I'm an obsessive bibliophile, intensely curious about many things. I also love animals of all kinds and currently have three tom cats and a dog.
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Smashwords book reviews by Katy Sozaeva
on July 16, 2011
“Blind Novel” is an anthology of highly graphic erotic short stories; while there are hints and pieces of the story surrounding each encounter, the bulk is mostly taken up with the erotic encounter itself, described in great detail. It was sort of like watching a XXX movie and fast-forwarding through the “boring” bits that are inserted to provide a plot.
That said, it is obvious that this writer has talent. I would like to see a longer work, including actual plot and character development from him. While there are some issues with editing and use of clichés (all the women are thin and beautiful and have huge … tracts of land; all the men are handsome, in shape, romantic, and well-endowed), and that cost a star, still I can see where he could create a really vivid story – I especially noticed it at the end of the short story “Weekend at Reba’s.”
This is for fans of erotica, and for those who read romance novels and dog-ear the pages with the “good bits” to re-read again later. The especially nice thing about this anthology is that the stories are fairly short; adventurous lovers might read them and act them out together. Just an idea!
Justice For Emily
on July 17, 2011
Emily Campbell was loved by everyone in Brownwood, TX. She always went out of her way to help anyone who needed help. When she is found dead by her husband by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Patrick Sheehan is the responding officer. Patrick is suspicious of the circumstances, and believes her death was a murder, and that the murderer was her husband. The problem is, her husband – Boyd Campbell – is the chief of police, and he makes sure that the death is listed as a suicide and covers everything up. While Patrick tries to come up with a way to investigate and bring about justice for Emily, he comes across a woman on the road, looking at a map. It is Rachael Merchant, a homicide detective from Phoenix, AZ. Patrick decides that he needs Rachael to help him investigate, but as he gets to know her, he falls in love with her. Will they be able to bring about justice for Emily?
This is a fairly short book – almost a novella – but it is very well-written and a complete story. The characters are well developed and the reader will be surprised as how much information is provided in such a short space of time – Sandy Wolters has managed to cut down the story to the essential elements without it appearing to have been cut at all. Fans of romantic thrillers and suspense should enjoy this story – even those who, like me, don’t much care for romance. Definitely pick this one up!
The Shrew Untamed
on July 19, 2011
Although not my normal type of story, “The Shrew Untamed” – which is actually a play, set as a sequel to “The Taming of the Shrew” – is an amusing and light-hearted romantic comedic romp that will have the reader smiling and laughing along. I would honestly love to see this performed.
The basic synopsis is as follows: The story takes up a year after Kate and Petruchio’s marriage. They are traveling to Rome and decide to stop in Pisa to visit Bianca and Lucentio (Kate’s sister and her husband). Kate and Petruchio have both changed a great deal from the original play – they have both mellowed significantly. When they arrive in Pisa, they find Bianca and Lucentio are not at all happily married – Lucentio wants his wife to cook and clean and raise babies, while Bianca wants to wear nice clothes and be pampered and avoid losing her figure by not having children at all. Petruchio bets Kate that she cannot reconcile the two within three days. Mischief closely follows.
Well written and amusing, the reader will find this a fun and quick read. There are several songs scattered throughout – I don’t know if a score is available for those who actually want to put on the play, or if the director or musical director is meant to come up with tunes herself; for me coming up with a tune in my head was part of the fun. Fans of Shakespeare should eat this up, as should those who enjoy romantic comedy. Check it out, why don’t you?
The Same Moon
on July 22, 2011
Pearl Zhang was born in the Sichuan province on mainland China in 1961. She was raised in a traditional Chinese manner, went to school, got a job, got married, had her single child … and then her life changed. She was given the opportunity to go study at Warwick University in United Kingdom for one year – and stayed. She adjusted to Western life, divorced her husband, lost her child to him, work, struggled, scrimped and saved. She was in a new world, a completely foreign situation – but under the same moon.
Beautifully written, “The Same Moon” is an (apparently) semi-autobiographical, semi-fiction story. Ms Kirk tells the story with authority and details that will astound the reader, especially one who, like me, doesn’t know very much about China – its fascinating traditions, its beautiful scenery, its generous people. She also grew up during the Cultural Revolution – she also left home and came to UK and stayed. I don’t know how much else of this story is based on her life, but that is enough to give me an idea – it was not an easy time or place to grow up.
This is not the sort of book I would ordinarily seek out and read – however, Junying Kirk asked me to do so and provide a review, and I can happily say that I loved this book and can heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone. Pick up this beautiful book – the first in a trilogy – and prepare to immerse yourself in a different world.
Trials of Life
on July 23, 2011
“Trials of Life” is the second book in the Journey to the West trilogy by author Junyung Kirk. Like the first book – The Same Moon – this is not the type of book I would normally read, but Ms. Kirk asked me if I would be so kind as to read and provide reviews for her books and I was happy to do so.
“Trials of Life” was a much more difficult book than the first book in the series. While “The Same Moon” is focused on Pearl’s point-of-view exclusively, this book changes point of view frequently and without notice, which made it a bit difficult to follow who was “talking” to the reader. Adding the name of the person speaking at the beginning of the appropriate section would have gone a long way towards clearing that problem up. Also, the bulk of the book has to do with a truly despicable person named Dick Appleton, and having to spend so much time in his head made me want to scrub my skin with pumice and then pour lye into my eyes – he was really awful. Of course, the mere fact that Ms. Kirk was able to provoke such an extreme reaction in me shows that she knows exactly how to create a character that is sure to stick in the mind of the reader. While there are some issues with grammar and proper sentence structure, overall the writing style is excellent and I was duly impressed. The main reason I marked off to only 4 stars was due to the voice confusion.
Overall I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued by both China and Scotland as a result of these books and would love to travel to both countries and have a chance to experience their cultures myself. I can recommend this book for those who enjoy a story about rising above and overcoming adversity – if that is you, definitely check it out.
The Asking - and other stories
on Aug. 05, 2011
This well-written set of seven short stories gives us vignettes on growing up, on love and loss, on seeing things through, on being a better person; each story provides a snippet of a look into someone’s life. Something I noticed, which I thought was pretty neat, was that each story – while it gave insights into the state of the main character’s life, and showed up he or she was growing up – also had a progressively older protagonist. Therefore, it wasn’t just about growing up, it also showed growing up through the progressive stories.
Anyone who is interested in short stories showing a slice-of-life vignettes, and about growing older, growing up, should find something to enjoy in this book. Pick it up – it’s worth the read.
on Aug. 06, 2011
On its surface, “Doodling” is a surreal and rather silly story about a man named Neville who, upon losing his grip on the ever-more-rapidly spinning Earth, falls off and winds up in an asteroid field. After meeting several very strange people on different asteroids – and a failed attempt to set up his own country, which he calls Bolivia, on his own asteroid with the large rock 27 meters to his right as president – he stumbles across the lovely Helen. Helen has created a garden on her asteroid, which she tends constantly in order to maintain it against the effects of outer space. She also warns him that the Earth, which continues to increase its insane pace, is about to snap free of gravity and will go through the asteroid field like a bowling ball through pins – but with a much more serious effect, since the Earth will disintegrate everything in its path. Neville must come up with a way to stop this disaster.
I said “on its surface,” because underneath, “Doodling” is anything but silly – there are deeper meanings here. There are messages about the dangers of the ever-increasing pace of life; about the need to cease the sort of divisiveness that currently has caused so many wars based upon ridiculous things like who has the better deity; about how the need to constantly win brings nothing but wheel-spinning; about the need for people to learn to put aside their differences, embrace the unique abilities of others, and work together for the common good. And Mr. Gould has squeezed all of these ideas into a very entertaining and well-written novella (my edition is 65 pages). My hat is off to this most talented writer, and I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone – if you like to read, you will love this book. BUY IT – NOW! You will not regret your decision.
on Aug. 06, 2011
“Angel’s Requiem” is an enjoyable thriller and suspenseful mystery with a message about belief, faith and doing what is right in the end. It revolves around a fairly large cast of characters, but they are all fleshed out nicely and it is easy to keep track of them. There is Rico Nasi, whose murder kicks off the book; Aiden, a former NYPD cop who now works as an insurance investigator, who comes across the crime scene and involves himself in the investigation; Liddy, who had been hired by Vincent and Angela Nasi – Rico’s father and grandmother – to accompany Rico as an escort and to “keep him out of trouble”; and Dave, a forensics medical intern who comes to New York from Pittsburgh to aid in the investigation of Rico’s death.
The beginning of the book is instantly appealing and I was pulled right into the story. The action ranges from New York to London, Rome, Venice and even Glasgow before the end of the book. I was initially going to give this book only 4 stars, because there are some major plot inconsistencies that were apparently missed by Ms. Kindle’s editors – however, I liked the book so much that I gave it the full 5 stars, despite the problems. I hope that the author will have the chance to correct the problems and issue a new edition, which I will happily download as well, because I think the idea and execution of the story itself was really good. I also will be watching for her next book or books as the case will be.
Fans of mystery, suspense and thrillers should all find this enjoyable.
Sunset: Pact Arcanum: Book One
on Aug. 13, 2011
If I could, I would give this 10 out of 5 stars – this is one of the most amazing things I’ve read in … a long time. I was initially intrigued by Arshad’s description in our forum that it was a “gay vampire” story – but it is SO much more than that. It is a romance of unbelievable beauty; it is an adventure, full of thrills, excitement and terror; it is a science fiction story, part space opera, and has elements of self-sacrifice for the greater good; it is about vampires, and magic-users and humans and how difficult it is for everyone to try to live together – but how wonderful it is when they do. It is about redemption, hope, love and growth. It is … AMAZING. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
The basic plot revolves around Nick Jameson, who is known as a Daywalker, or a vampire who has been redeemed and received back his soul. He is instrumental in stopping a plot that would have destroyed the greater Los Angeles area with a nuclear bomb; as a result, the metahumans are exposed to humans, and Nick is then appointed as the Ambassador to Humanity. We are introduced to the various races – the Nightwalkers, who are the vampires; the Daywalkers (already described) and the Sentinels, who are magic-users genetically programmed to hunt and kill the vampires. In North America, an unprecedented situation has been created where a truce has been put into effect – the Armistice. Opposed to the Armistice are the unaffiliated Sentinels and the Court of the Nightwalkers.
