Book Review: Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) by Karina Halle

11710500Title: Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: June 13th 2011
Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)
Rating: 4,5 stars

With Book Two of the Experiment in Terror Series, Perry Palomino and Dex Foray trade in the stormy Oregon coast for the unforgiving deserts of New Mexico.
In the for­got­ten town of Red Fox, a Navajo cou­ple is tor­tured by things unseen and by motives unknown. Wild ani­mals slink through their house in the dark, a bar­rage of stones pound their roof nightly, and muti­lated sheep car­casses are turn­ing up on their prop­erty. Armed with a cam­era and just enough to go on, Perry and Dex travel to the des­o­late locale, hop­ing to film the super­nat­ural occur­rences and add cred­i­bil­ity to their flail­ing web­cast. Only their show has a lot more work­ing against them than just grow­ing pains. Tested by dubi­ous ranch hands, a ghost from Dex’s past, and shapeshift­ing decep­tion, the ama­teur ghost hunters must learn to trust each other in order to fight the most ancient of myths…or die trying.

I already wrote a review about the first book in this series, Darkhouse, and went to great lengths to explain to you all how much I truly enjoyed that book. It’s always a bit frightening when a debut book is great and you have the next book the series waiting for you to read it. If it’s worse than the first book, you’re always left with this double feelings as a reader: on the one hand, you still pretty much enjoyed the first book and you’d like to recommend it to people, but on the other hand if the second book didn’t appeal to you quite as much you feel like you’re being a hypocrite if you try to apraise the series to people. However, luckily for me I didn’t have to worry about that with Red Fox. This book totally went above and beyond my expectations, and completely surpassed Darkhouse on all levels.

It took me a while to write this review. I find it difficult to either completely praise a book or completely break down a book – in this case it’s obviously the first. Mixed reviews, in which I have good and bad opinions about a book are surprisingly easier to write. I finished reading Red Fox for the first time approximately a month ago, but after writing my review for Darkhouse and when I sat down to write my review for this book I realized that I couldn’t. The pace of Red Fox is fast, but for my curious mind it apparently wasn’t fast enough, so I skipped paragraphs here and there as to know the outcome of the story, which I always do when books excite me. However, that’s not advisable, and I had to reread Red Fox to give it the review it deserved. It’s a good sign that I skipped through parts to reach the end, because that means I thought the story was really gripping and I desperately wanted to know how it ended – but unfortunately that way you miss out on beautiful descriptions, well-written dialogues and some underlying plot points, all of which I encountered while rereading Red Fox.

In Red Fox, New Mexico, Perry and Dex discover an evil greater and scarier than the one they fought and defeated in Darkhouse. Weird things are happening on the farm of a Navajo couple. Animals are behaving strangely, stones drop down on the house and the inhabitants are getting more and more scared every minute. When Perry and Dex come to their rescue in a desperate attempt to save their TV Show, which was not well received by the producer, things get even more out of control. Now the forces that appeared to be haunting Will and Sarah are after Perry and Dex as well. Battling ghosts or poltergeists is one thing, but fighting skinwalkers? Shamans? That might be too much for even Perry and Dex to handle!

While I think that the story in Red Fox is certainly more original than the one in Darkhouse, that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Don’t get me wrong: the story is great, well-constructed with enough plot twists to keep even Sherlock Holmes occupied, but I liked the story behind Darkhouse as well. Perhaps less original, but it certainly had me surprised and waiting for more. In my opinion, the major pluspoint about Red Fox is that we already knew the characters. Karina Halle had to waste no time introducing us to Dex, Perry and their friends and family, but she could jump right into the action with the reader tagging along. I also liked the way Dex and Perry’s relationship developed. Although they were cute in their interactions in the first book, the attraction between them slowly grows visible as Red Fox progresses. I was skeptic of them as a couple at first since Dex didn’t seem the most trustworthy person in the world as Perry met him in Darkhouse, but the way he evolves and grows from a mysterious, sometimes even cowardly stranger who dissapears when Perry needs him the most into a trustworthy companion is impressive.

This book is not built upon the exquisite story behind it, although that is impressive, original and entertaining to say the least, but it’s based upon the characters, their interactions, their feelings and emotions and their undeniable attraction to one another. Perry and Dex, I officially love you guys. Other noteworthy characters include the skinwalkers (how cool is that?) and the somewhat messed-up dynamics in the relationship between the Navajo couple. Karina Halle really has a talent for sketching believable, interesting characters with as many flaws as qualities and a good mixture of both. Her ability to develop these characters from their starting point and turn them into stronger, independent and intelligent individuals who are coming to terms with who they really are and their real feelings is astonishing. For character development, Karina Halle certainly deserves an A+.

There are, however, some reasons why I chose to rate this book 4,5 rather than 5 stars. For one, I know that Karina Halle has recently finished her next book in the series, Dead Sky Morning, and if what I’m anticipating is true and that book is even better than Red Fox, then I need to be able to give it a higher rating still. On the other hand, I wasn’t as scared with this book as I was with the previous. Red Fox reads a bit like a Supernatural episode or a Buffy episode. It’s not all that scary, but it’s thrilling and exciting. You get used to the permanent ‘scary’ threat soon enough and then it’s only a matter of suspense and mystery as to who is doing what and who’s responsible for what. But this may have to do with my personal opinion that ghosts are the scariest thing ever, and even some extremely dangerous shamans can’t make me think differently. Sorry dudes, but ghosts rule everything in the scary department.

Apart from the original take on paranormal activity, the addition of skinwalkers, the lovely descriptions of the New Mexico desert atmosphere and the wonderful characters, Red Fox also offers a surreal and mysterious vibe through the entire book, a fast pace with delicious plot twists and a love story worth swooning over. Red Fox is a pageturner you definately shouldn’t miss out on, and just like its predecessor it’s an excellent work in the horror genre. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Karina Halle is truly ruling the horror genre this season with her Experiment in Terror series. Recommended to all horror fans and I can’t wait for the next part in the series.

Interested in reading this extraordinary scary series yourself? Darkhouse is currently available from Smashwords for only $0,99 USD. Try it out now!

Book Review: Paradise 21 by Aubrie Dionne

12225018Title: Paradise 21
Author: Aubrie Dionne
Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: August 2nd 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Author Website | Author’s Website | Amazon

Aries has lived her entire life aboard mankind’s last hope, the New Dawn, a spaceship traveling toward a planet where humanity can begin anew-a planet that won’t be reached in Aries’ lifetime. As one of the last genetically desirable women in the universe, she must marry her designated genetic match and produce the next generation for this centuries-long voyage.
But Aries has other plans.
When her desperate escape from the New Dawn strands her on a desert planet, Aries discovers the rumors about pirates-humans who escaped Earth before its demise-are true. Handsome, genetically imperfect Striker possesses the freedom Aries envies, and the two connect on a level she never thought possible. But pursued by her match from above and hunted by the planet’s native inhabitants, Aries quickly learns her freedom will come at a hefty price.
The life of the man she loves.

I’m happy to host a giveaway for one of Aubrie’s older books as well. Scroll down to the end of the review to find out more drtails about the giveaway!

Life on the New Dawn is predictable to say the least. Original thoughts are discouraged at all levels, future spouses are selected by a computer and rebellion is certainly out of hte question. Naturally, sooner or later someone is going to try and escape. However, since escape is usually noticed fast, and the properties of some possible refugee-planets aren’t necessarily ideal either. But that doesn’t stop Aries, our heroine, one of the few people aboard the colony ship actually capable of forming a single self-created thought. When she finds herself, to her horror, paired to Lieutenant Barliss, a heartless and sometimes even cruel man whose determination to follow the set system of rules is without boundaries, Aries knows she has to make a run for it. She would rather die than spend her entire life in this prison she is forced to call home.

