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New Release Friday: Hell Holes: Demons on the Dalton by Donald Firesmith (#apocalyptic #paranormal #fantasy)

I know Opinions of a Wolf readers love a strong female lead (I do too!), so when Don contacted me about his new release, I was excited to feature it. Take it away, Don!

Front Cover HD

Blurb:
When huge holes mysteriously formed in Alaska’s North Slope, a research team went to discover their cause. But when an army of invading demons erupted out of these hell holes, only two scientists and Aileen, the team’s secretive photographer, survived. Now in this exciting second book in the Hell Holes series, they must flee south along 350 miles of the Dalton Highway, one of the world’s most treacherous roads. Aileen, a member of an ancient order charged with defending humanity from Hell, must save the two scientists, but who will save her?

Genre: apocalyptic paranormal fantasy

What makes this book unique in its genre?
The book is strongly grounded in reality and based on real life locations, which helps to make the fantasy elements (e.g., magic and invading demons) more believable. For example, in addition to the book’s beta readers and two editors, its military aspects were based on the inputs of three military advisors and a tour of the relevant parts of Eielson AFB including the Wing Commander’s conference room. Another interesting aspect is that each of the three books in the trilogy is written from the first person viewpoint of a different major character.

Could you tell us more about some of your research? It sounds like you did a lot!
I very much like to ground my science fiction in science fact, and that also carries over to my fantasy books. This book was largely driven by the flight of the three survivors of the first book (Hell Holes 1: What Lurks Below) down the Dalton Highway as they are chased by the invading demon horde. In addition to driving part of this dangerous road in real life, I have also “driven” it using Google Maps street view, and major locations along the way were often used to drive the plot to its logical conclusion.

Buy It on Amazon (print or ebook).
Buy It on Smashwords (ebook).

Coupon Code:
But wait! Now through June 30th, get the ebook for free (that’s 100% off you guys) using the coupon code HE54A on Smashwords. Get it here.

Thanks so much for being featured here on Opinions of a Wolf, Don!
Would you be interested in being featured on New Release Friday? Find out how here.
New Release Friday is a sponsored post but I only feature books on New Release Friday that I believe would interest readers of this blog. Book reviews are never sponsored. Find out more about the sponsored post policy here.

Announcement: Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

Hello my lovely readers!

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’ve signed both my novella and my novel up for Smashwords’s annual summer/winter sale (so entitled to cover both hemispheres).

BOTH of my books are 100% off aka FREE through the end of July!! Just use the coupon code SW100 when checking out to get my books for free!! Smashwords books are compatible with all ereaders, computers, and tablets, and you can also give Smashwords books as gifts. Click through to Smashwords by clicking on the titles.

cover_ecstaticevilEcstatic Evil
paranormal romance

Tova Gallagher isn’t just your average Bostonian. She also just so happens to be half-demon, and the demons and fairies have just issued a deadline for her to choose sides. But it’s hard to worry about the battle of good versus rebel when she’s just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River

Silhouette of woman and cat.Waiting For Daybreak
post-apocalyptic psychological science fiction

What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Happy reading!

Announcement: Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

Hello my lovely readers!

I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I’ve signed both my novella and my novel up for Smashwords’s annual summer/winter sale (so entitled to cover both hemispheres).

BOTH of my books are 100% off aka FREE through the end of July!! Just use the coupon code SW100 when checking out to get my books for free!! Smashwords books are compatible with all ereaders, computers, and tablets, and you can also give Smashwords books as gifts.  Click through to Smashwords by clicking on the titles.

Ecstatic Evil
paranormal romance
Tova Gallagher isn’t just your average Bostonian. She also just so happens to be half-demon, and the demons and fairies have just issued a deadline for her to choose sides. But it’s hard to worry about the battle of good versus rebel when she’s just met a sexy stranger on the edge of the Charles River

Waiting For Daybreak
post-apocalyptic science fiction
What is normal?
Frieda has never felt normal. She feels every emotion too strongly and lashes out at herself in punishment. But one day when she stays home from work too depressed to get out of bed, a virus breaks out turning her neighbors into flesh-eating, brain-hungry zombies. As her survival instinct kicks in keeping her safe from the zombies, Frieda can’t help but wonder if she now counts as healthy and normal, or is she still abnormal compared to every other human being who is craving brains?

Happy reading!

