Wednesday, April 30, 2008

D.Gray Man

I am not so sure how to review an anime or whet the criteria is to judge whether an anime is good or not. I bet everything is based on personal preferences. “D.Gray Man” is essentially alternative history as farfetched it is as it is set in an Earth, where the old fashioned telephones and steam trains ruled the world. However the same Earth seems to possess computer and complex data analysis machinery and holographic screen walls, which make it hard to determine anything.

The series follow the team of exorcists as they make the world a safer place by killing of demons sent by the Millennium Earl. The origin of the demons is really fascinating as Millennium Earl creates them using the soul a dead person called back from their beloved and the body of the mentioned beloved. This idea alone hooked me. Then of course came the different stages of evolution, where from one shape demons grew into more individual monsters of great variety.

The exorcists are people, who are able to synchronize with a godly material called “innocence”, which is equipped on them through a special object, thus becoming special weapons. The cast of exorcists is wide of course, but the main story revolves around four characters. Allen Walker is the protagonist, being the only exorcist equipped with a parasitic innocence that has his arm transform into various weapons. Lenalee Lee is his love interest and she uses special boots that allow her sonic speed, flight and major kicking force. Kanda is the sour one in the team, who barely speaks a word and uses illusionary swords. Last but not least comes Lavi, who has a hammer that can summon forces of nature and grow in size and length, and is also in love with Lenalee. I am expecting the love triangle to finally come in focus.

The first 40 episodes or so have almost no plot. The team is sent out on missions and we are slowly introduced to the world, the agency of exorcists, the history, mythology and other operatives and higher exorcists. Right about there the focus falls also on the bad guys and from there starts the real plot as the Children of Noah prepare for an attack. I liked this side of the world building as these Japanese took something from the bible and spun it in a wild way. Basically the Children of Noah have in stored different memories of Noah and want to obliterate the world, because of human transgressions. Of course they have wicked powers and create the demons, with which they plan to take over the world.

Right about now the battle is reaching its peak, but from all the dialogue being swapped around, I get the feeling that this is the battle before the final stand. So far there have been released 80 episodes. I am not really informed when it will end. I will post another review, when the series is over for sure.

Side Notes:
~ The art I managed to scavenge is not entirely original. The group shot shows Allen (down), Lenalee (left), Kanda (right) and the Millennium Earl (up).
~ The black on brown outline shows Allen with his advanced claw form of his innocence after he reached further synchronization with it. The other picture shows Lenalee’s boots activated.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"The Taste of Night" by Vicki Pettersson

Title: "Taste of Night"
Author: Vicki Pettersson
Mass Market Paperback:
448 pages
Publisher: Avon Books (March 27, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0060898925
ISBN-13: 978-0060898922

After reading “Scent of Shadows” by Vicki Pettersson I was left ecstatic with the Urban Fantasy genre as a whole even more as it was my fourth book into the genre. While “Stray” offered great amount of sexual tension and feline shapeshifters, “Halfway to the Grave” lots of action and sarcasm and “Touch the Dark” mix from mythology, magic and intrigued, it was “Scent of Shadows” that defined the genre for me. Vicki Pettersson pulled out a whole new world out of the nothing, relying on almost nothing known to human lore apart from the zodiac and comic books.

“Taste of Night” grabs your attention immediately and by the time you are finished with it, the Zodiac world is richer, more fully developed and as hell more real. The story is too complex to lay here in short. I tried and it turned out as an essay rather than a review, so I will keep it simple. It follows Joanna Archer as she has to manage to save Las Vegas from a lethal virus, which is activated sexually; kill Joaquin, the man, who ruined her life; maintain her fake identity as Olivia Archer, her dead sister and regain her position in the Zodiac Troop, after being kicked out for disobeying orders and bringing the virus into the sanctuary.

Of course much more happens in between the 400 pages. Old characters are further developed like Hunter, who is bound to Joanna after she passed the aureole to him in the first book. Tekla, who spent the first book as a mental patient, is now in her full power and the readers learn more about her personality and abilities. New characters are introduced in the face of Marlo, Riddick and Jewell, who fill the missing star signs.

The newest elements introduced in the book come in the shape of the changelings, who appear to be preteens. They know about the war between Shadow and Light and through their belief do the Zodiac troops actually exist. The changelings also appear to be separated into two camps, Light and Shadow, and morph into hideous monsters, when they sense an agent from an opposite troop. One of their other powers is to grant their own auras to agents in order to shield the agent’s identity.

The original manual seems to be the most important manual for the Zodiac troops as it contains how the prophecies about the Kairos aka Joanna will turn out. However as much as these answers are needed, the original manual seems to be lost at least in the Las Vegas valley. However Joaquin collects many manuals from across different towns, trying to find clues leading to the original manual. In the end after Joaquin’s death Joanna takes up that task.

