The Wolves of Midwinter

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour: Haunt of Jackals Review


A decade earlier, Jerusalem's Undead escaped their tombs in the
Field of Blood. One of their group was missing, and he will return with
a vengeance, fighting his fellow Collectors for control of a vile
book--a blueprint that exploits "six things, no, seven, that the Lord
hates," as a way of dragging down mankind.

As the Collectors vie for dominance, Gina Lazarescu finds herself
fleeing through the mountains. She is alone and wounded, but more
determined than ever to find and protect the children in her care. She
does not know that Cal Nichols still has life-shaking secrets yet to
share. She knows only that she is headed for another confrontation with
the Collectors, one that will lead from Romanian castles to the Pacific
Northwest and eventually to the Haunt of Jackals, birthplace of Judas
Iscariot in Israel's arid wastelands.


"Haunt of Jackals" suits this month perfectly with it's central theme of demonic vampires. Vampires, as of late, have really blossomed within the literary market, all thanks to Twilight. Twilight's vampires though are toned down and are in many ways, not exactly the monstrous vampires which were originally depicted within Bram Stoker's novels. With the Christian market slowly accepting vampire books, we're faced with the best of the vampire stories. Eric Wilson's story was tightly plotted and has some very interesting theories on how the vampires were originally created. And best of all, not one vampire sparkled all throughout the novel. Even better, the words "bliss" and "chagrin" were not found on any page.

I'm a huge appreciator of vampire lore, something many professing Christians would never admit. Hearing of this series filled me with both dread and glee. To my surprise though, Eric Wilson writes these books with great finesse and shows a great appreciation for vampires. His series is not really the first proper Christian Vampire Series. Sue Dent's "Never Ceese" takes the honor of being the first with a redemptive vampirer. Eric Wilson's series involves vampires who are demonic incarnates and this was refreshing for me, after all the romantic vampire stories which seem to receive the most press as of recently. The story also has a great spiritual message which is interwoven expertly in the plot.

An even greater strength of this novel was the existence of strong female characters. Many tend to believe Christians undermine the potential strength of a woman and largely place them within subservient roles within novels. This myth may apply to a few books, but most Christian books feature some of the strongest, most assertive women within contemporary novels. Any readers can attest to this if they read this series in particular. Every girl is naturally developed and are not mere imitations of super females. But are instead true human characters whose strength is derived by faith and not their biological makeup. All the characters, both female and male are fairly treated and are developed very well.

One thing which bugged me during the novel though was the occasional moment of choppy writing. There were a few times where the author glossed over details and merely summarized over sections in order to move the plot further. Some may not notice this minor fault. I noticed because I'm a scrupulous reader. But these moments were enough to cause me to feel detached from the plot at these parts. Luckily these parts are smoothed over eventually and really are far and few. In all, this novel makes me very excited for the next installment and has helped me to gain more confidence in the future releases within the Christian market.

Links of other Tour Participants"> Brandon Barr"> Wayne Thomas Batson"> Jennifer Bogart"> Justin Boyer"> Keanan Brand"> Amy Browning"> Karri Compton"> Amy Cruson"> CSFF Blog Tour"> Stacey Dale"> D. G. D. Davidson"> Jeff Draper"> April Erwin"> Karina Fabian"> Beth Goddard"> Todd Michael Greene"> Timothy Hicks"> Becky Jesse"> Cris Jesse"> Julie"> Carol Keen"> Dawn King"> Rebecca LuElla Miller"> Mirtika"> Nissa"> John W. Otte"> James Somers"> Speculative Faith"> Rachel Starr Thomson"> Robert Treskillard"> Steve Trower"> Fred Warren"> Phyllis Wheeler"> Jill Williamson"> KM Wilsher

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goth Girl Rising Blog Tour Day Two: First of Two Parts: Interview with Barry Lyga

Here's the first interview ever conducted on my blog. This interview was done approximately two months prior to the actual tour date. Being as a writer's schedule is packed, I made sure to send my inquiry and questions in advance. For new readers, I'm doing a blog tour (only one blog included) for Goth Girl Rising. All week there will be reviews of the Barry Lyga books I've and a surprise Friday. It's imperative to read every review as Friday's surprise involves having foreknowledge of anything that's posted throughout the week.