Book Review: One Death at a Time by Thomas M. Hewlett (Series, #1)

June 26, 2014 7 comments

Man in a hat standing next to a Europeanish buildingSummary:
Jack Strayhorn is a private eye and a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous.  Only, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s one of the vampires who meet in a secret vampire group that exists under the umbrella of AA to learn how to control their urges and feed on humans without killing them.  He’s just returned to LA, his death site that he hasn’t been back to since he had to run in 1948 after becoming a vampire.  When his current missing person case shows up dead next to a Fae politician, Jack gets dragged into a mixed-up underworld of Faes, werewolves, drugs, and a group of vampires determined to rule the world.

Review:
This is one of the twelve indie books I accepted to be reviewed on my blog in 2014 (complete list).  I was immediately intrigued by the summary, due to its delightful urban fantasy/paranormal take on AA.  The book delivers exactly what it promises, spiced with a noir writing style.

Jack Strayhorn is the perfect paranormal version of the noir-style hardboiled detective.  He’s got a biting, snarky wit, a handsome presence, a sharp mind, and is a bit distant and mysterious.  It’s just in this case he’s distant and mysterious because he’s a vampire.  Making the private eye a vampire makes his character unique in noir, and, similarly, making the vampire a private eye with his focus primarily on crime solving and not paranormal politics gives the urban fantasy vampire a unique twist.  Jack is presented as a complex character, one who we could not possibly get to know fully in just the first entry in the series.  It’s easy to see how he will manage to carry the proposed 12 entries in the series.

Supporting Jack is a wide range of characters who accurately portray the diversity in a large town like LA, as well as the diversity one expects in a paranormal world.  The characters are multiple races and classes.  Whereas some urban fantasy books slowly reveal the presence of more and more paranormal races throughout the series, this book starts out with quite a few, and that is a nice change of pace.  Most urban fantasy readers expect there to be more than just vampires, and the book meets the urban fantasy reader where they’re at.  Even though the book has a large cast, the secondary characters never blend together.  They are easily remembered, and the diversity probably helps with that.

I like the idea of vampires having an AA-like group, but I’m still not sure how I feel about this group existing as some secret under the umbrella of AA itself.  The book even goes so far as to say the the founder of AA was a vampire himself, and used the human illness of alcoholism as a cover for the vampire group.  I like and appreciate vampirism as a disease that some people just mysteriously have at birth as an analogy for alcoholism, but I feel that having it present in the same group as the real life AA groups dampens the realness of actual AA, weakening the analogy instead of strengthening it.  I’ve seen books before have paranormal people get together in AA-style groups (zombies anonymous springs to mind), and in real life AA has spinoffs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.  Prior to reading the book I thought maybe something might be added by having the vampires be a secret organization under AA, but after reading the book, I don’t think it did.  I think the analogy would have been stronger if vampires spotted the similarities of their genetic vampirism with alcoholism and formed a “vampires anonymous” group, inspired by AA.  Something about vampires creating AA themselves as a cover hits a bit of a sour note and weakens the analogy.

The plot is complex, with just enough twists and surprises.  There were parts of the ending that I was unable to predict.  The plot contained within the book was wrapped up sufficiently, and the overarching plot intending to cover the whole series was well-established and filled me with the desire to keep reading.  Unfortunately, the second book isn’t out yet, so I will just have to wait!

Overall, this is a delightful mix of urban fantasy and noir and is a strong first entry for a new series.  Some readers might dislike the paranormal take on Alcoholic’s Anonymous found within the book, but it is secondary to the mystery/noir plot and easy to gloss over if necessary.  Recommended to urban fantasy readers looking to venture into noir or vice versa, as well as anyone who enjoys both urban fantasy and noir.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells (Audiobook narrated by Kirby Heyborne) (Series, #3)

March 2, 2013 4 comments

Burnt paper background to book title.Summary:
Teenaged John Cleaver had his sociopathy under control but when his town was plagued with two different demons, he had to let it loose a bit to fight them.  He invited the demon Nobody to come face off with him, but he and those around him are left wondering if Nobody is real or if John’s sociopathy has just gone out of control.  Meanwhile the teenage girls of the town are committing suicide left and right, and John can’t help but wonder why he’s ever tried to save anybody.

Review:
This is one of only a few YA series that I’ve enjoyed reading.  The paranormal/youth aspect are almost like a Dexter lite, which is enjoyable.  I must say, though, that I was disappointed by the ultimate ending to the series.  However, since I write up series review posts every time I finish a series, I’ll leave my analysis of the series as a whole to that post, which will be coming up next.  For right now, let’s look at the final book on its own merit.

