Topic: Is it Possible to write a good book as Fanfiction?

Moon_Flower_WMThis week’s blog post is a topic, rather than a single book review.  I suppose the most important thing about this blog to me is that I enjoy writing and producing work.  So occasionally, if I am not inspired, either by book or topic, I don’t post.  Luckily, that lack of inspiration is rare. But for the past few weeks, I was overwhelmed with the fan fiction works over at Archive of Our Own webpage.

It is a collect of fans and writers that produce  volumes of books based on a huge range of original works: from books like Sherlock Homes to TV shows like MerlinSupernatural, and Teen Wolf.  I have spent several weeks reading book after book in the Teen Wolf realm.

Introduction:

This massive amount of reading lead me to the question: Is there any value in fan fiction?  I have attempted to read some other fan fiction derivatives like 50 Shades of Grey, which were horrible, despite the fact that they were published works.  So the question can easily be asked, what chance do we have as readers, to find a well crafted book that was not written for profit?

The reasons that these individuals are not paid for their work, even if it is of the highest quality is often because of copyrights and the potential of lawsuit.  Who wants to get sued for writing something out of love and admiration of the original concept?

So, let’s look at some examples I’ve read from AO3 and see what I consider good vs. bad and what I consider the characteristics for success.

When a Fan-fiction Author Uses the Same Universe:

When a writer bases their work on another’s original work, there is a “bible” of lore that they should not break.  For example, Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite and he has superpowers.  If suddenly he was from Mars and worked as a handicapped janitor, it would not be the same universe.  So, here are some  things that I need to be satisfied:

Technical facts and history is in accordance to the original work.  It does not have to be perfect, but like my example above, I would notice the difference.  If it draws me out of the story, then it has strayed too far.

Writing Quality is Acceptable:  This is a universal requirement for me.  There is a range of acceptable quality, usually a 3 star and higher (on a 5 star scale).  Granted, the 3 star is obviously not a well written.  Take 50 Shades as an example.  I could not read past the first few chapters because the writing quality was so poor.  Now, in a published book, this is a greater issue for me, because there was an editor and publishers reviewing the document.  While fan fiction often has beta writers, there might not be as uniform in attention to detail.

The work can stand on its own:  This is vitally important to me as a reader of fan fiction.  If we utilize the same variables as the original work, I should not think, “well, this is exactly like the tv show, but I would rather watch it.”  Even if it is in the same universe, I want my enjoyment of the book to stand on its own.

Some examples:

Moon_WCfilter

The first is You Don’t See Straight, by Annber.  They have a paranormal similar universe, the same characters, with a good deal of the same back story.  Now, in this case, the back story of Derek is greatly different, and provides us with part of the plot.  This is also more sexy fun time novel (would call it erotic), so obviously the tone is different.  But overall, it is a well written book, with a consistent plot, and has great character development.

A second intriguing example is Prince Among Wolves by tylerfucklin.  It does vary from the original TV show, but we still have the paranormal universe with our werewolves.  What makes this work for me is that the characters still act as they normally would, plus we get a similar werewolf universe as TV.

However, another novel, called The Alpha Pair by ShiningOmicron, while somewhat enjoyable, I would award it closer to 2 stars because of the lack of polish.  It remained fairly close to the TV show, but it felt very 1 dimensional and I did not feel connection to the plot or characters.

Now, why do I still mention The Alpha Pair?  Because, the next book that ShiningOmicron wrote was Strength Thy Name is Family, which is an extremely good novel.  I will discuss this novel in my next section of “alternate universes”.

When a Fan-fiction Author Uses an Alternate Universe:

The other type of fan fiction I would like to discuss is “alternate universe”.  I have previously written a post about an AU Teen Wolf fan fiction book in DILF by Twentysomething.  These types of fan-fiction have a greater latitude in their storyline.  If Stiles is now a truck driver, well that’s ok now.  But I do still have some requirements:

The Characters Must still Act “In-Character”:  What I mean is that while their back history, current job, universe (magical versions normal), might be different, these characters hold the same values and motivations.  In DILF, while Stiles and Derek’s lives were very different, their personalities were very similar.  Derek was emotionally repressed and Stiles was his bubbly, spirited self.

The other two things are repeated from above:

Writing Quality is Acceptable:  This is a universal requirement for me.  There is a range of acceptable quality, usually a 3 star and higher (on a 5 star scale).  Granted, the 3 star is obviously not a well written.  Take 50 Shades as an example.  I could not read past the first few chapters because the writing quality was so poor.  Now, in a published book, this is a greater issue for me, because there was an editor and publishers reviewing the document.  While fan fiction often has beta writers, there might not be as uniform in attention to detail.

