Tag Archives: supernatural

Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas

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Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas

Pascalle Lepas. Wilde Life. Kickstarter. 2016. ISBN 9780997524802 150 pp. $25

*****

Wilde Life (Volume #1) is a paranormal graphic novel set in the Midwest that may appeal to fans of Stranger Things. It follows the supernatural adventures of Oscar, a man on a mission to get out of town, who lands in a place where weird things happen. Never trust a cheap rental found on Craigslist: his house is haunted by an attractive ghost, a talking bear is less than impressed with his presence, and he befriends a local teenage punk who happens to be a werewolf.

The art is just gorgeous. Perspectives vary, the play of light on the page is often beautiful, and faces are expressive, with figures well proportioned. The writing is solid, the characters are interesting, the story is compelling, and the pacing phenomenal. An Easter Egg: in the online version, a mouseover reveals a clever tagline for each page, lending humor, insight or foreshadowing.

Told via a release of 3 pages a week (Wilde Life updates on a Mon-Wed-Fri schedule), there is a cohesive arc that makes it clear storyteller/artist has a sense of where things are going as the reader is left in suspense as to what will happen next.

Only one volume has been bound thus far; Wilde Life is a great webcomic that transcends well to the page.

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

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Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Cabot, Meg. Insatiable. William Morrow, 2010. ISBN 978-0061735066 464 pp. $22.99

**

I finished Insatiable this past week, and my husband commented, when I picked it up another night, “Are you STILL reading that same book?” It was kind of a crazy week, and I was pretty tired at night, so I’m not sure how that contributed to my difficulty getting through what has been pegged by other reviewers as an easy read.

I liked the irony of the premise: psychic New Yorker and soap opera writer who is a fed up her job and with the popularity of the vampire genre gets fed on by a vamp who she’s unknowingly fallen for. I really enjoyed the treatment of Meena’s psychic ability, that if she shares a vision, she can divert fate, that what she sees is a possible and changeable outcome.

I did think there was a lot of cleverness to Insatiable. I loved Senor Sticky, a great allusion to Kendra’s (and later, Buffy’s) Mr. Pointy. I don’t watch 24, an appreciated that the relevance of Jack Bauer’s name was explained, and I loved the allusions to Dracula. The narrative was pretty straightforward (with several predictable elements).

But overall, I found the writing … amateur. At times, I felt more like I was reading a screenplay, because of the pacing, description and dialogue. Although the dialogue was frequently and delightfully snappy or snarky, the construction of sentences, variety of vocabulary, and plot predictability didn’t have the pizazz of a multiple title novelist.

I wouldn’t call the characterizations stereotypical, but I didn’t findlot much depth or change–perhaps, Meena’s decision at the end is a change, but given her dissatisfaction at the beginning of the novel, it’s not a surprise. I liked the neighbors next door (they surprised and delighted me) and I especially loved Alaric’s first encounter with Mary Lou and her couture.

I randomly opened the book to page 104, and here’s the rundown of dialogue attributions:
Meena said
Jon said
she said
Jon said
Meena admitted
Jon said
Meena said
Jon said
Meena admitted

Now, I know most writing guides will tell you to simply use “said” & “asked,” but use should still be limited, because you can use other tricks, like action, to indicate who is speaking. The overuse of attributions really stood out jarringly for me, instead of fading into the background to let the dialogue shine.

Flipping ahead and skimming through a couple of pages, I am struck by how frequently Cabot uses words in italics. There are two clear purposes: one, to indicate thoughts, like Meena’s musing to herself, or the psychic words/images she receives as portent of death to come.

Cabot also (over)uses italics for emphasis, and this is a no-no, to me. A strong, evocative writer shouldn’t have to TELL the audience where to put the emphasis in the sentence. The sentence structure or choice of words should allow that to occur organically. Cabot tell us to put emphasis on “what” (p 105), counted (p. 106), not (pg 108), knew (pg 109), how (pg 109), what (pg 109), was (pg 109), do (pg 113) ;and then, when a thought in italics has a word to be emphasized, it’s back in a regular font style (him, pg 109).

For me, these are serious writing flaws, and while I have no doubt of potential appeal or audience for this novel, the quality isn’t there enough for me to appreciate it as chick-lit.

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

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The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

Hieber, Leanna Renee. The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. Leisure Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0843962970 321 pp. $

**

I thought this might be like a Soulless sort of book–it’s a supernatural fantastic fiction debut novel reminds me of a cross between A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, and Sabriel by Garth Nix.

19-year old Percy can communicate with the dead and is part of The Guard, a 7 member group that fights against the forces of darkness. She discovered her powers while away at a school for girls–part of the plot revolves around her impending marriage to her professor, Alexi, who is part of the The Guard. She is being watched over by two spirits from the Underworld who are former members and on the “good” side.

