Book Review: Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale by Donna Burgess

9972389Title: Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale
Author: Donna Burgess
Genre: Horror, Supernatural
Rating: 4 stars

Halloween night, twenty years ago, college student Susan Archer watched as her beloved twin brother was brutally murdered at the hands of a stranger she invited into their home. Still haunted by the guilt of that night, Susan is now a tough but bitter cop in a nowhere town, trying as best she can to lead a normal life. When she is nearly killed during a wild shoot-out, she realizes she is not as strong as she first thought.
Fearing a breakdown, she flees the confines of her safe boyfriend and familiar surroundings to find salvation in the arms of “Deathwalker” Devin McCree—the very man who killed her brother.
But things aren’t always what they seem and she quickly realizes Devin was not the monster she originally thought, but a kind of guardian angel instead.
On the run from a crazed Nazi vampire-hunter named Kasper, she and Devin must find a way to endure the dreary urban landscape of a dying metropolis and escape Kasper’s wrath.

Twenty year ago, on the night of Halloween, Susan’s brother Peter got killed. It was an accident – of sorts, but she had to live with the guilt for what happened ever since. The man responsible for her beloved twin’s death, Devin McCree, vanished off the face of the earth. That is, until now. Because now, only two weeks after Susan shot a man to death in cold blood and lost her unborn child in the process, Devin has returned. And he wants her. What dark and evil creatures of the night want, they usually tend to get – and this time is no different. After she is killed and turned into a Deathwalker by Devin, the man whom she trusted, Susan is left with little choice but to leave her old and familiar life, and her partner Michael, behind, and run off to a new future with a man she hardly knows.

But things are not always as they seem, as Susan’s new found freedom might bring her into even greater trouble. Because Devin and his roommate John both have secrets of their own. Dark and dangerous secrets, that might even treaten the lives of Susan and her fellow Deathwalkers. That’s not to mention that her previous partner, Michael, has no intention of just giving up on her. In the mysterious ghosttown of Dunwich, the time is almost near for a final showdown, as the past has finally caught up with Devin, and his previous tormenter is determined to destroy everything the Deathwalker loves. Including Susan.

Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale is a mix of horror, supernatural and more guts and gore than the average slasher movie. Really, I was very surprised to see how graphic and gruesome some scenes were described, and my stomach twisted and turned several times throughout the novel. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed these terrifying scenes – enjoy just isn’t the appropriate word – but I thought they gave an edge of brutality and evil to this story that I haven’t come across in many vampire novels as of late. The thing is that, if you read too many novels in which vampires have a soft side and fall in love with human heroines, you lose track of the fact that they are, by their own nature, vicious and violent creatures capable of murder in the first degree. Some of the Deathwalkers that appear throughout this novel, hold true to these traits, and it’s a refreshing change from the sparkling vampires I’ve seen too often.

I had a little trouble with the personality of the main characters. Susan has a lot of issues, her most important one being that ever since her twin brother’s death, she is uncapable of opening up to anyone, not even her partner. Although she is in a loving and caring relationship, she has no trouble throwing all of that away for a short fling with Devin. Now, whereas there were some personality traits of Susan I didn’t quite relate to, I’m not saying the character wasn’t written well enough. The author portrayed all of her characters with the utmost care, making them feel very human and realistic. It’s just that I probably wouldn’t get along with any of the characters. 😛

At first, I thought of Michael as being the weaker of the two men in Susan’s life. Desperately clinging on to a relationship doomed from the start, a doctor rather than a fighter, I was pretty sure he stood no chance against Devin. But as the story developed, and Michael risked his own life to save Susan in the miserable old town of Dunwich, his personality changed dramatically as he was forced to deal with his own darkness and the possibility that it might already be too late to save his beloved. He became stronger, which was portrayed beautifully in the novel, and the man Susan ran into later on, was not the man she had left behind anymore. That definately earned him some credit. Now Devin, on the other hand…Well, he’s another story.

I wasn’t convinced with Devin from the start. For a vampire, he has some rather unmanly personality traits, and I couldn’t help but think of him as a coward. He has spend more than half of his immortal life on the run from another vampire named Kasper, and not once has he stopped and turned around to actually do something about it. He watched as Kasper killed every single person he ever loved – and still he could do nothing to stop him. Now I know some torturer/victim of torture relationships may be messed up, but this one definately was. Yet, I was still crossing my fingers for Devin to finally face his demons. No such luck though, and I was starting to wonder halfway through the novel why Susan ran off with Devin in the first place. I mean, sure he’s mysterious and got the whole immortal thing working for him, but apart from that? He is a weak, pathetic excuse for a vampire. And not because he refuses to kill another human being except when they really deserve it (read pedo’s, murderers); but mostly because he’s too afraid to face Kasper.

To be honest, I found Kasper’s personality the most interesting one of them all. There is something morbidly fascinating about looking into the mind of a serial killer, an individual who likes torturing others, a creature with no remorse. I also really liked the setting: the town of Dunwich, a ghost town really, nearly abandoned yet inhabited by Deathwalkers, and creatures who didn’t make the full transition. It had me thinking about Silent Hill, a movie and a game I enjoyed thoroughly a couple of years ago. I imagined the town a bit like Silent Hill as well, I have to admit, with this silent, creepy and eerie feeling to it. The flashbacks to the 1940s were interesting as well, especially to discover some more of Devin’s and Kasper’s past. The storyline itself was intense, dark and creepy at all times. What gave me the most goosebumps, were the scenes with Sandra and Michael (I won’t get into detail for the sake of spoiler free reviews!).

Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale is a dark, supernatural horror story, with some greatly disturbing scenes (a must in this genre), and some uniquely-crafted characters. Although Devin annoyed me at times, the other characters were a lot more interesting, the story is fast-paced, intense and gripping, and all in all, it’s a captivating book that will keep you terrified from the start till the end.

Book Review: Rogue Oracle by Alayna Williams

8543695Title: Rogue Oracle
Author: Alayna Williams
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 4,5 stars

The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.

Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around – and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.

Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards – and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams – suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…

Tara used to work for The Little Shop of Horrors, a Special Projects division of Homeland Security in the USA. She quit the job after an incident where she herself became the target of a psycho killer called The Gardener. A survivor of the attack, but badly scarred both outside and inside, Tara says goodbye to her job in an effort to lead a less dangerous life. Although there is a reason why Tara’s life can never be fully without danger: apart from being a former agent, she is also an oracle. A cartomancer to be more precise, a person who can predict the future by using tarot cards. Plus, then there’s also Harry Li. Her former love interest and agent of the Little Shop of Horrors himself, Harry must ask for Tara’s help in a case neither his office nor any other office knows what to do with. Former cold war spies, all linked to one project called Rogue Angel, have vanished off the face of the earth, leaving behind all their clothes, wallets and personal belongings. It’s almost like they just seized to exist. Following the trail of a possible serial killer or even a terrorist, Tara and Harry must do whatever it takes to capture the person responsible for the abductions. Even if that means taking a leap of faith, and trusting in the power of intuition.

