Review of “The Black Swan Company” by Luna DeMasi

25442483I’m not an automatic sucker for any vampire book, but this one won me over quickly.  I loved the focus on investigative journalism as a way to dig deeper into the conspiracies and injustices committed by the authorities in this dystopian, semi-post-apocalyptic setting.  There are also elements of paranormal romance for readers who are drawn to that kind of thing, and this was a good way for the author to draw all sorts of emotional turmoil out of the characters.  Melody, as a “strong female lead,” is great because she’s good at her job but also personally flawed in believable ways that make her easy to relate to.

The writing devices the author uses keep the plot flowing while also giving great backstory.  There are journal entries and letters, back-flashes, and occasional dips into POVs other than the main character’s.  The story often reads like a suspense/crime drama.  A lot of time is spent with Melody and Bastian in isolation, but then there are bursts of action to remind you that the world outside is really, really different from the one we know and the one Melody lost.  And the dialogue is great, livening up the story with colorful side characters whom you grow attached to quickly.

I don’t want to give anything away, but what’s really going on with the Black Swan Company is both terrifying and oddly believable.  I also like that these “vampires” aren’t like your typical paranormal monsters, and the gray areas involved are interesting from a moral and sort-of-political standpoint.

If I have any complaint about this book, it’s that the action at the end happens really fast as things come to a climax, and everything gets wrapped up super quickly.  But it also works this way, since everything has been building to what happens in the end and you kind of know what to expect.

Definitely check out this book if you like your vampire stories a little more on the dystopian/crime side.

5 Stars

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Review of “Be Careful What You Joust For” by Ryan Hauge & Ivy Smoak

38739327A lot of new fantasy stories about knights, lords and ladies, and ancient lands feel like “Game of Thrones” these days, so if you’re into that kind of story but more for a YA audience, this book could be for you.  With multiple characters’ points of view, you get a good cast to add depth to the plot.  Also, the authors do a good job of creating a fantasy realm that feels familiar and unique at the same time.

That said, there were some things that bugged me.  For one, the story is a very, very slow build.  This isn’t entirely bad because this is a first book in a series and you want to get to know the characters.  All the political intrigue makes for a good, suspenseful read.  However, when the action finally takes place at the end of the book, it’s over really quickly and you’re left with a cliffhanger just when things are finally getting good.  I also felt like some of the characters were a little blah or set up to be interesting but then didn’t live up to their potential.  Duchess Isolda in particular is introduced as having a complex double life, but then nothing much comes of it.  Oriana is a typical, boy-obsessed princess type.  Terric’s subplot was good, but he was really selfish and kept screwing everything up in annoying ways.  Bastian was easily my favorite, and his pet squirrel might be the smartest character.  But Rixin and Marcus were vague and underdeveloped, and I didn’t care about Garrion at all.

The writing itself is well done.  It was easy to follow the dialogue, and each character had their own voice so that their chapters felt like everything was definitely from their point of voice.  The action was easy to follow.  The descriptions were just enough to put a clear picture in your head without overdoing it.

If you’re looking for a lighter “Game of Thrones,” give this a shot.

3.5 Stars

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Review of “Them Rabbit Foot Blues” by Jason Spurlock

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What did I just read?!  And I mean that in a good way.  My mind is always blown when a brand new author debuts with a book so well-written that it feels like the work of a pro.  Don’t get me wrong – this book is all over the place and will be hard for some readers to follow.  But falling down the rabbit hole is also kind of the point.

It’s hard to say what this book is about or exactly what genre it falls into.  The blurb does a better job explaining this than I can. “A cleverly diverting narrative that remixes folklore, pop culture, multiculturalism, gender roles, history, sci-fi, noir aesthetics, and urban decay.”  All of those elements are mixed into a story centered around a combat veteran struggling to figure himself out as he navigates the world(s) around him.

I love flawed characters who are aware of their screwed-up-ness.  What’s even better is when we see the flaws of society through that character’s eyes.  A good writer is supposed to see the world around them and be able to point out what everybody knows in new and interesting ways, and that keen insight of the author/main character might be my favorite thing about the book.  There is plenty of commentary about society, about different kinds of people, etc.

All of this is beautifully weaved into a story where the main character (and you as the reader) are trying to figure out what the heck is going on. At times, the book does get a bit bogged down in its own cleverness, distracting from the plot, but even these sort of side note bits were engaging and interesting insights into something about the world.  The writing itself at times sounded in my head a bit like Dave Eggers and a bit like S.A. Hunt, another veteran author I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

If you’re into literature that pushes your brain, grab this book.

4.5 Stars

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Review of “Hardened Hearts”

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I finished this collection the day after Valentine’s Day, which was kind of perfect.  These are not your typical love stories, although “love” is the general theme connecting them.  I was very impressed with each writer, and I didn’t feel like there was a weak story in the bunch.  The writing is solid.  The range of genres in the collection is cool, too.  Most of these stories are so uniquely weird in their own way, and yet how the stories are organized makes them cohesive, like they naturally belong in the same collection.

A few of my favorites were “Heirloom” , “Dog Tired”, “The Heart of the Orchard,” and “Matchmaker.” Honestly, I liked something about almost every single story.  Despite many being short, they packed emotional punches. The immediate weirdness of many drew me in and held my attention.

If you like your love stories a little on the dark side, definitely check out this collection.

4.5 Stars

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Cover Reveal for “Origini”

Origini Cover Front

Some love heals.  Some love consumes.  Which love wins?

Learning the truth about the malevolenci war changes everything.  The fairies, jinn, and vampires have already rebelled, and now zealots threaten to go a step further by siding with the enemy. Traitors are everywhere. Covert plots disrupt centuries of peace. Those still loyal to the Order must end the war quickly, or else there won’t be an Order left to save.

For Esme, their greatest ally’s reappearance is soul-shaking. She knows they must work together, but what does this mean for Esme and Owen’s relationship? And what is Esme’s place now that she’s not this world’s only protector? Do they even need her anymore…or want her?

By invading the heart of the malevolenci world, Esme and Owen have a chance to end this war once and for all. Their elite cavali team is ready to face the dangers of the demons’ hellscape, but the greatest threat is one they never see coming.


Coming 05/12/2018!

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