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  • Molly Gumnut Rescues a Bandicoot on Jan. 28, 2012

    A comfortable and comforting story about the importance of animals and children to our environment, “Molly Gumnut Rescues a Bandicoot” introduces two young girls who care about preserving the environment, doing their part through nature photography for a class calendar. The girls try their best, though sometimes their best photo opportunities are interrupted by human intervention, such as passing speedboats. Then one of the girls, Molly, discovers a neighbor’s cat planning to make dinner of a bandicoot. She may not know the exact species name, but she does know enough to identify it as a marsupial, and to notice that it is injured. Out of a kind heart, Molly determines to take the poor animal home and enlists her father to help. In the time-honoured tradition of children everywhere, Molly wants to keep the little fellow, even though her Grandmother is an approved wildlife rescuer, and will know how to protect and care for him until his re-release into the wild. A bandicoot is a protected native animal in Australia, and like other rescued animals, is released into the wild whenever possible, to return to its native habitat. The author skillfully works in the everyday reality of children this age, including a warm, noncompetitive friendship, and the school social climber from a wealthy family, who chooses poor Molly as the brunt of her disparagement. Neither is Molly drawn as a perfect character, but she is a caring, compassionate girl, and realistic in her behavior and attitudes. Short but speedy chapters make this an enterprising novel for children from the level of new chapter readers up through middle school years. Additional information on the nature and behavior of bandicoots (and other animals) is woven throughout the story, making this an educational adventure for young readers-and their parents and grandparents as well. The book is richly illustrated with photos from the author. I highly recommend this and anticipate future stories from this author.
  • The Baptist: A Psychological Thriller on Jan. 29, 2012
    (no rating)
    Fascinating! Utterly riveting; I couldn’t take my eyes off the page. Devouring the novel, I marveled at the protagonist/narrator: so self-referential, so self-convinced of his right-doing (regardless of legality or moral value), yet in some ways so emotionally immature and childlike, easily led by certain others, readily induced to act in ways which are not beneficial-for himself or for those near him. His character is a fascinating psychological study, intertwined as it is with various religious allusions and overtones. Author Ruby Barnes gives us a masterful portrayal of the protagonist, John-from the inside through first-person narrative, and from the outside, as in later life he develops an obsession with a sort of friend. Through this individual, Feargal, we see John as if we were watching him in a mirror, for he is a reflection of the better parts of John’s own personality and character. (Spoiler: I shall refrain from going into further detail about John’s discovery of Feargal and his intent to befriend him, for those who have not yet been fortunate enough to read this story.) John is on a tight-wire by midlife, balancing demands of his inherited business, his wife and family, and what passes for normalcy, against his medications (which he often forgoes), his friendship with the elusive (now you see him, now you don’t) young Feargal, and remembrance of his mission to eradicate the spawn of Satan-those over whom John spies a red halo. While on the outside he appears to maintain, on the inside forgotten memories and actions, and behavior patterns he had earlier set aside, are beginning to taunt him in ways he does not understand. “The Baptist” is a powerfully written, strongly-motivated novel, one that could be read and reread and new layers of meaning would be discovered on each reading. Rarely have I seen a protagonist dealt with in so scrupulous and fascinating a manner as Author Barnes delivers John to the reader. Amazing novel!
  • Peril: A Ger Mayes Thriller on Feb. 04, 2012
    (no rating)
    4 Stars Gerard is finding himself in a heap of trouble. A drunken evening, and he gets confused about which way is home. The river looks different, odd even-is he in the right place? Then he’s attacked by, of all things, a mugger-and while trying to defend himself, remembers that someone else had been beaten to death in that area earlier. Looks like he could well be the next victim! This mugger is not out for just what’s in that wallet (good thing, cause Gerard’s is empty); looks like he’s out for serious blood. Before very long, it’s not just the attacker who’s out for blood, it’s the potential victim, Gerard himself. And soon he is victim no longer-and now what?? Maybe Gerard Mayes would have been better off-much better off-if he’d stayed at home in the brittle confines of Port Glasgow, Scotland, with the rough and ready, instead of moving to Dublin, Ireland-where he ended up drunken, and a murderer. Gerard is certainly no one’s idea of perfection. A bit of a lout, he’s extra-maritally active, he lacks the Puritan work ethic, as he himself admits, he’s a murderer-and now he’s being heavily blackmailed, because of that very murder (which was only partially unintentional, let him tell you). What’s a man to do when he finds himself boxed into a situation like this? Author Ruby Barnes, who so excelled in his novel “The Baptist,” once again demonstrates that he has his ear to the ground and attuned to the rhythms of life, this time in modern-day Dublin. Gerard, his protagonist (I certainly can’t term him “hero”) is sometimes likable, often not-but he’s surprisingly self-analytical and open about his own failings, faults, and foibles-also a surprise. I can recommend this for lovers of modern suspense.
  • Larkspur (Sensate Nine Moon Saga) on Feb. 27, 2012