I always have a lot more trouble writing a review for a novel I thoroughly enjoyed than for a novel I thought was mediocre. Rogue Oracle definitely belongs in the first category. This is fantasy the way it should be. Original, fast-paced, suspenseful and very surprising. First of all, the setting isn’t some fantasy world still stuck in the Middle Ages, or Earth fifty years from now when all demons roam free. No, the setting is the world as we all know it: with the economy crashing, terrorist attacks, radiation poisonings, nuclear bombs. Take all of that and throw in the one aspect that makes this novel so original: Oracles. Now I can safely say I’ve read my fair share of fantasy novels, but never before have I come across a novel that both focuses on Oracles, and uses the present time as a time frame. It was a refreshing change for once, one that was warmly welcomed after reading perhaps a bit too many fantasy novels focusing on vampires, demons and the likes.

Rogue Oracle doesn’t read like a fantasy novel though; it reads more like a thriller, a suspense story, and literally keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I loved the character of Tara – her strong and stubborn personality, her intuition and the way she relies on it, and her nearly unconditional love for Harry and Cassie. She is the sort of heroine who keeps reappearing in your mind, even after you’re long done reading the novel. The kind of person you can’t help but admire, because she finds strength even in her own weaknesses. On the other hand, the villain of this novel, Galen, received a lot of my sympathy as well. Rather than an “official bad guy” whose only purpose is to inflict evil upon other people, Galen really is a tragic figure. Made what he is today by a series of traumatic events in his past, sabotaged by humanity itself, he is left all alone in the world. A monstrosity. A creature that shouldn’t mean to exist – yet human error caused him to exist anyway. The way the author reveals Galen’s background story, piece by piece, and makes him seem so fragile and so very human when doing so, made me not regard him as an actual villain, but more like a person who got a terrible fate thrown upon him, without his own consent or even knowing, and is now tortured so much by the faults of others than he has practically no choice but to be who he is – a person out for revenge, driven by the need for vengeance and retribution. One of the most memorable villains I’ve ever come across.

I loved how Alayna Williams included the drama at Chernobyl in this novel, and carefully crafted a story around that. I was born four years after Chernobyl, and I can say firsthand that we hardly pay any attention to what happened there anymore, although we should. In high school, we are taught about World War II and the terrible tragedy caused by people looking the other way rather than facing what’s right in front of them, and we are warned that humanity should never make that mistake again. Even though so, we stay ignorant for other devastating catastrophes caused by humans, like the tragedy of Chernobyl. I can safely say that, although not an uneducated person, I hardly know anything about what happened on that faithful day. No one ever mentions it anymore, and on the rare occasion that they do, it is simply overlooked. But Chernobyl, more than anything, is another prime example of human ignorance – we basically choose to ignore what happened there, even today. Not because we don’t know what happened, but simply because we focus on other things, and disregard the fact that something like that might happen again someday. Rogue Oracle pointed that out in so many different ways, that it actually was very touching. The novel focused on the tragedy that occurred there, and placed it in a spotlight it hasn’t been in for a very long time now. At some point during the novel, Tara goes to look at photographs taken after the tragedy, and that scene nearly made me cry. It’s important to realize that things that happened in the past – even if already 25 years ago – can still have effects on the world today. That message is beautifully woven in the story of Rogue Oracle.

The storyline itself is fast-paced, with some carefully crafted cliffhangers along the way, and it doesn’t lose it appeal once in those 300 and so pages. It was also a welcome change from the fantasy novels I’m used to read: the theme was original, as was the world-building. I thought the explanation of the Tarot Cards and their use in Rogue Oracle was very interesting; I’ve never been one for fortunetelling, but it does make an intriguing addition to the story.

Perhaps the only thing I wasn’t particularly fond of, was the character Cassie. I don’t know why exactly, but every time the story focused on her I just wanted to skip those pages and go right back to the “real” action with Tara and Harry. I just couldn’t relate that much to her, I guess.

If you’re tired of reading the same fantasy novels over and over again but in different format and with other titles, or you rather stake a vampire than read another love story with vamps in the lead role and you feel like declaring war on both hell and heaven so you could just kill every demon and angel alive, then Rogue Oracle really is the novel you are waiting for. A fast read, entertaining, original, and it doesn’t let you go until the end – and even then, you’ll have some trouble getting away from it. Even if you’re still a huge fan of vampire love stories and demons still hold a special place in your heart, you’ll enjoy Rogue Oracle nevertheless. Because it’s really everything fantasy should be like, but all too often isn’t.

Book Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

7719245Title: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Paranormal, Supernatural, Young Adult
Rating: 4,5 stars

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shapeshifter and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying and Evie’s dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She begins to suspect there is a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths, and even worse, that she is at the centre of a dark prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

Evie desperately wants to be normal. Except that she isn’t, or well, not entirely. Although she has no supernatural abilities of her own, she can see through paranormals’ glamours, making her a very interesting and useful addition for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. When she’s not busy hunting down vampires, werewolves or other paranormals, Evie’s chatting with her best friend Lish – a mermaid working for the Agency, her supervisor Raquel, or watching teenage drama series on television and wishing to be just like every other normal teenager. That is, until she meets Lend. After being caught trespassing in the Agency, Lend is captured and locked up in the containment cages. Because he’s a shapeshifter of the kind she has never met before, and because he’s of her own age, Evie immediately feels herself being drawn to him. At first as friends, but later on their relationship might become something more. Although that is without taking into account Evie’s ex-boyfriend Reth, who isn’t completely done with her yet and has several plans of his own. While a series of mysterious murders on paranormals rises a stir within the Agency, Evie must discover who she really is and where her alliances really lie, before she can stop the thing that’s killing her friends. One by one.

Back in 2010, Paranormalcy was really one of the “hype” novels of the year, accompanied by other bestsellers like The Iron King, Unearthly and Fallen. Although I’m a bit of a rebel myself, and don’t necessarily agree with the opinions of others, I couldn’t help it that I desperately wanted to read this book. Not only is the covel breathtakingly gorgeous, but the synopsis grabbed my interest as well. How must it feel like to be the only non-paranormal creature between paranormals? Although you can’t exactly say that seeing through paranormals’ glamours is normal…I have no regrets reading this book, in fact, for once I have to wholeheartidly agree with the general opinion of Paranormalcy: this novel is simply amazing.

The opening scene features our heroine, Evie, attacking a vampire called Steve. In the scene, Evie describes her blinged-out pink taser called Tasey in detail, and really steals my heart. I’m used to heroines being fiery and feisty, stubborn beyond belief and convinced they’re always right while the rest of the world is wrong. Evie is nothing of the kind. She’s a very caring and loving person, fun and cheery, with real fears concerning her position at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and a very real and understandable wish to be just like every other teenager. It’s refreshing to see how a heroine so different from the kind I’m used to, can also grab my attention and admiration. Evie was just a person I could relate to, something else entirely from the generic herione often featured in fantasy stories, and it was a refreshing change.

