Bites

Published: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Broadway Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history. (goodreads.com)

Ugh. I love Moran’s writing. Few people can write historical fiction that’s as engaging and vivid as Moran can. The extensive amount of research she does for each book is evident, but not in a I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU ALL MY RESEARCH sort of way that some authors have a tendency of falling into. With Moran you only get what’s necessary to paint the scene and to bring the world to life. She never bogs down her work with superfluous detail and with everything I’ve ever read by her she sucks me into the story and doesn’t let me go until the very end, leaving me out of breath and vaguely stunned.

Moran brings life to the past and makes these ancient people as relatable as anyone else, despite the fact that they’re inbred royalty. The inbreeding is mentioned a little bit toward the beginning, because, and someone can correct me if I’m wrong, Nefertari is a half sibling to Ramesses. Egyptians were really into bloodline purity to the point of siblings procreating. Pharaohs were descendants of gods and those lines need to be kept pure. Whatever they needed to tell themselves.

Anyway, Moran really makes you feel for Nefertari. She’s basically this shunned princess (the niece of the heretic ruler Akhenaton who tried to convert the Egyptians to monotheism by worshiping one god, Aten), grudgingly kept around because she’s in favor with Seti and that’s about it. She has people around her desperate to get her to maneuver politically in order to ensure not only her own survival, but to bring their own desires to fruition, and they just to happen to line up nicely with Nefertari. You see her, and Ramesses, make grievous errors in their judgment that have serious repercussions and it kills them that these things happen. Neither one of them are really game for political posturing, but both understand the necessity and neither want to do something rash just because they can. They’re both very self-aware in that regard and it humbles them even more.

I never want to come out of one of Moran’s books. Especially those about Egypt. The amount of love she has for history is so evident in the life she breathes into the past. Hell, Moran is such a fantastic writer that I’ve found myself reading books of hers pertaining to things I was never previously interested in. Well, I am now! Her dedication to preserving the past and her love for it are evident in her writing. She handles these ancient worlds with a kind of reverence that’s missing in some historical fiction. It’s why I can’t get enough of her work.

Okay. Before this totally turns into a gush fest. THE HERETIC QUEEN brings ancient Egypt to life and breaths life into historical figures whom we only know as drawings on rocks, nearly lost to the sands. Not only does she bring the technical aspect to her writing, but she gives these ancient people lives. Personalities. Experiences. She makes them human and reachable. I can’t get enough of it.

5

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Published: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Sterling & Stone
Author: Website(s)
Info: Goodreads

In a grim future, choice is all you have. In 2097, the world is as perfect as you want it to be. Choose Enterprise and the government stays out of your way, leaving you free to sink or swim – no help for the drowning. Choose Directorate and all are equal, fed, sheltered and entertained by the government, every need provided for, and every man another cog in society’s machine. Every six years during Shift, citizens decide who they are. Enterprise or Directorate, lives are lived inside the North American Union, walled off from the rest of the world and the Wild East beyond the shell, enhanced by incredible A.I., nanobots that monitor and support daily living, and The Beam: the network connecting every human in the NAU. New powers are rising as emergent technology blooms from an unknown source, and threatens to shatter peace and throw the nation into chaos.What does the future mean when our present is stretched and reality blurred? (goodreads.com)

There was a forward in this book that explained the Season One they have in the title. Thankfully. Because I had no idea what that was about. Not-so-thankfully when I actually read the reason. The authors basically wanted to write this book in the same manner that awesome TV shows are written, and likened it to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, going on about how TV is in its prime. I sat there going uh . . . That seems to be aiming a bit high. Judging by the ratings on Goodreads they hit the mark with a lot of people. I was not one of them.

I didn’t hate it. In fact I didn’t mind what I was reading. I just wasn’t wowed by it and I’m not really compelled to read more. To make a similar comparison, this would be one of those TV shows that I liked enough to play it in the background while I dicked around on my iPad, but once I started missing episodes and truly stopped caring I would just remove it from my Watch List and never go back to it (sorry Sleepy Hollow and Agents of SHIELD). I would feel almost obligated to keep up with it for a time, but my interest would wane and I’d just stop watching.

So yeah. That’s THE BEAM for me.

I liked the world the authors created. Very poignant, which I’m sure was the point. At times a little too self-aware for my liking and it had its moments where is waxed a little too long on said poignant point where I tried to will it along a little. This is actually the kind of sci-fi I like. Not big on the space stuff, but technological advancement, yes. The over-use of the computer, yes. It’s light sci-fi and I don’t feel spun around by a ton of technical jargon inserted as a cheap way to world build. That didn’t happen here. And it kind of blew my mind because I’m reading about AIs here and then I read an article in the most recent edition of Vanity Fair where they spoke to Elon Musk about AIs and where they’re going and other big names in tech weighed in about nanos and I felt like I timed this read perfectly.

