Cover Reveal: Jenny Plague-Bringer by JL Bryan

Jenny Plague-Bringer (The Paranormals #4) by J.L. Bryan

Publisher:  Self published

Genre:  YA Paranormal

Expected Publication: 10/23/2012.  

The first book in this series is FREE on: AmazonAppleSmashwords, and Sony.  It currently costs $2.99 on Nook.

Overall Thoughts:

Jenny Pox (Paranormals #1) was the first ebook I’ve read that I enjoyed.  Before Jenny Pox, I really thought that most of the self-published stuff on Amazon was crap.  But, J.L. Bryan has proved novel after novel that you don’t need a publisher to write and sell good stories.  It’s hard to believe that the shy, depressed girl from the first book could have evolved into a woman about to give birth.  That’s crazy!  If you haven’t checked out this series – do!

Other covers in the series:

Book Description:

Jenny has enjoyed a year of quiet seclusion, but her peace is about to be shattered by two new paranormals who are searching for her. Their intentions are unknown. The timing couldn’t be worse, because Jenny can’t use her pox without risking the life of the baby growing inside her…

Giveaway:

The author is giving away the first three books in the Paranormals series *autographed*.  This giveaway is open to entries from the US, Canada, and the UK!  CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY.

About the Author:

J.L. Bryan
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, dogs Violet and Tiger Lily, and cats Shadow and Sue.

*Cover was designed by PhatPuppy Art *

By Lizzy's Dark Fiction Posted in covers

5 Star Review: The End

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week topic: the end.

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


Why am I starting with the end?

Because the end is the first thing I remember when I’m writing a review and also when thinking about buying other books by you, the author.  Your first chapter sells the first book, but your last chapter sells the next book.

I’m a horror lover that hates Stephen King books.  I’m not arguing his role as the master of writing good horror.  I simply hate the endings in his books.  That’s the only reason I haven’t bought any books by him in the last couple years.  I love the set-up, the cast of characters, the elements of horror and suspense, and the plot.  But, I’m tired of committing myself to a book that has a cheap ending.  My favorite book by him is The Stand.  Great characters.  Awesome plot and set-up.  How does it end?  Some random guy kills everyone with a nuke – worse is that the main character has no direct impact on the nuke.  If Larry Underwood had not traveled across the country and gotten captured by the bad guys – the bad guys still would have been nuked.  So why did Stephen King make Larry Underwood travel across the country just to get killed with the bad guys?  I don’t get it.

I gave 5 stars to these books because of the ending:

I gave 4 stars to these books because of the ending:

Warning: Spoilers for the following books

  • King, Stephen  The Stand
  • Sebold, Alice  The Lovely Bones
  • J.K. Rowling  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Cliffhangers

I despise cliffhangers.  The only books that should have a cliff-hanger are books about mountain climbers.  When I pick up a book for the first time and read the back cover, I expect that every question I have from reading that blurb is solved by the last page.

Is your book the first in a trilogy?  Then, there should be two plotlines.  One plot covers the entire series and slowly advances through each book.  The other is introduced and solved within a single book.  Two plotlines.  One must be solved.  And romance doesn’t count as a plot…at least not in the genres I read.

Plot devices

Let me begin by explaining what a plot device is – an object or character who is only in the book to advance the plot because the author “wrote themselves into a corner”.  You should never use it in the end.  I’m more forgiving if it happens earlier, but at the end is a no-no.  I should be able to backtrack to previous chapters and account for the placement of every person and object of importance.  There should be no “I WIN” button that magically solves everything – unless your entire plot revolves around finding this “I WIN” button…like the resurrection stone in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Red herring

I’m a big fan of authors using red herrings in books.  A red herring is a clue that intentionally misleads the reader.  I particularly like it when it is used for characters.  Such as, the person that I think will be the villain is actually the good guy.  Cliches are useful in this regard.  As a reader, I think that a cheerleader will be dumb and mean.  I think that the jock will get the girl at the end.  I think that the creepy guy will turn out to being the bad guy.  When these cliches don’t prove true at the end – it’s an awesome surprise.

Chekhov’s gun

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”  – Chekhov

 This means that you should only mention and describe what is important to your plot.  If you mention that someone owns a gun, I expect that gun to be used somewhere in the story.  If you mention that your main character is OCD, then that trait should have some impact on the plot.  If your main character mentions that her cousin’s sister’s friend is in town, then that person better make an appearance.  Your last chapter is your last chance to prove that every single character and object mentioned in your book is essential to the book.

Twists

Imagine a twist as the icing of a cake.  Your story should still have an end.  There should still be a beginning, middle, and end to your book before the twist.  The twist happens after.  It makes the reader question everything.  I remember that the Goosebumps series always ended on a twist.  I remember that the end of each book was somewhat happy and then there was always something on the very last page that creeped me out and haunted me for days afterwards.  Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World had a fantastic twist.  Two seconds before the twist was revealed, we had a decent ending to a fantastic film.  The movie could of survived without the twist.  Then the twist happened – and the only thing I wanted to know is “When will the sequel come out?”.  Nearly 10 years later and no sequel, but my point is that if you’re writing a trilogy – a twist is definitely a great way to get your readers to buy the second book after the first.

