Monday, December 29, 2014

The Tegan Cave by Inge-Lise Goss

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting from this book, but it wasn't exactly what I got. I thought, you know... spiders (seriously shuddering here). It's going to be something creepy, maybe keep me awake at night with the lights on and a fly swatter in my hands. That's not exactly what happened.

Aside from the fact that I find spiders to be incredibly creepy, I did enjoy this story. What upped the "ick" factor for me is the fact that I can see some scientist crazy enough to attempt what a character in the story succeeded at. And if I tell you what that is, then why would you bother to read the story for yourself, hmm?

This story is very well written, well edited and completely believable in a crazy-scientist-who's-gone-around-the-bend kind of way. The experiment that is the back story this book is set around has its own pitfalls for some characters. There are the expected good guys and bad guys. When you think you know which characters fall into which category, Goss changes it up on you.

The characters have a depth that makes the events that happen to them believable. Could reality as we know it be skewed sideways by some crazy in a lab? You betcha. Goss brings a level of believability to her writing in much the same way Stephan King did in his epic, The Stand. That alone makes her work worthy of reading. Unlike King's book, The Tegan Cave is not an apocalyptic story.  Should Goss decide to continue writing, I can see a time when her name will be as well-known as Stephen King. Take a chance on this author. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

In spite of the spiders, I had a difficult time setting the book aside. I was gifted this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars.

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Amazon Australia
                                    Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Kiss of Ashen Twilight (The Mortal Edition) (Ashen Twilight Series Book 1) by Rae Lori

I have mixed feelings about this book. While the story is in a genre I enjoy, the editing and proofreading left much to be desired. The errors ranged the gamut from missed punctuation to incorrect word choices to incorrect forms of words used.

This author shows a lot of promise, but the number of errors left me unwilling to spend money on future books by her. Before I take the step to purchase other books by this author, I will make use of the free hour of in-store reading time Barnes & Noble offers their Nook customers. Unlike Amazon, Barnes & Noble doesn't allow Nook users to automatically update a book that has been re-edited. Consequently, I am very thankful this was a free book.

My recommendation would be to pull the book and for the author to avail herself of either a couple of beta readers or a good editor. Had this book been properly edited, I would have happily bought every book in the series. I would have also given this book 4 stars. Due to lack of sufficient editing, I can only give this book 2 stars.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Forever Kansas by Julie Cassar

I've enjoyed the Ruby Blue series from the very beginning. Cassar spins an enchanting and fun tale full of adventure from the first page. I was so excited to hear there was another book coming out that I hounded her without remorse. (You know, that whole 'squeaky wheel' thing.) My persistence paid off.

Forever Kansas is written from Brennan's point-of-view offering faithful readers a fuller, more rounded look at the world she's shared with us. Just for a while, suspend your disbelief and embrace your inner romantic, your inner hero or heroine and believe. Everything you've come to love about the series is here and more besides.

I didn't grow up with brothers so I can only guess at what teenage boys go through as they mature and  would probably still be way off. Cassar dealt with Brennan's struggles against his teenage hormonal response to Ruby's kisses to give her the respect she deserves as the love of his life in some of the most tactful, yet evocative writing I've ever read. The intimate scenes remain suitable for the YA reader while losing none of their impact. Well done Julie.

I enjoyed this additional excursion into the lives of Ruby and her friends, and know you will too. I was captivated and then held captive as I scrambled to locate the charger for my Nook so I could continue reading. Although currently only available for pre-order, this is definitely a 'must get' for the series. You won't regret it.

I was gifted an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Amazon Australia
                                    Barnes & Noble
                                    Smashwords

Monday, October 27, 2014

Crimson Shadow: Dance with the Devil by Nathan Squiers

I've been a fan of both Nathan Squiers and the Crimson Shadow series since opening the first book. I mean really, what's not to like if you love a good fantasy story that walks the darker side of things. There's nothing fluffy about a Squiers novel (unless you count your friendly house-tiger). There's mayhem, there's action (oh yeah, covered under mayhem), angst, and all the other problems that go with being an arrogant mythos that goes around cleaning up all the problems that come knocking at his door.

In every book to date, Squiers has thrown curve ball after curve ball and this one is no different. What makes this book different from the previous books is the intensity of the writing. He dug deep for the pain, the conflict, the attitude... everything. In this book, Squiers has exceeded his personal best.

Prior to this, he wore the coat of bard in his storytelling. In Dance with the Devil, he has become the personification of Bard, rather than being a simple bard. What is the difference you may ask. I've said it before, but it's worth repeating, the intensity of the writing. Having not only the ability to dig deep, but the willingness to do so and then,  both shamelessly and without apology, put it out there for his readers his readers to bask in. And bask I did.

