Super Secret Project


As I was giving this web site a much needed makeover, I realized I hadn’t written a post since…December 2018?! *Gasps*

And to be honest, I don’t really have the compulsion to blog as much as I used to (although I could probably do a bit better than once every ten months…). I mostly want this web site to be a place where people can find out more about the Reborn series, and what I’m currently working on, all in one place.

I do have a few more books planned for the Reborn series. The first wraps up Siobhan’s (and Carly’s) stories from the previous three books. I also have a partial draft of a stand-alone, Halloween novel that takes place in the Reborn world. I thought I’d be able to get that out for this Halloween, but I’m pushing it back again. (Sorry about that, but I had a wonderful, whirlwind of a summer getting married and moving!)

Also, I have a super secret WIP that has kind of taken precedence. I’ve been working on it on and off for a long time, and it just needs to get done. But I’m excited about it! There’s really no reason for it to be super secret, except that it’s not part of the Reborn series, and I’m not ready to talk much about it yet. I will say it’s a YA science fiction novel with some romance and a lot of drama. (Think Riverdale…with aliens. LOL.)

In any case, you know I like to share playlists of the songs I’m listening to while I’m working on a project. So, here you go…my super angsty, YA book playlist (with YouTube links).

In retrospect, there is a lot of Billie Eilish on here. I’m an adult.

Bad Guy – Billie Eilish

Bubblegum B*tch – Marina (formerly & The Diamonds)

Girls Like You – The Naked and Famous

Starry Eyed – Ellie Goulding

Lock You Up – Charli XCX

Shampain – Marina (side note: this is the best music video ever)

Bury A Friend – Billie Eilish

One Of A Kind – Placebo

Indie Rokkers – MGMT

Teen Idle – Marina

Emotional – Charli XCX

Ocean Eyes – Billie Eilish

E.T. – Katy Perry

Updates August 29, 2017


Why hello there! It’s been a while (sorry about that)…

Madelaine Petsch ouch yikes riverdale cringe GIF

It’s been a pretty busy summer. A great summer, but a busy one.

Even so, I did make some time for writing! However, I stepped away from the Reborn series for the latter part of the summer to work on a different project. I spent much of the summer revamping an old young adult sci-fi (with some romance) novel I’d written awhile ago to get it ready for Pitch Wars.

What is Pitch Wars, you ask? You can get the deets on author Brenda Drake’s web site, but it’s basically a contest to try to win a mentor (usually an editor or previously published author) that will help you further revise and polish up your manuscript. Later in the fall, there’s an agent showcase where you can pitch your newly revised manuscript to agents.

To enter, you need a completed middle grade, young/new adult, or adult novel. You start by submitting a query letter and the first chapter of your manuscript to four mentors of your choosing. There are different mentors for each of the three categories, and before the submission period there’s a blog hop during which each mentor describes what genres they’re interested (or not interested) in mentoring.

I gave it a try this year and didn’t get a mentor…but that’s okay. I’m remaining optimistic. 😉 If anything, I got to see what the contest was all about and may try again next year with a different manuscript. There were around 3000 entries this year and about 180 mentors, I think (I don’t remember the exact stats), so competition was fierce. Plus, now I have a manuscript I can fiddle around with more. I may try to query agents and small publishers with this one first. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll consider self-publishing it.

But now I’ll get back to other writing projects/ideas as well. This summer I also joined a few professional organizations to up my networking game, including Romance Writers of America and Pennwriters. I’ve been meeting some great people through them so far. I have a few author friends I keep in touch with online, but it’s nice to have some real life author acquaintances, too. The writing life, as you can imagine, can be a pretty solitary existence, so it’s super important to take that extra step to network with other writers and potential readers.

I’ll have to check back in with my writing/publishing plans for fall because…I don’t know what they are yet.

Geek & Sundry reaction sam and GIF

It might be fun to post another short story for Halloween, though, like I did two years ago with the short that eventually become my novella Revenge. But we’ll see!

 cat future sunglasses future is bright GIF

Book Review: Lady Midnight


I’ll have a real update post for you tomorrow, but I’m also trying to get caught up on book reviews. Here is one for Lady Midnight, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s newest trilogy, The Dark Artifices.

Back Cover Book Summary:

lady-midnight“In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?”

*****

So, I am typically a huge Cassandra Clare fan. I loved The Mortal Instruments series. I loved The Infernal Devices trilogy even more. But Lady Midnight was a 3-star read for me and a kind of shaky start to this newest trilogy.

Part of the problem is that LM takes about one hundred pages for the plot to really get moving and interesting. The beginning of the book is A LOT of set up, which is somewhat needed but seemed to take too long and wasn’t as organically incorporated into the developing plot as it could have been. The Mortal Instruments series has a memorable opening with Clary encountering the shadowhunters for the first time in a club called Pandemonium. The opening of this book does not live up to that. Plus, I found myself not really invested in the main plot point–Emma’s search for the person who killed her parents–at least initially. This did get better.

