Quick Movie Review – The Book of Eli

Watched The Book of Eli last night. This will be a quick post because I have about10 minutes before I go to work, so no images.

I loved it. It was wonderful storytelling. It was just the way Christian fiction ought to be–get the message across without any heavy-handedness. Denzel Washington was terrific, as usual, and who ever knew that the girl who played Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis) on That 70’s Show could act so well? Gary Oldman was hardly recognizable as the villain, but he was chilling.

The Book of Eli is about a man named Eli (Washington) who feels driven to carry a book across the post-apocalyptic country. He will do anything to protect the book, including standing aside and not getting involved when a gang of thugs kills a man and rapes his wife. He ends up in a town controlled by a man named Carnegie (Oldman), who is seeking the one book that will give him the words with which he can rule the masses.

Two men want the same book–one to rule the world and the other to save it.

As I said, the storytelling was fantastic. It brings most elements that were introduced in the opening scenes full circle, just as a story ought to do. I loved the iPod. It was totally unexpected in that setting. And I keep wondering how a novelist would have portrayed the book so the surprise at the end would remain intact. In the movie, they were able to show everything up front, trusting the reader to see what they expected to see. In a novel, the novelist would have had to withhold information. It bears thinking about.

I love post-apocalyptic fiction when it is done right, and this was so done right. I highly recommend it.

The Book of Eli – IMDB

Debuts & Reviews Fan Page

Thanks to everyone who voted to like Debuts & Reviews at Facebook. It looks like I’ll be able to do some pretty cool stuff over there, like invite you to upcoming events and host author chats. It will be a nice supplement to this blog for Facebook users. I put a Like Box over there on the sidebar, or you can visit the page at:

http://www.facebook.com/DebutsAndReviews

Hope to see ya there!

Interview – Liz Fichera, Author of Captive Spirit – Plus Giveaway!

Liz Fichera is an author living in the American Southwest by way of Chicago.  She likes to write stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things, oftentimes against the backdrop of Native American legends.  When she’s not plotting her next novel, you can find her hanging out on Facebook and Twitter, dishing about writing, books, LOST reruns, and the best brands of chocolate.  Please visit her web site at http://www.lizfichera.com/.

Liz’s novel appealed to me because I used to live in Arizona and I’ve visited many of the same places she has, many times. Reading her novel will be like visiting my former home!

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Your main characters are Hohokam Indians.  Please tell us about the Hohokam and how they inspired your historical romance debut, CAPTIVE SPIRIT.

Well, first of all, CAPTIVE SPIRIT is set at the dawn of the sixteenth century in what we now know as Arizona in the American Southwest.  The Hohokam Indians are considered the original inhabitants of the Sonoran Desert, particularly to Phoenix, Arizona.  They arrived around 300 BC from ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures and existed peacefully as farmers and master canal builders until around 1500 AD when their population vanished for reasons unknown.  And that’s the little-known piece of history that inspired me to write CAPTIVE SPIRIT and include it as a storyline in my novel.  Why would the Hohokam vanish? There are lots of theories—fire, famine, drought, migration, war—but no one knows for sure.

Please give us a teaser about CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  What’s it about?

Here’s the back cover summary:

Sonoran Desert. Dawn of the sixteenth century.

Aiyana isn’t like the other girls of the White Ant Clan. Instead of keeping house, she longs to compete on the Ball Court with her best friend Honovi and the other boys. Instead of marriage, she daydreams of traveling beyond the mountains that surround her small village. Only Honovi knows and shares her forbidden wish, though Aiyana doesn’t realize her friend has a secret wish of his own…

When Aiyana’s father arranges her marriage to a man she hardly knows, she takes the advice of a tribal elder: Run! In fleeing, she falls into the hands of Spanish raiders and finds herself being taken over the mountains against her will. Now Aiyana’s on a quest to return to the very place she once dreamed of escaping. And she’ll do whatever it takes to survive and find her way back to the people she loves.

