Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Michael Brookes Presents: The Cult of Me: An Odd Quartet Free This Weekend

Mark your calendars! Or, if you're in a hurry and want it now, it is only 99 cents - follow the link for more details (this is a re-blog)

The Cult of Me: An Odd Quartet Free This Weekend: An Odd Quartet is free this weekend from 2nd to the 4th November! UK - ...

Review: Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I managed to finish this book, but it left me feeling squicky. I had no problem with the sex scenes, it's the weird words they use to describe things, like "carrot" that really just bothered me. What amuses me the most about this book is that many people who are otherwise really prudish about these things have told me they loved this book (like my late mother, who also burned a copy of The Happy Hooker she found once she realized what it was about. Really, Mom? The Happy Hooker needs burning, but Lonesome Dove is alright then? Good grief - I never understood her to her dying day...) and just raved about it. So, this is what I gleaned from it:

If you like romance novels, and if you like Westerns and if you think you'd really like something that mixes the two, you'll love this book. If you like the movie and TV series that spawned from this book, hey, more power to ya - my blessing upon thee.

But me? Yuck. I'll be over here in the corner with my heavy metal and urban fantasies, thanks. You have a nice day.

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Review: Solomon vs. Lord

Solomon vs. Lord
Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book has everything I hate about traditional romance novels. The two main characters are relatively bearable... until they cross paths. They they start to argue and fight over every single thing. I swear, if one said the sky was blue the other would have started arguing with them about it. That isn't dynamic tension, that is annoying. It is because of this book - this book right here - that I am now extremely wary of reading any romance novels now.

Take that or leave it - if you enjoy romance novels generally, you'll probably like this annoying book and more power to you. This is the first in a series - last I checked there were several in it. But for me? THROW IT TO THE GROUND, MAN!

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Ami Blackwelder Presents: For Halloween "Midnight" a Dystopian Vampire Thriller

To be released today, October 31, 2012, Ami Blackwelder's latest!

Midnight: Vampire Dystopian Thriller - parts 1 through 3, a three-part vampire novella. Click on the image to the left to go to her website for more information, or on the title to go to Amazon to purchase it. 

I have an ARC, which I will be trying to read and review prior to Thanksgiving, so watch for my review on that!

In the meantime, check out her video here:

And here's a poster - gorgeous!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Latest release from Richard Finney (and me!)

The Chimes Before Midnight - Wisdom for a Challenging World by Richard Finney (and me as editor) is now available on Amazon.

The Synopsis:
“Wisdom can be a roadmap to leading a happy and productive life.”

While speaking with one of his daughters about an ethical dilemma, writer Richard Finney was struck by how his daughter did not have even a basic awareness of common wisdom from such sources as “Aesop’s Fables.”

When he reached out to other parents with his discovery, Finney realized it wasn’t just the children who were struggling with the basic foundations of wisdom; it was adults as well.

Many people in our world lack familiarity and the most fundamental understanding of the basic precepts of wisdom. In a society that has become complicated and challenging this lack of understanding could be at the heart of many problems.

About the Author: Finney was brought up in a mixed heritage family. His mother was Chinese – Hawaiian and her parenting skills were very much along the lines of a “Tiger Mom.” The author’s father came from an Irish and Norwegian background, and his approach to raising children was to be affectionate and loving, but also demanding about how each of his children lived up to what they were capable of contributing to the world.

Both parents raised the author with stories, tales, fables where the “wisdom” behind each experience in life had the potential to inform future encounters with the real world. And that wisdom was as important in living a prosperous life as any kind of “practical” advice.

This was the upbringing which informed Finney’s lifelong pursuit into areas of deeper ethical and moral questions in contemporary culture. The target audience for these edicts is anyone who is making their way in the modern world, but knows there’s something missing when they are challenged with ethical and moral situations.

More Details about the Book: This book is not a lecture. The author does not presume any moral high ground at all.

Indeed, one chapter illustrates that point in the starkest way when Finney reveals a tragic time in his life, where all thoughts of wisdom abandoned him… and continue to fail him even to this day. The author included the chapter because it was the best way to convey to any reader that the words of wisdom he imparts in this book do not come from an elevation anywhere near “the mountain top.”

“We’re all a work-in-progress. The choice becomes, do you just allow yourself to be the car on cinder blocks in the front lawn of the house, in plain sight for everyone to see, never being worked on for years… or someone who is making every effort to become the best person they can be.”

It’s possible that the edicts and the information behind the “The Chimes Before Midnight” might change your life.

How many have YOU read?

Apparently the BBC believes most people will have only read 6 out of the following 100 books. By my count I have definitely read 20 - there are a few I'm not completely certain - I think I might have read them, but can't remember for sure.

Bold the books you've read; italicize the ones started but not finished.  Leave a link to your own posts in my comments section so we can jump around and see one another's answers!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

*List is not actually affiliated with the BBC. Spoilers!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Miami Spy Games: Episode Three

Miami Spy Games: Episode Three
Miami Spy Games: Episode Three by Armand Rosamilia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Technothriller/Urban Fantasy (Zombies)
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of zombies, spy thrillers

Disclosure: I picked up a copy of this ebook for myself. As such I am under no obligation, but I am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Zombies have turned up outside the Setai, a luxurious hotel in Miami. This can only mean that the Russian Zombie Gun has been used again. With innocent civilians turning into flesh eating zombies, the ACES team scrambles to control the situation. 

The Miami ACES team is back, along with intriguing new characters, in the third exciting installment of Miami Spy Games. Will they be able to find the Russian Zombie Gun before it is too late?

My Thoughts: This is the 3rd novella in a serial novel story. I have reviewed the first two novellas already. A link to the 2nd review is here (on sites that allow links) and in it you will find a link back to the first one.

This is another great entry in this series, fast-paced and full of twists and turns. The editing on this one was much better – I noticed a couple minor typos, but nothing major. We learn a bit more about the characters with each episode.

A fourth book is scheduled for release today (October 29, 2012) and a fifth on Wednesday, (October 31, 2012), so this is a great time to get into this series, while you can read several of them at once. Don’t miss the prequel series that starts with San Diego Spy Games.

View all my reviews

Review: Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun

Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun
Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun by Armand Rosamilia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Technothriller/Urban Fantasy (Zombies)
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of zombies, spy thrillers

Disclosure: I received a copy of this ebook a representative of the publisher, Hobbes End Publishing. While I was told I was under no obligation, I am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: In the second installment of Miami Spy Games, the ACES team is in hot pursuit of the stolen Russian Zombie Gun. The American’s are not the only ones seeking this weapon, either. The Russians and other rogue elements are also pursuing this deadly technology.

