Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Upcoming ARC's

Hey guys! I wanted to give you another wonderful update. Mandee a lovely person at Scholastic publishers has forwarded (Is that even a word?) my request for The Wolves of Mercy Falls: Forever - Maggie Stiefvater. She informed me they will be shipping the ARC's out very soon. I am crossing my fingers that my name is on the list. I am so excited to finish the trilogy. I absolutely adored Shiver & Linger.

She also sent me a link to their online catalog of upcoming novels for the summer. This is a list of the items I sent to request for reviews:

Goosebumps: Hall of Horrors #1- Claws!
Goosebumps: Hall of Horrors #2- Night of the Giant Everything
Goosebumps: Hall of Horrors #3- The Five Masks of Dr. Screem
Goosebumps: Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes
Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium
Goosebumps: Vampire Breath (All Goosebumps by R.L. Stine)

Animorphs: The Invasion -- K.A. Applegate
Animorphs: Visitor -- K.A. Applegate
Animorphs: The Encounter -- K.A. Applegate

Star Wars: Head to Head Tag Teams -- Pablo Hidaldo

Ravenwood -- Andrew Fusek Peters

The Vampire's Promise -- Caroline B. Cooney

The Vampire Stalker -- Allison Van Diepen


Joe McKinney Interview

Last year I contacted Joe regarding his novel, Dead City. Horror is my favorite genre we all know this. Although vampire fiction holds my heart (pun intended) Joe's zombie novel was so compelling I couldn't resist the urge to do a review. Thankfully he obliged and actually sent me another novel as well with a compilation of zombie short stories, Dead Set. He has also submitted to my intense gruelling interview (LOL!).

You have co-written with another author? What are your thoughts on that?

That’s right, I co-wrote my upcoming novel, LOST GIRL OF THE LAKE, with Michael McCarty, and I had a great time with it. The project developed out of a coming of age story I wrote a few years back. When the first draft was done, I had about 80 pages of pretty good horror…but something was missing. I’d read through it, try to fix it, but it just never came out right. By the time I was fed up with messing with it, I had 120 pages of a story that just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Around the same time I started corresponding with Michael McCarty. I knew Michael had collaborated on a number of projects with other writers, and so I asked him if he’d like to take a look at LOST GIRL. As it turned out, he was between projects, and agreed. He came back to me with a great angle on the story, and I realized that he had hit on that certain thing that had been eluding me about the story. We started trading the manuscript back and forth. Next thing you know, we had a really great take on the coming of age story…and a full-sized novel. We sent it off to Bad Moon Books, and they loved it. Michael and I are currently working on another collaborative project, this one about meth zombies in the abandoned Midwest of near future America.

Do you feel working as a homicide detective was a direct influence to your sci-fi and horror writtings?

Absolutely. I think every horror writer is going to need the police sooner or later. I mean, you can’t have a barn full of dead people without the police showing up, you know? So being a cop has given me a great deal of confidence to handle those types of scenes in my writing. And of course a general knowledge of police procedure is valuable in a number of other ways too. But more to the point of your question, I think being a cop has given my writing a thematic focus. You see, most supernatural horror is intensely private. That means that whatever supernatural thing is going on usually happens to only one person, or at a minimum to a small group of people, within the world of the story. That tight focus is necessary to create the tension on which horror feeds. Cops, by their very nature, are public agents. When a cop describes an incident in a report, that incident takes on a public personality. It becomes a matter of public record, available to all through the Freedom of Information Act. It gains credibility, in other words. The cops’ role in horror fiction has always been strained as a result. Think back on all the horror books you’ve read. Nearly all of them have to bring in the police at some point, and then figure out how to get rid of them because making the incident that is at the heart of their horror story a matter public would make it a little more ordinary, and therefore less scary. What I bring to horror is a dose of reality when it comes to police procedure, and hopefully a new take on how to use the cop’s official function in our society as a third column in fiction.

Did the author aspect of your life come about as a hobby? Or did you just want to pursue a new endeavor?

Like a lot of writers, I started writing fairly young. I think I was in my early teens, probably around 12 or 13. I used to write stories on loose leaf notebook paper, staple them together, and leave them on the corner of my desk for a week or two before throwing them away. I never really thought about writing as something I could do for a living. It was always just a hobby. Being a cop, that was my career.

