Review

Beginnings by Nina Soden

Rating Overview

Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2
Cover: ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★★ (4.5)

 This book was given to me as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The story is a Young Adult/Supernatural novel set in the town of Atlanta. It continues the storyline of Aleerah (Alee), a teenager who is starting to learn more about her true nature of being a dhamphir (half human/half vampire). The second novel takes a look at her new life she has had to create for herself and how it overlaps into her old one.

The Critical Points:

Writing:

Nina writes wonderfully, connecting characters to emotions and effortlessly carrying the story along with her. There were still areas in this novel that were editorial oversights and a couple of areas where word usage made me pause and reread more than it should have. So in all, 4/5 as far as that whole process goes.

Story:

The story-telling process shows vast improvement from the first novel. relying less on the development of the main character, the readers are able to dive right into her life and pick up on her new talents of being both a witch and vampire. Learning about the Underground and its connection with her family is still elusive but with a third book, I hope to gain more background on the Wenham Coven.

Characters:

The characters remaining from the first novel carry on with their same qualities, so I didn’t find myself questioning anyone’s reactions. The only thing that left me wondering throughout the book was Jathan’s character. I couldn’t really confirm, even by the end of the book, whose side he was on or if he was real.

Appearance:

Love the simple, gothic and eye-catching use of colors. It says to the reader to be aware and that’s just what they will find inside.

Final Thoughts

Intertwining the magical/supernatural realms of witches, vampires, lycanthropes and other creatures is somewhat saturated these days. Thankfully, a few glorious writers can pull it off and not make it feel like a chore to read. Nina is one of those writers. She has enhanced the flow of her story in this second installment of the Blood Angel series. Her characters and writing keeps a playful tease between a powerful female character and the fragility of her still being a teenager coming into her own skin. Here’s to the third installment, hoping to see her ability to entertain continue to thrive!

Links

Find Nina’s books through her links below and I’ll simply direct you to her WordPress site for now and she provides the rest.

Awaken: a Blood Angel novel

BEGINNINGS: A BLOOD ANGEL NOVEL

Revenge: A Blood Angel Novel

Nina’s Page



 

Review

Awaken by Nina Soden

Rating Overview

Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★ 1/2
Cover: ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★ (4.375)

This book was given to me as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The story is a Young Adult/Supernatural novel set in the town of Atlanta. It follows mainly along the storyline of Alee, a teenager who is starting to learn her illness is actually the side effects stemming from who she truly is, a dhampir (half human/half vampire).

The Critical Points:

Writing:

Nina writes beautifully mixing in scenery and emotions with her characters along the way. The only reason she is not getting a 5-star rating in this area is due to some minor editing errors with spelling and a little structure peppered throughout the midsection of the story. There were a few cases when the he/she areas got flipped and made it confusing. Nothing worth getting all bent over though.

Story:

As far as Supernatural settings go, I like the spin and background that Nina gives all of the characters within her novel. Some of the areas felt a little cliche, but the realm of vampires, witches and shape-shifters tends to be popular right now. So, unless there’s a completely new angle that hasn’t been touched, it will always feel that way. There were some tweaks to the elements of vampires and lycanthropes that I enjoyed. The one thing I always wonder in every witch spell is why must they always cut the palm of their hand? Can’t they give themselves a short-lived bloody nose? I mean, I’ve cut my hand there on accident and it hurts forever. (Obviously not a flaw, just my own personal curiosity)

One thing I was almost lost with is the beginning. It takes a long time to get to the meat of the story as we follow Alee throughout her infancy to teenage years without knowing where it will end. Still, done in such a way that I wanted to keep reading. From midpoint on, flowed like water in a river, great job.

Characters:

There are a lot of characters surrounding Alee throughout her years, thankfully constant, but in the beginning there are a lot of similar names and relationships that puzzled me up until the end. Lots of lineage to account for. I docked a little for that and an area where Alee’s romantic relationship seemed to springboard, losing me for a moment.

Appearance:

The cover is wonderful. Subtle colors, great font and makes you wonder what to expect before you even break the spine. Would love to find a hardcover in the store. Very well done.