    This is the first novel of the Sensate Trilogy. It is definitely an original story; I don’t remember ever reading anything that comes close to this particular ongoing story line. Very intriguing. A mixture of contemporary, Paranormal, Magical Fantasy, and much more, I’d be hard-pressed to assign just one label-so I won’t. I’ll just recommend it and let the reader decide to what subgenres to assign it. At age twenty-two, Alexandra is a continuing student, soon to begin work on her Master’s Degree. After the deaths of her parents, she developed a sudden need to research her family’s genealogy, and is currently urgently tracking her father’s great-grandfather, Teater Higgins, a younger son who fathered two children in West Virginia and then disappeared. Trying to track him to an old, abandoned Higgins farm in Pennsylvania, Alexandra first falls into a cistern, then is spookily enabled to climb out after she finds a mysterious stone in an enclosure in the well. Later her lifelong disinterest in anything male is reversed when she accidentally makes eye contact with a stranger-but she has no way of realizing that this is quite literally a matter of destiny-hers and his-and that there is a vast universe of meaning and events yet to occur. The most seemingly impossible events and themes will come to play throughout this novel, and the two sequels to come. This is an intensively detailed, extraordinarily imaginative, novel. I can’t imagine not reading the next two in the Trilogy as soon as they appear.
  • A Marked Past on Feb. 27, 2012

    “Enticing” is my first reaction, followed quickly by “smoothly written, empathetic, and a rockin’ story line.” What I love about this book is the author’s easy way of sliding into the heart, mind and soul of the protagonist, fifteen-year-old Lyla Mercer, who has unexpectedly and horribly lost her dad in a pedestrian/vehicular accident, and now has to move from the Chicago suburb in which she has lived her entire life to move to the old family homestead in-of all spooky places-Salem, Massachusetts. Only in the best YA novels can authors achieve this looking out from inside point of view in a first-person narrative, and Author Leslie Deaton accomplishes this admirably. I’m so thankful this is only the first of a series, because now I have more to anticipate. (smile) But that’s not all to love in this book! There’s generational magick, and murder, and mysterious symbols. There’re powers, and talents, and a plethora of the paranormal. But foundationally, there is an excellent story with characters delineated in depth, so that the reader finds empathy easy and fulfilling, belief in the characters and the plot easy to master, and an accomplished prose style, all of which will make readers eager to return to these characters and their joys and tribulations in further novels in this series.
  • Resurrection, a YA Paranormal Romance (The Guardians of Vesturon Series, Book 2) on March 01, 2012

    Guardians of Vesturon Book 2 Sometimes a reader is enraptured with the first book of a series, anticipating the next, and finds herself disappointed. Well, worry not, Gentle Readers, that will NOT happen here. You loved and reveled in “Survival,” now get ready to rock with “Resurrection.” A. M. Hargrove is a very special author who delivers the goods. Qs a writer myself, I am constantly amazed at how she is able to meld the crossing of genres (contemporary, paranormal, science fiction, and more) and make the consequent product not only work, but endear itself to the hearts of readers. I’m so excited that the third volume in this wonderful trilogy will arrive in only three months; but in the meantime, we have the first two books in the “Guardians of Vesturon” series to read, reread, and reread yet again. Readers who’ve raced through the first volume know that Maddie was left in seriously dire straits-waiting for rescue that she could not be certain would ever come, or at least not in time. If you haven’t read “Survival,” worry not, you can certainly enjoy “Resurrection” (although I would highly recommend reading both!), I don’t wish to need a spoiler alert in this review, so let me just say: get “Resurrection,” don’t overlook it; it doesn’t matter if you don’t think this is your usual genre of choice (there’s such a blend of genres here almost any reader is going to love it). Unless you don’t enjoy fast-paced, priceless reads, you’re going to want this as a keeper. Now go and get “Resurrection” (and “Survival”) and don’t delay.
  • Died On The Vine on March 06, 2012

    Cissy (Cecilia) Rayburn, in 1996, is a happily married (for the second time, and for the past twenty-two years) wife, her husband retired, and she working at home, the former “summer place” in Virginia, where they now live year-round and operate a vineyard, her husband Jack’s new “retirement passion.” Life is good, slow-paced, and full of contentment-until the unexpected arrival of MIA hunter “Colonel” Obadiah Winslow, waving a photograph he claims proves Cissy’s first husband might still be alive, and missing, not killed in action thirty years earlier. Colonel Winslow spews much bluff and bluster, endearing him to conspiracy theorists, but few, if any, are the “missing” soldiers he has actually found and returned. So his approach to Cissy is soon forgotten; until she and her dog Pollyanna find Winslow dead in the vineyard, wearing her husband’s missing secateurs. A delightfully intriguing novel with an exciting premise, and a perfectly set-up introduction: what’s not to love? I was fascinated from page one, and never lost my interest. Ms. Harmon writes well and delectably, introducing characters and situations (and memories) with which I “fell in love” immediately. On the surface, this mystery is a “cozy,” but below the surface are more levels than one might expect, and justifiably so-rendering even more delight to the lucky reader. A page-turner for sure, “Died on the Vine” will endear itself to mystery readers and more, and certainly makes me want to find more novels from this author.
  • Slippery Souls on March 07, 2012

