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Exploring Grief

Andrea Darby Author Interview

Andrea Darby Author Interview

The Husband Who Refused to Die follows Carrie as she deals with the loss of her husband and his decision to be cryogenically frozen. The novel is a thoughtful review of grief, love and family. What was the inspiration for this story?

The idea came to me after reading an article in a women’s magazine a few years ago about a young couple, in their 20s, who’d both signed up to have their bodies frozen when they die.

They’d paid a large sum of money to be cryonically preserved, in the hope they can be revived and come back to life at a later date – when science has moved on.

I was intrigued by their story and the motivations and implications of such a radical – and unusual – choice. I’d been searching for an original premise for my debut novel, and I knew this was it.

I’m often drawn to stories in which the extraordinary happens in ordinary lives, and relished the prospect of learning about something outside my own – and most other people’s – experience, yet, at the same time, exploring grief, an emotion that we all face at some point.

I discovered that several hundred people are signed up to be preserved after death and was very excited to learn that, although cryonics has been given the sci-fi treatment in books and films, it’s never been the hook in realistic, contemporary women’s fiction. Dare I say it’s a first?!

My head was spinning with ‘what ifs’ when it came to contemplating cryonics: What if someone I loved passed away and wanted to be frozen? What if there was no funeral? What if I felt I couldn’t grieve in the normal way? What if I thought it was creepy and confusing? What if I couldn’t find closure?
It’s these questions that led me to create Carrie and Dan’s story.

On top of her current troubles, Carrie must also try to deal with her ornery teenager. I felt that their relationship had depth that is rarely seen in novels. How did you approach writing about their relationship and what did you want to accomplish with it?

I have a son who was a similar age to Carrie’s daughter, Eleanor, at the time I was writing the first draft, as well as many friends with teenage children. So my starting point was my own experience and observations of life with a young person going through this turbulent time. I then tried to imagine the extra strain and pressure the mum and daughter relationship would be put under when faced with the difficult and distressing situation Carrie and Eleanor find themselves in.

What kind of research did you do on cryonics for this novel and do you see it as a viable option today for people?

After some initial research on the internet and in the media, I interviewed several people who have signed up to be cryonically preserved to gain a deeper understanding and some first-hand insights.

I was particularly fascinated to hear about how others had responded to their decisions: family, friends, strangers, and the media. It’s an emotive topic and some have endured a lot of negativity.

I also attended a weekend training course with Cryonics UK, a group of volunteers who carry out emergency procedures to prepare bodies for preservation in the UK before they are shipped out to one of the storage facilities in American or Russia.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cryonics, particularly here in the UK following the recent heartbreaking case of the terminally ill teenager who had to fight in the High Court for her wish to be frozen after death to be granted.

Many experts believe there’s little or no chance of bringing a frozen corpse back to life, now or in the foreseeable future, but cryonicists would argue that things declared scientifically impossible a few decades ago, like IVF and organ transplants, are now possible, so it’s worth a punt. Either way, I believe that it’s a personal choice.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?

I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction novel, which I hope will be published next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Twitter

The Husband Who Refused to Die by [Darby, Andrea]“Carrie’s no ordinary widow. Husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.

Two years on and Carrie, mum to increasingly truculent teenage daughter Eleanor, tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems, not least her interfering sister-in-law Sunny, a reflexologist with a soft voice, loud clothes and a bag full of natural remedies. Sunny’s intent on keeping her brother’s memory alive and ensuring Carrie honours his request.

After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.

But are the secrets true? Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?

Told with warmth and wit, The Husband Who Refused to Die is a pacy novel with an original premise that casts an unusual light on a story about love, loss, family and friendship.”

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The Husband Who Refused to Die

The Husband Who Refused to Die4 Stars

There is no road map for how to properly deal with becoming a widow, but what if you can’t even be sure you really are? Thanks to cryonics, this is now a real question to consider. Carrie’s husband Dan is decidedly dead, gone from an apparent heart attack, but can she really be called a widow? Can she grieve like one? She laughed when he first mentioned it, but now Dan has left her in emotional limbo, having opted to have his body frozen while his life is “suspended”. The plan is to come back one day, after science figures out the other end of the process. His wife was to join him, but Carrie has other plans. As Dan’s body is packed up and shipped off to some distant future Carrie will never be a part of, she is left to pick up the pieces with her daughter Eleanor and face life as a grieving non-widow. Two years later, old, painful and mysterious flames are rekindled, but just what secrets they shed light on remains to be seen.