I read about 100 pages. This is not a stand-alone sequel, because of all the referrals to events in the previous book, such as Percy & Alexi’s courtship. Percy is recovering from some ordeal in the team’s last adventure which is part of an epic good vs evil type war that will destroy their world if the Guard doesn’t triumph. I kept wanting to flip back to see if I missed something. There is some indication that Percy, with her unusual talents, might be a god or goddess (or related to one).

Percy’s relationship with Alexi is tinted with her doubts about her appearance and attractiveness (she’s very pale, nearly albino, with piercing eyes) and her lack of experience (she’s gone from no friends or lovers to an engagement to an older man).

The historical setting didn’t really add anything to the story, except for some dress details and concerns over Percy’s reputation if she was alone with her beloved.

The omniscient point of view wavers from focusing on Percy to focusing on one of her guardians to focusing on Alexi, and there isn’t time or attention for a lot of character development. I’m not sure if reading the first book would help or make me feel more connected.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

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Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Stiefvater, Maggie. Linger. Scholastic, 2014 (reprint). ISBN 978-0545682794 368 pp. $10.99

****

After defying the odds and restoring werewolf-boyfriend Sam’s humanity, Grace Brisbane dreams of a future far away from the small town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota, and its dark secrets. No longer at the mercy of his animal instincts, Sam struggles to create an identity separate from the wolf pack that represents the only family he has ever known. That bond is soon tested by the addition of the new “recruits,” turned by Sam’s mentor and father figure, Beck, in a final act of desperation to ensure the survival of the pack.

The narrative voices of Grace and Sam are joined in this installment by Isabel, who despite losing her brother Jack to the wolves, is irresistibly drawn to Cole, a bona fide rock star determined to live the rest of his life shrouded in the new found anonymity provided by his lupin alter ego. Together the four must come to terms with their inner demons, and choose a future among humans or wolves. But is the choice really theirs to make? Faced with mounting pressure from parents and police alike, Grace and Sam frantically struggle to control events threatening to tear them apart.

In the much anticipated sequel to her best-seller Shiver, Stiefvater deftly advances the story of her star-crossed lovers, who are no longer fighting to be together, but to remain together. This second book in the series raises the stakes for the central characters as they are confronted with the consequences of their actions, and leaves readers anxiously awaiting the conclusion.

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne

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Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne

Browne, S.G. Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament. Crown, 2009. ISBN  978-0767930611. pp. $

*****

In this self-proclaimed “zom-rom-com” the undead are the sympathetic characters. Victims of trauma are unexpectedly and unexplainably becoming “reanimated.” The zombies, all at different stages of acceptance, ability and decomposition, are outcasts of society. Their second class citizen treatment ranges from harassment (assault and limb-stealing) to SPCA imprisonment for curfew violations, with termination imminent if a human family member, or Breather, doesn’t bail them out.

Some cope by meeting in AA-styled group sessions. In Undead Anonymous, Andy develops a crush on the lovely Rita (a suicide victim) and meets several unique and interesting individuals, including the charismatic Ray, a self-sufficient zombie who refuses to be disenfranchised and rallies the others for equal rights for the reanimated.

This very funny satire manages to not take itself too seriously without getting campy. Browne deftly balances humor with pathos, and gore with romance. The vivid writing flows, delivering a satisfying pace and many amusing scenes. Characterizations are strong, and the voice steady throughout. My one criticism is that there is a hair of predictability to the story, but the ending still didn’t play out exactly as I thought.

The opening draws the reader in immediately: Andy comes to in his parents kitchen, suspecting he has just killed them. From there, Browne delivers a backstory that relates what life is like as a zombie that one could analogize to being a minority, gay, or even, a teen–others tend to make snap judgments about members of these communities and may be intolerant to varying degrees.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

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Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

Harris, Charlaine. Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) Ace, 2001. ISBN 978-0441008537 292 pp. $

****

Sookie Stackhouse is a mind-reading waitress in Bon Temps, LA who falls for a tall dark and handsome newcomer … who turns out to be a vampire.

I am not a mystery fan, but spurred on by True Blood on HBO, I devoured this book in one setting and went on to finish the series. Funny, sexy, thought-provoking, great characterizations.

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I’m a sucker for a good vampire novel and Meyer makes monsters romantic again in this third episode of the Twilight series. The passion-colored ribbon snaking across the cover of Eclipse is a harbringer of rift and bloodshed to come. Bella Swan, ordinary high school student, is still madly in love with beautiful vampire Edward Cullen, but it’s complicating her friendship with Jacob Black (the one who was there to pick up the pieces when Edward removed himself from her life). Jacob just happens to be a werewolf, and werewolves and vampires are sworn enemies. In addition to the “which boy will she pick” dilemma, a parallel conflict is created when a series of brutal murders in the northwest indicates a rogue vampire pack is on the move, and the Cullens are going to be facing a major showdown soon. Per usual, Bella is wrapped up in the middle of it, and in mortal danger.

