If I Die Before I Wake, debut novel by Liz McMullen
Rarely does a novel captivate me, grab my attention within the first few chapters, and keep me spellbound from beginning to end. Liz McMullen’s novel, If I Die Before I Wake, did just that. For a book to have the capacity to touch this writer on such a deeply personal level seems remarkable enough; however, given that the novel possesses a paranormal nature, makes that connection quite eerie. Perhaps Liz McMullen has a touch of witchcraft in her writing. Needless to say, before even reviewing the plot, I admit that I absolutely love the book. It will be on my shelf to be reread, with a few other novels that strike a personal chord.
Certainly If I Die Before I Wake contains all the elements of a good paranormal horror novel: death of a beloved grandparent, an heirloom that bridges the real world and the world in-between, ghosts, witches, darkness. These elements are well crafted into a storyline that reaches beyond the standard paranormal horror tale, not just with the addition of an extremely sexy lesbian romance, but in how McMullen links the pieces together. McMullen develops a highly symbolic tale beginning with the title, (the main line of a prayer that many children recite in order to ward off nightmares,) to the names of the characters, which symbolically connect to that prayer, as well as to the necessity for uttering such words. In doing so, a magical sense of continuity evolves. In this writer’s opinion, the ability to create such a sense of connectivity, not as allusion, but in such a subtle manner that one wouldn’t even notice unless struck by it, goes beyond simply being good authorship, but wonderful story-telling.
While Liz McMullen may already have a great following in her blog, The Liz McMullen Show, she should continue writing novels. Her following will continue exponentially if she does so. She definitely had a fan in me.
Just the title, Surviving Reagan, provoked emotion in this reader. Perhaps, my age set the stage for a host of thoughts about those extremely homophobic years, the ultra conservatism, and the growing apocalyptic view within a militaristic framework, not even touching upon the economic issues fraught within that administration. Certainly, this romance doesn’t precisely touch upon such things, per se, although the unsettled Middle East, a present day context of extreme misogyny and a war machine does work well as a setting to maintain my initial reactions. Additionally, the events that occur to the protagonists, Chad and Reagan, bespeak of a world still battling with these issues. However, Surviving Reagan is a romance tale, one that reaches readers on a variety of levels. If one seeks a well-written romance story filled with the emotional turmoil extant between lovers whose love has destiny wrapped around it, intrigue and adventure, then Isabella’s writing fills that bill. Alternatively, if one seeks a novel that raises provocative issues, social issues that beset every lesbian, while cast within a love story, issues that are at once humorous and devastating, then this novel can serve that purpose as well. Isabella delivers a deeply intense novel that is well written, filled with dynamic dialogue, compelling on a multitude of levels, and highly evocative.
Fractured Futures Cover
As a hard-core Dark Urban Fantasy fan, it takes a clever plot to surprise me any more. More often than not, it seems as though every story harkens back to one prior, often as just shy of plagiarism, or as accidental homage. So, when I opened Fractured Futures, I was prepared to for disappointment. Happily, what I discovered was a strong dark urban fantasy, complete with intense female protagonists and romance that was rich, inviting, and sexy (oh, and between woman!) SY Thompson takes a futuristic landscape, reminiscent of a blending of Orwell and Ridley Scott, dark, centralized, and fraught with layers of discord and corruption, yet she reaches further into that realm, casting a glance at the oppression of women service workers via the near cyborg effect cast upon Ronan as a police officer, serves as tool both owned and employed by the state. This reductionism becomes further enhanced by her connection to technology, especially intriguing as the technological component leads to an even darker and complex plot line. Further, Thompson explores sexuality, via intense dialogue and an inter-play of provocative themes of class — within both regime and intimacy. Additionally, as the plot revolves around serial killing, violence against women provides another important social element. It is the complexity of this interplay that ultimately strengthens the romantic relationship.
Certainly, I could easily say that I loved the book and call it a day. However, Thompson deserves recognition for how well she fused aspects of social justice into a police drama cum DUF cum lesbian fiction book. I highly recommend it. Hand down, this book will be re-read multiple times.