Recommended Reads: Death Wish by Angela Roquet

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As any other voracious reader, I have favorite series and authors. Angela Roquet is one of them, and her urban fantasy series Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. is one I consider an instant classic in its genre. Imagine a whole society populating the after life with its own angsts and day to day struggles. Add a few super villains along the way, an intrepid although unwilling heroine, a few angels and demons vying for her attention, and you got the idea. Death Wish  is the fifth installment, and there were so many things I loved about the story, but without spoiling it for everybody else, I’ll only say that all the characters have grown a lot. The atmosphere is getting darker and darker, and I love it. If you haven’t given this series a try yet, I would recommend that you get a copy of the first book, Graveyard Shift, which is free. You’ll be hooked in no time, I guarantee it!

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Recommended Reads: Death Wish by Angela Roquet

Julia Hughes

The Griffin Cryer web useToday, I have a special guest on my blog, author Julia Hughes. She just released a YA fantasy novel, The Griffin Cryer, which I recently read and highly recommend. One of the many five stars reviews this novel has already received says: Among the vast sea of titles labeled for young adult readers, The Griffin Cryer is a gem worth discovering. Julia Hughes’s novel is a fresh take on griffins’ folklore, and her fifteen years old heroine, redhead Frankie Shaunessy, is fierce and full of life. The story flawlessly intertwines the expected drama of a teenager in high school with the unexpected factor of parallel universes temporarily opening into ours. By calling her dog, Frankie accidentally summons a griffin and his Rider. What happens next is a ride full of action that will make you laugh and cry along the way. I couldn’t put the book down. For young adults and adults young at heart.”

Now, let’s read Julia’s answers to my eight questions.

When you were a kid you wanted to be…?

An Explorer! I wanted to find lost pyramids, discover the resting place of the Titanic, and be the first woman on the moon.

The first book you read was…?

I’m pretty certain my first ‘read alone’ was “One Rainy Night” written and illustrated by Pelagie Doane. It’s about a little girl who couldn’t resist the gentle patter of rain falling, and slipped out of her bedroom in her nightgown to explore the dark and rainy night.

 

You discovered you were quite good at writing when…?

My English teacher kept embarrassing me by reading out my work to the class. It wasn’t until recently that I had time to write a full blown novel, then I discovered just how much I still had to learn!

As a reader, your favorite genre is…?

In fiction: Thrillers – I’m also a proud beta reader for Stephen Spencer, an indie writer whose Paul Mallory Adventures are in my opinion amongst the best. Non fiction: I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything.”

No, really, what’s that title you’re hiding in your kindle…?

LOL my last kindle read was “Linda of the Night” an excellent fairy tale, and I’m not hiding anything!

 

You write…?

With more passion than expertise – There are three Celtic Cousins’ Adventures – “A Raucous Time“; “A Ripple in Time” (check out the beautiful artwork on this one’s cover!) and “An Explosive Time“. “The Bridle Path” is my romance, I was enormously pleased when someone commented it read like an old fashioned Mills & Boon but with an edge!

Finally, “The Griffin Cryer” is my latest title, written for the YA audience, but suitable for anyone who’s ever dreamed of riding on the back of a griffin.

The praise about your writing you like the most is…?

Any! Seriously, I cherish each and every positive review – from the one liners “enjoyed this book!” to the most amazing readers who really make a connection and want to express more fully what they took from the story.

What’s next…?

“The Griffin Cryer” is to be published as a paperback, and should be available at all good bookshops, as well as your favourite online stores round about the 20th March. To celebrate, a free promotional run of “The Griffin Cryer” in ebook format is planned for 26th – 30th March. I hope your readers will grab a copy for their kindles – there’s also a free contest to win a signed paperback copy of “The Griffin Cryer” and entry couldn’t be simpler. Anyone leaving a comment on this post at your site will be entered automatically, or your readers can enter by ‘liking’ and leaving a comment on the Griffin Riders’ facebook page. Tweeters can follow and retweet Griffin Riders on Twitter for extra entries. In addition to the first prize, there’s also runners’ up prizes up for grabs – including all three “Celtic Cousins’ Adventures” in ebook format, and some very special prizes donated by the griffins of Ella-Earth.