And then, a few years back, my oldest daughter was born. I remember feeling this panicked need to freeze time, to capture who I was at that moment. I don’t know if any of the parents out there can relate to that, but for me, looking in on my new daughter in the nursery, my mind reeling from all the new responsibilities I was under, I felt like I had to express once and for all who I was at that moment in time.

I got lucky enough to sell my first novel to a major New York publisher. After that, the little hobby that I used to do whenever the mood struck me became the job that I did every chance I got.

You have quite a collection of novels, novellas, and short stories. Which of those do you find come easier to write about?

Well, I don’t know if any one of those genres come easier than any other. At least, not for me. Though I can tell you that my favorite form to write is the novella, or short novel. I am really comfortable in the 10,000 to 30,000 word range. It gives you enough space to fully develop a concept without sacrificing the pace and immediacy of a short story. Looking back on my personal favorites from my writing I see that most of them are novellas.

Between your detective career and personal life how do you manage to set aside time to make so many of your author accomplishments possible?

I’m pretty organized when it comes to my writing. I usually write for about an hour in the morning, before the rest of my family wakes up, and then for another two hours after everyone has gone to bed. When it actually comes time to sit down at the computer to write, I almost always have an outline in front of me. Outlining, I’ve found, is the writer’s best friend. It gives you ability to see the whole story first before you start carving away at it. I’ve tried writing without an outline, but to me, it always feels like I’m stumbling around in the dark…which is cool for characters, not so much for writers.

Your first book, Dead City, you're turning into a series. Why did you chose to further its story?

The Lord of the Rings was about the only series I ever enjoyed reading. The overall storylines of most series, generally speaking, tend to be clumsy in their construction. Reading them, you can’t help but wonder how much of the work was stretched for the money. I didn’t want to do that with my writing career. I didn’t want to be that guy.

Still, as a writer, you invest a lot of mental energy in writing a novel. You spend all this time creating a world, creating histories for your characters, you put your heart and soul into it. That happened to me with Dead City. At the end of it, I realized I had suggested a lot of things that were going on outside of the main plot. The City of Houston was underwater. A quarantine wall had been erected along most of the Gulf Coast. The global economy was ruined. So it occurred to me that I could make a series of the book, and still avoid the pitfalls other series have fallen into. I set out to write books that forwarded the overall scenario to its logical consequences, but I would do it by following separate characters in each book. That way, it would be possible for readers to pick up any one of the books in the Dead City series without feeling like they’d come in halfway through the movie. The books can be read in any order, and while they make reference to each other, one is not dependant on the others in any way. The next book, called Apocalypse of the Dead, comes out in November.

Recently you began editing a few short story anthologies. Was that of your own pursuit? If so why?

My first editing job literally fell into my lap. I had published a short story in an anthology called Nights of Blood 2 through 23 House Publishing. I’ve always believed in the power of a handwritten thank you note, so when the book came out, I sent a note to Mitchel Whitington, the publisher, thanking him for letting me be in the anthology. That turned into a running email conversation, and before you know it, he’d talked me into co-editing Dead Set with Michelle McCrary. It was a great experience.

Mitchel and I kept trading emails after that, and that’s how we discovered that we both loved exploring abandoned buildings. For a long while I’d been talking with another friend of mine named Mark Onspaugh about editing an anthology of horror stories set in abandoned buildings, and the time seemed right for the book to finally take shape. We went to Mitchel, and he loved it. So, right now, Mark and I developing a project called The Forsaken, about how abandoned buildings got to be the way they are. The Forsaken is a little different than Dead Set, though, in that this one is invitation only. We’ve managed to get quite an impressive group of writers together, including Piers Anthony, Norman Prentiss, David Liss, and many others. I’m really excited about this project, which should drop in stores in April, 2011.

Is it harder to write on criminal vs horror, considering conflictions of work protocols?

