Todd’s Review of Deck Z: The Titanic by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon

Every now and again, Kim hands me her Nook and asks me to scroll through a list of books that are highlighted, usually for a sale or a particular event or 51hhDGkGAEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_season. One time I was flipping through a list of science fiction titles and one book in particular stood out. A creepy and undead hand was reaching up towards a picture of the Titanic steaming along the ocean. Intrigued, I began to read the synopsis. Two minutes later, I purchased Deck Z:The Titanic by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon.

It is 1912, and the White Star Line is preparing to flex its muscle as one of the most powerful British shipping companies in the world with the debut of its flagship, the Titanic. Meanwhile, in a remote village in Manchuria, a mysterious sickness is spreading. Characterized by a black, oily substance that exits the mouths and noses of those infected; the patients often beg for death before descending into a subhuman state. Theodore Weiss, a German scientist, is sent by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself to investigate. What he finds is purely terrifying, and he is able to capture one of the infected and retrieve a vial of what he notes is “the Toxic” from which this infection spreads. Meanwhile, he discovers that he is not the only one who is interested in this mysterious disease, and he runs for his life as he is pursued in order to gain access to “the Toxic.” Weiss finds safety on the Titanic just as it weighs anchor and leaves port. None of the thousands of passengers aboard have the slightest idea of the grave danger they face on a ship which they believe to be unsinkable. What follows next is a tale of terror and action that doesn’t stop until the very end.

Being such a fan of science fiction and zombies, I knew that I was going to find this book entertaining. What I was curious about was the level of detail the book would provide about the zombies. If it was just going to be a gory zombie-fest with the undead chasing Titanic passengers around their cabins, I was going to be a little disappointed. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I read the opening chapters. In fact, there is a good amount of time before any action happens aboard the Titanic at all. Pauls and Solomon do a great job at setting the stage and describing “the sickness” in vivid detail. I felt as if I was with Weiss, investigating the illnesses in remote villages and his own lab, with little-to-no idea of the gravity in which he was placing himself.

After things get going on the Titanic itself, the action only picks up more, chapter by chapter. Weiss is a likable character, and I found myself rooting for him throughout the story. Pauls and Solomon also add a touch of softness with a side story line involving a young girl, which helps to round out all the horror and action that is going on otherwise. Overall, although things do get a bit predictable at points (there are only so many ways to describe a zombie, I suppose), the authors did an admirable job keeping me entertained and cheering for Weiss to the end. This is well worth a pickup for a quick read that will leave you turning the pages (or in my case, tapping the screen) until you discover what really happened on the Titanic that day.

4 out of 5 stars

Deck Z by Chris Pauls & Matt Solomon
Chronicle Books (2012)
eBook: 218 pages
ISBN: 9781452108032

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Jen’s Review of The Storycatcher by Ann Hite

tsahI’m not entirely sure how to review this book without sounding overly cliché. So, let’s start with the fact that I read mainly British or French historical fiction. This book, The Storycatcher by Ann Hite, is neither of those. But after reading some reviews on Goodreads which stated, “I usually don’t read this kind of book, but it was awesome,” I decided to give it a try. I’m very glad I did.

The synopsis really doesn’t do the book justice. It’s far more complex than it leads you to believe. There are many characters and what seems like many plots, however, they come together in a huge spider web (make sure you read the names on each chapter as the POV changes with each one. I did not find it hard to follow, but I can see how one might be confused.)

From Goodreads:

Shelly Parker never much liked Faith Dobbins, the uppity way that girl bossed her around. But they had more in common than she knew. Shelly tried to ignore the haints that warned her Faith’s tyrannical father, Pastor Dobbins, was a devil in disguise. But when Faith started acting strange, Shelly couldn’t avoid the past; not anymore.

Critically acclaimed, award-winning author Ann Hite beckons readers back to the Depression-era South, from the saltwater marshes of Georgia’s coast to the whispering winds of North Carolina’s mystical Black Mountain, in a mesmerizing gothic tale about the dark family secrets that come back to haunt us.

If a book is listed in the “supernatural” category I tend to stay away. I mean, I never finished one of The Babysitter’s Club books because: ghosts. But the “haints,” as they’re called in The Storycatcher are more like messengers than ghosts. The only thing the people on the mountain really had to fear was one who was still alive. The story of these haints had to be told, no matter the cost. Only the truth can allow these haints to rest.