But her escape backfires at first as she is being held hostage by alien creatures and natural inhabitants of the planet she chose as destination. Luckily for Aries, a marooned space pirate called Striker comes to her rescue. Hurt beyond repair by a former love of his, Striker is reluctant to open up his heart for anyone again. But as his attraction towards Aries grows, and she begins to see him romantically as well, they just can’t deny their feelings any longer. For Striker, Aries presents a long-awaited second chance at love, life and happiness, and for Aries Striker represents freedom, hope and a chance at a future of her own choosing.

Aries and Striker work together to repair the space ship Striker has been using for shelter, their now only hope of leaving this planet. Unfortunately, Aries gets captured and Striker’s old crew pops up out of nowhere with a debt to collect. They want him to interpret a coded map leading straight to Paradise 21, the paradise and salvation man kind has been searching for ever since Earth became uninhabitable by man’s own mistakes.

The main reason why Aries’ life seems so predetermined is because her supposedly only goal in life is to pass on her unique genetic code, so that one day in the future their offspring would be able to reach the New Dawn’s true destination, Paradise 21, hence the title of the book. Choice, and being unable to choose one’s own future, is a major concept in this book, and it’s an interesting one as well. What would you do if your only purpose was to procreate so that one day your ship could reach a Paradise-like Planet? Would you follow the rules as set before you, or would you take a chance at the unknown and try to escape, with possible fatal results? Furthermore, this book talks about Paradise 21, a mythical utopian planet the post-apocalyptic survivors have been looking for since the day they were forced to leave Earth. It’s utopia and its existence is widely debated since no one has ever ventured there before. The thought alone that its properties and climate would be fit to keep humans alive would be a long shot, if such planet existed to begin with. But Paradise 21 is more than just a destination: it’s hope. For the humans aboard the New Dawn and for Striker’s crew of space pirates, it’s their final hope.

As you can see from my last paragraph, Paradise 21 really leaves room for thought. It talks about the freedom of choice and how much one would be willing to sacrifice to gain that freedom, but it also talks about hope at the end of a most catastrophical disaster, and humanity’s unfailing ability to always find said hope, even in the darkest of days. I’m usually not a big fan of science fiction, because I generally see it as a genre filled with cliché books and substandard writing, but Paradise 21 made me reconsider. This book is fast-paced and action-filled with multi-layered and complex characters, interesting villains and some pretty strong thoughts about choosing one’s own destiny and the perseverence of hope, against all odds. Barliss, Aries’ former fiance, was one of the characters I personally found the most interesting, especially as he changes towards the end and shows us the monster he was all along. There is no villain more interesting than one who thinks he is doing the right thing.

If you like science fiction, Paradise 21 definately is an excellent choice. If you don’t like science fiction, you shouldn’t pass by this book either. It reads like a movie script, leaving you barely room to breathe and relax, but at the end it keeps you with some unanswered questions, the desire to read more about these characters and this dystopian, futuristic world they’re living in, and a whole lot of questions in your mind about how much you would be willing to sacrifice to the things we deem as being normal in today’s world. I loved this book, and I recommend it to everyone who’s looking for something different and unique.


Aubrie was kind enough to offer to give an eBook copy of one of her previously released books to one lucky visitor! You can see a list of Aubrie’s books over at Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Want to participate in this contest?
Leave a comment below to participate in the contest! Don’t forget to leave a valid email address so I can contact you.

Book Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

6339664Title: Hush, Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult, Angels
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 13th 2009
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her…until Patch comes along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

I must admit that Hush, Hush totally surprised me. It went above and beyond my expectations. After reading Fallen, The Vampire Diaries, The House of Night series and Evermore by Alyson Noel, I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. I thought I had seen it all when it comes to angels, paranormal romances, and high school girls falling for supernatural creatures. I had seen cliché scenes, slightly more original ways to handle it, I had rolled my eyes on plenty of occassions and I had felt like slapping the heroine on the head on equally as many occassions. I grabbed Hush, Hush from my local bookstore and thought “Well, maybe it’s time to go through all of it again. Because even though you sometimes get annoyed with the clueless heroine or her annoying bratty friends or the clichés are so overwhelming that you feel like puking – that still doesn’t change the fact that you love those paranormal romance books. Especially when in the young adult genre. You love them. Try it.” Notice how I say ‘you’ when I address myself in third person? Anyway, that was the debate going on in my head before I eventually succumbed and purchased Hush, Hush. I wasn’t going to be dissapointed.

Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first. Hush, Hush is not original. Let’s not pretend it is. It’s the same basic story we’ve seen remodeled, reshaped and redecorated for over a thousand times now: fallen angel falls in love with human girl. Initially he was supposed to kill her, but we can’t argue about that once fluffy feelings get in the way now, can we? But that’s where the large cliché part stops.

Nora Grey, the main character of this book, is your average teenage girl. With ‘your average’ I mean that she’s actually pretty average. She is far from being ugly, but she isn’t Prom Queen either. Moreover, she somewhat holds the balance between Elena Gilbert and Bella Swan, except that she’s one hundred percent cooler and more down to earth. She doesn’t get asked out a lot, but she doesn’t really mind because she’s picky about boys as well, which is fine by my standards. She is pretty realistic about herself, has a wonderful best friend (God I loved Vee…More about that later though!), gets along pretty well with her Mom, at least better than half the teenage population nowadays, and hopes to get into a major university once day. She’s quiet but not exactly shy, studious and a bit nerdy, but she isn’t exactly going to win an award for being adventurous or outgoing. As I said, she’s average, your average everything. And I liked that. I liked to have an average, normal heroine for once rather than an insecure little brat (read: Bella Swan) or an over-confident, mindless cheerleader (read: Elena Gilbert). In fact, Nora reminded me a lot of myself, apart from her sometimes rather stalkery sleuthing adventures with her best friend Vee…Even I have to admit that was often over the top, but hey…We all do crazy things when we’re teenagers. So let’s forgive Nora that so I can safely give her the award for ‘most awesome, down-to-earth and normal heroine ever’.

With this ordinary and average girl in the main role, you need to have a male counterpart who’s gripping, interesting, a bit rough around the edges, and confident enough to pull the reader into this story from the moment he walks in. May I introduce you to…Patch. Trust me when I say that he’s all that, and more. It’s been a while since I ever felt my heart flutter when I read a character’s name or imagined how he would be like in real life (in fact it’s been ever since I read In The Forests Of The Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes for the first time when I was roughly ten years old), but Patch accomplishes just that. He’s your typical bad-boy, hanging around in clubs he shouldn’t be in, getting into bar fights, driving a motorcycle…You name it, and I’m pretty sure Patch has done it. Where do you think he got the name Patch from? Add to that list that Patch is perfectly capable of getting under Nora’s skin, has an amazing sense of humor, is cocky in a way that practically screams sexy…It’s like my dream boyfriend became reality. Well, except that unlike Nora, I would not jump to the conclusion that he’s some psycho-serial killer, but I would go all “Meh, he’s probably just a fallen angel”. Because I’m cool like that. Anyway, Patch is amazing. If you like cocky bad boys who are excellent and giving snarky remarks, then Patch will melt your heart.

The thing I enjoyed most about this book, is Nora’s interaction with her best friend Vee. Vee is nothing short of amazing. She’s funny, the voice of sillyness when Nora is the voice of reason, a friend you can truly depend on, the best team mate a girl could wish for, outgoing, hilarious and wonderful. Alright so she sometimes goes a little crazy when Nora and Vee go on a sleuthing spree to find out what exactly is going on, with who and when, but that’s what you expect from sugar-high high-school girls. But Vee and Nora’s interactions are the best. They really warmed my heart, because they’re so honest, down-to-earth and so obvious best friends in every way. Their relationship is what really lifted this book from a 4 to a 5 stars for me. Too often I see practically non-existent, continuously backstabbing ‘friendships’ developed in YA literature, and I’m just so relieved to see that it also can be done differently. There is a real bond between Vee and Nora, they have this entire friendship code with a particular kind of humor attached to it, inside jokes, etc. It just feels real, and that’s what makes it special and unique.

