The Byronic Hero: My Kind of Character

Scene from The Count of Monte Cristo.

Scene from The Count of Monte Cristo.

Currently, I am in the throes of reading Alexander Dumas ‘ masterpiece The Count of Monte Cristo.  Normally, I make a point to read as many books as possible despite my sluggish reading pace.  But this novel has been different.  It’s taken me weeks to get through these 1000+ pages because, 50 pages into this story I started slowing down, savoring each and every sentence.  I haven’t been so spellbound to a story since I finished Wuthering Heights last winter, and I think I know why.

People who read a lot might find they can identify with this concept; the idea that we readers have character types we are attracted to, characters who enchant, delight, and mesmerize us more than the others in a particular novel.   For me, I subconsciously categorize  books in this way — based on character types.  I’ve noticed a trend in some of my favorite works of English literature:  the brooding, Byronic, sometimes satanical hero.

Typically this protagonist was one that emerged in 19th-century romantic literature and has roots in the poetry of Lord Byron.  The Byronic hero has transcended time and emerged in modern literature as well, though is depicted more as an anti-hero in these more recent works ( an example of this might be the Phantom from Phantom of  the Opera).  But in 19th-century romantic literature, the Byronic protagonist was the hero, not the anti-hero.  The archetype was usually male and embodied these character traits:

  • arrogant
  • cunning
  • cynical
  • intelligent
  • perceptive
  • domineering
  • tormented by their past
  • vengeful
  • mysterious
  • charismatic
  • emotionally conflicted

The British historian and essayist Lord Macaulay summarized the Byronic hero perfectly:

“… man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection”.  — Critical & Historical Essays Volume 2 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester in a recent film depiction of Jane Eyre.

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester in a recent film depiction of Jane Eyre.

I am drawn to the Byronic hero because of these multifarious character description.  For those who have read the Count of Monte Cristo, the Byronic hero is in the title.   The more I read, the more I come to realize how he is a character of infinite dimensions.  Just when he shows a friend the ultimate hospitality and generosity, he secretly reveals a vengeful, convoluted plan that will eventually disgrace and ruin them.  Just when his mannerisms seem too gentle to hurt a fly, he declares he will duel one of his compatriots to the death.  Just when I believe he is too intelligent to possess any weaknesses, he succumbs to a woman’s maternal pleas.   He is both terrible and terrific at once, and he is what makes this story so compelling and formidable.

The Count of Monte Cristo isn’t the only example of a Byronic hero I’ve come across.  Wuthering Heights, another favorite novel of mine, has its own Byronic hero — Heathcliff.   Cruel to his subordinates and obstinate to most other characters, he loved Catherine enough to let her marry another, while he let himself deteriorate with the agony of not being by her side.  From Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester is another perfect example of the Byronic hero.   Though in love with Jane, he is too tormented by his past sins and dishonesty to be with her.  Only after the fire at his estate are his sins eradicated and he is able to atone for them to be happy.

Not everyone might be attracted to the intense personality of the Byronic hero.   Though it’s the character I remember the most, the one I carry away with me when the story is over.  Perhaps the Byronic hero is a reason why I believe there’s nothing more absorbing or worthwhile than writing.

 

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

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I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. He spoke this last word so loudly and suddenly that everyone sat up who still could. I regret to announce that — though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you — this is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

My preparations to leave the country have prompted me to think about departures in general.  Saying goodbye, whether it be to life or loved ones or friends, is a crucial moment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Heck, even to material items.  As part of my preparations I sold my car today, my beloved 1995 Honda Civic.  I didn’t realize how attached I was to that hunk of scrap metal until it was driving away without me.   For a moment, I was resentful of the fact I had to sell it; I didn’t want to make the sacrifice.  I was consumed by that emotional, angry brooding people experience when life seems ‘unfair.’

Sacrifice at times is a necessary evil.  Human beings don’t like giving up the people or physical items which make us comfortable.  Perhaps the best example of this is when an elderly man or woman loses their spouse, their partner in everything, the person who has been at their side for years and who made life seem possible to endure.  Death is the most harrowing goodbye humans have to deal with, whether if it is a parent, spouse, child, or friend.  We don’t want to deal with it and sometimes we avoid it, a decision that can lead to regret and remorse later on.

