Review: Discoredia by J. C. Michael

Discoredia by J.C. MichaelTitle: Discoredia
Author: J. C. Michael
Genre(s): Adult Horror
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo.com

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

As the year draws to a close a mysterious stranger makes a proposition to club owner, Warren Charlton. It’s a deal involving a brand new drug called Pandemonium. The good news: the drug is free. The bad news: it comes at a heavy price, promising much but delivering far more. Euphoria and ecstasy. Death and depravity. All come together, at Discoredia.

Discoredia is the story of a rave gone awry, and I can’t decide what I think about it. While it’s well-imagined, it’s not well-executed. It’s visceral, but ugly. Pulse-pounding, but haphazard. I can’t decide if this book is what the author intended or if it’s something that got away from him.

First, I was distracted and dismayed at how grammatically error-ridden this book was: Misplaced commas, missing apostrophes, and incorrect homonyms (“heal” for “heel” is an easy one, guys). It distracted from the work, and sometimes I slogged when I should have glided. The blame for this I place squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Michael’s small press publisher, Books of the Dead Press. If this passed over the desk of a professional copy editor, which I doubt, I’d fire that person immediately.

*Steps on soap box*

I’m disappointed on behalf of authors everywhere, and on behalf of Mr. Michael, specifically. With traditional publishing more cut-throat than ever and self-publishing becoming a viable option, small presses need to work harder than ever to prove their worth. The non-existent editing in this manuscript tells me that this publisher isn’t serious about contending in the marketplace.

*Steps off soap box*

Besides that, I’m not the book’s intended audience. While I vehemently support freedom of choice in all hot-button political issues, I’m not interested in imbibing, swallowing, injecting, or snorting drugs. I will occasionally have one glass of wine too many, and the next day is enough to remind me why I do that once per year. This book was written to capture the adrenaline-laced, hallucinatory high that common rave drugs induce. I’m only mildly interested, mostly from an academic perspective. I don’t understand drug use, and consequently, drug users.

Ultimately, I didn’t like the haphazard storytelling. Too many things were left swinging in the wind: Unresolved back story, a plot that dragged for too long and ended too soon once things started getting interesting, dubious villain motivation, and a cacophony of characters that I couldn’t make sense of. Part of me wonders if those elements were purposeful, but part of me suspects it simply needed a heavy developmental edit along with its need for copy edits.

Despite the drawbacks, I never regretted reading this book. If, unlike me, you can remove the stick from your rectal orifice long enough to dive into the badass shit going down, you’ll enjoy this book. The writer has voice and potential.

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Review: Ever and Evade by Jessa Russo

Ever by Jessa RussoEvade by Jessa Russo

Title: Ever (Book 1), Evade (Book 2) in the EVER Trilogy
Author: Jessa Russo
Genre(s): Young Adult Paranormal Romance
How To Purchase Ever: Paperback (Amazon) | Kindle | Kobo.com
How to Purchase Evade: Kindle | Kobo
Author Website: Jessa Russo

My rating for Ever: 3.5 out of 5 stars
My rating for Evade: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Evade in exchange for an honest review; however, I purchased my own copy of Ever.

Ever, Book One

Seventeen-year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious.

Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.

Some girls lose their hearts to love.

Some girls lose their minds.

Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.

Evade, Book Two

**Note: Book blurb contains spoilers for Book One**

In this thrilling sequel, Ever Van Ruysdael’s race to beat the odds—and the clock—begins with the introduction of an integral part of her past. As secrets are revealed, and truths uncovered, she learns her imminent death is the least of her problems: Ariadne did more than just put an expiration date on her life; she marked Ever’s soul by upping its value for greedy collectors looking to buy their freedom.

Condemned by the countdown on her life, and hunted by hired Seekers, Ever’s journey leads her to question everything she’s known and everyone she’s trusted, while growing closer to the one person from her past she was determined to avoid—and the one guy she never could—Toby James.

With her ex-boyfriend by her side, and the countdown clock rapidly ticking away, Ever tries thwarting fate’s plans. But as her nineteenth birthday approaches, and desperate Seekers follow her every move, she may be too late.

A marked soul is hard to come by … and even harder to escape.

**End Book One spoilers**

The EVER trilogy so far has a solid premise and interesting characters, but the plot pacing never allows it to rise from “I liked it” territory to “I loved it.” Ever, Book One, was faster paced with more plot twists, but Evade, Book Two, lagged a bit and disappointed me.

Ever, Book One

The premise of the books is fantastic: Ever, real name Eleanor, becomes ensnared in a supernatural world that, so far in both books, seems unique and interesting. Her boyfriend Frankie died in a car accident, and he’s haunting her house. Not in a “I don’t know I’m dead” way, but in “I’m moping and creepy because I don’t like being dead” way. I don’t know about you guys, but I love it.

Another boy, Toby, moves into the neighborhood, and Ever must work through letting go of Frankie. And, of course, Toby isn’t just any boy: He’s got his sights on Frankie. What does it mean? What’s he going to do? Why is he here? Love it, love it, love it.

As the story progresses, the plot picks up speed. We find out that Toby is, of course, not just the pretty face he seems. Ever’s family has a past. Toby has a past. His dad Ted has a past.

Toward the end, the book goes off the rails. The ending is a cliffhanger, but not in a good way. (Disclaimer: I loathe cliffhangers, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.) I feel as though a good portion of the beginning of Evade, Book Two, should have been the denouement of this book, which would have resolved the disquiet I felt about Book One.

