Posts Tagged Occult

Under Witch Moon – Maria Schneider

Storyline: Under Witch Moon by Maria Schneider is just plain entertaining (and somewhat informational too!). It has a bit of magic, a dash of romance, a dollop of mystery and an extra helping of action.

Adriel is a witch for hire, helping those who can’t help themselves (by conventional means, anyway) and when one of her latest clients ends up murdered, she must pull it together and figure out how to stop her killer. But, it isn’t as cut and dry as she first thought and things get even more complicated when some vampires, shape shifters and a voodoo witch get involved.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed very few issues with spelling or grammar. I think another good read-through by a beta reader and the story would make the story perfecto!

Character Development: It takes all kinds of folks to make the world go ‘round and even more when the occult is brought into play and Adriel is up to her witchy ears in just about every occult player there is.

Adriel is a “good” witch and she’s a good witch – probably one of the best in the Phoenix area. She’s young, but not lacking in wisdom and experience. Adriel is smart, resourceful and even pretty witty and very likeable. She shows that being a witch isn’t just about riding on broomsticks and twitching your nose – it’s all about hard work and follow-through. (Much like life in general, I suppose.)

Lynx, her link to the underground, is really something else. He’s a young street urchin and is her eyes and ears around town. Like Adriel, the reader is never really sure what it is that Lynx is until the end. He’s an opportunist, yet still very loyal. Lynx keeps Adriel grounded as much as she keeps him fed.

Writing Style: Under Witch Moon is written from Adriel’s quirky perspective on the world. (Of course, it’s only “quirky” because she’s a witch, y’all!) The reader is given somewhat of a crash course on all things of witchery and supernatural. Ms. Schneider is both very detailed and technical with the descriptions of the various potions, spells and general magickery (Is that even a word?!) without it feeling like a how-to manual on the world of the mysterious occult.

The only issue, if it can be considered an issue, was the dialogue at the very beginning between Adriel and Delores. It seems a bit old fashioned and doesn’t really fit into the typical contemporary style of speaking. Though, after the first chapter (really, the first bit of dialogue at all) this problem disappears and the remaining characters’ interactions are realistic, believable and true to our modern day world.

Continuity:  I noticed no issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 4

I’ve got to be honest, while I reading Under Witch Moon, I was worried that Ms. Schneider wasn’t going to be able to bring all of the different elements, creatures and characters together for a cohesive resolution. Boy! Was I wrong! I shouldn’t have worried about it in the least. This book has it all: magic, love, action, drama, suspense, comedy and all of it set in the beautiful desert of Arizona! I would encourage anyone to read this and nearly anyone can read this as it doesn’t have too many adult situations or graphic scenes.

Ms. Schneider did an excellent job and I hope she’ll allow me to review her next book!

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Death Has a Name – Jerry Hanel

Storyline: Gah! I have no puns! Death Has a Name by the talented Jerry Hanel is great – puns or no puns!

Poor Brodie Wade. He’s had a rough go with life. From being taken from his mother to institutionalized to dealing with his psychic abilities. The Truth (as Brodie knows it) is always trying to tell him its story and guide him into helping those around him.

After a couple of beheadings, he and Det. Dawson must work together to figure out if the Midnight Killer is back from the grave or if this is a whole new set of problems. What is the meaning behind the mysterious writing on the wall? What do the necklaces have to do with the murders? Does the Angel of Death really exist? And can it be stopped?!

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed some minor spelling errors. I’d suggest another read through by a beta reader.

Character Development: As you all know, I was able to interview Brodie before I read his story and wow…what a character. Brodie is as every bit paranoid and nervous in the book as he is in his interview. He seems to cope pretty well for someone who can see The Truth manifesting everywhere and around everybody. (Not sure if I’d be that “calm.” I’d probably fixate on my cat too.) I am curious to know more about his relationship with his mother – if he was even able to maintain one after they took him from her for the alleged child abuse. Maybe Mr. Hanel will let us in on more of poor Brodie’s life story as the series progresses.

Writing Style: The writing style is wonderful and moves a great pace. I started reading this right when I first got to work (around 8 a.m. or so) and finished up right after lunch and I didn’t even notice that much time has passed! I loved Mr. Hanel’s attention to detail and the idea that normal – though specially trained – every day people are standing between humanity and the Angel of Death was pretty awesome. A tad unnerving – but still a very cool concept.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 5+

With a title like, Death Has a Name, I was unable to think of any clever puns, but that does not take away from the well written and thoroughly entertaining story. Mr. Jerry Hanel has created a unique and endearing character with Brodie.

