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REVIEW: Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia KaneDear Ms. Kane,

I am not a big horror fan. I don’t find movies like Paranormal Activity, Resident Evil or 28 Days Later enjoyable. And for clarifcation purposes, I love Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys and Serenity. I nearly got thrown out of business class once when I kept yelping aloud during Signs and I was specifically asked by the hubby to not watch Constantine on a flight. I read a book instead. Yes, dystopian urban fantasy appeals, but with a true horror, scare the living daylights out of you element, not so much. Admittedly, a book with a title like Unholy Ghosts might not be the first thing I’d pick up of my own volition.

The post-apocalyptic world of Unholy Ghosts takes place in Triumph City and is based around the Church of the Real Truth, not so much a church as replacement for the fallen government and a police force out to control the dead. In the world of Chess Putnam, there is no G-d, no demons, no faith, only Fact.

“Now the lack of gods is fact, which is Truth and need not be believed or doubted. The Church offers proctection, and so the Church makes law.”
The Book of Truth, Origins, Article 1641

The living must defend themselves against ghosts and the dead, and the Church takes care of, and reimburses citizens (to the tune of $50,000) that are harassed by the deceased. Chess is a Churchwitch, she’s covered in special Church-sanctioned tattoos and has a strong ability and affinity for hunting and Banishing ghosts and exposing families that try to fake a haunting. This is where my love for Chess Putnam ends, because Chess is a drug addict. I have a serious problem with a protagonist that is a drug addict. I don’t give a shit how magically gifted she is, how awesome she is without being MarySuetastic. If Chess wasn’t such an addicted fuckup I think I could really enjoy the superior worldbuilding, as gritty and ugly as it is, and possibly even enjoy being slightly scared outta my pants at times. I love a good post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, but to have the heroine portrayed as a drug addict makes it a tough pill to swallow. Har-de-har.

Back to the plot: Chess is in deep to Bump, a drug lord who decides that he wants to start using an old abandoned airport to start importing his drugs faster. Problem: the airport seems to have a ghost issue. Solution: artificially inflate the amount of dough Chess owes, and strong arm her into Banishing the ghosts at the airport. While this could be perceived as a cautionary-type tale of a woman who gets into major trouble because of her habits, I don’t buy it. Chess is doing drugs, needing drugs and lamenting about not having the right drugs throughout the book. Oops, I was talking about the plot, right? Chess goes out to the airport with Terrible, Bump’s enforcer, and they discover that a lot of bad shit has been going on at the airport. Meaning human sacrifice and dark magic in an attempt to raise a particular dead creature, which is very illegal and extremely dangerous. Chess discovers an amulet on a body that is humming with black magic, indecipherable runes, and nearly burns her hand off. She takes the amulet with her to figure out later…which you know isn’t good. If I were in a movie theater I’d be yelling at the screen.

Chess’ troubles multiply as word gets around that Bump wants to open the airport. Bump’s main rival, Slobag, decides to make sure Chess doesn’t get the airport into working order by sending his enforcer, Lex, to meet with Chess. Chess seems to have the hots for both Lex and Terrible, which makes things slightly confusing for her with the drug-induced haze and her inability to separate her emotions from her highs and lows. On top of all of this, there is a group that is totally into dark magic, totally strong and totally against the Church, and they may be behind the insanity at the airport.

The pacing of the book is excellent, and definitely gave me some of those “put-the-book-down-before-my-heart-explodes” moments. The characters are vivid and even the secondary characters get fabulous treatment. I can’t say enough about the wonderful worldbuilding. Triumph City and The Church of the Real Truth are tangible and downright scary, gritty and dark. With all of that, I can’t get past Chess and the drugs. It makes her intimate interactions with Terrible and Lex feel phony, and this is exemplified in an encounter in the book. Chess meets with Terrible and she’s so high that she nearly falls into bed with him (or rather, into a back room at a bar), but instead manages to verbally destroy him. In the end, she’s unrepentant about any and all of this, and as much as I like all of the other aspects of the book, I think I might hate her. C


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Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.


