Seed by Lisa Heathfield

Seed by Lisa Heathfield(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.


At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S.’s companion. She feels excitement . . . and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community—particularly the teenage son, Ellis—only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask.

But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.


Lisa Heathfield’s suspenseful, scintillating debut features a compelling voice that combines blithe naïveté, keen observation, and sincere emotion.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

If you know anything at all about cults, or have even read any first-hand survivor accounts of former cult members, Seed will hold absolutely no surprises for you.  I wish it had been a more unique and less predictable take on how cults keep and manipulate their members, but Lisa Heathfield really doesn’t stray from the typical cult modus operandi.  That’s not a bad thing because it makes it realistic, but for me it was so predictable that it got a little boring at points.  It won’t be true for everyone, but for anyone with the aforementioned knowledge of cults you aren’t going to encounter any surprises.

That said, Lisa Heathfield does paint a very realistic picture of what someone raised in a cult would be like.  Pearl constantly wants to please Papa S., wants to be his Companion without realizing what that fully implies (and yes, it means exactly what you’re thinking) and laughs off Ellis when he tells her of the wondrous things in the outside world.  She’s been kept naive about absolutely everything and while she questions some things, she doesn’t question them like you or I would.  It’s more realistic than if she were questioning everything and you’d think it would become annoying, but it doesn’t.  Lisa Heathfield writes very good characters and while sometimes I was exasperated with Pearl, her character still rings true.

As I said, the plot is predictable for people who know a little about cults, but somehow that adds to the overall suspense toward the end.  I knew how things were going to end and I knew how they were going to get there, but I was still anxious to find out what happened.  Heathfield’s pacing was a little slow in the middle (thus my occasional boredom) but despite that she really ratcheted up the suspense toward the end.  Particularly in the barn scene.

I would have liked for a little more even pacing throughout the novel so that it didn’t drag so much in the middle, but this is her debut novel so you can’t really expect everything to be perfect.  Her character development was still amazing and in the end I do have to say that I enjoyed Seed.  Will it ever be on the list of my top 10 favourite novels?  No, not really.  But it is quite a good book and a decent debut so I think we can expect great things from her in the future.  Heathfield has a good grasp of psychology and with a little practice, she can write some truly terrifying novels in the future.  I for one can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Vampire’s Bite by Eve Grant

The Vampire's Bite by Eve Grant(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

She’s responsible and takes life too seriously

Susan Ethans is a model student: perfect grades, a dream scholarship, and a promising career ahead of her. But her grades alone aren’t enough to flirt with the hot guys on campus. She doesn’t want to end up being a wallflower, but there isn’t much she can do about it.

A vampire bites her

A madman bites her neck and drinks her blood. She tries to get away, but he drains her life away until she collapses.

She thinks she’s going to die, but she wakes up at an eccentric millionaire’s home. She feels healthy, renewed, and even smarter. Something is changing within her.

He has everything… except love

Nicholas Hill has power, money, and an English accent to die for, but he speaks like a man from the 19th Century. His notions of propriety and manners make him different to every other man in the world. Susan is instantly attracted to him and knows that he likes her, but something tortures his soul and doesn’t let him follow his heart.

Will an ordinary girl change a powerful businessman’s life, or will their personalities clash until they can no longer stand each other?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

This is mainly a character-driven novel so first I’m going to talk about the main character: Susan.  Susan is essentially the same kind of person that I am.  She works hard to please everyone at the expense of following what she really loves as well as having a social life.  When she becomes a vampire and is intoxicated by her new powers, I can totally understand her suddenly wanting to leave it all behind despite working so hard for her spot in university and her scholarship.  Sometimes you just want to say “screw you” and leave it all behind and a life-changing event like realizing you’re a vampire can do just that to a person.  So while I know that a lot of people will hate Susan for giving up everything, for me she was definitely easy to relate to as a character.

The Vampire’s Bite is ridiculously short at only 85 pages, so we really do have quite a fast-paced plot.  Susan herself sometimes slows it down, however.  She takes interludes to describe everything in great detail as she comes into her new powers, but then never really goes anywhere with those new powers.  I would have liked for her to have more interaction with Nicholas simply because then things would be explained, but that was not to be.  I really would have liked for Eve Grant to extend her book for a little more detail, rather than shoving the explanation into the sequel because while it does make the plot fast, it leaves you with more questions than answers.