I can’t go into the plot much, because I don’t want to spoil things - I will say that I laughed many times; I cried several times, too, and that is very unusual for me. I felt like these characters had become my own friends, confidantes and enemies – Arshad is masterful at descriptions and characterizations, and you will come out of this book truly feeling like you just returned from another world. I am eager to get on to the rest of the trilogy - “Sunrise” and “Moonlight.” Watch for my reviews later this weekend.
Sunrise: Pact Arcanum: Book Two
on Aug. 13, 2011
This second book in the Pact Arcanum is a prequel to “Sunset,” providing us a more in-depth look at many of the events that led to the events in that novel. We see the origination of the Armistice, the early days of Nick’s career, his budding friendships and relationships that exist later in his life, his descent in the darkness of addiction and his friends’ attempts to help him rise back up again. We also get a bit more of a look at some of the players in the Court of Shadows, the Nightwalkers.
The Pact Arcanum is becoming a friend – the world and character-building that Arshad has put into this story is so amazing, I can’t even explain properly. You have to read it – it is so many things, so much more than a gay sci-fi vampire story. I won’t repeat the gushing from my review of “Sunset” - I can hope that you have read that review as well – but will say that this book is a worthy continuation of the series, and that it also comes with my highest recommendation.
Moonlight: Pact Arcanum: Book Three
on Aug. 14, 2011
When an attack on Toby and Andrea Daniels (the President’s daughter) results in the death of Toby’s AI, the AI’s internal government – The Nexus – unveils itself to the Armistice, and humanity, demanding retribution. The resulting backlash by humanity causes the development of an organization called Organic Underground, devoted to the destruction of The Nexus and establishment of the AIs as being under the control of organics. Toby agrees to serve as liaison between The Nexus and the Armistice, leaving him in great danger as OU attempts repeatedly to assassinate him. How do they keep finding him? Who is the traitor in their midst?
Additionally, in this book, we see the relationship between Toby and Layla growing, and a surprising result of their union. Nick and the group of people we spend most of our time with in the first two books are more in the background in this one, as the Armistice moves into its second generation of mortals.
After an intense three days reading these books, I’m left rather adrift – these are so well-crafted that one is completely inside the world while reading them, and there is a resounding silence in my ears now that they are done. I don’t know how it is I am going to wait until the next book in the series comes out – it is due sometime in 2012. That should not stop you from buying the first three books in the series and immersing yourself in this world – it will just make it all the more enjoyable when you reintegrate yourself with the next installment. I am Katy Sozaeva, and I approve this message ...
on Aug. 21, 2011
Dan Cooper, formerly in the Navy, just landed a job on the shuttle to Moonwalk, the Earth’s first out-space, luxury hotel. Since everything is automated, his job consists simply of helping with luggage, entertaining the guests during the two-hour flight, and making sure everyone follows safety procedures. This is his first flight and his passengers include two singers, a football player and his starlet girlfriend and a world-famous doctor, known for her ground-breaking work with human genetics. It should be a cake-walk to get to Moonwalk … but something goes wrong.
Short, sweet and with a terrifically suspenseful ending (I must get the next book in the series), “Celebrity Space” is what sci-fi should be! You definitely need to read this book.
on Sep. 01, 2011
Jonathan Gould has written another masterpiece of social commentary in his latest story, “Flidderbugs.” On the Krephiloff Tree, far above the ground, live the Flidderbugs – they go about their business, doing what Flidderbugs do. Kriffle and Fargeeta are the children of the leaders of the two opposing tribes, and they are being groomed to take over the leading roles since their respective fathers are aging. Today they will meet in debate for the first time in public, debating the most important thing to the Flidderbugs’ lives, and those positions – and the support they may gain for themselves – will determine who runs the Tree. The question is – are there three points on each leaf, or four points? Each side will devoutly declare themselves as speaking the truth, and their opponents as lying. Who will win? What will happen? And why is the tree making such strange, rumbling noises lately? You have to read to find out.
The beauty of this story is its subtle poking at modern politics and religious dogma. Gould manages to tell an entertaining story and still get his ideas across quite clearly. I have been quite impressed with the stories I’ve read by Gould thus far, and can recommend this one highly to anyone who enjoys being entertained and, at the same time, encouraged to think and question.
Five Dances with Death: Dance One
on Sep. 01, 2011
“Five Dances with Death” is a historical fiction novel, based on the time when the Spaniards were just beginning their advances into Meso-America with their related destruction of the indigenous culture, religion and independence. Wasp is the war leader of the Tlaxcala and he has been learning sorcery from his wife, Broken Plume, in his attempts to find his daughter, Dew, who he lost into slavery when she was just a baby. He achieves his searches through astral projection, basically, and during one episode his wife takes him to the coast, where the Mayans live, and shows him the boats of the Conquistadors. He becomes obsessed with the outlanders, and tries to convince the ruling council that they must fight them. However, the council is more concerned with the Mexica, under the rulership of Stern Lord.
It’s hard to really describe the plot – Wasp changes a great deal throughout the book, but at the same time remains essentially the same inside – a simple man, a warrior. Based upon other historical fiction novels I’ve read that covered this period in history, this book is quite well researched; many of the people and places are historically accurate, and that makes it even more interesting. It also led to a couple rants by me about the way the indigenous people were treated by the Spaniards, but that’s a different matter.
I highly recommend this novel to those who are interested in the Meso-American tribes, particularly those who existed around the time of Cortez and Montezuma. This book is not as gory as many I’ve read – at least one of the books I read went into such detail about the rituals and sacrifices that it turned my stomach on occasion. This book references many of the gods and some of the rituals, but doesn't get into a great deal of detail, making it a bit easier to read for those of a more squeamish bent. Check it out – it’s a good read and I’m looking forward to the next books in the series.
Rabbletown: Life in These United Christian States of Holy America
on Sep. 02, 2011
I expected a few things when I started reading this book. I expected to maybe be amused by a satirical take on the Fundamentalists that are doing their utmost to take over this country – sadly, the concept is difficult to make amusing, because the idea of Fundamentalists taking over this country and turning it into an Evangelical theocracy is absolutely terrifying to anyone who wants to live in love and Light. I expected to be outraged by the excesses of Fundamentalist leaders who grow fat and rich off the tithing of their flock, while the common people live in poverty and squalor. I expected to be terrified by the idea of an Evangelical theocracy in general. What I did not expect was to be profoundly moved. I did not expect the overwhelming desire to make this book required reading for everyone. I did not expect goose bumps or a profound feeling of “rightness” to come over me while I read this book. I did not expect to want to take to the streets to preach the word of Bobby – to propose that the world would be a better place if we all became … Bobbites.
You see, 12-year-old Bobby Crowley – the son of stone-mason Bob Crowley, who is working to build a cathedral in Topeka, KS that will be larger and more glorious than any other cathedral in the world – is special. He has an amazing memory for Bible verses, and a strangely wise way of saying just the right thing at just the right time. And he has been carefully watching the formation of a significant alignment of stars in the sky, including a new star that just appeared three months ago, which are coming into a cross-like shape. And on a Friday like any other Friday – a Stoning Friday that would see the stoning to death of a “heathen, a whore, a pair of adulterers and a pair of faggots” - Bobby takes his place among the great religious leaders of the world when he steps forward and speaks the words “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and in the process saves the life of a beatific young woman: he gains a following and begins performing miracles, and providing proverbs of hope, peace and love. Many people believe he is the second coming of Christ.
Caught in his wake are a prostitute, his teacher (himself gay and who has been forcing himself up the weaker boys in his classes), the young woman who had been accused of being a whore and set to be stoned, a seller of banned books, a Catholic friar and many more; they go into Rabbletown, the slums of Topeka, where Bobby spreads the true way – the way of peace, love, acceptance and kindness, rather than the hate and manipulations used by those in power. And in a world where the leaders all revere and emulate the practices and beliefs of that disgusting scumbag Fred Phelps, those sorts of teachings are threatening to the power structure. Bobby and all who believe in him and his miracles are declared anathema and the Inquisition is sent after them.
This book does two things: it exposes the horror of a theocratic, fascist Evangelical Fundamentalist power structure, and it provides hope for redemption for anyone who chooses to live a truly good life, and follow the basic teachings that so many modern-day dogmatics seem to forget are the only two rules laid down by Christ – you know, the one Christians are supposed to emulate? Yeshua Christos told his followers to follow two simple rules: 1) love each other and treat others like you would like them to treat you; 2) love the Higher Power of Creation, in whatever form you choose to comprehend It. It doesn’t matter what religion, creed, belief structure or lack thereof you choose to affiliate yourself with, these simple rules are common across almost every single one, and are the only rules that are really necessary to create a world in which everyone would like to live. This book – reading this book – will cause a profound shift in perception and I believe, honestly, that the world would be a better place if everyone followed the example set by Bobby. We all need to become Bobbites. Read this book and see if you don’t find these truths to be as profound as I did.
Blue Kansas Sky
on Sep. 03, 2011
Told from the point of view of a person who lives the same life as Brad in “Crazy About You,” but has a very different attitude toward the inmates of the Larned Asylum, the main gist of the story is about playing snooker. But, like all of Randy’s works, that is not all there is to it. I’ll say this much - I don’t know squat about snooker, but he made the game – which is, I think, a metaphor for other things – very exciting. I won’t tell you what I think it is a metaphor for; I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Check it out.
Eddie's Shorts - Volume 1
on Sep. 03, 2011
Including two stories - “Bedlam” and “Eight, Seven Central and Mountain” - Vol. 1 of Eddie’s Shorts is brilliantly written and a fascinating look into Eddie’s … uhm, mind. Yup.
“Bedlam” tells the story about a young man named Jim who works at Willow Farm, a treatment center for the mentally ill. One day his father – who Jim has never met before – shows up on Jim’s step and moves in with Jim. However, Jim starts to think that maybe his father is better fit to live among the residents at Willow Farm. Written in an interesting colloquial style, I was fascinated by the way that Ed put this one together. It takes up most of the book.
“Eight, Seven Central and Mountain” is a quick flip through the TV stations – an interesting idea and it made me laugh several times.
I can say that you should definitely check out Eddie’s Shorts – Vol 1 is fab, and my review of Vol 2 will be up soon.
