Review: The Outside by Laura Bickle

 

Title:  The Outside

Author: Laura Bickle

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

After a plague of vampires was unleashed in the world, Katie was kicked out of the safe haven of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. She enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two friends and a horse by her side

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can they be trusted, and are they even people at all?      In this sequel to The Hallowed Ones, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to sacrifice in return?


Review:

Last year, I read The Hallowed Ones, and it totally creeped me out.  It was scary and suspenseful, and protagonist Katie was brave, level-headed, and firmly grounded by her Amish beliefs.  I eagerly awaited The Outside, the next book in the series, which picks up right where The Hallowed Ones left off.  The end of the world has come, in the form of a terrible sickness that turns its victims into blood sucking monsters.  Katie, her English boyfriend Alex, and Ginger are trying to stay alive after being expelled from Katie’s Amish community.  They have no shelter, dwindling provisions, and the vampires are dogging their every step.  Only sacred ground is keeping them safe at night, as they trek north to find Alex’s family.  Winter is coming (sorry GoTs fans!), and the odds of their continued survival are bleak.

While I didn’t think The Outside was as suspenseful as the previous book,  I still had a hard time putting it down.  This outing is all about the running.  Running from vampires, running from the weather, running from the knowledge that the world has ended and there few survivors of whatever horrible virus has turned humanity into monsters.  Along the way, they meet some of the desperate survivors, and Katie and Alex are at odds about what to do with the weapon they receive to alter themselves to survive the fight with the Darkness.  Alex jumps at the chance to save himself and have a better way to protect Katie, but Katie struggles with her decision about what to do.  She has already gone against her belief system so many times, and she’s afraid that this measure of self-defense will steal away whatever humanity that she has left.  I thought that this method of battling the vampires was genius, in a Ha! Take THIS evil vampires!! kind of way. 

What I enjoyed best about The Outside was Katie’s struggle to accept the bad things that had happened to her.  She made some choices in both books that had very serious repercussions for both herself and for Alex and Ginger, and while she regretted some of the outcomes, she never regretted the initial decision to save Alex.  That one choice was the catalyst for everything else that happened; being shunned, being forced from the protection of her community, seeing the terrible things she saw while she was Outside.  She is angry with the Elders for not believing the Hexenmeister, and for how their treated Ginger.  She’s hurt that her parents did nothing when she was kicked out of the community, yet she can’t stop worrying about them.  Even though her friends and everyone she knows have turned their backs on her, she is still willing to give up her life to save as many of them as she can.  She’s a very admirable character.

One quibble with the book, and it’s the same quibble I have with most post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, is how quickly they start to feel repetitive.  The steps are always similar to this – travel as far during the day as possible, forage for food and water, seek a safe place to sleep, encounter monsters and life-threatening events along the way.  Stop to rest after finding a safe haven, then gear up and get back on the road, facing even more danger than before.  The pattern and the pacing occasionally frustrate me.  Katie was an interesting enough character that I remained engaged in this story.  With her Plain upbringing, she’s even better prepared for the end of the world than most heroines.  Katie hasn’t been exposed to modern conveniences, so she’s used to a more rugged life-style.  She knows the land, and knows how to forage.  She hasn’t had a cushy life, but instead had chores and obligations to her family and her community.  I thought this gave her a huge advantage that made her survival more believable.

I enjoyed Laura Bickle’s foray into YA, and look forward to her next project.  I like her voice and I really like her characters.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Interview with J. Arlene Culiner, Author of All About Charming Alice

Please welcome J Arlene Culiner to the virtual offices today! She’s here to chat about her book All About Charming Alice.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Please tell us a little about yourself.

[J. Arlene Culiner] I was born in New York, raised in Toronto, but for most of my life, I’ve been living in England, Germany, Holland, Turkey, France, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. At the moment I’m in a very dull French village, in a 300-year-old former inn that I open to the public on Heritage Day. My wildlife garden is a reserve for butterflies and birds and, like my heroine in All About Charming Alice, I also protect spiders, snakes, any living creature. As far as character goes, I’m suppose I’m rather unconventional. I do love well-written books of any genre, rousing discussions, and having a roaring great laugh, but I’ve never owned or wanted a television and, aside from the very occasional documentary, never go to see films. And I’d far rather walk from village to village than drive there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about All About Charming Alice?

[J. Arlene Culiner] All About Charming Alice, is the story of two warm, rather wary but intelligent people falling in love. Both lead interesting lives, both are passionate, idealistic, and both are somewhat older than the usual romance heroes and heroines. My heroine, Alice, because of a past she’d rather forget, has to learn how to trust again, whereas my hero Jace has to become flexible. And although the budding – and sometimes hopeless-sounding – romance is the main story, quite a few quirky, often amusing, secondary characters also make their appearance. And there’s even some fascinating but little-known history of the American far west.

