Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: STRANGE LITTLE BAND by Nancy Brauer & Vanessa Brooks

Both Addison and Shane are doctors leading research teams inside the powerful, Triptych Corporation.  Both are extremely powerful psychics.  They don’t like each other much and Addison is livid when she discovers that the embryo implanted in her by Triptych is her egg fertilized by Shane’s sperm in a lab.  Management apparently want to see what their two most gifted psychics might produce for offspring.  Expecting a baby together brings Addison and Shane closer, but just as they are standing on the threshold of love, Triptych steps in and breaks them apart with deceptions. 

Years pass.  Addison and Shane waffle between insatiable attraction to each other and hatred.  The whole time, the mystery of Tripych and its creepy management fill the story with intrigue.  While there is some serious steamy sex, this is also the story about a family.  Shane, Addison and their kids have very realistic relationships.  The kids are close since there are few other children in Triptych, and both want to see Shane & Addison work things out.  Both Addison and Shane are good parents who do their best by their kids.  I loved how human the characters were.

There were a few areas in this story which could have benefited some further explanation.  Both of my major issues involved world building.  First, this all takes place with a corporation.  I gather they do scientific and psychic research, but the details are sketchy.  What kind of company has the employees live on sight and dictates every aspect of their personal lives, including who they can sleep with and when and with whom they can have children?  The other thing is regarding the aliens.  We know Shane is half-alien and there are a few full aliens in the story, but there is not a lot of explanation about the aliens.  Where did they come from? What is their role on earth? Are they known to humans outside of the corporation?  I felt a bit like I kept missing some fact that would tie all of this together.

Even with these questions, I still really enjoyed this book.  It was very different from most things that I read, yet, I found myself engaged and thinking about it between reading.  That’s the sign of a good book.

Overall, I give Strange Little Band…

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 5 bookmarks
Sex Scenes – 4 ¾ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Halle Berry (Addison), Eric Bana (Shane), James Caan (Daniel), Lucy Liu (Joon)

Review: SUCCUBI LIKE IT HOT by Jill Myles

A hot fallen angel boyfriend during the day and a hot vampire boyfriend by night...where do I sign up to become a succubus???? Of course, this balance cannot be maintained when angel and vamp dislike each other and are both territorial over their woman. What's a succubus to do?

When Noah tells Jackie that she must chose between him and Zane and she is unable to, he gets huffy and distances himself. At the same time, Zane mysteriously up an disapears on her. For a being who requires frequent sex to live, this is bad. It gets worse when someone places a curse on her, increasing her appetites. Jackie and her best friend Remy have to travel to New Orleans to seek out help from the oldest succubus in the States to remove the potentially fatal curse. Along the way, Jackie notices a strange man following her. He's neither vamp nor angel, but definately not human either...

This was another fun book and entertaining read. Jackie has thankfully gotten less stupid than the last book where her mouth kept getting her in trouble. I started liking her more in this book. This is a light, entertaining read, but not one that necessarily will resonate and stick with me for a length of time. Since I am a big fan of this genre, I plan to continue with the series. It's perfect for unwinding at the end of the day, when you don't want to have to think too hard.

Overall, I give Succubi Like It Hot...

Plot - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 3 bookmarks
Sex Scenes - 4 bookmarks
Love Story - 3 bookmarks (Still waiting to see how this triangle is going to work out)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Christina Hendricks (Jackie), Simon Baker (Noah), Billy Zane (Zane), Tinsel Korey (Remy), Amanda Seyfried (Delilah), Chris Hemsworth (Luc)

Review: CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick

Crescendo is the second book in Fitzpatrick's series about angels and Nephilim. The book opens with Nora declaring her love for her boyfriend Patch...and Patch making an uncomfortable, yet swift getaway. While Nora's rejection is understandable, so are patch's reasons for putting distance between them. He has just gotten his wings back, something rare among fallen angels. Now, the Arch Angels are watching him closely. His time, if he messes up, he will go straight to Hell. The last thing a guardian angel can do is fall in love with their human charge. To make matters infinitely worse, Patch begins hanging out with Nora's rival Marcie. Okay, this would piss me off too, but Nora's picking fights with Patch every time she talks to him does not help the situation.

On her own, Nora is haunted by the death of her father. She is beginning to wonder whether her descendancy from the Nephilim had something to do with his murder. Chasing after answers places her in dangerous situations, a fact that she ignores since she figures Patch as her guardian angel will come to her rescue. Ironic since she tells him repeatedly to go away and that she doesn't want his protection.

For me, the more intriguing and definitely under-played subplot here is Patch's dilemma. He loves Nora, anyone can see that, but his status as a guardian angel makes a relationship impossible. As a human, Nora will naturally grow to want things like marriage, None of these things Patch can give her without turning his back on the Arch Angels and guaranteeing an all expense paid trip to the Inferno.

