Book of the Week: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book 1)


So, after I said I was going to have a book of the week…I wrote a few, and then stopped, lol. I finished reading the first book in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments (TMI) series, City of Bones,  a few weeks ago, and then I went on vacation…over which I finished City of Ashes. But I feel that each book deserves its own post. Sara over at WhatANerdGirlSays talks about these books constantly on her blog, so I just had to check them out. I didn’t know what to expect…I wasn’t sure if I would like them or not. But now I’m kind of obsessed. 😛 AND I’ve gotten my mother hooked on them, too! I guess I should have known that any book with an endorsement from Stephenie Meyer on the cover has to be good……. (For all of you Sheldons out there, that was sarcasm. Seriously, Ms. Meyer’s is an authority on good books now?)

I think I’ve managed to keep this review spoiler-free. Please leave your thoughts about what I’ve said and about CoB in the comments at the end – I’d LOVE to discuss with you!!! 🙂

You can find City of Bones (CoB) on Amazon here.

The Amazon book description;

“When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

“This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know.”

***

The first thing I need to address is Harry Potter’s influence on these books. I think maybe some people out there don’t give them a chance because they’ve heard Cassandra Clare wrote HP fanfic and perhaps think she’s ripping off J. K. Rowling or something. As much as I adore Harry Potter, I’m also enjoying this series. Its influence is pretty obvious in some aspects…but then again, not every single thing in the HP books was original, either. They really reminded me of The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings sometimes, although I doubt J. K. Rowling was doing that intentionally. Anyway, CoB has a completely different feel, at least in my opinion. HP for me drew me into this completely different world…one that was alongside ours, but mostly the focus was on the wizarding world and not on the Muggle world, except for Harry’s unhappy home life. CoB takes place in New York City, and Cassandra Clare opens our eyes, as Clary’s are opened, to the fantastical world not just alongside it, but all mixed up in our own. I know, I’m doing a really crappy job of describing it, but Cassandra Clare does this really well.

The world Ms. Clare creates has a sort of caste system. At the top of it are the Shadowhunters or the Nephilim -half-Angel, half-human demon slayers. They seem to be mostly a pretty arrogant bunch and look, er, down on the Downworlders: the werewolves, vampires, fae (fairies), and the warlocks. And regular ol’ humans are the mundanes. (Clever, but yes, reminds me of muggles.) The Downworlders are part human, part demon. Despite their differences, the Shadowhunters and the Downworlders keep the peace by signing The Accords every fifteen years…but not everyone feels the Downworlders are worthy of this offering of peace. Everyone being, most notably, Valentine Morgenstern. Valentine and his group of followers (The Circle) tried to stop the signing of The Accords fifteen years prior to the events in CoB and overthrow the Clave, the Nephilim’s governing body. No one has seen Valentine since the Uprising……

As has become the fad recently in young adult books, you see a love triangle starting to form in CoB: Clary caught between Simon, her mundane BFF, and Shadowhunter/arrogant pretty boy Jace. Although I’m usually a sucker for a good love triangle, even I’m starting to get a bit sick of them, but I still don’t mind this one that much. I like to think of it as a symbol reflecting the tension between Clary’s two worlds. (Hooray for reading into things too much!) I love both of these guys…Simon is adorable and funny, and Jace is…well, Jace is super arrogant, but super hot and is that bad boy you just wanna save. Which I’m okay with because it’s just a BOOK, people. But beyond the love triangle, the sexual tension, and the teenage angst is an enjoyable adventure story. Cassandra Clare really pulls you into the Shadowhunters’ world and lays the groundwork for a great series. She’s also just really funny – some of the dialogue had me laughing out loud! Simon especially is just so sarcastic – it’s pretty great.

And, even if I didn’t like any other aspects of the book (which I did -like other things in the book, I mean), I would still read the rest of the series for the High Warlock of Brooklyn, the awesometastic fabulous glittery Magnus Bane. What is it about this guy that is so awesome? Well, a lot of it probably has to do with the flamboyance and the glitter (he kind of reminds me of Bowie, if Bowie were, well, a warlock and Asian), but Cassandra just makes him sound really cool and epic. I want him to be my best friend. Seriously.

Related Reads:

Book of the Week: City of Bones – WhatANerdGirlSays

City of Bones Trailer – Mystery Boxes and Movie Magic

The Mortal Instruments – Boldest Before Breakfast

Books: Perks of Being a Wallflower and City of Bones – Tabor Sinn

Friday Featured Author: Sara E. Santana


Sara profile pictureAs I announced last week, I’ve started a new weekly feature: the Friday Featured Author. I’ve seen my blogger friends run similar features on their blogs (so if some of these questions look familiar to you, I may have borrowed some of them…) and decided it would be a great way to introduce my followers to some amazing people.

This week I’m super excited to bring you blogger and contemporary YA author Sara E. Santana, author of Another Chance for Summer and A Little Less Than Famous. You can find her at any of the links below, and check out an excerpt from her work-in-progress, revealed here for the first time!

Blog: WhatANerdGirlSays.com

Co-Blog: iFandomsCollide.com

You can also find her on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Goodreads, Facebook

***

SL: What inspired you to start your blog?

SES: I love writing and I love talking about books. I read more books than anyone I know and I constantly want to talk to them and I startedSara Another Chance for Summer Book Cover noticing that my friends’ and boyfriend’s eyes starting to glaze over when I talked about books. I also had met my friend Jackie, who runs Seeking Bazinga, and I loved her blog and I thought “well, I could do that!” and I started my blog soon after that.

SL: When did you first start writing stories?