  1. DS
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:18:02

    I cannot remember reading any books by Ms Kane, but I am seriously intrigued by this one.

    Now I have to decide if I want to go for the unabridged MP3 version or the Kindle. Can anyone comment on the competency of the narrator Blackstone Audio used?

  2. Angela
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:44:07

    It sounds like a fascinating premise. I don’t usually like drug users either in my reading – I just can’t get past my own personal biases to have it be shown as a quality in a ‘hero/ine’

    But I do have to ask – is there reasoning given for it? Is there growth by the end?

  3. Jackie U
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:49:19

    This is an excellent review except for the bit about the heroine being a drug addict. Everything I’ve read about this book, from blurbs to Stacia’s blog, have indicated the heroine is a drug addict and if this bothers you, don’t read the book.

    As a reviewer, I have a huge problem with this aspect of your review. I think if you had a problem with the subject matter, you shouldn’t have read the book. I don’t mean that to sound rude, but it’s the truth.

  4. Shuzluva
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:53:13

    @Angela Unfortunately, when I said this:

    in the end, she's unrepentant about any and all of this

    I meant it. There is no growth or change from status as drug addict.

  5. Maili
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:55:05

    It does sound interesting, but I can’t quite get past those characters’ names. Did you feel those names fit in with the story well? (I’d get a copy if it does.)

    @Jackie U: I don’t agree. It’d be a problem if a reviewer didn’t disclose a dislike for a trope or anything that may explain the reviewer’s take or grade.

  6. Shuzluva
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:57:37

    @Jackie U I don’t read authors’ blogs before I write a review. I prefer to come at the book from my own perspective, rather than having it colored by the author.

    Having read the book blurb, I was aware the protagonist probably had a problem with drugs, but was intrigued by the story, the world and the idea to keep going. I’ve read books with protagonists with issues that I don’t like/agree with/feel comfortable reading. However, there is usually character growth or some sort of realization/lightbulb/etc. Here there was none, which is why the book fell down for me.

  7. Angela
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:58:17


    That’s unfortunate.

    I was hoping that, perhaps, the drug addiction in the blurb was something to induce growth.

  8. KMont
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:00:08

    Jackie, you’ve got to be kidding. I admit I had my own apprehensions about reading a drug addict heroine, but I dunno, ever heard of giving a book a chance? Whatever happened to that…

    I ended up not liking this aspect of the book (although I didn’t expect to LIKE it, geeze, we’re talking hard drug use here, I doubt even an author who writes this would expect a reader to like that.), but it’s because how the drug use is eventually portrayed. Had to have read it to find that out, so, I think it’s better to give the book a chance in this case. It was going so well until what became a hang up for me. That being said – I do plan to give the next one a chance. I’m curious to see if any redeeming qualities will come into play with the characters.

    It’s hard to interpret what people really mean on the internet sometimes, but I seriously doubt an author would really outright tell people don’t read this if you dislike drug use. Come on, this is fiction, and the author almost sold me on a druggie heroine. Maybe the second book will do it for me.

    I say if any of it sounds halfway interesting, try it, apprehensions or not. You just never know.

  9. Jackie U
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:04:16

    @KMont: No, not joking at all. You’re right about things being said on the Internet being misconstrued because you completely misunderstood my comment. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give a book a chance because the subject matter bothers you–I’m saying you shouldn’t dock a book because you knew, going in, that you were bothered by the subject matter and you read it anyway. Completely different, but I understand how my comment came across that way. I should have explained it better.

  10. Jane
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:08:06

    @Jackie U Knowing a character has serious issues in the beginning is something different than having a problem with a character having serious issues and not growing from it or alternatively, the author’s inability to convince a reader that the character’s serious issue (in this case drug addiction) should be viewed in a sympathetic light.