The work can stand on it’s own:  This is vitally important to me as a reader of Fan fiction.  If we are dealing with all of the same variables as the original work, I should not think to myself, “well, this is exactly like the tv show, but I would rather watch it.”  Even if it is in the same universe, I want my enjoyment of the book to stand on its own.

Some Examples:

This list is a little shorter, as it seems more authors are writing in the “werewolf” universe.

DILF, by Twentysomething is my first choice, as mentioned  before.  Stiles is a schoolteacher to Derek’s nephews in which Derek is currently raising.  The writing is excellent and I was so compelled to find out what happens.

I’ve Lived for These Few Seconds by Kyrene is technically still in the same universe as Teen Wolf, after all, we still have the Alpha Derek.  However, the focus is on Stiles’ non-supernatural life.  I love the idea of adding a bit of Drag Queens and cross-dressing into my Sterek.

More cross-dressing occurs in Bright Eyes, by wearing_tears as Stiles as a cabaret singer.  Where this story excels is that we have all of our Beacon Hill characters and personalities, in a completely unique plot-line.

Need a little Fluff?  Baking My Way Into Your Heart by theSilence is a story of two college students who fall in love, after first being friends.  Stiles finds the secret of Derek’s love: baked goods.

There are more to suggest, but these will get you started.

Conclusion:

Not_One_Way_WM

So, what does this long post mean?  I believe that there is value in fan fiction.  These authors give us nuances into characters that are not explored in the original works, and provide us alternative paths that the characters could walk.  Sometimes, the authors follow the same universe and other times they set an entirely new world to explore.

To say that fan fiction is worthless is a disservice to all of the hard work and hours these individuals have spent in writing.  It also does a disservice to the readers who love and support them within the community.

It might be true that we must narrow the best choices from poorly written, but we do that already whenever we get a book from Amazon or iBooks.  I think of these fan fiction webpages as the breeding ground for brilliant minds as they learn how to write.  Just think, some day you might see their own original pieces on the shelf.  By reading these books and providing feedback we aid a greater cause: creatively of the human spirit.

Bea

Review: Lover At Last — by J.R. Ward

LALOther Reviewers: Goodreads

By now, if you read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, you know who Qhuinn and Blay are.  There have been numerous book reviews about what was good or what was disappointing about the storyline, and some of those complaints will be repeated here.

I will minimize spoilers, but know that this is a discussion of Qhuinn and Blay whose relationship has spanned a large portion of the series.  If you have never read the series, start with Wrath’s book Dark Lover.  Some links to my previous blog posts of the series:

Overview of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Dark Lover (Book #1)

Lover Eternal (Book #2)

Lover Unleashed (Book #9)

There has been some discussion on the Goodreads forums about how the series has moved from a Paranormal Romance book (PNR) to a more Urban Romance (UR).  Some readers feel that J.R. Ward has been moving from a romance with a HEA to stories that are less focused on the romance.  There are some valid concerns here, certainly in Lover At Last, the main love story is only 1/2 of the book and a large spotlight was on Assail and Marisol and Trez and his fate.  There is also the primary story arch of the Band of Bastards.  There is a lot of threads going on here and there is no way to just say this book is a “romance book”.  This series has evolved.  The positive thing about this is that the writing style has matured and Ward has developed a highly complex method of interweaving a large number of storylines.  The downside is that I miss the focus we had in those early books with the romances.

Basic Plot:

This is book 11 in the series where Qhuinn and Blay finally accept their love for each other.  In the mean time, Layla struggles with her role as pregnant fallen Chosen, Xcor and his Band of Bastards plot with the glymera against Wrath, Assail finds sexy chic and increases his drug cartel while being badass, and Trez has lots of sex with random women while avoiding an unrelenting queen.

Qhuinn:

We began seeing Qhuinn and Blay when John was a pre-trans for fighter training in book three, Lover Awakened.  Their romance and friendship has evolved throughout the last 9 books.  Certainly as a character, Qhuinn has matured; we saw him in the earlier years denying his feelings for Blay by engaging in sex with everyone but him.

The biggest conflict in Qhuinn’s life is his alienation from his family, due to his physical deformity.  His mis-matched eyes make him a pariah to both the glymera and his family, his friendship with Blay is in ruins where he feels that he is not good enough for Blay.   In the past two books we have seen Qhuinn begin to accept who he is, striping the external armor he wore to divert his insecurities.  After all, if he rejects others before they can reject him the pain will be lessened.  Right?

But, with Layla he finds acceptance.  After all, both of them are orphans, both of them have been screwed over by life.  They decided in the last book to create a life and make a family of their own.  I love how Layla describes Qhuinn:

He was a great, fearsome protector, and that was precisely what a female needed when she was pregnant, nursing, or caring for a young.