Right before my first novel came out I was approached by an Internal Affairs sergeant who had some concerns about what I was writing. Was I compromising any police tactics or procedures, he asked. “Well,” I said, “my novel is about a zombie apocalypse, so if you anticipate us having one of those any time soon, then yeah, I guess we’re going to have a problem.” I trailed off with a shrug. “Otherwise…”

Of course I was just having fun with him. He knew that. But we both got the point, I think. You see, my department has some very specific rules about writing for publication. They don’t want officers compromising tactics and procedures, sure, but just as importantly, they don’t want officers writing about open cases or cases they have worked on in the past.

So why is that? Well, there is a public trust involved. Imagine a sexual assault victim finally working up the courage to go in to police headquarters and tell her story to a detective. She bares her story, one of violation and shame and bottomless anger, to this total stranger, trusting that he’s serious about the oath he took to be professional, confidential and honest. But then, the next thing she knows, she reads some salacious version of her story in a magazine or a crime novel.

That’s unacceptable, right? Sure, we can all agree on that. And that’s why I’ve always been careful to respect that confidentiality in my fiction. I have never, nor will I ever, write about real life cases in which I have personally taken part. You might think that horror fiction would be easier for me to write as a result, but the truth is that I can do both without overstepping the public trust I’ve been given as a police officer.
Still, I’m reminded of that line from THE HOBBIT that describes how way leads onto way. Even though I never use real life incidents for my fiction, I don’t ever hesitate to let reality carry me off on plot ideas. I imagine it’s the same for musicians. They may hear something and their mind starts riffing off of that, and before you know it, they’ve got a whole new song…and only the guy who wrote it will be able to recognize the seed from which that new song grew. Writing fiction is that way too.

You say that you read as much pulp fiction as you can. What it is about this genre that interests you so much?

Well, it’s all about that sense of wonder you get when delving into a really great story. I know I’ve found a good one when I catch myself leaning forward over a book or magazine, totally caught up in the characters and the story’s premise and the way the story is told. I don’t find that perfect marriage of circumstances coming together often enough, but I’ve found it more in the pulps than I have elsewhere.

Or, if you’ll let me continue the musical theme from my last answer, you could look at like the difference between a polished, professionally produced Broadway musical and an underground punk rock concert. I mean, Les Miserables is cool and all, but seeing The Clash in some smoky London nightclub is something else entirely. That’s why I like pulp fiction so much. I like the rough edges, the writers whose reach many times goes farther than their grasp. I like Chekhov and James and Virginia Wolff, sure, but give me giant city-destroying worms and battling spaceships and zombies crawling up from the grave any day. That’s where my heart is.

Can you tell us more about the charity anthology, Dead Set. Regarding reader's purchase, details, etc?

There are a ton of zombie anthologies on the market right now. Some of them are quite good. Most, however, are not. So, when the folks at 23 House asked me if I’d be interested in editing a zombie anthology, I was hesitant. I didn’t want to dump more crap into an already overly crappy field.

But 23 House Publishing is a really great outfit. They do primarily regional nonfiction titles, which means books about East Texas. However, they also put out one horror anthology a year and donate the profits to charity. That impressed me. Service has always been a big part of my life, and before I knew it, I found myself agreeing to co-edit the book with Michelle McCrary, who, in addition to being a fine writer in her right, is also the coordinator for the Shreveport Food Bank. Working together, we came up with a great lineup. Here’s the table of contents:

“Resurgam” by Lisa Mannetti
“Jailbreak” by Steven W. Booth and Harry Shannon
“Recess” by Rob Fox
“Biting the Hand that Feeds You” by Calie Voorhis
“Judgment” by Stephanie Kincaid
“Hatfield the Usurper” by Matthew Louis
“Ruminations from Tri-Omega House” by David Dunwoody
“Zombies on a Plane” by Bev Vincent
“Category Five” by Richard Jeter
“Survivors” by Joe McKinney
“Pierre & Remy Hatch a Plan” by Michelle McCrary
“Recovery” by Boyd E. Harris
“In the Middle of Poplar Street” by Nate Southard
“Seminar Z” by J.L. Comeau
“Only Nibble” by Bob Nailor
“Inside Where It’s Warm” by Lee Thomas
“Survivor Talk” by Mitchel Whitington
“The Zombie Whisperer” by Steven E. Wedel
“Good Neighbor Sam” by Mark Onspaugh
“That Which Survives” by Morgan Ashe

The stories span a considerable range of subject matter and emotions, and I think it’s a valuable contribution to zombie genre. Readers can find the book at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and through 23 House Publishing’s website. Profits go to the Make a Wish Foundation.