News is spreading quickly, and more zombie attacks occur. These zombies attack victims with no remorse, and the ACES team scrambles to control the situation before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately for the team, Ozzie has made a choice, one which involves the use of the zombie gun on innocent civilians.

Jennifer, Mike and Kostas are in a race against time to capture the Russian Zombie Gun before a pandemic spreads and spirals out of control.

Follow the Miami ACES team in this second episode of this exciting new series.

My Thoughts: I read the first “episode” in this serial novel in the middle of September (review can be found here on sites that allow links). I really liked it and, in fact, noticed when I was getting ready to read this book that a 3rd episode has come out, so I went and bought that for myself and will read and review that one next.

While I enjoyed this story as well, I was disappointed in the editing on this one – the first paragraph was so poorly written it was very difficult to understand. “Jennifer Sanchez tried to ignore the dragonfly drone as it caught her eye again in front of her. I f you didn’t know it was there it would look nothing more like a bug flittering through the restaurant, but she knew. She also knew Kostas was trying his best to focus on her cleavage and not on the man currently sitting across from her in the crowded room.” While the rest of it was a bit better, that paragraph alone was enough to cause the story to lose a star.

However, if you ignore that, then this is again a fast-paced and interesting story, with a new twist on the zombie theme, and I am enjoying this story. I’ll be reading the 3rd entry in this series next, and am also going to try to read the prequel, San Diego Spy Games, soon.

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Winners of Special Samhain giveaway

I have drawn the winners for the special Samhain giveaway and...


You have won trade paperback copies of Spooked by Tracy Sharp!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As to the ebook winner - that giveaway was for International (non-US/Canada) entries only, so sorry, I had to remove several entries from the USA. The winner for that one is:

Adele from England

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have all been notified via email - just get back to me with the information requested and your prizes will be on their way! Congratulations and enjoy!

Book review: "Dead is a Battlefield" by Marlene Perez

Dead is a Battlefield review
Author: Marlene Perez
4 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Middle Grade (12+)
Recommended for: Urban fantasy, especially geared toward younger readers; fans of this series.

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

Synopsis: Jessica Walsh is starting her freshman year at Nightshade High and trying to forget about the tragic events surrounding her brother’s graduation. She wants to have a normal high school experience. But that’s easier said than done in Nightshade.

There’s a new guy at school who seems to be turning the girls into lovesick zombies. And Jessica has other worries—like her crush on a cute but moody lead singer, and the mysterious tattoo that appeared on her arm one day that lets her know whenever there is trouble brewing. Jessica learns she’s a Virago, a woman warrior chosen to fight evil whenever it threatens her hometown. But does a lowly freshman really have what it takes to keep Nightshade safe?

My Thoughts: This is the 6th book in a series, of which I have previously only read the 2nd . The review for that book is here, on sites that can support links. I had hoped to get some of the interim books before reading this one, but have not had any luck in my attempts, so I shall have to hope that I will be able to enjoy this as it is.

When Jessica ran into Connor after her guitar lesson, it reminded me of my most clueless moment ever; it was when I was in 6th grade and a friend of mine showed me this necklace he had one night while we were riding the bus home. He told me he had bought it for his girlfriend and did I like it; I said it was pretty cool and she would probably like it. Then he asked if I wanted it... I was so confused! “But you said you got it for your girlfriend!” “Yes, do you want it?” *me scratching my head* “Why do you want to give it to me, you said it was for your girlfriend?” Several years later I remembered that conversation and realized what he was asking, but at the time? Completely clueless. Of course, that wasn’t the only thing in this book that brought back fond memories – Jessica’s mother’s comment about, “Boys like cookies” reminded me of how incredibly popular I would become (for at least a few minutes) after I had spent the weekend cooking. I had several boys from a college I visited who provided me their address just so I could send them cookies. Boys do definitely like cookies!

I should point out that my cluelessness in that situation all those years ago is matched by Jessica’s cluelessness in this book – everything is very obvious, but she just manages to completely ignore all the signs. Still, this is an urban fantasy geared toward middle-grade readers, not the latest mystery-thriller, so that’s not really a big problem. That fact of the matter is, just like the 2nd book in the series that I read several years ago, I quite enjoyed this story, and would still like to get the rest of the books in this series. A 7th book has been published since I received this one, so that means I have 5 books I still need to get, somehow. More information about the series can be found here. Recommended for fans of urban fantasy, especially for younger readers, and/or for fans of this series.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book review: "Something Strange and Deadly" by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly review
Author: Susan Dennard
4 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy (Zombies/Necromancers); Steampunk
Reading Level: YA (13+ per publisher)
Recommended for: Fans of YA urban fantasy, esp. featuring zombies
Book Available: Currently available in Hardcover and Kindle; Paperback available 6/25/2013

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

Synopsis: The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor… from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

My Thoughts: I’ve seen this book described as steampunk, but as far as I can tell the only thing remotely steampunk about it is that it is set in the Victorian era – it was my understanding that steampunk usually involves elaborate machine and airships and things like that which are powered by steam. Sure, Daniel has inventions, and he and Joseph are doing the funky, paranormal stuff, but there isn’t much focus on it.

The zombies in this book reminded me of the zombies in the earlier Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton – as long as they were under the control of a necromancer, they were fairly “safe”, but as soon as they got loose they were extremely dangerous.

One thing I don’t usually comment on is the cover, but in this case, I felt the cover deserved some attention. First of all, this is supposed to be set during the Victorian era – no self-respecting woman would be that undressed, even in the privacy of her own room. She certainly would not be wearing that sort of makeup – if she were made up at all, it would be to whiten her face and rouge her lips and cheeks, not a modern-looking eyeshadow application. This cover does not at all fit in with the story; it instead fits the standard “YA girl in a dress” thing that’s become such an annoyance among people who like their covers to reflect what’s actually inside the book at least somewhat accurately.

I liked Jie a lot, and Daniel grew on me. Joseph remained a bit of an enigma. I didn’t much care for Eleanor at first, but she grew on me after awhile. If you’d asked me about the half-way point, I probably would have predicted a three-star review for this book, but the ending left me with a smile. I liked it. I really ended up liking it. Fans of steampunk will probably join me in their disappointment over the lack of airships and much in the way of mechanisms, and fans of the traditional YA triangle won’t find one here, but I think general fans of urban fantasy and traditional zombie fare will probably enjoy it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tracy Sharp Presents: The Halloween Spook-tacular - get free ebooks

Halloween is nigh, my ghouls and ghoulettes! And Tracy Sharp (who is even now preparing to send out trade paperback copies of Spooked to three lucky winners - you have signed up for this giveaway, right?) has put two of her awesome ebooks free through Sunday!

