Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Best of Times

Hey, y'all! 'Tis the season for obligatory year-end blog post of some kind. I considered doing some kind of "Favorite Books of 2014" post, then quickly decided it wasn't worth the agony of choosing (too many awesome stories out there!). Then I considered just keeping to my regularly scheduled blog posts - reviews and ramblings and whatnot - but it kept bothering me that I was about to let 2014 slip by without some kind of comment.

So here we go. 2014... 2014... How to describe 2014? It was a year that flew by, and yet, looking back, things that happened toward the beginning feel like an eternity ago now that I've reached the end. Like 2013, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the year I became depressingly disillusioned about certain things (though I've done my best to spare y'all the drama there), but feeding such demons with attention only helps them grow, and I'm having enough problems staying motivated these days as it is. So I'm going to focus on how it was the best of times and leave the demons to starve.

This was the year I did a number of things I never thought I'd find myself doing. Such as co-running a crowdfunding campaign and playing publisher (shameless plug: The project is Brave New Girls, a sci-fi anthology starring tech-savvy teen girls with the goal of encouraging more young ladies to enter STEM professions). And speaking on panels at sci-fi/fantasy conventions (I survived!). And overseeing a photo shoot (keep your eyes open for the Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil cover reveal next year!). And signing with a literary agent (wait - that really happened, right? I didn't just dream it?).

Breaking new ground is scary, scary business, but it must be done, or you're just stuck. Everyone knows that, of course, but that doesn't make it any easier to take the leap into the Great Unknown. Especially when no one give you a map.

At the same time, while you're charging forward, you can't just forget the things you were in the middle of. Which is easy to forget when you're enticed by all the new and shiny things. I learned a thing or two this year about what happens when you start too new many things without finishing the old ones first. Not only do projects get delayed because you have so many other tasks to handle (to the one person waiting for Jane Colt #3 - a.k.a. Mom - I'm sorry!), but you wind up draining yourself, which ultimately slows you down. I used to be able to bang out the first draft of a book in a matter of weeks because it was the only thing I was working on - the only thing occupying my time, energy, and focus. The last manuscript I completed took twice as long as the first.

Perhaps the term I loathe most in the Corporate World (or, as I so fondly call it on Twitter, Cubicle Swamp) is "managing expectations." Yet I think I finally know what it means. And I think, for me, it mostly applies to me managing my own expectations for myself (man, could I sound any more solipsistic?). I want to do a lot of things, and it's not until I step back and take a look at the full scope of everything (like I'm doing now) that I realize just how much it is. Being extremely impatient and usually pretty fast about completing projects, the lag that occurs when you're juggling six distinct projects feels like failure.

But hey, as long as you keep chugging along, things get done eventually. And it's hard to see progress while it's being made. Before I started writing this post, all I could think was "ugh, how is it almost 2015, and I still haven't finished Jane Colt #3? I haven't done anything this whole year!" Looking back though, I think I've done quite a bit. I won't list it all here (though I was sorely tempted to - I'll spare y'all the "Look at everything I did!" boasting), but I think I'm doing just fine.

So there you have it - my obligatory year end post. It was the best of times. And may 2015 be even better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

REVIEW: Chasing Azrael (Deathly Insanity, #1) / Hazel Butler

TITLE: Chasing Azrael (Deathly Insanity, #1)
AUTHOR: Hazel Butler
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (e-book), Amazon (paperback)

Fantasy - Urban Fantasy / Paranormal

Chasing Azrael tells the story of Andee, a young archaeologist who sees ghosts – including that of her husband, who killed himself two years before the start of the story. Haunted by his spirit and unable to move on, Andee becomes obsessed with death and barely able to cope with the real world. She turns to her two best friends for support, but when one of them, Josh, becomes the target of a strange and dangerous woman wanted for several murders, Andee is dragged into the investigation.

