Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott


Book One of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

Published: May 22, 2007

ISBN-10: 0385736002

ISBN-13: 978-0385736008

Review: 4.5/5

Cover: 4/5

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty. 

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life if hidden within the book he protects -- the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. 

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel is a superbly imaginative tale brought to us by Irish author, Michael Scott. The back flap calls him the authority on myth and folklore in his country.

After reading the first four books in the series, with the final two still forthcoming, I do not doubt such a claim. Scott has a fantastic reach in his words that brings myth right to your front door. Literally, as in the opening pages of The Alchemyst shows. Keeping any and all spoilers absolutely contained here, because if you do pick up reading this series, I want you to be as surprised as I was.

Now, the series is young adult and I've never read young adult before this. I am telling you, it is an absolute page turner. I remember nights reading this where I needed to be in the next chapter. The chapters are relatively short at times, but it's all part of the fun that makes you want to know more. Scott sometimes uses only a few paragraphs to a chapter, but it's a huge deal in the progression of the story arc.

What I really love best about this, aside from the bombardment of myth (from all cultures, I'll add), is the pacing. Never before have I seen pacing so perfect. In the course of the four books that have been released so far, the characters have only progressed a little over a week's time. Four books -- hundreds of pages combined -- all telling a story contained within days. That's talent.

I'm only ranting, but it's worth picking up. The main characters, Josh and Sophie Newman, are called the twins of legend. They have silver and gold auras, which not many others have. It's the sign of prophecy coming to a head. While you run through legends with them, from Aztec to Arthurian and Greek to Roman, it's all blended nicely.

Immortals do roam the modern world (in Scott's series), some of which are sided to bring about the return of the Dark Elders, a race of immortals who want to punish humankind, and some of which are sided to the witty and loving Nicholas Flamel, who wishes to prevent the return. You'll meet famous literary characters, all of which are immortal, and the fun only begins there.

I urge any who are interested in young adult, and also any who are looking for a new read, to pick up in this series. It's well worth the buy and read.

Peace and Writing Love,


Monday, January 24, 2011

Now Reading: Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

Book Two of the Night Angel Trilogy
Published: November 1, 2008
ISBN-10: 0316033650
ISBN-13: 978-0316033657

Kylar Stern has rejected the assassin's life. The Godking's successful coup has left Kylar's master, Durzo, and his best friend, Logan, dead. He is starting over: new city, new friends, and new profession. But when he learns that Logan might actually be alive and in hiding, Kylar is faced with an agonizing choice: will he give up the way of the shadows forever and live in peace with his new family, or will he risk everything by taking on the ultimate hit?

I went out on a whim when I first picked up The Way of Shadows from my local Borders. It was the first novel of a new series from an author I had never heard of or even dreamed of exploring.

Am I ever glad I did!

Brent Weeks has a voice and rich world that rivals my other current great love, Jim Butcher. Where Butcher relies on his clever dialogue, Weeks's world is mighty, grand, and full of surprises. It is your classic fantasy setting, with a twist here and there. The city is falling apart in places and flourishing in others, and amidst all of it is the boy, Kylar Stern, who became one of the greatest wetboys (assassin) in Cenaria.

I am very excited to finally pick up Shadow's Edge after a long love affair with Butcher. I'm ready to return to the world of wetboys, prostitutes who are equally as dangerous (if not more), and magic that just astounds me. I'm a sucker for a fantastic magic system, and Weeks's use of "vir," tattoo-like magic, always draws me in. Then there is the mysterious "ka'kari," a series of artifacts each imbued with the protection of a single element. But there also exists the powerful silver ka'kari, which belonged to Durzo. Kylar has yet to fully explore the ka'kari's true potential, but I expect Shadow's Edge will deliver more explanation, more world, more character, and more gritty death and violence that made me glad I picked up The Way of Shadows.

Review of Shadow's Edge to come in recent weeks.

Peace and Writing Love,


100 Words for $100 Blogfest

Elena Solodow, one of my critique partners, at You're Right. Except When You're Rong hosted a month long blogfest challenging participants to write one 100 word sentence. We were granted a 5 word leeway in either direction, so 95 and 105 word subs are accepted.

So, I didn't prepare or put thought into this sentence. Just did it. Hoping for the best, I suppose. It is 82 words of out-of-my-head randomness.


