Review: Exsanguinate – World of Blood (Book #1) ~ Killion Slade

ExsanguinateA Halloween scream night theme park adventure for software gaming developer Cheyenne O’Cuinn reveals a hidden supernatural reality she never dreamed existed. Recovering from a vicious attack and her sisters’ abductions, Cheyenne must rescue her sisters from vampiric kidnappers before they’re used to breed warmongering dhampirs.

Betrayal lurks in every corner. Cheyenne must evade attackers by unconventional means through her online role-play game. She must navigate through virtual, tortuous clues and mailed body parts, which cross over from her virtuality into reality. Can a team of dragons, vampires, and werewolves come together to help her? Who can she trust? Will the help from her virtual lover become compromised when he learns of her new immortal existence and crush the fragile love they share?

Amidst an impending vampire apocalypse, Cheyenne finds herself both in conflict for survival and for her heart. Will her immortal self derail any hope of solving the multiplying puzzles before time runs out to save her sisters, herself and her humanity?

5 Thumbs-UpLet me get this out there right from the start of my review, I absolutely hated this book!  It wasn’t the book itself I despised; it was what it turned me into.  As an online gamer, and a casual one at that, I hold no love for those that crow about their access to areas of the game I can only dream about; they like to call themselves the L33T!  This book turned me into one of these people, but in the book world, and I loved it.  In the pages of this book I was able to experience content that I KNOW there are a few out there will not be able to access, and it made me feel like a God.

Urban Fantasy novels are really not my usual thing, but I was so glad I read this book.  The characters are realistic and full of humour, sadness, secrets and guts.  They are written in such a way that you feel as if you know them, or may have even grouped up with them in your online game of choice.  The Author invested a lot of time into making sure the characters in this novel were true to life representations of the gaming community, and made sure they did not fall into the stereotypical portrait most people have of gamers, that they are loners with no lives living in their parent’s basements.  With a skilful use of words the characters show that a wide variety of people game, and without overloading the reader with technical terms and phrases, he painted these characters as intelligent and likeable people who the reader would want to socialize with.  The main protagonist of the novel is a strong, smart woman; however she is also extremely loyal and once she gets her teeth into something sticks with it to the end.  On the flip side of her personality is a woman who is also a little unsure of herself, especially when it comes to the area of romance, and one who is determined to confront the fears she has of the main driving tool behind the project she is working on.

This is a very imaginative novel, full of strategy and clues that span not just the online role-playing game in the book, but also the real world lives of the characters.  I was delighted at how well the Author brought the vividness of these games to life and managed to get across to the reader just how many people are involved in the playing of them.  They also managed to convey that for some people this is not just a game, but a form of connecting with others around the globe; a kind of social media tool with quests thrown in.  Blending them well together, the book has just enough humour its pages to stop the horror aspect of it from becoming overwhelming; the humour is laugh out loud funny and the horror is blood chilling made even more so as at some points in the action you are not sure if you are in the virtual world or the real world.

This book creates its own world and mythology, but uses well-known creatures of the supernatural to do so, and this serves to make the reader feel they are experiencing something new that has a familiar feel.  The real novelty in its pages though was the inclusion of the ‘quick mark’ tags, this enables the reader with a smart phone access to hidden ‘Easter eggs’ which include additional pages of the novel and numerous other hidden goodies on the book’s website; this was the part that made me L33T!  Flawlessly bringing fantasy, horror, humour and action together the Author has done an outstanding job of putting together a highly absorbing and entertaining read.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of all genres and lovers of epic series as I am sure this is going to be among the greats.  I will definitely be reading the remainder of this series as it is published.

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Changes in the Wind

george-bernard-shawI hope you are all as flexible as I am, and I don’t mean physically I mean mentally.  With autumn upon us, I felt it was time to do some redecorating around Cate’s Book Nut Hut, and this will mean change.