That and his innate kindness made him noble to her.

No matter the color of his eyes.

That is what Qhuinn is, a man who is incredibly noble and worthy of being a Brother.

Blaylock:

Blay is a good guy.  Everyone likes him, everyone depends on him.  He has a safe and sexy relationship with Saxon, even if he does not love him.  But despite his acceptance by the fighters of the Brotherhood and his family, Blay still misses something that he has always wanted:  Qhuinn.

Blay was good with being relied on.  There was a kind of safety in it–a certainly, a control.  It was not the same as falling into the abyss.

However, Blay’s actions in Lover At Last is incredibly immature.  There are many points within this novel where the boys could have made up if Blay would have just stood still and let Qhuinn speak.  I know it was to help us prolong the romantic tension, but it just annoyed him.

Theme Summary:

For me, I found the theme is about family.  This is not a new theme, we see this in every book, as our Black Dagger Brotherhood has made a family, by sweat, tears, and their own spilt blood by defending each other and their race.  Qhuinn’s family always denied him their love and support.  Now Qhuinn has surrounded himself with a new family, but what he is missing is a partner, Blay to complete it.

Strong Points:

I like where Ward is taking Layla and at first I could not stand her.  One problem with the female characters in this series has been a shallow viewing of them.  Some of the more developed characters have been Xhex and Payne, and those are the fighting females.  The BDB series focuses on the males, when it comes to character development and the females, the stories usually focus on their status (like Marissa), their sex-life (like Bella), or their health (Mary).  Their roles are usually on how their place in the male’s life changes the male.  Really, I have only noticed difference in that with X and Payne, which I think has more to do with the fact that they are more independent and warriors in their own right.  Now we have Layla, who while is not a fighter, she is fighting to fit into this new world.  A fantastic quote:

In the Old Language, she hissed, “If any harm shall befall him, I will come after you, and find you where you sleep.  I do not care where you lay your head or who with, my vengeance shall rain upon you until you drown.

I have a love-hate with both Layla and the females of the series, but I am actually now looking forward to see how Layla matures.

The scene with the induction was just beautiful and kept in line with the rest of the series.

The Brotherhood action scenes are incredibly kick-ass.  And I think that the scene with Z and flying a plane.  It is perhaps, the single most exciting scene in the BDB series.  How Qhuinn handle it, the emotions that he gave us was breathtaking and probably my favorite part of the novel with the exception of the ending.

But most of all, I am so pleased that Ward had the courage to write a male/male romance focused BDB novel.  We saw hints of it with V and Butch earlier on in the series, but for whatever reason, we never saw it come to fruition.  But this is a fully blossomed romance between two male warriors.  We have been waiting for Qhuinn and Blay’s romance for years.

What could be better?

Sure, we got the sex between the boys, but I was left a little disappointed with their romance part of it.  There were so many parts of this story that could have been solved easier if they had just spoken to each other honestly.  I was a little disappointed at how the meat of their romance was not until the end of the book, although that is really  not that different from any other book in the series.

I want to clear up one of the complaints that others have regarding the male sex scenes.  Some people said that they were disappointed in the prep-work of the male body for sex and the lack of lube.  But, keep in mind that these males are vampires who have different physiology, including longer endurance and no recover-time.  So don’t worry about the lube, they didn’t need it and that’s just fine.

I was also disappointed with the lack of Brother activity.  This series is a Black Dagger Brotherhood series, not the Shadows series and not the Band of Bastard’s series.  I will be honest in saying that I skimmed a great deal of those side stories, they felt over emphasized and pointless.  But I felt the same way whenever I read about the Lessers in previous novels.  I did feel that we got too much face-time in compared with the Brothers.

Conclusions:

Overall, I am glad that I read the book and I really am thrilled that we finally got the Qhuinn and Blay story completed.  I was satisfied with their romance, the sex was masculine and hot.  The romance at the end of the story was heartfelt and romantic.

I was a bit disappointed in having to go through all of the other stories, but I know that Ward was just setting up the next books and it is expected.  My biggest issue is that I really dislike all of the people (Assail, Trez, Xcor, and the Bastards).  What stories I am looking forward to seeing is: Manny and Payne updates, Wrath and Beth baby updates, Rhage and Mary updates, and that ex-brother Mhurder.

In Ward’s Facebook posting on March 30th, we got the hint that the next book will focus on Wrath and Beth with creating a baby.  This is a relief to me, because I was afraid that we would be forced to read a romance with this non-brothers that had stories in this book.  The series is the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and the moment that we have to have a main storyline and HEA that does not focus on the BDB is the day that this reader will have to find another series.

