Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lily Dale: Awakening.

Title /Author: Lily Dale Awakening by Wendy Corsi Staub.

Genre: YA/Paranormal.

Publisher: Walker & Company, August 31, 2007.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: none.

Favorite quote: none.

All in all: A fun, quick read with lots of spooky mysteries.

The main character Calla, 17, moves in with her grandmother, Odelia, in Lily Dale, a spiritualist community in upstate NY after her mother dies. Her grandmother is a medium and a bit of a free spirit and life with her is very different from her controlled, organized upbringing.

What I liked:  I liked how Calla is thrust into a new setting and tries to adapt.  She is faced with comparisons on how her life used to be and has to come to terms with the way things are now. In her old life she lived in a large house in Florida run by her successful, put together, organized mother. Now, she and her father feel lost and Calla decides to live with her grandmother in Lily Dale while her father tries to find an apartment in California. Her grandmother is gypsy like, free spirited & wears funky clothes. (I see Olympia Dukakis or Shirley McLaine portraying her). When she moves in she discovers that Lily Dale is a spiritualist community and most of the people there are psychic. At first she scoffs and fights her belief in the supernatural, but she is plagued by dreams and visions. Being in this spiritual environment her own psychic gifts start to come to the surface and mysteries about her mother’s past abound.

Calla is not the deepest character I’ve ever encountered, but I was okay with this, since to me, this book is more about the story. I wanted to find out what happened to the characters more than I wanted to find out about the characters themselves. However, I could, feel some of her pain regarding the loss of her mother, the way she misses her father. You see her growth when her best friend from Florida comes to visit and mocks her grandmother and it rankles Calla. Finally her own sense of responsibility and caring prompts her to accept the supernatural messages she is being shown to help someone else find peace. I like the moment when she realizes that she can and wants to help others.  It made me feel that even though she went through a tragedy, she still feels empathy for other people.

There are three love interests, done suprisingly well.  Teenage girls (heck even grown women) are often torn between a bevy of boys. Calla has an ex-boyfriend who recently broke up with her going to college just a few hours away and still shows concern for her, the Lily Dale heartthrob who she thinks is “beautiful” (Oh no! Not another beautiful boy!), but she seems to have him pegged as a player and another cute boy in town that is sweet, but her new neighbor has a crush on him. So that will be another dilemma sure to play out in future books.

I love ghost story mysteries and the supernatural questions that arose are my favorite part of this book.  However, I'm also a skeptic and I related to Calla’s own initial skepticism and how it was portrayed. Some of the questions she asks are the same ones I ask. The answers that some of the psychics give her are satisfactory, but they certainly don’t wipe away my doubt or Calla’s. She is frustrated because if she does have psychic gifts, why can’t she contact her mother? A very fair question.

I really think that teens would enjoy this book, I know I would have as a teen or a pre-teen.

What I didn’t like: Is it me or are the tenses odd? It’s probably me, since the author is a NY Times Bestselling author. Maybe I need a refresher writing course.

There are also things that are a bit over the top for me, like when she first meets one of the love interests and feels an electric jolt in her arm.

The biggest thing that bothered me was that the main mystery isn't wrapped up. I don’t mind a few cliffhangers, a few questions left unanswered to make the reader think.  But, it bugs me when major plot issues are not resolved in the book they are presented in. I don’t want to give anything away, but most of the questions that made up the plot throughout the book are not going to be solved until a future book. However, that being said, I really would like to read the sequel.

I give this book a 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blood Born

Title/Author: Blood Born by Linda Howard and Linda Jones - Audio Book.

Genre: Paranormal Romance.

Publisher: April 2010.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: Sauren.

Favorite quote: “She looked like forbidden sunshine.”

All in all: Meh.

When the human and the vampire worlds collide, there will be hell to pay.

Luca Ambrus is a rare breed: vampire from birth, begotten by vampire parents, blood born. He is also an agent of the Council—the centuries-old cabal that governs vampirekind, preserving their secrecy and destroying those who betray them.

When a cryptic summons leads him to the scene of the brutal killing of a powerful Council member, Luca begins the hunt for an assassin among his own people. But instead of a lone killer he discovers a sinister conspiracy of rogue vampires bent on subjugating the mortal world.

