Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Archangel's Legion by Nalini Singh

Title: Archangel's Legion
Author: Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunters, Book 6
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 29 October 2013

Nalini Singh, the New York Times bestselling “alpha author of paranormal romance” (Booklist) returns to an immortal world of violent passion and lethal power…on the brink of a deadly archangelic war.

Angels are falling from the sky in New York, struck down by a vicious, unknown force.

Vampires are dying impossibly of disease.

Guild hunter Elena Deveraux and the Archangel Raphael must discover the source of the wave of death before it engulfs their city and their people, leaving New York a ruin and Raphael's Tower under siege by enemy archangels.

Yet even as they fight desperately to save the city, an even darker force is stirring, its chill eyes trained on New York...and on Raphael. Rivers of crimson and nightmares given flesh, the world will never again be the same...

Just when I think Nalini Singh can't possibly outdo herself, she proves me wrong. From the earliest pages in this book, until I turned the very last one, I was on the edge of my seat - unable to think of anything but needing to know what happened next.

I'm not even sure how to review this book without fan-girling, I loved it so much. I've read the whole thing twice now and done scenes even more.

This is the fourth full-length novel focusing on Raphael and Elena - and despite my thoughts that their story was pretty much told in Archangel's Consort, there's still plenty to explore as evidenced here. I've always loved the relationship dynamic between Elena and Raphael. There's such a huge power differential and, unlike a lot of books that will just gloss that over and make it seem like it's dealt with, Nalini Singh continues to actually deal with it. Raphael is a centuries old Archangel - one of the most powerful beings in the world - and Elena is a new-immortal, with only twenty-some years of life behind her. That alone will create a gulf that a lot of people might not be able to overcome. Yet, Raphael and Elena are continuously negotiating their boundaries...in a smart, intelligent, caring way - they talk about it. When something comes up that is going to press up against Elena, potentially leaving her in a very large power deficit, she finds the words to discuss it with Raphael and he listens. They may not always resolve it satisfactorily for them both right away, but they're always working towards that. That, right there, shows their love for each other so clearly to me.

The overarcing plot of the book, I'll admit, had me in tears more than once. The first scene with angels falling from the sky was heart-wrenching, the aftermath as much so. It's clear for most of the book that things are coming to a head; there are overt signs of war, and insidious signs of something else - something that's nearly stalking Raphael, and we're not quite sure what it is. It's a challenge for him, though, that's for sure - and again, it's Elena that helps keep him grounded, a little bit mortal, if you will. I was on the edge of my seat the entire book; I had to know what was going on. The last 100 or so pages are so intense that I stayed up until 2am just to finish; I immediately turned to the beginning and started again so I could take the journey a little more leisurely.

Also, we finally get to learn more about Naasir - and can I just say what he manages to do with just two other people in the climactic scene was amazing, and made me grin completely unexpectedly. Raphael's Seven, and Elena's friends play important roles in this novel, and as always I'm left wanting more. They're, each and every one, fantastic.

Archangel's Legion is a thrill ride of a novel, heart-wrenching, exciting, beautiful, romantic and absolutely game-changing. I was blown away, and I can not wait to see what's next!

Grade: A+

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: Dragon Rising by Jaime Rush

Title: Dragon Rising
Author: Jaime Rush
Series: The Hidden, Book 0.6
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 1 October 2013

Clues left by her missing father lead Lyra to a gorgeous, mysterious Caido, a descendent of fallen angels. When she discovers that his brother is also missing, she's determined not to let the exasperating man shut her out.

The last thing Archer needs is an emotional Dragon at his side, especially one whose heat reaches beyond the icy walls he, and all Caidos, must erect for good reason. Working together? Smart. Falling in love? Foolish…and inescapable.

Dragon Rising has a lot of potential I think. Even though it started rough for me, the world quickly intrigued me and made me want to know more. A lot more, something I think the length of the story affected and left me somewhat disappointed.

I've got to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of novellas to start out series, especially paranormal series. There's too much world-building to do, too much to introduce, to really make it happen in novella format. Dragon Rising had me confused and more than a little lost in the first 30% or so while I tried to take everything in; special names like Caido, Crescent, dhagger, Mundanes...what the Crescents (dragons) actually looked like, and how they were created. I still don't know how they age, procreate, or even how they transform. In fact, when they're transformed the only picture I really got was a human with a long tail and scales. I don't know if that's accurate, but there was never a description given.