Nora's lack of concern over the gravity of his situation is annoying. I generally like Nora, but found her a bit whiney whenever he was around. Of course, this is probably realistic teenage girl behavior, so I guess I can't complain too much. She is no where near as annoying as her silly friend V, whose stupidity grates on me. I can say this for Nora though...she is brave. She jumps feet first into situations and doesn't go running to Patch or anyone else for help. This trait may sometimes border on foolhardiness, but that is easily overlooked due to her age.
 Overall, I give Crescendo...
 Plot - 4 bookmarks (plenty of action)

Character Development - 3 1/2 bookmarks

Love Story - 3 bookmarks (Even though much of the movie was spent apart, the chemistry was still there.)

Action - 4 bookmarks

Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Kay Panabaker (Nora), Emile Hirsch (Patch), Dreama Walker (Marcie), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Rickson), really don't have a good V in mind. Any of you have ideas?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT by Laura Whitcomb

I listened to this audio book, and I have to say—they couldn’t have picked a better reader!  Her tone and pronunciation was perfect for the 130 year dead narrator.  With audio books, the reader can make or break how the audience receives the story and in this case, it was spot on!

A Certain Slant of Light is about a Helen, a ghost who haunts a high school English teacher.  While some ghosts are tethered to a place, she is clings to a host human.  In her 130 years of death, she has had five hosts, most she has chosen due to their love of literature mirroring hers.  Mr. brown, her host is not aware of Helen’s presence, but she is able to influence him in subtle ways. 

One day while hanging around Mr. Brown’s classroom, Helen is startled to see a teenage boy looking at her.  Not only that, but he can hear her also.  Helen soon learns that the boy’s body has been possessed by another ghost, James, after the boy’s spirit vacated his body, leaving it empty.  Helen and James fall in love and decide that Helen will look for a soul vacant body of her own to possess.  When she ends up in the body of a fifteen year old girl from a repressively religious home, Helen’s naivety of modern life leads to serious problems. 

I read a few of the reviews of this book on Amazon, and was surprised by some on the comments.  First, there was a complaint about the writing style being old fashioned and wordy.  Hello?  The narrator telling the story is from the pre-Civil War era.  Of course her language is going to be dated.  It’s supposed to be!  I actually thought this a part of the beauty of the book. 

Second, I actually read some reviewers calling this erotica.  This is a Young Adult book!  How freaking repressed are these people to think the couple brief, vaguely described love scenes were erotica?  I honestly do not think the average parent of a teenager would object to the material in this book.  I’ve definitely read worse. 

Lastly, there were complaints about the religious themes in the book.  I’m not sure if the reviewers thought the book was preachy or too negative toward religion, but again, I thought the religious theme fit the story.  How do you have a book about ghosts without addressing the question of what happens to you when you die?  Somehow the God question has to be addresses.  As for the strictly religious family that Helen ended up in, I’ve actually met parents like this in my past.  I don’t think they were unrealistic. 

Anyway, I really loved this book.  I thought it the prose was beautiful and the story unique. 

Overall, I give A Certain Slant of Light…

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) -  Amy Adams (Helen), Matthew Bomer (James), Diana Argon (Jenny), James Newman (Billy)


Before I get into my review, I have to tell you a quick funny story.  I got a Nook for xmas & I’ve been downloading a lot of free books.  Some of these are only partials or the first chapter of a book in order to get your interest to buy the whole book.  Anyway, I had this free download called Foreplay.  I thought it was a short story, but it was really the prologue to a novel.  I read it.  It was good, but I didn’t feel like seeking out the full book at that moment, so I didn’t take note of either the book title or the author.  Instead, I went to a pile of paperbacks and picked up Gentlemen Prefer Succubi.  I opened the book and started to read and discovered it was the same book that Foreplay was the prologue for!  Okay, not laughing funny, but definitely a strange coincidence! 

Anyway, as for Gentlemen Prefer Succubi…  Jackie is a lowly docent at a museum who dreams of becoming an archeologist.  She has the schooling, but her meek, mousy appearance means she keeps getting passed over for promotions.  Fed up with yet another lost opportunity, Jackie sooths herself with a few too many martinis.  After leaving the bar alone, she meets up with a vampire who bites her.  Under his spell, he sets her in the way of Noah, a hot fallen angel with whom she has an incredible one-night-stand.  When spellbound Jackie returns to the alley with the vampire, he tosses her used body into a dumpster to wait out her transformation.

When Jackie awakens, she finds that she has been turned into a succubus…an immortal woman who requires sex to survive.  The silver lining?  Her size 14 body shrinks to a size 6, her B-cup boobs swell to 34DD, and every man she meets wants her.  The not so silver lining?  She is under control of her vampire and angle masters, the two men who changed her.  Luckily, neither man seems to want to take advantage of that power…yet.  Jackie is also strangely moral for a sex-fiend and refuses to indulge in casual sex…even if it sort of comes in her new job description. 

In order to control her Itch, Jackie makes a deal with the angel Uriel to do him a “little” favor in exchange for relief from her desires.  Unfortunately, Jackie discovers too late that making deals with Heaven is not in her best interest as the price she has to pay is steep. 

This book was fun, sexy and entertaining.  I loved the contrast of the two love interests, Noah & Zane.  They are polar opposites in every way, but it’s impossible not to love them both.  I did get a little sick of Jackie making dumb mistakes.  It doesn’t take a genius to know when to keep your mouth shut and do what you are told, but over and over she messes up.  I suppose she had to in order to create the plot, but I hope this stupidity will go away quick as the series progresses. 

