Book Review: Feversong


Before getting into tonight’s review, I made a small change to the format of this blog. Now when you go to the home page–instead of my blog post feed–you will be taken to a static page where I will post general updates about what I’m working on, followed by a list of my current books and links if you want to grab a copy. Right now the update is very vague and general since I’m working that out, lol, but it will become more detailed as I figure that out.

A list of recent blog posts is available on the right hand menu.

I decided to do this as a quicker and more general way of keeping readers and those who may stumble upon this blog up-to-date with what I’m working on. I don’t really blog as much as I used to, nor do I usually have the time and/or desire to blog that much, haha. February is an exception because I released a novella and then Reclaim, but I’m going to try to keep update posts to once every month, or even every two months. Until I’m well underway with a project, there’s usually not that much to say, and I end up repeating myself a lot.

With that said, onto my review of Feversong, the final installment of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series (at least as we know it!).

*****

feversong_coverI thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to KMM’s Fever series, although I’m super bummed this is the end for Barrons and Mac’s story, at least, it seems, for now. I believe Ms. Moning is planning additional books set in the fever world, only centered around other characters, so I’m interested to see where that goes.

Honestly, I was nervous at the beginning of the book that I wouldn’t like it. At the end of Feverborn, to save herself and Jada/Dani, Mac basically opens her inner Sinsar Dubh…and sure, it gets them out, but it also turns Mac into a psychopath, haha. The parts written from Mac/the Sinsar Dubh’s perspective got old for me, fast, but luckily it’s only the first quarter of the book or so. And she does some REALLY horrible things while she’s possessed. I mean, dear God, lol.

But I loved the rest of the book, and I felt like everything that happened after that was a natural extension of Mac’s story. Also, and I may be in the minority here, but I really like Dani, and I liked seeing her become her old self more and more as the book went on. And I LOVE her and Dancer and get a little annoyed when KMM seems to be trying to appease the Dani/Ryodan shippers while also giving Dani and Dancer the time together they deserve.

I also enjoyed the flashbacks to Dani’s time in the Silvers with Shazam. (I love Shazam.) We get to find out more about him, too.

All in all, KMM brought this second part of the Fever series to a satisfying and admirable close, while still leaving the reader with a bit of a sense of mystery, particularly around the destinies of Barrons and Mac. (If you’re curious or confused, she did write a blog post about this. It’s on her Facebook page, but don’t read it until you finish this book because there are spoilers. But it might clear up any confusion you may have.)

There was also a scene in Feversong that made me cry. ūüė¶ Overall, well done, Ms. Moning!

Book Review: Feverborn


Last night, I stayed up until two in the morning reading Feverborn, the latest installment of Karen Marie Moning’s bestselling Fever series. In typical Moning fashion, she really blew me away in the last 150 pages or so of the book, and I couldn’t put it down. That being said, I had some issues with the first part of the book. But I’ll get to those in a second.

I would say the “big picture” plot point in Feverborn,¬†and this phase of the series in general, is repairing the damage that has been done to Earth since the walls came down. Small black holes (that are only getting bigger) have cropped up all over Dublin–including the one steadily growing towards the abbey–and the squad (Mac, Jada, Barrons, Ryodan, Christian, and Dancer) have figured out the reason and a theoretical remedy. So, part of Feverborn are these very different characters, with strong, and at many times clashing personalities, forming an unlikely alliance to save Earth. This is complicated by the fact that many outside characters and groups want one or the other of them dead for various reasons.

There are a few other interesting subplots interspersed throughout the book as well. We find out what happened to Dageus after Burned and a near-fatal mission to rescue his nephew, druid-turned-Unseelie¬†prince Christian, who was being tortured by the creepy Crimson Hag. Mac’s past also comes back to haunt her, in more ways than one. We even get a few insights into what Cruce, the Unseelie prince trapped underneath the abbey, has been up to, and he’s starting to reemerge as the “big bad.”

That all being said, what Feverborn is really about is Mac and ice-cold Jada, formerly Mac’s energetic, impulsive bff, Dani. This was my favorite part of the book. Through Jada’s impersonal third-person narration, we learn bits and pieces of what happened to her while she was in the Silvers, and–although she never divulges everything–it’s enough to paint the bleak, heartbreaking picture. I actually have to say that, this time around, I enjoyed Jada’s plot thread considerably more than Mac’s. And I love how Moning has challenged their friendship, and the healing process for both of them that starts to take place in Feverborn.

I have to admit, though–and I hate saying this about one of my favorite authors–that the first half of the book was a bit of a mess. I felt like the book didn’t know what it itself was really about (Mac and Jada) until about the halfway point, maybe even further along. Moning often switches between points of view within books, and I usually admire her ability to do so effortlessly and convincingly. I never question whose head I’m in, and each plot thread typically stands well on its own while still advancing the overall plot.

But this style didn’t work for me as much in Feverborn. I have to agree with other reviews I’ve read saying that Mac’s part is basically a rehash of her old problems–issues I thought had been wrapped up by the end of Shadowfever. Also, the strain Moning placed on her and Barrons’s relationship in Burned seems to have completely evaporated now, and they’ve reverted to slamming their walls back up whenever they’re not having insanely hot sex (really, if Barrons can’t just call her Mac all the time at this point instead of Ms. Lane, fts). It’s like all of the progress they’ve made in their relationship throughout the course of the series has been unraveled for no reason.