Part ghost story and post mystery-thriller, Chasing Azrael is an intriguing and atmospheric read that evokes a distinctly gothic feel. The word that kept coming to mind when I was reading it was creeptastic. Creeptastic descriptions, creeptastic paranormal elements, creeptastic plot. Butler draws you into this dark yet strangely enchanting story that, while set in contemporary times, feels otherworldly. The references to angels of Death and other dark legends, the shadowy tone that envelopes the whole book, the twisted plot – it all comes together to form a sometimes disturbing yet overall entertaining read.

As a protagonist, Andee is relatable yet far from perfect. She's a brilliant university lecturer yet rather awkward and something of a loner. Her personality comes off as prickly and detached at times, yet it's understandable. After all, it can't be easy being haunted by the spirit of someone you love. All kinds of thoughts and emotions swirl beneath the surface, and yet it seems she reveals little of the real Andee to those around her.

All in all, Chasing Azrael is a creeptastic (that word! again!) paranormal mystery and contemporary gothic tale. There are romantic elements, and yet the story isn't an outright romance. I think this book will appeal to anyone who likes their books veiled in shadow and tinted black.

Hazel is a twenty eight year old author, artist and archaeologist from Cheshire, England. She is currently in the final year of her PhD, which focuses on Gender Dynamics in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Britain. She has been studying archaeology since she was sixteen, attending The University of Manchester for her Undergraduate course in Ancient History and Archaeology, then Bangor University for an MA in Celtic Archaeology and on to her PhD. She spent two years between her MA and PhD doing Corporate archaeology and research excavations, both in Britain and in Austria, and has two papers published in international journals.

Since 2010 she has been working on a series of Gothic Literary novels, the first of which, Chasing Azrael, was released in April 2014. While her primary interests are in Gothic and Fantasy art and fiction, she reads a wide range of subjects and enjoys most forms of art. She also has a great love of dogs, and her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Dexter (yes, after the serial killer), is her near-constant companion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


An interview with R. Anne Polcastro, author of Left Behind (Book One: The Forbidden Voyage)


Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

Since I write both dark literary fiction and middle grade/YA I actually write under two different pen names. R. Anne Polcastro is the name I use for family friendly titles such as my Left Behind Trilogy. For my adult titles, such as Suicide in Tiny Increments and soon to come Jane, I write under the name Riya Anne Polcastro.

What got you into writing?

I started writing before I even knew my alphabet. I started out dictating stories to my great grandmother. They were usually about ponies and I would draw pictures to go along with the story. When I got to kindergarten there was an amazing teacher who would have us tell her stories that she would type up and then we would bind them with construction paper and yarn. And that was it, I fell in love with books and got the writing bug.

What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

Left Behind Book One: The Forbidden Voyage began with a random thought: what if Earth isn’t the first place we humans have called home? What if aliens are people who turned green from some sort of environmental disaster?

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

Harlo is my favorite character. I can’t really say why without giving away spoilers but let’s just say that there’s a lot more to him than first appears.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

My favorite part is when the boys are swallowed up by the Monstruwhale on the Lake of Fire. They learn a lot from the Monstruwhale, who turns out not to be such a monster after all.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

It’s just telling the story; the act of letting out. Most of my stories are like something trapped inside of me that is trying to claw its way out. So it’s kind of cathartic when it all flows into my laptop.

How long does it take you to write a book? Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

That really depends on the book. The Forbidden Voyage took a few months while Jane. took over a year. My writing process usually starts with a fresh composition book wher I usually just free write and try out a few characters. I also brainstorm settings and events and try to get a vague idea of where the story might go but it’s all very fluid, nothing set in stone. Then I turn on my laptop and give the characters the reigns. That probably sounds weird but most of the time I don’t really feel like I’m in control. I can’t force a character to do something that they don’t want to do. They are the story and they run it.

What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?