Predictable

Whatever I think will happen once I figure out the plot can’t happen.  I want to be surprised.  I want to be wowed.  Or you need to spend the entire novel misleading me to believe that what I think will happen…won’t happen…and does happen.  I thought that The Lovely Bones was amazing in that regard because we know at the start of the novel that Susie is dead.  We spend the entire novel trying to convince ourselves that somehow she is still alive.  At the end, we’re heartbroken that she was, in fact, raped and murdered by a child molester.

Your goal as a author is to stick hints and clues of the ending throughout the story and hide them so well that I don’t know what is going to happen until it happens.  But when the end happens, it makes perfect sense.


TL;DR?  Here’s the short version:

That’s it? = book ends on a cliffhanger

Where did he come from? = book uses a plot device

Oh, I thought… = book uses a red herring

Object picked up in chapter 3 saves the day = book properly uses chekhov’s gun

Wait, so did she or didn’t she? = book ends with a twist

Girl ends up with hot, rich guy that has dark hair and blue eyes = book is predictable


What makes you love or hate a book’s ending?  What are your expectations as a reader?

Short Story Saturday #8

Welcome to this week’s edition of Short Story Saturday, where I find books 100 pages or less on Amazon that are both self-published/small press published and worth reading, which means you’ll only see mini-reviews of 3 stars and up on this feature!

Looking Through Lace by Ruth Nestvold

Publisher:  Self-published

This 71 page story is available as an ebook from Amazon.  More reviews can be found on Goodreads.

As the only woman on the first contact team, xenolinguist Toni Donato expected her assignment on Christmas would be to analyze the secret women’s language — but then the chief linguist begins to sabotage her work. What is behind it? Why do the men and women have separate languages in the first place? What Toni learns turns everything she thought they knew on its head.

Originally published in Asimov’s in 2003, “Looking Through Lace” was a finalist for the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. The Italian translation won the Premio Italia for best work of speculative fiction in translation in 2007.

“Looking Through Lace” is a novella of approximately 20,000 words.

So how interesting can it be to read about a woman learning a new language?  Well, with the expert grammar skills of the author (she is an English professor), it’s as interesting as humanly possible.  This novella  length science fiction story started out fairly slow.  Its short length is a positive, as I’m not sure I could handle a novel on this topic.  That said, it was fasinating watch Toni defragment an alien language using skills that linguistics use in a way that a non linguist can understand and enjoy.  Besides the science fiction, there is also a bit of mystery as Toni discovers why her boss is being so difficult and hindering her progress.  If you love anthropology or learning how to decode a language, this would be an awesome novella to check out.  There is some romance, but due to length it isn’t too developed.  If you’re looking for more of a thriller or paranormal story, then this probably isn’t a good choice for you.

Tour Review/Giveaway: The Antithesis by Terra Whiteman


Welcome to the final stop of the Antithesis Tour.  You can check out the full list of tour stops HERE.  On this tour stop I have my review of this awesome book, an excerpt, and a giveaway.  I’m so happy that every book I’ve reviewed this week has exceeded my expectations.  This one is no exception to that.  I was blown away by how intricate the world was in the first book.  Just like with Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, the Antithesis isn’t a story…it’s a universe.  You experience the story instead of reading it.  This is a novel worthy of fan-fiction.  And it broke my heart not to give it 5 stars, but read my review to find out why.

The Series’ Covers


The Antithesis (Book #1) by Terra Whiteman

Publisher: 1889 Labs

Genre: Angel/Demon – Science Fiction

Publisher: 1889 Labs

You can purchase it on ebook from Amazon and Smashwords or on paperback from AmazonBarnes and NobleIndigoPowells, and Whsmith.

Giveaway:

  • 1 winner will get paperback copies of all 5 books in the Antithesis series by Terra Whiteman.
  • 3 winners will get ebook copies of all 5 books in the Antithesis series by Terra Whiteman.
  • 5 winners will get any ebook of their choice published by 1889 Labs.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway.

Review:

Overall:  It’s funny that I don’t consider this an angel/demon novel when 90% of the characters are either one or the other.  To me, it felt like a science fiction novel, only the setting was with Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.  There is no religious bashing, outright preaching, or moral values hidden beneath the ink waiting to subconsciously sink their teeth into your brain and suck out your vices (or was there? *cue Twilight Zone music*).   Atheists and Christians alike can enjoy this novel from Terra Whiteman.  Also like a science fiction novel, there is great emphasis on making the different places and characters feel as comfortable to your mind as your own hometown.  I can picture each scene as easily in this novel as I could if it was a movie.  It doesn’t have the shock value that I like in many of my favorite novels – but I still enjoyed nearly every moment reading this book.

Characters:  It’s clear from the first meeting between Leid and Alezair that these two have met previously, but since Alezair has no memory of his former life, he doesn’t know what kind of relationship he used to have with her.  Throughout the novel, his instincts drive him to both lust and hate her.  Leid rejects him over and over again and yet you can’t help but think each time that maybe this time Alezair might have a chance with this deadly woman.  Leid surprised me in her unique response to each situation.  I adore her more than any heroine as of late.  She’s like a tiger – beautiful, exotic, but dangerous for your health in close quarters.  I have 10 or 15 different texts highlighted in my Kindle of the awesome verbal exchanges between these two characters.  The author doesn’t give into the chemistry sizzling – no, every time they meet is like a hit and you can help but turn page after page looking for that next high.

