Friday, March 28, 2014

Feature and Follow - Bring on the Awesome! (March 28, 2014).

Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Click on the links to visit their blogs and find out more about this great meme.

Snap it Time!  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Anything and anything.  Just give us a pic.

This is my doggie Mari.  She is a rescue and is so sweet and totally adorable (as you can see.)  Yes, I'm very, very biased...but I can't help it!  She is a very independent dog and not overly friendly.  My husband says she takes after me.  

This is our evil cat, Mr. Meow Meow Kitty.  He was found hanging around my sister's house and no one claimed him despite the lost cat signs we put up.  Could it be because he is so evil that the original owners didn't want him back?  Or did he accomplish his mission of destroying them and is now working on us?  His soft spot is Mari.  He is in love with her although they come from different animal planets.  He follows her, watches her from the window when she goes out and sometimes tries to cuddle with her.  Mari mostly ignores him, until he gets too fresh.  Then she puts him in his place with a snarl and a bark.  

What is your awesome pictures this week?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Haunted on Bourbon Street

Title/Author: Haunted on Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun #1) by Deanna Chase.

Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Bayou Moon Publishing.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis: Jade loves her new apartment -- until a ghost joins her in the shower.  When empath Jade Calhoun moves into an apartment above a strip bar on Bourbon Street, she expects life to get interesting.

What she doesn't cont on is making friends with an exotic dancer, attracting a powerful spirit, and developing feelings for Kane, her sexy landlord. Being an empath has never been easy on Jade's relationships.  It's no wonder she keeps her gift a secret.  But when the ghosts moves from spooking Jade to terrorizing Pyper, the dancer, it's up to Jade to use her unique ability to save her.  Except she'll need Kane's help -- and he's betrayed her with a secret of his own -- to do it.  Can she find a way to trust him and herself before Pyper is lost? 

Midnyte Musings:  Cute cover with witch, check.  Intriguing title, check.  Interesting premise, check.   This book definitely appeals to a lot of things I love.  First of all, it's a total fantasy for me.  Main character Jade Calhoun is an empath, so she's got a supernatural gift.  I want a supernatural gift!  She is young and moves to New Orleans. I want to be young again and move to New Orleans!  She is a lampworker.  She makes beads!  I want to learn lampworking!  AAAaaand, when she moves in she meets a bunch of nice, new, cool people including a hot guy who happens to be her landlord and sparks fly between them.  I want!  I want!  I want!  So reading this was an immersion in a fantasy. I got to live vicariously through Jade.

Also it takes place on Bourbon Street.  Bourbon Street!  Okay, I enjoy Bourbon Street, but I don't think I'd want to live there, especially over a strip club.  However, in this version of living above a strip club, it's quite enjoyable.  The owner/landlord is a hot guy who wants to class the place up.  The manager, Pyper,  is a woman who wants to take care of her workers.   Even the strippers are pretty much normal.  Along the way, Jade encounters ghostly problems, along with issues from her past.  She has to navigate through her own insecurities and learn to accept help from others in order to persevere.

I appreciate that Jade learned from some of her actions.  When she feels that someone invades her privacy using supernatural powers, she comtemplates her own gift and its effect on someone from her own life.  I like how she wonders if her own feelings are somehow tied in with her empathic abilities.  Does she bond with people because she can feel their emotions?  Or does she/did she genuinely rely on her own feelings?  I thought that was interesting.

Although I'm sure some questions I had will be answered as the series moves along, I feel a bit frustrated that things got brought up, but didn't get resolved.  I want to know what happened with her mom.  What happened the night her ex-boyfriend saved her and her best friend in the Foster home where they all lived for a while.  In this story, I wasn't clear on the details of the nice ghost who seemed to be smitten with Jade.  I didn't particularly like the insta-love between Jade and Kane.  Although maybe it's more believable because they are not teens?  Not sure.  There were also a few cliches along the way that caused a few eye rolls and it frustrated me that Jade sometimes acted like a victim.  Why is it that characters who have pyshic gifts or supernatural powers are always shunned and look at in a negative light?  I'd be in awe of someone with true powers.