I love speculative fiction because anything can happen. Any world can exist. Any good, any bad you can imagine, you can build a realm around it. I love dark literary fiction because it lets me purge the creepy shit, the rage, the ghosts, everything. It also lets me explore perspective and satiates my fascination with mental illness.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Until recently I thought my biggest influences were Chuch Palahniuk and Leo Tolstoy (what a combo right?!), and they are, but I had no idea that Frances Hodgson Burnett was actually the single biggest influence when it comes to character development. After reading The Secret Garden to my daughter, however, I saw the striking similarity; our characters are jerks.

Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?

Characters always have a life of their own. I’ve never found it very effective to sit down and create a character with certain attributes. For me, that’s a great way to get a useless, flat character. My characters just show up with their own personalities, styles, agendas, etc. But sometimes I am surprised by the choices they make, by how they steer the story.

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beyond the Strong Female Protagonist

In celebration of her recently released fantasy mystery, Catching a Man, I'm dedicating this week to author Elizabeth Corrigan. Topping off this series is a guest post by Elizabeth herself.

Beyond the Strong Female Protagonist

Once, many years ago, when I was going through a mystery-reading phase, I started a book about a plucky girl detective in the 1950s. Within the first twenty pages of the book, the narrator had quickly established that while all the other young women she knew just wanted to look pretty and catch husbands, she wanted something different—a career and a purpose in life. I remember filling up with a sense of irritation. “Why,” I thought, “do books always do this? Why does a woman in an era like the 1950s have to essentially have modern female sensibilities, while simultaneously denigrating all the other women of the time period? What about the vast majority of women who didn’t rebel against their society? Don’t they deserve to have stories told about them too?” I decided then and there that if I wrote a book that took place in the 1950s, my heroine wouldn’t be a rebel. She would be an ordinary girl, at least to start.

Fast forward several years, and I’ve combined that notion with a dozen other story ideas into what is now Catching a Man. As the story opens, Kadin Stone’s one goal in her 1950s-style world is to find a husband. She is eminently practical, and in her world, she simply doesn’t have any option other than to pursue marriage. Thus does she dedicate her considerable intellect to the task—keeping up her appearance and plotting strategies for attracting a coworker’s notice. She has family, friends, and interests as well, particularly the detective’s aide job she maintains until she finds a match, but she prioritizes her activities based on what will make her life most successful in the long run.

I do have some concerns that people will find Kadin unlikable. I had one publisher tell me that if they were going to accept it, I was going to have to change some of Kadin’s behavior. “You have character issues,” I was told. “Women will hate it.” (That’s not why I didn’t end up going with the publisher, but it was a factor.) Perhaps this publisher was right. Perhaps I should have done more to make Kadin realize that her society was wrong to constrain her in the way it did. But in the end I decided I wanted to tell a story about what a down-to-earth woman in an oppressive society would do.

I imagine that 50-75 years from now, women will be more liberated than they are now. Or I hope so at any rate. Probably the authors of that time period will write about women from the early 2000s and want all the heroines to have their outlooks on life, and will poo-poo on the kinds of choices that modern women make now. In a way, I write Kadin Stone for the women of today, who will have their choices belittled by a future generation. Because we all make the choices that are best for us, given all the constraints that our societies put on us, and we deserve to have those choices respected.

And for those who want to see Kadin liberated, I tell you that the series is not done yet.

About Elizabeth Corrigan

Elizabeth is the author of the Earthbound Angels series (Oracle of Philadelphia & Raising Chaos) and the Valeriel Investigations series (Catching a Man). She has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. Some hobbies include singing, reading tabletop RPG sourcebooks, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car. Visit her website:

About Catching a Man (Valeriel Investigations, #1)

There's more than one way to catch a man.

Kadin Stone's life is finally going according to plan. She's starting her new job as a homicide detective's aide at one of the premier criminal investigation companies in Valeriel City, the capital of a 1950’s-style kingdom. Kadin is certain her new position will introduce her to any number of eligible men, so she'll finally be able to get married and stop burdening the brother who insists on supporting her.