Sins of the past and present collide in this intrinsically woven novel that really is … a page-turner. Suspenseful, interesting, amazing characters and “AHA!” moments make this a very epic read.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Storycatcher by Ann Hite
Gallery Books (2013)
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN: 9781451692273

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Series Spotlight: The Westfield Wolves Series/Regency Vampyre Trilogy by Lydia Dare

This past summer, as I was stalking the Nook sales site, I found several books by Lydia Dare that intrigued me. While I don’t read as many paranormal books as I used to (I’m not sure why), I still like throwing one or two into my reading pile every few months to help me mix things up. The “one or two books” I threw into the mix this year turned into seven, with another two being thrown into my to-read pile. The seven books I read turned out to be two series by Lydia Dare (actually two authors – Tammy Falkner and Ava Stone) that intersect each other. The first four books are part of The Westfield Wolves series, the next three are the Regency Vampyre Trilogy, followed by two more Westfield Wolves books (another wolf book is slated for 2014 release and will be the tenth in this dual series.)

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So why am I telling you to read these books? It’s because of the kick-ass, take no prisoner heroines. You see, all the male characters are strong, powerful, domineering men. They’re werewolves and vampires, so their domineering natures are to be expected. However the women that enter their lives are no simpering misses. These women stand up to their domineering partners, challenging them and effectively wrapping these men around their little fingers. There is nothing they won’t do for their women, especially fall in love, which is something they’ve all sworn never to do due to their wild natures. Yet these fearless women show them how much better life is with someone by their side; they are an equal partner with whom they can share the ups and downs, the good and the bad.

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The books that really stand out in this series are Tall, Dark, and Wolfish and It Happened One Bite. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish follows Benjamin, a werewolf who has suddenly stopped changing during the full moon, and Elspeth, a healer who is part of a coven of witches in Scotland. Ben travels to Scotland in search of a famed healer (Elspeth’s late mother) to help him with his “ailment”.  As Elspeth is the only remaining healer, he finds himself in her company often as she tries to figure out how to get him to turn back into a wolf.  The two have such sharp and witty dialogue that I couldn’t help but fall in love with their story and subsequent relationship.

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In It Happened One Bite, Elspeth’s coven sister Blaire travels to a castle in Scotland that she never knew belonged to her family.  While exploring the castle she finds a man, James Kettering, locked in her cellar.  It turns out that her mother and the four other witches of their coven locked him in the cellar 20 years earlier for reasons unknown to James, Blaire, or the current coven. What I liked about this one was the change in Blaire’s character over the course of the novel.  She’s the battle witch of the coven – she can shoot fireballs, is excellent with a bow and arrow, etc. Her personality is already a bit more hardened and tomboyish to begin with, but to watch her fall in love was great. And James – he’s never threatened by her tough exterior. In fact, he loves her sarcasm and dry wit. He knows deep down inside she’s capable of great warmth, kindness, and loyalty. Their story definitely hooked me and made me extremely excited to continue the series.

I hope that I’ve given you enough reasons to read these series, as they aren’t ones to miss. And for those of you nervous to read something that is a collaboration of two authors, let me assure you that their writing is so flawless and seamless that you truly cannot tell that it was written by more than one author.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. A Certain Wolfish Charm (Westfield Wolves #1) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Tall, Dark, and Wolfish (Westfield Wolves #2) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  3. The Wolf Next Door (Westfield Wolves #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  4. The Taming of the Wolf (Westfield Wolves #4) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  5. It Happened One Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #1) – 5 out of 5 Stars
  6. In The Heat of The Bite (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #2) – 4 out of 5 Stars
  7. Never Been Bit (Regency Vampyre Trilogy #3) – 3 out of 5 Stars
  8. The Wolf Who Loved Me (Westfield Wolves #5) – On my to-read list
  9. Wolfishly Yours (Westfield Wolves #6) – On my to-read list

Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Shadow’s Curse (Imnada Brotherhood #2) by Alexa Egan

scaeFan of paranormal romance? This giveaway is for you! Thanks to Pocket Books I have a copy of Alexa Egan’s latest Imnada Brotherhood novel, Shadow’s Curse, to give away! Check out the book description below, as well as instructions on how you can win a copy!

Suffering under a horrible curse and renounced by his clan, the Imnada shape-shifter, David St. Leger, stalks the London nights in the form of a large black wolf, channeling his desperate rage on thieves and murderers. But when he’s captured by the very woman he sought to rescue, he’s thrown into the magical and dangerous world of the Other—half human, half-Fey, and one of the Imnada’s ancient enemies.

Forced by her half-brother to use her gift of necromancy as a money-making scheme, Callista Hawthorne wants only to flee to her aunt in Scotland where she’ll be safe. Considering David her last hope, she offers him a deal—freedom in exchange for his protection on the long journey north.