All that stands in their way are the conduits, humans able to channel spirit warriors into the physical world to protect mankind. Chloe Fallon is a conduit—and a target of the vampire assassin who’s killing them. When Luca saves her life, an irresistible bond of trust—along with more passionate feelings—is forged between them. As more victims fall, Chloe and Luca have only each other to depend on to save the world from the reign of monsters—and salvage their own future together. From

What I didn’t like:  In my opinion the writing isn't that great in this novel.  There is a fair amount of telling especially when introducing characters. Words are repeated in the same paragraph and phrases are overused. There is so much over thinking of the characters, it is as if every single twist and turn their minds take is explored. If there is action, an analysis of the action follows. There is also a lot of re-stating the obvious.

I think it has a few good plot elements (like why vampires aren’t allowed to enter people’s homes and how the vampires are trying to rectify it), but then it also has several plot holes. **SPOILER ALERTS: One of Luca’s traits is that people and vampires forget him the moment he is out of their sight.  This plot device confused me at times because many of the vampires *did* know who he was.   Then the story mentioned that they knew who “the executioner” was, his title, but not him per se. It just wasn’t explained well and I spent a lot of time trying to figure this piece out. I still think I may have missed something. Also, Luca talked about blending into human society. Why would he need to blend in if everyone forgot about him anyway? Another plot hole for me was why Luca had to bond with Chloe. He couldn’t just stay by her side and protect her, it was better if they bonded. Although the authors tried to justify this, I thought it was a bit forced. And wouldn’t you know it, they had to have sex (as well as exchange blood) to bond. This too seemed contrived to me. END SPOILER ALERT**

The authors made the Vampire queen who was trying to take over use an alias, which meant that the reader wasn’t sure who among the council was the enemy until the end. The author spent a lot of time on the council when they were first introduced, but then that was it. So, by the time I found out, there was really no wow factor and I had practically forgotten who was who anyway. To be honest, it didn’t even seem to matter who it was.

What I liked: It kept me entertained in the car and the story had potential. I also liked a few of the characters and thought they were interesting.  It is obvious that there is a sequel on the horizon. I felt that the last few chapters had promise and I was more interested in what was to come and the dynamics of the characters who banded together to fight. I also did enjoy some of the Vampire mythology that the book introduced.

I give this book a 2 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren. It is meant to bring books to your attention. (Because I'm sure you don't have enough to read!)

Has anyone heard of Lily Dale, NY?  It is a spiritualist community in upstate NY.  The community provides seminars and meetings throughout the year.  Apparently, it is populated by psychics.  I have heard both good and not so good things about this community, but this book caught my eye on the library shelf.   It's about a teenage girl who has recently lost her mother and stays with her grandmother in Lily Dale for the summer.  Mysteries abound.

Yay!  I've been wanting to read these books for quite some time.  I had a Borders coupon for  40% off two paperbacks so I was finally able to pick them up!

And just for your amusement, here is Spooky waiting for Mari to come back inside.  He waits and watches at the door whenever she is out.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vampires Don't Sparkle.

(l to r) Authors Monica J. O'Rourke, Janet Ginsburg, Joe Garden  & J.F. Gonzales
Vampires Don’t Sparkle - 
A panel from Horrorfind Weekend.