Further, there are some random chapters written from Christian and Lor’s POVs for seemingly no reason. Okay, Christian’s sort of had a point (although it’s not carried throughout FB like in past books), but Lor’s didn’t give any significant insight into his or Jo’s characters and didn’t advance the plot. I guess it was sort of amusing, but it really should have served some other function than comic relief. I did, however, enjoy the parts with Cruce and Papa Roach, and I really hope Cruce is coming back as the major evil player in the next book (which I think is supposed to be the final, final book?).

By the way, I hate that I have to write this. As a writer myself, I know that criticism can be a good thing and very helpful, but I hate sounding overly critical or mean about a series and author that I love. I still think Karen is an excellent writer. I love the language she uses, the settings she creates–I can picture everything vividly in my mind, and I’m still highly invested in all of the characters. It’s just this book felt like a lot of filler material before the next book. (A lot of readers said that about Burned as well, although it didn’t feel that way to me for some reason. But this book did.)

The last fourth of the book really saved it for me, though. I wish the entire book had just focused on Mac and Jada and their friendship, because those parts were really touching. There are enough mysteries planted throughout FB that keep you hooked and plenty of twists and surprises–toward the end, they just kept coming. The battle at the abbey sort of works as a climax for the good guys/bad guys conflict in the book, but I think the real climax happens right after that, when you find out why Jada goes running back into the burning abbey. It just shows so much about what she must have went through in the Silvers and the person she has become now. Those parts actually brought tears to my eyes, they were so heartbreaking. I’m still intrigued to see where Moning is going with all of this and how she’ll tie up the loose ends she left at the end of FB.

So, in summary, while I felt like Feverborn had trouble finding its footing, the last part of the book saved it for me, and that’s why I’m giving it four stars. I will still probably pre-order the next book and binge read it when it comes.

Return of the Mac: A Review of Burned


There have only been a few authors in my life that have left me almost not able to function until their next book comes out. That I read it as soon as I get my hands on it. In high school and part of college, that author was J.K. Rowling. Now, in my adult life, I have Karen Marie Moning.

It was actually my mom who discovered the Fever series seven or so years ago. I think back then there were already three or four books out, so I didn’t have long to wait until the next installment. (Now, the wait is longer, harder, but still totally worth it.) I was immediately sucked in to the seedy underbelly of Ms. Moning’s Dublin, where the Unseelie lurk and dark forces are at work to bring the walls between our world and the Fae’s down. I crushed on Jericho Barrons, a sexy, enigmatic antihero equal parts elegant and wild. And I loved the fever world’s kick ass heroine, MacKayla (Mac) Lane, who, over the series, transforms from a blonde, pink Southern girl without a care in the world to a fierce Unseelie fighter and a protector of Dublin, the city she’s grown to love even though it took her twin sister, Alina.

The first five Fever books are primarily from Mac’s point-of-view. Fans of the series know that the last book, Iced, was Dani “Mega” O’Malley’s time to shine, with some insight into Christian MacKeltar’s life as he made the agonizing transformation from sexy, Highlander druid to insatiable Unseelie Prince, as well as Kat’s POV and life with the sidhe-seers at the abbey. I feel like not too many people were thrilled with a book that was told mostly from Dani’s POV, and, although perhaps not my favorite in the series–I think that honor still goes to Shadowfever–I enjoyed Iced, and Dani’s story was definitely one that needed to be told.

In Burned, “Mac is back,” as it quotes on the front cover–and I think Ms. Moning’s got her groove back. The book was fun, sexy, packed with action and suspense, and I couldn’t put it down. Well, somehow I managed to for a few hours to get some shut-eye, but this morning I was right back reading, and I finished it within the day. Like I said, not many books have sucked me in quite like the Fever and Highlander series have. I devoured it, and when it was over I was in some sort of book haze/coma, wanting more but knowing that more probably won’t come for another year, maybe longer.

Ugh.

I’m not sure what to even say about this book–like Shadowfever, there are so many twists in it–and so many inklings of things to come–I’m not sure I can talk about it without accidentally giving something away. I can say, though, that it centers mostly around Mac and Dani’s relationship, which–if you’ve read the series–you know was tried when Mac found out Dani, of all people, was the one who killed her dear twin sister, Alina. (You find out even more about the circumstances surrounding this in Burned.) Mac and Jericho’s relationship, which was sort of wrapped up nicely enough at the end of Shadowfever (I will always remember the quote, “I will always be priya for this man.”), is also tested in this latest installment.

Although most of the story is told from Mac’s POV, we get glimpses of Barrons at the very beginning, the Unseelie king, Christian as he’s being tortured by the Crimson Hag, Kat as she struggles to maintain leadership of the sidhe-seers at the abbey, and even Lor. (I have to admit, out of all the POVs, I think I enjoyed Lor’s the least, although I guess he was kind of amusing. I just didn’t find it very convincing–it was a ¬†little too much for me, although he and his budding love interest were sort of cute towards the end.) We also get glimpses of a new, ultra kick ass assassin, Jada–who, even though her dialogue is reminiscent of Seven of Nine’s in Star Trek: Voyager (everything is inefficient), she turns out to be oh so important. The transitions between the first (and third) person POVs works well for the book and, even though Ms. Moning conveniently labels each chapter with the character’s name, the styles are different enough that I think you’d be able to tell them apart, anyway–something I hope I can master.

