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

Defining Genre: Paranormal Romance

Posted on July 27, 2009 by

Matt and I have been talking for a long time about me doing a column here at Flames Rising about different forms of urban fantasy. How can you tell if something is a paranormal romance vs. a true urban fantasy novel (and when it’s just vampire smut)? When is urban fantasy contemporary instead of urban (or is that term out the window)? Are superhero novels actually UF, or are they a different category all together?

The more I read other people writing about defining the subgenres, the more I think that no one actually knows a real, clear cut answer. Until we get more academic papers about the history of urban fantasy and all of its bits and pieces, it’s going to stay amorphous. (And even then, how many UF fans will read the papers on the subject? I’m not sure I will.) But sometimes the subgenre terms can be useful — or, at least, thinking about genre in specific ways can help navigate the genre terrain.

[...more]
alanajoli

Street Magic Fiction Review

Posted on June 13, 2009 by

There are some rare talents in fantasy these days whose words coast along like poetry while depicting a world full of dark and terrible dangers: drugs, monsters, and magic among them. Crafting a balance between artful and gritty writing – such that the language doesn’t shy away from either side of the equation – is incredibly difficult. Caitlin Kittredge has mastered it.

To my shame, Street Magic, which I received earlier this year as an electronic advance copy, is the first novel I’ve read by Kittredge, despite the fact that I own some of her earlier books. They’ve been sitting on my TBR pile, just waiting for me to catch up with other review titles and series titles that always seem to come first. I can tell you with great confidence: no longer. I’ll be picking one up to read as soon as I finish this review.

[...more]
alanajoli

Witchblade #127 Comic Review

Posted on May 21, 2009 by

When I said that the “War of the Witchblades” arc might be a good place to start reading Witchblade, I was wrong.

It’s a great place to start reading Witchblade.

Now that we’re in the third issue of the arc, things are really starting to come together. The Angelus Force still hasn’t picked a host, but we see that one of the Angelus is really jonesing to be the one who will become the Angelus incarnate. But while this Angelus is the leader of the Angelus warriors — winged creatures that are similar to humans but with supernatural gifts — she’s not what you’d call a role model for the forces of good. She shows no pity, no mercy, and no patience — instead, she seems so arrogant and certain that she is destined to be the host to the Angelus that it’s certain to pass her by for someone more humble.

[...more]
alanajoli

Witchblade #126 Comic Review

Posted on May 15, 2009 by

WARNING: This review contains spoilers. If you’re going to read the story arc, read my review of Witchblade 125 and go pick up the series yourself! If you don’t mind being spoiled, continue on ahead.

Witchblade 126 starts to explain a bunch of the questions that began in Witchblade 125. Why does the Angelus force want to kill Sara? Who is the mysterious guy who seems to be connected to the Darkness, and to Sara? As it turns out, when the Witchblade spit, it had to split along the same axis it was created to balance: darkness and light. Sara in issue 126 reveals just how far toward the Darkness she has fallen, while Dani realizes she has to take the Witchblade away from Sara for balance to be restored (and so that Sara doesn’t destroy herself and everyone she cares about).

[...more]
alanajoli

Witchblade 125 Comic Review

Posted on May 8, 2009 by

Coming into the middle of a story is always tough, even in comics. The intro at the beginning of most ongoing series catches readers up – but only if they already have a basic idea of the mythology. The delightful thing about Witchblade #125 is that, even with only half of an idea about what’s going on in the series (I’ve read an earlier volume and caught a Free Comic Book Day promo last year), the art work was so hyper-realistic and intriguing that I was drawn into the characters regardless of the plot.

Since I tend to read novels and comics predominantly for story and character, the art pulling me in so dramatically is a big deal for me. I haven’t seen this style before, and Stjepan Sejic (if he is also the colorist) is doing tremendous work with lighting, making some of his images look almost Final Fantasy realistic.