SES: I think I always kind of had a wild imagination. I have five younger siblings and I was always making up stories. I think I really realized that I was nine years old and I wrote a story in about a half hour for some assignment. I remember my teacher being alternately impressed that I accomplished and skeptical because I had accomplished. She showed all the teachers that were in the same building as us and I remember thinking, maybe I could be good at writing, because obviously sports were not working in my favor haha.

SL: Who or what most inspires your writing?

SES: My life inspires it a lot, or the people in my life. I see things that happen and I take a twist. I also daydream a LOT, and my curiosity on things is ALL over the place and I’ll wonder to myself, does this make a great story, could someone be as interested in this story as me? I also get inspired by various different authors that I read.

SL: On a similar note (pun intended), what music (genre, artist, etc.) most inspires your writing?

SES: Depends on the book. When I wrote A Little Less than Famous, I was listening to so much NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, I think my family was starting to get embarrassed. When I write my blog, I usually have Netflix going on in the background or just my ipod on shuffle. Right now, I’m working on my third novel and I’m listen to a mix of Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Grizzly Bear, Tame Impala, Imagine Dragons and the Cab.

Sara and Cassandra Clare
Sara and The Mortal Instruments’ author Cassandra Clare

SL: Who is your favorite author?

SES: Oh I have so many: J.K Rowling, Tamora Pierce, Cassandra Clare, Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Morgan Matson, Rick Riordan, Libba Bray, and so many more.

SL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

SES: I have met so many authors and I have asked them for advice every single time. I like hearing the different advice that comes from authors but you do tend to hear the same things over and over again, which shows how important they are. One thing that sticks out in my mind is to write write write, and to just FINISH something. I’ve also heard so many times that its okay to have a crappy first draft, its okay to write crap because you can work with that and make it better.

SL: What is your ultimate goal as a writer? (To write for pleasure? To be a best-selling author? Something else?)

SES: I want to be comfortable. I want my JOB, my CAREER, to be a writer. I want to publish novels and hopefully keep up with my blog. I Sara A Little Less than Famous Book Coverdon’t necessarily have to be a best-seller with my books being adapted for the big screen. I just want to be successful enough that it can be my every day job because all I want to do alllllll day is write.

SL: What are some of your favorite blogs to follow?

SES: Some of my fave blogs are: Seeking Bazinga, The Urge to Write, The Nerdy Girlie, The Perpetual Page Turner, City of Shadowhunters, FanGirlFeeels and Novel Reality.

SL: Tell me about your work-in-progress:

SES: I am currently working on a new novel, which follows the story of Evie Brennan, who lives in a baseball obsessed town. She lives for the game of baseball until something changes when she’s eighteen. Fast forward a few years, and she’s still in baseball town, playing assistant to Alex Young, a struggling but VERY hot shortshop. Evie has the potential to start a relationship with Alex, but her past continually gets in her way. Enjoy this small snippet that I haven’t released anywhere else!

***

I walked into the ballroom at the Worthington Hotel, Macon’s pride and joy, and immediately knew it was going to be a long night. Lucy spotted me as soon as I walked in and zeroed in on me as if I were a target and her the speeding arrow. A smile was spread across her face but her eyes spoke it all; she was on a mission and I would be a fool to resist her. I smiled back at her, amazed at how differently we had become, even in just looks, in the past few years.

“There are so many people I want you to meet,” she gushed, slipping her arm in mine and practically dragging me to the other side of the room. “The rookies this year? So delicious. You need to meet Simon Kennedy.”

“Simon Kennedy is nineteen years old,” I hissed at her, between my teeth, trying to keep my smile plastered on my face. I spotted Simon already and even though he was cute and a nice addition to the team, I wasn’t interested and I didn’t want to hurt any feelings either. I was looking for a personal assistant’s job, and I didn’t want to piss off anyone that could be a potential employer. I was tired of being my sister’s assistant.

“How do you even know who he is?” she asked, her eyes wide, hands planted on her hips as if she were still sixteen years old and not a twenty-two year old mom and wife of a famous baseball player.

***

Thanks again to Ms. Santana for playing and to all of you for checking in with us! Until next time, check out my past interviews  with H. N. Sieverding and Shehanne Moore!

Book of the Week: The Darkest Powers Trilogy


I’m starting yet another new type of post -Book of the Week -an idea I’m borrowing from WhatANerdGirlSays. (You can find her most recent Book of the Week about Obsidian here.) Hopefully this will motivate me to do some more reading this summer outside of the usual science-y things I read for my research.

This week I have a fun new series I’ve been dying to tell you about (I just haven’t had the time). Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy (The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning) is  my most recent guilty pleasure and is now one of my all-time favorite series in this genre. These are the first of Armstrong’s books that I’ve read, but they won’t be the last. (I believe she usually writes adult fiction.) I also had some pangs of nostalgia reading them because they reminded me of old school L. J. Smith. In fact, the plot is reminiscent of Smith’s Dark Visions trilogy. (I’m not at all saying they’re a rip off, just that there are some similarities. I mean, it’s really difficult to come up with a completely fresh idea. What I really look for is how successful the author can put a new twist on what might be not an utterly original idea.) Especially if you are an L. J. Smith fan, you will love these books. They are young-adult-paranormal-romance-perfection.