There are also some very old friends in this book–namely, twins Drustan and Dageus MacKeltar from the Highlander series. They’re pivotal to the mission to save Christian from the clutches of the Crimson Hag. New troubles are also brewing in post-apocalyptic Dublin–problems even the Unseelie king may not be able to fix (and it’s questionable whether he even wants to). Although some issues leftover from Iced are resolved, and Mac comes to term with some demons from her past, there are still lots of loose ends at the end of Burned and a slight cliffhanger, which will leave you yearning for the next book.

This book got me right in the feels, and I know I won’t be able to shake it all week. I even called my mom to fangirl about it…which, in retrospect, was kind of mean because she won’t read it until I bring my copy home with me, lol. If you’re a fellow Moning Maniac, I know you will love Burned. If you haven’t read the Fever series–do it. Immediately. And the Highlander series, too–or at least the Immortal Highlander.

Influences


Only two more weeks until Relapse comes out…..eek!!!!!¬†Why did I decide to release it right after Thanksgiving again? Oh, right, because I love you guys, and I want you to have something to read over winter break. ūüėČ

Before we go on with today’s post, I thought I’d mention I got a little (very, very little) writing done this weekend…335 words, to be exact. I’m working on a novella from Anna’s POV. The novella takes place somewhat parallel to the events in Reborn. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it, or if it will become part of the next book. I’m mainly doing it to find her voice and flesh out her back story, since I want to incorporate more from her POV in future books.

But, anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. I want to talk about influences: the authors,¬†themes, and types of characters I’ve become obsessed with over the years. This may turn into a two-part post…we shall see…

1. Mischief and Mayhem

As a reader and writer, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that there could be these otherworldly, always mischievous (and often malevolent) beings sort of lurking in the background, in worlds adjacent to our own, influencing it in ways we don’t realize. (Or sometimes, as they do in Reborn, they get very mixed up in our world.) It’s a totally freaky, even creepy idea–one I think is so much fun to explore in fiction, but nothing I actually believe in real life. When I was first playing around with the story that would eventually become Reborn, this is the concept I knew I wanted to capture. I wanted my supernatural beings to be volatile, mischievous, and manipulative–characteristics often embodied by The Fair Folk. I’m talking about the devious Fair Folk of Irish lore, or like Puck et al in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not the Disney fairies like Tinker Bell, lol. To be quite honest, I don’t know a lot about Irish folklore besides what I’ve seen other authors use–and they’ve incorporated it quite well already into works of fiction, so I wanted to do something a little different.

I think Karen Marie Moning’s Fae are the best–but, as she is my favorite author, I’m probably biased. In Moning’s Highlander and Fever series, the Fae are arrogant, devious, and lethally seductive. Back in the day, I wrote a book review of The Immortal Highlander–my absolute favorite of her Highlander romance novels. Immortal’s antihero, Adam Black, is a good example of this type of character, although he’s not mischievous in a cruel way. The Seelie Queen places a curse on Adam that strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible. His is a hopeless case until he meets Gabby, a sidhe-seer–gifted with seeing beyond the glamour used by the Fae, and the only one who can see Adam. Since Gabby seems to be his only hope, Adam ingratiates himself into Gabby’s life and eventually convinces her to help him. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this book, but I remember Adam perched on Gabby’s desk at her law firm while she tried to get work done, nagging her. Obviously, that kind of behavior would be super creepy and annoying in real life, but the love-hate dynamic between Adam and Gabby made for a very entertaining book. It didn’t help that Adam’s glamour was that of a sexy Scottish Highlander, making it almost impossible for Gabby to resist him.

Moning went on to write the Fever series–a sexy urban fantasy series in which the walls between our world and that of the Fae become even thinner. The Immortal Highlander isn’t an official prequel to the Fever series, but it’s definitely where her books about time-traveling, sexy Scottish Highlanders start to get much darker, and it sets up the conflict for her later books. I think the Fever series was a pretty daring one–primarily, I’d call it an urban fantasy, but Moning combines elements of a bunch of different genres and just makes it work so well (mystery, sci-fi, romance, and they’re funny as hell). I’d say for marketing purposes, it’s a good strategy to choose one or maybe two genres that your work fits into, but her books have taught me that it’s okay to push the limits of a genre and mix things up a bit.

A very much related type of character is:

2. The Trickster

You didn’t really think you’d get through this post without a picture of Hiddles, did you?

The Trickster¬†is, according to TV Tropes, which I can’t stop reading lately, a type of character that “plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior.” This is definitely related to what I’ve described above, but I’m separating them out. We can depict these qualities in an entire race, like the Fair Folk (or the Olympians…), or in an individual character (whose peers may or may not embody these traits). I prefer the darker, more anti-hero-ish tricksters who use outright manipulation and deception to get what they want, without (much) remorse. They also pretty much pop in and out of places and situations as they like without a whole lot of consideration for rules or puny humans other people. Recent examples include Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s Once Upon A Time and Loki in the Thor franchise. Another classic example (teehee) is Jareth from Labyrinth.

One of my other favorite trickster types is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game. I’ve most definitely fan-girled over this trilogy before on this blog, but it’s one of my all-time favs. One of my friends introduced me to L.J. Smith back in freshman year or so of high school, and my life was changed, forever. (Dramatic much?) These books were already ten years old or so when I originally read them, and now…yes, I just confirmed on Wikipedia, The Forbidden Game is twenty years old. Aaaaaand now I officially feel old.