In this lively discussion the authors talked about vampires in popular culture, with a focus on books.  I tried to take copious notes but wasn’t able to write quickly enough as to who said what.  I just have human speed, not vampire-like reflexes.
  • Today’s kids’ first exposure to vampires may likely be characters from Twilight and The Vampire Diaries while previous generations likely met their first vampire as the “…gothic, iconic, bad guy.”  The classic Count Dracula complete with long black cape or Barnabus Collins from the 1960's TV series Dark Shadows.  Twilight, as one of the authors pointed out, “…is about a man, as opposed to a vampire.”  I think this is the crux of the whole vampire trend: transforming evil creatures into sexy, vulnerable beings that you want to date as opposed to stake.
  • One author felt that no one is following a mythology and he wanted there to be some consistency.   I can see his point.  In my opinion sometimes if a story goes against the grain of what we as a society have been raised to believe, readers may protest.  There is only so far you can ask people to suspend their disbelief.   On the other hand, a myth is just that.  A myth.   It is not based on facts as we know it.  When writing a story the author may want to come up with a fresh take on vampires, their own world.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  And readers are always looking for a fresh take on a familiar story.   Instead of skulking around in dark crypts, vampires can now saunter in the daylight because it's overcast, or they have a magic ring (even Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer found one).  They eat food and drink alcohol (not just blood) and get drunk.  They can party forever as a vampire!
  • Another area that was explored was the existence of more than one supernatural creature in the same world.  Vampires and werewolves?  “Are you surprised?”  asked a character on HBO’s True Blood TV series (based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books). If I met a vampire, yeah, I might start to question the existence of other supernatural creatures, but I also think it would depend on what the vampire could exactly do or not do.   How he or she came into existence, etc.  Some people believe in ghosts but that doesn’t mean they believe in vampires and werewolves.  Overall, the panel felt that the more creatures and characters you have in your book, the more possibilities, but I think it depends on the skill of the writer and how believable he/she painted the picture.  For me, the show Supernatural works (a different bad, scary creature to fight every week) but The Gates didn’t (the show lost me when the female love interest happened to be a succubus.)  
  • What about vampirism’s scientific explanation.   More scary?  Less?  Just different?  One author felt that when you have a logical reason that vampirism exists it dilutes the sense of wonder.  “…the element of unknown is fun as opposed to science.  This fear is born out of mystery.  A scientific experiment takes the fear out.”  I prefer the mystical to the scientific.   When you are able to explain something it takes the fear out of it and the fear is part of the fun.  
  • Your own preferences may be all about your first vampire.  You know the saying, “You never forget your first love.”  The same could be said about vampires.  Who was the first one you read about or saw in a movie or TV show?  Was it the classic Dracula or Barlow from Salem’s Lot? Did Louis, the sympathetic soul born of Anne Rice’s imagination, make you cry? Or did you line up to see dreamy David (Kiefer Sutherland) from the Lost Boys make being a bloodsucker look like a party for the cool kids?   Through the years and the different media now available to us, vampires have evolved and morphed from demonic evil beings into the most desired lovers.  They started out as evil, horrifying, undead creatures (although even Dracula had his allure) until authors and filmmakers turned the tables on a stereotype to reinvent these monsters as sexy, vulnerable, and even sympathetic. 
  • The panel authors felt that “…to tailor a book to teens may be doing them [the teens] a disservice.”  What did you read when you were a teen?  VC Andrews’ shocking tale of children hidden in an attic.  Stephen King’s violent stories of horror.  How would you feel if these were "dumbed down" for your perceived age group, limited vocabulary and themes?  One of the authors stated that reading these types of books felt like doing something illicit.  Why did we sneak them?  Because we were searching for something that perhaps we shouldn’t be exposed to?  Just for the thrill?  Because our friends were reading these books and we didn’t want to be left out? Today’s parents often read their children’s selected book before allowing them to read it. Would your parents have let you read your favorite scary books if they had read them first?  

It's obvious that many factors influence our vampire and supernatural preferences.  Did your favorite scary reading choices influence your taste or is it the other way around?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  

Monday, September 20, 2010


Thank you, Book Blogger community for bringing this article to my attention.  

I usually like to write a post and let it sit for a day or two. I re-read it, edit it and when I feel it is good enough, then I share it.  I can't wait this time, so I apologize if this isn't that well written.  I've already written and deleted and written and deleted.  I have so much to say I fear that I will come off as a raving lunatic if I start spewing my indignation, my rebuttals.

So, I'm going to keep this short.  This is the United States of America and Mr. Scroggins is entitled to his opinion.  I am also entitled to mine, which is Scroggins is re-interpreting Speak (and other books) and missing the point. Entirely.  And that censorship and book banning are frightening concepts.

Please visit Laurie Halse Anderson's site to read what she has to say on the subject and check out this video of Anderson reciting a poem called Listen that she wrote based on responses to Speak by her readers.  I've also read a lot of great posts tonight.  Just click on some of the blogs in my blogroll.

As my heart rate is calming down I wonder if Mr. S's opinion, article and the reaction to it, will further bring this book to the public's attention and do the exact opposite of what he wants to do.  Shelve it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren. It is meant to bring books to your attention. (Because I'm sure you don't have enough to read!)

