Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review and Interview: Robin Bridges' The Unfailing Light

**book cover courtesy of Goodreads**

I was given the privilege of interviewing Robin Bridges for a blog hop in support of her new book, The Unfailing Light, book two of the Katerina Trilogy. I didn’t want to ask Ms. Bridges the typical questions normally seen in author interviews, so I spent some time perusing her web site to get some ideas for questions. I also wanted to keep it short and sweet, as I am including a review with the interview. I don’t enjoy reading long drawn out blog posts that drain my brain. I want to get in, read what I came to read and move on to the next thing on my to-do list. I try to do this on my own blog; give them want they want and don’t go overboard!

First a little bit about Ms. Bridges.  She is a writer by day and a pediatric nurse by night. She lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband, a soon-to-be teenager and two Mastiffs. She enjoys playing video games and Jane Austen books (biography courtesy of

What is your favorite thing about being an author?

It’s kinda like playing with Barbies.  You dress them up and make them kiss.  And bring people back from the dead.

I saw on your web site that you like video games. I love to play the Lego video games. What is your favorite video game?

Dragon Age!  I’ve played and replayed both the first one and the sequel several times.  I am madly in love with Alistair.  And Fenris.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received about writing?

“Don’t give up your day job.”  And also “add more smooching!”

 I love the setting you have chosen for the Katerina Trilogy. It seems so grand and beautiful. Have you ever visited Russia?

Not yet, but I hope to once I learn to speak Russian!

In a genre filled with paranormal stories, you have managed to create
 an original, never-read-before world. What was the most challenging thing 
about creating Katerina’s world?

Making the setting as accurate as possible was challenging.  The one time I decided to 
be lazy and make up the name of a street, the copy editor told me I’d spelled
 the street name wrong!  It took some digging, but I finally found what the street 
had been called in the 1890’s.  (It had changed names several times since the Revolution.)

Finally, are you excited to bring Katerina’s story to a close or will 
you miss her and the world she lives in?

Both.  I’m excited about working with a new cast of characters in a new story, 
but I will definitely miss Katerina and George.  And Danilo!

    And now for the review:

Title:  The Katrina Trilogy, Volume II: The Unfailing Light    
Author:  Robin Bridges
Genre:  Young Adult Paranormal/Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Random House Children’s Books
Imprint:  Delacorte BFYR
Format:  NetGalley Digital Galley
Release Date:  October 9, 2012

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers.  She’s about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia’s arch nemesis—that she thought she’d destroyed—is still alive.  So, on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She’ll be safe there, because the empress has cast a spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants that are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains.  But to Katerina’s horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any of the creatures trying to get in. (Summary courtesy of NetGalley)

The Unfailing Light is Robin Bridges’ second volume in the Katerina Trilogy (you can read my review of the first book, The Gathering Storm here). The second book picks up just a few months after the end of Volume I. Katerina has spent the summer resting with her mother, aunt and cousin, counting the minutes until she can begin her dream of attending medical school and trying to forget the night she discovered she was a necromancer and the danger she could put everyone around her in, especially the man she loves, Grand Duke George Alexandrovich.  But an unfortunate discovery in a dark cave forces the emperor to send Katerina back to the Smolny Institute for Young Noble Maidens, the finishing school she thought she was finally able to leave behind. Practically imprisoned for her own safety, Katerina must now deal with the constant scrutiny of the Montenegrin Princess Elena, the moody new girl—Princess Alix—and a strange presence threatening the safety of every girl at Smolny.

More often than not, I have found the second volume in a trilogy to be the weakest, disappointing me in more ways than I can count (best example—Crossed, the second book in the Matched trilogy). I am always hesitant to pick up the second book, (even though I almost always do). Well, Bridges doesn’t disappoint, instead she has written an engrossing novel that kept me flipping pages late into the night.  She does not disappoint, keeping Katerina’s story flowing and interesting, without that boring lull that often appears in a sophomore book. If anything, I enjoyed The Unfailing Light more than The Gathering Storm. Maybe it was because this time I didn’t have to muddle through the various houses of Russian royalty, trying to remember who was who. While there are still a lot of characters to keep straight in this book, it seemed much easier this time around. Bridges also keeps the action coming, throwing things out that aren’t expected and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Katerina next.