She is offering Spooked free, so if you want it, go and grab it! (My review is here if you want more information.) Just click on the name. Also, she is offering the third book of her awesome Leah Ryan mysteries' series, Dirty Business. You can see my review of this great story here.

So, what are you waiting for? Go grab these two ebooks while they're free!

Review: Rogue Hunter: Inquest

Rogue Hunter: Inquest
Rogue Hunter: Inquest by Kevis Hendrickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Space Opera
Reading Level: YA (16+ per author)
Recommended for: fans of space opera, the previous books, lighter sci-fi
Book Available: November 1, 2012 in ebook format; December 1, 2012 in paperback

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


Fearing retribution from ruthless gangsters over an unsettled debt, intergalactic bounty hunter Zyra Zanr ventures to a distant world to collect the reward for Boris Skringler, a notorious terrorist, who has been sentenced to death by political rivals of the InterGalactic Alliance. When she fails to secure his release, she decides to break him out of prison. Zyra soon finds herself an unwilling participant in events that lead to a climactic showdown between the most powerful worlds in the galaxy.

Torn between her desperation to rid herself of the threats to her life and her guilt in agitating the conflict between two galactic superpowers, Zyra is horrified to learn that the lives of an entire world of people hinge on her ability to return Skringler to his captors. However, her distrust of Skringler gives way to lust, unraveling her plans. Will Zyra give into her passion and allow Skringler to go free? Or will she surrender him to her enemies to stop an impending war? The fate of billions depend on whether she chooses life for a killer or the death of her lover.

My Thoughts: This book is a reworking of Kevis Hendrickson’s previous Rogue Hunter books, moving us back and time and starting from a younger age with Zyra Zanr.

There are occasionally over-clever word choices used, I presume, in an attempt to avoid overuse of more prosaic terms. However, this is otherwise an engaging story. It’s wonderfully refreshing to read a book with a bisexual female protagonist of the more realistic sort, albeit still gorgeous and feminine yet super strong...

This is space opera in the truest sense – lots of drama, lots of action and an almost impossibly fast face. Not to mention layers within layers within layers … and not to mention a cliffhanger ending leaving us waiting for more. So, if you’re looking for a new space opera, if you were a fan of the previous books, if you enjoy lighter science fiction, check this one out.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Asha

Asha by Kevis Hendrickson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark Fantasy
Reading Level: YA
Recommended for: fans of dark fantasy, Goths, followers of the Old Ways

Disclosure: I picked up a free copy on Smashwords; I am under no obligation but happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Asha is a 15-year old girl with the soul of a demon. She plans to wage war against heaven and hell using humanity as her main weapon. Asha begins the epic tale of the revenge of the dark goddess of demons!

My Thoughts: I had planned to read the first book in Kevis Hendrickson’s space opera, Rogue Hunter: Inquest and noticed I had this short story, so decided to read it first.

This is a short story, so there isn’t much I can tell you about it without spoiling it, but I will say it was brilliant! Those who identify as Goth, followers of the Old Ways, those interested in demons and demonology, followers of Cerridwen, fans of dark fiction – all though love this wonderful short. I definitely hope Kevis writes more books featuring Asha – I want to know MORE! Plus Cerridwen is among those of the Old Goddesses I honor, so I was particularly interested in this. And I liked Morgana. Highly recommended!

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Review: Scribbling

Scribbling by Jonathan Gould

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Satire/Parody
Reading Level: YA on up
Recommended for: everyone

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

Synopsis: Neville Lansdowne pushed the world out of shape.

He didn’t mean to do it. He didn’t even realise he had done it. If you had asked him, he would have said that, as far as he could tell, the world was the wrong shape to begin with.

In a world that is totally the wrong shape, Neville meets a new bunch of eccentric characters, and embarks on another strange and wholly unexpected adventure

My Thoughts: This is the sequel to Jonathan Gould’s earlier work, Doodling (review here for sites that allow links). Neville is just always getting himself into trouble – first he loses his grip on the world and flies into space, and now he’s managed to make a mess of things again!

Gould does a magnificent job of creating stories with multiple layers – an amusing and fluffy story on the story – a significant political satire deeper down. What I took from this is that, by continually trying to make the rest of the world fall into line with their ideologies, the more powerful countries in the world are neglecting getting their own area of the world into shape. Rather than disastrously trying to remain the entire world, they should focus on just their own part of it.

If you haven’t yet experienced Jonathan Gould, you really need to give him a try. Be sure to read Doodling as well! Highly recommended.

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Review: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath
The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Synopsis: Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it. All golden and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate trees and blossom-laden urns and ivory statues in gleaming rows; while on steep northward slopes climbed tiers of red roofs and old peaked gables harbouring little lanes of grassy cobbles. It was a fever of the gods, a fanfare of supernal trumpets and a clash of immortal cymbals. Mystery hung about it as clouds about a fabulous unvisited mountain; and as Carter stood breathless and expectant on that balustraded parapet there swept up to him the poignancy and suspense of almost-vanished memory, the pain of lost things and the maddening need to place again what once had been an awesome and momentous place.

My Thoughts: Although it took me an unforgivably long time to get this whole story read, it was not through lack of interest, I assure you. I have looked at many reviews, and it appears that a lot of readers just didn't "get it" - describing it as a "travelogue" or such. But this... this is a brilliant little piece of dream-world building, and the ultimate aspiration of any lucid dreamer is to create a world as vivid as the world Randolph Carter creates for his own dreams (or at least I aspire to such - I have had dreams from which I have awakened, most reluctantly, while in the process of begging whomever I am with in the dream to hold me there somehow). Others complain of Lovecraft's racism, but ignore the fact that he was just parroting the thoughts of the time. Besides, anyone who venerates cats the way this guy does can't be all bad, right?

I reveled in the lush prose, enjoyed the horrors he creates in this short. I highly recommend Lovecraft to people who, like me, love words.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Winners of A.J. Scudiere package & audio movie

Good morning, all my followers! You've been seeing some random, older reviews popping up this week, books I've noticed, as I ran across them, with reviews lacking disclosures. So, I thought I'd share them here as I updated them, give you some content, introduce you to some old favorites!