    A delightful writing style and very wry humour makes an enjoyable novel and a fast-paced read. Poor Libby, thinking the worst problem in her life is waiting to dump her boring, unpleasant, live-in; she just doesn’t realize worse things are in store-namely, not living at all. If Libby could have expected any sort of afterlife at all, instead of oblivion, it’s for certain she would never have imagined Sunray Bay, the strangest “other side” ever. What’s more, not only is she installed there, her terrier Rufus (who also was involved in the automotive hit-and-run that cancelled Libby’s tenure on Earth) is right there with her-and he talks-and a cheeky bloke he is, too. Not only has Rufus learned sarcasm and wit in profuseness; so has Libby, and uses it as she explores her new after-death “life.” An intriguing juxtaposition of the wry and the violent (in Big Brother style, termed “Peace and Order Maintenance”), “Slippery Souls” will keep readers on the edge trying to puzzle out its mysteries, while enjoying the outspoken Libby and Rufus, and the delightful characterisations of Sunray Bay’s citizenry, mayor, and Peace and Order Maintenance officers and prisoners. All is not sweetness and light in the afterlife, and there exist creatures and events one might never imagine for life after life. Luckily, this is only the first in a series, because readers will want to tumble on along after the Sunray Bay way of “life.”
  • Shepherd's Moon on March 15, 2012

    A catchy reader’s hook, and the protagonist’s jocular but wry sense of humour make for an intriguing beginning. Alexandra is a kind of a misfit, with a longing she keeps repressed for a normal, routine (read simple, average, human) life. Instead, she is a Shepherd-one who tracks and rounds up, not natural wildlife, but preternatural creatures. Outsourcing for the police department’s Special Assignments Unit frequently puts her on the lookout for and trail of what are called “PSKs,” “Preternatural Serial Killers,” who of course are much more effective at achieving high body counts in a shorter time than their human counterparts. It’s dangerous work, but somebody needs to do it. Alexandra complicates matters by living with a pack of preternaturals-not really surprising, since her adoptive family included shifters and vamps… There is good character evolution in this novel, as Alex grows out of her yearning for normalcy, learns to accept what and who she is and comes to terms with acceptance of her purpose in life. Additionally, author Stacy Mantle doesn’t stop at just the usual run of paranormal encounters, but builds on intriguing layers of suspense, plotting, and wicked characters to place Alexandra right in the center of a web of corruption, which she must unravel, if she can. Even better, the ending is such that a sequel could fit in, yet the reader still feels that the important goals of this novel have been achieved; nothing is left untended.
  • Memoir of a Mermaid: When, At Last, He Found Me (Book #1) on March 15, 2012

    When Seraphina Shedd graduates high school, she is handed the keys to her Grandmother’s home. She’d lost her dad when she was ten, rescuing her from her sudden inexplicable disobedience, and was reared by her grandmother until the latter’s death. Now she’s free of the family friend who despises her, but is still fearful of moving on, into the unknown. Unbeknownst to her as yet, Seraphina is venturing into a much greater unknown than just the anxiety of leaving her Bar Harbor high school, of returning alone to her Grandmother’s home, and of finding a career and making her own way through life. For Seraphina Shedd is hardly an ordinary, routine, average, eighteen-year-old graduate. She is a product of the ocean, playing an essential role in the protection of the contemporary marine environment and thus of this planet. Suspension of disbelief is so realistic in this novel; while the protagonist is thinking, “No, that can’t be,” early on in the story, the reader is thinking instead, “oh yes, it can! That makes such good sense!” That is how very easily the reader is hooked into a tale of the fantastical-it just seems right. Character delineation is very superbly and subtly done; and there is good character evolution, especially in the role of Seraphina, whose life is very unusual, but again, acceptable as real. One of my favourite portions of the novel, in addition to the scene at the swimming pool between Seraphina and her favourite teacher Mrs. Z, was the ending, because author Adrianna Stepiano leaves us simultaneously with a gasp of “What?!” and with a potential cliffhanger that will make readers eager to await the next book in the series.
  • Dangerous (Element Preservers Series, Book 1) on March 26, 2012

    Preserve one’s own element, stick to it, don’t intermarry between elements: sounds a simple enough rule, doesn’t it? Maybe in an ideal world, people would have continued to heeded this small stricture of the God of Magic, who provided the elements initially. But any society is hardly ever ideal-and when people forget, or turn to science, or embrace the concept that such rules are simply legend and myth-then people forget, and intermarry, and elements mix. So offspring were born who possessed an element, but only weakly; and sometimes there simply was no element at all in a particular individual. So Magic itself began to decline, weakening and diluting. Sometimes, those without an element found they could acquire one-if only temporarily-by murder. As we all know, murder rarely satisfies a killer for very long-and elements acquired by murder don’t remain-so those under the control of “magic disease,” discovered to be contagious through intimate transmission, are almost always feared and dreaded-even to the point of becoming murder victims themselves. At the University of Magic, our heroine Ria, who possesses Element of Fire, and her best friend Paula, of the Element of Air and a scientific research-oriented mind) are first-year students, with the goal of learning to use their elements. Paula wants also to find the cure for “magic disease” and eventually eradicate it. All four elements (fire, air, water, earth) attend the University, so naturally the odds are they will encounter individuals who hold other elements, and even feel drawn to some of them. A “magic disease” carrier, Adrian, is also a University of Magic student, perhaps because he had been orphaned and society really knows nowhere else to place him. Going by the settings, the characterizations, and the issues, I believe this novel would appeal to readers who enjoy YA Paranormal, and perhaps YA Fantasy.
  • Moa on April 03, 2012