Anyway, I reread them this summer (they were first published as separate books, but since they’re short, they’re published now in an omnibus edition), and…they were still good. Sure, they’re written at about a middle school reading level, and, since they are so short, I noticed some of the repetition. Smith is a fan of the epithet, which, in ¬†a longer book, may help you remember each character–but, in a shorter book, it gets repetitive. Even so, there’s just something about Smith’s writing I’ve always loved. It almost has a beat to it–like poetry.

The Forbidden Game is an urban fantasy trilogy with a tiny blonde-haired, green-eyed protagonist named Jenny Thornton. Jenny starts out as an innocent, naive girl still dependent¬†on her childhood sweetheart, Tom. (I mean, Tom’s nickname for her is Thorny. You don’t get any more disgustingly cute than that.) There’s mystery and magic from the start of Book One, The Hunter, when Jenny, who is being followed by two delinquent-types, takes refuge in a strange store called “More Games.” She buys a game in a plain white box, simply called “The Game,” from the even stranger boy running the shop. Of course, with his white-blonde hair and otherworldly blue eyes, he’s √ľber attractive–and, despite his seeming indifference towards her, Jenny feels a strange connection to him.

That night, Jenny, Tom, and the rest of their friends start to play The Game, setting up a paper house and drawing their worst nightmares on sheets of paper. The next thing they know, they’re inside the paper mansion, transported there by the cyberpunk boy from the More Games store. His name is Julian, and he’s the youngest of an ancient race called The Shadow Men. In order to win Julian’s twisted game, Jenny and her friends must confront their worst fears–and, if they lose The Game, they lose their lives. Julian is a predator and master of manipulation (and very Jareth-esque). Of course, as the series goes on, you find out that Julian maybe isn’t the ultimate big bad he claims to be.

The Forbidden Game¬†includes one of L.J. Smith’s favorite themes (and, okay, one of mine): the love triangle. Ms. Smith’s love triangle is usually set up as the relatively innocent girl caught between the good guy/hero type and the seemingly bad boy/antihero. In this case, Jenny’s good guy is Tom, and Jenny’s bad boy is Julian. Jenny knows that sweet and caring Tom is the guy for her, but she can’t help but be tempted by Julian’s beauty and charisma. These books are also about obsessive love: Julian is obsessed with Jenny and will do anything to have her.

Which brings us to one of my other favorite topics, and the final one for tonight:

3. Forbidden Desires

Two of my favorite themes in fiction are sin and temptation (well, what is perceived to be sinful by that character). Often, this takes the form of fairly-innocent-girl-gets-tempted-by-dark-sexy-mysterious-man’s-dark-world-of-…..darkness…..okay, I’m becoming less and less articulate as this post goes on, but you get the gist. ūüėČ Let’s just call it forbidden love/lust. This theme probably at least in part stems from the idea of sex as a sinful or evil act–perhaps a very Western/Christian notion. In some of these stories,¬†the¬†innocent heroine, initially intrigued by the sexy, devilish antihero, ultimately resists temptation and does the “right” thing. Going further with this interpretation, maybe it has something to do with the antiquated notion that women retain their virtue and innocence for as long as possible. And, even though I don’t agree with that, it’s a¬†fun theme to explore in fiction. This is probably why Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was big on writing about sin, temptation, and the hypocrisy of the Puritans, remains one of my favorite classical authors.

Like I said, The Forbidden Game is the perfect example of this. Throughout the series, Jenny has to battle against her attraction to Julian in order to do the right thing and save her friends. But Julian’s influence on her isn’t all bad: Jenny transforms from the innocent girl who still relies on her boyfriend for everything into a more independent and confident young woman who thinks for herself. This theme of the allure of darkness is also a major theme in the musical The Phantom of the Opera. And in a certain 80s children’s fantasy movie.

With the relatively recent explosion in popularly of paranormal romance and other darker forms of romance and fantasy,¬†the above types of characters and themes are fairly common right now–although not every author approaches them in quite the same way. These otherworldly characters, whether they’re the Fae, gods, fallen angels, vampires, etc., may be charming and alluring, but they’re also cunning, dangerous, predatory, and don’t play by our (human) rules. Of late, they’re also typically¬†inhumanly beautiful, which further emphasizes their almost irresistible pull and maybe plays a little bit into the notion that not everything attractive is good for you.

*****

When I think of what a paranormal romance is–just what exactly the genre encompasses–these types of characters and themes are what come to my mind. I think everybody is a little bit different with regards to this. Although many paranormal romances still have that major, initial element of forbidden love, some authors go on to develop a story that is a little more traditionally romantic/lovey dovey, and it’s this type of story a lot of readers are used to now. Since I’ve been marketing Reborn as a paranormal romance, I think a few people have been confused by how I chose to approach Siobhan and Jasper’s relationship. It’s not traditionally romantic–it’s passionate and intense, but also a roller-coaster ride, and even a bit scary at times. That’s because the, er, “classic” paranormal romances, like L.J. Smith’s work, combine themes from the romance and horror genres. I’m not even sure “romance” is the right word, except that it captures the passionate relationship between the two lead characters. But these stories are also about temptation, forbidden desires, obsessive “love,” good and evil, dominance and submission, predator and prey. The settings are dark, mysterious, and sinister–as are some of the characters.