On Kadin’s first day, the royal family calls in her team to investigate the murder of gossip-rag cover girl Queen Callista. Kadin’s superiors think it’s an open and shut case. The queen’s jilted lover Duke Baurus DeValeriel had motive, means, and opportunity, but Kadin can’t help but spot holes in their theory.

After checking into a few leads of her own, Kadin inadvertently ends up in the confidence of Duke Baurus. When she tries to share what she knows with the rest of the team, she finds them unwilling to listen to the opinion of a girl who they know is only after a ring on her finger. In order to see justice served, Kadin finds herself doing the last thing she expected when she started working for a homicide detective—solve a murder!

Friday, December 12, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Elizabeth Corrigan

In celebration of her recently released fantasy mystery, Catching a Man, I'm dedicating this week to author Elizabeth Corrigan. The penultimate post for this series is an interview with Elizabeth.


Hi Elizabeth! Congrats on the release of your latest fantasy novel, Catching a Man, a fantasy mystery that takes place in a 1950s-style kingdom. Why did you choose the 1950s as your backdrop?

I wanted to do something different. So I thought, “Medieval, Victorian, and urban fantasy have been done to death. What has no one done? I know! The 1950s!”

The main character, Kadin Stone, both wants to fit in yet can’t stop herself from defying the rules to investigate the murder. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed her character?

If you stay tuned for tomorrow’s final installment of Corrigan week on Zigzag Timeline—and if you aren’t, why not???—you can check out my detailed answer to that question. But the short answer is that I wanted to write about a woman in the 1950s who didn’t have modern sensibilities but who still had positive traits that readers could empathize with.

Of Catching a Man’s supporting cast, who is your favorite character? Can you describe him/her?

King Ralvin is my very favorite character. As Kadin meets him, he’s the king of her entire country, who always wears ceremonial robes and face paint in public. Kadin is the commonest of commoners, so it’s an extraordinary experience for her to have a conversation with him at all. She doesn’t do much more than stutter her name, though if her brother were there, he’d have had a thing or two to say about Ralvin’s disinterest in progressive politics. As to what I love about Ralvin… Well, you don’t want spoilers do you?

What was your favorite scene to write?

Hm, that’s a tough question. I would say something with Ralvin, but his first scene actually got a major overhaul, and his later two also created complications during the editing process. Probably my favorite scene was the one that was also a favorite among my betas, the one where Kadin learns to make java. And if you’ve read it, you know that there are some other dynamics going on there as well.

How long did it take you to write Catching a Man? Did you have a process, or did you just wing it?

I started writing Catching a Man—I have to remember to call it that in public. Among my friends and family, we just call it “Kadin Stone.” Anyway, I started writing it for NaNoWriMo in 2007. I made it through the 50,000 words but then didn’t write the rest until August 2008. It was the first book I ever wrote, and I mostly pantsed it—writer lingo for saying I didn’t outline and just wrote stuff until I got to the end. I knew it needed massive edits, so I put it aside for a while. After I wrote the first two books in the Earthbound Angels series, I felt like I was prepared to go back to Kadin. It did take several rounds of editing to get it into shape, but I’m pleased with it now.

In addition to Catching a Man, you’ve also published two urban fantasy novels as part of the “Earthbound Angels” series. What is it about writing fantasy that appeals to you?

I remember the first fantasy book I ever read, round about the seventh grade—The Ancient One by TA Barron. Prior to that, I had liked science fiction but had thought fantasy wasn’t for me. After that, I couldn’t get my hands on enough fantasy! By the time I left high school, I read fantasy pretty much exclusively, so it only made sense that all the stories I made up were fantasy as well. I think I like fantasy because it’s so different from reality that it’s pure escapism. And since there are no limits, there’s always a way for a happy ending.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

I think the biggest influence on Catching a Man is Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study, though that is probably far from obvious. In Poison Study, the military dictator was the good guy who had brought order to a land that had previously been ruled by a corrupt king. Sure, there were lots of rules, and everyone had to wear a uniform, but everyone had a job and was treated equally. I read it and thought, “That’s just so different. I want to write something just as different!” Other authors and works that have influenced me include Simon R. Green’s Nightside series, Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series, and Melanie Rawn’s Exiles series.