Here’s the blurb:  

Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in depopulated Blake’s Folly, a quirky community of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs and protecting the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests? Certainly not Jace Constant whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, fine dining and contemporary art.
Jace has come to Nevada to research the new book he’s writing, but he won’t be staying; as far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, dog hair on his cashmere sweaters and by desert bleakness. As for snakes, he doesn’t only despise them: they terrify him.
So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her? That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire? Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it starts: Jace won’t be around for long, and Alice wants to avoid the heartbreak of a short fling.

In need of some juicy romantic gossip, the other 52 residents of Blake’s Folly have decided Alice has been alone for long enough. The attraction between her and Jace is obvious to everyone, so why worry about essential differences? If you trust in love, solutions do appear. But don’t those solutions call for too many compromises, too much self-sacrifice? 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[J. Arlene Culiner] Many years ago, I spent a few days in a crumbling Nevada community of shacks, old trailers, and one dilapidated old hotel/bar/restaurant. I loved the place, and the atmosphere has stayed with me throughout my rather itinerant life. I have, of course, gone back to Nevada and looked for that community but, strangely enough, I’ve never found it. Therefore, I decided to recreate it in my book, All About Charming Alice, to name it Blake’s Folly, and to populate it with all the original and strange folk you’d find in out-of-the-way places. Of course, my heroine Alice is also a rather strange character – you’d have to be if you lived in Blake’s Folly -  but she’s endearing as well.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Alice?

[J. Arlene Culiner] Alice is definitely determined. And a giving sort of person, one who wants to please – despite her prickly exterior and her need to protect herself. And she respects all living creatures.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Jace had a theme song, what would it be?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I’m certainly not good at naming theme songs, however, one morning, my hero Jace tells Alice he’s going walking in the desert with her. Desperate to keep some distance between them, Alice refuses, although she knows Jace is a pretty determined guy and he’ll win in the end. And as she furiously storms back into her house, she hears Jace whistling: You’ll Never Walk Alone.  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Alice is never without.

[J. Arlene Culiner] A camera

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Jace’s bedroom?

[J Arlene] You’ll never, ever, find men’s perfume or aftershave or cologne of any kind; you’ll never find hair gel; and you’ll certainly never find Viagra.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Alice’s greatest regret?

[J. Arlene Culiner] She regrets that she allowed herself – many years before – to be dominated by her unfaithful, ambitious and manipulative first husband. He bullied her into an acting career she’d never wanted, into a Hollywood lifestyle she hated, and forced her to spend her energy hiding his infidelities from the press. After much scandal and losing a baby, she eventually ran away, started doing what she really wanted – working as a herpetologist in the desert. But she is sorry she compromised for so long.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[J. Arlene Culiner] Hearing new ideas, finding new ways of looking at things. Social criticism particularly stimulates me, but so do landscapes – especially lonely, out-of-the-way places like deserts or flat plains, or groves, or sleepy old towns with their original architecture. All these things inspire me to create, work, think.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[J. Arlene Culiner] 1. Solitude. I can’t be sitting next to someone I know. I need the peace of my own work space. But I can – and do – also write in train stations, on trains or in cafés. Yes, sure there are other people all around me in such places, but I don’t know them so the solitude is definitely there.

2. A need to communicate with the world: I want to share a good story, amuse people, make them weepy or get them chuckling.

3. My inner voice: it wakes me up in the early morning; it has dialogue racing through my head; it sends me bright images, sly characters and snappy tales. It’s a strange kind of electricity, that inner voice.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was your biggest distraction while working on All About Charming Alice?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I suppose my dogs are always a terrible distraction. Dogs are forever lying around at your feet, watching your every move. You know that all they want is to be touched, talked to, taken out for a walk. You are their whole life, and you certainly have to get up from time to time, give in to their wishes – even if you’d much rather stay put and keep writing. And then there are the cats… They come strutting by, and if you ignore them, they’ll roll over the computer keyboard, bump and rub against you until you pay attention to them and give them some love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[J. Arlene Culiner]]  Limonov by the French writer Emmanuel Carrère. This brilliantly written book is not only the portrait of a Russian dissident, one of society’s rebels, it also presents 20th-21st century Russia, is an analysis of Russian literature and Russian authors. Limonov is even more than a book: it’s a whole journey.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I  can’t think of one book only. There were several that, as a child, opened the window to life, gave it another dimension. One, Magic by the Lake, had a turtle that granted wishes, and ever after I always hoped I’d find the right lake so that adventure would come to me too. Then there was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in which, by simply walking into a closet, four children find themselves in an alternate world. Believe me, after devouring that, I tried out every wardrobe, closet and closed door in every single house I passed through. But perhaps it was those Trixie Belden books that taught me that there were adventures and mysteries to be found in even the most boring, domestic settings.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[J. Arlene Culiner] I’m an amateur musician. I play the oboe, English horn, oboe d’amore, flute, piccolo and bombarde, and I play every chance I get – with four different bands, two orchestras, two chamber music groups and a double reed group. I go on workshops, travel all over France to play with different musicians and give concerts. If that isn’t an obsession, I don’t know what is.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[J. Arlene Culiner] They can come visit my site and write to me there: www.j-arleneculiner.com