What else is so captivating about this novel? Well, for once, the love triangle is actually interesting and both love interests for Evie have their own weaknesses and strengths. I hate it when readers get introduced to a love triangle, where it’s obvious that one of the two suitors already has a great advantage, and it’s clear from the start who the heroine will eventually choose. In Paranormalcy the choice isn’t clear right away, and both Reth and Lend have some obvious teenage-girl-heart-warming qualities. Lend is the boy every teenage girl with a minimum amount of intelligence level can fall in love with: he is caring, loving, someone you can count on, true boyfriend and serious relationship material. Reth on the other hand is the fantasy and faerie equivalent of a bad boy. Cunning, michevious and attractive, with a secret agenda of his own. Although at first it’s not clear if Reth really likes Evie, or simply uses her for his own purposes, it’s safe to say that throughout the novel it’s obvious he has atleast some feelings for her. For once, I don’t have a clear preference for one of the two possible love interests, they both stole my heart utterly and completely. If I had to choose though, I would pick Reth, because his intentions are still a mystery, and I’d like to find out more about them.

It’s been a long while since I’ve seen the personalities of every character in the love triangle developed so thoroughly, and it was really refreshing. The additional characters, Raquel and Lish, had well-developed, interesting personalities as well. I felt sorry for Lish though, being a mermaid and being trapped in a fish tank. It strikes me as a very sad fate, and I was hoping she would somehow escape and live happily ever after in one of the seven seas. Raquel behaved towards Evie with a mix of motherly care and annoyance. There were times when I just wanted to slap her in the head, while at other times I was just ‘awww’ and loved her for trying to be somewhat like a mother towards Evie.

The story is nothing short but amazing. It’s original, fast-paced and doesn’t get boring once – in fact, it encouraged me to keep reading until the very end. I simply could not put this book down, no matter if it was in the middle of the night, or if I had to catch a train. I couldn’t. The storyline is so addictive, interesting and surprising that it pulled me in and refused to let me go. All the characters are strong and appealing in their very own way, the narrative mixes between joyful and fun and suspenseful and tense, in a wonderful mix of fantasy adventure. A must-read for every self-respecting fantasy fan.

Book Review: Claiming The Evil Dead by Mary Abshire

10054449Title: Claming The Evil Dead
Author: Mary Abshire
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Adult, Vampires, Demons, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours.

Half-demon Jessie Garrett is searching for an evil vampire that’s been preying upon children. She wants to claim the rogue vamp’s soul and send it to hell. To find the dead man walking she must partner with another bloodsucker, Drake, even though she doesn’t trust him. While Jessie works with Drake, she learns not all vampires are killers and discovers the cold-blooded vamp is a temptation too difficult to resist.

After the fiend abducts another child and Jessie has a near fatal experience with vampires, she turns to Jeremy, a demon she bumped into at a club, and makes a deal with him for his help. Drake disapproves, and Jessie soon finds herself wedged between two volatile creatures. When the chance comes to save the child’s life and claim the evil vamp’s soul, she must decide whom she can trust—a vampire who cools her feverish desires, or a demon hell-bent on seducing her.

Jessie is half-demon: her father is none other than the Devil himself, and her mother was a fragile little human being. Not only is she a rarity in the demon world with her gorgeous blue eyes, but the powers she possesses are unseen as well: she can breathe in spirits and send them straight to hell. Working together with some of her close friends in a paranormal investigators team, she enters haunted houses occupied by the spirits of deceased murders, consumes them and sends them right into the arms of the Devil. Although she’s a supernatural creature herself, Jessie stays away from others of her kind as often as possible. It’s no surprise that when a vampire walks into a bar and requests her help, she has second thoughts about it. Even if said vampire is willing to pay her a huge amount of cash in order to get a job done.

Her job is to track down and kill – or well, capture the soul of – an evil vampire named Alexander who likes to kidnap, torture and kill little children. Her right hand during this job? The mysterious vampire she comes to know as Drake. Although Jessie thinks vampires are nothing more than revolting bloodsuckers, she does feel an attraction towards Drake. And he towards her…
But then there’s also the evil vampire they have to slay, the appearance of a demon called Jeremy, and a lot more that could keep these star-crossed lovers apart.

Claiming The Evil Dead is a nice and entertaining read. I liked the storyline, with a half-demon and a century-old vampire chasing another vampire in an attempt to destroy him and stop his evil doing. The character of Jessie was…interesting, to say the least. I can’t say that I was terribly fond of her – I didn’t understand half of the choices she made, and found her to be rather superficial. For instance, she wants Drake based solely on his good looks, but fails to notice the man behind the looks. She is also way too eager to put her own superstitions towards vampires aside only because Drake looks so damn good. Priorities, people. Anyway, I have the faint suspision that the author didn’t want to turn her main character into a serious person held back by a bunch of principles, which is a nice description for Jessie. She’s more of a free-spirit, and although that’s not the kind of person I would get along with, I can see how it would appeal to others.

The only character I found intriguing and wanted to know more of, was Drake. The tragic vampire, tortured by his own evil doings in the past, who now strives to do good and save humans to retribute for his previous sins. He reminded me a lot of Angel, back in the days when Buffy The Vampire Slayer was still the TV hype. I didn’t like Jeremy: he was too shallow, superificial and immature to really strike my interest. I would have liked to get into the mind of Alexander a bit more, to define what turned him into a killer and maybe then figure out some of the reasons why Drake could avoid such destiny. I think some more psychological insight in the characters would have made them seem more appealing to me.

The story is fast-paced and suspenseful, but it never really kept me on the edge of my seat, and some twists and turns were pretty predictable. The writing is decent, although not outstanding: this isn’t the sort of novel that is going to keep you awake all night reminiscing about it. It’s a nice and entertaining read, but that’s all it is. It would have perhaps been more interesting had the characters had more depth and personality. The love triangle in the novel, between Drake – Jessie – Jeremy could have been better developed. It was clear from the beginning who Jessie would choose and why; perhaps if Jeremy had some more attractive personality traits, or appeared in the picture a tad bit more often, he would have stood a greater chance, and the love triangle would have been a lot more interesting.

It’s not to say I didn’t like Claiming The Evil Dead. I did enjoy the story, but I have the feeling this is one of those novels that should have been a novella. Get rid of a hundred or so pages, and the story would have been a lot more interesting, the characters would appear less superficial (no need to dig out everyone’s dirty secrets in a novella) and I wouldn’t have had the feeling halfway that I should cling on to the novel to keep reading – the clinging would then probably come naturally. There were also some things that just didn’t work out. For instance, Drake pays Jessie a huge amount of cash so she can hop in on his little plan, but then it turns out he has no plan whatsoever. Also, in my opinion, the relationship between Drake and Jessie developed too fast to actually made me really like them as a couple. They seemed more like two horny teenagers than like two people actually liking each other. All in all, if you want a fun read, this novel is a nice option – just don’t expect too much from it.