In some things, particularly when it comes to my books, I like them to be in a certain order and ‘catalogued’ in a way where others may get lost looking for something but I can go straight to it.  I think the Book Nut Hut is beginning to head down this alley, as after looking at it on a different computer, and heck even a different operating system to my own, I realised there needs to be changes.  I don’t want my ‘readers’ to get lost in its digital annals only for me to discover their skeletons propped up against a meta-tag somewhere down the road.  Don’t worry though, the changes won’t take place over night, like everything else that is worth doing well, it will come into being in a slow and deliberate manner.

The first of these changes has already taken place, some of you may (or may not) have noticed that it is no longer catesbooknuthut.wordpress.com but just catesbooknuthut.com.  If you have the WordPress link in your bookmarks, there is no need to change this, as you will be automatically redirected to the dot-com site.  Other changes that will be taking place are the redesigning and wording of some of the pages (review and ratings guideline being one of them,) and page titles in the hopes of making ‘The Hut’ easier to find your way around.

‘The Hut’ also now has its own Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CatesBookNutHut.  Here you can find links to some of the Authors already reviewed on the site, such as Heidi Peltier and Lee Foust, and there will be ‘bookish’ items and trivia posted here on a regular basis.

Another big change coming up shortly; one I’m really excited about and hope you will be too,  will be the inclusion of a podcast.  This is currently being worked on by myself and © Altered Reality Productions, and will be called ‘The Acorn’ as Cate’s Book Nut Hut is a mouthful to say at any time of the day.  The podcast will have its own page on the site where you will be able to listen to ‘chapters’ (after all this is a book podcast), and links to iTunes where free subscription will be available for those who want to make sure they don’t miss out.  ‘The Acorn’ will also feature Author interviews, and I already have some lined up, along with other goodies to keep the bibliophile in all of us happy.

There will most likely be other little changes as I progress through my housecleaning, but for now these are the major big ones that I wanted to let you know about.  So, as the saying goes…….

“Watch this space”

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‘And now for something completely different’

“Let’s face it, writing is hell.”
~William Styron

writers almanacI thought it was about time to take a break from the book reviews, and my attempts at writing articles I think may interest people, and hand today over to those who actually know what they are about.  Today, Wednesday August 28, 2013, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this web site, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“Song of Smoke
by Kevin Young

To watch you walk
cross the room in your black

corduroys is to see
civilization start—
the wish-
whish-whisk

of your strut is flint
striking rock—the spark

of a length of cord
rubbed till

smoke starts—you stir
me like coal

and for days smolder.
I am no more

a Boy Scout and besides,
could never

put you out—you
keep me on

all day like an iron, out
of habit—

you threaten, brick—
house, to burn

all this down. You leave me
only a chimney.

“Song of Smoke” by Kevin Young, From Jelly Roll © Knopf, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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It’s the birthday of the father of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , born in Frankfurt, Germany (1749), the author of the epic drama Faust.

He moved to Italy in 1786, and when he returned to Germany two years later, he fell in love with a woman from Weimer, Christiane Vulpius, a 23-year-old who was 16 years his junior. That year, he wrote her an epithalamium, a wedding poem, but he didn’t actually marry her; instead, the couple lived together for 18 years unwed. That is, until one night, Christiane saved Goethe’s life by driving off a band of Napoleon’s soldiers who had broken in their home. Goethe went down to a church the very next day and married her, his live-in girlfriend of 18 years.

In 1806, the same year of the home invasion and marriage, Goethe published a preliminary version of Part I of his great work, Faust, the story of a brilliant scholar named Heinrich Faust, who makes a deal with the devil. The great epic has it all: seduction, murder, sleeping potions, an illegitimate love child, a stray poodle that transforms into the devil, contracts signed with blood, imprisonment in dungeons, heavenly voices, and even redemption. Faust is often called a “closet drama” because it’s intended to be read, not performed. Goethe spent 50 years working on this two-volume masterpiece, finishing it in 1832, the year of his death.

Christiane survived for only a decade after her and Goethe’s wedding. In later life, after recovering from a heart disease that nearly killed him, the 73-year-old Goethe fell passionately in love with an 18-year-old woman, Ulrike von Levetzow, and was devastated when she turned down his proposals of marriage.