So, we have had that awesome A.J. Scudiere giveaway going on, and it ended at midnight. I just drew the winners. If you didn't win, head to the bottom of the post, where I've left you a link to try again, if you hurry! My apologies, it looks like she ended hers early. Still, while you're here, have you signed up for my Spooked giveaway?

For the AudioMovie, which was for international followers ONLY (I had to delete a US entry that apparently wasn't paying attention), the winner is:
Sarah D!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And the big one, the complete package of all A.J. Scudiere's books: God's Eye, Vengeance, Resonance and Phoenix, all to one lucky winner - the winner is...
Craig from Marlborough, Mass.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge congratulations to our winners. If you would like another chance to win Phoenix, Jessica Porter is hosting a giveaway on her blog here that is open until tomorrow night, so hurry over there and check it out!

Review: Doodling

Doodling by Jonathan Gould

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: Originally read and reviewed August, 2011; making some minor corrections to the review and adding disclosure.

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

Genre: Surrealism/Parody
Reading Level: YA & up
Recommended for: EVERYBODY!!

My Synopsis:: 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.

My Thoughts: 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 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.

Exciting new information!: The sequel to this novella, Scribbling, is now available! I will be reading and reviewing it very soon, so watch this space...

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Nexus: Ascension

Nexus: Ascension
Nexus: Ascension by Robert Boyczuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: This book read and reviewed Oct. 2011; updating the review to add disclosure.

Disclosure: I received a free egalley edition of this book from ChiZine via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Synopsis: Returning from a 30-year long-haul mission, the crew of the Ea come out of stasis to discover their world – Bh’Harat – dead, and screamer satellites strung around it to warn any potential visitors away – saying “hazard plague hazard plague hazard plague” over and over. Left with no choices, however the crew descends to the surface to try to ascertain what has happened, and to see if they can come up with a way to survive. Can they find a cure for the plague? Is there any hope for Bh’Harat?

My Thoughts: This was quite a story – somewhere between hard sci-fi and space opera, but eminently readable by anyone. The plot moved ahead briskly, with plots and counter-plots and counter-counter-plots running amok – at the end, there is no way to tell who is the villain of the piece. I thought that things were left open for a potential sequel (Edit: the author says there will be a sequel! Yay!) – or maybe we’re left to determine ourselves how things would proceed from here. Edit: I should also point out that this is one of only three books to ever give me nightmares.

Recommended for: Fans of science fiction will love this story – do yourselves a favor and check it out.

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James Hutchings Presents: "The Case of the Syphilitic Sister"

James Hutchings now has two chapters of his new story, The Case of the Syphilitic Sister, up on JukePop Serials for your entertainment. Chapter One is here. Chapter Two is here. Chapter One may be read without an account, but to access Chapter Two you need to sign up for an account with JukePop Serials - it is free, so don't worry about that. The site is also fairly new, to the process it buggy - wait about 5 minutes after receiving your confirmation email before clicking the link or you'll just get an error message, but once the site has some time to... update itself, I guess? ... you'll be able to get in there and check out lots of quality stuff. Excellent opportunity for lots of lost time - you're VERY welcome!

You can help James by voting up the story if you like it. If anyone figures out how to do that can you please tell me? I can't find the place they say you're supposed to go to (yeah, I'm a total idiot when it comes to these sorts of things, sorry!).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Fireflies

Fireflies by Lacey Reah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: I originally read and reviewed this in August, 2011. I'm editing this to fit in my current format and add a disclosure.

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

Genre: Lesbian erotica/Vampires
Reading Level: Adult (ADULT!!)
Recommended for: If you're looking for vampire, lesbian erotica.

My Synopsis: Fireflies is about a woman named Linda. She is in a good relationship with a terrific man, but she feels restless – something needs to change. One night, she goes to watch the fireflies in the park and meets Natasha, a mysterious, beautiful, red-eyed woman – and by the next night, Linda has changed. She needs the blood of someone in the throes of ecstasy in order to survive. Natasha warns her not to bother with men – their climax is too short-lived. Women, on the other hand, can maintain climaxes for long periods of time … women can provide sustenance. She is content with her new life – until she meets Jesse, who changes everything.

My Thoughts: Essentially a work of lesbian erotic, Fireflies is evocative and lushly detailed, the descriptions giving vivid life to this story of transformation, change and longing. Those who enjoy erotic stories, especially those involving women, should enjoy this story.

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Review: Eternal Investigations

Eternal Investigations
Eternal Investigations by Nancy M. Griffis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: This book originally read and reviewed in July, 2011; updating the review to fit with my current format and add disclosure.

Disclosure: I originally received this in ebook format from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those seeking a well-written story with f/f relationships, those who enjoy a good thriller - paranormal or otherwise. Pretty much anyone.

My Synopsis: In this slightly unusual paranormal thriller, we get an unexpected treat – instead of the usual over-sexed man, or neurotic woman as protagonist, we meet the enchanting Helen Rollins – a medium – who was, much to my delight, a well-balanced person who knew what she wanted out of life and, thanks to a mysterious benefactor, was able to achieve it by opening Eternal Investigations. Through her company – with the help of her business partner Rudy – she helps people who are having difficulties due to difficult or even violent ghosts (commonly called poltergeists), or who simply want to contact the dead in order to achieve peace after their loss.

One of the many neat things about this book is that it does not focus on only one plot string throughout the whole book – Eternal Investigations goes through several cases during the course of the book, adds another person to the business - who is a telepath among other things - and even moves its location. Among the cases they work on are: increasingly violent attacks on an artist in Atlanta by a poltergeist; a haunted ranch, the location of many violent deaths, in the desert somewhere between L.A. and Las Vegas; and a race in San Francisco from which women have been going missing for 15 years or so.

My further thoughts: The character development is wonderfully done without slowing the action, and I became quite attached to the main characters. Each character is well-defined with his or her own quirky traits; and is also described in such a way as to allow one to easily create a picture in one’s mind. The plot develops in an organic way and it engrossing and well-written. Overall, fans of the thriller/suspense/paranormal genre should jump all over this book, because it is wonderful and I, personally, am sincerely hoping that Ms. Griffis decides to write more books involving Eternal Investigations. Please, do not miss out on a chance to pick up this involving and wonderfully well-written book! You will not regret it!