    A smooth-reading novel packing a lot of YA wisdom, “Moa” is a good read, and a fast-paced one. In concise strokes, author Tricia Stewart Shiu paints her characters and arranges her settings and plots. Suspension of disbelief is easy and quick, and the reader settles into expecting, and then receiving, out-of-the-ordinary events and encounters. Is Hillary a witch, or isn’t she? Does her nemesis, the high school bully, level evil curses, or not? Can shirts animate? Do ancient native spirits exist? More importantly, can one young lady save all? Read on and see, and you will find yourself reaching the end and wanting to start back at the beginning all over again. “Moa” is a recommended book for both YA and adult readers who enjoy good writing, plotting and characterization, a story that impels, and enough paranormal adventures and misadventures to keep the reader on the edge till it’s over.
  • Blind Veil on April 13, 2012

    An incredibly intense reader’s hook rockets us into this novel, yanked by the throat, jaw-dropped, and that hook never lets go. It’s difficult to “race through the pages” when you’re reading an ebook, but I just about managed to because I simply couldn’t turn away. Author Michael Lorde demonstrates a sure eye for identifying social patterns and cultural milieus, and delivers those without judgment or faulting. “Blind Veil” is a VERY complex novel, thankfully the first in a series. There are multiple layers, several different genres, solid protagonists and numerous deftly-designed secondary characters. I was riveted, and could not sleep until I had stayed up later than usual, simply because I was unwilling to set the novel aside to finish later! I marveled at the ways in which Author Lorde intertwined the diverse threads of past and present (and future) and was stunned by the impact of the conclusion. “Blind Veil” works fine as a stand-alone, but I for one am grateful to see it continuing into a series, because I definitely wish to learn more about Lamont Simms, about research scientists Byron Chelevski and Rae Sullivan, and especially about that incredibly dramatic conclusion, which I refuse to spoil for the reader. (Be good to yourself: read the book through-this is NOT a novel in which to read the end before the beginning, as some readers do. Please do NOT read the END first!)
  • The BoogeyMann on April 14, 2012

    “The BoogeyMann” was a joy to read, fast-paced and exciting, with plenty of humour to leaven what in reality would be some very serious-even potentially dangerous-situations. I want to add that the protagonist is “one sick puppy” and has serious psychological issues-and a complete lack of empathy. However, he is still a comprehensible character, and his behaviours and beliefs are well-balanced by the remaining cast of characters, both primary and secondary. Author Newsome has a winning grasp of the minds and personalities and emotional development of young people, both small children, middle-grade, and adolescent. I thought he excelled in drawing these characters, all of whom rung very true to life, and were fully developed individuals, each in their own right, easily inspiring our empathy (and sympathy). In addition, he calls the shots accurately in delineating both male and female characters (I am particularly in mind of a certain scene with Ms. Jones ). Events in this book are very realistic, and more importantly, plausible. I had no trouble believing in the story line. I totally enjoyed this novel, which is not quite like anything else I’ve ever read, and highly recommend it.
  • Rook: Allie's War Episodes 1-4 on April 14, 2012

    An action-packed, thrill-soaked beginning catapults readers into the story, and quickly we learn that the setting is very unusual indeed. Yes, characters act as we normally would expect of human behavior-but this is not the ordinary, routine, Earth in which most of us live. This reader would have liked to have a little more background in world-building of the society before jumping right in, but I cannot fault author Andrijeski’s fast-paced, suspense-building, and tossing her protagonist smack into the arena and into adventures of all sorts, including a bizarre and almost “unreal” (in the context of her culture) past history. Adventure abounds in this novel, as does action; I found it almost impossible to catch my breath, the story line moved that quickly! “Rook” is the beginning of a quintology, and I expect it would work as a stand-alone novel; yet I for one am glad to know that it is the beginning of a series. The author has constructed such a complex society and world history here that only by composing several novels in the series could it be fully fleshed-out, developed, and explored. I look forward to the further volumes of “Allie’s War.”
  • Demon's Moon on April 21, 2012

    Intriguingly magical, a London where Fae, Demons, Succubi, Werewolves (both “true” werewolves and lycanthropes-which are those subjected to the werewolf virus and thence turned), exist, are accepted, studied, and considered “natural.” This “world” even has weres of other species: panther, fox, and so forth. It ranges from high academia and research science to lowly nightclubs and exotic dancing. Magic is real, accessible, and utilized. Ceri is a serious scientific researcher, preparing her doctorate dissertation in the field of thaumaturgy, or magical energy-specifically as it applies to weres. Her research has already had practical applications: she’s devised a device to measure the energy surges cast off by weres as they enter into a change. Such an application has been extremely effective in nightclubs, for example. Ceri happens to have been the daughter of a witch, and lives in a magicked multi-story home. Her roommates are a Faery, and a half-demonic succubus; not too surprising, as Ceri has some unidentifiable energies and is partially demonic herself. This novel is sexy, but not too explicit. I would still rate it at 18+. It will highly appeal to fanciers of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, as well as those who prefer traditional fantasy brought into a contemporary setting. The juxtaposition of the different magical species (weres, succubi, demons, Fae, and more) will broaden the novel’s appeal and bring in expanded readership.
  • Shadows of the Realm on May 12, 2012