Squiers took me the entire gamut of emotions for which I wanted to both thank him and hunt him down to give him a swift kick depending on where I was in the book. Raise the curtains on a surprise guest and exit to grief. He gave me laughter in the most unexpected places. For our stalwart and reluctant hero, words of wisdom from a couple of unexpected people, one of whom was a complete stranger. A surprise gifting left me in tears, though not for the first time in this book. Even if you aren't one of those people who cry while reading a book, better keep some tissue handy anyway. You may discover you've become a secret crier.

Dance with the Devil is, in my humble opinion, his finest bit of writing that I have ever been privileged to read. He gave me not only everything I have come to expect from a book with his name on the cover, but things I never realized I wanted. At the risk of being redundant, he has surpassed all previous efforts. You WANT this book. And that, my dear, friend is the bottom line. He has raised the bar on what I now expect from him in future books. I have no doubt that he will deliver.

I was gifted an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                     Amazon AU

Monday, August 11, 2014

Total Blueprint for World Domination by Jolene Stockman

This is, without a doubt, the best self-help book I've ever read. This is also the only self-help book I've ever finished. Not because it only has 61 pages, but because it was a fun read! Wait, self-help book and fun never go together. They're dry. They're boring. Well, I'm here to tell you this book gives lie to all of the preconceived notions you (and I) have ever had about this genre.

Stockman takes a fun, light-hearted approach to giving teenagers and young adults the tools they need to determine how to be successful in life while being the best they can be. What is so fantastic about this book? She doesn't preach. She doesn't drone on and on. She lays out her plan in a few steps, shows you how to get results and all while being very encouraging.

Why is this such an easy read? This book reads like a conversation between people. Okay, so it's one-sided, but Stockman uses every-day language. There's no superfluous prose, no extra anything. Just straight forward language.

So what's my take on this? I like it. I found it humorous and completely engaging. Stockman offers explanations for everything she puts in this book. As self-help guides go, this is the best I've come across. Ever. Well written, well edited, and very worth picking up.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
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Breaking Free, Others of Edenton: Book 4 by Brandy L Rivers

The latest entry in the ongoing saga of the Others of Edenton introduces us to Declan, Moira and their children, Devlin and Fallon (whom we met in In Too Deep). The prologue takes us back 71 years to when Declan and Moira meet before moving forward nine years to when they must part for their family's safety. Devlin and Fallon are separated to be raised by the parent best able to teach them to handle the talents each were born with.

Devlin is now on the run from the Dales and DeMarco, the dark mage that captured him and his father twenty years ago. Free of the dark wards, he starts dreaming of Jamie and eventually promises he will find her. Afraid of bringing the dark mage and Dales to Edenton, Devlin tells Jamie he can't stay for fear of what they will do to her.

Rivers has outdone herself with Breaking Free. With each new Others book, her characters gain more depth and complexity. The town of Edenton becomes more interesting and vibrant. New characters are introduced, saved, find strengths within themselves of which they were previously unaware. When Jamie finally convinces Devlin to tell her the whole of his history, he again has what was missing for years, the unconditional love he needed.

Once his relationship to Fallon is no longer a secret, everyone begins training to protect themselves, each other, and their town. Devlin, a healer and gentle soul at heart, is unable to find the warrior within until a few choice comments by Preston. (I love this part.)

All our favorite characters are back, both the good and not so good. Love, family and a looming battle that will decide much had me devouring this book at the first opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Edenton and look forward to my next trip. If you enjoy shape shifters, vampires, and other paranormal beings, a bit of light romance, you can't go wrong. Visit Edenton, you'll enjoy yourself.

But for two missed errors, I would have gladly given Rivers 5 stars. Unfortunately, I must adhere to the criteria I set forth for rating a book. Regretfully, I can only give her 4. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble
                                    Smashwords

Fated Love: Others of Edenton Novella, 2.5 by Brandy L Rivers


I have a weakness for shapeshifter stories and those authors who write them are on my "watch for the next book" list. Rivers feeds my fantasy that the perfect partner is out there somewhere, waiting until I'm ready for him. And if it's only ever in my imagination, well, that's fine too.

Fated Love is Christian's story. He's quiet, a good friend, and has been in love with Delilah since he met her. He's just waiting for the right time. His time, when she's done searching for what's right in front of her.

Rivers' characters are always enjoyable. They're never perfect but they are perfect for that one special person. They aren't human, but they have very human foibles.

This is such a short story, that saying much of anything will be a spoiler for anyone who wants to read this book. If you love the other books in this series, you will this one as well. This story was all the excuse I needed (as if one was required) to detour from current books to revisit Edenton again. You just can't go wrong with this series.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble
                                    Smashwords

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Trusting Hearts (The Heart Series) by Shannon Donahue

At first glance, this is a fairly straight forward story. A woman deeply in love with her husband has decided to divorce him for repeatedly cheating on her. He doesn't want to let her go, but until backed into a corner, won't admit just how long he's been seeing the other woman.  Donahue does an excellent job of portraying just how angry Rachel Rossini is about her husband's cheating.