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Monday, October 22, 2012


Head on over to Richard Finney's blog to see an interview I did with him.  Feel free to comment either location

RICHARD FINNEY: THE WORK OF AN EDITOR - AN INTERVIEW with KATY SOZ...: "Publishing a book is a lot of work. I think a lot of people who haven’t really put themselves out there as writers don’t realize ...

Special Samhain Giveaway (US/Canada Only)! "Spooked" by Tracy Sharp

So, this week we're making a departure from the norm. Tracy Sharp has offered three (3) trade paperback copies of this wonderful book, Spooked (review can be found here). Since Tracy has to mail these out herself, we have had to reluctantly limit entrants to those living in the US or Canada due to shipping costs.

I have one of these trade paperback editions and they are just gorgeous, so you will be receiving a real treat for this Halloween/Samhain season! You will love it as much as I did, I'm sure of that.

Now, because I love my International followers and want to be able to offer you something as well, I am going to make a special offer just for you, out of my own pockets (which are pretty shallow, sorry). I will buy the novella Camilla (my review here) for you from Smashwords (or, if you already have it, another ebook of your choice up to $2.99 limit). I hope this will help avoid any tricks on your part!

So, below are the Rafflecopter giveaways - no need to leave your email in the comments. Just be sure you enter the correct one. As always, the very best of luck to you!

Entry form for US/Canada entrants:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entry form for International entrants:

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J.Taylor Publications Presents: Cover Reveal "Day After" by Emi Gayle

Day After
Book 2 in The 19th Year Trilogy
by Emi Gayle
Release Date: May 6, 2013
Target Reader: Young Adult
Keywords: Paranormal Romance, Romance

Back of the Book

Demon crypts. Vampire lairs. Glowing angels. Sexy sirens. The stuff of fiction.

Or so Winn Thomas always thought.

Since being accepted into the fold of the supernatural, he knows better. None of what he imagined is true, but everything he feared is, and binding himself to his changeling girlfriend until her nineteenth birthday will give him an education far beyond what he’d get at his human high school.

Luckily, Winn’s not giving up, he won’t back down, and he definitely isn’t going to run away with his tail between his legs. After all, only werewolves have tails. Right?

In this, the second of the 19th Year trilogy, Winn’s facing the challenge of one lifetime. If he doesn’t learn the truth about mythological creatures, his girlfriend Mac Thorne won’t either. That means, in six months, when she chooses her final form, she won’t know what to pick.

Winn, though, has his own ideas about Mac’s final selection—plans she knows nothing of.

He intends to have her pick human.

Whether she can or not.


Other Books in this series include:
After Dark (Book 1)

Land of Hope Giveaway winners

Congratulations to the winners of my Land of Hope giveaway:

Libby, Kristy and Steve!

I've emailed each of you and Junying, so you should get your copies soon. If you want to try your luck, check the blog tour schedule here and you'll see there is another giveaway scheduled to begin on the 25th.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: Scourge of the Betrayer

Scourge of the Betrayer
Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Fantasy – Quest fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of quest fantasy, those who enjoy watching someone naïve grow and learn

Disclosure: I received this book by accident – it was a file I received from NetGalley that was supposed to be The Croning, but had the wrong text. I’m not under any obligation from anyone, but am, as always, happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies – or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself.

Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe ... and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!

A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire – and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.

My Thoughts: This book is told from Arki’s point of view, and as an observant young man and scribe, we’re treated to a much different view of the world that we would have if we were to watch these same events through any of the captain’s team. Watching the events as an outsider was quite fascinating, and I have to give the author props for maintaining that sort of outsider vibe.

It’s probably my weird sense of humor, but I found Captain Killcoin absolutely hilarious. His dryly violent ways, the sorts of statements and comparisons he would come up with – I spent a great deal of time laughing. Admittedly those with a slightly less... jaded and black sense of humor probably wouldn’t find it nearly as funny, but I certainly did.

I believe this is what is considered to be “quest” fantasy, in that a naïve, less-than-experienced “questor” (in this case, Arki) joins up with a more experienced group (the Syldonians), who then teach him how to survive and live more fully, essentially. While this first quest is more or less wrapped up by the end of this book, Scourge of the Betrayer is only the first book in a series, so there is plenty of growth yet to come for Arki. Recommended!

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Guest review of "Shifter" by Steven D. JacksonB

Back in June I read this awesome book by Steven D. Jackson called Shifter - you can read my review here

In recent conversations with the author, I offered to host a guest post and he asked if I would mind posting a review he recently received by Jack L. Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy has indicated that this review is not copyrighted and may be used by the author or his representatives as he will. Without further ado, here is Jack L. Kennedy's thoughts on the marvelous Shifter!

By Jack L. Kennedy

Are you certain you know where you are? Or even who you are? Do forces keep shifting around you, as what you thought was reality becomes mystical? Scare you into perhaps hiring a young attorney? If so, you will enjoy a creative, intriguing, first novel, “Shifter” by Steven D. Jackson (Rhemalda)

Jackson is a London lawyer who lives in Southampton and is a leader of Mensa, the brainy bunch. Think about that for a while. With literary luck, as the sands of time continue to shift, you will hear from him again. He reveals in an e-mail interview that he was a lad of only 24 when he wrote Shifter (He is now 27) and “it’s taken a while to get to this point. In honesty, I never really expected to see (it) made into a final novel. It was all so sudden and exciting that I can barely believe it actually happened.”

As a preface to the tight, promising tome, Jackson tells readers, “In many ways, Shifter represents my attempt to shoe-horn my life into the shape I wanted it to be and celebrates the fact that I eventually managed it, but I couldn’t have done it alone." He adds that many friends “served unwittingly as inspiration for characters in this book.”

“The main character is a lawyer yeah, very much like me (at the time),” he added in our email interview. “I drew a lot on my own circumstances in the first chapter or two and then made it up. In a way I suppose you could say that Shifter records what I might have wished would happen to me to change a life I wasn’t happy with at the time. But no, it’s not autobiographical in any wider sense.”

Perhaps he is right, but Shifter is exciting, well-crafted and moving as young professional John tries to figure out why people and physical surroundings seem to change around him. Is he—or the rest of his environment—mentally ill? What is reality? John runs into “the company” or “the organization,” which at times sounds like Britain’s MI5 or America’s CIA—or, may simply be a paranoid figure of the imagination. Do bring your imagination as you read this book. The organization has men and women assigned to be keepers or recallers of the past in case the shifters or bad guys or hidden forces try to change too much too fast. Shifters are described as people who “can change the world around them to fit what they want it to be. Some are better at it than others.” Poor observers caught up in the deaths, psychiatrists, shaky relationships, doubts and fears (sound like our real world)? might not realize anything is shifting at all, at least until it is too late.

