortal Rules

Author: Julie Kagawa

Publisher: Harlequinn Teen

Publication Date: April 2012

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book One

Synopsis can be found here.
NetGalley review.

Review:What. Fun!

Allie, an orphan who scavenges in the Fringe, has a few friends who watch her back. They try to survive, scrounging for food and staying away from Vampires, who inhabit the cities. Humans are used as blood banks and there is no way she’s going to feed any of these creatures she hates so much.

That is until she’s bitten by one. Given the choice to live as a vampire or die, Allie chooses life as a vampire and is forced to leave her familiar surroundings to venture into the unknown. There she will try to hide herself among the humans, and hope they do not find out her secret.

The story is a slow developing, long road but totally worth it. This is the first Kagawa book I’ve read and really enjoyed the world building and character development. I loved the vampires, and cities and most of all the zombies! Yes, there are zombie beings too. They’re rabid vampires who didn’t change correctly, becoming evil and unpredictable creatures. Post apocalyptic vampire world, dark, intense and thrilling.

Allie is so conflicted, filled with self hatred and struggling to become a monster, she’s easy to root for. She teeters on the life she knew and the creature she’s become, and in any given moment, both sides are in her, fighting to get out. She really becomes this awesome character, strong, sympathetic and dangerous. I’m really interested in seeing how she grows in book two.
Kanin is especially interesting. Her sire, he holds secrets he won’t share. But I’m looking forward to learning much more about Kanin in the future!
At first, I thought Zeke was sorta dull. He’s in this group of humans Allie stumbles upon, looking for the lost island of Eden, where vampires cannot reach. But as the book went on, he grew on me, becoming a more developed character.

And that’s really the hook of this book. It’s on the longer side, and it takes a while to get into but once you’re in it, you’re invested. You’re there. And then the ending comes and you say “Wait, what?! But what happened?!” and then you realize its a series and you have to wait for book two.

Stupid series.

Rating 8 Cookie Worthy

Friday, April 6th 2012

Author Interview & Book Review: The Stein & Candle Detective Agency: Volume One by Michael Panush

Title: The Stein & Candle Detective Agency: American Nightmares”

Author: Michael Panush

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Publication Date: March 2012

Genre: Adult Fiction/Horror

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Volume One


Synopsis can be found here.
NetGalley review.

Review:

Seven stories of investigation and zombies? Stein and Candle are detectives of the paranormal and their customers are… not ordinary. Their strong stomachs and keen observations make the undead shake in their boots!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this up. I’ll say it right off the bat- I have a hard time with short stories. Every once in a while, I try to read them, but they always leave me wanting. Not this!

Each individual story was well written, funny and off-beat in a not what you’re expecting kinda way. I labeled it as adult, but I think younger people can read it too. I know a certain middle grade kid that would totally love these stories. (He also loves The Walking Dead, Zombieland and horror movies.) So I am not afraid to recommend this book to him.

I could name my favorite stories, but I don’t want to give anything away. I loved the dark, noir feeling of Candle and Stein. The stories are set in the 1950s, so think vampire Nazis. Yeah, that’s right. I’ll say it again. Vampire. Nazis.
I know. You wanna pick it up just for that.


But the best part is actually not the paranormal aspect. I love a good zombie kicking as the next girl, (honestly I’m terrified of zombies so I think I would be more with the running away) but I loved the relationship between Stein and Candle. Think Candle as the hard boiled detective, rough Chandler-esque type with a young protege. Their banter and Candle’s fun observations push these stories above other ones out there.


Author Interview with Michael Panush!

Thanks for stopping by Michael!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always been interested in stories and literature. In middle school, I’d stuff my backpack full of books and read during recess. I’ve always had ideas for stories too. I’d narrate them to my parents and have them type my tales up on the computer. I’m not sure if I remember any, but I do know one prominently featured a cassowary. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I decided to actually start writing the stories down myself. I’m not sure what inspired me. Maybe I just got tired of having the stories only in my head and finally decided to turn them into something tangible. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing at all. Writing truly is my dream and my publisher, Curiosity Quills, is helping that dream come true.