Julia’s website: Julia Hughes

Tweet to @Tinksaid

The Griffin Cryer” is free from 26th March – 30th March – why not download a sample on your kindle now so you’re ready to roll with Frankie and friends!

Julia Hughes

Evernight

I don’t remember how I came across Claudia Gray’s Evernight, but I knew it was about vampires, so it was enough for me to give it a try. I liked it, and I want to write a review about it, but I am at a serious impasse. I am not against throwing spoiler alerts left and right, but in this case I feel somehow…hesitant. Anyway, here it goes: SPOILER ALERT around the corner.

Bianca Olivier has been enrolled at Evernight, a boarding school for the rich and the spoiled. She doesn’t have much of a choice in terms of liking it or not, since her parents teach at the school and are adamant about her studying there. Things get better when Bianca meets Lucas Ross who has decided to protect her from the evilness lurking in the shadows of the school.

The love story follows the usual patterns of teen angst with a light side of supernatural elements, when at page 139 Bianca shows her true colors. She is the vampire. Not only that, she is a born vampire. Everybody who is a serious vampire fan knows that vampires are made, not born. Which in turns should elicit the old time question about who made the first vampire…something like the egg and the chicken conundrum. But I digress.

I liked how Claudia Gray played with words from the beginning of the story letting the readers know that Bianca is special, and that her parents consider her as their little miracle come through. I thought that it was rather clever to describe Bianca’s world from her point of view, without letting out her nature. The author treated her character being a vampire the same way as ethnicity, or skin color. It stands to reason to think that if the protagonist is from India, for example, he or she will refer to food as simply food, not Indian food. Therefore Bianca doesn’t say exactly what she eats, food is food for her, even when her meal is a warm cup of blood.

Bianca bites Lucas, not once but twice. The second time with his permission. The second bite leaves Lucas with heightened senses, and Bianca seeks adults’ advice on what is happening to him. And that is when it turns out that Lucas is not who he seems, as well. He is part of Black Cross, a league of vampire hunters. Once discovered, Lucas runs away and Bianca follows him, only to be separated again when her parents and several vampires come to rescue her from the Black Cross’ crutches.

In a nutshell, Bianca and Lucas’ love story is the young adult vampire version of Romeo and Juliet, minus the ending, otherwise there wouldn’t be other three books after the first one. And let’s face it, nobody really likes it when young characters die in the name of love. 

Evernight

Vampire Academy

Another gift from the Vampire Book Club : Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. As I wrote before, I am an urban fantasy’s fan, and I have a penchant for vampires. After having read few novels that were forgotten as soon as I put them down, I gave Vampire Academy a try simply because the author lives in Seattle. And I am glad I did it. Spoiler Alert after the break.

Vampire Academy is the first in the homonymous series.  Rose and Lissa are the best of friends, they are inseparable. They live one for the other. Literally. Lissa is Vasilisa Dragomir, a Moroi, vampire royalty who can use magic. Rose is Rosemarie Hathaway, a dhampir, a hybrid, half human half vampire, whose purpose in life is to be eventually Lissa’ s guardian. This is the way of life for Moroi and dhampirs, but the two girls have a special bond. Rose can enter in Lissa’ s mind and feel and see anything she feels and sees. After having successfully lived for two years in the human world, hiding from a mysterious entity who threats Lissa’s life, they are tracked down and brought back to ST. Vladimir’s Academy by Dimitri Belikow, a Russian dhampir guard sent by the school. Once back at the Academy, the two girls  have to deal with teenager’s drama, and life and death problems. While Lissa is sent back to her classes, Rose has to put up with special training under Dimitri’s supervision. Soon Rose discovers that the reason why Lissa is becoming moody and unstable is because she uses the healing power which is almost unheard of among vampires. With the help of Dimitri, Rose manages to save Lissa from her ill uncle, who wants to use his niece to heal and reign as the new vampire king.