Plot:  The book begins with Alezair on just another mission from the Nexus to kill people, which he is very good at doing, and with no recollection of who he used to be.  On this mission he meets Leid and he is struck by how familiar she is to him.  After following Leid, she decides to make him into a being like her – and Alezair becomes a nearly invincible enforcer between Heaven and Hell.  Not all is what it seems, as the beings of Heaven and Hell seem to recognize him, but no one will say how.  Alezair’s body draws him instinctively to Leid and he has no idea why.  Although the mystery of who Alezair really is unravels at a snail’s pace, there is plenty of action and a very intricate world to keep you entertained as the mystery unfolds.

Ending:  I don’t get the last 10% of the novel.  I could accept the novel as over (with a sequel expected) when Alezair stops narrating.  I didn’t find out everything I wanted to know, but I was okay with drawing my own conclusions for now.  But, the last 10% is written in various points of view that flash back to earlier scenes in the novel, only from a different perspective.  I didn’t connect with these people.  I didn’t learn anything new about Alezair – only that people were damn scared of him, which I could guess from his point of view.  Without the last 10%, I would have given this novel 5 stars.  With it, I had to knock off a star for killing the mystery and allure of some of my favorite minor characters from the novel.  Regardless, I still am planning on reading the rest of this series.

Grade:  B

This is a great book for those who like books about Angels and Demons without the influence of the author’s religious beliefs.

*I received a copy of this book from a FMB tours in exchange for my honest review.

Book Description:

Justice Alezair Czynri is the newest recruit of the Jury, a group of powerful beings who reside in Purgatory and enforce the Code between Heaven and Hell. However, Justice Czynri could not have come at a worse time. A storm lays just over the horizon…

One that brings with it a war.

This is a story about God and the Devil, but not how you were taught to believe.

This is also a story about love and hate, and the suffering both can bring.

This is about rights and wrongs, and all of the spaces in between.

This is about revenge, courage, death, passion; with no villains, no heroes… only those left scorned.

This is a story about Heaven, Hell, and the Jury that holds them together.

This is The Antithesis.

Excerpt:

The Terabicz Ruins was a collection of towers composed of black rock and sharp peaks, complete with floating circular platforms hovering in the sky like halos. Vines could be seen wedged between surface fractures, though I didn’t understand how any vegetation could survive in this perpetual darkness.

A winding staircase led to the first platform a thousand feet up. As we approached the base, Leid tripped over her own feet, landing on her knees.
I moved forward, but she shot out a hand to stop me. I froze.

Then she lurched, vomiting blood all over the first step.

I reeled back, eyes wide, fear rising in my throat. Leid only crouched on the steps, panting.

I shouted, the confusion and fear now propelling into anger. “Are you dying?!”

“No,” she responded coarsely.

Leid tried to get up, but collapsed. She attempted getting up a second time, made it one more step, but then collapsed again.

I frowned, kneeling in front of her with my back turned. “Get on.”

Reluctantly she crawled over me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders, legs hooking my elbows. She couldn’t protest this time; walking was out of the question.

I began up the stairs, Leid now on my back.

“Thank you,” I heard her murmur quietly.

“Sure thing. Just don’t puke on me.”

The climb was exhausting, seeming to never end. Leid wasn’t heavy in the least, and in fact Vel’Haru could probably lift three hundred times their own weight; but the last four days of almost nonexistent sleep and nonstop traveling had finally caught up with me. I was tired, and it was showing.

I took a breather on the first platform. The second, I’d decided to just keep going. By the apex, I was staggering.

The apex platform was shockingly covered in moss. An iron gate surrounded a stone temple with a courtyard covered in…statues.

“What is this place?” I whispered.

“Civen’s old temple. Since the Deadland’s decline, another has been built in Alatonia.”

I now understood why she’d placed the statue here. It would have blended in perfectly with the garden of others surrounding the temple. My eyes drifted over the platform, a frown pulling at my lips. Something didn’t feel right. It was so quiet, though that had been consistent throughout the entire area. I really couldn’t explain why I had this sense of impending doom.

Slowly, I carried Leid toward the gate.

My hand pushed against it; it opened with a creak.

I stepped inside, eyes surveying the courtyard.

It was isolated, save for the ever still and silent stone army surrounding us. I moved to the side of the wall, kneeling and letting Leid slide off. She collapsed against the ground, limply sitting up.

I had to admit I was a little pissed off for the fact that there weren’t any demons here. All of this for practically nothing? Though I supposed it would have been considerably bad otherwise since Leid could barely move and I currently wasn’t at my best.

“Hurry,” she pleaded.

I nodded, and she hadn’t needed to point out which statue was the target. Despite the clever hiding spot, it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Surrounded in marble soldiers and half-naked maidens, a woman knelt; arm outstretched, eyes wide and lips parted in the beginnings of a despairing cry. She seemed carved out of black glass, shimmering like an obsidian beacon within the otherwise white wash of the garden.

…Obsidian. This woman.

I momentarily forget about my sick noble, slowly moving toward it, seamlessly weaving through the other nondescript statues. My eyes were narrowed, head slightly tilted in curious awe.

I stopped in front of her, drifting over the details of her face; all the while my face had become a contortion of disarray. I spun, pointing at the statue.

“Why does this thing look exactly like you?”

Leid tried to respond but coughed instead. When she was finished, she tried again:

“Will you just kill it, please? We’ll talk about this later.”

“…How do I kill it?”

“With your fists, you genius. Smash it to bits.”