As I already mentioned, the plot line might not seem all that original at first. And truthfully, it isn’t. But Becca Fitzpatrick really brings her characters to life. It’s the characters that make this book, that drive this plot forward. She also adds some mystery, surprising plot twists and some authentic ancient mythology to the mix, resulting in a book that I can’t help but find both outstanding and surprising. If you’re a fan of paranormal romance, Hush, Hush is definately an excellent choice.

Book Review: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)

11356211Title: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Supernatural, Paranormal
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: May 1st 2011
Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by the author.
Goodreads | Book Website | Amazon | B&N

There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twenty-something, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts. Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.

If you’ve read my blog, then you know I’m always up for a good ghost story, an extraordinary supernatural thriller or just anything that’s scary enough to keep me up at night. When author Karina Halle contacted me asking if I wanted to review her debut novel, Darkhouse, I was especially thrilled. It had been quite a while since I’d read anything remotely scary, and the synopsis of the book seemed promising enough. But Darkhouse turned out unlike anything I’d expected. It drew me in from page one, with its easy-to-relate to, flawed but loveable characters, its fast pace, the unpredictable plot twists and its eerie, surreal atmosphere. If you’re searching for the scariest book of this season, then search no more. Darkhouse is exactly what you’re looking for.

Our protagonist, Perry, is a very interesting character. She has a great many flaws, which makes her all the more human. She isn’t fond of her job, which isn’t like she imagined it would be, although she’s in her twenties she doesn’t have a boyfriend and she isn’t confident with her appearance. Yes, ring the alarm bells, because we have an actual human heroine on our hands rather than a Mary Sue version of reality. Perry is very easy to relate to, mostly because she knows she has flaws, but tries to live with them. She’s worked on her appearance before, but like with all of us, it’s never enough. People used to tease her all through high school because she was overweight, and that never really goes away, no matter how much weight she lost. Especially not when, like in Perry’s case, her mom used to be a model and her kid sister has all the qualities to be one herself. When compared to these two, Perry thinks herself a bit dull, a bit ordinary, although she always hoped – like most, if not all of us – that there would be something extraordinary and special in her future. Well, Perry, it’s about to happen.

While on holiday at her uncle’s house, Perry and her sister Ada hang around with their cousins and a couple of their friends. Since hanging around with a bunch of teenagers is kind of boring her, Perry decides to check out the old and abandoned lighthouse near her uncle’s house. But she’s in for a surprise though. Not only is the lighthouse extremely terrifying, but there’s also somebody already in it. That, or the footsteps she hears on the first floor belong to a ghost.

Luckily for Perry, the person also investigating the lighthouse is anything but a ghost. In fact, he’s a rather handsome, charismatic and somewhat peculiar stranger. Although Perry’s first reaction is to be afraid of this Dex Foray guy, he sparks her interest when he tells her he went to the lighthouse to do some ghost-hunting. When the two of them hear more noises coming from above, they decide to check it out. While Perry is witness to something that can only be described as supernatural, Dex is nowhere insight. Feeling betrayed because he just ran off when things were getting dangerous, Perry decides to never think about this Dex-guy again. Although that’s not easy, considering the fact she found him quite attractive.

When Ada, Perry’s younger sister, falls ill and is unable to update her fashion blog, she asks Perry to write about something on her blog instead. Perry agrees reluctantly, but knowing nothing about fashion, she decides to write about her supernatural experience in the lighthouse instead. Luckily for her, she had her camera at hand, so she actually has some video/photo proof as well. When her post turns out to be the next internet hype , she suddenly receives a phonecall from aforementioned Dex Foray. Apparently he works for a youtube video company and the latest show he’s working on involves ghost-hunting. That, and he wants Perry and the haunted lighthouse on the show. Perry agrees, but she really has no clue what she’s getting into. The ghosts in the lighthouse might just be real, and they might have very special plans for Perry…

Since I already talked about how wonderful Perry is as a character because she has the same insecurities, problems and fears as more than half of the female population, which gives her this very humane and easy-to-relate to personality, let me talk about Dex now. You know how all those paranormal romance books feature a young, innocent girl and a more dominant vampire/demon/werewolf/other supernatural creature who has some typical bad boy charm, putting them in a peculiar relationship where one is always weak and the other always protective and strong? Yeh…well, not here. In fact, so far I’ve seen Dex portray zero supernatural abillities. He’s very much a human, and although he’s typically described as handsome by Perry, we also see a list of his many flaws indicating that perhaps not all of us would find him so handsome. He’s thin, with a bit of a moustache (personally, I’m not a fan of moustaches, but it seems to work for Dex!), and he leaves our heroine alone when in time of need. Granted, he apologises profusely about that, but still. Aforementioned Vampire/Demon/Werewolf would never do that. Unless they have to feed, or encounter another damsell in distress, or whatever. My point is: Dex has flaws at well, he isn’t the dominant male lead character some people look for when reading paranormal books. Instead, he’s human, he has a crappy low-paying job, he doesn’t look all that appealing when a night without sleep and he can get scared of ghosts as well. Which makes him one of my favorite male lead characters ever. Bonus points for Dex.

Perry and Dex’ relationship is really what drives this book. Sure, there’s the thrilling and suspenseful plot, the wonderful cast of supportive characters, the fast pace and unexpected plot twists, but in the heart of it, it’s all about Perry and Dex. It’s about two people who’ve made mistakes, who clearly aren’t perfect, and who are each desperately searching for love, who find each other. And they may not get there in this book, and maybe not even in the next, but eventually, they will. There’s a chemistry working for the two of them that they won’t be able to deny for long. The spark is there from the moment they meet, in the abandoned lighthouse, and it keeps on growing through this novel. Their interactions are at times hilarious, at other times sweet and always highly entertaining. I love them both, and I can’t wait to see what happens next to them.

As I already mentioned, the supportive characters are great as well. I especially liked Ada, Perry’s little sister, and her interactions with Perry. The two of them, albeit very different people, really do love each other.

The plot is not that original – I’ve read about abandoned lighthouses before, and protagonists dreaming about scary events about to happen to them before they actually happen…well, I’ve been there, done that. What’s original is the way the author deals with these things. She can take these clichés and turn them into something that doesn’t sound all that cliché anymore, simply because she adds the right amount of scaryness, and two of the best book characters ever created into the mix. The plot twists are unpredictable and suspensful, and kept me reading page after page after page until I’ve reached the end. Putting Darkhouse away was as impossible as travelling to the moon on foot. This is one of these books you just have to sit through to the end, or it’ll bug you forever. And even when I was done reading, I was still wondering: what’s going to happen next to Perry and Dex? Where will their next adventure take them? Will they finally get together? Yes, Darkhouse leaves you wanting more.

I would also like to congratulate Karina Halle on her excellent writing style. This book is self-published, but that really doesn’t show. It has the same high-quality writing as one would expect of a traditionally-published book, the editing is great and potential readers really shouldn’t scare away over the fact that this is self-published. There are some rare jewels in the self-publishing market as well, and the Experiment in Terror series definately is one of them.

I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a mix of scary, creepy and supernatural occurences and romance. It reminded me a lot of the X-Files and the Scully/Mulder interactions, and of the television series Supernatural. If you’re a fan of either one of those shows, then you’ll most definately enjoy Darkhouse as well. This book can be read and enjoyed by both young adults and adults. Just don’t read it late at night when you’re home alone.