The plot this time around was disappointingly full of obvious red herrings.  I knew within the first chapter where Nobody was hiding, and it was kind of ridiculous that talented, intelligent John was missing it.  Similarly, I found the serial killer who John identified as who he could end up being if he made the wrong choices to be a bit heavy-handed.  John was already well aware of the risks of his sociopathy from the very first book.  It felt a bit unnecessary to make this such a strong plot point.  It came across as preachy, which is something that this series had avoided so far.  Similarly, John goes to see a priest at one point in his investigations, and his conversations with him felt a bit too heavy-handed, almost like the (known religious) Wells was preaching at the readers through the priest.  Authors are allowed their opinions and perspectives, but preachiness is never good writing.  Perspective and opinion should be shown eloquently through the plot and characters.

Speaking of characterization, John was still strongly written, but his mother and sister were another story.  They felt less like they were doing what was logical and more like they were doing what needed to be done to move the plot forward.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed John’s new girlfriend.  She was well-rounded and realistic.  Plus she was fit while being curvy, which I think is a great thing to see in a book.

In spite of the slightly obvious plot, I still was engaged to get to the end.  Even though I knew whether or not there was a demon and who the killer was, I still deeply wanted to see how John would handle it.  The audiobook narrator, Kirby Heyborne, helped with this momentum.  His narration was just the right amount of tension while still remaining in a teenager’s voice.  Be warned, though, that there is some yelling in the book, so the volume does spike considerably at a few points in the narration.  You may want to keep the volume a bit lower than usual to accommodate this.

Unfortunately, where the plot ultimately ended up was deeply disappointing to me.  It was not at all a satisfying ending, and from a mental illness advocacy perspective, I actually found it distressing.  Whereas John’s sociopathy previously was handled with a lot of scientific understanding, I found the ending of this book to be completely out of touch with real sociopathy.  While it wasn’t offensive per se, it drastically oversimplifies sociopathy, both its treatment and its causes, which is just as bad as demonizing it.  I will address this issue more fully in the series review, but suffice to say that I found the ending to this book’s individual mystery and the series as a whole to be disappointing, particularly given the potential of the book.

Overall, then, this is an average book that wraps up an above average series.  If you are someone who is fine with stopping things partway through, I’d recommend just stopping with the previous book in the series, Mr. Monster.  But if you are interested in the overall perspective, this book is still an engaging read that doesn’t drag.  It just might disappoint you.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series
I Am Not A Serial Killer, review
Mr. Monster, review

Counts For:

Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2013 Badge
Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge 2013 badge

Book Review: Timeless Trilogy, Book One, Fate by Tallulah Grace (Series, #1)

January 2, 2012 2 comments

Clouds.Summary:
Kris is a successful video editor in Charleston, South Carolina with two best friends she’s made her own family with.  She has a beautiful beach house and a loving fluffy cat named Pegasus.  She also just so happens to be precognitive.  Her visions have never been about herself until she starts sensing that she is being watched, receiving late night phone calls, and finding flowers left at her house and on her car.  Increasingly, she realizes she is in danger, and right then her old college flame moves in next door.

Review:
This is an interesting mix of suspense, romance, and paranormal that keeps the reader guessing and interested and shows promise in the writer.

Kris’s life prior to the stalking is relatable to the modern female reader.  She has a core group of good friends, a pet she loves, a career that is solid but not yet stellar, and her dream home.  All that she is missing is the man.  The added touch of her visions gives her that extra something special, but her visions are not over the top.  She can’t control when they come or what they’ll show her, so she treats them more as an odd talent.  This keeps the heroine from being over-inflated, which is nice.  The love interest, Nick, is cute without being a god and kind without being perfect.  He’s a good guy with flaws, ie, the ideal love interest in a romance that we’ve, alas, been seeing less and less of lately.

The plot is this book’s strong point.  It is scary and suspenseful, but still believable.  No characters make obvious stupid mistakes that would make the reader scream at them, and let’s just say, Kris is no Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she also isn’t a weak, quivering Disney princess.  Kris is neither a super-hero nor incredibly weak, which is just the kind of heroine we need more of in literature.

All of that said, Grace shows promise as a writer, but she still needs to work on her craft.  Her plot structure is excellent, but she frequently shows instead of tells.  Similarly, she struggles a bit when first introducing a character, often falling back on the beginner writer’s method of explaining hair and eye color before anything else.  Similarly, the book needs more editing for simple grammar, spelling, and typos.  The book does not read like a strong author’s work, but it also is still enjoyable.  I am left wanting to find out about the romances of Kris’s friends Cassie and Roni, but I am also hoping that the writing that goes along with creative plots improves in the next two books.