Now in a race for their lives, Other and Imnada must put aside centuries of animosity and work together if they are to overcome the dark forces intent on stopping them before they reach safety. For Callista is far more powerful than she knows, and with her help and her love, David may finally be able to break the curse of the Imnada…

About the Author:

Alexa Egan is a member of the Romance Writers of America and a Golden Heart finalist. She lives in Maryland with her family. Visit her website or connect with her on Twitter & Facebook.

Giveaway – Special thanks to Pocket Books for our giveaway copy!

One lucky winner will have the opportunity to win a paperback copy of Shadow’s Curse by Alexa Egan!  For your chance to win simply leave a comment below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight on Monday, December 16, 2013.  Winner will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday, December 17, 2013.  Open to US residents only.  Good luck!

Charlie’s Review of Carniepunk, an Anthology

cpAs I have stated time and time again, I am a HUGE fan of the fantasy genre, so when I was asked to read Carniepunk, I welcomed it with open arms. It seemed like a pretty awesome anthology that numerous authors in the genre had put together.

From Goodreads: 

A star-studded urban fantasy anthology featuring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, and Kevin Hearne, whose stories explore the creepy, mysterious, and, yes, sometimes magical world of traveling carnivals.

The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?

And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.

Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed,Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic.

The fact that this is an anthology will either be a big turn on or a big turn off for readers. I found it to be a great opportunity to get a good mix of not only the genre, but to be exposed to many different authors. Some of the authors I’m sure you have read/heard of, while others are completely new. I felt like many of the stories were geared towards attracting readers to check out the author’s existing books, as most of them are tied in to their signature series. The positive thing about this is that if you like a story, you can go pick up their other works. However, the negative thing is that some of the short stories depended too much on the reader being familiar with the series it drew upon and failed to stand on its own. While this can be a downside to readers who have never been exposed to that author’s work before, the flip side is the opportunity to appeal in acquiring new readers. While I definitely enjoyed the book I don’t believe it’s for everyone. The problem I have here is that while you get to enjoy numerous short stories instead of one novel, I’m not sure the flow of it necessarily works. It makes me think was this written solely as a tool of marketing, perhaps.

While I don’t want to give away all the stories by going in-depth I’ll just let you know which was my favorite. For some reason Freak House by Kelly Meding really stuck with me. She isn’t even one of the featured authors, so I found that refreshing to really discover someone new and not just play into the fact that the names on the cover must have written the best stories. Freak House really was a fun little story, and if I’m not mistaken it is one of the few to stand on its own. The basics revolved around supernaturals being captured and displayed in a carnival freak show. It has a great lead character, excellent pacing, and I really felt that it could grow into something more! This story was right up my alley, and I really hope I get to revisit that world again in a standalone novel!

All in all, Carniepunk has its ups and downs. I definitely didn’t love all the stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed enough of them to make the experience enjoyable. I honestly haven’t read many anthologies like this, but I feel like this one was pretty good in the grand scheme of things. I particularly liked the carnival theme, as I think it was very creative! I could totally see this being developed into a miniseries for the screen, with the potential to grow. I would totally recommend this to anyone who either likes the genre, wants a quick fix, or feels like the authors seems interesting. However, as I stated earlier, just keep in mind that this isn’t a true novel.

3 out of 5 Stars

Carniepunk by Various
Gallery Books (2013)
Paperback: 433 pages
ISBN: 9781476714158

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Kim and Kelly’s Review of Once Burned (Night Prince #1) and Twice Tempted (Night Prince #2) by Jeaniene Frost

My bestest reading buddy Kelly, from Reading with Analysis, is back visiting the blog again today.  I hope, dear readers, that you enjoy our dueling reviews as much as we enjoy writing them.  As much as we love poking fun at the books we love to hate, we love gushing over the books we love to love more.  I got a great deal on Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost a few months ago and worked on convincing Kelly to take a chance with me on this paranormal/urban fantasy novel.  Neither of those genres are ones we typically read, let alone actively search out books which encompass these genres.  The fact that both of us truly enjoyed these books is a testament to how good they really are.  Today, we’re duel gushing about the first two books in Frost’s Night Prince trilogy.

objfBook one is Once Burned! Plot from Goodreads:

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

Kim: I’ve got a bit of a thing for “damaged” characters.  When I say “damaged” I mean characters that have scars (emotional or physical).  There’s just something about a character working through all of his/her baggage that appeals to me. The idea that a character has shit to overcome just gives me the warm and fuzzies. It makes their character development feel real, as the character’s growth is tangible throughout the story. Leila is definitely such a character (Vlad too, but more on him later.) Leila has intense physical scarring from a tragic accident that’s left her with some badass powers. She has self-confidence issues (she’s always trying to cover her scars), massive amounts of family issues (she blames herself for her parent’s split/subsequent family self-destruction), and barely trusts anyone. I think her trust issues are self-made as a way to protect herself from others so her visions don’t happen. Her visions certainly take their toll on her but in a way I think she views them as a penance for all the family problems she feels are her doing.

