Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Map of Moments

Map of Moments by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

From two all-stars of dark fantasy, Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, coauthors of Mind the Gap, comes this terrifying new thriller of magic and dangerous passions, where an ordinary man searches the magical landscape of an extraordinary city for chance of a lifetime.

Barely six months after leaving New Orleans, history professor Max Corbett is returning to a place he hardly recognizes. The girl he’d loved—and lost—is dead, and the once-enchanted city has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Max has not thought much beyond Gabrielle’s funeral—until a strange old man offers him a map, and an insane proposition…

“Forget all the stories about magic you think you know…”

It looks like an ordinary tourist map, but the old man claims that it is marked with a trail of magical moments from New Orleans’s history that just might open a door to the past. But it is a journey fraught with peril as Max begins to uncover dark secrets about both his dead love and the city he never really got to know. How is Gabrielle linked to an evil group from the city’s past? And can Max evade them long enough to turn back the clock and give Gabrielle one last chance at life?
--Map of Moments by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, Copyright © 2009 by Bantam Dell

My Synopsis:

The year is 2005, and Professor Max Corbett is returning to New Orleans ten weeks after Hurricane Katrina to attend the funeral of Gabrielle Doucette, a former student and lover. He attends the funeral with Gaby’s cousin, Corrine, the only member of the family who was still on speaking terms with Gaby. Through short conversations with Corrine and flashbacks of his time with Gabrielle, he recalls that Gaby was ostracized from her family, but neither woman would tell him why.

After the funeral, he goes to a bar with Ray, a friend of Gabrielle’s and the man who paid for her funeral. He gives Max a map and claims that it’s marked with a magical trail of special moments in the history of New Orleans. If he goes to the sites and collects the magic, then finds a man named Matrisse, he might be able to send a message back in time to Gabrielle and keep her from dying. Maybe, just maybe, he can send himself back…

Max accepts the map and the adventure begins. He stumbles across the first Moment more by accident than design, and same with the second Moment. By the third Moment, he begins to understand what’s happening and is eager to set out for the fourth.

But along the way, he cannot stop himself from looking in on Gabrielle’s mysterious past. Though they had been lover for only a few weeks, Max was enamored by her and wants to understand the woman she was so he can finally let go of her. He slowly begins to uncover a tangled, dark web of secrets with a long history in the city’s past. He’s stirring up trouble, and he must work fast to finish uncovering Gabrielle’s past, find all the Moments and stay ahead of trouble so he can turn back the clock and save Gabrielle’s life.

My Review:

This story goes a lot deeper and follows paths that I didn’t expect it to when I first picked it up. I expected a trip through the dark side of New Orleans’ history. What I got was an intriguing mix of New Orleans’ past and post-Katrina present as our protagonist, Max, digs for the truth about the girl he loved and lost.

The deeper Max goes, the more he gets involved, the more the Tordu chase him down to stop him. What is “Tordu?” It’s hard to describe. Picture if you will an organization that’s less than the mob and more than a street gang. Intersect that with a secret society and some good old-fashioned New Orleans mojo and you’ve got the Tordu.

The Map of Moments is two stories, Max following the Map to experience the Moments and Max uncovering the truth about Gabrielle’s past, blended together so seamlessly, you can’t have one story without the other. This is the second book by coauthors Golden and Lebbon, so check back in another week or so and read my review of Mind the Gap. I’m heading over to the library right now to check it out!

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Desert Rain

Desert Rain by Elizabeth Lowell

She is a fragile innocent haunted by memories of her past and by dreams of the man who once shared her secrets...the only man she can ever truly love.

One of the world's great beauties, her face and figure grace the fashion pages of the most elegant magazines. Though many desire her, only one may have her.

Holly Shannon North
She is a contradiction: assured yet vulnerable, irresistible yet untouched. Destiny has brought her back to Hidden Springs, where she can be one person, where romance once touched her tender young heart -- back to Lincoln McKenzie, the proud California rancher, long since hardened by life's tragedies. Now, in the icy chill of a desert storm, they must find the way back to love together -- to rekindle the fire whose healing warmth has drawn them home.
--Desert Rain by Elizabeth Lowell, Copyright © 1983 by Ann Maxwell, 1996 by Two of a Kind Inc./Avon Books.