The book trailer for CAPTIVE SPIRIT will also give you a good sense of the setting, along with some additional cool photos of Hohokam petroglyphs and the Sonoran Desert where the story takes place.  Plus, I think the music that accompanies it is pretty awesome.  J  Many of the shots in the book trailer were taken near my home.

Tell us about the names of your characters in CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  How did you come up with them?

All of the characters in the book are Native American with the exception of three.  Naturally, I chose Native American names for the others and I chose them based on their meanings.  Aiyana, the heroine in the story, her name means “Eternal Blossom.”  Honovi, Aiyana’s love interest, his name means “Strong Deer.”  Then there’s Eyota, Chenoa, Sinopa, and Manaba and many others.  Each name means something special.  J  I got lucky with Aiyana, though.  Not only do I think the name is lovely but its meaning is just as lovely.  Perfect for a heroine.  She definitely grew into her name.

Do you have any favorite parts of CAPTIVE SPIRIT that we can look for as we read?

If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say that I love the part when Aiyana, Honovi, and Diego meet up with the Apache.  Writing the chapters with the Apache was a blast.  There was so much tension and build-up in those scenes.  My fingers practically exploded getting the words onto the page.  And it took place in an entirely new setting, much different than the Sonoran Desert that Aiyana was used to.

How about any parts that were difficult to write?

CAPTIVE SPIRIT was just one of those stories that flew into my laptop from my fingertips.  It was like I could see the story in my head and I couldn’t get it on the page fast enough.  I love it when that happens! I could immediately “see” my characters too, their personalities, conflicts, idiosyncrasies.  So, the first draft was relatively easy.  All of the editing and fine-tuning that followed was a little more tedious and difficult but that’s par for the course.

Did you try to sell any other novels before CAPTIVE SPIRIT?

At the time I wrote CAPTIVE SPIRIT, my agent was trying to sell a young adult novel that I had written and loved dearly.  And that young adult novel was getting kicked in the teeth and rejected by editors all over the place, unfortunately.  I tend to write stories that are out of the norm—my young adult novel did not include the currently very popular vampires, werewolves, zombies, and fae.  While I love a good vampire story as much as the next person, that’s not what my heart desires to write.

How difficult was CAPTIVE SPIRIT to sell?

Carina Press was the only publisher that I queried about CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  I queried Angela James last January when I saw a tweet where she said they were “hungry for historicals.”  I figured it was a sign.  By March, she called to tell me Carina Press was interested in buying my novel.  I got lucky.  Selling CAPTIVE SPIRIT was pretty easy.  And working with Carina Press has been a dream.

Why Carina Press? Why digital books?

Well, for starters, I love how Carina Press is not afraid to shake up the traditional publishing model.  Their motto intrigued me from the start: “Where no great story goes untold.”  They seemed less about trends and more about publishing stories and good writing.  Plus I think that it’s only a matter of time before more and more people begin reading books on e-readers.  I don’t think that hardcovers and paperbacks are going to disappear overnight but I do think demand for them will decrease while people will opt for the convenience and cost of e-books, especially as the cost of e-readers continues to plummet.  It’s already happening.

Which e-reader do you own?

I went for the Nook.  And I love it.  At first, I didn’t think I’d warm up to an e-reader.  But I said the same thing about email years ago too! Things change.

Final question: Tell us about yourself.

I live in Phoenix, Arizona, although I was born and raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.  I never in a million years thought I’d wind up living in the desert but here I am.  And I love it.  I write full-time, although I teach the occasional writing class at a local college near my home.  When I’m not writing, I like to travel (money and time permitting), visit museums, support local theatre, and I’m one of those freakazoids who actually likes to run and hike in the desert.  But it balances out my chocolate habit.

Giveaway!

Liz is here to answer your questions, and she’ll give a copy of CAPTIVE SPIRIT to a random commenter.

