Monday, September 29, 2014

Review of Wake Me When the Sun Goes Down

Today, I am reviewing Wake Me When the Sun Goes Down by Lisa Olsen.  I purchased this book as part of the Tall, Dark and Supernatural boxed set which contains seven different novels by various authors. This is the first book in a series called Forged Bloodlines, which, according to Goodreads, has eight books already written. Here's a link to the list.

The Synopsis

It was ironic that this happened to me; I was never a night person at heart. So you can see right off the bat why a vampire was the very last thing I would have chosen to be.

Anja Evans wakes up in the morgue with a hell of a hangover. It takes almost eating her best friend before she figures out... she's a vampire. When a dark and dangerous vampire shows up at her door asking to see her license and registration, Anja assumes Bishop is a regular cop. But breeding among vampires is strictly controlled, and her unlicensed status makes her an enemy of The Order. Struggling to find a balance between her former life and her undead one, Anja tries to blend school and living up to her new identity, all while searching to find the elusive Viking, whose blood gave Anja the strength of a vampire hundreds of years old.

The Review

My reaction to the book can best be summed up as a big, fat "Meh". I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't love it either. The story started off with promise, but there wasn't much to the story beyond what you can read in the synopsis. 

The main character, Anja, wakes up in a morgue after being pronounced dead. She has no memory of how she got there, but is told by the cops that she had died of blood loss after bleeding out from a wound on her neck. Now, she is miraculously non-wounded and non-dead, so she bolts from the morgue to figure out what happened to her. I was intrigued to see where the story was going.

Next, we meet Bishop who is the vampire equivalent of a cop who enforces vampire laws. He comes to her apartment asking for her "papers". There is an Abbott and Costello-ish exchange between Bishop and Anja as they talk at each other without understanding what the other is saying. Since I love a bit of wit and humor in my paranormal romances, I thought that this book held promise.

This is where the book started to lose its way. The remainder of the story consisted of both Bishop and Anja changing personalities at the drop of a hat. I think these personality swings were an effort to keep some tension and interest going in the story. However, these changes seemed to be somewhat artificial to me.

A real lost opportunity in this book was that no one made much of an effort to find out who her maker was, which
might have been an interesting mystery for the two main characters to work together to solve.  Then, they would have had something of substance to talk about. There were a few unremarkable investigative efforts and conversations, but this was a story line that remained largely unexplored.

I've read books before that didn't really have an exciting plot, but the characters were so well-written and interesting that I didn't mind that the story line was thin.  The characters were the story.  In this case, both the plot and the characters were lackluster.  The characters seemed flat and inauthentic to me.

Don't get me wrong. It isn't that I didn't get some enjoyment from reading this book, but in my opinion it would have been even better if the characters' actions came from a more authentic place.

The Rating

I have debated on what rating to give this book. To me, it was between 2 and 3 stars. In the end, I'm rounding 2.5 stars up to File:Five Pointed Star.pngFile:Five Pointed Star.pngFile:Five Pointed Star.png. However, the true verdict comes when I answer this question, "Would you read other books in this series?" to which I answer, "No, I'm just not interested enough in these characters to read more about them." There are surely many readers out there who absolutely loved this book, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Confessions of a reading addict

I've been an avid reader since I was in 6th grade.  I remember sitting in the back of the class and sneaking books off the shelf.  I'd hide them in my textbook (SO original) and read instead of paying attention.  Years later, I ran into my 6th grade teacher.  He remembered me and said he would time me to see how fast I was reading each page.  Guess I wasn't as sneaky as I thought.

Countless times, I have "one more chaptered" into the wee hours of the morning reading on a school/work night because I could not bear to stop.  Being exhausted the next day wasn't a big enough deterrent.  It went a little something like this...

10:30 pm- I'll read until 11.
11:00 pm- Just one more chapter and then I'll stop.
12:00 am- I can't stop here.  I'll stop when I find out <insert plot twist here>.
1:30 am- Ugh.  It's so late.  But, I only have a few chapters left.  Might as well finish.
2:15 am- Ahh, finished!  That was SO good!
6:00 am- The alarm goes off.  "ARGHHHH!  Why, why, WHY do I do this to myself?!"

I devoured books, but it was always a letdown when I got to the end of a well-loved story because it meant my time with those characters was over.  I would (and still do) re-read favorite books just to extend the time I get to spend with those characters.

