Book Review: State of Grace by Elizabeth Davies (The Resurrection Trilogy)

This is my review of the first book of the Resurrection Trilogy..

When Grace, 27 years old and with only a few months left to live, returns to her home town of Brecon, she is catapulted nearly 1800 years into the past. At first she attributes her hallucinations to her brain tumour but as the visions become more detailed and closer to the present day, she becomes involved with a certain wickedly handsome and rather inhuman Roman, who has an obsession with blood.
Grace is forced to confront her fears when the past begins intruding on the present, and she falls deeper in love with her phantom man.

‘Death is only one option.’

This is an excellent introduction to the series.  You get to meet Grace and Roman and the way she “time travels”.  You are also introduced to Ms. Davies excellent writing, her exceptional descriptions of places, people, sights, smells.  She literally transports the reader, along with Grace, into the middle ages in Grace’s hometown of Brecon:

I was transfixed by the spectacle of four men, one with his back to me, three facing me, all with swords (swords?) in their hands, the metal gleaming and catching in the firelight.  I had an image of wild, long, black hair, snarling mouths gaping out of straggling beards, ragged, unfamiliar clothing and weapons in both fists.  Then the stench hit me: stale sweat, unwashed bodies, seweage and dead things mingling most unpleasantly with the peculiar money-smell of blood and the scorching rawness of the smoke.  I gagged.

Grace is a very real character.  Very honest in her narrative, very self-aware.  She knows her life is slowly ebbing away, yet instead of adopting a “poor me” pity party, she decides to try and shield her family from the truth as much as she can.  She still insists on being as “normal” as possible, even though she now lives back at her childhood home and can no longer work as a pilot.

I honestly enjoyed her personal perspective with her health as much as I enjoyed the paranormal aspect.

Throughout this book she continues to have sudden “visits” to the past.  Each time it is later in the historical time line.  Each time she returns to Roman.  Each time it is in the vicinity of her hometown.  And each time she is completely naked.

Obviously a ton of research went into the description of life in the middle ages.  And I am extremely grateful that I was born in the 1980s.

I also love how Grace has to describe things in the future that are unheard of to a man living a thousand years in the past:

‘I need a shower,’ I murmured, feeling a strange mix of drowsy as my eyelids wanted to close, and alert at Roman’s closeness.

‘What is this word ‘shower’? You mean rainfall?’

‘No, not rain, it’s uh, it’s when you stand under a sort of tap that’s above your head, and it drips water down on you so you can wash,’ I answered sleepily. 

‘Like a tap in a barrel?’ he asked.

‘Only the barrel would contain hot water and the tap would have lots of little holes in it so the water sprinkles out.’

I felt him nod his understanding.  ‘It would be difficult to heat the water,’ he mused.

‘We use a boiler or electricity,’ I said, forgetting that he would not have a clue what I meant.

‘Boiler?’

‘Sort of like a big stove or oven, and the water is pumped from it to the shower head, er, tap,’ I amended.

He hadn’t finished. ‘And elec-tristy?’

Oh goodness — how on earth was I going to explain this one? ‘In my world we have.. it’s um, er…’ Crap.  ‘ We have a power that.. no, that’s not right. I know! We can harness the lightening.  We can use lightning to make fire.’

The relationship with Grace and Roman deepens, they develop a romance and Grace finds herself longing for him, even when she is back in her world and her disease progresses.

I plowed through each of these books in a matter of days.  Since I read these books about two months ago, I am finding myself being sucked in again as I am reading through highlighted passages.  The end of book one could be a cliffhanger, but it could kind of stand alone.

Excellent start to an excellent series.

The Resurrection Trilogy by Elizabeth Davies

Ok.  I have gone from not reading about vampires at all to now reading vampire love stories with time travel mixed in.  Mr. Altman, my A.P. English teacher in high school, would be appalled.  What’s next?  Time traveling zombies from outer space (Stant Litore, want to take this one on?)

