Author | alanajoli

alanajoli

New Haven based reviewer Alana Joli Abbott is the author of two novels, Into the Reach and Departure, and worked as the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II, hosted at DrunkDuck.com. She is also a contributor to roleplaying games, including the award-winning Serenity Adventures, Chronicles of Ramlar, Steampunk Musha, and modular adventures for the Living Kingdoms of Kalamar, Xen’drik Expeditions, and Living Forgotten Realms Campaigns. She is a history columnist for Branford Patch. Her love for fantasy and science fiction has led her to many diverse pursuits, including traveling to visit ancient ruins in Turkey, Greece, Ireland, the UK, and Mexico, singing madrigals, studying stage combat, and practicing kempo karate with her husband.

Along with reviewing books for Flames Rising, Alana reviews comics and books about mythology and martial arts for School Library Journal, for which she got the chance to write the starred review for 2008 Newbery winner Good Masters, Sweet Ladies. She also reviews paranormal romance and fantasy for Publishers Weekly and has written a film review for Black Gate fantasy magazine. You can keep up with her day to day writing (unless she’s really busy) at www.virgilandbeatrice.com.


alanajoli

Flash Fire Mini Reviews: The Edge Series by Ilona Andrews

Posted on January 31, 2012 by

Ilona Andrews is probably best known for her Kate Daniels series, but she is also (along with husband and co-author Gordon) the author of a paranormal romance series about life on “the Edge,” a borderland between a world full of magic (the Weird) and our mundane reality (the Broken). (It should be noted that while I’m classifying the books as paranormal romance, due to the structure of each novel — the books each feature the love story of a couple who end up in a happily ever after at the conclusion — other reviewers have considered them “rustic fantasy” or “unclassifiable.” Thus, your mileage may vary.)

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alanajoli

Kiss of Frost Review

Posted on January 19, 2012 by

Gwen Frost is back at Mythos Academy, and she’s got a new attitude. In Touch of Frost (reviewed here), Gwen was a poor little Gypsy girl, stuck out of place at an academy full of warrior kids and wishing for her old life. While Gwen is still no warrior — and still wishes that her mother’s death had never happened — she’s got a new mission: get awesome, fast, so she can live up to the expectations of Nike, her patron goddess. At the end of the first book, Gwen was chosen to be Nike’s champion, and she has no intentions of failing.

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alanajoli

Flash Fire Mini Reviews: The Jane True series by Nicole Peeler

Posted on September 27, 2011 by

Back in 2009, when I was still able to keep up with the League of Reluctant Adults on a regular basis, I eagerly awaited the release of Tempest Rising, Nicole Peeler’s first novel.* Like other members of the League, Peeler is totally snarky, really smart, sexy verging on smutty, and a ton of fun to read in her online posts. So it was no great surprise when I loved Tempest Rising. The fourth book in the series, Eye of the Tempest, just came out last month, and I sifted through my TBR pile and caught up on books two through four this week. They’re fast reads, with qualities that verge on paranormal romance but plot and worldbuilding that, in my qualifications, keep them firmly in urban fantasy. Here’s the breakdown on each book, but the overarching verdict is: give them a chance! They’re funny, fast paced, and completely engaging.

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alanajoli

Midnight at the Spanish Gardens Review

Posted on August 16, 2011 by

Midnight at the Spanish GardensMidnight at the Spanish Gardens is not the kind of book I normally review for Flames Rising. It is certainly a fantasy novel, but the fantasy elements don’t actually end up being all that important: the book revolves around the choices that people make in their lives, and what they might do differently if they had it to do all over again — or if fate or chance had played out the events differently. But while it’s not truly a dark fantasy, I wanted to review it here after reading an ARC from the author because this is the type of book that held me and didn’t let me go. I actually stood in a doorway the first night I was reading it, intending to walk somewhere to put it down, expecting to head off to bed for the night, but I flipped page after page in my nook and kept reading, standing there, for probably twenty minutes. Then, realizing I clearly wasn’t going to stop, I gave up my rational decision to head to bed and sat down and read more instead. Not only that, but even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it. That experience tells me that this is a book worth sharing.