Book Review: Dead Man’s Eye by Shaun Jeffrey

9369354Title: Dead Man’s Eye
Author: Shaun Jeffrey
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

A corneal transplant does more than correct Joanna Raines sight. It allows her to see something that doesn’t want to be seen. Something evil. Something that threatens mankind. The only trouble is that no one believes her, and by the time they do, it might be too late …

Seeing is believing. Now Joanna just has to convince everyone else.

I have to admit that at first, I thought Dead Man’s Eye would be a lot like the scary movie called The Eye with Jessica Alba in the lead role. I liked that movie – didn’t love it to pieces, but that’s sort of difficult when it comes to horror movies anyway – but I did rather enjoy it, and thought it was fairly scary. Now in the movie the girl portrayed by Jessica Alba undergoes a cornea transplant (which basically means she gets a new and shiny pair of eyes) but ever since, she notices things lurking in the shadows. Evil things. She has visions of people dying, etc. In an effort to figure out what the heck is going out, she travels to Mexico to find the person who the cornea first belonged to, where she does a whole lot of things but eventually cannot forsake her destiny. I had a faint suspicion Dead Man’s Eye would be somewhat along this line. There are a lot of similiarities, but there are also some huge differences.

Joanna recently underwent a cornea transplant, and although her life should look a whole lot brighter now (no pun intended); it doesn’t. Because either something went wrong with the transplant or she has gone insane and started seeing things that aren’t there. Like black smoke crawling into a man who just fell under a train, and is now missing an arm due to that freak accident. Concerned that something is wrong with the transplant, Joanna goes to a check-up with her doctor, who convinces her that everything is fine and her cornea is working properly. Meanwhile, she finds out that strange things are happening at the hospital. These strange things are courtesy of Malachi, the demon who chose to inhabit Lincoln, the man who fell under the train. Although Malachi himself isn’t all too happy with his new body (especially with the fact it’s missing an arm, and the previous owner tries to regain control every once in a while), he does use it to summon his brethren. The plan? Well, rule the world, ofcourse. How? By inhabiting dead people’s bodies. Who can stop them? Joanna is the only one who can see the demons, but what can one woman do against an entire army of demons?

I have to state first of all, that I admire people who write novellas. It can’t be easy to develop believable and relatable characters, build a solid world around them, and then craft a storyline as well in less than 40,000 words. Like it takes a certain talent to write captivating short stories, I think it takes a particular gift to write successful novellas as well. Shaun Jeffrey managed to do such a remarkable thing with this mix of horror, thriller and the supernatural. I liked the characters, especially Joanna. She proved herself to be a strong, capable and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to meet danger head on when needed. Her boyfriend, Stephen, is a remarkable person as well, and although he might not have supported her at first, I think that’s quite the natural reaction when your love interest suddenly tells you half of the people you work with have turned into demons. I also liked the way the author described the demon Malachi and his personality. It was a tad bit dissapointing that the supportive characters were nothing more than names on paper, with no personality whatsoever, but then again it’s normal to focus only the main characters in novels of this size.

The storyline was interesting. I certainly didn’t expect to see demons pop up in this novel, but they did nevertheless. Now the problem I have with demons is quite simple. They don’t scare me. I can’t help it: perhaps I’m immune because of an overdose of Buffy kicking demons action while I was younger, or because the good witches in Charmed always managed to defeat the evil demons, but for some reason as soon as the world “demon” pops up, I’m no longer scared. Same goes for vampires, by the way. I blame the media for enforcing the image of loving and caring demons and cuddly and shiny vampires in our mind. I’m convinced that if the shadows Joanna noticed wouldn’t have been works of a demon, but rather ghosts or something along those lines, I would have been a lot more scared by this story. Although I must admit that somewhere halfway Dead Man’s Eye, when Joanna was being chased by a couple of demons, I did have to surpress a feeling of dread and anxiety. Blame it on Shaun Jeffrey’s marvellous way of describing Joanna’s feelings during this chase.

There was one other thing about this novel that had me totally confused. When Joanna finds out that her cornea lets her see demons, she goes to find the person who has the other part of the cornea. A search which turns out to be totally useless, and made no sense to me in the first place. Personally, I would have gone to search for the reason why I was seeing things I shouldn’t be able to see, and I would try to track down the person the cornea belonged to originally. If that person had some connection with the demon world, it might have helped Joanna fight the demons. I have to admit that we do eventually discover who the cornea belonged to at first, but it’s an answer I find quite random, and it just seems a bit far off to me. The story would have been more interesting to me, had there been a more valid reason why the original owner of the cornea could see demons, and had it focused more on Joanna’s search for the reason why she can see demons all of the sudden. Ofcourse I know that’s a lot to cramp into a novella, especially considering the main character spends half the novel being chased by demons, but it would have added some more suspense to the story.

What I loved the most about Dead Man’s Eye, was the ending, without a doubt. Trust me when I say it ends in a blast, and with a nice twist at the end of an entertaining read. If you want some fun entertainment, or a scary story that isn’t going to give you some sleepless nights, but will instead put you on the edge of your seat during the entire experience, then Dead Man’s Eye is definately your kind of novella.

Book Review: Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

172764Title: Full Moon Rising (Riley Jenson Guardian Series #1)
Author: Kerri Arthur
Genre: Paranormal, Vampires, Werewolves, Adult
Rating: 3 stars

In this exciting debut, author Keri Arthur explodes onto the supernatural scene with a sexy, sensuous tale of intrigue and suspense set in a world where legends walk and the shady paths of the underworld are far more sinister than anyone envisioned.

A rare hybrid of vampire and werewolf, Riley Jenson and her twin brother, Rhoan, work for Melbourne’s Directorate of Other Races, an organization created to police the supernatural races–and protect humans from their depredations. While Rhoan is an exalted guardian, a.k.a. assassin, Riley is merely an office worker–until her brother goes missing on one of his missions. The timing couldn’t be worse. More werewolf than vampire, Riley is vulnerable to the moon heat, the weeklong period before the full moon, when her need to mate becomes all-consuming.…

Luckily Riley has two willing partners to satisfy her every need. But she will have to control her urges if she’s going to find her brother….Easier said than done as the city pulses with frenzied desire, and Riley is confronted with a very powerful–and delectably naked–vamp who raises her temperature like never before.

In matters carnal, Riley has met her match. But in matters criminal, she must follow her instincts not only to find her brother but to stop an unholy harvest. For someone is doing some shifty cloning in an attempt to produce the ultimate warrior–by tapping into the genome of nonhumans like Rhoan. Now Riley knows just how dangerous the world is for her kind–and just how much it needs her.