What was the last book you read?
Actually, it was The Goliath Bone – the last Mike Hammer novel. It was mostly written by Mickey Spillane before his death, but polished by Max Allan Collins. It was published in 2008 and it’s got Mike Hammer — your archetypical 50s’ hardboiled private eye — fighting Al-Qaida in modern day New York. It was pretty weird. The best parts are where Mike Hammer is reacting to modern fears about terrorism, political correctness, the gentrification of New York and the fact that he’s getting older. He can’t handle any of them. My favorite section was where the femme fatale tries to seduce Hammer and it doesn’t work. He’s a little tempted but can’t bring himself to do anything. He’s just too old.

What was the inspiration for Stein and Candle?
That one’s easy. I was taking a class on British Horror Films and we were discussing the work of Hammer Studios – makers of lurid, full-color horror flicks in the 50s and 60s which stared Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They were mostly adaptations of classic Gothic horror stories, like Dracula and Frankenstein. Anyway, I had the idea of a kind of pun or play on words: Hammer vs. Hammer. One Hammer was Hammer Horror and the other was Mike Hammer, the tough-as-nails, gun-toting detective of Mickey Spillane’s novels, which were bestsellers in the 50s. The idea stuck with me. Then I figured it would be great if it was a kind of a buddy cop situation, with Mort Candle being the Mike Hammer-style detective and Weatherby Stein being the Hammer Horror-style aristocrat with knowledge of the occult. After that, everything fell into place.

Stein and Candle battle all sorts of paranormal creatures. What was your favorite type of creature to write about? And out of the seven stories, which is your favorite?
Hmmm. That is a tough one. For the favorite monster in this batch, I’d have to go with the average zombie. They show up a lot within these stories and Mort is frequently blowing out their brains. Zombies are deceptively simple, but having them swarming around always creates an immediate sense of panic and chaos. They’ve also got that awesome Voodoo background which ties perfectly into the magical elements of Stein and Candle. For favorite story, I’d have to go with ‘I Rode in the Devil’s Hot Rod,’ mostly because it has so many elements that are undeniably awesome. It’s got muscle cars, Satanists, psychopathic women out of a Russ Meyer movie, and what I hope is a detailed look at Morton’s deeply flawed character and his relationship to Weatherby. 

I love how the stories are set in the 1950s. It adds such a fantastic layer to all the paranormal mysteries! Why did you choose that time period?
I enjoy writing about all the contrasts of the 50s. There’s this squeaky-clean exterior – the family friendly suburb that we’re all familiar with — but it has so many nasty elements lurking in the background. Racism, McCarthyism and the Cold War, crime and corruption, sleaziness and forced conformity are all huge parts of the 1950s and I think Noir and Horror both captured those hidden evils and that’s why they were so popular. The 50s is really when the hardboiled detective became fully realized, after Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet created him in the 20s and 30s, and great Film Noir movies did the rest. Then you had horror, with Hammer films in the theatres and those EC Horror comics stirring up controversy and finally inspiring a moral panic and a crackdown. Combining the two felt very natural and this was the time period to do it. Plus, I love writing about fedoras and the 50s have tons of those.
Describe your book in seven words or less!
Hardboiled Horror in the Freewheeling Fifties. 

How do you like your potato?
My diet is just like one from the 50s – lots of starch and protein. I liked my potatoes baked and overloaded with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Definitely not a detective. I’d get bored on stakeouts, I couldn’t come up with snappy dialogue quick enough and I certainly wouldn’t last long once some thugs started roughing me up.

Do you have a favorite literary character?
It’s difficult to say. I’m tempted to just put down one of my favorite PIs – Phillip Marlowe, or Mike Hammer or the Continental Op. But I think I’m gonna have to go with all three protagonists of James Ellroy’s LA Confidential. Maybe that’s cheating, but Edmund Exley, Bud White and Trashcan Jack Vincennes are such great characters in their own right and they only get better when they clash and interact with each other as they’re working towards a common goal. I really hope I managed to capture some of that in Mort and Weatherby’s relationship in Stein and Candle.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I am a full time student, so that does take up a lot of my time. Luckily, my classes often end up giving me inspiration for some great story ideas – like Stein and Candle.

What is one thing you would tell aspiring writers?
Here’s some advice that I try to follow: practice constantly. Write or edit or plan out a story with a detailed summary every day. Getting advice and inspiration is important, but practice is the driving force behind improvement. Write all you can and always think about other projects. Never rest on your laurels or let your skills get rusty.