But I am truly glad that I read Lover At Last, Qhuinn and Blay deserved their story.

Bea

Review: Laying a Ghost — by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

laying_A_GhostOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I read quite a bit of books throughout the week, some that touched me and others that did not.  I strive to only compose book reviews here that motivate me to write, otherwise the blog feels more as a job than a passion.  I was set to write a review for a book that I read a few weeks ago, I had a vague idea of what to write about, but no real passion for the story.  I had dragged my feet and found this book, Laying A Ghost, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow late Friday night.  I knew by the first third of the book, that this reading experience was worthy of a blogpost.

Basic Plot:

John McIntyre is a fisherman/taxi-man on a small, remote Scottish island (Hebridean islands).  John meets his fare, Nick Kelly in the town of  Traighshee and they quickly find a friendship.  As they learn more about each other, will these differences be too much and is John willing to risk everything for Nick?  Can Nick let go of the past to live for the future?

Background:

I have read a few of Davitt and Snow’s novels which had a large emphasis in BDSM.  In those books, there is a dark intensity there, often following a “traditional” romance formula.  So I came to this book with a bit of hesitation, not because I did not like those books, rather that I did not know if that their only style.  However, I found this book to be both charming and endearing.

The island itself is a character, which can be a challenge for a writer not to overwhelm the protagonists.  In this case, the atmosphere of the town of Traighshee explains so much about the background of John that we understand his motivations almost instantly and helps to pull us into the story.  By the end of the first chapter I was drawn into story and the slower pace was actually welcoming.  Like watching an Emma Thompson Regency period movie, you just sit back and immerse yourself into the culture and environment.

John McIntyre:

John is a closeted gay man living in the small town of Traighshee.  The fear of disappointing his family and friends keeps him safely hiding his sexuality, but his love of the land and family keeps him there.  We see John early on as a loving man who often takes care of others in the community.  This level of comfort that John provides others is described by Nick:

There was something about John’s voice, his accent, that was comforting, and Nick didn’t think it was just that it reminded him of how his mother had sounded when he was small– her accent had faded after years in the States until, by the time she’d gotten sick, it was barely noticeable.  Maybe it was something specific about John, or maybe that was just a romantic fantasy.

While reading a book, at least on my part, I see the story as a movie.  The ability of the authors to create characters that are so intricate we are immersed in the dialogue, including the accents.  Davitt and Snow conduct a symphony with this Scottish accent of John.  I fell in love with him in part because of his speech patterns, not just his words and actions.

Dominic “Nick” Kelley:

Nick enters the story as a “mysterious American stranger” whose character is unveiled slowly.  His mother (Fiona) was born on the island, but escaped for a bigger life early in hers.  Now Nick has returned after her death and after his uncle Ian’s death he inherited  his home, Rossneath House.  Nick is escaping from a recent tragedy and we learn that there is just something not quite normal about him.

“Nick Kelley,” the man said, not offering his hand either.  There were little lines around his eyes that seemed to indicate that he hadn’t been sleeping for a lot longer than it had taken for him to travel here from the states.

He is fragile, both physically and emotionally.  As the story continues we find that he actually has a core strength which John learns to rely on in later tense events.

Theme Summary:

This book, to me, is about finding yourself and being true to your inner self.  Nick says something to John later in the book that really spoke to me:

“But I’ve spent my life learning to trust my instincts, or at least trying to, and I don’t want to go into this half-assed.”  He hitched himself up a little higher and clarified.  “If we’re going to try, I’m going to try all the way.  I’m not going to hold back out of worry that it might not work out, because if I do, maybe it won’t work out.  You know?”

This is truly the spirit of Nick and how he approaches his life with John and his new life in Scotland.  Later we see another quote from John that also reflects this theme:

“Money–aye, well, there’s no denying it’s handy, but it’s not worth losing what you are to get it.”

Be true to yourself and don’t hold back for fear of rejection or failure.

Strong Points:

The writing.  At no time did I go, “oh yeah there are two authors here and I can tell the difference in writing styles.”  I could never tell the difference, and I am curious to know how they make their collaboration work so seamlessly on paper.  I love their ability to write the accent and culture of Scotland into the writing and dialogue.

What could be better?

I read a review on either Goodreads or Amazon that thought the writing quality was not good enough.  Ironically they said that English was not their first language, but I wonder if that was part of the reason that they had difficulties.  This book has such a foreign feel to it, this coming from an American.  I love finding a book that gives me a taste of a world in which I do not live.  Davitt is English, so she brings in her personal background to make a vivid portrayal of the environment and culture.  I loved this, but perhaps someone might not like the slower pace.  Quite frankly I can think of nothing to improve the book.