My Synopsis:

Holly Shannon North fell in love with Lincoln McKenzie as a teen, but when her parents were killed, her aunt moved her to New York, forcing her to break all ties. Six years later, she’s back and when they meet again, he doesn’t recognize her.

Little Holly has grown up and become Shannon, a supermodel that every man desires but no man can have.

Linc has no use in his life for beautiful models. His mother was a “model,” as was his stepmother, but they worked more on their backs than in front of a camera. Linc can’t see the difference between the two and when Linc meets “Shannon,” he callously scorns her.

Holly understands where his pain comes from, but his rejection of her still hurts. When they meet up again days later, he doesn’t recognize Shannon, but sees Holly, the girl he fell in love with, but lost. Their attraction is incendiary and Holly agrees to stay with Linc at his home for a few days while they try to figure out where to go with the attraction they feel but can’t seem to resolve.

Holly longs to tell him she’s Shannon, but can’t seem to find the right time. Recognizing herself in Beth, Linc’s younger half-sister, she starts helping Beth gain some self-confidence and vows to help break Linc’s controlling grip on his sister. He’s determined that she won’t end up like her mother, but he can’t see the damage he’s doing.

Can Holly help Linc heal his past and resolve their differences so they can find a way to be together?

My Review:

Okay, my first mistake was reading a book that was originally written when I was a sophomore in high school (1983). My second mistake was in hoping its updates (because she did update it for its 1996 reprinting) would bring the characters’ sensibilities into the modern age. I’m afraid it didn’t.

The story opens with Holly—or rather, her Shannon personality—in the midst of a photo shoot. Into the shoot walks Linc, her one and only love. Problem is, Linc doesn’t recognize Holly/Shannon and thus she is able to make her escape. Three scenes later, after she rescues him from his fallen horse in the middle of a desert storm, they’re making out hot and heavy in her tent and stop just inches from consummating the act. Only after they dress and take care of the horse does he demand “What are you doing back in California?” Sorry, but I would think he would demand to know that as soon as he woke up and realized who was in the sleeping bag with him.

This is what I mean about updating characters’ sensibilities. Writers could get away with this kind of thing back in the 70’s and 80’s, when women were supposed to melt and get all gooey when touched by “the right man.” These days, we don’t do that. I understand that Elizabeth Lowell wanted to keep the story as true to its origins as possible when she was updating it, so I had to grin and bear it as I continued to read.

About a third of the way into the book, once we finally got past all that, the story became more contemporary and was much easier and much more of a pleasure to read.

Because of the cringe-worthy beginning, I give this story THREE STARS.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Black Hills

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

A summer at his grandparents' South Dakota ranch is not eleven-year-old Cooper Sullivan's idea of a good time. But things are a bit more bearable now that he's discovered the neighbor girl, Lil Chance, and her homemade batting cage. Each year, with Coop's annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker's body.

As the seasons change and the years roll by, Lil remains steadfast to her aspiration of becoming a wildlife biologist and protecting her family land, while Coop struggles with his father's demand that he attend law school and join the family firm. Twelve years after they last walked together hand in hand, fate has brought them back to the Black Hills when the people and things they hold dear need them most..
--Black Hills by Nora Roberts, Published 2009 by Putnam Books. Audio book produced by Brilliance Audio.

My Synopsis:

In 1989, Cooper Sullivan is sent to spend the summer with his grandparents in South Dakota while his parents go on a “second honeymoon,” a term Coop knows really means “last ditch effort to save the marriage before we file for divorce.” He’s determined not to like it, but then he meets Lil Chance, the daughter of neighboring ranchers. Over dinner, Coop discovers he and Lil share a love for baseball and the foundation for a future romance is laid.

Fast forward 9-10 years and Coop and Lil are all grow up, and ready to start building that romance that has time to form over their many summers together. Their romance is cut short when they discover the murdered body of a young woman.

Coop returns to New York, drops out of college, and enrolls in the police academy. Lil enters college and begins her studies. Though Coop comes back to the Black Hills from time to time, they never seem to connect as Lil alternately avoids him or is away on study trips.