Summary: Our heroine (and aspiring screenplay writer) Chloe is sent to a home for “disturbed” teenagers after having a public “meltdown” at her high school. At Lyle House, she is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Chloe soon realizes that her “schizophrenia” is actually a true supernatural ability: She is a necromancer; not only capable of seeing ghosts, but also raising the dead. Several of her housemates turn out to be supernaturals as well. This secret new world of the supernaturals is home to necromancers, witches, sorcerers, psychics, werewolves and demi-demons -as well as those of their own kind that want to tamper with the special abilities of supernaturals. This series is packed with action, plot twists and subtle sexual tension. (It is, after all, a young adult book…don’t want it getting too racy…)

Despite her diagnosis at Lyle House, it’s clear at the beginning that Chloe can “see dead people.” Honestly, in the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure I could really get into the whole “necromancer” thing, but I’m glad I stuck with it because I ended up loving it. It was a nice break from the normal paranormal fair (and by that I mean vampires). It’s told from Chloe’s POV, so we get a lot of insight into her inner struggle with her abilities. Although these books aren’t character-driven, most of the main characters change throughout the series as their experiences shape them. And Kelley Armstrong is simply talented at writing fast-paced, suspenseful fiction.

Some of you will love this, some of you will hate it (I LOVED it), but there is a love triangle in the books between Chloe and two foster brothers who are also at Lyle House: Derek and Simon. First of all -OK, I keep throwing around the word “loved,” so let’s change it up a bit -I was OBSESSED with Derek. Just like many fictional bad boys, Derek is mysterious, brood-y, and does NOT play well with others, except for maybe Simon. As Ms. Armstrong makes clear in the books, Derek and Simon may not be related by blood, but they are brothers and friends in the truest sense. Chloe gets along more easily with the amiable, good-looking Simon, while she and Derek clash at almost every turn.

My favorite thing about Derek, though, is that he’s not supposed to be stereotypically handsome. In fact, especially in The Summoning, puberty is not being kind to this boy. As the series progresses, Derek grows out of this, but he’s still no Damon Salvatore. 😉 I just found it refreshing. Then again, it’s not like he’s totally hideous or something, either…let’s just say, he works out…

Not gonna lie, probably the biggest reason I loved these books was the Derek/Chloe dynamic. I don’t know if this trilogy inspired any Simon/Chloe shippers, but I was all about Derek and Chloe. (What should we call them? Dloe? Chlerek?) I also really loved the plot twists Armstrong throws at her readers, leaving them questioning who the characters can really trust. The only thing that didn’t work for me is the whole Chloe-wants-to-be-a-screenwriter aspect. It just seemed really forced. It was more natural in the last installment, but in the other two it felt like Chloe was talking about movies or how she would turn something that just happened into a scene in a movie in every other paragraph. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to it, but in my opinion it was overdone. Chloe likes movies. I got it the first hundred times.

But other than this personal pet peeve, I highly recommend The Darkest Powers trilogy if you are looking for a quick, fun, and at times sexy escape. I liked them so much I wish I had bought them instead of borrowing them from the library. That is a big deal for me. I don’t buy books that often unless I am absolutely sure I will reread them, and even then I don’t usually end up reading them again. I read the last book twice before returning it to the library because I didn’t want them to end. Luckily, Armstrong has another young adult trilogy called Darkness Rising, which I think is in the same world as Powers, although with a different set of characters.

For VDay: A Romantic Excerpt


Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow (but mostly since I haven’t written anything new), here is a romantic post from my young adult novel, Star Eyes. I’ve posted an excerpt or two before (here’s one), and now that I’ve reread this chapter I’m tempted to post the whole thing. But I’ll try to stay focused on new writing (unless someone tells me that they’d really like to read the rest of it!).

In this excerpt, you will meet the two young men in love with our protagonist, Celeste Lowe: Hazri, a handsome alien from another world (although he looks human) and Dave, a normal human teenager. Yes, this story involves a lurve triangle, which I know at least one of my followers hates (lol!). But hey, I was writing about love triangles before Stephanie Meyer made it cool.

***

Celeste was still grounded Friday night, but she decided to make the best of it. It was supposed to be a clear night, so she set up her telescope on the small balcony outside her bedroom. She glanced at the star chart she had printed off the Internet and then bent over the eyepiece.

“I did not think I would find you here.”

Celeste nearly leaped out of her skin. She spun around to see Hazri standing behind her. In faded jeans and a red and white striped polo, it looked like someone had cut him out of a Tommy Hilfiger catalog. She wondered where he was getting his human wardrobe.

She felt the gentle nudge of his telepathic voice. I went to the mall. I also…how do I want to say this? I get a kick out of startling you.

The expression sounded awkward coming from him, especially telepathically. What do you want? she asked him, exasperated.

I thought that humans felt compelled to socialize on weekend nights, but I am glad you are here, he said. I have another memory to share with you.

Celeste had been afraid of this. She knew that at some point Hazri would be back to share more of their history with her, but she didn’t want anything to do with it anymore.

I’m not in the mood. She tried to make the tone of the thought as vicious as possible. Whatever it is you want to share with me, I don’t care. I don’t want to know.

You cannot avoid this. It is your heritage. It is your destiny.

“I don’t care!” she exploded, unable to contain her feelings in a mere thought. “Just leave me alone! I don’t ever want to see you again!”

“Celeste, what’s wrong?”

She was startled again, this time from the sound of Dave’s voice. She hadn’t even noticed him come out onto the balcony. He walked over to her.

“Is he bothering you?” Dave asked her, putting a protective arm around her shaking shoulders. “I think you should go,” he said to Hazri. He pulled Celeste closer to him.

“I am not bothering her,” Hazri said. His icy gaze locked with Celeste’s. “She was just overreacting.”

“Just go!” Celeste yelled.

Hazri’s lips were pursed, but he acquiesced, “I will see myself out.” He went into her bedroom as though he were going to go downstairs and leave the normal way, but Celeste knew he was alerting the mothership to transport him back.

“What happened? Did he try to hurt you?” Dave asked. He drew Celeste into his arms. Her heart was still beating wildly in her chest.

“No. How did you get up here? My parents let you in?” she asked in disbelief.

