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The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger

The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger: Volume 1 by [Hayes, Misty]

Misty Hayes, author of The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger Volume: 1, is handing readers a unique take on the vampire stories of late. Her main character and narrator, Larna Collins, relates a tale deeply woven in history, family secrets, and bloodlust. Larna, quite the social outcast in her high school, graduates and embarks immediately on a mission to find her estranged father in England. Using her father’s journals and her own burning desire to find answers to her endless string of questions about his sudden disappearance, she leaves Texas just as her lifelong friend, Corinth, reveals his desire to be more than a tried-and-true confidante.

The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger Volume: 1 is written to appeal to young adult readers, but is so exceptionally written and full of wit and wisdom it easily resonates with a much larger audience. The idea of the socially downtrodden heroine is not a new one, but Hayes manages, quite successfully, to fashion Larna Collins into character unlike any readers will encounter within other books in the same genre. Larna is thoughtful, and the reader is privy to all of her emotions, anxiety, and, ultimately, her pride and power.

Character development appears to be Hayes’s forte. Dropping little hints throughout the plot, the author draws robust images of each character from Paul the Volkswagen/taxicab-driving vampiric sidekick to Gabriel–the devil incarnate. Each of Hayes’s characters adds a rich element to the story, and she masters the plot twist with the best of the action/adventure writers out there.

Hayes provides a captivating mixture of budding romance and action sequences. In addition, she takes literary risks with her characters’ fates. She, by no means, sticks with what the reader expects. At every turn, Hayes delivers something new and unexpected, but more than appreciated. The tension between Corinth and Larna and the ever-present question of romance between Larna and Alastair keep the reader guessing from beginning to end.

Hayes offers an originality with her presentation of the vampire tale. She successfully juxtaposes the deteriorating architecture of old England with present-day Texas and tosses in a healthy amount of technology and modern references–all easily within the schema of the young adult audience. Those expecting to find the vampires of the Twilight series will be pleasantly surprised to find a quite different vamp sketched before them as Hayes offers up a down-to-earth creature with far-reaching abilities and deep-rooted emotions.

I am giving The Outcasts: The Blood Dagger Volume: 1 a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Hayes offers a well-written, smooth read which mesmerizes readers from the first paragraphs. The relatable struggles of its main character, Larna, take an unexpected turn early on and pull readers in for a ride like no other. Hayes will soon find herself with a growing fan base yearning for more from Larna and her crew. By giving her audience the story they want with a cast of characters far-removed from those of the typical vampire tales, Hayes has succeeded in paving the way for her band of outcasts.

Pages: 356 | ASIN: B077XL9WHH

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The Fall of Lilith

The Fall of Lilith (Fantasy Angels Series) by [Quiroz Vega, Vashti]

Sometimes stories challenge everything you thought you knew about something and this is one of those books. The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a dark fantasy of fantastical proportions. Centered around the anti-heroine, Lilith, we follow the creation of the angels and their life in Floraison or “Heaven.” Lilith chafes under the rule of God and rebels, enacting the traditional role of Lucifer, although the Light-bringer joins the ill-advised rebellion as well. These celestial rebels are cast out of Heaven, down on earth where their bodies are changed, and they must rise to the new challenge of surviving a new world.

In some ways, Quiroz-Vega’s novel follows familiar beats of other angelic tales and even the traditional Judeo-Christian scripture passages, but she goes further by using Lilith as her vehicle to rend Heaven apart and creates a whole new story to tell. The descriptions in the book are particularly rich, and clearly there was plenty of thought spent in developing what Heaven and even Earth would look like to the angels.

The book is long since it is two novels, but for the reader, it gives the story a full arc and even mythic cyclical structure. Lilith starts out as a typical heroine but slowly becomes more and more consumed with power and manipulation. Her development is done pretty well, even if somewhat expected. Then again, what else can happen in Heaven without a rebellion? The fact that it is Lilith who takes the reins rather than Lucifer is a modern take on the fallen angel story, but one that refreshes the form and takes inspiration from the Hebrew myths surrounding the figure of Lilith.

I found the second part to be a little more interesting on the basis that we exited Heaven and now life becomes hard on the rebellious angels who have to suffer from new forms and real pain. Lilith’s growth as a character continues, but by the end almost reaches a point of no return. And I found this disconcerting, since Lilith represents in a lot of ways, femininity taking over and dominating what has traditionally been Lucifer’s role in Judeo-Christian religion. Lilith’s stagnation as a character lessens the impact of the overall story for me, but the world building and fresh take on the story itself were enough to save the book.