  11. Jackie U
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:11:23

    @Maili: I have this fear my comment is going to show twice, so please ignore the duplicate comment. It was eaten by cyperspace, but may make a cameo appearance…

    I agree, but that wasn’t my meaning. I personally hate the “I hate you, I love you, now I hate you again” storylines, but I don’t hold it against the book when I’m writing a review. Like I said, this is an exceptional review, save the dislike of the heroine. All the points are covered with ample description and appropriate examples. I’m just dumbfounded by the comments about her drug use.

  12. Jill Sorenson
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:12:59

    I normally shy away from UF, and drug addict characters, but this sounds interesting. Cover quote from C. Harris? Wow. And booyah.

    Nice review, Shuzluva. I don’t agree that you shouldn’t read the book if you have a problem with the subject matter. Authors appreciate adventurous readers–we want a chance to win you over.

  13. Jackie U
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:14:38

    @Jane: Again, you are correct. My issue is this–I don’t think her drug use is supposed to be viewed in a sympathetic light, nor do I think she’s supposed to grow from it. It’s a flaw, a major problem, but it’s a part of the character. I think it makes her seem more real, especially the fact that she *doesn’t* magically get over her addiction.

  14. Shuzluva
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:18:00

    @Jill Sorenson: I wanted to be won over by this book. The world building was so fantastic that I’m considering reading the next one…full well knowing that the protagonist is a hardcore drug addict with no desire to change her ways.

  15. Maili
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:26:06

    @Jackie U: Fair enough. Thanks for making a clarification. Much appreciated.

  16. Stacia Kane
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:37:18

    Hi! Author here.

    I don’t normally comment on my reviews, and I sincerely hope that by doing so here I’m not stepping on any toes or causing any trouble. That’s really not my intent.

    DS, I haven’t gotten to hear the audiobook yet–although I can’t wait to!–but the reader is a woman named Bahni Turpin, who’s done a lot of audiobook work as well as acting. I have been able to hear snippets of her work on other audiobooks and thought she was fantastic. There’s a sample of UG on the Blackstone site:


    It's hard to interpret what people really mean on the internet sometimes, but I seriously doubt an author would really outright tell people don't read this if you dislike drug use.

    That is in fact exactly what I said:

    But I also want to make it clear exactly what the book is, and what you'll find inside. I don't want there to be any surprises. The back cover copy tells you very clearly that the book is about a drug addict. That is true. She is. Drugs are used in the book(s), quite a bit. If that's a problem for you don't buy the book, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. I don't want you to buy a book you're not going to like, or that will upset you or make you uncomfortable! I want you to be happy with it, and enjoy it. So please do be aware. The back cover copy isn't lying to you. It's there to tell you what you'll find inside the book. You should pay attention to it, and that goes for all books, really.

    It’s also one big reason why I put the first five chapters up for download on my site, is so those who are undecided would have a larger basis on which to make their decision.

    With all that said, Shuzluva, I’d like to sincerely thank you for this thoughtful review. While I generally hesitate to give spoilers, I will say that this is a series; in a series problems don’t always get solved in one book, but it is certainly my intention (assuming the books do well enough for me to get to write more of them) that Chess *will* at some point have to face up to her addiction, realize that it isn’t the non-issue her denial tells her it is, and do something about it. That’s been my intention from the beginning. Her character growth in the first book–allowing people into her life, realizing that maybe she even wants other people in her life and that maybe she’s even someone whose life people want to be in–is the first step in that, because I think the process of facing up to and doing something about an addiction is a slow process. I personally don’t think it’s realistic when a character suddenly says, “Oh, right, let me get off those pesky drugs now,” without a lot of build-up to that point, but that could certainly be just me. :-)

    But I don’t mean to digress or justify anything. I really do just want to say thanks for what I feel is a thoughtful and well-written review, and to tell you that I do seriously and sincerely appreciate your comments about the worldbuilding, the secondary characters and the story itself. The fact that it’s not your kind of story or your kind of character makes me feel *extremely* flattered and proud that you still found so much to enjoy.