A few other aspects that bothered me: First, there were too many kids. Haha. I get that Clare has developed this character, Julian, who had to grow up quickly, taking care of the household and his brothers and sisters–and I liked that about him. I did. He was one of my favorite characters in the book. But I think she could have gotten this point across without quite so many younger siblings. Plus, when their names are Ty, Livvy, Tavvy, and Drusilla, I got them mixed up, lol. At least at first. Maybe part of it was I didn’t care to keep track of who was who. I liked that she includes Ty as an autistic character, but the other ones seemed pointless. (Or maybe I’m terrible.)

The other major drawback for me was the incorporation of characters from previous books. Look, I get that she has created this world now and it’s all connected and that’s fun, but I could have done without the cameos from Clary, Jace, Alec, Magnus, Jem, and Tessa (Jem’s is the only one that should have been there because it made sense). I would love to know what’s happened to these characters since the ends of their respective series, but maybe in a short story or something. In LM, I just wanted to get a feel for the new characters, and these throwbacks to past books kept taking me out of the story.

I love getting lost in long books, but only if there’s a point to it being that long. I think this book could have been tighter for the reasons mentioned above, and, consequently, about 100 pages shorter than it was.

That being said, I didn’t actually hate this book. Mark Blackthorn’s plot thread saved this book for me. As far as I’m concerned, the entire book could have been about that conflict. Maybe she could just write a series about Mark and Kieran in the Wild Hunt.

There are also some cool surprises in Lady Midnight. (This might be a tiny bit spoiler-y, so stop reading now if you don’t want any sort of spoiler, even a small, vague one.) At first, I thought the rule about parabatai not being allowed to have a romantic relationship was as dumb and senseless as Emma and Julian seemed to think it was, but that got better, too.

Despite the issues I had with this book, I still intend to read book 2, Lord of Shadows, to see where all of this is going.

Book Review: Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Varen Nethers is trapped in a perilous dreamworld—a treacherous and desolate realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel Lanley, plagued by strange visions and haunted by the nightmares of Varen’s creation, is the only one who can save him. Isobel knows that her only hope lies within a Baltimore cemetery. There, in the early morning of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a mysterious stranger known as the “Poe Toaster” will make his annual homage at the legendary poet’s grave. Only the Poe Toaster holds the key to the way between worlds. But great dangers lie ahead for Isobel. An ancient evil, draped in veils of white, is watching, challenging her for Varen’s affections. When Isobel finally finds Varen, he is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark force, powerful and malevolent. Could Isobel’s greatest love also be her greatest adversary?”

*****

For the most part, I liked this sequel to Creagh’s debut novel, Nevermore (read my review here)–maybe not as much, but I still liked it and enjoy the author’s writing style.

I think what might disappoint readers somewhat is the lack of Varen in this follow-up. Although the trilogy certainly covers other themes, the relationship between Isobel and Varen is the main focus of the first book, so I’m not sure if it was daring or misguided on Creagh’s part to lessen Varen’s presence in Enshadowed. It’s carried through in a different (and unexpected) way…I don’t want to say too much about it because it would likely spoil the book, but just wanted to warn readers that it might not be what they expect. (I think the official book summary is misleading in this way.)

Because of this, it felt like one of those books that, while well written, is very much a transitional installment and doesn’t stand very well on its own. I’m glad all three books are out because now I don’t have to wait to read the third one, haha, and hopefully the third book will wrap things up nicely since the author does leave you hanging and wanting more.

However, Enshadowed still has a lot going for it, which is why I’m giving it four stars. As a YA paranormal/horror book, it definitely has some creepy parts, particularly in the delightfully sinister character of Pinfeathers. Creagh also reverses a few popular tropes. By the end of Nevermore, we know that Varen is trapped in a dangerous dreamworld of his own creation, held captive there by the alluring but evil Lilith. In the sequel, it’s up to Isobel to find a way back to the dreamworld to rescue Varen, although the end result of this probably isn’t what you’d expect, either. Creagh addresses some of the unanswered questions left at the end of the first book, but leaves plenty of mysteries still waiting to be solved in book three. I enjoyed her paranormal spins on the Poe Toaster and Poe’s own murky past and demise.

All in all, I thought it was a good, if not an amazing, sequel, and I’m definitely interested to see where Kelly Creagh is going with all of this in the third and final book.

Book Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.”

