Although I’m understandably wary of self-published books (and growing more so as the time passes), sometimes it’s good to take a leap of faith and see...moreAlthough I’m understandably wary of self-published books (and growing more so as the time passes), sometimes it’s good to take a leap of faith and see where it takes you. Jenny Undead came recommended by Tim Marquitz, a great author whose opinion I trust, and let me tell you, I have a lot to thank him for. Jenny Undead is perfect for zombie fans, and especially for fans of Rhiannon Frater.
Jenny lives in a brutal, unforgiving, zombie-filled world, and her own family is to blame. Both her mother and her grandfather were scientists who experimented on Jenny, her brother Casey and several other kids. Jenny escaped her family years ago, but every day, she regrets leaving Casey behind. In her desperate attempt to find and save her brother, Jenny falls straight into a trap and her life (and afterlife) get changed forever.
Jenny is a heroine you’ll have no trouble following into one bloody battle after another. She is strong and charismatic, a natural born leader, yet she also has a softer, more vulnerable side, one that is scared to hope for a better life. After surviving a horrendous childhood and just marginally better adulthood, Jenny is a woman with strong principles and a very kind heart.
Ah, but let’s not forget the romance! When we meet Jenny, she’s already in a long, loving relationship with Declan Munro, a strong man with a reputation for being vicious and merciless. The depth of emotions these two share is astonishing and heartwarming. Jenny is the only thing that matters to Declan, and their relationship is the pillar that makes this book much stronger. Finding a book with an already established romance is a rare treat, and Jenny and Declan proved that authors should definitely do this more often.
To people who are understandably cautious when picking up an indie book, I’ll say only this: Jenny Undead is perfectly written, perfectly edited and perfectly formatted. I’ve seen traditionally published books in far worse shape. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up, I promise you won’t regret it for a second.
Clean Sweep was first published on Ilona Andrews’ website as a serialized online novel, entirely for free. Serial novels seem to be rapidly growing in...moreClean Sweep was first published on Ilona Andrews’ website as a serialized online novel, entirely for free. Serial novels seem to be rapidly growing in popularity, but in many ways, Clean Sweep is still a novelty. What makes it different from other serial novels is the high level of reader–writer interaction. Since it was published by Ilona and Gordon themselves, on their website, and not by a big publishing house (St. Martin’s and Penguin in particular have taken to publishing serial novels), readers were allowed to comment and their comments were taken into consideration.
This type of writing had to have been extremely stressful for the authors since it doesn’t come with a rewind button. Once something is posted, it can’t be un-posted and if it later proves to be detrimental to the plot, they just have to find a way to work around it. On the other hand, since every part has to bring something of import, the pacing is tight and basically flawless.
Once again, Ilona and Gordon put their vast imaginations and their impressive knowledge on all things mythological to very good use. Clean Sweep is full of wonderful surprises, interesting (and horrifying) creatures, and faraway worlds. Theirs is not a worldbuilding done pro forma, it is thorough and quite remarkable.
Dina is an innkeeper, a young girl in charge of a magical inn. The inn is supposed to be neutral ground for all alien species, and it’s Dina’s job to keep everyone calm and safe. As the daughter of two innkeepers who have gone missing a few years back, Dina takes her job – and her neutrality – very seriously, but when something starts threatening her small community, she can’t stop herself from getting involved.
With pretty much everything about this book close to perfect, something somewhere had to go wrong… and it did, with the love triangle that somehow reared its ugly head. Admittedly, it’s not a real, fully developed, angsty LT. It’s pretty much clear who Dina wants to be with. But the very existence of it, no matter how mild, pretty much ruined the romance for me. And just like always, Ilona and Andrew are taking their sweet time with Dina’s romantic interest; rushed relationships aren’t a part of their repertoire.
Book two has been announced for early 2014, published exactly the same way, with an extra person to moderate the comments. I needed Clean Sweep to wash away the bitter disappointment that was Magic Rises and to restore my faith in Ilona and Gordon – and lo and behold, that is exactly what it did.
Sometime not too long ago, God and Lucifer sat down to talk and concluded that they’d had enough of the never-ending battle between Good and Evil. They decided to abandon ship altogether, and as they did, they left no instructions for either of their armies. With their disappearance, the supernatural community fell into a huge turmoil. There were those who felt that it’s time to bring about the Armageddon, and those who were ready to do anything to defend humanity.