Eddie's Shorts - Volume 2
on Sep. 03, 2011
Eddie’s Shorts Vol. 2 also has two stories: “67 Feet in the Air” and “Drain Bamage.” In “67 Feet in the Air” we meet a young man called Luke, who lost his twin brother on the 15th of May 9 years prior; today he just wants to spend by himself, sunning on the roof of his apartment building, but is instead talked into traveling to Eagan to fight with with kites. It was well-written and had a great twist to the ending. “Drain Bamage” had me laughing throughout the whole thing - I actually knew people like that when I lived in the Minneapolis area. Having so much snow and darkness so much of the year makes people a little crazy! Jay’s family had just moved to the Minneapolis area from Georgia a month ago, and since it was summer he hadn’t made any school friends. When some of the people with whom he worked at an Old Country Buffet suggested he go fishing with them, he agreed. He also agreed to ride there with Neil – who, as it turns out, is a bit … strange. That fall off the roof left him with drain bamage …
Definitely give Eddie’s Shorts a look-see. There’s some great stuff here!
The Sable City
on Sep. 05, 2011
Eddie has created a wonderful world of action and adventure, wizards and warriors, and even a few dungeons and dragons in “The Sable City.” A little bit Lord of the Rings (with the lighter-hearted feel of “The Hobbit”), a little bit Belgariad, a little bit Chronicles of Prydain, and wholly entertaining, even those who find themselves less than excited by a sword and sorcery story should find this one worthwhile.
It all starts when Captain Block – a dwarf of over 400 years of age who has lived in the Miilarkian Islands since before the savage tribes civilized themselves – is sent out to find the scion of House Deskata and bring him back from exile. Then we are slowly introduced to other small groups of adventurers, all with their own goals and plans, and all of which, eventually, end up in the fabled Sable City.
It is nearly impossible to try to outline any of the plot without providing spoilers, so let me give you a bit of a snippet of what Eddie says when he describes it: muskets, magic and Matilda. OK, so there aren’t a lot of muskets, and magic doesn’t wander around as much as in many stories, but it is there. A half-Lamia character is quite interesting, although my favorite characters were the succubus Uella and the devil lord Balan – as is my wont, I enjoy evil characters that have glee and joie de vivre in their evilness.
There is plenty of action and adventure, but also great world building and character development – this book has it all! I spent a good bit of time in the edge of my seat in anticipation and laughed out loud many times. I highly recommend this engaging adventure fantasy for anyone! Look for the sequel: “Death of a Kingdom,” which is available wherever find e-books are sold!
Death of a Kingdom
on Sep. 10, 2011
“Death of a Kingdom” is the 2nd book in the Norothian Cycle, following “The Sable City.” While not as lighthearted as its predecessor, there are plenty of moments that made me laugh out loud. There is much more action in this book, and the original adventuring band is split into two, as Nesha-tari travels back to her native country. The bulk of the book follows the trail of the larger set of adventurers, but there is a significant chunk in the middle addressing Nesha-tari’s adventurers, and the book ends with her as well.
This book mainly focuses on the larger band of adventurers, including the Duchess Claudja, as they travel to Chengdea in order to try to help that duchy come Under the Code of the Empire. Hughes, the King of Daul, in which Chengdea is located, is obviously not happy with this decision and as a result things become a bit... heated. We meet the Princess Allison, the sister to Albert, the Emperor Under the Code. She is quite a character and I think one of my favorites in the story so far.
Eddie seems to have found his own voice and stride in this novel – not to say that the previous book was derivative, but the influence of other fantasy stories was plain to see. “Death of a Kingdom” was more of an individual voice, and I think Eddie is an author to be on the look-out for, as he shows tremendous talent. Be in the lookout for the 3rd book in the series, “The Wind from Miilark.”
The Halloween Collection
on Sep. 11, 2011
“The Halloween Collection” contains 9 stories, all either set on Halloween or having an otherworldly flare to them. “Mind-Blower” has two youngsters up against demons. “The Village of Those Who Touch the Dead” - set in Eddie McNally’s Norothian Cycle world – has yakuza against a dreadful, murderous demon. My favorite, “Haunting of OR 13,” is about an intern who ends up facing OR 13 on Halloween. “To Taste of Shimmering Revenge” was another favorite – a vampire, who had been in a torpor for 400 years, finds himself in modern-day California and aghast at the modern perception of vampires. He must get his revenge. “Ralphie the Special Werewolf” has a sofa cushion fetish and must either find a real girl within 24 hours or be neutered. “Sunwalker’s Kiss” is hard to describe without spoiling it, but is a very good read. “Magickal Vendetta” is pretty much straight romance, by the formula, only with a witch and I didn’t much care for it, although it is well written. “The Rhyn Trilogy: Origins” gives the origin of Rhynn, who is to be found in Lizzy Ford’s other books.
Overall a great set of short stories in the paranormal genre, ranging from light-hearted and fun to horror. Recommended for this Halloween season, or anytime!
on Sep. 13, 2011
“Ascension” is an absolutely riveting novel - I sat and read it straight through, pausing only when absolutely necessary. It is almost impossible to explain the plot without spoiling it, but I will try. Kharma has been set up on a blind date by her roommate and best friend, Beth. When she meets Chance, there is an immediate spark and she ends up going home with him. The next morning, when she wakes up, the entire world has changed. And throughout the day, it continues to change, throwing her from one reality to another. Is she actually going to alternate realities – or has she finally gone insane, like her mother before her?
The beginning of this book is like some dreams I have had – it has the potential to have been confusing, Madden writes in such a way as to keep the reader right there with Kharma. While we’re not certain what’s happening on the one hand, on the other hand the writing style is clear and it is easy to follow. I loved this book and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story that will keep you guessing and on your toes. Great stuff!
The Four-Year-Old Guardian
on Sep. 13, 2011
“The Four-Year-Old Guardian” is book 1 of The Only Human on the Block series. In it, we’re introduced to Averton, OR – Monster Capital of the World – when Nick and his mother Michelle move there from Yakima. Nick is accustomed to being the new kid on the block, because they moved around a lot; however, Michelle has purchased a house in Averton and plans on them staying there for Nick to finish school. Nick quickly learns that the cool kids aren’t going to give him the time of day, but he also quickly becomes friends with his neighbor, Myles, a nerdy home-schooled kid, and Melody and Wendy. He discovers that the people who used to live in the house where he now lives had a daughter named Heather who died around five years prior. And then, one night, he meets Heather – well, Heather’s ghost – and finds out that he is the new Seeker, the one who has to find the new Guardian of the Orb, who is the one to protect the power of the Orb to keep the human world – Earthspace – and the demon world – Valos – separated. Heather tells him that the new Guardian will be activated on his fourth birthday. While fighting demons as best they can, Nick and his friends seek the new Guardian. Will they be able to find the Guardian in time?
This was another excellent book by S L Madden, a young-adult novel that is fast-paced, well-written and filled with unique and well-defined characters. I enjoyed getting to know each of them and look forward to learning more about them in the next book in the series, “Bravado/Dramatique.” Also watch for Madden’s new series, Unseen Things, book 1 “The Shadow Walker.” Judging by the quality of Madden’s books so far, it should be wonderful!
Symphony of Blood, A Hank Mondale Supernatural Case
on Sep. 16, 2011
Hank Mondale is your typical P.I. - down on his luck, constantly broke and desperately in need of a job. Therefore, he is delighted when Thomas Blake – a well-known billionaire – hires him. He’s not so delighted when he learns his task – Blake’s daughter, Mackenzie, is in danger; she is being hunted by a monster. And Blake wants Hank to kill the monster. Is there really a monster? Or are Blake and Mackenzie running some sort of scam to cover up their own nefarious deeds?
Fast-paced, well-written and with well-defined characters, “Symphony of Blood” kept me reading right straight through. An interesting mix of noir detective and horror, it should appeal to a broad cross-section of people – fans of both horror, mystery, detective and suspense books. Check this book out – it’s very entertaining!
on Oct. 07, 2011
Fred Underwood, a former English teacher and current delivery carrier, is fed up with the high price of gas. He believes the oil companies are price gouging and decides to take a stand. Together with his friend Zoe X. Quinn (that X is important – read the book and you’ll understand), he hatches a plot to not only get some attention to the problem with the oil companies, but to make a bit of money in the process. What he doesn’t expect is for the Big Oil companies to sit up and take notice …
Filled with intriguing characters, and an amusing subplot involving skateboarding gamers, “Spill” is a comic tour de farce that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys political satire, generally humorous story-lines, and great writing. Randy has outdone himself on this one – give it a read as soon as possible!
The 41st Sermon
on Oct. 07, 2011
Father Christopher Talley, an Episcopalian priest, spends a week each year at a resort in the Ozarks. This gives him a chance to escape the constraints of his life as a minister – to fish, to drink, and to spend some time with a woman other than his wife. He also writes his sermons for the coming year. This year, while at the resort, he runs across one of his parishioners, the lovely Molly, who says she is thinking of divorcing her husband and has come to the resort to think about things. That isn’t why she is there, of course – but she’s bored and decides to seduce her handsome pastor.
This was a strange story – Randy asked if I could assign a genre to it, but honestly, I can’t think of any genre it fits into neatly. There is a bit of mild erotica, there are definitely lots of different themes – finding yourself, redemption, finding faith, learning what life is all about – but none that relates itself to a specific genre other than general fiction. I really liked the book, though – it had a lot of good things to say, and I thought the story was one in which many people could find enjoyment, once they get past feeling shocked about some of the issues that come up. I warn that you need to be open-minded about the story, but if you are willing to do so, you should find something in here to love. Check it out!
on Oct. 09, 2011
The idea of Bob the serial killer, a man driven to extremes by circumstances – his abusive wife divorcing him and taking his four children away, his entire department being out-sourced and him losing his job after 22 years – who starts killing people was an interesting one, and I had hoped I would enjoy the story. While there were parts I liked OK, most of it was incoherent, rambling and redundant – the author is in desperate need of a copy and content editor, and critique group, to help him fix this mess. I started reading the sequel, “The Retreat,” and came across this sentence, which is a great example of the sort of sentences you can expect in these books: “Bob drove back and forth past his house a few times and slowly calmed down. But he was now furious and while he could quell his emotions, his mind had walked over to the dark side and functioning from there.” I have decided not to finish the sequel and unfortunately I am unable to recommend these books.
Shadowing: A Henchman's Tale
on Oct. 10, 2011
This short novel – the first book of The Moonblind Journey – consists of a henchman of the great Magna, long live the Magna, telling his story to a storyteller. In this world, when a true hero comes to try to destroy the Magna, all henchmen are supposed to die – but this one doesn’t, and he’s telling the tale explaining why that is.
