Saturday, January 16, 2021

ANOM: Awakening by Jason R. James (Book Review)

A Blockbuster Movie in Your Head

Book Blurb: Jeremy Cross always thought of his life as being normal, but in the wake of a recent tragedy, he’s discovered that his idea of “normal” couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jeremy is a genetic anomaly—one of only a handful on the planet—with a new ability that no one thought possible.Thrown into a world of clandestine government agencies, international terrorism, and assassins-for-hire, Jeremy’s new idea of “normal” is fighting for his life. His only hope of survival depends on reconciling the person he thought he was with the hero he needs to be.
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With visceral action scenes, tight pacing, and plenty of plot twists, James's debut novel delivers the superhero goods. Even in sections of dialogue or introspection, the book crackles with tension and drives the story forward. And in a universe populated with Marvel, DC, and indie material, James delivers us some fresh superpowers (no spoilers), which is no easy feat.

Sure, the book relies on a few familiar tropes like superpowers discovered in an accident, or a shadowy government organization. But it's a superhero story, right? The reviewers harping on this might as well not read any fantasy that has magic in it.

Plus ANOM: Awakening is more than a good guy/bad guy story, and many of the characters operate in gray areas. Like in the real world, their agendas sometimes overlap and sometimes clash as they jockey for power. Some characters are willing to do terrible things if, in their view, it serves the greater good. This theme is both timely and evergreen. Ultimately, though, the novel rests its moral center on our hero Jeremy Cross, who must summon the confidence and bravery to choose the best apparent path in an uncertain world.

I recommend the book for anyone who likes superheroes, sci fi, fantasy, or thrillers.

The story leaves us with some tantalizing mysteries, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Drafting Stage: Warlock Fantasy Novel

I'm in the process of writing a new fantasy novel featuring a female warlock protagonist. My leading lady is a puppeteer who's lost some fingers in a mysterious incident involving the hollow of an oak tree. This book promises demons, blurred hero-anti-hero lines, and a dash of romance in what I hope to be a funny, whimsical tale of adventure.

I've mapped out beats, though these are sure to change as the characters have a way of pushing their own agendas. I learn about the characters' motives and worldviews through the process of writing, but the beats help move me along (less meandering!)

Friday, July 29, 2016

DNC + Opinions & Fire!

I have a funny relationship with opinions. I'm a pretty opinionated person--and those few who are close to me are never spared from hearing my take on things--but when I saw "few," I'm really saying, like maybe two people. Of course I'm close with family and some friends, but I've developed this habit of keeping my mouth shut and putting others' comfort ahead of my own.

When I was younger, I didn't really have a filter. This no doubt made me seem more impulsive, spontaneous, and possibly more interesting. But just as it rallied people behind me, it made some people dislike me. I was even told that I was annoying! Imagine that. If you know me now, I doubt "annoying" is something that you'd call me. I fancy myself agreeable, pleasant, and mild. I set people at ease if I'm one of many guests; however, I make people uncomfortable if I'm the only guest because there's no smooth volley of conversation. I've become so conditioned to not rock the boat socially, that I've forgotten how to inject myself into a conversation.

My opinions rage inside me. I look forward to being an elderly person because there's this idea that you don't care anymore about how other people perceive you. It's ridiculous, I know. Age shouldn't determine when you're allowed to live life fully.

I just finished watching the Democratic National Convention. It's fascinating to see everyone yap it out on social media. Some people boldly state their positions. Others go on the attack and paint their opinions on others' fb walls. It horrifies me to imagine owning so much of myself that it spills over and threatens to invade someone else's personal space. And then I realize, my personal space has already been taken over, hijacked by people who deem my pleasant, mild demeanor a mere background prop to their stage.

I'll try to navigate how to state my opinions and assert myself, but it's hard. I don't like how it seems permanent, like I'm not allowed to change my mind once the thought is out there. And people can summon so much rage that it seems draining to battle people in the cyber sphere.

Anyway, I'm inspired. Here's to hoping a spark of courage ignites the fire.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pokemon Go ... Go, now! ...Go?

I just downloaded the new Pokemon Go game app on my iPhone. I was surrounded by small children (we had a sleepover at my house), and the shouting and grabbing induced a heightened state of Pokemon scarcity that caused a kid frenzy. I won the shout-and-grab battle, because I'm an adult and it's my phone. I quickly chose a name and created my avatar (the kids were screaming for the blue hair! no, the purple!) and I managed to scramble together a decent enough avatar before the kids' sticky fingers smudged the screen. I activated the camera view and the screaming and screeching reached a crescendo: there was a Pokemon in my bedroom. We rounded the corner, and sure enough a Charmander was sitting on my computer chair. I threw a couple of pokeballs at it--and caught it! Now it was the girls' turn, but as they reached and grabbed, the server became overwhelmed and the app shut down. Cue more kid shouting.

I probably should have let the kids have the first go, but... nah. It was a fun three minutes.