Conclusions:

I found this book because I yearned for a book that was well written, had some sexiness, but was more heartwarming than extreme sex scenes.  Laying a Ghost, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow has all of these things, but above all it made me think.  It made me realize not to give up on myself or my dreams, and anything worth doing will require sacrifice.  This is certainly a wonderful book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Bea

Review: Forbidden — by Jacquelyn Frank

Other Reviews: Goodreads

Intro:

Recently I have been reading more m/m romances, so the fact that I was compelled to finish this one implies quality of writing.  Forbidden, by Jacquelyn Frank is a spin off of the Nightwalkers’ Series.  There is a brief intro where we see Bella telling the reader a little backstory, but I believe that you could read Forbidden without having read the other series.

Basic Plot:

Docia is an office manager whose life is cut short when someone murders her.  Her spirit is stopped in the Ether by a bodywalkers who needs to hitch a ride to the world of the living through Docia’s body.  Once back, a handsome man vows to protect her for her new husband.  Yet Docia and Ram are drawn to each other, can they fight fate?

Background:

There are 12 species of Nightwalkers, but only 6 of them were know in the previous series: Demons, Lycanthropes, Druids, Vampires, Shadowdwellers, and Mistrals.  This new series picks up where that one left off with the mention of the following: Gargoyles, Djynn, Bodywalkers, and Angels.  Yes, that is only four, but this is just the first book, perhaps further information will develop as does the series.

What I find fascinating about Frank’s world is that it has so many layers, one series just adds complexity to the plot-line rather than just a bunch of unrelated stories.  Now to be honest, I gave up after Elijah (#3), but I think a lot of that had to do with my change in interests (was tired of paranormal and female/male romances).  I found her Shadowdwellers book, Rapture extremely well written and the world very layered, as can be seen by my blogpost.  To be fair, it is probably time for me to re-read the entire Nightwalkers series and finish that storyline.

Female Lead:

What I like about Frank’s females are that they are not just women who lay back and take life’s lumps.  I can only assume that our author is one spunky chic herself!  I found Docia’s dialogue hilarious, and I can relate to her fears and anger:

Then, as if the agony of being run through meant nothing to him, the rescuer grabbed the attacker by the back of his head and yanked him down to meet the upward thrust of his knee.  There was the resounding crack of bone smacking into bone, and the attacker fell dazedly to the ground.

This, she thought inanely, is the part where I am supposed to run.  Oh, and that screaming thing would really come in handy, too.

The one continuous thing in her life is her brother, Jackson.  He is a cop who we follow throughout this book as he tries to find and rescue her.  In a way, this is almost like two romance stories intertwined within Forbidden.  But Jackson and his lady are just at the “getting to know you phase”, and I imagine that their romance will be the second book of this series.

If there is anything limiting about this book it is Docia’s character; while not a fighter like Bella, I find her sassiness rather familiar.  My question is, what part of this person is an original character and not a remix of the other female characters?  The difference here, in Forbidden is how her character blends with her bodywalker, we get to see how strong and well balanced she is emotionally.

Male Lead:

Enter our hot stud.  Docia describes Ram as this:

Docia felt herself shaking in her own skin as she looked up into what she could only describe as golden beauty.  He was gold of hair, a dark and white, uneven blond that rested in ghosts of curls around his head, just light enough at the tips to give him a nimbus effect, like a living savior stepped free of a fresco painting.  His eyes were mesmerizing in the way they matched his hair almost perfectly, that rich gold with a halo of lighter gold around the rims of his irises.

While he is the gorgeous warrior, there is a strength and loyalty to his pharaoh (Menes) and duty.  In fact, he fights his attraction to Docia rather than betraying his king.  This mentality is described early on in the novel:

Ram let go of her, no longer able to touch her as his conscience pricked him with nauseating reality.  He turned sharply on his heel and left her.

This would be the end of it, he vowed to himself.  He had dared to taste the forbidden.  He would never do so again.

We will pick up on this when describing the theme of the novel.

What makes this character outstanding to me is the combination of the bodywalker (Ram) and his human (Vincent).  Vincent is the rough, gritty human and Navy Seal now housing the soul of Ram.  I actually found Vincent the more interesting character and I was glad to have the opportunity to have Docia and Vincent interact.  Their scenes actually provided some character development for one of the main characters.  It is their shared sense of duty and honor that makes their personalities blend.

Theme Summary:

We have to understanding the backstory to discuss the theme.  While it is difficult to kill a bodywalker, it is not impossible.  There was a war between factions, the Politics and Templars both who think they have the right to rule.  This plot is something that can be taken from any European history period, how we see the struggle between the religious fervor and the warrior leader.  The theme of warrior versus religious sect is not new.  We can see it in world history (Catholics, the Crusades, Church of England, etc.) as well as the Shadowdwellers series.  The danger here is if it becomes the same tropey plot line.  This is the first book of the series, so we will have to see how this turns out.