Overall, I give Gentlemen Prefer Succubi

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 3 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 4 bookmarks (I really like both guys.  It will be fun to see how this turns out in future books)
Sex Scenes – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Christina Hendricks (Jackie), Simon Baker (Noah), Billy Zane (Zane), Tinsel Korey (Remy), David Anders (Uriel)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: THE TRYLLE TRILOGY by Amanda Hocking

The Trylle Trilogy
is composed of Switched, Torn and Ascend.  Normally, I review series books separately, but in this case, I got super obsessed with them and read them straight through without break, meaning it is hard for me to think of them as separate books.  This is actually a tremendous compliment to the author, because I could not get enough of this story!!! 

The Trylle are actually a unique take on troll mythology.  They mostly look like humans except they tend to have kinkier hair, hate to wear shoes and are very picky eaters.  As a people, they live in tribes and are presided over by a monarchy.  The Trylle have historically held magic powers, however, as their numbers have dwindled, few are capable of magic anymore. 

They also continue to practice the age-old changeling system.  When Trylle babies are born, they are switched with human ones, usually in wealthy families.  When the children reach adulthood, Trylle trackers retrieve them and bring them back to the community, hopefully with a hefty trust-fund bestowed on them by their human host-parents. 

Wendy is a slightly rebellious teenager whose own mother tried to kill her when she became convinced Wendy was a monster.  Her mother is locked in a mental institution, but it turns out, she wasn’t far from the truth.  When Finn, a Trylle tracker, shows up to take Wendy back to her real family, she leans that she is a troll.  Not only that, but she is the daughter of the Trylle queen and next in line for succession.  Unfortunately, a warring tribe, the Vittra, also want to get their hands on Wendy and have vowed to destroy the Trylle to do it. 

This series has a bit of everything—magic, myth, action, romance…ah, the romance!  Trylle society is very divided by social class and those classes do not mix.  Wendy is in constant battle between her heart and her duties as a Princess.  There is something so appealing about forbidden love, especially when it leads to a happily-ever-after.  I have to say, I love the way this ended.  Of course, I won’t give spoilers, but the ending was perfect. 

Overall, I give The Trylle Trilogy…

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks
Interpretation of Mythological Lore – 5 bookmarks (She made trolls cool!)
Action – 4 bookmarks (Some cool uses of magic in combat & defense)
Love Story – 5 bookmarks (!!!!!!!!)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Jessica Parker Kennedy (Wendy), Justin Wilcznski (Finn), Heath Ledger (Loki), Idina Menzel (Queen Elora), Henry VIII (King Oren), Sofia Sisniega (Willa), Corey Monteith (Tove), Luke Bracey (Matt), Andrew Hazzard (Rhys)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Author Spotlight: Tom Raimbault

I recently had the opportunity to get to know a really cool self-published author, Tom Raimbault.  His recent novel, The Tree Goddess, is a macabre tale set in the fictional town of Mapleview.  Tom has graciously agreed to spend some time on my blog today.  

JLR:  With advancements in technology, self-publishing novels has gotten a million times easier and more affordable.  What made you decide to self-publish, and how has that process been working for you?

TR:  Initially, The Tree Goddess was my first writing project that I had considered publishing (before taking time off from the project to develop my style in my first actual published book, Freaked out Horror).  Note: Freaked out Horror has been temporarily unpublished for additional material to be added, and will be re-released in the spring of 2011. I did some research during this time and learned that before even writing a novel, one must first create a pitch letter to an agent and hope that he or she is interested in your proposed work. If an agent is interested, the author next creates an outline of the work so the agent can suggest or improve things. Only after these things are done, should an author begin the writing project.

What fun is that? I had this great story that was already in the works and I just knew there would be people who would enjoy it.  We live in the 21st century, and there are many options available for self-publishing, giving total freedom for authors to write whatever they wish.

Instead, I developed my macabre style of writing in Freaked out Horror, self published it on Amazon and the various ebook sources and then perfected The Tree Goddess to do the same. Had I not gone this route, neither book would have been published. Although entertaining and enjoyed by people who have read both books, the material of both is “way out there” and includes some morbid undertones with dark humor. An agent or publishing company would never see this as marketable.

I am very glad I went the self-publishing route.
JLR:  How have you been able to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) in your marketing plan?  Do you have any advice for new authors looking to promote themselves on these sites?

TR:  From what I’ve read, social networking is about to play, and already does play, a key role in marketing for the publishing industry. But I wasn’t so ready to understand and accept this early in the process. Having spent some time in residential real estate sales, I felt that I fully understood marketing and believed that exposure and price were the best ingredients to selling material. After some months, however, I noticed how successful authors were utilizing these social media tools. I’m not sure, exactly, how it works; but I do see my blog traffic increasing along with a slight increase in book sales. But I still have some ways to go before being considered successful.

JLR:  So much of book promotion today is done through blog tours.  Tell us about your blog touring experience.

