Review: Carniepunk

Reviewed by Jen

I’m a little late getting around to reading this 2013 collection of carnival themed short stories, but I learned it included a prequel to a series I am reading now and I wanted to check it out. I found the stories to be very uneven, both in tone and in how much I enjoyed them. But there were enough engaging entries, I found it worth the read.

Painted Love – This is the first thing I have ever read by Rob Thurman and I have to say, it was a bit odd. It follows the observations of Doodle, an enigmatic traveler who attaches himself to a man named Bart, a sociopath working at a carnival. The story is told entirely through Doodle’s eyes, though he does not participate much in the action. To be honest, I thought he was a dog until his true form was revealed at the end. Didn’t get much out of this one.

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Review: A Trace of Moonlight

Reviewed by Jen

I have mixed feeling about this book. After the massive cliffhanger on A Sliver of Shadow, I was practically foaming at the mouth to see what would happen to Abby once she lost her memory.  But I was put on edge from the very beginning.  I felt like Abby developed real feelings for Talivar in the last book, but here it seemed like he was set up to lose from the very start.

As the story begins, Abby doesn’t remember anything, but she is betrothed to Talivar.  She views him warmly, but when she overhears him talking with Moira about her memory loss and her true identity, she feels betrayed. She runs… straight into Maurice… who does Something Really Bad to her and steals her amulet. She tries to leave the Fairy Court, but the Queen stops her, putting a geas on her that keeps her away from the Crossroads.  To escape her, Abby agrees to marry Talivar on the spot and escape with him.

In the meantime, Brystion has visited her in her dreams, leaving her with a special gift that makes her more powerful. It’s also a massive sacrifice on his part. Abby can’t get to him, though. She remains with Talivar as he takes over the Unseelie Court and continues his pursuit of Maurice who is now using Abby’s amulet to further his nefarious schemes.  When an attack from his mercenaries clears the way for Brystion to pull Abby through the veil, it also nearly kills the Tree of Life that feeds the Crossroads.  And from then on out, it’s a race to both track down Maurice and save the tree before it is gone forever.

I liked the action arc of the story. The part with the Fae and the scheming. The fighting, the tree, the subsequent search for Melanie.  All of that is very cool. But the love triangle is a different story. I felt like Abby strung me these two men along for virtually the entire book.  She says she loves Talivar. She sleeps with Talivar.  She sleeps with Brystion. She loves Brystion.  At first, it seems like Ion has it in the bag, due to the nature of his sacrifice. Then those circumstances change and we go round and round. She “can’t” choose between them. Poor Talivar even offers to share.  And then, it feels like an external factor solidifies her choice. Is that why she picked who she did? She did pick someone, right?

Oh, and don’t get me started on the ending!! Not the resolution to the Maurice/ tree/ Fairy thing. That was good.  But the relationship ending… I really didn’t like it.  I’m not going to spoil it, but it felt so out of place in the story.  Not to mention, I was left with so many questions. What really happened to the character who returns at the very end?  Will they have a future together? What kind of future will it be?  I can’t even list all the questions without spoiling the plot, but if this is the end of the series, I want clear resolution.  Don’t ask me to draw my own conclusions. Especially since Abby’s heart was so hard to read throughout.

It felt… unfinished.  I understand that Allison Pang could end up with more books in the series. And if she gets them, I will keep reading.  But if this ends up being the end of Abby Sinclair, I am just not satisfied with how she left things.

I would, however, love a book on Melanie and Nobu.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Trace of Moonlight
by Allison Pang
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Pocket Books

5 for Friday – June 1

Happy Friday, everybody!  I’ve had a great reading week.  Moonglow was awesome!  Different from Firelight, but I liked that Kristen Callihan didn’t try to write the same book again.  I also read the two Shaede Assassin books by Amanda Bonilla.  Loved!  The first installment, Shaedes of Gray (no relation to the 50 variety) came out in December. Book two, Blood Before Sunrise is out in July. I was so sad when I was finished, but then weeeeee! I found out there is going to be a novella out this week.

5.  Tuesday is apparently Day of the Novella.  “Finding Magic,” the Downside prequel from Stacia Kane, is coming out.  So is “Devil’s Gate,” an Elder Races offering from Thea Harrison.  And as I just mentioned, Amanda Bonilla has “When Shadows Call.”

The envy of 1900s society, Darian is the rich, beautiful wife of a prominent Californian doctor—but her life is far from perfect. For years, Darian has suffered at the hand of her cruel husband and yearned for an escape—one that she knows to be all but impossible.