Fast forward again and Lil Chance is now Doctor Lillian Chance, owner and operator of Chance Wildlife Rescue and Cooper has left New York to run his grandparent’s horse farm. Their break up years earlier had not been amicable and Lil is determined to show Coop that she’s moved on with her life and can do just fine without him, thank you very much. But Coop is also determined to show Lil that they have a future together. If only dead bodies didn’t keep popping up to ruin the mood.

My Review:

Often romance novels are referred to as “formula,” meaning there’s a formula or recipe to follow when writing one. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. Stir vigorously, pour into a greased and floured pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The steps to the formula can take other views (girl meets boy, girl falls in love, angry parents tear them apart, boy and girl resolve family feud and get back together—you get the picture), but at its core, it’s the same basic story.

When this book was released last year, I was not interested in buying it. Normally, I’m eager to snatch up Nora Roberts’ latest releases and read them as soon as possible. This one, for some reason, I decided to pass on even though I own a copy of nearly every novel she’s written (including the old Silhouettes!). When I read the novel description on the flyleaf, I just knew I wasn’t going to get a whole lot of enjoyment out of it. Turns out, I was right.

I normally stay away from abridged audio novels because I like to listen to the entire story, not someone-else’s chopped up version. This story was much easier to tolerate, I think, because it was abridged. I didn’t have to sit through long scene descriptions or filler paragraphs that lend little to the story.

If you’ve never read Nora Roberts or have only read a couple of her stand-alone novels (those that are not part of a trilogy or series), then you may well enjoy this story. If you’ve read a lot of her books and are unsure of reading this one, skip it. It is a quintessential Nora novel, with nothing new or revolutionary to make it an interesting read.

I give this story TWO STARS.

Now, lest you think I hate Nora Roberts, I don’t. I love her series novels and when the third book in the Bridal Quartet, Savor the Moment, comes out, I’ll be snatching up a copy of that book faster than you can blink and it will move to the very head of my book-reading queue. And I love a lot of her stand-alones as well. Three Fates and Remember When are in the top twenty-five list of my all-time favorite novels. Black Hills just didn’t do for me what these others did.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sense of Evil

Sense of Evil Kay Hooper

The victims are always the same; beautiful, successful and blond. Yet someone was able to coax these intelligent women away from safety. Someone was able to gain their trust long enough to do the unthinkable. Their shocking murders have terrified the inhabitants of a small peaceful town and its police chief, Rafe Sullivan, knows he has to find answers fast before another woman is lured to her death.
--Sense of Evil by Kay Hooper, Published 2003 by Bantam Books. Audio book produced by Recorded Books.

My Synopsis:

The peaceful southern town of Hastings, South Carolina is destroyed when a serial killer strikes. Three victims so far, all blond, beautiful and successful. Police Chief Rafe Sullivan requests assistance from the FBI and is dismayed when he meets the team’s lead investigator—blond, beautiful (and psychic) Isabel Adams.

Isabel convinces Rafe that she’s the best agent for the job because of her successful track record. She’s also been tracking this particular serial killer ever since he killed her best friend ten years ago. Working with her is new agent Hollis Templeton (from Touch of Evil) who, because of her own encounter with evil, has become a medium (she communicates with spirits).

Rafe, Isabel, Hollis and Rafe’s top detective Mallory Beck get to work on finding the killer. His previous M.O. was to strike once a week for six weeks, so they need to work fast before he claims his fourth victim.

The first victim, Jamie Brauer, had been acting oddly in the weeks leading up to her death. Afterward, details of her secret sex life have come to light and the police begin to find connections between her and the other two victims, but it’s not enough. Who else did she play her closet games with, and what happened to the box of photographs her younger sister said she found a few weeks before her sister was killed?

A reporter goes missing, but she’s a brunette, not blond. Did she get too close to the truth and become the fourth victim, or does her disappearance have another explanation? And is there a connection to yet another recently discovered dead body, months old?

Isabel is on the killer’s list, but is she fourth, fifth or sixth? After a fourth blond victim is found, Rafe and Isabel know that Isabel is next. Together, the team race to find a box of photos that hold the key to solving the entire mystery

My Review:

Comparing the three books in this series, I think Whisper of Evil was the best. It was clean, crisp and just enough twists to keep the reader interested through to the final page. Touching Evil was good, but predictable in a lot of ways. Sense of Evil, by comparison, had excellent elements, especially with the sex angle and the connection between the victims—and an ending that, for me, I wasn’t really expecting. (Well, maybe a little…you know how you draw up a list of suspects in your mind? This person was on my list, but mainly because I figured if there was going to be a twist, this person fits the twist.) My main issue with Sense of Evil was that there were too many characters. I had no trouble keeping track of the main characters, but when the individual reporters and police kept taking the stage with their stories, I got a little confused. They all came together in the end, but it was still a little confusing.