Now although I found this book to be quite excellent, I have one huge issue, which is the cause of all the other problems. Joanna is stubborn and stupid when it comes to her actions towards the shadow agents especially Joaquin. Her motivation is crystal clear and understandable and I accept that, but seeing how she failed the first time with the attack and knows the consequences if she worked before her troops back, she does it again and fails, because of her angst moments. Seeing how the thought of that man makes her unstable, it is not advisable to go out again and again to hunt him down.

Then comes the love triangle between Hunter and Ben. I would definitely like to see her in relationship with Hunter, since they know more intimacies about each other because of the aureole exchange. She knows she can trust him and yet she says no, but regrets it and longs for him at points. Joanna then risks compromising herself as she returns from the dead with her own face through Jasmine, her changeling, and has sex with Ben in order to give him immunity, even though she knows that only a kiss can do pretty much the same. If you ask me, having Joanna kiss him in Olivia’s skin would set the ground for a really interesting triangle, having Ben fall for Olivia. But that is only me on that matter.

As a conclusion I have to say that this book rocks immensely and its flaws with Joanna are only minor ones that are defined mainly through personal tastes in preferences.

I give it 8/10

Monday, April 28, 2008

Interrogate the Author: Starring Kristopher Reisz

Today we have yet another quest at my humble blog aka Kristopher Reisz and he is going to talk about this and that, all connected to literature of course, some way or another. Enjoy.

1. Hello Kristopher and welcome to this edition of "Interrogate the Author" with me, the innocent, but oh-so-curious Harry Markov. Thank you for the opportunity to sit on my virtual chair and answer all my nonsense. Now let's warm up. How are you feeling?

I'm feeling pretty good. It's about 1 a.m. here, and I just got off work. But the coffee's br
ewing, so things are looking up. How are you?

Thank you for asking. British manners really make my day every time. I am doing just fine. So as we all know, writers usually get this bang on the head by an invisible epiphany and suddenly from ordinary human beings we all get the strange notion to start creative writing. When did your epiphany bang you and how did that happen? I mean it could have been either a novel or an actual hit in the heat. Details are usually wanted here.

Nobody watches a five-year-old singing to himself or making a dinosaur from Play-Dough and asks, "Why are you doing that?" Even if they did, the five-year-old wou
ldn't feel any need to explain himself.

Through childhood, creativity in a dozen different forms is seen as natural as eating or sleeping. It's only after we become adults that we're expected to put it aside for hard work, mowing the lawn, and–weirdly–raising children of our own. I never had a bang on the head or any sort of epiphany. I do what everybody did once; I just never quit.

3. I usually like to ask a few questions about the author's lives and while usua
lly I have trouble here, I find your life to be really question worthy. For starters you like X-Men and the instant geek fan in me squeals and wants to know who your favorite character is and whether by any chance the comics have affected the way you perceive a story before putting it down on paper. All media has influence on the creative process as far as I know.

If you want your kid to read Faulkner someday, get him hooked on Spiderman now. Even if the writing isn't illuminating, the discussions about why it blows will be.
Half the fun of fandom is arguing with other fans. Hang out in a comic book shop long enough, and people will start dissecting plot arcs, character developments, and symbolism–all the building blocks of fiction–with considerably more passion and verve than the average college lit class.

Without quite realizing it, by age fourteen, I'd learned to strip a story to its naked structure, turn it to different angles in my mind, and articulate what I thought worked and what didn't. Once I could do that with comics, I could do it with capital-L literature, and eventually, my own stuff. For a writer, you can't beat an education like that.

4. I am so jealous, because I never had that kind of environment. The only heated discussion was about whether Julio slept Maria-Conchita in last episode of a nameless soap opera. Now you are known to have worked as a paramedic, which by my standards is bad decision: blood, guts, horrendous pay and outrageous hours (it almost fits the superhero description, but they only want to deceive you). Since I have read "Unleashed" I see you are making use of the medical aspect after Daniel gets attack near the ending. Have you ever thought of using whatever medical knowledge you posses to write a medical thriller/paranormal? And while you are at it, share something about the time you saved people's lives.

Well, I know what people look like on the inside. (There's a lot more yellow than you'd think.) I guess that could come in handy if I ever decided to write a medical thriller, but so far, no plans.

5. You have also been a pizza delivery guy. I have to say that I can't be coaxed into working that since I would eat the delivery before it even reached halfway to the destination. Have you ever snuck pizza slices secretly and can the experience gathered in those times ever be applicable in your new line of work?

No. It was just the shitty job I had to take after I dropped out of college.

6. Now to end the personal part of the interview. Right now through your blog I have learned that you are caring for the mentally ill, which basically answers my next question whether you were a fulltime writer. Apart from being creepy, do you enjoy your work and how does it add to yo
ur experience as a writer, cause usually you have to live to have something to write about and make it look believable?

Last week, a 300-pound patient attacked a nurse. It took four people to wrestle her down to the floor, including me and a guy named Ed who started working there in the 80s. .
The patient was a 19-year-old schizophrenic. She's been in and out of the system most of her life. And she was screaming, spitting, and–certain we were going to kill her–ready to kill us first.