The only part I struggled with was the relationship that Ever had with Toby versus the one she had with Frankie. Toby’s relationship sparked, but Frankie’s seemed non-existent. I understand that Frankie was her first love and best friend since birth, and the nature of that is different than a lusty teenaged love affair; however, I felt as though I was being told that he was her best friend. I didn’t feel the comfortable love that was between them. Quite frankly, Frankie was flat.

Evade, Book Two

Here’s the non-spoiler part: While Ever was more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, Evade was more paranormal romance than urban fantasy. I liked both Ever and Evade for their plots, but I wished for more, sooner, in Evade. It doesn’t pick up speed until about three-quarters of the way into the book, and by that point, I was wondering if anything unexpected was going to happen. It does: The stakes raised and I got excited, but the book was over all too soon.

**Note: Contains spoilers for Book One**

Evade picks up where Ever left off: Ever now has less than a year left to live. Trying to make the best of it, she heads to a vacation in Mexico and is plunged into more chaos. She discovers that Ariadne’s mark attracted all manner of unsavory dead folk, and she must run for her life.

I struggled with this premise because it didn’t make sense. If I were Ever, I’d be demanding answers–real ones–especially when her bitch-face nemesis and ex-boyfriend show up again to make her life difficult. Sometimes Ever seems to be going along for a ride, allowing all these things to happen to her. As I mentioned before, it’s only in the last quarter of the book that she starts taking charge.

Something about the world-building was missing from both Ever and Evade: We never get a glimpse into the Soul Collector life. I’m reminded of that part in Men In Black where J first goes down the elevator and sees all the aliens wandering amongst the humans. Neither Ever nor Evade has a “reveal” moment where we see what it is that Toby, Ted, and Ariadne do. It’s a fabulous premise. It’s lacking in delivery.

**End Book One spoilers**

What I liked most about both books was the bonus material. After Ever‘s ending, it contained the opening chapters from Toby’s perspective, and Evade‘s epilogue was also written from Toby’s point of view. For whatever reason, those parts scintillated. Also, I was nearly in tears (in the waiting room of a doctor’s office–nope, not embarrassed, I own my emotions) reading Ms. Russo’s afterward. It gave me insight into some things about the plot that I loved / hated. But I’m a sap and a writer, so I identified with her struggles.

If you enjoy Young Adult, romance, and characters with real struggles, I recommend this book. I’m looking forward to Book Three and hope that Ms. Russo rediscovers her enjoyment of writing this series.

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Review: Running Home by Julie Hutchings

Running Home by Julie HutchingsTitle: Running Home
Author: Julie Hutchings
Genre(s): New Adult Paranormal Romance with glimmers of Horror
How To Purchase: Kindle (Amazon) | Kobo.com
Author Website: deadlyeverafter

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Death hovers around Ellie Morgan like the friend nobody wants. She doesn’t belong in snowswept Ossipee, New Hampshire; she doesn’t belong in the frigging gift shop she works at, she doesn’t belong with people that death will always take from her, and she definitely does not belong at this black tie party with Kat. But that is where she is, and where he is. Nicholas French, the man who mystifies her with a feeling of home she’s been missing, and impossible knowledge of her troubled soul.

Nicholas followed an abomination that is one of his own, but soon finds fate has driven him to New Hampshire as more than a bystander. He reveals himself to Ellie as being of the Shinigami, a heroic vampire order that “save” their victims from more tragic ends. He knows why Ellie is human repellent, and why physical agony grips them when apart. The Shinigami are cornered into isolated human lives, plucked out when they have no one left to be created for their higher purpose. Ellie is destined to be a legendary Shinigami, and Nicholas her creator.

Nicholas and Ellie’s fates intertwine closer when his latest victim in waiting turns out to be the only person who tethers her to this world, Kat. Fate will not be ignored, and in the only real choice Ellie has made in her life, she must determine a horrifying path; let the vampire who would make her a hero wither to shreds or sacrifice the life of her closest companion.

As a paranormal romance, this book has a sexy love interest and a believable struggle. As a horror, it disappointingly picks up steam only at the end.

This is a story about Ellie, a woman who has lost nearly all of the important people in her life, save one. As she drifts, she’s drawn into a dark world of vampires–not the sparkly, gentle kind, but the ones who operate under fate’s command. The further in Ellie slips, the more macabre her story becomes. I loved the twists and turns, and as soon as I thought I’d figured out where the plot was going, it jolted me another way. The ending itself left me breathless. Simultaneously, I wanted to throw my Kobo at the wall and drive to Ms. Hutching’s house and sit on her until she finishes the sequel.

Part of the reason I gave this book three stars was my own preference for horror and the paranormal over romance and tingly love. The beginning drags, and the plot takes too long to get to the juicy parts. Running Home‘s strength lies in the chilly nighttime, but it spends too much time in the lazy afternoon. When the darkness hits, it’s too late and too short, and I found myself craving more.

As for the nuts and bolts of the writing, I’m disappointed in the publisher, Books of the Dead Press. Though Ms. Hutchings is a strong writer, the book could have used a more thorough developmental and copy-editing pass. Her descriptions were unique and interesting, but some of the sentence constructions and a few grammatical errors pulled me out of the writing. I’m critical of all published work, but especially small presses because of their responsibility to their writers. If self-publishers are hiring professional editors, small publishers must compete. Otherwise, why would us authors go with a small press?

I recommend Running Home, especially for those looking for solid paranormal romance fare. I can’t wait to see more from Ms. Hutchings and hope that its follow-ups descend deeper into the midnight that lurks at the end of this one.

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Update 10/14/13 afternoon: This week only, Running Home is $0.99 on amazon. Better snap up your copy.