Crescents are dragons, but also Deuces - which I think also means demi-gods - and Caidos are fallen angels, but can also be considered Crescents and maybe even Deuces? I'm honestly not sure. Lyra's a Crescent though, a yellow dragon which means she's more emotional than others, and ends up needing the help of the unemotional Caido, Archer. There's a very clear draw between them, but what I couldn't figure out was why. Apparently, humans and Crescents are drawn to Caidos, some sort of Thrall, and Lyra often wrote off her attraction to Archer as such throughout the story. Archer, after initially wanting her nothing but further away from her, can't resist touching her - regardless of the consequences for him.

The overall plot comes crashing to a climax within a few pages, with everything tying up so quickly I'm still not quite sure what happened. There were many names thrown at me, with an expository explanation of what happened and a tiny bit of action. I had been intrigued as the mystery deepened, but by the time it all was cleared up I felt like I didn't know much more than what I had at the beginning.

Despite my above complaints I was really interested in this world. I think I was so disappointed because I see so much potential here and I want to see it developed more, perhaps in a full length novel. I like the different mythologies presented here, the absolutely fresh - to me - world created.

Grade: C-

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Dead Sexy Dragon by Lolita Lopez

Title: Dead Sexy Dragon
Author: Lolita Lopez
Series: Dragon Heat, Book 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 6 August 2013

The last thing dragon shifter Stig Wyvern needs is his dead friend's kid sister showing up on his doorstep. He's just minutes away from entering a mating phase. Sharing his isolated house with the young woman he's desperately lusted after for quite some time is a recipe for disaster.

But Cora Cardenas has nowhere else to go. She's in deep trouble with some really nasty people and Stig is the only one who can protect her. That he’s deliciously sexy and makes her tingle with the simplest of smiles is just a bonus.

Cora quickly realizes Stig is hiding something from her. To make matters worse, she's plagued with breathtakingly naughty dreams starring a shadowed lover who bears a startling resemblance to her host. And just what the hell is going on down in the basement at night?

Stig needs to get Cora out of his house but his inner beast has other ideas. He’s found his mate and she’s not going anywhere...

I love dragons. I don't know when it started, but I've always been obsessed with them. Sexy dragon shifters seemed like it was right up my alley when I requested this book from NetGalley. While I was really looking forward to Dead Sexy Dragon, I did have some issues that kept me from really enjoying it.

At just 128 pages, Lolita Lopez tries to pack a lot of story into this book - and I think that's where the majority of my problems stem from. There were four obstacles to Stig and Cora getting together, and each one was quickly, and much too easily, dealt with. In just a day and a half they were exchanging "I love you"s. Everything just rocketed along, and I wanted a moment for the characters to come to terms with the momentous changes happening in their lives.

Stig and Cora were both, honestly, pretty flat characters. I can't think of any really defining characteristics about them - other than the normal for a quick, sexy paranormal book. Although, I did really like that the book started with Stig doing to the dishes; it just made me grin and ridiculously happy to show a man doing something so mundane when they hardly ever are shown to do anything of the sort in romance novels. I would have liked more time to get to know them both and maybe understood why they were falling in love so quickly.

The sexual chemistry between Stig and Cora is blazing hot! They light sparks off of each other, in dreams and reality.

Ms. Lopez has created an interesting world here. You have the Dragons and the Knights - locked in a centuries old feud. The feud is apparently never-ending, though the dragons are nearly immortal and the Knights simply human. Stig is part of a group of warriors fighting against the Knights, so it's safe to assume there will be sequels featuring the rest of the dragon warriors. I'd like to understand more about the dragons and their different abilities, some of the changes the Stig experienced, and how this feud manages to stay strong so many years later - through so many human generations.

Dead Sexy Dragon is an easy read that has some great sexy times. I would have liked a bit more depth in the characters and the world, but this is the first book in the series. I'll likely give the next a read and see where the author decides to take this.

Grade: C

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Review: The Chief by Monica McCarty

Title: The Chief
Author: Monica McCarty
Series: The Highland Guard, Book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: 23 March 2010

An elite fighting force unlike the world has ever seen...