Mr. Hanel also included a preview for Thaloc Has a Body and I’m almost positive that it will be as enjoyable as Death Has a Name.

An indepth interview with Brodie Wade, Psychic Detective from Death has a Name, concerning his relationship with his author Jerry Hanel.

Celia: How did you first meet your writer?

Brodie:  What? Oh, Lord. No… no, no. I’m hearing questions in my head again. Make them stop… make them stop…. Just answer them, Brodie.. just answer them. The Truth just wants to be known. (* deep breath *) Ummm…. My Writer? Jerry? He said that he enjoyed mysteries as a kid, and really likes thinking “outside the box” when it comes to paranormal and such. Through a series of coincidences, and a little too much caffeine, we ran into each other.

Celia:  Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?

Brodie:  (* Looks to make sure no one is watching him speak to himself, then whispers *) No. You wrote all of this down? Even the parts where I freak out? Please… don’t send me back to the institution.

Celia:  What are your favorite scenes in your book: action, dialog, romance?

Brodie:  I remember when I was thirteen, in the institution. That’s in the book, and I appreciate how it shows why I am what I am… It was when I first realized that The Truth isn’t purposely trying to kill me. It’s trying to warn those around me about things in their own lives. I still hate the Truth, but over the years I’ve come to accept it.

Celia:  Did you have a hard time convincing your author to write any particular scenes for you?

Brodie:  No. I’m having a hard time convincing him to stop writing. He wants to write more about me, but the more he writes about me, the more people will see how I spend most of the day talking to myself, and to The Truth, which no one else can see. I’m afraid of what people might think if they saw. What if they knew? They’d send me away for good.

Celia:  Do you infiltrate your writer’s dreams?

Brodie:  No… my own head is freaky enough.

Celia:  What do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?

Brodie:  I like to read. There’s an Escher’s dilemma for you… What would happen if I were to read about me reading??? (* ponders the thought deeply while holding his head between his hands. *)

Celia:  Are you currently engaged in a relationship?

Brodie:  No. No, no no no no no… no. No one would want me. I’m… damaged goods, as they say. Jerry says he’s going to fix me up with someone soon, but I can’t see myself loving anyone.

Celia:  Are you happy with the genre your writer has placed you in?

Brodie:  Yes and no. The Truth and the paranormal world I have to deal with is all I’ve ever known, even as a little child. But I would do anything to give it up. I want — more than anything — to be “normal” … whatever that is.

Celia:  If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

Brodie:  I didn’t write a book. Oh… in Jerry’s book? Probably me getting shot. Yeah. That hurt.

Celia:  Do you like the way the book ended?

Brodie:  Yes. But I promised not to give away the ending, so I can’t say more than that.

Celia:  Would you be interested in a sequel if your writer was so inclined?

Brodie:  Interested? No. Will what I want deter him? No.

Celia:  Do you believe that you are suitable portrayed in electronic books or would you rather be in paperback only?

Brodie:  I would prefer the world wasn’t aware of me at all… but if Jerry has his way, it will probably be primarily electronic, with a paper offering sometime later this year.

Celia:  Did you have any input into the book cover design?

Brodie:  (* shudders *) No. Just the sight of it makes me want to hold my cat close and wish it away.

Celia:  What is the lamest characteristic your writer has attributed to you?

Brodie:  My stupid cigarettes. I just wanted ONE more, but no… he would’t write a single one into the pages for me.

Celia:  If you could give yourself a superpower, what would you choose?

Brodie:  I already have one. I want to get rid of it. Make it go away. Please?

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Satan’s Mirror – Roxanne Smolen

Storyline: Roooooooxxxxxxxxanne! You don’t have to turn on the red light! Wait… I mean, Ms. Roxanne Smolen’s Satan’s Mirror really captures the essence of evil and the enduring faith of mankind. Not much to do with *ahem* ladies of the night or Sting…

Emily has the world figured out: she’s a skeptic through and through. Nothing is as ever spooky, scary or terrifying as it seems. Emily is the host of an investigative show that disproves urban myths and unravels mysteries for the world to see.