Vlad (who I am madly in love with) is a much stronger character at first glance. We get to meet insecure Vlad in book two, so I’ll discuss that part of him later. I remember texting Kelly while reading Once Burned and saying “Vlad is the perfect balance of arrogance and sexy. Every author trying to write an arrogant man as appealing/sexy should read this book and model their man after him.” Even now I don’t think I could pinpoint what about his arrogance is different than everyone else’s. I just know it is and it works. Maybe being the oldest vampire in the world teaches you what the perfect amount of cockiness to exude is?

Kelly:  I’m with you on the characters with baggage front.  When done well, these types of characters tend to be so much more interesting than more straightforward characters, but there’s so much that can go wrong.  When I find a damaged character who is well-wrought, whose motivations and actions consistently make sense, I rejoice.  There are two such characters in this series, and both are handled extremely well. Leila’s got her scars, badass powers, and resulting loneliness, and Vlad has his centuries-long past of wars, betrayals, abandonments, misunderstandings, tortues, yada yada yada.  The consistent and believable characterization helps to sell the reader on the world-building in the story.  Vlad is the legendary Dracula (also the legendary Vlad the Impaler), and, going into it, I sort of expected my reaction to be like, “Whuuuut?” but instead I was like, “Yep… that’s Vlad the Impaler alright…” I buy it.

Kim: Totally agree. I bought everything Frost said. She had me sold and invested in the story from page 1. Not only were the characters exquisitely done, but the story was super creative and original. I’ve read several vampire novels and will admit to being bored by the usual stereotypes. I enjoy authors (like Charlaine Harris) that envision other “powers” for their vampires besides superhuman strength and speed. Frost gave them the ability to fly, freeze objects, telekinesis, etc. I liked that everyone had something special besides the normal vampire expectations.

Kelly:  Honestly, this book had me at hello.  After I read a couple of reviews, I was like, holy shit, this book fits in a Venn Diagram that includes vampires and carnival freaks, and I purchased it immediately.  I normally hate first-person narration because it’s difficult to like a character when you’re in her head all the time (no one who had to listen to my inner monologue would like me, either), but I loved it in this story.  I was totally into it from the first chapter to the end.

The writing was generally very good in this book.  The pacing is spot on: fast enough to draw you into the story and keep you there, slow enough to allow the kind of depth that makes you care about the story you’re reading.  I loved the villain of this book — he’s so villainous!  And the storyline that brings Vlad and Leila together is interesting, believable, a little bit fun, a little bit suspenseful; in short, it’s perfect.

Kim: You’re right. This book does fit into multiple categories. I think that’s one more reason why it’s so awesome.  You have this great romantic plot that builds and builds between two AWESOME characters, smoldering like Vlad’s fires, and then on top of that there is this suspenseful plot, filled with action and intrigue.  Having these two stories weave together definitely helped keep you invested and moved the story along.

Kelly:  The dialogue is great — light when it needs to be, darker when the shit is really going down.  The only thing that bothered me (and maybe it’s just me) is that I have this stupid nitpicky thing about clothing/color descriptions.  I just don’t care if that turtleneck is olive green or turquoise.  It has nothing to do with the story or the characters, so it just annoys me to have to pick through those unnecessary details… it’s distracting.  Plus, in a first-person narrative it’s particularly jarring.  I honestly never think to myself, “I’m wearing a blue sweater and charcoal-gray slacks,” so it’s weird to see a character including those details in her story.  Other readers may enjoy all those descriptions, especially readers who like to picture what they’re reading, but I just don’t.

Kim: First and foremost I have to agree with you about the dialogue. The first conversation that Vlad and Leila have (while in his head) I thought was really well written. You sensed the chemistry that could explode between these two characters, exciting you for what would happen once they got together.  I think my favorite part of the book was when Leila foresaw her and Vlad hooking up. His extreme cockiness and surety that it definitely would happen was both hilarious and hot as hell. I think the whole idea that as he gets turned on his hands and body begin bursting into flames is hot. Seeing a physical response to what you do to a man? Hmmm…sexy.