Goethe, who said, “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

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It’s the birthday of poet Rita Dove , born in Akron, Ohio (1952). Her father had a master’s degree in chemistry but had to work as an elevator operator because he was black. He eventually became the first African-American chemist to work for Goodyear Tires.

He encouraged his daughter to take advantage of education, and she was at the top of her class. She was chosen as one of 100 of the best high school students in the country to visit the president of the United States. Her parents assumed that she would go on to become a doctor or lawyer, so when she announced that she wanted to be a poet, they weren’t sure what to make of it. She said, “[My father] swallowed once and said, ‘Well, I’ve never understood poetry, so don’t be upset if I don’t read it.'” Her teachers at college told her that she was throwing her education away if she didn’t study something more practical.

But with her poetry collection Thomas and Beulah (1986), based loosely on the lives of her grandparents, she became only the second African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and she went on to become the first African-American national poet laureate.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Guest Host: Billy Collins
Host: Garrison Keillor
Writers: Betsy Allister, Holly Vanderhaar
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
Web Producer: Ben Miller”

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‘You are NOT allowed to read that!’

bebelplatz-berlin-memorial-to-burned-books

Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial

 ‘The fact that anybody wants to burn a book shows you how powerful the physical object is, both as itself and as a symbol’ ~ Chuck Wendig.

Until I married my American Husband I was not fully aware of the fact that there are people out there who want to restrict my access to the types of book I read, not just fiction but non-fiction as well.  I was also naive in thinking that book burning was a thing of history; for example the May 10 1933 book burning in Berlin, the monument to which I have visited.  Book burning is also a thing of the 21st century and takes places in America for various reasons; Non-approved Bibles, books and music in Canton, North Carolina in 2009; Tolkien’s works publicly burned in Alamogordo, NM, in 2001 as satanic.  Really?  In the 21st Century, here in America, intelligent people would fail to celebrate Tolkien’s masterful achievement and, instead, find it threatening enough to burn it?

I feel it would be amiss of me as a lover of the printed word not to write about this form of censorship and, how we are slowly creeping towards a more complete ‘Nanny State’ where we are told what is good for us, and how much of it we can consume.  I understand that there needs to be checks and balances in place for some things, but when it comes to art, and to me writing is an art form, personal choice needs to be allowed to run free.  If, after reading the synopsis of a book on a fly-leaf, we feel uncomfortable or it may be against our beliefs, we have the choice to put the book down and find something more to our tastes.

jailed-book1If you are completely confused by this topic, I’m referring to the upcoming Banned Books Week.  Whether you may be blissfully unaware, or choose to pretend it doesn’t exist, it does with challenged and banned books spanning all genres and reading age groups.  But what is Banned Books Week?  It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read that is typically held during the last week of September and highlighting the value of free and open access to information; it brings together the book community, from reader to publisher, like nothing else can as they share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship, and all of the books featured during this week have been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools, by individuals or groups. While books have been and continue to be banned, the fact is that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available, unless you happened to be in Alamogordo NM, where not only Tolkien but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling were committed to the flames.

banned-book-week-pic-1

Although we are still a month out from Banned Book Week, I strongly feel it is an issue that needs to get publicity not just for one week of every year but all the time.  However, I know how difficult this would be so, in my attempt to stand up for an art form that gives me great pleasure, as well as broadening my mind and horizons, I am going to focus all of my posts for the week of 22-28 September 2013 with books that have been challenged since the beginning of the 21st century.  I will be choosing four books and proudly showcasing them on the blog.

I am giving you all advance warning of this, in case there are some people out there who would rather not see these books blazoned across their computer screen, and they will know to give my reviews a miss for that week.  I will not just be showcasing the books that week, but also listing why these books were challenged and also giving a little background on the Authors.  List of nominees for this week of challenged books are:

2001 – Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
2002 – Harry Potter (series)*, by J.K. Rowling (because I have never read any Harry Potter books)
2003 – The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1), by Jonathan Stroud
2004 – The Alice Series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2005 – Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
2006 – The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood
2007 – The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
2008 – His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
2009 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, by John Berendt
2010 – Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
2011 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore
2012 – The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls
*Please note, where books are part of a series, I will only be featuring the first.