There is a lot of anger in this story, maybe too much. Rachel blows up at the slightest provocation throughout the book. Her lawyer, Carson Licciano, is her high school sweetheart who also happens to be a good friend of her husband. There is definitely potential for trouble here. Adding to the mix, she also has a long distance relationship going with Dr Colin Hill.

This has the potential to be a great story, but for me, the author has missed the mark. Her use of tenses in much of the narrative made for awkward reading. The scenes with Carson felt contrived rather than natural. As her lawyer, he recommends laying low and not pursuing another relationship. However, it doesn't take long for him to "give in" to his old feelings for Rachel and start rekindling the old relationship. Vinnie continues to press Rachel to take him back because he knows she still loves him. When the papers are served, he refuses to sign, forcing the decision to take the divorce proceedings to trial.

I rarely comment on intimate scenes in books. In the case of this book, these parts fare no better than the rest. They are choppy and rushed as though the characters were back in high school None of the sentiment the characters claim to feel for each other comes through in the narrative. This book additionally suffers from the occasional misspelled word and punctuation problems.

I was truly prepared to enjoy this book. I like stories where the woman gets back her own when leaving a bad relationship. While none of the problems with this book are individually severe, cumulatively, they make for a less than enjoyable reading experience. Had the book been properly edited for flow, content and smoothed out the rough edges, I would have happily given three stars.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 2 stars

Friday, August 8, 2014

Deadlier ...than the Male by D. Michelle Gent

Gent offers us a variation on the traditional werewolf genre that I found quite intriguing. There are those born Wolf (yes, she capitalizes the word), and those "made." There is a hierarchy among those born having to do with the amount of power, strength and abilities, and those who are "throwbacks," a danger to Wolfkind and always killed when found. They live and work beside us, a society within society at large, keeping their secrets and laws.

The main protagonist is Hazel, aka Red, a Sentinel whose job is to bring to justice or execute when necessary, Wolves whose activities risk exposing them to the world at large. Gent's Wolves unapologetically enjoy what they are when they hunt. Their prey of choice are Humes (otherwise known as humans to the rest of us).

At first appearance, the book reads like a story within a story because of it's dual timelines. This is one of those books that has you following Red in the current time stream while giving you Hazel's story, which begins some 500 years prior. Her history, written by a Scribe, is uncannily accurate for all that she was not consulted on its contents. As Red pursues answers to questions relevant to her most recent case, she hands a companion a book that tells her history. The book takes us through Hazel's making as a Wolf, to her claiming the name Red.

While not always the case, this is one of those times where going back and forth between present and past are used with great effect. I became more absorbed in the story the further I read. Red's history is necessary to the overall success of the book and was incorporated with skill and a deftness that enhanced the overall reading experience. The two timelines are brought together in a powerful conclusion at the end. The story offers greed, betrayal, power grabs, drugs, and a bit of romance.

This story was very well written. The historical aspects of life several hundred years ago felt well researched and came to life in my mind as I read. The characters were complex and very well developed. Gent even went so far as to explain why her Wolves went for certain parts when eating their prey, a twist I've not come across in any other novel of this genre. Kudos for a new twist. Now that I've been introduced to this author, I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble
                                    Smashwords

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Banshee's Embrace (The Banshee's Embrace Trilogy, Book 1) by Victoria Richards

Generally speaking, I enjoy stories that embrace the paranormal and mythology and that holds mostly true for this one. Richards has a good premise for her story. A young woman's husband is killed trying to protect her and in the process finds herself inexplicably not only drawn to death when it happens in her vicinity, but to sing as it happens. Over time, she finds herself drawn into a world she had no idea existed and learns she is slowly turning into a banshee. Unknown to Jacqueline through most of the book, as a half banshee, she is a power to be reckoned with. People are trying to capture her for their own dark reasons.

This book has all the usual components of this type of story. There's romance, loss, revenge, greed, a few surprises, and a good plot. What the story lacks to make this book truly compelling are both characters, and a plot that are fully developed. There are places in the story where the plot is still a bit rough as well as events happening out of sequence that need to be addressed (i.e. - asking her mother if she's adopted after telling Toby she is). While the problems in this book are not severe enough to warrant pulling it off the shelves, they are significant enough to detract from the reading experience. 

