Friday, August 31, 2012

Book review: "Wicked Embers" by Candace Bowen Early

Wicked Embers review
Author: Candace Bowen Early
4 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Paranormal Romantic Suspense Reading Level: Adult Book Available: Rhemalda Publishing is releasing this book in both eBook and paperback format on 9/1/2012.

Disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC from Rhemalda Publishing (the author’s publisher) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: It’s been one year since Bronwyn Chase left the modern world behind, and an ancient evil is stirring in Cornwall ….

Bree Peltier is a skeptic. She doesn’t believe in mystics or witches. Between keeping up with her university studies and falling in love with her archaeology professor, her life is complicated enough. When a vengeful spirit possesses her childhood friend and goes on a killing spree, she is forced to re-examine her beliefs. The spirit is out to destroy the descendants of Bronwyn, and Bree is the only one who can stop it. If she believes.

Bree is a mystic. If she doesn’t embrace her birthright, she could lose everyone she has ever loved. If she does embrace it, she could lose her soul mate

My Thoughts: As those who know me already know, I am generally not a fan of romance. However, I read the previous book featuring this character, Spur of the Moment, and really enjoyed it. (Sites that accept formatting should show a link on the title above so you can go see that review.) Be warned: this review will contain some spoilers; I will try to keep them vague, but they are necessary to tell you what I thought about the story.

Like the first book, this one was very good – engaging, entertaining, and not your everyday romance. I think it is technically considered a time-travel romance, since the first one was, but to me it seemed more along the lines of romantic suspense, so that is how I have classified it. It was a very fast read – I went through it in a bit over five hours. It didn’t completely blow my socks off like the first one, but I really did enjoy it. The scene in the nether with Bronwyn and Euric was especially touching – it literally brought tears to my eyes.

There were a few things that bothered me, including the fact that Bree did not warn her friends when they showed up. While I understood that she didn’t want them to think she was insane, to me it seemed really irresponsible for her to not at least come up with a story so that they knew how much danger they were in. I was also bothered by the situation with Finn toward the end – he should have been much more incapacitated by what happened to him, and not able to get around and help as he was doing. The literal deux ex machina at the ending might bother some, but to me it was a relief; otherwise there wouldn’t have been the HEA that romance readers crave.

That said, romance readers should really enjoy this book, and those who enjoyed Ms. Bowen Early’s earlier book will definitely want to read this. Most fans of paranormal suspense should enjoy this as well. While I didn’t love it as much as the first book (thus the rating), I did enjoy it quite a lot. Check it out.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: The Word And The Void Omnibus

The Word And The Void Omnibus
The Word And The Void Omnibus by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Please note: I originally wrote and posted this review 3/12/2008, so please do not judge it based upon my current format.

When I received this omnibus I thought there had to be a mistake; it was my understanding that it contained three books but it appeared too slender a volume to have that much inside. Then I picked it up - OOF! Through some mysterious method and unusual type of paper or something they packed over 700 pages into a book that isn't much over an inch thick - but you can definitely feel the weight to it! Enough about the technicalities of the book - on to the review!

This volume contains three books - Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word and Angel Fire East. I had forgotten ... it had been so long, I had forgotten what it is like reading a book by Terry Brooks. I had forgotten that he creates worlds that hold such dark things; that he isn't afraid to kill characters, traumatize characters, forge them into weapons in the hottest fires of testing. I had forgotten what an ... almost tactile experience it could be reading a book by Terry Brooks, who describes things in such detail, in such living color, that it is like you are THERE.

In Running with the Demon when Nest saves Bennett Scott from the Feeders one night in the park, it seems pretty normal - she's been a Caretaker of the park ever since she was old enough to understand that she carried the magic inside her to do so - the 5th of her family's women in a line to do so - and was paired with Pick, a Sylvan, who only those with the magic can see. However, she can't help but notice that the Feeders are becoming more bold, and there are more of them than ever. Pick tells her the balance is off, that something seems to be going on, but he doesn't know what.

Meanwhile, her grandfather meets with former co-employees who are currently on strike from MidCon, the area's largest employer - the strike has gone on for a long time now, and tempers are getting high; especially since scabs are being brought in, and managers are working the lines themselves in order to keep the plant operational. Derry and Junior, two of the men affected by the strike, are becoming especially upset about it, and swear they will "do something about it," leaving the meeting in a huff. A mysterious man, who Old Bob (Nest's grandfather) can't quite place but is quite sure he knows, leaves as well.

Nest's grandmother, shattered by the death of Nest's mother, Caitlin, but nonetheless holding herself responsible for Nest's training in magic, spends her days drinking and smoking. Nest believes that there is something that Gran isn't telling her, but she cannot figure out exactly what it is. It seems to revolve around her mysterious father, of whom no one will speak.

A mysterious Native American named Two Bears (O'olish Amaneh) arrives out of nowhere - Nest befriends him and joins him when he calls up the spirits of his ancestors, the ancient tribe of the Sinnissippi people, of whom he is the last. What she learns further strains her relations with Gran.

The final piece of the puzzle arrives in town when John Ross, a Knight of the Word, shows up. He receives dark dreams of the future, of what it will hold if he fails in his duties to the Word, if he fails to stop the Void from destroying humankind.

In A Knight of the Word fate and destiny intertwine to trap John Ross. Devastated by his failure to completely prevent a tragedy at a grammar school, John decides he is not able to continue as a Knight of the Word and stops. Stops using his magic, stops following his nightmarish dreams of the future ... and eventually - seemingly - the dreams go away, eventually his link to the magic appears to go away. He is still crippled, he still requires his black staff - the token of his Knighthood - in order to walk, but he no longer utilizes it for anything else but a walking staff. He meets the woman of his dreams - a stunningly beautiful woman named Stefanie Winslow - and together they move to Seattle and begin to work for a man called Simon Lawrence - a man of extraordinary vision who works to help homeless women and children - and a man who, according to the only dream John still has, John is fated to kill.

But the Word is not so willing to give John up; despite the fact that he has renounced his place as a Knight, he still holds the magic of the Word and if a demon can twist that magic to the use of the Void, that would be a giant blow struck in the war against the Word. Nest is contacted by O'olish Amaneh - the last of the Sinnissippi - and asked to go and try to get John to take up his part as a Knight of the Word, to try to get him to believe that he is up close and personal with a demon, because one is already close to turning him to the Void's purposes.

Although the identity of the demon didn't come as much of a surprise to me - having figured it out fairly early - it was nonetheless revealed in a rather startling manner. Watching John Ross go through what he did in this book was painful in the extreme, because it is easy to understand the isolation and loneliness that he underwent as a Knight of the Word as compared to the happy life he had built for himself in Seattle, where he had a job he loved, a girlfriend he loved and a thriving social network. To watch all that come apart under the machinations of a demon AND the Word - it was quite painful. And to watch his determination to make things right anyway was somewhat awe-inspiring.