All in all, this angelic fantasy is one that most readers will enjoy. The elements of world building and the cast of characters is more than enough to chew through and the meaty page number of these combined books will please anyone. Lilith may sit well with other readers, considering her dynamic characterization in the beginning. Overall, a wonderful read for anyone looking for a unique fantasy tale!

Pages: 504 | ASIN: B074CPKLHH

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Wrath of the Fallen

Wrath of the Fallen

Wrath of the Fallen by Kristopher Jerome is the first book in a series about the battle of good vs. evil with mankind stuck in the middle and suffering because of it. The war went on for thousands of years until one side seemed to beat the other into submission. It seems as though mankind gets a break as the demons and their minions seem to be disappearing. Trent, a Paladin of the Light thinks something’s not right and follows them with his friend Devin to discover what is truly happening in their world. What they find is more than they bargained for.

I personally find stories about battles against good and evil to be right up my alley. I’m a fan of shows like Supernatural that portray angels and demons in a different light than just wearing halos or poking people with pitchforks. The characters in this book are well written and easy to visualize. The battles were bloody, which didn’t bother me in the slightest. After all, this is a book about a war. If there wasn’t violence I would have been disappointed!

Trent has some issues that make him a realistic character, in my book. In reality, people are a bit twisted from their past and current situations. He was very lucky to have his friend Devin with him on the journey to keep from losing himself. I won’t say how, sorry. Read for yourself if you want to know!

The twists and turns of Wrath of the Fallen kept me reading when I should have been sleeping. I don’t often stay up to read a book, but I had problems finding a place to really stop at so that I could get some rest. For some reason, I had thoughts of Frodo taking the ring to Mordor with Sam. I am not quite sure why, since it was a bit of a different situation, but what can I say? Perhaps it was the adventure itself with two friends.

While the ending was abrupt, I get it. There are other books to the series and a cliffhanger was needed to keep you wanting more. I don’t mind this at all. If anything, this shows the art of a true storyteller. They can suck you into this new and magical world and leave you wanting more, not ready for it to end just yet. While I had not read a fantasy novel in quite a while, this book put me in the mood to go back to this genre for the next few books.

Overall there was lots of intrigue and drama to keep me reading, and the characters were very well written. I tend to get put off by things like paladins and things like that, but that is just me and one of my many quirks. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy stories about good v. evil.

Pages: 322 | ASIN: B01COENGR8

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War Eternal Book I Angels’ Whispers

War Eternal Book I Angels' Whispers

In this captivating tale of cosmic design, Angels’ Whispers, author J.F. Cain chronicles the harrowing struggle between two ultimate yet necessary forces, Angels and Demons. As intelligent as they are graceful, Angels have been metaphysically observing mankind for an eternity, lovingly tending to humanity’s journey towards spiritual awakening. The recent advent of free will has brought with it the potential for deviance though, and the balanced tides of spiritual harmony hangs in the balance. As the fallen angel Lucifer schemes to lure society towards the err of self-indulgence, the philosophically pragmatic Angel Aranes, the most superior of celestial beings, must challenge her own age-old wisdom and routines for the sake of serving not just humanity, but all intelligent creation.

The first title from the War Eternal series, Angels’ Whispers delves into the popular and alluring trope of angelic and demonic forces at constant odds, a concept explored by literature and media since the earliest eras of civilization. Although the splay of archangels and demonic characters may be ancient in a scriptural sense, Cain brings a playfully crisp air into the work, using an intensely illustrative style to make the story feel modern. Main character Alex Meyers is a cocky young entrepreneur, chock-full full of cynicism and self-conflicted inner monolog. He’s as well-intentioned as he is troubled, and that struck me as oddly endearing. Finding himself on the receiving end of an Angel’s attention, he struggles to explore his own convictions, all while being thrust into the throes of the eternal power struggle between these all powerful creatures.

In a style oddly comparable to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, Cain writes densely, wasting no opportunity to develop a particular scene with lush descriptiveness. The grandiose and mystical surroundings of the Elether, the metaphysical plane of the Celestials, is the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous amount of attention Cain has poured into the setting. I absorbed the rich details, easily imagining them with all the vividness of a wide-screen cinematic. This would seriously make one hell of a movie!