Thanks for stopping by!

Visit Elizabeth's website:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

To Hell and Back: Making the Oracle of Philadelphia Book Trailer

In celebration of her recently released fantasy mystery, Catching a Man, I'm dedicating this week to author Elizabeth Corrigan. Part four of this series is a making-of post about the Oracle of Philadelphia book trailer. 

Book trailers are fun. I get a disproportionate amount of satisfaction out of piecing together a cool-looking video. So back in 2013, when Elizabeth Corrigan was about to release her debut novel, Oracle of Philadelphia, I offered to make one for the novel. Elizabeth wrote the script, and then I set about finding the right footage and music to match.

Most of the trailers I make are text-and-image ones using snippets of the book's back cover copy. But for the Oracle trailer, we decided to go with the voiceover route. Since we were operating on a budget of exactly $0, I did the narration myself (as the voice of the titular Oracle character). And man, it took me ages to get it right! You'd think the script for a one minute video wouldn't take long to record, but I must've spent a good two or three hours repeating those same few lines over and over, trying not to flub them and attempting to put vocal inflections in the right places. Given the serious tone of the premise - about an immortal woman burdened with past guilt trying to save a good man's soul from an archdemon - I adopted a tone that would portray that.

Once the narration was done, it was time to find video. Again, budget of exactly $0, so my options were limited to whatever I could scrounge up using a free trial of a stock video website. Which meant I had to get creative. There were three locations needed: an ancient village (in which the Oracle was born), modern day Philadelphia, and Hell. Since we couldn't build Hollywood sets or anything, I had to be somewhat abstract. Philadelphia was the easiest, since there were a decent number of Philly videos on the stock footage site, and modern life shots that matched the narration (for instance, a coffee cup to represent the diner rather than an actual diner). 

The ancient village was a bit harder, but I managed to find a shot of a remote African village that I placed next to footage of desert sands. But even the African village had signs of modern life, so only about 2 seconds of it were usable. Since the Oracle talks about her villagers trading their souls, I overlay a shot of clouds going from white to dark storm clouds to fill in the extra time needed.

Then there was Hell. In Oracle of Philadelphia, Hell is described as a gothic mansion. Well, the stock website came up empty but luckily, I lived right next door to Princeton University. Lots of gothic buildings there. I didn't exactly own a camera, but my phone could take videos. So I went to campus one day and took sweeping shots of suitable buildings. Sweeping for two reasons: 1) The jerkiness of the camera added to the creepy, supernatural feel of the video and 2) I couldn't hold my hand steady. 

With all that in place, it was time to create the soundtrack to match the three locations. For the village, I found stock music that conveyed a sense of ancient times and desert culture, then overlay a violin melody (performed by yours truly) to add to the mysteriousness. Then, I faded it into a modern rock-like beat with the same violin playing over it to create a sense of unity. I wanted something steady and upbeat to convey the bustle of the 21st century, but with a touch of melancholy to match the Oracle's contemplative narration (the violin helped with that too). When she brings up Hell, the violin goes into dissonant chords - the Devil's Chord, to be precise - that drown out the beat (which continues moving underneath).

Since Elizabeth had expressed that Oracle of Philadelphia was partly inspired by the TV show Supernatural, I decided to end the trailer on a musical cue evocative of one of the show's themes (it's a slow piano melody played during the show's more tragic moments). 

Piece it all together and voila! A book trailer on a $0 budget. I think it turned out pretty decently... Check it out below to see for yourself how it all came together.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

REVIEW: Raising Chaos / Elizabeth Corrigan

In celebration of her recently released fantasy mystery, Catching a Man, I'm dedicating this week to author Elizabeth Corrigan. Today's post is a review of Raising Chaos, the second book in Elizabeth's Earthbound Angels series.