***

I’ve been bad about writing reviews lately (well, bad about reading outside of work, period), but I absolutely have to tell fellow YA paranormal, horror, and romance fans about this book by Kelly Creagh. It’s the first in a trilogy, and, although it seems like she’s been enjoying some success, I don’t think nearly enough people know about this book. So I want to spread the word.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I got this book from the library last weekend. (As an aside, I checked out a new library–I LOVE libraries–but didn’t know where anything was yet so had to ask someone where the YA section was. The librarian started prattling on about the summer YA reading list, and I got the feeling they thought I was looking for some books for a kid or something. Nope, I’m just in my late 20s and still read young adult books…and if you’re one of the people playing Pokemon Go right now, you have no room to judge…)

Anyway, I recognized this book from Goodreads and decided to give it a go. I mean, the book summary sounded intriguing if a little predictable, and I wasn’t sure how the Edgar Allan Poe spin would play out, even though it seems like a unique twist for a YA book. Plus, Varen Nethers has to be the bestest character name ever. So, excited but not sure what to expect, I checked it out of the library.

And Ms. Creagh completely sucked me in.

I guess I’m so pleasantly surprised because Nevermore did not have to be this good. The cheerleader/goth “forbidden” high school romance that forms the premise is probably overdone, but Kelly Creagh writes it in such a way that feels fresh and not corny, for lack of a better word. (At least in my opinion). Nevermore opens with the main character, unlikely heroine Isobel Lanley, getting partnered with king of the goths Varen for an English class project. (They decide to do theirs on Poe, of course, Varen’s favorite writer.) Varen and Isobel butt heads for much of the first third of the book or so. She’s still hanging with the popular crowd and dating one of the football players (Brad), but when her “crew” starts to turn on Varen and Brad becomes disturbingly jealous of the fact she has to do this project with Varen, Isobel starts to see that maybe her so-called “friends” really aren’t that great. Throughout the course of the project, she finds herself more intrigued by Varen and drawn into his world, which turns out to be stranger and more twisted than she ever expected.

I thought the tension between Isobel and Varen was great, although it took them a little long to start discovering their feelings for each other for my taste. And, although Varen is your typical dark-and-broody anti-hero (as find out, he kind of has a good reason to be), he’s not mean to Isobel or so forgone that leaves you wondering why she would be interested in him in the first place. He’s somewhat sarcastic in the beginning, and at one point he tells her she’s “not his type,” but it’s more of a mutual dislike (Isobel’s not great to him in the beginning, either). Brad is the real creep. In general I just really liked the characters in this book. Isobel starts off as being the stereotypical, bubbly cheerleader but changes a lot throughout Nevermore. No matter what’s thrown her way, she never stops fighting. One of my other favorite characters was her locker neighbor/new best friend Gwen, who really pops off the page and is just hilarious.

All in all, I would say this is the perfect book for high school readers who enjoy paranormal, horror, and romance. And also for old people like me who also enjoy YA books. 😉 Seriously, though, it’s a pretty balanced mix of horror, humor, and romance. Not so scary as to make you leave a light on at night, but it definitely as some creepy parts. And I just really liked Creagh’s writing style. It’s a dark but beautiful debut novel.

Nevermore isn’t totally without some problems. It’s 500+ pages and, even though it’s still an easy read, I felt like it could have been a little shorter. Like I said, the romantic tension between Isobel and Varen takes a little too long to build up, and is pretty understated (there’s a desperate kiss at one point, but that’s pretty much it). Then again, it is a YA book, so that’s age-appropriate. (I’ll admit, I used to write more YA-oriented stories, but then transitioned to New Adult so that I could write sexier scenes, teehee). Also toward the beginning there’s a chapter broken up with some long passages from The Red Masque of Death as Isobel is reading through The Complete Works of EAP that really pulled me out of the story. I mean, gotta love Poe, but it was a little much. Luckily, it didn’t become a “thing” throughout the book. Otherwise, I really liked the Poe-inspired world she created in this book.

But, at the end of it all, I loved Nevermore and can’t wait to read the next two (Creagh leaves you hanging at the end of book 1). A well-deserved 5 stars!

Cover Reveal: The Awakened by Sara Elizabeth Santana


Happy Saturday! Today I’m happy to be a part of the cover reveal for The Awakened, a YA science fiction novel by Sara Elizabeth Santana. I “met” Sara through her blog, What A Nerd Girl Says, and I’m super excited for Sara and her new book! The official release date is December 1, 2015, so make sure to mark your calendars. It will be available in Kindle and paperback formats, and preorder will be available for the Kindle edition! I think the cover looks pretty fab:

Official Awakened Cover

Synopsis:

Zoey Valentine is concerned with two things: surviving the multitude of self-defense classes her dad makes her take and avoiding Ash Matthews.

That is, until the Z virus hits, wiping out a third of the population in a matter of weeks. If that weren’t frightening enough, the bodies of the victims disappear and suddenly reappear, awakened from their dead state. They’re faster, smarter, and they work together to get the one thing they crave, human flesh.