Final Thoughts

As genres go, there are a lot of similar elements that go along with the supernatural. Each one brings a slightly different take. The same principles seen in Anne Rice novels won’t always apply to True Blood or Vampire Diaries. I think going into any scenario of supernatural, readers should try as best they can to wipe their slate clean and take in the surroundings the writer is painting. Nina Soden is a great author and I look forward to the remainder of her series and what she has developing.

Links

Find Nina’s books through her links below and I’ll simply direct you to her WordPress site for now and she provides the rest.

Awaken: a Blood Angel novel

BEGINNINGS: A BLOOD ANGEL NOVEL

Revenge: A Blood Angel Novel

Nina’s Page



 

Journey of 1000 Miles

Out of the Dusk (teaser)

Out of the Dusk

It was the closest thing to flying Victor Vargas experienced. The wind whipped through his hair and it was hard to breathe from the force of the air pushing against his face. The afternoon was cool, but the sun felt warm on his skin giving him a sense of balance.

Victor knew he was dreaming. There was no deafening sound to the wind circling his ears or a smell to add to the scenery of evergreen and deciduous trees flashing by him. As he looked down, he stood on the passenger seat of an older model Jeep, the ones used in earlier wars where the windshield folded onto the hood. It was unclear who was driving; however, he felt safe.

The stretch of road they were traveling was a byway as they weaved around the curves of a large canyon. It reminded Victor of Autumn. Leaves twinkled with hues of burnt orange and red, as they drifted from the trees like huge, colorful snowflakes. It was the end of a play and all of the arborous characters bowed for their end of the year performance. The serene moment was broken by the displacement of sound.

A phone call sounded somewhere in the distant tree line. Before he allowed himself to wonder or investigate the noise, he was saying hello into the mike of a CB he had picked up from its holster.

“Daddy?” A feathery voice asked from the corner of his mind.

“Lily?”

He started to feel the sleepy haven of his dream pull away and knew the more relaxed he was, the longer the dream would continue. His vision in the dream started blurring as he lost concentration. In an effort to keep the dream intact, he slowed his breathing. Gradually, the scenery came back from the milky-grey outskirts of his subconscious. He glanced at the clock in the dashboard pulsing a neon-red 4:45am.

“Daddy!” the little girl’s voice echoed. This time she was more energetic and no longer questioning. There was elation from the recognition of her father’s voice. “Daddy, where have you been? You stopped talking,” she offset in a stern parental tone.

Victor instinctively prepared himself as he had similar dreams for the past few years. On a weekly basis, either just as he nodded off to sleep or just before he woke, Lily found a way to speak to him. By the time he discerned whether it was a dream or not, the voice disappeared, poof, like a magician vanishing in a cloud of smoke. All that generally remained was a phone receiver in his hand.

“Lily, where are you honey? Can you describe it?” Victor began from the tail end of their conversation from a previous dream. He spoke softly in a tone to comfort Lily and let her know things were okay.

On numerous occasions, he tried to distinguish truth from reality, but the moment clarity hit, her voice would vanish. He assumed the dreams were a traumatic symptom, which would go away in time, but his need to trust his gut superseded any other feelings. For Victor, Lily’s voice was real.

Lily hesitated for a moment and a small, sub-dermal fear told Victor the dream was already over. Then, the soft voice spoke again, “I don’t know, Daddy. The walls are stone or marble. They’re shiny sometimes and I feel like they watch me. I can’t tell what kind of room it is, but… oh wait! There’s a window!”

At this point, Victor felt as though the brakes slammed on the Jeep and he went sailing out, but it was just the pull of excitement in his stomach. “A window? Go to it and look outside.” There had never been any mention of a window before. If she could see something geographical, a point of reference, he would find her.

“I can’t see much. It’s dark out.”

“Give it a second, kiddo. Let your eyes adjust and try to explain anything you can see.”

Time unwound as Lily allowed herself time to focus. “I can’t see anything too far out, just the moon.”

“That’s okay, just try and see what’s below you. How high up are you from the ground? Are there any cars? Anything you see just shout it out.”

