Book 17 of 2015: The Curse Servant by J.P. Sloan

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The one person standing between Hell… and an innocent girl… is a man without a soul.
A regular life isn’t in the cards for Dorian Lake, but with his charm-crafting business invigorated, and the prospect of a serious relationship within his grasp, life is closer to normal than Dorian could ever expect. In the heat of the Baltimore mayoral campaign, Dorian has managed to balance his arrangements with Deputy Mayor Julian Bright with his search to find his lost soul. Dorian soon learns of a Netherworker, the head of a dangerous West Coast cabal, who might be able to find and return his soul. The price? Just one curse.
Sounds easy… but nothing ever is for Dorian. A dark presence arrives in the city, hell-bent on finding Dorian’s soul first. Innocents are caught in the crossfire, and Dorian finds it harder to keep his commitments to Bright. When the fight gets personal, and the entity hits too close to home, Dorian must rely on those he trusts the least to save the ones he loves. As he tests the limits of his hermetic skills to defeat this new enemy, will Dorian lose his one chance to avoid damnation?

I think I should start this review with a little confession: I don’t read out of chronological order. However, that doesn’t mean that I do end up doing that. Which is what happened with this book. The Curse Servant is actually the second book in a series featuring Dorian Lake, a hermetic charm and hex expert.

Phew! Now that it’s out of my system, I’m happy to say that I wasn’t the least bit confused! That’s right, you are safe to read starting with this book if you want. You aren’t going to be confused. J.P. Sloan did a great job seamlessly placing magic in a rather normal world without having to put too much exposition or confusing new reader. I was not only able to follow what was going on, gather what happened in the previous book, but I was also able to feel a connection with his characters. A serious feat.

There were two thoughts that came to mind the moment I started reading, The Curse Servant: 1. Serious creep factor! 2. Reminds me of Constantine.

Now, I don’t mean comic Constantine or Keanu Reeves Constantine. I mean the TV Show. Sadly, I’m not well versed in the comic series, but I fell in love with the British demonologist when the show was airing. That said, J.P. Sloan’s Dorian Lake reminded me of Constantine. He had a smartass snarky way of telling people off and a way to go against the rules while still being able to keep certain morals. Yes, his morality was put to a series of tests. Yes, he never really got a break. The only thing I’d say that wasn’t Constantine, was the fact that Dorian Lake doesn’t seem jaded. Not yet, anyways.

With this little connection, I fell in love with Dorian. I felt for him. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted the people he called family to be happy. I didn’t want any of the bad things that were happening to ruin what world he was trying to cultivate. As a reader, I relished in the bad things.

J.P. Sloan made an epic that I’m am not only going to keep reading, but also get hard copies of. That’s right, this man will be placed in my bookshelf next to the faves. And, that’s saying something.

He weaves a twisty web of politics and magic. We have the internal politics of the magic world and the politics of our natural world. Each one has an agenda with the other and Dorian Lake is put in the middle of it all. As if this wasn’t enough on his plate, Dorian is dealing with trying to find his soul which is missing in a limbo like world called Nether (not new news, he lost it in The Curse Merchant). On top of all of that, he is dealing with something out of his control that has taken over a little girl he considers a sister. Yep, his life sucks.

Nothing gets me more excited than a snarky man trying to do the right thing and being pitted into political intrigue with demonic like forces. If this isn’t a winner, I don’t know what is.

 

book 16 of 2015: The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

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Alex and Conner Bailey’s world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales.
“The Land of Stories” tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.
But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell is about two children, twins, who fall into a book. Yes, fall into a book. Where do they end up? In the Land of Stories. Think about the show, Once Upon a Time. Except, instead of a dark and twisted world, it’s more rated G in Colfer’s book. Which makes sense because it is a children’s book.

Colfer does a good job introducing the story to the readers. I found myself pulled in the first chapter. I found it interesting how the Evil Queen had a story and what that story was. Though the reader doesn’t get the story until later, the fact that the Evil Queen tells Snow White hers, really intrigued me.