Obviously I can’t tell much of the plot without spoiling the story, but I do want to say that I found this story immensely entertaining and I plan to continue by tracking down the next book, named “Gloaming,” which word basically means that time of day right after sunset when the dusk is settling. I’m interested to see where the story continues. Fans of hero quest fantasy should find this story entertaining.
The Old One
on Nov. 21, 2011
A small town in the Pacific Northwest, just 20 miles from the sea, has been cut off from the world by mudslides. David was just passing through, trying to find a town in which to settle and start a new life when he is stranded in Myrtle. While sitting in the roadhouse that first night, he is accosted by a strange, red-headed man who claims that David is “the one” – while questioning other townsfolk, David learns about a disturbing local legend – there is a monster in the woods, and there is a bell, and if that bell is rung, the monster will awaken and destroy the world … What David learns in that small town will change his life … forever…
This was a wonderfully perverse novella, a great little horror story. I’ve love to see more of Brabander’s work – he has a truly gifted sense of the macabre and horrific. If you enjoy good horror, you will adore “The Old One.” Check it out!
on Dec. 03, 2011
Strange + Delicious = Stranglicious - there's not much more you need to know - this is a great little anthology with some lovely, strange and wonderful entries. You should definitely check it out!
The Trees: A Collection
on Dec. 03, 2011
Todd Brabander has a great talent for creating a scene that starts out perfectly normal and natural, and ends up somewhere ... WAY beyond the rainbow. The stories in this anthology are no exception - they are all absolute gems that will haunt you and stick with you. The one that has stuck with me the most is "The Trees," the "title track" of this anthology, so to speak. This was a really creepy story. His stories usually have a great twist to them, too. So, if you like short stories, if you want something to read whilst on the bus or at work or just when you have a few minutes here and there, this book is definitely for you! Check it out!
The Saltness of Time
on Jan. 09, 2012
When four young college students get snowed in with a stranger in a small Kansas town, they hear from him a story about an event in his youth that has forever altered his life and his perceptions of the world.
Randy Attwood says this is his “Heart of Darkness,” a story he first started working on in his 20s. Like all of his stories, “The Saltness of Time” provides just enough information to give the idea behind the story structure, and to allow the reader to fill in the rest. Beautifully evocative, this is a story that you’ll want to savor and re-read. Check it out!
Starlight: Pact Arcanum: Book Four
on Feb. 20, 2012
I'll skip the plot outline, 'cause you can read it above. This is a great continuation of the Pact Arcanum - many of our favorites are here, as well as some new people to get to know and love. As always, Ahsanuddin's style is smooth and wonderfully detailed, and will appeal to a wide range of readers. This is NOT "Twilight for gay men"; this is one of the best new series to come out in years and if you still haven't experienced the Pact Arcanum, you don't know what you are missing!
on March 23, 2012
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Elizabeth Clansham retreats to a croft house in the Scottish Highlands to write a novel and avoid real life. Reluctant teacher and aspiring author, she finds that the part-time job she has taken to fund her idyllic existence impacts upon her life more than she'd anticipated; her students are determined to find her a love-match. Will it be Angus, gamekeeper and uncle of one of Elizabeth's pupils, or Andrew, Elizabeth's reclusive neighbour in the croft?
Andrew's solitary bachelor life is turned upside-down by the arrival of his former girlfriend, Laetitia – fleeing the city of Glasgow and her mounting debts, and seeking shelter with Andrew in the hills. Will their old flame be rekindled or will Lauren, Laetitia’s seven-year-old daughter, get her way and realise a father-figure in Angus?
Andrew maintains it’s the things you don’t do in life that you regret but is it ever too late for love to blossom?
My Thoughts: I should start out by saying I don’t like romance novels. What particularly drives me mad is when the romantic couples spend most of the books hating each other, or being jerky at random for no real reason. Therefore, I’m happy to say, that was not the case here. The only ones acting like adolescents were, actually, adolescents. There were actually several scenes at which I laughed out loud, particularly some of the random discussions Elizabeth Clansham’s night class would get into, as I remember starting a fair numbers of like discussions myself while in school. It also reminded me why I decided against being a teacher; I definitely would not have dealt with her classes with the patience that she showed. I rather like Angus - I guess I, like Laeticia, am a fool for a big, hairy man, and would probably especially like one who regularly supplied me with venison and steaks! *laugh* Andrew was a weird one - I couldn’t decide exactly how I felt about him, and I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to develop his character a bit more, but as it was, he remained rather an enigma.
Overall, not really my type of book, although I enjoyed it well enough, but folks who enjoy literary fiction and/or romantic fiction should enjoy it quite a lot.
Chronicles of the Varian Empire - The Left-handed Warrior
on April 01, 2012
Disclosure: I edited this book.
Synopsis: The struggle between Humans and Genn gets vicious.
Orphaned by Human bandits, adopted by Genn, seeking revenge and becoming a warrior under a not-so-accomodating Emperor. Especially if you refuse to serve him to side with the Genn.
Welcome to Silvery Earth. Water beings, winged people, shape-shifting dragons and elf-like beings mingle with humans throughout the history of this world.
My Thoughts: When I edited this, I had only just recently read my first book in the Silvery Earth series of books, Jessamine, and like in that case, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. While not super-long - it could be considered a long novella, or short novel - the book is long enough to provide plenty of character development and action. The action revolves around Kurt, a human who was rescued by a Genn family after his own family was murdered in an attack on their caravan. We first meet him when he's a young teen and follow his exploits as he becomes a powerful warrior, fighting with the Genn against the discrimination against their people. The world is well developed and interesting, and any fantasy fan will find it a satisfying read. Definitely check it out.
on April 06, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Thriller short Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a free eBook copy of this short story in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Harry's in more trouble than he knows, and he knows he's in a lot.
His freedom depends on covering his tracks, and uncovering the truth before the police do. One person holds all the pieces. Unfortunately Harry killed him last night.
Murder, manslaughter or self-defence? When Harry agreed to a light spot of arson, he didn't know what was really planned. Then the bomb went off. Now he's confessed to burglary, could be on the hook for murder and is desperately trying to dodge a terrorism charge. On his side, a bunch of crooks and the solicitor he's dubbed Ms. Pitbull. Against him are his former accomplices, the police, and the inspector who sent him down for ten years.
My Thoughts: I am seriously impressed at how much story this writer packed into so few pages. Fast-paced but detailed, providing background and character development, this was a great little action thriller that I can highly recommend to fans of the genre. I will note that the author consistently used “passed” when “past” was called for, but that was a minor annoyance in a majorly good story. I’ll be checking out additional books by this author to pick up in the future
on April 28, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Thriller Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a Smashwords coupon for a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Where would you draw the line between right and wrong?
When a wanted hacker from the 80's resurfaces with the means and intent to overthrow what he perceives to be a corrupt government, this question becomes of tantamount importance to the future of the country. Scott Carver is asked to make this decision when this hacker, going by the acronym "M.O.D." asks him to help plan a revolution.
Scott is a young FBI agent partnered with a 14-year veteran, the temperamental Sheelia Tanner. MOD hand-picks the two agents to toy with in their home town of Vero Beach, Florida, with the ultimate goal of recruiting them.
While eluding authorities for decades, MOD has pirated trillions of dollars in fund and equipment for his rebellion. He aims to topple the government in the name of the Constitution and its founding fathers, making several compelling arguments. Is he maniacal? ...
or is he right?
While Scott accepts the offer to join, Sheelia rejects it and vows to hunt her old partner down along with MOD. One of MOD's old adversaries, "MaStErMiNd," who is still serving time in federal prison for crimes for which he believes MOD set him up, approaches Sheelia with an offer to help. He thinks he can catch MOD, for a price: his freedom.
Sheelia, with the full support of the President, accepts the offer, kicking off a digital struggle over the fate of the country. Political and ethical lines are blurred, right and wrong are no longer black and white, only fuzzy shades of gray. The two sides debate and wrestle with these issues as they prepare for the showdown that will change history forever.
My Thoughts: I’ve had this book since last fall, but only just now had the chance to read it. I find the timing to be especially fortuitous with President Obama having recently signed an Executive Order that, essentially, allows U.S. troops to fire upon U.S. citizens without our own country, a dangerous step towards this government finally gaining full-fledged tyrannical status. I possibly have a slightly different perspective on this, having been raised by a patriot to believe that the way this country is being run is completely in opposition to the way it was originally set up, and not finding myself opposed to revolution to regain independence if that is what is necessary. I’m quite certain that the British considered the colonists to be dangerous terrorists in their time, yet they were simply trying to achieve the same aim as M.O.D. in this book – freedom from oppression and the chance to live in a country that is truly by the people and for the people.
I will admit that the M.O.D. base of operations seems to be rather Utopian – it may be that I am overly cynical, but I have a really hard time believing over 500,000 people are all living and working together in total harmony, with no one striving to one-up anyone else, and no one willing to become a reverse turn-coat and go back to the government with information. I imagine the money being poured into the thing helps – no matter how much people claim to want to stand for something, the truth is that if it is inconvenient or difficult, way too many people will turn back around and take “security” over freedom any day – that’s how this country has hit the lows it has managed to hit over the years, which have accelerated greatly since 9/11 and the institution of Homeland Security, who have been steadily encroaching on our rights for the past 10 ½ years now. I would like to believe there are enough people to be able to join together like this, but I did find it a little difficult to fully believe that aspect of the story. I was also surprised that the amazing advances that M.O.D. had made weren’t being used for financing rather than stealing money, or at least some of them. I can see where the technological advances would be kept to themselves, to keep themselves ahead of the game, but from the sound of it some of the medical advances could have been shared, at least.
I read a few negative reviews that frankly left me puzzled – one complained that there was too much technical jargon. There was very little technical jargon, and what there is, is necessary – for instance, conversations between hackers. Another complained that there were “only two FBI agents” involved in the manhunt, no one else, which is frankly ridiculous. All the FBI, the military, the NSA, Homeland Security – everyone in the government is involved in the search for M.O.D. I have to wonder if these reviewers even read the whole book, or if they just reviewed based upon the descriptions and an excerpt or two. I also believe there were some sour grapes involved for those who are overly fond of our current administration.