The on-call doctor wouldn't answer his phone, so we couldn't give her any drugs. So you know what Ed did? This grizzled, grouchy bastard who's always looking at me like he's scraped more useful things off his shoe? He talked to her. Sat
there and talked to her like she was family. He just kept telling her nobody wanted to hurt her, everything was fine, just relax, just relax.

It took about twenty minutes, but Ed reached down past the sickness and fear and convinced her to trust him. While the nurses were still running around trying to wake the fucking doctor up, Ed helped the girl o
ff the floor, patted her on the back, and took her back to her room.

Working at a mental institution is exactly as "creepy" as you want it to be. Mostly, it's about talking and listening. In fact, that's what all "life experience" is about. It's not about tearing down the street in an ambulance or being twenty-four and wondering what the hell you're doing with your life. It's about talking and listening and finding something worthwhile in every person around you. Then you have something worth writing about. Otherwise, you never will, no matter what half-assed adventures you wind up taking.

7. Wow, that depth of an answer almost brought tears to my eyes. I clap to you for that. It’s weird interrupting the moment, but here comes the most generic question I bet you have answered many times before. Why werewolves? Seriously. The world has seen enough of vampires, werewolves and zombies, even though I like them in general, and still people persist. I would suggest to turn towards mythology and pick something new like Rachel Vincent does with her upcoming YA Banshee series.

The werewolf and the vampire will be
here long after you and I are dead and forgotten. We're just human, but they're humanity. They're representatives of primal terrors that have passed through generations. They aren't going away anytime soon.

8. The whole act of turning into werewolves is triggered by the infamous Amarita mushroom and alongside the whole metamorphosis the thin line of hallucination, drugs and unreality is drawn. This is one of the little details, which made the book more interesting. It's a new aspect, which adds color to the whole mythos. How did you come to this idea to tie shapeshifting to drugs?

I stole it. Psychedelic mushrooms have been suggested as the source for everything
from whirling dervishes to Vikings' battle-frenzy to witch covens believing they could fly and, yes, turn into wolves.

Ecstatic rituals–sometimes involving hallucinogens, sometimes just hours of dancing and chanting–crop up throughout history. Participants experience becoming something both more and less than human. Individuals fuse into a single unit, a pack.

That sort of stuff fascinates me. I think that, if I hadn't lucked into this writing thing, I'd have been very happy as a cultural anthropologist.

I prefer the term *borrow* and boy are you relieved to know that lore has no copyrights. Otherwise you are in for lots of trouble. Now in the book the Amanita is referred to as a rot eater god. Although I think I can explain that on my own terms I would like to hear the author elaborate on the idea.

Well, first I decided to make mushrooms trigger the pack's transformation into wolves. All fungi are saprotrophic, meaning they feed on decaying organic matter. Then I decided that, since my mushroom had once been worshiped as the flesh of a god, it should feed on human decay, on lives that aren't going anywhere and dreams that have been left to spoil. So Amanita became a rot-eating god, both biologically and metaphorically.

Nice one. I knew it was really that deep. I’m good. So have you shroomed yourself?

Only once. Usually, my vices weren't so exotic.

Naughty boy, you! Tisk, tisk, tisk. So the pack in "Unleashed" wear tanker boots and the accent on these boots is heavy within the whole book and I am not sure whether you just like those boots or whether they are some kind of mark to identify themselves as individuals from society and whether they are not warrior attributes, because one way or the other Misty, Mark, Val and Erick have to survive in a world, which isn't built for them.

The boots started as a throwaway detail that ended up taking on a life of its own. At any high school, you'll see Body Piercing Saved my Life t-shirts, Abercrombie & Fitch logos, and patches and buttons for a hundred different bands. A major part of fashion, and a major part of the book, is signaling your allegiance to one group or against another. I figured the pack would find some way to symbolize their status as outsiders, as different from the people around them, even when they were just sitting in algebra class.

But symbols and uniforms have a way of dehumanizing the person wearing them. While
the boots start as sign of anti-establishment, almost punk rock, rebelliousness, they eventually take on a darker, more brutal, more paramilitary aesthetic. Over and over, I found that the best way to describe what was happening to the pack was to go back and describe their boots.

12. Viewing the book as a whole I have to say that it is a remarkable story about growth and self-discovery in a grimy city with the paranormal perks. How did the idea about "Unleashed" formed inside your head?

My editor killed my first idea because, even though it was urban fantasy, it wasn't geared toward young adults. So I went to lunch with two friends, Scott and Edna, and bounced a few ideas off of them. I said a werewolf love story could be kind of cool and Edna, who's an old-school feminist, banged her palm against the table and said, "Make the girl the werewolf! The girl never gets to be a werewolf!" I thought that was a neat idea, so I ran with it.
Of course, this was before I read Annette Curtis Klause's wonderful Blood and Chocolate, but I think there's room for two novels about werewolf girls and the boys who want them.