It was the longest he had ever gone with Lily in his dreams. Usually, he had a few precious moments and then woke himself up or there was a distraction and the dream became as unstable as smoke in his hands.

“I can see the driveway below. I can’t tell how far up I am, maybe 30 feet?”

“That’s ok, honey, it helps. What else do you see?” Victor was hoping there was a car or anything that could point him in the right direction.

“Ok, um… Well, there are a bunch of statues by the driveway. A fountain. There’s a wall going around as far as I can see.”

“Are there any cars in the driveway?” Victor prompted.

It didn’t take her long to reply, “No.”

There was a careful balance of emotions Victor was trying to maintain. He had to remain calm enough to stay asleep yet focused enough to direct the dream. It was more difficult trying to relay the concept to Lily on what he wanted her to look for.

“Oh!” Lily abruptly exclaimed. “Cows.”

“Cows?”

“Yeah, there are a couple of cows below.”

Victor was trying to understand the scenery Lily was relaying. “Are you sure they’re cows?”

“I know what a cow looks like, Dad.” She said using her grown up, snarky voice. “They’re all black and have horns. There are three of them. They …”

The pause left Victor apprehensive. Subtly, the scenic trees and landscape whooshing by him as he stood within the Jeep dimmed. Their vibrancy was replaced with shadowy night until he saw nothing else. The wind died down as if the Jeep were coming to a stop.

“Lily? Is everything okay?”

No response. The wind slowed to a trickle and as the landscape faded to black, different shapes emerged. The shimmering moon was reflected by silver clouds as it slowly approached the westerly hills in order to rest until the following night. As Victor looked down, he was no longer in the Jeep. He was perched on the ledge of the house Lily had spoken about, the CB still in his palm.

Victor’s pulse quickened as he noticed the fall before him, but as he continued the mantra in his head I’m in a dream, I’m in a dream, it became clear he was seeing what Lily had relayed. Slow moving, dark figures paced across the lawn below. He noticed their horns swaying with each stride. Cows, Victor thought to himself.

“Daddy!!” Lily cried out in warning.

Reflex had Victor clicking on the CB as he replied, “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

“You can’t be out there at night!”

As Victor looked down at the ground below him, the cows had been replaced by unstable figures surrounded in black smoke. Tendrils of it carried off their frame and disappeared into the night. There was no sight of flames, but there was a glow somewhere inside them. Even though a body was not detectable, Victor saw three sets of eyes looking up at him. A small and gentle hand was placed on his shoulder, but the voice that whispered in Victor’s ear was not Lily’s.

“Careful,” the child-like voice said, “they bite.”

Before Victor turned to face the voice in his ear, he was pushed from the ledge. As he plummeted to the ground, the shadowy figures waited below to catch him. They opened their mouths with hungry smiles and their gaping mouths were not full of teeth but flames, ready to burn him with every bite.

Victor gasped and a cold panic flashed through him. Silence crept in like a cat through a narrow doorway and he knew his experience was over. Talking with Lily would have to wait for another time because Victor was wide awake and holding the receiver of a phone with a repetitive busy signal. The only light in the room was the shade of light pink reflected by the clock reading 4:48am. An open window allowed the cool morning breeze to push through and gently move the curtains.
To anyone else, repetitive dreams were something easily shrugged off, but Victor felt they were a sign. For one, he was dreaming of his daughter that had died almost five years ago and secondly, her body was never found. He had faith his dreams were actually trying to lead him to her.

Victor questioned his sanity, but he had actively been writing down information from his encounters over the past two years. The brief moments he was able to pull together barely gave him solidarity to corroborate a setting let alone a purpose. As far as he could discern Lily was okay.

She had consistently recalled a bright light pulling at her like an ocean wave towards what she described as a castle. The castle was surrounded by fields of wheat with no roads. Lately, a lot of the dreams were brief flashes and wouldn’t last long enough to pull any conclusions. This last dream added terrifying images making Victor wonder just how safe it was there.

