#WhatToRead: BLACK RABBIT HALL + a picture of me with Paul Bunyan

Black Rabbit Hall was one of my October “modern Gothic” picks. I read most of it while traveling to, and staying in, a cottage on the sunrise side of Lake Huron. I’ve never been to Cornwall, but I have a feeling the two places are dissimilar. Still, it was neat reading an atmospheric story set by the sea featuring an old family mansion while curled up on my friend’s couch in her family’s cozy lake house. There were no ghosts in hers (it’s too new) but one whole room was decorated with black and white photographs of four generations of family, as well as more recent photographs of friends who have visited. (That’s us with Paul Bunyan.)

The story opens with a prologue from Amber’s point of view, which sets the tone immediately. It’s “the last day of the summer holidays” and Amber feels safer on a cliff ledge than she does in her house. She’s searching for someone. You get the impression she might be playing hide & seek. But if so, it’s a dangerous game. There’s a feeling that something’s not right. That something will go wrong. Or perhaps that something has already gone wrong and will only get worse. The prologue ends when Amber sees something floating in the water below.

And then three pages and three decades later, we’re following Lorna, a bride-to-be on a mission to find the quintessential wedding venue. Lorna loves old houses… Cornwall… and her fiance, Jon.

Black Rabbit Hall casts shadows and creates silhouettes. The story is as murky as the water Amber is staring into when the book begins. But author Eve Chase paces her reveals well and, since I don’t want to spoil the story, I’ll simply say it deserves the label “Gothic.” It’s not just a novel with a dark, foreboding tone. It’s not just a novel set in an old crumbling mansion. It’s got all the other elements too — family secrets, sinister deeds, psychological distress, love, madness, hatred, and (for one character at least), an acknowledgement that there will be no forgiveness.

Where did I get my copy of Black Rabbit Hall? Baltimore County Public Library 🙂


We left our cozy cottage twice… Once to take a hike in the Huron National Forest along the Au Sable River and the second to have margaritas at the Boathouse Beer Co. & Boozery (followed by a quick trip to the hardware store… where we bought firewood, pickled asparagus, and pink camo baby tights for one of my friend’s nieces. Ya know, just the essentials. 😉 )

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Kings River Life Reviews Pocket Full of Tinder (#fantasy #giveaway)

Kings River Life is a California magazine with local focus and global appeal. They have a companion site that reviews mystery, fantasy, and horror. A few years ago, they took an interest in the Noon Onyx series, so I sent them a copy of my latest and asked if they wanted to review it. Happily, they said yes. Their publisher sent me the link yesterday and, I have to say, it contains one of my favorite quotes yet:

A good series that isn’t afraid to throw game-changers into the mix. It’s as if Mary Tyler Moore was hired to play Kojak.—Kings River Life

Reading that made me smile. (IMDb describes The Mary Tyler Moore Show as portraying “the lives and trials of a young single woman and her friends, both at work and at home” and Wikipedia says Kojak was “stubborn and tenacious in his investigation of crimes—and also displayed a dark, cynical wit, along with a tendency to bend the rules if it brought a criminal to justice.”) I didn’t watch either showbut it’s nice to have Noon compared to such iconic characters.

What do you think? Have you seen The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Kojak

You can enter to win a print copy of Pocket Full of Tinder by commenting on the Kings River Life Review. While you’re there, check out the magazine. If you like what you see, consider subscribing. A winner will be chosen by March 11, 2017. Good luck, all!

Jill Archer, Noon Onyx series, Pocket Full of TinderClick here for my thoughts on reviews and my review policy.

Thank you to Kings River Life and everyone else who reviewed my latest novel. You all are terrific for taking an interest in the series!

A final, quick programming note:

I know I owe everyone some 2017 Reading Challenge posts. I blame it on February being a short month… and a bunch of other stuff that would take too long to write about and would border on IIO (irrelevant-info-overload – TMI’s less awkward, but more infinitely more boring cousin). I’ll be posting my thoughts on February’s reads and March’s choices very soon, however. Until then, happy reading and writing!