If you’ve read Reborn, you may see now how the above ideas have influenced it. My Olympians are, for the most part, volatile, capricious, mischievous, and manipulative. And even the ones that aren’t completely devious have a dark side (as the tagline for Relapse says, everybody has one…although perhaps not quite to the extent that my characters do, lol). Siobhan isn’t completely innocent in the conventional sense, but she’s a bit of a small-town girl thrown, thanks to Jasper, into the darker, alluring world of the Olympians. Jasper is her forbidden fruit–Siobhan knows he’s dangerous, but is tempted all the same (and Jasper will go to any lengths to keep her). And, unlike the strong, “virtuous” ladies described above, Siobhan isn’t as good at resisting temptation. In Relapse, Siobhan’s struggle against this forbidden world is taken to a new level as she begins to realize she’s more like the manipulative, control-freak Olympians than she thought.¬†As a final tease, you’ll also meet a new character in Relapse–a sexy, silly, trickster-type like Jareth or Julian. I’m excited for you to meet him. ūüėČ

reborncoverbig

Book of the Week: The Immortal Highlander


I actually read The Immortal Highlander (Book 6¬†of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series) a few months ago, but I never got around to reviewing it (a.k.a. going on an obsessed, fangirl rant), so it is this week’s book. You may remember that Adam Black and Darroc made my list of the Top 10 Bromances awhile back. But this post is dedicated to the entire book -every delicious page.

Summary: “BEWARE: lethally seductive alpha male of immense strength and dark eroticism, do not look at him. Do not touch him. Do not be tempted. Do not be seduced.

“With his long, black hair and dark, mesmerizing eyes, Adam Black is Trouble with a capital T. Immortal, arrogant, and intensely sensual, he is the consummate seducer, free to roam across time and continents in pursuit of his insatiable desires. That is, until a curse strips him of his immortality and makes him invisible, a cruel fate for so irresistible a man. With his very life at stake, Adam‚Äôs only hope for survival is in the hands of the one woman who can actually see him.

“Enter law student Gabrielle O‚ÄôCallaghan, who is cursed with the ability to see both worlds: Mortal and Faery. From the moment she lays eyes on this stunning male, Gabby is certain of one thing: He could be her undoing. Thus begins a long, dangerous seduction. Because despite his powerful strength and unquenchable hungers, Adam refuses to take a woman by force. Instead, he will tease his way into Gabby‚Äôs bed and make her want him just as he wants her.

“Now, no matter how hard Gabby tries to avoid him, Adam is everywhere, invisible to all but her‚ÄĒperched atop her office cubicle in too-tight jeans, whispering softly from behind the stacks of the law library, stealing her breath away with his knowing smile‚Ķall the while tempting her with the promise of unimaginable pleasure in his arms. But soon danger will intrude on this sensual dance. For as Adam‚Äôs quest to regain his immortality plunges them into a world of timeless magic and the deadly politics of the Faery queen‚Äôs court, the price of surrender could be their very lives. Unless they can thwart the conspiracy that threatens both mortal and Faery realms‚Ķand give them a shot at a destiny few mortals ever know: glorious, wondrous, endless love.”

***

Before reading Immortal, I did read The Spell of the Highlander. (Yes, it’s Book 7. Yes, I’m reading them in reverse order. More about that later.) But I didn’t post anything about Spell because, although I enjoyed it and it still showcased Moning’s talent for expertly combining elements of romance, fantasy and mythology, it wasn’t my favorite of her books.

Immortal is a different story. (Pun intended?) It has the traditional formula of a romance novel, of course, but it lays the framework for her Fever series, which means it’s a little bit dark and full of meddling Fae. I was really disappointed when I read Spell and the Fae only cropped up a few times. Immortal was exactly what I was craving. In this case, our Highlander is actually a Fae trapped in his Highlander glamour when Queen Aoibheal punishes him by taking away his immortality. Gabby is a sidhe-seer and is the only one who can see Adam. She tries to resist him, but Adam Black is persistent in getting Gabby to help him so that he can return to his immortal form -and in getting Gabby for himself. Their dynamic is so entertaining, full of that typical love-hate tension, but the way Moning develops it, it feels fresh and exciting.

And in the background, we have Darroc trying to get Adam Black and his little sidhe-seer out of the way so that he can blinde-side Aoibheal and free the Unseelie from their prison. It was so much fun reading about Darroc as a Fae and the threads of what later transformed into Moning’s much beloved Fever series. I guess one could call it a prequel. I just love how Moning’s Fae are these majestic, epic characters operating in the background, tinkering (and sometimes more than tinkering) with the order of things on Earth, unbeknownst to humans. I don’t know why, I’m just obsessed with the idea, and I love how Moning incorporates it.

There’s an unexpected twist towards the end of Immortal, and also a few pages that made me really scared and nervous for the ending, even though it’s formula fiction and we know how it has to end. But still, it scared me. Not only does Moning nicely wrap things up, at the end there’s a scene that will just make you “awwwww.” Ugh, again, so perfect. I want to be able to write like her…

¬†Beyond the fantasy and sexual tension,¬†there’s a nice touch of “reality” in it, so to speak, because Gabby’s dealings with¬†and feelings for Adam go against what she was taught as a young girl -go against everything she’s read about Adam in her family’s books. Namely, that her fantasies about a sexy Fae prince are wrong -that the Fae are to be avoided, and Adam Black is especially to be avoided. This element actually makes what is definitely a fantastical book feel a little more down-to-Earth. We have a young woman who is learning firsthand the truth about a person she was taught to fear. Sure, some¬†of what her family said about the Fae is true, but there’s much more too it than that, and some of it stemmed from their own prejudice.