Terry Brooks can break your heart over and over and you still keep coming back because his characters speak to you in so many ways. This story was about growing up, in more ways than one.

In Angel Fire East John Ross dreams of a crucified man telling him the location of a rare gypsy morph, and that the loss of that magic led to the downfall of the human race - then glimpses his own face upon that crucified man. He determines to find the gypsy morph and solve the secrets of its magic no matter what. Finding it will be the first task - although he knows it will be in a cave on the Oregon coast and what town it will be near, that doesn't necessarily narrow it down. Then capturing it will be a problem. Then the hardest part will be maintaining his hold on it without it being captured by demons, who will be attracted to it like bees to honey.

He finds the cave with the help of a resident of the area who knew all the caves around. He captures the morph with a net provided by the Lady. And he keeps one step ahead of the demons by remaining constantly on the run. Discovering what the secret of the gypsy morph is, and what it wants to become, however, seems to be impossible - until it finally assumes the form of a little boy and utters the word "Nest" and nothing more.

Nest is warned of their impending arrival by a demon named Findo Gask, who shows up on her doorstep and warns her to not help John Ross or take in the gypsy morph, or she will have only herself to blame for the results. Nest is unaware of this, but Findo did not come to town alone - he brought along three more demons because he has been thwarted repeatedly in his attempts to capture John Ross and the gypsy morph over the past weeks.

To complicate matters more, Bennett Harper turns up on her doorsteps with her daughter. Bennett is an addict and is looking for help and a place to stay. Of course Nest takes her in - but the demons see Bennett as a way to get to Nest.

By the time John Ross arrives with the gypsy morph in the form of a little boy, Nest has a full house.

What happens over the course of the next few days is alternately terrifying, horrifying, heart-rending and heart-warming. It shows the depths to which people can sink, as well as the heights to which they can ascend, all the while doing their best to pull others up with them. This made a satisfying end-cap to the trilogy, while leaving enough of an open end for additional books set in this world if the mood should strike Mr. Brooks (and we all know how he is!).

I can definitely recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys classic themes of good vs. evil, especially those with particularly thought-provoking ideas involved. These were very good books - read them!

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Winners of the Coral Russell 3-pack

The winners of the Coral Russell eBooks 3-pack are:


I have emailed you and Coral and Coral will be in touch to find out what format you need.

Stay tuned - another giveaway will be coming up next week!

Book review: "Dumb Blonde" by A.J. Scudiere

Dumb Blonde review
Author: A.J. Scudiere
5 out of 5 stars

Please note: I have updated this review with the latest cover image, thanks to Marissa at JKS Communications.

Book Info: Genre: Horror Satire Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I picked up a copy of this book for 99¢ on Amazon; although I am under no particular obligation, I am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: All horror films have that scene – the one where the scary music is playing and the stupid girl continues to walk through the house looking for the bad guy when any sane person would run as fast as they could. Dumb Blonde tells one girl's story of shadows in windows, scary music playing, and nobody believing her.

My Thoughts: A.J. Scudiere has written such fabulous books as Resonance, Vengeance, God’s Eye and Phoenix, and I have loved them all. When I saw this little short story, I had to grab it and read it as quickly as possible. (Reviews can be reached by clicking the link from the book’s title).

This is a very fun little story, where the “dumb blonde” had to deal with mysterious shadows, strange music, and disbelieving cops. This is a wonderful little story, and all blondes should definitely read it. Highly recommended!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Blood Feud

Blood Feud
Blood Feud by Cullen Bunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Horror/Dark humor Reading Level: Ddult

Disclosure: I picked up a copy of this book while it was free during an Amazon promotion. I am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Imagine the legendary feud between the Hatfields and McCoys ... if the McCoys were a clan of demon-summoning sorcerers who stopped at nothing to destroy their rivals.

The Stubbs and Whatleys have been at each other’s throats for as long as anyone in the town of Spider Creek, Missouri, can remember. A Stubbs baby pops out of his mama hating the Whatleys, and the Whatleys teach their brood from a young age how to fling rocks with cruel accuracy in case a Stubbs wanders too close to their land. The Stubbs are a rowdy, trouble making bunch, but the Whatleys—

Folks speak of the Whatleys in hushed whispers.

According to local legend, the Whatleys run naked in the woods, beating out strange tunes on deerskin drums, making animal sacrifices beneath the Old Gallows Tree on Summit Ridge, and meeting with the devil himself on pitch black nights.

Sometimes, legends are true.

When the Whatleys make a bargain with dark forces to rid them of the meddlesome Stubbs clan, four unlikely heroes form the only line of defense between a ravenous legion of ghoulish, vampiric creatures and the unsuspecting world beyond the boundaries of the sleepy Ozarks community.

Excerpt: "I’ve got a story to tell—a story about how me and a couple of poker buddies squared off against the very legions of Hell … and maybe even saved the world. 

"Like all good yarns, this one has its share of action, adventure, mystery, and romance. As for how it ends, though, you’ll have to judge for yourself. Me, I’ve always been partial to happy endings—the singing cowboy riding off into the sunset—but I reckon that just ain’t the way of the world.

"This story’s got vampires, too, loads of them, but not in the beginning.

"It began, for us at least, with spiders.

My Thoughts: Short and sweet, horror for true horror lovers. Note: If spiders wig you out, skip this one! I love the “voice” of the narrator: folksy and humorous, but the understatement only underscores the dangerous, serious, and horrific circumstances in which he finds himself.

The story flows smoothly, providing enough information for us to get a peak into the minds of the main characters while at the same time giving us a good idea of the world in which they live, plus moving briskly through the story. I particularly enjoyed R.F.’s granddaddy’s little sayings that are sprinkled through the book.

Fans of old-school King, Koontz, Edward Lee, and Robert McCammon should enjoy this twisted little yarn. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend that if you like horror, you grab this little jewel.

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Review: Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus

Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus
Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus by Paul Xavier Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Fantasy Reading Level: Middle Grade Book Available: Will be released by Storyteller Publishing on October 9, 2012

Disclosure: I received a free ARC ebook version of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: The Legacy of Menindus... Teenage life seems vastly unfair to fourteen-year-old Ameca – or Ameca J, as she prefers to be called – always being pressured by her dad to watch out for her stupid and annoying ten-year-old sister, Fraya. But when the girls are mysteriously transported by The Spirit to a dangerously different world populated by mediaeval Men, noble Elves, magnificent Dragons, and savage creatures, Ameca’s whole perspective has to change, and change quickly, if they are to escape the clutches of an evil entity known as the Scelestus, who wants them for the magical powers they did not even know they possessed. Their stressed out and overworked father Paul is summoned by The Spirit to join his daughters in the mythical land of Mythrania, where he learns that they are the One, the Flame and the Flower. They are the heirs to the legendary High Magi, Menindus, who foretold of their coming to save this world and their own... But this is no fairytale; the dark entity known as the Scelestus has a plan to harness the power of the universe and to completely dominate all life.... Can Ameca and her family stop the Scelestus, and prevent a catastrophe that would see the enslavement of countless worlds, as well as the destruction of their own...?