But when an enigmatic stranger comes to call, Darian finds herself charmed by his seductive smile and the inexplicable connection she feels. And when he makes her a thrilling—yet frightening—proposition, Darian must decide if she’s strong enough to abandon the mortal world she knows and answer the shadow’s call…

If you’re a UF or PNR fan, I happily recommend all of these series.  Very good stuff.

4. The countdown continues to the release of Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost. (It’s just 26 days away!) To torture help us with the wait, we’ve now got a book trailer:

It’s getting close!!

3. Two cover reveals to share with you. Here’s the new one from Stacey Kennedy’s Frostbite series:

The other is the next Abby Sinclair book by Allison Pang:

Mystically Bound is out in October.  And all I can say is that Kip and Tess better have some real-life sex in that book. Not almost-sex or fantasy-sex. Not dream-sex or ghost-sex.  REAL SEX, Stacey Kennedy.  Are you listening?

A Trace of Moonlight is also out in October.  And after the cliffhanger from A Sliver of Shadow, I am already super-excited to see what happens next. I have faith that Allison Pang will not disappoint.

2. You may or may not know this about me, but I love zombies.

I was so excited when The Walking Dead made it’s debut on AMC.  I watched the first four episodes. I liked them.  And then the show went on hiatus for, like, a year.  And I never went back.  Should I?  I need input, guys.  AMC is doing a marathon of all the episodes July 7-8, and if it’s worth it, I can catch up. In the meantime, check out this behind-the-scenes clip from filming of Season 3.

1. And it wouldn’t be Friday without the Tumblr Photo(s) of the Week:

(**Photo removed to prevent copyright infringement**)

OK. That’s it for now. The Shameless Summer Hop starts next Friday, which also happens to be my birthday.  Remember, real friends send friends dirty man-candy photos as birthday gifts.


AAD Author Spotlight: Allison Pang

If you’re looking for a fresh and funny Urban Fantasy, the Abby Sinclair books fit the bill.  Abby isn’t an ass-kicker, but she finds her strengths elsewhere.  Author Allison Pang joins us for today’s AAD Author Spotlight. Please help me welcome her to the blog!

Jen: Please tell new readers about the Abby Sinclair series.

Allison: When we first meet Abby in A BRUSH OF DARKNESS, she’s a former prima ballerina, still recovering from a terrible car accident that took the life of her mother and left her body crippled. With her dreams of dancing shattered, she ends up in the town of Portsmyth and stumbles into the world of the OtherFolk. When she becomes the TouchStone to the Faery Protectorate, her fate is forever changed and she’s forced to come to grips with her past as well as take a more deliberate role in her own future.

In A Sliver of Shadow, we find Abby coming a bit more into her own, as well as finding out more about her own past and family history. (And how entwined her family really is with that of the OtherFolk.) Along the way she’s assisted by friends in the form of a magical violinist, an incubus, an elven prince and a pervy little unicorn.

Jen: The world-building is revealed slowly in the course of Abby’s story. Talk to me about the decision to approach it that way.

Allison: I don’t think it was technically a cognizant decision. I tend to read a lot more standard fantasy/sci-fi books than PNR or UF – when I started writing BoD, that was the approach I was used to. (Let’s toss the reader into the world, whee!) I’m not fond of spoon-feeding details to the readers and while I will admit there is a LOT going on from a world-building perspective, the fact that it’s mostly set in the real world helps a little bit.

But I think a lot of it comes from the deep 1st person PoV. Abby knows what she knows (or doesn’t know). She’s not going to rehash her thoughts with things that are considered basic knowledge until there’s a reason to do so. When Abby goes to the Fae world in A SLIVER OF SHADOW, I realized that what I “knew” from the first book was just the tip of the iceberg.

Jen: How much of this world do you have floating around in your head that hasn’t made its way into the books? Or do the details come to you as you go along?

Allison: Eh. There’s quite a bit floating up there at the moment, but I only tend to pick out the pieces I need for a particular story arc as they are required. So, for example – I’ve got an idea of what the Hell Path is like, but until there’s a specific reason to head down there, I don’t worry about it. Otherwise, much of the detail does get fleshed out as I go.

Jen: The latest book introduces a love triangle with Abby, Brystion and Talivar. Did you always plan to give Brystion a rival?