It's interviews like this that make me smile! I love when author's can take a simple one sentence question and write a few paragraphed response to. That is what makes a true writer and an experienced author. Thanks again Joe for allowing me to do the review for Dead City, the gift of Dead Set, and this zombielicious interview.

Erin Bow Interview

Hey guys! Here is an interview with Erin Bow author of Plain Kate. I had the pleasure of doing a review on Plain Kate last year. If you haven't read the novel, get to your local bookstore/library now!

You're an American, but now a Canadian citizen. So where did the Russian background come into play for Plain Kate?

The short answer is I read this three-volume set of Russian Fairy tales just before I started the book. The longer answer is that I've long been a Russophile -- I have great swaths of Pushkin memorized, for instance. I'm not Russian by background, but I feel in love with the poet Anna Ahkmatova in high school and have been reading the Russians ever since.

But the fairy tales -- they blew me away. They have a dark, rough magic, less familiar than the Grimm tales, less cosy. I love their strangeness, and I hope some of their ancient freshness and their magic came through in my KATE.

Both you and your husband are writers. There must be a lot of creativity in that house?!

There are a lot of books in the house, anyway: several thousand. And usually a lot of paper. And some times -- two writers, no day job -- not a lot of money, which can be hard.

But I love being married to another writer. We talk about writing; we read each other's work; we support each other unconditionally and without competition. It can be a lonely, insular, weird thing, writing, and while there's no avoiding that, it's at least good to have someone to be lonely and insular and weird with.

Poetry appears to be easier to write than a novel, in my experience. Which do you find happens with you?

Well, a poem is (say) 50 words, and a novel is upward of 50,000. Would you believe me if I said that the 50 words are harder?

Each word in a poem is harder, anyway. Writing a poem is like writing a spell; it has to be perfect; it has to be organic; it has to seem effortless. And you have to start again every time you want a new poem.

A novel can be banged together more roughly -- you can sketch stuff in and come back to it later. And you can carry the world in your head; you don't have to make a new one every single day. But of course a novel much longer, and there's the whole issue of plot -- getting the story right. That's the level on which it the spell has to work, and a spell of that size and power is incredibly hard.

Your poetry has been given a CBC Canadian Literary Award. Do you have any in mind you would like acheived for your novel?

Well, sure! I'll take a Printz, please! Or how about a Newbery? Or a (Canadian) Governor General's?

Seriously, I feel as if I've already won the lottery with landing Arthur Levine as PLAIN KATE'S editor. He's a genius; the people at Scholastic are wonderful -- I couldn't be happier, and I want nothing more.

What book (s) are you currently reading?

Just at this second I'm reading Magic Thief: Found, by Sarah Prineas. It's the third book in the Magic Thief series. These are so much fun. As a writer admire what Sarah's pulled off, too. Her narrator Conn feels things so strongly -- and never ever talks about that. The smallest reaction from him hits you hard. There was a point in book two where he stuttered a little and my heart was just broken -- I am going to study these until I figure out how the author did that.

I'm also reading a book of Mayan and Aztec folklore, and a book of poetry by Lawrence Raab.

Have you ever thought of incorporating your phsyics studies into any kind of poetry or novels?

I did study physics, and spent some time at CERN, the supercollider near Geneva. The publicity people always make much of this, and I guess it is out-of-the-common as writers' educations go. But it doesn't seem strange to me: it's just a different way of playing close attention -- as poets do -- and telling stories to make sense of the world -- as novelists do.

But a CERN-like setting or a physicist protagonist seem a little unlikely right now. At the moment my controlling obsessions as a writer are memory, regret, and second chances, which seems to mean that I write ghost stories. There might be something at the intersection of ghosts and physics, but I haven't found it yet.

What are your thoughts on books turned into movies?