“I think they felt bad for me. I looked so dejected when they told me you were grounded that they let me in. I’m not even kidding,” he insisted when she looked at him doubtfully. “They let what’s-his-face in. Why wouldn’t they let me see you?”

Celeste didn’t know what to say. Well, that wasn’t exactly true –she knew what she wanted to say. She was about to stop herself and think it over first, but she was tired of thinking everything through. She let her mouth open to say what she knew she shouldn’t tell him.

Everything.

“Dave. There’s something…there’s a lot I have to tell you,” she said, pulling out of the embrace.

He reluctantly let her go. “What is it?”

“Let’s go inside,” she suggested. “You’ll want to be sitting down for this.”

He nodded. Celeste picked up the sky chart and led the way back inside.

 ***

“So you’re telekinetic.” It was a statement of fact, not an uncertain question. Dave was sitting on the edge of Celeste’s bed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. Celeste was pacing back and forth as she talked.

“Don’t worry. I can prove it,” she told him earnestly.

“You don’t have to. I believe you,” he said.

Celeste shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Are you watching closely?” Her eye had caught something shiny on her bureau. Her crystal paperweight gleamed invitingly under the ceiling light. Extending her arm for effect, Celeste wrapped her mind around the paperweight like an invisible hand and lifted it off of the dresser. She guided it through the air and let it fall into Dave’s lap.

Dave’s intelligent green eyes had grown wider and wider as he watched the paperweight drift in his direction. Now, he took it in his hands and held it up to his face.

“Whoa. That was sweet,” he exclaimed.

Celeste laughed. “Sweet? I’ve never heard you say that before.” With a swift sweep of her gaze, the paperweight flew out of his hands. She returned it to its spot beside her jewelry box.

“I figured this was a special occasion,” he said, smiling wryly. “Have you always been able to do that?”

“Ever since I was little.” Celeste studied him warily. Was that a glint of fear in his eyes? Was his laugh a little nervous?

“That’s what you were talking about,” he suddenly realized. He straightened up. “At Jamie’s party, when you said that you were different.”

She nodded. “But there’s more. I’m also telepathic.”

“You’ll have to prove that one, too,” he said, but he was grinning. “I’m thinking of a number from one to infinity.”

“I can’t just automatically read your mind,” she explained. “I mean, I could read it if I tried, but I have to concentrate on making a connection between my mind and yours. You would be able to feel my presence in your head.”

He stood up. “Do it.”

“What? Dave, no,” she protested. “It might make you sick. It’s really disorienting if you’re not used to it.”

“Celeste, I don’t care.” He cupped her chin with his hand. “I want to feel what it’s like. I don’t have anything to hide from you. I wish you could hear what I was thinking about you all the time.”

She searched his gaze. It was steady and honest. He was serious. Keeping their eyes locked, she extended her mind out again like she had to Jamie. It was like psychic energy was flowing out of her to embrace his mind, body and soul.

Are you feeling O.K? Celeste wondered. She could tell he was a little queasy, but his mind felt calm. Even though he was holding her, she didn’t even notice anymore. They were both absorbed in each other’s thoughts. It was exciting. And it felt right.

You told me once that you saw me around before we actually started talking, she recalled as the memory of their failure of a first date crept back into her mind.  When was the first time you saw me?

 Dave allowed the memory to surface. Celeste saw herself sitting alone in the school library. She was listening to her iPod and was writing something down in a notebook. Celeste had no idea what she had been working on at the time, but she realized that it was a memory from winter of last year. Her white down jacket was draped over the back of the chair.

She slowly started to see herself as Dave saw her. A wistful-looking girl with pretty hair that fell in front of her face like a silver-white curtain when she leaned over to scribble in the notebook. She glanced in his direction and then returned to the paper, but her eyes had shone like blue gemstones. She was beautiful, but it wasn’t just that. Focus, determination and goodness radiated from her.

That’s how you see me? She wouldn’t notice it until the connection was broken, but her cheeks were wet with tears. How had she never seen him before a few weeks ago? Now it felt like she had known him forever, and that they should never be apart. Who knew that I’d have to be sent clear across the universe to find my soul mate?

She could sense that this thought had confused Dave. She didn’t fight the memories that swam into her mind.

She walked into her kitchen, seeing Hazri for the first time. He told her that she wasn’t human, that they were from the planet Mondra and that she was a princess. She took out her mental box of concealed memories and remembered connecting with Jamie’s mind and seeing her aboard the Mondrian mothership. She vividly recalled the genetic experiment the Mondrians had performed on Jamie. She let the fears that had been building up inside of her spill over.

They’re abducting humans and introducing genetic mutations into them. They’re not good people. But I’m one of them. I’m not a good person, Dave. I’m not the good person you think I am.

Celeste retracted her mind from his. Uncontrollable tears ran down her face. Dave was holding her face in his hands, and his forehead was pressed against hers.

“Stop it,” he pleaded with her. “You are a good person. You’re the best person I’ve ever known, Celeste. It doesn’t matter what they do. You aren’t really one of them. You were raised by loving parents, and that’s how you learned to be who you are.”

As he was talking, he kissed her furiously in between sentences and wiped away her tears with his thumbs. Celeste eventually calmed down, but Dave still held her.

“Now you know everything,” she said. “I’m really glad it all came out like that, actually. At least you know I’m not crazy.”

“I would have believed you anyway, and you know that,” he insisted. “But seriously. That was really beautiful. Thank you for sharing your abilities with me.”

“So you’re not going to run away?” Celeste said.

Dave shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. I know you’re not like them, Celeste. You’re good.” He kissed her again, gently this time. The kiss sent a chill down Celeste’s spine while a pleasant wave of warmth surged up her abdomen.