The story of the twins’ journey is filled with action and the help of adults who don’t really question why two children are alone. Sure, in our world that would seem crazy. However, the reader has to remember (or not, if it is a child reading it) that some of those great fairy tale characters had their stories happen as children. Jack in the Beanstalk for instance. Or even Little Red Riding Hood. Also, remember, it’s a children’s book.

The writing is simple and fun. I found myself loving certain quotes. Whenever the Evil Queen spoke, you will hear a deep sadness and a strong woman. You don’t necessarily hear evil. Granted, she isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but you learn her story.

The fairy tale heroes seem to be a bit naive or neglectful of their responsibilities. However, they show their worth when they help the children on their quest. I liked the smart remarks from Connor and the intelligence of Alex.

Alex reminds me of Hermione Granger from the first Harry Potter book. She’s smart, doesn’t have friends, and lives in her books. Her only real friend is her brother, Connor. Connor is a smart ass kid who uses his common sense to get him out of trouble. Sometimes he sleeps a lot and slacks though. Both have their own strengths and what they lack, their sibling has in full.

They do seem like typical fairy tale trope characters. You have your smart, well to do child. You have your street smart child. Both could be considered a stereotype, but I found they meshed well and had their own personalities in the book. I didn’t feel like I was reading a book without substance.

The story isn’t something that made me excited for more like Harry Potter, but it is fun enough for me to want to read more eventually. I did read some out loud to my almost three year old and he seemed to like it. It’s because of that that I will continue with the series eventually.

Book 15 of 2015: Nightmare in Steam by Lexi Ostrow

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Eliza Kempe Dorley is always left in the background. As a female, being top inventor for the Alliance of Silver and Steam has as many draw backs as perks. She’s in charge of the creation of the many tools the Alliance uses in pursuit of the demons that run lose in the London Underground, which means without her, the demons would be harder to put down. It also means she misses all of the action and has never had the chance to really use any of her inventions.
Lucius Cooley Willan is a Nightmare Demon with a penchant for gambling and sleeping with women he shouldn’t’t and it’s landed him in hot water. Now he spends his nights slinking in humans dreams and unleashing terrors so strong it kills them so he can capture their soul for his boss. But when he’s ordered to attack the group that hunts his kind he’s enthralled by the feisty inventor he comes upon.
Eliza’s victim to Lucius in a way no others have been, a sensual dream that she can’t shake when she wakes up. When he bumps into her at the trains she’s an addiction he can’t shake. When he outright disobeys the demon who controls him for some out of dreams interactions with the Eliza, it will be up to him to save her from the nightmare he’s put her in.

Nightmare in Steam is the first book in a steampunk/paranormal romance series. It is a sequel to the short story, Demon in Steam. However, you don’t need to read the short story to understand what is going on in the first book of the series. Each book centers on a coupling of unlikely lovers in a world of magic, destruction, and technology.

The first thing that came to my mind is that the “steam” part of the title isn’t just about the steampunk world Lexi Ostrow made. The sex scenes are definitely steamy. I loved every seductive moment about Lucius. And even though there is one scene that was not something a typical Victorian couple would do, I found myself loving it.

There is a story too, by the way. Ostrow doesn’t leave her readers with just steamy moments between her heroes, but also weaves an interesting story about demons and demon hunting. There is no God. At least none that the demons or angels can think of. Angels aren’t the angels we think of, but a higher demon.

The main villain is a dark woman with a heavy past. Despite hating her for what she does to our characters, I found sympathizing her. I could understand what brought her to it. Do I like her? As a villain, absolutely. Would I want to have tea and pastries with her? Oh no. Seraphina is conniving, seductive, and she knows how to twist everything to what she wants. She’s a woman on a mission and it doesn’t look like anything is going to stop her.

Eliza Dorley is a fun character. She is smart and strongwilled. There are times where she is fiery and there are times where she melts into the arms of Lucius. However, even though there is a clear sexual connection with the male lead, she keeps her loyalties.