TR:  By blog tour, I assume you to mean featuring other authors on my own blog and vice versa. This is a highly successful strategy that any author should use. Again, I didn’t understand this early in the process; but I eventually featured other authors’ stories on my blog. Recently, I have found myself appearing on a few other blogs—mostly people who review books. This has gotten me plenty of exposure, and I’m thankful! In return, I mention people who review my works in the daily introductions of short stories. Over the weekend, I added pages to my blog, one which features blogs from other writers and critics. You’ll see I have a small list: Misty Baker (KindleObsessed), Haley Sale (My Love of Reading); even you, Jesi Lea Ryan.

I also have a few writers and poets such as Kipp Poe Speicher (Closing my Eyes Helps me to See Clearly) He makes some incredible short stories. Be sure to check him out and the rest of them.

But I need more! I’m sure more will be added throughout this year as I encounter more people and am touched by their writings.

Aside from that, I began the practice of featuring short stories from other authors. I’ve had Kipp Poe Speicher, Ian Woodhead; Monday I will feature your short story, Delia Boobelia. The whole purpose of my blog and site is to give short stories to readers; many of which originate from me, but includes other writers’ works.

It’s all about networking! I’m learning.

JLR:  Whether self-published or not, the vast majority of promotion and marketing falls on the author.  What things are you doing to promote your work?

TR:  Outside of learning how to use social sites as tools and do blog tours, I still believe that maximum exposure of writings is a key ingredient. Smashwords has made possible for my works to appear in many online catalogs.

Another important item for any self-published author; there needs to be plenty of free stories (possibly a novella or novel) for people to download. I am sure to use my own blog as a publishing source for my many short stories. Some of the really good ones end up on the online catalogs such as Barnes & Noble, Sony,  Apple, etc.

JLR:  There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

TR:  For me, a writing will always begin with a ridiculous scene played out in my imagination along with crazy laughter. From there, a story is built around this scene. I ask myself, “How did this happen? What events led up to this moment of madness, and what was the outcome?” I guess, in a way, I map out a story or novel with this technique.

From there, I open up the notepad on my laptop and just start writing. After I complete a chapter, I copy and paste it over to word where it is heavily revised and improved. Once the entire novel is complete, I read it over a few times, making adjustments until the story has some sense of “equilibrium”.

For my upcoming novel, Amber, I might let the story age for some months after its completion before returning to it and adding more—perhaps another layer to the story to add further dimension.

JLR:  Personal blogs and websites almost seem like a requirement for authors these days; yet, they are time consuming to keep updated and don’t bring in any direct revenue.  How important do you feel a personal blog or website is, and how much time do you spend on these projects?  What are the benefits that you have seen?

TR:  A blog and website is a very, important tool for an author. Recently, I read that many authors neglect to see the potential of their blog as a publishing tool. For some reason, authors use it as only a way to advertise their works. Stories, essays, poetry: even if they are only initial drafts, these could be published daily to a blog and can build up a fan base that might eventually purchase an author’s novels or stories. I’ve actually tracked the activity on my blog and drew correlations to stories that were purchased at the online catalogs.

Time consuming? Yes, they are! But just like everything else, a blog and site must be maintained by an author!
JLR:  Setting goes a long way toward establishing the feel of the book.  What made you to decide to set your story in Mapleview? 

TR:  The Tree Goddess began in my mind with the main character, Mary, in a horrific scene. While developing the story, I imagined her living in an elegant, historic house. But for some reason, the house was embedded in a deeply forested area. Where I live, a 20 minute drive can bring me to heavily-wooded forest preserves. I’ve spent much time out in these woods and have driven the roads that cut and wind through the arborous world.

In my imagination, I’ve placed an entire town along this area called Mapleview. I’m not sure how I thought of the name, it just sounded charming to me.
JLR: World-building requires the author to do a lot of planning and inventing.  Can you tell us a little about your world and your process for creating it?

TR:  This is cool! One time, I actually created a map of the fictional town of Mapleview. Check it out:

I briefly describe the town of Mapleview in a blog posting that included this map.
 Ignore the discussion about the minor setback to The Tree Goddess. All issues have been resolved. The remainder of the blog posting discusses the various mysteries and horrors to expect while reading the novel.

JLR:  Have you ever been worried that you might be going too far in your sex-scenes and might alienate readers?  Does anticipating reader reaction ever cause you to censor yourself?

TR:  The Mapleview novels (The Tree Goddess, upcoming Amber and beyond) do not contain graphic sex scenes. Of course sex is normal part of love and human nature. These things do happen, but they are described from a distance, maybe implied to leave the scene open to reader imagination. The Mapleview novels are macabre; and I wish not to shock the reader with scenes of graphic sex, gore or violence. It’s pure, classic macabre that I wish to embrace.

I do write erotica short stories. If a reader cares not to be exposed to sex, then don’t read erotica.

JLR:  I’ve always felt that to be a good writer you must first be a good reader.  What types of books do you read and how have they influenced your writing?

TR:  Currently, I have a large book by Edgar Allan Poe sitting on my side table in the family room. I like to read his material over a couple glasses of wine at night. I also enjoy the works of Lovecraft.

JLR: Do you feel it’s necessary to read a lot in order to be a good writer?  Why?