Due to the lack of sufficient editing, I can only give this book 3 stars. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

With this Curse by Amanda DeWees

DeWees has taken me back to the very first romance I ever read. They were dark, mysterious, set in Victorian England and perfect for a young girl's dreams. With this Curse had me hooked at the first page. A young girl and her mother in dire straights are hired by the lord of Gravesend Hall. Dismissed at seventeen for falling in love with Richard Blackwood, Clara Crofton must make her way alone in the world. She lays the blame for her trouble and Richard's death on the curse that was laid on the Blackwood family more than a century ago.

Returning to Gravesend more than eighteen years later as the bride of Atticus Blackwood should have been her day of triumph. As the least favored son, taking a bride should have made his father's last days happier. Clara is reminded again of the curse as whispers in the night, shadowed figures disappearing around corners and accidents that seem to have no rhyme or reason begin to plague her.

DeWees has proven herself every bit as talented at weaving a tale of love and suspense as those grande dames she enjoyed so much herself. Beautifully written, her characters took on a life of their own keeping me turning page after page. A romance I can heartily recommend for any age, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Scarlet Rising: A Scarlet Night Novella by Nathan Squiers

I'm an author stalker. There. I've said it. I can't help myself. If someone is going to be so crazy as to put out a good book, I mean a really good book, I absolutely have to know when the next one is coming. Getting the next book from Nathan Squiers is better than being first in line for a Black Friday Sale.

The Literary Dark Emperor, the Bard of Mythos tales has done it again. Squiers has covered all the bases. Looking for a good laugh? He packs so many one-liners into this that I struggled not to laugh while I was waiting on customers. You want attitude? Gregori and Mia both have it in spades. What am I saying, everyone has attitude. There's so much more... vampires, therions, crime lords, soul-baring and yes, he even gave us a bit of love for the romantics among his readers.

This book has everything we've come to expect from Squiers. With each book, he sets the bar higher for his chosen genre. Although this is a short story, it's packed full of, well, everything. If you see "Nathan Squiers" on the cover, just buy it. That's all the guarantee you need that what's between the covered will keep you riveted, in stitches, ready to go into overdrive right along with the characters or even clenching your jaws when he throws a curve ball at you.

I received this book (on it's release day no less) in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beyond Dusk: Anne (House of Crimson and Clover) by Sarah M. Cradit

This is a very short story with a lot happening in very few pages. Anne Fontaine is looking for her sister, Adrienne, and finds Nicolas Deschanel instead. Nicolas is tired of people coming out of the woodwork attempting to lay claim to his family's money and decides to play a ruthlessly humiliating game on her. Neither knows who the other truly is and both are in for a big surprise.

Cradit has reinforced the decision I made last year to be open to short stories. I wanted more at the end of the book and had no more from her to read. Her characters were eminently believable, with pasts that show what they are made of and from where they draw their strength. 

There is really very little I can say without spoiling the story for someone else. So I will settle for this, after reading this book, I promptly purchased and downloaded every title related to this series that my favorite bookseller offered. Needless to say, I've found another author I need to make room for on my shelves (once I build new shelves that is). 

If you enjoy a good paranormal story that is well written, well edited with believable characters, then you need to pick up this book. You may just end up getting the rest of them like I did. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble
                                    Smashwords

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Time to Let Go by Christoph Fischer

At first, I was hesitant to read this book. I wasn't sure I wanted to watch someone deteriorate as Alzheimer's claims progressively more of their independence, self-awareness, and memories. But I shouldn't have worried. True to form, Fischer handled the subject with his characteristic deftness, sensitivity, and balance. Telling this story was indeed a balancing act.

The story revolves around the Korhonen family. Biddy is the matriarch in the middle stages of Alzheimer's. Walter is the long-suffering husband determined to care for his wife at home and not miss any of the remaining periods where the wife he knew briefly re-emerges from her illness. Hanna, their daughter is seeking refuge in her parents home from a work incident that left her shaken. We also see brothers Henrik, the highly successful son who never quite measures up and is always in an unspoken competition with Patrick, for whom everything comes easily. Patrick, highly successful in every endeavor, lives cut off from his family, harboring a secret that will only hurt his father.

It became apparent early into the story that Fischer had meticulously researched his subject. While Alzheimer's was the central issue of the book, the title said as much, if not more about the rest of the characters. Each of the Korhonen's must face up to, and accept that there are things holding them back in life. Peripheral characters play primary roles in both Watler's and Hanna's ultimate decisions about their lives and what they need to do. A family that is already partially fractured becomes more so as they each have their own ideas about how to handle Biddy's illness. Their ideas frequently clash with what Walter's wants for his wife. We see Walter's internal conflict over how much of his wife's tasks he has had to take over as her illness progresses. We are also witness to his frustration as it boils over when he occasionally runs out of patience.