The Taxidermist’s Daughter: a Gothic-tinged, avian-hued horror story

The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse is a difficult novel to classify. It’s set in Sussex in 1912, but I wouldn’t call it historical fiction; it’s more atmospheric than tediously accurate in its depiction of the time and place. It opens with a murder, a body, and a group of suspects, but it’s no detective story; throughout the novel, the reader knows far more than the late-on-the-scene policeman. If pressed, I’d call the book a Gothic-tinged, avian-hued horror story. It’s a story of revenge — or justice, depending on your perspective.

The Taxidermist's Daughter, Kate Mosse, horror, revenge, justice, Gothic, mystery, historical fiction

The titular character is Connie Gifford, whose memories before the age of twelve are lost. Amnesia can be a clichéd plot device, but Mosse makes it work well enough. In a Prologue, Connie visits the Church of St. Peter and St. Mary where, on the Eve of St. Mark, it’s thought the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year will be seen. Instead, a cloud of birds rush out of the church, striking hats and gravestones, killing themselves in the process. And then, through vague imagery, we see a woman garrotted. It’s an upfront warning to readers. The book is a bit more grisly than Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

The two things most readers will remember about the book are its setting and its focus on taxidermy, specifically with respect to birds (birds are a major motif). Mosse’s descriptions of Fishbourne’s marshes and mill pond, as well as the fictional Blackthorn House, Apuldram Woods, and the aptly named Themis Cottage, are vividly rendered. Instead of a windswept moor and a stormy winter, readers get a windswept coast and a stormy spring. Desolate, doomed places like Wuthering Heights, Manderly, and the House of Usher are evoked.

Most of the chapters end with an excerpt from the book Taxidermy: Or, the Art of Collecting, Preparing, and Mounting Objects of Natural History by R. Lee, which was published in 1820. These peeks into the ghoulish practice gave the story an authentic, if creepy feel, especially because they were immediately followed by the murderer’s journal entries. I’ll admit that I usually prefer my macabre to be more Grim Reaper than Jack the Ripper, but the gruesome aspects of the novel never quite reached a point where it was a major turn off for me. (In fact, my imagined ending was even grimmer than the one Mosse chose).

Two other quick thoughts:

There were a lot of characters whose names began with the letter C. Crowley and Crowther, I understood. Connie and Cassie, I did not.

Mosse used weather to heighten the tension in a way that was believable and effective. It’s a technique I’ve used and I’m always worried it won’t work — that adding a storm to a big set piece showdown will seem tacked on. But, writers, it’s a technique worth studying. I hope it’s not too big of a spoiler to share that Mosse ends the book with a big spring flood. You all know my thoughts on nature and how it can be both destructive and regenerative. I’m not sure she meant it as a metaphor, but it seemed to me that her cold, wet, inexorable tide seeped into the town like an insidious evil and then swept out, taking itself and everything it touched with it.

Have you read The Taxidermist’s Daughter? What did you think?

Egg Timer Reviews: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good. 😉 )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem 😀 ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken. 😉 Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too. 😀 In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs! 🙂

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No! 😀 ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number. 😀 )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…

Goodreads #Giveaway and Other News

Hi all– quick post today to share links to two giveaways that end soon and links to a few new reviews:

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

Goodreads Book Giveaway

White Heart of Justice by Jill Archer

White Heart of Justice

by Jill Archer

Giveaway ends July 15, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

15 print copies (U.S. only)

If you’ve already bought the book and/or added it on Goodreads, please share the link with friends and followers.

Kings River Life

Review and Giveaway

Kings River Life is “a California magazine with local focus and global appeal.” It has a “Fantasy & Fangs” section that reviews fantasy and horror. Their reviewer recently reviewed WHOJ:

“[T]he journey approaches an epic, mythic level, pitting Noon against puzzles and monsters that can’t be defeated by flat-out attacks. The solutions are ingenious, and they help Noon build power in the magic she spent most of her life trying to hide and deny… Archer builds on the classic journey formula where the prize must be won at a cost.” Terrance McArthur for Kings River Life on White Heart of Justice

KRL is giving away one print copy of WHOJ (U.S. only). Giveaway ends tomorrow. Details on how to enter are here.