* * *

It was made clear that my life had no meaning, be it divine intervention, being socially cut off from society, or simply by the pinch of the bullet wound calling home to just above my heart—courtesy of the duster-wearing fellow standing over me, his cobalt knife-like eyes putting a fuzzy blanket over my shit-brown eyes and the swift realization that he wasn’t done with me, also courtesy of him popping open the barrel and checking his remaining munitions.

Peace and Writing Love,


Review: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Starting a bit late in the series here, but I'll get to reviewing all of the previous novels as well.

Book Six of the Dresden Files
Published: August 3, 2004
ISBN-10: 0451459873
ISBN-13: 978-045149879 

Review: 4/5
Cover: 3/5

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, takes on a case as a friend to Thomas - a vampire of dubious integrity - only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.

Jim Butcher ceases to amaze me with his complex story lines that send you reading one plot in one, certain direction, only to show you that in the last few chapters that the true plot is something else, more deeply connected to Harry (as always). Although he uses the same style to tell Harry's continuing saga, it never gets old. In Blood Rites, Harry is wrangled in by Thomas to help break the hold of his father, Lord Raith, over the White Court of Vampires.

As the book opens, Harry becomes the suspect of murders plaguing Auturo Genosa's adult film studio, because of his timely employment with them. Thomas knows Harry is not involved and together they discover Lord Raith is behind it all, not only to silence Thomas from eventually succeeding him, but also to remove Harry from the equation.

I asked myself: Why would Lord Raith want to remove Harry is he is not connected in any way?

As I remembered Butcher's style, I knew there was something more happening, and sure enough, we learn (SPOILER: HIGHLIGHT TO READ) Harry and Thomas are brothers by their mother, Margaret LeFay, who Lord Raith murdered. With Harry now part of the personal game, Butcher reveals the larger plot that has Harry involved. He not only brought great voice and storytelling to the secondary, underlying plot that consumed three quarters of the book, but he takes you deeper into Harry's life; to an area that was previously unexplored in the first five books. His mother had hardly ever been discussed before this, but now, she's the missing piece that lets Harry know that he's no longer alone in the world.

Blood Rites is colorful in word and scope, like all of Butcher's writing, and his unending witty dialogue that makes me love Harry Dresden continues forth. Just when you thought you knew Harry, a whole second plane of his life unfolds, only undoubtedly to be explored in the succeeding novels of the Dresden Files.

Peace and Writing Love,


Struggling to Rehab the Blog

Note the typo in the text. That's how I roll!

I've been giving myself a huge HEAD DESK each time I sign into my blog, thinking something has changed. More followers. Nope. Comments. Nope. Sparkles and glitter from special prizes. Not even close.

I was really strong in 2010, being participant in other blogs and contests, commenting and blogfest hopping, making contacts and just putting myself out there. 2011 has been a stark contrast so far, and I'm going to try to rehab myself for the sake of getting noticed more. I'll be adding some new features (book reviews and other opinionated goodies) and really get back on the saddle.

The one thing that has really shown productivity in 2011 is my dedication to my online critique group. We are brutally honest with each other, but undeniably sold to each others' manuscripts in progress. We all know we're competent, strong writers and we keep each other on track.

I really hope we stick together. A big thanks to Jodi Henry, Stephanie M. Loree & Elena Solodow.

Peace and Writing Love,


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Show vs. Tell Blogfest

The day's arrived for Misty's blogfest. Return to her page to view all the entries from our participants.

I also didn't have time to write a second scene for the TELL half of this blogfest. So, my story for the SHOW portion will have to do. It's a bit over 1,000 words. Enjoy!


I remember Howard’s bark even after I had closed the door on him. Poor, stupid mutt didn’t know any better. I just let him be. For me, I needed to take a walk.

The fashionable gray sidewalk outside my building had no walkers today. Even the weeds pouring from the stairs to my door seemed more lively than the streets. The landlord hadn’t made taking care of the building his duty in over a year now. Can’t blame the guy. The Veratin picked him up a month ago, I think, saying something about his loyalties.

Shit, my loyalties weren’t to them. They don’t know that, though. I made it my duty after to his to make sure the buildings occupants had some care, perhaps even some hope. When the “V” came for them too, one by one, that’s when I kept my door locked. All the locks: three bolts and two chains across the frame. And one rusted jalopy of a sliding bolt that sunk into the floorboards. I put a chair there for good measure. I can see the nasties faces barging into my place. Past the bells and whistles, all my locks, and they look at the chair sitting before them. I’d like to think I could laugh in their faces as they dragged me away.