    Not everyone is going to like every character; not everyone is going to love Chess the way I do or the way many other readers and reviewers have. Some people identify very strongly with her. Not everyone will. I knew when I wrote the book, when my agent submitted it, and when we sold it, that it was a bit controversial and that there would be people who had violent feelings about the subject matter–feelings to which they are perfectly entitled. While I certainly hope most of them feel differently than you did :-), I also cannot fault you in the slightest for your reaction and biases.

    And now I’m rambling, so I’ll shut up and leave everyone to their discussion, which really by rights isn’t my discussion or one I should be poking my nose into. But I did want to share those links, and to say thanks again. (And if you would like to talk further about this with me, please feel free to email me, staciakane AT gmail. I don’t imagine you will, but I’m throwing it out there in case.)

  17. Stacia Kane
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:41:59

    Sorry. Just wanted to clarify a bit. My comments on my blog had a bit more to do with the possibility of triggering something or people being offended because they didn’t realize what the subject matter was than in telling people not to be adventurous or give something a try. Again, that’s why I offer five chapters as a download.

    *I really am out now.*

  18. KMont
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:46:43

    Jackie, I apologize if I got your meaning wrong, but you reemphasized the author’s warnings not to read the book if there’s a problem with the subject matter ahead of time. You then said Shuzluva shouldn’t have read the book, not that she shouldn’t have taken that into account in a grade (Which just confuses me as, isn’t every aspect of a book worth considering if you’re going to review it? Different reviewing strokes, maybe?). That’s what I took you to mean, just what you said.

    Anyway, it’s an interesting book. I’m not sorry to have read it, despite apprehensions up front about the drug use.

  19. KMont
    May 24, 2010 @ 14:52:41

    Stacia, I appreciate you putting some clarification up on your blog for readers and five chapters is a generous excerpt. When I saw your blog post, though, I bowed out of reading it because I didn’t want to feel influenced when writing up a review. Not that is ever yours or any author’s intentions, it’s just hard not to think back on that kind of stuff when reading and reacting and reviewing. It was just the right thing for me to do so as to write a review solely from my perspective.

    Also, I can appreciate you wanting to warn readers, but geeze, your book sounds so good in spite of the drug use. I still say people should give it a try despite the drug use. You mention the possibility of having violent feelings, which honestly I wouldn’t understand, but everyone’s different. So your warning might be good for some with apprehensions, but not for everyone. I think it’s better to give it a chance if one feels at all inclined to.

  20. Mae
    May 24, 2010 @ 15:15:54

    Where can I get a copy of this book?!! I’ve already searched up all the libraries in the city, and none of them have it.

  21. Shuzluva
    May 24, 2010 @ 15:42:07

    @Stacia Kane: Thanks for joining the discussion, and I don’t think you’re here to cause any trouble. I appreciate your comments, especially this:

    I will say that this is a series; in a series problems don't always get solved in one book, but it is certainly my intention (assuming the books do well enough for me to get to write more of them) that Chess *will* at some point have to face up to her addiction, realize that it isn't the non-issue her denial tells her it is, and do something about it.

    I wanted to love Chess, but every time she turned to drugs instead of dealing with the situation at hand I wanted to smack her. I am glad that you didn’t use a simple “fix” for her, but as a reader it is frustrating to see a charater that I want to like behaving in a way that inspires disgust. As I said in my response to Jill Sorensen, I am considering reading the next one. Your comments are strengthening my inclination to do so.

  22. DS
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:09:02

    @Mae: Call a library and ask that they obtain a copy if they don’t have it on order. You can also request an interlibrary loan.

  23. Leslee
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:42:45

    @DS and @Mae:
    Most if not all libraries limit interlibrary loans to older books i.e. older than a year. Also they are all experiencing a money crunch and if they purchase books at this time they will purchase hardbacks that will last longer and wait for someone to donate paperbacks to them to catalog. Hope this helps!

    I just ordered my copy of this book from B&N and it should be here in a couple of days. I can’t wait to read it!!!