It annoyed me when today’s terms were used in a futuristic setting. Society has advanced this far but the term hipster is still used? These little pieces of current pop culture didn’t quite fit with the setting and it felt like the authors trying to ground it out in our reality while still creating their new one and it didn’t quite mesh for me. Or when certain people came into the plot who name-dropped all of our current pop culture stuff in a way that other characters should know it too but didn’t because they didn’t read X or whatever. Or mentioning movies like Terminator. Is that really what’s going to transcend time? Think back to the 1910s. How many popular books or, when they came onto the scene, silent films that were big at the time can still be named? Save for maybe Charlie Chaplin probably not many. But our current pop culture felt like a forced necessity in this world that was desperately trying to leave it all behind and I couldn’t tell if that was deliberate or just authorial insertion.

The only characters I didn’t like were Isaac and Miranda. Melissa? The singer, Isaac’s wife. Both of those individuals were just sniveling, reprehensible assholes and thankfully neither of them got too much page time. Everyone else, especially Kai and Leah, were pretty awesome and compelling and I wanted more time with them. And I did like how we got different points of view throughout the story from all walks of life. I especially liked Nicolai’s story and I wish there was more of him. Micah’s a fun one too. He’s one of those characters that are just delicious dickheads that you love to hate. Until they remain static and that shit gets old after, like, three seasons.

So . . . THE BEAM doesn’t have the staying power for me that Game of Thrones does (although I’m happy GoT is on its last season because I don’t know how much more rape and murder I can take) or Supernatural does (and to be fair I lost interest in TWD about three seasons ago or something like that). It’s interesting and it’s something I could keep reading if I had nothing else going on, but I’m not about to pick up Season Two any time soon. Maybe I’ll add it to my reading list and make my way to it eventually, but who knows when that’s going to be. Care to take a look at my Netflix watch list and see what’s been sitting on that forever now?

3

April 18, 2017

Published: December 18, 2007
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

With his hand trapped in the door of a speeding car, a man struggles to remain upright as he’s dragged along a deserted stretch of San Juan Road in Phoenix’s South Mountain Preserve. It’s the perfect place to drive a man to his grave — literally. Starting with a crime so gruesome even prowling coyotes keep their distance from the remains, a killer begins crisscrossing the Southwest on a spree of grisly murders.A hundred miles away, Ali Reynolds is grieving. The newscasting job she once delighted in is gone and so is the philandering husband she loved and thought she knew. When a member of the family who gave Ali a generous scholarship for her education decades earlier suddenly asks her for a meeting, Ali wonders what it can mean. Before she can satisfy her curiosity, though, Ali receives another startling call: a friend’s teenage daughter has disappeared. Ali offers to help, but in doing so, she unknowingly begins a quest that will reveal a deadly ring of secrets, at the center of which stand two undiscriminating killers…. (goodreads.com)

I liked how it was set where I live. I guess she does that fairly often because Jance lives down in Tucson. But I like being able to really picture where everything is because I’ve actually been there. What I didn’t like was that it felt like there wasn’t enough to really support the main plot so there were all these subplots fracturing out from the main plot that I felt were just distracting.

So you have the dragged dead person plot, the missing girl plot, the pedophilia plot, the rest stop beatings plot, the MC adjusting to her new life plot, the MC meeting her son’s girlfriend plot, and MC taking care of said missing girl plot. There’s just a lot going on here and a lot of it not necessarily connected to each other. There were effectively two separate books in this one title and I felt like they were smashed together because their stories are decent, but there just wasn’t enough for them to stand alone.

On top of all of that there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. A lot of sitting in a house, writing blog posts, sitting in a hospital waiting room, driving around, meeting people at their houses. It was just stagnant for most of the time. The characters were compelling enough. I didn’t not like any of them. Each individual story in here was interesting and I found myself following it all along. But there wasn’t nearly enough action to balance out all the mundane storytelling going on in order to get the characters from point A to point B. HAND OF EVIL didn’t hold me like a Lisa Gardner novel regularly does.

It was kind of difficult for it to hold my attention because it kept flopping around to a bunch of different plots. If the book had a little more focused maybe I would have liked it better. Again, neat that I could actually picture where the characters were because I live around here. And there’s some good storytelling here. But the plotlines fractured too much, there was too much going on, and not enough actual action to sustain it. I was never bored by the book; I just couldn’t really connect with it at all. I felt like I was reading interconnected short stories as opposed to one cohesive novel.

I’m not about to write Jance off entirely. I’m pretty sure I have more of her books in my pile. But if this is regular plotting for her then I’m not going to be on the train much longer. I can handle a couple subplots, and fully expect them in any book I read. But HAND OF EVIL just felt aimless.

3

April 15, 2017

Published: 1991
Publisher: HarperCollins
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

A Love Triangle of Unspeakable Horror…

Elena
Searching for the ultimate thrill, she vowed to have Stefan.

Stefan
Haunted by his tragic past, he struggled to resist her passion.

Damon
Driven by revenge, he hunted the brother who betrayed him.

The terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them. (goodreads.com)

Eh. I wouldn’t say it’s unspeakable horror. Or really a love triangle. That would insinuate Elena actually liked Damon, which she doesn’t appear to. At least in this first book.