When they pulled away, reality set in again. “I have to save her,” Celeste said, meaning Jamie. “I’m the only one who knows where she is. I’m just not sure how to do it.”

“Maybe you’ll think of something,” Dave said. “I know it’s already been a week, but just give it more time. Don’t do anything rash.”

“I won’t. I don’t even know if there’s anything I can do but keep an eye on her. Well not an eye, but…you know what I mean.”

Dave chuckled softly and nodded. “There really is nothing that would keep me away from you,” he assured her again. “I love you.”

Celeste was so relieved to hear those words that she hugged him tightly and buried her face in his shoulder. He didn’t really have to say it out loud, though. Love and acceptance had radiated from him when their minds were connected.

Copyright 2013 by S. L. Stacy

P. C. Cast Series Showdown


I finally, finally finished reading one of P. C. Cast’s books set in Partholon, Elphame’s Choice. So tonight’s Sunday Showdown is more of a book review and comparison/contrast of her Partholon books and vampyre saga The House of Night. I’m not really picking a winner since they are two very different series, but feel free to share your favorite in the comments. But if you haven’t gotten around to exploring either world, read on to find out a little more about these books.

(Also, on an unrelated note: I’m still working on my next Once Upon A Time fanfiction adventure, so please click here to take my poll of your favorite potential couples!)

And now, on to the showdown:

1. House of Night

The House of Night world is much like our own, except vampyres exist alongside humans, and everybody knows it. Those human adolescents that already have vampyre DNA are marked by Trackers, which begins their transition into adult vampyrehood. This is what happens to Zoey Redbird, who transfers to a high school for vampryes, the highly esteemed House of Night. But Zoey isn’t just a normal fledgling; she has been chosen by her goddess to be a leader among her kind. The first two books (which unfortunately is all I’ve read so far) follow Zoey’s adventures with her new group of friends, unresolved issues with her old life, and battles with new, supernatural enemies. These books are cowritten by P. C. and her daughter Kristin. If you enjoy young adult vampyre books, you’ll enjoy the House of Night books. They’re a satisfactory mix of  Egyptian-based mythology, dark vampyre lore and quirky humor.

2. Elphame’s Choice

When I picked up this book, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I had  never read one of P. C.’s Partholon books, and the cover and tagline were vague. (And misleading. The tagline makes it sound like there are vampyres in the book. It’s a similar idea, but they are blood-sucking, winged demons. And the girl on the cover doesn’t look like what Elphame is supposed to look like.)

One similarity between this book and the House of Night series is that Elphame is another young adult that has been especially favored by her goddess, in this case Epona. It’s refreshing that P. C.’s societies are matriarchal. As a fawn and Epona’s Chosen, Elphame has always felt like an outsider, until she travels to MacCallan Castle and works to restore it to its former glory. At her new home, she befriends Brenna, a Healer disfigured from a tragic accident, and the centaur Huntress Brighid, and she finally starts to feel like she’s a part of something rather than just a distant symbol to be worshipped. In the forests surrounding MacCallan Castle, she also meets her soulmate, Lochlan, a human-Fomorian demon hybrid. She struggles with how to present her forbidden lover to her kingdom, which drove the Fomorian species from Partholon hundreds of years prior.

Overall, I enjoyed Elphame’s Choice, although if you’re familiar with the House of Night series you must prepare yourself for a completely different P. C. Cast. This book has an omniscient narrator, which I sometimes found annoying since it jumps between perspectives rather abruptly, and the prose is very formal and long-winded. But P. C. creates very complex and sympathetic characters. My favorite was Brenna, the tiny Healer who captures the heart and soul of Elphame’s dashing brother. (Although, as P. C. constantly describes the meek Brenna as letting her hair fall over the disfigured part of her face, she sometimes started to sound like Emo Brenna, but that is neither here nor there.) I also really liked the human-Fomorian hybrids and would have liked to have seen a lot more of them. Also, as Elphame’s Choice was published by Harlequin Teen (which I didn’t even know existed until now), things do heat up in several parts of the book…which I’m totally ok with, but I know that some people don’t like.

Really, the biggest criticism I have of any of P. C.’s books is that they never completely draw me in. I never feel like the worlds she creates completely engulf me so that I cannot put the book down. But as I said, it was pretty enjoyable, and I would recommend it to fans of fantasy and paranormal romance.

“Starry Eyed”


I haven’t been listening to the radio much this summer. When I do, I’m usually in my car, and it’s usually to one of my city’s two pop music stations. You can not listen to pop radio for two months and then hear the same songs when you tune into it again.

However, today I discovered Ellie Goulding while in my car, listening to the radio. I had heard the name, knew she was a singer, but hadn’t really given her music much thought. Then I heard “Lights,” and realized what a different (different good) voice and unique style she has. She almost reminds me of those Indie rock psychedelic bands like MGMT, only she’s a solo act (and a girl).

While exploring her songs on YouTube, I came across the video for Starry Eyed. (Watch it here.) Another great song by her, but what really struck me is how much it reminded me of one of the few books I’ve actually finished writing, Star Eyes. Especially with this video, it’s like the frickin’ theme song. So, I decided to post one of the chapters from Star Eyes before I return to focusing on The Wild Ones. Perhaps at some point I’ll even post Star Eyes in its entirety, although I wanted to play around with the POV and verb tenses first.

(BTW, if some of the characters sound familiar, they are the same characters mentioned in my first post -Ava, Tyler, and Celeste. So this is basically some back story to that excerpt, which would appear in a sequel.)

Also, please feel free to rate (above) and/or like (below) my posts. 🙂 I love getting feedback.