 

This post highlights the entire series as a whole.  I will break down each book in the following days.

I absolutely loved this series.  It is at once sobering, funny, romantic and historical.

The books in order are:

State of Grace

Amazing Grace

Sanctifying Grace 

I purposefully stayed away from the “time-traveling” genre because I’m worried my knowledge of history will make me call “bullshit” on some of the things I read.  And because my eyes cross when I think of the implications of time travel.  That kind of happened a little with the resolution of this book, but Ms. Davies make it a bit bullshit proof.  And I know next to nothing about the history of Great Britain, and even less about the middle ages, so it was all good.

What drew me to this book was the entire premise:

When Grace, 27 years old and with only a few months left to live, returns to her home town of Brecon, she is catapulted nearly 1800 years into the past. At first she attributes her hallucinations to her brain tumour but as the visions become more detailed and closer to the present day, she becomes involved with a certain wickedly handsome and rather inhuman Roman, who has an obsession with blood. 
Grace is forced to confront her fears when the past begins intruding on the present, and she falls deeper in love with her phantom man. 

‘Death is only one option.’ 

A love story with a supernatural twist, it looks at vampires from an unusual angle, knitting together the twelfth century with the present day.

 

 

As I have often stated, I am a hospice nurse.  I am always intrigued by books that portray the dying process.  Especially from the perspective of the dying person.  And everything I found in this series was right on from what I can tell from my coherent patients.

This entire series fascinated me because I always wonder what is going on with my patients as they are approaching death, as it is well know that they dream rather vividly.

The portrayal of what her family is experiencing is spot on as well.  The helplessness that her family feels watching her deteriorate, Grace’s desire to keep her health status from her friends.  Even the impact her illness has had on her relationship status.  All is very common, very real to the terminally ill person.

And despite the rather somber state Grace is in, she still has a rather wicked sense of humor.  I love her.  She is strong, she is independent, and even though she finds herself in ridiculous situations, she still retains her stubborn streak.

The romance she experiences during what she believes are hallucinations is quite erotic.  This isn’t erotica, but there is vivid and very steamy sex scenes.  Nothing gratuitous or crude.  Very tasteful and it is very meaningful to the story rather than being a book about sex with story in between.  The relationship develops over the entire series at an even pace and is very real and palpable rather than being contrived from beginning.

The vampires are a bit different, and that is one thing that I enjoy from reading each writer’s different take on the genre.

I also want to make mention of the covers for the three books. In this post you see all three.  And you can see how they are different.  I think that was a really cool concept to have Roman, the romantic male lead character, concealed by on the first cover, then a bit more revealed in the second, and fully turned to face front on the third.  Excellent idea.  Coincides greatly with the progress of the books. And it is also exactly how I pictures Roman.

Look for my review on book one, State of Grace, tomorrow.

 

Book Review: War of Wizards (Secrets of Shadow Hill) by S. P. Cervantes

I’m going to make a confession.  I have never read the Harry Potter series.  Yes, yes, I know.  I’m deprived.  But it is on my list.  As I continue in this genre of paranormal romance, it is clearer to me that I need to read some of the big books in the genre.  I broke down and read the “Twilight” series for example.  And now I can see all the references my vampire books make to it.  So now I have to read Harry Potter.

warwizardsEbook

I read the first two books in this series and loved them.  My review for “Always and Forever” is here and my review for “The Prophecy” is here.  It is strictly YA, no graphic sex, but in this one, Ava and Dalton are finally married and finally consummate their relationship.  The descriptions aren’t detailed and it is very tender and sweet.  Definitely YA appropriate.

Here is the synopsis for this final book:

Ava and Dalton want nothing more than to forget about the danger their love puts them in, and live peaceful lives in Shadow Hill; but that is not their destiny. Evil continues to haunt them, threatening to destroy everything. Volikai’s determination to summon the dark powers that the Originals have kept hidden for centuries before the Prophecy can be fulfilled.