Constellation of Characters:
Jade - A sympathetic main character.  She has issues trusting people because of her empathic abilities have gotten her in trouble in the past.

Kane - Jade's landlord and owner of the strip club who is interested in her.  Hot and wealthy.  He sometimes comes off a little cheesy, but he's genuinely a nice guy.

Kat - Jade's best friend who she grew up with.  She convinced Jade to move to New Orleans.  Will she let her relationship with Dan ruin their friendship?

Dan - Kat's boyfriend and Jade's ex-boyfriend.

Pyper - The manager of the strip club.  She shows Jade that not everyone is turned off by her empathic abilities.  

Starstruck Over:   Haunted on Bourbon Street is a guilty pleasure.  I enjoyed the fun storyline, likeable main character and of course, ghosts and magic in New Orleans.

Other Editions:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guest Post by Carrie Mason - Top Unusual Ways That Will Help You Communicate With The Dead.

You need not be born with special powers to carry out certain activities.  The existence of the paranormal world is still a matter of extreme mystery as people try to face each other with conflicting ideas.  It is not an uncommon fact to realize that at the end of the day, human beings are of a spiritual nature and that and that whether ghosts exist or not, one can certainly communicate with the dead and their spirits.  Some people are of the strict opinion that the door to the other side should never be opened as it can cause severe harm to the people living on this side of the world if you are unable to close it down effectively.  However, while some people reflect on the tips of writing a good will, other venture into the unknown territory to talk to spirits and make contact with the departed.  Given below are some tried and tested ways that have worked previously and are used extensively by people to talk to and connect with the dead.  

1 1.) Ouija Board:
Umpteen movies have demonstrated the use of the Ouija board and essentially, this board can be easily considered as one of the most common ways to communicate with the dead.  However, communicating using this board is not always a bed of roses. Firstly, you need to realize that this is dangerous as it aims at bridging the gap between your own world and that of theirs and therefore, when you open it, you should also be responsible enough to close it. Before you even begin, you must pray and pray with all your heart. If you aim at doing this as a fun camping activity, it is advised that you consider looking into another activity to kill your time. Make sure that the contact you try to make is positive and that you do not anger the spirits by being disobedient and under the influence of alcoholic substances.

2 2.) Use your flashlight:
You may have seen this on the myriad TV shows that communicate with the dead. Ideally, you need to turn the flashlight on and invite a spirit into your midst so that you can talk to them. The turning on and off of the flashlight is how you will talk to them. You instruct the spirit and give them directions to answer questions by either turning on the light for a yes and vice versa.

3 3.) Using a mirror:
Ideally, this type of communication with the dead requires you to make use of mirrors or crystal balls or any such material that can easily reflect light. You need to be thoroughly relaxed when practicing this kind of communication method. Your mind must not wander and your eyes must focus on the object selected. Ideally, a dimly lit room works best for this. However, you need to realize that this form of communication is suitable only for those who wish to communicate with a loved one who may have departed.

4 4.)  Writing on a piece of paper:
This is probably one of the easiest ways to communicate with a spirit. This method calls for you to be prepared with several sheets of paper and pens or pencils that will be sued when you make contact. You can write your very own tips on writing a good will or you can focus all your energies and pray before you begin. You will not realize it but a spirit is likely to make contact with you and this will happen through the sudden thoughts in your head which are likely to 
find their way onto the sheets of paper.

Author’s bio:
Carrie Mason is a well known psychic who has been in touch with the paranormal world right since she was a child. She has also taken lessons in law as a student and can give you excellent tips on writing a good will

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Line.

Title/Author: The Line (Witching Savannah #1) by J.D. Horn

Genre:  Paranormal.

