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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: 2012- The Final Prayer

Title: 2012- The Final Prayer
Author(s): R.M. Heske
Genre: Comic - Horror, Comic - Mature

After reading Heske Horror's Bone Chillers: Tales of Suburban Murder & Malice, I became an avid fan. So when I picked up my copy of 2012: Final Prayer, I was in heaven. Now that we are nearing the year 2010, people are looking toward the fated year of 2012 with more concern and pessimism. Movies, televisions shows full of Mayan and Nostradamus predictions, and books are picking up on the mass fear and trend of the world possibly ending in 2012. In most cases, these forms of media are either some or all of three things: fear inducing, prophetic, and cliché, which by their very nature ride the tide of a popular concern that will see to it that sales are made. It is tiresome and cookie cutter.

Heske Horror does it right. 2012: Final Prayer is neither cookie cutter nor cliché. A collection of comic book style stories written and drawn by different people and teams, 2012 fills you with shock, awe, foreboding, disgust, and fear. And yes, despite it, you may even laugh once or twice. The art styles are so different from one story to the next that the comic book is a true work of masterful art. Some stories, such as Final Choices or Hollow Victory, are stark and busy, and so chaotic and pretty that they really highlight the intense apocalyptic moment intended for depiction. Yet other stories like Veils are simple and poignant, and certainly no less perfectly rendered.

There are times when you will connect with stories and characters and then feel oddly disjointed by the surreal path some of them take because you are there with them. The impending sense of doom will get to you, sink into you so much so that you'll need air once you finish reading. Nightmares even may happen. And yet sometimes there are hints of hope and optimism that will confuse you as much as it sweetens you up and helps you accept the horrors all around and surely ahead. I think that is the way these stories should be instead of mere prophecies and warnings.

I love things that creep me out, but also make me go, "oh, that was just lovely." 2012 did just that. Underneath all of it was such a level of art and beauty that it could not be denied that even the grossest of moments were completely exhilarating. The cover itself speaks volumes of the quality of what it inside: horses of the apocalypse charging over a city with a little boy gazing at it from the distance in utter shock. I wish that they had not changed the cover from the edition I got. The innocence, the realism, the happiness, the horror, the acceptance, it's all there. The whole spectrum of how people deal, how they manage. It is all wonderfully rendered in black and white from cover to cover.

I remain a big fan and cannot wait to see what Heske Horror puts out next because I am going to be at the front of the line for a copy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blog Tour & Book Review: Deep Kiss of Winter (Immortals After Dark, #8) by Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter

Title: Deep Kiss of Winter
Series: Immortals After Dark
Book Number: 8
Author(s): Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter
Genre: Fiction- Paranormal Romance 
Finished: December 21, 2009

Comprised of two novels, Deep Kiss of Winter combines the talents of Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter in to a compelling, riveting two story novel full of romance and drama. In Cole's Untouchable, Murdoch Wroth will stop at nothing to claim Daniela the Ice Maiden -- the delicate Valkyrie who makes his heart beat for the first time in three hundred years. Yet the exquisite Danii is part ice fey, and her freezing skin can't be touched by anyone but her own kind without inflicting pain beyond measure. Soon desperate for closeness, in an agony of frustration, Murdoch and Danii will do anything to have each other. Together, can they find the key that will finally allow them to slake the overwhelming desire burning between them? In Showalter's Tempt Me Eternally, Aleaha Love can be anyone -- literally. With only skin-to-skin contact, she can change her appearance, assume any identity. Her newest identity switch has made her an AIR (alien investigation and removal) agent and sends her on a mission to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. Only she becomes the captured. Breean, a golden-skinned commander known for his iron will who is at once dangerous and soul-shatteringly seductive, threatens her new life. Because for the first time, Aleaha only wants to be herself.

Untouchable was my first experience with Kresley Cole. I am always a little hesitant, too, when authors add a lexicon or a glossary to their books when the book isn't a series. Yet, I dove into Untouchable with an open mind and a significant amount of interest in this world Cole had created. I rather liked the idea of there being a 'Lore' full of strange creatures and magical beings. Though, I have to say that I wish the book were a fantasy series, and not paranormal romance. I think the world, the creatures, and the premise was excellent, but the overdone romance elements takes away from the pure fantasy creativity behind it. Or maybe that is just my biased dislike of romance in general talking. Let me not make it seem as if I did not like the story, because I did! I thought it was excellent. The characters were great, the plot was amazing, and I just fell in love with the world Cole created, which is why I totally plan to read more of the Immortals After Dark series that the book is a part of. Cole's world seems complicated, but it breaks down into a few easy things. You have the Lore, which are these creatures. Within it are creatures such as Valkyrie, Vampires, Demons, and Icere. Vampires are on an eternal search for a Bride (I guess there are no female vampires out there looking for Grooms?), who will once again make his heart beat and his passion boil. Once he meets his bride, he is blooded to her. His longing for her is almost unbearable. 