“Exactly how were you expecting to destroy this thing on your own, by the way?”

“Shut up and finish it!”

“Not until you take back what you said.”

Leid stared, falling silent. She knew what I meant.

I waited, silent as well.

Conceding, she looked away shamefully. “I was angry; I didn’t mean it.”

“What didn’t you mean?”

“I would never regret meeting you, Alezair. I’m sorry.”

Though I’d coerced her into saying this, I could tell she was being sincere. Her expression was somber, painfully so.

I grinned. “Thanks. One pile of black sand coming right up.”

I turned, just as a thwump broke through the air. I felt a pinch. My grin faded into a confused wince and I looked down at the source of the sharp pain.

…There was a dart sticking out of my chest.

I looked up at Leid, though my vision was already beginning to blur; the world around me swayed. She was screaming something, pointing behind me, but now everything was moving in slow motion and I was having trouble comprehending.

I was about to turn but was tackled; a group of hands held me down, shoving my face into the moss. I thrashed, snarling, still strong enough to fling some of my assailants off. But each time a pair of hands left, another instantly replaced them. I couldn’t see anything—just a cluster of feet as the crowd scurried around, trying to keep me down.

Another group of feet left the crowd and began for Leid, who at this moment was hopelessly trying to crawl away. As they got further from us I could see them clearly:

Demons. Tons of them; at least two dozen.

Instead of retreating for the gate, Leid deliriously went the wrong way. During the struggle I’d been shoved about twenty feet from the statue. She was crawling toward us.

The demons pursuing her eventually backed off, waiting at the first row of statues. When Leid passed the third row, a shadow slid out from one of them, advancing slowly in a steady, calculated gait.

I squinted, teeth clenched and still struggling, trying to see the demon clearly. And then I did.

It was Caym Stroth, Raith’s second general. Unusually dressed in a black suit, the Obsidian Court insignia on his right shoulder, he held a giant serrated axe, swinging it nonchalantly at his side. He whistled an unfamiliar tune as Leid scrambled toward the statue. It seemed she was too delirious to even see him.

I screamed, though it was pointless because she couldn’t hear me. “Leid, behind you!”

She was now within a foot of the statue. Gasping, she reached toward it with a trembling outstretched hand.

Caym stopped behind her, lifting the axe over his head, his lips curling into a malicious sneer.

About the Author:

Terra Whiteman is a scientist who writes whenever she’s not doing things that scientists do. She loves philosophy, chemistry, biology, classical literature, graphic novels, loud, obnoxious music, frog slippers and beer.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | 1889 Labs

Tour/Giveaway: Keystone by Misty Provencher

You can check out the full tour schedule HERE on the author’s blog.

Author’s website  |  Author’s Twitter

On this tour stop, we have reviews of both book one and two of the series as well as giveaways.  There should be no spoilers in either review, so you can read both without worry.  After reading both books, this quickly became on of my favorite series of the year.  I actually liked the second book better than the first, which is odd considering that I’m usually bitterly disappointed with sequels.  Although Keystone isn’t a standalone book, it is nothing short of awesome.

Cornerstone (#1) Review:

Publisher:  Self-published

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

You can buy Cornerstone on ebook or paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Overall:  As someone with first hand experience with a horder, this story definitely touched me on a personal level.  It’s hard watching someone you love ruin their life (and your own) because they cannot overcome a psychological problem.  I never had friends over my house (ever) so I never experienced the redicule that Nalena did from her classmates.  Mine didn’t know what my home life was like living with someone that rather buy a new set of dishes than wash the two or three sets stacked in the kitchen sink.  Nalena was more aware that her mother had problems than I did – for a time, I thought that it was normal to have half of the shower covered with empty shampoo bottles yellow and coated with soap scum.  I’d like to personally thank the author for making it feel authentic, even if Nalena’s mother had better motives for her paper-filled house than the typical horder.

Characters:  My absolute favorite character is Addo.  He’s colorful personality (and clothes) shine in every scene he’s in.  I couldn’t help but smile in one of the scenes where he makes cookies for Nalena, the majority of them are gone by the time she arrives, and slowly during the scene, the remainder of the cookies dissapear one bite at a time – and Addo acts like a druggie getting his high with every bite.  And while this is going on, Addo is delivering very serious and life-changing news to Nalena.  The contrast is startling, but presented amazingly well.

There is no instant love between Nalena and Garrett.  She actually tells him off upon first meeting, expecting this popular guy to make fun of her like everyone else.  For much of the novel Nalena is more furious with Garrett’s decisions than in love with him, but when they are together the chemistry is sizzling.

Plot:  I think this story is more about Nalena’s relationship with her mother than Nalena discovering her powers.  It’s definitely hard enough for a teenager to deal with the ridicule associated with living with a horder; it is even more difficult when that horder is actually hording for the sake of mankind.  Nalena has no choice but to support her mother’s weird habits, even when it directly conflicts with the attention of a cute boy named Garrett.

I found myself equally frustrated as Nalena by the lack of answers for much of the novel.  I understand that some things could not be revealed early, but it felt like the author was stalling at times – a lot of filler when all I wanted was to know WTF was happening.  And that alone kept me from rating this book five stars.

Ending:  Nalena chooses what I thought she would choose but definitely not for the same reasons.  It’s a bittersweet ending, but a good place to pause the series.

