In case you have been wondering: I am still alive. For the past month and a half, I have been working like a maniac. Neglecting my blog - and my friends' blogs (sorry guys!) - was the only way I could save the remaining shreds of sanity.
By now The Project has been submitted and I have taken a week off to recover, read, write and spend some time in my beloved Cotswolds.
I've finally finished Kim Harrison's The Hollows series, and got to read Toby Neal's Blood Orchids, which had been on my must-read list ever since it came out.
It took me a while to get a feel for the story and connect with the characters, possibly because there's a lot of Hawaiian "couleur locale" in the story, which is quite alien to my European self. However, the more I got to know Lei Texeira, the protagonist, the more I cared and the faster I began to read - a good sign.
The novel's world is drawn in rich detail and step by step the setting enfolded and I got grabbed by the lighter and darker sides of Hawaiian culture.
However, to me, the strongest elements of this novel are its characters. They're human and real, they have a history and hopes and dreams for the future, they're damaged but eager to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. Toby's characters stay with you long after you've finished reading.
Lei's a great heroine, but my personal favourite was Dr. Wilson. I'd unload my issues on her couch any day! I'm (not-so-secretly) hoping Toby will one day write another series with her as the main character.
I also found Lei's developing relationship with Stevens very interesting and well-written. They have a number of great scenes together, which could only have been written by an intelligent and wise person with a keen insight in human nature, who's not afraid to dig deep into her own mind and experiences in order to touch on fundamental thoughts and authentic emotions.
I can't wait to see what Toby will come up with in the future. Definitely a writer I'll continue to follow!
You can find Toby's blog at http://www.tobyneal.net/.