Another habit was to imagine what the characters did after the story was over.  Although I didn't know that fanfiction even existed, I would make up my own stories about books I loved.  While I never took the next logical step of writing down my stories, any time my mind was idle was a good time to escape into my imagination.

A boring class was a great time to get imaginative, but time spent in the car was also fertile ground.  Sadly, I couldn't read in the car due to motion sickness.  I remember childhood road trips (pre-tablet/cell phone/iPod days) when I would pass the time imagining events that continued the stories I loved the most.  Anne McCaffrey's world of Pern was a particular favorite.  After all, what girl wouldn't love to be found on a Search and learn that she will ride a dragon someday?

The car is still a fertile ground for developing ideas for stories.  There is something about the mindlessness of driving a familiar route that sets my imagination free.  Typically, music is playing as I drive.  I especially love songs that tell a story.  Often, I'll hear a song and begin imagining the story in my mind just like when I'm reading a book.

Recently, I've spent my commute playing around with ideas for my own book.  It's a time that my mind is free to wander without having to focus on anything in particular.  It is also, unfortunately, a TERRIBLE location for actually writing down my ideas because I could basically end up wrecking and killing myself or someone else.  Not good.  Sometimes, I'll use the voice recorder on my phone to record a new idea for a plot twist.  That way, I have something to jog my memory about that brilliant idea I had on the way to work, when I'm on the way home ten hours later and my brain is fried.

So, my challenge now is to take that obsession with reading that began way back in 6th grade and translate that energy and drive into writing my own stories.  I have a few ideas rattling around in my brain that are begging to be written.  Stay tuned to see what happens!

So, is anyone out there a reading addict, too?  To what lengths has your addiction driven you?  Share your stories in the comments below.  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review of The Genius and the Muse

This review is on Elizabeth Hunter's book, The Genius and the Muse.  One really nice thing about this book (especially for people who are strapped for time) is that it is a stand-alone.  That's right!  No 'series-us' commitments required!  Sometimes it's nice to read a book, enjoy it, and not have to wait on pins and needles for the next book in the series to come out because of the monster cliffhanger at the end of book 1.  This book is certified 100% cliffhanger-free.

Hunter is known for her paranormal romances series, so this contemporary romance is a bit of a departure for her.

The Synopsis

For Kate Mitchell, finishing her master's thesis on reclusive photographer Reed O'Connor was just another item to check off her list. She knew exactly what she was doing. Or does she?

There's just one portrait that doesn't fit. One portrait... and the passion she senses behind it. Finding the story behind O'Connor's picture becomes Kate's obsession, and the people she meets will challenge everything she thought she knew about life, love, and inspiration.

A single picture can tell more than one story, and in the end, Kate discovers that every real love story is a unique work of art.

The Review

Can I just say that I love the way Elizabeth Hunter writes her characters?  I love how she crafts a character so that they seem like a totally real person that I would love to get to know.  This book was no exception.  We follow the main character, Kate, as she makes contact with various people who are friends of the subject of her master's thesis.  Through these conversations and flashbacks, we experience the story of Reed O'Connor.

I very much enjoyed the way the two parallel story lines evolved.  Kate's story was in present day and Reed's was from ten years ago.  Gradually, as you read the book, the two separate story lines become more and more intertwined.  Layer upon layer is built until the reader ends up with a very satisfying whole.  I don't want to talk too much about specific story points, since the story unfolded in some unexpected ways.  (Unexpected to me, anyway.)

The characters in this book are interesting, a bit flawed, and very realistic.  Kate is a young, talented photographer who, through the journey of learning about the famous photographer Reed O'Conner, learns about herself and grows as an artist and a human being.

The way the characters converse and interact with each other makes this an entertaining book to read.  There are moments of awkwardness, irritation, humor, sadness, and romance- to name a few.  I felt as if I was getting an intriguing glimpse of real people's lives.

The Rating

I started this book and couldn't put it down.  I ended up devouring it in under a day.  It will likely end up on my "books I love to re-read" list.
I give this book 5 stars.  File:Five Pointed Star.pngFile:Five Pointed Star.pngFile:Five Pointed Star.pngFile:Five Pointed Star.pngFile:Five Pointed Star.png