Scouring the darkest corners of the Highlands and Western Isles, Robert the Bruce handpicks ten warriors to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule. They are the best of the best, chosen for their superior skills in each discipline of warfare. And to lead his secret Highland Guard, Bruce chooses the greatest warrior of all.

The ultimate Highland warlord and a swordsman without equal, Tor MacLeod has no intention of being drawn into Scotland's war against the English. Dedicated to his clan, the fiercely independent chief answers to no one—especially not to his alluring new bride, bartered to him in a bid to secure his command of the deadliest fighting force the world has ever seen. The treacherous chit who made her way to Tor's bed may have won his hand, but she will never claim his heart.

Although her husband's reputation is as fierce as his manner, Christina Fraser believes that something softer hides beneath his brutal shell. But the only warmth she feels is in their bed, in glorious moments of white-hot desire that disappear with the dawn. When Christina's reckless bid to win her husband's love goes awry and thrusts them into danger on the eve of war, Tor will face his ultimate battle: to save his wife and to open his heart—before it's too late.

What a perfect book at the perfect time for me! I'm glad a whim made me decide to start this, because a good historical Highlander romance was just what I needed.

Christina is a young woman stuck in a bad situation - her father's one of the biggest a-holes I've ever had the displeasure to read. He abuses her, uses her, and dishonors her. That she still manages to have a kind, giving, optimistic soul after years of his treatment is something of a miracle. Her fantasies of a knight in shining armor were showed her to be incredibly naive, but I liked the journey she went on - from a frightened rabbit that's incredibly naive, to a strong woman who knows her worth. Her decision towards the end literally made me cheer, because she put herself first, knowing that she deserved so much more than what she was being given.

I simply adored Tor. He's gruff and stubborn as hell, but - like Christina - I saw through to the generous, caring, loving soul beneath. He's hardened himself to nearly everything because that's what he thinks it takes to make his clan prosper, and survive...until his new wife starts breaking that down, softening him. That he didn't even realize what was really going on was pretty humorous at times. I wanted to smack him upside the head a couple of times because he was being so thickheaded, but I understood it, too. He needed the brutal kick to realize exactly what he had, and when he did I loved how he went for it, to hell with everything.

In addition to two great characters that I was rooting for to find a way to be what they both deserved, this story marks the start of a series about the best warriors that Scotland (and England) have to offer in the coming war between Edward Plantagenet and Robert Bruce for the kingdom of Scotland. Each of these warriors will be getting a book, and I can easily say I'm very much looking forward to reading about this unconventional team.

I'm pretty far from an expert in this era in history, however I was completely immersed in the reality of the time in The Chief. It's clear that Monica McCarty knows what she's talking about, I was always comfortable in her history - my thoughts readily confirmed by the details of liberties taken and actual historical notes in the Author's Note at the end.

The Chief is the first book in The Highland Guard series, with the eighth due out in February of 2014. I have a lot to catch up on, and it's going to be my absolute pleasure. Ms. McCarty pens a wonderful romance, full of characters I can root for, set at a pivotal moment in history. I can't wait to dive back into her world.

Grade: B+

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Review: Cake by Lauren Dane

Title: Cake
Author: Lauren Dane
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 15 September 2013

She won't be satisfied with just one bite...

Art student-slash-bike messenger Wren Davis pursues what she wants. And what she wants now is Gregori Ivanov, rock star of the Seattle art scene. With his tattoos, piercings and sensual sneer, Gregori is the ultimate bad boy. Wren’s gotten to know the man beneath the body art, too—and it only makes her crave him more.

But Gregori loves women like he loves cake and champagne—intensely, but only for the moment. And after Wren experiences just how scorching sex with Gregori is, she's determined to show him that just one taste won't be enough...

This is a story that's incredibly easy to read and get immersed in. Both main characters are likeable, and I was glad to watch them find their way together. However, something was missing. I can't even really lay a finger on it, but something kept this from being an amazing read.

Wren is a great heroine, one that's secure in herself, determined to go after what and who she wants, and not afraid to work hard to get it. I really admire her actually - a huge bonus after some of the previous books I'd read. The chemistry with Gregori was pretty intense, too. Their flirting was some of my favorite points in the book.