Darkhouse is the first book in a series of eight. The next book in the series is entitled Red Fox and takes Perry and Dex on an eerie and creepy adventure in New Mexico. My review for Red Fox is coming later this week. Karina Halle’s third book in the series, Dead Sky Morning will be released this fall. I can’t wait to read Dead Sky Morning and the other books in the series. I’m officially hooked.

Book Review: The Sky: The World by Jessica McHugh

9453982Title: The Sky: The World
Author: Jessica McHugh
Genre: Adventure, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Tours.
Visit the author’s website | Goodreads

Who is Doctor Azaz? It is the 19th Century, and Azazian England is at it’s pinnacle. Aeroplanes rule the sky, and crystalline technology has transformed life itself. But for stunt pilot Jack Racine, life is little more than an endless tailspin into liquor, laudanum, and loose women. But all that is about to change. For Jack Racine is about to have an audience with the architect of the age, the mysterious Doctor Azaz…

As you all probably know, I’m a big fan of Jessica McHugh’s writing. I’ve previously read and reviewed two other books by her: Camelot Lost and Rabbits in the Garden, both whom I enjoyed a lot. I was thrilled to participate in the book tour for another novel of hers, The Sky: The World. Although this book is something entirely different from the two other ones I mentioned, it was a nice and interesting read as well.

The Sky: The World starts out promising enough with pilot Toby and his pregnant wife Sarah crashing down with their plane. Unfortunately, the EPS appears not to be working properly, something which is unheard of because the only two people who know the location of the EPS are the pilot himself and his engineer. When the authorities investigate the bodies of the deceased, they realize two things. Number one, Toby was on laudanum at the time of the crash, and number two…he was a triap. In a world where its normal for people to be born out of a Fertility Pool rather than out of two people making love to each other, being a triap means being discriminated against, laughed at and a lot more. If the Royal Air Force ever found out Toby was a triap, it would have cost him his job. Even after his passing, it costs him his reputation.

Although Toby’s brother Jack is painfully aware of his older brother’s triap-status, he isn’t eager to believe that Toby was on laudanum. Drugs and opium are Jack’s trademarks, not Toby’s. He’s responsible, ambitious, and a good man. He won’t do anything like that, especially not with a baby on the way. Jack realizes right away that something else must be going on. Accidents don’t happen and EPS’s don’t just quit working for no reason. And when the organisation Toby worked for tries contacting Jack as well, he knows that this is his one change to find out what exactly happened to Toby. But although Jack’s suspicions may be correct, he is in for a lot more than he bargained for. The mysterious doctor Azaz, the sole inventor of aircraft, the fertility pool and most of mankind’s inventions might have something to do with why Toby was in Egypt as well…

The Sky: The World is a book with a lot of levels. On the one hand, it shows us a world other than the one we’re familiar with, where every major invention can be accocounted to one man only: the mysterious Doctor Azaz, who has lived for over a hundred years and is apparently immortal and all-knowing. On the other hand, we meet Jack, a young man who struggles not only with himself and the fact that he’s a bit of a loose canon, drinking, sleeping with several women, etc. but also with the fact that he has spent his entire life in the shadow of his father and of his brother Toby. Whereas Toby was the ambitious one, the good and reliable brother, Jack always was the wild one, the irresponsible one. But losing first his father and then his brother several years later, brings Jack to the verge of depression. Determined to clear his brother’s name and to prove he wasn’t on laudanum at the moment of the crash, Jack is willing to do whatever it takes to find out more about the accident, including working for Mr. Pratt, who was Toby’s previous employer.

Jack’s inner struggle will porbably look familiar to a lot of us, and I could relate to it fairly well myself. I was not a fan of his behavior, his constant switching between women (choose one, already!) and his sometimes cruel behavior towards Kat, who has loved him since they were both very young. At times, I didn’t like his attitude at all, although it is in a way understable. Jack grabs booze and laudanum when he cannot longer handle the world, and he has trouble commiting to one person for the same reason as well: whenever it gets tough, he wants to escape. Throughout the book, he does grow as a character, which was all the more reasons for me to like him better. He has sort of this James Bond-esque/Indiana Jones-esque style and attitude, and with the addition of Egypt, ancient Amulets, century-old secrets and the mysterious Doctor Azaz I could not help but imagine him as looking like Indiana Jones as well.

I loved the many notions of aircraft. I’ve never been in an airplane before in my life, but it must feel great to fly through the sky like that, freedom at your fingertips. The mystery surrounding Toby’s death, and how the intrige builds with every passing scene is excellently done as well. Add the dystopian myth of Doctor Azaz, the references to ancient cultures, and you have an adventure novel I personally greatly enjoyed. On the downside though, the pace picked up quite slow, and it took me several chapters to really get into the story, especially as Jack first reminisced about his childhood and his relationship with his brother Toby. I do have to mention that the pace picks up significantly in the second half of the book.

If you like Indiana Jones style novels, then you’ll probably like The Sky: The World as well, although Jack has a lot more depth than Indiana ever had. Jessica McHugh’s writing style, as always, was flawless. A nice read, but I have to admit that I did like her other books better.

Book Review: Charmed – Mirror Image by Jeff Mariotte

390384Title: Charmed – Mirror Image
Author: Jeff Mariotte
Genre: Young Adult, Witches, Supernatural, Charmed
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 1st 2003
Rating: 2 stars
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Phoebe Halliwell is stunned when her latest vision involves her younger half sister, Paige. The vision reveals to her that Paige is actually an imposter who will infiltrate the Power of Three and break it apart. However, Piper is dismissive when she learns of Phoebe’s concerns — so much so that Cole and Leo end up taking sides as well. Before long, all involved are on edge.

Paige senses that her sisters are acting strangely around her, so when she meets Timothy McBride, an attractive young stranger who purports to be a witch, she decides not to tell them. She wants to have something of her own, separate from her Charmed duties. Secrets are estranging the sisters from one another, and the timing isn’t good. Women are turning up all over the city, dead by supernatural causes. The perpetrator may be connected to the sisters’ past — but if they can’t work together, they might not be able to stop him.

I personally find Mirror Image one of the less original Charmed books I’ve read. The premise is the following. Some crazy mist arrives in town, and with it comes a force most terrifying. It evades the Charmed Ones in their dreams, leading Phoebe to having a vision while in a dream-like state. Said vision involves an old armoire stationed on the attic, and something evil pouring from it. Upon awakening, Phoebe and Cole head to the attic, find the armoire and discover an old, hidden letter behind it. The letter was written by one of the Halliwell ancestors, who warms them about a traitor in their midsts, in the shape of a fake sister betraying their trust.

Phoebe discusses this with Piper, who immediately turns her down. Piper trusts Paige, and she’s not planning on ruining the rocky bonds of sisterhood they only just formed over some stupid letter Phoebe found. Because of her sister’s immediate no, Phoebe gets more and more worked up about these events, and she starts to trust Paige less and less.

Meanwhile, the third sister is not entirely oblivious to the obvious quarrel between her two older sisters, but she’s determined not to intervene, mainly because she has no clue what it’s about. Until she begins suspecting it might be about her, and all those self-doubts she long cherished rise back to the surface. Luckily, Paige meets a very charming, interesting and funny guy named Timothy McBride. He’s a witch as well, and knows a bit about the Charmed Ones. Although that might be alarming, Paige chooses not to acknowledge it mostly because she finally thinks she’s met Mr. Right. Unfortunately for Paige and her two sisters, that might not be the case. With a series of unsolved murders, the discovery of an old and abandoned house with more than a dozen skeletons in the basement, the Charmed Ones will need all the help they can get to get rid of this ancient evil. Including the help of one of their ancestors, the same one who wrote the letter warning them about Paige…

The premise might be interesting, but the story is really, really predictable. It seems to have come right out of some cheap romance novel, the writing is messy, the characterization could use some work (especially Phoebe is totally out of character) and I missed the intense action and humorous undertone I usually find in other Charmed books. Plus, in my opinion the plot of ‘one sister having a secret boyfriend who turns out to be one of the bad guys’ has been done over and over again. It was interesting once, but it got boring fast and it’s tremendously boring right now. Additionally, I have to mention that the Law of No Coincedences is ignored all through-out this novel.