Kelly:  You know that’s right.  I also loved that the physical response goes both ways.  Vlad goes up in flames, but Leila lets off electrical charges when she’s turned on.  Together, they’re really something.

Kim: Their relationship really is something.  I think you’ll agree with me when I say that if the two of them weren’t so perfect for each other the book wouldn’t have worked/been as interesting as it was to us.

Kim’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Kelly’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

ttjfBook two is Twice Tempted.  Plot from Goodreads:

Leila’s psychic abilities have been failing her, and now she isn’t sure what the future holds. If that weren’t enough, her lover, Vlad, has been acting distant. Though Leila is a mere mortal, she’s also a modern woman who refuses to accept the cold shoulder treatment forever–especially from the darkly handsome vampire who still won’t admit that he loves her.

Soon circumstances send Leila back to the carnival circuit, where tragedy strikes. And when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who may be closer than she realizes, Leila must decide who to trust– the fiery vampire who arouses her passions like no other or the tortured knight who longs to be more than a friend? With danger stalking her every step of the way, all it takes is one wrong move to damn her for eternity.

Kelly:  I’m always nervous about sequels… What if an author approaches the sequel as a re-do of the first installment’s glory?  Like, that worked… I’ll try that again.  My official stance on sequels is that they need to have a reason for existing.  There needs to be more story about these characters that needs to be told.  Twice Tempted does an excellent job of continuing the story of these characters while telling a totally separate, new story about them.  Leila’s issues with her powers changes the dynamic in their relationship, and the new story takes off from there.

Kim: So book two gave us a different Vlad and Leila for sure. Their relationship is having some major problems that all stem from a pretty major misunderstanding.  Leila’s having bad dreams/visions about her relationship with Vlad and Vlad is beginning to act distant, hiding things from Leila.  I give Frost props for delving into the deeper/darker/unhappier side of their relationship.  When authors continually write about a couple and make everything sunshine and roses I’ll admit that it bothers me.  Sure, everyone loves a happy couple that is making it, but it’s completely unrealistic to act like there are never disagreements, fights, or misunderstandings.  The Vlad present in Twice Tempted is way vulnerable. He’s never faced someone who’s unafraid of standing up to him as well as turning down his offer of immortality.  I like that Leila keeps Vlad on his toes, and pushes him to be a more understanding person.  She forces him to be less rigid and more merciful. Their conflict moves much of Twice Tempted’s plot along.

Kelly:  My favorite thing about this book was Leila’s insistence that she really did love Vlad in an “as is” sort of way; she didn’t want to change him or gentrify him.  I mean, seriously.  He’s Vlad the Impaler… he didn’t get that nickname by baking his enemies cupcakes or decorating his house with sparkles.  His past is brutal and, actually, rather distasteful, but he isn’t dishonorable.  All of that violent excess was done to protect his people — his responsibility.  I guess that’s why I was still able to find him rather yummy, all that impaling notwithstanding (I’m a pacifist).

Kim: Vlad’s backstory and history are revealed to a fairly deep extent in Twice Tempted, which serves to deepen his character development.  As Kelly said his past IS brutal, but when his family history is revealed…you just get him. You understand his choices, his brutality, his darkness.  Frost gets two thumbs up from me for turning a character with such a dark depressing past into this hot, sexy, confident, yummy man.  It’s not a transformation that is an easy one to make believable.

Kelly:  Exactly!  Another challenge that Frost overcame in this installment was the believability of the conflict which is driving the characters apart.  At the end of Once Burned, all seems happy and more or less resolved, romance-wise, between Vlad and Leila, but Twice Tempted drives them apart.  With all the reader discovers about Vlad, it would be such an easy thing for Leila’s objections to their relationship to seem like just a plot device rather than an organic development of her character.  Instead of falling into that trap, however, Frost sticks with her characters, setting them on divergent but germane paths and bringing them back together in due time, when it makes sense for the characters. The result is rather stunning: a breakup story that isn’t annoying or plodding or boring.

Kim: When Kelly and I started talking about Twice Tempted and what we wanted to write, we both made the observation that even though we’re romance readers at heart and were primarily invested in the story of Vlad and Leila’s relationship, we were seriously impressed with the other aspects of the plot.  The themes of betrayal/loyalty really shine in Twice Tempted and cause the reader to question and dissect the relationships presented to us.

Kelly:  It is always nice to have a book that respects (and expects) a reader’s intelligence.  One of the most impressive things about this book is that it uses the resurrected villain trope and it isn’t lame.  I mean, think about it… you finish the last book, and you’re like, Boom! That villain’s all crispy! But… DUN DUN DUN, he isn’t.  And that should totally be lame, but it wasn’t.  It was gripping and suspenseful, even when I knew who the bad guy was.