The story took me back to a time when one of my sister's in-laws were dealing with a form of dementia (I forget what specifically). I remember hearing the pain in her voice as she told me what they were going through. There was nothing I could do but express my love for her and offer my shoulder and ear when ever she needed. Time to Let Go resonated with me for that reason.

I've come to realize Fischer doesn't tackle easy subjects, yet what he chooses to write about is always worth reading. Writing from the family level of dynamics takes his books to a personal level that requires the reader to embrace the story and empathize with his characters. It's easy to understand Walter's reasons for wanting to keep his wife home for as long as possible. I can't imagine what it must be like to see the person you've shared your life with slowly and irretrievably lose pieces of themselves.

As with his Black Eagle Trilogy, this was not an easy nor comfortable read. I do feel this is a book that should be widely read. As society becomes ever more entrenched in technology, we lose those interactions that preserve our very humanity. We need books such as this in order to retain and remain aware there are those who need the strength that comes from personal connections, because someday, we may be that person and have no one to whom we can turn.

This book was very well researched, well written, with characters that not only well developed, but dynamic in their growth. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

Additionally, I would like to credit Daz Smith who designed the cover art. Beautiful and quietly elegant, the lone swan on the cover evokes the loss of a life partner while reaching for what remains.

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Home for Love by Aneesa Price

A sweet story of a woman returning to her hometown to set things right. Six years ago, Bree left with a broken heart and pregnant. Now she's back. It's time to let Todd know he has a daughter and give them a chance to build a relationship. Of course, it's not as easy as that. There are hard feelings to work past, as well as everyone's ego, wants and desires.

Price makes good use of her knowledge of the human psyche in her character development. Her depiction of life in Alaska felt very well researched. I found this to be a fairly simple, straight-forward story without much of the drama that can overwork and over complicate many romance books. That's not to say that drama in romance is tiresome because there are times I want that.

I found this book just a bit too predictable and not as captivating as her Coffin Girls series. There were several errors (punctuation, spelling, incorrect word usage and awkward phrasing in places) missed in editing that detracted from the reading experience, though not enough to reduce the star rating. The errors are not quite so numerous as to warrant pulling the book off the shelves. This is a nice story that would definitely benefit from additional proofreading/editing. If what you're looking for is a gentle, easy moving romance, then this is the book for you. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 3 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Medicine Man 1: The Chief of All Time by S.R. Howen

Shannon Running Deer left the reservation after the death of his parents, turned his back on his heritage and embraced everything about the white man's ways. Fortunately (or not), his heritage hasn't turned its back on him. He's begun having visions again and not by choice.

As a trauma surgeon, his life is very much grounded in the here and now. But his "here and now" has started to include hearing drums beating in the hospital when no one else does. A ceremonial mark from years past has changed from unsightly scar tissue to an elegant elk. A ghostly wolf shows itself to him in the hospital. A chant that changes from one for healing to another sung at the Women's Dance. Thus begins his journey of rediscovering not just his heritage, but of himself.

A trauma patient helps him to reconnect with his grandfather's teachings when he sees no alternative but to perform a Medicine Sing for her. Later, she is the catalyst to his going back into the past to a time that pre-dates white settlers coming to America. There he finds other such time travelers from more than one Nation, each bearing witness to what will come as it happened in their own past. They each want to find a way to give their people a chance for a better future than the one the history books tell of.

This story tells of his struggles to accept his heritage again, to believe in the things his grandfather taught, and put the welfare of a people ahead of the welfare of one person. Whether or not he succeeds is the rest of the story.

Howen weaves a tale of what if... What if a person (or more than one person) could travel back and forth in time and find a way to give the native peoples of America a fighting chance? What if there were a way to save lives that would have otherwise been decimated through trickery and underhanded dealings.

History is written by the victor and the victor is seldom kind to the loser. The Law of Eminent Domain ruled the West when our country was young and in its formative years. The power of might and strength of numbers bought us the land we live in at a price that (in my opinion) should not have been paid.

Through Running Deer's visions, Howen gives us a look at the other half of the story. Yet she does so with integrity. There is no "pity us" in her tale. There is strength and pride. Howen weaves an eloquent tale of possibilities. Her storytelling is smooth and captivating. Her characters are very believable because they aren't perfect. Shannon Running Deer struggles with his beliefs and whether or not to believe what is happening to him is real. Morning Dove struggles to find the one she is meant to be with, and Kills Many has all the faults of an arrogant man who can't admit he might be wrong.

At the beginning of the book, Howen states in her author's note that "Resemblances to places, traditions and practices  by any of the American Indian tribes mentioned in the book is intentional, and purposely fictionalized and mixed together, to protect the sanctity of those spiritual ceremonies."