Lily never said she felt in danger. Rather, she felt alone and scared without anyone around. She was trapped and even though she could open the doors, she knew stepping outside on her own was not an option. There were no windows, until today, and no sense anyone was with her, but she said once she knew there were “others” preferring to stay hidden.

Whatever the case, Victor was hopeful. He was making progress. Whether or not it would end with the vindication of his sanity was still open to debate. The cold truth was his wife, Jaime, and his daughter, Lily, had been involved in a car accident years prior.

It was believed she was ejected from the car during the crash and her body drug away by wild animals before rescue crews arrived. An uncharacteristic blizzard promptly followed, making search and rescue efforts nearly impossible. For a month, volunteers searched for her body, but the lack of evidence only pointed to an unknown outcome. Victor’s wife held on as long as she could but passed away before the EMT’s were able to get her out of the car.

The dreams started a few days after Victor buried his wife. The first was simply of Lily, standing by the roadside telling him everything was going to be alright. He had nearly forgotten the pitch in his daughter’s voice or the happy tones that came with each word. He would give anything to have her back for a single day; one full of hugs, board games, reading together, and talking. He had told her so many times when she was alive he would do something with her later, when he could. That time never came and when her time was up, all that was left inside Victor was regret and shame. A giant hole formed inside him where his heart used to be and nothing filled the void. All of the money his family acquired over the past decades would not plug the emptiness. Dreams were his only bits of happiness that kept the rift from growing wider. It gave him focus and determination.

Victor leaned back on his elbows on the hotel bed. The hovering 3D light of the clock spun around slowly like a small planet. The time glowed in large pink numerals and the date reading smaller below 09/17/2042. He waved his hand through the time stamp and it faded until the room was dark.

He moved to the window and opened the curtains fully. The floor his room was on did not provide much scenery past the busy road in front, but the sweet smell of cool air helped him wake up.

“Where are you, Lily?” he called out to the faint reflection of himself in the window pane.

Sensing no reply, he removed his suit from the room’s wardrobe so he could begin readying himself for the conference he had later that morning. As he started the shower, he thought back to where his life started leading him to that point.


Comments, questions? These are mandatory if you’ve made it this far…


 

 

Journey of 1000 Miles

Into the Dawn (teaser)

Into the Dawn

 

A year doesn’t seem like a long amount of time. It sounds as if it were a simple, passing thing. But a year is how long one man waited in order to start his son out on a journey of epic proportions. As most fathers do, they hope that their children will become the improved versions that they had hoped to aspire, to live a life fuller and more rewarding life than they once had. In most circumstances, pain and strife are catalysts that change a boy into a man, wiping clean the innocence of daily life and replacing it with a harsher reality. To combat those faults, a spiritual journey is needed, one that tests the soul and forces a man to find himself. Young Jack Calloway’s journey began with a knock on his door.

ΩΩΩ

Knock-knock

Jack peeked up from reading his newspaper, put down the spoonful of rice flakes and began making his way to the front door. Curiosity, with a trace amount of fear, began pacing through him. Nowadays, nobody knocked on the door unless it was a kid selling magazine subscriptions for their local school, a missionary wanting to convert you, or like last year, a sheriff bringing bad news like the one who arrived telling Jack that his father had died in an accident.

Knock-knock

Jack rarely if ever left his late father’s cabin. After his car wreck, Jack Calloway Sr. left everything to the sole heir of the family, which was Jack Calloway Jr. The cabin and some various personal artifacts were all that he kept. The two other homes belonging to his family were sold at estate auctions along with vehicles and furniture that were no longer personal to him. The cabin held memories though; times growing up as a child, Christmases and get-togethers with family or friends. It was roughly a 30 minute drive from anything civilized. It originally started off as a simple two-room shack with a kitchen. As the family prospered, two rooms became four and shortly from there, four rooms became two floors and two floors moved on to two houses.