Because of this confusion, I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS. If I could have kept better track of the characters, maybe I would have made it four.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Street Game

Street Game by Christine Feehan

For Mack McKinley and his team of GhostWalker killing machines, urban warfare is an art form. But despite a hard-won knowledge of the San Francisco Streets, Mack knows from experience that too many things can still go wrong. Danger is just another part of the game—and he’s come face-to-face with a woman who can play just as tough.

She’s Jaimie, a woman with a sapphire stare so potent it can destroy a man. Years ago she and Mack had a connection—volatile, erotic, and electric. Then she vanished. Now she’s walked back into Mack’s life as a spy with too many secrets for her own good. Against all odds, she’s hooking up with Mack one more time to take on an enemy that could destroy them both or bring them together again in one hot, no-holds-barred adrenaline rush.
--Street Game by Christine Feehan, Published 2009 by Jove Books.

Mack and his unit of GhostWalkers are sent to a San Francisco warehouse to take down a group of terrorists and their cache of weapons. Instead, they find Jaimie, a former member of their unit and the woman Mack loves. Was their intel wrong or were they lied to? Determined to get answers and complete their mission of bringing down the terror group Doomsday, the unit sets up a base of operations in and around Jaimie’s warehouse while they try to figure out what’s going on.

The old memories of what they once were to each other refuse to die, as much as Jaimie might like them to, and she and Mack must try to reconcile those feelings while trying to unravel the mystery.

One member of the unit takes down two mystery men found outside the warehouse. The equipment they carried made it clear they were coming after Jaimie. Why? Jaimie, a computer expert, has been hacking into various government computers, gathering data, chasing leads and trying to figure out who all the players are that are backing Peter Whitney and his barbaric experiments. Were the men sent by Whitney? Or someone else?

They trace the mystery men back to their source and, in the way of the GhostWalkers, neutralize their enemy. Meanwhile, what appears to be the kidnapping of two innocent children becomes the potential catalyst to World War III (with America implicated as the instigator against North Korea).j

Can Jaimie, Mack and their team rescue the children and avert war? And can two people going into two different directions ever be together?

It took some time to really get into this story. I didn’t feel like I was fully involved until Chapter 7 when usually her books have me after the first one or two pages. But by Chapter 7 I was fully involved through to the end. But even then, I found it difficult to keep track of the three or four interwoven story lines. When reading this story, you really need to pay attention to what’s going on, but in the end, it’s worth the ride.

I thoroughly enjoy Christine Feehan’s writing. If you’ve never read any of her GhostWalker/Game series, do not start with this one. There’s a very complicated, detailed backstory that would be very difficult to understand unless you’ve read the other stories. Here’s a list of all the books in the GhostWalker series in chronological order:

Shadow Game
Mind Game
Night Game
Conspiracy Game
Deadly Game
Predatory Game
Murder Game
Street Game

Shadow Game introduces the origin of the GhostWalkers and their primary mission - survival. Of the series, Conspiracy Game and Deadly Game are my favorites.

I’ve been reading Christine Feehan for more than five years now and I love her stories and her very intense, passionate characters. Her stories deal with the paranormal (psychic abilities in the GhostWalkers and Drake Sisters series, vampires in the Carpathian series and shapshifters in the Leopard series), so if that does not interest you, then you’ll probably want to read something else, but I would encourage you to give her a try.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS. Believe me, I would love to have made it four, but I dropped it down half a star due to the minor difficulty I had following the intense, complex story lines. Christine would normally get Four or Five stars from me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Whisper of Evil

Whisper of Evil by Kay Hooper

In the little town of Silence, three prominent men have just been permanently muted, victims of a killer’s savage vengeance. Now the whole town is talking about the dark secrets that have come to light after the murders. And Nell Gallagher, who left Silence years ago, comes home to settle with a past she finds inextricably tangled up in the vicious killings. To survive, she’ll need to listen to all of her psychic powers, and risks being silenced in Silence.
--Whisper of Evil by Kay Hooper, Published 2002 by Bantam Books. Audio book produced by Recorded Books.

