S.J. Collins


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Smashwords book reviews by S.J. Collins

  • Save My Soul (Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy: Preternaturals Book 2) on Jan. 29, 2011

    I’m more than a little stunned. Not because I didn’t expect the book to be so good. Hell, I’ve read Kept, Claimed, and Mated. I know Zoe Winters has some mad story-telling skills. Having mad story-telling skills, however, isn’t the same as having the skills to make me believe a romance is possible between an Incubus and a human. This is why you should NEVER. EVER. tell a writer what they can and cannot do because they will do it out of spite and it will blow your mind every time. In the hands of a capable writer, anything is possible. Zoe’s proving to be much more than a capable writer. I have only one criticism, and you know? I’m not even really sure it counts as one. I think Zoe’s style has matured a lot since Kept, and it shows because for most of the story, this book didn’t feel like it was even written for the same universe as the Book 1. Except, it’s not supposed to. Totally different setting. And we expect to have other places feel different right? The world of the Preternaturals is expanding, branching out. I can appreciate that, especially when we found out about-but no, that’s a spoiler. I did see the HUGE TWISTY PLOT TWIST, that I also absolutely WON’T be sharing with any of you, coming but I did so with a gleeful chuckle and lots of evil palm rubbing. It made the whole story come full-circle in a spectacular way, in my humble opinion. So it makes me feel smart when I could say ahead of time “Oooooh! I see what you’re doing here.” There were other things that I didn’t see coming though. Things that I D’ohed for not even thinking about. I’m going to warn you though. After reading this book, you’re going to wish you had a significant other around. Sufficed to say, Save my Soul reeks of sexual tension, and what a delicious reek it is. Luc definitely has a spot on my Favorite Heroes list. One that I have to get around to re-writing one of these days. Anna too (Heroines, obviously). Ms. Winter’s writes brilliant snark. Her heroines might get tossed around, betrayed, and have their lives do a complete 360 but they always have a sense of humor about it. Probably to keep from going insane like the rest of us probably would if we were faced with the same events. Maybe. Something I wanted to mention also was how much I loved how Winters wrote the friendship between Anna and Tam, one of the supporting cast. It was refreshing for once to read about a female friendship that didn’t involve lots of backstabbing and BS similar in office politics. They weren’t friends just because girls aren’t supposed to be mean so anyone you have even the vaguest familiarity with counts as a ‘friend’. They gave a damn about one another, and didn’t secretly wish to be anywhere but in the others presence. They enjoyed one another’s company. Like the way it should be. Their banter made me chuckle, more often than not because it reminded me of the way I am with my friends, and thank you Zoe for portraying what a healthy female friendship is like. I’m hoping Tam might show up again, since there seems to be a running trend for Zoe to give supporting characters their own books. But either way? I don’t think I’ll be disappointed by a Zoe Winters read.
  • Hungry For You on Feb. 22, 2011

    Short stories are such huge teases. Having said that, this haunting collection of short stories left me with an insatiable appetite. But, um, not for human flesh, or, you know, braaaaaaaaaaaains. Nope, I’ve got a fever. And the only thing that can cure it? Is more work by A.M. Harte. Although, if you want to throw in some cowbell, that’d be nice too. Right. Less irreverence, more review. Ms. Harte really took Zombies to a whole new level for me. She took the mythos, turned it on it’s head, and spun it right round. Multiple times. Threw them all in a box and then went way, way out of the box. Especially when you consider that the entire collection are little more than love stories.(She said, as if love stories are somehow small, fragile things she knows they’re not.) Ms. Harte writes with such beautiful subtlety that I really needed to pace myself reading Hungry For You. I could not go through the stories at a dead sprint, I needed time to let the stories simmer in, to really take in the full effect of the passion that drove the majority of the stories. It was a winding experience. I loved it! Because these were the sort of stories I’d been hoping to get when I revamped this blog under ‘Fiction with a Dark Side’. This exploration of the darker side of love, the lighter side of death, the grays and in betweens. Usually with anthologies, I like to go through the stories one by one and tell my readers here why I liked them. I’d really like to do that now but the temptation to give something away is just two great. One of the best things about Hungry For You is the subtle, yet powerful twists. I read each slowly, with awe, trying to anticipate ‘how is she going to do it this time’, and often than not, I failed, delightedly. Too caught up in the stories. Well, ok. I totally saw how Swimming Lesson was going to end but I’m pretty sure she just threw that one in there so we can feel smart for figuring it out. I really enjoyed every single story (all eleven of them!)-because every single story reeked of creativity and bit of tragedy and oh-don’t act like you all don’t know I’m a hopeless romantic complete masochist. However my Favorites were: Hungry For You - Yep! The Antho’s name sake is a story. “A police sergeant struggles with a very unusual victim…” A Prayer to Garlic- This one is just so delightfully quirky I can’t even think of a way to describe it without completely ruining it. Dead Man’s Rose - “A young wife is trapped in a house hiding unimaginable evil….” The Perfect Song-“A dying musician turns to tea for inspiration.” Were I forced to choose, I would have to pick this one as my favorite. One of the driving concepts behind it-involving tea- just tickled the heck out of me and I think any writer, aspiring or pro, could relate to the protagonist’s frustration. This a brilliant collection that I recommend to any Zombie lovers (especially those of you that like to see new takes on the mythology, you’ll get them in spades in Hungry For You ) , those of us who like our fiction on the dark side, or for readers who love love, no matter what it does to you.
  • The Unfinished Song: Initiate on Jan. 25, 2012

    Initiate is the first book of a new series, The Unfinished Song, by Tara Maya. As such, there are a few things I feel that you should know up front. First, if cliffhangers piss you off, be sure you have the second book, Taboo (which was just recently released), ready to dive into once you're finished Initiate. I wasn't bothered because I pretty much knew what I was getting into right off the bat but the Amazon description doesn't much give the cliffhanger impression to potential readers so I'm just giving you all a heads up. Also, this is VERY much an Epic Fantasy. While I feel one of the book's strong points is Tara's exceptional dedication to the World Building, I do know that some readers would find it off putting if their not huge culture fanatics. Some people have complained that they were disoriented/confused by the various names and political systems, but I found the seven tribes utterly fascinating and I felt Tara explained them all well enough without ever going into a huge, long, drawn out info dump. Tara also manages to be very lyrical with her prose without it becoming meandering. I always felt rooted in the story. I liked that Dindi, our heroine, is not only conscious of her differences but embraces them despite insurmountable criticism from her clan. She beats to the tune of her own drums and doesn't give up on her dreams no matter how others might view them. I'm looking forward to seeing how she'll change as a person in the light of the events at the end of Book 1. I have to give it to Tara for being gutsy with her ending. That's all I'll say about that. While I never got to the point where I "liked" Gwenika, Dindi's friend, I found her relate-able. Her self-sabotage was very interesting in a tragic way. Kavio, thus far, has the makings of a good hero. I love "lone wolf" heroes. Vindicated, honorable, but rough around the edges. And yet...I feel my "side-character love" creeping up. Meira, my favorite character (which is to say, the one I found most intriguing) , is the one I can reveal the least about. She almost got my "favorite quote" vote but the one above was simply too deliciously bitter for me to pass up on. I would recommend this book to Fantasy lovers and lovers of Fairy Tales. And by Fairy Tales, I don't mean those of the watered down Disney variety.