I Know You Know is a short but sweet thriller that pits a fortune-teller against a serial killer. Janice knows that something is wrong the moment Edga...moreI Know You Know is a short but sweet thriller that pits a fortune-teller against a serial killer. Janice knows that something is wrong the moment Edgar Kipp comes through her door, and the reading she does for him only confirms it. The rest of the story explores Kipp's violent past and distasteful present, interleaved with Janice's attempts to get someone to believe her -- someone besides the voice of her departed grandmother (or is it her subconscious?).
The story was once an online serial, which helped a lot while I was reading it. I often had long breaks between times I could read, and its origins as a serial helped me to stay oriented.
Like a runaway train, the story barrels down the rails to its inevitable conclusion. Does Janice survive? You'll have to read it to find out!(less)
When I think "urban fantasy," I often think of dark stories, aimed at adult women, with a few spicy love scenes. But "Heroes and Vallenez" is more gri...moreWhen I think "urban fantasy," I often think of dark stories, aimed at adult women, with a few spicy love scenes. But "Heroes and Vallenez" is more gritty (and sometimes funny) than dark, and it's one for the boys that most parents will approve of.
Angela Kulig uses this offbeat tale to introduce us to the world of Barneby Knotts, a 16-year old superhero. But this story isn't about Barneby, although he makes an appearance toward the end. It's about Barneby's best friend, Vic Vallenez. The only child of a blind mom and a deadbeat dad, Vic supports his family by learning dirty little secrets for his clients. (And selling them on to anyone else who pays him enough, which often lands him in hot water.)
There are three people in the world that Vic won't sell out: his mom, Barneby, and the girl he loves. Unfortunately, Emily is in love with Richard Roca, a hero belonging to particularly obnoxious order of do-gooders. So when Emily is kidnapped, Roca enlists Vic to help find her, despite their mutual loathing. Vic would love nothing more to see Roca fail miserably, or better yet die horribly, but when Emily's involved all that goes by the wayside. So he, Richard, and Richard's sister Stella (a bratty girl Vic's age) go on a quest that quickly takes a turn for the weird.
I had trouble visualizing Vic as 16—I thought he might be early-20s at first—but I suppose when you're in Vic's line of work, you grow up fast. The animosity between Vic and Richard seems mostly one-sided, but the guy who gets the girl can afford to be magnanimous, right? Really, they dislike each other for different reasons, and with different intensity. The Vic-Stella animosity is more equal (and I'm looking forward to those two causing much hilarity in future stories).
In the end, Vic learns secrets about himself that he's managed to keep from himself all his life… and that takes us to the next story.(less)
Lydia and Jeremiah go on rumspringa, a sort-of rite of passage in which Amish teenagers spend some time among the "English" so they can make an inform...moreLydia and Jeremiah go on rumspringa, a sort-of rite of passage in which Amish teenagers spend some time among the "English" so they can make an informed decision about how they want to spend the rest of their lives.
Then it gets weird. Deliciously weird.
It's fifty years in the future, the English world all but tore itself apart in energy wars, and the Green Republic walled in the Amish enclave of Hemlock Hollow and forgot about them. They have a few friends on the outside, including some former Amish who decided they preferred the English world, and that's where Lydia and Jeremiah go first.
Then it gets even weirder and even more delicious. Lydia finds she has a power within, one the Green Republic will gladly kill for. Thrown into a world of oppression and revolution, and entangled in a love triangle, Lydia wants to stay true to what she knows is right while finding her way home. But in this strange world, what is right?
I had to give this high marks for characters you can care about, the surprising twists and turns, and a pretty reasonable portrayal of the energy shortages that are sure to come.(less)
On Skeleton Lake, couples aren't soulmates—they're two halves of one soul. But what happens when the other half of your own soul… just isn't enough?
In...moreOn Skeleton Lake, couples aren't soulmates—they're two halves of one soul. But what happens when the other half of your own soul… just isn't enough?
In this somber prequel to Skeleton Lake, Cassie feels trapped in a relationship that was pre-ordained by the Lake itself. It's not that she doesn't love Raiden, the other half of her soul… she also loves his brother, the Hollow Conrad. Torn apart by forbidden love, her only confidants an angel of death and an invisible boy, it can't end well for Cassie.