Vampire Academy is a fast read, it is well written, and most importantly its world is regulated by specific rules that limits the characters in their interaction. The Moroi are vampires who need dhampirs to defend themselves against the Strigoi. While the Moroi are vampires who feed from humans, but don’t kill them, the Strigoi are vampires who have killed humans. The Moroi are alive and use magical powers; the Strigoi are dead and have lost their connection with earth’s magic. Dhampirs are stronger than Moroi, but can’t procreate without their help. The two races need to stay united against the dead vampires. Rose and Lissa live in a heavily structured society and they break rules at every turn. Rose allows Lissa to feed from her, and falls in love with Dimitri, seven years older than her and dhampir. Lissa uses compulsion on other Moroi to do her bidding, and help cleaning Rose’s reputation.

As I wrote in another occasion, it is a pleasure when a literary universe is so well crafted that is believable. When Rose lets Lissa feed from her, the reader’s sentiments are a mix of disgust and fascination. When she gradually falls in love with Dimitri, it is evident that their union is doomed by society. Dhampirs as a species need Moroi to survive, and a damphir love story is taboo. Equally fascinating are the byproducts of such society. Rose is called a blood-whore, a dhampir woman who allows vampires to feed from her during sex. Young Moroi males find dhampir girls exotic and desirable compared to the thin and ethereal vampire girls, but never marry them. It’s interesting that the aspect of feeding is treated as something necessary, but somehow demeaning. Therefore humans exist at the fringe of the vampires’ world. Although treated gently, humans are no more than blood containers.

Vampire Academy is a good example that it is possible to infuse new energy in a genre that is not original anymore. Even in the overcrowded young adults paranormal romance category.  

Vampire Academy

The Iron King

Following a bread crumb trail that started reading the Vampire Book Club’s blog I found The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa. Rocambolesque, (as in fantastic, incredible, and fabulous) is the adjective that comes to my mind to describe The Iron King. First in the Iron Fey series, this novel is a joyous ride between the human world and Faeryland.  The protagonist, Meghan Chase, is a regular teenager who has been living at the fringe of society, misunderstood at home, ridiculed at school, with only one friend to keep her company. Meghan is resigned to her fate, when she discovers that Robbie, her only friend, is Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck, and that she is not in fact a human teenager at all. When Ethan, Meghan’s four year old brother, is kidnapped and exchanged with a changeling, she leaves everything behind to save him. In her quest to find Ethan, Meghan meets her real father Oberon, king of the Summer Court, and falls in love with Ash, a young prince who happened to be the Winter Court queen Mab‘s son. I will not try to summarize the plot, because it would be like writing the synopsis for the second Transformer’s movie, but in a good way. Suffice to say that the Summer Court  and the Winter Court are not in the best of terms, and that Meghan and Ash are not supposed to fraternize. The plot thickens when a third contender for the supremacy of Faeryland appears. The Iron King, whose realm made of metal threatens to suffocate Faeryland, wants Meghan more than anybody else.  Ash promises Meghan to help her find and free Ethan from the Iron King’s clutches, if in return she willingly follows him to the Winter Court. Finding Ethan takes some time.

I particularly liked Ash, he is a fascinating character and he is dark and moody without becoming annoying. Meghan is a strong heroine with a pure heart. The secondary characters are equally entertaining. Puck is the perfect bodyguard, loyal and funny, and probably also in love with Meghan. Grimalkin, a cait sith, is the unexpected sidekick who comes back to fix problems when he is needed the most. I will definitely read the following chapter in the story, The Iron Daughter, because I want to know what happens between Meghan and Ash. I also enjoyed the way the author played around with the characters from Shakespeare’s plays and Celtic mythology, creating a modern fairytale.

Having finished the first book, I only have one request/hope: Mrs. Kagawa, please bring back Beau, the German shepherd, if you haven’t already. I went through the whole novel waiting for the dog to make an apparition, even ghost-like would have been fine, but it didn’t happen. Keeping my fingers crossed for the time being.