Social Networking and Stuff This Week

I’ve ramped up my social networking efforts and I now have a Facebook Page for Debuts & Reviews:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debuts-Reviews/341103522744

See that ugly number at the end? That can go away once I have 25 people connected to my page. So I’d be thrilled if I can get 25 people and have a nice, neat Facebook page address. So please just go ahead and click it, and then click that Like button. This window will even stay open, for your convenience. 😉

Of course it will be too late to put the address on my brand-new business cards, but that’s ok. Yes, I now have Debuts & Reviews business cards. Why did I get business cards? Because I kept getting into situations where I wished I had them. Now, whenever I mention my blog, I can reach into my purse and whip out a nice, crisp, glossy, two-sided business card to make an added impression. Because see that Feedburner number up there to the right? that’s been stuck at 350 for entirely too long. Time to move it up a notch.

To that end, I’m lining up more interviews. I have one for you tomorrow–with a giveaway–and I’m working on researching an author for another. Plus I have a review of an awesome novel that I read last month. Had to sit on the review for a while–hate it when I do that to myself!

Oh! Before I forget–I know everyone uses VistaPrint and I’m sure they’re awesome, but I used Next Day Flyers, and they’re awesome too. My deluxe business cards were only 34 dollars for 500 cards–dual-sided, glossy-on-both-sides cards. I recommend them!

Please be sure to check back tomorrow for that interview and giveaway. It will be posted bright and early!

Debut Novels from Carina Press

Here are some debut authors who have novels that became available through Carina Press in the past few weeks. From this point on, Carina debuts of the genres that I usually cover will appear in my regular debut showcases.

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On her Trail

by Marcelle Dube
Carina Press

Romantic Suspense – 3.19 (with discount)

After five years of covering seedy Eastern European politics, Laura Thorsen returns to Canada only to run afoul of the mob. When they try to kill her over an explosive exposé, she flees to her secluded childhood home in the Yukon. Little does she know that her estranged mother is also being haunted—by the ghosts of her dead husband and a former lover who disappeared thirty-four years ago.

Their nearest neighbor, Mack Hawkins, is drawn into the action when mobsters track Laura down. Despite her protests, he insists on his own brand of personal protection, and desire soon sparks between them. But in this race for time, will Laura be able to evade those who want her dead and mend her relationship with her mother before it’s too late?

This is one of those experimental locations that Carina Press is rapidly becoming known for. This is the Yukon we’re talking about. As in the far, far northern reaches of Canada. Land of auroras. And snow. And ice. And in this novel, the mob. I can see a lot of fun with this. I mean, how many members of the mob are prepared for a place like the Yukon?


Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator

by Janni Nell
Carina Press

Paranormal Mystery – $3.99 (with discount)

Allegra Fairweather here. Paranormal investigator. Got problems with specters? Shapeshifters? I’m the woman to call. Just don’t call me a Ghostbuster. The last guy who did that ended up flat on his back with my boot at his throat.

With my 99.5% success rate, solving the mystery of a bleeding rose that has sprung up on the shores of Loch Furness should have been an easy gig. But already I’ve heard the shriek of the local banshee, discovered two bodies (and then lost two bodies), and had a near-death encounter with a three-hundred-year-old ghost. And perhaps most dangerous of all, the hot pub owner who hired me now wants to show me exactly what’s under his kilt.

Luckily, I’m ably assisted by my very own guardian angel. I’m grateful for his help—but he’s also drop-dead gorgeous. A bit distracting when I’ve got a mystery to solve, and the clock is ticking…

I bought this one just the other day. It looks fun, although I hope she goes for the Scot and not the angel. We’ll have to see how it works out. So far, I don’t have an ebook reader–just my iPod touch and Adobe Digital Editions. Which means I probably won’t be reading these very quickly until I do get that reader. I’m leaning toward the cheap Nook that just came out.