With all that said, The Vampire’s Bite is not a bad book.  It will never be high literature and for myself it’s more guilty pleasure than anything.  I wasn’t intrigued enough to want to read the sequel, but some of you might if you give it a try.  If you’re into the modern vampire (suave, sophisticated and rich) then you’ll probably like it, but if you’re new to the whole vampire thing it wouldn’t exactly be the first book I’d recommend.  In the end, it falls somewhere around the middle: it’s not great and it’s not bad.  It’s just a solid ‘meh’.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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The Hunger Games and The Third Servile War

The Third Servile War is probably one of the most famous wars you’ve never heard of.  What I mean by that is that everyone knows about Spartacus’ rebellion from the movie Spartacus, but few people know that there really was a Spartacus and he really did start a rebellion that morphed into what the Romans knew as the Third Servile War.  In Roman history, it was a monumental event that forced the Romans to reconsider their treatment of slaves and paved the way for later legislation to give slaves some protection (you could be charged for murder if you killed a slave during Claudius’ reign!).

What really struck me when I read The Hunger Games is that the Third Servile War is startlingly similar and is probably at least what partially inspired Suzanne Collins’ depiction of the rebellion of the Districts.  First I think we need a little background on the inspiration behind this and then we’ll go more in depth into why there are so many similarities.

The Third Servile War didn’t start out as a war.  It started out as a breakout from a gladiator school in Capua that included some two hundred slaves and gladiators.  Unsurprisingly, with that many people involved, the plot was discovered and the rebel slaves had to fight their way out of the school.  Spartacus was among them and he was naturally looked to as a leader, but what most people forget is another man who was a key player: Crixus.  Crixus was a Celt who had also been captured to fight in the gladiator schools of the Roman Republic and he didn’t like his situation any more than Spartacus did.  He and Spartacus, even though it may not have started out that way, became the ringleaders of their little revolt. Continue reading

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever by Lauren DeStefanoRhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever.

I actually sort of liked the first book, Wither; enough to give it four stars.  But unfortunately, Fever didn’t do so well.  It suffers from severe Book 2 Syndrome.

I hate to say it after liking the first book, but Fever is just plain boring.  Rhine and Gabriel run away and get caught in a creepy brothel-carnival before again escaping into the city to find Rhine’s brother Rowan.  There’s a little bit of action in the end and we finally find out what those stupid June Beans from the first book were all about, but that’s it.  It’s a slow pace for a book that’s only a little over 300 pages and that’s why it seems like it’s much, much longer.  Face it: the plot is just boring and the pacing was too slow.

So let’s talk about characters.  Rhine and Gabriel didn’t really change all that much from the first book.  Rhine got a tiny bit more cynical, but that’s essentially it.  She really has no character development in Fever; she just sort of reacts to events unfolding around her like she pretty much always has.  And I hate that in a particularly spoiler-y situation, she still hasn’t learned to keep her mouth shut and stop herself from blurting out the wrong things.  Rhine lacks subtlety, as she always has.  Gabriel is just sort of your Generic Male Love Interest, there to protect her whenever she needs it and to make out with her but obviously never have sex with her.  He looked like he was almost a good character in the first book, but he’s pretty one dimensional in this one.

What about world-building?  Well, unfortunately, we learn nothing further about why the genetic modification in children left them with a decreased life expectancy and a horrible new way of life once society realized that.  The older generations are still trying to hold it together and the younger generations are essentially contributing to the anarchy of society by not really caring what they do because they’re going to be dead soon anyway.  We get to see vague flashes of the people in power, which is fine, but I really would have liked for there to be a little more information about the science of Lauren DeStefano’s world.  It doesn’t have to be hard science fiction, but some information would have been nice, even if it were just mentioned in passing.

Essentially, except for the last few pages, Fever was a rather boring disappointment.  The next book Sever has potential, but I really wish that DeStefano hadn’t dropped the ball so bad on her second book in the trilogy.  It’s a textbook case of Book 2 Syndrome, unfortunately.  I’m still probably going to end up reading book 3 despite that, but I am seriously having doubts about this trilogy right now.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Your Open Post Promotion Thread

Yesterday I couldn’t post anything due to internet difficulties (mainly that it kept cutting off randomly) and today I’m travelling for most of the day.  Thus, you guys get a promotion thread to promote your own work and find some awesome posts by other bloggers.

Basically, this is how it works:

1.  You comment below and in that comment, give us a little blurb about one or two of your best posts and a link to it/them.  Essentially, tell us what makes that post so special to you.  Is it your favourite post because you think your writing was top quality then?  Is it one of your most viewed posts?  And so on and so forth.

For example:

The Hunger Games and Ancient Rome

 

Technically I’m a book blogger, but here on The Mad Reviewer I also love talking about the occasional pop culture feature as well as history.  So I combined the two and talked about the similarities between The Hunger Games series (both the movies and books) and ancient Roman history.  Even though I wrote it a while back, it’s still one of my favourites because it was one of the first articles I wrote, whereas before I had just done book reviews.