The depiction of a doomed love triangle is masterful, and an excellent caution to anyone who thinks she (or he) can have it all.(less)
I'm glad to say I had the opportunity to beta-read Jumping at Shadows last year. It was a fun read then, and it has only improved since. It made me th...moreI'm glad to say I had the opportunity to beta-read Jumping at Shadows last year. It was a fun read then, and it has only improved since. It made me think of a Hallmark Special, and I could almost hear the accents of the English girls as I read, except that Hallmark Specials don't often feature parallel worlds and magic. And there's some real grit in this story, don't let my comparison make you think it's all happy-sappy.
Belle and Rosy are charming girls, on the edge of adolescence, not yet interested in boys. Until they stumble across the missing pieces to Belle's family heirloom, their main concern in life is dodging the mean girl, Shelly. Their independence, I think, is what really makes them stand out. When they discover a way to travel to the world where Belle's shadows come from, they don't bother telling their parents — they seize the opportunity and run with it.
When the story really got rolling, I kept thinking about Clarke's Law — "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" — because I was never quite sure which it was. For example, a "wishing stone" would provide you the item you desired, but by taking it from somewhere (or someone) else. Maybe that's where the dryer socks go? It had reciprocal properties, allowing you to wish something gone, and that's an important part of the story. If it was truly magic, it was a rigidly logical kind of magic, one that makes a lot more sense than most magic "systems" in fiction. The ambiguity works in the story's favor, at least for me. One could argue that Jumping at Shadows is fantasy or soft sci-fi, and I think it works for fans of either genre.
The character development in this was so good, I never really gave much thought to a young girl bearding the power-mad wizard in his own den. The assets that Belle gathers along the way were truly made for her, and she has no problem using them to help her friends.
The author categorized it as a "children's book," but it's a good one for all ages. Check it out!(less)
A vampire-hunting cop with a painful past teams up with a hunter with a past of his own, and find they make a great team.
This is vintage Reine, lots o...moreA vampire-hunting cop with a painful past teams up with a hunter with a past of his own, and find they make a great team.
This is vintage Reine, lots of gore and a high body count — and the heroine isn't spared anything, either. The plot and pacing are well-tuned for a story of this size. If you like messy fight scenes with lots of gore, you're gonna like this.(less)
There's this old abandoned farm in the middle of endless suburbia, of *course* it's haunted! Josh humors his best friend Zach, who wants to get pictur...moreThere's this old abandoned farm in the middle of endless suburbia, of *course* it's haunted! Josh humors his best friend Zach, who wants to get pictures, and finds more than he bargained for. When Mr. Baxter, their history teacher, finds out what they're up to, he surprises them with support and even better cameras. When Whisper, a new girl, transfers into their school, she and Josh hit it off immediately and find they have more in common than teen hormones! They learn they're Ghost Betweens, people with an affinity for ghosts, who always work in pairs. Mr. Baxter has to teach them what they need to know quickly, because the farm has its secrets... and its up to Josh and Whisper to save Zach and Kendra.
One thing that made this book stands out from a lot of other YA titles was that when the guy says or does that monumentally stupid thing that puts a big dent in the relationship, I didn't see it coming until it was already there. In others I've read, I saw it coming and actually stopped reading for a while because I didn't want to look. (Of course I did, eventually.) Thumbs up for that one!