TR:  Reading certainly is important if one wishes to write. If a writer never reads, how does he or she know how to effectively present a story? But I’ve always believed not to read too much! When writing, one must be careful not to be influenced by another author’s material.

JLR: They say good reading habits are developed at an early age.  Have you always been a reader?  Can you pin-point a particular book or author who solidified your love of reading?

TR:  Truthfully, I didn’t read much when I was younger. I know that sounds horrible and might lead one to wonder how well of a writer I can be today. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, loves reading, even demanded a Kindle for Christmas. Yes, Santa brought one for her and she enjoys it.

My older daughter takes more after me. She reads… when she has to. Interesting thing: her teacher let us know how much she enjoys our daughter’s writings, mentioning that my older daughter can create elaborate scenes and interesting plots.

JLR:  In the past year or two, e-publishing has soared in popularity.  What made you decide to publish in e-book format?  Do you worry that you won’t achieve as much success as you might in traditional print?

TR:  Originally, I published to Amazon with the purpose of selling paperbacks. Ebooks were a second thought. The very fact that e-publishing has soared in the past couple years was the reason why I published to Kindle and Smashwords. Interesting thing: I have only sold one paperback! Everything else has been sold as an ebook.

JLR:  There has been a lot of talk this year about traditional print books giving way to e-books.  For example, publishing powerhouse, Dorchester, announced a few months ago that they were getting out of the mass market paperback market altogether in favor of e-publishing.  What affect for you think this will have on authors and readers going forward?

TR:  Considering that such a small portion of the world’s population is technology literate (people living in urban areas), I think it’s a big mistake to abandon publishing paperbacks all together. I’ve been to places in America where people have no idea what a USB drive is, or what to do when seated before a computer. These are normal, functioning, educated adults in society who simply have a life different from those who use e-readers.

Aside from that, since my first published book in autumn of 2009, I have only seen 2 people out in public reading from an e-reader. On vacations, in waiting rooms, at work, on trains and anywhere else one might expect to see someone read, I have seen people read paperbacks.

Does this hold true for 10 to 20 years into the future? That remains to be seen.

JLR:  How long have you been writing, and when did you decide that you wanted to write for publication?

TR:  As written in my author biography, “Tom began to produce weird writings back in 2000 while working the graveyard shift. The nightly edits were emailed to a small collection of coworkers who looked forward to something unusual to keep them awake or humored.
This practice was ended when he was moved to a different shift. Sadly, his enjoyment of writing was forgotten for several years, until the autumn of 2007, when old friends received a “blast from the past” email with the recognizable words, “Hello All”. The strange writings and short stories had resumed and a personal website was soon to follow.
 In autumn of 2009, Tom published his first book, Freaked out Horror (a collection of short stories). The work has been temporarily unpublished and will be re-released in 2011 with many additions, revisions and improvements.”
JLR:  Tell us a bit about your childhood.  Where did you grow up?  What was your family like?  Has your childhood influenced your writing?

TR:  I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. My family was just like any other, and I’m sure some things experienced as a child has ended up in my writings in one way or another.
 JLR:  What other works have you published?

TR:  Here is my catalog of books written: The upcoming novel, Amber, will soon be added to this list.

Here is my short story catalog of premium material that can be downloaded at the online catalogs:

And be sure to visit my blog! I’ve written many short stories that remain on my blog, never to be published to a catalog:

JLR:  If you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?

TR:  I would tell myself to read more, discover horror and begin writing.

JLR:  Many writers draw inspiration from music.  Do you listen to music when you write?  What music inspired The Tree Goddess?

TR:  This is an interesting question. Yes, I like to listen to the music of Steve Roach while writing. If I could, I would make A Darker Light the theme song to The Tree Goddess.

JLR:  What are three things that your fans would be surprised to find out about you?

TR:  I prefer not to watch modern-day horror movies. I don’t drink coffee. In recent years, I have dramatically cut back on my consumption of sugar.

JLR: What are you writing now since The Tree Goddess has been released?

TR: Currently I am writing Amber. I would like to think of it as a sequel to The Tree Goddess, and many of the original characters from The Tree Goddess will appear in Amber. But I don’t believe it can truly qualify as a sequel as it doesn’t attempt to resolve any open issues from the original novel. If anything, it can be considered further stories of Mapleview.

Something else I’ve learned while writing Amber: The Tree Goddess is a novel of mystery and macabre. However, Amber is turning out to be somewhat of a romance novel… A novel of twisted romances along with a bizarre crime of passion.

JLR: Aside from The Tree Goddess, what other titles do you have available and where can readers go to find them?

TR:  I’ve mentioned my catalogs in some questions above. But I would like to remind readers that Freaked out Horror:  Will be re-released some time before Easter of this year.

Friday, January 14, 2011


The Handmaid and the Carpenter tells the story of the relationship between Joseph and Mary of Nazareth.  While fictionalized, it is based on the Biblical account and historical records.  Of all of the things written around the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, not much is said about how Joseph handled the situation.  Think about it…the girl whom he is betrothed says she is pregnant by holy spirit.  He had to have wrestled with doubt over her story, yet, he married her anyway.  Imagine how his family must have felt, how the people in the town must have gossiped.  Remember also that Joseph and Mary were teenagers who lacked perspective and maturity. 