Riley Jenson and her twin brother Rhoan are what people would call hybrids. They are half-vampire, half-werewolf, an unexpected result from one night when their mother (who happened to be a werewolf) was raped by a newborn vampire. Although cast out from their pack because of their differences, Riley and Rhoan manage well in the outside world. They share an apartment together, and both work for an organisation that specialises in Other Races. However, Rhoan is a guardian within the organisation, where Riley chose not to be. She isn’t a killer, or so she claims. But when she finds a naked – yes, a covered in mud, but otherwise naked – vampire at her front door, and her brother goes missing, Riley believes it’s time to take action. Teaming up with the previously-naked-but-now-clothed vampire named Quinn, she is determined to find her missing brother. But someone is after Riley as well, and an attempt on her life, makes her suspect she’s in even more danger than she at first had anticipated.

Had the story stopped there and gone on with the detective/solving mysteries/locate the missing brother vibe, I would have definately rated it a 4. Full Moon Rising is fast-paced, action-packed and leaves you on the edge of your seat a lot of times. Although I had some trouble throughout the middle part of the story to keep on reading – the action slowed down a bit there, to be replaced by talking, and other stuff I will get to soon enough – but I have to admit that this story has some nice twists and turns, some original plotlines and a nice cast of characters. But, then there’s the other half of this book.

Actually, the title says it all. Full Moon Rising. Which means that most of the events, no matter how unlikely because there is so many stuff happening, all happens in the course of one week, namely the week before the full moon. Now, try to keep up with me while I explain this to you the best I can. In Keri Arthur’s series, the week before the full moon, werewolves don’t get extremely bloodthirsty, or feel like killing every animal or human that stands in the way; nor do they suffer from some unexplained illness or have access to superior strength. Oh, no. The week before the full moon werewolves get horny. Yes, you read that right. Horny. Every single moment of every single day they feel like having crazy, kinky sex. Doesn’t matter with who. Since our main character is a werewolf, you can already guess what’s going on. Half of this book is filled with countless descriptions of our heroine having intercourse with one or another partner – did I also mention that they don’t take monogamy that seriously in the werewolf community? No, it is actually mentioned that one of the werewolves had up to seven partners. Guess they never heard of aids or other sexually transmittable diseases in werewolf-land. Our heroine Riley keeps it rather simple, as she keeps to two or three mates. Cheers, people, because you know, reading about a main character basically having sex with everyone she meets during this novel, is highly entertaining. Not.

Now, I’m not old-fashioned and I read a lot of adult romances, but this one is just over the top. Had the novel focused more on the possible relationship Riley/Quinn, it would have rated higher on my score list. I’m also thinking one werewolf mate would have been quite enough, why would you need several? Moon heat, as it is called on numerous occassions throughout the novel, just sucks, people. I mean, you can barely go to work, or hang out with friends, or even watch TV for an entire week every month simply because you’re in moon-heat-phase. Damn, I wouldn’t want to be a werewolf. Rather give me a walking corpse that hasn’t showered in over a century then.

I did like the story. I thought it was original, the writing wasn’t spectacular, but it was decent, and when you skipped through all the uncomfortable passages – but I have to tell you, there are a lot of uncomfortable passages, and sometimes I was actually saying “what the hell…” while I was reading – this is actually a pretty interesting novel, if not a very interesting one. But for some reason the author went totally over the top with the sex scenes, the multiple partners, and the casual way people talk about all that stuff. Plus, do you have to keep dressing our heroine like a hooker? I mean, come on. I don’t like reading a novel when the main character has to degrade herself to dress like a hooker in order to slip into factories or gain information – especially not when said heroine doesn’t mind at all. A little self-respect, Riley. Please.

Another thing I noticed about this novel, is that there are hardly any humans in it. No human character is ever mentioned, and everyone is either a vampire, werewolf or something inbetween. Humans are mentioned occasionally, but that’s it. This wasn’t exactly bad, as I did enjoy the entire supernatural-races-club-thing that was going on.

Nevertheless, I will probably read the next part in the series, Kissing Sin. Why? For starters, as I already mentioned, the story does have some original points of view, and I would like to know what happens next. And secondly, maybe I’m just another silly little human being with a dirty mind.

Book Review: Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur by Danielle Gavan

9884946Title: Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur
Author: Danielle Gavan
Genre: Adult Romance, Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.

Desperate to evict her demon, Necromancer Ardeur Blaise Lisle never dreamed of finding herself in Mount Angel Abbey, or that it would be a sanctuary run by angels. It seems to be the perfect solution to her problem when she discovers the key to getting rid of her co-pilot. She persuades the Angel of Death to intercede; but the consequences are direr than expected. He’s playing for keeps.

A promise kept…

Released from military service, Werewolf Brody Callaghan has never expected to find the woman he’d sworm to find running down the street towards him, and straight into the path of a speeding BMW. Fate steers him towards the Abbey and will give him what he wants – but he’ll have to fight Death for it, and the angel is playing dirty.

Her freedom might be the end of Ardeur’s relationship with Brody and a life away from everything she never thought she’d have in the arms of a werewolf with dimples and a charmer’s grin. They’ll have to race to save their love, and unborn children, from an off his rocker angel. With the clock ticking they’ll have to figure it out, and fast.

Ardeur, or Ardy as we get to call our heroine, grew up being feared and disliked by her own family. Most of this has to do with the fact that she can see and communicate with the dead – a natural trait for a necromancer, but not exactly something a parent wishes for their offspring. Even though her parents aren’t that fond of Ardy (this being an extreme understatement), they do manage to use her for one very interesting purpose: money. From a very young age, Ardy is forced to hold séances, summon spirits and practice black magic of the worst kind. Like this wasn’t enough reason to call forth the child protection services; her parents decide they need to take things a bit further and they actually sell Ardy to a bunch of people who are definately up to no good. Not only do they summon the spirit of a demon, Shade, and put him in the young child’s body, but they are also the ones who order said demon to commit a series of gruesome murders. Plagued by the fact her own body is used as a killing machine and is co-inhabitated by a demon who keeps telling her she is useless and no one ever loved her, Ardy swears to get rid of the demon someday and grasp control of her own body again.

A couple of years and a whole lot of murders later, Ardy keeps up to that promise. Pushing the demon to the back of her mind, she takes back control of her own life. But the fight definately isn’t over: still tormented by the demon, chased by her previous kidnappers, and she finally discovers a part of herself she had no clue existed up till now. But more than that, Ardeur is torn between two possible lovers. On the one side, there’s the alpha werewolf Brody – currently without a home – who has loved her ever since he laid his eyes upon her more than ten years ago. But on the other side is Death itself, dark and cruel and capable of unimaginable things. However, the latter might have a touch of goodness and compassion inside of him, and not all things are as they seem, as Ardeur struggles not only with who and what she really is, but also with who she loves – and how far she is willing to go to hold on to that love.

Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur was a nice surprise. I had expected this novel to be entertaining, but I hadn’t expected it to focus on so many different things, and actually build a rich and wonderful world where humans and angels, demons, necromancers, etc. live side by side. Ardeur started out quite dark, with the dispatchment of an unwanted child. The parents stroke me as cruel, uncompassionate and uncaring, but throughout the novel it became quite clear that in fact, Ardy’s parents were more freaked out than anything else. They probably feared their own daughter, or atleast it scared them that she was something other than normal. I liked this evolution and explenation, and I could actually relate and understand her parents a little bit as the story continued. It can’t be easy to have a daughter who talks to a dead nanny and plays with the souls of children long gone and is destined to become a full-grown necromancer. Of course that’s no excuse, but I felt relieved that I atleast got to know why her parents disliked Ardeur.