Frank “Triggaltheron” Trigg is Lucifer’s favorite nephew, also known as the idiot who was offered the position of new Anti-Christ by Lucifer himself and who smoothly turned him down. Not very powerful in his own right, he has to rely on the few vials of his uncle’s blood to stay alive and in one piece. Despite his nefarious heritage, Trigg is a member of DRAC – Demonic Resistance and Containment, a group of supernatural beings determined to stop the Armageddon. As the threat becomes more serious, Frank has to work with his angel cousin Scarlett and the vampire Katon, and he might just have to sell his soul twice in order to save the world. My entire devilish life had been built around the premise of getting screwed and not in a fun, porn star way. It was most often in the prison kind of way, getting sucker punched and waking up with a sore ass and with some big guy named Bubba sitting on the bunk smoking a cigarette and heating up a branding iron.
Here’s a very important thing you need to know about Frank: he’s a pig. He only cares about three things in life: preventing the Armageddon, sex and, well… sex! He makes sexual innuendos and horrible puns all the time. He even shamelessly lusts after his cousin Scarlett, who insists on distracting him from his very important tasks with her leather-clad ass. In the constant battle between Frank’s human side and his devilish instincts, his crotch usually overrides both. He was married to a succubus after all, knowing full well the consequences. In words of his cousin Scarlett, directed to him: "If we have to rely on what's inside your head that doesn't relate to porn, we're screwed."
I think Urban Fantasy (or dark UF or horror or whatever you want to call it) needs more male author – male protagonist combos. It was almost like I was reading another genre altogether. Everything was there: action, an amazing set of characters, incredible humor, but no emotional struggles whatsoever (unless you count the war between Frank’s brain and that other thing he thinks with). Trigg isn’t just a breath of fresh air, he is a damn hurricane, and he certainly swept me off my feet. It didn’t take long for him to become my favorite underdog ever, despite all his flaws. What can I say? I have a soft spot for jerks.
Even though I’m only now reviewing book 1, I’d already finished book 2 (and loved it!) and I just downloaded the free short story about Scarlett and got the third novel from Amazon. I do believe that I won’t rest until I read every single word about Frank Marquitz has written so far.
I definitely need to thank Bastard @Bastard Books for giving me a chance to win both Armageddon Bound and Resurrection. I’m officially hooked.
4.5 stars I’ve been having some troubles with paranormal YA lately, to the point where I started wondering if it was somehow my fault. After the umptee...more4.5 stars I’ve been having some troubles with paranormal YA lately, to the point where I started wondering if it was somehow my fault. After the umpteenth book I’d read and hated, I figured that I’m either becoming too old for YA, or that I read too much (which is a distinct possibility). Wander Dust helped me realize where the blame really lies. To all those other young adult paranormal novels, I can finally say: It’s not me, it’s you.
Wander Dust is not without problems or without clichés, but all things considered, it certainly stands out in a very, very good way. Time travel plus a prestigious school (think Hex Hall with time travelers instead of witches and shapeshifters) plus a smart heroine and a swoon-worthy hero, extremely good worldbuilding and a great set of secondary characters equal a noteworthy book by anyone’s standards.
As soon as it becomes clear that Seraphina Parrish is not just an ordinary girl, she is sent to the prestigious Washington Square Academy, a boarding school for exceptionally gifted teens such as herself. There she is told that she is a Wanderer, a person with the ability to travel through time, just as her late mother was. She is to be trained and properly educated about the many laws that time travelers need to abide to. She is also introduced to her two other team members, as each team is made of a Wanderer (such as Seraphina), Seer and Protector. Seers have the ability to see the life path of inanimate objects, where they’d been and who they belonged to, which allows Wanderers and the Protectors to use these objects to travel to a specific time and place. Sera’s Seer is a blonde 13-year old girl named Sam, and her Protector is the mysterious boy whose photo she received in the mail while she was still living with her father. His name is Max Bishop and he is, of course, absolutely gorgeous, kind, and well-read. He is also dating another Protector named Perpetua.
In the army of YA heroines I’ve been reading about in the last year or so, Seraphina Parrish is one of the best. She is strong, she is fierce, she has principles she adheres to at all costs, she isn’t prone to rash decisions or self-indulgent behavior, but she also has just enough flaws to make her realistic and identifiable. When it became clear that she’s a Wanderer, she took everything in stride and dealt with it as best as she could. I also liked that she refused any kind of relationship with Bishop because he already had a girlfriend, regardless of how much she was drawn to him or how mean and obnoxious his girlfriend seem to be.
Unlike Sera, Bishop has no flaws that make him more real. I didn’t see him just as Sera’s love interest, but a hero in his own right, and he certainly proved to be worthy of the title. (His only flaw that I can think of is that he ever allowed himself to be in any way associated with a girl named Perpetua.) The only thing I’m still puzzling over is the matter of his photo in Sera’s mail (received long before they met) that was never properly explained, but I’m kind of hoping the sequel will take care of that.
