Blog Tour Review: Grave Expectations...A Howling Good Read!

 Title:  Grave Expectations
Authors:  Charles Dickens 
                           Sherri Browning Erwin
Format: Paperback Book  (ARC supplied by publisher)
Length:  390 Pages
Publisher:  Gallery Books
Age Range:  Teen-Adult
Rating:  5 Stars

Bristly, sensitive, and meat-hungry Pip is a robust young whelp, an orphan born under a full moon. Between hunting escaped convicts alongside zombified soldiers, trying not to become one of the hunted himself, and hiding his hairy hands from the supernaturally beautiful and haughty Estella, whose devilish moods keep him chomping at the bit, Pip is sure he will die penniless or a convict like the rest of his commonly uncommon kind.

But then a mysterious benefactor sends him to London for the finest werewolf education money can buy. In the company of other furry young gentlemen, Pip tempers his violent transformations and devours the secrets of his dark world. When he discovers that his beloved Estella is a slayer of supernatural creatures, trained by the corpse-like vampire Miss Havisham, Pip's desire for her grows stronger than his midnight hunger for rare fresh beef. But can he risk his hide for a truth that will make Estella his forever - or will she drive one last silver stake through his heart?  -Book cover synopsis

     Readers the world over will thank authoress Sherri Browning Erwin for her lighthearted, furred, and fanged journey into the world of Dickens.  This is not to say that her version is meant to eclipse the original; just to be a more palatable kin that the reader will invite to stay and to whom the three day guest rule will never apply.

Pip as Were
     The evolution of Pip as a were does a lot to give cause to much of his fuss, worry, and hardship in this work.  It makes him part of a much maligned under-class and makes any chance of advancement seem as far away as the moon.
Add to that the contention that his were state seems  to create between he and his shrew of a sister (Mrs.Joe) whom the reader may infer wishes to be wolf herself  and is quite put out by the fact that she must instead suffer the fate of housewife and keeper of the offending 'whelp.'
Lastly, there remains the fact that Pip wants to be all of the things that the stigma of his were status prohibit.  He is in no way content to be relegated to the meager life that has been plotted as his life's course.

Pip's Love
     Estella made Pip "want to be a better wolf."  Through his interactions with Estella and the vampirically eccentric Miss Havisham, Pip is made acutely aware that he "could be accepted into fine company."  It is after his introduction to the lovely Miss E. and her guardian that Pip's angst and discontent at his life begins in earnest.  (Robert your heart out!)

      This version of the the Dickens' classic does a better job in communicating the desperation that Pip feels because of  the misfortune of his birth to a modern audience.  Due to the fact that we now know that it is possible to overcome the confines of station, breeding, and money; there is a certain disconnection between Dickens and 2011 readers.  What was once the height of social commentary on the evils of classism; is now seen as a dry and boring whine fest.
Though expressed in fictionalized terms, the characters in this work are truly locked into their stations by their circumstance and have good and clear reasons for their hatreds, slights, and baser motives.  (Lets face it folks...when you're a vamp, were, or your husband's reanimated corpse of a housemaid, there isn't much to be done in changing that.)
By the same token, it is also the immutable constraint of said circumstance that makes each victory, friendship, and realization of love all the more sweet.

Reviewer's Note
     I would personally like to thank Sherri Browning Erwin for her care and dedication to the preservation of the spirit of the original work.  It is my feeling that she will inspire a new generation to rediscover the joys of classic literature through her efforts.

Enamoured by "Ingenue"

     Title:  Ingenue  (Flapper #2)
Author:  Jillian Larkin
Format:  Audiobook
Length:  9hrs. 29mins.
Publisher:  Listening Library
Age Range: 16-Adult
Rating:  5 stars 

Power . . . love . . . scandal . . .
There’s never enough to go around.

In the city that never sleeps, Lorraine Dyer is wide awake. Ever since she exposed Clara Knowles for the tramp she was—and lost her closest confidante in the process—Lorraine has spent every second scheming to make her selfish, lovesick ex–best friend pay for what she did. No one crosses Lorraine. Not even Gloria.

True love conquers everything—or so Gloria Carmody crazily believed. She and Jerome Johnson can barely scrape together cash for their rent, let alone have a moment to whisper sweet nothings in the dark. And if they thought escaping Chicago meant they’d get away with murder . . . they were dead wrong.

Clara was sure that once handsome, charming Marcus Eastman discovered her shameful secret, he’d drop her like a bad habit. Instead, he swept her off her feet and whisked her away to New York. Being with Marcus is a breath of fresh air—and a chance for Clara to leave her wild flapper ways firmly in the past. Except the dazzling parties and bright lights won’t stop whispering her name. . . .

INGENUE is the second novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic Flappers series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . where revenge is a dish best served cold.  -Random House Inc.

     This second installment of the Flappers series proves that there is a great amount of truth in the old adage: "Time waits for no one."  Though only a few months have passed on the characters' timelines; it becomes very clear within this book's opening pages that quite a lot has changed.
     Bring on the bright lights and an even bigger city...our motley crew has made their way to the Big Apple, and they're all hungry for a bite.
Where "Vixen" was glitz, glamor, and SECRETS..."Ingenue" is down, dirty, and all about the SCANDAL.