This was a beautifully written story which really delved into two enigmatic characters from history.  Regardless of religious beliefs, at its heart is a story about trust and whether you ever truly know the one you love. 

Overall, I give The Handmaid and the Carpenter

Plot – 3 bookmarks
Character Development – 3 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 3 bookmarks
Historical Accuracy – 4 bookmarks (to the extent which is it possible, the story is well researched.  The major error I found was Jesus’ birth date.  While Berg got the year correct, he wasn’t born on December 25th but sometime in October.  She also had to fictionalize some of the characters for sake of the story.  Understandable and well done.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Hili Yalon (Mary), Bar Paly (Naomi), Eyal Podell (Joseph)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: GREEN-EYED DEMON by Jaye Wells

The third book in Jaye Wells’ Sabina Kane series might be my favorite one yet.  Flanked by sexy mage, Adam Lazarus, and her demon minion, Giguhl, Sabina heads to New Orleans to rescue her kidnapped sister, kill her evil grandmother and save the world by preventing a full on war between the vampire race and the mage and fae races.  No pressure or anything. 

I think what I liked best in this book was the growth in Sabina as a character.  Up until this point, she was mostly tough, angry and snarky.  In Green-Eyed Demon, Sabina learns to tap into the emotion of love.  She begins to realize that her days as a lone assassin are over and she is now part of a team.  She has close friends, a sister and Adam… 

Speaking of Adam, his character also gets a chance to shine.  We see how tough and brave he is.  For two and a half books, Adam has waited for Sabina to mature into a person capable of forging a romantic relationship beyond just sexual.  It was wonderful to see him rewarded for his wait. 

As with the other books in this series, the plot is a rollercoaster of action.  There are some fun fight scenes, culminating when Sabina finally faces her grandmother. 

Green-Eyed Demon is scheduled for release on March 1, 2011, but is available for pre-order through Amazon now.

Overall, I give Green-Eyed Demon…

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 4 ½ bookmarks
Fight Scenes – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Emma Watson (Sabina), Sean Patrick Flannery (Adam), Cady the Demon Kitty (Giguhl), Jean Marsh (Lavina)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: HUSH HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick

When sixteen year old Nora Gray meets the mysterious and seemingly dangerous transfer student, Patch (stupid name, I know), she is not sure whether to run toward him or away.  Patch is a fallen angel whose greatest desire is to become human.  Unfortunately, Nora is standing in his way.

Before I read this book, I checked out some other reviews.  Many of them talked about how Hush Hush is a rip-off of Twilight and panned it accordingly.  However, I think this is a grossly unfair comparison.  First, I have to question the people reviewing it.  Twilight drew in a huge reading audience, many of whom were not big readers.  This is a good thing, but it also left many readers seeking another series which could replicate their Twilight experience.  When it doesn’t, they are disappointed.  The other issue with some of these reviews is that it is unfair to judge every YA paranormal romance against Twilight.  So what if both of the leading men are dark and dangerous?  Couldn’t this be more about teenage girls looking for the bad boy that they can tame?  I read a lot of YA and this good girl/bad boy theme is pretty heavily used.  That doesn’t make it a bad thing, it just means that not every author out there is trying to pattern their books after Twilight

Okay, that said, I tried to read this book with an open mind, forming my opinions off of this story alone.  I have to say, I liked both Nora and Patch.  Nora is a gutsy, inquisitive girl with an inner strength.  Patch fully admits that he is not a good guy.  He really isn’t.  However, the evil in him is a part of his character progression.  I wasn’t crazy about V, Nora’s best friend.  I thought she was vacuous and ditzy.  She constantly behaved like an idiot in front of boys.  If she were my friend, no way would I take her on double dates. 

There is also a decent amount of action in this book.  There are several “bad guys” who are after Nora for different reasons.  It makes the story interesting and suspenseful.  I am really looking forward to reading the sequel, Crescendo. 

Overall, I give Hush Hush

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 3 ½ bookmarks
Action – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Kay Panabaker (Nora), Emile Hirsch (Patch), Toby Hemingway (Elliot), Dianna Argon (Ms. Green)

Review: AMERICAN VAMPIRE by Jennifer Armintrout

This was such a fun book!!!!  If you read my blog regularly, you will know that I’m an all inclusive vampire lover.  American Vampire is an excellent addition to my vamp book collection.  It will be released on February 22, 2011, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon now. 

When vampire Graf McDonald gets lost driving in rural Ohio, he inadvertently finds himself literally stuck in the small town of Penance.  Penance, Ohio is a town trapped—for the past five years, no one can enter and no one can leave.  In addition to the freaky isolation phenomena, there is a monster on the loose, referred to as It, who is picking the town folk off one by one.  Graf isn’t sure which is worse—the monster or the hillbilly citizens who would be sure to come after him with torches and pitchforks

Jessa is known as the Penance “town slut,” due to her continued affair with her married high school sweetheart, Derek.  After Graf saves her life from the It, she reluctantly allows him to stay at her farm house.  Theirs is a tenuous alliance at best—Graf buying time before he eats her, and Jessa hoping that his ability to enter town will lead her to the key to getting out of it. 