Gregori is a fairly stereotypical artist - temperamental - and brilliant. He's also incredibly stubborn and commitment-phobic (though perhaps after his ex-wife, he has a good excuse). I really enjoyed how he genuinely thought of Wren as a friend and cared about her that way.

There's not much of an overall plot, except for the commitment scare issues that come up about 3/4 of the way in - the rest of it is a pure, simple romance. There are plenty of smexy times, and I think that might be something that actually kept this from being a higher rating for me - I started to get bored, and the sexy times weren't so sexy to me after a while. That's likely a "it's me, not you," thing though.

Overall, I enjoyed this uncomplicated romance with two nice characters. I think this is the first thing I've ever read by Lauren Dane and I can definitely say I'll be digging deeper into her backlist now.

Grade: C+

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

Title: Pretty Girl-13
Author: Liz Coley
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: 19 March 2013

Reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart case, Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing and powerful psychological mystery about a girl who must piece together the story of her kidnapping and captivity.

Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods alone on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she's returned home...only to find that it's three years later and she's sixteen-or at least that's what everyone tells her.

What happened to the past three years of her life?

Angie doesn't know.

But there are people who do — people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren't locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her "alters." As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?

Liz Coley's alarming and fascinating psychological mystery is a disturbing - and ultimately empowering page-turner about accepting our whole selves, and the healing power of courage, hope, and love.

I can't remember exactly why I requested this book for review, it's not the type of story that I normally go for as there are too many things that could possibly go wrong with the telling of it. I was both happily surprised and slightly disappointed when I got to the end of Pretty Girl-13; a well-told story, interesting and easily readable about an incredibly difficult subject, however some parts seemed to easy, too quick, too neatly tied up, for me.

Three years are missing from Angie's life. She disappeared from Girl Scout camp one morning when she was just thirteen and reappeared at her home, now sixteen, with no idea what happened, where she'd been, or who she'd been with. I can easily imagine her fear and confusion - the author paints it so clearly - and I was really expecting an incredibly heart-wrenching journey from here on out. The deeper we got into the story, the deeper that we dug, the more I felt like things were being glossed over. Angie was healing a little - or a lot - too quickly. There were rough patches, there was a 'miracle' medical cure, there was revelations and set-backs, but it always felt slightly rushed.

The personalities that Angie developed were fascinating and interesting to meet and learn. I only wish we'd had more time with them, that Angie'd had more time with them. The problem I had with this is that Dissociative Identity Disorder rarely resolves so quickly, cleanly, or easily. It has made me want to read more on DID, and the integration process but as I was reading it I felt it hard to believe that all her problems were solved in a matter of months.

I mentioned the alters that Angie had developed, but there were a few other secondary characters that stood out just as much to me. Kate is a friend that Angie finds, again, after her return; friends before the abduction Kate is the perfect steady rock of friendship for Angie to have. I loved seeing how absolutely unruffled Kate was in the face of Angie's issues, how determinedly she stood by her side and made her feel more secure, better about herself, and comfortable in what she was experiencing. Kate was a safe harbor for Angie in her healing. As most of this story really took place in Angie's head, with her personalities, there weren't a ton of secondary characters. I did love Dr. Lynn who really exemplifies everything a therapist should be, with her patience and understanding, her compassion and strength. Angie's relationship with her parents was heart-wrenching to me. It was difficult and fraught with land-mines. Each person in the relationship had issues they had to work through - such a traumatic event left none of them unaffected. I was happy with how well rounded the characters were though. Even the two that could have easily fallen into caricature managed to stay just on the other side of it.

Despite what the blurb says I didn't find this to be much of a psychologically mystery, I think nearly anyone could have guessed what happened from pretty much the beginning. Details could vary from each person's imagination, but the essence of it would be the same - and it was. I did read this as a character driven book though. The characters of the alters and Angie finding healing. Which is probably why the lack of time and depth on those things disappointed me. I wanted to read more about who they were - not just what they'd experienced, but who they were as personalities, as people. I really appreciated how the author gave each of the personalities a, very, different voice. How the disorder manifested itself felt very real and absolutely terrifying. Angie's reaction to her personalities also felt real and understandable, even if I didn't agree with all her sentiments - which I most definitely did not.

