Monday, December 5, 2016

Club Monstrosity & The Monsters In Your Neighbrohood - Jesse Petersen

Buckle up dudes…two reviews for the price of one!

Natalie’s one of Frankenstein’s creations and works in a New York City morgue. So of course she needs therapy. She and her friends—er, fellow monsters—have formed the world’s most exclusive, most dysfunctional support group. What could go wrong? Undetected in the modern world and under pressure to stay that way, Natalie Grey, Dracula, Bob the Blob, and others (including the fetching wolfman Alec) meet regularly to talk about the pressures of being infamous in the Big Apple. Topics include how long it’s been since their last sighting, how their “story” creates stereotypes they can’t fulfill, and—gasp—sometimes even their feelings. But when their pervy Invisible Man, Ellis, is killed in a manner reminiscent of the H.G. Wells novel, it’s clear someone’s discovered their existence and is down for some monster busting. Led by Natalie—and definitely not helped by Hyde’s bloodthirsty tendencies—the members of Monstofelldosis Anonymous band together for security and a little sleuthing. And maybe—maybe—if they don’t end up dead, they’ll end up friends somewhere along the way.

As one of Frankenstein’s Creatures, Natalie Gray knows that unique parts sometimes make up a great whole. Still, leading a diverse support group for monsters—now including Cthulhu!—isn’t an easy task. Especially not since the internet arrived. New York City embraces the different and the bizarre. Still, even for such a fun-loving city, the supernatural and monstrous might be a bit too much. It’s been six months since the members of “Club Monstrosity” overcame the most recent spate of anti-monster violence and they’ve reestablished their routine of meeting in a church basement once a week to (ugh!) talk about their feelings. Still, they also know a war against them is brewing. Natalie and Alec (the werewolf) have begun dating, and the mummies Kai and Rehu are tighter than a bug in a…well, bandage. But when modern means (YouTube, Twitter, bits and bytes) are used to chip away at the solidarity of these ancient monsters, it’s up to Natalie to save the day. #MonstersInNewYork may be trending on Twitter, but this girl’s trending toward saving the day…somehow.

So why two reviews in one blog? Mostly because these two novellas are short, and being that they are related to each other, it makes sense to write the reviews as one.  But mainly, it’s a way to examine an author and their progression with a series of books.

Let’s first take an overlook at the idea of the books. Well, honestly, it’s pretty freaking awesome. I love reimagines on classic ideas. Why couldn’t Dr. Frankenstein not create more than one Creature? Why couldn’t Dracula be a befuddled old man who has an iPhone but doesn’t truly understand how it works? Club Monstrosity is a fun idea that thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, there’s lots of action and a pit of drama packed into these two short novellas, but what Jesse Petersen is amazing at is writing jump starting a story with great imagery and dialogue. If you don’t know who Jesse Petersen is, check out her other book series about marriage surviving a zombie apocalypse. But all the characters are relatable. I mean, listen, all I’m saying is that if I was going to be a monster…it could very well be Frankenstein. Why? Because I need coffee to jolt my ass to life every morning. That’s legit. Though our heroes are the monsters, Petersen can make them have the human experience we all go through. Insecurities, jealousy, rage, embarrassment, confusion...all of it. I love all the snark between the characters. And the relationship formed between Natalie and Alec didn’t feel forced. It came together naturally, as strange as that may sound.