Even from the start, Ardeur is a strong, independent and intelligent young girl, but as she grows up – carefully hidden in her own mind, behind the demon in charge – those qualities only strenghtened. I loved her personality, and the way Danielle Gavan described her fears and paranoia was absolutely spot on. Once freed from Shade, she is determined to live a life on her own, even though that will be difficult if not impossible with her previous kidnappers still looking for her. But no matter how courageous and determined Ardeur is, the first thought that comes to mind when following her through her new found life is ‘lost’. She is still just as lost as she was when her parents sold her to the highest bidder and turned her into a vessel for a vindictive and evil demon.

I loved the strong feelings and topics that were touched throughout this novel: abandonement, love, friendship, courage, independence, fear. I absolutely adored the fact that although Ardeur is always looking for a real home, and a real family, it takes practically till the end of the novel before she finds that. Before she finds a place she can call home, and people she can call family. The relationship between Brody and Ardeur is heart-warming, bittersweet and very touching. I wasn’t completely convinced of the character of Brody at first – he seemed sort of random, and I didn’t like the cliché that he felt some sort of connection with Ardeur and then went to look for her after ten or so years, plus I wasn’t fond of the possible werewolf-necromancer relationship – but he developed into an admirable character.

The story is deep, very deep, especially for a fantasy novel. As I already mentioned, it touches so many sensitive and interesting topics, and waves them into one fast-paced, well-written and highly entertaining story. It’s very dark though, a lot darker than I had at first anticipated, but that’s the part that makes this novel more than ‘just another fantasy story’ and turns it into something a lot more memorable and interesting.

Now here’s the part that I didn’t like about the novel. Caution: there are some minor spoilers in this paragraph. I didn’t understand the way Ardeur reacted to Azrael when she figured out he was actually the one that caused her to be the person she is today, although it was quite clear that without his interference, she would have died. Personally, I think I would have reacted quite differently. For starters, this is the Angel of Death we’re talking about. The Angel of Death who actually breaks a bazillion heavenly rules and turns against everything he stands for to save the life of one human baby. But then Ardeur gets upset because she blames Azrael for her miserable life, the fact that her body got inhabited by a demon for over ten years and the fact that her parents never really loved her. Uhm, hello? Wake up call needed much? In my opinion, the Angel of Death did quite enough. What was he supposed to do? Check up on the baby he already did a lot more for than anyone could expect from him? He was supposed to kill her. He risked everything to save her. But hey, let’s all be angry at the fellow because he didn’t check up on that baby. Let’s blame him for the horrible life she had, and all the horror and tragedies she had to go through. Because that’s totally fair. Didn’t think so. If I was Ardy, I would have been thanking him from the bottom of my heart – because atleast she got to live a life, thanks to him. Saving someone’s life doesn’t mean you are responsible for what happens to them next. It actually dissapointed me that Ardy didn’t figure that one out by now.

Needless to say that up until a couple of chapters from the end, I was actually more a fan of the pairing Azrael/Ardeur than Ardeur/Brody. I still think it would have been a better fit, although it’s quite clear that Ardeur really loves Brody. But oh well, I’m a creative reader, I’m allowed to think about alternative endings.

Putting that aside, I did really enjoy reading Possession is Nine Tenths: Ardeur, and I would recommend it to all fantasy fans. It might be dark and angsty, but it actually has a message to get across: that no matter how tough life is, and no matter if you’re on your own, you have to keep going on. You have to find the courage and determination within yourself to make life work, no matter what. And you should never stop believing in love, because at the moment when you least expect it, or when you need it the most, there will be someone who loves you. That’s a very strong and hopeful message, that perfectly fits with this extraordinary and remarkable novel.

Book Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate


Title: Fallen
Author: Lauren Kate
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret…even if it kills her.

Whether or not Fallen is an excellent YA novel, or the worst piece of fiction ever written, is a debate that is going on all over the bookish world. You have people who praise this novel into the seventh heaven, and you have others who would think even the fifth circle of hell isn’t low enough to rate this one. Some say it is unoriginal and boring and totally like Twilight (which does raise quite some question marks with me) while others say it’s the next best thing after the invention of the universe. My opinion is somewhat in the middle

Opening curtains. We see a glimpse of Lucinda “Luce” Price, heroine of our story. Luce is pretty much like any normal girl – except she isn’t normal. Far from it. Her previous sort-of boyfriend Trevor died under mysterious circumstances, and up until now the authorities still aren’t convinced that she doesn’t have anything to do with it. Keep in mind the fact that Luce has been seeing shadowy-like creatures crawling over the walls her entire life, that’s enough to make anyone wonder about their own sanity. Luce is sent off to Sword & Cross, a reform school; where she – surprise, surprise – meets Daniel Grigori. Daniel is as gorgeous as they get in fantasy novels, and immediately captures Luce’s heart. The only problem is that he’s continuously mean towards her, and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. Like the teenage girl she really is, Luce isn’t willing to give up on her new crush, and even pries into his private life. But did I mention that there isn’t just Daniel who’s giving Luce the hot and cold treatment? There is another boy interested in our little heroine as well, and he goes by the name of Cam. Twenty thousand times as civil as Daniel, and – gathering from the descriptions in the novel – equally as good looking and charming, he might give ol’ Daniel a run for his money. However, this wouldn’t be a fantasy novel if there wouldn’t be something strange going on, and no one turns out to be who they pretend to be.

You know what? I will admit it. I couldn’t stop reading this book, and I had to finish it in a one day reading session. To be honest, it’s not like I even tried to put it away. It just swept me off my feet, a bit in the same way like The Hunger Games captured me. So many secrets, and the slow pace at which they unfold – which is a good thing, because it adds a continous sense of mystery to the novel – was enough to keep me reading at the wee hours of dawn. Considering how this novel totally captivated me in any possible way; who am I to give it a low rating then? Of course I must admit there were some upsides and downsides to the story and the characters, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fallen. And that’s what is important.

Trying to compare this novel to Twilight is like trying to compare apples and bananas. Twilight is about vampires – this one is about…well, take one lucky guess and remember the title ‘Fallen’. The storyline in Twilight is unoriginal, uneventful, flat and predictable. I mean, can anyone honestly say that they didn’t figure out practically everything that was going to happen in Twilight from page one? If you think Fallen is anything like that; think again. The storyline, although also involving a pretty normal highschool girl falling in love with a supernatural creature, is unpredictable, fast-paced, moving and interesting. There is tension and suspense everywhere; mysteries get unravelled, secrets get exposed, and all the way through I kept on waiting for the big break-down. The big moment when I realise I finally know everything there is to know, and I can safely put the novel away and never worry about it again. Wrong. Lauren Kate holds up the tension in such a marvellous, delightful way that you never get to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Instead, you’re on the edge of your seat throughout the entire novel, encountering surprise after surprise after surprise.