Pretty Girl-13 was very easy to read with some highly emotional moments, quick and very straightfoward. In spite of the issues I had I greatly enjoyed this book. The voice was easy to ready, letting me fly through it in a couple of hours, and the story was compelling. I wish it had a bit more depth, and would have liked some more mystery, but overall I'm glad I read it and will be looking for more from Liz Coley.

This all makes it hard to rate. On the one hand I enjoyed it, but on the other I was hoping for so much more.

Grade: B-/C+

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Unteachable by Leah Raeder

Title: Unteachable
Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Release Date: 27 July 2013

I met him at a carnival, of all corny places. The summer I turned eighteen, in that chaos of neon lights and cheap thrills, I met a man so sweet, so beautiful, he seemed to come from another world. We had one night: intense, scary, real. Then I ran, like I always do. Because I didn't want to be abandoned again.

But I couldn't run far enough.

I knew him as Evan that night. When I walked into his classroom, he became Mr. Wilke.

My teacher.

I don't know if what we're doing is wrong. The rules say one thing; my heart says screw the rules. I can't let him lose his job. And I can't lose him.

In the movies, this would have a happy ending. I grow up. I love, I lose, I learn. And I move on. But this is life, and there’s no script. You make it up as you go along.

And you don't pray for a happy ending. You pray for it to never end.

The feels this book brought out in me! I'm not even sure I can do a review justice. So I'll apologize for the stream of consciousness feel to this post.

This book has some of the most amazing writing I've read from a new - to me - author in a very long time. Then there were the beautiful, painful, devastating, wonderful moments that resonated so deeply with me. This brought me back to my intense loves, first loves, painful moments, and awkward moments and made me feel the feelings that I had at those times - sometimes the feelings I still have.

There are some incredible moments of clarity from Maise, an eighteen year old girl that is - in some ways - much more mature than other young women her age and at the same time so very much a child in her thoughts and ways. There were times when I was in absolute awe of her, and others when I wanted to shake her and tell her to grow up. No matter what I was with her throughout the entire painful, ecstatic journey.

The characters are what drug me through this story. The three main characters have an incredible depth; they had flaws that made them real people, with histories and futures and I'm sure I've known each one of them - maybe even been some of them - at different points in my life. I won't say too much about anyone other than Maise because I really think they're best learned as you go through the story.

My one issue, if you could even really call it that, is that there's a bit a slow spot coming up to the halfway point in Unteachable. I was reading in fits in starts, on breaks at work, so that could have affected how I felt about the story - but to me, it felt like there was nothing really happening.

One small thing, but it didn't much matter though because I was utterly entranced by the writing and the journey these flawed characters were taking. I'd recommend this without reservations to anyone that wants to read a beautifully written, intensely emotional story. I know I'll be picking up anything by Leah Raeder in the future.

Grade: A-

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Carnally Ever After by Jackie Barbosa

Title: Carnally Ever After
Author: Jackie Barbosa
Series: Ever After Novellas, Book 1
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
Release Date: 20 September 2011

Jilted at the altar, Lady Louisa Bennett seeks the solace of a quiet, empty chapel and instead finds Alistair de Roche, her fiancé’s best man and the subject of her fantasies from the moment she met him. Alistair knows bedding his best friend’s betrothed is well beyond the pale, but Louisa has haunted his dreams for months. Soon, Louisa and Alistair are caught up in a consuming love affair that threatens their families’ plans and their own hearts. Can they find a way to live happily, and carnally, ever after?

Carnally Ever After is a quick erotic read that was ultimately satisfying; I did have some issues with it, however they didn't detract from my overall enjoyment too much. At a mere 68 pages, per my Kindle, the story flies by and there is - surprisingly - an actual story packed in here too.

Louisa is left at the alter, not so much jilted as forgotten by her fiancé. She comes to the conclusion in her discussion with his best friend, Alistair de Roche, that it's because of her plump figure and general unattractiveness. Now, don't get me wrong, I absolutely get feeling self-conscious about weight; but just once I'd like to see a heroine that's overweight and comfortable in her own skin. In all other regards though I like Louisa. She goes after what she wants when she finds herself in this untenable position, and is fearless in pursuing her desires.

