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Friday, April 8, 2016

Spotlight Post: Lost Prophecy: Awakening by Kimberly Bernard

Summary:While enjoying a late-night romantic evening on a secluded beach in Cozumel,Mexico, Anthony and Vanessa Murphy make a startling discovery. A newborn baby boy, just inches from the water beckons for their embrace. They find a strange pictograph message in the baby’s hand along with a name written in the sand. Unable to decipher the pictograph meaning and their efforts to find the parents fail, they decide to take the baby back to the United States and raise him as their own. Fifteen years later, Nick Murphy is eager to celebrate his birthday because he will finally be eligible for a driving permit. In addition to the normal struggles of being a teenager, Nick hears a voice in his head. His parents think he has a mental disorder, but all the medicines and doctors have failed to cure him of the voice. On the day of his birthday, a mysterious pictograph card arrives in the mail, but Nick disregards it as a mistake. When he requests a copy of his birth certificate for the driving exam from his parents, he is surprised and upset that they are unable to produce the document. Under the impression that he was adopted, Nick is further mystified when his questions force his parents to confess the eerie truths surrounding his birth. After the enlightenment of his birth story, Nick remembers the pictograph card and believes it may be important after all. Nick is determined to reveal the truth about his parents and his identity. Could the voice in his head somehow be related to all of this? With only the pictograph messages as clues, he seeks the help of his high school history teacher, Mr. Walter Ambrose, to translate. Mr. Ambrose specializes in Egyptian history, so he is not able to provide much assistance. He informs Nick that the pictographs are Mayan and refers him to his friend,Dr. Elliot Shelton, an expert in Mesoamerican studies. Dr. Shelton eventually translates
the pictographs, but unbeknownst to Nick, Dr. Shelton’s motives are self-serving.

Nick’s parents sympathize with his desire to find answers and agree to a family vacation back to Cozumel over the Christmas holidays. In search of a man that they believe can help them solve Nick’s birth mystery, they meet his granddaughter, Roslyn. Roslyn informs the Murphys that her grandfather died recently and cannot help them. Desperate for anything
that will provide some answers, Nick requests Roslyn to give him a tour of the local Mayan ruins. At the ruins, Nick and Roslyn discover that the pictographs are the first clue to the salvation of the world and Nick is at the center of the mission. Through numerous clues and revelations, Nick and Roslyn embark on a journey to Belize, but quickly learn they are not alone. Professor Shelton and Mr. Ambrose believe that Nick’s pictographs could be the key to finding the lost city of Atlantis and are determined to solve the mystery before Nick. In Belize, Nick discovers he has a brother and despite the trial and tribulations ahead of them, they vow to continue on a global journey to save the world from uncertain doom.

Questions and Answers with the Author Kimberly Bernard
Where did you get inspiration for this book:
Before we had kids, my husband and I lived in the Nassau, Bahamas, home to the renowned Atlantis Resort. The imagination of the architect and Atlantean theme that encompasses the hotel peaked my interest. We've all heard the stories and myths around Atlantis, but what if I could make a work of fiction that might prove some of the plausible explanations about Atlantis. I immediately began reading books and theories about Atlantis and those theories are the foundation of the Lost Prophecy Series.
How many other novels have you written and what are they called:
Lost Prophecy: Awakening is the first novel I have completed. I have two other novels in progress to complete the Lost Prophecy Series.
What was the best and worst part of writing this book:
I excel at plot creation but my weakness has always been character development. The first draft of Lost Prophecy had the fast-paced plot I had intended, however, all my characters were bland, lacking distinction or definition. The best part of writing Lost Prophecy: Awakening was definitely creating the plot and the worst part was having to go back numerous times to make my characters interesting and unique.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.
Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

I got this book for my birthday. I love Jane Eyre and adore retellings, though not the "and zombies" style.