Anyway, from there, I added a bunch of research, some memories of a girl I was sort
of in love with and sort of terrified by in high school, thoughts I had while watching the riots in France that were going on at the time, a few bottle caps and bits of string I found laying on the sidewalk, and I don't even remember what else. I'm still sort of amazed the whole contraption sort of worked without blowing up in my face.

13. Dude, too many people mention that book. Freaky! Anyways although this book is stand alone, do you think that there is a small chance that there may be a sequel with the story or at least have the werewolf/shrooming core inside?

No. I've told the story I wanted to tell. Making it longer wouldn't necessarily make it better.

14. For that matter do your future plans feature a series? Do you think that a series is a manageable challenge? There are writers, who naturally posses the skill to finish a story in one book, while others weave a winding story through a series. Which type do you think you are?

In my bottom desk drawer, in a notebook filled with story ideas, are about a page and a half sketching out what could become a trilogy someday. Or it might just molder there with the dozens of other orphaned ideas.

Generally, I'm suspicious of series. Too many fall into a comfortable rut, with no satisfying conclusions and nothing major ever at stake. Or the author simply reboots them about the fourth book in.

If I ever do get to that trilogy in my desk drawer, I need to know, before writing the first line, that all the character development and plot threads will all arc towards a real conclusion, and that journey will be worth three books for both me and the reader.

15. So now let's jump to your newest and greatest project. Where is your creativity focused right now? I am sure the paranormal literary scene has much to gain with your next project. Does the focus fall on the YA as an age and what will be the problems active through the book?

Yes, the next book will be for young adult too. Why? Because they write the best fan letters. Also, if they like your book, they friend you on MySpace. If you use MySpace as your only metric, I'm way more popular than Cormac McCarthy.

It's a ghost story, except sort of not. And I think The Drowned Forest would make a good title, but that might change by next week. It does have a giant catfish in it, though. I'm very proud of that.

16. Go young adults! So while jumping up and down your whole life chronology I think it's time to ask about your first novel "Tripping to Somewhere". From the small blurb the potential read is left with an ambiguous idea of what is in store. Is it paranormal in nature as well and what can you share about your debut and the things you learned from it?

Tripping to Somewhere indeed deals with the paranormal. It's got witches, a very strange crow, and Christopher Marlowe, 400 years old and feeling just fine.

What I learned was that, like wise parents, my editors would let me say "cocksucker" as much as I wanted without raising any fuss, knowing that I'd eventually get bored with the word and drop it by the second book.

17. Success is measured in different ways and in literature it is to stretch outside the borders of your country. Have you managed to sell some foreign rights and by you I mean your agent and if you had the power to choose, in which land and language would you love to see "Unleashed"?

Dutch. I flew out of Amsterdam on KLM once. All the flight attendants were eight feet tall, blonde, and spoke the most inherently funny language I'd ever heard. Seriously, they might have been saying, "We've lost power in two engines and are probably going to die now. Please make peace with whatever god you believe in," but it all sounded hilarious.

18. Speaking of stretching past the borders. Would you like to see your novel on the big screen? I know that things don't usually happen like that. It is the movie company that decides, but still what are your thoughts on the matter?

Well, if Steven Spielberg starts throwing money at me, I'm sure as hell not to proud to pick it up.

That said, I don't spend much time worrying about it. Film and novels are two different mediums with different strengths and weaknesses. If, while writing a scene, I start thinking, This would look great in a movie , chances are it looks like shit on the page.

19. Now this question is somewhat misplaced, but I was curious nonetheless. Are you an outliner, when it comes to the craft, or seat-in-the-pants writer?

While writing Unleashed, I kept a notebook full of ideas and stray bits of werewolf lore. About halfway through I wrote a quote from the Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke in giant capitals that take up the whole page: "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy."
I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that.

20. Now for a grand finale. How did you feel, knowing that you were interviewed by a teen, who speaks English as a second language?

Recently, I went digging through some old journals I'd kept during my high school years. It turns out that, when I was a teen, English was my second language too. Oddly, my first language was apparently a hieroglyphic system composed of Dead Kennedys logos and doodles of super heroes.

And this concludes this installment of "Interrogate the Author". Stay tuned for the next one, which will feature Jason Pinter, best selling author of the Henry Parker series. He is an odd bird; writes crime novels, but what he has to say is worth mentioning.

To visit Mister Kristopher Reisz click HERE. To get inside Mister Kristopher Reisz's head click HERE. Of course visit amazon for "Unleashed" and "Tripping to Somewhere"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Side Note 1

As you can see, Temple Library Reviews underwent some changes around the design to get a bit more library feel out of the whole. The atmosphere of this parchment style template kick it pretty much old school. I have to thank my wonderful friend Theresa from Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin’ Book Reviews for the motivation to find cooler templates.

On a side note I will announce the schedule of what is to come on “Temple Library Reviews”. Tomorrow I will be hosting an interviews with Kristopher Reisz, author of “Unleashed”, which I reviewed a few posts back. Then will come a review on “Taste of Night” by Vicki Pettersson and after that a review on the anime series “D.Gray.Man” and after that come some movie titles that deal with fantasy, paranormal, horror and the obscure.