Lucius is a bad boy. A lovely bad boy. He can be selfish and seductive. He is very roguish. Which I really like. Through the book, the reader will see different facets of Lucius that shows he grows as a character.

As for Ostrow’s writing, it is neat and simple. You will be pulled into the story and you won’t be bogged down by large words or be confused with what’s going on. I understood everything and I love her style.

Will I read more? Yes. In fact, I’m finding myself liking steampunk romance a bit more now.

Book 14 of 2015: Hurayrah the Cat: The Snake Catcher by Farah Morley

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In a bustling oasis called Madinah a small tabby cat, Hurayrah, has lost his friend. The lonely Hurayrah sets out to find him and looks over the bazaar and on top of the mosque.

After searching high and low Hurayrah waits in the mosque, beside a resting man. But with the appearance of a snake, Hurayrah must save the man in peril.

Farah Morley has lectured to diverse audiences, including the BBC, the internationally renowned Beyond the Border festival, the Quest Foundation, and the UK government. She has written and illustrated one other children’s book, The Spider and the Doves.

The first thing I noticed is the adorable cover. It’s the same as the picture above, but brighter in color. I love the artwork and the brightness to it. It instantly caught Bug’s eye and I was “forced” to sit down and allow him to sit on my lap. Needless to say, I did read right then and there.

The story is cute. The kitty doesn’t have a family, but he has good friends. Through a brave act of kindness, Hurayrah finds what he always wanted. The theme to the story shows children that good deeds are rewarded. That’s a good thing to learn.

The names were hard to pronounce, but that’s because of the setting in the book. There is a little glossary in the end for people having trouble with the names and the historical value of those names. You may want to look at that before butchering the book like I did. Luckily, Bug didn’t realize it.

This is a bright and adorable story that draws a childs eye. The story is short enough to keep hold of the limited attention span your child may have (mine has very little attention span). We are keeping this book in our home and I’m more than 100% positive Bug will have me read it again.

Book 13 of 2015: Courageous Souls by Nicole Daffurn

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The war of 2078 extinguished life as it was known, leaving a desolate world in its wake. Those who survived rebuilt. But as it goes, people make mistakes. The city of Hybora is a cruel place to live, those who reside among the lower parts of the city – The Pits – rarely see old age. Those who survive long enough, live a perilous existence, to live, to fight and to die for the amusement of the Upper’s, who sit upon their thrones that look over the city.
Jessie Halloran witnessed her parent’s execution at the age of ten, and for thirteen years she’s fought in the mandatory tournaments held in the pristine arena of Hybora’s Pits. Thirteen years waiting for her chance for revenge. Thirteen years swallowing her hate, until it was all she could taste. Now at twenty three, she is ready for vengeance.
Though the vengeance she so richly deserves comes at a cost. The Upper’s are not what they seem, and Jessie’s revolt not only casts the spotlight on herself, but also those who make a stand to fight with her. Among those who will stand with her is her boyfriend, Jaxon.
Jaxon fell from grace more than four centuries ago in an effort to salvage what was left of humanity among the throngs of war.
Now, together they will lead an uprising that those in power will never see coming.

Nicole Daffurn is the author to Destinata, a book I read and reviewed earlier. Unfortunately, I liked that book better than this one. Why? Well, let’s begin . . .

I felt nothing for Jessie. I didn’t really get her emotional side and though I understood why she hated the world she lived in, I didn’t feel the passion in that hatred. There are times where you see the passion (a good example is the ball), but I didn’t really feel much for Jessie. I just couldn’t get into her as a character. She seemed to do a lot of running around and fighting, but it felt like she was a means to an end, not a main character.

Jaxon, on the other hand, seemed far more well thought out. I understood him and I felt for him. It is because of him that we learn the history of Hybora. Those were the scenes I liked the most. I could empathize with him and understand what was going on. The tie in to angels and wraiths was interesting.