Liberty Starr

Rebecca Grant
Carina Press

Contemporary Romance – $3.99 (with discount)

Rafe had never met a truly irresistible woman, until he met Liberty.

Libby has the kind of beauty that comes on slow—strikes a guy the longer he looks. And Rafe sure is having a fine time looking, and touching, and loving Liberty Starr.

The only problem is that Rafe is pretending to be just another cowboy down on his luck. Working for the FBI, he’s come to Stone Hill, Colorado, to investigate the man Libby loves like a father.

He was just another cowboy.

Free-spirited Libby offers him a job and a place to stay. Together they spark like wildfire, their intense passion filling their days and nights. But Rafe is only in town for the summer, and while Liberty is willing to risk her heart, secrets threaten any possibility of a future together…

Woah, look at that cover! This is way racier than the novels I usually showcase, but I promise that this is as racy as it will get. I don’t want to blow out your monitors, after all.


The Price of Freedom

by Jenny Schwartz
Carina Press

Paranormal Romance – $2.39 (with discount)

Duty will bring them together—and tear them apart!

As a guardian angel, Mischa must protect the one man who may be able to bring about lasting peace to the Middle East. As a djinni, Rafe must fulfill the wishes of a terrorist leader. Their duties colliding, Mischa and Rafe become foes, but the heat between them is undeniable.

When the terrorist learns that a guardian angel stands between him and his greatest wish, he orders his djinni to remove her. Taking creative license, Rafe spirits her away to his private oasis, where she will be unable to protect the peacemaker.

Beyond their mutual desire, they find common ground in honor and loneliness. Passion quickly grows into love. But it’s soon clear to Rafe that love cannot be bound, and Mischa must be true to her life’s purpose. Even if Rafe must sacrifice his own taste of freedom to grant hers…

Oh, and you should know that the shorter these books are, the lower the price. This is a novella, fewer than 25, 000 words. Which means you could read it in about an evening.  I won this one in a contest. So far, it’s way steamier than I usually read, but I was pulled in by premise and the great conflict that is evident in the blurb.

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So how have I decided to handle reviews of Carina Press novels? Well for one, if I’m interested, I’ll buy them. If I read them and enjoy them, I’ll give them a regular review, with a disclaimer that I’m having a hard time being impartial. If I don’t enjoy any particular novel, I most likely will simply not mention it beyond the showcase.

I’m open to suggestions.

13 to Life – A Werewolf's Tale Blog Tour

Start Your Day with Serial! That’s the name of the awesome Shannon Delany’s book blog tour for her novel, 13 to Life: A Werewolf’s Tale,  and today is her turn to stop here! Shannon’s debut novel (and first in her YA paranormal series) 13 to Life started as a winning cell phone novel written in serial segments. During the tour you can read bits of the book in order. Miss a day? Hop to Shannon’s blog http://13toLife.us/blog and check the link to the blog tour calendar in her sidebar.

As an aside, Shannon has been a model of pre-launch publicity. Any author who is having a book come out soon would be wise to take note!

