Friday, February 22, 2013

Ashes and Ice book review!

As promised, here is my review of the exciting debut novel, Ashes and Ice, by my wonderful friend, Rochelle Maya Callen.  This post is long, but it's because as a bonus gift, you're getting an excerpt at the end! So read my review, then go over to Amazon  or Barnes and Noble and buy it now for only 99 cents. I can't wait until the paperback comes out because I'm planning a giveaway then!   Thank you Lady Amber Tours for hosting this blog tour.  

She is desperate to remember.
He is aching to forget.
Together, they are not broken.
But together, one may not survive.

​Jade wakes up with no memory of her past and blood on her hands.

Plagued by wicked thoughts, she searches for answers. Instead, she finds a boy who doesn't offer her answers, but hope. But sometimes, when nightmares turn into reality and death follows you everywhere, hope is not enough.

LUST. LOVE. LOSS. Sometimes, all that is left are Ashes and Ice

Wow. I read this synopsis months ago on Goodreads, and was already ready to read the book!  In the spirit of full disclosure, one of my closest friends from college wrote this book, and no matter what, I was going to read it.  Luckily, this book is really good. It's so good that I bought it Superbowl Sunday, live 15 minutes away from Raven’s stadium deep in purple country, and wanted to stay home just to read it.  Rochelle writes in a really melodic way that sucks you in, and keeps you constantly guessing and engaged.  

I just finished reading Lisa Mcmann’s Wake series, and in some ways Rochelle’s writing is reminiscent of her puzzle piece story telling style.  This method is frequently badly employed where you attempt to keep reading to find out what happened, but then the writing is so convoluted that the puzzle pieces don’t fit together, and some of them are missing or smudged. This book fits together perfectly, and despite being a trilogy, has an actual ending. I hate when you read an entire book, and the ending is some cliffhanger to encourage you to read the next book, and while I’m grumbling about having to read the next book (cause I'm impatient, and of course want to know what happened), I want to smack the author. While this book is very obviously set up to have a sequel, the ending was excellent and I can hug instead of hit my friend.  

In the story, a teenager named Jade wakes up, covered in blood with no memory of who is she, or how this happened.  She’s constantly battling this odd inner force/consciousness that doesn't jive with her day to day realities and desires.  Jade doesn't understand why she has blackouts, draws strange symbols, is terrified of water, and yet is feeling this constant pull over a bridge to to a door in New Orleans.   She’s inexplicably attracted to a social misfit named Conner, who himself is attempting to grieve the loss of his beloved father, and fit in at a high school where bullies apparently don’t get in trouble with adults. 

The story unfolds as Jade attempts to figure out who she is, Conner attempts to figure out who she is, what she is, and how he feels about her, and you try to figure out when the two of them are going to get together, along with figuring out the above questions.  I have to add in here, that don’t like when there are non-protagonist characters in books that aren’t well developed.  It takes away from the story for me when the author doesn’t put in the time to develop these side characters.  Rochelle did a wonderful job developing them, and I adore the character of Conner’s mother; a grieving widow with a tale of a great love that she and her late husband had.  I love the old woman Maman that Jade comes to live with, and wish there had been more background information about her.  The bullies in the stories, feel so real that you have a visceral response to them, and start to get angry and frustrated along with the protagonist. 

The only criticism of the book I might have are a couple of pacing issues. I’m realizing that one of the most challenging aspects of writing fiction is this understanding of when to include background material and how much.  Also, if you don’t want to read the entire book to find out Jade’s secret—too bad.  You’re going to be reading two hundred pages, and you’ll love every… of them. And no, I'm not giving it away here. 

This book is truly a wonderful piece of work, and I’m so incredibly proud of Rochelle for writing it while working full time and being a mom.  She is my hero. 

The two of us at our college graduation
Author Bio: 
Rochelle grew up dreaming up stories. When she entered high school, she tucked away her creative side and jumped head-first into academics, work, and service projects. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Political Science and Communication when she was twenty years old. After years away from her writing, Rochelle picked up a pen and started fleshing out a character sketch that she outlined when she was twelve. That sketch was the start of the Ashes and Ice story. Rochelle lives in the DC metro area with her husband and daughter. By day she works as a behavioral therapist. By night, she is a dreamer and is busy tapping out new stories on her keyboard.

twitter: rockyiswriting

 Ashes and Ice Excerpt 


            The girl’s glassy, dead eyes stare into me, through me, pierce me with a fierce urgency, with a wicked accusation. The blood is still on my hands.
            Red hair, blue eyes, a constellation of freckles on pale skin. She was fragile and innocent, a lovely thing. That is what I think until I see the gashes on her wrists and throat. With her blood spilling out, she looks delicious. She’s mine. Possessiveness shocks me, stabs into me. I run, tearing away from a craving I don't understand.
            Breathless, I grit my teeth and run harder, faster.
            My feet pound against the earth, away from the lifeless body and toward the lights of the city lingering on the horizon. Rot and death linger in my nostrils. Unscarred skin stretches taut over my freezing bones. Echoes of an empty memory reverberate in my mind, taunting me. The ice chases me, clutches me, and bites at my heels, sending shivers up my spine. The ice wants me back, but I run forward, toward the lights, toward the heat, toward a world that burns me, because I have no other choice.
            The lights are so close. Heat scalds my skin.
            Images race through my mind, paralyzing me. I skid to a stop, my boots digging into the mud. The vision’s blurred edges materialize into solid shapes.
             I gasp.
            A new horror rakes my insides. Desperation propels me forward; the pictures nagging at my seams threaten to tear me apart.
            Scorching fire licks over my skin. In my vision, I contort like a vile, ugly creature, eyes as black as decay. My frame hunches over the small, dead girl, like a demon looming over a defenseless child. Her blood drips from my mouth.
            I lick my lips and taste only salty sweat.
            I run, desperate to trample the vision under my feet, to crush it deep into the ground.
            I refuse to believe the image, refuse to acknowledge the monster within me demanding to be unleashed—and the possibility it has already been unbound. An unrelenting tide of fear washes over me. Past the denial, the fear, and the hope, I think I can still taste her.
            The cold stillness inside me cracks open just as the lights of the city slam into me.

Now go and.....
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