I find Katerina to be a very strong female character, especially considering the time in history in which she lived, but she did seem a bit more vulnerable in this book.  I actually liked that; I felt that after all that happened to her in the first book, Katerina would be struggling to find her way. Watching her grow more and more confident in herself and her decisions just made the book better. Bridges manages to show that growth, along with the doubt and vulnerability Katerina experiences while never taking away what I liked about Katerina—her  willfulness and independence.  She just let those characteristics grow more pronounced as the book progressed.  Katerina continues to be a character that young adult readers can look up to and enjoy.

The Unfailing Light is a fantastic addition to the Katerina Trilogy. It keeps the story moving forward, it’s entertaining and it is beautifully written. Just as she did in the first book, Bridges weaves a beautiful world, one made even more fascinating by the fact that it is based on actual people and history. I loved this book and I cannot wait for the next (and sadly last) book. 

Please take a look at the other blogs in the hop!
October 2nd: The Book Review Club
October 3rd: The Book Review Club
October 4th: Kimba Caffeinated
October 4th: My Life is a Notebook
October 5th: My Life is a Notebook
October 6th: Candace’s Book Blog
October 7thReader Girls
October 8th: Bookish
October 8th: Peace, Love, Books
October 9th: YA Bibliophile
October 9thReader Girls
October 10th: Wastepaper Prose
October 10th: Imaginary Reads
October 11thImaginary Reads
October 12th: Well Read Wife
October 15thLibby Blog
October 16th: Cracking the Cover
October 17th: A Bookish Libraria
October 18th: A Novel Review
October 19thIn the Best Worlds
October 20thTripping Over Books

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

(photo courtesy of Goodreads)

Title:  Don’t You Wish    
Author:  Roxanne St. Claire
Genre:  Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher:  Random House Children’s House
Format:  Digital Galley via NetGalley
Release Date:  July 10, 2012

What if your mom had married someone else? Would you still be you?

When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad’s whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture perfect.  Now she’s Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father—and she’s the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.

In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire—if usually absent—father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilarating…and illegal. Here she’s got a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she’s ever seen.

But on the inside, Ayla is still Annie.

So when she’s offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?

The choice isn’t as simple as you think. (Summary courtesy of publisher and NetGalley)

I wasn’t too sure about this book at first. It seemed very predictable:  not-so-popular girl gets the chance to live the dream and become every thing she ever wanted—rich, beautiful, popular, and (unfortunately) mean. I decided I wasn’t going to like this book and I would read it just to finish it. But then it changed, it became something more than I ever thought. Have you ever read a book that took you totally by surprise and wasn’t what you expected at all? This was that book for me. Only one word came to mind when I finished Don’t You Wish and that word was “Wow!”   

After a somewhat terrible day, Annie gets a shock when one of her inventor-father’s gadgets sends her to a parallel universe. She wakes up not as Annie, but as Ayla—rich, beautiful and living in gorgeous Miami. But inside she is still Annie, and she discovers that she is nothing like Ayla. Annie becomes more and more frustrated as time goes on, but can she get back home? And does she really want to?

Roxanne St. Claire is an extremely good author, with a phenomenal gift for characterization and a strong voice that truly brings her books to life. I felt like I was in Miami with Ayla/Annie and I felt like I was living her life right there beside her. After finishing Don’t You Wish, I did something I had never done before, I emailed the author. I just couldn’t resist telling her how much I loved her book. I even told her I was going to force my girls to read her book because it was that good.

So, if you’re looking for a really good book, I highly recommend Don’t You Wish. You will not regret it. Pick it up, read it and pass it on to someone you know who loves to read. But a word of caution: don’t give up on this book, keep reading. It’s totally worth it!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #40

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View and Alison at Alison Can Read. It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions and then add your link to the list. It’s just that easy!

This week’s question:

Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

I would definitely buy Insurgent by Veronica Roth, because I still haven't bought it and I really need to get it.  And I would get Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn because I have heard it is amazing so I really want to read it.