Perhaps the locale for Chapter 23, the reader will discover, is a major clue to the plot, its meaning, and why the author is who he is....or perhaps not.

This may be the best first novel you read this year. It is certainly the most unusual, and the most promising. Good versus evil, definition versus doubt
always makes a good read. Jackson says he was pleasantly surprised when the Moses Lake, Wa. publisher picked up the young Brit lawyer’s book. He says he finished his second book a few weeks ago, which is “totally different and in my opinion a lot more exciting. It’s the kind of book I’d actually like to read myself.”

So would we. So should you.

Review: Text Me, Guido

Text Me, Guido
Text Me, Guido by Adrian Staccato

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of Jersey Shore, Italian-American/Italian lifestyles, something to make you think

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

Synopsis: Text Me, Guido is the debut novel from author Adrian Staccato. Told entirely through text-messaging conversations, the book follows five Italian-American college friends as they complete their final semester of school. They are: Enzo, Sofia, Giulia, Claudia, and Phil.

Enzo is your typical bronze-tanned Guido. The son of a wealthy home builder, he spends his days at the gym and his nights at the club. When he’s not buying drinks for his friends, he’s showering his longtime girlfriend, Sofia, with gifts – making her the envy of the neighborhood. Her friends, Giulia and Claudia, secretly hope the two will break it off, but Sofia is set on marriage and eagerly awaits Enzo’s proposal.

Enzo’s friend, Phil, is the outcast of the group. He dislikes to party, and attributes the “Jersey Shore lifestyle” to the decline of civilization. Nevertheless, he finds himself infatuated with Giulia – a crush since kindergarten. Giulia, however, is wildly insecure and has no interest in his bookish ways. She has her heart set on Enzo – and with a little maneuvering, she might just get what she wants!

My Thoughts: I will start off by saying I am not a fan of Jersey Shore and, in fact, know next to nothing about it. The author of this book says he wrote it hoping that fans of Jersey Shore would like it and find it entertaining. I asked him why me, then, but I guess my reputation as being honest preceded me. I was particularly interested when a friend of mine, who has tastes somewhat divergent from mine, but whose opinion I value, read and loved this book, writing a rare review singing its praises. I mean, when Tabitha calls something “brilliant,” I tend to sit up and take notice. However, despite my best intentions to get this read way back in August, it kept being pushed into the background – I kept thinking, “I can probably read this in an evening; I’ll start it late on a Sunday,” but then running out of time week after week. So, no more – I set out to get this book read!

First of all, I have no idea what genre this might fit into – it is obviously an experimental style, and Staccato pulled it off brilliantly (to echo Tabitha). Since I am not the intended audience, some of the references went over my head, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless. The ending was a real shocker; I did not see that coming, so brace yourself! What? I’m not going to tell you – that would be spoiling it!

The live links to Wiki and YouTube added a neat touch, even though by reading it on a basic Kindle I wasn’t able to get that full experience. I would recommend you read it on a tablet or the PC Kindle program, or possibly in the Cloud, in order to get the full impact of the links. I think this will appeal to a broad range of readers, but having knowledge of the background will likely increase the readers’ enjoyment. Check this out – it’s pretty neat.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Twice Shy

Twice Shy
Twice Shy by Patrick Freivald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Horror (Zombie)
Reading Level: Young Adult (with warning for self-mutilation (cutting), extreme ruthlessness and violence)
Book Available: October 26, 2012 in Paperback and ebook
Recommended for: Fans of hard-core violence, alternate ideas of zombies

Disclosure: I received a free ebook ARC from Journalstone, via a special, member’s-only promotion. I am not under any obligation, but am happy to provde an honest review.

Synopsis: High School Sucks. It’s worse when you’re dead.

Ohneka Falls is a small, Western New York town where everyone knows everyone and nothing of note happens. Ani Romero is a sixteen-year-old girl who wants to play sports, hang out, and kiss Mike, her middle-school crush. A childhood carrier of the zombie virus, she died at fourteen but didn’t become a mindless, brain-eating monster. Her controlling mother forces her to join the emo crowd to hide her condition behind a wall of black clothes and makeup, and her friends abandon her.

When creeper Dylan learns her secret, he falls into obsession, with Ani and with death. She bites him in self-defense. Persecuted by the jocks and ignored by Mike, Ani struggles through the motions of life hoping her mother’s research unveils a cure, or Dylan dooms them all to a hungry, walking death.

As her emo facade crumbles in the face of jealousy and obsession, Ani knows that the worst thing she can do is be true to herself.

My Thoughts: I’m not much of a fan of traditional zombie stories – to me, there is only so much that can be done with brain-eating, brainless, shambling hordes before the interest wanes. That is why I am so fascinated by the ways that people are turning the zombie genre on its head, to find a new way to tell zombie stories.

I, in some ways, had trouble putting myself into Ani’s shoes, because deep inside, her tendency is to be a jock and a “spirit” girl – her favorite color is “Barbie-Dream-House pink” – while, when I was her age, if emo/goth had been an option, I would have so been a goth (based upon my vampire fixation). However, watching her go through these struggles, to pretend to be emo, which was so against her natural tendency, to watch the lengths her mother went to in order to protect her (that is an eminently practical woman, that’s for sure), I couldn’t help but empathize with Ani. This writer does a phenomenal job into bringing the reader into the life of this young girl, cursed before she was even born, having to live a lie in order to remain free...

The ending shocked me, crushed me, laid me flat. Originally I had this rated as urban fantasy, but that ending – that was a hard-core, horror-level ending. Wow. So, warning to all – this is not a light read, it is not light fare, but it is an amazing book. Highly recommended.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: Tales of Christmas Magic

Tales of Christmas Magic
Tales of Christmas Magic by Matt Posner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy – Christmas Theme
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: Fans of School of the Ages or those who want to ease into the series, those looking for a fast and light-hearted read with a Christmas theme.

Disclosure: I picked up this book when I realized it contained School of the Ages stories. Since I purchased it myself I have no particular obligation, and am always happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Return to the world of School of the Ages with this short volume of amusing short stories with a Christmas flair. Why are so many elementals bothering the teen magician Radish in the prep school bathroom? Will master magician Dr. Archer be able to select a new home from the many creepy places in New York? AND..... why, why, WHY is the beautiful sixteen-year-old Goldberry in a pitched battle with Santa Claus on the school roof?