  24. pamelia
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:51:45

    As a BIG FAN of the Megan Chase books by Stacia Kane I’ve been dying to read this one. I love her stuff so far. This sounds really great. I might wind up in hate with the heroine at first, but the world building and future possibilities make me VERY CURIOUS! Thanks for the great review.

  25. Mae
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:57:00

    @DS and @Leslee – thanks for the reply! :)

  26. synde
    May 24, 2010 @ 17:14:45

    Yes there are drugs, and having already ead the book I feel they are an extremely important part of who Chess is. Her broken-ness is what makes her real! None of this I am strong and magical and I will smite you..It’s a story about life with a paranormal twist..No one is perfect, why do we have to have heroines in books that are..?

  27. Edie
    May 24, 2010 @ 18:29:29

    I want this book!

  28. DS
    May 24, 2010 @ 19:15:41


    Most if not all libraries limit interlibrary loans to older books i.e. older than a year. Also they are all experiencing a money crunch and if they purchase books at this time they will purchase hardbacks that will last longer and wait for someone to donate paperbacks to them to catalog. Hope this helps!

    I hadn’t thought about how some libraries must be suffering– it’s not that ours hasn’t had to cut back, but they seem to have cut back on hard covers. It’s good to be reminded that everything doesn’t work the same.

    Mae, your options will depend on the library system. Most of the new books showing up on the shelves at the local library are trade paperbacks. Someone there is good about ordering interesting mysteries, sf, and urban fantasy that are only available in trade.

    Unholy Ghosts is a mass market paperback, but my library’s web site searches the entire regional system and I can order in any cataloged book from any regional library. There is also a place on the web site to request specific books be purchased. I haven’t done it in a few months, but my requests have been ordered in the past.

    If your library has a web site you will want to check it out and see what your options are.

    ETA: @Stacia Kane: I listened to the sample on Blackstone and thought the reader was quite good. I thought when I had looked at Amazon that the 1 disc MP3 version was the cheaper one, but it seems to be the six disc CD version which has a very good price at less than $16.

  29. Sue T
    May 24, 2010 @ 22:03:28

    Wow, you all want the book BECAUSE it’s about a drug addict? Just boggles the mind. As much as I love the idea of the story (no vampires or demons – just wicked ghosts), this will not be a book I buy – I don’t support anything about drug addicts and I want to read stories about them even less. And I agree with someone making a mention of the names – really? I can’t get past the male names. Terrible? Bump? I do like the heroine’s though. I’m very glad I read the review before I purchased it. Thanks for such a helpful review.

  30. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane | Dear Author --
    May 25, 2010 @ 00:42:06

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by StaciaKane, StaciaKane, Maili, Mark Henry, JLichtenberg and others. JLichtenberg said: RT @dearauthor: New post: REVIEW: Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane […]

  31. Mina Kelly
    May 25, 2010 @ 03:56:48

    Add me to the list of people interested in buying it because she’s a drug addict. Buying the book isn’t supporting drug addiction (well, unless there’s something Stacia isn’t telling us!), it’s getting into the head of a drug addict. It may not be a very pleasant place to be, but I think it’s something people ought to try. I think people should read Lolita for the same reasons – it’s a hard thing to face for some people, but sometimes people you think are diametrically opposed to yourself really aren’t. One of the hardest things to do as a writer is make people like unlikeable characters, to make them sympathise with paedophiles and take the side of murderers. Really, drug addiction is pretty tame in comparison!

    Plus, it sounds like an awesome setting, and with Stacia you know the quality of the writing will be top notch. Chess sounds like an unusual heroine, which is something I actively look for, and with the addiction there’s potential for all sorts of unreliable narrator shenangians, which I adore.

  32. Ellie
    May 25, 2010 @ 04:00:07

    I’m with you, Sue. I don’t read fiction about drug addicts any more than I’d read fiction about wife beaters. Too serious a problem, all too real in this society, and not something I EVER want to empathize with.