As you probably already gathered, I’m not a huge fan of this book. I think the plotline is overused, unoriginal and drop-dead boring at times. The sisters are occassionally out-of-character, I miss the humor I usually encounter in other Charmed books and in the series itself, and the entire story is predictable. I don’t recommend this book to anyone except maybe for Charmed fans who still enjoy the ‘secret boyfriend’ plotline for some reason, or people who just want to make sure they’ve read the entire series. I don’t regret reading this book, but it does come close. The only reason why it does get two stars, is because I found the storyline of murders happening one hundred years ago linked with present-day events remotely interesting. The rest, not so much. Read at your own risk.

Book Review: Eternal Hearts (A Darkness Within #2) by Jennifer Turner

11114576Title: Eternal Hearts (A Darkness Within #2)
Author: Jennifer Turner
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Adult, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Dark Dreams Press
Publication Date: June 1st 2011
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Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy received for as host during the Eternal Hearts Tour.

Toni Tutoro just wants to go home. Banned from Chicago’s vampiric society after cutting a swath of violence through the city, she must now successfully complete an investigation for the Lord of Chicago to regain the right to live in her hometown again.To ensure Toni’s safety during her probationary period, Drake Black, a feared assassin, is secretly contracted to protect her. Even with direct orders to keep his relationship professional, and his own personal vow to never get involved with a female vampire again, Drake finds himself drawn to Toni in ways he can’t explain. But unbeknownst to him…he’s tied to one of the people who drove Toni to her night of destruction.
Drake’s legendary heritage holds the key to Toni’s survival and success, but will she be able to forgive his connection to the brutal night that robbed her of those she loved most? Will Drake be able to forget the betrayals in his past and risk taking one more chance? But most of all – can they find a way to reach each other in the darkness?

Read my review for Eternal Seduction, the first book in the series.
Read the interview with Jennifer Turner AND a sneak peek into Eternal Embers, Odin’s book!

Toni Tutoro’s reason to take revenge on the vampires who allegedly killed her entire family was totally understandable, and although even some of the ancient vampires feel for her, that didn’t keep her from being banned from her home town, Chicago, when breaking the Veil by killing vampires in public. Now, three years later, Toni is back in town, her presence requested by the very people who banned her in the first place. Unfortunately, the Vampire Lord of the city, Christian, has a very peculiar reason for wanting Toni in town: there’s some sort of werewolf plague going on, and he wants Toni to find out what the four-legged creatures are doing in vampire territory. Failing is out of the question. Meanwhile, we meet up with a familiar person from Eternal Seduction, Drake Black, a man torn and scarred by his long lost love for a vampire woman. While he was unable to let his dead heart beat for centuries, so to speak, with Toni around it does come pretty close. The two of them share an instant attraction, mainly because in Drake Toni finds the protector she seeks, and in Toni Drake finds the honest, reliable woman who would never manipulate him or hurt him intentionally. He can trust her, and it’s that trust he’s been craving for centuries now. It’s a match made in heaven…or somewhere a lot darker. As Toni goes on werewolf hunt, she is forced to face enemies from her past, the most prominent one being the woman who was at least partly responsible for Toni’s exile three years prior. As emotions run high, Toni and Drake must keep their cool…

Toni is a very…annoying character. Initially, I liked her. I felt for the tragic heroine who lost her family during an extremely violent crime, who was forced to flee her hometown for something as silly as taking revenge, and who is now finally able to return, only to learn that her return is only on the condition that she gets information involving the local werewolf population. However, my initial bond with Toni soon dissapeared into thin air as she went from one emotion to the other about as easily as another person takes a breathe. I mean, I don’t change my clothes as much as Toni changes emotion and partly personality as well, and I like changing my clothes two or three times a day. That’s just to give you an example of how much moodswings you have to get through in order to get to the essential plot. Toni just seems all over the place. I like her backstory, her basic personality, her ultimate goals, but I don’t like her extended personality, including the silly moodswings. I felt like slapping her and telling her to stick to one mood already. Even if it was just for a day, or even an hour. It’s exhausting to read about a heroine who’s either insanely happy, insanely sad, insanely scared or insanely angry, or everything inbetween. I like how the author tried to give her heroine a deep and meaningful personality with a lot of different layers, but whereas Jennifer Turner definately succeeded in this in Eternal Seduction, I think she went a bit over the top in Eternal Hearts. Toni is definately never going to be on my friend-list. Even for a traumatized fledgling vampire, she’s just a bit too moodswingy to make me appreciate her.

Drake Black is probably the opposite of Toni. Charming, powerful, but also cool and distant. At least that’s how he is towards everyone else, but oh no, not towards Toni. He instantly warms up towards her, and is all too eager to give her the place in his heart which long ago belonged to a traitorous vampire woman who supposedly scarred him for life. Well, great way to get over that…go for Mrs. Moodswing Extraordinaire. I know I’m being a bit sarcastic, but I couldn’t help but feel that Toni and Drake’s relationship was a bit rushed and a bit…unusual, if not implausible. Honesty alone isn’t going to cut in I’m afraid, not even for Toni, who is the epitome of honesty. This is the classic story of ancient vampire falling for highschool teenager on a bad hormone trip again, except that Toni isn’t even a highschool teenager, which makes this all the more annoying. I wanted Toni, but with a grown-up and adult personality, and perhaps then she would’ve been a nice match for Drake. Now I’m not so sure, and I actually feel kind of bad for the guy, who is thrown into a relationship with the equivalent of a hormonal high school teenage girl.

I liked the storyline, the plot twists and most of the supportive characters. One comment though is that, for a story as plot-driven as Eternal Hearts, the number of supportive characters was just too large. Some simply dropped by to say how much they missed Toni. Yes, and you’re important for the plot how? Your purpose in this life is what exactly? I mean, I’m all for supportive characters, but they ought to have a meaning. And you can say all you want about them getting larger roles in further novels, but if you cannot explain the reason of existence for one third of your supportive characters in this exact novel, then you simply have too many of them. I couldn’t even keep them apart! And I don’t like the name 8-Ball. Especially not for a vampire. I can’t help it.

Moving on, I have to say that another thing that bothered me about Eternal Hearts is how cliché it is. Eternal Seduction was practically a revelation – oh my god, someone can actually write paranormal romance without sounding totally cliché? And, did you notice the original and awesome vampire hierarchy, politics and history? And like, how it’s totally not predictable? Well, that sort of goes kaboom in the sequel. The story is still not predictable, mind you, but I missed Jennifer Turner’s impressive world-building skills, her interesting and original characters, and her unique and innovating take on vampire romance. Eternal Hearts is like a step back. A major step back. We’re thrown back into the realm of cliché, been-here-before stories of weak girl with annoying personality falls for insanely powerful, handsome and protective vampire with a dark side. Sounds familiar?

Well, now I’m officially done complaining. Because beside the fact that I’m not going to join a Toni-fanclub soon, and I’m not exactly cheering with self-made flags and fitting tshirts for Toni and Drake’s relationship, I still enjoyed this novel thoroughly. Eternal Hearts may not have pleased me as much as Eternal Seduction did, but it’s still an outstanding book in the genre of adult vampire romance, it has some kick-ass characters that’ll definately keep me reading (read: Odin…mmmhmm) and I would definately like to learn more about the paranormal world Jennifer Turner created for her Darkness Within novels. I can’t wait for book three in the series, Eternal Embrace, and I hope I get the opportunity to read it, even if I wasn’t as praising in this review as I was in my review for Eternal Seduction. Jennifer has a wonderful narrator’s voice, and she always comes up with a breathtaking, action-packed plot. I’m still impressed and eager to read more. Recommended to all paranormal romance fans.