My Thoughts: I’m a huge fan of the School of the Ages series by Matt Posner. The series currently has three full-length novels – The Ghost in the Crystal, Level Three’s Dream and The War Against Love – as well as a novelette – Sara Ghost – and this collection of short stories.

After reading the very dark Sara Ghost, this light-hearted group of stories was a relief and very enjoyable. Fans of the series won’t want to miss these stories, and if you haven’t yet discovered School of the Ages, then this is a good way to get introduced. Don’t miss this one!

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Review: Sara Ghost

Sara Ghost
Sara Ghost by Matt Posner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult (Trigger warning disturbing themes, warning due to self-inflicted injuries by cutting)
Recommended for: fans of School of the Ages, magic, those learning to love themselves

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook from the author. He specifically told me I was under no obligation, but I am happy to provide in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: I lock the bathroom door, strip to get in the shower. My arms are specked with white lines from little cuts. But I don't cut in the house. I want to, now, really badly. I imagine cutting really deeply, like with a steak knife, leaving a puddle on the green tiles. Bleed out the fear, the worry, to make me ready for whatever horrible thing Jack Misra is going to do to me. Did I really just say "Eew" like a five-year-old who doesn't like what's on her plate? Why didn't I have guts to say, 'Dad, this guy is a pervert and he's going to rape me?' My dad's … disgusting and my mom's a beast and I'm growing into a mix of both of them. My mom's big butt and fat lips … and dusty skin, my dad's round fat face and muddy eyes with pinched eye sockets and even a little of his mustache if you look closely. I imagine taking a big butcher knife and cutting around the edges and just peeling my ugly face away and flushing it down the toilet. Even Jack Misra wouldn't want me after that. Go on, Jack. You wanted to @#$%@# a pig, but will you @#$%@# a faceless bleeding monster?

Sara Ghost
is a novelette (a long short story) in the School of the Ages series about young magicians in New York City. To learn more about the characters in this story, you can read Book I: The Ghost in the Crystal; Book II: Level Three's Dream; short story collection Tales of Christmas Magic; and, Book III: The War Against Love.

My Thoughts: The events of this book take place between Level Three's Dream and The War Against Love. I have read all the books in this series so far (with the exception of the short-story collection, about which I did not know and which situation I plan to remedy) and have loved them.

This is a very different story from the main novels – it features a non-magician, and the main characters are only peripherally involved., It also deals with the very serious issue of cutting, hopelessness and self-hatred that is unfortunately becoming more common among young people. Those with triggers over this issue should beware. However, like all School of the Ages stories, I really enjoyed it – it’s very well-written and interesting. Posner has included a couple interviews in which he discusses why he decided to write this story, and a bonus excerpt of an old story that I really hope he will finish. Recommended.

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Review: Fangs for Nothing

Fangs for Nothing
Fangs for Nothing by Shannon Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy, Humorous
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Everyone.

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

Synopsis: Not everyone who gets turned into a vampire becomes a sexy rock star.

At twenty-seven, Vincent Lester still looks seventeen, acne and all. He lives in his parents' basement, playing PlayStation and barely surviving by licking the blood off raw hamburger trays. His parents nag him to find a day job, but he's afraid the sun will make him burst into flame.

One night at the bar, Vinny picks up a drunk girl, literally, and gets his first taste of fresh, human blood. Then things get really weird.

My Thoughts: I really loved this author’s first book, Minion of Evil (link to review here for sites that allow links). So when I heard Shannon Ryan was writing a vampire story, I first squeeeeeeeed with excitement for awhile, and then started pestering him: “When’ll it be done, huh huh huh??? When’ll it be done????” until I think he finished it out of irritation with me and sent me a copy. Whereupon I got really busy for a long time and wasn’t able to get to it before he released it into the wild. pout But now I finally got to read it! Yay!

So, this is full of funny, like this: “I needed blood. However, the whole predatorily-attacking-people (sic) thing bothered me. I’ve never been much of an athlete. I just couldn’t see myself chasing girls down alleyways, and if they could outrun me, that would be so embarrassing.” Of course, since Vinny doesn’t chase down victims, he drinks the left-over blood on hamburger trays to survive. When he father says grace at a family meal, “I started to squirm. I’m not sure if there really is a God, but if he does exist, there is a precedent that he’s not really on my side. Jesus might love the little children, but he was silent on the subject of bloodsucking fiends.” His parents want him out of the basement, and his mother is constantly nagging him to get a job: “Since my ungodly transformation, my parents had been in denial about my ‘condition.’ Sure, they might admit I had a nasty sun allergy, but anything beyond that got conveniently edited out of their reality. Plus they were really getting sick of having me around the house...” When describing holding his breath, he explains how breathing is needed to help him speak, but, “I’m good at holding my breath though – my record is two hours, after that I get bored.

I could go on for pages with quotes from this book – it was hilarious – but I suppose I’d end up giving spoilers. All those quotes are from very early in the book. Vinny is awesome – and a real trooper, especially when it comes to his cross-dressing. If you enjoy laughing, if you’re a fan of “silly” vampire fiction, if you read Minion of Evil and want more – if you just enjoy a good story – you really do not want to miss Shannon Ryan. Get this book today!

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"The Devil of Echo Lake" trailer

So, I just finished The Devil of Echo Lake, which was released into the wild today by Douglas Wynne through Journalstone. Here is my review. I was fairly incoherent, mostly because I just loved the book - it was amazing, evocative, lush - but I could not think of a way to adequately present that to anyone reading my review without going into spoilers, or sounding like a total, squeeing fangirl.

So, I went to track down more info to find out when/if another book is due out and basically let the author know I loved the book. While I didn't find anything immediately about a new book, I did find this nifty book trailer for this book! Check it out!

Review: The Devil of Echo Lake

The Devil of Echo Lake
The Devil of Echo Lake by Douglas Wynne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Book Available: October 19, 2012 (just available) in paperback and ebook format
Recommended for: Fans of dark story with overall redemptive themes, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles, the old gods

My Thoughts: This is a richly atmospheric story. I’ve never heard of this writer before, but he certainly knows how to set a scene to keep the reader flipping those pages – I will definitely be looking to see if he has anything else out there, because I just loved his style. The scenes are lush, descriptive, disturbing – we really get inside the heads of Billy Moon and Jake, while also seeing bits and pieces of the other characters around them. The book deals with themes of ‘be careful what you wish for” and “what you think you want may not actually be what you want”. There is a ghost story weaving through the overall story as well.