Other Wonderful Reviews and Reviewers

The Qwillery

“The chronicles of Noon’s journey to accept her place in her world culminates in a thrilling adventure… unpredictable and thoroughly satisfying… inspired and exhilarating… I loved the introduction of new creatures… [and] I love when an author surprises me. Archer raised my level of appreciation by catching me unawares.” Trinitytwo, reviewer for The Qwillery, on White Heart of Justice

 That’s What I’m Talking About

“[T]he overall story arc… was gripping and intriguing… [Noon’s] growth over the course of these books is immense and heartfelt… If you are looking for something different – this alternate realty where the apocalypse has occurred and the demons won – you should really think about picking up the first book, Dark Light of Day and enjoy the journey.” Gikany & Una at That’s What I’m Talking About on White Heart of Justice

 Proud Nerd Book Reviews

“Archer does an excellent job of constructing and explaining the magical system in her world… the “law school” angle is intriguing… The fantasy elements in the story, especially magic and the demons, work extremely well… Anyone who reads fantasy, romance, or especially a combination of the two should thoroughly enjoy Noon’s adventures.” Matthew Cirilli for Proud Nerd Book Reviews on Dark Light of Day

“While Dark Light of Day focused on Noon’s myriad struggles coming to terms with her waning magic and her new life at St. Lucifer’s Law School, Fiery Edge of Steel sweeps Noon to the edges of New Babylonian civilization into the unknown… One of Jill Archer’s greatest strengths is her ability to create unique and intriguing creatures and characters to populate Halja.” Matthew Cirilli for Proud Nerd Book Reviews on Fiery Edge of Steel

Thank you to each of these reviewers for their interest and support! I’m grateful to them for taking the time to read the books, write such thorough and thoughtful reviews, and for sending me the links so that I can share them with you. If you aren’t already following them, please check out their sites.

Readers: I’m also incredibly grateful for your interest, support, ratings, and reviews. If you’ve read White Heart of Justice but haven’t yet posted a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, GoodreadsPowell’s Books, or wherever you hang out online, please consider adding your thoughts and comments! 😀

Best wishes for a terrific weekend, everyone!

White Heart of Justice: Great PW Review!

Publishers Weekly gave White Heart of Justice a wonderful review:

“High stakes and powerful magic collide in the third installment of the Noon Onyx series…. Noon’s voice is wry and genuine, encompassing her sharp sense of self. Some of the major conflict scenes are succinctly and sparsely written; the emotional journey for Noon is far more of the focus, along with the excellent world-building readers have come to expect from Archer.” Publishers Weekly

I love this review! I’m flattered to receive praise from a publication I admire. I also think it’s a great summary of what readers can expect to find in the book. I chuckled when I saw the “succinctly and sparsely written” comment about my major conflict scenes. This book is the shortest of the three and I spent months trying to determine if and where I could/should beef it up. I even drafted a number of additional scenes, which were later cut during editing (more on that later perhaps; too much of a spoiler now). My point is that not once did I consider (until seeing this review) bulking up the major action scenes. Because it’s true — the heart of these stories is Noon’s emotional journey. I build every book around a central question and that central question is directly related to Noon’s inner character development. That said, *I* think the action scenes are great. They’re just the way I like them. 😉 But if you’re looking for epic battles and will settle for nothing less, the Noon Onyx series may not be the fantasy series for you. If you are looking for an emotional journey in a really dramatic, unique fantasy setting, however, then check it out! 😀

Click here for Publishers Weekly‘s review of Fiery Edge of Steel.

A big thanks to PW, RT Book Reviews, and everyone else out there for their interest in the series and for taking the time to write thoughtful reviews.

What’s up for this week? Tomorrow, another guest blogger and Friday, another Disney post. In between… not sure yet… depends on what I have time for. HAPPY MONDAY, ALL!