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A quick introduction to me. I’m Shannon Delany (http://ShannonDelany.com) and a debut author this summer. When I’m not writing or reading or spending time with family I’m dealing with a small farm where we raise heritage livestock. I’ve been a writer in some capacity for most of my life–mainly playing at creation by building worlds and characters to populate them and amuse me.
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I write first for myself. I need to love what I’ve written because, dear aspiring authors, if we don’t love what we’ve created there’s very little chance we’ll push it forward and risk finding out if anyone else loves it, too.
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My very first novel (and the first in a YA paranormal series being published by St. Martin’s Press) is called 13 TO LIFE (http://13toLife.us/ordernow). Nope, it’s not about a jail term or life sentence–at least not in an absolutely literal sense. And yes, it does include werewolves and Shakespearean references. There is humor, romance, conflict a-plenty, a twist and teenage (and lifelong) issues.
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And the way it all started was mainly by accident. I am a Cyber Cinderella. To make a long story short… There was a contest. One of my CPs warned me not to do it. But I come from stubborn stock and had already given my opinion on the contest’s winner’s contract. It had been changed because of my complaints. So, I decided to throw something out in public and see what happened. My husband warned me not to enter anything I was too attached to. So I didn’t. I made 13 to Life up as I went along. About halfway through the Textnovel 2008 (http://www.Textnovel.com) contest I had become attached to the story. So I pushed myself. And I won. My winnings included an agent just starting out and some much-needed cash.
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Everything fell into place quickly. We were contacted by interested parties even before queries were sent out. Yes, it still blows my mind. I made a choice and haven’t looked back.
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Was I lucky? Yes. 13 to Life was definitely a right-place-right-time deal. And my skill as a writer was as ready as it could be to accept the challenge I was presented with.
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I’ve spoken to groups about serendipity and goal-setting (as well as other things) and I firmly believe there’s a certain amount of luck (and definitely timing) involved in getting a story published. You may be a tremendously talented writer (many, many exist) but if your book doesn’t hit the right person at the right time, it won’t be picked up. So my advice to the writers following the Serial Tour? Focus on your craft. Keep putting your heart out there. Step out in faith and take some chances. There is no one right path to getting published. So write first for yourself and do what’s right for you.
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and the snippet . . .

13 to Life: Chapter 4, part E (used with the author’s permission)

“Today, students,” he began, “we will be examining a mystery of World War II. Wait! Before the groans start, let’s remember that World War II defined the roles many countries still play today. Although it was a relatively recent war — I know, I know, it was forever and a day ago to you whippersnappers,” he stooped, squinted and comically wheezed out the term before continuing with a wink, “There are portions of it that we historians still eagerly research. Because history is not dead!” He glanced at the room full of students and said, “Now that I’ve delivered our public service announcement, you may all groan.”

Contest!

Shannon’s hosting several contests during the Start Your Day with Serial Tour. The big contest will award one lucky winner with a royal amber pendant, pietersite jeweled bookmark, stuffed wolf, 13 to Life mousepad, pen, tote, signed poster, personalized copy of 13 to Life and both of the 13 to Life pins. All you need to do is comment at 13 of the blogs hosting Shannon during her 30 day tour. Everyone who does so will be entered into a random drawing. Winner may be international.
Remember you can find Shannon’s blog at http://13toLife.us/blog — just check the link to the blog tour calendar in her sidebar.
Shannon said she’d stop by to answer comments, so if you have any questions for her, leave them here.

Cover for The Sevenfold Spell!

Excuse me for writing another authorial post, but I have my cover for The Sevenfold Spell! And since it’s final, I can post it. Behold!


Let’s scrutinize it, shall we?

First, the spinning wheel. When I filled out my cover art fact sheet, I noted that the spinning wheel is the most important visual element. Talia and her mother do their spinning in the cellar, because spinning wheels are outlawed and they must spin in secret. The artist came up with the cobwebs on her own, but I think it a nice touch.

The spindle is another key element, so the artist included it as well. I love the magic effects coming off the spindle–because it is enchanted–and the fact that they are very subtle and not overly sparkly.

The girl. I expected some skin because there is a romance element, but I was unsure how much there would be. I am very happy that there is not an abundance of skin and cleavage. Romance covers have a code–the more skin, the more sex within. This cover is a good indication of the sex. It’s there, but it doesn’t dominate.

The book. I’m thinking the artist probably included it because this is a fairy tale retelling. My publicist mentioned that she thought this could be a continuity element for future titles. I love the book.

The mood. I specified a dark and melancholy mood, which is exactly what I got!

Other elements are the sun and the  very faint moon behind the girl’s hand. My Talia isn’t pretty, so I’m glad the girl has her head kind of bowed, even if what we can see of her face is quite lovely.

It wasn’t what I expected, but my first reaction when I saw it was that it was beautiful. What do you think?

