Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Throwback Review: Persuasion

Throwback review from February 2014:

Persuasion is a classic novel (that hopefully all bibliophiles have heard of) by Jane Austen.

This was the only Austen novel I had yet to read – and I had to fix that!

Anne Elliot is seven and twenty and not yet married.

Eight years ago she had been in love. She had been engaged.

But as he was a poor, lowly Royal Navy man, her family and friends persuaded Anne to break it off with Captain Wentworth.

She is still unmarried – because she knows she will never love another man as she loved him.

When circumstances throw them together again, Anne finds it difficult to ignore the searing pain of seeing him – the look of low regard in his eyes that she has resigned herself to deserve.

And yet – is there hope?

Her heartbreak all these years later leads her to realize that her feelings are no less deep – and the persuasion that led her to give him up all those years ago could not touch her now… if he would only have her once more.

Oh wow.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Jane Austen – I seriously need to carve out some rereading time, people! – but my vivid memories of adoring her novels was reignited with Persuasion.

The amazing prose and language that is impossible to rush, improbable to imitate, takes my breath away.

There’s this universally understood tone of melancholy – no matter the fact that Persuasion was published almost two hundred years ago. Jane Austen infused this story (and all of them, let’s be frank) with such a heady sense of emotional realism – of passion and love.

Here, though, unlike her other novels – Persuasion is a story of heartbreak and strong, painful emotions. Love lost, time passed, and an older heroine. There’s a maturity and a yearning to Persuasion that swept me away.

I. Loved. It.

This is an epic love story – a beautiful novel. Fantastic, colorful, personality-filled family elements, social scenes, and the core of loneliness in our poor, solitary Anne’s soul led me to feel for her deeply.

If you haven’t yet read Persuasion – well, you need to!!!!!

Right. Now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Throwback Review: Soulless

Throwback review from April 2014:

Soulless is the first in Gail Carriger’s alt-Victorian England steampunk humorous paranormal adult series The Parasol Protectorate.

I was recommended this book by a friend before I even had gotten a chance to read Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage (first book in the YA series The Finishing School that takes place in the same universe as The Parasol Protectorate). Once I’d read that and the second book in that series, Curtsies & Conspiracies, I knew I definitely wanted to read this series.

So, I took a leap, and bought the box set of all five books in this series at a good price.

A case of the Amazon.com bibliophile trigger finger, if you know what I mean.

Twenty-five year old Alexia Tarabotti has been ruled a spinster. She has many marks against her in English society. Her father is both Italian and dead – and she’s inherited his darker coloring and more exotic looks.

She also has no soul.

Not that that is any one’s business, of course. Only the paranormal society of werewolves and vampires and Queen Victoria herself know this, and prefer to keep it quiet.

Because this particular ailment is very, very rare and cancels out supernatural abilities when she touches them. The general public has accepted werewolves and vampires, but would they accept someone having no soul at all? They’d just rather keep it hush-hush.

While at a private ball, and quite bored, Alexia steps into another room for a snack – as fare was promised but not delivered and that, in Miss Tarabotti’s opinion, is disgraceful to someone with her appreciation for food.

Within moments a vampire completely lacking in normal vampiric niceties and decorum attempts to attack her, and, well…

She accidentally kills him.

Lord Maccon, the large, undeniably attractive, booming and uncouth werewolf investigator, is sent to investigate. Before she knows it, Alexia finds herself wrapped up in a mystery in which unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing.

Finally she has something interesting to do…

Soulless started quick, fun and instantly felt fresh and inventive.

With the quick swooping in of gorgeous Lord Maccon, there’s definitely sexual tension that sizzles cheerfully early on. And the jovial absurdity that I found in The Finishing School series thus far is most definitely evident.

I find the supernatural politics and protocol (such as vampires living in a “hive” with a “queen” and “drones”) quite fascinating. And Alexia’s ability is unusual in its negating of the paranormal beings is different.

Soulless is addictive, fun, spicy and oh-so-quotable. It’s spirited, sexy in a light, amusing way, witty, clever and ENTERTAINING. With bright, interesting characters and an unusual plot (plus hot supernatural romance and steampunk, thankyouverymuch), I loved it from start to finish!!!

This is the type of book you just have FUN reading. Even though the more, ahem, indelicate scenes do pepper the novel a tad, the comedy in them and lack of excessive detail made them bearable to me beyond just feeling, well, distasteful as most of those less proper scenes usually do.

I was immediately ready for book two and happy I had it at the ready!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Throwback Review: Every Day


Throwback review!

Every Day is a YA contemporary fantasy novel by David Levithan.