But…and here’s the but…

That sounds bad. Most “But’s” are bad. This one isn’t so bad, but more like a trend I’ve noticed with Petersen’s writing. In her previous book series, Living With the Dead, the last book ended up being…well…I don’t know…a little off. If memory serves, I feel like something happened with the publisher, Orbit, because I remember a different publisher for the last book, The Zombie Whisperer. The strange back and forth POV and the lack of editing. Granted, it’s a book about zombies, but there were elements of that book that caused me to not be able to suspend my reality for the one being presented to me. And that’s the thing with science fiction or fantasy: you must be able to convince the reader that despite the make believe, you can fall into the story and believe that this kind of stuff could happen. Thankfully, with The Monsters In Your Neighborhood, it’s not too bad. I was flung so far out of the book I was pissed. But the whole element with Hyde and microchips and controllers…listen…it was a very close call to me getting annoyed like I did with The Zombie Whisperer. However, for me, what made up for the book, was the simple climax that Petersen wrote. Tired of facing the Van Helsings, Natalie as the leader makes the decision to just stop. That the fighting and the fear mongering was not something worth dealing with (hmmm…sounds a little like real life…if you know what I mean…). Natalie told the monster hunters simply No, that she refuses to take part in their war. She instead takes a call to action to spin the view of her kind, to show that though some might call her a monster, they are simply folks wanting to live their life just like every other person on this world.

And isn’t that there a statement we should all live by? I mean, I know I’m taking two very VERY light hearted and rather sweet novellas that are packed full of language that I use on a daily and making a bold assumption about the underpinning of what the author might be trying to say. But, in the end, what binds us and brings us all together are those around us. To show despite all our quicks and nuances, we are all just a bunch of freaks just trying to make it through life.

Would I suggest these books? Yes. If you are looking for a simple read, something to clean the palette of this heavy-duty thing called life, Jesse Petersen is your gal. Her books are well written and her characters are on a completely relatable scale of life. The situations can get a little out of hand, but don’t let that stop you. Keep reading. Club Monstrosity and The Monsters in Your Neighborhood are the book friends you are looking for.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Areonaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher

 Jim Butcher…you have my heart and soul. Fully. Completely.


Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…


So this is a biased review. I’m just going to throw that out there. Jim Butcher is for real, my favorite author. I own all of his books. Imagine my excitement when I found out this new book series was STEAMPUNK. Holy Shit. My nerdy heart was elated. But the internet almost ruined it. There were a few folks bitching and moaning about how Jim Butcher was, essentially, a sellout. That he was pandering to a specific audience to make money. And then I remembered I was reading reviews on Goodreads. I love Goodreads. Truly. I love that it tracks my books I read and books I want to read, promotes giveaways (which I’ve one an audio book one time!) and recommendations. Literacy is important and it is what we as a nation need to promote. But all reviews on there, I feel, should be taken with a grain of salt. I mean, it is Facebook for book lovers. Which is cool. But some of these reviews are ridiculous in that these are people who think their opinions while change the world (says the girl with a book review blog). Personally, I don’t go off of reviews. I like to read the summary and make my own decision if I should read a book or not. When I reminded myself of all this stuff, I dived straight into Butcher’s new creation.

And like with all of his books, I feel in love. Hard.

The world is established yet mysterious. No characters are wasted. Rich colors and textures. Witty lines and lots of action. I mentioned it was steampunk right? Oh…it’s delicious.

The youngest of the characters, Gwen and Bridget, are perfect opposites of each other. Gwen is brash and doesn’t think things through completely. Bridget is more reserved, careful, and thoughtful. They weren’t vapid airheads nor were they so tough it was unbelievable. They are teenage girls of noble households, about sixteen years old, forced into a situation where they have to be brave. My favorite interaction between them was after a battle was fought, they are sitting next to each, disheveled and broken, and Gwen apologizes for not being a very good friend after Bridget cries on her shoulder. They share a real connection that is pretty true to life.

The male characters were great to, the leading man, Captain Grimm being just as devilishly wonderful like Butcher’s other character, Harry Dresden (who is my book boyfriend by the way. Oh Dresden…you are so broken…). Grimm is a swashbuckling hero, a typical architype in these steampunk romps. But, unlike other steampunk adventures (which usually end up to be bodice rippers), Grimm is not a condescending hero. Not some swarmy tough guy with a soft creamy nugget center. Grimm is a man of his word, a brilliant tactician. A man who leads by example and has the full respect and devotion of his airships crew.

But my favorite character has to be the Etherlists, especially Folly. The Etherilists, by the way, are magic type users. Or that’s the best way I can describe it. But being so close to this magic, they go mad. Folly’s interactions with the other characters in the book are so wonderfully fascinating, talking to a jar of crystals instead of the person speaking to her directly. I anticipate her being a very powerful and very important character.