The Guys and Their Dolls
That's right folks.  Romance takes center stage this time around and there is nothing that our players won't do for L-O-V-E.

Jerome and Gloria-(EBONY AND IVORY)-Though the fact that they make beautiful music together both on and off stage is quite clear.  There are more than a few people  who would like to hear their swan song.  Can they find a place to be safe and happy?  Did someone say Canada??

Marcus and Clara-(PRINCE CHARMING AND HIS NOT SO DISTRESSED MAIDEN)- In Marcus, we find the man that every girl dreams of.  You know...tall, handsome, rich, and so in love that he is willing to overlook a scandalous affair with an international playboy and...  Clara it seems wants something else; although she is not quite sure what.  Can she have it all?  Will she have to choose?

Lorraine and ???-(LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES)  Apparently you can't teach an old dog new tricks; because this bitch just refuses to learn.  She is still whining about Gloria's refusal of her friendship from the last book and conspiring with whomever she can to further her evil ends.  This is one little rich girl who is not afraid to get her hands dirty; but if she isn't careful she may be taking a 'dirt nap'.

     This book puts all the action right out there on the table.  The stakes are higher, the baddies are badder, and the goodies...well, you'll just have to read up and see.  Once again our youngsters find themselves in some very adult situations, and once again they raise or fall with a captivating flair that only Jillian Larkin could pen.

Reviewer's Note
*I would not recommend this book to early teens/tweens due to adult situations, alcohol use, and smoking.*  

Audiobook Review
     Abby Craden does it again!  Her narration of this book is just a spellbinding as the last.  Her take on the male voices made the book!  No detail was too minute for her and the dedication to perfection shows in her work.

"Vixen" is a Stone Cold Fox!!!

 Title:   Vixen (Flapper Series #1)
Author:  Jillian Larkin
Format:  Audiobook
Length:  12hrs. 5mins.
Publisher:  Listening Library
Age Range:  16-Adult
Rating:  5 stars

Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.  -Goodreads

A novel that appears at first glance to be all satin, bows, love songs, and ciggies; soon gives way to a veritable treasure trove of lies, intrigue, and  SECRETS.  The fun for the reader is in the discovery of who the secret keepers are versus those being kept by their secrets.  Add to this the trappings of wealth, money, power,  Prohibition Era liquor, and nightlife and you've got VIXEN.
     Jillian Larkin ushers her readers right through the doors of some of the most elite families in her 1920's Chicagoland tale.  Her impeccable attention to detail and masterful turns of phrase make the diamond bracelets and frilly frocks seem to fall from the pages.  All the while...drawing the reader further in.

And Now...The Dolls!

Gloria Carmody-(THE ANGEL)-This 'picture of innocence' good girl with a golden spoon will 
capture readers' hearts as she transforms from sheltered pawn in the high-stakes game of names and fortunes to FLAPPER!

Lorriane Dyer-(THE BITCH)-She is the character that readers won't put out if she's ever on fire;and judging from the amount of liquor that she manages to down throughout the course of the story flammability is ALWAYS a possibility.  She is the wheel that never seems to stop squeaking over perceived wrongs and injustices from which she swears to never recover.  All the while plotting to destroy lives and futures with a vehemence that would make Genghis Khan blush.

"You might have the lace and you might have the pearls...but you'll never be a true FLAPPER girl."  - Frishawn Rasheed

Clara Knowles-(THE CHAMELEON)-Looks are definitely deceiving with this 'fresh from the farm'
beauty.  Gloria's cousin has more than a few tricks up her milkmaid's sleeve and she's using them all to keep her FLAPPER past under tight wraps.

     This is a wonderful book that will have the reader begging for more.  Though the characters are in their teens; they tackle very adult issues in very believable and credible ways.  There is also no shortage of romance within this 'rip roaring' read.  (Every flapper worth her salt has to dance with somebody...right?)  The guys holding these girls lighters and the lengths to which  people go for love will make even the most jaded reader swoon.
Reviewer's Note
*This book is not recommended for young teens/tweens due to scenes containing drinking, smoking, and adult situations.*

Audiobook Review

     Abby Craden's cultured lilt gave the audio version of this work an easy believability that made this an enjoyable read. Her male voices were very well done as well and never faltered or lost expression.  I was especially  impressed when she had to perform the voices of African American characters.  Their dialects and vocal nuances were never overdone.  Abby's narration brought this book to life and I hope that she reads the next.

"Michael Vey" Is My Hero

       Title:  Michael Vey:  The Prisoner of Cell 25
Author:  Paul Richard Evans
Format:  EBook
Length:  326 pages
Publisher:  Mercury Ink
Age Range:  9-14
Rating 5 stars
My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.
To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he's unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.  -Goodreads

     "Michael Vey" will engage the reader from it's opening pages until the very end.  The characters are well written, fully developed, and most importantly, they behave and speak in ways that are true to both their chronological and emotional ages. 
     This novel also stands as yet another shining example of  what I like to call an 'inclusive' story line.
'Inclusive' story lines are those ensure that there are no 'main characters'; giving each of a series of very strong personalities his or her time to shine throughout the novel's progression. 
     This is an excellent read for a boy or girl from the ages of about 9-14.  The non-stop action and twists in a not so complex plot are just the right fit for this age group.    This book is the literary answer to the "Heroes" television series, complete with the cheerleader and much better writing.