Three men have been murdered in the little town of Silence. Each has been killed in a different manner and there seems to be no connection between them. Slowly, it is revealed that each man harbored a deep, dark secret. But their secrets were unrelated, so what connects the three?

Deciding that the police need help, the town mayor secretly requests assistance from the FBI. Bishop, head of the Special Crimes Unit and a gifted profiler, suspects the killer is a cop. He decides to send in agents from his own unit to investigate. Nell Gallagher is perfect for the job since she’s from Silence and needs to go home to settle her recently-deceased father’s estate.

She’s barely arrived in town when a fourth man is killed. A link to the other three is suspected, but no deep, dark secrets come to light. Through her psychic visions, Nell discovers the connection between the first three victims is her own sister, Hailey, who left Silence a year earlier. She begins to suspect that Hailey is not only the connection, but may also be the murderer.

Nell is also reunited with her first love, Max Tanner. Max is Sheriff Ethan Cole’s number one suspect, but his evidence is flimsy and Nell knows he’s innocent of the crimes.

As she digs deeper into the mystery, her renewed relationship with Max deepens and she is compelled to confess the reason she disappeared all those years ago. The Gallagher family curse, the source of her psychic powers, drove most of the Gallagher family members insane. Her father’s insanity was a need to obsessively hold on to his wife’s and his daughter’s love. When seventeen-year-old Nell discovered the lengths her father would go to hold on to that love, she felt her only option was to run away lest he try to hurt Max.

Now reunited, can she, Max, Ethan, her partner, and the police, uncover the rest of the secrets and find the killer before he can claim his fifth victim?

If you were put off by the predictability of Touching Evil, don’t let it put you off the rest of the series. Whisper of Evil, the second in this series, contains all the twists and turns and secrets you’d expect from a good mystery story. I’ve only barely touched on some of those secrets here and I’ve revealed a lot. I give this story FOUR STARS and tomorrow I’ll begin Sense of Evil, the third in the series.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Touching Evil

Touching Evil by Kay Hooper

Some cops think police sketch artist Maggie Barnes is telepathic. That she can actually enter the victims minds. Only Maggie knows the truth behind her rare talent. And she isn’t telling.
--Touching Evil by Kay Hooper, Published 2001 by Bantam Books. Audio book produced by Recorded Books.

Maggie Barnes is a Seattle police sketch artist. She is working with the victims of “the Blindfold Rapist,” trying to piece together their memories to come up with a sketch of the rapist. John Garret, the brother of one of the victims, involves himself in the police investigation. Frustrated by the police's lack of progress, John brings in a friend and his partner who happen to be agents with a special unit of the FBI. As the case progresses, Maggie’s empathic abilities, which aid her in creating her sketches, grow stronger and a mysterious connection to a series of murders in the past is uncovered. Can the police put the pieces together before the killer claims his next victim?

First, a confession. I read this book, and the others in its series, when they were published, but it’s been so long that reading them now is like reading them for the first time. I will be listening to audio book versions of these stories.

Touching Evil follows a rather predictable pattern that can be seen all too often in trade detective stories. The pretty, female detective—or police employed civilian in this case—hunts the killer and becomes a potential victim. In this case, the killer is caught before he goes after Maggie, but it’s obvious she was next on his list. She falls in love with the rich-guy hero who elbows his way into the investigation where he doesn’t belong and because he’s rich and connected, no one has the guts to tell him to butt out. And, of course, he falls in love with her. However, if you can get beyond these predictable elements, there is an interesting story about an empath, a serial killer, and the detective work that goes into solving the mystery.

When I checked for their editorial review, I discovered that the “Evil” trilogy is actually the second trilogy in the “Bishop” series. I should have started with the “Shadow” trilogy. However, since I don’t yet own the “Shadow” trilogy but I do own the “Evil” trilogy, I will continue with that set, then review the “Shadow” trilogy once I have those (which will be by the first part of February). These stories are part of a series, but they can be read as individual stories, so this flip-flopping won’t bother me, although it may be irritating to others. So if you’d like to read the “Bishop” series, start with Stealing Shadows.