Do you buy a book based on its cover?
Occasionally. One hardboiled novel I read based only on its cover was an obscure gem, Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer. The narrator explains that the book has everything in it but “a tornado and an abortion.” He’s not kidding. I read that one Freshman year in High School and it was transformative. I do remember the cover featured some guy in a trench coat holding a tommy gun. I think Stein and Candle shows the results.

Can we expect more Stein and Candle books?
Definitely. There are two more volumes, Cold Wars and Red Reunion. You can expect stories dealing with a seedy New England town of gangster fishmen, an undead pharaoh in Las Vegas, and witches in Appalachia – as well as stories that reveal more of the past of Morton Candle and Weatherby Stein.
Curiosity Quills is currently serializing stories from the upcoming volumes on their blog and you can read them here: http://curiosityquills.com/stein-candle-tiki-terror-part-one/

What is your next book about and when is it coming out?
The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 2: Cold Wars is set to come out in Mid June. I do hope you check it out. After that, I’ve got two other projects from Curiosity Quills and maybe even more on the way. 


Thanks for stopping by Michael!
You can visit Michael here or follow him via Twitter @Michael_Panush
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Monday, February 27th 2012

**Romance Report**: Kiss of the Vampire by Cynthia Garner

Title: Kiss of the Vampire

Author: Cynthia Garner

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: January 2012

Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book One




Synopsis can be found here
.
Netgalley review.


Review:
Nix is half demon, half human and works for the Council as a liason between demon and human relations. When her ex boyfriend, dangerous vampire Tobias comes back into town to investigate a string of vampire murders, Nix must do everything in her power to keep her feelings for him outside of the investigation. Easier said than done.
As the murder investigations gain speed, it becomes apparent that there is more than just revenge against vampires. It has something to do with the riff, and an enemy from Tobias’s past.

There were a lot of new and creative stories in this book. Paranormal creatures are sent through this riff in space and end up on Earth. Only then do they mere with corporeal humans do they change into vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, etc. No one knows how or why and no one has any control over what form they will take.

I love the space element, that most of the creatures sent over are criminals. Their society has seen fit to exile them into this riff, not knowing where it sends them, not caring.

I liked Nix enough, but wasn’t in love with her. I liked her spunky attitude, and her need to prove herself. She was strong minded, with a temper. The thing that really bothered me was that she was this confident, strong female character on one side, but whenever it came to Tobias, she became this heartsick teenager. She’s twenty-eight years old. I know, I know, love and all that. But truthfully, I felt like she flip flopped too much.

At the beginning, when they weren’t getting along because he had abandoned her with just a “it’s not working out” line, she was able to stand more ground. As the novel progresses, and they finally have some softer moments, she becomes this puddle of goo, willing to give up everything for him and his quest.

Dante MacMillan is a great character and I can see why he’s the lead in the second book. He’s funny, easy going and a great comic relief.

It’s a fun and easy read. The author has come up with a new and interesting world that I enjoyed being in and will read book two, especially because of Dante.

Rating 6 Good, but wouldn’t own a copy

Monday, January 16th 2012

Author Interview & Book Review: Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Title: Jessica Rules the Dark Side

Author: Beth Fantaskey

Publisher: Harcourt

Publication Date: January 2012

Genre: Young Adult Paranomal Romance

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book Two

Synopsis can be found here.

Review:

If you haven’t read  Jessica’s Guide to Dating On The Dark Side, then you are missing out. It’s one of my favorite YA books. I mean, I have it on Kindle and Hardcover. Yeah. That’s right.

But ok, you haven’t read it and you’re wondering- Can I just dive into book two?

The answer my dear vampire loving friends is- YES!

Jessica Rules picks up a little after where book one left off. 
(I recommend going to Beth Fantaskey’s website where you can read about Lucius and Jessica’s wedding! It’s a fun story, giving you just a taste of the characters and will definitely make you want more.)

Jessica is thrown into princess-dom, with her deadly handsome, and just plain deadly, new husband in tow. Lucius is used to navigating these dangerous waters, but Jessica isn’t and finds herself out of place. Is she really ready to rule? She doesn’t think so and then the unthinkable happens. Lucius is imprisoned and Jessica is forced to not only rule without him, but build his defense when he goes to trial!

Lucky for Jess, her best friend Mindy is in town to help. And a certain gorgeous Italian vampire cousin of Lucius’s, named Raniero, also shows up. Who may have some history with Mindy. Just sayin’.