Paranormal / Fantasy Review: Gotta Love "Graveminder"

Author:  Melissa Marr
Narration:  Emma Galvin
Format:  Audiobook
Length:  10hrs 25mins
Publisher:  Dreamscape Media LLC
Age Range:  Adult
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars

The New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn’t a funeral that Maylene didn’t attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”

Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place—and the man—she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D—a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk.  -Goodreads

     This book takes the phrase "a pawn in the game of life" to a whole new level.  Particularly when the entity playing the game is Death himself.  (AKA Mr. D) 
All Rebekkah did was to come home to bury her grandmother.  She had no intention of falling in love, being the object of family jealousies and hatreds, or becoming the guardian of the dead for an entire town.   SERIOUSLY????
     I started the book thinking love story...bring on the heavy panting.  Then the dysfunction started.
This book had it all.  Family freak outs, commitment  phobias, work related stress, and walking flesh-eating zombies with homicidal tendencies.
My favorite part of the story was the Hades and Persephonesque interaction between Mr D and Bekkah.
I also liked the "just desserts" aspect at the end.
This book is very well written and the plot integrity is very well maintained throughout the story's course.  Though this story is written for adults, there is not the abundance of sex or cursing that  "adult" novels often contain.  Thank you soooo very much for that!
I really look forward to more adult novels from Ms. Marr
     I listened to this book in audiobook format and loved the narration of Emma Galvin.  If at all possible...take a listen.

I Will Not Be Taking "Dragon's Oath"

      Title:  Dragon's Oath (House of Night Novellas #1)
Authors:  P.C. Cast, Kristen Cast
Format:  Book
Length:  145 pages
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Age Range:  Teen/Adult
Rating:  2.5 stars
     The first in an enthralling new mini-series of novellas from the #1 bestselling authors of the House of Night, Dragon’s Oath tells the story behind the House of Night’s formidable fencing instructor – the love that will transform him, and the promise that will haunt him
In early 19th century England, long before he’s a professor at the Tulsa House of Night, Bryan Lankford is a troublesome yet talented human teen who thinks he can get away with anything… until his father, a wealthy nobleman, has finally had enough, and banishes him to America. When Bryan is Marked on the docks and given the choice between the London House of Night and the dragon-prowed ship to America, he chooses the Dragon – and a brand new fate.
Becoming a Fledgling may be exciting, but it opens a door to a dangerous world.... In 1830’s St. Louis, the Gateway to the West, Dragon Lankford becomes a Sword Master, and soon realizes there are both frightening challenges and beautiful perks. Like Anastasia, the captivating young Professor of Spells and Rituals at the Tower Grove House of Night, who really should have nothing to do with a fledgling…
But when a dark power threatens, Dragon is caught in its focus. Though his uncanny fighting skills make him a powerful fledgling, is he strong enough to ward off evil, while protecting Anastasia as well? Will his choices save her—or destroy them all?  -Goodreads 

My Thoughts
  Dragon's Oath is the "How I Met Your Mother" story of the HON series.  By this I mean,  the bare bones formula follows the pattern that you get if you ask any couple how they met.  Love story first with a few background details for flavor and frame of reference.
When evaluating the work within the afore mentioned parameters; I am able to accept the sweet simplicity of Brian and Anastasia's story.
It is not until the element of drama is introduced in the form of Jessie Biddle, and the much eluded to "spirit of some sort of bird" that the story starts to fall apart.
     Jessie is not a strong enough foil for the likes of a vampiric Sword Master and his Mistress of Spells lady.  I feel that the Raven Mocker spirit would have made a far better nemesis if introduced alone.  As it stands, Jessie Biddle is nothing more than a bumbling idiot that should have been left to die in the land of edits.
     The ending also made my hair stand on end, and not in a good way.  After the fiasco of Jessie; the story takes yet another turn where it tries to connect past events to the present going's on at the HON.  (It's at this point that I tear out my hair and run screaming from the room)
Again with the unnecessary plot twists.  The whole "I could have stopped the Raven Mocker plague, if I had just killed that one when I had the chance."
*Ahem...The coming of the Ravens was explained within the mainstream HON novels; and I don't recall any mention of Mr. Biddle and his feathered friend.*

A Note to Authors
     It is my feeling that when writing novellas, authors seem to forget that they are the 'term papers' of the book world.  This means that the story found therein should be concise.  There is no room for the 'fork in the road' plot twists and 'fuzzy dice in the window' aka unnecessary details that one can get away with in the conventional  novel.
     Let's face it folks.  When Cinderella's sisters tried to squeeze their size 11's into her size 6's under glass.  The whole process was painful and the view was NOT PRETTY.
In short...keep the scope of the story small and all will be right with the world.  (At least that part anyway.)