When Patrick finds a new love, and learns of the reason for his powerful connection with Ava, he will stop at nothing to protect those he loves and destroy the evil that has plagued the world since the beginning of time.

Together, they will be faced with unimaginable choices to save the one’s they love as the final secrets of Shadow Hill are revealed.

As with the other books, this one is written from varying points of view.  I usually don’t have a problem with that, it is really creative and different.  But in this book it was a bit confusing when chapters went from Patrick to Dalton because it wasn’t exactly clear who the speaker was at times.

I do like the maturity shown throughout all of the books.  Especially with Dalton and Patrick.  It is a number of years after they first met, and with all they have been through with Ava, they now have a mature, adult, working relationship.  They both want to keep everyone safe, especially Ava.  They aren’t at odds anymore.  I truly liked seeing that particular relationship evolve.

Ava and Hannah have evolved as well.  They take their situation very seriously.  They go from knowing nothing about magic and wizards to leading their coven in the space of a few years.  Their strength is remarkable.

I hate to say this, and many YA fans will vehemently disagree, but it was kind of refreshing that some characters didn’t make it.  I’m not going to do a spoiler alert and name names.  But in most of these types of books, everyone lives happily ever after.  In this one, its a different kind of happily ever after.  And I really liked it.  It is more realistic, as much as realism can be found in a book about wizards.

A great follow-up to the first two books.  A great ending to the trilogy.  I truly love this series for its romance, its relationships between characters, its drama and aspect of a thriller.  And the magic is cool.  Definitely a must read for fans of paranormal YA.

Book Review: Revelations (Thera’s Eyes Series) by Leia Kiuski

Yes, I am on a paranormal romance, YA kick.  Again.  But I am so glad to be getting such different takes on the genre.  This one is no exception:

revelations

 

Here is the synopsis:

Elizabeth Monterey is a 17-year-old girl, who always had everything: lots of money, friends, the perfect boyfriend, and a promising future in the archery world. But an inexplicable accident changed her life forever, and now she needs to face the harsh reality of the death of her parents, a brother in a coma and the loss of her fortune. 

As if she hadn’t problems enough, demonic-looking creatures want the freedom to come and go to the human world as they please, and Elizabeth is the one chosen to prevent that from happening. But, she can’t do it alone. It will be necessary to find out who her allies are… and her enemies. 

So, the hunt begins. 

‘Revelations’, the first book in the ‘Thera’s Eyes series’, is an incredible adventure story, filled with magic and romance. A novel that follows the current trends and still manages to be different from anything you have ever read.

This is really different than the typical YA fare with wizards, zombies and vampires.  I truly admire authors that can create these worlds seemingly out of thin air.  I love learning about their creation, the laws of their world, the lore and history.  This story was no different.

I love that the main character, Beth, is flawed.  She’s shaken.  Her life has taken a turn for the worst and she is still standing.  But she is strong.  She overcomes her situations and makes the best of it, becoming a leader in a new world that she had no clue even existed.

I also like that despite the fact that she is now a warrior, she still has the same issues that most teenage girls do.  Especially with boys.  And one particular boy, Leon.  Some miscues and an overheard conversation leads her to think that he isn’t interested despite her overwhelming feeling for him.  This is pretty descriptive of her imagined situation:

If she could not have his love, at least she would have his friendship and she could still be a part of his life, even after he left, and it sure was better than having nothing at all.

I truly appreciate this aspect of the story.  It lends some realism…even though they are fighting “demons” she still is struggling with her feelings for a member of the opposite sex.

I absolutely love the friendship between the warriors.  Their loyalty to each other.  Their willingness to do what is needed to “save the world”.  Definitely a bonus in this story.

And it is very well written. The characters are well developed, the plot is well thought out, the writing is fantastic.

Overall a great read, very different than others of this genre, highly recommended for those who love YA paranormal romance.