So, what did I not enjoy about this book? That would be nothing. Seriously, nothing. It was epic, and it made me want to read the Fever series again. Which needs to happen this summer. After I get done reading all of the other books on my summer reading list…

As a last note, although the Highlander books aren’t as connected as the Fever series -each book is distinct and focuses on a different couple -characters from past books do show up in the¬†later books, mostly brothers Drustan and Dageus. I read Spell and Immortal first because they were available at the library, and she gives you enough background information that you don’t get confused when she brings in these old characters. So I personally don’t think it’s super necessary to read them in order; however, this would probably bother many of you, so of course go ahead and read them as they were meant to be read. ūüėČ My OCD did kick in and I realized I should read them in some order, so it looks like that will be reverse order. No, really, I have The Dark Highlander (Book 5) sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read…

Upcoming Books of the Week (in no particular order): The Dark Highlander, The Gathering (Kelley Armstrong), City of Bones (Cassandra Clare)

 Related Reads:

The Urge to Write: Isn’t it Bromantic?

The Urge to Write: Sunday Showdown: Fever versus Iced

The Readist: On Saying Goodbye to Your Favorite Characters

LittleDallilasBookshelf: Darkfever

Pure Textuality: Burned release date

Genre-Bending


What genre do I write?

In my About page I loosely call myself a smut romance writer. But I’ve come to realize, I don’t really write that¬†much smut -do I? Some of my fanfic ideas pretty much revolve around S-E-X, but, while there are sex scenes in my other stories, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the plot depends or revolves around them.

I’m not even really a “romance” writer, paranormal or other. Romances follow a formula: Two people meet, usually hate each other but have¬†undeniable¬†sexual tension, stuff happens, it looks like they’re not going to wind up together, but then they do.¬†(I’m not saying this is a bad¬†thing, at all -sometimes¬†you want a predictable ending, and it doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy yourself on the journey to get there.) But while I would say that love and romantic relationships are very important themes in my stories, I don’t think they really follow this formula. So calling myself a romance writer could be misleading.

I throw around the term “urban fantasy” a lot to describe my novel-in-progress. I think it’s a pretty fitting description: It’s a fantasy or paranormal book, and the setting is in the city. My author idol Karen Marie Moning¬†identifies her Fever series as being urban fantasy.¬†But I’ve also heard the genre “urban fantasy” used to specifically describe stories or books that combine African American main characters and culture with fantastical elements. Most of my stories or even mere ideas for stories involve sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal themes, so I think they’re still fitting descriptions for my work. And obviously, if the main characters are of high school age, you can stick it in the “young adult” category.

I’m just trying to find a niche for myself, to be able to succinctly describe my work to other people. To be honest, I’m not even sure I want to stick a specific genre on my stories. I want to borrow elements from different genres, although as I said all of the categories I’ve mentioned above do fit. I don’t want my work to follow a formula. I want my books to be sexy, but I don’t want the whole point of the book to be waiting for the two main characters to have sex. I do love a good love triangle, though, which unfortunately has also become a popular formula as of late. This also isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just I’ve always loved this device, but now that it’s in every single immensely popular book that’s out there, it’s overdone. Now it’ll just seem like I’m joining the crowd.

My WIP The Fallen¬†has a love triangle developing, but again, that wasn’t the point of my writing it. It’s really about this girl who is forced to confront some demons from her past and who is trying to reconcile that with her new life in college. Although the book is certainly not supposed to be anything super profound -it’s meant to entertain -I did want it to follow Siobhan’s journey of self-discovery, which is why it takes place in college. She’s trying to unravel the mystery behind these powerful new people in her life. And sure, all the while she has three hot guys who all want her: Her college hook-up Max, her high school beau and sexy punk rocker, Jimmy, and her handsome but manipulative TA, Jasper.

Sorry, I know this is a weird post -I’m just typing as I think this over. I guess I’m trying to get in marketing mode so if/when I write some query letters, I can be very persuasive. ūüėČ

What genre do you classify your own work as? Or do you like drawing from a variety of influences? What genre do you think I write (lol)? Feel free to sound off in the comments!

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose


Let’s discuss character names.

This has been on my mind because I’m considering eventually changing (among probably many, many other things) Siobhan’s name in my work-in-progress, The Fallen. To be honest, I chose the name Siobhan simply because I like it. I’d like to name my daughter Siobhan one day. But I realize that this could potentially be misleading, since it is an urban fantasy book -at least that’s the genre I would best categorize it as. Someone might think it’s going to incorporate Irish folklore in some way. It doesn’t. On the other hand, I do like the name of Siobhan’s mysterious teaching assistant, Jasper Mars, and it holds some special meaning, as you will find out if you’re following along. ūüėČ

I definitely don’t think it’s necessary for names to symbolize something specific, although I like to do that sometimes. Another one of my own favorite character names from another story is Celeste Lowe; I both like how her first and last name sound together, and she’s an alien, so her first name reflects her otherworldliness. Rather than be a symbol, it is¬†important for a character name to make sense with the setting of the story, time and place, especially if the story relies extra heavily on these elements. For example, if the story takes place in nineteenth century England. Maybe this is quite obvious, but I think it’s important to keep in mind.

Also, I think that characters can have “cool sounding” names even if they’re not especially reflective of anything profound. One of my favorite examples would be J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Ms. Rowling is fantastic at character naming in general, but although a simple name, Harry Potter is just somehow catchy. Its simplicity may be purposeful on her part since Harry is supposed to be an unlikely hero (scrawny kid, brown hair, glasses), but she could have gone with something else equally as simple. John Smith and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Besides being an English explorer, John Smith just doesn’t seem to have the snap to it that Harry Potter does.