Before I get too dismal, the purpose of this post was to discuss how goodbyes can be carried out in such a way that doesn’t make parting so distressing.  Goodbyes can be tactful, eloquent, and even memorable.  A great example to follow (in our everyday lives and for us writers) is in literature.   Here are some of my favorite closing lines from authors who knew how to said ‘adieu’ in ways that were maudlin  without being cheesy, and definitive to the point of lacking any precariousness.

Best Literary Endings

“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.” — Arthur C. Clark, 2001: A Space Odyssey

“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”  –Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the benign indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.  –Albert Camus, The Stranger

“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky- seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.  – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.”  – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

If I don’t want to post to go on forever, I’m going to stop here.  If you have a favorite literary farewell, I’d love to hear it.

How Does One Find Time to Read & Write?

My natural habitat -- I've missed this!

My natural habitat — I’ve missed this!

I’ll admit it; I’ve been slacking.  My last blog post was published two weeks ago today.  When I started this blog a few months ago, I vowed to write weekly and never break that pattern.  That is, unless some dire emergency transpired — which it hasn’t.  So what’s my problem?

As lame as I feel admitting it, life has gotten in the way of my blogging.  Which still isn’t an excuse at all; I expect more of myself.  I do not work full-time, nor do I have children or any other major responsibilities.  But a lot has been happening in the past two weeks.  My sister’s senior prom, awards ceremony, graduation, other graduation parties, bridal showers, etc.  And to my credit, on top of my two part-time virtual jobs I’m now an on-call nanny which has been taking up  a significant amount of my time.  I will also shamefully admit that last Sunday I was glued to the television set for the final round of the U.S. Open at Merion.  Imagine!  I, who never watch television during the day, sitting for hours in front of the television set watching men’s golf.

Aside from these events, there have been larger life decisions looming over my head lately.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve committed to attending graduate school in the fall.  Not only that but the school is outside the US, and there is a LOT of paperwork to deal with in order to meet visa requirements.  On top of everything else, I feel terribly ill today and am about to take another couple spoonfuls of NyQuil.

My worst nightmare -- being stressed and too busy to read or write!

My worst nightmare — being stressed and too busy to read or write!

Typically, I am concurrently reading a book for pleasure and a book for review purposes.   Lately, I am barely getting my freelance writing assignments completed on time.  But at the same time, I am disappointed in myself for a) missing a week of blogging, and b) not working on my book as often as I used to.

So…. the question I will pose to my blog readers is:  when life gets in the way, how do you stay consistent?  How do you manage to blog and write regularly even when obstacles get in the way and time just won’t allow for it?  And lastly how do you manage to make time to read and write without making a drastic life change, like quitting your job (or one of them)?

I would appreciate advice from anyone out there who reads, reviews books, and writes regularly — meaning authors, book reviewers, students, or anyone with words of wisdom.  Getting in the habit of blogging regularly will be a learning process for me, a process I need to get better acquainted with.

Til next week then, I truly hope.

Review: The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

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I picked this book up by accident while browsing the public library shelves, as I often do.  For me, there are a few words that, if I spot in a novel’s title, will cause me to pounce.  Some of these are: Tudor, Queen, Tower, Henry VIII…you get the idea.  This time, the word ‘Boleyn’ caught my attention.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially those books loosely based on the War of the Roses, House Tudor, or Elizabethan England.  Though after skimming the back blurb of the novel, I was apprehensive on two accounts:

1)  This book was written by an American author.  Typically most historical fiction about the English monarchs I read are written by Phillippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Hilary Mantel or other British author.  That’s not to say an author born and bred outside of England cannot write about the history of England.  I just didn’t expect it.

2)  I almost re-shelved the book upon learning it is not quite historical fiction, but ‘what-if’ historical fiction.  I had never come across one of its kind before, and perhaps they are few and far between.  The events that transpire in this novel are entirely based on the false premise that Anne Boleyn never miscarried Henry VIII’s son (William, in this book).  I thought to myself, how ludicrous!  How absurd to suggest an erroneous historical fact.  How can one presume to rewrite history?  But hey, it isn’t history — it’s historical fiction.  So I checked the book out, and I’m glad I did.