Book Description:

Nalena Maxwell has been branded ‘The Waste’ at her new school, due to her mom’s obsessive paper hoarding. Nalena desperately wants something to change in her life, but when she receives a sign (and it’s the wrong dang one) inviting her into a mysterious, ancient community, too much changes. What she knew of her family, what she thought of her life and what she believed about her future, is no longer applicable. Seventeen years worth of family skeletons come crashing into Nalena’s life and it is the boy…the one that smiles at her like he wants to hear everything she’ll ever say…that already knows her powerful secrets. But it is only Nalena that can choose between protecting the life that is already crumbling beneath her feet and the one that might sacrifice everything she could ever have.

Rating:  B

Keystone (#2) Review:

Publisher:  Self-published

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

You can buy Keystone on ebook or paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Overall:  While Cornerstone felt like a contemporary novel for the first half, Keystone’s genre is a full-fledged paranormal romance.  Although the mystery of the key and who possesses her grandfather’s memory are unraveled slowly, the lag and confusion from the first novel aren’t present here (thank goodness!) – Keystone is action packed and the mystery compelling and concise.  The only thing that is obvious to readers is that Nalena will play a large role in figuring out this 17 year-old mystery.  The rest is a guessing game until the very last pages.

Characters:  At times, it is hard to believe that Nalena is the same girl from the first novel who was ridiculed for having a horder for a mother.  Gone are all the negative people from her high school.  Instead Nalena meets others that are like her.  There is a surprisingly large number of students that have special abilities and belong to this community.  My absolute favorite is Nok, who can read minds.  He doesn’t talk much; it’s amazing how vocal and clear his intentions can be saying so few words.  The other new characters all have pretty distinct personalities, as oppose to Garett’s brothers (Brandon and Mark) who I still get mixed up.  The Addo doesn’t have the same humor and awesome one-liners of the first book, as the mood has definitely sobered in this book.

Plot:  Find the key to unlock Nalena’s grandfather’s memory that her father had stolen.  Her grandfather apparently unlocked the weakness of The Fury (the bad guys) right before his death.  So somewhere…on a sheet of paper…is the answer to all of their problems.  It’s been 17 years since his death and no leads, but now Nalena is on the job.  Of course, the Fury is also looking for the key and is hell-bent on killing every single person that gets in their way.  Thoughtout the novel, the bad guys are chasing them.  They have to switch from safe house to safe house, unlocking clues, and trying to keep everyone alive.  They lost way too many people by the end of the first novel.  There’s a traitor among them and it’s definitely not one you can predict.

Ending:  The book kept building in suspense and pacing until the very last page.  All of my questions were answered and yet I was so disappointed when the story ended.  Because Nalena’s story is far from over.  And the next book isn’t written yet.  Because in the very last chapter I felt that my eyes were opened to the gravity of the situation and there is a whole lot more butt-kicking that this crew needs to do.

Book Description:

There’s a man-made storm coming, like a rip in the world, and it’s called the Cusp.

Struggling to fit into the destiny she’s accepted, Nalena Maxwell has been left with one objective: she must find her murdered grandfather’s Memory. Stolen and hidden away by her own father over seventeen years ago, the Memory could be the key to ending the Cusp and destroying the Ianua’s rival community, The Fury.

Driven by each individual’s selfish desires, The Fury has always lacked the loyalty and organization it needs to be an actual force of power.

Until now.

Someone masterminded the Fury’s massive attack on the Ianua, slaughtering twelve of their thirteen community leaders, the Addos. Now there are rumors that the 13th Cura, to which Nali belongs, has gone to the Fury, manipulating the last Addo in order to control the other 12 Curas.

As the Cusp brings the Fury and their own communities against them, Nalena’s Cura must preserve the Ianua, but finding the key to the Cusp isn’t as simple as it seems.

Rating:  A

I received copies of these books as part of a book tour in exchange for an honest review.

Tour Giveaways!

Booking Through Thursday: Carry-ons

btt button

Booking Through Thursday asks a random question to bloggers each week.  This week’s question:

Do you bring the book(s) you’re reading with you when you go out? How?  Physically, or in an e-reader of some kind? Have your habits in this regard changed? (I know I carried books with me more when I was in school than I do now–I can’t read while I’m driving to work, after all.)

I used to always carry a paperback book in my purse.  I now carry my Kindle everywhere.  I take it with me to the bathroom, on the way to the kitchen, walking to the mailbox or down the street, and if I ever leave the house.  I still read paperbacks around the house and have them stashed everywhere, but my Kindle is nice because it only requires one hand.  I don’t text or read while driving, but if I’m stuck at a long light or waiting in the parking lot – you can be sure that I’m using my Kindle.

I used to get in trouble for reading at the table or out with friends.  Supposedly, it was “rude”.  But since the smartphone came about, no one seems to care if I do it now.  They’re all too busy checking Facebook or tweeting.

By Lizzy's Dark Fiction Posted in meme

Banned Books Week Hop

Hosted by I am a Reader, Not a WriterI Read Banned Books

Giveaway is opened 9/27 – 10/7

I was so estatic when this hop came up so that I can offer one of my followers their choice of one of four books that are either frequently banned or challenged in the Horror genre.  I’ve never been one to like censorship.  I was making my mom buy the craziest books for me when I was younger.  I think the worst was Johnny The Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez, which was a graphic novel featuring a teenager that killed lots of people.  My mom bought me any book I wanted – no matter what.  It’s because of her that I was allowed to experience all the taboo and scares in the Horror genre.