What would you buy? Leave a link to your Feature and Follow Friday in the comment section and I will stop by and check it out!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Rapture by Lauren Kate

*cover photo courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  Rapture  
Author:  Lauren Kate
Genre:  Young Adult Paranormal
Publisher:  Random House Children’s Books
Format:  Digital Galley from NetGalley
Release Date:  June 12, 2012

*Please note, Rapture is the fourth book in the Fallen series by Lauren Kate. If you have not read the previous books, this review may contain spoilers.*

The sky is dark with wings….Like sand in an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past they must find the place where angels fell to earth. Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again. Yet together they will face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies…and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed. And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now will be the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win? The astonishing conclusion to the Fallen series. Heaven can’t wait any longer. (Summary courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)

Oh, the Fallen series. I first fell in love with this series right after the first book came out. My oldest daughter was reading it and she suggested I read it. Well since mom reads their books, I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The first book in the series, Fallen, came out in December of 2009, the second, Torment in September 2010, followed by Passion in June 2011 and now, at last, the final book, Rapture, was released June 12, 2012.  Waiting two and a half years to finally read this entire series, felt like, well, an eternity. I was really glad to finally get to the bottom of Luce’s story and find out the truth behind her love for Daniel. Lauren Kate managed to deliver a book full of twists and turns and revelations the reader just didn’t see coming.

I was a bit worried about reading Rapture, because I really had a hard time with Passion. I didn’t love it like I had the previous two books and reading Passion felt like a chore. That may have been because the chemistry, love and honestly, the passion between present-day Daniel and Luce was missing. The flashbacks of their previous lives and their love just wasn’t working for me. I was worried that Rapture would fail to bring that chemistry back. Fortunately, it didn’t fail. I really enjoyed the relationship between Daniel and Luce in this book, mostly because I felt like it came full circle. Luce was no longer just going along loving Daniel with no concept of the consequences or the circumstances of their previous lives. She finally understands what it means to love Daniel and she is okay with it. They are actually on equal footing in this book, which is a refreshing change. Daniel doesn’t always seem to like it (mostly due to his concern for her safety), but he deals with it fairly well. Luce falls easily into the role of Daniel’s equal, a place I believe she was always meant to be.

I would like to point out that if you read the summary, you saw that Luce was meant to be with someone else. Say whhhaaaattttt? That’s right, someone else. Not Daniel. Umm, I cry foul, good author, because as far as I’m concerned, Luce belongs only with Daniel. But apparently, that is not the case. This little fact added a whole new dimension to the story and kind of threw a monkey wrench into the great mechanism of destiny. So Luce isn’t actually destined to be with Daniel? How is that even possible? Oh, and guess what? Luce’s other love is NOT who you think it is. It might surprise you who it is. It did me. Can you say serious plot twist boys and girls? 

Rapture takes us, the reader, on a crazy ride. Kate pulls no punches with this book and no one is safe. People and angels die. I won’t say who, but be forewarned, not everyone makes it out alive. Sad, but true. I will admit that I shed a few tears as I read this book. The end really pulls at your heartstrings and puts forth a final test that left my mouth hanging open. Be prepared, because the rollercoaster ride starts as soon as you open the book and goes non-stop all the way.

I enjoyed Rapture, but I am glad that it is over. So many books stretch their stories out over years and at times it can very frustrating waiting for the next book (ahem, Mortal Instruments, ahem).  Especially when you realize as you are reading that the books actually only span about a two week time span. A two week time span that took more than two years to read. It’s nice to get to the end of a series, and have it end satisfactorily. If you haven’t read the Fallen series, I recommend reading it, especially because you can read all four books straight through. So grab it, settle in and get ready for an amazing ride.

My grade for Rapture by Lauren Kate:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

*book image courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  The Princesses of Iowa  
Author:  M. Molly Backes
Genre:  Young Adult Realistic Fiction 
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Format:  NetGalley Digital Galley
Release Date:  May 8, 2012

Paige Sheridan lives the perfect life. She’s pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an “it-could-have-been-so-much-worse” crash, everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages his students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high school royalty must face a truth that money and status can’t fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear (Summary via NetGalley).

When you first start reading The Princesses of Iowa, you get the feeling that it will be another Mean Girls in print form, where the nasty mean queens that rule the world and school get their comeuppance in the end. Yes, there are nasty mean girls, and some of them do get their comeuppance in the end, but there is far more to the story than that. Instead of hearing the typical story of the bullied girl, the reader is given the unique perspective of the popular party girl who realizes this can’t be all that life is about. After walking away from a horrible car accident and being banished to Paris to work as an au pair (aka: slave labor) for the summer, Paige returns home to discover that things have changed. Or maybe she has changed.