I’m not really sure what to say about the book, not without possibly spoiling it. I will say that if you enjoy dark fiction, you’ll love this book. If you feel connected to the old gods, you’ll love this book. It’s not quite horror – the ending is all wrong for that – but it is very dark at times. Highly – HIGHLY – recommended!

Disclosure: I received an ARC ebook edition from Journalstone, via the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Billy Moon would have given his life for rock 'n' roll stardom, but the Devil doesn’t come that cheap.

Goth-rock idol Billy Moon has it all: money, fame, and a different girl in every city. But he also has a secret, one that goes all the way back to the night he almost took his own life. The night Trevor Rail, a shadowy record producer with a flair for the dark and esoteric, agreed to make him a star. . . for a price.

Now Billy has come to Echo Lake Studios to create the record that will make him a legend. A dark masterpiece like only Trevor Rail can fashion. But the woods of Echo Lake have a dark past, a past that might explain the mysterious happenings in the haunted church that serves as Rail’s main studio. As the pressure mounts on Billy to fulfill Rail's vision, it becomes clear that not everyone will survive the project.

It's time the Devil of Echo Lake had his due, and someone will have to pay.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Blood and Mistletoe

Blood and Mistletoe by E.J. Stevens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Book Available: November 20, 2012
Recommended for: Fans of Urban Fantasy, those who enjoy tales of the fae that treats them realistically
Disclosure: I received this book as an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Holidays are worse than a full moon for making people crazy. In Harborsmouth, where many of the residents are undead vampires or monstrous fae, the combination may prove deadly.
Ivy Granger, psychic private investigator, returns to the streets of Harborsmouth in this addition to the bestselling urban fantasy series.
Holidays are Hell, a point driven home when a certain demon attorney returns with information regarding a series of bloody murders. Six Harborsmouth residents have been killed and every victim has one thing in common--they are fae. Whoever is killing faeries must be stopped, but they only leave one clue behind--a piece of mistletoe floating in a pool of the victim's blood.
The holidays just got interesting. Too bad this case may drive Ivy mad before the New Year. Heck, she'll be lucky to survive Christmas.
Blood and Mistletoe is an Ivy Granger series novella.

My Thoughts: I read the first book in the Ivy Granger series, Shadow Sight, in July of this year and really loved it (review can be seen here on sites that allow links). This novella helps bridge the gap leading up to the next full novel in this series, Ghost Light, which is scheduled for release in 2013. This book is a novella, but Stevens puts in a lot of action, keeping the plot moving at a brisk pace.
Hob has told Ivy that, “...the very, very old fae tended to go through an unhealthy stage of boredom that was often followed by a period of ‘goin’ doololly.’” As it turns out, the fae that Ivy is up against in this story is very, very old indeed, and describing her as “goin’ doololly,” is probably a kind way of putting it. Fans of the Dresden Files will recognize the name Leanansidhe, but I think Stevens has a more realistic idea of what Leanansidhe is like – very, very old fae: very, very “doololly”.
Of course I’m not going to tell you what Leanansidhe has to do with the story – that would be telling, wouldn’t it? But if you like urban fantasy, especially with very realistic depictions of the fae, you really need to read E.J. Stevens’ Ivy Granger, Psychic Eye series – it’s really wonderful stuff!

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Review: Brush with Death

Brush with Death
Brush with Death by E.J. Stevens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Book Available: October 23, 2012
Recommended for: Fans of YA fiction, esp. paranormal and urban fantasy, those interested in ghosts and spirits.

Disclosure: I received this book as an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Samhain was scary, but graduation is downright terrifying. Yuki and Emma's recent brush with death has unexpected consequences.

Until last winter Yuki could only smell the dead, but the touch of death's embrace has awakened latent powers. With the help of her friends, Yuki must face her new abilities. Will her psychic powers become the curse they all have feared? Curse or gift, Yuki's new vision begins leading her down an unknown path, but is it a road that only she can follow?

Emma's close encounter of the death kind has her questioning her future as well. Until now she had it all; brains, beauty, conviction, fabulous friends, and a scholarship to Tufts Veterinary School. She knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. Emma had a plan for everything, but she never bargained for her own traitorous emotions. When graduation comes, will Emma follow her dreams... or follow her heart?

My Thoughts: I have to start right out by saying (and I’m typing this before I even begin to read) that one can follow both one’s dreams and one’s heart – I am very disturbed by the idea that Emma may ditch school for some starry-eyed idea of love. As a person who dropped out of college – twice – to get married, I’m the very last person who should be preaching about something like that, but I am very disturbed by the number of young women I’ve seen lately who are putting their education secondary to getting married, and I think that’s a very unhealthy idea for them to be espousing. It is not impossible to both get one’s education and be married at the same time – it is true that it might make things a bit more difficult, but if one must get married, one can still achieve one’s dreams.

Anyway, that is neither here or there – you want to know what I thought about the book, right? Let’s start with details. Unlike previous books in the series, told only from Yuki’s point of view, this book encompasses multiple points of view, split by chapter. Each chapter is from a different point of view, skipping back and forth between the various characters. This gives us more of a sense of what is happening with each of them, of course, and provides us with more details. Since each chapter is a different character, there is no sense of “head-hopping” and as long as the reader pays attention to which chapter goes with whom, it’s easy to keep up.

There was a problem with the timeline, however; when Yuki is recounting the events from the first book, discussing the Homecoming dance, she mentions that it was after that when Simon started training her and Cal in controlling the wolf, but that isn’t what happened – they had already been working on that and Cal thought he had things under control, which is why they went to the Homecoming dance so close to the full moon to begin with.

This book completes a type of cycle for this series – Yuki has now completed her senior year and is preparing to go out and start her life, as are Emma, Calvin, Gordy, and Katie. Simon has come to grips with his emotions regarding Emma and Emma with Simon, and I can see storm clouds on the horizon for them, but I feel confident they’ll come through okay.

I believe Stevens is planning to continue this series and I’m very interested to see where she goes with these characters as they move beyond high school. In the meantime, readers who enjoy Stevens’ YA series should check out her Ivy Granger, Psychic Detective series for an adult protagonist – the first book is out and a novella is scheduled for release next month. A prolific writer with enjoyable stories to tell – what’s not to love? Check out E.J. Stevens for your next urban fantasy fix.

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