Having said all that, I also want to say THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME!! I spent a lot of this book literally sitting forward, tense, worried about what would happen, and spent the last 20 or so pages punching the air and yelling YES! I loved the new Constitution and law structure proposed by the M.O.D. that basically gets the government’s nose out of everyone’s business and lets people get on with their lives without having to worry if they are going to have institutionalized discrimination against them because they are a small-business owner, or GLBT, or a woman, or what have you. Again, some of the thoughts are rather idealistic, and I don’t know how realistic they would be, but I sure loved them and would definitely prefer to live in a country under that sort of government rather than the one we have now, which is bloated with its own power and importance, not the lean-and-mean government that the originators of this country envisioned. But I think I’ve gone on my soapbox enough in this review – I’ll just again say I loved this book and I can’t recommend it enough! You need to get this book and read it!
Lunatic Fringe (Tales of the Pack, Book 1)
on June 01, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Paranormal/Werewolf (Lesbian) Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a free eBook copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Werewolves are back. Lexie Clarion is nervous about college. She's plagued with beastly visions, local werewolf attacks are on the rise, and she really wants to kiss a girl. And classes haven't even started yet.
Things start looking up when she meets the Pack, a group of radical women who have their own methods for handling the werewolf menace. Fascinated by their politics, intimacy, and general bad-assery, Lexie's sure she wants to join them, until an accident brings a captivating stranger into her life: Archer, a rugged woman with heterochromatic eyes and a dark secret. The Pack will go to brutal lengths to win Lexie's favor, but they underestimate Archer's love. As Archer and the Pack battle for Lexie's allegiance, the waxing moon illuminates old hatreds, new enemies, and a secret from Lexie's childhood that will change her life forever. New author Allison Moon indulges the feminine wild by giving the classic werewolf myth a feminist lesbian twist.
My Thoughts: Reading this book made me long for those crazy, hazy days of college. I would have loved to have hooked up with a group like the Pack.
Talking technically, the book is quite well done – oh, there are some editing issues, as well as a huge section that is repeated, but overall it is well written. The characters are wonderful, each delineated carefully and given a unique voice. I really enjoyed the character interactions. The book has a lot of layers – a coming-of-age story, a story about growing up vs. growing old, gender inequality and gender dynamics – and it obviously took a great deal of skill to balance everything and avoid heavy-handedness, which the author did beautifully. For some reason I had expected this to be more light-hearted, which is definitely is not; but I was not disappointed in what I read. I highly recommend this for anyone who might find the topic of interest.
on June 22, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Flash Fiction Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I picked up a free copy from Smashwords after reading Hutchings very funny The New Death and Others; I am happy to provide an honest review.
Synopsis: Thirty mostly humorous stories, including science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance. Each story is less than 140 characters long (the length of a Twitter tweet).
My Thoughts: The baby had its mother's eyes. In return for obedience, it promised to give them back. Just an example of the sort of silliness you can expect from these über-short flash-fiction stories. A very bizarre little book, but one I guarantee will make you laugh – and you do like to laugh, don’t you??
on June 22, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Flash Fiction Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I picked up a free copy from Smashwords after reading Hutchings very funny The New Death and Others; I am happy to provide an honest review.
Synopsis: Thirty mostly humorous stories, including science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance. Each story is less than 140 characters long (the length of a Twitter tweet).
My Thoughts: The baby had its mother's eyes. In return for obedience, it promised to give them back. Just an example of the sort of silliness you can expect from these über-short flash-fiction stories. A very bizarre little book, but one I guarantee will make you laugh – and you do like to laugh, don’t you??
on July 30, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Literary Fiction Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a free ebook copy of this novel from the author through the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review. I later received an offer for it through NetGalley, which I accepted.
Synopsis: Down-and-out Atlanta writer Charlie Sherman has no idea what madness awaits him when a mysterious stranger convinces him to finish a dead man's book about a horrific crime that's gone unpunished for decades. What Charlie inherits is an unwieldy manuscript about the mob-driven expulsion of more than 1,000 blacks from Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912. During the course of his work, Charlie uncovers a terrible secret involving a Forsyth County land grab. Due to its proximity to Atlanta, the stolen farm is now worth $20 million-and a sale is pending. When he finds the land's rightful owner, Charlie becomes convinced he's been chosen by a Higher Power to wreak justice and vengeance on those who profit from evil. And then things go horribly wrong.
Historical Background: Forsyth County, famous as the birthplace of Hee-Haw's Junior Samples, has existed as an intentionally all-white community bordering the black Mecca of Atlanta since 1912, following one of the 20th century's most violent, racist outrages – including lynching, nightriding, and arson. In 1987, the sleepy community gained notoriety when a small march, led by civil rights firebrand Hosea Williams, was broken up by rock- and bottle-throwing Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and their sympathizers. Bloody but unbowed, Williams returned the next week with 25,000 followers in one of largest civil-rights marches in history. There was talk of reparations. Oprah came. Protests and counter-protests yielded a landmark Supreme Court case on free speech. But most importantly, white people flocked to Forsyth. It became the fastest- growing county in the nation, the richest one in Georgia, and one of the twenty wealthiest in the U.S.
My Thoughts: I was particularly interested in reading this book since all this happened to close to where I live (within about an hour’s drive if the traffic cooperates). While it took place well before I ever arrived on the scene, the attitude of the people around here is very similar, I’m guessing.
I was surprised by the amount of humor put into this book. While it is focused on issues of discrimination and the consequences thereof, as well as the various travails through which Charlie Sherman must pass, it also pokes sly fun at both the conservative and liberal ideals, in a way. Charlie’s thoughts, for instance, about how jumping off a highway overpass is the most “socially irresponsible” way to commit suicide made me laugh. Other comments that amused me included “courthouse arson is a proud Forsyth county tradition,” and one about home ownership being a sure sign of uppitiness in the eyes of the racist members of the community. Then, as a result of all non-whites being driven out of Forsyth County in 1912, it is stated: By 1913, the true nature and scope of Forsyth’s tragedy had become brutally clear. White women, some of them from the finest families, were forced to do their own cooking and cleaning. Bet they never thought about that result! But seriously, the one thing that Grant does not poke fun at is the deadly serious nature of the brutal racism that swept through this area at that time. The descriptions and explanations are sometimes quite brutal, and those with a sensitive nature might want to think strongly about this before they read this book, but enough humor is interspersed into it to keep it bearable.
One thing that confused me is a comment about the trip between Gainseville and Atlanta being 53 miles of mountain roads... there is no mountain between Gainseville and Atlanta, so I’m not sure how there could be mountain roads. Perhaps the author meant country roads. Today, the trip between Gainesville and Atlanta is a fairly straight shot, but I can see where the roads probably were windy before the highway currently there was built. Another thing that made me do some research is the mention of “frantic telephone calls” amongst several people in 1912; I can’t find any evidence to back up my suspicion, but I don’t think telephones were very widespread yet in 1912, so I’m not sure how realistic this situation is.
One of my favorite things about this book is the characters. Grant perfectly caught the complexity of the people of Georgia. Georgia has a really crazy-quilt population – you have the back-country, small-town folks who tend to be very suspicious of outsiders, and old-school racist, having not been taught any differently; and then you have the big city folks, in Atlanta and Athens, especially, that are very liberal. These groups often clash, as can be expected, carrying on such acrimoniously different opinions about how things should be. Always being the sort to get into the middle of things, I think there are good points and bad points to both sides of the argument, and that Truth lies somewhere in the middle. Grant obviously has spent a great deal of time researching the people of this great state, and I feel he did a really good job of bringing it all the life. The characters are all wonderfully developed, unique, and grow (most of them) through the course of the book.
All-in-all, I can highly recommend this excellent story. The book is very long, with multiple points that feel like a denouement, but bear with it – the ending is well worth the trip and literally gave me goosebumps. A very satisfying story, a superbly gratifying read, and one you really don’t want to miss.
Chain Gang Elementary
on Aug. 01, 2012
This review can also be seen on my blog, Now is Gone.
Book Info: Genre: Satiric Literary Fiction Reading Level: Adult
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this eBook from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: "In the first place, God created idiots. This was for practice. Then he created School Boards." – Mark Twain
After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a "school of excellence." When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, 3rd-grade gangsters, and bake-sale embezzlers – where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict. A tale of war that is poignant, timely, and brutally funny, "Chain Gang Elementary" is a "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" for the K-6 world.
First Sentence: In the twelfth year of his marriage, sixteen months before the shooting, twenty-one shopping days until Christmas, and eight hours before he reckoned for the tenth time that his wife didn't love him, Richard Gray met a woman who would have roughly the same effect on his life a tornado has on a trailer park.
My Thoughts: Mr. Grant offered this book to me in addition to his excellent "Brambleman", which I reviewed just a couple days ago. Since I like to read more than one book by an author, if possible, to be able to understand the full range of his or her skills, I was happy to oblige.
I found it interesting that Grant has the same basic family structure in this story – a stay-at-home father who is a writer, a mother who works long hours and shows her “devotion” to her husband in high levels of snarkiness, close father-son relationship, etc. However, I have no idea what state this is set in – the father of the piece is originally from Missouri, same as "Brambleman", but I have no basis for their location, other than it is not Missouri, but is farther south. For some reason that bothered me; I guess it doesn’t really matter, though.
I’ll tell you one thing; this book has made me very happy I do not have any children so I don’t have to deal with any of this type of nonsense. I’d probably be just like Ricky in this case – boiling mad pretty much constantly if I had to deal with the modern-day bureaucratic mess that has been made of our public schools (they were bad enough back in the day when I was attending). I have no idea if the small-town school I attended at a PTA (or PTO, like this one, for that matter), because my parents worked together to run a ranch, and since I rarely caused any sort of trouble (except for occasionally correcting teachers when they would give information incorrectly – which didn’t exactly endear me to most of them), most of the interaction with my parents was fairly cordial, but I can really see my dad acting like Ricky in these sorts of situations – only much more violent, of course. To watch the train wreck in progress by reading the book was bad enough; imaging myself in any of the roles was enough to raise my own blood pressure! At any rate, I have incredible sympathy for the good teachers left to try to slog their way through this stuff, and it has only raised my own respect for the terrific teachers I had when I was in grade school – well, mostly. Like all people, I had a few duds, but I will be eternally grateful to them for doing their best to keep us focused and challenged. Especially Mrs. Johannes, our third-grade teacher, who had us again in fifth grade and basically had to start over when our fourth-grade teacher wasn’t able to handle us (there were a high number of very intelligent kids in my class), and dear Mr. Capp (now deceased), who had my class in sixth grade, straight out of college, and whom we about drove mad. My hat’s off to anyone willing to do this, and dedicate themselves to the task, like the undervalued Mrs. Little in this story.