Publisher: 47 North.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis: Mercy Taylor, the youngest member of Savannah's preeminent witching family, was born without the gift of magic.  She is accustomed to coming in a distant second to the minues older, exquisite and gifted twin she adores. Hopelessley in love with her sister's boyfriend, she goes to a Hoodoo root doctor for a love spell.  A spell that will turn her heart to another man, the best friend who has loved her since childhood.  

Aunt Ginny, the family's matriarch, would not approve. But Mercy has more to worry about than a love triangle when Aunt Ginny is brutally murdered. Ginny was the Taylor family's high commander in the defense of the bewitched line that separates humankind from the demons who once ruled our realm.

A demon invastion looms now that the line is compromised.  Worse yet, some within the witching world stand to gain from a demon takeover. Mercy, entangled in the dark magic of her love spell, fighting for her sister's trust, and hopelessly without magic, must tap the strength born from being an outcast to protect the line she doesn't feel a part of.  ~Goodreads.

Midnyte Musings: I learned about The Line when I read Midnight Book Girl's review. Her description got me very excited and I purchased it right away.    

She was correct!  And, all those buzzwords play into the novel, along with many twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat and on my toes.  Sure, I had suspicions and a few things I thought I saw coming, but overall it is a story that is cleverly plotted, well fleshed out and best of all, full of surprises.
"We call it a line, but it's more of a web.  You pluck it here, and witches all around will feel the vibrations."
There is romance, but it doesn't overpower the book.  Although Mercy's first problem that she is dealing with is that she is in love with Jackson, her twin sister's boyfriend, the story quickly turns into a murder mystery with lots of problems for her to work through family secrets to uncover and of course, the magical responsibility that the rest of her family is involved in for her to navigate.

I also felt that the author Horne made Savannah a character in itself.  He describes how the city holds on to certain people after they're gone as if it is punishing them.  I've been to Savannah and I loved how the author placed me right back in the thick of it.  The Squares, the cemeteries, the weather.  It was fun to really be able to visualize the steps that Mercy took.

I loved Mercy as well and even though I bet some readers will feel she is too much of a Mary Sue, I can see reasons behind her actions.  I think growing up having no power in a family of witches and constantly being reminded how special her twin is and how special she herself is not, gave her a more empathetic attitude and caused her to be more thoughtful.  To be honest, being able to do magic sounds like a lot of responsibility in the Taylor family.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I don't know if I'd want it in that world. Mercy seems all the more special to me because she is the only normal one so to speak. She has to rely on herself, her own intuition and her own smarts. I feel like she has more character than most of her family because she cannot utilize magic.
"Choosing and then living with the consequences, that's what deciding really is."
I have a few questions for discussion and I can't wait to talk to others who have read it for some feedback and comparison.  There are a lot of WTF moments.

The issues that bothered me were very minor and they were simply the exaggerated behavior of some of the characters.   I also wondered what Mercy saw in Jackson.  There was no description of any redeeming qualities and there was a scene when he acted like a d-bag and her own love interest was quite the opposite.  Also, there was a dramatic moment during a very important ritual that I felt was kind of skimmed over.  However, there wasn't a whole lot of issues that diminished the positive qualities of The Line.

Constellation of Characters:  
Mercy - The main protagonist.  The sto

Maisie - Mercy's twin who was born first and who outshines Mercy in every way.  

Peter - Mercy's steadfast love interest.  

Jackson - Maisie's handsome boyfriend who Mercy also loves.  

Mother Jilo - Easily my favorite character.  She is the mysterious, powerful and feared Hoodoo practitioner who knows more about Mercy's family than even Mercy herself.  

Various relatives - Magical aunts, uncles and cousins.  Some you love, some you hate, some you love to hate, but most are pretty compelling and are keys to the secrets of the Taylor family.  

Starstruck Over:  The Line is a light book with deep issues and fun characters.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Feature & Follow - Book Recommendations (March 7, 2014).

Feature and Follow is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Click on the links to visit their blogs and find out more about this great meme.