**Caution (for my readers with sensitive ears) there is some profanity within the interview***
I'm including the disclaimer, otherwise I'll face the wrath of a disgruntled reader whose ears are sensitive to profanity. I once posted a story on Fictionpress without the profanity and violence warning and was sent a horrifying email in response from someone who hounded me for five pages. Because of these experiences, I'm very careful when posting anything and everything on the internet.******

1.First let me begin with a general question. Since no one ever throws that insightful questions till around the end. When did you begin writing and what sort of stories did you begin writing?

I remember writing stories at a very young age, as young as nine or ten. And I know that we had story-writing assignments in grade school that I always enjoyed. Most of those early stories tended to be science fiction or super-hero stories, since those were the genres I read at the time.

2.Was there any graphic novel or specific novel that really influenced your writing?

There was no single graphic novel or novel that stands out, but I know that the authors who influenced me most as a kid were a strange mix: Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Levitz, Alan Moore, and Joe Haldeman!

3. As I'm a huge fan of Joss Whedon and since he's really shaped my writing and really inspirited me to write stories that both entertain and impact readers. I'm going to ask this question, just as I've asked other writers. Have you seen or read anything written by him? And if so, which of his creations are your favorite?

Oh, sure, I'm familiar with Joss's stuff. I've seen Buffy, Angel, Dr. Horrible. I think the Buffy musical episode is one of my favorite episodes of TV ever, certainly up there in the top ten with some of Twin Peaks. And the last episode of Angel is just incredible.

4.Here's some more novel related questions. Since not all my blog readers are comic book fans or closet comic book fans. But, are any of the events within any of your novels inspired by real life experiences?

Definitely. A lot of what Fanboy goes through in the novel happened to me, usually filtered through the gauze of memory. I tried to make everything in the novel either sadder or funnier than what actually happened, though.

5.What inspired you to create the character of "Kyra?"

Wish fulfillment! She is exactly the kind of person I wished I'd known when I was Fanboy's age, and since I never had that opportunity, I decided to give it to Fanboy. I made Fanboy's life a lot worse than mine in many, many ways, but knowing Kyra is the major way his is better.

6. Now many of your novels explore many mature themes that teens are unable to find elsewhere within other young adult novels. Your books have explored sexual abuse (Boy Toy), social adversity (Fanboy and Gothgirl), and even freedom of speach "Hero Type." Are there any other issues you'd wish to explore in future novels?

Well, I don't think of my novels as "exploring issues." I just look at kids and look at how they live their lives and what they deal with and I think to myself, "OK, if I were a kid with this sort of life and this sort of attitude and then THIS happened to me, how would I react?" and I take it from there. I certainly never sit down thinking, "With THIS book, I will tackle the issue of [fill in the blank here]."

7.With "Boy Toy," some have written concerned notes in response to the subject matter. And whether it's appropriate for it's general audience. Have you received any similar responses to either "Hero-Type" or "Fanboy and Gothgirl?"

Oh, sure -- no matter what you write or how respectfully you handle an issue, someone will bitch about it. For Hero-Type, someone complained that Kross does not respect his father and, furthermore, was horrified that Kross's mom is -- gasp! -- a lesbian. Tough. In Fanboy, one parent actually complained that Fanboy thinks about sex so much that she was afraid her son would read it and think that if HE didn't think about sex all the time, there was something wrong with him! I hate to break it to you, lady, but if your son is a teenager and he's not thinking about sex, there IS something wrong with him!