I’ve read both Carrie and Cujo and I think they’re some of Stephen King’s greatest novels.  The ending of Cujo haunted me for weeks.  The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty I have arriving in the mail soon (I won it in a giveaway!) and it is THE only series of books that I haven’t read by Anne Rice yet.  She was my absolute favorite author growing up so I’m psyched to read this finally.  The last choice is American Psycho, which I haven’t read.  I’ve only seen the movie.  I’m hoping to buy a copy soon because I hear that it is definitely one of the most scary and disturbing horror novels of all time.

Carrie by Stephen King:  A modern classic, “Carrie” introduced a distinctive new voice in American fiction — Stephen King. The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge, remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.  Make a date with terror and live the nightmare that is…”Carrie”

Why is it on the list?  Carrie was considered trash that was harmful for younger girls.  It was challenged by Clark High School library, Las Vegas, Nevada in 1975. In 1978 Placed on special closed shelf in Union High School library, Vergennes, Vermont.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis:  In American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis imaginatively explores the incomprehensible depths of madness and captures the insanity of violence in our time or any other. Patrick Bateman moves among the young and trendy in 1980s Manhattan. Young, handsome, and well educated, Bateman earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Expressing his true self through torture and murder, Bateman prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confront.

Why is it on the list?  The book was originally to have been published by Simon & Schuster in March 1991, but the company withdrew from the project because of “aesthetic differences.” Vintage Books purchased the rights to the novel and published the book after the customary editing process. The book was never published in hardcover in the United States (although a deluxe paperback was eventually offered) until 2012, when a limited hardcover edition was published by Centipede Press. Ellis received numerous death threats and hate mail after the publication of American Psycho.”  In Germany, the book was deemed “harmful to minors,” and its sales and marketing were severely restricted from 1995 to 2000. In Australia, the book is sold shrink-wrapped and is classified “R18” under national censorship legislation. The book may not be sold to those under 18 years of age. Along with other Category 1 publications, its sale is theoretically banned in the state of Queensland and it may only be purchased shrink-wrapped. In Brisbane, the novel is available to those over 18 from all public libraries and can still be ordered and purchased (shrink-wrapped) from many book stores despite this prohibition.  Bret Easton Ellis has commented on this, saying “I think it’s adorable, I think it’s cute, I love it.”  In New Zealand, the Government’s Office of Film & Literature Classification has rated the book as R18. The book may not be sold or lent in libraries to those under 18 years of age. American Psycho is generally sold shrink wrapped in bookstores. In Canada, the book generated renewed controversy during the trial of serial killer Paul Bernardo after it was discovered that Bernardo owned a copy of the book and had “read it as his ‘bible’.”

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem was among those opposed to the release of Ellis’ book because of its portrayal of violence toward women. Steinem is also the stepmother of Christian Bale, who played Bateman in the film. This coincidence is mentioned in Ellis’ mock memoir Lunar Park.

Cujo by Stephen King:  A big, friendly dog chases a rabbit into a hidden underground cave–and stirs a sleeping evil crueler than death itself. A terrified four-year-old boy sees his bedroom closet door swing open untouched by human hands, and screams at the unholy red eyes gleaming in the darkness. The little Maine town of Castle Rock is about to be invaded by the most hideous menace ever to savage the flesh and devour the mind…

Why is it on the list? Cujo is cited as having profanity and strong sexual content cited as reasons for opposition. It was banned by Washington County, Alabama, Board of Education, 1985; challenged by Rankin County, Mississippi, School District, 1984; removed from Bradford, New York, school library, 1985; rejected for purchase by Hayward, California, school trustees, 1985.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice:  From bestselling author Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquleaure. In the traditional folktale of ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ the spell cast upon the lovely young princess and everyone in her castle can only be broken by the kiss of a Prince. It is an ancient story, one that originally emerged from and still deeply disturbs the mind’s unconscious. Now Anne Rice’s retelling of the Beauty story probes the unspoken implications of this lush, suggestive tale by exploring its undeniable connection to sexual desire. Here the Prince reawakens Beauty, not with a kiss, but with sexual initiation. His reward for ending the hundred years of enchantment is Beauty’s complete and total enslavement to him as Anne Rice explores the world of erotic yearning and fantasy in a classic that becomes, with her skillful pen, a compelling experience.

Why is it on the list?  The trilogy [Sleeping Beauty] was a commercial success, outearning Interview with the Vampire and gaining a significant cult following. Anne Rice was able to secure the publishing contract for her next erotic novel Exit to Eden (1985) with an advance of US$35,000 from Arbor House. There have been allegations that Rice is a dominatrix in real life since the trilogy deals with the BDSM practice so exclusively, but her husband Stan Rice replied that “she’s no more sadomasochistic than she’s a vampire.” The trilogy is read by many among those involved in the BDSM community, but Anne Rice told her biographer that she refused the offer to meet with its practitioners face-to-face, and in fact her brief encounters with “those people” resulted in the discontinuation of the Sleeping Beauty series after the third book, because of moral revulsion she felt when she was confronted with the actuality of the practice. However, when the director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library declared the trilogy “hardcore pornography” and removed all print and audiocassette copies from the library shelves in 1996, Rice intervened to object the director’s accusations, arguing that the trilogy was “elegantly sensual” and harmless to readers. The trilogy is included in the American Library Association’s list of “100 most frequently challenged books” of the 1990s, with the term “challenge” defined in American literature as “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group”.