This story (though so far from fact that it is nearly all fiction and no history) had me so enraptured I couldn’t put it down.  The characters are engaging, the plot and multiple subplots enticing, and Laura Andersen’s writing flows in a simple style lacking pretentiousness.  Historical fiction benefits from a direct, to-the-point writing style rather than ornate, flowery prose.  Andersen has succeeded in mastering this.

Synopsis

As I mentioned, this books is based on the premise that Anne Boleyn’s son survived.  This event saved her marriage — and her life.  The novel begins 17 years after the birth of William, the crown prince of England, while Anne acts as queen regent.  Good ol’ Henry VIII is long dead and Anne is older now — old actually, for those times.  The story however is note so much about Anne but four younger individuals and close friends:  William, his older sister Elizabeth, William’s friend Dominic Courtenay, and Elizabeth’s ward Minuette.  Minuette does stand out as a more central character, and the plots revolve around her the most.  The third person narration switches between these four characters to allow readers to see their thoughts, motives, and true feelings towards each other.

At the opening, William is a year away from being crowned King of England.  He becomes more and more aware of the burden of the position, including pressure to marry, the threat of war with France, and dealing with the Catholic Mary and her supporters — some of who may be within William’s own council.  Minuette meanwhile has attracted the attention of not just Dominic but his best friend William.  Yet Will is no longer just Dominic’s friend and Minuette’s playmate but the soon to be King of England — and very much in need of a queen.  Can Minuette defy him once he is crowned ruler of England?  Where does her loyalty life?  And what of Elizabeth and her beloved Robert Dudley?  Scandals, romance, and murder ensues.

Conclusion

Hypothetical situation or not, this story kept me interested.  I will be reading the sequel The Boleyn Deceit when it comes out this fall 2013.  If you enjoy historical fiction or if you are obsessed with the scandals of the Tudor Court, I highly suggest checking out this book.

Download it on Amazon today!

BLOG TOUR: Spotlight on Author T.G. Ayer

T.G. Ayer is the author of several paranormal novels including the The Valkyrie Series.  Skin Deep is Book One in The Dark World Novels, her new series.

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About The Novel:

Title: SKIN DEEP

Series: The DARKWORLD Series

Volume: 1

Genre: Urban Fantasy – NA

Publication Date: 30th APRIL 2013

Format E-Book : B00CKGOKY4 http://amzn.to/Yi5rg4

Format: Paperback

ISBN-13:  978-1484836705 http://amzn.to/18sBHPs

Publisher: Infinite Ink

Pages: 390

Add on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13604857-skin-deep 

Synopsis:

Panther Shape-shifter Kailin Odel just wants to be normal. Leaving her clan, and her Alpha responsibilities, to live with her grandmother in Chicago had been the best thing for her. Only then did she discover her ability to track and kill the soul sucking undead creatures called Wraiths. Now she protected the humans, and had something to be proud of.

But, when she discovers the body of a murdered shape shifter, Kailin has to come to terms with the reality that her own kind are just as vulnerable as the humans.

The closer Kailin gets to the killer the more she has to face the intricacies of her people. When the time comes can she accept who and what her real purpose is?

Excerpt:

Icy pain sliced through my bones, the muscles of my arms, and the flesh of my back. My spine and thighs rippled, shifted. Changing.

Damn. Too fast.

I spared a rueful glance at my new leather pants. And ran faster.

Had to make it to the Rehab Center a few blocks away. I ran, my speed super-human, my need super-charged, covering ground fast enough to make it to safety before my Panther took over.

I took the corner of the street behind the Center at breakneck speed, and headed for the nearest of the gaping holes pockmarking the rusted fence.

The wind changed before I stepped off the curb. My ears peaked and I skidded to a halt, panting slightly, my backpack thumping against my side. The scream of tires on blacktop echoed on the night air, shattering the silence as it grew ever louder.

Closer.

Followed in tandem by the whining wail of sirens. A battered sedan scorched down the street, suspended on the turn on only two wheels. The angry whip of charred rubber spiked the air. Horizontal again, the car jumped the curb and skidded sideways, avoiding a collision with the fence by mere inches.

I shrank into the shadows at my back, expelling a long, stale breath. My Panther, still confined within my body, bucked and jerked, craving release.

I let her surface.

A little.

For now, super-sight would be welcome. Unlike the ability to run like the wind while still in my Human skin, tapping into my Panther’s sight required a partial transformation—a risk I needed to take as my gut screamed danger.