This week's question:  Recommend some of your favorite back-list books - books that are at least a few years old.  (5-10 years old rather than classics.)

Isn't this what bloggers and reading fanatics love to do?  Recommend books.

1. Swan Song by Robert McCammon.  This is one of my favorite books.  Probably in my top 5.  Post Apocalyptic before it was cool, part horror, part fantasy.

2. Anything by Charles De Lint, the true father of Urban Fantasy.  The Fey world before it was cool.  Beautiful, dreamlike stories.  Start with his Newford short story to get a taste and then read his whole smorgasbord of novels.

3. The Silver Bough by Lisa Tuttle.  A gorgeous book about mythology in Scotland leaking into the world.

4. The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub.  Check out this treasure from two literary icons.

5. Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip.  If you've never read this author, you are missing out.  I put this one on the list because I feel it is her easiest to read as it is set in contemporary times.

This is just a tiny tast of what I recommend.  Feel free to check out more books I've read on my Goodreads page.  

Into the Still Blue.

Title/Author:  Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi.

Genre:  Post Apocalyptic.  YA.

Publisher: Harper Collins.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis: The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate.  Aria and Perry are determined to find this last haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do -- and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they're using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation.  Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities.  Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.  

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission.  Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival -- he's also their friend.  And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.  ~Goodreads.

Midnyte Musings:  I read the first sentence of the final book in the Under the Never Sky trilogy with trepidation.  Would it stand up to the two previous excellent books?  Would I enjoy it as much?  After about a page I got into the rythm and eagerly continued.  I loved Into the Still Blue!  If you haven't read it yet, there are some spoilers in this post.

The novel continues right where Through the Ever Night left off.  Aria and Peregrine, the two main characters continue their struggle for survival.  Not just their own personal survival, but Perry's tribe, Aria's friends and their own relationship.  There are so many layers and so many events happening that it is never boring.
Tomorrow's coming, whether we worry about it or not.  ~Perry.  
Like the last two books, Into the Still Blue is told in both Aria's and Perry's point of view, with the chapters switching back and forth.  This was not confusing at all and in fact, I thought it added a lot to the story and to the two main characters.  I loved knowing what each one was thinking and going through.  It created tension and drama.

I also appreciated the way that Rossi uses all of the senses in her writing.  Smell, touch, taste.  The reader is brought that much closer in between the pages.  The way the landscape feels, the heat, the electricity in the air.  I felt very grounded in the reality of their world.

I felt I got to know Aria and Perry (along with other characters) even more in this installment.  Their feelings for what they are going through, for each other and for what is happening to them is well laid out.   They are young and somewhat inexperienced but mature.  They have taken what experiences they have had and utilize them to the situation at hand.  The only thing I did wonder about was why Perry didn't think about the death of his sister, Liv.  At first I thought that the author just didn't want to delve into Perry's psyche, but then time was taken to explain his thoughts and actions and while I didn't get the sense that he was devastated over her loss, I was satisfied with his emotions.

Now, I don't think I'm really giving anything away when I tell you there is a HEA.  However, there were times when I was like, "OMG OMG OMG!  What's going to happen?"  I think this is a clear sign the story is working and working well.  The twists and turn had me on the edge of my seat and frustrated at the same time.  The story is very exciting, but sometimes I felt like the characters were just going around in circles.  
She watched him blow the flames to life, consumed by him.  He was as wild as the fire.  As vital as the ocean.  His own element. ~Aria.
I don't get swoony over fictional boys (or many real ones).  I don't really like romance novels.  However, I was totally falling for Perry even more.  The passion and sweetness between Perry and Aria were not just romantic but hot in a way that I appreciated.  Nothing overtly gushy and sappy, just sparks.  I totally wished I was Aria head over heels into this flirtatious, deep and solid love.  