Professor Linda Badley of Middle Tennessee State University wrote in her 1996 book Writing Horror and the Body on the trilogy that rewriting the myth of Sleeping Beauty as sadomasochistic fantasies enabled Anne Rice to explore “liminal areas of experience that could not be articulated in conventional literature, extant pornography, or politically correct discourse.”  Sandra Michaelson, the author of Love Smart: Transforming the Emotional Patterns That Sabotage Relationships, claimed that while the trilogy may provide erotic stimulation, it is “extraordinarily unhealthy” as a model for everyday living.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE

This giveaway is opened INT for one of these books in ebook format.  US residents can opt for the book in paperback format instead.  Winners have 48 hours to respond by email before another person is selected.

Sources (so I don’t get sue for plagiarism!):  

By Lizzy's Dark Fiction Posted in giveaway

Book Review: Petronella & The Trogot by Cheryl Bentley

Petronella & The Trogot by Cheryl Bentley

Publisher:  Sparkling Books

Genre: YA Horror (Ghosts)

This book releases 10/1/12.  You can buy it as an ebook or paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Review:

Overall:  I really hate to have given this story a mediocre rating, because it is quite a unique twist on Dante’s Inferno.  I was confused how to rate this book, as it seems like a good book for MG or YA, but the main character is an adult.  This definitely isn’t written like an adult novel.  In fact, I think this might be the only book I ever want to buy on audio – I LOVED the narrative.  I just imagined some nice librarian reading each chapter out loud.  It was written to be best read out loud like a picture book with spookiness and characters great for a MG student and the setting that only a YA/Adult would fully comprehend.  Maybe this is a book meant for adults who like scary MG books?  That’s my best guess.

Characters:  There are two types of characters.  The people who speak in normal English and those that speak in old English.  And though it’s quite easy to tell one from the other, I really don’t like books were there is a heavy use of character accents.  That said, at least the dialogue was easy to understand regardless of the accent used.  There is a huge cast of characters that aren’t that complex, but the dialogue feels very authentic.  There are good people and there are bad people.  There are no in between people.  Also, a gripe.  That new headmaster of the school – she is CRAZY!  What kind of REAL student would like those new rules?

Plot:  It felt like the first half of the story and the second half were two separate stories.  In the beginning Petronella is unloved and bullied by her neighbors.  All she wants is to have a family of her own and the male neighbors quite bluntly turn her requests for marriage.  One day her cat uncovers a few bones and that night Petronella is visited by a dead hooded man.  Soon more bones are uncovered and villagers dead for over a thousand years return to life.  These villagers adore Petronella, who has a special device to control the spirits’ destinies.  In the second half of the story, Petronella travels through this underground area where the evil people are punished in death.  If you’ve ever read Dante’s Inferno, the areas are very familiar although with a modern twist.  I didn’t like how the sexism present in Dante’s Inferno showed up in this retelling.  Not all women are victims and not all men are the abusers.

Ending:  I think that the major plot wrapped up nicely, although I wish the ending scene could of spanned 20 or 30 more pages to flesh it out more.  It felt like a summary at times instead of letting the reader experience all the good stuff.

Book Description:

Petronella moves to a cottage in a seemingly ideal village. But she soon comes into contact with its weird inhabitants, a tree-monster that appears in her garden, gets spooky night-time visits from a hooded horseman, and finds a boy-ghost in her house. How do creepy ghosts and scary monsters fit in with the invasion of spirits all over Fort Willow?

Rating:  C

This book is great modern retelling of Dante’s Inferno.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

 

(Bio information borrowed from publisher’s website.)

Cheryl Bentley is from Bedford. She spent many a happy hour of her childhood reading and sucking sweets by the banks of the River Ouse or in the home of her carer Marian.

She has a degree in English from the University of London.

By day she works, by night she writes.

Publisher’s Website  |  Twitter  | Author Interview

By Lizzy's Dark Fiction Posted in Default

Book Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Publisher:  Atria Books

Genre: YA Contemporary

You can buy it on ebook, audio, or paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Review:

Overall:  I completely expected not to like this book.  I delayed buying this book for a month even at the insistence of a few close friends.  It wasn’t until I discovered this title on Netgalley that I gave it a shot.  Let me also say that I don’t typically read contemporary novels – ah, but this is no ordinary contemporary novel.   If you’ve ever wanted the poster-novel for dark fiction, Slammed is it.  Layken has a pretty shitty life who can’t catch a single break as the novel progresses.    Does she give up?  No, she learns to be strong and deal with whatever life throws at her.  Slammed is definitely a novel that will compel you to read in one sitting.  It will tug at every emotion you have in your body – even the tin man would weep during sections of this book.

A key part of this novel is slamming, which is performed poetry.  I rarely read poetry and I have trouble understand poetry that is very metaphorical.  These poems performed by the characters either during poetry class or at Club N9NE are best if read out loud with extra emphasis on the bolded words.  I must say that this is the first book I have ever wished to purchase on audio.  Instead, after reading this book I immediately purchased a paperback and gifted it to my mom so she can enjoy it too.