(On a side note, I need to have a serious conversation with my mailman about the stuff he keeps bringing me. Books are fine and all, but I never get pics of mysterious hot guys in my mailbox, which is a damn shame, if you ask me.)
Wander Dust is self-published, but quite frankly, I barely even noticed. The self-publishing industry just keeps throwing surprises at me. Sure, there were a few grammar mistakes (by ‘a few’, I mean five or so, not more), and a spelling error here and there, but nothing that would stop me from thoroughly enjoying the book. I for one am more than willing to forgive such things (in reasonable amounts) as long as the story is good enough to keep me interested from start to finish. This one was that and much more.
I didn’t even have to read the entire description of Miss World to know that it’s something I desperately want to read. All I needed to know was that...moreI didn’t even have to read the entire description of Miss World to know that it’s something I desperately want to read. All I needed to know was that it's somehow connected to Kurt Cobain and his death.
I started reading Randi Black’s debut as someone who still remembers what being a misunderstood teen feels like, but somewhere along the line I began reading it as a mother instead. Let me tell you, this book is every mother’s nightmare. It is a horrifying example of failure as a parent and as a human being. A 16-year-old girl who’s been told again and again that she’s ugly, clumsy and worthless by her very own parents doesn’t really stand a chance – she is bound to get caught up in self-destructive behavior, just as our heroine, Kim Ho, did.
It’s too much to expect of one such girl to build her own self-esteem. It simply doesn’t happen. But I still ask myself this: how desperate does a girl have to be to agree to date a much older guy she secretly finds disgusting? How low her opinion of herself has to be to allow him to do whatever he wants with her? How truly apathetic does she have to be to meet him even after discovering that he gave her Chlamydia? Kim Ho did it all, and she did it because she was, by her own admission, a dead girl.
But let’s start from the beginning: Kim Ho has very little to look forward to in her short and joyless life. Her parents are doing their best to destroy every last shred of her self-confidence, her abusive and much older boyfriend Kevin treats her with no respect and she has no friends to confide in. All Kim wants is someone to love her: a nice, respectful guy, preferably musician, to be Kurt to her Courtney. But of course she doesn’t think she deserves him.
The day Kurt decides to end it all is the day Kim’s suffering really starts. She tries to seek comfort with the person who should be able to understand, but she ends up humiliated, raped and photographed in a cheap motel room. Soon after, she conjures up an imaginary friend to help her cope.
How often do we use the words raw and uncompromising to describe a novel? I, for one, will think twice before using them again. Randi Black took raw realism to a whole new level. She held nothing back. Even though her prose seemed disconnected at times and despite several flaws I noticed on a purely technical level, her book needs to be out there and it needs to be read. Although Miss World tells the story of two young adults (and quite a few messed up adults), it is in no way a young adult book. If you have problems with swearing, extremely graphic sex scenes and abuse, maybe you should skip this debut. It’s not easy to stomach at all, but I dare say it’s worth it.
Just one more quick and shallow observation: I loved the little bombs that marked breaks in the chapters. They seemed somehow appropriate since this is a book that really blows up in your face.
Where were you when Kurt Cobain died? You can read all about how his suicide affected me, enter to win a signed copy of Miss World and an iPod Shuffle, all international, at The Nocturnal Library(less)
3.5 stars I don't like being the first person to review a book at all! But here it is: For a debut, self-published author, Zachary Rawlins is pretty dam...more3.5 stars I don't like being the first person to review a book at all! But here it is: For a debut, self-published author, Zachary Rawlins is pretty damn good. In fact, he’s better than a lot of experienced authors with big publishing houses behind their backs. With just a little more work and a good editor, this book could turn into pure gold.
Rawlins’s world is very complicated. Here’s my attempt at explaining some of it: The secret supernatural community known as the Central is divided into cartels, of which only two are important: the Hegemony and the Black Sun. In theory, students of the Academy aren’t allowed to declare for a cartel until they complete their second year (unless they were born into one - which is rare), but in reality, they often choose their way much sooner.
Most of the students come from normal families. The Central does secret screenings at public schools and singles out everyone with the ability to control the Ether. But the Talent itself isn’t enough, so upon their arrival at the Academy, they need to have nanites introduced into their system. The nanites allow them to use their abilities, but they also make them stronger, faster and very close to immortal. Not all students have the same power: there are empaths, telepaths, pyros, and just about everything else you can think of.