I remember enjoying this story when it was first published and probably would have given it four stars back then. Now I feel I can only give it three.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moving Target

Moving Target by Elizabeth Lowell
“When you read this, I’ll be dead.”

The troubling message from Serena Charter’s late grandmother appears in a package containing four pages of a centuries-old illuminated manuscript—a strange inheritance that hides many secrets…and has already cost many lives. Seeking answers, Serena turns to Erik North of Rarities Unlimited, a reclusive manuscript appraiser with a passion for the past. Without warning, they are thrust together into the center of a lethal firestorm that rages between two worlds—one long dead, yet living on in an ancient text, the other chillingly alive and fraught with peril. In the blink of an eye, Serena and Erik have become targets of an unseen and determined stalker as they get closer to shocking revelations about Serena’s legacy, the cold murder of an eccentric old woman in the heat of the Mojave Desert…and just how far a remorseless killer is willing to go. And now their only slim hope of survival is to keep moving.
--Moving Target by Elizabeth Lowell, copyright © 2001 by Two of a Kind, Inc.

When Serena Charters’ grandmother dies, she is left with four beautifully illuminated (to decorate a manuscript, book, etc. with colors and gold or silver, as was often done in the Middle Ages) pages and a mystery. She sends off photocopies of the pages to the House of Warrick, one of the world’s largest auction houses, and to Erik North, an independent appraiser who works for Rarities Unlimited, a company that specializes in the valuation and brokering of art. The House of Warrick is quick to make an offer based on the photocopies and contracts Rarities Unlimited to get the job done, their reason being that the pages are fakes and they want to get the pages out of circulation.

Erik’s not so sure. His own connection to a tome called The Book of the Learned leads him to believe Serena’s pages are real and that they come from The Book of the Learned. He is determined to uncover the truth about the pages and where they come from. And to figure out the ages-old connection between Serena and himself.

When owners of other pages believed to come from The Book of the Learned start dying the same way her grandmother did, Serena’s and Erik’s lives become endangered and they must keep moving in order to survive, figure out the history of the pages, and find the rest of Serena’s legacy, The Book of the Learned.

This is not my first Elizabeth Lowell story and it certainly won’t be the last. She crafts a great story with deeply interesting characters (not just the main characters, but the supporting ones as well) and a plot that keeps the story moving to the very last page. There is a lot of detail about the intricacies of Erik and Serena’s occupations, about the inner workings of Rarities Unlimited and the antiquarian book trade in general, but it’s these details that make Moving Target such a great read. Moving Target is also a romance, but the romance is not the central focus of the story, the mystery is, and I personally like that in a story. I also like a story that takes for granted the intelligence of the reader and the reader’s ability to follow a long, somewhat twisty plot line.

I give this book four stars out of five.

Free e-Book

Head on over to Christina Katz's site and pick up your copy of the Author's Toolkit 2009. Written by her agent, Rita Rosenkrantz (of the Rita Rozenkrantz Literary Agency), the Toolkit is a great resource for new authors. It touches on writing/editing your book plus gives you tips on publicity and marketing. Go get your copy before it disappears.

Also, check out the other great offers on Christina's page while you're there!

Thanks to Stacey for the tip!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Review Transfer #4 - The Unseen

THE UNSEEN by T.L. Hines

It's pretty rare that I'll read a book that grabs my attention on the first page and won't let go until I've finished it, and this book joins those ranks. Have you ever read a book where you could predict the outcome after reading the first fifty pages? This book does not fall into that category.

The Unseen is about a young man named Lucas who makes his living washing dishes and spends his free time being an Infiltrator. He finds his way into buildings (office buildings, primarily), finds their hidden spots, and watches people. He's essentially homeless, living in the boiler room at Howard University, but very content with his life. He is Unseen by those around him, until the night another Infiltrator finds his home base. This chance encounter will lead Lucas into meeting other Infiltrators, or "Creepers" as they're better known, and as he learns about their activities, he can't help but get involved.