Adrenalin surged, different again from the calm fervor of my wraith hunts. I blinked. Heat nipped at my corneas as I released my Panther sight—enough to give my eyes feline vision.

Sight, which sliced deep into the black nothing hugging the sidewalk, transformed my eyes into a solid Panther emerald. For the moment, plain old Kailin Odel was back to being Kailin of the Clan Panthera.

My cat sight adjusted, focused. The blackness surrounding the darkened vehicle changed depth and color, became lighter, clearer.

Someone shoved the rear door open, and I cringed as it creaked and complained. The occupants remained shrouded in the shadows of the vehicle’s interior. Something large, long and heavy hit the ground with a dull thunk. Then the sedan revved as unseen sirens drew closer, louder, and it spun around and skidded off the curb.

The battered car roared off, a police cruiser close on its tail with sirens screaming blue murder. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the parcel had to be awfully incriminating, for them to chuck it into the garden in such a flaming hurry.

My nostrils twitched at the stench of exhaust smoke, and my heart thumped as I waited to cross the street. I flicked a furtive glance at the dull red glow of taillights disappearing into the darkness. A breeze skimmed the sidewalk, ruffling my hair, and I hurried across the street as the sounds of sirens faded in the distance. I paused a few meters from the bundle, released my Panther’s nose and sniffed. Whatever I’d expected to scent on the air, it wasn’t the tang of copper drifting toward me—strong, rich and intoxicating.

Blood. Fresh blood. A luscious odor, laced with tendrils of the familiar.

I moved closer, my mind warring with my emotions. This was no bundle of rags, or some stolen junk those thugs had thrown away, but a living being. The blood surely meant the person now lying on the sidewalk needed medical attention.

I stood over the bundle, the cloying odor of the blood filling my nostrils, and hesitated in a moment of doubt and fear.

Now or never.

I took a deep breath and crouched beside the silent form. My hand quivered as I reached out and touched the scratchy, ragged fabric covering the shoulder of the silent figure. At first it resisted my tug, stiff against my touch, but one more gentle urging turned him toward me.

I gasped, my throat closing on the sound. My heel caught as I pulled away, and I staggered backward as hot horror burned through my veins. The face glistened, bloody and mangled. Raw muscles and ligaments lay exposed, bare. A low moan of horror echoed around me. Chills streaked up my spine when I realized the stricken sound had originated from my own throat. The familiar richness of him clouded my mind, clogging my throat and drugging my senses.

A Skinwalker.

My throat spasmed, silencing a shriek as he stared at me. His breath whispered—shallow, irregular, the sound ragged as he labored in his final moments. He gripped with desperation to the disappearing threads which held him to this mortal earth.

His face held my gaze, and somewhere behind ribs of ice my heart clenched, threatening to implode. My own face stared back at me, reflected from within eyes as blue as oceans. Eyes filled with excruciating pain and desperate fear. He didn’t speak, just studied me for a few moments with those glorious eyes.

Recognition. Gratitude. Relief.

Then… release.

Life flickered and sputtered out of his beautiful eyes—eyes unable to close even after his soul departed his mortal body. Eyes stark and ghastly within a face flayed of every inch of its skin.

Mere seconds had passed, although I would have sworn it had been hours. Screeching tires again interrupted my horror, and the sedan skidded beside me before I could do much more than scramble away from the body. The killers had managed to lose the cops, and now they’d returned to retrieve the body.

They hadn’t bargained on having a witness.

The cold-cocking of guns set my body on fire.

It also did something worse. With mortal fear gripping me, my imminent Change refused to take second place anymore. My body churned the fear and my Panther grasped at the visceral power of the adrenalin in my veins.

I ran.

A gunshot echoed around the garden, the sound ping-ponging off the aging brick walls of the surrounding apartment buildings.

I gasped as a blast of searing pain slammed into me, as a bullet buried itself deep within my shoulder.