Not only is the storyline developed in a way Twilight could only dream of, the characters have actual depths and personality. Alright, so our heroine is a little air-headed when it comes to Daniel Grigori. But at least she isn’t being courted by half the male population of Sword & Cross, and at least Daniel has the sense not to watch a girl as she sleeps. Because dear ol’ Edward certainly never read the “how to let a girl know you love her without stalking her” manual. The storyline of Fallen makes a lot more sense too, because in Twilight I was constantly wondering why the hell anyone – let alone a hundred year old, drop-dead-gorgeous vampire – would fall for a blunt, clumsy, pathetic excuse for a human being like Bella. Luce on the other hand actually has a personality of her own. Alright, and maybe she could have been a bit more witty, intelligent and determined; but we’re not all hero-material. I actually like the fact Luce doesn’t have the typical hero-personality-traits. The stereotype feisty, witty and highly intelligent but ravenously beautiful heroine gets boring after a while as well.

Without giving any spoilers away, I must add that Daniel actually does have a good reason to stay away from Luce – not the old school Edward “I am dangerous and you should stay away from me…although in reality I am a vegatarian vampire who doesn’t drink blood and SPARKLES in the sunlight” crap. Plus, the supporting characters had an actual personality as well. None of the generic “everyone loves Bella” attitude we see all too well in Twilight. Some people like Luce, others detest her. C’est la vie, and that’s what actually makes characters interesting. Their behavior around each other, the way they interact. Lauren Kate really got that part spot on in this novel. Somewhere along the way, you don’t even have to read their name to know who’s talking anymore: you get that just from what they’re saying. And that, my dear people, is some decent character building.

I must also add that Lauren Kate’s writing is a couple of levels more advanced than Stephenie Meyer’s. She combines gorgeous and realistic descriptions with a fast-paced and brilliant writing style. What’s not to love?

The only thing that bothered me immensly is the fact that I now have even more questions than I had at the start of the novel. Cliffhanger, much? Yep. But that’s all the more reason for me to buy the next novel in the series, Torment. Can’t wait.

Book Review: Evangeline by Gwen Williams

17436884Title: Evangeline
Author: Gwen Williams
Genre: Adult Romance, Retold Fairytale, Gothic Romance
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy was provided by Red Sage Publishing.

Paul Rumsfeld, a lonely, rich, widower, seeks Evangeline’s hand in marriage. He is her first real marital prospect, as the entire village considers her damaged goods. Rumors abound about the way Evangeline and her sister Rose Red, serviced the Black Bear who resided at their hearth during one particularly hard, bitter winter. Evangeline did no such thing, but no man pays her court. She accepts Paul’s offer to marry him, while trying to ignore the vile gossipmongers’ talk in the village that Paul’s last four wives died under bizarre-and troubling-circumstances. Is Paul a Bluebeard, or is he an innocent man? Evangeline trusts her husband implicitly, but the rumors are hard to ignore.

They marry and she travels with him to his marvelous villa on the sea. Once there, she is introduced to the household servants, including the grim and reproving Mathilda. Mathilda is a formidable opponent, and it takes all of Evangeline’s guile and resources to outmaneuver the imperious maidservant. Evangeline soon finds herself with child, and with the support of the midwife, she begins to exert her will. Out with the restricting corsets and stays! Evangeline has no desire to confine her body to the dictates of fashion. She wants her baby to be healthy and strong, and the only way to do that is to ensure her own comfort. Mathilda is horrified, but cannot bend Evangeline to her will.

At the same time, Evangeline is attempting to breach the citadel that is her husband’s broken heart. Paul honestly cannot say how it has come to pass that he is the widower of four deceased wives, each one expiring under odd and distressing circumstances. As a result, he has locked down his heart to any further intimacy. He is half-convinced that Evangeline shall also die, and it would be unbearable if he were to allow her into his heart.

Who still remembers the story of Rose Red, Black Bear and her sister – Snow White, in the original fairytale? Well I don’t, at least not completely. I think I was born right after the Rose Red and Snow White fairytale-hype, and I only heard it once or twice and forgot most of the details. I mean, I’m probably born in the generation who thinks of Snow White as the girl who bit in the apple and fell asleep, not the girl who took a big black bear into her house and took care of said animal, who later turned out to be some cursed prince. Evangeline is actually a spin-off of the original fairytale, now featuring Evangeline in the role of Snow White, and focuses on the events that happened after Black Bear left the sisters’ cottage. No man in the entire village wants to marry Evangeline – but that’s alright, because she doesn’t really want the village boys’ interest either. She’d much rather get the attention of Mr. Rumsfeld, an older and lone widower who is wealthier than she could even imagine. However, the town folk know a lot of gossip about dear ol’ Mr. Rumsfeld: turns out he has been married three times, and every time his wife died under peculiar circumstances. Determined not to let old wives tales’ stand in her way of getting the man she desires, Evangeline persues Paul Rumsfeld anyway. But as soon as they are married, the young girl starts to notice strange things: not only about the man she loves, but also about the house they inhabit and the strange creatures that lurk in the darkness.

I love retold fairytales, or spin-offs of original fairytales. I adore gothic horror. But although I found Evangeline an enjoyable read, entertaining and with rather interesting characters; it didn’t really awe me the way I expected it to. Several reasons. First off, I figured out the mystery surrounding the suspicious deaths of Paul’s former wives right away, and to be brutally honest; Paul is quite the idiot for not thinking about this sooner. In fact, his unawareness of the people around him practically blindfolds him, and makes him unable to realise even what’s right in front of his nose. Evangeline isn’t all that much smarter; and I’m pretty sure any self-respecting heroine with some basic intelligence level could have figured out the malicious person in the picture a lot earlier. I think this novel would have been significantly more interesting had the author introduced more characters who could have been responsible for the other wives’ gruesome murders, thus atleast adding some more suspense to the story. It’s no fun reading a gothic horror novel when you know right away who’s responsible for all the bad stuff that keeps happening.

Apart from that, there were parts about the book that I really enjoyed. For instance, the scenery and the decor. An enormous villa by the sea, with gardens you can get lost in and marble statues that seem to move in the sunlight for no apparent reason. Enough to get anyone who loves gothic novels to start drooling. Add an evil presence in the house, murdered wives and a bunch of nightmares, and you have the perfect set up for an impressive gothic horror tale. However, the setting is there as are the characters and the basic plot – it just doesn’t get executed very well. There is no actual tension, there aren’t enough suspects for the murder schemes on Paul’s previous wives, and Paul basically has the IQ of a carrot. I would have liked this novel to go more in the style of Jane Eyre – where you actually get to wonder who or what is behind all the wicked things that keep happening – or more along the lines of Wuthering Heights.

