Posts Tagged Vampires

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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Hard Day’s Knight, Vol. 1 – John Hartness

Storyline: Beatles’ fans can relax! No groupies were harmed in the reading of this book! Hard Day’s Knight Vol 1 written by John Hartness is a surprisingly refreshing take on the sudden interest in all things fang and blood sucking related.

Jimmy and his best friend, Greg, are detectives who also happen to moonlight (Get it! HA!) as vampires. They are, or were, two 20somethings with only a minimal life outside of videogames, being nerds and just flying below the radar… until they were turned into vampires and decided to be good guys. Now, they may have bitten (Oh my God! Somebody STOP me! HA!) off more than they can swallow!

It appears that someone or something is kidnapping children in Charlotte, NC for a Halloween ritual that will undoubtedly end poorly for everyone inovolved. Jimmy and Greg, along with the best friend come priest, Mike, must figure out how to stop the dead from rising, the world from ending and the police from arresting them before time runs out.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed a couple of punctuation issues throughout.  Hardly worth mentioning.

Character Development: The story is told from Jimmy’s sarcastic and twisted perspective. He’s quick to point out that his strengths (or weaknesses – depending on if someone finds him funny or not) lay in his humor, quick-thinking and his loyalty to Greg and Mike. Jimmy is also more of the action “man” in their partnership; whereas Greg is more the brains of the operation. They definitely have a symbiotic relationship. As much as they would deny it…  Both of these guys could be friends of mine – hell! I probably DO have friends like this!

Writing Style: From beginning to end, Jimmy’s flowing narrative carries the reader from his unfortunate kidnapping to fighting zombies in the middle of town. I really enjoyed the swipes that he took at the more *ahem* sparkly of his brethren and dispelled a lot of misconceptions that are associated with creatures of the night. Mr. Hartness does a phenomenal job with keeping the story fluid (HA! ANOTHER vampire pun! It’s like I have a SICKNESS!) and contemporary with enough pop culture references to keep it current without overdoing it.

The story contains adult language, violence and situations. So, it’s not for everyone.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 5

I really enjoyed this book and believe that Hard Day’s Night Vol. 1 will be a wonderfully entertaining series. Mr. John Hartness has written a fang-tastic (Last one…I promise!) vampire novel that isn’t just an ordinary self-loathing, angst-ridden story about a sad vampire who is just trying to fit in. He’s started a vampire detective series that I hope has many volumes!

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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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A Game of Blood – Julie Anne Dawson

Storyline: Miss Julie Ann Dawson has really nailed it in her action-suspense-thriller A Game of Blood.

Detective Mitchell is having a rough time right now. After a miscarriage and a battle with breast cancer, his wife leaves to “find herself”. Then a series of missing girls leads Mitch to the rather eccentric and wealthy vampire (do they come any other way?), Darius Hawthorne.

Darius has grown bored in his old age and he decides that the good detective would make the perfect nemesis. As their game of bat (see what I did there?) and mouse escalates, it appears that there are even greater monsters than the charming Darius for Mitch to fight.

Will they ever be able to come to an agreement? Can Darius stop killing teenage girls in order to gain Mitch’s help? Will Mitch ever be able to stop trying to kill Darius (and clean up his foul mouth)?

Grammar/Spelling: I noted some minor grammatical and punctuation errors throughout. There were a few instances when certain words were left out – nothing that the average reader wouldn’t be able to figure out.

One other thing I noticed was with the usage of certain words: suppose versus supposed and use versus used. I recommend having a beta reader read the dialogue out loud to tighten up that issue. Nothing too noticeable and it certainly did not detract from the overall story.

Character Development: I loved these guys! Most authors will sort of let their secondary characters fall to the wayside because they spend so much time and effort developing their main characters. But, Miss Julie easily developed and portrayed her secondary character’s roles. Mitch’s partner and his family acted the way I would expect them to. Even the DA – who wants to be political, but realizes it can’t always be that way – is great.

Of course, I’m partial to the spirited, charming and downright delightful Darius Hawthorne. (But, maybe I’m biased because I’ve interviewed him before…) He really brings a new meaning to anti-hero. Despite his rather disturbing proclivity for murder, I would still categorize him as more mischievous than malevolent. (Don’t tell him I said that though – he might feel as if I’m somehow insulted him.)

Writing Style: Twists. Turns. Surprises. I’m rarely caught off guard by plot turns (the last time I remember being surprised was when I got Sixth Sensed [Yeah, I just made that into a verb. You’re welcome to use it whenever you blow someone’s mind.] by Bruce Willis and that kid – but that caught everyone off guard. Too bad he was a one-hit wonder…but I digress…) and there were more than a few twists that surprised even me!

The overall pacing is wonderful and moves along very well.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 5+

Cha! Like I’d expect anything less from Miss Bards & Sages herself! From her amazing storyline to her memorable non-vampire characters to one of my favorite characters ever, Miss Julie has truly outdone herself with A Game of Blood.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, except those who are in love with sparkly vampires – this story lacks any of those nice “vegetarian” vampires – and younger children (language, adult situations, etc.) because not only is a great story, it’s an awesome twist on two of my favorite genres: horror and vampires.

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