[...more]
alanajoli

At Graves End Fiction Review

Posted on April 10, 2009 by

Cat and Bones take their romance in a whole new direction (read: planning a wedding) in the third novel in Frost’s series. But nothing comes easily for the pair: Cat, a half-vampire, has some serious soul searching to do over the course of the novel, only partially because her vampire father has torture on the brain. Is she a vampire? Is she human? What does it mean to be either?

Not, of course, that there’s a lot of time to just stand and think. That Cat’s father has found her means that her identity is no longer secure, which endangers her whole unit. Add a very old, very powerful vampire calling on Bones to share power and ally together (which almost certainly means that a vampire turf war is on the horizon) and Bones turning Cat’s unit member Tate into a vampire by request, and things get very, very complicate. Tate’s love for Cat is only the tip of the iceberg.

[...more]
alanajoli

Road Trip of the Living Dead Review

Posted on February 10, 2009 by

Amanda Feral is back and just as glamorous (and bitchy) as she was in Happy Hour of the Damned. But make no mistake: Road Trip is a very different book than its predecessor. Sure, there are still risks of zombie “mistake” outbreaks, partially digested food, and gruesome murders (only some of which are performed by our heroes–and really, the murders they perform are a public service, not a crime).* But unlike Happy Hour, Road Trip begins with the assumption that the readers already know how Amanda’s world works. There’s much less meandering into explanations of zombies, vampires, and other supernaturals and more delving into Amanda’s troubled past.** Now that Amanda’s mother is on her death bed, Amanda struggles to come to terms with a childhood she’d really rather forget.

[...more]
alanajoli

Unshapely Things Fiction Review

Posted on January 12, 2009 by

The setting is an area of post-Convergance Boston known as the Weird. Having lived in Cambridge and worked in Boston, I was hoping for more sights and sounds that I would recognize, but other than the lack of complaint about traffic, the Boston that del Franco creates feels real. (The most difficult parts of the novel to believe were the sections where Connor Gray and his police detective companion Murdock were driving without any substantial effort through sections of Boston that I remember being constantly backed up.) It’s changed, mostly due to the growing population of Fae: fairies, druids, elves, and dwarves, who have bought high rises, businesses, and other city assets. (Maybe they’re one of the factors in the lack of obnoxious traffic!)

[...more]
alanajoli

Any Given Doomsday Fiction Review

Posted on January 5, 2009 by

In my review of Key to Conflict, I expressed dismay at the use of forced sex by a ghost to move forward the plot. In Any Given Doomsday, the one feature that’s keeping me from recommending it is the repeated use of sex under duress (or sex under the influence) to propel the character forward. Elizabeth Phoenix, former cop and a psychometric, is dragged into a world of supernatural demons and the battle between good and evil kicking and screaming. Her foster mother gives her the “gift” of becoming a seer, one of the guides for demon killers who identifies threats to be eliminated, with her dying breath.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Dog Days Fiction Review

Posted on December 30, 2008 by

Dog Days gets off to a somewhat awkward start with too much exposition during an action sequence to make the action feel immediate, but as I got accustomed to the voice of Mason, the hero and jazz/magic improvisation master that narrates the book, the world and story both began to come together. As a practitioner, Mason isn’t much good at the actual practice implied by such a title. His real talent is improvisational magic–something that most people never master at all. Other practitioners use spells to control magic, but Mason can pull energy from the surrounding environment, using ideas and archetypes and emotions to craft the effects he desires. He also has Louie: an Ifrit (named after the djinn, though no one is sure if they’re related) who takes the form of a small, mini-doberman like dog.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Personal Demons Fiction Review

Posted on December 23, 2008 by

It starts with an ill conceived radio show. Megan Chase is a respected psychologist, as well as a psychic who uses her talents to help her patients without their knowledge. In order to stop a colleague whose practices she despises from becoming the psychology voice of radio, Megan takes a job as a radio host, which advertises her as a demon slayer. Understandably enough, the personal demons–small demons that encourage people to make bad choices and commit crimes–are a little threatened by what they view of as a declaration of war. But Megan is unaware of the world of demons, beyond her own psychic abilities, and so when she is approached by a mysterious (and sexy) figure who offers her help, she doesn’t know why she’ll need it, or why she should trust him. As it turns out, mysterious and sexy is Greyson Dante, who is also a demon, but is determined to keep Megan safe, whether she wants his help or not.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Storm Born Fiction Review