These are a few of the books I bought at Horrorfind Weekend.  I got to meet all the authors and attend some readings too.  Attending the readings was great because they peaked my interest in the authors and gave me a taste of their writing style.   Just in time for the Spooky Season!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Title/Author: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready.

Genre: Urban Fantasy.

Publisher: Simon Pulse.

Source: Purchased at Amazon.

Favorite character: Zachary.

Favorite quote: “Each moment without him felt darker than the one before.”

All in all: Very enjoyable!

What I liked: The premise of the book started out very clear and the story grabbed me right from the beginning. I knew Aura’s ability. I knew the start of her dilemma, (she was having a fight with her boyfriend which turned out to be a much bigger issue as the story progressed). And, I knew that her mother is deceased in the first 2 pages, which was another plot element. It really grabbed me right from the beginning. I also quickly found out what “the Shift” is, what transpires from it and how it currently effects everyday life. The writing was lovely and the plot flowed. Smith-Ready showed the reader what was happening and didn’t tell. (I love that!)

I had mixed feelings about the main character, Aura. I thought she had it tough, being an orphan and then on top of it losing her boyfriend, I thought she showed strength several times in the story, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to her. However, I could absolutely relate to her pain and empathize with her. So this may sound odd, but I was actually more than okay with the fact that I didn’t love her. I think this made her seem even more real to me. You don’t love everyone in real life right? I wasn’t conscious of this while reading the book, it dawned on me afterward when thinking about it, probably because I was so entranced by the story.

Buuuut, I loved, loved, loved the romance between Logan and Aura. To me it was so real and cut me to the core. It brought me back to high school, where emotions run on overload. The love they shared but could never be was perfect and the heartbreak that they both go through had me in anguish.
“I wish I could wipe away one of your tears.” Logan says to her at one point.
“We had lost forever.” Aura realizes at one point.
Doesn’t that twist your heart?  I know it isn’t pc to be defined by your significant other, but this is where her emotion came out, where I felt her pain and longing and where her character came alive for me.

Now let’s move on to Zak. I love how the author used Scottish slang and even though every writing group says not to write in an accent, Zak’s burr worked and didn’t take away from him or his dialogue. It just brought him more to life. He was a fun character with a protective side and also a bit mysterious. I thought he was real and appreciated his honesty. If you are tired of love triangles, don’t worry, this isn’t your typical one.

I also appreciated that while music was a huge part of the story and a plot element it wasn’t over the top. At first I was afraid that it would be too much like her WVMP novels where music is almost a character in her books (not that I don’t like that, I just don’t always want to see the same things repeated in different books), but the music, while very important, took a back seat to the story and main characters.

There were a few unanswered questions and plot elements not wrapped up, but that didn’t bother me that much. Maybe because the main plot between Aura and Logan was for the most part tied up and the story was so strong for me. The ending could also be taken as an open ending, which I do like in stories and in movies, but I had a feeling a sequel was coming and I discovered this was correct. I am looking forward to reading the next one, which is called Shift coming out in the spring.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t like that people in the book kept telling Aura to move on. Even toward the end of the story it was only a couple months since she lost Logan. I mean, give her time, sheesh! I was also a little surprised that she could function as well as she did given the depth of her feelings, but I guess everyone is different, even characters.

I give this book a 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Where I am is Neverland."

Title/Author: Neverland by Douglas Clegg.

Genre: Horror, dark fantasy.

Publisher: Vanguard Press.

Source: Purchased at Amazon.

Favorite character: Beau and Julianne.

Creepiest character: Sumter.

Favorite quote: “The place they said where the dead would dance.” “You haven’t been dead yet. You don’t know how peaceful it is.”

All in all: Neverland delivers!

Neverland is told from 10 year old Beau Jackson’s point of view as he recounts his last vacation on Gull Island off the coast of Georgia. The island is not a lovely oasis but sparsely populated, humid, hot and swampy and they stay with his "Grammy" in her large, old house.

The antagonist is Sumter, Beau’s cousin. (Shudder.) I never want to meet this kid. He is creepy and at times just downright disgusting. I actually had a visceral reaction to some of his antics. Beau always seems to suffer from Sumter’s actions, from following behind him through pricker bushes to the larger escapades that Sumter draws him into. The two boys may seem like opposites, but they share a gift for imagination.