There are two layers then to this idea of “forbidden”.  In simplest terms, this is that Docia is forbidden to him because she is the promised soul mate of his leader Menes.  But on the deeper level, we see what happens if you are so structured on what is forbidden or “right” you  miss opportunities.  When you stop listening to your heart you stop evolving and growing.  Sometimes the forbidden is not something to run away from, but rather it is something for you to search and embrace.

Strong Points:

The strength of this book is the quality of writing.  The world building and dialogue was magnificent, so vivid I could have been watching a film.  I found the secondary characters just as exciting as the main ones, and I fell in love with Jackson and Leo.  I want me some Leo right now, he is dark and violent, my favorite kind of Alpha Male!  I can only assume that he will be one of our future books.

What could be better?

I am slightly concerned about the lack of character development in this novel.  I found very little development from Docia.  We really do not get much in the way of interaction with her bodywalker (until the end and I understand why).  We are saved from a complete lack of character development because of the fascinating Vincent and the scenes with Jackson.  To be honest, I found the storyline of Jackson much more compelling and I almost felt like skipping the scenes with Docia just to get back to Jackson.

Conclusions:

Before writing this blogpost, I thought that I loved this book and had plans to give it a four star.  But after review, I think I am giving it a 3 star.  But let me say this, I still really enjoyed this book and I still recommend reading it!  I think this book suffers from being the first novel of a series, with the more compelling “leader” being introduced but not focused on in this book.  So we were stuck with a lot of jargon and two less interesting characters than those that will be in the next book.  I suspect that I will love the next book (providing my guess of who it will be is true).

If you liked this book, you will probably love her other Nightwalkers series and I suggest you try those.  If you want to see a more complex storyline, try her novel Rapture.

Bea

Review: Mind Game — by Christine Feehan

Other Reviews: Goodreads

Intro:

This is not the first Feehan paranormal series that I have read, however I enjoy the depth of plotline found within.  I almost did not finish the first book, Shadow Game and almost gave up on the series.  I had a problem getting behind the female lead of Lily Whitney, not really liking her and had no buy-in her happiness.  However, when I read the back cover of Mind Game, I found the plotline interesting and Nicolas had always been my favorite in book 1.

Basic Plot:

The GhostWalkers are military teams who have had their innate psychic abilities artificially improved.  Nicolas Trevane is sent on a mission to retrieve Dahlia Le Blanc, one of the orphaned children that Dr. Whitney experimented on years before.  But when he begins to take Dahlia to the other GhostWalkers, another team strikes her sanctuary.  Who can they trust and will they be able to control their passion for a happy ending?

Background:

This is book #2 of the GhostWalkers Series, and while you can read the books independently, there is an over-arching storyline that you might miss if you skipped.  It is hard to discuss the background of this series without giving away some of the plot.  However, the female lead from book 1 (Shadow Game), Lily Whitney’s father is Dr. Peter Whitney, this brilliant but evil scientist who began the GhostWalkers Program.  Now that Dr. Whitney has died, Lily inherited his work and now tries to use the money and power for good.  Lily attempts to find the lost orphans he experimented years before.

Mind Game begins after Lily and Ryland have gotten together and they have learned a bit about betrayal and Team 1 is now strongly unified.

Female Lead:

Dahlia Le Blanc is one of the orphans that Dr. Peter Whitney experimented on, his experiments more like torture than anything scientific.  She is beautiful and fragile in appearance:

Dahlia Le Blanc was the kind of woman most men would want to protect.  Very small, very slight, with enormous sad eyes and flawless skin.

We see her as a victim early on in the novel, someone who becomes sick when she uses her powers and when violence erupts around her.  She feels alienated from the world, never fitting in:

No one knew about her or her home.  She was human, yet not normal, so different she could never be accepted in the world.  Nor could she ever fit in and live comfortably.

If I had any complaints with Mind Game, it would be how she is portrayed as the weak victim.  Yes, she does have powerful psychic abilities, but they always seem not worth using without making her comatose.  Yet, Nicholas seems not to have any of these weaknesses.

Male Lead:

Nicolas Trevane is the epitome of my image of the Alpha male warrior.  He is quiet and has all appearance of being cold-blooded, but inside he is deeply passionate and faithful to his men and duty. Lily’s impression of him:

Nicolas Trevane always seemed to be in the shadows, and he was one of the GhostWalkers who made her nervous.  He sat in such stillness he seemed to blend in with his surroundings, yet when he went into action, he exploded moving so fast he seemed to blur.