My Thoughts: This is book one of the Ameca J. Chronicles; the author is in my LinkedIn Network and asked me, in June, for a review of the book prior to the publication date. My apologies for the delay, but as you see, I am getting the review up well before publication.

In many ways, this is a highly derivative work, but it is self-consciously so, with constant references to the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, among others. While there are some fairly creative differences, the similarities to the LotR especially are striking, especially with the werethralls being made from the Elfen, just like the orcs and Elves in LotR. However, I quite liked the direction taken with Irat, Dratch’s brother, and the differences between the powers of the Magi.

This is a fairly light-hearted piece – while there is lots of violence, it’s mostly at a bit of a distance. It’s the nameless and faces masses that are hacked to bits en masse for the most part. It’s not to say there aren’t direct affects upon the main characters, but they’re disproportionately small. While the book didn’t “wow” me to the extreme, I did enjoy it; it’s a fun and fast read, and should be well-accepted by fans of the genre, especially among younger readers.

At least three more books are expected in this series: Ameca J & the Revenge of Rex-Ultar, Ameca J & the Demon God of Mythrania and Ameca J and the Rise of the Serpii. I shall be interested to see where this series develops as it is published.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Book Review: "Union" by Jolea M. Harrison

Union review
Author: Jolea M. Harrison
4 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: There are no holes in space. None to hide in. None where it’s safe. Life on-board a space ship pursued through the void is precarious at best, where the difference between living and dying is measured one instant to the next.

On the run, Dynan Telaerin’s responsibilities increase to the breaking point while he’s the only one capable of flying the ship and making one repair after the other to his almost-crippled craft, at the same time as trying to be a husband to his new wife, Loren. Bringing her and Marc Talryn into the terrifying danger that is Dynan’s life hardens his resolve to protect them at all cost.

Making it back to the fold of the Brittallia System doesn’t guarantee safety, as betrayals abound where he least expects it. They come from people he has trusted nearly the whole of his life. That life of peace, held for a brief moment in time, is abruptly shattered. Loren is taken from him in an attempt to forestall a terrible vision of death.

The specter of evil haunts every thought and guides every action in the attempt to find her and keep her safe. The man who would take her and make the vision a reality is stalking him...

...driving him ever onward, leading him to the envisioned slaughter. Maralt Adaeryn sees the cruel end of an ancient prophecy and he holds a dreadful secret. There are some things worse than death. 

Additional information: Union, the 5th book of the Guardians of the Word series, is suitable for mature young adults. Chosen, Myth, Telepath, and Legend are available on, and I reviewed most of them just last week (mid-August, 2012); click the link on the title of each to see it. The last three books of the series – Adept, Seer, and King – will be released on an approximate 3-month schedule.

My Thoughts: This book again manages a good combination of action and character development, with the plot proceeding apace. While it is not as long as the previous book, it is longer than the first three, but it reads quickly and smoothly and kept me engaged throughout.

I’m still bothered by Maralt’s level of power, and the fact that absolutely no one can seem to stand up against it. Why is it no one else can seem to develop that level of power? Is it just the lack of boundaries caused by a lack of any ethical constraints that allows him to so easily overpower everyone that would even think about getting in his way? The whole thing is very unbalanced; one would think that between Dynan, Marc, and Carryn they could find a workable plan. Also, how did Maralt become so adept at swordplay and fighting? No one can get close to them on the few times when he doesn’t just make them drop their swords. It’s extremely annoying to me that he’s always right there whenever they stop, always able to drop everyone within seconds, always able to do anything and everything he wants. If the book were about the villain, or even if the villain were a bit more likeable, I might be able to get behind it, but as it is, it’s just seriously frustrating.

While each of these book is subsequently better edited than the previous, typos still get through; as they do in most every book I’ve read in the past 20 years or so. The most amusing one in this book, to me, was “derbis” for “debris”; I’m not certain why it amused me so, but it really made me laugh. Something I have noted being misused through most of the series is the word “askance”, which is being used not in its normal sense of looking at something obliquely, or with disapproval, but as in “ask-ance” as in to look at a person in such as way as to imply asking a question. This is not a word at all, and it’s something that has made me repeatedly twitch when I have read it.

Despite these issues, I enjoyed the story quite a lot. To see my reviews of the previous books, I have placed links on their titles up in the “Additional Information” section for your convenience. I will definitely be continuing this series to its conclusion, and eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, Adept.

Weston Kincade Presents: "A Life of Death" free on Amazon

A Life of Death by Weston Kincade is being offered up free on Amazon this weekend. You can just click here to go to the Amazon page; it should be up free in about a quarter hour or so from my time of posting.

This is one of those books that I first read, and then helped edit for later re-release; Weston is an awesome author, and I really enjoyed it. See my review by clicking here. He's offering it up free right now to promote the upcoming sequel, about which I have no further information at this time, but for which I am anxiously waiting. You can watch his blog, which can be found by clicking here, and I'm sure he'll be making some announcements regarding it as we get closer. He currently has one other book out under his name - Invisible Dawn - and two others in which he has had a part: Strange Circumstances and Thadd Presley Presents: Creature Feature. Clickable links on the titles goes to their Goodreads page.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Herbert West: Reanimator

Herbert West: Reanimator
Herbert West: Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This story is part of The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, made available in ebook format at

Synopsis: The narrator tells the story, in multiple vignettes, of Herbert West's obsessive quest to reanimate the recently dead.

My Thoughts: When I lived in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, my husband and the time and I developed an obsession with B-movies of all ilk, watching them for hours. Among those we particularly enjoyed were the "Reanimator" series of films, based upon this short story.

The story provides a low-level, steady progression of horror as the narrator watches Herbert West devolve into madness. Lovecraft writes using beautiful, lyrical language - linguists will find reading these stories riveting and enjoy the mental stimulation of the lovely words.

If you enjoyed the movies, if you enjoy stories of the weird and esoteric, and if you enjoy highly creepy tales, then don't miss this wonderful short story.

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Review: Prayers To Broken Stones: A Collection

Prayers To Broken Stones: A Collection
Prayers To Broken Stones: A Collection by Dan Simmons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This review originally written and posted to Amazon 8/11/2006; please do not judge based upon my current format.