About The Author:

tee ayer

I have been a writer from the time I was old enough to recognise that reading was a doorway into my imagination. Poetry was my first foray into the art of the written word. Books were my best friends, my escape, my haven. I am essentially a recluse but this part of my personality is impossible to practise given I have two teenage daughters, who are actually my friends, my tea-makers, my confidantes… I am blessed with a husband who has left me for golf. It’s a fair trade as I have left him for writing. We are both passionate supporters of each other’s loves – it works wonderfully…

My heart is currently broken in two. One half resides in South Africa where my old roots still remain, and my heart still longs for the endless beaches and the smell of moist soil after a summer downpour. My love for Ma Afrika will never fade. The other half of me has been transplanted to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The land of the Taniwha, beautiful Maraes, and volcanoes. The land of green, pure beauty that truly inspires. And because I am so torn between these two lands – I shall forever remain cross-eyed.

Author Contact Details:

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tgayer@xtra.co.nz

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Review: So Many Reasons Why (So Many Reasons #1) by Missy Johnson

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First, I’d like to thank Missy Johnson for gifting the book to me.  The central character of this story has been the victim of a brutal sexual assault at the age of 10.  Tragedy is an essential component of fiction; without it we’d be forced to read fluff chick lit all the time.  Yet it is a form of drama that is not always handled correctly.  Some authors delve too deep towards the depressing, a tactic that will lose readers fast.  But Missy Johnson avoided this path.  She’s not only a fluid writer but she makes it evident this story is about the protagonist’s healing process and road to recovery.

A Brief Synopsis

Twenty year old Emma is not your typical college student living in New York City.  She suffered a brutal attack at the tender age of 10 and bears not only permanent physical wounds but also psychological damage.  Her two best friends have created a support system for her, but it’s not enough to fight off her severe agoraphobia and the recurring nightmares from the incident.  When an email to her professor asking about an assignment turns into a flirtatious banter, Emma begins to forget that her attacker has been released on parole.  As the beautiful and hotly pursued professor Simon gets to know Emma, she wonders if he’s just the one to help her forget her past and finally move on.

Now Let’s Break It Down

I’ll admit I was uneasy reading this book in the beginning because of the subject matter.  I’m sure others feel this way too:  When I hear about rape incidents in the news, it disturbs me more than the stray murder here and there.  I never can comprehend why any one in their right mind would want to attack anyone — especially a young child — in this way.  But that’s just it.  They’re not in their right mind.  Usually they are a sociopath with a psychological disorder, like the protagonist’s attacker in this book.

I felt very immersed in this story from the beginning.  Missy Johnson painted a very realistic portrait of what it’s like to be a sexual assault victim tormented years after the incident.  Emma did not experience a typical assault; she was held captive for three long days, the reason she suffers from agoraphobia — an anxiety disorder in which the sufferer perceives their environment as one where they are unable to escape or get help.  For this reason she never leaves her apartment, a restriction that seriously impedes her college experience and life in general.

Emma undergoes a huge transformation in this book, and (without trying to give away any details) I was surprised by how brave she became near the end.  The book ends with a cliffhanger, but it’s not one of those ‘sudden’ ones that comes out of nowhere.  It  sets up for the sequel nicely.

One thing I thought was a bit strange was how fast the romance between Emma and Simon progressed.  I was expecting it to be more drawn out with Emma taking more time to get close to Simon, provided her traumatic experience.  I think the story would have been a bit stronger and more suspenseful if there were more tense, dramatic, frustrating moments between the two before they became obviously a couple.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic professor-student romance mixed with tragedy.  The story flowed almost seamlessly, excluding a handful of grammatical errors and some unusual slang. In the end it’s a beautiful story of hope and moving on from anguish towards contentment.

Order this book on Amazon.

My 5 Favorite Fiction Novels…So Far

This past week I got sidetracked from my book reviewing schedule.  For several weeks now, I had been simultaneously reading Wuthering Heights along with whatever book I was supposed to be reading for a review.  While I enjoy reading new authors’ books, I always like to be reading one of the classics.  TIME Magazine has a great list of the 100  Best Novels of All Time; there’s also a site called thegreatestbooks.org I reference when perusing for the next ‘essential’ book.

There’s no way I will get through all of TIME’s 100 novels in my lifetime, and I don’t mean to.  Wuthering Heights had always been on my British lit list of must-reads, and this past week the story pulled me in.  After finishing it last night, I became inspired to make a list of my 10 favorite books of all time.  Well, so far.  Keep in mind I’m 25 now, and if I’ve left out one of your favorites, it’s very possible I haven’t gotten to it yet!