This statement on the part of the author spoke more to me of her integrity and moral compass as an author than any statements I've read by any other author. As a non-Native American, I couldn't tell where she made these adjustments in her story. While many religions have an "open door" policy to the entirety of their practices, not all of them do. To give that level of respect to a culture's religious beliefs is an author I want on my shelves (or Nook). The tale was seamless and evocative of a people given foreknowledge of their future if they can't find a way to change it. Nothing felt like it had been clipped, removed, changed or otherwise altered. Well written, well edited, great character development. A joy to read. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Monday, June 30, 2014

Forever Blue (Ruby Blue Series, Book 4) by Julie Cassar

The school year isn't over and already Ruby and the gang have had some major challenges and they aren't over yet. Ruby has realized not only what Brennan means to her, but what she means to him. To be each others definition of "home" was a special touch by Cassar. 

More than one person is still out to hurt or kill Ruby. Brennan has his suspicions but getting the proof could take some doing. All the loose ends and questions that have followed readers throughout the series are finally answered here. I found the exchanging of head wreaths (and their meanings) at the Summer Solstice celebration to be elegant and beautifully done. 

The last few chapters are short, but oh so necessary to the story. Again Cassar displays her romantic side with a deftness and sensitivity that shows how much potential she has as an author. There really isn't much to say without giving away things I don't want to give away, so I won't give my usual synopsis.

This  book is far and away the best of the series. As a new author writing her first YA series, Cassar has grown with each book. Each one has been more complex than the previous which is as it should be. The writing feels less stilted also. As a reader, I can see where Cassar is becoming more comfortable in her skin as an author, less hesitant to take us where her characters need to go. I hope she has more stories to tell. I hope she continues to hone her chosen craft and regale us with more tales of Feylin. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Sky Blue (Ruby Blue Series, Book 3) by Julie Cassar

This book picks up on the last day of summer vacation with Ruby as the reluctant keeper of a journal. Why reluctant? Well, it's required by her English lit teacher and she sees no real point in keeping a journal. So she does what most girls would and complains to her journal about having to write in it. I was amused. On the upside, she's looking forward to her senior year of high school. What she doesn't know is that some major changes are coming her way.

On the first day of school, Ruby is surprised when Brennan turns up. Even more surprising is his belief that someone is still out to hurt or kill her. He plans to stick tight to her side "like glue" until the person or persons threatening her are caught. It doesn't take long for Ruby to realize Brennan means this literally. This creates the expected tension between Nick and Brennan with Ruby in the middle.

Jeremy is back too, and more than excited that Brennan will be at school with them for the whole year. Even more so when he finds out he will be going to Fey with Ruby to attend the next major celebration. In spite of all the excitement, problems arise when a beautiful faerie turns up at school. Katrina's agenda may seem obvious, but as is usually the case, appearances are deceiving.

I found this book much more interesting than the previous one. Cassar had a few surprises for me, such as the meaning behind the ring Brennan gave Ruby. Well done. That definitely explained the reason for Katrina's furious surprise when she learned about the ring. I enjoyed the way Brennan explained how his father hadn't lied when Brennan needed to live with Ruby's family for a while. For me, this was a fast-paced, quick read. There were places where I felt I knew the direction the story was heading, and in general, I was right. How the story got from "point A" to "point B" was well done, so I didn't really mind. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Deja Blue (Ruby Blue Series Book 2) by Julie Cassar

I enjoyed this installment in the series. Only a few pages in and I was taken back to my own weekend on Mackinac Island and watching fudge being made. There really is a difference in Mackinac Island Fudge and all the other fudge out there.

The story begins with Ruby on vacation with Nick and his parents. Ruby has acquired a few "gifts" from her battle with Sirrush  and now has to learn what they are and how to control them. Besides being able to see fairies, now she can hear their telepathic conversations when Anya and Brennan aren't speaking aloud to each other.

Accepting a challenge from Nick to swim to the nearest buoy, Ruby discovers  she has acquired the ability to swim very fast, most likely as part of the abilities she acquired from Sirrush. On the way back to the beach, she has to pretend to be exhausted and swim slower to prevent Nick from becoming suspicious. Later, swimming alone by the pier, Ruby is trapped underwater by falling rocks. Little does she know that she has seriously angered someone, someone who has put out a hit on her life. Things are not looking good.

Thanks to the assistance of the mermaid who helped Brennan rescue her, Ruby now owes a debt to Celestine. Brennan has an idea of how she can repay the debt, but he isn't sharing the details. Not sharing the details of his plan makes Ruby nervous, but there's nothing she can do about it.