Alistair, of course, has been attracted to Louisa and her generous curves since he first met her - but she was already his friend's fiancé, so he's kept his thoughts - and his hands - to himself. Until Louisa demands that he prove she's attractive to him. I honestly don't have much of a feel for Alistair, other than we're told he's good with making money and he's incredibly attracted to Louisa. This is a downside of the length of the novel. I liked how he treated Louisa - even if I didn't quite like how he dealt with his own fiancé.

I felt quite immersed in the story and the time period, though there wasn't a lot of page to develop the world. The characters felt slightly anachronistic, but honestly that wasn't what I was reading for; the sexy times were quite sexy though perhaps a little rushed. I did quite enjoy the last "Epiphany" epilogue that was included in this edition, which takes place some months after Louisa gives birth.

My main issue with the story, and it admittedly comes up in almost all stories I read that contain a self-conscious, overweight heroine, was the implication that only lush women are feminine. Now, I thought the author was doing really good for a while, showing that Alistair is attracted to her, and other men are attracted to other body types of women, but then about mid-way through there was a comment regarding her being the ideal for "loving" and again in the "Epiphany" epilogue some generalized comment about all men loving big breasts and no breast being too big. I'm sure these were meant innocently enough, and the man was speaking as a man that is in love and attracted is wont to do, but it grated at me. It wasn't enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book though, and I will definitely be reading more by Jackie Barbosa in the future.

Grade: B-

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Early Teaser Sneak Peek: Waking Up Dead by Margo Bond Collins

Below is a early sneak peek for a new book that has me pretty excited - I'm looking forward to reading it and checking it out. Waking Up Dead by Margo Bond Collins is due out October 8th on Amazon!


Hi, everyone! I want to thank Touch the Night for hosting today’s stop on my pre-release teaser tour. I’m sharing a sneak peek at an excerpt from my new paranormal mystery Waking Up Dead. It’s forthcoming from Solstice Publishing and available via Amazon on October 8--I’m pretty excited!

Be sure to add Waking Up Dead to your Goodreads bookshelves: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18428064-waking-up-dead

When Dallas resident Callie Taylor died young, she expected to go to Heaven, or maybe Hell. Instead, she met her fate early thanks to a creep with a knife and a mommy complex. Now she's witnessed another murder, and she's not about to let this one go. She's determined to help solve it before an innocent man goes to prison. And to answer the biggest question of all: why the hell did she wake up in Alabama?



As Molly straightened up, the man slipped the wire over her head and twisted it around her neck. She struggled, but he pulled the garrote tighter and tighter.
I was screaming at the top of my ghostly voice, for all the good it did me. I moved up behind the man and beat at his back with closed fists--fists that slipped in and out of his back without ever making real contact. He shuddered a little--clearly he was one of the very slightly sensitive ones--but he didn’t loosen his hands.
I reached up and tried to grab the wire, tried to pull against the pressure he was exerting on the wire and it did loosen for an instant. But only for an instant. The living have more control over solid objects than the dead do. I never resented that fact more than at that moment.
But I kept trying. I kept trying as Molly’s face turned purple, then blue, then black, kept trying even as she drooped in the man’s grip.
Then he loosened the wire and it was too late. I watched that wispy, light-on-fog life force slip out of Molly and move on to wherever it is that other people go when they die. I was glad she didn’t show up next to me as a full-blown ghost. At that moment, I wouldn’t have wished my impotent half-existence on anyone.
I couldn’t help thinking that if I’d been alive, I might have been able to save her.
If I could have cried real tears, I would have. As it was, I was sobbing hoarsely and calling the man every dirty name I could think of.
I was still cursing as I followed him around the kitchen. First he opened the pantry and pulled out a box of Hefty garbage bags. Then he grabbed a knife out of the block on the counter. And finally, he picked up Molly’s body and carried it to the bathroom.

About the Author


Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Waking Up Dead is her first published novel. Her second novel, Legally Undead, is an urban fantasy, forthcoming in 2014 from World Weaver Press.