I had a backbreaking time fixing all the links (widgets as they call them) and sometime this week I will host some links towards some of great web comics and resources in the fantasy field.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Carrie" By Stephen King


Title: Carrie
Author: Stephen King

Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages

ISBN-10: 0671039725

A lot of water has run since the 70s and the release of “Carrie”, a lot of novels appeared on the market and for that matter Stephen King didn’t do badly at all, conquering the literary scene and all. I am definitely sure that just about anyone has read reviews about the book or the book itself, the adults anyways, but to think of the teens these days, who are not so acquainted with the classics like I was awhile back and still am, I am posting one anyways.

After reading “On Writing” by Stephen King, where he mentioned so many times Carrie and what the book was actually about I knew I had to read. I mean, which violence-anime-comic-book-crazed teen wouldn’t die to read a novel about a repressed high school outcast becoming a murderous monster relying only on the power of the mind. I am not so sure, if “Carrie” is the initial spark about the craze over telekinesis, but I definitely bet on it. I have not read many books having a take on this particular super power and I found it most satisfying.

First of all I have compliment Mr. King on the ingenious idea to construct the novel as a scrap book of notes, bulletins, excerpts from fictional books, interrogations and actual story telling. This is some great strategy to avoid the additional information like character background, events and setting, which would be usually introduced via dialog, story arcs and all the rest. So clap, clap, clap to all that.

So the story is actually very simple. We have Carrie White, who has the bad luck to be born into a family of zealous fanatics; her mother being presented as a tyrant with predisposition of constant yelling and a lot of her screws loose. The influence of her mother’s upbringing and the constant demeaning pranks, jokes and taunts from all her peers because of Carrie’s background, turn Carrie into an outcast. Thus while experiencing her first period in the gym shower (side not is that she doesn’t know menstruation is), all the girls make fun of her. This is the first time she manifests her telekinetic power by blowing out a light bulb. This event however sets the scene to the apocalyptic ending as Sue Snell decides to make her boyfriend Tommy Ross take Carrie to the senior prom in order to make amends with her own guilty conscience about taunting Carrie. Here come the main villains Chris Hargenson and her boyfriend Billy Nolan, who plan to make the prom night a living hell for Carrie. While she and Tommy Ross get crowned as Kind and Queen of the prom they dump a bucket of pigs blood on Carrie, which triggers the homicidal persona in her. Apocalypse is unavoidable.

Carrie is a very believably created character and the hell she goes through aka her life is built in incredible detail. Most interesting is how she seems to host this immense power and the maniac flame in her whole persona, which seems to go hand in hand I guess and then there come her meek, shy and frightened to death mousy personality. It’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide situation and all she needed was a trigger to cause annihilation.

The last pages of the novel put accent on the telekinesis and those were the pages I liked best for obvious reasons. First I enjoyed how Stephen King described it as flexing of the brain and then through regular training in minimal time, Carrie developed control and strength. She can also do multiple tasks at the same time and has latent telepathy. If I have to go in my analysis mode I would have to say that Carrie is a metaphor of a human being broken down to an emotional wreck with pain and chaos gathering like a storm. This turmoil is just expressed on the outside.

Of course the book had several areas that didn’t exactly work for me. Sue Snell is too much of a Samaritan to offer Carrie the night of her life and the perfect date. I know that this book was written back in the 70s, but teen girls back then had valued their prom night as much as girls do now. Her sudden decision is a bit illogical, no matter how guilty she feels. Then come Tommy Ross and his decision to play along without much though. I understand that he is a jock and suffers in the brain department, but it’s like saying to a person that instead of a sandwich he had to eat a cookie. The fact that Carrie was accepted so well during the prom night without the whole gossip droning around is also a bit suspicious. For me it was a bit surreal and mister King could have added some extra 5K into the mix to strengthen that. After that came the matter with all these adverbs that were quite obvious in the dialogue tags, but considering it was his first published book and way back in the 70s, who am I to criticize.

In conclusion I must say that this was a cool read. It reads fast, I personally finished it in four days and I read it on a Word file, since I couldn’t find a paper version, even on the used books stands. The situation with books in Bulgaria is rueful.
My Grade: 6/10

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interrogate the Author: Jeaniene Frost

I am very happy to announce that the glorious, newly risen star of Urban Fantasy, Jeaniene Frost has given consent to participate in a simple Q&A. I am also happu to announce that this author has recently won the Romatic Times Readers Choice with her debut novel "Halfway to the Grave". You can find my review of that book HERE, before I started my seperate blog. Now let's get this interview going!

1. Hello, Jeaniene. I’m so thrilled to be having you here on my humble place on the Internet as one of the first test subject in my upcoming series of interviews. I really appreciate the time to answer my rambling questions. How are you feeling?

Hi Harry, and thanks again for taking the time to interview me. Things are good! I’m getting pre-release jitters as time winds down until ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE comes out, but everyone tells me that’s normal.