There are many themes to unpack in The Husband Who Refused to Die. The ethics of “playing God”, rich vs poor, the effect of death on a family, and the difficulty of moving on in grief are all touched on to varying degrees in this work. Carrie makes a valiant effort, but are there too many forces at work against her?

While Carrie tries to figure out how to grieve for a husband who is not really dead, their daughter Eleanor must navigate the same sorrow, but for a father who is also not dead but is still gone forever. She also has the added hardship of being a teenage girl who was already having a rough time, and her classmates who are happy to make it worse. Eleanor wishes she’d never heard the word “cryonics”.

Sunny, Carrie’s aptly-named sister-in-law, is an outwardly positive reflexologist with a stone, potion, or remedy always at the ready. This is a result of the crunchy-hippy life Sunny and Dan’s parents raised them in, which Sunny never grew out of. Sunny is there to support Carrie, but lately their interactions seem to be less about helping Carrie to grieve and more about pressuring her to abide by Dan’s wishes.

Two years later, Carrie has learned to get through her days, and is trying to be a good mother to troubled Eleanor. Carrie has rekindled an old flame, but even this brings more questions, mostly about the shroud of mystery surrounding the end of their previous relationship. I felt this came to a somewhat unsatisfying resolution, as Ashley was let off the hook a bit too easily.

Eventually, the circumstances around Dan’s decision to be frozen become a source of public controversy, and of course he is not here to face it. Now Carrie is left to answer for the alleged actions against her husband, regarding something she never wanted him to do, and has been a giant source of pain for her and her family. As questions about the selfishness and ethics of donating money to be cryogenically frozen begin to arise, the press begins to close in. Angry letters give way to hate mail, which eventually turn to threatening calls, and eventually Carrie finds herself in real danger. Worst of all, could the things they are saying about her husband true?

Darby has offered a humorous and unique new take on the age-old story of loss, grievance, and perseverance. Although some parts did drag on a bit longer than necessary without adding much payoff, for the most part the story moved along nicely. Anytime it started feeling at all predictable, interesting new conflicts would arise, deepening my sympathy for Carrie. This was a fun read which raised lots of questions that would be difficult to answer if I were put in the position to do so. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Pages: 320 | ASIN: B01N1KK7JI

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Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter

Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter3 Stars

The novel Modern Day Cowboy: The Making of a Gunfighter depicts the life of Mattie, a young woman living in the middle of nowhere, Canada. Mattie struggles to recover from a painful incident which took the life of a mentally disabled boy that she cared for, and as a result, Mattie takes up employment at the local gun shop in town. It isn’t long before the owner senses Mattie’s need for revenge, and sends her to a boot camp in Arizona to train to become a gunfighter. She quickly becomes proficient at her newly acquired trade. But being rising talent comes with many disadvantages, as other female gunfighters come out to challenge Mattie. When she’s not off to a fight, she is conflicted with feelings for her contract and love interest, David. When his safety is threatened, unlikely friends come to Mattie’s defense, and old histories begin to reveal themselves.

What’s most interesting about this story is the idea of real life gun-fighting. The concept is very unique and Nathaniel Sheft really brings this hobby to life with his novel. The possibility of the organization, a multi-billion-dollar underground business, where women are trained for months at a time to go out and kill each other in a few brief seconds is fascinating. It’s even more empowering that the novel focuses on the sport as it is played by women. Sheft really challenges gender roles and introduces us to some of the most conniving, evil, clever, and entertaining female characters throughout this book, and it’s nice to read through a novel where the protagonist is a strong female character. Mattie’s transformation from depressed, isolated girl, to confident a, in your face, woman is what gives the story it’s flavor. She shows readers that you don’t have to be drop down beautiful or have any sort of history in etiquette. As long as you’re determined to accomplish your goals, you’ll be alright in the end.

The drawbacks to this novel however was that the writing style fluctuates between being great and just okay, especially when it came to dialogue or the inner monologue of characters. When any of the characters were joking or angry, their dialogue came through as more aggressive, however, the language was more colloquial – some slang words here, mispronunciations there, which is fine. However, it was unbelievable for every character to speak in that manner when they were angry. Also, throughout the book, we get a lot of David and Mattie’s inner monologues. These are so elegant, almost philosophical, especially with David. It’s such a strong contrast to the average, or less than polite language found throughout the rest of the novel. It seems that many characters in the novel have the same sort of inner monologue, so it doesn’t leave room for much originality in the words and thoughts of the characters. The language used to describe a scene was jumbled or vague at times which made it difficult to figure out the setting, who was talking, what action was going on, and what point in time the story was actually taking place.