I had some issues with this book, but for the most part I enjoyed it. It's a bit darker than the original novel, though calling the heroine a heroic serial killer like the blurb does is misleading. 

Jane Steele is a great character, strong female with an interesting back story. The additional cast of characters I also enjoyed, Clarke (until the end) one of my favorites.

You can tell the author did a ton of research with the places and cultures she weaves into her story telling. Reading this was quite like reading the original in style if not content. 

The first part where Jane is young and winds up in the girl's school is my favorite part. The evil headmaster, weak teachers and awful punishments mixed well with the way the author wrote the students comradery and individual personalities.  I also enjoyed reading about Jane in London writing gallows confessions and truly learning who she is and what she enjoys

The last few chapters of the novel where the plot line climaxes and everything winds up and back down again were really good, in fact you could almost say in this novel Jane is actually Mr. Rochester rather than her namesake character.

While I did enjoy Mr. Thornfied and his staff, I found the middle part of the book to be a whole hell of a lot of tell instead of show. Pages upon pages of dialogue telling about past events and character history, that quite frankly bored me to tears and had me speed reading or skimming through chunks. This is the reason for four stars instead of five. Example: there are literally two scenes, one after another where Jane sits and listens to someone drone on at her about events that happened years before and while the information gathered does move the plot along it is dull getting there.

I do recommend reading this if you like Jane Eyre, the macabre,  dark humor and different cultures.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Harmony House by Nic Sheff

Jen Noonan’s father thinks a move to Harmony House is the key to salvation, but to everyone who has lived there before, it is a portal to pure horror.
After Jen’s alcoholic mother’s death, her father cracked. He dragged Jen to this dilapidated old manor on the shore of New Jersey to “start their new lives”—but Harmony House is more than just a creepy old estate. It’s got a chilling past—and the more Jen discovers its secrets, the more the house awakens. Strange visions follow Jen wherever she goes, and her father’s already-fragile sanity disintegrates before her eyes. As the forces in the house join together to terrorize Jen, she must find a way to escape the past she didn’t know was haunting her—and the mysterious and terrible power she didn’t realize she had

Let's start with this: Wow that was fucking INTENSE.

Jen and her dad move into Harmony House, an old Gothic manor that has been turned into a hotel. Just like in The Shining, they are to stay the winter and take care of the place. Just like in The Shining Jen's dad goes fucking crazy, but unlike Jack Torrance, he becomes even more of a religious zealot into praying, fasting , self punishing and slapping his kid around when she "sins." After moving in Jen starts having visions of the past and the history of Harmony House and how her family is related to the creepy, moldy, monstrosity. She also spends 90% of the novel vomiting.

This book was pretty good. I felt like it could have been a bit longer and might have been better written for literary fiction instead of young adult. There are some disturbing scenes, so trigger warnings for child abuse and infant loss. The miscarriage scene is a bit of a joke though, very obviously written by a man. Even with trauma a pregnant girl would feel intense pain miscarrying if she were far along enough for the stick to turn pink and be sick all the time. I know I've been there more than once. There is an almost rape scene as well and the themes got into drug and alcohol dependency/abuse. (Not surprising as two of his other books are memoirs about drug abuse.)

There are a few great twists and turns in this book and I cannot stress enough that this novel was macabre and dread inspiring, though not quite frightening.

This book has pretty much no romance and aside from Jen, Colin and her father the secondary characters don't have a lot of depth to them and seemed to be thrown hap haphazardly into the mix. Rose, the older diner woman, for instance should have had a bigger role with more of a backstory. Almost as if the author didn't give much thought to anything but the basic "haunted house" style plot line. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt.

The pacing of the story is a little brisk for my taste, but it flowed nicely and the descriptions made me feel like I was in the old, rotting, dusty house and deep woods.  I enjoyed this book quite a bit and it was a fast, freaky, dark and slightly depressing read.

There is no happy ending to Harmony House, choose something cheerful for afterwards, you'll thank me.