2. Of course it is, until you shake your hands so violently that you won’t need a mixer to make whipped cream anymore. So as we all know, writers usually get this bang on the head by an invisible epiphany and suddenly from ordinary human beings we all get the strange notion to start creative writing. When did your epiphany bang you and how did that happen? I mean it could have been either a novel or an actual hit in the heat. Details are usually wanted here.

Oh, it was a bona-fide Moment, and I remember it clearly. It was January 4th , 2004, and I was sitting at my computer browsing Viggo Mortensen’s actor profile (I’d LOVED Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, and that was shortly after it came out.) Anyway, I was looking at Viggo’s biography and saw that he was an actor, painter, poet, publisher, photographer, and political activist. *pause* It was then that I had the crystal clear thought of, “Jeaniene, you are wasting your life.” As far as my dream of being an author went, in any event. Also, this happened shortly before I turned thirty, so I’m sure that looming milestone played a part in my epiphany as well.

After that day, I began writing. First it was poetry – which I love, but am terrible at – and then the idea for Halfway to the Grave hit me in a dream. It was so vivid, I completed my first of the story in about three months.

3. Viggo Mortensen is hot and compared to him almost everyone waste their lives. By the way you are not the only one, who got their publishable idea through a dream (I am hinting towards Vicki and her stiletto scene). I think I should start dreaming more. Anyways you have a really beautiful name, Jeaniene (you can thank me for the compliment later), and I did some research (quirk of mine). It seems that it comes from the Hebrew Jeanine, which means “god is gracious”. Did you know that and more importantly do you feel gracious?

First, thanks for the compliment – though really, my mother gets the credit J. No, I hadn’t heard of the Hebrew meaning behind Jeanine, but let me say loud and long that God has been very gracious to me. To me, the meaning behind my name shouldn’t be an endorsement of my personality, but a declaration of how much I thank God for the things I have, and not just writing-wise.

4. Wow, that is an interesting thought. Since I started the interesting topics with names, how about you shed some light on your heroine Catherine. According to my sources, her name means “pure”. Now how much of that overlaps with her character and how did you end up with that name? I have a hunch that is has something to do with her nickname Cat, which is very feline-y, but I want to hear it straight from the author’s mouth.

Actually, you can blame Sidney Sheldon. THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT is one of my favorite novels, and the heroine’s name in that was Catherine. When I was brainstorming a name for my heroine, that novel flashed in my mind, and I knew Catherine was the name for my heroine, too. The nickname Cat came later, because I figured she wouldn’t give her real name to her vampire targets, so a shortening of Catherine to Cat seemed natural. And it fit her personality, too, which made me happy as an author.

5. Happy coincidences is what make life so much easier, but I will blame Sidney anyways, since I wanted for once a character to be named Juanita. I side tracked again. So I read your novel and noticed something strange. Catherine is actually a half-vampire (nerdy me knows that some mythologies call them dampyrs). Usually when it comes to vampire related fiction, we have a vampire and a human, representing both words. How did you come to the interesting idea to combine the incompatible?

As I mentioned earlier, the idea came to me in a dream. In my dream, [spoiler warning for those who haven’t read Halfway to the Grave!] I saw two people arguing. Somehow I knew the girl was a half-vampire, the guy was a full vampire, and they were arguing because he was pissed that she'd left him years before. The story of what led up to that point in their lives became Halfway to the Grave. Now, the argument I'd glimpsed in my dream takes place in the second book in the series, One Foot in the Grave

6. The dream again, huh? Well they do tend to work in mysterious ways. So here comes my favorite. Why vampires? They seem to be pretty popular nowadays and we can all blame Buffy for that, but I bet you have some deeper reason. Answers like just because are not available.

Okay, I won’t use the word “because”, but it’s always been vampires for me. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved vampires. I remember watching the many variations on Dracula as a kid, and thinking each time that it was perfectly reasonable for Dracula to go to the lengths he did in order to get Lucy, and why did Van Helsing have to keep picking on him? As you can imagine, this made my parents very nervous about my warped perspective in rooting for the movie’s villain versus the hero, lol.

7. You gotta admit Van Helsing was hot. I can forgive him for that. So your second installment for the Night Huntress series is soon to hit the bookstores and enslave many UF fans all around the US. Can you give a little bit of inkling about what we are to be expecting? More importantly, will Cat be doing stunts in stilettos like we see her wear on the cover? What happens with Bones? Will we see more blood? Oh, tell me!

You know I can’t tell you too much about ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, or I’d spoiler things. I can say there’s a scene where Cat has to take on vampires wearing heels and a bridesmaid dress – ladies, can you imagine anything worse? – and Bones is definitely in the book. Some things from Cat’s past will also be brought to light, and a reader will get to meet several new characters, human and inhuman. Will there be blood? Um, yeah. Cat’s still hunting vampires, so that’s inevitable. I’ve also had early reviewers comment that ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE has more humor – and a hotter sex scene – than the first book. So we’ll see if readers agree once it releases.