He is lethal in everything that he does, but he does not take life lightly.  Both of his grandparents, the Lakota shaman and the Japanese warrior, equally spiritual in their own cultures have raised him with a respect for life.  This respect for life and Zen reflection is something Nico inherits:

Nicolas, already a part of the deepest shadows, was halfway on the other side of the room.  He returned a single shot, whispering the death chant as he did so.  His grandfathers had taught him the value of life – all lives, not just the ones he approved of – and that taking a life was no small matter.

To me, Nicolas is perhaps the most complex male character in this series.  He certainly is my favorite.

Theme Summary:

We are who we are, and we might find our yin to our yang as we search for our other half.  As Dahlia says:

She accepted people for who and what they were.  She accepted him.  Nicolas realized at that moment that Dahlia had led such a different life, so apart, she would never feel the need or desire to judge another for their peculiarities.

There is no need to hide who we are, and if we are a little different there is no need to be ashamed.

Strong Points:

Ms. Feehan is such a strong writer, with in depth plotlines and beautiful descriptions.  She manages to keep my interested in the situations, even fight scenes where often other authors cannot fully arrest the reader.  I love the philosophy that she brings into the novel; often I have marked quotes that strike me as powerful.

What could be better?

Normally, I have problems with how one-dimensional the male Alpha lead is in a Feehan book.  However, in this case, Nicholas is not your typical sniper, but has a rich background and spiritual philosophy that colors his actions.  However, I did find Dahlia rather flat, a typical “female in peril”.  I got a little tired of her whining about how dangerous their relationship would be and she could never be “normal”.

Conclusions:

Overall, I loved this book and it is one of my favorites in the series.  I recommend this book for any reader who loves paranormal romance with well-choreographed fight scenes and hot romance action.

Bea

GhostWalkers Series by Christine Feehan

Christine Feehan is a very prolific author, with several series: Dark Series, Ghost Walkers, Sea Haven, and Leopard Series.  For details, go to Christine Feehan webpage: http://www.christinefeehan.com/ghostwalkers/index.php.  I also found an excellent webpage that catalogs the the squads: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostwalker_Series

What makes this series so complex?

I believe what makes this series so interesting to me is that there are many levels to the book.  We have the simpler “love story” aspect of each book as we see the two main characters fall in love.  Over that is the series plot line that expands as the books go onward.

The basic world

Dr. Peter Whitney is a brilliant scientist who is head of a military program. By using drugs and gene therapy he enhanced their innate psychic gifts.  What we find out is that he practiced his skills years ago on orphaned females.  Now these women who did not have support are being lead to our Alpha heroes.  Thus our love story!  The GhostWalker Creed (Taken from the beginning of Mind Game):

We are the GhostWalkers, we live in the shadows

The sea, the earth, and the air are our domain

No fallen comrade will be left behind

We are loyalty and honor bound

We are invisible to our enemies and we destroy them where we find them

We believe in justice and we protect our country and those unable to protect themselves

What goes unseen, unheard, and unknown are Ghostwalkers

There is honor in the shows and it is us

We move in complete silence whether in jungle or desert

We walk among our enemy unseen and unheard

Striking without sound and scatter to the winds before they have knowledge of our existence

We gather information and wait with endless patience for that perfect moment to deliver swift justice

We are both merciful and merciless

We are relentless and implacable in our resolve

We are the GhostWalkers and the night is ours

Nox noctis est nostri

There is more to come of course, but I do not want to spoil the plot here.  The strength of this series is in the writing quality.  The descriptions are incredibly vivid and draw one into the story.  The female leads are strong willed, no simpering females who wait for their man to rescue them.  We still have the rescues, but often they manage to rescue each other.

Note:  I do have one question though:  In Book 2 (Mind Games, Kaden’s name is Kaden Bishop, but when he gets his own book he is called Kadan Montague.  His first name spelling is changed.  They do cover his change of last name as a “nickname” of Bishop, but it seems rather odd to me.

Conclusion:

I love this series!  Christine Feehan has the ability to draw a reader into the novel, dialogue, environmental description, and plotlines.  The only thing that is hit or miss is the character descriptions.  I found that for some of these men were all the same Alpha male, “grrrr!  I am strong and manly!”

Bea

I made a little graphic to display the Four Teams, including their book name and number.

