Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dark Musicals Trilogy by Laura DeLuca - Review of Phantom and Demon

Blurb:

The “Phantom” was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses “Phantom” as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card.

Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars—Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist.

Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she’s running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.

My Review

This was such a fun story.  First, it brought me back to high school and my amazing memories being in the musicals.  Second, Phantom is probably my all-time favorite musical and loved that the story was centered around it.  Third, I love that this YA series is a suspense!  There are lots of twists and turns and while it rarely happens (as I am sure you have read if you follow my reviews), I was not able to guess what was going to happen or who was terrorizing Rebecca.  Once we find out, I was in total shock.

Something else that I liked about this story was that the characters were not cliche.  Rebecca is a girl next door, but the relationship with Justyn was something new for me.  He is not the surfer type.  He is not the school jock that everyone is in love with.  He is the new guy, and goes against all norms.

I loved that Laura also touched on the issue of bullying and stereotyping.  

This was an all around good story and I read it in one sitting.  I could not put it down.  Great job from author Laura DeLuca!

Excerpt from Phantom

The orchestra tuned for its virtuoso, and Justyn stood ready. But no one else was ready for the magical performance he began. Beside her, Carmen was rambling on about something mundane. Rebecca elbowed her to silence so she could listen to the perfectly thrilling tenor. As she listened to the song unfold, the world around her started to slip away. Gone was the high school auditorium. Gone were the rowdy teenagers. The Gothic stranger on the stage had become the embodiment of Erik, and Rebecca watched him in all his dark glory, belting out his tormented love through the words of his song. And she was as breathless with wonder as Christine herself must have been when the masked stranger serenaded her in the candlelit labyrinth of the opera house. In that moment, Justyn wasn’t just portraying the phantom. Justyn was the phantom.

                                                “Let the music touch your soul.
                                                 Let the darkness make you whole.
                                                 Do not fear what is unknown.
                                                 Your true path has now been shown.
                                                 Listen to the words I sing.
                                                 Embrace the peace that night will bring.”

As he continued to sing in his deep but somehow angelic voice, Rebecca found that she couldn’t tear her eyes away from him. With every line, her heart began to beat faster.  She truly felt the arms of night wrapping her in a warm embrace. She could almost feel the hands of the phantom glide along her body as the words poured forth. The music caressed her. It possessed her—mind, body and soul. Each word left her longing, yearning for more.
    
She was gawking so obviously, it was hardly surprising when Justyn felt her eyes on him and steadily met her gaze. She realized her mouth was hanging open in stunned awe, and she quickly snapped it shut. His lips moved into just a small hint of a smile. He never took his eyes off her while he sang the final verse, making her cheeks flush to the point that she felt almost feverish. But it wasn’t embarrassment but excitement, arousal even, which was sending her mind spinning in so many directions.

When the song was over, and Rebecca had recovered just a hint of her composure, she couldn’t help but burst into a healthy round of applause. A few scattered people joined in, including Debbie and Carmen after she nudged them in the ribs. But only Miss King seemed to truly appreciate the brilliance of his talent as much as Rebecca did.

“That was amazing, Justyn!” the teacher gushed.

“Lord Justyn,” he corrected as he stepped down from the stage.

A few others complimented him as well, but he took in all in stride. In fact, his serious expression never faltered as he stepped down from the stage. He seemed almost bored, like it was all he could do to hold back a yawn, despite the smiles and words of encouragement.

But not everyone in the crowd was pleased as Justyn glided down the aisle, so ethereal in his dark garments that he still resonated the spirit of the Opera Ghost. Miss King might have been excited about the newest male addition to her cast after being limited for many years, but Tom and his group of boisterous companions glared at him as he passed them by.  Jay sneered and tossed a balled up piece of paper in Justyn’s direction, but the Goth was quick, and caught it in his hand without missing a beat. 
    
“I think you dropped something,” he said.

His speaking voice was no less melodic than his singing voice, but something about his tone made Rebecca shiver. He tossed the paper back at Jay, who was nowhere near as coordinated as Justyn. He practically fell off his seat in his efforts to catch it.

“Hey vampire,” Tom called when Justyn went to walk away. “Are you sure you can handle the competition?”

Justyn smiled, a cool, sarcastic half-smile, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Are you?”

Miss King didn’t notice the short confrontation, and Justyn vanished from the auditorium as quickly and mysteriously as he had appeared. Only Rebecca had noticed the very real tension between the two boys. She wondered if it was a bad omen for them to start off the production with hard feelings and envy. That could only lead to trouble. The kind of trouble that could end with someone getting hurt.  The kind of trouble that Rebecca would do whatever it took to avoid.

***

Blurb:

When Justyn and Rebecca set off for the New York School of Performing Arts, they think their dreams are about to come true. To their dismay, they aren’t in high school anymore, and the competition is steep. Rebecca must compete against accomplished singers for a role in the production of Demon Barber, including a stunning Gothic diva with her sights set on Justyn

It doesn't help that things keep disappearing from their apartment or that Rebecca's father refuses to accept that Justyn is an essential part of her life. Yet, all this seems minimal in comparison to the serial rapist terrorizing the campus.

Consumed by fear and obsessed with revenge, Rebecca and Justyn start living the story of Sweeney Todd—both on and off the stage.

My Review

Who does not love something a smidgen darker?  One of my favorite musicals is The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  While I understand that a lot of people did not even know who/what it was, I am glad that Johnny Depp has made the amazing dark musical a household name.  And as with Phantom, Laura DeLuca has chosen another favorite of mine.  I feel we have a lot in common!

Unlike the first book in the series (Phantom), I was able to figure out who our resident psycho was.  However, I did not understand how deeply disturbed they (I am not saying it is more than one person, but I do not want to give anything away by slipping by whether the villain is male or female - sorry to all of you spoiler junkines!) actually were.  To me, that was the most shocking.