A few people had cabins on the other side of the hills or far down the road, but the long generations of Calloways had bedded down there for the past hundred years and owned the habitable part of 250 acres of National Forest. Jack was an aspiring writer. Being independently wealthy from the land investments his family made over the years and having no want of public attention since the funeral, something had to keep his mind from going completely insane. Writing was therapy for him. It was his way of escaping, creating and draining himself of the emotions he desperately wanted to bury. He had been spending the last few months transcribing some of his father’s written journals onto an electronic format.

Knock-knock-knock

Persistence is an admirable quality for lovers, but in Jack’s mind, a rather annoying quality when one simply wanted to be left alone. Jack peered out through the living room shutters and didn’t notice a car visible in the gravel driveway. It was an awfully long way for anyone to walk up the mile-long drive past the gates at the mouth of the road, which were always locked anyhow. A call box led straight up to the cabin from the entry off of the road for any deliveries or emergencies. Curiosity and anxiety began mixing an unfavorable stew in Jack’s stomach as he approached the door. He looked through the eyepiece in the door slowly, but the sun at that time of day cast only a shining prism of sunlight through the hole. He reached for the door to open it. KNOCK-KNOCK pounded from the other side and now Jack was getting pissed that someone would disrupt his sanctum at such an early hour. No sooner than the sound reached his ears that he unlocked and whipped open the door, ready to give some poor sap a verbal lashing. The cool fall morning air rushed over his skin, but the breeze was all that greeted him in his doorway.

Could it have been the iron door knocker being tussled about violently? The wind didn’t sound or feel that strong. It was nothing more than enough to scuttle some leaves along the pavement. He shuffled outside past his threshold and down the cobblestone path toward the gravel driveway. Once down to the edge of the drive, he could see around the bend that went all the way down the hill to the main entrance. Yet, nothing was there. All that accompanied him were the sounds of the woods and the breeze blowing tunes through their dry leaves and pine bristles. No puffs of dust or crunching twigs eluded to the retreat of anyone that was once there. Perhaps the lack of companionship over the last few months had taken its toll on Jack’s sanity. As he thought, it was time once again to travel out and get some more supplies or maybe head down and pick up a couple more books and talk to the lovely Violet. She was a friend during his late teens and tried to be there for the most recent family tragedy when Jack would let her.

Jack re-entered his house and shut the door locking it once again; laughing to himself as he thought of old suspense movies that usually involved a young woman who had strange frights happen shortly before a killer appeared. I’m the damsel, he chuckled inwardly. He stopped after locking the door waiting for that pinnacle moment when a knock would come back now that he felt safe once again. Silence echoed to him with nothing more to offer. He walked from the foyer and toward the kitchen again to resume what was no doubt now a soggy bowl of rice flakes.

Ding-dong

“That sure isn’t the wind…” he said to himself, now feeling a little more uneasy about the solitude in his world.

He walked quickly to the door and waited in hushed breaths for the restrained laughter of high school boys, out to kill time while skipping their history class. Still no noise except for the little breeze creating a dance for the dry leaves on the walkway.

Ding-dong

Now, Jack thought, the games were getting old. He went for the fireplace and grabbed a poker. He made his way to the front door along with an announcement. “If you’ve had your fun now, I’d like to be left alone. Don’t make me involve the police in this matter.”

Ding-dong

“I have a weapon and it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to use the term self-defense when the ambulance comes to take any of you away.”

Ding-dong

Jack crept slowly to the door, talking away from its direction in order to give the illusion that he wasn’t standing right there, ready to scare the shit out of the little bastards turning his morning ritual into a chore.

Ding-dong

“I’m going to dial now so you’ll have about 5, maybe 10, minutes to get out of here.” He placed his hand on the knob, after quietly releasing the lock and waited for the next ring to start so that he could give a proper fright to whoever wasn’t expecting it.

Ding-

Jack swung the door open with a viciousness that any policeman would appreciate. His display showed he could storm into a drug raid with ease. He jumped out with poker in hand ready to snarl and yell at the young punks he imagined standing there. By the time the dong had chimed, he was out the door and in full force giving his best and most masculine roar. But again, no one was there to witness the spectacle. For a brief second or two, Jack was convinced that he was starting to get the traditional cabin fever and should immediately head toward civilized company. That was until he noticed an irregularity on his walkway which made him feel better about his state of mind, but worse about the physics of what just took place.