 

Book Review: West by Caroline Starr

Book Cover - West V1

 

I reviewed the first book in this trilogy, Campbell, here.  Again, this story is amazing.  Not as intriguing as the first one, more than likely because the concept isn’t as new, but still great work.

After her world was turned upside down by the death of her twin and a new alliance forged through an unexpected friendship, Lucy Campbell left West determined to return to her old life. 

It took four years and a natural disaster for her to admit that was impossible.

Hatched from a lie devised to keep them both safe, the conflict with East has affected Lucy and Tal Bauman in different ways. It’s left Lucy engulfed in a bitter power struggle with her war-hungry brother. It’s forced Tal to align himself with Campbell, despite questioning their motivations in continuing to attack East, when peace seems attainable. He’s also left to sort out the mess left behind by his predecessor and best friend, Connor Wilde. 

When they are reunited by a tragedy, Lucy and Tal are forced to question how far their duties stretch, where their loyalties lie, and how far they would go for one another. 

They’re also left reevaluating their morals, values, and the futures of those around them. 

West is the second book in the Campbell trilogy. 

If you haven’t read Campbell, and you definitely have to before you read this book, the premise is that something wiped out all the adults and teenagers in the early 2000s.  The kids, aged 12 and under, had to fend for themselves and remake their world.  It is a completely fascinating concept.

What I like about the premise is that Ms. Starr uses it as a springboard to highlight coming of age issues.  How do you grow up when all of your parents, teachers, adults aren’t there to guide you?  So this series just captivates me.

This second installment was a little bit darker, but with more romance.  So I’ll take it.  The “kids” are now into their mid to late 20s and despite the fact of their upbringing, or lack thereof, they still struggle with the same issues “kids” in contemporary society struggle with.  Relationships, friends, “family”.  But there is so much more responsibility with Lucy and Tal.

They both are heads of state for large parts of the North American continent.  They not only have to deal with their own personal issues, but they have to deal with trade, war, diplomacy and economics.  Tal even had to deal with a murder trial for the first president of West and his best friend.

I loved that this book included more of a romance aspect.  It’s a different type of romance, and I do need to point out that this book isn’t YA, there is sex and violence.  It isn’t erotica, but it happens.

The type of romance that Ms. Starr features isn’t typical.  It’s refreshing.  It’s real:

She knew she loved him; the kind of love that was earned, cultivated over time, born of selflessness and respect.  It would never be throw-down, crazy passion because she didn’t operate that way.  What they had was better.

Ms. Starr also illustrates that basic human cruelty can survive in their post-apocalypse.  Even though they were kids when the world ended, they still retain the ability to torture each other, to go to war, to kill each other in cold blood.  That apparently will never be erased.

Overall a great read, excellent follow up to Campbell, and I can’t wait to read the third book.

Book Review: The Prophecy of Arcadia by M. H. Soars

prophecyarcadia

A different spin on YA paranormal romance and I loved it.  Here is the synopsis:

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you have to pretend to be something you’re not, and you’re in love with someone you shouldn’t. 115 years ago, a small planet called Arcadia was invaded by a vicious alien race and nearly destroyed. Cut off from their resources, the Arcadians turned to Earth for help. A group of Arcadian explorers discovered a Prophecy that claimed their salvation lay in the hands of two children from Earth. To ensure their safety, the Arcadian Council sent their most gifted youngsters to Earth to act as protectors. Samantha is one of them.

To succeed in her mission she must learn to control her Arcadian powers and keep her true identity from her best friend, and the girl she swore to protect, Alexia. But Samantha will soon realize that nothing is as it seems. Someone is trying to prevent the Prophecy from taking place and the prophecy boy hasn’t been found yet. There is also a new drug circulating at school that is turning students into freakishly strong menaces.

To make matters worse, distractions keep getting in her way. Such as her love/hate relationship with her “cousin” Matthew. Or her confused feelings toward popular and mysterious Julian. She wants nothing more than to be free to live her life. But the survival of Arcadia depends on her and her friends. Free will is not an option.