They can come see my blog, read the – sometimes provocative – articles I write, and tell me what they think: j-arleneculiner.over-blog.com

And they can also write to me at jarleneculiner@gmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

Purchase link

About the book:

Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in depopulated Blake’s Folly, a quirky community of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs and protecting the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests? Certainly not Jace Constant whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, fine dining and contemporary art.

Jace has come to Nevada to research the new book he’s writing, but he won’t be staying; as far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, dog hair on his cashmere sweaters and by desert bleakness. As for snakes, he doesn’t only despise them: they terrify him.

So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her? That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire? Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it starts: Jace won’t be around for long, and Alice wants to avoid the heartbreak of a short fling.

In need of some juicy romantic gossip, the other 52 residents of Blake’s Folly have decided Alice has been alone for long enough. The attraction between her and Jace is obvious to everyone, so why worry about essential differences? If you trust in love, solutions do appear. But don’t those solutions call for too many compromises, too much self-sacrifice

Spotlight: Reforming the Cowboy by Marisa Cleveland

It’s already the middle of September?!  Yikes!  That means that I’m way, way behind on my diet of new Indulgence titles!  I’m going to spotlight one title each morning for the next four days, so check out these releases if they look interesting to you.  I’ll get things kicked off with – no surprise – COWBOYS!!!

 

 

Reforming the Cowboy: A South Beach Book by Marisa Cleveland

Imprint: Entangled Indulgence

About the book:

Country singer Billy Hardy needs to get back on the charts. His manager assures him headlining the opening of a cafe in South Beach is his best chance at getting back to the big time. If he fails, his career is over for good this time.

Lacey Durant can’t believe opening night includes the country singer she crushed on through college. And her customers agree he’s dreamy. But his playboy reputation threatens her cafe’s image and she can’t afford that. She insists Billy stay with her so she can keep an eye on him, and thwart overenthusiastic fans.

Billy’s charms and Lacey’s sexy curves prove more than either can resist, but she refuses to be just another lyric in his well-known songs of heartbreak.

Purchase link

About the author:

Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. As a writer, she writes. Every day. Perhaps because she married her best friend, her adult romance novels focus on relationships developed through friendship and family-oriented values. She loves to connect with other writers and readers.

Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. As a writer, she writes. Every day. Perhaps because she married her best friend, her adult romance novels focus on relationships developed through friendship and family-oriented values. She loves to connect with other writers and readers.

Marisa’s Social Media:

Twitter – http://twitter.com/marisacleveland

Facebook – http://facebook.com/marisacleveland00

Google Plus – http://plus.google.com/102206201174009013772

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/marisacleveland

Tumblr – http://marisacleveland.tumblr.com

Goodreads – http://goodreads.com/marisacleveland

Cover Reveal – Alchemy by Sheena Boekweg, Melanie Crouse, and Sabrina West

I have a cover reveal this morning, thanks to GCReading Book Tours.   The premise of magical infection sounds interesting. Does anyone have this on their TBR mountain?

 
"Do you want me to be dangerous?" he asked, his voice husky and low.
I gulped, and for a moment I was incapable of speech. But he was quiet, waiting. "No. I don’t."
"Then I’m not dangerous at all," he murmured. His gaze moved from my eyes to my mouth. "You’ve never been safer than you are at this moment." I shivered as his breath tickled my skin. Our lips were mere millimeters apart when the sky shattered in a kaleidoscope of colored light.


We didn’t know how much we had to lose until we were infected with magic. Sam was in love, Juliette was the main caretaker for her siblings, and Ana and her dad planned the best parties in New York. But we lost it all when we were shipped to Chebeague, an exclusive school for newly infected mages.

Everyone knows about the mages, those who survive the infection and end up with magical abilities. We’ve seen the power of magic, the high-paying jobs, and the world fame. But we never saw the cost. We didn’t know we’d be forced to give up everything: sanity, family, even the right to talk on the phone.

We didn’t know mage was just another word for prisoner.