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë6185

I can only say I can’t believe I hadn’t read this sooner.  I always believed Pride & Prejudice was the quintessential love story, and yes, I am very fond of Jane Austen.  Wuthering Heights however is about a love so maddening, so powerful, it’s stronger than death.  I do not comprehend the distasteful reviews of this book on Goodreads.  Yes, the character Heathcliff is at times unlikable but I’m assuming these readers didn’t really ‘get’ this story.

2.  A Secret History by Donna Tartt29044

This is a fascinating tale about a group of rich students at an New England college.  This elite group is not only unapproachable because of their over-priveleged snob status, but also because they are knowledgable worldly Greek scholars.  When a new student is invited into the group, he uncovers the real reason these five students tend to keep to themselves.  Ancient rituals, murder, and scandal ensues.

3.  The Razor’s Edge by William Somerset Maugham31196

The fact that The Razor’s Edge is number three here is irrelevant; this is still my all-time favorite story ever since I read it freshman year of high school.  I don’t know if it’s Maugham’s prose, or the enchanting characters, or the fact that setting himself in the story as the narrator, or if all three of these aspects of the novel together make it so endearing and uniquely diverting.  The Razor’s edge is an illustrious work of writing without needing to be action-packed; I think that’s why I love it so much.

4.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald4671

This is NOT on my list because the move is soon to be released (and I love the idea of Leo as Gatsby).  Typically, I am drawn to any book set in the 1920’s Jazz Age, because I think I would have loved to live in New York during that time.  And gone to one of Gatsby’s Long Island parties.  Fitgzerald is also one my favorites; This Side of Paradise, Franny & Zooey, etc.

5.  The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien34

I am a Tolkien-ite, and though I love everything he has written related to Lord of The Rings (even the Silmarillion, the Appendices) the first book in the trilogy is my favorite.  I’m not sure why — perhaps because it’s the beginning of Frodo’s journey, and the only book in which the Fellowship is unbroken.  Maybe I just want to live in the Shire.  (That’s probably true, but unrelated to my preference for this book over the other two).

If I had to make a top 10 list, these would be the other 5:

6.  Candide by Voltaire

7.  The Odyssey by Homer

8.  A Room with A View by E. M. Forster

9.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

10.  The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Are any of these your favorites?  What other books should I include on my must-read list?

Review: Seeing Red by Sidney Halston

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I couldn’t decide between three or four owl rating for this book, as you can see.  About 75% of the way through I was almost set on a four owl rating, but then the cliffhanger at the end threw me off a bit along with the words “Coming Soon — Book 2 of Seeing Red Series.”  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book.  It just didn’t expect this book to turn into a series, and I can’t conceive what the sequel would be about.  Still, this was without a doubt a page turner, filled with suspense, intrigue, and LOTS of sexual tension.

A Brief Synopsis:

Jillian Stone, Oliver and Alexander Jacobs are an unusual group of 22-year-olds.  They were raised on a deserted island under the guardianship of a woman named Helen.  After twelve years they’re rescued and go their separate ways, only to be reunited years later at the funeral of their beloved Helen.  A love triangle erupts between them.  Jillian struggles with the decision of which of the twins she should be with, all the while trying to comprehend her psychic abilities that resurfaced from her time living on the island.  At the same time, a mystery unravels through Helen’s old journals.  Jill begins to uncover why she ended up on the island in the first place and whether she’s in danger now back in the real world.

Now Let’s Break It Down

Despite its categorization under ‘paranormal romance’ on Amazon, I personally would define Seeing Red as a romance with a mystery twist.  Unlike most romance novels, there are two main story lines in this book:  a love triangle (and for a hot second a love square) plus an added level of mystery, distinguishing this book from your typical love story.  Each story line integrates a level of suspense into the novel.  The intense love triangle is one reason you want to keep reading — to find out who Jillian will choose.  The perpetual question going through my head was, is it going to be Oliver?  Alexander?  Halston sure knows how to build sexual tension well.  There are so many hot and cold moments between the characters, especially Jillian and Alexander.