Prayers to Broken Stones review: Dan Simmons weaves a web of words into a dream-like trance in this collection of short stories

This book is a collection of short stories by Dan Simmons (Song of Kali, Hyperion) with a foreward by Harlan Ellison. Each story has a unique voice (although all the science fiction stories seem to take place in the same universe) and they are gem-like in their brightness - characterization, description, voice, all is exquisite, bringing you into these little worlds and opening your eyes to sometimes strange and twisted landscapes.

My only complaints are copy-editing nitpicks - for instance, if something needs oil, it creaks, it doesn't creek. When someone agrees with a statement given, particularly during a toast, they say "Hear, hear!" not "Here, here!" Those sorts of things. Also, the plural of bus is buses!!! "Busses" is "kisses." I kid you not - look it up and make fun forever more in the future when you see signs at drive-throughs and restaurants that say "busses welcome."

But that aside, this collection of short stories is amazing. I read it much more slowly than is my wont, as it must be supped and savored like a fine wine - not guzzled like a brew. Enjoy it!

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Review: Hyperion

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: This review originally written and posted on Amazon 4/11/2007, so don't judge by my current format.

Hyperion Review: Shades of Canterbury Tales

While I knew Hyperion had a sequel, I had NO IDEA it would end with the sort of cliff-hanger it did, which was both aggravating and strangely moving (or maybe a better word is touching?) at the same time. However, the story itself stands alone - the story being the journey itself and the pilgrims' tales to one another about their reasons for taking this journey (see what I mean about Canterbury?). I was pleasantly surprised to find "Siri's Tale" in among the stories, which was included also in Prayers to Broken Stones.

Although technically science fiction, with its setting in the distant future, the story is strangely naive and brought to my mind older science fiction writers, from the 40s to 60s.

The Shrike sits in the background like a glowering idol to an obscene god, appearing without warning and leaving havoc in his (her??) wake. Where did the Shrike come from? What is its purpose? Hopefully these stories will be answered in the sequel - which I don't have yet *biting fingernails*

Basically, what I'm trying to get at here, is that this is a marvelous book and one which everyone should read. :-)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bizarro Press Presents: "Editorial" by Arthur Graham, free on Amazon!

Follow the editor and his client into the infinite ring of Ouroboros, the self-devouring, in this episodic novella by Arthur Graham. A story told through concentric circles of narrative, each adding a layer of truth while further smothering all notions of certainty, Editorial will leave readers wondering just how many times the same tale can be swallowed...

The very interesting-looking Editorial by Arthur Graham is currently free on Amazon, and will be so until Sunday. Just follow the link by clicking the title to grab your copy. Don't miss out on a bit of the bizarre!

This book is on my pile to be reviewed, and I quite look forward to the chance.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: One More Victim/The Saltness of Time

One More Victim/The Saltness of Time
One More Victim/The Saltness of Time by Randy Attwood

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Disclosure: While I read The Saltness of Time and reviewed it first, I later edited both it and One More Victim for Mr. Attwood as he prepared them for paperback publication. I do not receive any proceeds from sales, and the fact that I edited these books does not affect my opinion of them.

One More Victim Synopsis: The most important summer of my life began with a house-shaking thunder-boomer that woke me up on a Thursday night in 1958 near the end of my fifth-grade school year.

I walked out of my bedroom to the living room and saw Dad, in his brown pajamas, standing at the window looking out and up at the fury in the sky. On a nearby table, the transistor radio was playing softly so he could hear the news of any tornado sightings. He held the flashlight in case the power went off and we had to go to the basement. His hand was tight around the aluminum cylinder, holding it as if it were a club he could use against the weather. Dad had good reason to be cautious

The Saltness of Time synopsis: A Kansas snowstorm forces a car of college students returning home for the holidays to take refuge in the hotel of a small town where they encounter a fellow traveler, who also seeks shelter, and has a story to tell about the consequences of another snow storm decades before when a hideous truth is revealed about an old woman.

"I haven't told many people this story. Perhaps you'd rather not hear it. I know how hard it is for young people to listen about what rocked the hearts and flamed the passions of old people when they were young. It seems so long ago it's hard to believe lives back then were blood and bone real. And what happened to me that night reached back into the last century. I mean, Gabrielle was born in the 1880s. No, wait, might as well get it right. She was eighty-nine when we ran across her and that was in 1963, so she would have been born in...'" he stopped briefly to calculate in his head and Stephie, the little math whiz, spoke up with the answer, "1874."

"Eighteen seventy-four. Amazing that I can pass on, personally, now more than hundred years after her birth, some of the reality of Gabrielle. If you'd care to hear about it," he said and it was more a plea than a question. Something there that needed telling....

My Thoughts: Randy Attwood says The Saltness of Time 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.

One More Victim is an amazing, heartbreaking, beautiful story (says so right on the cover) - but then, those are my words, the words I said right after I finished editing it - I cried while I was editing it, and I'm not the sort to easily become overly sentimental about a story. It is a coming-of-age story, a story of realizations, a story about beginnings and endings - it is a story I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-spun tale.

Randy Attwood's short stories are also always a treat. Highly evocative, helping the reader connect in even the strangest ways - you can find my individual reviews on most of these stories. As I've said, Mr. Attwood even makes snooker and golf interesting!

I'm so excited to see these two stories paired into a single book, and I think most readers will find something to love here. Check it out - you'll love them!

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Tell Me Something Tuesday

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly Meme hosted by Cambria Hebert. Remember if you take part to go to the original post here and add yourself to Mr. Linky.

Here are the rules and this week's question:

Welcome to my weekly meme Tell Me Something Tuesday where I ask you something and you tell me the answer!! It’s as simple as that and I thought it would be a great way for all of us bloggers to get to know one another! So this is how it works: I post a question here on my blog and then i give my answer. I invite all the bloggers to take the question and post it on their blog with their answer and we can hop around and see what everyone says! If you are a blogger don’t forget to leave your link at the bottom of this post! If you aren’t a blogger – that’s okay too!! Leave your answer in the comments section!

Tell Me Something:

Were you bullied in school? How do you think bullying has charged over the years – do you think it’s worse now than it was a few years ago?

Bullying is a hard thing to deal with, partially because it is so subjective. Lately there are a lot of accusations and counter-accusations of bullying all over the web among the reader, reviewer, and writer groups - is it all really bullying?

How to you define bullying to ensure the safety of the victims without having to subsequently deal with the bullies, who tend to say, "Hey, I wasn't doing nothin', just having my own opinion is all..." or, more often, "Just havin' a little fun, is all, I didn't mean nothin'," with big innocent eyes. Meanwhile people are having nervous breakdowns, becoming suicidal, and fleeing social sites because they can't deal with that person's aggressive, combative, and hostile "opinions". I believe that if a person feels very emotionally traumatized, that should be considered cyber-bullying. Again, it is very subjective, but people have different levels of attacks that they can handle, depending on their life situation and how they are being attacked.