Depends on the book and the movie.If the director is smart enough to know the interior experiences that words can give need to be changed into something we can, you know, see -- then the movie can be wonderful. I'd rather see movies that make these changes, like the recent Lord of the Rings films, than ones that are faithful and literal and lifeless, like the first two Harry Potter movies.

Can you recall your first written piece?

According to family legend, I've been writing since I had to dictate stuff. My earliest surviving work is a song called "No Dogs Allowed in the Grocery Store," to the tune of "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho," written when I was three. I will leave you to imagine what a masterpiece it is.

How did you come up with the title of The Mongoose Diaries

The Mongoose Diaries is a memoir of my first year as a mom. Mongoose was -- still is -- my daughter's nickname: she is a skinny sharp-nosed bright-eyed meerkat of a person, ferocious and fast-moving and terrifyingly smart. And since I drew the book out of my diary, it does seem like a natural title.

That said, I didn't come up with it myself. Possibly by that stage my brain had shut down with mom fatigue, because I had no idea what the book should be called. I took suggestions on my blog, and my mother-in-law named it.

What was your Book Expo experience like this year?

Exhilarating. Exhausting. Stunning. For starters, Scholastic sent a stretch limo to the train station for my family and me. I'm trying hard not to minimize my work as a poet, but do you know one thing poets never get? Limos. My four-year-old Fancy-Nancy daughter was in heaven.

Arthur Levine got up in front of a huge ballroom full of people and compared my book to others he'd worked on: Harry Potter, the Golden Compass. He said Kate was "eternal." I almost fainted. And the next day I read in front of another huge crowd, and signed so many books that I lost the trick of my signature and had to start printing. Then I started to misspell "Erin."

In short, KATE really stepped out in New York. I was thrilled. And, as a natural introvert, I don't think I've yet recovered.

Thanks once again Erin. I really enjoyed this interview with you. Congratulations on your sucess.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon

They say you can see things here, at the end of the world. Faces in the clouds and waves and leaves. Branches becoming arms and then branches again.

But there it was a flash of white.
Margrethe blinked repeatedly, and the sea air seemed to cut through her.
She wiped tears from her eyes and cheeks and leaned into the wind. The sea
seemed to shift from foam to water, from dark to light, swirling. In the distance,
rocks jutted. It would be easy to mistake one for the monstrous fin of a great fish, the prow of a ship sinking down.
And then: a curving, gleaming tail flaring out of the water. A moment
later, another flash and a pale face emerging, disappearing as quickly as it had
appeared. A woman's face. The tail of a fish stretching out behind her. Silvery,
as if it were made of gems...
Mermaid. The name came to Margrethe automatically, from the stories that had rooted themselves in her mind, the ancient tales she had read by firelight as the rest of the castle had slept.
She no longer felt the wind or the cold as she stood transfixed, watching
the mermaid move through the water. Margrethe had not known such things
could really exist, but the moment she saw the mermaid, it was as if the world
had always contained this kind of wonder...
As the mermaid approached the shore, Margrethe saw that she was carrying
something. A man.

So this just happens to be the third review I have done for Carolyn. I knew in 2010 this book was in route to being published. As with the two previous novels, I most certainly wanted to read it. Thankfully Carolyn offered to send it to me before I had to beg for it. LOL!

Carolyn Turgeon is like Calgon...take me away! From page one until page 240 her words develop such vivid imagery of the scene she writes about. In this novel it features the classic tale of "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen, only with the author's up-to-date adaptation. There are two princesses: Margrethe the human, and Lenia/Astrid the mermaid princess. The story is told from both of their perspectives alternating by each princess per chapter, essentially this is almost like two books in one.

There was a section that was purely poetic to me, some may think in a morbid way. The portion I am speaking of talks about a comparison of human and mermaid death; with humans we rot and with mermaids they turn to foam. This was so beautifully written and phrased that Carolyn can even make death sound pleasant.