    This debut novel is the first of a series (The Circle of Talia) and is a smooth-reading, delightful, high fantasy. Even readers who don’t usually head for the fantasy shelves can find much to delight in here, as did I. The writing is excellent, and author Dionne Lister deserves much more than five stars for her ability with lyrical description, which makes the reading flow so well. The characters are superbly delineated, and the action is realistic and intriguing. A good balance is achieved between destiny and free will in the lives of the characters, an effect not always managed in fantasy stories. The world-building is also very accomplished. In fact, I encourage readers to keep an eye on author Dionne Lister and anticipate, as I am, the next installments in The Circle of Talia series.
  • The Conduit on June 08, 2012

    What an utterly delightful, fascinating, fast-paced, engrossing YA fantasy. It captured me from the first page-and I am not in general a devotee of fantasy-but this book is so well and smoothly written, so full of immediate suspension of disbelief, engaging characters, vivid settings-and some really villainous villains-that I could not help but delight in the story and race through it faster than I could have expected. Although the protagonists are fifteen, eighteen, and twenty, and the book is no doubt targeted at a YA audience, if you’re an older reader, don’t let that stop you. This story is worth reading, because of the quality of the writing, the sympathetic characterizations, the plot line, and as I said above-the suspension of disbelief is immediate. Action-filled, romantic, emotional, dramatic-all one could ask for! Get this one now!
  • Pandora's Key on June 28, 2012
    (no rating)
    I quite enjoyed this lovely new approach to one of the most important legends in Classical Greek mythology. Highly suspenseful, adventurous, and roller-coaster paced, “Pandora’s Key” kept me turning the pages and reading it in one sitting due to the likable characters, intricately convoluted plotting, and author Nancy Richardson Fischer’s smooth and talented writing style. I’m eagerly anticipating the next book in the series, so I can find out where the protagonist goes from here. However, “Pandora’s Key” functions well as a stand-alone novel, ending in not so much a cliffhanger as a promise for further stories for eager readers (such as myself  ). Evangeline is the sole daughter of a single mother, Olivia, who was herself a sole child, orphaned at seventeen by the sudden grisly death of her mother. She has a lifelong best friend, Melia, who still finds time for her despite Melia’s current love interest, Tristin, a new student in Portland; and another good friend, Raphe, for whom E continues to wish there could be something in addition to friendship. E (as her friends call her) and her mother Olivia both have nightmares (and in her mother’s case, bizarre hallucinations) over a period of weeks leading up to Evangeline’s birthday. On her sixteenth birthday, E receives from her mother the onyx key which Olivia herself had always worn as a pendant, and almost immediately Evangeline’s world turns topsy-turvy and inside out in a reversal of everything she ever thought she knew as fact-both for her personally, and for the world at large. I highly recommend “Pandora’s Key,” which has appeal to readers of many different sub-genres.
  • Believe on June 29, 2012

    “Believe” is the first in a series, and a multi-layered novel, indicative of the author’s rich and vivid imagination. Vampires, Vampire Hunters, Royalty, varied Shapeshifters, Indigenous Americans, American pre-colonial history, Western European settlement in America, romance, jealousy, envy, Supernatural powers, and much, much more-it’s a massive undertaking but author E. Leighanne Grimm-Weever seems to manage to keep it all straight. I found the book quite enjoyable in terms of content (though there were a couple of instances when I thought characters changed too suddenly to be realistic) and I admire the author’s forethought in putting together such a collection of different types of folklore, mythology, superstition, history, and Supernatural elements of many types. My only objection is that the book would benefit from a good proofreading, and that I found the grammatical errors and typos distracting. However, I am glad that “Believe” is the first of a series (“New England Immortals”) and I look forward to the sequel.
  • Zed on July 08, 2012

    I wholeheartedly enjoyed “Zed,” a hilarious spin on the zombie trend that simultaneously ensures a deeper look and concentration of thought on some serious issues-such as consciousness and compassion, survival and surrender, humanity and inhumanity, do-goodism vs. government and military, and more. I literally chuckled or even laughed aloud on almost every page, but as I was laughing, I was also learning and pondering. While I was laughing and learning, I was also racing through the pages, because the action and adventure and thrills provided by Zed and his oddball (but likable) new human sidekick Chase are addictive and enjoyable. I was so glad when, on reaching the end, I learned that Zed will indeed return for an encoure, because he is truly too precious to drop off the scene after only one gig. Here’s to Zombies with Brains, Consciousness, and a delightful Heart.
  • Embrace, Gryphon Series Book 2 on July 12, 2012

    Gryphon Series #2 When I first read “Conduit” a few short months ago, I thought this series couldn’t get any better. Well, I thought inaccurately-“Conduit” reached a peak, and “Embrace” put me over the top. This is a must-read-in-one-setting novel cause you won’t be able to sleep till you finish; the characters, the plotting, the auhor’s manipulation of the Supernatural and paranormal, the deliciously immediate suspension of disbelief-and oh! That cliffhanger ending! I wanted to jump up and shout, “No! Don’t end it here!! Give me more!!” I swear I tried to turn the page at the end of the ebook, just to find out what’s next! Celeste, her sister Kendall, and brother Gabriel moved to a small town near Nashville to live with their Grams while their mother, Julia, sells their Michigan home. Losing their Dad two years earlier and very unexpectedly have carved deep grief lines in all their hearts. Newly discovering that Celeste is the “chosen one,” the Conduit of the Supernatural entity the Gryphon, upended all of their lives once again. Kendall is the healer and shield, Gabe is the protector (and a lion shapeshifter now). As the Conduit, Celeste must defeat minions of the Underground’s Dark Army of demons; but this is a neverending battle. The flames really intensify in this entry, adding the question of Alec, a young journalist with whom Celeste became enamoured during “Conduit,” who has undergone some soul-stultifying transformations; the hot Irishman Caleb; and the perhaps equally hot (and inspirationally gifted) pirate Rowan. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more dangerous, and author Stacey Rourke couldn’t dig any deeper to yank your heartstrings and yank you to edge of your seat in throat-gripping suspense: the danger magnifies a thousandfold and Ms. Rourke delivers even more strongly! Do not miss this special book, or this series. And Ms. Rourke, please, please bring us the third in the series very quickly!
  • Bonds of Fenris on July 20, 2012