Lucius is, as always, delicious, devoted and dark. His lively sense of humor doesn’t falter through this book, even in the most dire of circumstances. Since the beginning, Jessica’s journey has been filled with challenges, both from outside sources and herself. It was satisfying to see her transformation in this book.  
Raniero’s past and character is seeped in mystery. Who really is Raniero? Does he have alterior motives? Watching Raniero’s character unfold is great fun. That lazy, peaceful surfer may have a dark side. And Mindy? I really love Mindy’s chapters. She’s funny, smart, clever, everything a best friend should be! And her thought process seems eerily familiar…

Fantaskey does a wonderful job juggling the four narrators. So much character insight is gained from reading Raniero’s and Lucius’s emails.  Raniero’s voice is so spot on, I kept thinking – I know this guy. Mindy’s voice is very different from Jessica’s and that makes her a welcomed comic relief. The dialogue between them is effortless. It’s no wonder her and Jessica are best friends!

The mystery? Yes, treachery is afoot! You’ll have to read more to find out!

So, if you haven’t read the first Jessica’s Guide, (GO. READ. NOW!) you should.
And pick up Jessica Rules! Because you won’t want to stop!


Author Interview with Beth Fantaskey!

What inspired you to become a writer? 
The simple need to feed, clothe and house myself!   When I graduated from college, I had no job prospects, so when a friend mentioned that a public relations office was hiring writers, I applied.  When I turned in my writing sample, the man who would become my boss said, “You know you’re a writer, right?”  I got hired on the spot, and that’s what I’ve done ever since – thank goodness!


What was the last book you read?  
Douglas Perry’s “The Girls of Murder City:  Fame, Lust and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired ‘Chicago.’” 

What sparked the idea for Jessica’s Guide? Did you always know there would be a sequel?
The idea is rooted in my family life.  My children are adopted, and we sometimes imagine what their birth parents might be like.  What if they are doctors?  Or farmers?  Or even royalty?  I just took that game to the extreme with Jessica’s Guide, imagining the protagonist’s birth parents as vampire royalty.
I didn’t initially plan to write a sequel – only because I never expected the first book to earn the wonderful following that it did.  As a first-time novelist, I was just happy to have one published book.

Lucius and Jessica both have very distinct voices. I love Lucius’s sense of humor! What are your favorite things about Lucius and Jessica?
I also love Lucius’s humor, and his chivalry, bravery and intense loyalty to his friends and family.  As the second book, Jessica Rules the Dark Side, shows, Lucius would sacrifice his existence before hurting Jess in any way, shape or form. 
I love Jess’s intelligence, cool-headedness, and her courage, too.  Her mettle is tested in the second book, and while she falters, like any normal person would, she comes back stronger than ever. 

I loved how in this second book we get Mindy and Ronnie’s voices as well. Out of the four of them, which character do you enjoy writing more?
Oh, gosh… I love writing all of them for different reasons.  It’s like hanging out with good friends, all of whom you love for their unique personalities.  I will say that I developed a new fondness for Mindy while writing the second book, though.  She emerged to have her own particular strengths – and she cracks me up, too.

What did you find the most challenging about switching narrators between four characters? 
At first it was difficult to decide who should jump into the narrative when.  I didn’t want anyone to drop out of the story for too long.  But once the plot started rolling along, it flowed naturally. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing your novels?
Staying calm until I’m at least halfway through.  I don’t do a lot of plotting, so I tend to reach a point that I call “the murky middle,” at which point I’m not exactly sure how I’ll get from the beginning to the end – which I always do plan.  That can be nerve wracking.


Lucius shows up on your doorstep. What do you do? 
Take him out for a really nice dinner and a discussion of books.  I think he grew accustomed to small, cluttered American houses while living with the Packwoods, but I’d still be embarrassed to subject him to my messy home.   

Do you own a stake?
I probably have something that would do in a pinch, out in the garage. 

How do you like your potato? 
French fried.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?  A professor – which I do on the side, now and then.
 Do you have a favorite literary character? 
Edmond Dantes, from The Count of Monte Cristo.   He’s intense, funny, tortured, romantic… just perfect!

What do you do when you’re not writing? 
I burn off a lot of steam at the gym, and I hang out with my husband and three daughters.  Just getting through homework at night is a major undertaking! 