Overall, the idea behind Modern Day Cowboy is intriguing and leads to fascinating possibilities.

Pages: 487 | ASIN: B01LXC2GTL

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Never a Choice but Always a Gift

Never a Choice but Always a GiftMax Kristoff, a man in his thirties who is living in New York, is about to come face to face with his past. When he walks into a house in Brooklyn, trying to connect with a person from that very past, he is plunged into a haunting situation. This situation sets him on a journey that will reveal—not only his character—but what lies in his heart and soul.

Will Max find what he is searching for?
Will he ever find closure?
Will he find himself along this journey?
Or will he die without every knowing the answers he’s always been seeking?

3 Stars

Never a Choice but Always A Gift By Adam Que is a book about change. Que takes you on a journey of Max’s life. Max was born and raised in the Bronx and currently living life with no real thought of tomorrow. After receiving some surprisingly unsurprising news, his life is bound to change.

Trials and tribulations surround Max and his long time friend, Bibby. Love, sacrifice and pride are challenged throughout the story. Memories are always with us. Can these two forgive and forget, or will they live the remainder of their lives holding a grudge?

Que’s use of vocabulary helps the reader relate to the different characters and really help you feel the emotions. The reader is lead along an easy to follow narrative that is sure to stimulate emotional response. That being said, there are times where the vocabulary becomes redundant and phrases are repeated which disrupts an otherwise sentimental novel.

Max is a well developed character and the story is gripping, but I felt that his thoughts in the beginning of the novel were constantly interrupted by tangents, side stories and information dumps which caused the story to lose focus. But when Max meets his love interest Celeste the background information is given in a less dense format and the novel flows easily and keeps the readers attention.

This novel is one of the more unique one’s I’ve read in 2016. Story detail is revealed through the use of double narrative. Things that Max is not willing to tell the reader is revealed through Bibby’s perspective. The switch of perspectives results in a change of language and tone which truly captures the feel of a new narrator. Few books I have read with a similar method of perspective change have lacked that quality.

I recommend this book to people going through hardships. Hope and unconditional love are cornerstones in the characters relationship. Never a Choice but Always A Gift is about a journey, but not the kind where characters trek through exotic locales. It’s a journey through life, to find love.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01EYS4Z9U

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Technology As A Community Builder

Rich Marcello Author Interview

Rich Marcello Author Interview

Themes of forgiveness, trust, honor, technology as a healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall. What was the inspiration for the themes you used throughout the novel?

When I started the novel three years ago, I was interested in writing about, as you say, technology as a healer, or as I like to say, technology as a community builder. There are many good novels out there about the evils of technology, but few, if any, about technology companies that bring about positive social change. The idea of using technology to enable true democracy, as opposed to the slew of representative democracies out in existence today, intrigued me. The events in the world this last year –– the rise of fake news, populism, racism, and sexism—confirmed that I was one the right track. However, as my protagonist, Dan Underlight, emerged, I realized I was actually writing a redemption story. Once I was clear on that point, the themes broadened out to include all the ones you mentioned, especially forgiveness and simplicity.

I felt this story was very well written and used beautifully soulful language to create unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives. What’s your experience as a writer?

Well, first thanks for the compliment. I spend a lot of time at the sentence level, so it’s nice to hear that the language resonates with you. I’ve been writing all of my adult life, but only full-time for the last six years. In college, I had a chance to be mentored by a novelist in residence, but I was broke and needed to make money for a time. So when I graduated, I did. Throughout those years, I kept writing––mostly songs and poetry––but I always knew I would come back to writing novels. Hopefully, I’ll get ten or so of them out into the world before I’m done. I tend to write on most days in the morning for five or six hours. I’m a big believer in writing in the morning and tend to do my best work first thing each day.

The characters in The Beauty of the Fall are complex. What is your process for creating such in-depth characters?

As a writer, I’m trying to go deeper and deeper into the soul of each of my characters, and so I focus a lot of my effort on their inner lives. In this novel, I spent most of my time on Dan and Willow, but I also spent a considerable amount of time on the other characters. On process, I write a character over and over until I feel I find his or her voice. That usually happens at the scene level, and once I understand a character’s voice in that scene, it generalizes to the rest of the book pretty easily. With Dan in particular, once I understood his grief at some deep non-verbal level, he came into focus.