There are other great and fun characters, from the foul-mouthed ship engineer Journeyman to an enemy Major and his warriorborn sergeant, from Benedict, Gwen’s warriorborn cousin to Rowl, a talking cat who is Bridget’s friend and protector.

Side note: can I mention how much I want Bridget and Benedict together? As much as I love Folly and her strangeness, there was something refreshing about a girl crushing on a boy. And then said boy returning those affections. It’s sweet.

Speaking of…I am so glad this is not a romance novel. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good bodice ripper…but why does it always have to in steampunk novels? I don’t mind a bit of romance like Bridget and Benedict’s, but I feel like most steampunk writers feel like they are required to have some kind of saucy sex scene. It doesn’t! That stuff feels forced, not like part of the actual story. Like someone has to be like “shit…I need to have these two characters boning.” Give me action and excitement! Give me intrigue and mystery! If the flow of the story has some kind of touching and loving, then so be it.

And that’s what I love about Jim Butcher’s writing: it flows so wonderfully. All the characters are carefully crafted and are put to their limits in crazy situations. And, it’s great fun.

If you’re needing a refreshing taste of steampunk, let me offer up to The Aeronaut’s Windlass. It will leave you turning page after page and chuckling and smiling and gasping. But then again, like I said…I might be a little biased. Jim Butcher is my favorite author after all.

Thank you for stopping by and reading this extremely LONG post. Remember to always be yourself…unless you can be a pirate. Then ALWAYS be a pirate!!


Friday, June 3, 2016

The Witch With No Name - Kim Harrison

Like Boyz II Men sang…”It’s so hard…to say goodbye…”


Rachel Morgan's come a long way from the clutzy runner of Dead Witch Walking. She's faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She's crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She's lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more. But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price. That time is now. To save Ivy's soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever after and our own world from destruction, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.

I will be honest. I had this book for a while. Like...a year…I had this book for that long before I had the heart to start it. I didn’t want to say good bye. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want it to end. But, all things do have to come to an end at some point. And like with all book series that have ended, I was left a house divided.
On the one hand, this book has great action, which Kim Harrison rights amazingly well. I can read the fight scenes and it creates a little movie in my head. There is amazing tension between characters and also within the world itself. Everything is corded so tight with vampires getting their souls back and the Everafter shrinking. Oh! And it’s all on the Elves. Stupid endangered species…screwing up the world and all. The tension in the action was wonderful.
On the other hand…
I have always felt that Rachel’s relationships were a bit toxic. Ivy. Nick. Trent. Kisten. And the Ghost Witch…I can’t remember his name off the top of my head. All those relationships seemed to bring out the worst in Rachel. And by worst I mean more of a train wreck called bad decisions. The only ones in her squad that had a lick of sense were Al the demon and Jenks. Rachel was so busy trying to save everyone else, that when she needs to save herself, well, she can’t.
But, why can’t Rachel save herself?
I will admit, the last few books have been a bit lack luster for me. They all have strong starts, but everything fizzles out near the end. This book I thought wasn’t going to be that way because of what seemed like a strong ending. Rachel saves the day (eh, sorta) and then the epilogue happened.
I read the epilogue and by the end I had a bit of a headache…why? Because the Rachel there was different from the Rachel from the series. Granted, Rachel is MUCH older by this point in the epilogue, but she seemed too tame…too…flat. After a hard knocked battle and all the shit she went through, there was really nothing there. No dimension or depth in her range of emotions. Just a flustered step-mother type of character who is all mushy gushy with Trent. It was disappointing.
That being said, I will miss this book series. I’ve devoured all the books, good and not so good. Through my annoyance, a heavy sad sigh slipped from me as I read the last sentence and closed the book. For last 10 years (GEEZ!!) I’ve followed these books and got excited when each book came out. I’ll miss that. I’ll miss that excited glee of “oh new book in the series!” I know all things come to an end, and even though this book had misses, it had its fair share of awesome sauce.
At least it didn’t end like the Divergent Series. (I see you Veronica Roth…I see you. Still bitter...)