Allison: Actually, no. The original ending to BoD did have Brystion staying with Abby, but for various editorial reasons, things ended up changing. I know there’s a love/hate thing with triangles among many readers, but it isn’t my intent to jerk readers around. A little competition isn’t always a bad thing and from a character perspective it’s actually pretty good for Brystion to realize things aren’t always going to be handed to him on a silver platter, so to speak.

Jen: And speaking of Brystion… so much about him is murky and mysterious. Tell us one thing about him that is true without question. And tell us one thing we don’t know about him.

Allison: *laughs* He’s a rather nebulous character, even for me – it’s very hard for me to sometimes figure out what he’s thinking. He plays things very close to his vest, even when I’m writing him. True without question? Despite whatever his actions may or may not be, he truly is in love with Abby. Even if he would sometimes rather not be. As far as what you don’t know? There’s a lot, but he is rather fond of poetry. (Probably has something to do with his mom. 😉 )

Jen: I never really “got” the reason he left at the end of book one. Help me.

Allison: Well, the short answer is like I mentioned above: Editorial reasons. The long answer is that it does actually work out better in the long run. BoD took place in the span of a few weeks – and while Abby and Ion are certainly massively attracted to each other, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be “true love.” Yes, Abby would have preferred for him to stay and try to work things out, no question. However, Brystion is scared out of his wits in a lot of ways, if you dig deep enough. He’s not particularly proud at some of his behavior in BoD, though he’ll never admit it directly. Given the circumstances of how he met Abby and his own past relationships turning out badly, I don’t think it’s unrealistic that he might bolt for a while. There’s also an element of “too good to be true” going on. Abby represents an awful lot to him – her Dreaming power, for example – there’s a certain jaded outlook that he possesses that he’s trying to break through.

Jen: As for Talivar, I feel like I do know him. But you’re probably giving me a false sense of security. Tell us one thing about him that would be surprising.

Allison: Heh. He really does like playing DDR, even if he thinks it’s a bit undignified.

Jen: You ended the last book on a cliffhanger. ^$%$#^^**! Let’s talk about that.

Allison: I did. But it was a good place to end it. I don’t want to spoil readers, but that last page did create a new set of issues for Abby and not ones I could realistically work through in the span of a few more chapters. Besides, that would have completely cheapened her actions.

Jen: As a reader, how do you feel about cliffhangers?

Allison: I don’t mind them, as long as I know there’s more coming. What *is* irritating is when the cliffhanger doesn’t pay off. If everything is resolved right off the bat then there is a certain WTF moment when I pick up the next book.

Jen: Book three is also coming out this year. What can you tell us about A TRACE OF MOONLIGHT?

Allison: Well, obviously it picks up fairly quickly after the end of SoS. The stakes are much higher than before, and there’s some rather interesting twists and turns coming up for some of the characters. Maybe a death or two. Or not.

Jen: Can you give us a little snippet?

Allison: Actually, I’m right smack in the middle of revisions for A TRACE OF MOONLIGHT so I wouldn’t feel completely right tossing up something I’m trying to edit. But I’ll see if I can get an excerpt up on my website at some point in the next few months.

Jen: What is the future for the series beyond that point? I read somewhere that you may choose to tell the stories of some secondary characters. Could you expand on that– and does that mean Abby’s story will be over? There are such great secondary characters in the series. I love Phin and I am so interested in Melanie’s backstory. (And Nobu…)

Allison: Yes, the secondary characters are definitely some of my favorites. As far as the end of Abby’s story goes, I’m not sure. I’m doing the best I can to wrap up this particular story arc in the 3 books – it’s up to the publisher if they want more, and depending on how that goes, it could very well be a Melanie story that’s written. There’s also a pretty good chance of a Melanie short story appearing in an upcoming anthology, but I can’t give you any more details than that. (Although if it does happen, I’ll be writing about how she got her violin.)

Jen: Do you get to make it to many fan events? What are you looking forward to most from AAD in NOLA?

Allison: I did 3 or 4 cons last year. I had to cut back this year due to a number of reasons, so no RT or RWA for one. AAD and WFC are the two main ones I’ll be attending, though I also hope to be at NYCC if I can swing it. As far as what I’m looking forward to most? Just being able to hang out in a smaller, more intimate venue with the readers and other authors. Sometimes the larger cons can be overwhelming.

A big thanks to Allison for chatting with me today. To learn more about Allison Pang, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Review: A Sliver of Shadow

Reviewed by Jen

OK. I have to start out by telling you that this book ends on a massive, hairy cliffhanger. I want to get this out of the way because it’s the only thing that did not absolutely rock about this story. I loved it from beginning to… well, ALMOST the very end.