I think a big part of my confusion was the beginning. The narration felt off and didn’t melt together until closer to a quarter of the story. We aren’t seeing the story just in third person, we are also given philosophical thoughts. It is that break in narration that made reading the book difficult. I couldn’t get into the characters (except for Jaxon).

The action is good though. There are quite a few fights and dramatic moments that can keep you interested. The concept of Daffurn’s world is interesting. I was confused at first, but during Jaxon’s flashbacks everything falls into place. It really was just getting to that point and my lack of connection with Jessie that I didn’t enjoy this book.

Does Daffurn write well? Yes. I liked Destinata and would definitely read more of that series. She has proven to be a good author to me. Courageous Souls just felt off the mark for me.

Book 12 of 2015: Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

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Under the rule of science, there are no witch burnings allowed, no water trials or public lynchings. In return, the average law-abiding, solid citizen has little to worry about from the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes I wish I was an average citizen…
Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.
But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.

 This is the second book in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. The first one is called Moon Called. Blood Bound begins months after the first book ended and starts with Mercy doing her part in a favor she owed Stefan, a vampire who drives a mystery machine.

Though Mercy is a mechanic by trade, you don’t really see her using her mechanic skills in a hurry. In the first book, Mercy used WD40 to help her in a mission to save a girl. In this book, Mercy uses more of her Walker abilities.

To begin, a Walker is basically a shapeshifter. They are of Native American decent and not that common in the fae world or real world. Mercy is a coyote at times, but not restricted like a werewolf. She can change at will. In Blood Bound we learn more of the dynamics of vampires as well as bits and pieces of what Walker is.

I liked that this was a continuation to the series, but didn’t feel like you absolutely had to read the first book to understand what was going on. Mercy doesn’t change much, but does have to make a decision she wouldn’t normally do. I liked that there was multiple challenges and hints that she may be more than just a Walker or mechanic.

The story is well thought out and written. The vampire dynamics and lore is very similar to the old true myths and I love that. I like that vampires aren’t romanticized.  There are too many vampire romances (granted I do read those, but I like a good ol’ fashioned blood sucker too).

This book series reaffirms that some urban fantasies are great to continue for just the thrill of it. It was a fun and enjoying read. Not my favorite book, but a good book to sit back and just go on a journey. I’m loving Mercy more and more. I believe I will read more of this series soon. It helps that I do have the next two books as well.

In Love With Red Marks

It’s been a long time since I actively looked at my own work and tore it to pieces. I don’t usually put that much time and effort in my short stories and that might be why I’m not getting them out there (go figure). I hardly ever edited my college papers (again, that might be the reason for the not bad grades, but not spectacular ones either).

In fact, there is probably only one other work that I’ve ever marked up. I have a short romance that has marks all over it. I haven’t rewritten it yet, but I lost interest in the story to do that.

However, currently I’ve been editing my first book. You know the one. It’s the young adult book I’ve been working on since 2012 or 2013. I’ve been boasting about how many drafts I’ve gotten done with and so on. The thing is, I haven’t once red marked the hell out of it. This time though, I am doing just that.

And guess what? I LOVE IT!

Yes, I’m a lover for editing. There’s something about the juxtaposition of red and black on white paper. There’s something about finding errors and changing up sentences. I am in love with editing!

I’m not even halfway done, but that’s because I’m finding places I can beef up or even tear apart. I’ve even jotted down this draft’s word count before the editing. The current word count is 33226. My goal is to not only make the book better, but also beef up the word count to 45-50k words. I can’t wait to see what the finished product will be and I love that the editing is getting me even more motivated than the act of writing.

It makes me think that maybe I should look into editing once Bug starts school (Sept. 2016, hopefully!). I don’t think I would like being alone for a long time and since preschool is a full day affair where I live, it makes sense to get a part time job. Editing seems like a great way to exercise my own editing and writing skills while helping others in their work. Editing shouldn’t be seen as failure, it should be seen as growth.

I love the red marks in my work and the red marks of life. Growth is fun. It’s exciting. You can definitely tell I’m excited, huh?

I hope this feeling never ends. :)