Book Review: Eternal Seduction (A Darkness Within #1) by Jennifer Turner

5586134Title: Eternal Seduction (A Darkness Within #1)
Author: Jennifer Turner
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy, Adult, Vampires
Publisher: CreateSpace, Self-Published
Publication Date: October 8th 2008
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Rating: 4 stars
I reviewed this book as a part of a book tour. Review copy provided by the tour organiser.

After living on the streets of New York for over a decade, Logan admits her perceptions might be a little skewed. But twisted or not, there’s a satisfying irony in watching a well dressed vampire stand in the middle of a ghetto alley, windblown trash scraping circles near his feet. What she finds even more intriguing, is waiting for him to decide if he’s going to kill her.
Kerestyan hasn’t made up his mind. As the Lord of New York, he can’t let a drug addict, whose memories are packed with knowledge of vampires, run free in his city. It’s not the first time he’s been in this situation with a human, it’s just the first time he’s come face to face with one who doesn’t seem to care. And that’s what makes the decision so difficult.
What horrors could you witness before you went numb? How long would it take before you felt that way? What could make you care again?
Logan’s answers are simple: the worst humanity has to offer, almost thirty, and something she never expected.

Logan Ellis is the protagonist of this original and innovating book about vampire romance. It would be an understatement to say that Logan isn’t like your typical heroine, which makes her all the more interesting. She’s a passive character, traumatized up to the point that she just lets things pass her by unnoticed, even when topics as alarming as her own possible death are referred to. She genuinely doesn’t care, not about herself – her survival skills are greatly lacking, to say the least – her surroundings, the conditions she lives in, or the world around her. She’s a homeless drug addict without any real future waiting ahead of her. She adapts remarkably fast to altering situations, but feels no real emotion towards anything. Except when you mention to her that she should stop taking drugs. Then you get an emotion, although not a very good one. She basically has the personality of a zombie, walking through life so uncaring about herself or her surroundings that she’s not really living life. She’s practically on the verge of being a vampire herself, if you look at it that way. The interesting part though is that for Logan, it isn’t just an act, like I’ve seen countless of times in young adult books (this is not young adult, by the way, just searching for a reference) but which is basically just the main character acting touch and cool. Here, it’s not the case. At the roots of Logan’s numbness and her inability to actually live, are real traumas waiting to resurface any time now.

At her core, Logan is a traumatized, messed up young woman who struggles to take hold of her life and who, although claiming to take full responsibility for the way she’s living right now, has run away from her home years ago, and hasn’t stopped running ever since. Her taking-responsibility-act is just what the word says: an act. Deep in her heart she has issues she cannot come to terms with, and she has traumas she cannot deal with. Although saddening, this is what makes her interesting. She’s unlike most paranormal romance heroines, in the sense that she has real traumas rather than just a messed-up personality. A shrink would love tog et his hands on her, but unfortunately, she’s stuck without a shrink but with one insanely hot vampire. I guess that’ll have to do.

Kerestyan Nelek (difficult name, you have to admit that) is totally the opposite of Logan. For starters, he’s confident, strong, powerful, protective over those he cares about and he’s used to getting his way. Life itself seems to bend just so he can get his wishes. He’s also extremely handsome – no kidding – and did I mention that he’s a vampire? And a very old one at that? As far as luck goes, Logan can count herself lucky for running into this particular vampire the night she sees some fledgling vampires fighting in one of New York’s abandoned streets. Kerestyan is immediately intrigued by this thirty-year-old woman whose aura’s so dark and brooding the fledglings mistakingly ought her to be a vampire servant, and who acts so untouched by the events unfolding in front of her. On the one hand, he should kill her because she knows too much, but on the other hand he simply can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he offers Logan a choice. It’s a choice that’ll change her life forever.

After we meet Kerestyan and travel with him and Logan from the gutters of New York to Kerestyan’s luxurious home, we are thrown into the world of of the paranormal, supernatural and increasingly scary. We learn that Kerestyan is the Vampire Lord of New York, and that he’s one of the last descendents of a millennium-old vampire bloodline created by Lord Stefen Nelek. Although Kerestyan seems quite alright, his brother Odin is quite the opposite. Sarcastic, mean and sometimes downright rude, it’s obvious that he cares a lot about Kerestyan and doesn’t want the latter to get hurt because of a heroin addict. Kerestyan’s sister Trinity is an interesting character as well, although I myself much preferred Odin. Trinity is dominating, confident and rather manipulative, but all in all, she’s likeable once you get past that. Anyway, if Odin ever gets himself a book, I’m totally getting that one. He deserves it.

I loved the unique way Jennifer Turner describes the vampire society. The hierarchy is very present, but it’s not just ‘every man for himself’ or ‘vampire royals and common vampires’. There’s an entire system in place, which feels unique, innovating and refreshing. It’s dark, mystical, scary and sometimes even downright terrifying, but it’s above all, very entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed entering this new and dark side to New York and other major cities in the world, with vampires practically ruling society and making sure humans don’t notice them. I loved the idea of clans battling each other, or cooperating on a rather loose basis. I’d love to learn more about this well-designed world and the characters living in it.

I also liked the character of Vouclade. I think there’s more to him than meets the eye, and I liked how he was so protective over Kerestyan as well. Lord Nelek was an interesting persona as well, although he did function a bit like a ‘deus ex machina’ when revealing Logan’s fears, weaknesses and traumas, and then made her practically forgive herself. I wasn’t too fond of that, but overall, I liked him. Very scary, uberpowerful vampire who’s been around since the beginning of time. I’m all for that.

One of the major comments I have about this book works two ways. Let me try to explain. The romance itself develops slowly, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Logan and Kerestyan’s attraction seems honest and real, and it takes a lot of time before Logan can admit to herself that she might have feelings for the alpha vampire. On the other hand, their sexual relationship doesn’t take that long to develop. Before I very well realized it, I was reading a hot and heavy scene involving both characters. It was a bit too early in the story to introduce this, in my opinion, and I found it quite shocking and not all that believable. I was releived to see both characters return to their original positions afterwards, and let things develop more slowly. I get writing paranormal romance, especially for an adult audience, and I understand that you need to have some ‘sexy stuff’ included for your audience to enjoy your book. I just don’t understand why in every book, regardless of whether the two main characters initially like each other or not, they get in bed with each other within the hundred-or-so first pages. I’d like to see a self-respecting heroine for once, who does not have sex with guys she barely just met. Granted, this does fit Logan’s personality as being an emotionless drug addict who cares little about her own body, but it still didn’t feel right.

If you’re a fan of sexy paranormal romance, then Eternal Seduction is a great choice. It doesn’t only offer romance, but it has a decent and captivating backstory, interesting characters with real-life problems and issues, humor, impressive world-building and some really hot scenes. I loved the pairing, and I’d like to read more about Logan and Kerestyan – although, if I’m being honest, I’d prefer to read more about Odin first. Jennifer Turner has a unique narrator’s voice that I thoroughly enjoyed as well. I recommend this to all adults who enjoy paranormal romance.

Book Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

8349244Title: Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma
Genre: Drama, Young Adult, Sensitive Topic, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 28th 2011
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Rating: 5 stars
Review copy provided by S&S Galley Grab.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

Forbidden is one of the most shocking, seemingly disturbing and life-changing novels I have read in my entire life. I loved it from the beginning till the very end and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone, despite the sensitive topic. It is definately not for younger readers though. I think from age 16 and up this book is appropriate, but not for a younger audience.