Deja Blue is a good sequel. The friends' adventures continue with challenges to overcome and new enemies to avoid. New fey creatures are introduced and Ruby's knowledge of the fey world is expanding by leaps and bounds. I think the audience this book is targeted for will really enjoy the story. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 3 stars

This book is available from:
                                    Amazon US
                                    Amazon Canada
                                    Amazon UK
                                    Barnes & Noble

Friday, June 6, 2014

Phegru's Revenge by D.J. Shaw

You know, I never used to read short stories. I mean, come on. What can possibly happen in less than a hundred pages, right? Well, several months ago, I took a chance and am so glad I did. At that point I'd already read a trilogy by an author I was familiar with. Shaw is now the second author of short stories I've read. I am so glad I took that chance all those months ago. Had I not, I would have missed out on some great stories.

Phegru's Revenge is the third short story I've read from Shaw. In just a few pages she takes us on a whirlwind ride of fear becoming hopelessness, morphing into acceptance, turning into want, and finally becoming loss. But wait a minute, the title says "Revenge." Where does that come in you ask. In the sweetest bit of horrifying justice (sort of) you could imagine.

Kylie has been kidnapped and told it's for her own good. He tells her she hosts a demon that must be exorcised. And so her kidnapper proceeds to do what she believes is an exorcism. Her captivity is a long one. After three years, Kylie is finally released. By this time, she has come to depend on her captor and is reluctant to go.

I'm going to side-step for a moment, but I'll come back to discussing the story. Many years ago, a friend was explaining part of her belief system. Karma she said, is our reward or punishment in a future life based on our actions in this one. Dharma is similar, the difference being we reap in this life what our actions have sown. So, back to my thoughts on this story.

What neither Kylie nor her captor knew was that she really was host to a demon. A very. Particular. Demon. When her captor reappears in her life, he's no longer dealing with Kylie, and dharma is about to come calling.

I found Shaw's writing to be very singular, or maybe driven would be a better choice of words, in this story. I could almost, but not quite, sense the way the story would end. I found the ending to be ironic and grinned. Shaw makes me glad I gave up my hard stand against short stories. I enjoyed this one as much as the other two. I'm pretty sure you will too. Well written, well edited, and very well thought out. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is currently only available from Amazon.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Things in the Mirror by D.J. Shaw

I can only sit amazed at how Shaw put so much into so few pages. Shaw nails this one on the head and hard. Rissa hears sounds coming from mirrors. When she starts seeing things in the mirror other than her reflection, the fear ramps up. Her husband doesn't believe her, at least not until he gets home and has to rescue his wife.

Now, I have a rather fertile and active imagination. I read, things get stuck in my head (either consciously or not) and pop back to the front of my mind later, usually at the worst time. This story has my nightmares written all over it. I didn't even finish the first chapter before I had to set it aside until earlier in the day. Nope. Not reading this one at night before bed.

Mirrors are portals. Don't look at me like that. Just nod your head and agree. Now, I won't go so far as to specifically identify what's on the other side of the mirror. I think that has to be done by each individual person. I just know that for me, they better stay on the other side. There's a reason I've never admitted this to anyone; I don't look good in white jackets with long sleeves. So. Shaw either has a direct link to my nightmares, or she's got one whale of an imagination. Doesn't much matter to me which it is. I have never had someone, all unknowing, so accurately describe them for all to read.

How's your imagination? I don't look at mirrors when I'm in a dark room. You may not either after reading this story. There's so much I want to say, and I can't without giving it all away. As for what's in her mirror? I just hope it never comes looking for me. It's more than a little eerie how she was able to tap into my nightmares like that. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5 stars

This book is available at Amazon.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Crimson and the Frost by James Colletti and John Williams

Billy's father is always bringing home things from work for his son. He looks at it as free advertising. After an altercation after school, Billy sees the things his father brings home for him as the reason the kids don't like him; they're jealous. Later, while stargazing, he catches a glimpse of something disappearing in the woods. As curious boys often do, he suited up to go outside without thought for how late it was or whether his parents should know. What he finds set our story in motion. Two reindeer, a sleigh with the initials "S.C." on it, a couple of stuffed bags, and no one in site.

Billy decides to stow away on the sleigh just in time to hear two elves argue about who's going to drive. With typical young boy curiosity, Billy searches for anything interesting since the elves still don't know about him. One thing leads to another and a very important jewel is removed from its setting at the back of the sleigh, only to go overboard. The greatest adventure Billy will ever have has started.

A magical adventure in Christmas Town, two rather bumbling elves that keep losing a young boy (who gets caught taking bites out of the wall of The Gumdrop Shoppe), and a sleigh that can't fly until the jewel is found. To mix things up a little more, the King of Winter (aka: Jack Frost) has learned the jewel is missing and wants it for reasons of his own.