Overall, if you are a fan of suspenseful romance with a dash of the paranormal and don’t mind a bit of showing instead of telling, this book is a fun way to pass a few hours, particularly for the low cost of 99cents.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: Symphony of Blood by Adam Pepper

October 5, 2011 1 comment

Bald man with red eyes.Summary:
Hank Mondale wanted to be a cop but his gambling, alcohol, and drug addictions ruined his record.  Instead, he is now a private detective barely scraping by, so when a wealthy and famous man named Blake hires him to figure out where the monster pursuing his daughter is hiding out, he takes the case in spite of the odd sound of it.  Particularly since Blake and his daughter insist that this is a literal, shape-changing, lizard-like monster after her.

Review:
This is a book that suffers from bad structure, a plethora of unlikable characters, and a serious lack of editing.

I don’t need to go into too much detail about the lack of editing.  Suffice to say it’s a combination of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.  For instance, Jaeger is spelled “Yager” at one point (when being spoken about by an alcoholic character, no less).  Also, although most of the book is told in past tense, periodically present tense shows up.  Similarly, other errors show up that simply jar the reader, such as calling a character “rippled,” when the author meant “ripped.”

These are all editing problems, though, so I always try to look beyond them to see if they were fixed, would the story be a quality one?  Alas, the case in this instance is simply no.  The first half of the book is told entirely from the detective’s point of view, only to abruptly switch and have the next 25% or so back-track and tell what occurred from the monster’s perspective.  Then the last bit of the book reverts back to the detective’s perspective.  This gives the book an incredibly odd structure and simultaneously removes most of the mystery and suspense.  Where before the creature was an enigma, we now understand it intimately.  Similarly, whereas the section told from the creature’s point of view could be an interesting story in its own right, it is instead smushed between two ho-hum detective sections.  Either choose to be investigating the monster or be the monster or alternate more quickly between the two to maintain some mystery.  This structure simply feels like two different books willy-nilly slammed together.

There’s also the problem of the characters.  The only sympathetic one is the monster, which would work if the story was told entirely from the monster’s perspective, yet it is not.  Plus the monster itself just doesn’t make much sense.  It’s hard to picture or imagine how it operates.  It seems the author used the excuse of it being a monster to let it bend all rules whenever it was convenient to the storyline.  Beyond the monster, the detective, his friends, Blake, and the daughter are all completely unsympathetic.  They are the kind of people you’d move away from on the subway or roll your eyes at behind their backs.  Readers, particularly in a mystery, need at least one character they can relate to.

All that said, Pepper does have some writing abilities.  He clearly has a creative mind and is capable of telling a story one can follow.  This would be a good draft, but not a final published work.  He needs to decide if he wants to tell the monster’s story of the detective’s, then rewrite entirely from that point of view and also invest in an editor.  If these steps are followed, Pepper could have a solid book here.  As it stands now, though, I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone, even staunch horror fans.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Copy from the author in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: Undead and Unemployed by MaryJanice Davidson (Series, #2)

Woman sitting on coffin reading newspaper.Summary:
Betsy may have dealt with the fact that she’s an undead blood-sucker, but she certainly is not ready to deal with the idea of being queen of the vampires for 1,000 years.  Or mated to the horribly tricky Sinclair.  The sexy, tricky Sinclair.  She is focused on more important things, like her new job selling designers shoes at Macy’s.  But when vamps start popping up dead a second time, her duty calls whether she wants to listen or not.

Review:
If somebody asked me to hand them the quintessential chick lit summer beach read, I’d toss the Queen Betsy series at them.  Light, short, set in a cool climate, and one guaranteed hot sex scene per book.  Great literature it ain’t, but I’ve definitely read far worse paranormal romance in my time, plus Davidson always manages to get at least a few chuckles out of me.

The one thing that baffles me is that I truly hate Queen Betsy.  She is everything I loathe in *coughs* certain women: shallow, conceited, wears too much make-up, obsessed with shoes, self-centered.  Yet for some reason I can’t help rooting for her.  Maybe it’s that she didn’t ask to be queen of the vampires and yet still manages to rise to the occasion when needed that makes her bearable.  This is a long series, and I do hope that Davidson will see fit to give us a good character arc for Betsy.  Going from a shallow 20-something to a fully grown-up queen.  I could dig that.