After the Academy, students become Operators in the cartel that chose them, depending on their ability, but the very best usually opt to become Auditors, who are supposed to be neutral and in charge of keeping the cartels in order.
So that's pretty much it. It's not an easy world to explain. However, worldbuilding isn’t what I loved most about The Academy, the characters are. I’ll mention just a few of them: • Alex Warner has just arrived at the Academy, but he is by far the most powerful of them all. All the cartels want him, but as soon as he picks one, the others will do their very best to kill him. • Mitsuru is a hundred years old, but she looks no more than nineteen – that is, until you notice her red eyes. She is a Black Protocol user and her mind had been reengineered as a logic processing engine, allowing her to become a field strategist, but making her more machine than human in the process. She has no emotional attachments. Probability fields and bloodbaths are all she cares about. • Alice Gallow is an Auditor and a Black Protocol user who forgets things every time she uses her powers. She is close to invincible, but she spends all her free time writing and reading hundreds and hundreds of diaries. She is also a bloodthirsty psychopath. • Anastasia Martynova is the scion of the Black Sun cartel. Introducing nanites into her organism stopped her growth completely. She looks no more than thirteen, wears a lot of black lace and never leaves her room without a parasol, which usually makes people underestimate her, but she is a power player, perhaps the most deadly one around.
I’ll be the first to admit that you need a certain amount of patience to read The Academy. For one, it is far too long: if printed, I'm sure it would have more than 500 pages, which means that there are quite a few unnecessary chapters you need to go through to get to the good ones, but since the good ones really are jaw-dropping, I think it’s well worth it. My other problem was with parts that reminded me to much of a well known movie trilogy. I’ll just give you a short example and let you draw your own conclusions: The rifle was firing at full auto, but the acceleration of Mitsuru’s protocol was such that she heard each individual shot, and she saw the flare of hot gas that punctuated each shell’s ignition. She fell forward, under the arc of bullets that plodded toward her, and then rolled, her perception so agonizingly acute she could see the wake of distorted air the bullets left behind.
In my opinion, The Academy is not a YA novel. The fact that most of it happens in a school can be quite misleading. It is very violent, far too complicated and it doesn’t follow any of the usual patterns.
You can buy The Academy ebook for $0.99 or $2.99 on Amazon, depending on your location. If you like violent, unpredictable, action-packed stories, you’ll probably enjoy it. The second book, The Anathema, will be available January, 2012. I can't wait to read it. In fact, I want it right now!!! Do you hear me, mysterious Zachary Rawlins? Write faster! (less)
The first review I wrote consisted almost entirely of incoherent gushing. This one is pretty much like that, but I did manage to include some useful i...moreThe first review I wrote consisted almost entirely of incoherent gushing. This one is pretty much like that, but I did manage to include some useful info. Don’t expect much, though. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way about a book.
As a dedicated reader, I don't think I've ever connected to a story quite this much. There are so many books that are close to my heart for some reason or other, but there was never one so achingly familiar and mine. And it wasn’t just one character that I felt close to, but parts of every character and every situation. I recognized some of myself in Julie’s dedication to her studies, in Celeste’s quirks, in Matt’s courage and hidden vulnerability, in Erin’s absentness and denial. It was nice to be able to read a story and really understand.
I’m making it sound like a sad book, aren’t I? Well, it’s not. This is a book you want to read when you're feeling a little nostalgic and disconnected from the world. It will pull you right out. Flat-Out Love is surprisingly witty. During the first 80%, I thought I could describe it as my favorite summer read. However, the last 20% showed me that it’s so much more than that. Every emotional reaction the story evoked was very strong: when I laughed, I laughed so loudly that I woke the neighbors; when I cried, I sobbed like I was facing the end of the world, and in the end, I melted into a huge puddle of goo.
After moving to Boston to start attending college, Julie found herself living with her mother’s former best friend Erin and her seemingly perfect family of intellectuals. She soon became emotionally attached to every member of the Watkins family, especially the oldest brother Finn, whom she never met in person, but communicated with regularly via email.
”Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo Tolstoy)
I think there are two types of dysfunctional families: the ones that yell and the ones that are quiet – the latter being so much harder to portray. Character development is what Jessica Park should really be proud of. Her characters came alive for me, they became living, breathing people with problems, quirks and a sense of humor. Who could resist Celeste, a scarily intelligent 13-year-old who won’t leave the house without Flat Finn, a cardboard cutout of her oldest brother? Or Matt, a math geek with horrible T-shirts and a sense of humor that’s right up my alley?
Flat-Out Love completely changed my mind about self published books.I hope all of you will read it soon so we can gush about it together. (less)