TITLE: Raising Chaos (Earthbound Angels, #2)
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Corrigan
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links on author's website (click here)

Fantasy - Urban Fantasy

First, the disclosures – Red Adept Publishing, the publisher for Raising Chaos, is also my publisher for the Jane Colt novels. Neither Red Adept Publishing nor Elizabeth Corrigan requested that I write this review. The below reflects my honest opinion. Dang, this whole disclosure thing is getting old, but I won't be accused of being a meatpuppet!

Anyway, now that that's over and done with, let me start by saying that I was a huge fan of Corrigan's first Earthbound Angels book, Oracle of Philadelphia, and was really excited when I found out that the sequel would expand on the fascinating world of angels and demons introduced in the debut novel. At the end of the first book, the titular Oracle, in her efforts to free a good man from his infernal contract, makes an enemy of the archdemon Azrael. Archdemons are not the type to forgive or forget, and in the second book, Azrael sets out to get revenge. The Oracle's best friend, the chaos demon Bedlam, overhears Azrael's evil plans and races to stop her before it's too late.

Raising Chaos, the second book in the Earthbound Angels series, is told from three different perspectives. The main storyline follows Bedlam as he unlocks ancient clues in his efforts to stop Azrael - told in the chaos demon's signature irreverent voice, of course. Though Bedlam is a demon by definition because he sided with Lucifer thousands of years ago, he had a crisis of conscience shortly before meeting the Oracle (whom he calls Khet) in ancient Egypt and is actually a pretty good guy. Though he is for the most part a lighthearted and amusing character, he has several profound moments that show the depth he hides behind his offhand comments.

Meanwhile, the Oracle from the first book leaves her Philadelphia diner for a cozy beach town, hoping to live as normal human for a while. The reason I call her "the Oracle" is because her name changes pretty frequently – in Oracle of Philadelphia, she called herself Carrie, and in Raising Chaos, she adopts a new identity as Caela (her angelic and demonic contacts call her different things depending on what she went by when she met them – she's Cassia to the archangel Gabriel, Cama to the archangel Michael, etc.). The Oracle's segments are relatively tame compared to her adventures through hell in the first book, but no less interesting. With her ability to read peoples' true natures and see their thoughts, she finds herself struggling to fit in with human society – especially after she learns their secrets.

Raising Chaos also features a third narrator (and new character): the truth angel Siren. Because Siren always tells the truth and makes others around her tell the truth, she's always right and unafraid to inform those around her of this fact. Through Siren, the reader is introduced to the golden clouds of Heaven and made privy to the dealings and politics of the world upstairs. Snappy and sarcastic (there's a "sarcasm loophole" to Siren's truth-telling), Siren is a colorful addition to the Earthbound Angels cast and adds an extra level of richness to the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and anyone who liked Oracle will like Chaos just as much – if not more. Alternating between the three perspectives, it's an exciting, profound, adventurous, and contemplative take on angels and demons mythology, including a few retellings of familiar Biblical tales. It's hard to pick a favorite moment, since there are so many – personally, I liked Bedlam the best because I'm a sucker for adventures. The world and characters draw you in and offer tantalizing glimpses into the bigger universe that's sure to unfold.

Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

REVIEW: Oracle of Philadelphia (Earthbound Angels, #1) / Elizabeth Corrigan

In celebration of her recently released fantasy mystery, Catching a Man, I'm dedicating this week to author Elizabeth Corrigan. The second post in this series is a re-post of my review of Corrigan's debut novel, Oracle of Philadelphia (Earthbound Angels, #1)

TITLE: Oracle of Philadelphia 
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Corrigan
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (Nook e-book), Kobo (e-book)

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy and stories about angels and demons, such as the TV show Supernatural.


Oracle of Philadelphia is the first in a series.

Corrigan sets up the conflict in the very first chapter of the novel. Much of the story consists of fascinating flashbacks and dialogue, and Corrigan’s intriguing characters coupled with a free-flowing writing style keeps the pace up throughout the book. I read the whole thing in a day.

