Sunday, August 29, 2021

Archibald Lox and the Rubicon Dictate by Darren Shan

 "They say he fell in battle, but demons like him don't fall, just rest up in the shadows, then come back stronger than ever."

Tensions between the Merged and SubMerged realms are precarious at best, but there's no bad blood a little game of grop, or even the event of a lifetime can't help mend...right? With the Tourney matches in full swing, our main character saved from the unforgiving grip of merciless killers, and the plot to kidnap a young prince underway, one might believe that all is peaceful in the capital city of Niffelheim. 

But the wheels of perilous plans are constantly in motion in the Merge, and sinister forces beyond our heroes' control are growing stronger by the moment. 

With a heart-pounding cat-and-mouse chase that takes us on a quest to the Born's New York City, the Rubicon Dictate is an epic conclusion to Darren Shan's second Archibald Lox volume, that readers will be sure never to forget. 

I maintained throughout my reading experience of the Archibald Lox series that book two in volume one, the Empress of Suanpan (that I've yet to write a review for), was by far, my absolute favorite. The way Darren Shan transported us with his words to worlds unknown was just extraordinary. Pure magic. But even as he painted a verbal portrait that made it easy for readers to place themselves directly in the narrator's shoes, I found myself going the extra mile by closing my eyes and fully immersing myself in the wonders of the Merge. Although each and every one of Archie's adventures so far has been an absolute delight, the Empress of Suanpan alone had this particular effect on me. 

That was, until the Rubicon Dictate. A quarter of the book in, and the Empress of Suanpan was riding her unicycle the long way down to second place. 

Archibald Lox and the Rubicon Dictate has a different flavor than the other books in Archie's story, and it's a flavor I savored quite a bit. The twists and turns, political intrigue, and masterful moves and countermoves between the Merged and SubMerged kept me coming back for more, day after day after day, even well after the book was finished. I feel as if in some ways, the series is maturing as Archie himself is maturing. It's subtle, and the shift from childlike wonder to sobering adulthood is gradual, but it's beautiful, and it receives a commending Literary Connoisseur ovation from me. There was a point of no return in the Slides of Bon Repell (book 5) for our hero and his dutiful readers, and I think it's at that exact point where we've made the switch from a good series, to an unforgettable one. 

If the first six books of this mad roller coaster of magic and mischief are any indication of what Darren Shan has in store for the final three, I think we're in for quite the landing. Darren Shan truly manifests a perfect balance of the whimsy of fantasy and the grittiness of reality, and no other young adult book of his highlights that talent more than Archibald Lox and the Rubicon Dictate. 

As each new installment of Archibald Lox is released to be devoured by readers, a new mystical pedal of the Merge and all its curiosities unfurls. I for one, cannot wait to see what awaits us. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Archibald Lox and the Slides of Bon Repell by Darren Shan

"There's always a next time, in grop, as in life. Never forget, second chances are what the Merge was made for."

The whispers travel like whistling winds from zone to zone. From SubMerged mouth to Merged ear and vice versa, everyone is talking about one thing, and one thing only. The sole affair in the Merge that can bring people of opposing sides of a war together. The Tourney.

Each standing realm is sending their star players to compete in this once in a lifetime game, which, under normal circumstances, would be the event of a millennia for our main characters to attend...if it weren't for an underlying mission that Archie and his friends are risking their safety and sanity to complete. Together, they must avoid suspicious eyes, journey into the forgotten territory of a foreign realm, and try and succeed to fly under the radar of anyone who's determined to ensure that they fail.

However, a competition that people have traveled all across the sphere to attend is likely to draw vengeful enemies as well as allies. Archie has narrowly escaped the treacherous clutches of death more times than he can count since he's ventured into the Merge, but when a SubMerged king sets his sights on him, this time may very well prove to be too much for our hero.

I have no shame in admitting that Archibald Lox and the Slides of Bon Repell, book five in Archie's story, is a slow-burner. Until about three quarters in, I considered this story of Darren Shan's to perhaps be a "bridge" book, a book that connects two more adventurous, more heart-pumping stories together with a bit of a breather in between. Which is quite how I view Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; not a favorite, just a bit of a break, an independent adventure if you will, before the story reaches an epic arc that quickly ascends into the series' climax. 