Bet you’re asking yourself why I’m walking to the lake, right? Waving your hands, gray faced screaming, “The V are gonna’ swipe you up, you old coon.” Yell all you want. I bet the V been watching me for some time. They know they didn’t get all those people outta’ the city. After the hammer went down, that nice hole opened up in the middle of the block. Wide as three tractor trailers, going as deep and black as my eyes.

I walked to the end of the road, staring yards ahead of me where the evidence of the hammer was. Took my time getting there, stick in hand and bag looped on my arm. A lady doesn’t forget her bag, even if they send all the nasties to your door to get you. Might be going to the grave, but I’ll have my mirror, some mints and a Reader’s Digest.

I stared at the hole, shaking my head. They came down in the hammer and walked the streets just like that. Immune to all things we tried, they told us the conditions were right for their arrival. The hammer destroyed that nice block where my flower shop was: my mother’s shop I should say. Damn V. The block was painted with our flowers. Geraniums, tall white tulips with the longest stems, roses and daisies. Arrangements were her thing, her fingers supple from handling nature. That’s the memory.

But, I’d be damned if I let that shop go to waste after the hammer. Still got the keys to it. Used it as a safe house some days. When they thought they had us all, thought they cleaned
the houses, I took us there. Barred us in, I did. Then they really did take them all. The V made sure of it. Came down the streets, took fire to the houses. Blew out the windows.

I passed those houses, thinking of them. Wonder if they made friends with the V, or took the shackles to their necks? I stepped around the hammer ground. The pavement heaved up and out, smoldering still on some days when it rained. The power they had to crack the earth: guess it always stays around. My stick clattered on the uneven ground and I took rod up in my hand, waving the handle like a baton. A piece of the road hung dangerously over me. I tapped on it.

Would have been helluva’ way to go after surviving.

I thought nothing more of the hammer ground and came to the shop windows. They, too, were remnants only. Fine glass mounds, like pixie dust, piled inside on the shelves and floor. No matter what I had gone through, coming to Ma’s shop always brought something terrible back to me. I held in fiery tears and a congested nose. I looked down the shelves where her art had been displayed, but only the shining dust remained.

And something else. A soft, cotton-candy flower, its tiny peddle breathing some of the light from outside. I smiled and dug into the glass mound. When I pulled it out, I dusted the surface with a gentle finger, like Ma had taught me. The fire in my eyes came back heavier now, but I was good at holding it in. Instead, I prayed to her, soaking in the baby flower’s precious life source, and tucked it away into my coat pocket. I kept on for the lake.

The light skimming over the perfect, gray surface defined serenity. That is till I saw the sky. The buildings hid the truth the deeper in Center Danbrook you lived, but it had been there for a while. Violent maroon swirls, mocking the good sun, took refuge where clouds once lived.

My bench was just ahead, not a stone’s throw from the shore line. Something crawled through the husky red and where others might mistake it as a glider, I knew a warship when I saw one. Another hammer, this one ready to park its metal carcass just over the mountain rise. I sat, watching the show as it prepped for the finale. It had been coming for weeks now, pushing past the baby hammers. The clouds broiled unsavorily like water on an untended stove and “mamma hammer” greeted me. Lonesome, little me, sitting on the bench.

Couldn’t see me, ‘course. But if they could, I’d smile. Might even wave at the V. Give em’ a whistle, show em’ what a survivor looks like.

Caring about me was the farthest thing from their minds now. The glimmer of gold in the maroon said as much. The last clouds dissolved as the hammer charged itself and the gold was like a long awaited Christmas present. It is that day, after all. Jesus carry me up, I thought. A clap of thunder rocked the lake into swift ripples. The force of wind pushed my back to the bench, but I kept my grin.

I patted my chest pocket, thinking of the flower, and spoke to Ma. Hammer or not, I said to her, I’m ready.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Show It To Me!

I'm very excited for Misty's Show Vs. Tell Blogfest. You should be, too. It's an awesome idea joining preselected images for you to write around.

Psst...there's a special prize from the totally awesome C.A. Marshall. Yeah, you know who she is. If not, you should. The prize includes a critique of your synopsis or the first 10 pages of your manuscript. The alternative is a $35 monetary prize which can go toward a full critique.

We definitely need more participants for this fest, so shoot on by Misty's blog and sign up.