First person past from the point of view of Carrie, an 8,000-year-old Oracle living in modern day Philadelphia. Carrie spends much of the book telling stories about how she met various angels and demons over the course of her long life.

Carrie, who has also been known over the years as Khet, Cassia, Cama, and several other names, is an 8,000-year-old oracle living in modern day Philadlphia. Born in ancient Mesopotamia with the gift to see into the minds of others, including angels and demons, she does her best to keep a low profile. Then one day, a young man named Sebastian, who sold his soul to the archdemon Azrael to save his sister’s life, finds Carrie and asks for help.

Carrie, world-weary after millennia of hearing cases like his, initially gives her standard helpless response. It’s not that she doesn’t want to help; she literally can’t. In the past, she’s tried petitioning angels, demons, and God Himself, but came up empty each time. However, there’s something different about Sebastian. Carrie has the ability to sense another’s aura—their goodness, wickedness, etc.—and Sebastian’s is so bright with goodness that she almost mistakes him for an angel. She’s eventually unable to ignore him any longer and does something she’s never done before: journey to hell in hopes of making her own deal with Azrael.

Oracle of Philadelphia tells the story of Carrie’s life in a series of flashbacks, which are triggered by the entrance of various characters. Over the millennia, she has tangled with many of the twenty or so major angels, several of whom were cast out of Heaven when Lucifer fell and became demons. The most memorable of these supernatural beings is Bedlam, the demon of chaos, who walks the line between good and evil. He’s technically a demon because he, too, was locked out of Heaven, but aside from a tendency to make mischief, he’s actually a decent guy. Energetic, immature, and smart-mouthed, Bedlam is easily the fan favorite, adding a splash of color to the otherwise composed hierarchy of angels.

In Oracle of Philadelphia, Corrigan treats Biblical stories as mythology and re-imagines several to involve her characters. For instance, she tells the story of the Ten Commandments with Bedlam as the doubter who told the people to worship a golden idol (he thought it was a joke and was very sorry when Moses didn’t find it so funny). These re-imaginings are vividly original and captivating to read.

Much of Oracle of Philadelphia consists of dialogue, and both Carrie’s narration and the other characters’ words spring to life. It’s easy to hear their voices as though you’re in the room with them, listening in on their conversations. At the same time, Corrigan has a real knack for description. Whether it’s a tavern in ancient Rome, a museum in modern day Philadelphia, or Hell itself, all the locations are presented vibrantly on the page with just enough detail to let you know where you are.

Carrie is an easily likable main character. Although immortal and capable of reading minds, she is still human at heart. Imbued with quiet strength, her determination and inherent kindness are nothing short of admirable. In many ways, she’s the opposite of Bedlam, who’s been her best friend since she met him in ancient Egypt. Bedlam’s flashy personality is in stark contrast to her low-key existence, and he brings excitement to her life. She finds comfort in his chaotic aura, the hyperactive thoughts perpetually buzzing through his head.

In addition to Bedlam, Oracle of Philadelphia boasts a memorable assortment of characters. Carrie ends up meeting a number of angels and all of the archdemons, each of whom is depicted with his or her own unique, somewhat theatrical personality. There’s Gabriel, the beautiful angel of joy who spends his time as a do-gooder on Earth. And Michael, the stern and unforgiving general who considers himself guardian of Heaven. And Lilith, the Amazonian archdemon. And those are just the ones I can list off the top of my head.

Entertaining and brilliantly imagined, Oracle of Philadelphia is a must-read for fans of contemporary fantasy, especially those who love tales of angels and demons. Corrigan clearly knows every aspect of her world—angel hierarchies, the mechanics of Hell, supernatural politics—and Oracle of Philadelphia offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies beyond this earth.

This book is impeccably edited.

This book contains some violence.

[from the author's Amazon page]
Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she's not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.

Disclosure: Red Adept Publishing is also the publisher of my own novel, Artificial Absolutes. I bought and read this book on my own, and the above reflects only my honest opinion.