Paige is an amazing character. Her ability to turn her life around and not succumb to the pressure put on her by her parents, friends, and teachers is nearly inspirational. But she did it in an understated manner. Backes manages to teach a lesson without shoving it down your throat and making it obvious from page one. She subtly suggests that being the person you want to be is the most important thing in the world. She deserves applause just for managing to do that while keeping the book interesting at the same time. At first Paige lets her friends and in particular her mother, define who she is and really who she wants to be. She doesn’t make decisions for herself, she wears what her mother tells her, she takes classes based on what her friends take, she drinks because her friends drink, she acts the way she acts because her friends act that way. She is almost like a robot, spouting out pre-programmed words according to what others want to hear. But all of that changes when Paige takes a creative writing class—coincidentally because she thought her boyfriend was taking it—and meets Mr. Tremont. He encourages her and the others in the class to embrace the world around them, to see the truth and to write what they feel. Paige starts to realize that maybe she can be the person she wants to be, not the person every one else thinks she should be.    

I found Backes to be a really good writer, able to create characters that are very realistic. Paige, Lacey and Nikki are the epitome of the pretty, popular girls who grew up in a small town. They reminded me of many of the girls I went to high school with in my small Montana town. The teenagers in the book even remind of those I grew up around, with nothing better to do than drink, gossip and fight.  Paige’s mom, Jacque, is probably one of the vilest mothers I have ever come across in a book. She is very critical about superficial crap—looks, weight, what people are wearing—most of which is directed toward her daughters. I could not find one redeeming quality in this character; she epitomizes all the bad parents in the world. But how much I hated her is a testament to Backes writing, she created a character I could really feel passion about. Backes also captured the attitude of people in a small town perfectly. The people of Willow Grove, Iowa embody many of the prejudicial attitudes of small mid-western towns. Beware, there are a lot of homosexual slurs in this book, some of which can be offensive. Sadly, that is how some of these tiny towns are and how the people in those towns raise their children. Backes really portrays this well.

I was actually surprised that I enjoyed The Princesses of Iowa as much as I did. I was coming off of a long run of reading contemporary young adult fiction, and I was a bit worn out from reading so much of it. So I started reading this book already a bit prejudiced toward it, for no other reason than it was contemporary fiction (I tend to prefer paranormal fiction). I am glad I let go of those prejudices and was able to enjoy the book. It’s very good and I highly recommend it. There are some themes in the book that would be better for older teens, so I suggest this book be read by high school age and up. I think they will enjoy it.

My grade for The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #39

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View and Alison at Alison Can Read.  It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions, and then add your link to the list. It's just that easy! 

This week's question:

What drove you to start book blogging in the first place?

I have several reasons. 

1)  I really do feel that I have something relevant to say about books. I am a mother of teenagers and I work with hundreds of teenagers as well, so I feel sort of qualified to discuss what books they might like to read. 

2)  To be honest, one of them was to get my hands on more books. One day, I was talking to a good friend of mine who is a librarian in NC and she asked me if I belonged to NetGalley. I responded with "What the heck is NetGalley?" After she told me about it and how she was able to read books BEFORE they came out, I nearly broke my fingers going to the website! I registered, looked over the books and sent in about four requests. 

3)  I had been batting the idea of a book blog around for awhile and I think that discussion about NetGalley was the push I needed. I had been posting reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing for quite awhile and I really liked it. I figured, why not? Somebody might want to hear what I have to say, right? 

So, I came over here to Blogger and spent about twenty minutes trying to figure out what to call my blog that would be original and memorable. I finally settled on the name and wrote an introduction post. I posted a few reviews--which make me laugh when I look at them now--for books I had recently read and waited to see if I would get any of my books from NetGalley. 

As I started blogging more and more, I realized that I could really promote parents reading the books that their children read. I strongly believe reading brings people closer and my daughters and I are living proof. 

How did you start blogging? Leave a link to your Feature and Follow Friday in the comment section and I will stop by and check it out!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fun Times in D.C.