This is a fun story, full of life, magic, laughter, trials, and woe. Hopelessness and despair are turned around as a young boy learns to find hope. Although this is a delightful Christmas fantasy, this really is for kids old enough to handle a little conflict in their holiday stories. This could become a favorite family read at the holidays. Check it out and let me know what you think. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Angela's Siren Awakening by D.J. Shaw

We've all heard the warnings when we were kids; "be careful what you wish for," "read the fine print," "don't talk to strangers," "do unto others (you know - the golden rule)." This story offers a couple of very good reasons for paying closer attention to those annoying rules drilled into us as we were growing up.

Poor Angela is going through a rough time since breaking up with her boyfriend. Channel surfing while she wonders how her life turned into its current mess, her attention is grabbed by an infomercial. What's for sale? Vengilixer. The price? Your soul. What can be more startling than that? The announcer answers her question directly and begins a conversation with her.

Angela discovers two things, she's not entirely human and the announcer is a demon who wants to help her realize her full potential. And this is where I must stop or I'll give everything away. There is an element of humor in this story that I appreciate. Angela's wide-eyed, near innocent disbelief wars with her desire to get even with her ex. Daryl (the friendly and oh-so-helpful demon) is the epitome of the smooth talking salesman.

In spite of the demon and Angela's growing desire to get even, I found this to be a fairly lighthearted story, though with a couple of definite caveat twists at the end. Regardless whether you want something to shake your head at or you're feeling a bit vengeful, I think you'll enjoy this short story. Both well written and well edited. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Obsession by Georgina Hannan

This book picks up shortly after the four friends return from their vacation. University classes have begun and everyone is knee deep in homework. Now that some time has passed, everyone is writing off their experiences on vacation as delusions and tricks of their minds. Everyone that is, except Daisy. Daisy can't indulge in that bit of wishful thinking because she came home with a permanent souvenir... the ghost of Lady Howard.

Journalism class becomes the source of Daisy's greatest challenge when the year project is assigned. Everyone is to trace their family history as far back as possible and write about what they learn of their ancestors. Genealogy can be a lot of fun, and for a while, Daisy is really enjoying learning about her ancestors and their lives.

Throughout her life, no one has wanted to talk to her about her mother, not her father, not her grandparents. As she begins digging for information, she finds a treasure trove of documents at her maternal grandparents. Her grandfather had begun his own search into genealogy and gave her access to boxes of his results. With each discovery, Lady Howard becomes a more persistent presence in Daisy's life. Daisy doesn't have to dig for long before she makes a startling discovery about her mother.

The book is aptly named. The further Daisy gets into her research, the more obsessed she becomes with finding answers. Lady Howard wants something from her and is making it very clear Daisy won't like the consequences for not helping. Tyler, Alice and Jake become more and more concerned with her welfare. Tyler is especially worried and no one knows what to do to help. Her obsession with finding answers may cost her the one person she loves most of all if she can't pull it together.

The story is fraught with tension and definitely a page turner. I found myself not only pulling for Tyler to stick it out and be supportive of Daisy and what she's going through, but wanting Daisy to have someone to lean on. This is a great sequel making Hannan two for two. I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book in this series. This book is both well written and well edited. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cursed by Georgina Hannan

Four friends decide to take a holiday together and see a bit of the English countryside. Two weeks on their own and no parents, each one is hoping for an adventure. Ever have someone tell you "be careful what you wish for?" Yeah. Hannan wastes no time letting you know what kind of a story you're in for (as if the title weren't enough of a clue). Two of the friends, Alice and Jake, are already a couple before the story begins. The other two, Daisy and Tyler, are each hoping the other is just as interested. This does play in to how they each react later in the story.

Alice is the planner in the group and has ideas for their holiday so every day they will be doing something that most of them enjoy. On their first evening, they all go to the local pub. As the bartender sets them up with their first round of drinks, he shares a few of the local myths and legends. Like any decent bartender, Frank can spin a good tale, and spin them he does. Local legends of the Beast of Dartmoor, a disappearing cottage no one seems able to find more than once, a woman doomed to travel in a carriage made from the bones of her dead husbands, and more.

As things begin to happen to each of our intrepid adventurers, they are initially reluctant to say anything to the other three. Of course there's the usual suspicions of whether one of them is trying to spook the others. This is the kind of book I prefer to read early in the day. Stories like this have a tendency to grab hold of my imagination and visit my dreams. It can be rather embarrassing to wake up the neighbors screaming from story-induced nightmares. So yeah, I got a few pages into this and quickly decided I needed to wait for daylight before I continued reading.

Hannan can spin a tale and she does it with eloquence. I had no trouble relating to Alice, the one who jumps at every little thing and loves to plan trips. What makes this book so successful is you're given just enough "meat" if you will, for your imagination to pick you up and run away with you. Her storytelling doesn't spell everything out for you. Even better, she saved the best hook for the very end. If you enjoy a story that makes you tense and jumpy, read this at night in the middle of a thunderstorm. You won't regret it. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars

This book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.