    An intricately detailed character study of six individuals who happen to share one constant trait: each is a werewolf, and not by choice, but by accident, or fated design. Talia, Leroy, Marlene, Pierce, and Bo constitute a pack. Corwin is a “pack” of his own-until Talia, in shifted form, encounters him one night during a full moon following a prey hunt-and discovers Corwin can shift back and forth, wolf to human to wolf and back again-right underneath the full moon! It’s not just Corwin’s startling ability that makes “Bonds of Fenris” a very different type of werewolf story: it’s the author’s capacity to interweave Greek myth, classical Greek philosophy, and questioning and teaching that would make Socrates and Plato proud. Corwin is talented, yes, but he didn’t come by this ability either naturally or effortlessly, and when Talia insists on learning, he applies the Socratic method and puts her through some incredible testing. By the end of the lessons, either Talia-and the others who try-will understand who and what they really are-or they won’t survive.
  • Vengeance of the Wolf on Aug. 13, 2012

    “Vengeance of the Wolf” is a terrifically lyrical book, with vivid imagery which makes the reader feel both part of the scene, and in tune with the characters. The Paranormal elements and the intrinsic mystery are capably interwoven, keeping the reader riveted, anxious to find out what’s next. A seemingly implacable force of doom is destroying politicians in office, yet doing so in a method that seems physically and medically impossible. Yet, like a juggernaut, the killer continues, hopscotching from one U.S. locale to another, seemingly without rhyme or reason, at least none apparent to the local law enforcement communities, nor to the F.B.I. agent in charge of this multi-state case. I especially liked the escalation of the Paranormal elements, beginning with what might be possible and moving on to become both deeper and more extensive. Of course, any mystery that so baffles law enforcement (think Jack the Ripper) is going to be conducive to reader enjoyment, because we know that eventually we’ll find out the facts, whether the police agencies do so or not. This is a novel that will engross readers of many different genres, and I highly recommend it and anticipate more from author Solitaire Parke.
  • Something to Live for on Aug. 16, 2012

    5 Stars Take two disparate individuals, living on the same island, who have never met and have no reason to think they might meet, both with painful anniversaries-on the same date of the year. Mix these two into the cauldron of a special matchmaking concern, and arrange for them to “meet” for one evening and night. Sounds simple, but the recipe creates a complex and winning story line, not to be missed. A quite delightful, sensual, heart-touching short story, “Something to Live For” is very well-written, and strums the reader’s heartstrings and senses. Delicately cast into a frame with frissons of the Supernatural, this short story will have appeal to many types of readers, as it did to me. Ms. Owens has an intriguing touch with the aspects of characterization, plotting, and setting imagery; I’m quite eager to read more from her.
  • The Tomb on Aug. 29, 2012

    Review of The Tomb by Dave Ferraro Reviewed for We ♥ YA Books! I received an ebook copy from Smashwords, via We ♥ YA Books! Goodreads Group in exchange for my fair and impartial review. I really appreciate the gentle notching of the reader’s hook accompanied by the subtle escalation of suspense. So much in this novel depends on the psychological aspect of horror, which to me is much more poignant that splattering the reader with gore. Author Dave Ferraro is well aware of the inside-and-out of his characters, drawing them deftly and empathetically. When one or more of the individuals on Black Forest Island, among the archaeological crew and support staff (the supply boat captain) begin to act “out of character,” it’s not done obviously but subtly, inspiring the reader to think about what’s happening, and why-and then the intermittent tie-ins with Rachel’s seemingly faulty memory lend yet another layer of suspense. For readers who prefer their horror flavoured with the Supernatural or paranormal, there’s plenty of that here too; but I must marvel at the psychological insights. Once again I am reminded of Henry James in “Turn of the Screw,” and Saki in “The Open Window,” because sometimes what is to be feared is within, not always external. I highly enjoyed and recommend this book. The author has a very smooth writing style which encourages me to go read all his other stories as well.
  • The Beast Within on Sep. 05, 2012

    Review of The Beast Within by Melissa Crowe An intriguing paranormal with a nicely original twist-very unexpected-“The Beast Within” will maintain reader’s attention throughout. Two hot men-a lovely young woman desired by both-spooky secrets and hinted denouements-and a good balance of sensuality, romance, suspense, and yes, even danger, this novel will keep the reader edgy in a good way. Karina has been happy with accountant Ian for about five years, when he suddenly suggests she move out, that the two need time away from each other. While she’s working that one over in her mind, the very sizzling Xavier appears and tries of course to pick her up. On his second appearance, he calls her by her middle name, “Tuatha,” and in doing so sends Karina spiraling on a quest for family history, identifying whom and what she really wants at this point in her life-and into situations fraught with potentially fatal danger.
  • Freewill on Sep. 13, 2012

