Reviews from a writer's point of view

Saturday, September 27, 2003

From The Ashes by Meghan Brunner

Can love survive across the ages? Can soulmates find one another after centuries apart? In Meghan Brunner's From the Ashes, they can, and do so, quite beautifully. Ryna, a gypsy fiddler, begins the tale broken-hearted when her lover, Liam, dumps her. By chance, Ryna meets Phoenix, a cantankerous herbwomen who is new to the Pendragon Renaissance Faire, and so begins a long courtship. Ryna and Phoenix's love does not come easily. Phoenix, known as Bea away from the faire, is shy and withdrawn. She doesn't make friends easily, and admitting that she is slowly falling in love with her gypsy friend proves difficult, especially with her domineering mother phoning to check on her. And then there's Liam, who's determined he will have Bea as his wife, only Bea wants none of him. Who will win the phoenix's love at the end of the story? Only time will tell.

This is a massive book. I actually read this in two days, but it is a massive book. Meghan Brunner has some of the most wonderful descriptions I've read in an age. And the pacing of this novel is reminiscent of Anne Rice or Stephen King. Ryna and Phoenix are great characters, as are the rest of the gypsies and faire folk who make up the book. Obviously, the author must be a rennie herself to have such detailed knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes. I particularly loved the humor provided by the peasants, and the double entendres of many of the conversations.

My one problem with From The Ashes is more of a personal one than one involving the actually writing. As beautiful as the descriptions of the settings, characters, music, and events were, I wanted more plot. The love story between Phoenix and Ryna is lovely and well-crafted, but the sub-plot with Liam felt a little underdone. I wanted more conflict earlier in the novel. I did enjoy From the Ashes. It is a beautiful love story, particularly if you are looking for an atypical lesbian romance, and it is well written. Meghan Brunner is definitely a talent to watch.

Available From: 1st Books Library
Reviewed By: Vicki McElfresh

Vicki 12:33 AM

Friday, September 19, 2003

Hell Week at Grant-Williams High and Halloween at Grant-Williams High, both by Vera Nazarian

Hell Week at Grant-Williams High and Halloween at Grant-Williams High are actually two original novellas sold separately at The excerpts on the website reminded me very strongly of Bad Blood and Judgment Night by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald, and my first impression proved to be correct.

There are many YA (that's young adult for those of you who wonder) stories out there like these two, but I will admit that Ms. Nazarian manages to instill a humorous tone in her stories that bely the grave danger the main characters are in.

In Hell Week at Grant-Williams High, we are introduced to a typical High School; save for the slight problem that occurs during finals week. Not only is it the most stressful week of the year; the teachers turn into monsters.

Yes. Monsters. Real monsters. Oh, and of course, Satan's running the show (as the principal. Which really makes a lot of sense, now that I come to think about it.)

Mixing mythologies and pantheons is never easy, but Nazarian's deft hand with words allow the reader to enjoy the melting pot of a typical suburban school. I especially liked the religious debates between the students, and the surprise summoning of Shiva, Lord of Destruction was a very nice touch.

Continuing the saga, Halloween at Grant-Williams High is another delightful story set in a now-familiar High School, although I wasn't very surprised that something weird would happen at this particular school on Halloween. (It seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up.)

In this story, we learn a bit more about how Grant-Williams High came to be, and meet a few new faces. I'm not going to spoil the ending for anyone, but the thing behind the closet door is not what it seems... at all.

I envision an anthology of Grant-Williams High stories eventually (a Winter Holiday story would be especially nice, especially with the religious undertones) and additional stories in the series would be especially nice.

Hell Week at Grant-Williams High and Halloween at Grant-Williams High can be found at
Reviewed by Jennifer St. Clair

Jennifer 7:25 PM

Friday, September 12, 2003

Bleeding Hearts by Josh Aterovis

Killian Kendall is a typical 16 year old living in small town America. He's not too popular at school. He doesn't get along well with his father, and he doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the kids at school. All that changes with the arrival of a new boy, Seth Connelly. Killian is drawn to Seth, even though the rest of the school ostracizes him because he is gay. Killian soon realizes that he too is gay and asks Seth to help him deal with some of his feelings. They agree to meet in the park one night, and Killian's ordinary world crumbles to dust. As soon as he arrives in the park, Killian is stabbed by a faceless attacker, and he discovers Seth's dead body only a short distance away.