The United States is in a panic and then the government decides the unthinkable: to bomb every major city overrun with the awakened.

Now Zoey is on the run, with her dad and Ash, desperate to find a place of safety amongst the ruined remains of the country.

Add The Awakened on Goodreads.

***

Author Bio:

Sara Elizabeth Santana is a young adult and new adult fiction writer. She has worked as a smoothie artist, Disneyland cast member, restaurant supervisor, nanny, photographer, pizza delivery driver and barista but writing is what she loves most. Her first story was written at age nine. She runs her own nerd girl/book review blog, What A Nerd Girl Says. Her favorite books are a tie between Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling and Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce. She lives in Southern California with her dad, five siblings and two dogs. Her debut novel is The Awakened.

You can also visit Sara at her website.

Official Awakened Paperback Cover

Book Review: Clockwork Angel


Clockwork Angel is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy. I love Ms. Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series (City of Heavenly Fire is sitting on my bookcase, waiting patiently for me to read it…but it looks sort of daunting…), and it took me awhile to get around to starting The Infernal Devices…but I am oh so glad I did. For me, it was a five-star read. In my opinion, the back cover book summary does not do this book justice. It makes it sound like it’s only about a love triangle–which, for better or for worse, there is a love triangle in this book. That device has sort of exploded along with YA lit in recent years. But anyway, there is so much more going on in this book than that, and I fell in love with all of the characters.

Our heroine, Teresa (Tessa) Gray, comes over to London from the States when she gets a note from her brother, Nathaniel, who moved there for work. Unfortunately, in London she falls into the clutches of the Dark Sisters. They force her to practice her unique ability–with the touch of a personal item, Tessa can shape shift into the person it belongs to–a power she didn’t even know she had until now. If she doesn’t do as the Dark Sisters say, they threaten to hurt Nate. Things are looking pretty grim when they inform Tessa that she is ready to marry the mysterious, powerful Magister. Thankfully, a group of Shadowhunters break into the Dark House and rescue Tessa on what would probably have been her wedding day.

Tessa becomes a guest at the London Institute, run by Charlotte and Henry Branwell and home to three orphans: Jessamine Lovelace, James (Jem) Carstairs, and Will Herondale. She learns about the Nephilim, the world of the Shadowhunters, and the Downworld of vampires, werewolves, faeries and warlocks–the world she herself is a part of. Much of the book is Tessa learning to accept this knowledge, and to accept herself and her ability. There’s also a lot of great action, suspense, and yes, romantic tension, as well as an unexpected twist toward the end.

I loved all of the characters in this book. Cassandra Clare does a magnificent job of weaving together the world of the Shadowhunters with Victorian England. Charlotte, who is truly in charge at the Institute, struggles to make her voice and opinion heard at the Enclave meetings mostly dominated by men. Henry, on the other hand, is too busy tinkering with inventions to run much of anything. I loved Henry–he was the eccentric scientist/inventor whose inventions never quite worked the way they were supposed to. These two worlds also conflict in the character of Jessamine. She’s an aspiring proper Victorian lady who claims to reject her calling as a Shadowhunter, but she’s kind of a bad ass when duty calls. Her parasol turns into a weapon (that was a nice touch).

And then there’s Will and Jem–parabatai, like Jace and Alec are in TMI. There’s a bit of mystery surrounding each of them; both seem to harbor dark secrets, especially Will. Tessa finds herself drawn to each of them, of course. Jem is kind and brave, but unfortunately suffers from a mystery illness that makes it difficult for him to fight. And Will…..well, Will is the gorgeous, dark-haired, arrogant, sarcastic, broody one who lashes out at people because he’s compensating for his inner turmoil/vulnerability–so, naturally, he’s my favorite. Sorry not sorry. You get to find out Jem’s secret in Clockwork Angel, but Will’s past and why he’s so broody and angry is still shrouded in mystery at the end of the book, which was REALLY frustrating, and made  me want to read the next two immediately, except I don’t have them yet. I mean…Will’s not the only reason I want to keep reading, but I won’t pretend like he’s not one of the reasons. Oh, Cassandra Clare, why must you do this to me?

Clockwork Angel also had an awesome ending. Besides the twist, Tessa learns to at least partly accept her unique ability and uses it in a really incredible way. I much prefer when the main character outwits his or her opponent rather than killing them or something. I mean, if the villain was dead after the first book, it probably wouldn’t have been a trilogy, but I just think it makes for a more creative resolution. Tessa is a strong female lead, and I’m excited to see how she grows in the series.

Last but not least, I’m so glad Magnus Bane is immortal, so that he can be in ALL of Cassandra Clare’s books. He was only around a little bit in this book, but the ending hints that he might have a bigger presence in Clockwork Prince. I hope. He better.