Kim: I totally agree! So many things that typically bother me about books (trope-y plot ideas etc) WORKED here.  It’s a testament to Frost’s ability as a writer to draw a reader into her stories, take all their preconceived notions about what works for them as a reader, and have you throw it all out the window.  Her dialogue is sharp, her situations believable, and her characters….utter perfection.  Kelly and I are eagerly awaiting book three in the trilogy (still unnamed) and can’t wait for the loop which Frost will surely throw us.

Kim’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Kelly’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
Harper Collins (2012)
eBook: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780062096272

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
Harper Collins (2013)
eBook: 384 pages
ISBN: 9780062075833

#115 A Review of Mr. Darcy Bites Back by Mary Lydon Simonsen

mrdarcybitesbackOctober of 2011 marked my introduction to Mr. Darcy’s Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen.  I remember being so impressed by Simonsen’s ability to stay true to Austen’s characters even after changing one of them into a werewolf!  I also remember writing Mary an email after finishing the novel begging her to write more of this particular story.  I’m happy to tell you that a year later she has!  Introducing the answer to my begging, Mr. Darcy Bites Back!

From Goodreads:

Someone or something is lurking in the woods of Pemberley.

As Mr. and Mrs. Darcy approach the first anniversary of their marriage, they look upon their life together as very much an idyll. With one exception. Their lives will always be ruled by the lunar cycle as the Master of Pemberley is a werewolf.

As Darcy prepares his pack for nightfall, an unsettling rumor is being spread in the village that a phantom Ghost Buck has appeared in Wentside Woods on the Darcy estate. Because Darcy does not believe the stag exists, he wants to know who started the rumor. Is it possible that someone knows of his darkest secret and is trying to draw him out?

I’m going to start out by saying that Mr. Darcy’s Bite is my favorite paranormal JAFF novel out there. (No joke I reread it like 3 times a year)  The Darcy and Elizabeth that grace the pages of that novel are truly wonderful representations of Austen’s original characters.  Fortunately, the same is true in Mr. Darcy Bites Back!  Simonsen is a pro at writing these two characters.  With almost a dozen novels to her name that have Darcy and Elizabeth included in some way, it’s no surprise that Simonsen has created two characters that have gotten better with time.  It’s as if they’re old friends now, and their story is comfortable and fun.  Fortunately there are still plenty of surprises left up Simonsen’s sleeve, adding enough twists in the plot to keep me intrigued to the end.  I hope that Simonsen continues with these particular novellas.  Adventures with werewolf Darcy and his pack would keep me entranced and coming back for more.

Mr. Darcy Bites Back has everything you’d want in a fun novella, all in a bite sized portion (no pun intended!)  It was a quick and refreshing read that recharged my reading batteries.  I can only hope that Simonsen can have a quick turnaround and come out with another great story featuring Elizabeth and Darcy soon!  This is definitely a great addition to your shelf and a fun pick-me-up.

5 out of 5 Stars

Mr. Darcy Bites Back by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing, LLC (2012)
eBook: 301 pages
ISBN: 2940015752908

Special thanks to Ms. Simonsen for my review copy

#93 A Review of The Walking Dead (Hardcover Book Five) by Robert Kirkman

Todd and I want to apologize for the major gap that has occurred between our Walking Dead reviews!  If you need a refresher, here are our reviews of books one, two, three, and four.  To continue with the tradition, we’re doing a joint review of book five!

Book five of the series begins after the horrible battle at the prison and subsequent loss of many characters from the previous books in the series.  We’re reunited with Rick and Carl, who are on their own and separated from any other possible survivors of the massacre.  There is a particularly poignant scene where Rick comes down with a sudden infection and is rendered unconscious.  Carl asserts his independence and tells his dad (who is passed out) that he doesn’t need his help and that he’d be fine alone.  Soon thereafter, Carl realizes that he isn’t nearly as brave as he thought, and in a moment of panic almost shoots Rick as Rick slowly (and in a zombie-like manner) comes to.  After he recovers, Rick and Carl reunite with Michonne, and the three of them travel together until they stumble upon the remaining survivors of the prison attack.  After a brief moment of actual happiness in the post-apocalyptic doom, they then meet a group of three survivors who are traveling to Washington, DC: Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita.  Abraham, an army Sargent, challenges Rick as the head of the group, and is the focal point for the remainder of the novel.  What happens next though, catches everyone off guard, and puts all of their lives in immediate danger…