Every morning A wakes up and is in a new body. They’re always A’s age, currently sixteen, but they can be male or female, plump or thin. Anybody.

It has always been this way.

Over the years A has accepted this. A works to make sure the day is seamless in the life of the body A’s inhabiting that day, tries not to get noticed, and definitely does not get attached.

That was the hardest part when A was younger.

But when A wakes up as Justin one morning he meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon.

Something about her changes everything. The rule about staying detached and not reaching beyond the personality realms of the person A’s occupying no longer matter.

Here is someone A wants to be with – day in, day out, day after day. Every day.

But A has no control over whatever A is. Tomorrow A will be somewhere else…

As someone who reads a LOT, I have to say that this premise kind of blew my mind. Not just the initial idea of it, either, but the way David Levithan executes it is… stunning.

You can never get past the fact that the plot is fascinating and original, because new revelations about it, primarily on an emotional level, keep piling up in a lyrical, delicate manner.

There’s a melancholy, lonely tone that drew me in and made me yearn desperately for A’s happiness. Every Day is unexpectedly suspenseful, searingly raw, and encapsulates both a beautiful innocence and a striking astuteness.

Now, I am not a seeker of LGBT novels and because I’m sure some of you may not be either, I will disclose that Every Day features a character that is really neither boy nor girl because of what A is. A also shows up in bodies that are at times heterosexual and at times homosexual.

Except for just a few brief moments, I never felt that David Levithan really had any kind of agenda or mission to get up on a platform on the many issues and opinions related to such a topic. So, this didn’t bother me too much. I let go the times I felt he went further than necessary.

In fact, there’s a sweet tenderness to the way each life is played out – a tolerance that no matter where we stand we should agree with. So, though those situations weren’t always what I’d prefer, I felt the kindness and good-hearted core trump anything else.

Every Day is in many ways heartbreaking. But it also has an inspirational, hopeful feel that is addictive. I read this book so quickly!

With startling twists, never-ending surprises, and a profound sense of emotional depth, Every Day is a book that stays with you. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read before.

There’s more I would say if I weren’t concerned about spoiling anything for you. So, I’ll leave it with this:

Wow. I want more.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post with Author Bryce Gibson!



I was a teenager during the 1990s.

I loved horror movies and reading horror books (I still do, but this post is about then not now).

For a quick reading fix, I, along with countless others that were my age, would often turn to the line of Point Horror novels that were published by Scholastic. Those of us that had a desire to write our own stories tried our hands at crafting books that we thought were along the same line as those that we read (you can find a few of mine on my Facebook page). Anyway, one of the things that has always stood out the most about Point Horror are the covers. Many of the titles started with the word “The”. Here is a picture of a few of the ones that I own…


The Waitress, The Invitation, The Train...See what I mean? Another thing about the covers that stood out was the tongue-in-cheek, campy artwork and taglines. I know that the taglines are hard to read in the above photo so I typed them out for you here: “The customer is always wrong...dead wrong”, “A party like no other”, and “A one-way ticket...to terror”. Great, right?

It was only natural for any horror obsessed teen to draw his or her own covers for the books that they wrote. Here is one that I did...


 Now, there’s something funny about Double Date (besides the fact that the title doesn’t start with that three letter word that begins with the letter “T”). You see, I never wrote a story to accompany the cover! It is evident to me now that I was just as excited about the cover art, titles, and taglines of the books as I was with the stories. In fact, a whole slew of storyless covers ensued over the next couple of years, some of which I’m sharing with you today. I think I drew most of these somewhere between 1992 and 1995.

And it wasn’t just books that influenced my imagination. While many horror movie fans consider the 90s to be kind of a dull decade for the genre, I know that the movies that were released during that timeframe have been an enormous influence on my writing, even today. As you’ll see, there were certain horror movies that obviously sparked my creativity.

The 90s saw a good bit of technological/electricity based horror, a la Ghost in the Machine and Brainscan. These are but a couple of the flicks that had to have been an inspiration for this beauty of a cover...   

(image by Bryce Gibson)

Another sub-genre that was popular back in the day was dark comedies/horror comedies--Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My Boyfriend’s Back, Death Becomes Her, and Prom Night III, just to name a few. I think that kind of thing just might have had something to do with these...

 
(images by Bryce Gibson)

There were also a lot of psychological/obsession thrillers during this particular time frame. I loved The Crush (again with the “The”). In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, The Crush seemed to draw heavily from many of the Point Horror novels. Movies like The Crush, Poison Ivy, and The Ties That Bind were the kind of thriller/horror crossover flicks that they don’t seem to make any more. Here are a couple of my ideas...