The Iron King

Beautiful Darkness

Veni, Vidi, Read it. As promised last week, here is my review for Beautiful Creatures’ next chapter, Beautiful Darkness by the talented duo, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The southern city of Gatlin is still hot and sleepy, but nothing is what it seems on the surface. Ethan and Lena are going through a rough patch after uncle Macom’s death. Ethan is completely unaware that Lena used the Book of Moons to bring him back from the dead and in the process Macom lost his life. Lena gradually slips into a morose state, and shuts Ethan off. While he still has vivid dreams, and visions, he can’t communicate with Lena anymore since she has stopped using Kelting, the mental communication they share against all odds. While Ethan gets separated from Lena, he gets closer to Macom through his visions, and he discovers, much to his surprise, that Lena’s uncle had been desperately in love with his mother, and that she loved him back. Despite Ethan has tried everything in his power to win back Lena, she has already decided that she is going Dark and starts hanging around with her Siren cousin Ridley, and a new guy, John Breed. John is an incubus with green eyes, a singular anomaly since  being a Dark creature his eyes should be gold, and he also has the ability of walking in plain daylight when he should be night bound. With Lena disappearing, Ethan is left to mend his broken heart with the help of the loyal Amma, and the ever present and equally loyal Link, who hasn’t gotten over Ridley. Joining the helpers’ rank is also Liv, a British teenager come to assist Mariam, Gatlin’s own Librarian for both Caster and human world. A multitude of minor characters spanning from Lucille, a siamese cat, to old aunts, and last but not least his mother’s presence, and Macom’s visions, all help Ethan along the road. As in the precedent post I’ll proceed now to reveal few key elements in the plot. So a SPOILER ALERT is on effect after the period. In this second novel Ethan gets intimately acquainted with Gatlin’ secret underground Caster tunnels while following Lena. The Caster tunnels defy every mundane rule about time and space and allow to travel miles in the span of mere minutes. Lena has left both Ethan and her family and accompanied by John and Ridley she uses the tunnels  searching for the Great Barrier, a mythical Caster utopia where she will be free to be whoever she chooses to be without having to pay the consequences. Ethan sees through vivid out of body experiences how Lena and John are getting closer, how they are planning to escape from everybody and everything to create a life for themselves. The realization that Lena doesn’t want him in her life anymore drives Ethan to consider Liv, who although is training under Mariam to become a Keeper, a neutral figure standing between worlds, is less complicated than Lena. Meanwhile Sarafine, Lena’s Dark Caster mother, helped by the most powerful Blood Incubus who ever lived, Abraham Ravenwood, summons Lena’s seventeenth Moon earlier to bind her to the Dark side once and for all.  Ethan embraces his role of Wayward, the one who knows the way, and overcome obstacle after obstacle to bring back the Lena he still loves. At the end Lena claim herself as neither good or evil, Dark or Light. She emerges from her ordeal with one green eye and one gold eye. She is Light and Dark at the same time. Lena, helped by Ethan, has defied the odds again, but another Moon is waiting for her around the corner. What I liked the most about this southern dark gothic is the absolute purity of the love story between two teenagers who are asked to decide about life and death, good and evil. Ethan and Lena are romantically involved without having the freedom of simply loving each other. The simple act of kissing gives Ethan a heart attack, anything else is going to kill him; and in fact it is exactly such an episode that pushes Lena over the edge convincing her that Ethan is better without her.  I particularly enjoyed the growth in the secondary characters as well. Ridley is a complex figure who goes from being a Dark Siren, who can force everybody to do her bids by simply licking on a lollipop, to be a mortal stripped by all her power. Link shows some backbone and fights Ridley back. Liv accepts to get involved in the fight between Dark and Light, humans and Casters, even if she knows that it is going to cost her chance to be a Keeper. Ethan’s mom, Lila, and Macom, tell their haunted love story through visions and apparitions, and although I already knew how it ended, I still hoped for something more between them. Amma and her ancestors also have a huge role in Beautiful Darkness, and she comes out lovely and scary at the same time. Ethan’s dad is finally recovering from a mourning that almost killed him. The city of Gatlin, with its bigot citizens, sweet teas sipped under porches, and southern cuisine and folklore, is the final character that ties everybody else together, and I ended loving it despite all its flaws. I am now left waiting for Lena’s eighteenth birthday. Who knows what it will happen?

Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Creatures

Lately I have been blessed with a never ending list of pleasant discoveries in the literature field. While reading Cassandra Clare’s blog  I stomped across Beautiful Creatures, debut novel for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. When I read the back cover the adjectives that jumped out were southern gothic and dark fantasy. I admit that they had me at that. I have come to truly appreciate southern settings spiced up with some dark element by the side. I was also intrigued from the start by the cooperation of two authors. Writing is such a personal endeavor that it always surprises me when I found successful examples  of co-authoring. It must be wonderful to find another person so attuned to one’s style and genre to make it possible to commit to a four hands project. Beautiful Creatures is a sparkling example that such literary unicorns exist. I was drawn inside the story from the beginning, when Ethan Wate, a sixteen year old high school student, explains his love for reading as a means to escape a stagnant reality. Ethan lives in a sleepy and seemingly uninteresting city, Gatlin, in South Carolina, where, according to his father, only the stupid and the stuck remains. Ethan is neither one. After his mother sudden death, and his father progressive detachment from reality, he feels that there is nothing left in Gatlin for him. He feels different from the rest of his classmates, who will go on in their lives happily reenacting, year after year, battlefields from the Civil war known in Gatlin as the War of Northern Aggression. Ethan, who marks in a map on the wall all the places he wants to go according to the book he is reading at the moment, is different and he has to hide it. If it weren’t for Amma, a Seer who is the closest thing to a mother for him, and Link, his loyal friend, Ethan would be completely alone. Everything changes when he meets Lena Duchannes, the new girl in town, who not only is the niece of Macom Ravenwood, the local scary pariah, but she is also the girl of his dreams. Literally.  Ethan has been having vivid nightmares about failed attempted rescues of Lena. And he can hear her in his mind. Soon enough Ethan must come to terms that Lena is no regular girl. Lena comes from a line of ancient Casters, beings with powers beyond human understanding. She will be claimed on her sixteenth birthday, and either go Light or Dark. There are no shades of gray in the Caster world; Lena will become either good, like her aunt Del, or evil , like her cousin Ridley, without having the right to decide her fate. Ethan and Lena, united by being different from the other teenagers in Gatlin, start falling in love while trying to understand how their connection goes deeper than simple attraction. Sharing visions they find that two of their ancestors, Ethan Carter Wate, a deserter whose name has been erased from the family tree, and Genevieve Duchannes, a young Caster woman ready to do the unthinkable to save the man she loves, have changed the future of their families with their actions. Ethan is prepared to fight an impossible battle to give Lena the right to decide who she wants to become. But an important figure from Lena’s past, her own mother, the Dark Caster Sarafine, tries to stop Ethan’s plan to rescue her. And that is when the plot thickens and I am going to announce a SPOILER ALLERT. Continue reading at your own risk and peril. The final part of Beautiful Creatures is what separated this exceptional novel from the merely good ones. It would have been just great if Ethan and Lena had to struggle to find a balance in their complicated love story. Their characters are strong enough to withstand plot platitude. The fact that a human and a Caster can’t have a physical relationship, Ethan almost dies of heart attack when kissing Lena, is harsh enough to keep the story going. But the authors come out with an interesting surprise at the very end. Lena, who is a Natural, being the daughter of another Natural who went Dark, can claim herself on her sixteenth birthday. She is the first Duchannes who has the power to decide who she wants to be. There is a catch though, of course. If she goes Light, all the Dark side of her family will die, including her beloved uncle Macom and her cousin Ridley. If she goes Dark, all the Light side of her family will die, including her grandmother, uncle, aunt, and cousins. To make things even more complicated Sarafine kills Ethan, forcing Lena to use the Book of Moons, which contains powerful and dangerous Dark Magic, to bring him back to life. The price Lena unknowingly pays for using the Book of Moons is to exchange one life for another. Ethan is alive, but Macom lies in his stead. Lena hasn’t claimed herself after all. Will Ethan’s and Lena’s love for each other be strong enough to overcome such tragedy? Off to go reading Beautiful Darkness to have the answer to this burning question. See you later.

Beautiful Creatures