When her boss gives her a lead to follow down in sunny Florida, things take a decidedly dark and evil twist. Ghosts, demons and disappearances abound as Emily tries to unravel the mystery of Satan’s Mirror. A local legend that has otherworldly beginnings. Only when her own life begins to fall apart does Emily start to believe that something beyond rational explanation is the cause of the horrors…

Can Emily’s sense and sensibilities keep her safe and help her find her missing daughter? Will she be able to find the strength in herself to do the impossible to fight the evil incarnate and maintain her sanity?

Grammar/Spelling: I didn’t notice any grammar or spelling issues. Yay!

Character Development: Emily is an interesting woman. She’s smart and determined and not easily swayed by the world around her. She even goes so far as to insist that her daughter face her fear of monsters headlong (much to her dismay as these kinds of monsters aren’t exactly Sulley and Mike Wazowski). It was definitely easy to see the strength in Emily and even when she was in the horrors of hell – making her way to save her daughter – she tried to help everyone that she met. Even at the risk of running out of time and getting caught herself.

Writing Style: The book could use a good hair cut with a pair of carefully wielded surgical scissors.  What I mean by that is: it has too much ‘fluff’ for my tastes and what I mean by ‘fluff’ is ‘extraneous description’.  If it was a little less wordy, it would be more appealing to me.  The method works well for Stephen King, apparently; but, I do find myself skimming in The King’s books simply to get past the ‘fluff’.  I prefer a little less talk and a lot more action.

On the other hand, there are several instances where a lack of description really takes away from the story. For example, Emily decides to hide out at a bar in St. Augustine and the author describes what Emily ordered and she also mentioned that it looks like there is a stage for a live band (but not that one is performing). From this description, I wasn’t really able to garner if Emily was actually able to “hide” in plain sight; meaning that I didn’t know if the bar was busy or if it were empty and if she even did a good job at avoiding the police. It seems as if she’s describing something for a report.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 3+

I would say that this is a good novel to read for anyone who is interested in the paranormal and proving or disproving faith. Satan’s Mirror presents us with an interesting take on the concept of hell and an all too familiar story about a woman fighting her way through her own skepticism and trying to save herself from Satan himself.

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Cameo the Assassin – Dawn McCullough-White

Storyline: Cameo the Assassin is a truly fang-tastic novel by Ms. Dawn McCullough-White!

Cameo is an assassin for hire and she’s good at her job. Very good. She is also the stuff of local legends and frightening children’s rhymes. Her story begins after she receives an atypical assassination assignment and a chance encounter leads to unexpected changes in her “typical” assassin routine. Cameo manages to make friends and make new enemies when she becomes the target of an attempted assassination.

The story is distinctive in that the reader is uncertain of Cameo’s origins and what she truly is until about mid-way through the book when her true nature is revealed. The pacing is just right, with enough back story and action to keep the reader interested, wanting to learn more and even cheering on the “bad” guys.

Grammar/Spelling: I only noticed a few missing commas or periods throughout.

Character Development: Ms. McCullough-White does a remarkable job creating a killer that is both plausible and easy to identify with. Cameo manages to leave your heart aching for her to have some normalcy and acceptance in the world. Ms. Mc-W’s ability to present the reader with a unique cast of characters without them becoming too contrived or predictable is truly remarkable.

Cameo is our heroine/killer and she is exactly what I would imagine a person in her line of work would be: excellent at killing people, jaded and lonely. Throughout all of this, she still has moments of true humanity and even romanticism that help prove that she is not without a conscience or heart.  With each revelation of her past, the reader is drawn to her like a moth to the flame.

Black Opal is the dashing Highwayman who loves fanciful fashion and lovely lasses. Opal thinks of himself as a debonair and charming gentleman who just happens to rob coaches for a living to support his dandy lifestyle. However, there is more – much more – to him than he lets on.

Writing Style: Ms. Mc-W’s style is something to be envied and is certainly as refreshing as much as it is straightforward. She doesn’t bombard the reader with too many details; yet develops the story with enough speed and grace to keep the reader captivated.

Her choice of character names is very interesting in that many of the names seem to have been switched from the typical masculine use to the feminine and vice versa. I have always been intrigued by the origin of names and words and for someone efficiently switching it up a bit and creating “new” names without stringing together a series of vowels and consonants just to “create” a different name is an excellent change of pace for a fantasy novel.