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alanajoli

Kitemaster and Other Stories Fiction Review

Posted on August 11, 2011 by

If you follow Jim Hines’s blog, you know he’s been experimenting with electronically self-publishing short stories, many of which originally appeared in print publications. His first collection, Goblin Tales, did well enough that he’s releasing another group of six tales, Kitemaster and Other Stories, in mid-August. I caught Jim’s note for reviewers and volunteered, and I think this is another strong group of stories, mostly for the lighthearted fantasy crowd. Three of them I’d previously purchased via fictionwise, and have been favorites of mine since the first reading, but three were brand new to me, and I think all are solid stories — even the one that left me with something akin to the willies over a series of puppet deaths. But we’ll get there in a minute.

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alanajoli

An Interview with Pathfinder Author Dave Gross

Posted on August 9, 2011 by

Dave Gross is the former editor of gaming magazines including Polyhedron, Dungeon, Dragon, Star Wars Gamer, Star Wars Insider, and Amazing Stories. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also written fiction in a number of game worlds, including the Forgotten Realms and, most recently, Golarion, the home of the Pathfinder gaming system. His new novel, Master of Devils, releases later this month. Dave took time out of his busy schedule of writing and watching kung fu movies to chat with us about his upcoming release.

Flames Rising: You have an impressive history in editing for gaming magazines and anthologies, and a whole run of Forgotten Realms novels for Wizards of the Coast. What was the path that brought you to writing fiction for Pathfinder?

Dave Gross: In 2008 I visited the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary. It was mainly a social trip to catch up with some old friends. Two of them were also former colleagues from Paizo, Director of Sales Pierce Watters and Publisher Erik Mona. Erik mentioned his plans to start a Pathfinder Tales line and asked whether I’d be interested in contributing. Already I loved what I’d seen of Golarion.

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alanajoli

Surely You Joust!

Posted on July 24, 2011 by

After a post the other day on Google+, Monica poked me about letting Flames Rising readers know what I’ve been up to while I’m not writing for Flames Rising.

Most of my writing recently has been for Branford Patch, a local online news site, where I do a regular history column about the early days of Branford, Connecticut. It’s great fun, but not typically a cross-over into horror (although perhaps I’ll track down a ghost story one of these days!).

This past week, however, I had my very first Dragon magazine article published!

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alanajoli

The Snow Queen’s Shadow Fiction Review

Posted on July 19, 2011 by

How do I start a review of the final book in a series that I love, which had me sobbing for about three chapters of the conclusion? As it turns out, by avoiding the issue:

I feel sorry for Prince Armand.

There, I said it. Three kick-butt heroines of the whole series and this review starts off with some compassion for the guy who is always first in line to get cursed, kidnapped, and just generally gets the short end of the deal. In a series about princesses who don’t need to be rescued, someone else has to be — and once again, nice-guy prince Armand (who seems reasonably capable) suffers some of the very first consequences to evil becoming a threat in the kingdom of Lorindar.

This time, the threat starts close to home, with Snow White, who has been set up for this kind of fall from the beginning of the series, overstretches her magical abilities and ends up releasing a demon from her mother’s magic mirror. Worse, the demon corrupts Snow herself, meaning that our three heroines are no longer on the same team.

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alanajoli

Touch of Frost Fiction Review

Posted on July 13, 2011 by

Gwen Frost, a gypsy, doesn’t know where she fits in, and she doesn’t really want to. She came to Mythos Academy after the death of her mother — for which she blames herself — and doesn’t understand what she’s doing there. She’s no warrior, and her gift of psychometry, the ability to read emotions and history off of objects, mainly helps her find lost things. She doesn’t really believe in the Pantheon or the Reapers, and she’s got no interest in fighting those battles even if they are real.

But then Queen Bee Jasmine gets brutally murdered in the library, where Gwen works, and everything changes. Unwilling to let Jasmine’s death go unmourned — when not even Jasmine’s friends seem to feel grief at her murder — Gwen is determined to discover the identity of Jasmine’s killer. And in the meantime, she ends up finding out a lot about what it is that brought her to Mythos Academy in the first place.