I liked that this book wasn’t typical YA.  It involved aliens.  The first chapter kind of made my eyes cross with all the alien names, but the story was amazing after I got past that.

This is YA, but I would classify it as older YA, just because there is sex involved as well as drugs and alcohol.  I would say 16 and up.

Sam is the main character, but the points of view swivel from character to character.  The author does an amazing job of this, as it is very clear which character is the speaker.  This can be very difficult, and the author pulls it off nicely.

Sam and her “cousins” are sworn to protect Alexia.  They have super powers that help them do this and they are trained to be bodyguards.  But their powers don’t really manifest until they are teenagers, and this creates some problems, especially for Sam.

Add in the fact that they are several teenagers around the same age living in the same house who aren’t related and you have some romantic issues.  Considering that they are pretending to be “cousins”, this presents some problems.

What I do like about this book is how it clearly conveys the angst of this time in life.  Despite who is the character speaking, the author makes this time in life abundantly clear:

Betrayal was one of the worst feelings a human being could possibly experience.  It gnawed at your insides, it twisted your heart until you thought it would be better if someone just ripped it out — then you wouldn’t feel the pain of it bleeding inside of you.

This passage could have been written by me at age 17, but maybe not so eloquently.

I do like the aspect that the guardians aren’t 100% automatons.  They know what the prophecy says, but they use their own brains to figure out that something isn’t right.

I was completely sucked into the world of Arcadia.  It is completely different in that most of these books feature vampires, wizards, etc.  So this was completely new to me.  And it is very well written, very concise, and the prophecy, sci-fi rules, powers, etc are clearly spelled out.  You don’t find characters suddenly doing something that they couldn’t before, or the prophecy doesn’t meld to fit the situation of the characters.  That is really important to me with reading these types of books.

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance and YA.  I love the sci-fi angle to it.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book.

 

Interview: Coty Justus author of the Birthrights Series

ahomeontherange

 

For the last week, I have been reviewing the Birthrights Series by Coty Justus.  I was completely taken in by the series and totally fascinated with the world created by the author.  It is just so different from any other paranormal romance series out there.  It offers such a great message for young women, it is “safe” for teenagers (meaning it doesn’t feature graphic sex) and it is totally addictive.  Ms. Justus  kindly agreed to an interview, much to my delight.  Here is the author’s “official” bio:

Coty Justus lives in the Wyoming she writes about in her books.  A simple person with simple tastes, her books reflect her upbringing, with an emphasis on family and a rural lifestyle.  An animal lover, Justus frequently incorporates dogs, horses, and an odd assortment of wildlife into her plots.

Stronghold

 What inspired you to write such a far reaching series about magical women in Wyoming?

Like you, I enjoy reading history.  Sixteen years ago, I was reading a history of Easter Island—I cannot for the life of me remember which one—and I fixated on a piece of trivia: One of the first visitors wrote in his captain’s log that most of the people were dark-skinned and dark-haired, but that he had seen the occasional red-haired native.  I am curious by nature.  I pondered this information.  From whence had stemmed a red-hair gene?  Geography not being my strong suit, I decided on Scotland.  I made the logical transition to second-sight.  From those wild deductive leaps, a series was born.

 Is the religion/culture of “The Ten” based on any real or historical religion?  If so, what is it?

I don’t think “The Ten” is based on any religion or culture.  I think it’s invented.  At my age, though, having long been an avaricious reader of anything, even a cereal box in a pinch, it could be an amalgamation of any number of spiritual or superstitious beliefs.  I like to read.

Did you plot out the entire series or did you write it book by book?
I plotted out the series, but it went badly awry.  One day I will pull out that old outline, perhaps a hundred pages long, and read it for fun.  I invest a lot of energy on character development, and they all become alive to me.  The greatest joy for me in writing is to develop a character, put that character in a situation, and let my fingers fly while the character acts and reacts accordingly.  The outline quickly became obsolete.