Thank you so much for taking a few minutes to read. If you are looking for a series that is full of action and feels and supernatural beings, check out The Hollows series, all THIRTEEN BOOKS. It’s a fun ride.

Remember to always be yourself. Unless you’re a pirate. Then ALWAYS be a pirate.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Every Writer Needs a Tribe - Jeff Goins

Uga chugga. Uga chugga. Shark bate Uh A Ha!! (Yeah. I can't be anymore clever than that tonight, guys.)

The days of writing the next great novel alone somewhere in the woods and then mailing it in are over. Today, the authors that make the largest impacts and enjoy the most success engage regularly and meaningfully with their specific readership. If you wish to follow in their footsteps, then you must first build your tribe. In this book, you'll learn why constructing your own author platform--catered exclusively to your specific tribe of ideal readers--is vital to the hopes and dreams of digital writers. Moreover, you'll learn how the smart authors are building big tribes that allow their writing careers to thrive. From the five types of platforms to the one weird way to get a larger audience, you'll learn everything you need (and nothing you don't) about nurturing a thriving, raving readership primed to take writing career to the next level. See you inside!

First things first: shout out to my former boss/friend Jeremy for sending me this book. He's still my friend, don't worry. It's not like we hate each other. No way! Jeremy is like one of the nicest and coolest dudes I know! I mean, he let me write on scraps of receipt paper when I was a cashier and he was a manager at a certain office supply store. Anyway. I'm digressing. In short, he knew I was a writer and thought of me when he came across this book. That is super encouraging to know there are folks who seem to believe in me and my chosen art. So, thanks, man!

Alright. Review. Let's do it!

So I read this book shortly after NaNoWriMo was done. Me and my writing partner have this goal to have to have completed works done and then sent off to the necessary folks to make us successful. But as someone who is more of a novelist, I'll be honest. I never thought of my audience. Like, when I'm writing, I'm being selfish. It's all about me, me, me. What do I want to see? What world do I want to create? Writing is, for the most part, is a pretty solitary  form of self expression. 

But this book had me stopping in my tracks. What happens after my dream comes true? How the hell do I get readers? 

Thankfully, it's just by being a decent human being it seems. Jeff Goins reassures me that I'm doing right in that I need to not be afraid to chase the passion of creativity and not look for perfection. Writers...wait. Scratch that. All artists are their own worst critic. Don't get me wrong, there are times where I think I'm pretty damn clever. However, a majority of the time, I'm wringing my hands in worry that one touchstone of brilliance is a fluke. But, if I just put aside the need for perfection and just focus on the story and world I'm creating with the power of my thoughts, then I'll be okay. I mean, all that other stuff...that's what editors are for. 

I was also reminded that we live in the age of self publication and self promotion and to succeed in that, you got to give some a bit of you away to find the people that get you and your writing. Offer a sneak peak of a chapter. Do a giveaway of your book or something else. Anything that will bring in the people that are diverse but inclusive to what you are putting out in the world. And honestly, that's scary. I like the think of myself as confident, but my writing makes me self conscious. I don't know why honestly. I write from my heart and I suppose I'm afraid for it to be broken. But, for me to truly find my audience, to find my home dogs, I gotta put myself out there. This book shared tips and secrets to get out there. It's okay to be AFRIAD. But, like with anything, it's what you do with that fear that matters. 

I recommend this book to someone who needs a reminder of why they write and those who shake in their boots about they thought about sharing their writing. Because if you don't share, how can you find your tribe?

Thank you so much for reading! I hope it was insightful. By sharing my own self doubts and fears, this book has put me step ahead of where I was years ago. Why? Well, I already have a tribe. Granted, it's a tribe of two...but it's a start.

Remember to always be yourself. Unless you can be a pirate. THEN ALWAYS BE THE PIRATE!