    And if that makes me closed-minded, tough cookies.

  33. BlueRose
    May 25, 2010 @ 04:55:46

    Its a shame because most of this book sounds really good, but I won’t be buying a copy. And its not specifically to do with the drugs either.

    I have major issues with characters who have no internal growth, and am not a major fan of wangst either, which it sounds like there is a bit of in this book. And I am really not that interested in getting inside the head of a drug addict, to be perfectly honest, or a gambling addict or anyone with a very internally focussed addiction.

    It doesnt make them interesting to me *shrug*

  34. Carolyn Crane
    May 25, 2010 @ 08:07:51

    When I heard Stacia Kane was giving her new heroine a drug problem, I thought, Whoa! What a great new cunning and evil enemy to throw into the UF mix! Because an addiction can be more fierce and dangerous than a pack of werewolves to certain people. I love seeing the genres I read heading into new and difficult territory and I can hang with the problem persisting as a character arc over several books, though I can see where it won’t be for everybody.

    Shuzluva, I was intrigued by your comment about how the drug aspect made certain interactions feel phony to you. I sometimes think about that when reading alcohol-fueled scenes. Though it can go the other way, too, so often – in one excellent historical I read recently that I won’t name, a drunken scene yielded plot-changing truth. Anyway, I’m curious how Kane works that aspect of it in the book, and if that, too, is part of a larger arc or what. I’m betting on a psychologically intense, character-driven ride here.

    So psyched to read this. I can’t believe how many exciting books are coming out today.

  35. Jackie U
    May 25, 2010 @ 08:14:44

    @Ellie: It does. Very much so. At least you admit you, though.

  36. Jackie U
    May 25, 2010 @ 08:16:53

    I still can’t believe the drug addiction is such a selling point. UF is filled with murderous main characters, something I think is far worse than drug addicts, and we eat them up. So apparently, it’s better for the hero/heroine to rip peoples’ heads off–literally–than to succumb to the pressures of life. Interesting.

  37. Shannan
    May 25, 2010 @ 08:26:01

    @Mae The book didn’t come out until today (Tuesday the 25th), so that might explain why your library didn’t have it yet.

    I really really really liked this book precisely because it was so different from other Urban Fantasy series. I love that this review captures the awesomeness of the world-building. I do differ, though, in that I thought the character growth was appropriate for a first book. I’m trying to think how to put this without spoilers.

    Here goes: It’s true that Chess doesn’t grow and change in terms of her drug addiction, but she goes from having NO ties to other human beings to having a fragile community of sorts. It’s not a trustworthy community or anything, but she now has one or two actual warm-blooded human beings that she’s allowed herself to connect with in some way, and given her background that’s an extraordinary step. I loved how much that step obviously terrified her, and I thought she reacted realistically when people got too close.

    I get really tired of moral lessons, so one of the big selling points of this book for me was that Chess didn’t stop using just because she was in trouble. That would have seemed utterly false to me. In my experience, stress makes users use MORE, not less. At this stage in the game, I would almost expect her to move backwards instead of forwards after something this intense. I’m looking forward to seeing how that tension plays out in the next books.

    I didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy towards Chess when the book was done. She’s just not a warm and fuzzy girl. I wanted to kick her a** pretty frequently. I was fascinated by her, though, and most importantly (for me as a reader), I could not stop wondering what’s going to happen to her and for her next. I still can’t stop wondering. I’m headed to the bookstore today to buy another copy for loaning to my friends so they can talk about it with me.

    So I guess in the end, I just really wanted to say that I liked it. :-) Thanks for such a thoughtful review. I hadn’t articulated WHY I liked it so much until I read this post.

  38. Mary Lamb
    May 25, 2010 @ 08:28:04

    This sounds very much like a book I want to read. I think the reviewer is upfront about her prejudices and makes it very clear what bothers her about the book is personal to her. The reviewer does a very good job detailing the books good points. I am so glad she doesn’t just trash it based on something that bothered her. This is hard to do when you review and I applaud her for it.