What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?

I’m working on my fourth novel, The Latecomers, which is about aging in a world that in many ways devalues age. It’s about how a few folks try to build a community that values age and wisdom. I’m one-hundred-and-forty pages into that novel and hope to have it out in a couple of years.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. He then recruits three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?

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Beauty of the Fall

The Beauty of the Fall5 Stars

It is impressive, nay amazing, what the human soul can withstand. The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello chronicles one such journey. Our protagonist is Dan Underlight, a man approaching the end of his prime who is getting laid off from the company he helped found. Dan has always been involved with hi-technology and the story opens with his seemingly unjust dismissal from a company he has birthed and nurtured much like a child. As Dan leaves RadioRadio Software after being pushed out by his founding partner, Olivia, we are privy to the sensational emotional and physical journey he undergoes. We learn that a few years ago Dan lost his only child, ten-year-old Zack, and that he dropped into a deep depression. We learn that Dan is divorced and that there is nothing in his life that brings him joy as much as working for RadioRadio had. When we begin our story, we meet a battered man who has nothing left. Then he begins a journey, and takes us with him.

Marcello is a master with language. The story flows in such a natural way it is easy to get sucked into what you’re reading and lose track of time. There are no unnecessary words. In a tragically beautiful tale like this it is easy to drown your story in frivolous language. Marcello keeps the dialogue short and only uses it when absolutely necessary. We journey through this story from Dan’s perspective as it is told in the first person. Marcello weaves effortlessly between Dan’s thoughts and the words he and those he meets say. Poetry peppers the text due to the creative Willow who will become both a source of strength and sorrow for Dan. He is a man who is grieving: grieving the loss of his child and the loss of his reason for existence. We go with Dan through therapy, we journey with him on his pilgrimage and we arrive at his revival as he creates a company even better than the one he had before. It’s not all roses and sunshine for Dan, however, and we also continue with him through his intense sorrow and his drunken attempts at coping. Marcello’s portrayal of the human condition is fantastic and readers will not be disappointed.

 The story is broken down into parts and time flows effortlessly. In some novels time skips are awkward and unnecessary. Even the short six month time skips are effortless and useful. When we meet Dan, he is broken and wounded. He rebuilds, even better than before, but suffers two detrimental losses that may have readers concerned about his recovery. After all, he is only human and the soul can only withstand so much pain. Marcello doesn’t disappoint and the resolution of The Beauty of the Fall is realistic and will leave readers feeling confident in Dan’s choices for the rest of his life.

If you’re looking for a masterful tale that will have you laughing, crying and questioning how you view yourself in the universe, you will not be disappointed with Rich Marcello’s wonderful portrayal of the human condition in The Beauty of the Fall.

Pages: 283 | ASIN: B01MFCTYYW

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Sprk.It

First-Hand Experience With The World of Drug Addiction

Michael A. McLellan Author Interview

Michael A. McLellan Author Interview

American Flowers is a fantastic story that follows Chris who’s a drug addicted young man trying to find his way in life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write about drug addiction in this way?

I made a lot of poor decisions when I was a teen and gained first-hand experience with the world of drug addiction. Most particularly the meth subculture. I witnessed young people completely unravel their lives in weeks. A lot of times it begins with no more than a weekend of partying. Meth addiction is insidious in that way. I came out the other side. Many never do. All these years later I feel compelled to share some of my experience with others. I don’t think there’s many of us here in the U.S. who hasn’t been affected by drug addiction in some way; either first-hand or through a loved one or coworker.

After Chris meets Allie, a young lady who has her own set of problems, and gets her addicted to the needle, things go south quickly. How did you set about creating their relationship and what did you want it to be like in the end?

Their relationship was toxic from the start. Chris was already deep into his addiction and Allie was vulnerable, regardless of her self-confident exterior. As far as setting it up and where I wanted it to lead, I couldn’t tell you. I’ve written three novels and several short stories and I’ve never written an outline. I just let the story sort of go where it wants to go.

I felt that there was some inspiration from Stephen King in this intriguing story. What authors have been an inspiration for you in this story and in your writing?