Unlike the Disney, way too cheer-y version, this take is definitely nowhere near that. In this version the sea witch is not some psycho lunatic mad woman under the sea. She actually has a very sad back story. I think this is one of the huge differences that made a significant impact upon this story. While on this topic, I felt that Lenia's character gave a more realistic offering for the spell of her transformation from mermaid to human. It was drastically more gothic than that of any other mermaid tale, yet it provided

Mermaid is a fairy tale book of melodic metaphors. When Lenia/Astrid saw Christopher again the lack of her ability to speak causes such a depth of sadness for the reader. Before I began reading Ch. 16 I went to check my email on Yahoo. As soon as I logged on I quickly seen an article about a mermaid book becoming a movie. I knew just what book this was for! I couldn't help but get excited for both the book and Carolyn.

During Chapter 16 I began to get so overwhelmed with frustration with the play of events. I expected one thing but got another. This was further expanded into Chapter 23. During that chapter there was a whirlpool of emotional events with the three main characters: Margrethe, Lenia/Astrid and Christopher. Upon reaching the ending of the novel I was even more frustrated with the ending. Society has turned fairy tales into splendid, glorious tales of happiness. Although I wasn't happy with the ended, the story ended just as it should have. It is a welcoming feeling to know that Carolyn has brought back a true and authentic adaptation of such a classic fairy tale...or in this case fairy tail!

Favorite quotes:
"No one could be whole in a universe so divided."

"Go and you will see nothing is as wonderful as our dreams can make it."

"How many of us can choose to leave one self, one world behind and embrace another, better one?"

"So much pain and euphoria, a sense that, even though her own heart was broken the world could contain such beauty and magic she almost could not bear it."

"I believed in beauty, in magic, because of you..."

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer

before she had uncannily powerful senses,
superhuman reflexes, and unstoppable physical
strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst
for blood...life before she became a vampire.

fellow newborns has few certainties and even
fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw
attention to yourself, and above all, make it
home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know:
her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree
about their new creator, whom they
know only as her. As they come to realize that
the newborns are pawns in a game larger than
anything they could have imagined, Bree and
Diego must choose sides and decide whom to
trust. But when everything you know about
vampires is based on a lie, how do you find
the truth?

of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie
Meyer tells the devastating story of the newborn
army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan
and the Cullens, following their encounter to
its unforgettable conclusion.

Ever since this book was released I would go to the store in attempts of buying it. Money was never the issue. I was more concerned with the effects of my opinions on it changing how I felt about the Twilight Saga. This past Christmas the choice was made for me. My aunt had bought the book for me as a present. That day I read the entire story.

I was happy to return to the Twilight story but focusing on a different character, a different story and even a different perspective. I really enjoyed Stephanies enlightening foreword on her reasoning to include Bree's story in the saga.

During the Eclipse novel and more notably for those who don't bother reading books, the movie, Bree was portrayed as barely even a character to remember. She was also displayed as a weak and timid newly turned vampire. I believe if anyone were to read this book you would quickly change your mind.

I thought it was interesting how the book is layed out with no chapters. This definitely made it more clear how Meyer's didn't want Bree's life thought of as pro-longed but brief, and short like the title states.

Diego, another vampire character, who I don't remember from the books or movies is an addition to the cast of top characters, in my opinion. I think that Fred has the potential for another spin-off story featuring the Volturi.

Overall this added story was written in a new way that the previous Twilight saga was. I also find it comforting to know that she included certain parts from the previous four books to preserve pertinent scenes but specifically planted in Bree's story from her perspective. It's amazing how perspective can play a significant role on how a story evolves or can even change.

Down Among The Dead Men by Robert Gregory Browne


The newspapers called it Casa de la Muerta, a grisly house of horrors in the Mexican desert where five Catholic nuns were brutally murdered. Freelance journalist Nick Vargas knows it's a terrific subject for a true crime book-and a chance to revitalize his ruined career. But when he arrives at the scene, he learns there may have been a sixth victim: an American woman whose body has disappeared. Now Nick is dead set on finding her...


L.A. prosecutor Beth Crawford thought it would be fun to join her sister on a cruise to Baja Norte. But when she meets a pair of seductive strangers onboard-Beth follows her suspicions into a sinister world of crime, corruption, and dark superstition. Now, with the help of reporter Nick Vargas, Beth must enter the heart of evil itself, where all shall be revealed...on the Day of the Dead.