    I’ve read books where the male protaganist is a drug addict and while it bothers me, I accept it, as is. Can’t help wondering if readers of this blog have different standards for heroine behavior than hero behavior. Yes. Probably. I know I do. I might stop reading it for other reasons, but not because of that.

    I am curious as to how far the author will take the drug addiction thing…will the heroine prostitute herself for drugs, sell out her friends, steal? Lie, cheat, etc.,?

    Can’t wait to read the book and find out.

  39. Jumping off the cliff | Stacia Kane
    May 25, 2010 @ 09:21:12

    […] is Shuzluva’s review at Dear Author. Shuzluva is not a fan of horror or horrific elements and felt much more strongly about […]

  40. Jane
    May 25, 2010 @ 14:17:21

    @BlueRose I have a problem with no growth either. When a character has a controversial “flaw” and then never grows from it, seems like like a gimmick. In this case, the drug addiction sounds like a plot device. Need the plot to go from point A to point B and the easiest way to do it is to make the character a drug addict. The bonus is that it seems edgy. Yet not delving into the psychosis of the addiction (who cares about the drugs, it’s the addiction that is the important concept), fails to deliver the character growth.

    Both Shuzluva and I really enjoyed And Falling Fly by Skylar White? Walker? Can’t remember. In any event, the storyline is that the paranormal experience that the characters were having could be the result of a serious drug problem. The hero, a neuroscientist, is creating his own drug cocktail and ingesting them. The question the reader has to decide is whether we are reading the characters’ hallucinations or if the paranormal truly exists. That type of provocative thought is intriguing and very fun to read.

  41. Robin
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:37:15

    I have no problem with a heroine who is a drug addict, high functioning or low functioning. Clearly there are readers who do have a problem with a drug addicted protagonists, for various and sundry reasons.

    Can we at least distinguish, though, between objections to that characterizations as *unsuccessful in its execution* and fundamental moral objections? Because I think there’s a world of difference there.

    Having not yet read Unholy Ghosts, I cannot comment on the review substantively, but I definitely think Shuzluva’s review objected to the heroine’s portrayal as *unsuccessful* — that is, the book as a whole simply did not make her believe and sympathize with Chessie.

    Sometimes I feel that readers are caught between a rock and a hard place, especially those of us who love envelope-pushing elements. If we love a risky book, we’re praised for our open-mindedness, but if we dislike it, we’ve got some kind of *problem* – we’re narrow-minded or morally outraged or whatever.

    But when we push for more, that doesn’t mean every single envelope pushing book will work for us. In fact, the greater the risk the author takes, the higher the burden the author has, IMO, to build a strong bond of trust with the reader, to be bold in drawing us along on an unfamiliar, risky, reading experience, and to take us exactly where we need to go to understand that character. And obviously, not every reader is going to be feeling it.

    When I read Pam Rosenthal’s Almost A Gentleman, I was very excited about the risk she took with the heroine and hero, creating a perceived homoerotic attraction between the two while the hero did not realize that the heroine was, in fact, a woman. But IMO Rosenthal spoiled the mystery way too soon, and the book subsided, IMO, into a traditional Romance romp. And IT PISSED ME OFF. Not because I had a problem with the homoeroticism, but because I felt *the book* ultimately betrayed the risk, the characters, and the readers by pushing out three steps and then pulling back ten. In the end, the homoeroticism felt like a gimmick to me and the integrity of the book was fatally diminished for me. In fact, I’d say my reaction was more extreme than if Rosenthal had played it safe from the start — for me, she had a higher burden and I really felt that she sold me and her characters out.

    Having read Kane’s blog posts on this book, I want to say one more thing. It really bothers me when the moral objections of readers are automatically labeled “Puritan.” For one thing it’s historically inaccurate — it’s the VICTORIANS who reflected this contradictory moralizing (and even still, there are layers of complexity that are often ignored). The New England Puritans were, in some respects, more progressive than we are today.