***

Monday night was crisp with the onset of autumn. Celeste kept the passenger side window of Ava’s car open to let the cool night air hit her face. A distinct feeling always overwhelmed her when fall arrived, a mixture of anticipation and tranquility as she watched the leaves on the trees change from green to gold.

“It looks like something’s going on at the park,” Ava said. Celeste snapped out of her reverie. She was surprised they had made it to Hickory Park already; Ava was navigating the side streets at about fifteen miles per hour, her hands gripping the steering wheel precisely at the ten and two o’clock positions. As the car turned the corner, the headlights swept over a small crowd gathered in the middle of the park.

Ava parked and popped the trunk, and they climbed out of the car. Celeste lifted her telescope out of the trunk and slammed it shut. They crept to the edge where the sidewalk met the grass.

“What are they doing?” Ava wondered.

“I think they’re doing the same thing we were planning to do,” Celeste realized. People had broken off into twos and threes and were setting up telescopes all around the park. Some had binoculars like the pair Celeste wore around her neck and were already scanning the black and blue sky.

Celeste sensed movement out of the corner of her eye. Someone was walking toward them.

“I thought that was you,” Dave said as he got closer. “I didn’t know you were in the Astronomy Club.” He had his hands in the pockets of his brown leather jacket.

Celeste knew that Ava was looking from Dave to her in confusion, but Celeste couldn’t speak. Was it possible for your heart to leap up into your throat?

When Celeste still hadn’t said anything, Ava said, “We didn’t know there was an Astronomy Club, actually. We come here all the time. I’m Ava,” she said and stuck out her hand expectantly.  It was one of Ava’s many gestures that usually intimated people their age. Dave, however, shook it amiably.

“Dave. I guess you don’t remember me,” he said to Celeste. He laughed, but his smile was uncertain.

“I remember you,” Celeste finally said. “Dave has A.P. Chem with Mr. Brightman,” she explained to Ava. “I met him doing my make up lab last Friday.”

Ava gave an exaggerated nod to show Celeste that she remembered. “So, since when do we have an Astronomy Club?” Ava asked him.

“It’s something new Mr. Landau is starting this year,” Dave said. “He’s the physics teacher. That’s who’s mostly here right now, our physics class. But come on. You should join us.”

He started to walk away. Celeste and Ava looked at each other before following.

His telescope was already set up. Someone was bent over it, adjusting the field of view.

“This is Tyler,” Dave said. “Tyler, this is Celeste and Ava.”

Tyler looked up. Celeste heard Ava inhale sharply.

“I know you.” Ava pointed an accusatory finger at Tyler. “You’re that guy who bumped into me today in the hall after lunch!”

Tyler’s face remained impassive. He was still wearing his black trench coat, only this time Celeste noticed it was worn over a pair of baggy black jeans and a black shirt. Even his fingernails were painted black. “I guess I really didn’t care enough at the time to actually remember it now,” he said without feeling.

There was a moment of awkward silence. “So. Anything in particular you guys want to look at?” Celeste asked. She looked up at the sky, where pinprick white stars were popping out one by one.

“We’re supposed to focus on constellations tonight,” Dave told her. “Here.” He handed her a paperback book that had a picture of the Milky Way on its cover. She flipped through it, and then handed it to Ava, who was holding her hands out eagerly.

“I see one,” Celeste said. She pointed at a patch of sky fringed by the rust-colored leaves of two maple trees. The others followed her gaze. “Cygnus, the swan. It looks like a cross.”

“It says in here that we should be able to see –” Ava started to say, but Dave talked over her.

“If that’s Cygnus, then that must be Lyra next to it,” Dave said. He came to stand by Celeste. “One of the Greek myths says that, after Orpheus was murdered, he was turned into a swan and placed in the sky beside his lyre.”

Celeste felt herself smiling. “Wow. I didn’t think anyone was as interested in this stuff as I am,” she said.

“I love astronomy,” he exclaimed, but she detected a note of embarrassment in the way he said it. “Thinking about what’s out there –that we’re really just a tiny planet floating in one solar system of one galaxy out of countless more –it helps me put life in perspective.”

“Are any of you listening to what I’m saying?” Ava said as though she were talking to a couple of misbehaving children. She closed the book, marking the page with her finger, and crossed her arms.

 “Hey. What’s that?” Tyler said suddenly. He was pointing again at Cygnus. Celeste didn’t see anything right away. She glanced back at him, about to tell him so, but she stopped when she saw his dark eyes widen and fill with awe. Without looking down, he removed a small, silver digital camera from his coat pocket.

“What are you looking at?” Dave asked.

“See? See that light up there? This is amazing,” he gasped. “Do you know how many nights I search the skies, hoping to see one? It’s always when you least expect it.”

Finally, Celeste saw it.

At first, she didn’t understand what she was seeing. There was a distant, perfectly oval-shaped white light traveling smoothly and swiftly across the sky.

“What is it?” she wondered out loud.           

“A shooting star,” Ava said. “Come on –why don’t we do what we came here to do? I found the Cygnus page in this book –”

“That’s not a shooting star,” Tyler insisted. “It’s a U.F.O.”

“A what?”

“An Unidentified Flying Object.”

“I know what ‘U.F.O.’ stands for,” Ava shot back. “I was being skeptical.”

“Just because we say it’s a U.F.O. doesn’t mean it has little green men on it,” Dave said, although Tyler seemed to be convinced otherwise. “It just means that we don’t know what it is. It’s definitely not a shooting star, though.”

They watched it for several minutes. To Celeste, its movement was too purposeful to be a shooting star. She didn’t know why her heart was pounding so loudly in her chest.

“You know, we have one of the highest instances of U.F.O. sightings in the world. Not just the United States, the world,” Tyler emphasized.