In the meantime, the storyline here in the second book was actually a bit more interesting than the first, although the mystery was quite easy to solve.  Unfortunately, the laughs weren’t quite as frequent, which is what made the first book so enjoyable, but they are still present.  Who reads paranormal chick lit for more than a few hours of giggles and horribly unrealistic vampire sex that knocks chunks of plaster out of the ceiling?  If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t go wrong with the Queen Betsy series.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Previous Books in Series:
Undead and Unwed, review

Book Review: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (Series, #1)

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Man and woman hugging in front of flames.Summary:
Katherine “Kitty” Katt manages to get released early from a dull day of jury duty only to find herself confronted with an angry man who sprouts wings and starts flinging knives from their tips toward everyone in the vicinity.  Kitty attacks and stops him and quickly finds herself sucked into a world she was unaware existed.  A world of alien refugees defending Earth and themselves from a bunch of fugly alien parasites.  She soon discovers her ordinary parents are more involved in this secret world than she would ever have dreamed.  On top of that, she’s increasingly finding herself falling for one of the alien hunks who announced his intentions to marry her almost immediately upon meeting her.

Review:
I received a free Kindle edition of the second book in the series, Alien Tango, last year and read it without realizing at first that it was part of a series.  I immediately fell in love with the world and Kitty and decided I needed to go back and read the first entry in the series.  This reverse approach definitely gave me a different perspective on the story, but it certainly didn’t make me love it any less.

What makes this series epically entertaining is well-established in this first entry.  First, the paranormal element is aliens in lieu of something more widely used.  Everything has the clean, secret government agency tinge to it instead of the dirty mafia feel many other paranormals elicit.  The aliens are aliens, yes, but they’re also a secret government agency.  Imagine Men in Black only the men in black are all aliens.

Second, Kitty Katt is a heroine who clearly epitomizes the modern woman.  She can take care of herself, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like having a man around too.  She’s smart, witty, sassy, and sexy, but she has her flaws and weak spots too.  She has sex on the day she meets a man, but she’s still aware enough of social norms that she takes care to attempt to hide that fact from the majority of people around her.  On the other hand, she herself doesn’t regret that act in the slightest.  She so clearly reflects what it is to be a modern American woman that I can’t help but applaud Gini Koch.  I hope to see more heroines like Kitty Katt in the near future.

The action itself is vastly entertaining, particularly if you enjoy scifi.  The fugly parasites are imaginative, disgusting, and frightening simultaneously.  The Big Bad is scary and crafty.  The solution to the Big Bad is seriously entertaining.  I honestly cannot say enough good things about the scifi in this book.

Overall, Gini Koch’s Kitty Katt series has not failed to leave me glued to my iPod screen yet.  It’s sharp, modern, unique, and vastly entertaining.  I practically throw copies at lovers of paranormal romance to read, but also highly recommend it to fans of scifi and modern heroines as well.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: A Tale of Two Demon Slayers by Angie Fox (Series, #3)

December 6, 2010 4 comments

Summary:
Lizzie is ready for a vacation what with having spent the last month first saving her grandmother from the second level of hell and then saving Las Vegas from a hoard of succubi.  Plus lying around on the beach in Greece with her hunky Griffin boyfriend, Dimitri, sounds like quite the treat.  Of course, nothing in Lizzie’s new life ever goes as smoothly as planned. Their arrival in Greece leads to the discovery that someone has stolen something from Dimitri.  Something intertwined with Lizzie and that has put the whole Helios Griffin clan in danger.

Review:
Due to the title and the various repercussions so far to Lizzie sharing her demon slayer nature with Dimitri, I expected this book to deal with that.  Actually, the story it told was far more engaging and interesting.  Can Dimitri with his classical European family of tradition work in a relationship with Lizzie and her globe-trotting work and crazy motorcycle gang witch family?

Although the situations surrounding this romance are highly paranormal, the relationship itself is very normal.  Lizzie struggles to trust in Dimitri’s love for her, let alone allow him to love her.  Dimitri struggles to find balance between his life and family and Lizzie.  It gives a heart to the overall action and story that was missing in the other volumes.

The paranormal aspects are stronger this time around too.  The paranormal world seems to mesh together in a better way.  The addition of more animals besides Pirate make for a more entertaining menagerie.  Dimitri in particular is more fleshed out now that we see his family and where he comes from.  New characters too are well-drawn, particularly Lizzie’s new teacher.

Fox manages to avoid common paranormal romance cliches this time around, although at first the reader thinks she is falling into them.  This combined with drastically improved sex scenes, the better characterization, and the addition of a real world heart to the story makes for a far better tale overall.  I’m glad the humor in the previous two books kept me around for this one.

Overall, this is an excellent example of everything paranormal romance should be–colorful characters, believable paranormal circumstances, the heart of the story relatable to real world circumstances, good sex scenes, and plot twists that manage to avoid cliches.  It is thoroughly entertaining, and I highly recommend it to all paranormal romance lovers.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review