Connect with Margo

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargoBondCollin  @MargoBondCollin
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/vampirarchy


Book Trailer

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: Burning by Elana K. Arnold

Title: Burning
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: 11 June 2013

Ben: Having just graduated from high school, Ben is set to leave Gypsum, Nevada. It's good timing since the gypsum mine that is the lifeblood of the area is closing, shutting the whole town down with it. Ben is lucky: he's headed to San Diego, where he's got a track scholarship at the University of California. But his best friends, Pete and Hog Boy, don't have college to look forward to, so to make them happy, Ben goes with them to check out the hot chick parked on the side of Highway 447.

Lala: She and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. Some customers choose Tarot cards; others have their palms read. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash--especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala's been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben's cards is the day that everything changes for her...and for him.

Burning brims with the passion of two young people, both at crossroads in their lives, and both forever altered by one moment in time.

Young Adult, as a genre, has been falling out of favor with me. To be fair, I never really loved it and only dabbled in it to find those occasionally great stories. Burning is probably a book that I would have passed by at nearly any other time, but something about the blurb caught my eye. Maybe it was the idea of two totally different people from two completely different worlds coming together for a time and changing each other's lives. Maybe it was the gypsy aspect, which I'm willing to admit to always finding somewhat romantic even though I've known the harsher realities of their lifestyle for many years. I think it was probably a combination of all the above.

Burning is told in alternating first person points of view – each chapter switches from Ben to Lala – and this really allows us to get into the characters' heads and experience their thoughts, decisions and emotions. Immediately recognizable was the fact that Ben and Lala had very distinct voices. Even without the headers at the beginning of each chapter, bearing the POV character's name, I always knew whose head I was in.

Ben is much like any eighteen-year-old boy. Grown up in some ways, and still very much a boy in others. He tried to do right by those he cared about, and as Lala would put it, he was nice. More than that, though, Ben wasn't perfect. He had some incredibly, I hesitate to use the word but, ignorant preconceived notions regarding a specific character. I don't want to give too much away, but what he felt, why he felt it, and how it was portrayed – and resolved – was very realistic, and so poignant to me. His flaws served to give him room to grow, and more than anything this story is about Ben's growth. A small piece of it at the beginning of his journey into adulthood, but a few steps along that road, and it was gripping to read.

I felt kind of angry with myself for spending the last few days I'd be with my family doing my damnedest to avoid them. It wasn't that I wouldn't miss them; I would. Maybe that was the point – maybe I was weaning myself off of them.

Lala, having grown up a gypsy, comes from a very different culture than Ben. Where a lot of people will likely relate to Ben, his family, and his lifestyle; they might not have experience with Lala's lifestyle, traditions, and beliefs as easily. I'll be honest and say that I don't know a lot about modern gypsies and haven't even studied gypsies in history for many years, but everything Ms. Arnold wrote here about the family dynamic, the kumpànyas, the very defined gender roles and expectations, their beliefs and ideas – it all felt real to me. I understood Lala, her desire to be both a good daughter and make her family proud, and to escape, to live her own life. She's a strong young woman. Stronger, more sure of herself and her decisions that Ben, for sure; that was refreshing.

A faint wind stirred my hair. It felt almost like a hand at my back, urging me forward. To feel like I was disappearing, just by crossing a road...to become invisible...the possibility of invisibility appealed to me. Always in my life I was watched, weighed, valued, measured.

This book easily fell into Bildungsroman for me, a story about two characters coming-of-age, growing, learning a little more about themselves and becoming more fully themselves. While Lala and Ben's meeting is definitely the catalyst for a lot of what happens in the story, the focus of the story lies more with their individual character developments. Ms. Arnold never seemed to take the easy way out, these characters lived – and that's what made their story so gripping to me. It's a simple story, filled with normal moments, momentous decisions, happiness, tears, cruelty and kindness.

I do not think I had truly recognized how precious solitude was to me until it became clear that I would not have it much longer. And growing in my like ivy, strengthening each day and choking out everything else, was the resentment I felt at the impending loss.

As I try to write this review I'm trying to point out what held me so tightly in its grip, and it's difficult. If I try to catalogue everything, I come up with something incredibly ordinary; Burning is anything but. Burning is poignant, gripping and an even somewhat bittersweet book about growing up, forging your own path, and the journey that is always one step in front of you.

Rating: A

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