Now, as to me - was I ever bullied? I went to a very small school (when I graduated, there were 79 students in the entire high school, counting 8th grade - 19 of those were my classmates. The most students I ever remember having in my class were 32), in a very small town, where everyone knew everyone else. I think probably some people at some point tried to bully me, but I have a very protective older brother, and if I complained about anyone, those people would receive a quiet "talking to" and usually I wouldn't have any further trouble from them. some may say my brother was bullying the bullies, but he was always very quiet and respectful as he spoke to them - he has always been a master at getting people to see the error of their ways. I actually became much better friends with some of these people after they had their "talks" with my big brother. Were other people bullied in my school? Yes, I think so - I definitely remember protecting some of my friends from people who were being cruel to them. I am not aware of anyone being physical attacked or threatened, but it might be that, as a small farming and ranching community, the students mostly had other things to do than to cause trouble.

How has it changed? Is it worse now? Well, the internet is a blessing and a curse - a blessing because it has made the world so much smaller, and helped more people than ever before have a place where they can fit in and have friends. However, it has also exaggerated all the worst of the bad in people, too - people create on-line personas that have no relation to their real self, and as such, they feel safe venting out all the anger, bitterness, and grief that they've always had to keep inside - quite often inappropriately. Perfectly nice people will get on-line and suddenly they will turn into raving jerks, cyber-stalking people, cyber-bullying people, attacking people left and right... and you really don't want to believe all the stories you hear about it. Then, one day, it happens to you. Now you're a believer - and much sadder about things.

I think the basic tenets of social interaction are more important than ever on-line.
Treat others like you would want to be treated yourself. Remain civil and polite. Disengage from unfruitful and combative situations rather than allowing yourself to be dragged into them. You may not always be able to do this - it is especially hard when you know people are telling lies about you everywhere, because you want to go and clear things up, but the types of people who organize these on-line witch hunts are the types of people who will twist any words you say beyond your recognition. Better to ignore them, walk away. That's actually pretty good advice for your average, real-life interactions with bullies, too - if you can safely do so, just refuse to react and walk away. Obviously if you are in danger, you should protect yourself, but most bullies are all talk and, at their heart, total cowards.

Next week's question:

Is your TBR pile out of control? How do you plan to reign it in?
I imagine everyone awaiting a review from me will be anxiously waiting to hear this!

Again, if you have a blog and you want to play along, be sure to link up. Mr. Linky is at the end of Cambria's post. Or you can just respond in the comments section. Thanks for a thought-provoking question this week, Cambria!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Giveaway: Three-pack of Coral Russell books

Hello, my friends! I'm so sorry about not getting a giveaway up for last week; I was unable to reach the person whose books I was supposed to be hosting to confirm she still wanted to do this thing, and by Wednesday of last week, after having tried for a week, I just moved on to the next person on the list. So, this week we're giving away four (4) three-packs of eBooks by Coral Russell! The winner will receive each of these three ebooks in their choice of format.

Amador Lockdown (which I edited)
Playing With Fire (my review for which you can see here.)
The DIY Guide to Social Media Marketing and eBook Publishing

Like usual, please leave a comment including your email address so I can contact you if you win, and next week I will use to choose four winners.

Review: Legend

Legend by Jolea M. Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult

Disclosure: I received a free ebook edition of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Dynan Telaerin lives within a shell of his own making, a place devoid of light. Every moment is a struggle to rediscover who he is. After barely surviving the loss of his twin brother, Dynan is forced to run farther and submerge his identity deeper than ever before. Legend is the story of his survival, how he discovers a reason to want to live and where he learns that dreams can be real. But there are no guarantees, for with each action an equal and opposite reaction occurs. There are nightmares to consider and souls to be lost.

To protect him, and give him time to heal, Dynan is sent to a place that is forbidden by the laws he’s supposed to uphold. It’s a calculated risk that he needs the anonymity Cadal can provide. The danger is weighed against the odds he’ll be discovered - by the people of this backward planet, by allies who would use this infraction against him, or by an enemy who would see him dead.

The plans so carefully arranged soon start to unravel when Dynan meets the girl of his dreams – dreams that he doesn’t remember until they walk up to him, living, breathing and beautiful. Preordained by the Gods, their attraction to each other is unstoppable. From the moment of acceptance, the difficulties set before them stand in the way of their desire to be together. There are enemies, known and unknown, lurking in the outer reaches, and one, who as promised, intends to destroy everyone Dynan cares about.

Maralt Adaeryn has plans of his own and none of them end with happily ever after.

My Thoughts: This is the fourth book in the Guardians of the Word series. The author has said: “This was the first book that was written of this series, where the whole idea started, going forward and backward from here. And it ended up being the 4th released. Just a little tidbit.” I’d like to point out that a major plot element of the third book is revealed in this synopsis, so if you haven’t read the previous books yet, you might want to wait until you have to read this review carefully. I will try to avoid retro-spoilers, but it’s hard to give the idea of the book without slipping up and maybe revealing past events.

This book is twice as long as the previous book, as well as being longer than the first two books put together! A lot happens, with both character development and action, and there are a large number of surprises in store in this book. I really like Cadal – not only does it seem like a lovely place, but the people are interesting, too.

One thing that has been bothering me is Maralt. Usually when there is a powerful character, there is someone who can pretty much match him or her, but it seems that there is no one who can even touch Maralt. This seems particularly strange to me when someone is repeatedly shown to be a superior fighter, yet as soon as he or she goes up against Maralt he can’t even seem to hold on to his sword. People who ordinarily can hold their own over multiple attackers are suddenly falling over their own feet, things like that. I don’t quite get why this is so.

I think this is the most satisfying piece of the story so far, probably because things move along smoothly and we see so much character development. There are still some editing errors – mostly along the lines of the wrong homonym – but overall the book is better edited than previous books in the series as well. A strong blend of action and character, in a very nicely done blend of science fiction and fantasy. Recommended.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: Telepath

Telepath by Jolea M. Harrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fantasy Reading Level: Young adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: A ruthless killer hunts them. He’ll stop at nothing to see his vision fulfilled and his hunger satiated. He has the ability to seek them out through the power of his mind, on the barest strand of thought. If he finds them, he will consume their souls.

Dynan and Dain Telaerin are forced into exile, unable to stay in one place for long. They set out on a journey of survival, barely staying a step ahead of their enemies while they must build an attack force large enough to defeat the massive Cobalt military and retake the throne of their father. They must find a way to increase their telepathic abilities to defeat the greatest evil the Kingdoms have ever known that follows an evil design and seeks to destroy the world.