We Interrupt This Blog for Author Stuff

I’ve been musing over how much this blog should cross over the line from review blog to author blog. Things have been proceeding apace with Carina Press, and I’m just bursting with stuff to say, but my efforts to get a newsletter installed on this blog has met with failure. So I’ll just write stuff here, for now.

Edits Received and Returned, and Received and Returned Again. And Again

I’ve been working hard on revisions. They’ve taken up almost all my spare time, but I learned a great deal from them. One lesson was that I needed to stop using the manuscript formatting guidelines that I used in the 90s. Double-spacing is still good, but Alissa Davis, my editor, had laboriously replaced all my straight quotes and straight apostrophes with smartquotes. She also replaced my # scene breaks with ***, and replaced my broken dashes (–) with formatted dashes. Ugh. I felt ancient.

I learned that I am overly fond of several phrases. I had a lot of people staring at each other during pauses in dialog. When they’re not staring, they’re gaping. I don’t know why this was invisible to me before, but the editorial pen made it obvious. Other problems?. Modern turns of phrases were excised, as were overly archaic phrases. Motivations were questioned. Awkward sentences weak flagged. And weak character development was exposed.

I also got to write my acknowledgments! All edits are now complete.

More Fairytale Retellings in the Works

I’ve never been one to wait around for things to happen to me. I always say, if I do this, what’s the worst that can happen? And usually, I can’t think of anything bad at all, except being told no. I can’t help it; I’m an optimist. So I went ahead and emailed the editor of Carina Press, Angela James, and asked what she thought of some other ideas I have for fairy tale retellings.

Good things come from being bold. She wrote back, saying that they were hoping I would want to write more “reimagined fairy tales”, so I’m writing away!

One story is about Snow White, and the other is about Cinderella. Wish me luck with them!

Contract Received and Returned

For some reason, this all didn’t seem real to me until I received the Harlequin contract. It was much more interesting than I expected. It was also tremendously detailed, but easy to understand, for the most part. I had to ask about a few things, and I went to an author mentor for advice.

I also did some research on the Internet about the contract and came across this lengthy article about foreign rights:

Do you Know your Foreign Rights? By Deanna Carlyle

It has some very good things to say about the way Harlequin handles foreign rights, specifically:

When does it make sense to keep your foreign rights, rather than grant them to your publisher? “Agents almost always want to keep foreign rights (with some exceptions – see below),” [agent Kristen] Nelson says. “In most cases there is more money to be made in separate sales than giving the publisher those rights. For example, recently one of my clients received over 20k in extra advances from the separate foreign sales on top of a very handsome U.S. advance.

“The exceptions: 1) If a book is a particularly American topic, foreign rights are not such a big deal since very few foreign publishers will be interested in buying the book. 2) For brand new romance writers, sometimes it is better to sell world rights to the publisher because big romance houses (such as Harlequin) have terrific overseas counterparts who can release the book there and start building an overseas readership…”

Okaaay, so I haven’t been thinking a lot about an overseas readership; I’ve mainly been focused on making that first sale. I read on. This is further down:

“Harlequin holds all foreign rights to their series books,” says Kristin Hardy, who writes for Harlequin’s Blaze line (The Sex and Supper Club, Blaze, 08/04). “As far as I’m concerned, that’s just dandy. They have an extremely effective foreign sales program. My Blaze books have so far been published in Swedish, Danish, Polish, Czech, Italian, French, and Spanish, as well as in special English-language editions for the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The reach is amazing, especially for a new author, and the royalties add up.”

So who knows what might happen? Carina Press isn’t a Harlequin series romance, but it is part of Harlequin and Harlequin isn’t exactly in the habit of thinking small. So I’m optimistic. There’s lot more to this article, so if you’re seriously marketing a first romance novel, then read the rest of it; it’s really worth your time.