“Why would you know something like that?” Ava said.

“Because I read up on and follow paranormal activity. You’re a feature editor for The Voice, aren’t you?” His tone was exasperated as he feverishly snapped picture after picture.

“I knew you were on the staff. You’re the Tyler that writes ‘Dark Corners,’” Celeste realized.

“Yes, I am.” His voice lost its impatience when he addressed Celeste. “And this is going to make a great article. Shit, where’d it go?”

They searched the sky, but the U.F.O. had disappeared. Celeste peered at the faces of the other students, but it didn’t seem like anyone else had seen the extraordinary light.

“All right, everybody,” Mr. Landau called out an hour later. “Time to pack up. Thanks for coming out everyone.”

“We should do this again sometime,” Dave said to Celeste as he disassembled his telescope. “With or without the Astronomy Club. What’s your number?” He fished his cell phone out of his pocket. She hesitated, but then recited it to him.

“Call me so that I have your number,” she told him. A minute later, the chorus of “Strangers in the Night” sounded in her purse. She took out her phone to save his number.

“Frank Sinatra,” Dave commented, cracking a half smile. “Nice.”

“Ready to go?” Ava asked her pointedly. Celeste nodded.

“It was nice seeing you again,” she said. “It was nice meeting you, Tyler.”

“Have a good one,” Dave said as she and Ava headed for the car.

“So, what did you think of our U.F.O.?” Celeste asked once she and Ava were in the car. She made sure to say the last word with as much skepticism as possible.

“I still think it was probably just a meteor or a reflection or something,” Ava said. “Why? What do you think it was?”

Celeste shrugged. “I don’t know. You’re probably right.” But she did wonder whether it was the kind of U.F.O. with little green men on it. For some reason, Tyler’s fun fact had lodged itself in her mind. Why would their small, unsuspecting town of all places have so many U.F.O. sightings?

“Here you go,” Ava said. Celeste jumped. She hadn’t realized that Ava had pulled up to the curb in front of her house. The lights were still on in the living room.

“Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said and opened her door.

“No problem. See you tomorrow.”

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy

Book Review: Betrayed (House of Night Book #2)


This blog is only about a month old, and already I’m starting to slack. I haven’t had the time to prepare anything of my own to post (I guess that comes with being a scientist by day, aspiring smut writer by night), but for now here is another book review.

I enjoyed the second House of Night book, Betrayed, much more than the first. The first one was entertaining, but it had to set everything up so it didn’t exactly pull me in. But Betrayed had a lot more action in, and the Casts weren’t afraid to push their characters in new directions. You start seeing characters you hated in Marked in a different light, and characters you loved turn out to have a more sinister side. I love it when authors can blur the boundary between good/evil, instead of having clear sets of heroes and villains. Although the House of Night books aren’t quite there yet, the Casts start to play with this in the sequel.

I don’t want to summarize the book too much because it always ends up sounding like the pitch on the back of the book, but I will say that Betrayed is part paranormal romance, part murder mystery. Human teenaged boys are winding up dead, their blood sucked dry. They are also all boys that Zoey has some connection to. The unresolved subplot from Marked becomes one of the main focuses in Betrayed: Zoey finds out the truth about the “ghosts” of the supposedly dead vampyre fledglings. Through clues revealed through the first person narration that Zoey doesn’t even quite understand, the reader connects the dots faster than she does.

 You’ll either love or hate how the Casts try to distort your opinion of Aphrodite. Ok, I’m going to make another Harry Potter comparison…Aphrodite reminds me of the female Draco Malfoy, and not just because they’re both blonde. Like Malfoy, Aphrodite has affluent, control-freak parents, and although she has some moments of brief redemption, she’s basically mean and weak. I wonder how much this will change as the series progresses.

Also, Betrayed is waaaaay sexier than Marked. Zoey has THREE young men in her life: vampyre fledgling/actor Erik Night, her human ex Heath, and now Loren, vampyre Poet Laureate and part-time professor. Although Zoey is only 16, not gonna lie, the Loren and Zoey subplot was my favorite. He’s everything you could want in a book crush: Mysterious, sexy…yeah, basically those. But I kept switching back and forth between Team Loren and Team Heath. Since Heath is a human, he and Zoey have that forbidden-love thing going on. Although Erik Night sounds like the perfect boyfriend, his character is too bland for me to really root for him.

So, in general it was an excellent read. However, there’s still something missing from this series that I can’t put my finger on. I guess I’ll just call it the “epic” quality. The books don’t have that epic feel to them that some authors are able to create.

Anyway, I’m taking a break from this series to finally read the 50 Shades trilogy…almost done with the first one.

Book Review: Marked (House of Night Book #1)


Well, I’m back from a fantastic week-long beach vacation, over which I finished Marked, the first House of Night novel written by the mother-daughter writing duo P.C. and Kristin Cast. The book sets the stage for an alternate reality in which humans and vampyres coexist (and in which, apparently, some famous country stars are vampyres). Fledgling vampyres are humans whose vampyre DNA gets triggered during adolescence; they are Marked by a Tracker vampyre and must leave the life they know to be guided through the change by adult vampyres. However, not all fledgling vampyres are guaranteed to make it through the transformation and will die.

The book follows Zoey Redbird, a teenager experiencing some typical high school problems as well as some troubling family problems, who is Marked and transfers to the House of Night, a school for young vampyres. In a nutshell, at her new school Zoey clashes with Aphrodite and her powerful clique the Dark Daughters, crushes on the handsome budding actor Erik Night and fends off her obsessive human ex-boyfriend. Although her distinctive Mark initially sets her a part from the other newest fledglings, she ultimately finds a place for herself at the House of Night with a group of genuine and loyal friends.