 

 

Book Review: The Hush, Hush Series


I haven’t done a book review on here for a while, and I have quite a few to get caught up on. I read the first two books in Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series back in May, and finally got around to reading the third and fourth book this August. I decided to just review all of them briefly in one post. Overall, I really enjoyed them, although unfortunately the last installment didn’t quite pull me in like the others did.

I actually became curious about the series because of a few bad reviews I saw about it. Well, “bad” is probably putting it lightly…”scathing” is more like it. And they had less to do with Ms. Fitzpatrick’s writing style/plot/characters and more to do with her main male character, Patch, her quintessential reformed (or is he?) bad boy character, because, you know, it’s impossible to enjoy a character in a book/TV show/movie while recognizing their less desirable qualities wouldn’t make for a good partner in real life. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.) And, although they’re in the minority, she’s also gotten some bad reviews on Goodreads…and this time, by “bad,” I mean actually just pretty horrible and inappropriate. Basically just bullying. I mean, it’s the Internet, so they could be trolls…but if they’re not, there’s really no good excuse for bullying anyone, ever, no matter how justified you think your cause is. (I know by now you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about, so go on Goodreads and take a look for yourself.)

A little more about this at the end of the post. For now, let’s take a quick look at each of the books:

1. Hush, Hush

I thought this was a great debut novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Fitzpatrick’s writing style. She sets the story in the slightly dreary Coldwater, Maine, and creates this perfectly sinister, creepy, Halloween-ish atmosphere. It was reminiscent of L.J. Smith’s earlier work (although, in my mind, few people–if anyone–can trump L.J.). Yes, at this point the plot-line is somewhat overdone and predictable, but I gobbled it up just the same: Nora Grey, a smart, cute-if-something-of-a-misfit high school student, encounters Patch, dark, mysterious boy who seems like bad news, and yet Nora can’t resist his magnetic pull (obviously). I know I sound snarky, but I honestly devoured it. The book is mostly centered around unraveling the mystery that is Patch and his relationship with Nora.

Some have criticized the book as being a Twilight ripoff. There are some parallels, but nothing that jumped out at me as obvious plagiarism. I mean, to give credit where credit’s due, Twilight did open up the market for teen paranormal romance, so there are going to be some similarities. But it is also quite possible for two or more people to come up with fairly similar ideas without being influenced directly by each other’s work.

The books are told from Nora’s point-of-view, and I really liked her character. She’s a smart, motivated high school student. Her best friend, Vee, adds some comic relief to the series and is my favorite character. Nora is also the victim of some pretty vicious pranks by Coldwater’s resident mean rich girl, Marcie Millar. I enjoyed most of the characters, even though secondary ones like Vee and Marcie never seem to break out of their stereotypes. (Marcie starts to, a little, later in the series.)

In fact, I have to say the only character I found to be a little underwhelming was…Patch. For being the dark, mysterious, sexy bad boy, he didn’t really pop off the page for me as much as he should. Also, I never could quite get past his nickname. Patch is just not a sexy nickname, in my opinion. It makes me think of an old pirate with missing teeth or a little kid who gets into a lot of mischief and ends up hurting himself.

But, overall, an entertaining read. I gave it four/five stars on Goodreads because it built up a lot to a twist at the end that wasn’t that earth-shattering. (There is, however, a perfectly creepy seen at Delphic amusement park and a particular ride called the Archangel…I LOVE creepy amusement parks in horror/paranormal books!!!)

If you haven’t read Hush, Hush yet and plan to, I’d stop reading now…spoilers ahead…

2. Crescendo

In Crescendo, we delve a little further into Ms. Fitzpatrick’s dark world of sexy fallen angels and the cursed Nephilim–the children of fallen angels and humans, languishing in between these two worlds and destined to swear fealty to fallen angels. We know that Patch was a fallen angel in Hush, Hush, but, due to the events at the end, now has his wings back and is a guardian angel. But his relationship with Nora isn’t picture perfect, and she catches him doing some pretty suspicious things…like hanging around her arch-nemesis Marcie an awful lot. It doesn’t help that Vee is dating Rixon, Patch’s bff, so Nora can’t quite avoid Patch/people-that-know-Patch completely. Meanwhile, her mother forces her to reconnect with a childhood friend, Scott, who turns out to have some dark secrets of his own. Rixon, though, was my favorite character in this book until…..oh, Rixon…..

From what I recall, this book ended with a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that.