I thought I was missing something all this time in never having read any of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES books. Nope. Can’t say I have. They wouldn’t have been my thing back when I was younger when these first came out and they’re definitely not my thing now.

Elena’s kind of a dick and is used to getting everything her way. When she sets her sights on Stefan she aims to get him, and eventually does. Of course she’s the special reincarnation of Stefan’s long lost love and the woman who originally turned him into a vampire. Of course this is also the same woman who came between Stefan and Damon and made their already antagonistic relationship even worse. And then it bred a centuries-old rivalry of Damon being the bad vampire who feeds to kill in order to absorb human energy and power, thus making himself more powerful, and Stefan. The “good” vampire who only feeds on animals and when he has to people whom he doesn’t kill, making him weaker.

And then there’s Elena, the vapid, superficial high school student who has to have the world revolve around her and throws a major hissy when she doesn’t. Blech. No thanks.

And the book just ends right in the middle of it all. Like right before a major confrontation. Done. WHY??? I mean obviously THE VAMPIRE DIARIES hit the mark because it practically spawned TWILIGHT and when it was revived with the re-release of the books and then the TV show people went nuts over it. It’s just in that segment of vampire fiction that doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t care for love triangles. I don’t care for whiny little brats getting what they want. I don’t care for instalove that transcends time for some unknown reason. It’s not poorly written. I just don’t connect with it.

Not my bag.

3

April 11, 2017

Published: November 8, 2009
Publisher: Warwick House Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Caught in a violent and abusive relationship, Serenity thinks there is no escape. Then she meets a stranger, Sebastian, who shows her the possibility of a different future.
Only Sebastian has a dark secret; he is a vampire.

As Serenity’s life takes a terrifying turn, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed; one of murder, love, and immortality. She is forced to confront her own weaknesses to save both her own life and that of the vampire she has come to love. But in the end all that matters is; can she find the strength to be Alone? (goodreads.com)

This has got to be one of the most unoriginal, uninspiring books I’ve read in a long time, if not ever. It’s TWILIGHT but with adult characters. You have Serenity (a name I hate, but that’s completely unrelated to the book), this meek, sometimes simpering, psychotically manipulative woman stuck in a severely abusive relationship. There’s an added level of self-awareness there that I think is supposed to bolster her a little bit, but it doesn’t add to her character. It just makes her more annoying because she knows all these things are bad yet she does them anyway.

And then you have Sebastian, the brooding loner of a vampire who wants to be with Serenity but it’s too dangerous and he keeps trying to warn her off but she keeps coming back and he just can’t stay away from her and her blood is just so temping. Sound familiar?

The book’s plot spans a week at most and by the end of it they’re obsessively in love with Serenity getting panicky and withdrawn and possessive if Sebastian isn’t around. Enter in the red-headed female antagonist whose weak plot line serves as the tension in the story as she tries to drive a wedge between Serenity and Sebastian to the point where she threatens the poor little human and Serenity ends up doing something incredibly stupid by putting herself in harm’s way to save the vampire she loves. Sound familiar yet?

And of course Sebastian is rich and drives an Audi (a departure because I think Edward drives a Volvo) and he tries not to kill his prey. His and Serenity’s relationship is so unhealthy that on like day four Serenity threatens to kill herself if Sebastian leaves her. That’s a totally healthy and logical response to any situation. O_o

When she takes that “next step” in her relationship with her abusive husband I did find myself rooting for her. But then that was quickly watered down as she glommed on to Sebastian all the while being aware that she shouldn’t jump from man to man and she needs to stand on her own (I’ll refer you back to threatening to kill herself if Sebastian leaves her). Her personality is erratic at best, poorly written and inconsistent at worst. If she were a well-written abuse victim I’d feel sorry for her and pity her thinking and how she feels that what’s happened to her was her fault. But her personality is just peaks and valleys that play to the plot.

I didn’t realize so many PNR vampire cliches could even fit into a single book and such an obvious copy of a more popular book would actually get published. And if it’s not a copy then an eyebrow-raising coincidence that I’m going to remain skeptical of. If I wanted to read TWILIGHT, which I never want to again, I’d just read TWILIGHT (which was published three years prior to this book). I’m not going to bother with a story where the only practical differences are the ages of the characters and the names. I mean this rightly could have been a wave book trying to capitalize on the success of a given formula, but my god, man. For all of TWILIGHT’s failings at least it had its own personality. ALONE does not. It’s a pale copy of someone else’s that leaves words limp and lifeless on the page and a plot that leaves a whole hell of a lot of be desired.

The concept of being alone gets beaten over your head as a reader throughout the book and the tension with Madeline (the red-headed vampire who decides to war with Serenity over Sebastian because reasons) is so contrived and forced that I can’t help but wonder if the author couldn’t think of anything better. It’s so incredibly lackluster. TWILIGHT spawned a lot of wannabes, but I’ve yet to read anything that compares to ALONE with being such a pale, unimaginative reproduction. Don’t waste your time. That’s not to say the formula doesn’t work; just don’t give me a cheap reproduction of something. It needs to be its own thing and ALONE definitely is not that. I imagine that’s rather ironic.

1