There isn’t really one main character in this story, as it rotates between three points of view:  Jillian and the twins Oliver and Alexander.  Despite this, Jillian still feels like the protagonist as she is the target of every male character’s affections and the individual the mystery revolves around.  That said, I loved every character except for hers.  Especially next to her kind, generous, selfless, good-natured southern belle of a roommate Heather, Jillian comes across as very selfish woman.  She’s entirely too comfortable leading on three men at the same time, two of whom genuinely worship her.

This is when the love triangle starts to get on my nerves as much as it keeps me hooked.  At halfway through the book, Jill’s mind had gone back and forth between the guys so often she began to drive me mad.  Can anyone be more indecisive?  Or dissect a situation more?  Just pick a guy already and take everyone out of their misery!  But still I kept reading through Jill’s long-winded rants and rationalizations because in the end, she does pick a man.  The reader isn’t left hanging — in regards to the romantic story line.

My only other complaint aside from Jill’s frustrating character is how slow the book starts off.  The first few chapters feel more like a memoir simply because there’s a lot of telling over showing, a lot of listing “Then this, then that.”  This type of writing is almost unavoidable when catching the reader up on a character’s background, or to convey long periods of time passing.  Once the book gets going however, the pace picks up and the slow start is history.

Conclusion

I truly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good romance and occasional mystery.  Sure there are a few typos and the writing isn’t too eloquent at times but that’s not why you would read this book anyway. If that’s the reading experience you seek, I suggest you pick up a Brontë novel.

Review: My Wolf’s Bane (Shapes of Autumn Book 1) by Veronica Blade

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You know that feeling of disappointment when you’ve finished reading a really exceptional book?  That’s what happened to me with My Wolf’s Bane.  I read this book in about 2 1/2 days, and that says a lot since I am a slow reader and usually read 2-3 books simultaneously.  Within the YA paranormal romance genre, this book excels.  For me (and for many other Goodreads reviewers) it’s one of the best, and I’ll tell you why.

For one thing, the characters in My Wolf’s Bane aren’t annoying but actually well-developed and different from one another.  One thing that kills my attention span is when all the characters in a novel start melding together as the same person, not one of them distinct from the next.  Autumn is the sarcastic, attractive high-school aged protagonist who at first is preparing to unceremoniously dump her popular douche-bag of a boyfriend, Daniel.  As Daniel begins harassing Autumn, she becomes increasingly more attracted to Zach — the mysterious hot new guy at school.

When a change appears in Daniel that causes both Zach and Autumn to believe he’s off his meds (or worse), eventually a feud breaks out between the two boys.  Zach is suddenly at Autumn’s side night and day as her protector.  Zach proves himself a complex character by giving Autumn the cold shoulder despite his obsession over her safety and her obvious interest in him.  Unable to read the feelings of this gorgeous boy who she’s coming to realize is anything but human, Autumn struggles internally with facing the reality that she has acquired her own supernatural abilities.

Enough plot synopsis.  It should already be apparent that along with formulating interesting characters, Veronica Blade can weave details together into a seamless and captivating storyline.  This is no easy feat.  I find often times when reading any sub genre of fiction, I subconsciously delete sentences or phrases in my head that are unnecessary.  Those works of writing needed more editing.  My Wolf’s Bane was not one of those works.  The story flowed and was without the awkward, extra wording that  slows a story down, making the reader all too aware of the writer’s inability to edit their own work.

In regards to plot — again, I loved it.  There is a ton of YA paranormal romance about werewolves.  It feels overdone, and I’m always wary of any fantasy fiction I pick up these days involving vampires, werewolves, or shifters.  But I enjoyed this book so much that I didn’t mind it.  Veronica Blade has described a human world in which werewolves exist that is actually believable.  This is how I imagine werewolves to act and exist among us humans, with a hierarchy similar to the packs in the HBO show Trueblood.

My only complaint about this book is the very last paragraph.  It’s a pet peeve of mine when the author ends a book in a way that is almost a sale pitch for the sequel.  I just don’t think it’s needed.  If the reader liked the book, as I did, they’re likely to read the sequel.  There’s no need to set up the next book with a series of questions like, “What’s going to happen with ____?” or “Will so and so character do _____?”  If you really want that to be the last thing your reader sees, then put it on the next page as an afterthought but don’t make it part of the book.  It gives the impression the author is trying too hard and with a book this good, there’s really no need.

On that note, I truly hope I’ve convinced people to read this excellent book.  You’ll find it hard to put down, I assure you.