Little did I know that as I was leisurely observing matches of grop, gnawing on hotcats, and exploring the icy terrain of Niffelheim, Darren Shan was luring me into a false sense of security. Call the Slides of Bon Repell a "bridge" book if you must, but no ending to an Archibald Lox story has slapped me across the face like this one. Unfortunately, that's all I can reveal at this time without blatantly spoiling the entire ending for you, my dear unsuspecting reader. 

By about 63%, I could not put the book down--reading in such short bursts I'd pace around my kitchen, book in hand, chewing the inside of my bottom lip with nerves. I found myself in such a constant, frantic state of distress, I'd positively search my brain to think of someone, anyone, on my friend's list who's also read this series so that I'd have someone to talk to about it. 

As you all very well know by now, I am an avid Darren Shan fan. I spent many months of my teen years absolutely devouring his dark tales. Mentally envisioning his fantastical worlds, shivering at the thought of his nightmarish villains, and celebrating his heroes as said villains are destroyed and defeated. I've witnessed his characters blossom from terrified children, to unstoppable forces of nature, and I have found that familiar, "David and Goliath" comfort in Archie. There came an intense point for our main characters in the Slides of Bon Repell where I stopped dead in my tracks, looked up from my book, and thought to myself, "He's grown. He's actually grown. Our beloved scaredy cat is now a ferocious lion." It was the type of moment in a young adult book that makes a reader say, "If he can be brave, so can I."  I can't help but believe that this is a trait of an excellent storyteller. 

This series truly showcases Darren Shan's abilities as a writer. Like Archie, I find myself thinking less about the Born, and spend more of my time thinking about the Merge and what other layers of marvels and mystery are waiting to unfurl. 

The epic conclusion of this story cannot come soon enough. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt by Darren Shan


"But our story's forever evolving," Argate says. "We've started a new chapter, and unluckily for you, you're part of it." 


The day Archie first spotted the girl on the bridge, outrunning her pursuers and disappearing into thin air, life as he knew it had changed forever. 

The day he returned to the bridge to say goodbye--hell jackals defeated, a King saved, an Empress outsmarted, a vote of alignment decided--he thought his time in the "weird, welcome otherworld of the Merge" was over. 

But the Merge needs him back, and this time, Archie may never return to our sphere. The world of the living. The world of the Born. Archie's mind-bending adventures continue in book one, volume two of Archibald LoxArchibald Lox and the Forgotten Cryptand things are only getting more dark, more intense, and more dangerous from here. 

For loyal readers of Archibald Loxthe Forgotten Crypt is an unnerving welcome back to a world that we've come to love, and for new readers, it is a story that will grab you, hold you tight...


...and never let go.

I was approached by Darren Shan a few months ago to read and review the upcoming books in his new young adult series, and I fear that at the present moment, there are no words to properly express the level of excitement I was experiencing at the time. I'd reviewed Darren's work in the past when he was publishing books under his pseudonym Darren Dash, but to be asked for my honest input on his young adult works is an honor I never expected to be given. 

As someone who's been a fan of his stories for the better half of twenty-five years, I will say with full disclosure that Archibald Lox does not disappoint. As we, the avid readers of Darren Shan have matured over time, so has his writing. The whimsical, magical, "run off and join the circus" captivation and intrigue is still there, with its hold on you as powerful as ever, but Darren has moved on from the young adult world of vampires, spiders, and demons, and is now dabbling in the more sobering art of life, death, and life after death. Darren Shan masterfully crafts a story that opens a door (or borehole) into a universe previously unknown and undiscovered to us, and takes us on a journey through realms, war, politics, and the psychedelic wonders of the Merge. From whimsy to terror, from despair to peace, from a game of Grop to political intensity between realms, this could only be the signature work of a true master of horror. 

In Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt, Darren Shan does what he does best. He spins a chilling tale of wonder, enchantment, and intrigue, and leaves us bewildered and breathlessly reaching for the next book. 

While reuniting us with beloved characters, and setting us on a new, treacherous mission, Archibald Lox and the Forgotten Crypt is sure to ensnare, mesmerize, and astound readers of all ages.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Molls Like It Hot by Darren Dash

 Brutal, raw, disturbing…and positively addicting, Molls Like it Hot is unlike any Darren Dash novel I’ve ever read. It has the dark and suspenseful intrigue that a reader can expect from any story of his, absolutely, but it took me on a wild ride that I wouldn’t have expected from an expert horror writer like Darren Dash
  As I read, my mother would ask me, “How are you liking the book?” I honestly couldn’t reply with a cohesive answer. My mind whirled with questions, emotional pleas, and even more confused, frantic questions. I wasn’t a fan of the female protagonist, Toni, but I was hooked on her story… Just how she was added to the mix. I was desperate to find out more about this character that I didn’t even like. Without giving away too much information, I felt as if I had as much of a love/hate relationship with the two main characters (Eyrie and Toni) as they had with each other. Was this on purpose? Was I supposed to admire these characters one minute and despise them the next? Did Darren Dash want me to feel all of these things? If so, bravo. They certainly garnered a reaction out of me.   
  Although the question of, “Where do my feelings about this book lie,” was uncertain and went unanswered as I read the book, one thing is for certain now that the story is over. Molls Like It Hot stuck with me like you wouldn’t believe.
  There comes a certain risk with books that you adore from the very beginning. The protagonists can lose character development, the ending is sometimes disappointingly predictable, the author can ramble into uncharted territory that only makes sense in their own mind and lose the readers’ interest (although I’ll never reveal which book/author I’m talking about in particular…), and so on. That is a risk I never have to take with a novel from Darren Dash. No matter how surprising or unexpected a book of his is, I always walk away feeling as if my mind has been blown. Molls Like It Hot in particular. I have no idea what happened, I have no idea where the time went as I read, I have no proper words to describe what this book has done to me, but I do know this: Molls Like It Hot is a book I will never forget. 

It angers, it captivates, it intrigues, and it is everything one would desire from a Darren Dash novel.

Want to read Molls Like It Hot? Click here!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Midsummer's Bottom by Darren Dash

  Whimsical, touching, witty, and unlike anything I have ever read by Darren Dash, Midsummer's Bottom is a delightful read, and one I will surely remember for a long time.
  Before Master Shakespeare had published his magical tale of fairies, love, and mischief, he sought help from some beings who were well-versed on the subject... actual fairies. In exchange for their help, the Bard himself thanked them in a way that would soon make them regret ever lending a helping hand in his work.
  They would have to endure every incarnation of the play. The good and the bad...and the very bad.
  As the 20th anniversary of a local community's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream approaches, the fairies seek help in a human who thrives on chaos, in hope of destroying any future production of the local play.
  Accepting the challenge, Del Chapman pulls out all the stops, and becomes the play's and the players' very worst nightmare.
  I didn't need to know what the book was about before I accepted Darren Dash's book review request. I trust him and his work, and I would read his edition of the dictionary, then reread it again. That being said, once I started Midsummer's Bottom, I was baffled! This did not sound like the author I'd come to love all those years ago. This was a new formula for him--a formula that worked. 
  Although, during the first few chapters, I was preparing myself for the worst. What if I didn't like it as much as his darker work? I would, of course, still be honest in my review, but it would have slowly killed me to admit that I didn't love everything Darren had written.
  Thankfully, that wasn't the case. I found myself constantly thinking about this book. Mourning reading time I lost cooking, or sleeping, or spending family time. (Sorry, family.)
  Darren Dash has once again, stunned me with his talent of storytelling. I did not want this book to end.
  I found myself laughing out loud, audibly gasping, and furrowing my brow when tensions got thick. (Which, when a book is about a main character who causes chaos, happens A LOT.)
  It warmed my heart, it had me clicking for more--even when the book was over, and it confirmed one thought in my mind, that was a distant whisper until now--
  ---Darren Dash can do anything.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Truth About Thea by Amy Impellizzeri