This is another ARC that I had requested last year. This is definitely not the typical genre of books I enjoy. However something about this story captivated my attention. The prologue was one that held my attention and catapulted me to continue further reading. This novel's chapters were one of such easy reading that they were actually much shorter than most I've ever. It was an adrenaline ride between Vargas' story & Beth's. I was intrigued on how they would eventually be correlated.

Beth's side of the story is like a tug-of-war with Jen, while Vargas' is more...gripping. Part 2 was significantly more dramatic with a turn of events that had pieces of the puzzle to the story that came together confirming my suspicion from the beginning. The last 1/4 of the book made me want to skip ahead. The intensity of the story became considerably more...intriguing...action packed...clear as the puzzle pieces are assembled from part 2.

I admit at being shocked at the ending. I wasn't sure what to expect or even what my own expectations were. But if you want to read a fairy tale, this isn't it!

As I said above, this isn't my typical genre of choice but the story resonated so well with me that I am happy I was given the opportunity to read it. I actually enjoyed it so much that I am open to reading other works from this author.

Hunted By The Others by Jess Haines

They are the Others-the vampires, mages, and werewolves once thought to exist only in our imaginations. Now they're stepping out of the shadows, and nothing in our world will ever be the same again...


Shiarra Waynest's detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm- if it doesn't kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York's most powerful vampires.

As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend-a werewolf whose non-furry form is disalarmingly appealing=and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Other's aren't always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the weapon in a battle between good and evil-whether she likes it or not...

This was an ARC that I specifically requested from the author, whom sent me the final and autographed copy. The story is written in a non-sensical style that doesn't cater to "cheesy paranormal romance novels" other authors have written in the past. More authors in this genre need to strive for the effort Jess Haines has done. I admit I am not anywhere close to a fan of the novel's artwork. I am definitely one to judge a book by its cover. Had I seen this in the stores based on the artwork, I would have never even bothered touching the book.

An interesting piece of information is that I was actually reviewing a novel for Alison Sinclair at the same time I read this one. Both of these novels spoke about their characters eating bagels with lox and cream cheese. This must be some foreign thing because I am still unware of exactly what this is. LOL!

I thought it was interesting as well that she incorporated a new twist on vampire/slayer protection items/weapons. The story is full of female catty humor. I usually include my favorite quotes from reviews, but this book is so full of them from the beginning until the end. It just would save me time to say my favorite quote is the entire book itself.

As I read the story I hoped for Royce and Shia's character to become my new "Buffy & Angel" couple. Arnold's character was getting so annoying. Everytime it mentioned him I felt as if he was attempting to hook up with every female character in the novel. I think he needs to lower his viagra dosage. But as the story came to a close this issue was happily resolved. I believe the story ended with a great turn of events.

Overall this story was beautifully written with a graceful flow of words that of course is counter-acted by the intensity of vampires, mages and werewolves. I definitely hope this story prolongs into a lengthy series of novels. It certainly has a high potential to do so.

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena

When it happened Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge only gave him a year in a group home-said Miguel had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he'd actually done Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened Miguel's mom can't even look him in the eye. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.

But Miguel didn't bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting across the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.

Life usually doesn't work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you're running from.

From the streets of Stockton to the beaches of Venice, all the way down to the Mexican border, We Were Here follows a journey of self-doscpvery by a boy who is trying to forgive himself in an unforgiving world.

I had contacted Matt at some point in 2010 and he had so kindly sent me the final hardback copy of this book. The thing that most drew me to this book was the story of troubled youth in a children's home.

This was written so precisely like the age of the character, Miguel. It is amazing how deep into the characters Matt gets to give the reader a complete detail of the individuals. De La Pena's use of racial ethnicities is very profound from the beginning. Miguel's sense of being "alone" hits very close to home. Although a fictional character the scenarios that the kid faces do carry over into reality for a lot of juveniles in the foster care system, such as myself in my younger years. I know from experience.

I definitely felt a compulsion to Mong & Miguel's characters, forming a compassion for both. Rondell is such a sad and depressing character, but there's almost no "life" to him. I did enjoy the fact that the author incorporated real novels into his own fictional one with Miguel finding a passion in novels to escape his reality. As the story progressed my favorite characters revolved from Miguel to Mong to Rondell and back to Miguel.