Well, Murdoch the Sexy becomes blooded to a half ice fey, half Valkyrie woman he cannot touch because touch burns her cold skin. They can't do it, naturally, since his touching her would cause her a lot of pain and possible death. So, not only must they work together to overcome other preternatural creatures, but also learn how to surmount their difficult romance. I admit, I did get a little annoyed with how the storyline just moved from one thing to the next. There was this great build up about wars and vampire rivalries and then, out of nowhere, the book just moves on past them and says, "oh well, everything was fixed" and introduces all new plots. It was very disappointing and made me wonder why all the build up for a resolution we don't even get to experience? Showalter's story Tempt Me Eternally is part of her Alien Huntress series, though I have never read any of the other books in the series and walked into it sort of clueless as to Showalter at all. I have heard the name before since a few of my friends are fans of her other series', but I was a Showalter novice until this point. In the novel, Aleaha Love is a shapeshifter of sorts, but she cannot let anyone know for fear of her own life. This is romance, though, so a hot, hunky guy has to come in somewhere. And that guy is Breean, a Rakan, who imprisons Aleaha in the hope of using her for ransom in order to be allowed to live on Earth since they cannot return to their own home planet. It is only natural in the course of a romance plotline for the Rakan Breean and Aleaha to decide they like each other complete with the banter of two people who are opposites but eventually discover they are perfect for each other. Okay, so the endings of romance novels are very predictable. How often do the couple decide not to be together? Or that their differences are too insurmountable? Or hey, someone dies? Not often, and only in a series when there is lots of time to work everything out by the end to wrap up a happy ending. I like happy endings, I do. Which is why books like Deep Kiss of Winter are so fulfilling. You get what you want! No anti-climactic endings to make you walk away numb and disappointed. Though, of course, the nature of predictability gives very little in surprises. Which is why, of course, authors have to ultimately make up for this shortfall by creating good plots, great characters, and amazing stories. Cole and Showalter did. Excellent book!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog Tour: A Blue and Gray Christmas (Ladies of Covington, #9) by Joan Medlicott

Title: A Blue and Gray Christmas 
Series: Ladies of Covington
Book Number: 9
Author: Joan Medlicott 
Genre: Fiction- Historical 
Finished: December 15, 2009

When a rusty old tin box is unearthed at the Covington Homestead, longtime housemates Grace, Amelia, and Hannah discover that it contains letters and diaries written by two Civil War soldiers, one Union and one Confederate. The friends are captivated by the drama revealed. The soldiers were found dying on a nearby battlefield by an old woman. She nursed them back to health, hiding them from bounty hunters seeking deserters. At the end of the war the men chose to stay in Covington, caring for their rescuer as she grew frail. But while their lives were rich, they still felt homesick and guilty for never contacting the families they'd left behind. Christmas is coming, and the letters inspire Amelia with a generous impulse. What if she and her friends were to find the two soldiers' descendants and invite them to Covington to meet? What better holiday gift could there be than the truth about these two heroic men and their dramatic shared fate? With little time left, the ladies spring into action to track down the men's families in Connecticut and the Carolinas, and to make preparations in Covington for their most memorable, most historic Christmas yet.

Three friends, Grace, Amelia, and Hannah, come across a box once buried full of the letters and diaries of two Civil War soliders: Tom from the South and John from the North. Both soldiers were injured during the war and ended up abandoning together, hiding deep in the Appalachian mountains that they made their home. Tom felt he had nothing to go back to and John chose to leave his wife and daughter to begin a new life. The letters the three women read and share with others express friendships, fears, loves, and the dramatic after-effects of war. John is left with severe post-traumatic stress, so he has to completely rebuild himself after the horrors of war he experienced. When Tom and John decided to stay in the mountains, they took on a new last name to begin their lives anew. When Grace, Amelia, and Hannah find the letters and learn about the break up of families, they decide together that it would be the perfect Christmas treat to reunite the families and share with them the letters and diaries of their long lost ancestors, believed to have been killed in the war. It is not an easy thing for the women to do, and they search through records and graveyards to find and connect people together. A lucky break happens when they meet a relative of John's, Milo, who came from the line descended from John's second marriage. The threads start coming together for the women, and it seems all too soon that they are going to get the Christmas they want. The best part of the book is the Civil War letters. Reading about the experiences and lives of Tom and John was very emotional for me. I chose to participate in the book's blog tour because I am a student of history and absolutely love a good historical fiction novel. The Civil War is in itself a very emotional war, so being able to read about it in such a personal way was very tender, sometimes sweet, sometimes painful. I felt especially bad for John who had such a hard time forgetting everything he'd seen and done. The intimacy of the letters really made me feel like I had connected with the two men on some level. Unfortunately, I felt that I connected very little with the story apart from the letters. While I enjoyed very much the progression of Tom and John's lives, I found some other aspects of the novel quite not to my liking. The story line moves along in a way that is not only too quick but entirely unbelievable. Everything just seems to fall into place and the initial roadblocks are obligatory. Something about the dialogue put me off, too. But what I disliked the most was that the book is full of unnecessary detail and lacks where there should be detail. We are given a paragraph about baking and the ingredients that go in and in what order, but the actual plot itself is rushed along. I would have liked a little less unnecessary dialogue and action and a little more that had actual substance or contributed to the plot. Nevertheless, it is a very sweet book. One of those quick rainy or snowy day reads that will leave you feeling warm inside at the end of it all.