Lying flat on the base of the steps leading to his doorway was a suitcase. It looked as if it were made out of wood, a deep mahogany with light maple wood trim. Part of him wanted to retreat quickly into the house and try to forget that he had seen anything on his porch. Another side of him was insatiably curious and wanted to snatch the case and drag it back inside like some wild animal living in a cave. Like most creatures of wonder, Jack followed his curiosity and left his common sense back at the breakfast table.

He locked the door behind him and proceeded to the living room, cleared off the coffee table of its over-sized art books and the small statuette of Venus de Milo, and placed the case on top. He sat on the leather-bound sofa and took in the architecture of the case. It was wood indeed, sanded smooth as glass and emitted the smell of cedar. There were no metal clasps on the front, just copper colored hinges in the back. A small wooden dowel was inserted through an eyelet and provided the only latch that kept the case from falling open. If there was any wear to the object, Jack would’ve sworn it was an antique from colonial times. But it appeared to have been crafted recently judging by the state of its condition.

He weighed his next move. He listened closely for any moving parts, ticking or animal sounds. It was safe for him to say after 15 minutes that he was bound to open it one way or another and whatever the consequences, he would try to act rapidly when they occurred.

Jack removed the linchpin and opened the case, expecting to find either something horrifying or something astonishing. Yet to his lack of enthusiasm, all that was before him appeared to be common, but historic-looking objects. The inside of the case was lined with a royal violet satin and each object seemed to have been placed in a silhouette of its own shape to secure it from slipping. There was a pocket watch that was missing the hands, making it the most useless item, a monocle with a polished silver lining, a detailed stamp accompanied by a stick of wax. The stamp bore an impression of a single feather. There was a coin that had the face of a man on one side, like an old statue from the time of Greek mythology and the head of a bull on the other. And lastly, there was the most peculiar looking key. It was in the shape of a lower-cased t, or possibly a crucifix, yet every point had a key’s edging on it. In his mind, it reminded him of four elaborate skeleton keys linked together. The shafts were black as pitch and cylindrical. The heads and teeth to each point were bright silver in color and bled into the blackness. What could this go to? was the constant question running through Jack’s mind.

The whole situation was surreal at best, but at the same time comforting for him. He didn’t recognize anything that appeared to belong to his father, but each object felt as if it might have. It was like catching the scent of his dad on an old coat, like an empty shell that remained filled with the memory of him at the same time.

The question beyond the key, was now deciding where these objects had come from and what purpose they had showing up at his doorstep? The most logical thought he could muster was to take one of the objects into town and stop by Seamus’ antique parlor. It was more like a storage area for all of the things the old adventurer had collected over the years. Seamus was an old family friend and Jack Sr.’s childhood pal. Uncle Seamus was what Jack Jr. always used to call him and still did at times. He might have some answers to where the trinkets could have originated from or how far they might date back. Then, perhaps, he would have to swing by and possibly find an old reference book from Violet’s store. Some excuse to visit her would do, now if there was an amusing or intriguing story to go along with his visit to peak her interest… that would be just aces.

The most intriguing piece would have to be the key. He had never seen anything quite like it, but Seamus might have some insight from his travels to Europe, or down throughout Northern Africa, across the Asian continent or diving in and out of islands in the Pacific. He was quite the well rounded traveler, and loved collecting the most unique objects along the way. They were things that Mrs. Seamus got tired of seeing as well as Mr. Seamus’ company. She left him over six years ago. Sometimes, there are just no explanations when you aren’t living in the situation. One year they were fine and laughing and joking around the family barbeques that Jack’s family used to hold in the summer time. The next year, she barely looked at him and was claiming that his travels had tarnished their marriage and she couldn’t stand to be with him. Afterwards, Seamus rooted down and stopped his travels and opened up his Antique Emporium, right off of Main St. The key would definitely perk up his interests and hopefully help him recall some bits of wisdom he had acquired over the years. So there it was; Jack was set to go off to the Emporium and visit with Seamus.


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