Peace and Writing Love,


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Trilogy Contest

As we're all spreading the word of this fantastic contest getting under way by the trinity of bloggers: Rachael Harrie @ Rach WritesMarieke @ Marieke’s Musings and Tessy Quin @ The Quest for a Literary Agent.

Prizes include critiques of queries, synopses or manuscripts. Less magnificent, although equally coveted (by some) are books and Amazon gift cards. To be in the running, you have to be a follower of all three. Pop over to their blogs, follow each, and fill the form that comes attached. Find the form on one of three ladies' blogs, also.

Contest ends January 31st!

Monday, January 3, 2011

"Show Me Yours" Blogfest

Today kicks off the "Show Me Yours" Blogfest, hosted by Summer Frey. Visit the LINK PAGE to see all the participants. The goal of the blogfest is sweet and simple. Post a 500 word excerpt from your NaNoWriMo 2010 project. Since 2010 was my first NaNo ever, I was stoked to have won. Now to share. FYI: My excerpt is a little over 500 words.


Peace and Writing Love,


* * *

From The Shattered Darkness, Chapter 7

At mid sun the next day, Eris arrived at the Crystal Pool, whose surrounding grounds seemed strangely attended. Phinella was true as to the Pool’s beauty and all of Eris' rapture of being given yet another way to locate Valence forced her to run to it. She leaned over the well. Roots along its lip raised like a dome over it. The stones forming the well were a soft gray, more pristine in appearance than the welcoming grounds. All around the inside of the dome, brass bowls had been fastened to it, each bearing a small flame cuddled in the Elf brand embers.

She held her hand over the water and a ripple went across it a moment later. The ring began at the center and pushed out, an image forming over the soft wakes as they moved. Valence appeared on the surface, sending looks left and right as if watching for something. The scene surrounding him focused next, familiar buildings and hatched roofs at his back. He stood under a bare tree with nearly no color. Eris waited for him steadfast, before he looked directly at her. She turned around, sure he might have been looking around her, but when she turned back, he nodded and smiled.


He mouthed words, but there was no voice to them. She waited before he seemed to repeat himself. “Where are you,” he was saying.

“I’m with the Elves,” she said aloud. “I’ve been looking for you. I need you.”

He mouthed, “Come home.”

“I can’t, I—” She paused and looked around. “I’m a week away.”

“Please,” he said. The water rippled again, now more violent. It sloshed against the well walls and splashed onto the edge.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“It’s mom and dad.”

Eris reeled back, Valence’s face contorted as something pulled him away from the water. A shadow dashed in front of the Pool and a bullet of water shot up from it. It drenched the roots and stone, but Eris sat a foot away, reclining on her arms and watching it. It was not long before she scrambled up, all of Phinella’s warnings forgotten in her greed. She crawled for the Pool and put her head through the water, allowing her body to fall in after. She twirled, legs over body, before the wash and push of the water spit he out onto hard ground of dirt and pebbles. A woman screamed in the distance and she pulled her chin up to glance level at the ground. She breathed at the dirt and watched feet scamper by her eyes.

She was yanked to stand by a two-handed grip on her cloak and thrown into a choke. The arm beneath her throat was black-skinned, minute prickly hairs lining its arm like razors.

“Pretend to be dead, girl?” the thing at her back asked. It growled hunger and hissed in her ear. A worm-like tongue slid down her lobe and she shied away from it.

Eris thrashed, a well-placed heel to the creature’s leg and the thing released her. She spun around, the creature whirling back to face her just as her saber met its neck. Its head plopped off and bobbled across the ground. After the creature’s body dropped, she looked at the head. Its face was pulled up in a snout, the nose two swine-like slits for breathing. Beady dark eyes sat above high boned cheeks, almost hidden, and they gleamed like obsidian in death.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eye Candy Blogfest

Good morning all and breathe in that 2011 air. Last night, we experienced the birth of another year. As a tradition, we threw open the front and back door of our house in recognition that the crisp winter air blowing through the house was also taking away all the ill that came with 2010.

Today is the Eye Candy Blogfest, hosted by Vicki at Rambles and Randomness.

I'm posting a few of my favorite pieces from artist Alexiuss on Deviant Art. His strange world art featuring apocalyptic landscapes and other fantastical dreamy images always captivate me. Enjoy!

Anamnesis of Estivation

Chronoscape - Thundersnow