I’ve always been amazed by Stephen King’s talent for writing truly three-dimensional characters and his ability to tell engaging stories in plain language. I believe these two things are the main reasons he’s so successful. Beverly Cleary is responsible for my earliest interest in reading, and John Steinbeck and Harper Lee inspired to write about social issues.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will the book be published?

My third novel is completed but as of today I still haven’t decided on a title. The story is set in the 19th century and it deals with racial tensions and injustices in the years immediately following the civil war. The events are seen through the eyes of a freed slave, a wealthy heiress, a disgraced army lieutenant, and a Native American. I feel it’s timely. I hope to have it on the market (complete with title) in the next six weeks or so.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | GoodReads

American Flowers by [McLellan, Michael A.]People thought nineteen-year-old Chris Shafer had everything going for him. Lives, however, are rarely as they appear from the outside, and not all scars are visible. Seventeen-year-old Allie Laughton’s life is turned upside down when her trust in another is horribly betrayed. Finding herself in a strange town, a chance meeting with Chris Shafer changes her life—and his—forever. American Flowers follows the lives of Chris and Allie as circumstance and poor choices transform them from promising, young adults to something else entirely. Caught in the undertow of drugs, crime, and death, their lives spin out of control. Ultimately pursued, they are forced to reconcile the people they believed they were, with the people they’ve become.

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Controlling Charlotte

Controlling Charlotte (The Charlotte Series Book 2) by [Hains, Charlotte]Picking up right where we left off we’re brought back into the world of BDSM with our favorite swearing protagonist, Charlotte, of Controlling Charlotte. Our heroine is being pulled deeper and deeper into the world of BDSM that she is exploring with her boyfriend, Dom Lloyd. Charlotte Hains has her characters undergo a series of emotional developments as the relationship between Lloyd and his new sub, our Charlotte, begins to grow. There is a lot of spanking to be seen as Lloyd attempts to carefully train our protagonist in the ways of proper behavior for a sub. Still quite educational for the newcomer to the BDSM world Controlling Charlotte delves deeper into this alternative lifestyle with in depth descriptions of what Charlotte is experiencing during her stay with Lloyd in The Room. Not only does she come closer to Lloyd both sexually and emotionally, Charlotte begins to identify her own hang ups and limits.

Charlotte and Lloyd decide to take the Sub/Dom relationship to the next level by developing a 6-month contract where Charlotte is to submit to Lloyd and abide by his rules. If we think back to the first book and the fact that Charlotte was getting out of a domestic-violence relationship with a past boyfriend who controlled so many aspects of her life that she even had to give up her job as a nurse, it can be difficult to keep Lloyd’s tactics on a separate level. While both men certainly controlled Charlotte’s every waking moment, it is imperative to remember that with the relationship with Lloyd, Charlotte is calling the shots. She has a hard time realizing and maintaining control of her emotions, but Lloyd makes a serious effort to constantly confirm with Charlotte that she is partaking in his lifestyle because she wants to. While Charlotte battles with her foul-mouth and her insecurities, she begins to open up and accept more about the lifestyle she actively indicates she wants to be a part of.

There are a few precarious situations that Charlotte finds herself in throughout the story. She once again finds herself in a situation with an aggressive male who not only threatens her safety, but actively works towards hurting her. Charlotte stands firm and is able to safely navigate the situation where not only she gets away from this man, but she also saves another sub who is her friend in the process. This is a big step for Charlotte because for much of the series she has been intimidated by men she does not know because of what she has gone through.

While the dialogue is good, there are moments where it’s dry and Charlotte’s smart-aleck comebacks seem contrived and forced. This is balanced out by the elegantly erotic scenes as Charlotte and Lloyd attempt to reach the ultimate level of closeness. Hains does a great job in these scenes because even though they are told from the first-person perspective they aren’t overly done or unrealistic. Controlling Charlotte is a good installment in what is undoubtedly at least a trilogy. Charlotte Hains once again leaves us with a bang and curious minds can only speculate where she’ll take the story next.

Pages: 266 | ASIN: B01KTZ0E3S

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Introducing Charlotte

Introducing CharlotteThere is something to be said about a person who suffers unspeakable horrors and then does her best to overcome them. Introducing Charlotte by Charlotte Hains begins its tale with our protagonist, Charlotte, leaving the hospital after suffering at the hand of her soon to be ex-boyfriend. Domestic violence is something that no woman, or man for that matter, should ever have to endure. It destroys the soul, confidence and a person’s self-worth. Charlotte is not immune to this as she’s wandering around after her release she runs into an old friend, Anthony, who is about to whisk her away from her troubles and bring her into a world she never imagined existed. There will be a lot of testing for our heroine as she tries to figure out who she is as a person and what she wants out of the life she has rediscovered she can control.