One last thing to bear in mind, and an indication of just how out of hand some of these book challenges are becoming; in 2010 in the Menifee, Calif. Union School District pulled the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary because a parent complained when a child came across the term ‘oral sex’.  Officials for the District said, at the time it was pulled, that they are forming a committee to consider a permanent ban of the dictionary; whether they went ahead with this is not known.

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Review: Harem Slave: One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four Days of Hell on the Persian Gulf (Human Trafficking Series) ~ Nancy Hartwell Enonchong

Harem Slave

Harem Slave is not your predictable formulaic sex-slave novel; it is above all, a gripping and often suspense-filled documentary of the harrowing life of a victim of human trafficking. It is, in many respects, a survival guide for girls who find themselves in such unthinkable circumstances. Intended for mature readers, Harem Slave is not gratuitously pornographic, but due to the subject matter, does contain considerable erotic material.

Tammy Simmons is every parent’s dream daughter: 18, blonde, a majorette, and unimpressed with how beautiful she is. An honor roll student preparing to enter Georgetown University, she seems destined to take her comfortable place in upper-middle-class America. She has taken to heart the high moral principles instilled in her by her tight-knit family, and dreams of being a diplomat. While visiting friends in Europe, however, she is abducted, and to her stunned disbelief, shipped to the Middle East and sold as a harem slave to an 81-year-old sheikh. He is scandalized when he discovers she’s not the buxom Swede he ordered, and sells her to the brooding and cantankerous Sheikh Saud. A year later, she becomes the property of Sheikh Fahd, who dyes the girls in his Rainbow Harem different colors; she is Miss Green. When Miss Purple furtively poisons him, she is bought by the handsome but mentally imbalanced Prince Ibrahim, who has been known to put slaves to death so he and his guests can enjoy their fresh corpses at his lavish parties. Fortunately or unfortunately, instead of taking her into his own harem, he leases her to an elite gentlemen’s club, part of a dark underworld on the Persian Gulf where brothels cater to every taste, every perversion, every excess. She quickly learns that brutality, even in the “nice” clubs, is the norm: in the worst, life expectancy is calculated in weeks. Disciplinary problems are threatened with being sent to a “snuff club,” where they are tortured to death as entertainment. To this point, Tammy has managed to adjust to slavery without completely negating her persona, but now, she almost comes unglued. She has no other choice, if she wants to survive, but to swallow her self-respect and obey orders. It’s a constant struggle. She is proud of herself for not falling apart during one particularly horrible assignment – and then is immediately trundled off to another that’s even worse.

How Tammy remains sane in this horrific environment is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, to the power of love toward those who deserve it the least, and to the defiant determination to find glimmers of joy – even lasting love – in a life awash with daily humiliation and degradation. Her caring heart, courage, and ability to understand her masters as fallible humans grappling with their own sets of demons are ultimately the keys to her salvation.

3 Thumbs-Up

This book is intended for mature readers only, and the overly sensitive may be wise to pass it by.

In this novel, the Author touches upon an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ topic – human trafficking and, given the topic I was expecting a little more than the book actually delivered for me.

The main lead character is female and unfortunately, at no point in my reading this book did I actually find myself caring about her.  She possessed all the traits of the over privileged and wealthy teenager, who always knows better than those around her, and disregards all advice given to her.  Because of this, and as harsh as it seems, I was really made to feel as if she got what was coming to her.

The book itself is intended to be a compilation of actual events that happened to women caught in the world of human trafficking, but it really stretched believe at some points with the women’s reactions to their ‘owners’.  I understand all about Stockholm Syndrome, but none of the behaviour exhibited by the characters evenly remotely put them in this category.  This does not mean that the book is not well researched, it is actually very well researched and written, but despite this it still sat firmly in the women’s soft porn genre, rather than giving me an insight into a criminal world that needs exposing.  I felt that so much more could have been done with this topic to make it a voice for those who are either still in ‘captivity’ or have recently been rescued.