Joined Romance Writers of America

I write in a wide variety of genres, romance one of them, although the stories I usually write–The Sevenfold Spell included–are usually of some other genre with strong romantic elements. Therefore, I’ve decided to expand my network by joining Romance Writers of America. My first meeting with my local chapter was in June, and Sandra McDonald gave an excellent speech on Middles.

Cover Received!

And most exciting of all! I have my cover! With my name on it! It’s lovely! I don’t know if I can post it yet, so I’ve asked. I was thrilled with how much of my opinion they wanted–I was under the impression that authors generally aren’t consulted on covers. But they used a lot of elements that I suggested, plus they came up with a great continuity element that could be used with any future fairy tale retellings.

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As you can imagine, this has been a very exciting time for me, all the more so because it was twenty-three years in the making, with my writing put on hold more times than I’d care to count. (And if I hadn’t sold any fiction by my next birthday, it was going to go on hold once again.) I’m thrilled and grateful to meet this milestone at last. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Urban Fantasy Review – Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep


Web of Lies

by Jennifer Estep
Pocket Books
MM Paperback – $7.99

Before writing this review, I went back and read my review of Spider’s Bite, which I wrote in January. It was decidedly lukewarm.

This review will not be lukewarm. I thoroughly enjoyed Web of Lies. I have been reading Ms. Estep’s books from the beginning, and with this novel, her writing has achieved a higher level of polish, altogether.

Reformed assassin Gin Blanco is trying very hard to be just another restaurant owner in a neighborhood that is in the gray area between the good side of town and the bad. However, when two punks try to hold up her place, she kicks their asses. And by doing that, she attracts all kinds of unwanted attention.

In the midst of this, one Violet Fox comes around looking for Gin’s mentor, Fletcher. Violet gets Gin instead, who becomes very curious about what Violet wanted . . . especially when an assassin tries to take Violet out in Gin’s restaurant. Good thing Gin has bulletproof glass windows. Gin starts digging around into Violet’s background, and just gets more and more involved.

Every area that I had troubles with in Spider’s Bite is resolved in Web of Lies. Everything is meticulously researched–even the innards of a coal mine. No more are tricky escapes glossed over, and no more are motivations flimsy. Every time I thought I had a ding for this novel, Ms. Estep covered for it. One thing I was going to complain about is that Gin can only ever think of one solution to a person who is causing a problem — that person must die. Well, I can’t complain about that because Ms. Estep tackles it head-on. Another ding I thought I had was that Donovan Caine, the honest cop who somehow can’t resist Gin, is a bit too easily led by Gin away from his principals. Well, Ms. Estep addresses this as well! I have nothing left to complain about.

And the side characters are wonderfully explored in this novel. I especially love Sophia, who can say with one “Humph?” what takes other characters entire paragraphs to say. She’s the silent but deadly type. Jo-Jo, her Air Elemental sister, is great fun, too, in a big-sisterly kind of way. Finn makes a great sidekick. There is a new possible romantic interest, and he is quite intriguing. Do we have a love triangle coming on?

And then there’s Gin, herself. She’s a dark character, sure, but she’s so easy to like. She keeps her feelings bottled deep inside, but the reader is able to experience them all. We are high and tight behind Gin’s eyeballs. And best of all, she kicks ass, but she doesn’t mouth off. She is way to deadly to be snarky. And the growth of her character is just phenomenal. I ended up rooting for her all the way.

I don’t usually comment on covers, but I just love the cover on this novel. Ignored the washed-out blotchiness of the cover pictured here; this looks like a bad scan but I can’t find another image. In any case, this cover is so much better than the cover of Spider’s Bite and the mood is perfect. You can see the long mine shaft, and at the very top left corner, almost where you wouldn’t notice it, is Gin’s branded palm.

Ms. Estep is getting a lot of great reviews with Web of Lies, and I’m happy to join the chorus. It yanked me into the story and didn’t let go until the last page. What’s more, there were enough teasers about the next book that I’m really looking forward to it.