Continuity:  The length of a character’s hair is referred to several times as extremely long – all the way to his ankles – and towards the end of the story, his hair is described as touching the ground.

Overall Rating: 4+

I am extremely pleased with Cameo the Assassin and am looking forward to reading the second book Cameo and the Highwayman. Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that a book with a central character like Cameo is like nothing else I’ve had the pleasure of reading and I can only hope that Ms. McCullough-White continues this series for many, many volumes!

The story has some violent scenes; though, none are too graphic and there is very little adult language. Although, the dark storyline isn’t for everyone, I can say that many people would enjoy this and I would recommend it to nearly anyone with an interest in the more macabre side of life (or death, as it were).

Character Interview with Black Opal

An interview with Black Opal of Cameo the Assassin and Cameo and the Highwayman concerning her relationship with her author Dawn McCullough-White.

Celia:  How did you first meet your writer?

Black Opal: It was the summer of 1987, and I remember it as if it was yesterday.  The care she took crafting my image over and over, pencil in hand… of course I’m very aesthetically pleasing so I can understand the draw.

Celia:  Did you ever think that your life would end up being in a book?

Black Opal:  Oh yes.  I really can’t imagine it otherwise, can you my dear?  I’m just a little bigger than life… and some of the things I’ve done in my time, well, can’t give away the whole series but there is more to me than meets the eye.  Of course, I might be willing to tell you love, somewhere a little more quiet, a bit more… private.  Perhaps later, after this interview?

Celia:  What are your favorite scenes in your book: action, dialog, romance?

Black Opal:  Oh the swashbuckling and the witty repartee are fine but the romance, well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mark that at the top of my list.

Celia:  Did you have a hard time convincing your author to write any particular scenes for you?

Black Opal:   Yes.  The love scene.  Good lord, she rewrote that thing around fourteen times until she realized that my original take on that scene was the right one.  If she’d only listened to me to begin with, it wouldn’t have taken the woman so long to get the novel finished!

Celia:  Do you infiltrate your writer’s dreams?

Black Opal:  Once.  I just wanted to give her the idea what it was like to be me for a little while.

Celia:  What do you like to do when you are not being actively read somewhere?

Black Opal:  Oh, let’s see…  Robbing coaches, enjoying a bottle of good wine, buying a new frock…  lying in the arms of a beautiful… individual.

Celia:  Are you currently engaged in a relationship?

Black Opal:  Would I have asked you to meet me later if I was?  Certainly not.

Celia:  Are you happy with the genre your writer has placed you in?

Black Opal:  What genre are we considered again?  Sometimes it’s Dark Fantasy, others it’s Historical Fiction… I can’t keep up.  Truly though, I’d make a rather funny character in say… science fiction, or pulp fiction, although I’d probably do just fine in Chick Lit.

Celia:  If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?

Black Opal:  The tower scene.

Celia:  Do you like the way the book ended?

Black Opal: Oh yes.

Celia:  Would you be interested in a sequel if your writer was so inclined?

Black Opal:  As fate may have it I was able to convince Ms. McCullough-White to write a second novel with a storyline all about me.  Well, all right there was another subplot that had something to do with a vampire fellow who took Cameo hostage, but other than that it was all about me.  That was no easy task let me tell you, I spent months invading the time she was trying to write out the first novel, and forcing her to write dialog for the second novel.  I know this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I was downright vexing.  I simply would not shut-up.  Ha, ha… and in the end it all worked out for the best.

Celia:  Do you believe that you are suitable portrayed in electronic books or would you rather be in paperback only?

Black Opal: I am suitable for all forms of media.

Celia:  Did you have any input into the book cover design?

Black Opal: Sadly, I wasn’t given the opportunity to speak my mind but I did influence Ms. McCullough-White that I should be on the cover of the second novel, and lo and behold- on the second cover, you may note there is an image of me.

Celia:  What is the lamest characteristic your writer has attributed to you?

Black Opal:  Lame… lame… hmm…  I can’t think of one- oh I know, she gave me small pox and now I have all those awful scars that mar my appearance, and I’m blind in one eye.  For a moment there I thought you might be asking about something intangible such as… vanity or something like that.  Silly of me.

Celia: If you could give yourself a superpower, what would you choose?

Black Opal: The ability to erase memories.

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