8. Okay, I want an ARC asap. That bridesmaid dress scene is damn delicious. Speaking of stilettos, would you like to be able to do kick ass stunts with stakes and throwing knives like your character? Does the same answer apply if you had to wear stilettos?

Anyone who knows me will know why I burst out laughing reading that. The very IDEA of me trying to do stunts in comfortable sneakers, let alone heels, is enough to make me sprain something. I am a klutz. No, really, I mean I can trip while standing still (I’m not lying, people have seen it). I have no desire to do the things Cat does, and especially for the reasons she does them, which is, she’ll be killed if she doesn’t. I’d much rather go out to dinner and a movie than go vampire hunting at bars like she does. No way. And instead of throwing knives, I’m happy doing the occasional target practice with a gun.

9. I know what you mean. Been there, stuck there, can’t get out of there. As far as I can tell about you, you are the kind of people that don’t plan to stay a one hit wonder with the whole series thing and all. By the way, how many books do you plan your series to be and what do you plan to do once you are done with that?

Well, as with most authors, the number of books I plan in the series is directly related to how many a publisher is willing to buy. Right now, the total bought for the Night Huntress series stands at five. If that’s all I get, I’ll wrap up Cat and Bones’s story within those five books. I’d never leave a reader dangling because I wrote an incomplete ending without another contracted book to resolve things in.

However, if the Contract Faery came and waved a wand saying I could have as many books sold in this series as I wanted, I’d do eight books in Cat’s point of view, and then about four of five in side characters points of view that wrapped up their stories, as well as an overall plot arc for the series. That’s my dream, but don’t get me wrong: having five books guaranteed is more than I ever thought I’d get when I started querying, so I have no complaints however things work out.

As far as what I’d like to do when this series is over – or still ongoing – I want to write more, of course. Writing isn’t something I’m doing to tide me over for now. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I hope to have a long career doing it.

10. I will contact the damn Faery and see what I can do. Bazookas do make people and faeries more agreeable to suggestions. But now imagine the time your series will end. Do you have something hidden up your sleeve? I bet that bag of supernatural and sexy monsters has to be full to the brim.

I have several story ideas up my sleeve. Some I’ve started writing, others are still growing in my head. They’re all with supernatural creatures, though. I can’t seem to do normal J.

11. Normal is so outdated. I am glad you do the weird thing. So I hear you live in Florida. Isn’t it weird that a person in love with creatures of the night lives in a pretty sunny place? It seems like an oxymoron for me. Share how that happened.

I moved to Florida with my parents when I was ten. Then at sixteen, I started dating the man I’d eventually marry, and we’ve stayed here ever since. I have plans to leave Florida, because I was born up north, and I miss seasons and snow like I can’t even tell you. So in the next couple years, I’m anticipating a move to North Carolina.

12. Go, run to North Carolina and buy a spooky mansion. Writing is hard, but it has its own benefits. Since your seem to be becoming very green and tangible, can you tell me whether those benefits have given you financial freedom or are you still with the shackles of a daytime job. What exactly is your secret identity, when you are not the fabulous UF author?

I still have to work outside writing to support the bills. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but writing is not a get-rich-quick sort of scheme (I can imagine other authors laughing in agreement). It’s truly something you do for love, not for goals of living a cushy lifestyle supported by just your keyboard. Now, if you’re very lucky, you can eventually earn a living writing. Sometimes the uber-lucky earn a damn good living writing. But odds are, if you’re a full-time writer, you’re making less money than you’d make at just about any other middle-class job. And you’re making it slowllllyyyyyy. Writers get paid twice a year in royalties, unless they sell new books. *grin* Imagine hearing you’d only get paid twice a year if you were on a job interview? You’d have to really love that job to take it, because the truth is, there are quicker, easier, and less stressful ways to make as much as, if not more, money than the average writer does.

13. I hear such things. There was the time I thought every published author made as much as Stephen King did and after that I realized that um, there are a lot more authors out there and that is impossible. Here is the next question. If you could pick a land, where you want your novels to make a grand entrance, which one would you choose? *points towards to Bulgaria, estranged in Eastern Europe.* And would you like to see Catherine show off on the big movie screen someday?

Well, Germany bought translation rights for HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE and ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, so they will be making their debuts there. I don’t have a particular favorite country in mind. Any place that likes paranormal novels is where I’d be happy to see my books show up in.

Re-movies. I get asked this a lot from fans, and it still kind of surprises me. I didn’t write my books with the dream of seeing them in film one day – I wrote them with the dream of seeing them in print one day. I have no burning desire to see my books in film. For one, I’m not sure they’d translate well into film. So much of Cat’s character growth is done internally, through her thought process as the novels progress, and that wouldn’t be easy to show in film. Plus, there’s the whole fear that what might appear in a film would be nothing like my books/characters (*cough, BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, cough*).