(images by Bryce Gibson)

And let’s not forget the bevy of monster movies and sequels that I rented from the movie store, many of which were released straight to video.


(images by Bryce Gibson)

As you see, the horror movies and books of the 90s surely set a tone for me as a writer and creator. They fed me ideas. I know that the horror genre and all of its silly and crazy sub-genres that I seem to prefer have influenced my storytelling to no end. Nowadays, the horror in my stories is not always done in an explicit, hit-you-over-the-head kind of way, but certain elements of the genre are in everything that I write. I can’t help it. I love it.

Even typing this, I’m nostalgic for the titles that I’ve listed here and the other, unrelated ones that, for no particular reason, come to mind along with them--Dr. Giggles, Pet Sematary Two, Demon Knight; Candyman, Pumpkinhead 2, Children of the Corn 2, 3, 4, 5; okay, I’ll stop.

I can vividly picture all of the awesome VHS artwork for every movie that I’ve mentioned. Like the Point Horror books, the covers were the first things that drew me in. The cover was what made me pick it up in the first place. There was a great amount of excitement that came from just seeing the book or movie on the shelf.

Speaking of, I’m pretty darn sure that my black t-shirt wearing teenaged self would have snatched this one up in a heartbeat…


(Note: Perennials cover design not by me. Thank you to the talented CL Smith for this one.)

You can purchase the paperback or ebook of Perennials from Amazon

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Throwback Review: The Springsweet

Throwback review fro June 2012!

The Springsweet is a YA historical paranormal novel, and a companion to The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell.

I warned you yesterday that my reviews were going to be sequels for a few days! If you haven’t read The Vespertine, you definitely want to avoid this review and seek it out after you’re done. Don’t ruin your experience!!! Instead, read my review of The Vespertine here.

Last chance to turn away…

Zora Stewart hasn’t been the same since her sixteenth summer. She’s haunted by her fiancés death and the amount of other losses in those few short months. She’s a shell of her former self, and her parents are worried.

After an attempt to reorient Zora to Baltimore society goes scandalously wrong, it’s decided that she’ll join her widowed aunt in Oklahoma Territory in the hopes of some good old-fashioned hard work waking her back up to life.

It doesn’t take long for Zora to see that the exciting, thrill-ride of an adventure the papers make the West out to seem is a far cry from the truth. It’s a dusty, heartbreaking, backbreaking area to live – and it seems to stir something inside of Zora that she’s never experienced. She begins to sense the water beneath the ground – as though she’s getting a power of her own after watching her cousin Amelia use her own strange abilities to predict and prophesize.

But she saw the dangers that came of Amelia’s power – and though she allows her struggling aunt to hire her out as a “springsweet” to help people find the water they so desperately need in this merciless land, deep down she knows it may all come tumbling down on her.

Yet amidst all of this, Zora is shocked to find herself drawn to a wholly unsuitable, rough-mannered young man named Emerson Birch in a way she thought she’d never be again after her beloved Thomas’ death. Her aunt prefers Zora to focus on Theo, the surprising visitor from her hometown, who has come to court her. Nevertheless, the more Zora learns about Emerson the more she’s attracted…

For the first time, Zora wonders if she can do more than survive life… Maybe she could begin to live life.

The Vespertine, for me, was an incredibly hypnotic, dark story that pulled me into its expressive splendor. Getting the chance to revisit Zora, who has a big character in that, was wonderful.

The Springsweet started a little slow, but there’s a vibe of enigma that held me and a fiery attraction that pulls Zora unwillingly out of her mourning and into a realization of her own powers. Unlike The Vespertine, which even in its leisurelier, earlier moments would switch to a future moment that provided such an disquieting sensation that you would be pulled back into its gothic hold, The Springsweet takes it’s time to really develop a plot – but I was patient, as I knew that it wasn’t until the end of The Vespertine that I was fully won over.

I was, and am, taken with Saundra Mitchell’s way of introducing these elemental-like powers tied to fire, air, earth, and water. She makes it gritty and frightening how it can affect the world around them and cause a moment of utter devastation. The Springsweet may have been gradual to show how that was true for Zora, but once it did that ominous tone really kicked in. With that and both the passion of her burgeoning romance and the wild beauty of their magic becoming more vivid, I became more mesmerized.

In my opinion, The Springsweet takes a bit more patience – I’d say to hang in there to about the middle – but it is definitely a worthy, if perhaps a little less gothic and dark as, The Vespertine.

I’ll be looking for more from Saundra Mitchell!