8.Since your novels are marketed within the Young Adult market; you're bound to have read many of the books within that specific market. Are there any recent young adult releases that you highly recommend?

There are so many excellent YA books right now that it's tough to only list a few. But Jellicoe Road is one that everyone should read. Also, Ten Mile River by Paul Griffin, After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steve Chbosky, which isn't recent, but everyone should read it.

9. Now a question for all the aspiring writers such as myself! But do you have any tips on the best method for writers to send their drafts to publishers? I'm asking this since there's always questions about the process but never about how one is to pique a publisher's interest.

I find that most aspiring writers ask this question far too early; early efforts are best spent crafting a kick-ass piece of writing. If you do that, you won't have any trouble landing an agent or a publisher. But I write a series of Writing Advice articles on my blog, and that's a topic that will be coming up soon, so I encourage your readers to check it out at

10.Another writing question; Do you listen to any music while you're writing?

Sometimes. I don't have any sort of hard-and-fast rule about it. Some days I just feel like cranking up the music while I work and other days, I like it quiet.

11.Any final comments you wish to share besides shameless self promotion?

Just the shameless self-promotion will do. :)

Thanks again Barry Lyga for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day one of the "Goth Girl Rising" Blog Tour:

Plot Summarry:

Time is a funny thing in the hospital. In the mental ward. You lose track of it easily.

After six months in the Maryland Mental Health Unit, Kyra Sellers, a.k.a. Goth Girl, is going home.

Unfortunately, she’s about to find out that while she was away, she lost track of more than time.

Things seem normal at first. Roger’s his typical, pain-in-the-ass fatherly self. Jecca and Simone and the rest of the goth crowd still do their thing. And Kyra is back in black, feeling good, and ready to make up with the only person who’s ever appreciated her for who she really is.

But then she sees him. Fanboy. Transcended from everything he was into someone she barely recognizes.

And the anger and memories come rushing back.

Fanboy. The Spermling. Miss Powell. Roger.

Her mother.

There’s so much to do to people when you’re angry.

Kyra’s about to get very busy.

Seeing I've been far too occupied with college homework and work on "Death Seer," four individuals shall be offering their review of Barry Lyga's newest novel "Goth Girl Rising." To those who are unaware of Barry Lyga's works, I highly recommend all his books because his books are effective in conveying their intended messages. And also all his books are highly entertaining and contain the great amount of quotable quotes that will ultimately stick with you for a long period of time.

Be sure to check my blog every day this week for a review of Barry Lyga's other books. And also just for your knowledge, today's the official release date of "Goth Girl Rising," even though Amazon and a host of other online outlets shipped copies three or four weeks in advance. Anyways, that's my only input for this review. My special guests shall be overtaking this review.

First Take on the Book (from Princess Cordelia)

"Excuse me for a bit; I've recently returned from one of Angel's missions. And those migraine inducing vision thingies that those "Powers that aren't" sent me really puts a strain on my thought process. So hope you don't mind my occasional incoherent comment about the book "Goth Girl Rising. The one theme in which I especially loved was the author's effectiveness in furthering Kyra's development. Within the first novel, we're only shown one dimension of her character from Fanboy's perspective. From Kyra's perspective, we're able to see her conundrum of thoughts related to everything that unfolds in her life. This helps the reader to finally feel some sympathy for the character we once thought to be a very malevolent, yet misguided person.

Kyra felt like someone I know like either Angel or the Gorugula. Though she might be a tad bit irritating like Darla and confusing like the detached Druscilla. Her feelings seemed natural to those who've gone through the hell of high school. As some know, my high school was a literal hell. In my honest opinion, I believe Barry Lyga writes better female characters than male characters. Since every thought and action of Kyra seemed authenticated and Kyra possessed more personality than some of his male protagonists. I hope Barry Lyga writes from a female perspective more often because Kyra truly breathed some fresh air into a setting which was starting to grow old.