My girls and I have returned from our excursion to the nation's capital. We had a great time! Of course, we would visit when the city was experiencing record highs. There is something to be said for Arizona and it's dry heat! This was the last trip my oldest daughter would make with the marching band, as she graduated high school in May. Here's a few pictures from our trip:

This is my girls and I in front of the White House.

We sat on the Capital lawn for the fireworks. This was our view; so gorgeous.

The girls in front of part of the FDR Memorial. It was 105 and horrible humidity. We were ready to come home.

The last morning at the hotel. Very tired, very hot and ready to leave.

My girls in front of the United States Marine Corps Memorial--Iwo Jima. Very impressive memorial.

The girls at the Lincoln Memorial.

This is me giving a dinosaur a drink at King's Dominion Theme Park.

This is only six of the almost 400 pictures I took. We had a lot of fun, but we are glad to be home. I will resume posting reviews later this week! Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Look Out D.C. Here We Come!

On Monday, my daughters and I will be leaving for Washington D.C. Their marching band, the Gilbert Tiger Pride, has been picked to represent our state in the National Independence Day Parade. We will have an exciting five fun-filled, activity-packed days in our nation's capital. I am chaperoning ninety-four teenagers, along with several other parents. As always, it should be fun and interesting. We are very excited, especially since we have never been to D.C. before.

I realize my blog has been seriously lacking in posts over the last month and for that I apologize. There has been a lot going on around here and I have been trying to make some decisions. Hopefully, once I get back from the trip, I can buckle down and get my act together. In the mean time, thanks for sticking with me. I genuinely appreciate all of my readers, as well as my fellow bloggers. Thank you so much!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guest Post by author Andy Gavin and an AWESOME GIVEAWAY!!

The Magic of The Darkening Dream

In constructing The Darkening Dream I wanted the meta-story to play off conventional tropes. Broadly, a cabal of ancient supernatural beings has sent one of their number to recover an artifact needed to destroy the world. And surprise, it turns out a group of teens are all that stands between them and Armageddon.
How much more Buffy can you get?
But that's just the high level. I also wanted to ground this preposterous scenario in real history and legend. So as a methodology, in designing my array of supernatural beings and occult practitioners I turned to historic sources. Before our modern science and technology rendered magic quaint, it was the domain of religion and superstition. Of belief.
And each spiritual and magical system has its own framework. Proponents wrote out of certainty, out of faith. I merely dig up their writings and take them at their word.


Osiris as king in the west
What binds a group of ancient evil beings together? Not some grand principle of villainy. Evil is just extreme selfishness. But hatred can go a long way. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. So who from the ancient world has suffered the most?
Might it be the old gods? Or those who worship them? Who offers sacrifice anymore to Osiris? Who fears the shadow of Anubis as they step from this world into the next? Who believes the beetle god Khepri drags the sun across the sky behind him?
No one. And those that remember the glory days are pissed off.
So who's been lurking around since the time of the pharaohs?

The comte at Versailles
The Comte de St. Germain has, or so he told everyone in the court of Louis XV. Apparently, at the very least, he is party to the secret magics of Osiris, Son of the Earth, King of the Dead. The elixir of Osiris is said to prevent death. And so the comte, which is but one of his many names, has been lurking about for some time. But the old magics are not what they once were. Their power has diminished with their gods. So he whispers in the ears of kings, pulling on what strings he can, seeking allies where he can find them.
And old gods may fade, but as long as a single soul still believes, they never die.
Even the ancient blood gods and their vampire acolytes. Born in ancient forests of the north where men offered midnight blood sacrifice. Of their king, their Ancient Master, raised from the dead a hundred centuries past, nothing remains but pure fury. Hatred for the burning sun, hatred for his mortal prey, hatred for the new world of foul brick and lifeless steel.
But in hatred, perhaps, there is common cause.