Another downside for me, in the Kindle edition, was the erratic and choppy formatting.  I really don’t need a page full of half sentence paragraphs that I have to try to make sense of, on top of everything else that is happening.  A little more time with proofreading and editing would also have helped in taking care of some other errors that appeared throughout the book.  Usually I can work with these and they don’t detract from what I am reading, but in this case, it just made my experience a little harder to swallow.

I am not a prude, and like erotica, but I like it when it is open and declares itself as such, not comes in the disguise of something else.  If you are a reader that enjoys bondage and cruelty, then this would be for you.  If, however, you are looking for an informative read on human trafficking that could be used as a rally cry to help end this activity, I feel you may be sorely disappointed.

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Review: Captured Lies ~ Maggie Thom

Captured Lies

She was kidnapped not once but twice and now someone wants her dead because of it….
Her life was a lie!
Bailey knew her upbringing wasn’t normal but she’s worked hard to stabilize her life. At 29, she finally has a good business, a stable home; her life is miles from that of her childhood. Then suddenly her mother dies, leaving a gaping hole and a discovery that they may not even be related. If Guy, the private investigator is to be believed, her life is a lie. Using the skills she learned on the streets, Bailey travels back through a sketchy and dangerous past, to find answers. Dodging bullets, staying ahead of those who want her dead and convincing Guy she can do it alone, are making it difficult to discover not only the secrets of her mother’s past but that of a family claiming she is theirs.
Everyone seems to have a story… but who’s telling the truth? And who wants her dead? Is Guy part of the solution? Or part of the problem? To discover the facts, she’ll have to untangle a web of deceit, lies, and secrets, dating back over thirty years.

3 Thumbs-Up

This is the debut novel for this writer, and indicates that she could be off to a promising start, with a little tweaking.

The novel is filled with a list of suspects as long as your arm, in fact for many people the list may be too long to keep track of.  This leads to a story that is surrounded by such a tangled web, it becomes unbelievable.  The characters are slightly more believable; although some of them do push the edge of that envelope in being so bad it would have been nice to have had some back-story to base their actions on.  The main female lead is a little wishy washy, in my opinion, given the hardships she had been through whilst growing up.  I felt that this aspect of the lead character could have been used in a more productive way to infuse her with a good strong willed and decisive personality.  The male lead was charming in the sort of way you would regard your eccentric uncle; he’s fun to be around but after a while he becomes a bit of a bore.  More time spent on character development would, again in my opinion, have added so much more depth to this novel.

The Author describes her books as”suspense, murder, mystery and romance all wrapped up in one…” fortunately there is a lack of romance in this novel, although it is hinted at in areas but, thankfully never developed.  As for the suspense, yes it’s there as is the murder and the mystery, but again so under-developed that, at times I felt I was reading an episode of a Mystery Machine cartoon.  One of the main suspects, after remaining in the dark and unnamed, for quite a few chapters is, for no apparent reason, suddenly revealed.  This really took the expectation of suspense out of the rest of the novel for me, which was so disappointing.  The ending was also a little sloppy; is there going to be another book featuring these 2 characters, or was this the way the closing was meant to be?

From the beginning this novel I had a nagging feeling worming away at the back of brain, that is resembled something else I knew of.  It wasn’t until I was a couple of chapters in that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping struck me.  I think this may have been entirely unintentional as the basis for the plot, at least I hope so.

Would I recommend this novel?  Yes.  If you are looking for a beach read, or something not too engrossing for a long haul flight, this would be the one for you, as long as you don’t open the cover expecting great things.  It’s the kind of novel you can dip in and out of, fall asleep over and not feel that you’ve been unfaithful to it while you weren’t reading it.  There are a few editing issues in the form of typos, extra commas and some grammatical errors, but these don’t get in the way of the story.  For me though, there were parts that I really loved, and others that just didn’t hit the spot.

 

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