  Amy Impellizzeri continues to stun her readers in her latest novel, The Truth About Thea.
  Thea has been diagnosed as an addict. Her drug of choice? Social media. After a fatal scandal is linked directly to her business Alibis, Thea has been sentenced to a rehab facility, where she will learn that creating fake personas and profiles for strangers isn't as safe as it sounds.
  Will is a recovering addict himself, now turned counselor at Thea's rehab facility. Will has deep, dark secrets of his own, and he uses his own experience to help those in need of a new beginning. But with Thea's manipulative nature, Will may have bitten off more than he can chew.
  This book floored me. Amy Impellizzeri weaves her words into magnificent tapestries of stories. She ties loose ends together to create a masterpiece. She is a genius.
  I savored every word of The Truth About Thea, fully knowing that they were intricate pieces of a puzzle I had yet to reveal. Amy Impellizzeri's work is powerful. You know that when you start a novel of hers, you are in for a good ride. You will go in, oblivious to the story. Something will hook you, and you begin to crave the next chapter.
  Then, as soon as you reach that peak, that pinnacle of the roller coaster, the air is knocked out of your lungs. Breathless, you can only think, "I need to start this book over again."
  I have never read any author who can capture that magic like Amy Impellizerri. Each book I read by her, packs a powerful punch. I will say it again:
  No author can tell a story like Amy Impellizzeri. 
  As soon as I finished her book, I wanted to reread it, and only it, so I can truly savor her story again. If you want to get lost in a story, get lost in The Truth About Thea.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Rise of a Cherub by Tezi Beach

  Tia was just a normal girl. She went to school, hung out with her friends, and lived a normal teenage life, like all typical teenagers do. Little did she know that there was a whole invisible world waiting for her to accept her fate.
  Tia is a Cherub, a spiritual being that, when risen to full power, can either choose to fight for light, or for darkness. This is what surrounds Tia as she walks this earth. Angels, fighting to keep her soul pure and stay within the light, and demons fighting to sway her to reject her chosen path, and fight for evil.
  The coin has been tossed, and whatever side it lands on is up to Tia, and Tia alone.
  This book. Oh boy, was I conflicted with this book.
  I admit that I went into The Rise of a Cherub not truly knowing the entire premise. I read a brief blurb, but accepted the request not fully understanding what genre it was, and what the story entailed. That being said, in all honesty, if I knew that the book was Christian Fiction and had such a religious influence, I don't know if I would have picked it up.
  But...I accepted the request, received the book, put it on my TBR list, and, when it was time to read it, picked up the book and began Tia's story.
  I'll say this now: If it weren't for that first chapter, I would not have been as hooked as I was.
  That introduction hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt as if no matter how much I could have prepared for Tezi Beach's book, it would not have been enough. I should have known then that I was in for a ride of a lifetime.
  I read on, and was fully prepared to put the book down as soon as I got uncomfortable with the "message."
  The only problem was...I didn't want to put it down.
  Every time I would start to question myself, something exciting would happen. A new plot, a new character, a twist--it was always something amazing in this book that kept me going. I would find any brief moment in the day to read, even if it was just one more page.
  While we're on the subject, Tezi Beach may write Christian Fiction, but she has some serious potential to become a master of horror. Her scary scenes were genuinely TERRIFYING. Sickening, shudder-worthy, disgusting, amazingness. (I know that's not a word, but when I get excited about books, you can't expect me to make perfect sense, okay?)
  So, I read on. And on. And on and on and on.
  It was so worth it. Even now, when I look back at it, I think, "Wow."
  Believe me, the book had its faults, I won't sugar-coat that. I would definitely do some extra editing, just to polish it up a bit, but for a new(ish) author, it's definitely not bad.
  All in all, I loved this book. If I had judged a book by its cover (or its genre), and kept myself from reading it because I was afraid of the plot, I would have seriously missed out on an amazing read.
  Now all I need is the second book!

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