Charles Ray has been writing since his teens, publishing his first short story at age 13. He is the author of more than 30 books of fiction and nonfiction. In addition, he has worked as a photographer, newspaper and magazine journalist, and artist. A native of Texas, he now calls Maryland home.
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Smashwords book reviews by Charles Ray
- Living Half Free
on Feb. 09, 2013
If you're offended by harsh racial epithets and violence, you might not want to read Living Half Free, a first novel by Haley Whitehall. Set in the South before, during, and after the Civil War, it tells the story of Zachariah, a very light skinned black who is held in slavery, and who is sold away from his family, and taken from Virginia into the deep South, where he faces harshness and bigotry worse than he's ever encountered.
Over time, he earns his freedom and meets a young Indian woman, Lillian, and the two fall in love. Able to pass himself off as white, he's able to live with Lillian on the reservation, until the arrival of the sadistic son of his second master uncovers his identity. Zachariah then learns that prejudice runs just as deep among the Indians as the whites and is forced to accept being put back into slavery to save Lillian from the tribe's harsh punishment. Lillian uses her wiles to free him once again, and the two of them flee to California where the prejudice is less.
As you follow Zachariah through his life, beginning in Strasburg, Virginia in 1838, to San Francisco in 1867, you will be alternately moved and repulsed; moved at how his strong faith helps him survive the severest of conditions, and repulsed at the depths of depravity to which some people can sink in their treatment of others.
This is a great story, only a bit in parts by what is difficult for even the most experienced writers - dialect that sometimes doesn't ring quite true. Dialect, when written, depends on the reader's pronunciation to be rendered, and having grown up in the South in the 50s and 60s, when some people still spoke much like they did during the 19th century, as well as being a writer and teacher of English, I found some of the words and sentences a bit difficult to comprehend, and not like I recall old people of my childhood talking. The author can be forgiven, though; this is one of the most difficult skills to master, and some of us never truly get it. Once you get past these few glitches, though, you'll find this a good read, for a first timer who I predict will get better with time.
- Shades of Darkness
on March 21, 2013
In Melynda Price’s Shades of Darkness, Redemption Series: Book Two, we pick up on the continuing saga of Olivia, a mortal with the ‘sight.’ Olivia has the rare ability to ‘see’ the dark angels, and thus expose them to mankind, and for this, they are determined to destroy her. She has been guarded since birth by Liam, a Ronnin warrior commissioned to be her guardian angel. Liam’s problem, though, is that he has fallen in love with her, thus threatening his very angelic status.
As Olivia, now a fully grown woman, is about to wed, Liam learns of yet another attempt by the Dark Court to kill her, and he again risks the displeasure of his own superiors in order to save her.
A fascinating blend of theology and mysticism, love and betrayal, Price takes us into the minds and hearts of the characters in a deft way. Although some of the prose and dialogue tends toward the stilted, the reader is nonetheless made to care, and care deeply, about the fate of the protagonists.
A surprise ending, though, lifts this tale above the mundane mortal meets angel story. Language and scenes of violence make it a book not for the squeamish.
- Wothlondia Rising: The Anthology
on Feb. 16, 2014
For lovers of the sword and sorcery genre of fantasy novels, Wothlondia Rising: The Anthology by Gary F. Vanucci, will satisfy your every craving. A collection of short stories that introduce the characters who inhabit the Realm of Ashenclaw, Wothlondia Rising has everything the reader expects – magic creatures, valiant heroes, and devious villains aplenty – engaged in dastardly deeds and derring-do that will keep you up at night.
Vanucci has a deft hand at description and dialogue that creates the proper mood for his mystical realm. From Rose Thorne, a not-yet woman with strange powers, to zombies that threaten the existence of Ashenclaw, he offers up fully fleshed characters with complex histories and motivations, giving an insight into the heroes they are born to be.
I was fortunate enough to be able to read a free review copy of Wothlondia Rising, and while I’d planned to do it over a long holiday weekend, I found it impossible to put down. Everything else was put on hold while I thumbed anxiously through these tales. At the end I was left with a strong desire to know: what next for them? If you like fantasy, I can guarantee you’ll love this collection of fantastic tales, and be left thirsting for the rest of the series.
- Back From Chaos
on March 04, 2014
A good sword and sorcery novel has to be a combination of the fantastic with the believable if it is to work. Yvonne Hertzberger’s Back From Chaos, the first book in her Earth’s Pendulum series, has just that – a fantasy world of seers and magic described in a way that makes suspending disbelief an easy task.
I received a free review copy of Back From Chaos, which I started reading on one of the coldest days of this winter, and just after a March snowstorm and plummeting temperatures left me stranded in my suburban home. Turned out to be one of the best ways to deal with being snowbound that I could have come up with.
Kudos to Hertzberger for creating a totally believable world, peopled by characters we can identify with, love, hate – but, most importantly, believe. From Klast, the spy-assassin, who seems to start out as a supporting character, but is in fact central to much of the story, to Marja, the last surviving member of her family after an invading army kills the rest, we’re introduced to people who feel real.
I reserve five-star ratings for books that impress me deeply. Back From Chaos gets an easy five stars.
- Through Kestrel's Eyes
on March 06, 2014
Through Kestrel’s Eyes continues Yvonne Hertzberger’s epic Earth’s Pendulum fantasy. I received a free copy of this book for review. Seventeen years of peace have followed the events chronicled in Back From Chaos, but that peace is soon destroyed when the rulers of the kingdoms of Gharn and Leith are overthrown, and their heirs seek help from Lord Gaelen. Thrust into the middle of this mess is Liannis, a gifted young apprentice seer with amazing powers, who finds her apprenticeship ended when her mentor Liethis dies. Now, she must somehow restore the Earth’s balance if the drought and famine caused by the weakening of Earth’s power is to be ended.
Just when things seem darkest, though, Earth sends Liannis a kestrel, through whose eyes, Liannis sees more, and a horse to carry her on her perilous journey. With her ability to mind-speak with birds and animals, these two become her main companions and staunchest allies.
Hertzberger demonstrates her skill as a fantasy writer as she takes us along with Liannis, who must battle doubt in her abilities as she faces test unlike any she’s ever known before. The reader is taken from first person point of view – through Liannis’s eyes – to third person, but in a way that rather than being disruptive, actually makes sense. She has created a fantasy world that seems very real, populated by people we can relate to. Despite her powers, Liannis is someone you find yourself rooting for from the first time she appears on the page. Good novels engage all the senses, and Through Kestrel’s Eyes does just that – and, not just the usual five senses, but the sixth sense as well.