I think this is a coming-of-age story where group home kids can escape and through their own versions of rites-of-passage become maturing adults.

Favorite quotes:
"You ever wonder why some people get so much darker than others? It's about people's genes, I know. And how all the continents were once connected or whatever. But how did it start? Who was the first person to come out looking all different from everybody else? Sometimes I trip on shit like that."

"By the way, I decided what I like about reading books. When I'm following a character does in a book I don't have to think about my own life."

The Mage In Black by Jaye Wells

Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, leader of the vampire race, wants her dead. But when Sabina meets her mage relatives in New York, at least they put the fun in dysfunctional. Though, bizarrely, everyone seems to think she's some kind of Chosen who'll unite the dark races. Sabina doesn't care who chose her, she's not into destiny.

But the mages aren't Sabina's only problem. In New York's Black Light District, she has run-ins with fighting demons, hostile werewolves and an opportunistic flame. Sabina thought she'd take a bite out of the Big Apple, but it looks like it wants to bite back.

This is the second book in the Sabina Kane series that Jaye had sent me upon request. Immediately I could tell that Jaye's sense of humor still dominated the story. I was frustrated that there was no talk of Lavinia's predicament from the ending of book one to her locality in book two. There was also talk of Lavinia...but she never appeared. I expected some conflict or even a resolution with her and Sabina in some way or another.

The layout of chapters in this book were a bit longer than book one's, but still filled with excitement, yet not overly lengthy to a feel boredom. (Basically still a sense of easy reading and flowing.)It did feel like at one part the story became a mix of Fight Club meets Pokemon of Demons. I did think eventually this Demon Fight Club took away from Sabina's actual story. I also felt that Damara's character was predictable from her entrance in the story.

Again, I did find a handful or more of errors as I did in book one. I don't blame the author. I just think that the publishing department needs to seriously consider their employees who do these things. If I were an author, which eventually I hope will happen one day, I would be embarrassed to be told about many mistakes in a final copy of my work.

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

In a world where being of mixed blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn't really fit in. And being an assassin-the only profession fit for an outcast-doesn't help matters. But she's never brought her work home. Until now.

Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex and threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she's on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family, and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life changing, but together they could be fatal...

Sabina Kane:
She's down, but she's not out.

This is an ARC that I had requested from the author awhile ago. Jaye actually sent me book one and two with an autographed note. Ok so moving on to this much overdue review....

Red-Headed Stepchild has such an intense introduction that you are able to see immediately that Sabina has some psychological issues that she needs to overcome. The entire story is very descriptive. I am typically a non-political person. However the political situations, even though fictional, did capture my attention and had an opening with a great mystery.

I think that Sabina Kane comes in a close tie with Gin Blanco, (Jennifer Estep's fictional Elemental assassin, who are two main characters as the top paranormal heroines of 2010 that I immersed myself with. I loved the way that Jaye incorporated her sarcasism and humor and even ironical references such as Adam Lazarious in this novel.

I also sometimes run into novels that have a great storyline but still are unclear or confusing. This book simply spells everything out and doesn't leave the reader sitting on the curb contemplating. In Chapter 21 I was confused with a contradictory statement when Sabina states about being embarassed in front of her friends, but then in the end of the chapter she talks of not being/having friends? Either I was having a blonde moment, or maybe Sabina is simply bi-polar. LOL!

This was a final printed edition and not an ARC. I did find a few grammatical errors. I would suggest the editorial department should do a few extra editing runs before a final submission.

Favorite quotes:
"Never had a loss cut so deep. I worried I might bleed from the pain."

"Pain was my friend. It meant I was still alive."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Update

Hey everyone! I know it's been awhile. I've been so busy with many things involved on campus as the school year is coming to a close and a new one begins. I will be posting some more reviews soon.

I have since been contacted by my good friend Amanda Ashley to review her upcoming novel Bound By Night. This book will be in stores sometime in September. I was also contacted by a publisher to review Before Versailles by Karleen Koen. This is a new author for me and what appears to be a new genre of reviews as well. You will find this novel in stores June 28, 2011.

So stay tuned and I'm so sorry once again for the lack of my posts. Best wishes and happy reading!