After Killian recovers, he decides to find Seth's murderer himself since the police have written the killing off as a random mugging. Killian knows better, and so he launches his own private investigation, relying more on instinct than good sense. In the process he finds himself a boyfriend, a girlfriend, and creates a surrogate family when his father disowns him. Suspicion is cast on a number of characters in the book, but the real killer comes as a bit of a surprise.

I found Bleeding Hearts on a list of those "if you liked this book" lists on Amazon, and I'm very glad I did. Part coming out story, part identity journey, and all mystery, this novel kept me glued to my screen until I finished each time I've read it. The characters can be a bit melodramatic, often crying and wallowing in angst, but I didn't mind at all. I found Killian's tears a perfectly natural. Killian Kendall is an excellently drawn character and watching him mature through the pages of this book was a delight. Killian's confusion about his sexuality, falling in love, and sex are realistic and provide a nice counterpoint to the mystery of the novel. The other characters are just as well done and just as human. I felt like I knew these people by the time I finished reading. I was also impressed with the character of Seth's father, Adam Connelly, a relatively minor character who plays a major part in the book. Even though Adam's role is just a supporting one, he shines through as a beacon of stability in the chaos of Killian's life.

My one quibble with the book was the author's tendency to overdescription. I wasn't all that interested in what people were wearing or how tall and heavy they were. I just wanted to go forward with the story. There are moments when the description seems to affect the pacing just a bit, especially in the beginning of the novel. The prose sometimes gets a bit purple with detailed descriptions like, " . . . daffodils waved their cheery heads . . . ," but in the face of a really excellent storyline I plowed through the descriptions.

Bleeding Hearts will keep you guessing, laughing and entertained for the length of the novel. Josh Aterovis shows great promise with his rollicking mysteries, subtle humor, and wonderfully human characters. And if you like this one, other novels in the Killian Kendall series are available on his website: Black Sheep Productions. Trust me, they get better.

Bleeding Hearts by Josh Aterovis
Published by Ebooks On the Net
Reviewed by Vicki McElfresh

Vicki 9:30 AM

Friday, September 05, 2003

Death to the Centurion by Mark Misercola

Part murder-mystery, part mayhem, but all fun, Death to the Centurion by Mark Misercola caught my attention immediately. When I read that he wrote the book in response to the "Death" of Batman, I knew I had to read it.

Rick MacAllister just left his job at Renegade comics to work for the competion. When the legendary Matt Payne retires, and what a retirement it is, he is "promoted" in the broadest sense of the word. His job is to head a team of comic book writers and illustrators and kill off the Centurion, one of the most beloved comic book characters of all. Little does he know that accepting this responsibility will put his life in danger. From the bitter veteran who expected to get the job of bringing the Centurion back to life, to the sleazy accountant Matthews whose plots are worthy of Shakespeare and who spends too much time watching the stock market, Rick must prevail... or lose more than his job. And when someone starts to kill the people responsible for the Centurion's demise, Rick must risk everything--including the woman he loves--to triumph.

The story is a conglomerate of viewpoints. At first, I was a bit disconcerted, since Rick's point of view is first person and everything else is in third, but after a chapter or two, the odd marriage began to work quite nicely. Since Rick is telling the story after the fact, he adds many tidbits of information that he wouldn't have known if the book was written as the story happened. Still, despite the odd viewpoints, it works, and that's what counts.

The murder mystery kept me guessing until the process of elimination uncovered the killer. I was a bit surprised when I figured it out, since the story builds the killer up to be someone else entirely.

In fact, my only quibble is relatively minor, and an easy mistake. At least four times throughout the book, the author uses 'grizzly' instead of 'grisly.' I have my doubts it was written that way intentionally.

Would I read another book by this author? Certainly--if the next one's as entertaining as Death to the Centurion. In many cases, the world of comics is quite similar to the world of publishing in general. Scandal sells books; news sells books, and first editions are worth mint. The hijinks reminded me of certain--shall we say--organizations in publishing whose infighting and backstabbing makes me wonder why anyone wants to get in the business at all. But amid all of that is the simple truth that a good story will shine no matter what, and Death to the Centurion is a good story.

Now. Where did I pack away my comic books?

Death to the Centurion by Mark Misercola
Published by Twilight Times Books
Reviewed by Jennifer St. Clair

Jennifer 12:21 PM

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