What I loved about this book, different from Phantom, was the the story itself did not revolve around the musical itself.  Something... happens...  I'm not going to get into too many of the details because it really would spoil quite a bit of the story, but this is something not even remotely close to the terror that Rebecca faced in the first story.  It is something very scary, and very real.  Sadly, it happens on a daily basis.  Rebecca is attacked in this second installment of the Dark Musicals Trilogy, and is nearly raped.  While I do not generally like to give away any of the plot at all, I felt that I should bring it up.  Laura is a great writer, and she in no way wrote this scene making it too mature for the usual YA audience.  

What Rebecca goes through after her attack is heart breaking.  I am glad that Laura included a situation like this in her writing.  It can happen to anyone, at any time, and is one of the most vile ways to attack someone. It takes away so much from the victim.  Laura was able to grasp a lot of the inner turmoil Rebecca went through and gave a shining example of how someone could work through their recovery to be a stronger person in the end.  Seriously, Laura, you gained so much respect from me after finishing this book.  You did an amazing job with the story.

Excerpt

Rebecca unwound the silver ribbon. When she lifted the lid, she found two matching pendants, each laced to a long hemp chain. They were shaped sort of like seashells, with an endless spiral pattern that looped out from the center as the chambers grew larger. They were dark brown in color with a few hints of tan along the edges. The stones had been polished and smoothed on both sides, but when she lifted them, she could see that the two pieces fit together perfectly. She swore the halves fought to snap together, like magnets in her hand. There was an energy pulsing and vibrating within the stones that even a novice witch like Rebecca could feel.

“They’re beautiful,” Rebecca whispered as she ran her hand along the intricate grooves.

“It’s an ammonite.” Justyn lifted one of the pendants, brushed her hair to the side, and hooked the clasp around her neck. His breath tickled her skin as his hands moved with graceful dexterity, giving her goose bumps despite the humid August night. “They’re actually fossils that are millions of years old, named after Ammon, an ancient Egyptian deity. When they’re divided in half, they’re perfect mirrors of one another. Some cultures believe that if the two halves are given to lovers, it will bind them together forever. When made into necklaces, they’re often called soul mate pendants.”

“Wo-wow,” Rebecca stuttered. As usual, the sentiment behind Justyn’s gift was even more beautiful than the gift itself. It left her a little flustered. “That’s amazing. How do you know all this stuff?”

“You don’t spend eighteen years living with Darlene without learning a thing or two.”

Rebecca laughed. Justyn’s mother Darlene was definitely something special. EMT, exotic belly dancer, and Wiccan High Priestess were only a few of the titles she claimed. Rebecca knew she was a fountain of earth-based knowledge after years of studying the Craft. As Darlene’s new apprentice, Rebecca greedily dipped into that knowledge herself as often as possible.

“It’s beautiful,” Rebecca repeated, too overcome with emotion to think of anything more eloquent to say. “You certainly know how to make things interesting.”

“Like I told you on our first date, I try not to be boring.” He winked at her. “So … are you going to put mine on for me?”

“Oh yeah … sorry.”

Rebecca giggled as she lifted the hemp chain. She wasn’t nearly as graceful as Justyn. She almost dropped the necklace in the sand three times before she managed to get the clasp locked. When she finally had it secured, he placed his hand over her heart, where the ammonite lay. He did the same with her hands, lifting them to his chest. His dark eyes had lost all glimmer of humor. He met her gaze with a stare filled with genuine emotion. Beneath her fingers, she could feel the gentle, steady rhythm of his heart beating in perfect tune with her own.

“Our love will span both space and time. In this life and the next, you shall be mine. All eternity I will be by your side. For a love so strong cannot be denied. Spirit and flesh merged into one. So mote it be, for all days to come.”

When he was done with the recitation, he kissed her. Not just a gentle brush, but a deep, passionate embrace that left her throat tight and her heart pounding with a familiar  yearning.

“I’ve never heard that poem before,” she said once she’d caught her breath. “Who are you quoting?”

Even in the moonlight, she could see him blush. “I guess I was quoting myself. It was really more of an incantation than a poem though. These necklaces are meant to be a symbol of our love, and it seemed a little spell work could only add to the power of the stones. There is power in words, Becca. Just like there is power in nature.”

“You mean, you wrote that?”

He nodded, but his eyes twinkled, and the playfulness was back in his voice. “Well, actually, I just made it up as I went along.”

“Wow. Actor, singer, and now an improv poet slash chant writer. Is there anything you can’t do, Lord Justyn?”

He smiled and tilted her chin so he could look into her eyes. “I can’t stop loving you.”

About Laura DeLuca

Laura “Luna” DeLuca lives at the beautiful Jersey shore with her husband and four children. She loves writing in the young adult genre because it keeps her young at heart.  In addition to writing fiction, Laura is also the editor of a popular review blog called New Age Mama. She is an active member of her local pagan community, and has been studying Wicca for close to eight years.  Her current works include Destiny, Destiny Unveiled, Phantom, Morrigan, Player, and Demon.



If you haven't read the first book in the series, now is a great time to get your copy. To celebrate the release of Demon, Phantom is now on sale for only $1.99 exclusively on Amazon! You can also get a copy at Smashwords or Barnes & Noble!

Buy Demon on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble!

Laura will be awarding to a US Only Winner: a signed copy of Phantom with original cover, crystal geode, rough crystal point, stone pendant, sterling silver pentacle pendant, mini Buddha figurine, smudge stick with abalone shell, 2 Gothic style key chains, incense set with leaf holder and lavender purification bath salts to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.  The more stops that you comment, the better your chances at winning!
Click here and check out the other stops on the tour!

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