The Artifact

Observe the all important Ram in the Thicket (lower right)
Clearly, the physical goal of our baddies had to be something really big. Something useful to them in their plots. The fall of antiquity was not about barbarians at the gates of Rome. No. The rising tide of monotheism was what really swept away the old order.
So it is against God that our villains lash out.
And I found the perfect legend in the most unlikely of places. I was passing the time during Yom Kippur services by reading the story of Abraham offering Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22). This has always been a passage of particular interest to me, dealing as it does with the nature of the relationship between man and God and the meaning of ritual sacrifice. But it was in the commentary that I noticed something peculiar, a cryptic remark that "the Ram in the Thicket is but one of ten special things created by God on the eve of creation."
How's that for a magic seeker's wet dream.
Back at home I dug into this and discovered that on the eve of the first Sabbath, before the creation of world, God created ten special things (which besides the Ram include the rainbow of Noah, the staff of Moses, and other goodies). These items are eternal, having existed before the universe, they have no temporal beginning or end. God, it seemed, placed the Ram into the trust of the Archangel Gabriel, who kept it in the Garden of Eden until Abraham needed it at Mount Moriah. Afterward, nothing of the Ram was wasted. Gabriel took the horns and brought one to Moses so that he could sound the arrival of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. The other was kept by the archangel, hidden in the Garden, so that at the appointed time it might be brought to Elijah to sound the End of Days.

Gabriel and his trumpet
This notion of a horn blast sounding the end of the world is a highly persistent meme. It's found not just in the Jewish traditions regarding the Messiah, but in the Revelations of John where seven angels (including presumably, Gabriel) sound the end of time and the Last Judgment. And also in diverse mythologies such as the Norse, where the Gjallarhorn shall announce the onset of Ragnarök.
In the world of The Darkening Dream, all beliefs are simultaneously true, as brought forth and conceived by their believers. This means that anything as consistent as the horn legend is doubly true. Archetypal truth made manifest.
And what of Gabriel's Horn? Eternity is a long time and the archangel flits hither and yon. Might not a busy seraph misplace such a thing... if only for a short time?

The Myriad Layers of the Esoteric World

How to properly envision a world in which vampires, the Archangel Gabriel, witchcraft, and Egyptian gods all exist? Many might just toss them together arbitrarily, but I wanted to find a framework consistent with traditional mysticism. Having read hundreds of religious and magical texts I have identified numerous consistencies in the thought patterns of the esoteric mind.

The Tree of Life
By way of example, let's place ourselves in the mind of my protagonist Sarah's father Joseph. As a Rabbi, scholar, and mystic Joseph draws his world view from the Zohar and other great texts of the Kabbalah. In this conceptualization, which can be summed up as "hidden and not revealed," the world is a many layered thing, like an onion, with the portion we perceive merely the lowest of ten modalities, all simultaneously overlaid. The pure conceptualization of God pervades everything, and is the highest. Yet the human mind can not fully comprehend this level of divine and celestial purity. In between are various layers that express important truths like "Beauty" and "Wisdom." In Joseph's orthodox world, God is all powerful, so powerful that even the Archangel Gabriel is but a manifestation of His Strength. The angel is not an independent entity, but a protrusion of God's will into these middle layers of reality. Joseph might actually see the angel, but in his mind, this is just his perception of an aspect of God leaking into the mortal layers. The human mind cannot comprehend the divine, so God softens the blow with the angelic form.

Sitting down to the witches Sabbath
As hard as this might be to get your head around, it seemed reasonable to extend this kind of framework to many forms of magic in the book. The villainous Puritan warlock, Pastor John Parris, works a school of traditional witchcraft, yet it too is based on layered perception of reality. For him, the magical realm is twisted into a less spacial form, with objects and people adjacent not just by physical proximity, but by the likeness of their form and nature. So, a person's hair, separated as it might be from their body, provides magical access to the owner. Likewise, his religious conceptualization allows for the layering of hell dimensions, separated by flame. With the help of his succubus lover he is able to step through these fiery gateways and bend the rules of time and space.
While occasionally, as is the case with the Horn, the mythological drives the story, most often the structural needs of my plot demanded esoteric action. I therefore required interoperability between diverse magic systems in order to make the action work. For example, when Joseph wishes to protect his home from the intrusions of the evil Parris and the ancient vampire al-Nasir, he prays to invoke the archangels and align the physical rectangle of his house with the metaphysical form of King Solomon's Temple. For him this is an act of faith drawing on protective aspects of God's divinity.
But Parris too is able to perceive this change in the nature of reality, albeit in his own terms. His plans to gain entry requires the construction of an elaborate ritual analog. Like a voodoo doll for a building. Just as the limbs of the doll can be broken, the metaphysical walls of the temple may be breached.