Posted on December 22, 2008 by

I love Richelle Mead’s stuff, so I was completely ready to be won over by the new series, “Dark Swan,” from the first time she posted an excerpt on her site. Both the excerpt and the novel, Storm Born, begin with shaman Eugenie Markham, also known as Odile Dark Swan, exorcising a shoe. What’s not to like? Eugenie is a lonely heroine working in a sort of mercenary line of demon slaying–taking calls, getting rid of spirits by banishing them either to the Other world or the world of the Dead, and getting paid. She doesn’t make friends easily, and has only her assistant Lara (most often a voice on the phone rather than human contact) and her roommate Timothy “Red Horse” (who masquerades as an “authentic” Native American, despite his Polish heritage).

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Halloween Horror: Hounds of the Morrigan

Posted on October 14, 2008 by

Author Alana Abbott (Chronicles of Ramlar, Serenity Adventures) and artist Jeff Preston bring another creature for our Halloween Horror collection.

Those who cheat death beware, can you hear the baying of the hounds?

Hounds of the Morrigan

Created by Alana Abbott
With Art by Jeff Preston

Like their mistresses, the hounds of the Morrigan are harbingers of death, choosing those who, in battle, will perish at the hands of their enemies. A vision of one of these great, black dogs is an omen of death: warriors who see the hounds know that their doom is near. It has been said that just the sight of the hounds is enough to cause a mortal to die of fear: their coat appears both as fur and as the black feathers of a crow, their eyes glow red at a distance and swirl like pools of blood up close, and their fangs are bronze and sharp as daggers. Few who have been in the presence of the hounds survive to tell their story.

[...more]
alanajoli

Key to Conflict Fiction Review

Posted on October 9, 2008 by

Welcome to the Gillian Key Admiration Society–that is, if you’re male, paranormal, and exquisitely handsome, as all the men in Talia Gryphon’s Key to Conflict seem to be. From ghosts to vampires to werewolves and dark elves, everyone wants to get retired marine and paramortal psychologist Gillian Key into their bed. Some of them succeed, to a greater or lesser degree (the ghost having to resort to sleeping with her in incredibly erotic dreams, so she won’t know she’s being screwed, if you can forgive the pun–and the forced-love aspect of the novel). While there’s also a plot, it doesn’t really pick up until page 227 of 325, when we meet Gillian’s old marine special ops unit, who gather to rescue a kidnapped vampire. The first 227 pages set up the world in a somewhat haphazard fashion: paramortals went public twenty years ago. Or they were creatures of legend up until the Human-Paramortal War a few years ago.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Armed and Magical Fiction Review

Posted on October 6, 2008 by

You may remember that in my review of Shearin’s Magic Lost, Trouble Found, I expressed some confusion about reading a novel that felt like urban fantasy but was set in an elves-and-goblins style world. Armed and Magical follows the further adventures of Raine Benares as she tries to get rid of the Saghred, the evil stone that has claimed her as its link to the world, and has very much the same style as the first book. In reading the sequel, however, I finally made the connection that I missed in Raine’s first adventure: Raine is a seeker, which is roughly the equivalent of a private investigator for her world. What Shearin is writing isn’t a hybrid of urban fantasy and low fantasy–it’s hard boiled fantasy noir.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Hell Week Fiction Review