Karen Marie Moning, one of my favorite paranormal romance/urban fantasy authors, is also a name-machine. Mackayla Lane. Jericho Barrons (who owns Barrons Books and Baubles). Dani O’Malley. Adam Black. Drustan, Dageus, Christian MacKeltar, you name it. And I can’t forget L. J. Smith: Elena Gilbert, Stefan and Damon Salvatore, Julian, Faye Chamberlain, to name a few. And no matter how you feel about the Twilight saga, Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, and Jacob Black are memorable names. From the world of indie publishing, I always thought Dmitri Maximus from Emily Guido’s Light-Bearer series was a great name.

So, what are your thoughts on character names? How do you come up with your own? (What do you think of mine?) Please share your comments below!

Dirty Words


Soil? Soot? Mud?

No, not those dirt-y words.

I can’t even believe I’m writing this as I’m doing it. This post is rated M for Mature and N for Naughty.

I started to ponder this because I’m currently (finally) reading one of Karen Moning’s Highlander books. (I don’t know which number it is…but I know it’s not the first one. So it looks like I’m going to end up reading them out-of-order.) As much as I love Ms. Moning’s work, she uses the word “impaled” (for, you know) a lot in this book. And for me it’s just not a sexy word.

I’m not¬†being prudish…there are other¬†great¬†words and phrases out there¬†to describe sex, whether it your characters are making love or just plain ol’ fucking.¬†Depending on what atmosphere you’re¬†creating, a¬†man can enter a woman,¬†ease/slip/slide/slam into her, pump in and out of her, grind against her. (I’m sure you can think of other/better ones?) But impale just sounds painful.

And what should we call the tool with which he pleasures/takes/fills her/brings her to the brink? (She could also shatter/dissolve/unravel/come undone.) Although there are many rather obvious choices, sometimes the possibilities sound silly as you’re reading. On the other hand, for a smutty book penis sounds a bit medical. How about his cock/manhood/hardness/shaft? (I can’t believe I’m coming up with these without using the thesaurus on Microsoft Word. The smut is just pouring out of me tonight.)

Wet is of course often used to describe when the woman is ready for her man to impale her. But use its synonyms with caution because they can end up sounding icky rather than sexy: moist/damp/clammy¬†(wait, no, don’t ever tell your man that you’re clammy for him.)

Romance writers: What do you think? What are the best words/phrases to use when writing about s-e-x?

Sunday Showdown: Fever v. Iced


In case I haven’t made it clear on this blog, I am a huge Karen Marie Moning fanatic, and over my break I finally read her newest novel set in the Fever world, Iced. For tonight’s showdown, I thought I would do something similar to what I did for P. C. Cast’s two very different series, House of Night and Elphame’s Choice: I will give a small summary of both and then give a little more detail about what I liked and didn’t like about Iced. However, the Iced review¬†does contain some Fever spoilers, so it is more geared towards those who have read Fever but have yet to read Iced. The Fever series is going to be a tought act to follow, so I will reserve judgment about which series wins until she’s finished Dani O’Malley’s tale (but so far, so good!)

1. The Fever series follows MacKayla Lane and her transformation from a Southern, carefree blonde bombshell into an ass-kicking sidhe-seer/Fae hunter. In book one (Darkfever), MacKayla departs for Ireland to investigate the murder of her twin sister Alina, who was studying abroad in Dublin, and her journey there (sorry for the clich√©) drastically changes her life forever. She gets drawn into a world parallel to our own where the Seelie (light) and Unseelie (dark) Fae courts clash, and becomes the puppet of Jericho Barrons, the enigmatic owner of Barrons Books and Baubles, on his hunt for an ancient tome. And that’s just a brief summary of¬†Darkfever -so much happens in this series that it’s impossible to cram it into one measly paragraph of one blog post. I wouldn’t want to ruin the many twists and surprises Moning has in store for her readers, anyway. I will add though that it’s an expert merging of genres:¬†Fever¬†starts out as a murder mystery until it sweeps the reader up into a world where Irish folklore is real while also incorporating¬†urban fantasy¬†and even science fiction elements. If you haven’t, I highly recommend the Fever series -it rises above formulaic genre fiction (not that there’s anything wrong with formula fiction).

OK, I need to stop myself before I get even further invested in this tangent and move on to:

2. Iced is the first book in Moning’s series dedicated to Dani “Mega” O’Malley, Mac’s volatile fourteen-year-old ex-bff. (If you haven’t read the Fever series yet, I recommend to stop reading this review. Now. OK -I warned you…)

It picks up right where¬† Shadowfever leaves off: the sidhe-seers have just trapped Cruce, the Unseelie Prince who has absorbed the Sinsar Dubh, beneath their abbey. The charismatic Scottish Highlander Christian MacKelter is undergoing a painstaking transformation to replace the fourth Unseelie prince. And Dani and Mac are on the outs ever since Mac found out that Dani was involved in her twin sister’s death. When Dani isn’t slaying Unseelie with the Sword of Light, you may find her spying on the “sidhe-sheep” at the abbey, hanging out with teenage genius Dancer in one of their¬†many well-stocked hideouts¬†around Dublin, ad avoiding Mac.¬†Dani¬†has also been avoiding¬†Ryodan, the morally ambiguous owner of Chester’s¬†club, ever since he offered her a job -but as we know, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid Ryodan. So in much the same way as Mac started out as Barrons’ Sinsar Dubh tracker in Darkfever, Dani becomes Ryodan’s helper in solving their own mystery: Why are parts of Dublin being mysteriously “iced,” and who is responsible? Is the perpetrator human? Fae? What do these places, if anything,¬†have in common? Again, the mystery, urban fantasy and sci-fi¬†genres merge¬†in Iced.