What is one thing you would tell aspiring writers? 
Usually I tell them to practice, practice, practice… But today I was thinking about how important it is to remember that you can always delete.  Don’t be afraid to try something when you’re typing away.  You can always backspace.  (Of course, that doesn’t hold true for those of you diehards who still use pen and ink… more power to you!)

Do you buy a book based on its cover? 
Not really.  I choose more by author and summary. 

What is your next book about and when is it coming out? 
My next project is still a secret, but hopefully it will come out in 2013 – provided I stay on schedule!

Will there be more Jessica and Lucius in our future? I hope so!!! 
Thanks for your support, but I’m not sure about another full sequel.  That said, I would at least like to do another on-line “fan thank you,” like I did with the free story of Jess and Lucius’s wedding on my website.  I purposely built some possible options into the end of Jessica Rules the Dark Side.  I like having a concrete way to let readers know how much I appreciate their support.


Thanks for stopping by Beth! 


You can find Beth Fantaskey here and follow her on twitter @BethFantaskey

Monday, December 26th 2011

Romance Report: The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark

Title: The Demon Lover

Author: Juliet Dark

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: December 2011

Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book One
Synopsis can be found here.

Netgalley review.

Review:

Callie McFay accepts a teaching position in upstate New York at Fairwick College. While going on the interview, she is drawn to an old Victorian house that stands on the edge of the woods. Soon, she finds herself buying the house and settling down there, eagerly anticipating the start of the semester. But something is a bit off- with the house, the town, her co-workers and the dreams she’s having at night.

I started reading this book over the holiday season and it took me a while to finish it. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because life and holiday shopping got in the way. But everytime I had even a second to spare, I’d pull out The Demon Lover and fall back into this mysterious town and Callie’s awakening into this unknown world.

Callie is a strong and entirely human character. She can be jealous and short on temper, and I like that about her! She’s intelligent and a strong female character, even when paranormal things are happening to her.
I don’t want to spoil anything so let me just say the romantic lead is very hot. And there are some very steamy scenes through the book. It took me a while to figure out who the romantic lead would turn out to be!

All of the secondary characters were fun, but I found they started to blend together a bit. Especially in the middle of the book. There were so many story lines going on, I wasn’t sure where the book was going for a while, but it did regain it’s footing.

Overall, The Demon Lover is a sexy, easy read with romance, mystery and enough otherworldly characters to keep it interesting. I’m excited to see how this series develops.

Rating 8 Cookie Worthy

Monday, August 22nd 2011

Book Review: Overbite by Meg Cabot (Insatiable Series #2)

Title: Overbite

Author: Meg Cabot


Publisher: William Morrow

Publication Date: July 2011

Genre: Adult Paranormal Contemporary Fiction


Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book Two


Synopsis can be found here.
You can find my review of book one here.

Review: Meena Harper and friends are in over their heads. It’s been about six months since their fight with Lucien Antonescu, son of Dracula, and where the first book in the series Insatiable left off. Meena is working for the Palatine Guard, only to find something new and more sinister has moved into Manhattan. And it seems to be targeting Meena.


The second book in the series is significantly shorter than the first (only coming in at 278 pages.) I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the first book was almost twice as long.  The story was suspenseful and fun, but it didn’t have the same magic as the first book. There was less humor, more drama and the characters changed so drastically in such a short amount of time, they were almost unrecognizable. The foundation was there from the beginning and I immediately knew which way it was going, so while the ending wasn’t a complete surprise, I didn’t feel like it had a very natural flow of getting there. I also thought this book seemed more YA-ish, while the first book leaned more on the romance adult side. (The heat between Meena and Lucien jumped at you from the first book. The second book didn’t really have any sizzle.)

Favorite characters were back, including Mary Lou and Emil, both adding much needed comic relief. And while Alaric seemed like his old self during the first part of the book, his fun awkwardness and unique thoughts were absent towards middle and end.

It is not that I didn’t enjoy the book. It was fun to visit Meena and her friends, even if this installment was much darker.  I read it in a day and wanted to see what happened. That being said, I just didn’t feel like it lived up to Insatiable, book one.
I wonder if this will continue to be a series, Cabot has certainly left it open a sliver at the end for more adventures. But I would hope she try to channel the first book’s humor and wit.  

Rating: 6 Good, but wouldn’t own a copy.
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