I absolutely loved the chemistry between Graf and Jessa.  Many books try to do the snarky love/hate thing, but few pull it off as well as Armintrout.  Graf’s inner dialogue is hilariously funny with perfect timing.  Jessa is a lovely balance between country bumpkin and intelligence.  Best of all, Jessa doesn’t take Graf’s crap, and refuses to be treated like dinner. 

American Vampire is a mystery, a romance, a comedy, a paranormal horror…all of the things I love in a book. 

Overall, I give American Vampire

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Snark – 5 bookmarks (funny without being annoying)
Love Story – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Alicia Silverstone (Jessa), Thomas Gibson (Graf), Chris Hemsworth (Derek), Jim Parrack (Chad), Jamie Pressly (Becky)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: DANGEROUS LOVER by Lisa Marie Rice

When Jack was a homeless teen living in a shelter, he met Caroline, a rich girl who volunteered with the homeless and was not only beautiful, but kind to him.  She represented all of the good in the world and he because infatuated with her.  When his alcoholic father dies, he sets off on his own, eventually taken in by an Army colonel and adopted. 

Fast forward twelve years.  Jack has lived a dangerous life in some of the roughest corners of the world as a private security guard and executive in his adopted father’s company.  When his father passes away, Jack settles his unfinished business, sells the company and returns to the town where Caroline lives.  When he finds her, she is no longer wealthy.  Her life has been one tragedy after another.  Now, she is alone and in dire straights financially.  Over a Christmas where they are trapped in her home by a blizzard, they fall in love. 

Aside from the love story, there is another plot involving blood diamonds.  Part of Jack’s loose-ends that he needed to tie up involved him going to Africa, busting up a diamond smuggling ring and making off with $20 million in stones.  The nasty, jealous man that he lifted the stones from is out to hunt him down.

I guess this was an okay story.  It has lots of potential, I just think it never quite lived up to it.  This is an erotic romance, but the sex scenes were repetitive and uninspiring.  There was little dialogue which made the love story implausible.  The blood diamonds were interesting, but took a backseat to the romance storyline.  Caroline was boring as a character.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more personality.  Same with Jack.  He didn’t talk much and was too serious.  The ending of the story was very abrupt and left way too much open-ended.  This was an entertaining book, but don’t expect to get too much out of it.

Overall, I give Dangerous Lover

Plot – 2 ½ bookmarks (Could have been more if the ending had been better.)
Character Development – 1 ½ bookmarks
Love Story – 2 bookmarks
Sex Scenes - 1 1/2 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Rachael McAdams (Caroline), Chaske Spencer (Jack/Ben), Aaron Eckhart (Sanders)

Review: A LESSON IN PASSION by Jennifer Connors

Ginny is a career focused woman who could use a boost in her love life.  As she embarks on a vacation, a well meaning friend gives her a stack of romance novels to read.  Ginny makes fun of the books, but after encountering the vacation from hell, she ends up reading them out of boredom.  After a freak accident, Ginny finds herself smack dab in the middle of a romance novel, set in medieval Scotland.  Her snarky inner dialogue about the hunky hero is funny, and Ginny decides to play along with the plot until she can figure out how to get back home. 

There were things I liked and things I didn’t about this book.  The first part describing Ginny going on vacation and having a bunch of bad things happen seemed to go on too long.  It also was written very “telly” rather than showing the action to the reader.  This got better once Ginny woke in the romance novel setting.  Here, the writing was funny and entertaining.  Ian, the hunky Scottish laird, was super stereotypical, but he was supposed to be, and that was part of the fun.  I didn’t completely buy into the romance between he and Ginny though.  Hot or not, a 21st Century woman would have trouble with his chauvinistic ways. 

The ending was also a little quick, but the cliffhanger is meant to build suspense for the next book in the series, A Lessons in Forgiveness.  The book could have benefitted from a professional editor, but it’s not bad for a self-pub.

Overall, I give A Lesson in Passion

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 3 bookmarks (Thought Ginny was a tad disrespectful of the social morays of the time period.)
Love Story – 2 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Rachael Bilson (Ginny), Ben McKenzie (Ian)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: HERE LIES BRIDGET by Paige Harbison

Bridget Duke is the most popular girl in school, but is also the very definition of “mean girl.”  When a new girl, Anna, comes to school, it seems everyone falls under her spell of kindness.  Suddenly, people stop worshipping her and putting up with her crap.  Frustrated and powerless, Bridget ends up dying in a car accident.  She “wakes” to find herself in limbo where she is forced to literally walk in the shoes of those she has wronged.  Now, her redemption rests in the hands of five people who would rather she go to Hell.  Is it too late to make a last impression? 

Bridget is seriously mean.  I had a really hard time in the early chapters finding any redeeming qualities in the character.  She lies, cheats, blames other people for her wrongs, criticizes her friends and is absolutely horrible to her stepmother who is trying hard to forge a relationship with her.  While incredible annoying for the first part of the book, Bridget’s characters has nowhere to go but up.  While Bridget’s journey is extreme, there are some valuable lessons to be learned from her. 