Kim: So I truly love the underlying social commentary themes that are woven into these books.  I like how in book five we focus a lot on the children who have survived to this point.  When we finished reading the book, Todd and I started discussing our thoughts and I said the following: I think that as adults we have the ability to adapt for survival faster than children do.  As adults we understand what we need to survive.  It’s an inherent trait in ourselves to adapt for our survival.  In the case of children, they are taken care of by adults.  A child does not inherently understand survival at the level an adult would.  In book five we begin to see the effects that this “zombie apocalypse” has had on them.  Sophia is looking at any of the females caring for her as her actual mother.  When Carl asks her about her birth mother Sophia acts like she has no idea who he’s talking about.  The trauma of her mother’s suicide, coupled with the rest of the events of the books have taken such a toll on her, that her mind has blacked out the traumatic events.  Consequently, Carl has a scare when Rick become so sick that he passes out for several days.  Carl acts like everything is fine and that he can take care of himself, but the reality soon sets in that he is a child and shouldn’t have to fend for himself.  It’s these transformations (and others) that makes these books the “must reads” I think they are.  They are so much more than just zombie novels.  They are true experimental evaluations of the human condition!

Todd: I definitely agree.  I think it’s interesting that Carl has to mature (physically and emotionally) in this world while all of the adults are obviously much older and have a greater frame of reference for a time that wasn’t infested with walking corpses.  Of course it accelerates Carl’s maturity, but in other aspects it makes him even more messed up, with little to no stability in his life to rely on.  Fortunately, Rick tries his best to be a good father figure, and for the most part it works, but the ever-mounting flood of death and destruction takes its toll, especially when Carl tells his father that he wanted to help him kill the man who almost molested him.  When he tells Rick that he is scared of the violence of his thoughts sometimes, it offers us a window into how his mind is adjusting to the new surroundings.  Rick perhaps puts it best: “We’re doing whatever it takes to survive… The people without the switch– those who weren’t able to go from law-abiding citizens to stone-cold killers… those are the ones shambling around out there– trying to eat us.”

Kim: Speaking of Rick’s mental state, it’s fascinating to see how the events at the end of book four have completely transformed him into a “mental patient”.  The conversations with his dead wife and his serious lack of confidence in himself and his decision-making skills showcase a Rick that we have never glimpsed before.  Kirkman’s ability to highlight a transforming psychological climate for all of these characters is truly what makes this series stand out, and why he’s still publishing new issues of this series monthly.

Todd: I think it’s interesting you bring up Rick’s mental state, because although this book wasn’t nearly as big on action as the previous one, I think it’s actually scarier.  To see what the continued toll of dealing with what has happened to them has on all the characters is really frightening.  We’ve always had Rick as the pillar of the group, right or wrong, and to see him in such a diminished state makes me nervous for what will happen in the future.  I hope the remaining survivors can pull it together!

Make sure you keep a lookout for the next review of book six in this series.  Although we haven’t read it yet, if the speed in which we read this book is any indication, you won’t need to wait long!

Todd’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Kim’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Image Comics (2010)
Hardcover 304 pages
ISBN: 9781607061717

#88 A Review of Pulse and Prejudice by Colette L. Saucier

Of all the Pride and Prejudice variations that exist, I’ve had mixed success with those dealing with the paranormal.  So far, I’ve read and reviewed Mr. Darcy, Vampyre (which was ok), Vampire Darcy’s Desire (which I liked), and Mr. Darcy’s Bite (which I loved).  All of these turn our beloved Darcy into a paranormal individual, whether it be a werewolf or a vampire.  Upon starting Pulse and Prejudice by Colette Saucier, I wasn’t sure where it would fall along my scale of “paranormal P&P” works.  I’m happy to report that it was a great read which has renewed my faith in the sub-genre.

In this dark and sensual take on Pride and Prejudice, Saucier introduces us to a seemingly typical Fitzwilliam Darcy: arrogant, brooding, and most of all, dismissive of Elizabeth.  His reasons for doing so, however, have nothing to do with any of these haughty traits.  Instead, Darcy repels Elizabeth due to the fact that she awakes an inner hunger in him, a hunger that he fights long and hard to repress for fear that it will rear its ugly head.  In short, Darcy is a vampire!  Saucier takes us through the friendship and eventual courtship between the two, remaining faithful to Austen’s original style but adding a flair for the undead.  Additionally, we get to see more of Darcy’s backstory, which takes us into the less glamorous part of Regency England, all the while introducing Elizabeth to a part of society she never knew existed!