The action picks up about six months after the events of the last book. Brystion is still gone. Abby is working to become stronger in the Dreaming. And Moira has left again. This time, she is in Faery, taking care of her sick mother, the Fae Queen. Abby is watching over the baby and maintaining her job as the Touchstone of the Protectorate.

All that is plenty to deal with –but things get more complicated when a Fae woman shows up, claiming to be Moira’s replacement. And then it really hits the fan when the Queen shuts down the paths between human and Faery realms, leaving many Fae trapped on the wrong side of the doors. Abby joins forces with Moira’s brother Talivar and those closest to her –to travel to Faery, hoping to convince the Queen to re-open the paths.

There is so much going on, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I love the world-building in these books, which are heavily steeped in the Fae. But even more than that, I love the rich and fleshed out characters at the heart of the story. Allison Pang does such a fantastic job, I feel like I know them. Abby: the woman trying to learn her place in the world and striving to do the right thing by everyone, while struggling to know her own heart. Talivar: the crippled prince with vulnerability and a nobility that extends far beyond his royalty. Brystion… OK, I still don’t know what the deal is with Brystion, but he does come back. And the spark is still there.

Speaking of which, we’ve got a love triangle all of a sudden. I understand why Abby is torn (though if my vote counts, it goes to Talivar.) There is great chemistry with both men, though their relationships are very, very different. I still feel like the reason Brystion left at the end of the last book was lame; and it’s made worse that he seems to change his tune for no tangible reason at all. Whereas, Talivar is broken. But his role in Abby’s life –and their blooming relationship– are healing him. He is a good man and he is good to her.

There’s satisfying sex, family drama, action, danger, legend, blossoming love and sacrifice on a massive scale. And somehow, during it all, it still manages to make me laugh. Frankly, who doesn’t love a cantankerous, horny, miniature unicorn? There’s so much more that I want to say, but I already feel like I am rambling. I’ll leave you with this: I have no idea what is going to happen next, but I can’t wait to find out. Almost 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Pocket Books

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Sliver of Shadow
by Allison Pang
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Publisher: Pocket Books

Review: A Brush of Darkness

Reviewed by Jen

Allison Pang has created an interesting and unique world with the Abby Sinclair series. It’s one dominated by the Fae, but features an array of supernatural species from angels to demons and everything in between.

Abby is a human, but she’s special. She serves as a Touchstone to the Fae Protectorate, Moira. Her job is essentially to anchor Moira to the human plane, help her cross between worlds, and to assist with disputes and problems Moira helps settle. In exchange, Abby will not age for the seven years of her contract with Moira; and when she is done, she gets one wish. Unfortunately, Moira has gone missing and Abby has to hold down the fort in her absence. She keeps the disappearance a secret as long as she can, but things are becoming more complicated than she can handle alone.

A sexy incubus named Brystion shows up, needing help to find his missing succubus sister. Abby agrees to work with him, which lands her in the thick of danger. The succubus is one of several of her kind who has disappeared –and it all may or may not be tied to what happened to Moira. Tensions run high as Abby is blamed for her boss’ absence. And all of this is happening as she deals with her own internal demons that have been plaguing her ever since the car accident that killed her mother.

It took me awhile to connect with the book because the world building was revealed so slowly. Often in the early chapters, I felt lost or like I had missed something. But once the basics were laid out and the romance started to build steam, I got more invested. (Didn’t I mention the romance? Come on! The hero is an incubus. What did you expect?) I found myself going back and forth with how I felt about the relationship between Abby and Brystion. There were times, in his softer moments, that I really rooted for these two. But then, I’d find myself questioning how real it all was and how much it had to do with the fact he was an incubus. Does he want her for who she is or for the juice she can give him?

The questions, the sex, and action really got me wrapped up in it all. Not to mention, a healthy dose of humor, some really engaging secondary characters –and a talking, horny miniature unicorn. I was really enjoying it all until I slammed into the brick wall of an ending, going about 90 miles per hour. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the end. But I will tell you that I didn’t like it. And I didn’t understand a single good reason why it had to go that way, except to set the stage for the next book. And that kind of ticks me off.

So I am conflicted about how to rate the book. For the most part, it was really great. It made me laugh out loud. It surprised me with its twists and turns and unexpected betrayals.  But it also confused me occasionally and it made me mad. Mmm… 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Pocket Books

A Brush of Darkness
by Allison Pang
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: Pocket Books