Overall, I give Here Lies Bridget

Plot – 3 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Dreama Walker (Bridget), Hunter Parrish (Liam), Andrea Bowen (Anna)


Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is one of my favorite books of all time.  I’ve been wanting to read his other famous work for a long time, and finally have gotten the opportunity. 

In the heart of Paris is the Notre Dame Cathedral.  In the cathedral lives the Archdeacon, Claude Frollo and his adopted son Quasimodo, who was found abandoned on the church steps as an infant because of his extreme deformities.  As an adult now, Quasimodo is the ringer of the bells, a job which has destroyed his hearing.  When a beautiful Gypsy girl, Esmeralda, comes to the square to dance and perform with her trained goat, she captivates the men who watch her.  When she meets a military officer, Phoebus, she believes herself in love with him and falls for his promises.  Phoebus is attacked and assumed dead, and Esmeralda is arrested for the crime.  As she goes to the gallows to hang for the crime, Quasimodo snatches her up and hides her in the cathedral, claiming Sanctuary.  Esmeralda is not completely safe within its confines, as Claude Frollo’s lust for her threatens them both.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is all about people not being who they appear to be.  Obviously, Quasimodo’s deformed head and body is hiding a pure and loving soul, but this duality extends to almost all of the characters throughout the novel.  Esmeralda presents as a beautiful and bewitching Gypsy girl, when in reality, she is the stolen daughter of a French nun.  Phoebus seems to be a handsome and gallant officer, yet when he finds Esmeralda going to the gallows for mistakenly being convicted of his murder, all her has to do is step forward and show himself to be alive, but he is too cold and selfish to do so.  Claude Frollo is the man of God who is driven mad by his lust for Esmeralda. 

I’ve never seen the Disney movie of this story, but I assume they must have completely bastardized it in order to make it acceptable for children.  This book is a tragedy in every sense of the term. 

Overall, I give The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 3 bookmarks (There is not one central love story, yet love/lust is one of the central themes of the book)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Andre the Giant (Quasimodo), Marion Cotillard (Esmeralda), Tom Hardy (Phoebus), Geoffrey Rusch (Claude Frollo)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review: POPULAZZI by Elise Allen

All schools have a social hierarchy of popularity.  Cara and Claudia at the bottom of theirs!  When Cara’s family moves to a new school district between sophomore and junior year, Claudia sees it as an opportunity for Cara to use her anonymity to reinvent herself and climb The Ladder.  The idea…date her way to the top.  At first, Cara is skeptical of the plan, but Claudia is enthusiastic and persuasive.  When Cara meets Archer (Theater Geek) on the first day of school she decides to make him her first target, but soon finds herself falling for him for real.  When his affections are not returned, Cara re-dedicates herself to the plan. 

Most of the plan to snag boyfriends and climb the popularity ladder, involves conforming herself to fit in with different groups.  Archer sees what Cara is doing and is disgusted by her calculating.  As she progresses, it is obvious that her new friends do not like her for herself, rather only for thefake self that she projects. 

The story is about being true to who you are and forming real friendships based on honesty.  While slightly predictable, this was a fun, entertaining read.  My only complaint is that I was reading this in e-book format and the last several pages were cut off, leaving me hanging just as it was getting good.  Obviously, this was not the author’s fault, just a technical error, but still very frustrating. 

Overall, I give Populazzi…

Plot - 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4  bookmarks
Moral Lessons – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Molly Quinn (Cara), Jodelle Ferland (Claudia), Dev Patel (Asher), Jackson Rathbone (Nate), Anastacia Baranova (Trista), Seychelle Gabriel (Ree-Ree), Alexander Gould (Robert)

Review: TWISTED by Laurie Halse Anderson

After committing an end of school year prank where he graffitied the school, seventeen year old Tyler spends his whole summer vacation working off his community service by doing back-breaking labor.  The punishment did more for his muscles than anything and he returns to school his senior year a whole new person.  Armed with the new physique, he attracts the attention of his dream girl, Bethany, the sister of the school bully and the daughter of his father’s boss.  When unfortunate events at occur at a party, the police, the school administrators and his classmates are quick to assume that “troublemaker” Tyler did it.  The result leads to alienation at school, mistrust at home and torment from bullies.  Through it all, Tyler must learn how to take responsibility for his actions and become an adult. 

Laurie Halse Anderson has a talent of finding the right voice for her characters.  She writes about deep subjects, yet she does so with humor and sarcasm.  Twisted definitely upholds this tone.  Issues like suicide, sex, alcohol, violence, bullying and family problems are handled realistically, without becoming too depressing.  The character of Yoda (nicknamed due to his Star Wars obsession) provides comic relief and is a great support for Tyler. 

I also liked the family dynamics of the book.  The sibling relationship between Tyler and his freshman sister, Hannah, is refreshing.  While they have disagreements like all siblings, they love and support each other fiercely.  It is a nice break from the stereotypical sibling squabbling that is prevalent in many stories.  The relationship development between Tyler and his parents is at times heart-breaking, yet hopeful in the end. 

Overall, I give Twisted…

Plot - 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Moral Lessons - 4 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Jared Keeso (Tyler), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Yoda), Jodelle Ferland (Hannah), Sara Gadon (Bethany), Ed Westwick (Chip)