I’m not sure why, but the last 100 pages of this book really dragged for me, which is ironic considering how much happens during that section. It’s very fast-paced, but it didn’t hold my interest. I really cannot evaluate why – it’s written well enough, with only a few misused, missing or extra words, there’s no lag with the characters and, in fact, we learn a lot during this section, but I had to really push myself to finish the book. Maybe it is just because I don’t have children and part of the tension here is over issues of having children, so I just didn’t connect with it. At any rate, don’t let that stop you from checking this book out, especially if you have younger children. The characters are done well, the writing is smooth and flows along nicely, and the plotting is excellent, with lots of twists and turns and surprises – especially at the end.
The Toy Sorcerer
on Aug. 07, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy/Wiccan-based Reading Level: This one is difficult to define, and if younger readers are interested, they should know they will need a dictionary nearby and that there is some profanity and obscenity and quite a lot of violence. I would say readers as young as 12 might enjoy it if these things are understood, yet adults will also find a lot to enjoy.
Disclosure: I received a free ebook copy (via Smashwords) through the LibraryThing Members Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Trapped as a mortal in a dimension where human dreams become reality, Alice Towers endures a journey of unmerciful persecution and excruciating self-discovery. Guided by an extraordinary realm creature named Shammerwack, she must find Magog; a boy imprisoned for over three centuries who holds the key to her release.
Unaware that her incarceration heralds the dawn of the Final Prophecy; Armageddon, Alice is pursued by an ancient being that plagues humanity with relentless nightmares, until the world hovers on the brink of insanity and self-annihilation.
Alice’s only earthbound ally, Leona, is also an antediluvian soul who has lived and reincarnated as a human for thousands of years. As one of the Ancient Coven and practitioner of the old knowledge, Leona summons shadows to protect Alice’s slumbering body and Magog’s timeworn effigy. But Leona’s maleficent sister, Lillian, another of the ancients, is equally as determined to capture Alice; the vessel by which the Demon Lord of the Realms intends to escape the confines of his nebulous world.
A bloody battle ensues on Earth as Lillian’s underworld demons and Leona’s defensive forces tear lives apart, whilst an increasingly insane world creeps inexorably closer to the Final Prophecy.
My Thoughts: This is book one in The Ancient Knowledge trilogy, and is written as a tribute to Alice in Wonderland. The second book is to be called The Final Prophecy; I can’t find anything for sure, but it sounds like it might be coming out this fall or winter. I should mention here that I have never read Alice in Wonderland, although the memes are well known, so I cannot really comment on parallels between the stories. However, it does not follow the same storyline and it is not as nonsensical/silly as the book to which it pays tribute, so do not go into this book expecting an homage – it is merely a tribute.
I should point out that this book uses a lot of words for which the average person will require a dictionary. I have a large vocabulary, built up over almost four decades of obsessive reading, but even I had to look up a number of the words. I know there are likely people for whom this will be a problem, but I would actively encourage readers to just keep a dictionary (preferably unabridged) handy – expanding your vocabulary is important, and reading is one of the finest ways to do so.
I was most impressed with the positive treatment of Wicca, in a very realistic sense. I don’t mean that most Wiccans can actually do the sorts of magic that Leona does, but I mean realistic in the sense that is correctly expands upon the beliefs in the circle of life and balance that is the standard structure of the Wiccan ideology. The book also makes clear that power and magic are neither good nor evil – they simply are. The only law in Wiccan is given: Do as thou wilt an it harm none.
I was surprised at one point by the mention of a Funnel web spider being aggressive, and linked to a Black Widow; the reason being that Funnel Weavers (which I assume are the same thing) are ubiquitous here. We have a large number living here in the duplex, and I have never thought them to be particularly aggressive – large, yes, they can become quite large! I saw one that I thought was a tarantula at first glance. But they don’t seem any more aggressive than any other house spider, and I’ve never – to my knowledge – been bitten by one. They’re quite beneficial, actually, which is why I encourage them in the house.
Many reviewers have stated that this is an epic fantasy, and I agree with that. My Nook version is over 400 pages, and the story is intricate but easily followed. While I enjoyed the story, it did not absorb me like a story I truly love does, so I have rated it at 4 stars. The editing is good – there are some errors, but they are not rife, and with the high-level vocabulary used, it could not have been easy to edit. I know that many fans of fantasy will enjoy this book.
on Aug. 15, 2012
Full review with links here: http://katysozaeva.blogspot.com/2012/08/book-review-bravadodramatique-by-sl.html
Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult
Disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review of this book.
Synopsis: The play’s the thing....
Between training, fighting demons and studying for school, Nick has more than enough to worry about. So how did he end up starring in the school play opposite Reva and Wendy, the two girls he can’t decide between?
Reva’s beautiful and popular and has a crush on him, but she wants to keep it a secret. Wendy’s a good friend, but she’s too wrapped up in thinking her father’s new care provider is a witch to notice Nick slipping away from her.
It’s enough to distract him from what’s important, like the demons who crave the Orb’s power. Then there’s Cal Phibbs, the school outcast, who’s been heard having conversations with himself. It’s almost as if he’s talking to someone — or something — no one else can see...
My Thoughts: This is book two in Only Human on the Block. I read and reviewed the first book in the series, The Four-Year-Old Guardian, in September, 2011, and that review can be seen here.
Since it has been so long, I was tempted to re-read the first book before starting on this one, but decided I need to get moving through some of these older books, so just had to hope my memory would come through for a change. As it turned out, I fell back into the plot fairly easily. Being able to see how these characters are growing and changing is a real treat, and having the play be such an essential part of this story was a rare treat, as I was in drama throughout grammar, middle and high school, and well into University. I’ve always loved performing in front of a crowd, to the point where karaoke is one of my favorite things to do, if I can find a place where I enjoy hanging out.
I particularly liked Cal Phibbs – to tell the truth, he is exactly the sort of person I would have hung out with in school, if anyone in my little town had the guts to be a Goth. My parents would have blown a gasket, but I’ve always favored the outcasts and the misfits – being one myself – so I really related to Cal. I’m very concerned about Myles – when you read the book you will know why. He’s a sweet boy, and I’m terribly afraid something horrible is going to happen to him. We will see.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of editing errors in my copy. I enjoyed the story, obviously, but the constant parade of extra words, missing words, wrong words, incorrect tenses, wrong forms, redundancies, etc. really started to wear on me – there was something on pretty much every page. Like this sentence, for instance: “He his him in his lap.” What was meant was “He hid his hand in his lap.” Despite that, I quite liked the book; if the story had been any less, I would have taken off a star for the editing, but the story was so fun and engaging that I will leave it at five stars.
This is to be a five-book series; the next book, Together Alone should be out soon, and I will definitely be watching for it. If you enjoy young adult urban fantasies, you should definitely enjoy the Only Human on the Block series, set in Averton, OR – the monster capital of the world. I’ll be reading another book by Madden next – from a separate series – so watch for my review, coming soon!
The Shadow Walker
on Aug. 16, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Paranormal Reading Level: Young Adult
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Thomas Hurd has always felt more comfortable watching people from a distance than interacting with them up close. But his tendencies to watch others reveals to him a creature he was never meant to see, and unleashes a horror onto his small town that threatens to consume the world. Contains mild language and violence.
My Thoughts: This is Book One of the Unseen Things trilogy. I originally received this over a year ago, but I should point out that I was notified by the author that a new version was posted and downloaded the most recent version just over a week ago.
Thomas Hurd is an interesting character; I suspect he is meant to be either mildly autistic or has Asperger’s, based upon his discomfort dealing with people and his inability to figure out how to talk to Madison (or when he does, he comes up with some ridiculously bad things to say, poor guy). I really like him, though, and I liked how deeply we got into his head; yet he remains an enigma. It’s fascinating.
This book is really quite dark, and it is a self-contained story, with just hints of where else Madden might take the rest of the trilogy. The editing is much better than Bravado/Dramatique, although there are still a few errors left. The story flows smoothly, and the characters are well-created and written. I really enjoyed this book and I think most fans of darker urban fantasy will as well.
The other two books in the trilogy, The Shadow Within and World of Shadows, are planned for a near simultaneous release later this year, or early in 2013. I, for one, will be anxiously waiting on them, as I can’t wait to see where things will go from here. Highly recommended.
Cathedral of the Sky: Pact Arcanum 1.5
on Sep. 08, 2012
Ever since first reading the little bit of information about Michael Danvers in the earlier Pact Arcanum novel, I've been fascinated with his character and wanted to know more, which was why I was extremely psyched with Arshad Ahsanuddin started writing this novella. It gives us a deeper look at Michael's character, how he became a pilot and member of the Spacer Guild at such a young age, and generally provides a deeper look at the Spacer Guild in general. Fans of the Pact Arcanum, you don't want to miss this latest in this wonderful series! Highly recommended!
Land of Hope
on Sep. 29, 2012
I will make this review "official" on my blog, Now is Gone, on Oct. 7 during the blog tour. That review will include illustrations, formatting and links, so remember to come by and check it out.
Book Info: Genre: Thriller/Suspense with some romance
Reading Level: Adult (some erotic scenes)
Book Available October, 2012 in ebook from multiple distributors
Recommended for: Those interested in thrillers, especially with topics based on real-world issues, like human trafficking and slavery
Read: 8/20 - 8/29/12 and 9/21 - 24/12
Disclosure: I edited this book for this author; I do not receive any financial renumeration based upon sales. I am happy to provide an honest review.
Synopsis: Every year, millions of illegal immigrants cross borders in search of wealth, happiness and a life of ease in the Land of Hope. Some succeed. Others suffer unimaginable hardships.
When Jack Gordon, Inspector in the SCS (Serious Crime Squad) hires Pearl Zhang, a professional Chinese interpreter, they join forces to fight injustice in the corrupt underworld of international crime, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Pearl is the voice of broken dreams, translating raw, deranged, and colorful tales of those who cannot speak for themselves. As Pearl gets more and more tangled in the lives of strangers, Jack becomes a welcome diversion, complicated by the fact that both are married. Their trans-continental roller-coaster ride derails when Pearl tumbles into the sinister world of her clients, a world full of secrets, lies, and unspeakable violence – only this time, it's directed at her.