But nothing is at it seems, and a single mistake could mean death where both must live.

My Thoughts: This is the third book in the Guardians of the Word series; there are currently five books available in this series: Chosen, Myth, this one, Legend and Union, with three more to come. The previous book, Myth, left off on a cliffhanger, so I was anxious to get reading on this one.

This book again has a high action level; the characters are on the move and going from one crazy situation to another throughout the whole book. It also takes place over the course of a number of years, unlike the two earlier books, which took place over not quite a year (the first book) and just a few months (the 2nd). It might seem a bit odd that the 2nd book, which has an overall slower pace, should take place over a shorter period of time, but in the 1st book there was a long time frame taken over with Dain and Dynan recovering from their various injuries.

That said, this book continues a downward spiral of sorrow and despair. While giving some idea of it wouldn’t be too much of a spoiler, if you have already read the synopses for the upcoming books, I’ll leave this vague just to be safe. The events of the latter part of the book weren’t unexpected, as the foreshadowing was there, but the letter just broke my heart. You’ll see when you get there. It was a strong, emotional punch in the gut – very well done. Highly recommended.

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Great Minds Think Aloud presents: Cover Reveal and Sneak Peak "Zombified" by Lyra McKen

Zombified by Lyra McKen will be available from Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing on August 31, 2012. Isn't this an awesome cover!

I am also happy to be able to provide a sneak peek at this upcoming book.

“Cassie, wake up.” He stood back up over me as I sat up and rubbed my eyes.

I noticed that Ted was not with him, and he looked defeated as he sat down on the floor beside me. I crawled over to wrap my arms around him, and he looked surprised at first but then he put his arm around me and we were silent for a little while.

“We are going to have to move soon.” Brett was speaking quietly as he rubbed my arm. “He knows where we are, so when he wakes up, he may come for us. I was too late to help him.”

I did not know how long Brett had been gone, but I assumed by his tone that he had found his friend in very bad shape. It scared me that if he turned into one of them then he would know where we were. I sighed as I leaned my head on Brett’s shoulder. Something struck me as odd as I inhaled his scent. I thought that he smelled tasty.

Tasty! I was alarmed. He smelled good, but tasty was not something that should describe my crush. Something bad was happening to me, and I could keep trying to fight it, but as I glanced at my finger, I knew in the back of my mind it was only going to get worse.

He was looking at me while I was having all these thoughts, and he was too close for comfort. He smiled as he took my face in his hands and brought his lips to mine. It was everything I had hoped for in our first kiss. There were fireworks, and my whole body felt alive. I allowed him to ease me down onto the tarp and welcomed his body weight on top of me. This felt right and I wanted him all over me just like this. I had dreamed of this moment countless times and it was finally happening.

Our kisses became more urgent, and he moved one hand down to slide up my shirt. I heard a low growl come from somewhere within me. Something wasn’t right. It happened very quickly, but before I knew it, I had reared back and bitten into his chin hard. He cried out in severe pain, and tried to push me off of him, but I was latched on. I felt the skin break in my mouth, and felt my hunger as I ripped the skin away from his face. When I realized what I had done, I was horrified.

I stood back thinking of how I could remedy the situation. He sat there with blood pouring from his face and a hurt look in his eyes. All I could think of was one word: tasty. I had to get out of there. What the hell had I done? How many times had I pictured my lips near his, and I manage to get them there by biting his face off? I had to get as far away from him as possible. I ran out the entrance and into the school hall. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I contemplated where to go. I was changing into one of those monsters.

I had literally bitten my crush’s face off!

Lyra McKen is the pen name for Emily Walker, and she resides in the mountains of North Carolina. She lives on top of a mountain quite literally with her other half of nine years and her fur baby, Rebel. After a couple of jobs ghost writing for other successful authors she embarked on her own journey to write a novel.

She can be found in the following places (including the GMTA site, where you can go by clicking the link on the first use of her name at the top):

Lyra's Website
Lyra's Blog
Lyra's Facebook page
Lyra's fan page on Facebook
Lyra's Kickstarter Campaign for this novel
You can also find Twitter links and other links at her page on GMTA, linked again here for convenience.

Campaign: Cthulhu for President!

Something a little silly for a change, copied and slightly altered from a LiveJournal post done about 4 1/2 years ago:

Campaign 2012, brought to you by Cthulu for President, 2012 - why vote for the Lesser Evil? Vote Cthulu for President 2012 and be part of the New Destiny!

Campaign 2012 is a Platform to bring about drastic changes in our judicial system. Because of the proliferation of both frivolous lawsuits and frivolous lawyers, it is necessary to do some pruning, so to speak. Since Raid (tm) doesn't make a Lawyer Hotel, we therefore had to come up with something a bit more ... creative. So, without further ado, here is the basis for Campaign 2012, a New Platform for a New Judicial System!

Lawyers will no longer wage symbolic war in the court-room, they will literally battle it out in the ring. Depending on how frivolous the suit is, they may need to go to DeathMatch to settle the suit - the more frivolous your suit, the more likely you are to need to kill or be killed to have it settled. This will help control the judicial system in two ways. First, by making lawyers take a step back before filing frivolous lawsuits, it will take a huge strain off of the judicial system. Secondly, with the DeathMatches (shown on Pay-Per-View TV, with 90% of the proceeds to go to the winning client), we will further be pruning out many of the unnecessary lawyers that are proliferating on the planet faster than the cockroaches in my kitchen (and that's pretty darn fast).

Whether it's a murder trial - requiring only a boxing match - or whether Granny spilled hot coffee on herself at McMoneyLoot's and wants to sue them because she's stupid that way, thereby requiring the lawyers to go to DeathMatch, Campaign 2012 will give us a new way to look at the Judicial process.

And don't forget - VOTE CTHULU, 2012 because, hey - why vote for the LESSER evil??

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Myth

Myth by Jolea M. Harrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fantasy Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received received a free ebook copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Behind the veil that separates the living from the dead, awaits the teeming horde. Evil bides its time, probing for weakness. It slithers across the divide, searching for the weak, the insane, the criminal mind, and even the average citizen of Cobalt, commanding them. The order is to kill. The target...

Seventeen-year-old Dynan Telaerin's biggest challenge is keeping the woman he loves and the brother he adores from being in the same room at the same time. Liselle Tremault and Dain Telaerin despise one another, forcing Dynan to choose between them, but a murder plot against him abruptly trumps other concerns. Visions of the destruction of civilization follow, turning shadowy dreams into the possibility of terrible reality. The lines blur between what is evil and what is good as one seeks to destroy him and the other seeks to delay his future. The methods each side employs to attain their goals are remarkably similar, leaving Dynan in a desperate race for his life. 