The book is told from two points of view. The first narrator is Lochan, a seventeen year old boy who struggles to talk to people he doesn’t know, is brilliant in written assignments but too nervous to speak in front of a class, and hardly has any friends. His life at home isn’t all that wonderful either, with his mother always going out with her boyfriend Dave, getting home drunk and passing out on the couch or worse, not going home at all and spending entire weeks over at Dave’s, abandoning her children, and putting the oldest two – Lochan and his sister Maya – in charge of the entire household. Maya is the other narrator. She’s Lochan’s sister, only about a year younger than he is, and his best friend in the entire world. They’ve always felt more like best friends than like brother and sister, and with the added responsibilities of taking care of their younger siblings Kit, Tiffin and Willa, Lochan and Maya rely on each other more and more, practically taking the role of Mom and Dad in the household. With their positions changing, so do their feelings for each other and by the time they realise it, they have fallen in love with each other. The only problem is that their love is illegal…

The only other book I’ve ever read that dealt with a brother/sister relationship is Flowers on the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I thought that book was beautiful, and I could understand why Cathy and Christopher eventually turned to each other for the love and affection they so urgently needed. The situation in Forbidden is a bit the same like the one sketched in Virginia Andrews novel: a messed-up situation at home, two older siblings forced to take care of their younger brothers and sisters. I have to admit though, out of the two novels, I liked Forbidden the best, mainly because while I could understand the relationship in Flowers on the Attic, I did not approve of it. On the other hand, in Forbidden, I could both understand and approve of the relationship. Of course it is not something I would encourage, but in this case the loving relationship Tabitha Suzuma sketches in her novel is so heart-felt, so honest and so caring that I could do nothing else but support for them.

Lochan and Maya are two of the most interesting, heart-warming and loveable characters I have ever met. I instantly felt sorry for Lochan with his problem of talking to stranger, and their endless list of responsibilities at home made me feel sympathetic towards both of them. I also loved their interactions with their siblings Willa, Tiffin and Kit. Although the novel focuses primarily on Lochan and Maya, the other siblings are featured a lot as well, and I loved every single one of them, and instantly felt for them. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the situation must have been for this entire family, with a missing father and a mother always drunk or spending time at her boyfriend’s house. I do think it is plausible in such situation, that two siblings might find themselves feeling more for each other than society allows. Lochan and Maya realized their feelings towards each other early on in the novel, but their first reaction was one of confusion and trying to hide what they felt, which I think was the most natural reaction possible. But as their feelings increase and it gets harder and harder not to respond to them, they eventually give in. By the time I got at that point in the novel, I could understand why, and I knew that their love, no matter how wrong or disturbing, was real nevertheless. I was actually rooting for the star-crossed lovers at that point. It was a revelation.

Now, I’m not in the perfect position to speak my mind about sibling incest, mainly because I don’t have any siblings. I don’t exactly understand how much love one can has for a brother/sister and at what point it turns out to be too much. In general, I am of course opposed against the idea of siblings falling in love with each other and worse, starting a sexual relationship. But on the other hand, I would like to keep an open mind. I would like to believe that if it’s about two adults (or almost adults, like Lochan and Maya) and it is consensual, that it then doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong. I hope no one tries to kill me now, but I can’t honestly say after reading Forbidden, that it’s wrong by default. It will probably be in a whole lot of cases, and if siblings were ever to have children, the chances of them being deformed or handicapped are very high. That’s genetics and DNA telling us that it’s wrong. Society is telling us that it’s wrong as well, as have all cultures since the beginning of time. But get rid of what genetics and society tells us, and look at the true, profound and loyal love Lochan and Maya have for each other. It might not be right, but in my opinion, it isn’t exactly wrong either.

I’ve heard about this case in France a couple of years ago, about two siblings who had been seperated at birth. They never knew each other nor did they know they had a sibling out there. About twenty years later, they meet, connect on a deep emotional level, and fall in love. They even get married. And then, they find out that they’re actually siblings. But they love each other – they’ve even married each other. I remember that we had big debates on television and all then about whether or not these people should be allowed to stay married, and in which cases sibling incest might possibly be allowed. A bunch of hypocrites, conservatives and generally stubborn-minded people spoke their mind about the relationship openly. But my opinion is, that it’s none of our business. Those people were two adults who fell in love, consented with a relationship and even marriage, and then just because they happen to be siblings, all of that is thrown out on the table, their love is reduced to something awkward and disturbing, and society decided to take the choice for them. Why? Who gave society the power to declare who we can and cannot love? I know my point may be a bit controversial, but I find it true in this case as well. If Lochan and Maya both love each other, and if they both want to have a physical relationship, then why would it be society’s business?

I sincerely hope nobody kills me for stating my opinion here. I never really thought about the subject till after reading Forbidden and deciding that I really cannot say anything else about Lochan and Maya’s relationship apart from the fact that I found it very clear that they loved each other, that Lochan treated Maya far better than boys that age usually treat their girlfriends and that I believe their love to be pure. So who am I to judge pure love? Understandably, the issue of Maya still being a minor is added in the novel as well. But minors can have sex. Sixteen-year-olds can consent to having sex with their boyfriends/girlfriends, and no one in today’s society will care. Court can argue that Maya perhaps had no idea what the consequences of her consent would be, or that she was too young to decide about such things, but if we’re all honest we all realize what the consequences of said things are, and that at sixteen we are quite capable to decide about such things. On the other hand, I do know that most of sibling incest relationships are not consentual, at least one party does not want it, and that law officers are forced to take action against that. But if they are over sixteen, in peculiar circumstances, and they both want it – then why not?

I’m pretty sure people are going to kill me by now, but anyway. Forbidden really made me think about the subject, and it’s wonderful when a book does that. I would like to applaud the author for her immense courage for writing an entire novel based on a tabboo subject, and aimed at young adults nonetheless. Also, I would like to say to everyone that you shouldn’t let the sensitive topic or the amount of pages discourage you to read this book. The writing style is fluent, beautiful and enough to pull you in from page one and not bore you till the very end. I read it in one reading session of about three hours, so you know that means it’s definately good, interesting and suspenseful. The way Tabitha Suzuma deals with the sensitive topic is careful at first, a bit timid and some basic exploring – like Lochan and Maya’s relationship in the beginning – but then she dives all the way to the care of it. Even if you’re not exactly open-minded, Forbidden is worth a try. It will certainly make you think about things twice before stating your opinion.

Author Interview: Jessica McHugh

The Books

3983873Jessica McHugh
1. The Sky: The World
2. The Tales of Dominhydor
3. Song of Eidolons
4. A Touch of Scarlet
5. Camelot Lost | See my review
6. Rabbits in the Garden | See my review

Arthur Pendragon’s ascension to High King of Britain lays a doting world at his feet, but when the death of his sister, Morgaine, sends him into a downward spiral of destruction, his sons, Mordred and Amr, emerge from the shadows to assume control of his mind and, eventually, his throne. Camelot Lost delves deeper into the legend of Camelot than ever before, pitting father against son, husband against wife, and brother against sister. The raw qualities of love, war, and the passionate deceptions that inspire them are thoroughly explored through the relationships of the chosen, and for the first time ever, the story of Arthur’s lesser-known son, Amr Pendragon, is finally revealed. Spellbinding in its sensuality and vehemence, Camelot Lost passionately explores a timeless tale and introduces a vivid array of characters and conflicts that are sure to captivate readers and challenge all preconceived notions of the Arthurian legend.

The Interview

1) Hey Jessica! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my interview questions. Let me start with an easy one: when did you know you wanted to become an author?