The other issue is that the ending felt a tad rushed.  Especially the scene when Perry fights with villain, Sable.  It was over very quickly and I was hoping for a bit more of an action scene.  Also, when this is resolved, it felt that the ending was kind of like a summary.  I wanted to see the last scene be between Perry and Aria.  However, I am so glad that the book turned out the way it did.  

Constellation of Characters:
Aria - The beautiful heroine.  She is brave and smart.  She is also very selfless.  At times it was hard to believe, yet then she would act like the kid she really is by letting her temper get the best of her and she became more believable.

Perry - The handsome hero.  Perry is on a mission to save his tribe and he puts the group of the whole before his own wants.  I liked him even more in this book than the others.

Roar - Perry's best friend has a difficult time in this book.  He is mourning Liv's death and questioning Perry's emotions.

Soren - One of Aria's old friends from Reverie who actually once tried to harm her.  He grows so much in this book and contributes to the plot and his new community.

Starstruck Over:  The whole series, but I loved reading about Aria and Perry, their relationship and their adventures.

Other Editions:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Help for the Haunted.

Title/Author:  Help for the Haunted by John Searles.

Genre:  Dark Fiction.

Publisher: Ballantine Books.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis:  It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

Midnyte Musings:  This is a story of secrets and who doesn't love a good secret? 

First and foremost, there is the question of what did 14 year old Sylvie, the main character, really see in the church the night her parents were murdered?  Then there is the question of how reliable a narrator she is.  Are the spooky events that happen in her home, within her family real?  Are her parents frauds or do they really fight demons?  What does her Uncle know?  What does reporter Heekin, who wrote a book about her parents find out about them?  And, what is up with her older sister Rose?

I don't know if the author had The Warrens in mind when he modeled this family, but that's who I kept thinking of.  The personalities, the stories of their experiences and even their collection of artifacts all had a similar ring to it.  There is even a creepy doll that is supposed to be possessed locked up in their basement.

Although at times a bit disconnected, I liked the style of the story.  Told in Sylvie's point of view in the present and past, served well in giving hints and backstory to the mystery of her family.  What I loved were the details of her experiences and how at times, they brought me back to my own childhood: taking trips with my parents, the thrill of an ice-cream treat and hand surfing out an open car window.

One thing that sometimes didn't ring true was Sylvie's very mature behavior and dialogue for her age.  At times, it was hard for me to imagine a 14 year old being as savvy and calculating as she was sometimes portrayed.  The other issue was the big reveal.  I liked that I didn't see it coming and yes, it was related and threaded into the story, however, it also came out of left field so the surprise wasn't satisfying. 

The other issue I had with the writing and this is sooo trivial but it started to bug me was the use of the word "still" repetitively.  When a word is used over and over, I start to notice it, and when I start to notice one word in an entire book I find myself thinking about it, and when I'm thinking about the overuse of one word I'm not thinking about the story.

However, these were just small issues I had compared to how much I loved this book.  I wondered what was going on throughout and I loved the anticipation and speculation.

Constellation of Characters:
Sylvie Mason - the story is told in her first person perspective.  I really liked her very much.  I found her sympathetic, empathetic and in a tough position.  She is the good daughter.  The one who obeys her parents, gets good grades and does everything she can to please people.

Rose Maston - I hated her.  Really.  She was so mean to Sylvie and it is obvious she is unequipped and, it seems, unwilling to take care of her younger sister when they are orphaned.  I wonder why she petitioned the Court to be her legal guardian?  She is angry and lashes out.  She is not the most sympathetic of characters.  However, this is also why I found her to be very compelling.

Mr. and Mrs. Mason - What are their gifts?  Are they real or are they perpetuating a hoax?  What exactly is their dynamic with the family and the supernatural?  Again, more characters with questions attached.  I liked the mother as she was kind and caring.  The father is interesting.  He just wants a happy family and to be a good provider.  But at what cost?

Starstruck Over:  The creepiness and uncertainty of this story.  It kept me turning the pages rather quickly.

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