Neverland is the name that Sumter gives to his refuge. On the outside it is a shack on the property but on the inside is another realm. “Where I am is Neverland.” Is a recurring quote and theme in the story. But what does Neverland reflect? Who rules there and what goes on? There is a question throughout as to what the children are experiencing, imagining, playing. Beau could be an unreliable narrator, but what Sumter tells him could be unreliable too. What do memories look like from a child’s point of view when make-believe is so close to the surface?

Their parents are always fighting, with each other and with Grammy and the drinking, underlying tension and secrets that surround them results in the kids wanting to escape. Beau states at one point that “dinner was torture” and one time he noticed that the adults at the table behaved like “children sulking.” The adult dynamics and the children’s world mirror each other. As the games and family fights escalate, so does the tension. The adults self medicate with alcohol and the kids self medicate with Neverland.

What I liked: The writing is so extremely clever and beautiful. Clegg shows things in a unique and fresh way. (“My spinal cord wanted to wiggle out of my back.” “…southern accent tugged at vowel sounds as if for dear life…”) I think he would be able to successfully describe a color I’ve never seen before.  I was able to imagine the house so clearly I’m sure I could build it, I could feel the island so vividly it felt like I was standing on the porch of the house, or walking on the beach.  And I could envision the kids so well I’m sure I would recognize them if I saw them on the street. The story is deep and woven with foreshadowing and metaphors. I felt like I had all the puzzle pieces around me but I had to read till the end to see what the true picture was.

“Where did fear come from?” This sentence stopped me in my tracks. What a great question for the characters, for readers and for writers. I watch a lot of scary movies, but most don’t really frighten me. However, the horror in Neverland delivers and the creepiness factor is a 10. It was disturbing to experience this secret place starting with Beau’s first visit.  “The nightmares all began the same way after that,” he says after an early encounter. This line gave me goosebumps! There is danger in the mundane, from flowing seaweed to a stuffed teddy bear. Another theme running throughout the story is that when you are alive is when you hurt. Can you see where this kind of thought might take an imaginative and unhappy child? For me, that shack represented the dark power of the mind and it’s influences.

Beau has always been a “good boy” and did what he was told. No wonder a place as seductive as Neverland would be enough to make him stray. He is thrilled to have a secret life, but is torn because he doesn’t want to be pulled under with Sumter. He fights the allure of the games and at times it seems there is a fight for his soul. I really liked him because he shows empathy and is protective of his siblings.

The story crescendoes as the summer draws to a close. Beau grows tired of the games, with his cousin’s behavior and a bit unraveled from not being quite sure what is real and what is not. His sisters are basically turning their heads, not wanting to see the truth. The adults either don’t believe or are too afraid and Beau doesn’t know who to turn to. It is his love for someone else and his innate sense of right and wrong that make him step up. Ironically, it is as if he has to be the “grown up” now, because he is the only one who may be able to fix things.

Neverland is a memory and Clegg is skilled in relaying memories. I’ve read two of his other novels (You Come When I Call You and The Hour Before Dark) and while they are all very different stories, they all rely on memories in different ways. There is something surreal about memories. They almost read like dreams, except one is real and one comes from your own mind. Or maybe that is a line that will always be blurred.

It took me a while to organize my thoughts and write this review and I could go on and on about this book.  It would make a great choice for a book club where it can be discussed at length, from the section and chapter titles, (“Hurt” and “Dread Night”), to the metaphors that are so abundant. I would love to know what you think about Neverland. I will always be up for talking about it.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Horrorfind Weekend 2010 - Friday

Horrorfind Weekend is a weekend celebration for fans of horror.  Whether you are into horror books, films, celebrities or costumes, this convention is for you.

Author Jason Gehlert reads some excerpts from his werewolf novel.

The awesome folks from Steampunk Funk Bizarre.  

The owner of Martha Rotten.  This friendly designer was trained at Swarovski.  She produces beautiful hand crafted lead free pewter jewelry and other gifts.   She carves delicate skulls, bones, roses, masks, then casts them and creates stunning and original pieces.  

Don't judge me.  It's a Horror convention. 

Interesting and lively panel titled: "Vampires Don't Sparkle" with authors (l to r) Monica O'Roarke, Janet Ginsburg, Joe Garden and J.F. Gonzalez.  More on this to follow.

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