Posted on September 29, 2008 by

You might remember when I last wrote about one of Rosemary Clement-Moore’s books, I pronounced it the scariest book I’d reviewed for Flames Rising. Since I’m also a fan of “fluffy bunnies” level horror (as I also expressed in that review), I was not disappointed when the sequel, Hell Week, was not as nightmarish. In the sequel, girl-psychic Maggie Quinn does face a whole new level of evil: Rush and sororities. As a college freshman and budding journalist, her plan is to infiltrate her campus’s Greek societies and write scathing exposés. Balance this with an undefined relationship with the cute upperclassman who, in Prom Dates from Hell, helped her defeat a demon; her grandmother’s urging to continue her psychic training; her best friend continuing to study witchcraft against Maggie’s long-distance advice; and freshman year would be tough enough. But evil doesn’t take a break, and there’s something scarily lucky about the Sigma Alpha Xis, who choose Maggie to join their number. When Maggie’s usually helpful dreams disappear and she finds herself on the receiving end of that same good luck–and enhanced sexual attraction–that is the mark of the Sigma Alpha Xis, she suspects something dark at work. On the bright side, evil is always good for investigative journalism, if it doesn’t kill her first.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

From Dead to Worse Fiction Review

Posted on July 31, 2008 by

I would assume, given all the fuss about the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, that I’m missing a great deal of what makes them good by reading From Dead to Worse before reading the beginning of the series. I hope this is true, because otherwise, I don’t really understand what all the hubbub is about. Sookie is a fun main character, the writing is charming, and the setting is both intriguing and well used (how many urban fantasy series take place in the South, much less post-Katrina Louisiana?). But From Dead to Worse is missing something extremely core: a plot.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Heroes Adrift Fiction Review

Posted on July 15, 2008 by

Normally I don’t like to read books in a series out of order–the exception being when I’m reviewing them. I’ve got a couple of second novels that I picked up still lingering on my bookshelves, waiting for me to pick up book one. So it always impresses me when a second or third entry in a series can pick up the story without making you feel like you’re adrift (if you’ll excuse the pun). Heroes Adrift does it incredibly successfully, and though our heroes spend the whole book out of their element, the reader catches up to the action in the first few pages.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Shadowbred (Twilight War) Review

Posted on May 26, 2008 by

More than any other shared-world I know, the Forgotten Realms is home to evil protagonists. Shadowbred‘s heroes fall ambiguously into this category: they are assassins, addicts, half-fiends, and shades. Erevis Cale, Chosen of Mask, is doing his best to be a hero, due to a promise gave to a dead friend in a previous adventure. The tiefling mind-mage Magadon strives to control his demonic urges, which are the only thing that keep him from being consumed by the Source, an artifact introduced in previous books. The two are sympathetic figures, striving against the odds to become people they don’t hate.

Review by Alana Abbott

[...more]
alanajoli

Midnight Alley Fiction Review

Posted on May 8, 2008 by

In the third installment of the ongoing “Morganville Vampires” series, not-quite-seventeen year old Claire has opened a whole new can of worms: she’s agreed to work for the Founder, Amelie, an ancient vampire who has, for some reason been sticking up for her since she came to Morganville. It seems a simple enough exchange at first: Protection (with a capital P) for herself and her friends by promising her obedience. Better yet, her first task is taking advanced classes, and she finds herself with a scholarship to boot. But not all of those classes are the safe, classroom kind: she has an independent study with Myrnin, an old vampire who is brilliant, but seems on the edge of losing it.

Review by Alana Abott

[...more]

11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

    Monthly Newsletter Sign Up

    join our monthly mailing list
    * indicates required

    The Devil’s Night WoD SAS

    Free Devil's Night | White Wolf

    Become a Fan on Facebook!

    Reviews Wanted!

    The new Review Guidelines have been posted on the Flames Rising website. We are currently seeking a few good reviewers to help us expand our collection of horror and dark fantasy reviews. RPGs, fiction, movies, video games and more are all welcome on the site...

    What do you get out of it?

    Beyond helping out fellow Flames Rising readers by letting them know what you think of these products, we're giving away some pretty cool stuff. Regular Reviewers can earn free products to review, which is their to keep after the review is submitted to the site.

    Note: We are especially looking for folks interested in reviewing eBooks (both Fiction & Comics). We have lots of great titles in digital format and even get advance copies sometimes.

    Use the Contact Page to submit reviews or let us know if you have any questions.