The Books:  These should be read in order.  [*] Means they are my personal favorites

  • Shadow Game (#1) 2003 Characters: Ryland Miler & Lily Whitney
  • Mind Game * (#2) 2004 Characters: Nicolas Trevane & Dahlia Le Blanc
  • Night Game *(#3) 2005 Characters: Gator “Raoul” Fontenot & Iris “Flame” Johnson
  • Conspiracy Game * (#4) 2006 Characters:  Jack Norton & Briony Jenkins
  • Deadly Game (#5) 2007 Characters: Marigold Smith & Ken Norton
  • Predatory Game (#6) 2008 Characters: Jess Calhoun & Saber Wynter
  • Murder Game * (#7) 2008 Characters: Kadan Montague & Tansy Meadows
  • Street Game (#8) 2009 Characters: Mack McKinley & Jaimie Fielding
  • Ruthless Game (#9) 2010 Characters: Kane Cannon & Rose Patterson
  • Samurai Game (#10) 2012 Characters: Sam Johnson & Thorn

 

Review: The Concubine’s Gift by K. Ford K.

Other Reviews: Goodreads

Intro:

For information, this book was given to me for a review, but as always it does not affect what I say about the book.  This is the first book by K. Ford K.  I look forward to reading future books by this author.

Basic Plot:

The main protagonist is Bernice Babbitt, a repressed female who has done everything that her overbearing parents asked her.  She currently is married, to the former high school football star and raises their children while taking care of their Inn.  She buys a black-lacquer makeup case and finds that it belonged to a Hong Kong concubine, Blissful Night.  What we find out is that it is enchanted with some face powder, which allows her to see visions of sexual past and future of individuals she runs into.  The only way that she can get rid of these images is to tell the people what she sees.

Background:

At first I had to remember that this book is not a true “romance book” and there are sex acts described, but I would not call it erotica either.  K. Ford K. ‘s The Concubine’s Gift is a book that I think every woman should read, for self-reflection and self-discovery about their own sexuality.  The town Valentine, Nevada is one that has had a bordello, The Honey Bunny Ranch.  The bordello has been a point of contention between the conservatives (like Bernice’s mother, husband, minister, etc.) and other groups within the town.  Part of the plot of the book is dealing with the bunny ranch and banning prostitution.

Think about your life, your body, your decisions, is there anything about your life that you would change?  How do you handle those imperfections, do you just see them as marks of character or impenetrable faults?  For Bernice, some personality traits are to be buried not embraced:

But Bernice also did not believe that hiding her true opinions and sexual feelings was dishonest.  She thought it was similar to hiding a defect and Bernice felt that her defect was that she had too much sexual interest, too much excitability and far too much empathy for prostitutes.

This novel makes us take a sincere look at our emotions.   Are we being truthful with ourselves?  Are we pretending to be someone who we are not?

Protagonist:

Bernice Babbitt is someone in whom we can all relate, her mother corrects her actions, her father (Reverend) controlling her.  While these are stereotypes, I believe that we can all find people in our lives that reflect these types of influences.  In Bernice’s cases she finally breaks out of this cell that her insecurities have placed her entire life.  An illustration of her mental chains when thinking of her friend, Trinket:

But secretly, Bernice was fascinated by Trinket because she wore her sexuality as openly as a fragrant perfume.  She was also amazed by the fact that Trinket found life so easy and satisfying.

I think this is something that all of us should reflect on in our own lives: are you satisfied with your life?  Do you find it easy to be yourself? This does not mean, do you not work hard, but rather are you happy within your own skin.  Do you long to be someone else?

Theme Summary:

To me, the novel’s theme reflects Shakespeare’s’ Hamlet:

 This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78-82

 

Bernice’s visions are the manifestations of this theme, in all cases, people have been denying who they truly are.  Bernice illustrates this theme in describing her friend Mrs. Lin:

Secretly, Bernice thought that Mrs. Lin was the bravest person in Valentine, not because she knew how to handle ghosts, but because Mrs. Lin didn’t care a bit what anyone thought of her.

Being honest to ones self is vital and clearly missing in Bernice’s life and in so many of our lives we hide a part of ourselves.

Strong Points:

The author has the ability to describe such a colorful town, both in the conservative townspeople as well as the liberal members.  The author could have chosen to go over the relationship of Bernice or tried to make a romance out of the book, but instead she focused her purpose on one protagonist’s self-discovery.

What could be better?

When I started the book, I have to admit it took me a bit to get into.  It was not until 4% in that I finally met a person, up until that point it was all back-story of the town, Valentine.  However, it was not enough to stop me and I am glad that I kept reading.

Conclusions:

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  So many quotes touched me, but this review could only be so long.  It has been a while since I have read a book that had such a well-built and uniformed theme.  I found connections and concepts from A Game of Thrones to foot binding.  Every woman should read this book and reflect on their own life.  Is there anything that you need to change and be honest to yourself and others?  As Shakespeare says: “to thine own self be true.”

Bea