I’m always nervous to read a paranormal adaptation of one of Austen’s works.  Sometimes the blending of the paranormal aspects are difficult to make work in a Regency-era world.  I’m happy to report that Saucier does a wonderful job blending the two elements seamlessly.  Rather then make the paranormal  the focus of every scene, she weaves it in little by little with dark sensual undertones.  She uses Darcy’s emotions as a most effective way of expressing his vampire side.  His dark desire mixed with his haughty personality and shortening temper make him an extremely exciting character to follow.  Once he is rebuffed for his demeanor to Elizabeth and reveals his true self, his demise and subsequent “rebirth” are written to perfection.

I really enjoyed this retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  It’s a testament to Saucier’s abilities as an author when I say that even with the addition of the vampire elements, the true Elizabeth and Darcy are ever-present.  Their constant misunderstandings of the other’s actions etc are all there.  The new paranormal elements just add to the already deeply complex characters.  For those of you that aren’t frightened to experience a darker version of Pride and Prejudice then I recommend adding Pulse and Prejudice to your to-read piles!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my thirty-seventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Pulse and Prejudice by Colette L. Saucier
Secret Cravings Publishing (2012)
eBook: 316 pages
ISBN: 2940014422895

Special thanks to Ms. Saucier for my review copy.

Todd’s Review of Waiting For Daybreak by Amanda McNeil – Blog Tour

As the resident zombie expert at Reflections of a Book Addict, I feel compelled to give any novel that mentions our favorite half-dead friends a good read and review.  As I’ve stated before, it’s definitely one of my favorite sub-genres within the greater context of the postapocalyptic world genre.  Ever since reading World War Z and The Walking Dead graphic novels, I’ve been basically hooked.  Fortunately, Waiting for Daybreak by Amanda McNeill was a great addition to this genre.

Taking place in modern-day Boston, Waiting for Daybreak chronicles the life of Frieda, a twenty-something microbiologist who works in a diagnostic lab in a hospital.  Unfortunately for her, she is the only known survivor of an outbreak of an incredibly virulent virus that causes its hosts to transform into cannibalistic, half dead zombies.  For nearly a year, she has subsisted in her apartment on the fourth floor of an apartment building, using a combination of scavenging for supplies and growing a garden as a means of nourishment and survival.  As far as in the infected are concerned (or “the afflicted” as she calls them), Frieda has become skilled with the use of various knives and other non-projectile objects in luring the zombies to her and dispatching them when necessary.  All of this changes when her cat, Snuggles, becomes afflicted with parasitic worms, and Frieda must travel to the local ASPCA office to find medicine to treat her.  Unfortunately, the office is far from her current location, and Frieda faces untold dangers in getting there.  Most interesting, however, is what happens along the way.  She comes into contact with a man named Mike, the first uninfected person she’s seen since the outbreak.  What happens between them is predictable, but it’s what happens after that which is something no one could have seen coming.

I’ve always said (in regards to zombie movies/books/etc), that the lessons learned from this type of story are more about what happens to people after the rise of these zombies instead of what happens with the zombies themselves.  Basically, the terrifying effects created by the catastrophic destruction of society serve to strip down the survivors and find out what they’re really made of.  With no outside interference, people become who they really are, deep down.  In this case, Frieda has been diagnosed with a mental illness and struggles with feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem.  However, the longer that she survives in the zombie apocalypse, the more clear-headed and confident she becomes.  This is interesting, as when the general public (that is also generally uneducated about mental illness) thinks about any kind of mental illness, they would assume that any kind of stress or isolation would serve to reinforce this problem and make it worse, rather than better.  In Frieda’s case, the time alone has given her an opportunity to think and do a lot of self-evaluation, which has made her come to the conclusion that she is a strong and self-sufficient woman, albeit with a good dose of self-doubt that kicks in every once in a while.  Despite this intermittent self-criticism, Frieda is doing better than she ever has before, and her interaction and eventual course of action with Mike only serves to reinforce the fact that this apocalypse has caused her to become the strong, resourceful person that she really always was, and just needed this external stimulus to bring out.

In all, it is an awesome read that really gets you in tune with Frieda’s struggle with the undead.  There are a few minor zombie-centric details, such as the believability of the actual virus and the way that the zombies act that could have used some reworking, but as I said before, zombie books are more about the live folks rather than the undead.  In that regard, McNeil did a wonderful job.

4 out of 5 stars

Waiting for Daybreak by Amanda McNeil
CreateSpace (2012)
Paperback: 172 pages
ISBN: 9781478153764

Special thanks to Ms. McNeil for the review copy.  To follow along with the rest of the blog tour, click on the image below.