See, it’s pretty easy and it’s free!  So go ahead and promote your favourite blog posts.

Immortal by Gene Doucette

Immortal by Gene Doucette(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“I don’t know how old I am.My earliest memory is something along the lines of fire good, ice bad, so I think I predate written history, but I don’t know by how much. I like to brag that I’ve been there from the beginning, and while this may very well be true, I generally just say it to pick up girls.”

–Adam the Immortal

Surviving sixty thousand years takes cunning and more than a little luck. But in the twenty-first century, Adam confronts new dangers—someone has found out what he is, a demon is after him, and he has run out of places to hide.Worst of all, he has had entirely too much to drink.

Immortal is a first person confessional penned by a man who is immortal, but not invincible. In an artful blending of sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, and humor, IMMORTAL introduces us to a world with vampires, demons and other “magical” creatures, yet a world without actual magic.

At the center of the book is Adam.

“I have been in quite a few tight situations in my long life. One of the first things I learned was if there is going to be a mob panic, don’t be standing between the mob and wherever it is they all want to go. The second thing I learned was, don’t try to run through fire.”

–Adam the Immortal

Adam is a sixty thousand year old man. (Approximately.) He doesn’t age or get sick, but is otherwise entirely capable of being killed.His survival has hinged on an innate ability to adapt, his wits, and a fairly large dollop of luck. He makes for an excellent guide through history . . . when he’s sober.

Immortal is a contemporary fantasy for non-fantasy readers and fantasy enthusiasts alike.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

What I’ve always wondered at is if there really are immortals, how will they live in today’s society where you need an ID to do almost anything?  At what point do mortals discover their existence?  Well, Gene Doucette certainly deals with that in Immortal.

Adam is probably one of my favourite characters I’ve read about in a long time.  Sure he’s a drunken lecher of the first degree, but after sixty thousand years, wouldn’t you be too?  He’s clever and street smart, which has kept him alive over the millennia and yet he still holds onto the romantic idea that he’s not the only immortal, that the redheaded beauty he keeps seeing will one day reveal herself to him.  If they all don’t get captured by scientists to be poked and prodded and exploited first.  I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I have to say that quite honestly, Immortal does have the feel of the classic as Adam tries to sober up to run away from his many would-be captors.  I don’t compare classics like Douglas Adams’ book to contemporary works very easily, so you can be certain that I really do enjoy and recommend Immortal.

Even though not all that much is revealed about the origins of Adam’s immortality, I can still say that the world-building in this book was excellent.  Why?  Because there are very good reasons for his immortality being shrouded in mystery: humans were quite primitive at the time and he himself says that he wasn’t engaging in the kind of complex thought that is present today.  “Fire good, ice bad”, indeed.  We see flashbacks of his travels across the centuries, sometimes drunken and sometimes not as he encountered everything from demons to famous gangsters.  He’s certainly had a pretty cool life, but not in the “I’m immortal so I’ve met every famous figure ever” way.  No, sometimes he lived a pretty ordinary life and sometimes not, which makes his current political savvy believable as well as his street smarts.

As for the plot, it was surprisingly fast-paced when you consider that there were occasional interludes into the past.  Normally those slow the plot down unbearably, but not so in this case because Gene Doucette is a good writer.  I wanted to know more about Adam’s fascinating background not only because it was fascinating but because it was also relevant to where he is today: being hunted so that scientists can figure out how to recreate the conditions for his immortality.  Adam’s not too keen on being poked, prodded and possibly dissected so things get very, very interesting toward the end of the novel.  Particularly when we see our red-headed friend again.

So all in all, Immortal was a very enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend it to others.  Adam is a very memorable character and the world-building is so well done that even with the little knowledge you’re given, you remain fairly satisfied that you know most everything that is relevant to the story itself.  Of course I can’t wait to see that expanded in the next book, Hellenic Immortal.  I’ll definitely be watching and waiting to read the rest of Adam’s story.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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My Interview with Sherry Ficklin

Sherry FicklinSherry Ficklin is the author of eight books, the most recent of which is Queen of Someday, a novel loosely based on the life of one of history’s best well known women, Catherine the Great.  In this interview we discuss future Russian novels, Catherine’s transformation from naive teenager to powerful ruler and why history teachers hate her.

 

1.  What made you want to write about Catherine the Great?  Was there any particular moment in time when you learned about her life and thought “wow, I have to write about her” or was there some other inspiration?
Her history is just so fascinating. I mean, she started out as this fifteen year old German princess, a very poor princess at that, and managed to not just take over the Russian monarchy, but she won the heart of an entire nation. What kind of person could, would dare to, do that? I love strong women, so I knew right away I wanted to know more, and when I didn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to tell my own story.

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