    Author has provided review copy from Smashwords via We ♥ YA Books in exchange for my fair, honest, and authentic review-copy provided August 21, 2012. Freewill is the first in the trilogy by the same name, an unusual and complex metaphysical exploration of the world “beyond” the perception of most, and the many divergent ways in which we humans are affected by it. Although it commences in early 20th century England (approx. 1920) and moves to events of 1940 during the Nazi blitz of London, for me the book really got underway with the contemporary story of eighteen-year-old Christopher Ross of Golden, Colorado, a boy who finds computers and drafting simple as pie, yet with his dyslexia struggles to read. Christopher is a solitary with a special talent: tritely put, he is a “human lie detector.” He can read what an individual is actually thinking, while he or she is speaking something else. Lately Christopher has been mentally plagued by an entity named James, who is deceased but yet not a ghost. James is purely evil, but his mentor V is much worse. Then Christopher’s life is uprighted when another “Other,” Ellie, appears-it is she who was born in 1920, concealed from an evil society by her uncle Edward, who was himself a seer, and died in 1940, just before her eighteenth birthday. As an Empath, she has spent her life-and afterlife-helping others. Now as she discovers Christopher, she and he both fall unwillingly in love. Author Elyse Draper has a lyrical and poetic imagination and brings the many locales to vivid reality. Her view of afterlife is also unusual, but logical (if it’s appropriate to call spirit entities a logical progression). The rollercoaster ups and downs of emotions Ellie, Christopher, and the secondary characters go through is easily comprehensible, and more than one tear will be brought to readers’ eyes. Christopher certainly is in line for becoming one of the higher pantheon of young male protagonists.
  • The Exoterrestrials on Sep. 30, 2012

    Review of The Exoterrestrials by TW Brown 5 Stars A delightful contemporary science fiction tale with an enterprising moral, “The Exoterrestrials” introduces readers to the castaway Dre’le’exx, marooned in Earth’s Pacific Ocean after an unfortunate near-miss encounter with an “alien spacecraft” (from the United States) in 1970. Since their ship was permanently and irreparably damaged and the commander and the remaining crew had to crash-land, the four decided to make good use of their tenure on this planet by “cleaning it up”; that is, by eliminating whichever individuals do not subscribe to the human moral order. That ranges from school-age bullies to middle-age perverts to serial killers, and these beings, who somewhat resemble giant spiders and weave “Mindwebs” to read thoughts, conscious and unconscious, spend their time moving into empty residences, weaving strands of their webs, then collecting the nasties and eliminating them by processing their energy, just as spiders do with flies and other hapless creatures. Despite the premise, “The Exoterrestrials” is a well-written and delectable little tale, and just the thing for late-night reading in those last moments before turning off the lights to sleep.
  • Cyberchip on Nov. 07, 2012

    Review of Cyberchip by Billie Sue Mosiman Taut, compact, to the point: a quick, short, compelling read which will linger in the reader’s mind. Could it happen? DID it happen? Will it happen-and if so, what will be the consequences for society? “Cyberchip” looks at one person’s sense of entitlement, and its consequences, but beyond the immediate, it holds real concerns for the future of our society-and of our humanity.
  • Gathering Darkness on Dec. 07, 2012

    I reviewed an e-book copy provided by the author, via the Goodreads Group Paranormal and Horror Lovers, in return for my provision of a fair and impartial review. Review of Gathering Darkness by Chris Allinotte 5 stars “Gathering Darkness” is one of those extraordinary short story collections that makes me so happy I’ve picked it up. Rich in depth and imagination, there are stories here sure to please almost everyone, and many that will leave the reader looking back over her shoulder, hoping to still be alone. The 28 stories included-some never before published-are scary, heartwarming, heartbreaking, thought-provoking. Yes, there is straight-out horror (such as “Pick Your Own Pumpkin” [shudder! I’ll never forget this one!] or “Sex and Beer” [don’t be fooled by the title: this is one frightening tale, interweaving contemporary culture right along with the “I can’t believe this is happening” terror). There’s also psychological horror, as evinced in, for example, “Coming Home.” You can read these at one sitting, or take your time and savour, one story at a time. I just recommend that there are some [“Pick Your Own Pumpkin,” again] probably better not read during the wee hours of a dark, moonless night. Don’t miss this collection by an accomplished and gifted author.
  • Summer In Salem on Dec. 10, 2012

    Review of Summer in Salem by Brina Courtney 5 stars “Summer in Salem” is a totally delightful and enchanting novel, multilayered and multileveled. There is so much going on in this book, and all of the subplots are just as delectable-and just as essential-as the apparent main plot. The author does a tremendous job of balancing plot lines and multiple characters, and of interweaving the story lines. The reader doesn’t have a spare moment to be bored, because the novel is exciting throughout. On the surface, Teagan, almost twenty-two, moves out of her parents’ home to stay with her grandmother for the summer, due to her grandma’s propensity to independence and health concerns. Yes, that’s the surface; but beneath that is Teagan’s own situation: her beloved boyfriend Jason, who was also completely enraptured with her, just “disappeared” nine months earlier, gone without a trace. Her grief and depression led to her dropping out of college temporarily and returning to her folks, and put a hiatus on her paintings. Add to that: the disappearances of girls in Salem, even apparent murder, of girls who look identical to Teagan. Add the intuition of Teagan’s since childhood that she is under observation. Add how smoothly her introduction to Salem, to a job, to a new best friend, flows. Add the secrets her Mom and Gran are keeping from her-about her, and about Jason….I could go on and on, but I won’t spoil this wonderful story, which deserves a very wide readership, both among YA fanciers and among adult readers too.
  • Perfection Unleashed on Jan. 12, 2013