The only drawback (for me) in this story was the high school itself. It seemed a little too easy-going, no cliques or bullies to navigate around or through. Not realistic in my experience. On the other hand, that's part of what makes it a good step up from the Goosebumps stories, the focus is on the supernatural horror instead of the real stuff. :-)
I think this book hits the sweet spot for readers age 13-16, and maybe a little older.(less)
In some ways, Long Night Moon is not as graphically brutal as its predecessor All Hallows' Moon, but it's still very intense. The story twists and tur...moreIn some ways, Long Night Moon is not as graphically brutal as its predecessor All Hallows' Moon, but it's still very intense. The story twists and turns like a classic whodunit as Rylie and her werewolf-hunting boyfriend Seth (and his mean big brother Abel) try to find who's killing people in their little town. The ending sets things up for the next (and IIRC, final) book in the series.(less)
To me, the book seemed to get off to a bumpy start — the beginning felt a little rushed or abrupt. But past the first chapter or two, it took off. Eac...moreTo me, the book seemed to get off to a bumpy start — the beginning felt a little rushed or abrupt. But past the first chapter or two, it took off. Each book in this series focuses on a different person: Jacob in The Soulkeepers, Malini in Weaving Destiny, and now the rebellious Watcher Abigail Silva and the angel who loves her.
As with The Soulkeepers, I had to stop reading at times because the peril was just too much (especially when the characters were about to make a really bone-headed move). I didn't get that from Weaving Destiny.
This book does a fine job of gathering the loose threads from Weaving Destiny (pun not intended, but I like it too much to delete) and pulling everything together. Mara and Henry (aka Death), Dane, all get resolved. So much is going on, in fact, that Jacob and Malini end up taking a back seat. Malini still plays a pivotal role, but in this story Jacob is just a Horseman who gets more ink than the others. That was a little disappointing.
Still, this was an altogether satisfying conclusion that yet leaves open the possibility for an encore.(less)
Defying Gravity is a YA, soft-SF novella. Or maybe it's a romance in an SF wrapper. I can't say too much more about the story than the synopsis does,...moreDefying Gravity is a YA, soft-SF novella. Or maybe it's a romance in an SF wrapper. I can't say too much more about the story than the synopsis does, without giving away too many details. ;-) The story is extremely character-driven, which I mostly like, but I'd have also liked a few more details here and there.
But no matter. The story itself was a fun (if brief) read, and there were a couple of places where I laughed out loud. The initial chapters do a very good job of introducing the two main characters, their motivations and background — so when the two are thrown together, the story flows pretty naturally. The author did a good job of avoiding the "oh come ON" moments that can infest soft-SF, and there were only one or two handwaves.
If hard sci-fi is your thing, you'll want to pass on this one. Most other people should enjoy it though.(less)
While you could find most of the material in this book on Maria's blog or others, it's well worth the 99¢ to have it collected for offline reading.
You...moreWhile you could find most of the material in this book on Maria's blog or others, it's well worth the 99¢ to have it collected for offline reading.
You could look at this collection as a book on writing craft, at least as it applies to one particular mid-list urban fantasy author. There's precious little info about the mechanics of writing, which is fine because there's an overwhelming amount of that out there. What sets this apart, in a good way, is that it covers the process of how Maria turns an idea into a story. Her examples of "personal canon" are easily worth 50 pages of dry discussion from some craft book.
Overall, I was pleased with Maria's first toe-dipping into the indie water.(less)
This was a fun, short read about circus freaks (some of whom are supernatural beings) and the evil spirit who comes to bedevil them. The 1920s setting...moreThis was a fun, short read about circus freaks (some of whom are supernatural beings) and the evil spirit who comes to bedevil them. The 1920s setting made this work, in my opinion. Ravi was fun, broken English and all.
Perhaps its only flaw was the lack of mystery — it's very clear very quickly, who the bad guy (gal) is — and there's no real explanation of why she has chosen to screw with them. The plot lies in finding out what she really is and how to get rid of her. The ending wraps up a little too quickly for my taste; there could have been more drama to really end with a bang and get that 5th star. ;-)(less)
A blind, psychic, teenage protag -- sounds like something you'd see on prime-time TV, no? Nope, it's a book. Much better!
The author captured well the...moreA blind, psychic, teenage protag -- sounds like something you'd see on prime-time TV, no? Nope, it's a book. Much better!
The author captured well the high school dynamic: the moronic bully, the longing to be somewhere else, the stupid decisions, the parental "interference." :-) I had to stop reading at a couple points, identifying a little too closely with Alex.
I'm a little ambivalent about the ending--it just seemed contrived to set up a sequel. I'd have given the book 3-1/2 stars if fractions were allowed. I rounded up because the relationships were handled well.