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alanajoli

Flash Fire Mini Reviews: Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

Posted on June 10, 2011 by

Back in 2008, Tez Miller and I reviewed the first two novels in Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series. We’re now three books later in the series, and it’s still going strong. Here’s what you may have missed:

One of the staples of role playing games and adventure video games is arena combat. What’s not to like? The tradition hails way back to the Romans — or earlier — and watching gladiators in the ring is still entertaining enough to modern viewers that there are reality TV shows based on the theme. It is not something I’ve seen tackled in Urban Fantasy very often, and here, Andrews does it with aplomb. Beast Lord Curran has banned his Pack from getting involved with the games. Derrek, Kate Daniels’s teen werewolf pal, has to get involved in order to save the object of his affections — and in order to keep him out of trouble, Kate gets involved as well.

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alanajoli

Unholy Ghosts Fiction Review

Posted on March 17, 2011 by

It isn’t often that I pick up a book (this one purchased with my own cashy money) where it’s got so much going on, I’m not sure how to start a review. Stacia Kane’s Unholy Ghosts is like that. This isn’t just a ghost story — though it works admirably (and scarily) well in that area. It’s not just postapocalyptic, though again, the brave new (scary) world that Stacia imagines is an amazing one. And though it’s not really a private investigator story, it’s got a lot of similarities to that genre, as the main character goes about solving a mystery and, eventually, confronting a threat that could destroy the world as she knows it. So it’s got epic scope, but the characters aren’t your typical heroes — in fact, they’ve got more in common with your typical villains, and that’s one of the areas where Stacia really succeeds: making characters you don’t really want to trust, but can’t help but like. Or, at the very least, sympathize with.

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alanajoli

Freshmen Comic Book Review

Posted on March 9, 2011 by

A long while ago, Matt asked me if there was anything in the DriveThruComics.com store that I’d like to review, and I spotted a new (meaning new to me) superhero series called Freshmen. The first six issues were up and available, so I requested them and wanted to give them a go. (I found out after reading all six issues that the series is co-created by Seth Green of Robot Chicken and sundry other projects, which makes *perfect* sense.)

Here’s the short of it: due to dorm overflow, fifteen college freshmen are shipped over to live in the science building, which has been modified to create living space. When a lab experiment explodes, their cells evolve — granting them powers related to whatever they happened to be thinking at the moment.

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alanajoli

As Lie the Dead Review

Posted on March 1, 2011 by

Kelly Meding, I have a bone to pick with you. After introducing a seriously awesome minor character in Three Days To Dead, you neglected to include even one scene with Smedge the Bridge Troll in the sequel. Sure, you gave us a seriously hot shape-shifting osprey who can go into angel mode with Phin. You introduced us to a sweet-yet-strong kestrel shifter, who alternates between protected and protector in Aurora. You brought in the mysterious shifter lawyer with a talent for vague clues with Michael Jenner. So, one could say that the new awesome outweighs the old awesome.

But I miss Smedge. I just want that out there.

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alanajoli

Witchblade: Origins Volume One Review

Posted on February 17, 2011 by

Back in the mid-1990s, Top Cow launched a daring new series about an artifact that could be wielded only by women — and the man who tried to take possession of it. In Witchblade: Origin, the first eight issues of Witchblade are brought to an audience who missed them the first time around. It’s a great origin story: Sara Pezzini, the tough cop who becomes the bearer of the Wicthblade, is far more vulnerable here than we see her at the current point in the series. She’s largely alone in the world: she has an irresponsible sister, a neighbor whose murder leaves her with a teen girl seeking her advice, and a partner who dies in the first issue. Her parents have been dead for some time, but she still thinks of them, often, talking to them in the box text. While she knows she has her boss — who is much like a father to her — and coworkers who care about her, she hesitates to share herself with them, especially when she is feeling weak.