Succubus from the source

Learning from the mouth of devils
For each of my supernatural beings I strove to draw upon classical source materials rather than rely on 20th century pop culture. My warlock, Pastor Parris, is a man of repressed passion based on serial killer profiles. His only emotional connection to the outside world has been through a series of dominating female figures. First his puritanical grandmother, then following her grisly demise, his succubus lover Betty. Like all magic in the world of The Darkening Dream, Betty is a conceptual product of her beholder. So I turned to The Malleus Maleficarum, the rantings of two 15th century clergymen, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. This book, which translates as the The Witch Hammer, was used by the Inquisition as a handbook for identifying and persecuting witches and demons.
Along with a five page essay on the mechanism by which Succubi and Incubi transfer semen, the Maleficarum has this to say about Succubi:
Devils have no lungs or tongue, though they can show the latter, as well as teeth and lips, artificially made according to the condition of their body; therefore they cannot truly and properly speak. But since they have understanding, and when they wish to express their meaning, then, by some disturbance of the air included in their assumed body, not of air breathed in and out as in the case of men, they produce, not voices, but sounds which have some likeness to voices, and send them articulately through the outside air to the ears of the hearer.
From this passage, we know that one of the means of identifying Succubi is that they do not move their lips when speaking, but manipulate the elements of fluid air near their mouths directly. Hence, in my novel, Betty does not open her mouth to speak, but the air in front of her shimmers as she does. In keeping with my fast paced action oriented novel, I never make an issue of this, but like thousands of other details in the book it is informed by the source. Clearly brothers Kramer and Sprenger knew what they were talking about, as they inspired thousands to burn at the stake.

Khepri and Osiris in the good old days

The Power of the Word

With each different school of magic I tried to extract the historic flavor and mindset of past occultists. The mysterious Khepri, another of my villains, practices an ancient Egyptian magic entirely different from Parris' devilish thaumaturgy. The spirit of Egyptian magic often derives from the use of secret names and the spoken word — nay command. The sorcerer/priest orders, by way of his secret magic, the very gods and demons to do his bidding. So it is that when Khepri invokes the miniature sun which is his weapon, he cries these words from The Egyptian Book of the Dead:
Re sits in his Abode of Millions of Years. The doors of the sky are opened for me, the doors of the earth are opened for me, the door-bolts of Geb are opened for me, the shutters of the sky-windows are thrown open for me. I know you, I know your names; Release him, loose him!
By sheer force of his sorcerous will he demands the sun yield to him. And so it does.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

By writing a modern fantasy adventure, but by grounding the magic and supernatural in tradition, I wanted to prove that the old adage really is true: Truth is stranger than fiction. The twisted imaginations of our ancestors, devoid of the distractions of the current age, were often far more creative than the half-assed creations of Hollywood and the like.

A Big Giveaway for The Darkening Dream

This week, through June 29th, Author Andy Gavin is running a big giveaway to celebrate his 99 cent promo sale.
The Darkening Dream Rafflecopter Giveaway
Tweet, like, follow, share, blog and grab a copy of his book to enter.

About The Darkening Dream

As the modern world establishes itself and pushes the supernatural into the shadows, the supernatural fights back.
An ominous vision and the discovery of a gruesome corpse lead Sarah and her friends into a terrifying encounter with a fledgling vampire in 1913 Salem, Massachusetts. Eager to prove themselves, the young heroes set out to track the evil to its source, never guessing that they will take on a conspiracy involving not only a 900-year vampire but also a demon-loving Puritan warlock, disgruntled Egyptian gods, and an immortal sorcerer, all on a quest to recover the holy trumpet of the Archangel Gabriel. Relying on the wisdom of a Greek vampire hunter, Sarah's rabbi father, and her own disturbing visions, Sarah must fight a millennia-old battle between unspeakable forces, where the ultimate prize might be Sarah herself.

The critics love it

"A vampire novel with actual bite." ~The Kirkus Reviews
"A gorgeously creepy, strangely humorous, and sincerely terrifying tale." ~Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Read the first two sample chapters here.

Get your 99 cent copy of The Darkening Dream today on Amazon only.

About the Author

Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes. Find out more here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriel

*book jacket photo courtesy of Goodreads*

Title:  Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe  
Author:  Shelley Coriel
Genre:  Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Publisher:  ABRAMS
Imprint:  Amulet Books
Format:  NetGalley Digital Galley
Release Date:  May 1, 2012

Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her BFs and struggling with her beloved Gram’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life (Summary via NetGalley).