Four/Five Stars

3. Silence

I enjoyed Silence a lot more than I expected I would considering what happens in the first few pages. Which, thankfully, I can tell you about, since it’s in the book’s synopsis and not a spoiler! Nora can’t remember the past five months of her life…including, of course, Patch. So, yes, part of the book ends up being a series of revelations that the reader already knows. This could have ended up super annoying, but I think Fitzpatrick did an excellent job with it…at least for me, I could see where it might bug some readers. I also enjoyed Patch’s character a lot more in this book, and there were some pretty sexy scenes.

I also gave this book four/five stars, and I did have a few issues with it. First off, what happens to Vee in this book, and especially in the last book? Isn’t she Nora’s bff? Where did she go? It’s like she just disappears for large chunks of books three and four. Since I liked her so much, this was really upsetting. Also, Fitzpatrick seems like she’s setting up a whole Scott-Nora-Patch love triangle…not that I necessarily wanted that to happen, because that’s overdone, too, but it definitely seemed headed in that direction, and then it just…doesn’t. (And then you find out in book four that Scott thinks of Nora like a sister? Um, his affection for her in Silence definitely does not seem brotherly.) There’s also a lot of to-do about Nora and Scott going “as friends” to her homecoming dance–Marcie drags Nora out shopping for a dress, and they make a really big deal about finding a dress, and then–the dance doesn’t happen. The book ends before the dance happens. I found this to just be really strange and kind of sloppy. But I’m still giving it four stars for having a nice blend of sinister, romantic, steamy and funny moments. And Scott, who was kind of a jerk in Crescendo, really redeems himself in this book.

4. Finale

I gave this book three out of five stars because I finished it, but honestly, it was a really disappointing end to the series for me. It had its moments, including some surprising twists at the end with both new and old characters. But all in all, my least favorite in the series. I guess I prefer the off-and-on again of fictional relationships because, when Patch and Nora finally end up together, it’s just…annoying, haha. Their romantic dialogue was a little too contrived or something. It doesn’t all come easy for them in this book–they still have some barriers to overcome, including Nora’s attraction to her own dark side. That could have been a really good, gritty plotline (and something I’m exploring with one of my own characters right now), but it fell short for me. I think because Nora feels too guilty about it, haha. Fitzgerald should have pushed her just a teensy bit more.

I will say, though, that Nora turns into a pretty bad ass character. She has to accept a new leadership role in this book and embrace her Nephilim side, so I liked seeing her character develop in these ways.

***

In summary, it’s a series I would recommend to fans of YA horror/paranormal romance (except for maybe Finale).

And now, to wrap up this review, I’m going to put in my two-cents about the scathing reviews I alluded to above. There are some people who think that the popularity of YA paranormal romance is a reflection of our current culture…and not the nice parts. Now, I get that the books/TV shows/movies of a time period can say a lot about a culture, although I also think part of it is just paranormal romance happens to be one of the “hot” trends right now in book publishing. Its popularity will wax and wane just like everything else, until something new replaces it. That doesn’t mean authors will stop writing in the genre, or that readers will stop reading…just that it won’t be quite the sensation it is now.

That being said, there have always been books that have sought to appeal to our darker side…books that mix elements of the horror genre with elements of romance. I really think that the current YA horror/paranormal romance genre is inspired by (not saying they’re on the same level as) the gothic and dark romanticism movements of long ago–writers like Poe, Hawthorne, Shelley, Lord Byron, the Bronte sisters, Stoker. Writers that explored fringe/outcast characters, antiheroes, and darker themes like the origin of sin, temptation, lust, forbidden love etc. Work that sometimes had a romantic twist to it, albeit a dark one. The idea of darkness being attracted to light, of sin to innocence (like Patch to Nora), is nothing new, and the mere exploring of this theme in writing or some other media is not the same thing as endorsement. So you really don’t have to read the series that way. It’s a forbidden love story…it’s dark and twisted. It’s supposed to be.

 

The Girly Heroine


The subject of “strong” female characters has been on my mind a lot lately. A few of my fellow bloggers and writers have addressed this subject, most recently H.N. Sieverding’s blog post The Trouble with Alpha Males. So this is a post that I just really needed to write. I hope we can have a thoughtful, productive conversation about it.

First off, I want to say that I think it’s GREAT that people are talking about how women are portrayed in books, on TV, in movies, etc. It’s a subject that really needs to be talked about, especially considering the way girls and women have been portrayed through these media in the past. I think it’s fantastic that we now have characters like Scarlett Johansson’s character in the Marvel franchise, Black Widow, who is beautiful and smart and can kick ass. Women haven’t always been given these kinds of roles, and I think it’s an important step for our society to show women as warriors, fighters, soldiers, “superheros.” It may be especially important for young girls to see these kinds of role models–to read about strong female characters like Katniss from The Hunger Games and Tris from Divergent and then to see them in film. We need to teach and show them that women are smart and strong and awesome.