    Review of Perfection Unleashed by Jade Kerrion Blog Tour Jan. 17 5 stars Double Helix Book 1 “Perfection Unleashed” is an astonishingly adventurous and fast-paced thriller, paranormal in the sense that many of the characters are what consensus reality considers “beyond normal,” scientific in the sense that much of what occurs in this story line is the result of rampant genetic manipulation and genetic engineering, from the quest to discover and “create” the Perfect Human, which of course creates a whole number of mutations and abominations along that path. Trial and error alone ensures that some mistakes are going to occur, and in this novel, some of those mistakes are literally monstrous. I could not put this book aside, literally. It is so rapid-paced, so non-stop adventurous, that I found it both totally absorbing and an absolute delight to read, and am so looking forward to the next two books in the series. Author Jade Kerrion has a special touch and she definitely puts it to excellent effect in “Perfection Unleashed.”
  • Missing Mandy on March 03, 2013

    Review of Missing Mandy 4 stars “Missing Mandy” is a novel of suspense and romance, and is wildly mysterious and imaginatively original. At first I wasn’t even certain who the “Mandy” of the title would be, because the author lays background and endears us to the protagonist, Danny, a recently-divorced painter (henpecked by his long-suffering mother). To get away from Mother and to recuperate after the painful end of the marriage, Danny buys a cottage near the tiny village of Ankleton, and nearly immediately odd and even suspicious events occur. Danny has some horrible nightmares—the kind that catch a hold and linger on—and he is bombarded by the bizarre scent of oranges, where no oranges are. As he gets to meet neighbors around the nearby lake, and the villagers, he sees and soon meets a lovely young woman—who turns out to be Mandy. The problem is: Mandy has been missing for months, and Danny is the only one who can see her. Debut Author Shirley S. Simon works this suspenseful mystery out to a satisfying conclusion, leaving the story and characters to linger on in the reader’s mind.
  • The Horned Ones: Cornucopia on March 26, 2013

    Review of The Horned Ones: Cornucopia Christine Morgan Belfire Press 5 stars When I began this riveting book, I thought I was reading an adventure/thriller, a story of courage (and the opposite, fearful selfishness) in the face of a natural disaster—an underground cave system partially collapsing, trapping three full tours of curious tourists and their guides. Well, I did get all that, and in the meantime watched the human condition unfold, as certainly times this troubling bring out the true character of any individual, and the characters in “The Horned Ones: Cornucopia” certainly run the continuum from almost all good to almost all evil, including “bad guys” who actually demonstrate altruism, and other bad guys the reader will hope never to encounter. But this novel is not just a thriller—this novel is also scientifically bent, exploratory, and contains a great deal of horror, the kind of horror that made my hair stand on end and chills run tiny spider legs along my spine (perhaps, considering the story’s locale, tiny albino cave eyeless cave spiders). The horror that rules the last portion of the book is virtually unforgettable—and left this reviewer hoping for a sequel.
  • Ascent of Blood, The Red Veil Series, Book I on March 26, 2013

    Review of Ascent of Blood by Elizabeth Marx 5 stars The Red Veil Series #1 In contemporary society, with a world population of humans in the billions, vampires can’t really afford to be discovered, for discovery would mean going to war against humans, and who then would lose? Sebastian Pearce has been a vampire for centuries, and for six of those he has searched for a breeder, a human female capable of bearing vampire offspring, such as his mother. Those are few and rare, and his House of Imperials is terribly in need of expansion. When he encounters a young American woman in London, searching for the Book of Descent, Sebastian is at first amazed and infuriated, then enraptured and obsessed. But Sebastian is not the only one of this pair holding secrets close to his chest; Everleigh is too. If you’ve not yet read the prequel to this series, “Descent of Blood,” you can still read and very much enjoy this story, but why not pick up both and have the double pleasure?
  • Descent of Blood, The Red Veil Series, The Prequel on March 26, 2013

    Review of Descent of Blood by Elizabeth Marx 5 Stars Readers who enjoy perusing historical fiction relating to the Middle Ages, especially those who like their history served on the gory side (for example, fans of Vlad the Impaler and of Elisabeth Bathory—of which I am one) will find much to relish regarding the gory visual side of that era. Factual historians don’t usually relate tales involving regiments of vampires, but Elizabeth Marx certainly does so, and does it well. Even this reviewer, who is not a vampire aficionado, found much to enjoy in Ms. Marx’s very visual tales. Of course, visualizing is not all she does well: she also delivers heartbeat-fast action, adventure, and sensual romance. Back in the day (or many multitudes of moons ago) I was a history major at University, but you know: history was just never like this. You owe it to yourself, Constant Readers, to go get this series—both Descent of Blood, for Ms. Marx’s amazingly different perspective of the 15th English Wars of the Roses; and the companion novel, Ascent of Blood, for a more contemporary version. Don’t worry, there’ll be vampires there too.