I adore Chloe Camden! She is loud, brash, tells jokes, loves shoes, wears her heart on her sleeve, and never stops talking. Chloe is precariously balancing everything in her life and you just know that eventually it will crumble. She really cares about the people around her—her parents, her friends, her fellow students at the radio station (even though they don’t really like her), her former best friends, and especially her Grams. Chloe desperately tries to keep all the people in her world happy, and that doesn’t always work out.

In a nutshell, I am in love with this book. It is probably one of the best YA realistic fiction books of the year, right alongside Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt and it’s entertaining. Coriel manages to create characters the reader can really care about, not to mention one character I found incredibly vile and I couldn’t stand. But a good writer creates characters we love or we hate, and Coriel does manage to do that. Chloe is an obviously dynamic character that changes as the book progresses. In fact, most of the characters grow and change as the book progresses. Character-driven books are among my favorites, and Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe is definitely that. This book gives the reader an opportunity to laugh, to cry and to just enjoy reading. What a joy it is to read a book that makes you appreciate reading.

I will be recommending Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe to everyone. I will be putting it on my favorite books of 2012 as well. It is so good; it just needs to be read, by as many people as possible. Add this book to your to-be-read pile, no matter how big it is.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #38

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View and Alison at Alison Can Read.  It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions and then add your link to the list. It's just that easy.

This week's question:

If you could "unread" a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was just THAT bad?

I'm sure there are a lot of books I would like to "unread" but I have blocked them from my memory because they were that bad. The one that comes to mind that I have recently read that I wish I could unread is New Girl by Paige Harbison. It was by far the worst book I've read in ages and it still ranks as the worst book I've read in 2012. I finished it and wished I hadn't, it was that awful. Yuck!

Since I picked a book to unread because I hated it, I'll pick one that I loved. I would love to unread the Mortal Instruments series. I love this series so much.  I remember when I first read City of Bones; it was like stepping into a new and fascinating world, one I never wanted to leave. I loved that book so much, I can't even begin to describe it.  I would love to have that feeling again.

Leave a link in the comment section to your Feature and Follow Friday and I will stop by and check it out. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #37

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View and Alison at Alison Can Read. It is a great way for bloggers to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. Go to either blog, follow ALL the instructions and then add your link to the list. It’s just that easy!

This week’s question:

Happy Father's Day! Who is your favorite dad character in a book and why?

I have several fathers that I like. Here they are in no particular order:

Even though he is not actually her real father, I love Luke from the Mortal Instruments series! He cares deeply for Clary, even though she is not his daughter. He does his best to protect her, her mother and her friends, he doesn't take any crap from anyone and he makes an awesome werewolf! Luke is a great father to Clary, something she really needs.

I also like Charlie and Carlisle from the Twilight series. Again, they are protective of their children and will go to any length in order to protect them.

And finally, Stephanie Plum's dad, Frank, from the Janet Evanovich series. He is so funny, without trying. I love his relationship with Grandma Mazur and how frustrated he gets with his crazy family. He makes a great straight man. 

Who are your favorite dads from books? Leave a comment and I will stop by and take a look!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Teaser Tuesday June 12

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
·         Grab your current read
·         Open to a random page
·         Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
·         BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
·         Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!

My teaser this week is from:

"You know that curiosity killed the cat isn't just a saying, right? Alex whispered to Charlie. "It's a warning that we should leave when something's wrong." Kindle location 16%--quote subject to change before publication.

What are you reading this week? Leave a link to your Tuesday Teaser in the comment section and I will stop by and take a look.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Feature and Follow Friday #36

This week, Feature and Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Readis celebrating it's 100th week! Congratulations! In honor of their 100th week, they are hosting a Giveaway Hop to celebrate! Here is the list of participating blogs, good luck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesday June 4

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
·         Grab your current read
·         Open to a random page
·         Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
·         BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
·         Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!

My teaser this week is from:

"There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing young girls in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners--and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps. By midnight the hilarity had increased." page 34-35

The other day, I saw the trailer for the movie version of this and I realized, I have never read it. So, I borrowed it from my daughter and am taking the plunge. So, what are you reading? Leave a link in the comment box and I will stop by and check it out!