Unlike Lucas, the Creepers sneak into homes--something Lucas considers off limits to himself--and they record the activities going on in the homes. But they're not interested in the mundane, everyday activities of the homeowners (like blogging), they're interested in the violence that goes on behind closed doors. Spousal abuse, murder plots, they record it all and play it back for the others in the group. When Lucas discovers that the Creepers are only interested in recording and not preventing the violence they witness, he decides to do something about it.

The events that follow take Lucas on a journey that will make him question who he is, where he came from and will bring him face to face...with himself.

I started reading this yesterday around 8:00 p.m. and finished it around 11:40 p.m. I tried several times to stop, but within a minute or two, I was right back into it. I just could not stop reading it. I guess it's a good thing I'm not working right now and staying up that late didn't bother me.

I initially picked up this book at the Green Valley Book Fair because the plot, as described on the flyleaf, was different. A lot of the writing advice I read tells me that to become a better writer, you need to read, read, read, and not just within your preferred genre. I've heard of urban explorers before but never really read anything about them, so that piqued my interest. Another bit of advice is to come up with your own unique twist on things to make the story stand out from all the others. The writer definitely did that with The Unseen. Plus, another bit of writing advice is that you should constantly ramp up the tension as the story progresses, putting your protagonist into more and more peril, so that the reader keeps turning those pages so they can find out how the hero triumphs in the end. Oh, my goodness does that ever happen here!

I will admit I found the character of "Swarm" to be a, and a little sci-fi'ish, which doesn't really fit the atmosphere of the story. As a plot device, it works, but it kinda threw the story a little off kilter to me. And a few times, Lucas looks back on his childhood, but it's always to one specific memory from when he was 10 years old, and nothing else which, in retrospect, is odd, but I didn't think so as I was reading. It's only until "Swarm" reveals all that I realized this.

Another odd thing is that this book was published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing firm, but the story does not have an overall Christian theme. A salvation message? Eh, maybe. A moment of revelation? Yes, but Lucas did not turn his life over to Christ, as you might expect in a Christian story. So I find the choice in publisher odd, but that's really not something for me to judge.

I don't grade my reviews, but if I did, this one would get 7 stars out of 5. It truly is an awesome book, despite the one or two oddities. It's going on my Shelfari list (I read it so fast, I never had a chance to update it) with a great review and I hope to pick up some of T.L. Hines' other works very soon.

Addendum: Since publishing this post on my other blog in mid-September, I've read T.L. Hines' other works, Waking Lazarus and The Dead Whisper On were both excellent reads, though I have to admit I was a little disappointed with The Dead Whisper On. The story seemed to ramble toward the end and I couldn't quite grasp what was going on, but I did enjoy the story. His fourth book, Faces in the Fire, was published in July of last year. It's on my "Need to Read" list.

Review Transfer #3 - Godblog

GODBLOG by Laurie Channer

Tall, non-fat, blond, extra-conflicted, to go...

Circumstances force Dag, a young snowboarder based in Whistler, to give up his sport and to find another way to live. He embarks on two paths, the first, a subsistence job as a barista in a coffee mega-chain where he works hard to be a worker extraordinaire to boost his tips. He also invents an online alter ego who pronounces his own brand of wisdom and rant, an outlet to express what Dag can't in his day-to-day role of coffee slave. His dark side blogs provocation in every post and gains a following.

Women figure prominently in his life, including his friend Heathen, whose competitive skiing successes are a painful counterpoint to his own loss; his new roommate Grace, whose expectations are impossible for him to live up to; and the flirtatious customers and the casual flings he suddenly finds himself drawn to and capable of. Dag's personality suffers in the struggle between his real and cyber lives as the blog veers wildly between bluster and baiting, as people begin to do what it says.

When his blog butts heads with the corporate paranoia of his coffee overlords, Dag has trouble keeping his real and cyber selves integrated. His percolating identity crisis boils over into real-life jeopardy, scalding himself and those around him.

Godblog raises fundamental questions about the risks and rewards of reinventing ourselves in the twenty-first century. The story is told through a combination of regular narrative, blog entries, and corporate memos from the coffee-industrial complex, which also becomes a catalyst in the drama.