Characters:  There are no cheerleaders or nerds in this book, even though it’s set primarily in the high school.  Layken isn’t loved at first sight by every male in the vicinity – in fact, she’s largely ignored by her classmates, except for a spunky girl named Eddie and her small group of friends.  Eddie has her own demons (she’s a foster child) but it’s hard to tell by her cheerful demeanor.  It’s refreshing to have the two teenage girls survive an entire novel without fighting – can’t think of another YA that does.  In fact, there are surprisingly few cliches used to define any of the characters.  I wasn’t sure what the characters would do next or what tragedy would strike next, and I think that was a major factor in my liking this book.

Plot:  It’s hard to explain what happens in this book without giving away an early spoiler, which is why Will can’t date Layden.  At the start of the book, Layken has moved with her mother and brother across the country to snowy Michigan.  Layken meets her neighbor, Will, and they hit it off immediately.  She goes on the best date of her life and thinks that life is starting to improve.  Not so.  When Layken starts her new school she (and I) was completely shocked to find out that she and Will have to end their relationship (for reasons I won’t spoil).  Her life complicates further when her brother and Will’s become best friends and she sees Will almost constantly.  Not sure what his true feelings are, Layken can’t help but be depressed.  At the same time, her mother is becoming increasingly distant and has a secret of her own.  One that definitely is not good for Layken or her brother.

Ending:  I liked how this novel ended, and yet after experiencing all the trauma Layken dealt with in Slammed, I’m not quite sold on finding out what life throws at her in the sequel.  I like her so much that I’d rather her not have to do this all over again in the second book.  She deserves better.  This ending is sad, depressing, but you can’t help but smile because Layken is optimistic about her future.

Book Description:

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

Rating:  A+

This is dark fiction.  I loved it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

(Picture and information borrowed from Goodreads.)

I’m addicted to and seriously floored by the talent of The Avett Brothers band, which is obvious in both of my books. They are 99% of my playlist. The other 1% being Eminem and Jason Mraz.

I love lindor truffles (the white ones with the chips inside) and have an unhealthy addiction to diet pepsi. A serious addiction.

Website  |  Twitter

Book Review: Illumine by Alivia Anders

Illumine (The Illumine Series  #1) by Alivia Anders

Publisher:  Self-published

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

You can buy it on ebook  or paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Review:

Overall:  For me this book started out with a bang.  We get to witness Essallie go through a very traumatizing experience when a demon kills her boyfriend.  She tries to move on but then the demon shows up in her new life – and won’t leave her alone.  Once the demon loses all trace of the scariness and evilness – I began to lose interest in this book and it drifted into becoming just another paranormal romance novel.  I had very high hopes for this book after reading the first couple chapters.  I thought that the rest of the novel would continue along a darker path than typical of the genre.  Nope.

Characters:  What a shame that my favorite character in the beginning lost quite a bit of appeal by the end of the story.  I liked Kayden, the scary demon, until he became a love-sick puppy, who did nothing but stalk Essallie.  I connected more to Ursula, the succubus who has to eat her lovers to survive, than to the leading lady.  Essallie pissed me off with her reluctance to just go along with the program and with her treating Kayden like crap.  Just because he shredded Essallie’s ex like Parmesan cheese, doesn’t mean that she has to blow him off for over half the novel.

Plot:  Essallie goes to a party with her boyfriend.  He tries selling her soul to a demon in exchange for immortality – but she’s immune to the demon’s powers and so the demon kills her boyfriend.  Essallie moves and then goes to a party with her new classmates – demon shows up.  Demon introduces himself as Kayden and then proceeds to stalk Essallie while Essallie experiences some not so normal teenage hormonal shifts to her body.  This was a different twist to angel/demons, but I wish that Essallie wasn’t so damn stubborn in refusing to believe Kayden.

Ending:  I did love this ending.  I was definitely ready to pass up on this series until about 80% into this book.  The ending had the scare and danger found in the beginning of the book.  It made this book climb from a so-so book to a pretty good book.  Basically, I liked the beginning and the end because it felt more like a horror novel.  The middle felt like a paranormal romance novel.  I wish that the genre was consistent throughout the novel.

Book Description:

For the past five months Essallie Hanley has been trying to forget about the frightening murder of her boyfriend. Haunted by vivid nightmares and hallucinations of the event she does anything she can to pretend she’s like every other normal girl in High School.

Only Essallie is far from normal. Able to conjure blue fire and a shimmering silhouette of wings from her body, she seeks the only known solace left to her name; her first home in Belfast, Maine.

But she soon realizes that her return home is only the beginning of a long and twisted road taking her as far from her humanity as possible, with Kayden, the demon originally summoned to slaughter her, leading the way. Unable to touch her but oddly curious, he joins Essallie in her search to find out just what she is. But neither of them were prepared for the secrets they’ve begun to unravel, secrets that will change Essallie and everyone around her forever.

Rating:  C

An angel/demon novel great for fans of paranormal romance.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

(Picture and information borrowed from Goodreads.)

Alivia Anders was thirteen when she fell headfirst into the world of internet fanfic and RPG-forum board sites that showed her the ‘back door’ into the world of writing. Four years and many hours spent glued to a computer screen later she found her true calling in writing.
Alivia currently lives with her family in her hometown of Coopersburg, PA. She frequently admits that if she wasn’t so intolerant to dairy she’d live at her local ice cream shop called The Inside Scoop.

Website  |  Twitter

By Lizzy's Dark Fiction Posted in Default