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Monday, December 7, 2009

Mystic Monday

Book Reviews

Okay, I had the opportunity to read some of the books available on HSN through Ravenous Romance as well as a lot of other books. I may not always get to read the books when the authors guest blog with us, but I do try to get to them and read at least one.

YA Spotlight Books

Give Up the GhostGive Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe - I really liked this story. Okay, yeah, so I've liked most of the stories by authors featured in the YA Spotlight. The characters were well developed, all of them, including the ghosts.

Cass McKenna started seeing ghosts the night her older sister, Paige, dies. The problem is, she didn't just see Paige, but she saw others and it scared her. It scared her so much that she tells her best friend all about it, to get some perspective, but that friend abandons her. The friend tells everyone Cass' secret and they all end up taunting her, making Cass an outcast, severing their friendship. Cass' social life deteriorates to the point that she prefers the dead to the living.

As an outsider, Cass sees the cruel treatment given to the lower students for what it is, cruel and mean. Wanting to balance the scales, Cass soon learns that her otherworldly connections offer insight to do just that, so she sets her sights on putting these "uppity" people in their place by humiliating them as much as they humiliate other people or have humiliated her. Now, after a couple of years in the school of her knowing things she couldn't possibly know, Cass has earned a relatively hassle free life, even though it's as an outcast. But that's okay, because she still has Norris' face and Bitzy's dancing to look forward to everyday.

In all of her standing up for the poorly treated, there's one thing Cass has yet to accomplish, and that's getting even with Danielle. In her pursuit for revenge, nothing could have prepared Cass for what happens next. She never expected to be completely discovered, but somehow, Tim seems to have figured it out. He approaches her not because he wants to make fun of her, but because he desperately needs to talk to his mother, to know that she's alright. She was the best thing in his life, and now she's gone, and he's left with a drunken father. Cass does find his mother, but Cass soon realizes that his mother makes it Cass' mission to save Tim. Can she do it? You'll have to read the book to find out.

This book has complex characters mixed into complex storylines and plot twists. It's a page turner! I definitely recommend it!

The HarrowingThe Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff - So not what I expected! Yes, I expected a tale of ghosts, but not to the extent to which this story is taken!

FOR THE MORE MATURE YA READERS - due to the content in the story. This story takes place on a college campus, so it has drinking, sex and some drug usage and harsh language in it. We know that this behavior is typical of college kids, so be sure that your teen is mature enough to handle reading about these topics. There's also some violent sex depicted here, but it's not gratuitous in anyway, it's just slightly graphic and is probably not suitable for the under 17 crowd.

Okay, now that I've given the appropriate warnings, I can tell you what I found in the pages of The Harrowing: So, what happened that I didn't expect? Well, I didn't expect the degree to which Alexandra did her homework. She really delved into the religious aspect of the spirit world and used it to tell a gripping and scary tale of mammoth proportions. This is one book I can honestly say would make an awesome scary movie to rival The Exorcist, the original version.

Five students don't go home for the Thanksgiving holiday because they all have something to avoid, which means they are all vulnerable in ways they do not understand. The main character, Robin Stone, thinks she's all alone for the holidays, but slowly comes to find out that five other people share her predicament:
Patrick - the jock boyfriend of her annoying roommate Waverly, who she secretly has been crushing on since she met him
Martin - the quiet guy in her psyche class
Cain - the cute guy who happens to play guitar and studies law, but she's never really talked to him before
Lisa - the resident slut, or at least as far as the stories, rumors, and her own outward personality go

What about Robin? What is she? Well, she is someone trying to escape life. In fact, on that first day, she is so depressed with the way she sees her life going, she wants to die. In fact, that's how she learns she's not alone. Her situation isn't helped by Waverly, who constantly puts her down and makes her feel even more inadequate than she already does. She has no relationship to speak of with her mother, which is why she doesn't go home in the first place. In an effort to console her aching soul, she goes into Waverly's stash of alcohol and pills. Robin decides that this is the best weekend to end her sorry life and no one will be there to stop her. They'll find her body when they all return from their holiday and that will be that. Robin makes her way down to the dorm common room, half-drunk already, bottle of pills in the pocket of her black skirt. As she sits there further contemplating her death and her eyes adjust to the darkness of the room, she realizes that she is not alone.

This realization puts some sort of weird fear inside her, and when she sees Patrick strut into the common room, her thoughts move to the back burner as she wonders why he made Waverly think he was going home and why he doesn't want her to know and asks for Robin's silence. For now, she has something to distract her. But for how long?

The five students are bored of studying, want to connect but are afraid to because of what it might mean, what secrets of their lives might be revealed. So, they play games to avoid any real connecting. However, the one they choose to play connects them even stronger than they ever could have expected.

What game do they play?

Why, the Ouija Board of course! But not any ordinary board, but one of the original boards from the Baltimore Board Company in the 1920's. They find more than simple parlor tricks here, much more than any of them are ready to believe or able to handle. They open a door, a door that five students did once before. Those five did not survive. What did they open the door to? Only one of them knows for sure, but he wasn't sharing because he didn't truly believe, and thought to use this "game" to prove or disprove the beliefs he's been struggling with. The struggle that kept him from going home that weekend...

What they didn't expect is that their game would go beyond the weekend and have real world consequences. None of them realized that what they opened the door to could effect the mortal coil. But when they do figure it out, they are in a race to save themselves and each other from what they unleashed.