The best parts of the book are a long storytelling session in which Billy Black tells the myth of the Third Wife. The attention to detail and careful styling are excellent. A scene in which the love triangle are forced to spend a night in a tent together reveals more character than the previous 500 pages. The allusions to Wuthering Heights elevate the plot and are a nod to the tradition of gothic literature, and may even inspire some teens to pick up a classic.

Frustratingly, Bella remains little more than a pawn in this book, trying to please everyone but herself. Much of this tome is taken up with her obsessing over the events of the backstory, and looking to her future, and whether or not she wants to be married, deflowered, turned, or all three, and when. Although she is a terrible role model for young women (marry young, girls are possessions, let your mate control your life, there is only One True Love, etc), the palpable (and chaste) longing will keep fans of the series swooning.

Eclipse is a must-have for YA collections, in spite of the fact that I personally wanted to throw the book across the room when I finished it. See, I’m holding out hope that in the next book, Breaking Dawn, slated for release next year, Bella snaps out of it and ends up with the RIGHT guy–for the right reasons. The debate on WHICH guy that will be rages on.

Dead Is the New Black by Marlene Perez

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Dead Is the New Black by Marlene Perez

Perez, Marlene. Dead Is the New Black.  HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008. ISBN ‎ 978-9910260193 208 pp. $

****

Vampires & werewolves are all the rage (blame Stephanie Meyers), and this supernatural tale about a slightly odd town named Nightshade stands out as lightweight treatment of things that go bump in the night. Daisy, whose talents include gymnastics and cooking, stands out for being normal in family of psychics whose powers include clairvoyance, and telekinesis. When young women in town begin passing out from some kind of odd attack that results in sapped energy and fits of a kind, Daisy makes it her mission to get to the bottom of the mystery, alongside hunky Ryan, football star and son of local chief of police. Romance blossoms (a bit predictably) but the rest of the story is unique, and fun, and has some seriously campy goth elements, like a trend of towing mini coffins along as an accessory in lieu of a purse.

Strong female characters abound, from Daisy’s hardworking rock of mom, to the school’s nurse, Nurse Philips. In between making a mean tiramisu, solving the mystery and getting the guy, Daisy also transitions from ordinary girl to cheerleader, as the squad lacks some key players, uncovers a secret society, and makes nice with a former antagonist. Banter between the three Giordano sisters is witty and by turns warm and teasing (and utterly believable).

Perez’s meal descriptions are mouthwatering, and it’s a treat to read about a teen girl who enjoys food and doesn’t stress too much over body image. The ending is a little over the top with all loose ends neatly tied up and then some, but this is a fine start to what appears to be on it’s way to a regular mystery series.

Twilight (The Mediator, #6) by Meg Cabot

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Twilight (The Mediator, #6) by Meg Cabot

Cabot, Meg. The Mediator. Harper Teen, 2005. ISBN 978-0060724696 312 pp. $

***

She sees dead people. Talks to them, too. In fact, her boyfriend is one (and he just happens to haunt her bedroom). As a mediator, Suze is a liaison between the world of the living and dead. Her skills are still developing, as are those of her classmate and fellow mediator Paul, who relentlessly pursues Suze in spite of the fact that she is love with Jesse, a 150 year old ghost. When Paul discovers that one talent of mediators is the ability to time travel, he decides to eliminate his competition by going back in time to warn Jesse of his impending violent death, thus preventing his spirit from lingering and meeting Suze. The newly single Suze will then have no choice but to fall in love with Paul, and become his date for the upcoming Winter Ball. Will Suze find a way to stop Paul or to get back to the 1850s before he does?

It’s refreshing to see that Cabot has another voice inside her besides that of Princess Mia Thermopolis. Somehow, this light and entertaining read also addresses issues of moral behavior, teen abstinence, and the nature of life and death. Although I haven’t read other titles in the series, I got the gist of what was going on, and now want to go back and read the other five. The graphic cover art is modern and as appealing as the story within the pages.

Wounded (The Wereling #1) by Stephen Cole

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Cole, Stephen. Wounded (The Wereling, #1). Razorbill, 2005. ISBN 978-1595140418 272 pp. $

At 16, Tom is less than thrilled at the idea of a family vacation in the wilderness. He takes off hiking in the woods one morning and while fleeing a bear, falls into the rapids-filled river, ended up battered against some rocks. A kindly local family takes him in to nurse him back to health, but things are not what they seem–they are werewolves, and he’s been chosen as the suitor for their daughter, who needs a mate to turn herself. She isn’t keen on becoming a monster either, though so the two teens make a run for it. Several exciting battles ensue as they run into other werewolves who are one the hunt for the runaways. Not so subtle foreshadowing indicates the two will fall in love, and Tom might be the prophesized wereling, a savior type to ride the world of evil werewolves.

Not as sensory, symbolic, or sexy as Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate (Delacorte, 1997), Wereling has the whole “star-crossed lovers but we can’t give in” feel that lends a certain type of romantic angst teens girls devour. I liked it enough to find out what happens next.