Roundup

 Many of the themes in your book are dark, especially starting with “Home on the Range”, was it difficult writing from the perspective of a young girl on the run? With “The Maverick” it continues with Acrasia’s struggle to survive was that difficult as well?
I enjoy the darkness.  Like you, one of my favorite contemporary books, maybe my favorite, is The Stand.  I remember, as a non-traditional college student, telling one of my literature instructors that this book would one day be included among the classics.  (She had asked another student who Stephen King was.)  There must be some darkness to appreciate the light.  All the women protagonists suffer as children.  The darkness shapes them into strong women warriors.  They have seen evil or deprivation and are prepared for the final battle.  I think I needed to portray that as realistically as possible without offending the reader; otherwise, they would not have been believable in the last book.

Each of the women are very well developed characters, even some of the little ones, like Maddy, Ally, Susan.  I was surprised to see that the men weren’t just a side dish as well, they are very central to the plot and as equally represented and developed.  Was it difficult to create so many deep and robust characters? 
I think that, of all the fiction elements that go into a work, I most enjoy characterization.  Dialogue, actions, reactions, thoughts, other characters’ impressions—all of these go on autopilot once I’ve established the individual’s base persona.  Jason asks “What are you two?” when he finds a strand of red hair on his pillow.  Alan is emotionally obliterated by the death of a fellow officer.  Matthew vacillates between leaving the table or coming up with a response when threatened by the prospect of small talk.  Michael tells his brother and cousin that they need to take their act on the road.  Roland asks Michael when he ever conned him and then laughs at Michael’s response.  Sam tells Alan he loses sleep, wondering what goes on in his head.  These were all defining moments for each character.  After that, as mentioned before, I needed only create a situation and see what happened.  You can probably tell by this why I have a problem sticking to an outline.

Maverick

 Native American culture features prominently throughout your books.  Are the beliefs/rituals/customs mentioned part of a particular tribe?
All of the Native American customs are specific to the High Plains tribes, in particular, Granny Whitefoot’s Eastern Shoshone.  Because the High Plains tribes met at trade fairs, fought side by side to repel early colonists, and battled one another, taking captives, the customs are similar.  The religion is specific to the Shoshone, but I will confess to being disappointed in the dearth of research materials available for the Eastern Shoshone.  I did my best with what was available and only hope I don’t walk outside one day to a flaming lance buried in my lawn.

 Have you approached the Wyoming tourism board and offered to write travel brochures for them?  The way you describe the landscapes, the beauty, the feel of the range has made me seriously consider a trip out there.  How do you go about writing such fantastic depictions?  Is it from memory?  Do you go out there with a pen and paper and just write?
You will not be disappointed by a visit to Wyoming.  It is a wild country and still untamed.  I did not need to refresh my memory.  Viewed under the right circumstances, it stays with you.  I was born in North Dakota, was raised primarily in northern Idaho and Montana, and spent half my adult life in South Dakota and half in Wyoming.  I love this North Country of mine.  I first saw Yellowstone National Park over fifty years ago.  It is definitely worth a visit, especially for children!  I want Wyoming readers to read my books, but I am a novice at promotion so don’t know how to go about it.  I recently entered a Wyoming writers’ competition, submitting the entire series as one work.  It pleases me to know that at least three Wyomingites—the judging panel—will be captive readers.

Range_Wars

Any chance of a follow up series with the younger generation?  Or just a few books on how life is for the family and their hilarity?

 
I doubt I will do anymore with the Stantons, only because I am reluctant to leave them behind.  I visualize Michael’s reaction when Bel’s chosen shows up at the door; Acrasia working as a volcanologist; and Ally in a college classroom during final exams, and I know if I don’t let go now I will never begin another book.  I’ll see how the next book goes.  This series was something I had to write.  It festered in my subconscious for sixteen long years.  Now I must wean myself off it.  (I still read Range Wars.  I love that book.)

Thank you Coty Justus for the wonderful insight on how a series like this was created.  I absolutely loved it.

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