Introducing Charlotte is fascinating, stimulating, and provocative. Hains takes her readers on an emotional journey as Charlotte begins to discover the world of BDSM and the part her friends play in it. Anthony, Lloyd and new-friend Nats are owners/operators of an exclusive club for BDSM enthusiasts. Hains uses the vehicle of BDSM to get Charlotte to open up, to learn about trust and to essentially make herself into a new person.

Introducing Charlotte is about a girl fleeing a boy and is rescued by a prince-like character, however I felt that the delivery could’ve been adjusted to be more aware of Charlotte’s pain and recovery before the story swiftly moves on. The first part to consider is the portrayal of domestic violence and how Charlotte is treated right afterwards. After being horrifically abused by her ex-boyfriend she is then immediately caught up with another man. While Anthony doesn’t desire to control Charlotte and appears to be coming from a position of concern for her, the fact remains that he essentially takes control of her life. He moves her in with him, buys her clothing, essentially forces her into therapy and then rages about how her ex treated her. Charlotte doesn’t get a chance to be free of male presence in her life and is almost bullied into recovery. Breaking free of a relationship of violence is difficult and can take time and I felt that that compelling emotional turmoil was sometimes lost.

While the delivery could use some work I found the story to be entertaining, Introducing Charlotte is a beginner’s guide to the erotic world of BDSM. Not only is the heroine learning about this pleasurable pastime, but readers get a chance for an introductory course on what BDSM is and which facets of a person’s life it can impact. The careful romance and pleasurable outcomes are detailed quite nicely without feeling overdone or excessive. Indeed, Charlotte Hains knows what will get her readers interested and isn’t afraid to show them more.

Pages: 252 | ISBN: 1781323178

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Limbo.

Limbo.3 StarsIn the world created by Marko Pandza, Death is not one hulking figure haunting our last moments of life, but rather a whole society of different Reapers. One Reaper, Grim, though at the top of his game and the ranking of the Elites, despises his job and what it stands for. He longs for a time long gone, of his mortal life as John Grim and his wife, Dora. On a chance encounter with an Engraver, those beings tasked with creating and intertwining souls, he discovers his love is back in the living realm and is informed of a way to return to his beloved. He must fight Heaven, Hell, and everything in-between to be with his true destiny.

This book spares little in ways of imagery and wit, though both are steeped in valleys of dust, it is so dry.  The intriguing and original concept of the book helps the reader get through the slow beginning. The author can conjure up a rich and enticing vision through his words. However, this works to both his advantage and disadvantage. It is easy to envision the characters and scenery he creates, but when the creations become grotesque, the reader can feel ripped from the moment, hindering the story.

The overall story and world was fully fleshed out. The setting of Limbo itself was a solid induction into the story, and the home of the Reapers had much to offer, along with the mortal realm, personal paradises, and even rooms from the Maker of Limbo Itself – the audience experienced plenty, and again, this is where the author showed his expressive talents. The reader could easily see the home that Grim shared with his wife, or the performance hall of the Reaper awards. The characters were never floating in a gray area without much detail.

The characters the reader is introduced to throughout the story each have a different motivation, and is it laid out for everyone to see. Grim is the main focus, but by no means the only view point explored. Friends, strangers, and even deities have their stories told. Because of the switching between voices, the reader can live through many stories. However, when the author chooses to pursue narrow avenues for these characters that leave a lot to be desired, it detracts from the quality of the story.

Limbo, much like death, is not a story that everyone is ready for, but it is not without value. This story is by no means badly written, nor does it fall into many typical tropes, but where the concept and the fluidity of descriptions are absolutely high points, the choices to include the depressing overtones and the highly unpleasant imagery of many deaths – they are Reapers, after all – cause the story to fall a couple of notches away from higher ratings. The morbidity and grim tone for the entire book causes the reader to walk away shaken and more than a bit prone to contemplation on their own existence. This may not deter every reader, however, and its commitment to tone and atmosphere is to be applauded. This book won’t appeal to the vast majority, but those who enjoy it will praise its value for a long time to come.

Pages: 278 | ISBN: 1367857368

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