My review:

Dag Olsson “crash and burns” his opening day of snowboarding on the Whistler slopes, limps into the nearest BlackArts coffee shop and applies for a job. Within a week, he’s the star barista (or as he calls himself, javaslinger), providing coffee and entertainment (coffetainment) to the customers and his fellow coffee-slaves.
But who is Dag? No longer a snowboarder, he struggles to make a living while figuring out who he should be. He vents his frustrations on an anonymous blog, calling himself the Hero of the teeming masses, not realizing the impact his words will have on his readers.

His looks are drawing attention, too, and for the first time in his life, Dag finds easy relationships, well, easy, to the annoyance of his female co-barista Heathen and roommate Grace. Heathen’s attracted to him, even if she won’t admit it to herself, and Grace slowly finds herself falling in love with him, in spite of the fact that he’s so not her type.

When the Hero posts an off-handed rant against BlackArts, it catches the attention of the corporate office, whose attempts to simultaneously capitalize on the publicity and uncover his identity only irritate the Hero into calling his masses to act.

As things heat up between his work, home and on-line lives, Dag struggles to keep up with everything going on around him. In the end, when lives are literally on the line, what can he do to stop the madness his life has become?

Because I’m a writer myself (or working on it, at least), I tend to read with a critical eye. I’m studying characters, motivation, plot construct and keeping an eye on sentence structure, punctuation, and whether or not the author breaks any established writing rules. And if they do break any rules, are they breaking good or breaking bad?

Laurie breaks some of the rules—breaking bad—but I’m not so sure the average reader would notice them—a few places where she gives background information on some of the characters felt a little forced to me. And she broke what I always thought of as a major rule but did it in a way that worked out, so that broke good. I can’t tell you what that rule is because (1) I’m not so sure it really is a rule and (2) it’s a major plot spoiler and I won’t do that.

There are a number of intertwining subplots throughout this story, but Laurie blends them smoothly like a rich cup of (I don’t drink coffee, so insert your favorite specialty coffee drink here), sure to satisfy.

Review Transfer #2 - One if by Heaven, Two if by Hell


I had high expectations for this novel and I was not disappointed.

Ethan Reyes hears voices and he can’t stop them, no matter what he tries. The only peace he finds is when he drinks himself into unconsciousness. When the people around him are attacked and start dying grisly deaths, Ethan must pull himself out of the bottle and confront the real-life demon that is haunting him.

Rick Maydak has crafted a great story. I will admit I guessed Ethan’s “secret” early on (and I don’t mean the mind-reading), however, I could not have predicted the twists and turns this story takes and how this story would turn out. Imaginative and well paced, the action kept moving and growing more and more intense right to the very end.

If you’re looking for a great middle-of-the-night-scare-me-read, I highly recommend this book.

The reviewer received an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher.

I was hoping the book would arrive before I left on my vacation, but of course it didn't. So I made sure I finished whatever book I was reading so I could start on this one once I got home. It had to wait a day or two for me to finish recovering from my trip, but I dove right in once I was ready. This story wasn't anything like what I was expecting, which I suppose is both good and bad. Good, because it was new and different, and bad because I had different expectations. But it was a good story and I did enjoy it so yes, I would recommend it.

Happy Reading!

Review Transfer #1 - The Kult

THE KULT by Shaun Jeffrey

A gory, terrifying thriller, The Kult will keep you hooked until the very last page.

Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow thought paperwork was the worse part of his job, until his partner dropped the photograph on his desk. The mutilated body of a young woman surrounded by photographs of famous serial killers signaled the beginning of a hunt for a killer calling himself the Oracle, and might end with Prosper serving time for murder.

In the midst of searching for a sadistic killer, Prosper receives a plea from an old school friend. Jerel wants to revive their blood oath and get revenge on the man who raped his wife, and he wants The Kult to help him.

Caught between loyalty to his old friends and his duty as a police officer, Prosper makes a difficult decision. And when more photographs start to appear in his office, Prosper comes to a terrible conclusion. Could one of his old friends be the Oracle? And what motive did the Oracle have for framing Prosper?

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started my journey through The Kult. What I got was a roller coaster ride that plunged me straight down that first terrifying hill into a house of horrors, festooned with bloody, mutilated corpses. The Kult will draw you in with a pace that grows more intense as the story continues. Shaun Jeffrey has created a well-crafted horror that will keep the reader guessing and will keep the pages turning until the ride finally comes to an end.

A word of caution, though…don’t be turning those pages late at night in a creaky house!