Myth, the second book of the Guardians of the Word fantasy series considers the complications of truth and intention, where one may not be conducive to the other and where some evil is necessary to negate others

My Thoughts: I read the first book in this series over a year ago, so I re-read it before starting this book to remind myself of the plot. There are actually five books now available in this series – Chosen, Myth, Telepath, Legend and Union, with three more due in the future – and I’m hoping to get them all read this weekend.

The editing on this one is a bit better, but there are still a number of errors, including dinning for “dining”, sparring for “sparing”, and road for “rode” (just off the top of my head). I have rated this one at four stars partially for this, and partially because it was just more difficult for me to read than the first one.

This book wasn’t as “fast” a read as the first one, despite being a bit shorter; because it seems to be focused more on the character interactions than action, I think. It gives us a deeper understanding of the dynamic between Dain and Dynan – which is rapidly deteriorating throughout much of this book – as well as some of the people around them. The first book was pretty much action from start to finish, and this is a very different style. It is also very dark, and it looks like there are dark things coming in this series. It was, due to this, at times very difficult to read – definitely not a light and fluffy read. However, if you want a strongly character-driven story, set in a science-fantasy realm, then this series seems a strong choice. Recommended.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: "The Shadow Walker" by S.L. Madden

The Shadow Walker: Book one in Unseen Things trilogy review
Author: S.L. Madden
5 out of 5 stars

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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review Repost: "Ascension" by S.L. Madden

Please note: I originally read this book 9/12-13/2011 and post the review on 9/13; I am re-posting it here so all my S.L. Madden reviews show up together. You'll note the change in review posting techniques, I'm sure.

AscensionAscension by S.L. Madden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“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!

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Book Review Repost: "The Four-Year-Old Guardian" by S.L. Madden

Please note: This review originally posted 9/13/11 on Goodreads. Copied here to make it even easier to read review of both books in the Only Human on the Block series. You'll note the difference in my review styles, which I have now created a consistent template for.

The Four-Year-Old Guardian (Only Human on the Block #1)The Four-Year-Old Guardian by S.L. Madden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“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!

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Book review: "Bravado/Dramatique" by S.L. Madden

Bravado/Dramatique (Only Human on the Block #2)Bravado/Dramatique by S.L. Madden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book review: School of the Ages: "The War Against Love" by Matt Posner

The War Against Love (School of the Ages, #3)The War Against Love by Matt Posner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult

Disclosure: I received a free Kindle version of this eBook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Prepare, Simon. This is no school exercise. It is a fight for your life.

Attacked in New York City by vicious members of the Nazi magicians' cabal Gott im Himmel, Simon and Goldberry are drawn into a deadly war that could destroy them both. As they travel across Europe with their mentor Dr. Solomon Archer, the young wizards must survive vicious foe after vicious foe. There is no time for love… but how can Simon resist the tempestuous beauty Ana Vorkina, daughter of the all-powerful Arch-Mage of Prague? And even if he can win her heart, will the ferocious threats they face drive them apart?

Background information: The author has written a very interesting FAQ about this book available here. I would suggest you take the time to read it; he does a fairly good job at leaving out spoilers, but if you want to play it safe, wait until after you’ve read the book. This is the 3rd book in the School of the Ages series; I read and reviewed the first two books – The Ghost in the Crystal and Level Three’s Dream – in late April, 2012. You can see the reviews by clicking on the links on the names. Or you can search my blog for late in the month of April – there is also a Q&A with Matt Posner to be found here, in May.

My Thoughts: I’ve mentioned in the review of the first book in the series that this is a much darker series than many YA fantasies – I would put it on par with the Lord of the Rings trilogy for darkness, in many ways. There are moments of lightheartedness, but overall this is a grim situation in which Simon finds himself, starting right at the beginning. Posner has mentioned that there are only a very few people whom he guarantees will survive to see the end of the series, if that gives you an idea as to how dark these books are.

Posner does some serious experimentation with this book, including a chapter that reads like a screenplay, and additional chapters told from other points of view. There is more background information given about Simon’s family, we again meet his grandmother (who is awesome by the way), and there are new friends and enemies to be had. Delphine is just adorable, and the Jonathan twins are evil incarnate; I also quite like Miss Chatterjee. We get more information about the enigmatic Corby Crow, about whom I’ve been wondering since the beginning. Again the issue with the pillars comes up – again they are numbered at six when in the first book they are numbered as seven, and seven attributes are named. I’m not sure why there is this ongoing confusion about the pillars, but there you have it.

My favorite part of the book, without question, was the reaction to Corby’s grandmothers’ herbal mixture that he provided to Goldberry. The comments of the chemistry students, the reactions of those who had to drink it – it was absolutely priceless and I laughed so hard I chased off my cat. I possibly have a bit more of an idea as to what Russian medicine is like, as my husband has told me horror stories about the nastiness of the herbal medicines (which is how to tell if they work – the nastier they smell and taste, the more efficacious) and so forth, so I had that little extra bit of personal amusement to add to the mix.

Book four is to be called Simon Myth. I am not sure when Mr. Posner hopes to have it released, other than sometime in 2013. I will definitely be eagerly awaiting it; I absolutely love these books and can’t recommend them strongly enough. Go check them out!

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Book Review: "Scorch" by Gina Damico

Scorch review
Author: Gina Damico
5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy/Horror
Reading Level: Middle Grade (per publisher) Young Adult (per me)
Book Available: September 25, 2012

Disclosure: I received a free paperback galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.

To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all — but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?

My Thoughts: This book is the sequel to Croak!, which I read and reviewed March 16-17, 2012 (see that review here), and at least one more book is currently scheduled in this series, tentatively scheduled for release sometime in 2013.

The publisher lists this book for age 12 and up, but it has quite a lot of violence (and some mild sexual situations), so keep that in mind. It actually creeped me out a bit, and I seriously had a difficult time finishing it due to how dark it was (I admit, I peeked at the ending – on serious advantage to eBooks is that I can’t do that). That does not mean it is not a good book – it really is a very good book. Damico is a seriously talented writer, one that has created characters for whom I truly feel something, which is why I had so much trouble finishing the book; I didn’t want to see the characters go through what I knew was coming.

We finally see another Grim town – DeMyse, out in Death Valley – which was pretty neat. From the ending of this book, it appears we might get to see Necropolis in the upcoming third book... but I won’t give any more information than that, so as to avoid spoilers. If you enjoy a book with well-written and strongly characterized people, and aren’t bothered by some seriously dark storylines, this book is definitely for you. If your younger reader is interested in the book, I would recommend you first read the book yourself before allowing it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: "Cobra Gamble": Cobra War Book 3 by Timothy Zahn

Cobra Gamble: Book 3 of the Cobra War trilogy review
Author: Timothy Zahn
5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Military Science Fiction Reading Level: Adult
Book Available: Audible Edition available now. Mass Market Paperback to be released Dec. 25, 2012. Hardcover edition is now out of print, but copies are still available through Amazon Marketplace.