In general, I really liked this book, although it didn’t suck me in like other series in the same genre have. Also, not gonna lie, my initial reaction to the whole vampyre school thing was that it sounded like a Harry Potter copycat. But I decided later that this is an unfair judgment – J. K. Rowling most certainly borrowed from other sources, and Harry Potter is so ingrained in our culture now that it would be hard not to think of it when reading another “school for [insert fantastical human/creature here].” And they’re obviously very different books. The House of Night sounds more like a typical American high school (you know, except for the part where they’re all going to be vampyres, and go to school at night – which was an awesome touch). The authors do an excellent job of incorporating pagan elements and rituals into their vampyre culture (I’m not describing them as “pagan” to mean something bad, that’s just the only word I can think of to sum it up). Although in my first post I wasn’t enamored with the first person narration, it definitely grew on me, although I’m still not entirely convinced that teenagers really sound like that. But it’s engaging and funny, and Zoey is a likeable, believable character. (Her favorite cereal is Count Chocula, which she realizes now is quite ironic – another nice, humorous detail the Casts include.)

So, if you’ve read The Vampire Diaries, Twilight or any similar books, I definitely recommend giving Marked a chance. I’m excited to have a new young adult paranormal series to, uh, sink my teeth into for the rest of the summer (cliché intended).

 

Well, here it goes…


It’s almost midnight after a pretty low-key Friday night. And instead of going to bed, I decided that I needed to start a blog where I could share my writings and ramblings about writing with the world (or at least those few that may be interested). Writing fiction is not my profession (although I hope it will be, some day), nor is it even what I’m currently studying. But no matter what else I’m doing in my life, I frequently get an idea for a story, a character, a conflict – and I get the overwhelming urge to write.

I have tried posting a young adult fiction book I wrote chapter by chapter on another blog, but I abandoned the task once I reached a chapter I felt needed heavy revision. I may try to post it again on here, but for now I may just post short stories or scenes here and there, raw without intense editing. (Because, let’s be honest, editing is NOT the fun part, although a necessary evil.)

My characters are usually teenagers or young adults, and my stories have sci-fi, fantasy and/or paranormal themes. If you enjoy these genres, I hope you will enjoy my blog! All comments and *constructive* criticism are welcome.

For now, here is a short piece that involves two characters from a series I’m envisioning. I’m also trying to experiment with different points of view and tenses (usually I stick to third person and past tense, which seems safe), so this one is first person, present tense. This week I’ve been listening to Adam Lambert’s new album, Trespassing, and the song “Chokehold” is definitely their theme song:

“I keep running away, running away, running away from you
But I can’t stand breaking the chains, breaking the chains, breaking the chains
It’s too good, cause I know the second you go
Want you to bring it on back, bring it on back, bring it on back to me
And you know I want your chokehold.”

I’m walking against the crowd pouring out of the high school because I forgot my trigonometry book when I hear someone call my name behind me.

“Ava!” he shouts again before I’m fully turned around, but of course I recognize his voice. He makes his way toward me, a lone punk shark in a sea of preppy minnows. He’s wearing a maroon tie and a black dress shirt that’s not tucked into his black jeans. “I need to talk to you,” he tells me once he catches up to me.

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” I reply curtly, turning on my heel and resuming my walk.

“What?” He sounds genuinely shocked. I don’t even hold the door open for him but he sneaks through behind me.

“Look, the dance was fun,” I say. He’s finally matched my determined stride. “But you didn’t really think this could turn into something, did you?”

For an instant I feel a guilty ache in my chest – my words are coming out colder than I had intended. But then I remind myself that Tyler doesn’t really like me; that he didn’t really want to take me to the Harvest Dance. Celeste used her freaky telepathy to compel him to take me. Because apparently that’s the only way I’m going to get a date to anything, ever.

We’ve reached my locker, and I busy myself with the combination lock, avoiding his piercing hazel eyes.

“I guess I did.” His answer startles me so much that I finally stop and look over at him. His black guyliner emphasizes the intensity and sincerity of his gaze. “I felt something between us. I thought you did, too.”

God, how far had Celeste’s influence gone? I wonder. Did she convince him that he was in love with me, too?

What I hate most is that, as I stand here plotting to hurt him, all I want to do is to brush that stupid lock of his black hair that’s fallen in front of his face. And I want to finish that kiss that got interrupted at the dance.

Instead, I take a deep breath and hold his gaze steadily. “I’m smart. I’m pretty, and I’m popular. How could I ever feel something for some emo kid in a loser punk band?”

My heart is beating so loudly in my chest I wonder if he can hear it. He’s glaring at me now, his jaw jutting out in anger, and if I didn’t know better I might think he was trying to hold back tears. It feels like an eternity before he finally speaks again.

“Fuck you,” he says and stomps away from me.

I turn back to my locker, blinking back tears myself. Why do I have to be such a bitch? But it was for his own good, I remind myself. He’ll realize you did him a favor when he comes out of the fog Celeste put him in.

Suddenly, I gasp when I feel someone grab me and spin me around, pinning me against the lockers.

Tyler’s face is inches away from mine.

“Just thought I’d show you what you were missing,” he whispers urgently before he kisses me.

When our lips meet, I have the fleeting thought that I hope the hall is still deserted, but then my mind goes blank, and my body goes limp and tingles as his hands move to my hips. He coaxes my lips apart and deepens the kiss. For a few moments, the tension deserts his body, too, and I think he’s losing himself in me.

I don’t know how long we’ve been kissing when Tyler pulls away. His pale face is stoic, the vulnerability I felt in his kiss gone.

“Yeah. That’s what I thought,” he says to me and stalks away again.

Copyright 2012 by S. L. Stacy