14. Ugh, Blood and Chocolate. ::shudders:: I can point towards Earthsea too, but that may be just a bit too much. Now for a grand finale. How did you feel, knowing that you were interviewed by a teen, who speaks English as a second language?

I had no idea of either until I read your question. And then I immediately jumped to Livejournal to read your profile and see if you were pulling my leg. Since you’re not, let me say WOW, you are extremely articulate and sophisticated for an eighteen-year old (at least, from what I remember as a teen). Hearing that English is your second language makes me even more impressed. I took four years of Spanish in high school, and yet still, I no hablo. So, hat’s off to you for hitting the ground running when it comes to style and prose! Throw in some pig-headedness and masochism, and you’re well on your way to being a professional author J.

I wanted a little grand finale, if you catch my drift and do some testing for a trademark question. I startled you now didn’t I with my little shocker of a question. A smart reply for your answer is now unavailable, but a very thankful one is in store. Thank you for the kind words and I really wanted to end the interview with a bang. At least for you. So that you don’t get bored. I like to look after my interrogation objects… interviewees I mean and maybe get a chance to do this again sometime later. Thank you once more and maybe someday we will see on a conference.

Now be sure to check out the lovely Miss Frost's:
Site: Jeaniene Frost, Author of the Night Huntress series
Blog over at LiveJournal
"Halfway to the Grave" is available at Amazon
"One Foot in the Grave", the second installment, has been just released.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Unleashed" by Kristopher Reisz

“Unleashed” by Kristopher Reisz
352 pages
Simon Pulse (February 19, 2008)

As a debut post to my specialized in reviewing blog, I am going to report my impressions from “Unleashed” by Kristopher Reisz. But first I want to brag that this is a personal copy sent straight from the author himself, the very first I have ever received without winning a giveaway. So I don’t feel like a virgin in that area anymore and after the squealing was ticked on my to-do-list I set out to read it.

I was a bit skeptical with whether I am truly going to enjoy it or not since the paranormal limelight favored werewolves, which are in my book least favorable. As a reader and writer my accent falls on magic and mental power, whereas the werewolves are thoroughly physical and carnal. TV movies showing unintelligent half human, half wolf monstrosities didn’t help either to build a better view. Even when I researched shamanism and learned that werewolves change into whole wolves and don’t rely on the moon and had a deeper spiritual symbolism I wasn’t very keen. But I read this book and everything has changed for the better. People don’t joke around, when they say that written words have power.

Being a teen and the book being young adult with characters my age I think it was a match made in library heaven. The story is told by multiple points of view, but follows mainly Daniel, who is the shooting star in his high school in Birmingham and has the perfect life. He is the most popular, most athletic and has one a place in Cornwell, an Ivy League college. However on his path to fit the part of the perfect pupil with brightest future, Daniel has lost his own path and his identity.

Watching Misty, one of the werewolves and outsiders in Daniel’s school, rescuing a run over dog by leaving class is the trigger event that snips Daniel from the glamour cliques of high school and sets him on his way to self-discovery. Misty and Daniel grow fonder to each other until they become a couple and together with Misty’s pack, consisting of her brother Mark and her friends Val and Eric, roam the city as werewolves. However as wolves the pack loses all ties to humanity and while Daniel is isolated by the pack for hiding his admission to Cornel, he tries to restore his friends back to humanity. The climax comes at a post graduation party, where former friends stand against each other in a suspenseful and also very poetic ending.

It’s interesting to note how the actual transformation from humans to werewolves occurs, since I am not aware of anyone else to have done it the same way. The pack needs a catalyst to allow their shape to shift and in this book the part is taken by the Amarita mushroom usually known as a hallucination inducing drug. With it and the mention of weed Kristopher draws an interesting aspect about a twenty first century teenager and the use of mild drugs. Apart from the usual symbolism these details add depth to the characters and the reality of the book.

Kristopher does a very interesting job with the school’s outcasts building up their back ground, giving them different and yet interconnecting personalities, making them carriers of some kind of message for the reader. Daniel is the shooting star, who is forgotten by the school once he disobeys the popularity order and he shows how ephemeral and treacherous fame is. Misty is a gentle dreamer encased in a tough shell to crack and she is an example what happens, when a person has been held in the steel vice of life for too long.

I admire what mister Reisz has done with the werewolf aspect of the story. As a reader of his blog I have learned why he chose werewolves, because they seem most real from the most paranormal creatures existing. Every human being holds a primal side to his character that transforms him in an animal metaphorically speaking, even though there is proof that in the middle ages people were blamed for werewolves exactly because of their more primal behavior. In shamanism the wolf is a spiritual animal that stands for reinvention and finding one’s way and one’s self through life. Kristopher does an amazing job combining both. The new found pack is on the brink to lose their link to humanity, but once they save themselves they emerge wiser, more confident in their own skin and more knowing of who they are. Basically what happens to all teens once, but without the werewolf aspect.

In conclusion I can only add that “Unleashed” offers a lot to think about to its readers presented in a very dynamic and emotion filled story, where one bad decision leads to others and so on until the end changes your whole world.

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