But today I’d like to make the point that being physically strong isn’t the only type of strength and isn’t the only way to make a “strong” female character. And to start criticizing female characters for being “weak” because they are not as physically strong as a man is going down a road that I think is just as bad as not showing women as warriors at all. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I certainly have. And I am going to attempt to explain what I mean by this in the following post.

Not everyone is physically strong–men or women. There are a lot of men who aren’t physically strong–who don’t fit the stereotypical “alpha male” mold. The alpha male is the ideal–we’re a society that reveres demonstrations of physical strength and power. And yet I think in our society there persists this idea that a man doesn’t need to be physically strong to be considered “strong” or “dominant”–there’s just something about being a man that automatically makes you “strong.”

I’m a woman, and I’m not physically that strong. I want to work out as much as I need to be healthy, but health is what’s important to me, not being “as strong as a man.” I’d also like to take some self-defense classes at some point because I think those could be useful. But I have no desire to push my body as far as the human body can go. If that means I’m not as physically strong as some other people, be they men or women, I don’t really care. There are other things I like to do that are way more important to me. Does this make me weak? If I write a female character who is like this, does that make her weak?

Fuck no.

Like I said, as a society we may look up to people who can kick ass, but physical strength isn’t the only type of strength. I’m going to be self-centered and use myself as an example again. I’m really smart. I feel that my intelligence is probably my greatest asset–my greatest strength. I know that I can intellectually do the same things “as men.” It may not feel like it sometimes, but we have made great strides since the 1930s or so when women were expected to be housewives and maybe teachers or nurses. (Again, not that there is wrong with ANY of those things. The problem is not with being a stay at home parent, but that is what was expected of women at the time–like all women are the same and should be content with that and aren’t given any other options.) I’ve grown up in a society that has allowed me to go to college and graduate school and pursue scientific research. Generally speaking, I’m pursuing something that was once really considered a man’s world (and maybe, to an extent, still is). Intelligence is another type of strength.

So is what I’ll call emotional intelligence. Going back to the physical strength thing–in a lot of ways we’re still a male dominated society, and maybe we seem to admire physical strength because that’s what men look up to. You’ve probably heard that women tend to be more helpful, more nurturing, more caring. Is that true? I don’t know–but I do know that they tend to be seen as more submissive traits, “weaker” traits, and that’s perhaps because they’re not valued as much by men. (Not all men. Or it’s that men are taught this. Again, I’m not talking about specific people, but about our society and culture.) Being nurturing or wanting to raise your children–whether you’re a woman or a man–does not make you “weak” or “submissive” or (gasp) “girly.” It’s not that there’s something inherently wrong with being this way, it’s perception–it’s the way we regard the task and why we look at it this way.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about “girly.” It’s not a bad thing to be girly. It’s not bad to be a woman that has traits that are typically thought of as more masculine–but it’s not bad to be feminine, either, and being feminine doesn’t make you “weak.” I like the color pink. I like wearing skirts and dresses. I like flowers and bunnies and unicorns. I like romantic comedies. I don’t really give a crap if this is because somehow I was taught to like pink and romcoms. Maybe it is, but they’re things I like, and I’m not going to reject who I am. I also like things that aren’t typically geared toward women, like action movies and science magazines. Yes, Scientific American still seems to be in the men’s section of the magazines, and this really pisses me off. But my point is, you can be feminine and be smart and strong, too.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m writing this. I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts criticizing certain female characters for being “weak.” Like I said at the beginning of this post, “strong” female characters is definitely something we should be talking about. I’m glad people are talking about it. But the times I’ve seen female characters called “weak” seems to usually be because they aren’t physically strong. I think this needs to stop. Yes, it’s good to have female characters that are warriors, but not every single woman needs to fit this mold.  And if she doesn’t, that doesn’t mean she’s weak. I’m afraid we’re approaching an all-or-nothing type of model–that, unless a woman is EVERYTHING, smart, beautiful, strong (but also has the type of body typically thought of as sexy), clever, then she’s not interesting or not deserving or something.

This is a theme I’m trying to incorporate into my Reborn series. If you’ve read Reborn, you know that my main character, Siobhan, is a runner, so she is athletic in this way, but she is not a super soldier. She has other types of strengths that will revealed throughout the series (and that may arguably make her a better match for the Olympians than physical strength would). She’s petite, blonde, and, yes, she was a cheerleader in high school and is a “sorority girl”–which I know bothers some readers. She likes pink and shiny stuff and dressing up. She also like scifi and fantasy and is a biology major. Her big sister in Gamma Lambda Phi, Victoria, is intelligent and clever, but also a warrior. In my book, I wanted to have all different kinds of female characters, but they are all strong, in my opinion. (But I’m sure at some point someone will insist Siobhan isn’t a strong female character…and if they do, kindly refer them to this post.)