-First off, thank you for having me, Majanka!
I always enjoyed making up stories, but I never developed a serious passion for it until I was 19, working in a mall perfume kiosk for 11 hours a day. I hardly sold any perfume, so I spent most of my time reading. I devoured The Vampire Chronicles, The Lord of the Rings, and several other series, but I mostly read short story collections, notably Roald Dahl and HP Lovecraft. I always had a fondness for the macabre twists, and started writing some of my own. A lot of them were derivative, especially of Lovecraft. “I’m interested in crazy stuff, I saw crazy stuff, and now I’m crazy” type stories, but some of them had enough potential to keep me going. Eventually, I started writing “Maladrid” which would become the first book in my “Tales of Dominhydor” fantasy series. I spent hours devising the Dominhydor language as well as the history of the world. Those short stories and “Maladrid” were the sparks that grew into a blazing fire that hasn’t dimmed since.

2) How does the writing process work for you? Does an idea just pop up in your head, and you can start writing from scratch, or do you first write a short summary, or…? And is the writing process pretty much the same with every novel you write, or is it different every time?

-Most of the time, I just get an idea and start writing. But yes, the process varies from novel to novel. I wrote “The Sky: The World” completely out of order while “Rabbits in the Garden” was written straight through without a hint of an outline. “Verses of Villainy”, my historical fiction about Christopher Marlowe, had to be extremely researched before I wrote a single word. Most of the time, I end up writing several chapters before I’m forced to stop and outline, usually because I know what I want to happen in the novel, but only up to a certain point. Then, I stop and think, “Okay, how is this novel going to end and what avenues do I want the characters to explore before they reach the end?”

3) Your first published novel was Camelot Lost. I had the pleasure of reading it, and I must say that I absolutely loved it. Then again, I’ve always been a big fan of the Arthurian Legend. Why did you decide to write about this topic?

-I always loved Arthurian Legend myself, but I kept brushing off the desire to write an Arthurian book because there were already so many. The last thing I wanted was to tell a story that already been told a thousand times. If I was going to write it, I had to find an original hook first. So, I did a little research just to see if it was possible, and I found it on Wikipedia. While researching the character of Mordred, I learned about King Arthur’s rarely mentioned son Amr, and it said something along the lines of “the connection between Mordred and Amr has never been adequately explained”. I remember sitting next to my husband (before he was my husband), reading that statement, and saying, “That’s it. That’s my story.”

4) My favorite character in the legend of King Arthur, not just in your book, but in every book and series I’ve ever read or watched about the subject, is Morgaine/Morgan, Arthur’s “evil” sister. Who is your favorite character in the Arthurian Legend? And who was your favorite character to write about?

-I really love Mordred. But since he’s evil so often in the stories I’d read, I didn’t want that for the character in “Camelot Lost“. In fact, I didn’t want any of my characters to be either evil or good. I wanted everyone to have their moments of good and evil. Even when they’re being “evil”, it’s all so subjective anyway. But since I have such a love for Mordred, I wanted him to feel the love and not just be some mindless brute.

5) How was your first publishing experience? Was it like you had hoped for, and not entirely?

-“Camelot Lost” was a really tough sell. I had been writing non-stop since I was 19, and at 25, I was trying to get published for the first time with a story that had been seemingly done to death. I received rejection after rejection stating that I’d just rewritten “Mists of Avalon”, which is completely untrue, so I figured they didn’t even bother reading it. Eventually, I submitted it to PublishAmerica, which doesn’t have the best reputation as a publisher. However, I found my experience quite pleasant. I did my own editing, which is why there are a few errors sprinkled throughout and I’m not certain the cover really embodies the story, but on the whole, I’m very happy with the book. Plus, I believe having the publishing credit helped me get others stories published.

6) I’ve also read and reviewed another one of your novel, Rabbits in the Garden. I loved that book as well and I thought it was pretty brilliant, although it’s an entirely different genre than Camelot Lost. What was your favorite genre to write so far?

-I never actually set out to write any genre. What comes out, comes out, and that’s why so many of my books are completely different shades of speculative fiction: suspense, steampunk, dystopian, epic fantasy, etc. But I do have an affinity for horror. I love writing scenes that terrify me. Dripping blood, sloughing flesh…it’s just fun to write.

7) Rabbits in the Garden is psychological horror about a girl named Avery Norton. Avery’s mother seems odd from the start, but eventually it turns out that she’s actually a cold-blooded murderer. And on top of that, she frames Avery for the murders, which results in the latter having to stay in a mental asylum. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

-Much of this story came from a dream. It was one of those magical dreams that had a beginning, middle, and end. Except for a few nonsensical events and older Avery being played by Angelina Jolie, the only thing I added was the beginning of a story I started years before. That’s where “Rabbits in the Garden” got it’s true brutality. The story “The Garden” was one I’d abandoned because it was starting to really freak me out, but elements of it really fit with the dream. It was a pretty seamless integration and it really worked. The dream had a 1940s/50s setting, but I chose Martha’s Vineyard because my mom grew up there. I knew I’d be able to get a lot of really cool accounts of life growing on the island.

8 ) Of all the books you wrote so far, which book did you find the most difficult to write? And which one did you find the easiest?

-“Palaplia“, the 3rd book in my “Tales of Dominhydor” series was the hardest to write because I had to do a complete rewrite. I started editing it for publication with Double Dragon eBooks, and a chapter in I had to stop and accept the fact that editing wasn’t going to fix it. I scrapped the entire manuscript, wrote a detailed outline using elements of the original story, and started over.

The easiest one to write was “Song of Eidolons“. The story came organically and everything just fell into place. It was an absolute delight to write, and while there are things I’d elaborate upon in other stories if I had the chance, I wouldn’t change a single thing in “Song of Eidolons“.

9) I really enjoyed both Rabbits in the Garden and Camelot Lost , but if I was forced to choose between either of those, I would have to admit that I liked Camelot Lost best. In my opinion, it’s even more brilliant than Rabbits in the Garden. Now I have a VERY difficult question for you. Of all the books you’ve written so far, which one is your favorite?

-Actually, “Song of Eidolons” is my favorite book. I love the story and characters so much, especially the relationship between Delaney and her grandfather, Dags. Plus, it was incredibly fun connecting the Philosopher’s Stone and the Fountain of Youth using the Mutus Liber, bible verses, etc…

Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things“, coming from Reliquary Press in September 2011, is a very close second. Especially since my husband did the amazing illustrations.

10) Are you currently working on something? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I’m editing and extending the last book in the Dominhydor series, but I can’t say much about it without giving away huge plot points, so I’ll talk about “PINS” which I’m also working on currently. I started it last year but had to stop to revise the Dominhydor books, and I’m just now getting back to it, which I couldn’t be happier about. I love this story and I’m having an absolute blast writing it. It will be my first book written in the first-person since “A Touch of Scarlet” and it is definitely the most graphic story I’ve ever written as far as language and content. Testing my limits of decency and then bulldozing right over them has been a really exciting experience. I’ve included a blurb below:

Telemarketing is a drag and serving jobs are exhausting. Luckily, strip clubs are always looking for new blood. Eva “Birdie” Finch is fed up with the slim pickings in local employment, and PINS, a gentlemen’s club/ bowling alley, seems to be the only option left. But learning how to strip for strangers isn’t Birdie’s only obstacle, especially when fellow dancers start turning up dead.

From Jessica McHugh, the author of the steampunk adventure The Sky: The World and the psychological thriller Rabbits in the Garden, PINS is certain to titillate as much as terrify with a candid look at a dancer trying to keep her footing on a blood-drenched stage.

It’s definitely been a fun story to write, but I hope my parents never read it. 😉

The Author

Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, novellas, and even playwriting. She has had eight books published in three years, including “Song of Eidolons”, “The Sky: The World”, “Rabbits in the Garden”, and the first two installments in her “Tales of Dominhydor” series.
Visit her website.