I loved the intelligent yet candid way that Angels’ Whispers scrutinizes the notions of truth and freedom throughout the book, making use of an enormous splay of theological and philosophical knowledge. It was fascinating to read about the various ideologies of so many influential individuals and cultures in such a condensed form, and I found some of the sentiments to be deliciously thought-provoking! I can’t even recall the last time I had been prompted to explore my own thoughts on religion so earnestly, so I appreciated the casual way that Cain wove that into the story. The intellectual sparring between Celestial beings was enthralling in that same way, and maintained a strong presence through the book. It felt reminiscent to me of the zesty energy of a passionate debate between two best friends – engaged and impassioned, but respectful and surprisingly explorative.

Without spoiling anything, I’m still happy to say that this first title sets up beautifully for the next work. I’d recommend it to fellow readers with a love for the supernatural and philosophical niches. I’m looking forward to the next title of War Eternal, which will surely follow up on the consequence to life’s most powerful forces – love, death, and ultimately, free will.

Pages: 355 | ASIN: B06Y4XDY8T

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I Wanted to Challenge Them

Susan-Alia Terry Author Interview

Susan-Alia Terry Author Interview

Coming Darkness is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, romance, and a sprinkling of religious fiction as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

Both. I knew Kai and Lucifer were in a relationship and so I had to build the religious and fantasy aspects into the world around them. It was an interesting challenge to create a world where they would not only interact, but fall in love as well.

The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

All of them! It may sound cliché but it’s true. They all touch places in me — I can wear so many personalities through them and I love that opportunity!

However, if I must choose, I guess Te may inch out the others because he gets to be the grown-up. While he’s perfectly willing to go along with the crazy, he’ll also step back and say “Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea. Here’s an alternative.” In a way, he’s the father figure — he loves his “kids” and has always been there (in whatever form) and even if they may not like him, they know they can trust him.

You were able to seamlessly blend characters from many different genres. All of them, I felt, were unique while still be relatable. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?

Thank you! I was thinking a lot about responsibility when I wrote both Lucifer and Kai. They’ve both been living in this kind of neutral space for so long, I wanted to challenge them, make them take an active part in their world. We tend to judge a person’s morality by how they respond to responsibility — responsibility to others as well as how well they take responsibility for their own actions — and I wanted to play with that.

I find a problem in well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?

Oh yes! I’m working on that now. The next book goes deeper into the world, and I’d like to say that 95-99% of unanswered questions from Coming Darkness will be answered!

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Coming DarknessArchangel Lucifer’s spoiled life comes to a halt as he learns that Heaven is empty, and his Father missing. Seeking answers, he’s brought face to face with a race of Creator-Gods unhappy with his Father and the world He created. Planning to wipe out this heresy and letting Darkness reclaim the earth, they imprison Lucifer in Hell. 

Meanwhile, the Archangel’s lover sets out to prove his opponents wrong. But Lucifer’s influence runs deeper in Kai than he suspected, and the fear that he’s merely Lucifer’s pet becomes all too real. 

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Not Alone

Not Alone3 Stars

Not Alone is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Job, in which a man’s faith in God is tested by having everything but his life taken from him – his family murdered, his crops burnt, livestock slaughtered, and his physical self covered in boils and sores. Not Alone brings this story into a modern-day setting with Joe Moretti as Job. Joe, with his wife and five children, is mostly content with his life and hopes he is a good person. However, unbeknownst to him, there is a war being waged for his soul between the highest of angels and the lowest of demons. Joe suffers similarly to Job, and has most everything ripped from him. He and his wife must suffer immense pains to see if humanity and faith itself can survive anything.

The novel has a lot going for it, but it’s held back in many regards. There is an intelligent sincere voice in this novel, but there are many spelling and grammar errors. Many of the scenes are thought provoking, but there are jumps between narration that cause the reader to stop and ask what is happening. The overall pacing hinders otherwise great character development – the jumps in dialogue and setting cause far too much friction to enjoy the areas of the book where the flow moves the reader well. The story really draws you in with the depth of characters and tense scenes, but there is a lack of focus – the book will take its time to describe the visuals of the various angels and demons in the war for Joe’s soul, but then rush through other crucial scenes. A good example of this is when the news of his business being nearly destroyed hits Joe the same time as he is told that his five children have been viciously slaughtered. The whole scene flies by, with the police telling Joe that his children have been murdered in a ritualistic killing and then leaving moments later, with the whole exchange coming off nearly robotic in its utter lack of emotion from either party involved.