Can she depend on Jack? Find out in this third and final book of Junying Kirk's "Journey to the West" trilogy.
My Thoughts: Unlike the two earlier books in the Journey to the West series, this one is not semi-autobiographical (or at least I hope not!). While I would not be in the least bit surprised to discover that Ms. Kirk has based some of the immigrants’ stories upon things she had actually witnessed during her career as an interpreter, the plot itself comes strictly from her vivid imagination. There are scenes in here that I am going to give warning about – **if scenes of rape and violence against women are a trigger for you, be warned**: there are several in this book. This book deals with the very serious issues of human trafficking and sex-slavery, which is a world that many desperate female immigrants end up trapped in.
I won’t lie to you, this was a very difficult story for me to read. There were sections I really had to struggle to push though, especially the first time – the story is brutal, realistic, and not for the faint of heart. That said, I think it’s also important that we become aware of this issue – or more aware, if it is something we think we know about. Seeing the struggles of the people that Ms. Kirk has put into this book... it’s just heartbreaking. They put everything they own and then some into their hopes and dreams for a better life, and where does it get them? Like as not, it gets them trapped in an even worse situation.
To fully understand the characters of Pearl and Andrew, it’s best to read all three books in the trilogy, but it’s not necessary to understand what happens in this book, which can be read as a standalone – enough information from the previous books is included to give you some idea as to what has happened. Other characters are given the spotlight in this book, especially some of the immigrants whose stories are told through the course of the book.
The reader has to be aware that interspersed with the main plot are the stories of the various people with whom Pearl interacts during the course of the stories, and whose lives are affected in the end by the main plot. These chapters alternate with the main story, so the reader needs to watch the chapter titles carefully to keep track as to whether they are reading the main story, or part of one of the other characters’ stories. As long as the reader is aware of this, they can easily keep track of what is happening.
This is a book I had a difficult time rating, honestly. I always have trouble rating the books I edit, because I see them in the “raw” form and not the final form. My final rating is based upon the fact that the story itself was very difficult for me to read, but it is a topic I think is important and a book I think people should read.
If you have enjoyed the previous books in the Journey to the West – which are "The Same Moon" and "Trials of Life" – then you will not want to miss this final book in the trilogy. If you enjoy suspense or thrillers based upon real-world issues, you won’t want to miss this book. If you are interested in the problems faced by immigrants, or by those trapped by human trafficking and sex slavery, don’t miss this book. Recommended.
The Tale of Liril
on Nov. 11, 2012
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale
Reading Level: Middle Grade (11 +)
Recommended for: Younger readers, those who enjoy morality tales.
Disclosure: I found this ebook available for free on Smashwords and picked it up because I like this author’s writing. I’m under no obligation. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: In a small village lives a girl with her mother and father. Anxious to buy her father a birthday gift, she goes to market. There she meets a strange old woman who promises to give her a magical reward if she goes into a dangerous forest to find her missing locket. Will Liril help the old woman? What adventures wait in store for her if she does? A girl. A dream. A gift. A magical fairy tale of a young girl who finds out that you should always be careful of what you wish for. You just might get it!
My Thoughts: A cute little fairy tale, with lessons to be learned concerning honesty, and to be careful what you wish for. While I would have liked more details – there were times when long periods would be described only briefly and a more-detailed description would have perhaps worked better – I think this is a great example of the art of a fairy tale/fable. Hendrickson has written some very different pieces and seems to be a talented writer. This is a good introduction to his style.
Three Names of the Hidden God
on Jan. 15, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: anyone who enjoyed Dreams of the Compass Rose or enjoys beautiful stories
Trigger Warnings: Patricide
Disclosure: I picked this up on Smashwords, where it happened to be free, because I enjoyed the novel Dreams of the Compass Rose, in which universe this story is set. No review was requested. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: What occult mysteries tie together a magical disappearing lake, a courageous young birdcatcher, a hidden god, and the savage politics of an ancient kingdom?
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Dreams of the Compass Rose (review here where formatting allowed), so when I discovered this short story was set in that universe, I just had to read it.
URL link: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
This story fit perfectly into that universe. There is nothing I can really tell you about the story without ruining, but I loved it. It was a brilliant, beautiful and bright jewel of a story. I am absolutely resolved to pick up any Vera Nazarian books and stories I do not already have, so watch for another Vera Nazarian marathon to come at another time.
The Wizard Takes a Holiday
on Jan. 27, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Short, humorous fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: anyone who likes wizards and enjoys a laugh
Disclosure: I picked this book up for myself when it was on free promotion on Smashwords. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: A much-loved wizard takes a vacation to rural, fantastical Indiana, where he finds getting away from his work is harder than he thinks.
My Thoughts: Oh, so fun! There really is nothing I can tell you about the plot without spoiling it, as it is very short, but the book also contains information about her other books, a Troll or Derby preview, and the first 4 ½ chapters of This Brilliant Darkness. Plus it is free! Come on, you can’t go wrong—pick it up, check it out!
The Wizard Takes the Cake (Wizard Tales #3)
on Jan. 27, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Short, humorous fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those who enjoy tales of wizards, those who like to laugh.
Disclosure: I purchased this book for myself because it sounded fun. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: The Wizard is back, and this time he's taking us to a wedding. Do you have what it takes to be a wizard's +1?
My Thoughts: What does the song “Funky Cold Medina” have to do with demons? Read this book to find out.
This one is a bit more serious. We are provided the backstory for Nemesis, and the demon, and Monte Carlo, and a tragic tale it is. I was impressed by Tash’s ability to make me laugh right in the middle of all the angst, and I loved the ending.
I haven’t paid much attention to the few typos I found in this series, but this one had a misuse so hilarious I just have to bring it up. After describing the smell of food coming in through an open window, the wizard describes himself as “ravished.” Ummmmm... I really don’t think this is what the author meant. By the context, I would guess she meant “famished” or “ravenous.”
These stories are a lot of fun, and I’ll be watching for new ones. If you like tales of wizards, and to laugh, then definitely check the Wizard Tales out.
101 Tips for Traveling with a Vampire
on Jan. 28, 2013
I don't remember how, when, or why I downloaded this hilarious book. I have a copy for both my Nook and my Kindle, so I suppose it was free on Smashwords and Amazon, which it still currently is. All I know is I laughed my head off all the way through it. If you like vampires, enjoy urban fantasy stories featuring vampires and/or have read any of Joleene Naylor's boks, you will want to grab a copy of this, if you haven't already.
on March 03, 2013
Please note: This is a short sci-fi story set in the same universe as The Dreamer Genome. I picked it up free from Smashwords
My Thoughts: Very interesting story. I'm immersing myself in this author's universe because I'll be editing a book set by this author next week. In the meantime, I'll be reading his stories to gain a feel for his style and the ideas behind the story.
I enjoyed this. He has created a really interesting world here. The remnants of humanity linger on the moon, genetically altered for maximum survival with minimum resources... and they create all new children in a lab by mixing various genetic donations. Then they find ... a previously unfound artifact, and perhaps all their assumptions are wrong. It was really interesting, and I recommend it. The author offers it free on Smashwords as an introduction to his work, so go check it out.
Synopsis: The human race did its best to annihilate itself and certainly went out with a bang. Hundreds of nuclear devices and biological viruses have transformed the earth into a no man’s land. For the isolated moon survivors, biodiversity takes on a whole new meaning.
The story was originally published in the June edition (2012) of eFiction. It is offered as a marketing freebie.
on March 03, 2013
Please note: I picked this novella up on Smashwords for free. All opinions are my own.
My Thoughts: This is a really interesting and twisty little sci-fi/suspense tale, with lots of ideas popping around. It mostly has to do with dedication vs. greed. I really enjoyed it.
Synopsis: Space mining is big business and corporations compete fiercely to exploit our solar system’s rich minerals. Spacial Alloy, a dominant firm on world markets, ruthlessly leads the pack on all fronts: exploration, exploitation, and production. Unfortunately, in space, incriminating evidence can drift around for a long, long time.
The Dreamer Genome
on March 05, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Speculative Fiction
Reading Level: Older Young Adult (17+)
Recommended for: Fans of science fiction, speculative fiction
Trigger Warnings: drug use and abuse, general violence, bullying, murder, infanticide
Animal Abuse: dog murder
My Thoughts: A very interesting idea, this novel is highly complex, with multiple strands interweaving across decades to deliver a story about various people, and have they are affected by the development of the Dreamer device. From the children whose DNA is modified to make them more able to tolerate the hibernation, to the people who raise them, to the people affected by the actions of the greedy head of STAM, this is a very delicate balancing act. And it is mostly pulled off very well.
I did notice a mixup in the timeline between the 40 and 50 percent area in the book. I was keeping track of the age of the kids, and therefore the year, and noticed that the time slipped back a year, while the action keep proceeding forward in time. Oops! I don't think a casual reader would notice it, unless they were doing the same thing I was, but it's there. I noticed a number of misused words, or questionable word choices, and some typos, but overall it wasn't as bad as some others I've seen.
I will admit, however, that I was quite enthralled with the story. I tend to appreciate more character-driven stories, and this one perfectly blended that character development that I crave with enough action to keep the plot moving. Fans of science fiction and speculative fiction should enjoy this story. The sequel should be out later this year. I'm scheduled to edit it next week, thus the timing of my mini-marathon of Steve Grant's available books. If this sounds like the sort of book you'd like, definitely check it out.
Other Books by this Author: I recently read the two novellas Original Strand (review linked here where formatting allowed) and Mining Games (review linked here where formatting allowed), which are set in this universe well into the future. Grant recommends reading those novellas first before reading this full-length novel.
Disclosure: I received a coupon for a free Smashwords copy from the author in exchange for an honest review (and to prepare for editing the sequel novel). All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: In 2020, a passionate scientist conducts secret genetic manipulations to give human fetuses the ability to survive long periods of hibernation. He is supported by a pharmaceutical tycoon who believes in his genius and realizes the implications of his work: Cryogenics... to prolong life… a one-way time machine to the future… unlimited financial potential to the company who develops and markets such a long coveted dream.
When the clandestine lab is voluntarily destroyed to avoid discovery, test subjects are scattered and raised in extremely different conditions. Unfortunately for them, their corporate parent is expecting a high return on its initial investment. Greed and personal ambition eventually overthrow the last remaining shreds of common decency and the experiment spirals down a dark path.