    But beyond that, there are just some life experiences that people may have a personal connection to that makes it impossible for them to revisit those things in a book protagonist. Rapist Romance heroes, for example — can we not understand why a woman might not be able to embrace such a romanticized character? That doesn’t mean that some objections to the character won’t seem narrow-minded to some of us, especially when they seem based on stereotypes or inaccurate assumptions. And yeah, it often frustrates the hell out of me, too, when readers judge a book before reading it, based on other opinions of it, author or reviewer. But not all moral objections are narrow-minded rejections, just as not all criticism is moralizing.

  42. The Reader Responsibility to Author Direction | Dear Author
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:01:14

    […] reviewed “Unholy Ghosts” by Stacia Kane. The protagonist is an unrepentant drug addict. […]

  43. Christina M
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:29:12

    Looks like I have another book to add to my TBR list. With all the varied comments posted above, my interest is piqued.

  44. Jackie U
    May 25, 2010 @ 21:24:53

    @Robin: You make a wonderful point, Robin. I think I even ignored the “execution” aspect of the review.

  45. Arwen
    May 26, 2010 @ 12:34:57

    As someone who is a fan of Stacia’s writing with various publishers, I will be buying this one.

    Do I like drug addiction? Nope, but I admire and respect Stacia’s ability to twist and torture her characters. Since this is a series, I would hope for no easy resolution of such a huge character flaw.

    You don’t just put addictions down. You have to scrape them off you time and time again until there is nothing left for them to cling to.

    I’d love a straw poll on those not buying the book due to the drug addiction. Do you smoke? Eat sugar? Drink caffeine or alcohol? All addictions on one level or another.

  46. lucy
    May 26, 2010 @ 13:18:07

    Since I’m in a tight budget, i usually get get books from the library. But they don’t have this one yet, and i just couldn’t wait to read this one. So I just bought this book yesterday, along with Magic Bleeds.

    I love books where the main character has an addiction. I’m a bit of a masochist so as long as they get a HEA I like to see them suffer.

    A drug addiction is a hard habit to kick, so i don’t expect a resolution anytime soon.

    Pardon my grammar.

  47. Jane
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:41:40

    @Arwen your comparison between opiates and sugar and caffeine is funny!

  48. Arwen
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:44:22

    Grin @jane. Well, I’ve never had to kick anything other than cafFIEND and sugar (failed miserably at both, thanks for asking), but I’ve seen others try to kick “harder” habits. Ugly.

  49. Jackie U
    May 26, 2010 @ 14:44:56

    @Jane: Funny, but true. Caffeine is the most highly addictive substance around, far out-weighing any type of “hardcore” narcotic. : )

  50. DS
    May 26, 2010 @ 15:09:12

    Sorry double post.

  51. DS
    May 26, 2010 @ 15:17:11

    @Jackie U: I’d put nicotine above caffeine. I am addicted to cigarettes although I have not smoked since 1990 and the smell of cigarette smoke makes me feel sick at my stomach.

    Of all the potentially addictive things I have tried this is one I dare not let myself make one slip on or I know I will be right back where I was in 1990. It’s an interesting and disturbing thing to know about oneself.

  52. Jackie U
    May 26, 2010 @ 15:31:01

    @DS: I thought the same thing! But when I was researching chemical dependency for my thesis, I found out how wrong I was. Caffeine ranks higher than cocaine and meth, too. It’s insane. (So says the person who drinks coffee until 2 AM…LOL)

  53. Joe
    Jun 04, 2010 @ 23:32:25

    hey whats the genre of unholy ghost?

  54. Jackie U
    Jun 04, 2010 @ 23:44:21

    @Joe: Urban Fantasy.

  55. Joe
    Jun 04, 2010 @ 23:56:00

    err ohkay coz umm my mates birthdayeis comink up
    nd she likes bookz but im not really into them
    she likes lovey dovey stuff
    so like does this hav like love nd that or not?
    i juz liked the cover so i thought et wud bb a good book

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