While the various descriptions help the reader visualize the setting and characters of the story, I often felt that the focus was on the wrong subjects, for example: pausing to inform the reader how tall every single fantastical entity they meet is really hinders the book. I often found myself engrossed in this novel and Joe’s life being torn apart, but I was often thrown off by common terms used in incorrect ways, like saying ‘beamer’ in non-speech text without capitalization to indicate a BMW, or misspelling the main female character of the original Star Wars (it should be Leia, not Leah, it could be that I’m too much of a nerd to even notice this). Not Alone is brimming with potential, there is nothing in here that a good editor cannot fix, so that this novel can be the truly great novel that I know it can be.

Not Alone is a re-skin of a morality tale from the Good Book; a conglomerate of descriptions; a hope by the author to show how much faith and understanding in a higher power can be pushed to the breaking point, only to bounce back. The author has a fantastic understanding of Christianity and how it can help people.

Pages: 242 | ISBN: 1633063194

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I Designed Death

Sidney Wood – Author Interview

Thicker Than Blood is a fast paced action story about a battle hardened veteran desperately trying to keep his daughter safe. What was your inspiration for Hayes’s character and the relationship he has with his daughter Charity?

This story went through many evolutions before it became what it is today, but regardless of his back story, Lynn Hayes remained the same at his core. He was born with a talent for leadership, unflinching courage, and an irrepressible will. He inspires others by actions, not just words. He believes in duty and honor, and that is evident in all aspects of his life, including his role as a father. I drew upon my own experience as a father of two daughters when describing the interactions between Lynn and Charity. The main inspiration for Lynn Hayes was my own father and his father. My training as a United States Marine and a US Army Soldier, and all of the heroes I served with had no small part as well.

There is a mercenary in the story that is after Hayes and Charity that doesn’t seem to stay dead. What was your process in creating that character and developing the characters motivations?

I started with his appearance and imagined what a person might fear about him. I designed Death to be heartless and cruel, then crafted a relationship between his moral decline and a life changing interaction with the main character. Death is the antithesis of Lynn in every way. I wanted him to be someone the reader could hate. His physical characteristics resemble his flawed personality. He’s gaunt and pale to the point of being skeletal. He towers over people and intimidates, hungers for power and is driven by revenge. Death craves blood, revels in savagery and abuse. Death also introduces the reader to blood magic, the source of his regenerative power. Throughout the story, Death’s blood lust grows in direct relationship to his indulgence in blood magic. My goal was to create something that oozed evil, and enabled supernatural changes in Death and others affected by blood magic.

What was the idea, or spark, that first set off the need to write Thicker Than Blood?

I began writing about Charity and her father, Lynn Hayes, as a bedtime story for my daughters. Believe me, the story I started back then didn’t look anything like it does now! When I made the decision to write for a more mature audience, I revised the story to meet my own preferences and satisfy my guiltiest pleasures. I love a violent and gritty story with larger than life characters, and an underdog who faces insurmountable odds.

I find a problem in well written stories, in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planed for Hayes?

Book two is in the works! In the second book, a new hero joins Lynn and the others to fight against Duke Dennison and the Rebels, and a new threat from over the mountains. Foss Bird is the biggest bastard anyone has ever seen. In his first battle, he wields his axe with such brute force that it breaks against a stone, leaving him with a blunt hammer. Foss towers over the battlefield, and sweeps aside the enemy ranks. Unafraid of the revenant soldiers, he strides forward, breaking bones and crushing skulls. Singing as he smashes all those in his path, Foss earns the moniker “Hammer.” Thus the Hammer Battalion is born.

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Lynn Hayes will do anything to keep his daughter safe. He is a battle hardened veteran who doesn’t flinch, he swings…hard. When a mercenary named Death picks up their trail, Lynn cuts him down, but the evil bastard won’t stay dead. Allied with a smart aleck Lieutenant, and a luckless cripple, Lynn knows that fighting dirty is the only way to win. The bloody and vicious fight that follows revives an old legend and inspires hope in a people who desperately need it. They need it more than anyone knows, because Death is not just a mercenary, he is a harbinger of darkness yet t come.

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