Book Review: Larissa Ione’s Rogue Rider

‘Morning, all! I said I’d try and post more book reviews. Here’s one from one of my online buds: fellow writer, Celia Breslin. She reviewed Larissa Ione’s Rogue Rider, which sounds fantastic. If you would like to post a book review here, please contact me. Welcome, Celia & Happy Friday, everyone!

Rogue Rider Larissa Ione
Larissa Ione’s Rogue Rider
Book 4 in the Lords of Deliverance series

Hi Everyone! Nice to pay another visit to Jill’s blog!

Today, Jill is allowing me to go all Fan Girl over author Larissa Ione. She was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the paranormal romance category for her novel, Rogue Rider, the fourth book in her awesome Lords of Deliverance series.

SERIES SET-UP

The series centers around three horsemen and one horsewoman of the Apocalypse and the two prophecies that govern their actions. One prophecy predicts they’ll fight for Team Good while the other maintains they’ll fight for Team Evil if their Seals break. Well, guess what? Reseph’s Seal breaks and he spends the first three books in the series on a completely riveting rampage for Team Evil.

ROGUE RIDER STARS

Reseph, aka Pestilence is our hero in Rogue Rider. Stabbed and presumed dead at the opening of this fourth book, we find Reseph in Hell, suffering from the knowledge of the horrors he committed as Pestilence. But someone (sorry, no spoilers here) sets him free back in the human world with his memory stripped. With a real tabula rasa, Reseph has a chance to start over. Until he remembers…

Former air traffic controller and demon-attack survivor Jillian finds Reseph unconscious and naked in a snowdrift in the dead of winter on her property in Colorado. She takes pity on him and drags him home (literally). Reseph awakens with amnesia and Jillian wonders what on earth she should do with the most gorgeous man on the planet who knows nothing but his name?

The answer is, of course, fall in love. And deal with the fall-out when Reseph gets his memory back.

PTSD, HORSEMAN STYLE

Ione does a masterful job painting Reseph as the tortured hero. When Reseph’s switch was set to Evil and Pestilence ruled him, he committed some jaw-dropping atrocities. My mind went “he’s not going to…no, way…he just didn’t…oh yes, he did. OMG…” So you can imagine how Reseph feels when he gets his memory back and has to deal with his past actions, and face everyone that he wronged, including his brothers and sister. His post-traumatic stress – both physical and mental – broke my heart and kept me rooting for his HEA.

REDEMPTION ROAD

Reseph’s journey to redemption is a rocky one. And Ione crafts his struggle so well that I felt every iota of his agony as he tried to forgive himself, and then sympathized with him while watching his family struggle to forgive him, too.

But, as much as the story is about righting wrongs and forgiving oneself and others, it’s also about the healing power of love. Can two damaged people overcome their respective pasts and trust enough to find happiness together?

Yes, they can.

THE BRIGHT SIDE

Okay, enough about the torture. Let’s talk about The Happy. 🙂

Jillian is smart, independent, wary, loving, and brave. Her selfless acts in the story got me all misty-eyed (again, sorry, no spoilers here).

Reseph is funny, says whatever is on his mind (seriously, the man has no filters), protective, powerful, thoughtful, and off-the-charts gorgeous. He’s also freakin’ enormous yet emotionally vulnerable. Ultimately, it’s his vulnerability and his intense drive to make things right that make you root for him and for his HEA with Jillian.

Reseph and Jillian have great chemistry and share many intimate moments both sweet and sexy. The story also provides well-crafted action scenes. And true to Ione’s style, the narrative is dotted with humorous bits and the right amount of snark that had me smilin’ and/or laughin’ out loud.

For example:

“He’s mine,” Thanatos roared.

“Wraith’s gonna be pissed!” Kynan shouted… “He ordered Lance for dinner.”

Thanatos flashed a set of wicked fangs…. “I’ll take him a doggie bag of leftovers.”

So, yes, dear readers, there is brightness. 🙂

THE LORDS OF DELIVERANCE

Rogue Rider is a must-read for series fans. For new readers in the audience, I recommend starting with the other three books in order. You’ll witness first-hand just how horrible Pestilence is and it will add to your awe and amazement over Reseph’s path to redemption in this fourth book.