The see-through plot put aside, Evangeline does make for a very enjoyable read. The main characters have very different, rich personalities with their own fears and anxieties. They could have been a bit brighter, and perhaps a bit more courageous – this definately counts for Paul – but maybe their lack of these traits makes them more human and less like the fairytale-heroes they originally were. Gwen Williams does an excellent job of describing the haunting, eerie atmosphere and the dread and terror of her characters. However, this novel didn’t scare me at all – not in the way Jane Eyre does when the girl with the same name is trapped in the Red Room. I don’t even know if it’s meant to be scary, but I would have liked if it managed to atleast make me feel a bit uncomfortable while reading. The author does get the romance point straight on though, and the growing relationship between Evangeline and Mr. Rumsfeld feels real, honest and very loving. All in all, Evangeline is a nice read and if you’re a fan of the genre, I would definately recommend it.

Book Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

7656222Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: 07/04/2011
Rating: 3 stars
Advanced Review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

The first book in a trilogy, Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

I must admit that I already read a lot of positive reviews about this novel before I actually started reading it. Now I’m not usually one to agree with the majority – I like being a rebel – but for this novel, I can’t help but agree. Atleast up till some point. I really liked this novel, and it pulled me in with an uncomperable force. However, there are some minor flaws I would like to discuss too.

Luce – short for Lucette – is living with her uncle ever since her father dissapeared while working on a ship at sea. Neither the ship, nor her father ever returned. Convinced her father is still alive, Luce tries desperately to hang on until his return, but that isn’t exactly easy. Her uncle is a brutal man who spends more time drunk than sober, and cannot live with the fact Luce’s mother fell for his own brother rather than for him. When his behavior escalates one night, Luce finds herself utterly and completely abandoned. Before she realises it, she is changing – changing into a mermaid. She jumps off a cliff, right into the ocean, and starts singing to a ship. Unaware of the fact her voice is the reason the ship is going straight to Davy Jones’ locker, Luce barely makes it out alive. She gets rescued by another mermaid, who happens to be the queen of the tribe that came to Luce’s aid. Now she must start a new alive, with her new mermaid friends. Although she feels at home for the first time in many, many years; her remarkable singing talent and the arrival of other new mermaids, might ruin her chances of ever truely finding a home.

I cannot help but praise the descrpitive, detailed writing style of Sarah Porter. Her descriptions are vivid, and pull you right into the story. It was easy for me as a reader to imagine the underwater surroundings, the mermaids’ cave, and everything else mentioned in the book. I was also very fond of the first two or three chapters – the one Luce spent while still being human. Then, the annoyance began.

First of all, I was annoyed by Luce. She seemed perfectly fine, an understandable and likable character while she was still human; but as soon as she went into mermaid-phase, I couldn’t grasp her anymore. She had these crazy mood shifts I couldn’t relate to, and I started liking her less and less. This became better once Anais came into the picture though, from that point on, I started liking Luce again. Maybe this had to do with Anais’ anything-but-likable personality and the way Luce was portrayed directly opposite of the wicked mermaid; I wouldn’t really know. I like to know what’s going through the protagonist’s mind, and I like to understand why they think a certain way. With Luce, I had trouble understanding her way of thinking. She was weak-willed and silent at first, like I expected from an often abused girl, but I had high hopes she would turn into an independent, strong-willed protagonist with actual leadership-qualities. No such luck.

So, what else annoyed me endlessly? All of the useless events. So why exactly did Luce meet Tessa? Why are we introduced to Gum, when he doesn’t appear in the rest of the story? What about the Larvae, ever thought about doing something about those? At the start I had the feeling that Luce would be the change this mermaid tribe needed so much – that she would somehow be able to make them more humane in their actions, and maybe protecting the larvae would be her first step towards that. However, Luce only tries to save the Larvae once, then decides she did enough for the little baby-mermaids who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for, and focuses more on life within the tribe. I can’t grasp how girls who have been put through so much injustice throughout their human life, could simply disregard other, smaller children with the same kind of injustice. It didn’t make sense to me, and in fact, it enangered me.

While I was constantly cheering for Luce to get up and finally do something, she stayed a passive player throughout the whole story, focused more on her own acception without her new family than on the faith of others. She is so focused on having Catarine as her friends, whereas she does not see other, more plausible and accepting friendsihps, for example with Miriam. Don’t get me wrong, I think Catarine was probably my favorite character throughout the story – I was dying to know more about her past- and I wanted her and Luce to be friends, but it became clear quite soon that all Catarine does is take, without giving anything back. A friendship with this kind of people isn’t healthy, and I was hoping for Luce to realise that along the way. Or atleast to stop relating her own self-worth with Catarine’s acceptance of her. I wanted Luce to grow as a character, but she did little of that kind.

Practically all the mermaids’ personalities annoyed me. Except for Catarine – which may sound strange, and I’ve read reviewers thinking she was the most annoying character of them all – but I could actually relate to her in a way I couldn’t relate to the others. I hated Samantha, and somewhere along the way I wanted her to get killed by a bunch of orcas. At first, I thought I could like Dana and Rachel, but then they ended up being the same shallow, spineless creatures as the rest of them. Anais was probably the worst, but to be honest, that tribe didn’t need a lot to change from a bunch of somewhat tolerable people into the most annoying, terrible and greedy creatures that ever walked this earth.

What also annoyed me beyond belief, was the way the mermaids’ personalities all seemed to blend together. None of them really had an outspoken, different personality. Except maybe Miriam. But she hardly gets enough recognition throughout the novel. I also had high hopes of one of the orphan girls to have leadership potential, especially considering the way Jenna and Dana acted while they were still human. Again, dissapointment. As soon as they turned into mermaids, they lost every single personality trait that made them unique and outstanding.

There were many useless events in Lost Voices. Personally I thought that the arrival of the 14 new orphan girls could have easily been let out too – what did those girls really bring to the story? Just more annoying mermaids, more of the same, flat, dull personalities. Perhaps it would have been better had the author focused on the original tribe, and developed the personalities of those mermaids some more, rather than keep introducing new but pointless and generic characters. These useless events also confused me quite a lot. For instance, when the perspective changed from Luce to the orphan girls, I was terribly confused and had to reread the first pages of the chapter several time to actually understand what was going on. Sometimes it felt like the story had no real way to go, as if it was just a bunch of chapters drawn together without any real purpose.

I know I sound a bit tough for this book, but I do have to admit that despite all of that, I did enjoy reading Lost Voices. The cliffhanger at the end, made me curious and I’m definately going to read the next novel. Considering it’s a debut novel, I think Sarah Porter did a pretty good job, however I’m hoping for more character-development, more different personalities and an actual solid plot in the second novel in the series. Plus, I would love the reappareance of old characters like Gum, Luce’s dad, and maybe Tessa. And no matter how many things I point out that may be wrong with the plot and characters; truth is that I did read this one in two reading sessions, unable to step away from my computer until I finished reading it. So there must be something about Lost Voices that kept me fascinated.