I would say the most obvious difference between the Fever series and Iced is that Fever was the story of the¬†events that¬†led to the creation of this¬†new world where the walls are down and human and Fae coexist; now, Moning is delving into this world more deeply. Her characters face the problems of living in a post-apocalyptic world (someone is hoarding all of the food that was left in the grocery stores) and encounter new mysteries and enemies, while still trying to keep Cruce confined below the abbey. The book is primarily told from Dani’s perspective, but Christian and¬†the new leader of the sidhe-seers lend their POVs as well. I was worried that Dani’s narration would be entirely written in her accent and slang, which worked in Fever but might get annoying in an entire book, but it’s toned down and very readable. Her grammar is still atrocious (I guess because she’s young and missed out on school?) and some of the slang carries through. In these aspects Moning maintains Dani’s unique voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Dani is a very believable character, especially as the protagonist of Iced. It worked when she was simply Mac’s rather reckless sidekick, but I didn’t buy into the whole arrogant, self-absorbed¬†preteen act¬†as much in this book. It’s almost like Moning takes it a bit too far for it to be believable, even though Dani isn’t your average fourteen-year-old. Now that I’m reflecting on it, Dani may be a bit of a sociopath in the beginning (perhaps this is¬†too strong of a diagnosis) since she doesn’t seem to feel remorse or think about how her actions affect other people. However, you can tell she starts to grow out of this, especially where Mac and Alina are concerned.

I also didn’t care for the fact that Ryodan and especially Christian, both adult men, seem to be infatuated with Dani.¬†It’s¬†a little something I like to call creepy. Saying that (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me, so this is not a direct quote) they can see the incredible woman Dani will be one day does not make it okay. And anyway,¬†it’s pretty¬†clear that¬†their fascination with her doesn’t stop there; there’s a scene when she’s in her underwear and both of them are, uh, clearly aroused.¬†At one point Christian even says to Dani that he isn’t a pedophile, and she isn’t a child -except that she is. (Although Christian is turning into a lecherous Unseelie prince, so perhaps this is all part of his spiral into evil.) I am certainly not saying that I think the author condones pedophilia, just that it was a very controversial and, to repeat, creepy element in the book. (To add to the creepy, I’ve decided that Into the Night¬†is Christian and Dani’s theme song, because everything should have an 80s theme song.) It also becomes clear (if not to Dani, at least to the reader) that Dancer has a thing for her as well, which is decidedly less creepy since he is seventeen.

Now, on Dancer (on Prancer, on Vixen…no, wait…): Dancer is becoming one of my favorite characters in this world. I love that Dani looks up to Dancer, who reminds me of a younger version of Big Bang’s Leonard if he were thrust into Dublin after the walls fell. As Dani narrates, Dancer doesn’t have any “superpowers” like her and Ryodan, but he’s survived the wall crash through his resourcefulness and “super brain.” Moning hints that Dancer has some secrets of his own, which I hope we will unravel as the series continues. As a scientist, it also makes me happy that Moning’s explanations of some of the science-y elements of the book are not totally off the mark. (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve become one of those people who ruins movies for other people when they are scientifically inaccurate. Which is like all the time.)

I also really enjoyed how Moning played with Jo’s character. In the Fever books Jo was supposed to be plain, maybe even borderline dowdy, but in Iced she starts working at Chester’s -Ryodan’s tactic for keeping Dani in line. If Dani screws up, she has to worry about Ryodan taking it out on Jo. Thus, Jo transforms from a plain Jane into a¬†sexy waitress with “glitter between her boobs,” and it all seems kind of glamorous until you remember that she’s dressed up in what sounds like a Catholic school girl uniform catering to Chester’s seedy Unseelie patrons. One image I loved is when Jo watches Ryodan on the staircase nodding to whichever lucky gal he chooses to, um, make love to that night. (I know that Ryodan doesn’t “make love,” but I don’t really feel like using a certain verb today.) I kind of want Ryodan to nod at me, even though he’s not quite Jericho Barrons. In fact, I had a much more vivid image of Barrons in my mind than I have of Ryodan. He has some big shoes to fill.

And throughout the search for whatever is “icing” Dublin, Christian’s obsessing over Dani, Dani’s slaughtering of Unseelie and Ryodan’s nodding at attractive waitresses, Moning still interperses some very humorous moments. One part that had me laughing at loud was when Dani, Jo, Ryodan, Lor, etc.¬†are arguing over Dani’s Ipod playlist. What a great moment Moning dreamed up: Humans and supernatural beings fighting over whether to listen to Linkin Park, Adele or Jimmy Hendrix (and at a point in which they have much bigger things to worry about.)

Finally, unlike some other reviews I’ve read, I didn’t really mind Dani being fourteen for this book,¬†although I hope she grows up in the rest. Then Moning can pursue her relationship with Ryodan without it being so, again for lack of a better word, creepy. I’m sure Ryodan is going to turn out¬†to be the Barrons to her Mac, so to speak. All in all, and despite parts of my above critique, I really enjoyed Iced. Dani’s storyline and the¬†various subplots (I haven’t touched on all of them here) really drew me in; it was fast-paced and had a very creative premise.