Disclosure: I received a free paperback galley edition of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Cobras warriors, technologically enhanced and implanted with an arsenal of covert weaponry, are the most dangerous guerrilla fighters humanity has ever produced. For Jin Moreau Broom, the war is the culmination of a lifetime of Cobra service. But it is also the height of danger for herself and her family as they struggle to survive a war that none of them ever expected to see. 

The Troft invasions of Qasama and the Cobra Worlds has had at least one result: it has turned long-time antagonists into uneasy and unwilling allies. As the aliens battle to consolidate their conquered territories, a small group of Cobras and Qasaman Djinn work together to create a victory that will rock the invaders to the core, a victory designed to bring other Troft demesnes into the conflict on the humans' side. Now one young Cobra must forge a new political order as a devastating alien enemy strikes — an enemy more deadly than any humanity has ever faced

My Thoughts: This is the third book in the Cobra War series. This book is listed as being the third book in a trilogy, but based upon the ending of the book, I have a feeling this series is going to continue. While the overall plot of the book wraps up, there are plenty of threads left dangling, leaving the story wide-open for continuation.

We finally see in this book some more of the humor that made many of Zahn’s Star Wars books so incredibly popular; not a lot, of course – this is military science fiction, after all – but there were definitely a few moments that reminded me that Zahn can be incredibly funny.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Cobra books over this past week, and I definitely recommend them to anyone who enjoys military science fiction and/or Timothy Zahn’s writing. I will also be keeping a watchful eye for the expected continuation of this story. Be sure to check these books out.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review: Cobra Guardian: Cobra War: Book Two

Cobra Guardian: Cobra War:  Book Two
Cobra Guardian: Cobra War: Book Two by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Military Science-fiction Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received the final book in this trilogy (The Cobra War Trilogy) in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Vine; I am happy to provide an honest review of this second book in the trilogy –which I purchased for myself – as well.

Synopsis/Back cover copy: Jasmine Moreau Broom, descendant of a now-legendary family of Cobra warriors, was on a secret mission to the planet Qasama, a world hostile both to the alien Troft and the human-colonized Cobra worlds. But she had hardly arrived before Troft starships descended in force to seize control of the planet. After escaping on a starship, she hoped to get help from other Cobra worlds. What she had not expected was that Troft forces had invaded the Cobra worlds as well.

Still, matters are not hopeless. The Troft are not a monolithic society, but are divided into tribe-like demesnes. One demesne has initiated hostilities, but other demesnes are doubtful of the wisdom of the war, and if the humans can win a decisive battle against the invaders, the Troft might side with them against the belligerent Troft faction.

And the key to such a victory may lie with a political figure on one of the beleaguered Cobra worlds. He has a secret that might turn the tide – if Cobra Lorne Broom can manage to smuggle him and his assistant off a planet occupied by the Troft invaders.

My Thoughts: This book gives us events from multiple omniscient viewpoints, rather than remaining with just the main one – with an occasional foray into a secondary viewpoint for a short period – this one spreads the action among Jin’s children back in the Cobra worlds, during approximately the same time period as the latter part of the previous book. I was appalled, but not really surprised, by the common city citizens’ opinions regarding Cobras, and the willingness of many of them to betray the Cobras to save their own worthless skins.

I should point out that so far, the first two books of this trilogy have taken place over about a three-week period, whereas the first trilogy took place over decades. I think this also shows a change in thinking between the 1980s – when a more epic approach was taken with these things – and modern-day thinking, which is more of a detail-oriented, character-driven plotting.

I think this one is my favorite so far. I really liked the Caelian wilderness scenes, and the Cobras from Caelian are just crazy enough to be fun. There was also a scene with a drone and a truck that actually surprised a laugh out of me – forgive me for the vagueness, but telling you more would constitute a spoiler; just see if you can notice it.

Highly recommended for fans of military science fiction (and despite what the critics say, this is not a space opera, although it is close). Be sure to check out this terrifically fun series of books!

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: Cobra Alliance: Cobra War: Book I

Cobra Alliance: Cobra War: Book I
Cobra Alliance: Cobra War: Book I by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Military Science-fiction Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received the final book in this trilogy (The Cobra War Trilogy) in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Vine; I am happy to provide an honest review of this first book in the trilogy –which I purchased for myself – as well.

Synopsis: Earth had won its war with the Troft because of the Cobras, a guerrilla force whose weapons were surgically implanted, invisible to the unsuspecting eye, yet undeniably deadly. The Moreau family were the most famous of the Cobra warriors, but their descendent, Jasmine “Jin” Moreau Broom, is worried about the current attitudes of the Cobra worlds and their leaders. Generations after the planets were settled, not everyone on the Cobra worlds thinks that the Cobras are worth their high cost, and favor cutting their funding.

Then a new factor is thrown into the mix. Jin receives a message, sender unknown, delivered by a Troft messenger:
To the Demon Warrior Jasmine Jin Moreau:
Urgent you return at once to Qasama. Crisis situation requires your personal attention.

Years ago, a Cobra team, including Jin, had gone to Qasama at the urging of the Troft to counter a threat to other planets, both human and Troft. Jin and her family cannot think of a reason why any Qasaman would want Jin or any other Cobra to return to their planet. Moreover, the Cobra worlds have prohibited any of their citizens from traveling to Qasama, and backed up the prohibition with stiff prison sentences.

But the possibility of danger to the Cobra worlds is too important for Jin to ignore the message. She and her son Merrick, also a Cobra, book passage on a Troft ship to Qasama. But are they really going where their help is needed — or are they walking into a trap?

My Thoughts: It is very obvious that there was a huge gap in the years between the last book in the first trilogy (published in 1988) and this first book in the 2nd trilogy (published in 2009). Zahn’s writing skills have obvious matured, and there is also an obvious difference in editors, as this book correctly uses “try to” rather than the colloquial “try and”. This book is very fast-paced and a fast read – I went through it in a single reading session, barely able to turn the pages quickly enough.

I had a whole long paragraph about the cover, but have decided against all that – I will just point out that the cover image is grossly inaccurate and leave it at that. However, is it too much to hope for that the cover accurately reflects the book?

But that was really the only problem I had with the book. It is a very good piece of military science-fiction and a terrific kick-off point for the Cobra War series. My reading of these books will continue with the second book in this trilogy, Cobra Guardian.

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