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alanajoli

A Brush of Darkness Review

Posted on February 8, 2011 by

Not long ago, I signed up for a very cool program with Simon & Schuster called “galley grab,” which allows participants to read e-book galleys in full for a limited amount of time. I’ve loaded up several titles on my nook and am trying to get through them before my time runs out!

One of my first priorities on the list was A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang, which I’d seen previews for over at Pocket After Dark. There are all sorts of marketing sayings about how many times you have to see something before it sticks, or if you touch something some large number of times, you’ll buy it.

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alanajoli

Tracker Volume One Review

Posted on February 7, 2011 by

I had a couple of sneak peeks at this volume of Tracker as the issues were being released, and I have to say it’s really nice to see it all together in one volume. The Issue 0 preview and Issue 4 just whet my appetite for what looked like a great werewolf story. As it turns out, the story is exactly what those bits and pieces promised.

Alex O’Rourke is one of the best trackers in the FBI — he’s so good that his instincts are the only thing helping the FBI track down Herod, a serial killer whose vicious attacks look more animal than human. Alex gets into the middle of an attack, following a hunch that Herod will be there, and miraculously survives, recovering on the autopsy table.

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alanajoli

Three Days to Dead Review

Posted on January 31, 2011 by

When Evy Stone wakes up in a morgue in a different body than the one she remembers, with no memory of the few previous days, she knows she’s in for a hell of a time. What she does remember is this: her teammates from her bounty hunting career were murdered, the were-people with whom she took asylum were slaughtered by her former bosses, and the only person she thought she could trust was her handler. She has to make contact, convince him that she’s still Evy (despite the new body), and avoid being entangled in the life of the girl who used to live in this frame. Not to mention, as she discovers more about the reasons she ended up in a new body, saving the world. All in a three day time frame. But hey, she’s been through worse. Probably.

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alanajoli

Deader Still Book Review

Posted on January 24, 2011 by

Anton Strout brings us more madcap mayhem in book two of the Jane chronicles (otherwise known as the Simon Canderous series, but his girlfriend, the ex-evil cultist Jane, totally steals the show). Now a member of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs after leaving her cultist ways behind, Jane is working in the Black Stacks (the scariest library in urban fantasy) and discovering that she has a talent for technomancy. In fact, she’s so good with magic and machines, she rescues her boyfriend Simon from an attempt on his life in his Oubliette test over his cell phone. Her new gig working for the ambiguously moralled Thaddeus Wesker, Director of Greater and Lesser Arcana at the DEA is going swimmingly — except for the tension it creates between her and Simon, who doesn’t like her boss.

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alanajoli

Magdalena Origins Volume 1 Review

Posted on January 11, 2011 by

In a comics universe like the one in Top Cow’s Witchblade continuum, characters occasionally crop up who end up needing their own series. Those cross-series first appearances of the Magdalena, the church’s servant for wiping out evil using strength of arms and the ultimate guilt trip: the ability to make a person see all of the evil he’s ever done, are collected in Magdalena: Origins.

Near the beginning of the Darkness series, Jackie Estacado is dealing with plenty of issues (including, apparently, not being able to perform in bed), and he doesn’t really have time to deal with another hero-of-the-week trying to take him down. But, of course, that’s his lot in life now that he’s the incarnation of the Darkness. A Magdalena is dispatched by the church to challenge him and, ideally, destroy him.

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alanajoli

From Zombie Celebrity to Author: An Interview with Amanda Feral

Posted on December 30, 2010 by

You’re all familiar with zombie celebutante Amanda Feral from my reviews of Happy Hour of the Damned, Road Trip of the Living Dead, and Battle of the Network Zombies. Hopefully you’re also familiar with her from reading about her adventures themselves. But what you may not know is that Mark Henry, whose name is on the cover of these novels, is actually the ghost writer for the real Amanda Feral. The snarky socialite is also an author in her own right, and her first e-book, Stocking Full of Coal, just released on December 16th. I had the chance to chat with Amanda before her premiere to get the skinny on where she’s at now (but not who she’s eating).

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