UPDATE: Looking back on this post, I can say that the unveiling of Pokemon Go was oddly of cultural and historical significance. It was short lived, but seeing kids and adults outside searching for Pokemon felt like traveling back in time, when people actually went outside to play and socialize. I hope that kind of energy pulses through the culture again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Prologue, Jeremy Chikalto and Leviathan Island (Book II)

The prologue to my second book can stand alone, so I thought I'd post it to my blog for all to see. Enjoy! :)


Mark Johnson didn’t expect death to feel like a change in temperature. He set his briefcase down on the mahogany desk in his spacious office, took one final swig of his pumpkin-spice double latte, and opened up his executive-sized window. Mark was a senior partner at Johnson, Smith & Jones, L.L.P., and though he pulled in over $500,000 annually, he had pushed away his late wife, Linda. Long days at the office and longer nights at Gilt on Madison Ave. had put too much stress on their marriage. She’d left Mark for a chemistry professor named Arnold. For God's sake, the man didn't know a cufflink from a tie clip, and wore a tie with short sleeves.
The divorce was decreed. Even his kids divorced themselves from his surname, as if the whole corporation had dissolved.
Tonight Mark meant to dissolve too. Both his parents had expired long ago in Floridan opulence, after all, and he had no educations of nieces or nephews to fund, no siblings to rival. His children and ex-wife wouldn’t touch his assets, and he hadn’t a need for them, really. What an emptiness I have accumulated, thought Mark as he climbed up on his window’s ledge.
Mark wanted to think wild thoughts and have some profound connection to his time and place of death. He’d chosen 11pm sharp, but he had no real reason for doing so. He’d chosen his office window and the city sidewalk below for his body’s final breath. Why? He didn’t know. It was sad, he thought, that there was no poetry in his life.
As Mark Johnson leaned into the wind, trying to elongate the cusp of his life, he glimpsed his destination, and was disgusted. How had he missed this detail? Below, a wooden awning stretched out across several storefronts. Large, striped pedestrian crosswalk signs directed foot traffic through the narrow tunnel. His place of death was a construction site. Mark tried to back out of the deal, but had no leverage, and fell. His adrenal gland surged, and he was horribly excited. The Earth rushing towards him was magnificent, and nothing had ever felt as real as the air he now penetrated. Tenth floor, ninth floor, eighth floor, he was almost one with the ground. Fourth floor, third floor, second floor, and he merged with the plywood of the construction site, shards of wood impaling him as he liquefied on impact.
Mark felt a temperature change. He knew from the ski trips he used to take with his family that a frigid January sometimes felt like a sweltering July. It was all very confusing, especially the fact that Mark was still thinking. He opened his eyes.
Mark had entered the Haze. A buzzing bright white light was soon replaced with humming purple rays. Mark looked down at his blob of a body from an impossible angle, and shrieked when he realized that his head wasn’t attached. It bobbed up and down in space. He floated aimlessly for a time, watching the shadows and lights shift in the distance, and then a strange suction pulled him along. There was a glowing thread emanating from his solar plexus, and a cat-like creature was tugging on it. His head, though severed from his body, followed the cat as though it were bonded to his flesh. Mark cried out and jiggled his arm, which was still attached to his body. The cat turned around, meowed, and pointed a paw above her.
Mark looked up and felt some part of his being rise and separate from the bulk of his consciousness. The part that had risen felt light and whimsical, like the first flurries of the season. He remembered holding his newborn boys, crying and laughing at once. The bottom part, though, was dark and heavy, slush trampled by too many shoes. He was in a back room, screwing an escort, stomach acid and rum sloshing up in his mouth. The cat was pulling him down, down. And then there was an explosion of noise—the hiss of a cat, the shriek of a wild boar, and then a two-toned voice, saying, “Jeremy Chikalto! Apollyon’s animus!”
Mark Johnson swiveled his mushy head and saw the cat hissing and backing away, whipping its gray and white tail. The nearby shadows began to morph, and a large black shape loomed towards him, polluting the Haze above it with swirls of oil. Mark remembered all the times he had been afraid, and the memories coalesced into a feeling of the deepest dread. His glowing cord was drawn into the creature's terrible gravity, and Mark was being reeled in. Mark howled as he entered the demon’s mouth, and was incinerated in its throat. Everything was charred black. This time, there was no mistaking the temperature.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Labyrinth Wall, by Emilyann Girdner (Book Review)

Genre: Dystopian Fantasy Adventure, Young Adult / New Adult
Rating: 4.5 / 5

The Labyrinth Wall, by Emilyann Girdner, is a fast-paced dystopian fantasy. Girdner's first novel of the Obsidian series took off running and the action never stopped. Araina—a strong, independent young woman—is keeping to her loner routine within the dangerous walls of the labyrinth, when suddenly her sense of place and purpose is forever changed after witnessing a mysterious man emerge from one of the labyrinth's walls.

The labyrinth is a dangerous, fantastical place full of unique creatures and gruesome death. Its inhabitants are all starved and must compete for resources. While I easily adapted to the setting, the rapid introduction of new characters disoriented me early on in my reading. I never did get a strong sense of Simul, the main villain. There was also some confusion about the age of the male characters, namely Darith and Korun. However, once I recognized that the characters were all roughly the same age, I was impressed with how Girdner managed to juggle such a large cast of characters, all the while keeping each voice unique. Araina and Blue's relationship was especially sweet and refreshing.

I also liked how there are so many romantic coupling possibilities for Araina—will she eventually find love with Darith, Korun, Soll, or will she be perfectly content with platonic relationships with all of her new companions—something altogether new and rewarding for her.

I look forward to the second installment in the Obsidian series and am eager to see Araina grow and flourish in her expanding worldview.

Also, I heart labyrinths and mazes.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jeremy Chikalto and the Demon Trace Cover Reveal!

I am thrilled to present to you the Jeremy Chikalto and the Demon Trace front and back covers! This is the third and final book in The Hazy Souls series.

Jeremy Chikalto and the Demon Trace front cover, young adult paranormal fantasy

Jeremy Chikalto and the Demon Trace back cover, young adult paranormal fantasy