SERIES READING ORDER

Eternal Rider – Ares
Immortal Rider – Limos
Lethal Rider – Thanatos
Rogue Rider  – Reseph

ABOUT CELIA

Celia lives in California with her husband, daughter, and two feisty cats. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and has a particular fondness for vampires and the Fae. When not writing, you’ll find her exercising, reading a good book or indulging her addiction to Joss Whedon’s TV shows and movies. Her debut novel HAVEN, an urban fantasy romance, is available now on Amazon, AllRomance, and more.

Web site: http://www.celiabreslin.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/celiabreslin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CeliaBreslinAuthor
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/CeliaBreslin

Thanks for guest blogging today, Celia, and for sharing your thoughts on Larissa’s fourth Lords of Deliverance novel.

Are you a fan of Larissa Ione? Have you read the Lords of Deliverance series? If so, what’s your favorite of the four?

Speaking of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, did anyone see the new Sleepy Hollow premiere on Fox this week? Thoughts? It’s a very cool premise, but time will tell if the show keeps me engaged. In the meantime, back to books! Cheers and happy reading over the weekend, all!

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

During one rainy day this past summer, I spent a very pleasant afternoon perusing and purchasing hardbacks (a luxury for me!) from Atlantic Books in Stone Harbor, NJ. One of them was MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. I had read a review in Entertainment Weekly about it weeks before and the whole concept had piqued my interest.

An author who combined creepy vintage photography with a novel? I was IN!

I bought about a dozen or so books that day and PECULIAR CHILDREN was the first one I read. Why? The pictures, of course. They drew me in as much as the story itself. Who can resist bizarre black and white photographs of the strange and macabre? Not even my kids could, who at 7 and 9, were sneaking peaks when I wasn’t reading it.

So what is PECULIAR CHILDREN about anyway?

To say that the book is about peculiar children would be a bit disingenuous, but there you have it in a nutshell. But the story is so much more. Since it recently came out and I’m not into providing spoilers, I’ll just say that the book is about a boy, Jacob, who suffers (and witnesses) a terrible family tragedy. This tragedy sparks a search for information and that search leads Jacob to some very strange and peculiar places. Places well worth visiting as a reader.

Jacob ends up making contact with a girl, Emma, who has a special relationship with fire. Whether this girl is real or imaginary, human or supernatural, dead or alive, etc. I leave to you to find out. Telling you about her, in and of itself, is no spoiler — her picture is on the title page, before the Prologue even begins.

I thoroughly enjoyed PECULIAR CHILDREN. It’s full of all kinds of story elements I adore:

  • The strange and the creepy
  • Boarding schools
  • Carnival references
  • Reality versus illusion
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Quirk (what else would one expect from Quirk Books out of Philadelphia, the folks who brought you PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES?)

Regarding the photographs, I thought it was brilliant how Riggs almost seamlessly wove them into his story. He says in a note at the end that all of the pictures are authentic and, with the exception of a few that had “minimal post-processing” were unaltered. Fascinating. The book would have been good without them but the visual elements certainly added to the experience. Equally impressive was how Riggs worked in other real life details (references to Jeffrey Dahmer, the 1908 Siberian explosion, and WWII’s holocaust).

PECULIAR CHILDREN is also a good work to study. There’s all kinds of things that can be learned from it but two things, in particular, that struck me were his use of motif (birds — see what I have to say about motifs under my “For Writers” page) and his exceptionally well written descriptive prose. Consider the following two sentences:

“What stood before me now was no refuge from monsters but a monster itself, staring down from its perch on the hill with vacant hunger. Trees burst forth from broken windows and skins of scabrous vine gnawed at the walls like antibodies attacking a virus — as if nature itself had waged war against it — but the house seemed unkillable, resolutely upright despite the wrongness of its angels and the jagged teeth of sky visible through sections of collapsed roof.”

I don’t know about you, but I just had to get inside that house and see what was there.

How about you? Have you read PECULIAR CHILDREN? How do you feel about combining story mediums? Are there any other books you’ve read that allow readers to interact with the story world through more than just words?