The Seams Between The Stars
on April 03, 2013
I found this short story free on-line at this site, where you can download it in PDF or from Smashwords. This is a prequel short story in the Bel Dame Apocrypha, which I am going to read as soon as I've read the two free short stories available on-line.
This is a desolate science fiction story. I imagine a lot of the themes will make more sense to me once I've read the first full book, God's War. The writing is gorgeous. If you like sci-fi and enjoy a sort of desolate, war-torn universe, check out this series by reading these free shorts.
on April 03, 2013
I picked up a free copy of this short story from the author's website, where you can download it in PDF or from Smashwords.
This short story tells us more about Nasheen, the world from which the boys in The Seams Between Stars had come and were trying to return. It is apparently an Islamic, matriarchal culture, which is an absolutely fascinating idea to me, since Islam is such a strongly patriarchal system, and in most areas women are subjugated under Islamic rule (or so it seems looking in from the outside), so to think of a world where the women are in control, and the women are what matter, that is at the same time Islamic just fascinated me. I'm really excited about starting God's War now, so watch for that review in the next day or so. I'll try to read the three available novels before the end of the weekend.
on June 27, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Science Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, those interested in learning more about the author
Trigger Warnings: stealing
My Thoughts: A fun prequel to the K'Barthan trilogy by M T McGuire, this short story tells how The Pan met Big Merv... and showcases his (lack of) pickpocketing skills. A must-read for fans of the series!
Series Information: Unlucky Dip is the prequel to the K'Barthan Trilogy
Book 1: Few are Chosen, review linked here where formatting allowed.
Book 2: The Wrong Stuff
Book 3: One Man, No Plan tentatively scheduled for Christmas 2013
Disclosure: I received a copy of this e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: The Pan of Hamgee, starving outlaw, bumps into Big Merv; the meanest, scariest gangster in the City and without thinking what he is doing, steals his wallet. When Big Merv realises what has happened our hero's future looks short. Will he talk his way out of it or will he be 'recycled' into a stanchion of the Outer Ring Road extension.
Yonni Hale and the Cosmic Wind
on Aug. 27, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Middle Grade, or Young Adult, or Adult—see comments
Book Available: Please note: this book is only available at Smashwords to my knowledge, linked here where formatting allowed. To view links and other formatting, please visit my blog, Now is Gone.
Trigger Warnings: bullying, murder, attempted assault, hints of sexual slavery and rape, attempts to destroy a neighborhood for profit, maybe kidnapping
My Thoughts: I've had this book sitting waiting for a review for about a year and a half. To my intense amazement, when I went looking, I saw that no one else had it on their shelves on Goodreads, it didn't even exist on Shelfari or Amazon, no one had reviewed it on Smashwords (which is the only site on which it is available to buy as far as I can tell) and there are only four short reviews on LibraryThing, which is where I originally won a copy! This astonishes me, as I've never seen something like this before. It's really a pity, because it's a quite decent story featuring an almost-eleven-year-old girl with a vivid imagination.
There are a few formatting problems early on, in the several pages of quotes from other books about the wind that begin the book, where the font changes size and is almost too small to read a times, but once I was into the actual book that ended, and it's easy enough to change the font size on my Nook to see the smaller areas, so all it did was slow me down a little.
I will say that while this is a decent story, a good content and line editing would really make it shine. There aren't a lot of spelling or grammar errors (a few, like “heal” for “heel” are fairly endemic, though), but it could still use some cleaning up. For instance, at one point Yonni talks to one of her friends, and walks away. Rather than remaining in Yonni's head, like we have all the way so far, suddenly we're in her friend's head for a paragraph. There are also a lot of tense shifts from present to past to a couple future tenses that will probably drive some readers nuts. Also, it is repeatedly said throughout the book that Yonni is 10, but also that she is in 6th grade, which is not possible unless she was skipped ahead a year. Otherwise the law requires that a child be at least 11 before they are in the 6th grade, or have their 11th birthday within a certain period of time after starting 6th grade.
While it seems I have a lot of criticisms, I really did love this story and this book. There is mention of a sequel, called Yonnie Hale and the South Wind, but I do not know if this sequel actually exists. If it does, I would love to read it. However, I would strongly encourage the author to have this book further edited. What is a very enjoyable and fun read could be something truly amazing with just a little more polishing. There was a chapter toward the back where I literally cheered aloud, and then two of my favorite series were mentioned: Harry Potter and the Dark is Rising, which also feature (at least initially) 10-year-old going on 11 characters.
The reading level on this one is a little hard to assign. The main bulk of the story is about Yonnie Hale, who is 10 through most of the book, which would be middle grade (MG). However, a lot of the issues deal with reaching maturity and taking control of your own destiny, so that leads me to think that it might be better for Young Adult (YA) readers. But then there are the chapters with the mayor, in which we receive an in depth look at a truly despicable character doing truly despicable things, some of which are very adult in nature. So that leaves me thinking this is a very adult book in many ways. I would recommend that any consideration for younger readers be filtered through their maturity level. While I might have had trouble with this one when I was 10 myself, I think by 12 I would have been fine with it, while other people I know might not have been able to really understand some of the themes until they were much older.
A lot of the magical ideas in this are particularly interesting. I love how the author has worked in so many different cultures. If only it were better edited I would be willing to recommend this wholesale to almost anyone, but as it is, too many people I know would not be able to see past some of the issues and just enjoy this wonderful, excellent story. It's been a year and a half since I received this book and in this time not a single person has reviewed it on Goodreads or Smashwords, and only four on LibraryThing. I had to physically add it to Shelfari myself. In some ways this is very good, as that means there has not been any negative attention put on it yet. I would recommend that the author take the time to have this gone over professionally and then re-release it on a wider market. I truly this that with just a little more work this could be a major hit among the crowd that has been missing Harry Potter. I hope the author will see this review and take this advice to heart, and also take the same steps to polish the next book in this series. This has already been an extraordinarily long review, but it's an extraordinary book, and I can only hope that my passion for it will help in some small way to reach a larger audience. Meanwhile, if you're interested, go to Smashwords, grab your own copy, look past the few problems and see the bigger picture, because I think this one is a real winner. I can't give it the full 5 stars, no matter how much I want to, because of the flaws, but I am willing to give it 4 just on its overall merits. Check it out. It's truly magical.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through the LibraryThing Members' Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: She was warned. She tried to avoid it. But Yonni Hale had to learn that life is not safe, not even in her small Kansas hometown of Pratt. After having a vision, strange horse-women begin haunting her dreams, calling her to obey the will of the Cosmic Wind. Balancing good and evil, the Cosmic Wind recruits Yonni to stand against greedy men who desire nothing but power and money, no matter who they harm in the process. When her friends' homes are in danger because of the greedy mayor's real estate scam, Yonni must use her abilities to control the wind to help her friends save their homes. In the process, though, she exposes her family to danger, and must decide what is more important: justice or her family.
on Oct. 12, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Pseudo-historical Fantasy
Reading Level: Upper Young Adult
Recommended for: those interested in Persephone/Demeter mythology, alternate history, well-told fantasy stories
Trigger Warnings: murder, suicide, war
My Thoughts: This is the continuation of the Cobweb Bride trilogy, the first book of which I read in July. It is a pseudo-historical fantasy set during the Renaissance, although not strictly historically accurate (thus the fantasy aspect). It cleverly recreates the Persephone myth and twists it around a bit, which I find to be fascinating in the extreme, and with Vera Nazarian's deft touch and excellent writing, this series is one anyone interested in the Persephone/Demester story, or alternate history, or well-done fantasy will enjoy.
I really enjoy Grial, she's just a hoot. Here is an example of the sorts of things she tends to say, from a conversation she is having with Lord Beltain.
“But if you ask me, every time seems strange and dark,” Grial said, “when you are living smack in the middle of it. It's only much later, afterwards, once you've lived long enough to look back, that you can start to see both the bright colors and the dark spots properly—and sometimes, you even see polka dots and clubs and diamonds and even hearts—and yes, a very common thing, you do get to see these pesky little string floaters in your eye! In any case, age is nothing more than the acquisition of Temporal Perspective! Oh, and rheumatism too, I must add.”
She does have a tendency to go a bit off topic, which I found absolutely disarming. All the characters are distinct without being cliché, and each is a fascinating character study onto themselves for someone who is interested in seeing that sort of thing.
I'm very much looking forward to the third book of this trilogy, which I hope will be coming out very soon. If this book sounds like something you would like, don't hesitate to pick it up, but also don't forget this is the second book in the series and you will need to read the first book first. Highly recommended.
Series Information: The Cobweb Bride Trilogy
Book 1: Cobweb Bride, review linked here
Book 2: Cobweb Empire
Book 3: Cobweb Forest, release date TBA
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this e-book from the author. No review was specifically requested, but I'm happy to provide an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: In a world where no one can die, she alone can kill...
Cobweb Empire (Cobweb Bride Trilogy #2) is the second book of the intricate epic fantasy flavored by Renaissance history and the romantic myth of Persephone, about death's ultimatum to the world.
Now that she's Death's Champion, what will Percy do?
In a world where all death and dying has ceased, and only one person can kill, everyone can only expect a miracle. But what if it's just the tip of the iceberg?
Percy Ayren must make her way south, despite all odds, to the place where the death shadow of the Cobweb Bride calls her. With the help of her companions and the invincible black knight, Lord Beltain Chidair, whose enigmatic presence disturbs her in a way she cannot explain, Percy must continue her quest, while the mortal world falls apart around them….
Meanwhile, the Marquis Vlau Fiomarre faces the truth of his impossible feelings for Claere Liguon, the Emperor’s daughter. He had cruelly taken her life, and now he must serve her until his last dying breath—it is no longer a matter of honor but secret passion.
And now, the world itself is changing…. A new dark witch rises, and she will make your heart freeze with her beauty and power….
Empires clash, kings and emperors and gods vie for supremacy, the living and the dead are at war, while love stories play out in amazing directions, and new mind-blowing mysteries are born.
on Oct. 30, 2013
I edited this novella for the author. It is currently available on Smashwords for free here. While not long, it is a very intense story with plenty of action, character development, and plot to keep sci-fi fans interested. Check it out if you like sci-fi.
Trick or Trap
on Dec. 28, 2014
Badly edited (out for ought, their for there as examples) and poorly written. My niece wrote better than this when she was 10. I can't figure out what is going on, it feels like this is a continuation of a story already started somewhere. The characters make no sense at all. Keep working at it.