Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Review: Fallen, by Erin McCarthy

This book marks Ms. McCarthy's second foray into more serious, 'darker' paranormals, on the theme of the seven deadly sins (cool!). I didn't read the first one (lust), titled My Immortal, but this second title (gluttony/addiction) is a stand alone story.

From the back cover:

New Orleans, 1840s. Sent to watch over the decadent city, the angel Gabriel loses himself in the liquid pleasure of absinthe. So when his mistress, Anne, is murdered—and all evidence points to him— a foggy Gabriel cannot be sure he didn't do it. His penance: to be forever denied love. Should he seek pleasure with a woman, she'll know the depths of despair.

New Orleans, today. Hoping to unlock that unsolved mystery, forensic scientist Sara Michaels, Anne's great-great-granddaughter, meets the ageless, tormented Gabriel. To work together would mean suppressing their mutual attraction—he can't allow himself to touch Sara, for her own sake.

And for Sara, already familiar with the dangers of addiction, Gabriel poses the ultimate threat to her self-control. But can the desire burning between them turn into their salvation—or lead them both to destruction?

So - let's see here: We have a fallen angel, recovering addict piano player-slash-painter who hasn't had sex for eighty years. And a self-conscious young heroine fleeing the tragedies of her past while trying to unlock the mystery of a family curse and related murder. And yes, it was just as angsty as it sounds. I loved it.

Favorite quote:

"Eventually, we'll both lose interest."

"Oh, really?" She had to admit, that infuriated her. "You have it all figured out, don't you?"

"Absolutely." He nodded with confidence.

"They why the hell did you kiss me?" She wasn't sure whether she regretted it or not. It had been a fabulous kiss, and she had been curious what it would be like, but on the other hand, now she knew their chemistry was real, yet he was telling her they couldn't do a damn thing about it.

"Because I'm an idiot."

Which was the male answer to everything. They seemed to think if they just admitted their stupidity, somehow it exempted them from responsibility for it.

Other reviews for this story have consistently had two issues. First, they think it's slow and don't like the internal angsty monologues and expositions. Secondly, they find the ultimate conflict and resolution (i.e. antagonist) too wimpy. I strongly disagree with the first, and only sort of agree with the second. If you try to read this book as an urban fantasy, or anything other than a romance, it won't work. To me, the main antagonist in the story was Gabriel's all-consuming guilt. There is enough of a story and mystery surrounding the death of Sara's ancestor to keep the plot moving along, but this one is truly a character journey. Each of them are hunting for the truth, wanting each other, but unwilling to 'take the plunge'. I enjoyed the depth of both characters, and Ms. McCarthy did a successful job of interchanging viewpoints without confusing or annoying me - a real feat.

Stylistically, I enjoyed the interspersed newspaper clippings and court reportings, which added depth to the story. The tension was great, the angst better. If the climax was anti-climactic, I didn't notice. The ending was supremely satisfying (since the author held over the *actual* love scene until the second to last chapter!). If you want an emotionally engrossing angst-filled romance, this one's for you. Four bleeding hearts.

PS: Extra points for cover awesomeness.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gosh, Golly, Gee . . .

Some of you may have noticed I've been MIA. Things were a little rough there for a while. It all started about a month and a half ago when I lost my wallet and I've been floundering since, just trying to keep my head above water. My laptop died, I quit my job, and my cat got diabetes. *sigh*

I'm happy to announce I think that bout of ill luck (hey, I'm all for the universe being in balance - if it means it has to screw with me sometimes, so be it) is officially OVER!

I'm writing this post from my brand spankin' new Macbook (yeah, baby, yeah!). I have a freelance graphic design job to float me for the next month and a half until I find something permanent (and the job prospects are looking up from a few weeks ago). This also means my graphic design business, which I started two years ago, is now officially in business (website to come). AND, to top it all off, I got some really great news on Friday:

Cloak of Deceit, my first completed novel, has finaled in the FTHWA Golden Gateway Contest. My first sub to an RWA contest, and I finaled! It feels like Christmas. I'm ecstatic with them apples. And really, really glad to be back on course.

So . . . I'm back in the saddle and in the mood to celebrate! You got any good news to share? Hit me up! If you don't, I'm gonna look like this . . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Writing Reference Series #1

I started a new series of Wiley Wednesday posts on several writing-craft books. The first one, on 'The Elements of Style' by Strunk & White, is posted over here on the Writer's Retreat blog.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Review: Dime Store & Industrial Magic - Kelley Armstrong

These two books were loaned to me and recommended by a friend. I hadn't heard of of Kelly Armstrong, which surprised me, because once I looked her up, I saw she was right up my alley. Like authors such as Kim Harrison and CE Murphy, you find her titles in the SciFi/Fantasy section of the bookstore. These two are a pair of titles about witch Paige Winterbourne and her newly-acquired teenage fosterling, Savannah.

Dime Store Magic
Paige is the daughter of the former leader of the American Coven of Witches, but she's a modern, forward-thinking type who apparently has a knack for bucking authority. (I think this may have been established in previous titles in the series.) The Elders of her Coven don't want her around, and it is without their help that Paige must face Savannah's father, Kristoff Nast, a powerful and evil sorcerer (Sorcerers are the enemies of the witches in this series) who wants his daughter for his own purposes. In fact, the only one who is on Paige's side is a pro-bono lawyer willing to go up against the Nast Cabal, Lucas Cortez. Who is . . . also a sorcerer, though one who shirks his own heritage. Since she's got nobody else, Paige reluctantly accepts Lucas' help. A legal battle, romance, a kidnapping, and some seriously freaky magical stuff ensue.

I like the world these books are set in. I received another title, Bitten, from another friend, and have it in my TBR pile. The universe is well developed and Ms. Armstrong does a great job of overlapping her world with the one we live in. I actually appreciate these types of AUs more fully, because as writer I know it is more difficult. It's much easier to write urban fantasy in a world where everyone knows about and accepts the existence of preternatural beings. It cuts out a whole host of explanation.

I thought the characters were engaging too. Paige is strong and witty, and generally handles each new catastrophe with grace, and if not grace, at least an understandable and believable amount of floundering. The exchanges between her and Savannah were very true to form and usually comical. The romance was a very light subtheme here, taking a backseat to the politcal and social, and magical issues. And there were lots of them. From a funeral home of raised zombies (ew!) to a full on poltergeist-type moment at the end. And all of that was uber-cool.

The only problem I had was with the pacing. The book seemed to really drag in some places and be filled with a lot of details that just didn't seem important, other than to serve the author's purpose of showing characters interacting or dropping a few choice details that tied in later. The writing was the type that seemed to feel the need to fill in every minute, listing off the mudanities of life like laundry lists and what to make for dinner, rather than jumping right to the action.

As it was, I thought it was an entertaining, if sometimes slow read. Two Bleeding Hearts.

Industrial Magic
This book follows directly after Dime Store Magic and continues the story of Paige, Savannah, and Lucas. Paige has broken from the American Coven of Witches and the book starts out with her canvassing, pretty much door to door, to get Witches on board with her plan for a new organization. But a series of abductions of teenagers, namely those tied to Cabals, calls Paige away from her mission. She agrees to help Lucas' father, the head of the Cortez Cabal, in the search for the missing kids, and the people responsible.

I didn't have as many issues with this book. The beginning was slow, but once I got into it, I did not put it down. There was a nice mixture of mystery and drama, and more of a bird's eye view into the world. The ending was also a surprise, and the tension held through the end. I'm re-invested in the characters and will be reading at least one more title from this series. I can't strongly recommend it, but the story depth did keep me hooked. Three and a half bleeding hearts for this one.