Anyways, I loved the book and even handed it to Angel, knowing he would appreciate this book, being as he is a bit of a softy. I have to go now and fight some ghastly demons in this skimpy dress of mine. Let's hope I don't get too much carnage on this, especially the hand crafted tiara."

Second take on the book: (Gambit)

"Why am I being commissioned to write this review? Can't I simply just say it was excellent even if everything within the novel seemed resolved far too easily. Though I'm relieved that the ending was ambiguous enough to forgive the ending which seemed to be an easy one. Delving into the misguided Kyra's head was definitely awkward for someone like me to read. Especially her references to some of the women related things that I'm only familiar with when Rogue whines about them on occasion. Saying this might be a bit out of character for me. But I found Fanboy to be a tad bit infuriating towards the middle of the book. His tendency to ignore Goth Girl's input on things frustrated me as much as Kyra. I thought I'd never be able to understand the thought process of a female. Yet, reading the scenes between Kyra and fanboy caused me to realize that our thoughts are similar to those of females. In all, we're not much different from the other. The book was engaging and has helped me to feel more sympathetic towards the identity conflicts of teens and aided in having more patience with Rogue during one of her tirades. Thanks to Barry Lyga, I'm on the road to gaining more understand to the workings of a female and having more of an ability to see they're equal to us in many ways. Also just as Kyra mentions within the middle of the novel, no male should perceive any female as being an object for them to play with. All in all, great book and nice allusions to "Sandman," one of my favorite reads."

Third Take:(Boy Struggling with mire)
"Being one of the Gashycrumb Tinies, I'm destined to die sometime after finishing this review. I read this book while struggling to stay atop the mire I've been forced to eternally walk. Till I become greatly exhausted and meet my fated end. One of the elements I appreciated was Kyra's struggle with the concept of death. Since I'm accustomed to death and am afraid of the unforeseen elements of it, I really identified with Kyra and understood every doubt she had about death. These passages greatly resonated with me and really eased my fear of death. I know inevitably I'll die someday. At least,I can lead out a meaningful life while fighting against the mire of life. Death's only frightening for those who have not lived a life where you've shown compassion to others and tried your best to fight against the mire.

Many young adult writers or other writers avoid writing about death because it's a hard topic for any human being to grapple with and write about. Luckily this book approached the topic in a manner that's easy for anyone to relate with.

Maybe I will write more reviews sometime. That's if, the mire does not catch up to me in the next month or year."

Fourth Take:(Miniature Kyra)

"I may be a miniaturized Kyra but I still retain her spunk and her personality. If you want one of your own mini Kyras, be sure to check out this awesome offer. These Kyras shall hopefully aid in the betterment of society since we're not afraid to speak the truth. I was very satisfied with this book because it finally allowed me the opportunity to reveal all my doubts and insecurities, which were formerly hidden due to Fanboy's biased views. I finally was able to appear as someone who was not nefarious or entirely angst ridden. Instead I was shown in favorable light and portrayed to readers as someone whose struggling just as much as other teens and adults with finding my place within this crazy world. One of the story's elements I loved was the unfinished poem about my mother's death and how each new element of the poem ultimately matched with my developing feelings surrounding the entire incident. I won't offer any more information about this unique piece of the story as it'd reveal one of my core conflicts for myself throughout the novel. Hopefully we'll see more books from my perspective or other females from Brookside High School. Because whether Barry Lyga will ever admit it or not, he has really taken great care in writing a well shaped female character. If Joss Whedon were to see this story, he would definitely be proud about the fact that there are other males like himself who are not afraid to write strong female characters which members of any gender can identify with.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for a review of "Wolverine's Worst Day Ever!," the first of Barry Lyga's youth X-men series!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I apologize for not updating this blog for nearly a week. The reasons are the usual reasons including an onslaught of college work and other life related matters. Thing though shall be returning to normal this Monday when my first blog promotion week begins for Barry Lyga. I'll be offering reviews of his earlier books along with a review of his latest release, "Goth Girl Rising. And there will be an interview, which shall be posted on the last day of the tour, Friday October 22. Sorry again for the lack of activity on my blog and hopefully you've been patient during my week of adjusting to a fairly chaotic schedule.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Catching Fire Review.


Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.


To think this review's being typed while my body's still suffering from caffeine withdrawal and I've only been up for approximately an hour. As result, how am I to type a meaningful, detailed review of the newest installment within The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Well, I guess I'll just have to force my body to cooperate for twenty minutes to work against exhaustion and the growing need for sleep.

(Warning! Spoilers) For those who are unfamiliar with the first book, please do not read the below review, otherwise you'll be spoiled!! Thanks!!

"Catching Fire," begins a few months after the first book ended with Katniss and Peeta arriving home from the games, which were the first games to have "two" winners. Right from the start, Suzanne Collin effectively bridges the last chapter of the first novel and the first chapter of the second by slowly, but effectively transitioning us back into the action of the book. Even if the book does not begin with a tournament, it's still a page turner just as with last. As I progressed through this novel, I found it increasingly difficult to tear myself from the pages of this book

Suzanne Collins effectively builds the tension of the novel's main conflict whilst developing the characters even further. Within the first novel, Katniss constantly feuded over her feelings over Peeta of whether or not they were real. In this novel, as she's taking a much needed respite from the tournament, she's forced to go through even more confusion in relation to the feelings she's experiencing. Being a teen and having to go through this awkward stage of teen life; I really resonated with Katniss's dilemma since defining one's feelings and making them clear is a personal struggle for all teens. At this age, with our lack of experiences, we do have a clear understanding of what truly defines one's feelings as love. For their feelings as with Katniss's may be self created all for the sake of protecting her younger sister and mother.

Besides, Katniss, each and every character's treated fairly and they're all given their own distinct personality and personal struggle. Being a person who suffers from character name dementia, it helped that no one character had repeating personalities. This allowed me to easily recognize each character by their characteristics. Rather than become overwhelmed with trying to fit a certain character with a name. And when your book has strange names such as "Katniss," and "Peeta," can you really expect readers of any age to recall their names especially if they are characters with minimal involvement within the book?

The second half was where Suzanne Collin's strengths as an author really showed. The way she deftly balances character interaction with intense action sequences amazes me. As a writer, I find it very hard to write action sequences that maintain the personalities of characters. When the action sequences retain the humanity and personality of the characters, they're far more tense and nail biting. That's because we're connected to the characters and worried for their survival. And within this novel, we're not sure that they're entirely safe from death. Peril or tragedy always awaits to cross paths with these characters. The reader's drawn to the foreboding sense of danger and as result we're feeling the tension that the characters are feeling all throughout.

I can't stop heralding this novel for it's themes of bravery and the importance of maintaining friendship in the midst of chaos. And the author deserves the highest honor for allowing all characters an equal chance of dying. With some novels, we're confident that a character shall survive the entire novel. Though with "Catching Fire," I felt that Katniss and Peeta could die at any given moment.

Now this may be a disgusting detail and somewhat inappropriate but there are sweat marks subtly painted on the cover of the book and alongside the spine. If you do not believe that this novel causes an adrenaline rush then that detail should rightfully convince you. You'll be exhibiting every nervous tick known to man as you're reading this. Because every page has as much suspense as the next. Every page rivets you, even the smallest sentence of half a page imbues you with a sense of urgency.

No book in recent memory has compelled as this novel has. I know that this review seems to be filled with a bit too much praise. If there was only one detractor it would be the occasional tendency for the author to skimp on some details of minor characters. And sometimes she quickly introduces new plot developments without providing any foreshadowing to those events. But these faults are minor in a book that I felt was both tightly plotted and extremely well written.

Now, I'm waiting anxiously for the third book to help abate my worry over whether a certain character's still alive or not.