I’m done babbling. So, what do you think makes a “strong” female character? Please respectfully share in the comments!

Reborn Dream Cast


As part of her NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) series of posts, my friend Sara over at WhatANerdGirlSays wrote this post about her dream cast were her WIP The Reawakened ever to be made into a movie (as I’m sure it will be!). Anyway, it made me think about my own dream cast for my debut novel, Reborn. Who would you cast? Let me know in the comments!

1. Candace Accola as Siobhan Elliot

Ms. Accola is one of my favorite actresses on The Vampire Diaries. Her Caroline is beautiful and upbeat but also independent and even a little neurotic at times. Siobhan is also very outgoing and at times a bit (a lot) of a control freak–Candace would play her perfectly. Plus, she looks the part: petite, pale, blonde. She just needs some violet-colored contacts and a pair of blue and purple butterfly wings. Amanda Seyfried would also make a good Siobhan.

2. Tom Hiddleston as Jasper Hart

If you know me at all, I know you’re shaking your head right now, groaning, “Oh, Shaina…” I have a ginormous little crush on Tom Hiddleston, most well known as playing scene-stealing Loki in the Thor franchise. Jasper has slightly longish, dark hair, pale skin, intense blue eyes and…well, you know, muscles. He’s charming and sexy with a dangerous, sinister edge. I’m not sure how told Tom is, so he may be slightly older than Jasper is supposed to look, but other than that he’s perfect for the role. Ok, we need to move on because I’m getting a little hot and bothered from this Google image search…

3. Leighton Meester as Anna Wallace

I’ve only seen a little bit of Gossip Girl…to be honest, it was too much fluffy drama, even for me. (Maybe the early seasons are better?) Anna is Siobhan’s ex-best friend from high school. They had a huge falling out in high school, but at the beginning of Reborn Siobhan realizes Anna is the only one who will understand what she’s going through; she needs her best friend back. Anna is a tall, willowy brunette with a healthy tan and hazel eyes. She’s a singer and a music education major. While Siobhan is rather flighty and impulsive, Anna is practical and discerning. At first, I wasn’t sure who would be a good fit for Anna, then Leighton popped into my head. I think she could pull Anna off, plus she contributed vocals to that one Cobra Starship song, didn’t she?

4. Mark Salling as Jimmy Wallace

This was also a hard one to “cast.” Jimmy is Anna’s brother and Siobhan’s ex-boyfriend from high school. They give their relationship another go in Reborn, but Jasper always seems to cause problems for them (like he does wherever he goes…). Jimmy’s character is inspired by Iggy Pop in his Stooges days, but Iggy’s kinda older now. If I could go back in time, extract 20-something Iggy and cast him in my pretend movie, I would. (To do list: Build time machine.) Jimmy has brown hair and hazel eyes. He’s the wild and arrogant frontman of fictional punk rock band Search and Destroy. This was hard for me because I feel like there are few male celebrities or even musicians nowadays that truly embody rebellion. Adam Levine fits the arrogant, sexy rock star stereotype well, but he doesn’t look like the Jimmy I have pictured in my head. Mark Salling played bad boy Puck on Glee, can sing and looks good with a guitar, so I think he’ll do.

5. Charlize Theron as Farrah

Farrah is the mysterious new house mother of Siobhan’s sorority, Gamma Lambda Phi. She has long, ash blonde curls, golden skin and jade green eyes. She has a bubbly personality and is nice to pretty much everyone except Siobhan. Although she seems like one of the “good guys,” she holds a grudge and has a vicious jealous streak. I haven’t seen Snow White and the Huntsman, mostly because I can’t stand Kristen Stewart’s “acting,” but I’ll bet Theron’s Queen was wonderfully evil. She could definitely pull off Farrah’s nice and naughty sides. She just needs to grow her hair out again.

6. Anna Kendrick as Victoria

Victoria is Siobhan’s big sister in Gamma Lambda Phi. She’s tall, athletic with auburn hair and amber-colored eyes. She’s not supposed to be that pretty, but her beauty and strength comes from inside. As president of her sorority, she’s a charismatic and wise leader. (Not that Reborn is a super deep book or anything, but I see Victoria and Anna as reflections of each other. They’re both characters Siobhan trusts and goes to for advice. Victoria is Anna’s counterpart in the Olympian world.) I think Anna Kendrick is very pretty, so casting her as Victoria isn’t some insult to her or something. I just think Ms. Kendrick is great at playing offbeat characters. Victoria is sort of a nice blend of offbeat, awkward but strong that I think Kendrick could pull off.

*****

So these are the “lucky” folk I’d cast as the six principal characters in Reborn. There’s quite a handful of secondary characters, so I could keep going, but I’ll save those for another day. Who would you cast? Who would you cast for your own book?