This is a well-constructed, well-developed tale of horror with characters so well-defined and real that it's hard not to identify with at least one of them. It's a page turner that draws you in deeper and deeper. It stays with you even after you close the pages. That is how deeply haunting The Harrowing is.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone 17 and older!

Adult Romance Books

Ripping the BodiceRipping the Bodice by Inara Lavey - This story is about a woman, Cassandra, obsessed with the bodice rippers from the likes of Kathleen Woodiwiss and a host of others. She has one idea of what the perfect man is, but finds her perfect man is not what she thought.

I was excited when I was given the opportunity to read it, but was disappointed in the outcome of it. The characters are flat and the plot is weak. In my opinion, it overuses a neat idea to the point of nausea for the reader. For the 192 pages, there's not much there when you subtract the blank pages in between each chapter and the overdone, super-cheesy romantic imaginings of the main character, there's not much room left to really develop the story or the characters created.

I was hoping the author would have explored the characters of Cassandra, Connor, Rafael and Val a bit more. Why does Val choose the superficial and overly-annoying Gerald? What happened in Cassandra's life that reinforces her sexual beliefs that bodice-ripping romance books initiated? What makes Rafael seem so cold and indifferent? What about Connor? Why does he understand these romance novels so well? How is it that he knows what Cassandra is looking for?

All of these questions arise, but none of them are answered and yet we're supposed to believe that in just 3 days, Cassandra can change her outlook on romance that has been in existence her entire life.

I wanted to believe it, but there's just not enough to the characters or the plot to make it believable. It's a good start, but it needs much more work on the characters and plot before I would honestly recommend this one to anyone.

Erotica tries to distinguish itself from porn by declaring that if you remove the graphic sex scenes within the story, the story still floats. While with porn, there really isn't much to it besides the sex scenes.

My impressions of this book - that it's more like soft porn than a romance novel. Take away all the sex scenes, or hints of sex, and there's not much left to it to enjoy. How can there be when it's limited by 192 pages and 16 of them are blank and 3 of them are the title pages? Not to mention the close to 20 pages of the unnecessary cheesy romantic imaginings of the main character.

I don't mind graphically described sex scenes, but I do need a decent story to go with them and well-defined characters. People complain about the bad rep that Erotica gets, well, then change the way you write them. Add more content and develop the characters and storylines enough to be believable!

Haunted SeductionHaunted Seduction by Morgan James - So far, I'm only 23 pages in and not as turned off by this one as I was Ripping the Bodice. Of course, I wasn't impressed by the first chapter because it seemed to throw in what I consider to be gratuitous sex and not really relevant to the story, at least not right away. In fact, even though I understand why the author wanted to start with that chapter, it should have been marked as a Prologue or skipped entirely. What little information there was in that first chapter could have been sprinkled in later.

As unnecessary as I feel the first chapter is, I already feel like there is more substance to this story and the characters. Jaz seems much more defined compared to Bodice's Cassandra. No, the reason that I like this one has nothing to do with the fact that Jaz stumbles onto a defunct amusement park.

This story is proving to be a page turner already. I went to scan a few pages and had difficulty "putting it down" to come back and finish this post.

So, I guess I'd have to say that I'd recommend this one, as it seems to have a decent story with it. However, it too is only 192 pages and has a blank page after every chapter. The question here is: Does it make efficient use of the space allotted to it? I'll let you know.

6 Moonbeams (comments):

Dana Fredsti said...

While I'm naturally disappointed you didn't enjoy RtB (I'm a writer, of course I want everyone to love my work!), I realize my sense of humor is definitely not for everyone. I appreciate you taking the time to read it.


Carrie said...

Hi Dana - thanks for responding! It wasn't that I couldn't appreciate your humor, it was more a case of I wanted to know more about your characters. You had such a good beginning with them, and I thought you could have gone into so much more detail with them, explored the relationships more and I thought that the short page limits really hurt what your story could be.

Please do not take my review to mean you aren't talented, because I could see your ability. If I didn't make that clear, I apologize for that.

I'm the kind of reader who never judges an author by one book. I always read more than one. I will be looking for other books by you because I am curious to see what you can, the depths of your ability.

Dana Fredsti said...

Hmmm...just left a reply and am now wondering if it went through... This is a test! :-) If it doesn't, I'll try again... Carrie, if you got my first reply and it just needs to be moderated, please delete this...

Dana Fredsti said...

Thanks for responding, Carrie! The whole concept of RtB was a play on Walter Mitty and his living his life via daydreams (one of my favorite movies is Secret Life of Walter Mitty), so for me the daydreams of Cassandra were a very important part of the story. Unfortunately it did take time away from the characters and I am sorry (and flattered that you wanted to know more!) you felt short-changed.

You may or may not like CHAMPAGNE, my newest Inara LaVey title. It's definitely more of a character exploration, but there is also more sex in it. I do consider RtB a romance (albeit spicy), whereas Champagne is definitely more of the main character's journey. Which sounds so pretentious... :-)

Honestly, I'd love for you to read Murder for Hire, which is a romantic mystery (and no sex!). If you're interested, I'd be happy to send you a copy.

Anyway, thank you for your reply - it was very gracious and much appreciated!

Carrie said...

I would definitely like to read both of them!

Sex being present isn't an issue for me, I just like that it fits within the story and makes sense, or that it moves the story forward. However, I have no issue skipping scenes if the story is good... I am always looking for a good story, and they can be found everywhere!

I do happen to like mysteries and would love to read Murder for Hire!

Contact me here: carriehgill @ yahoo . com (be sure to remove spaces)

Dana Fredsti said...

Done and with all spaces removed! :-)