Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beyond Realms by Brian Bigelow

In the middle of another rousing row with her boyfriend, Carla leaves to calm down and get some space to do some thinking. Realizing she's out walking in Los Angeles at two in the morning, she becomes nervous upon hearing footsteps behind her. Desperately searching for safety and someplace to hide from her pursuer, she walks rapidly into a fog. Once through the fog, nothing is what she expected. Instead of a dirty city street, Carla on a beautiful hillside in an unknown location.

Blocked from her memory, Carla is the missing Princess Esmeralda of Valaria. She was hidden away on Earth years ago to protect her. Now war is about to break out again and Valaria needs its princess. This story follows in the footsteps of fairy tales of my youth where good and evil are clearly defined. The evil witch, Galadril, conjures an army of goblins and wants to rule all of Valaria. The wizard Galadrar, her cousin and opposite, fights to support the princess in reclaiming her heritage and throne.

An enchanting fable which I hope will be continued in future books. There were problems in the editing that occasionally caused hiccups in reading. In spite of that, I would still recommend this story for parents of children old enough to understand the story and young enough to enjoy dragons and other mythical creatures. I also recommend this story for those who are still young at heart. 3 stars

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can get your copy from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sugar in My Whiskey by Duncan McGonall

I was captivated immediately by the first part of the book (which is also my favorite part). I enjoyed reading that brief history of the Pilkermans before the story before the author begins telling us how the Pilkermans almost became ridiculously rich. I more trouble actually following the story line than I did the deep backwoods southern dialect. Once I was able to follow along, the story became entertaining. The dispatcher for the county sheriff was a hoot as she hid under a desk so as not to be seen on the phone while gossiping with her mother.

The story is rich in characters, each with their own foibles. McGonall gives us an artfully crafted short story filled with humor, suspicions and gossip. A tight-knit community more than eager to take shots at each other, yet highly suspicious of strangers makes this a fun story. I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 3 stars

This book is available from Amazon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fruzzles Mystery Talent by Karen Marino-Brueggeman

This is a charming story about one young fruzzle's search for his special talent. Upset because he's almost nine and most other fruzzles his age have already found their special talent, he goes to Wizard Fruzzle for help. Wizard Fruzzle takes him all over town as they search for the young fruzzle's talent.  Along the way, he attempts every talent they find.

This is a cute story kids will enjoy while also learning that everyone has something they can do that makes them special. This is such an important lesson for children to learn. Wizard Fruzzle gently leads the young fruzzle on his search and continues to bolster his confidence that he will eventually find his special talent and get a new name.

Well written, charming artwork. I think children will enjoy the story and probably ask for it again and again. 3 stars

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Original Sin (A Crimson Shadow Novella) by Megan J. Parker

This is a very short story that not only introduces us to key characters in the Crimson Shadow series, but gives us important information about the purpose of the Odin clan. We meet Emily and Joseph Stryker when she finds him injured in an alley. After a few protestations that he would be fine, Joseph leaves the alley. Emily is confused by her reaction to him when she's never before felt drawn to a man showing interest in her.

Back at the Odin clan's mansion, Joseph continues his work of building both tolerance among the mythos community for more than just their own kind. With the help of his friend, Depok, they have been hard at work creating laws and establishing order in the mythos community. If they succeed, mythos everywhere will be safer and continue to remain secret from humans. Their efforts are hindered by rogues who see their way of life suppressed by this upstart clan and its leader.

Complicating everything are the feelings Joseph and Emily have for each other, something forbidden since Emily is 100% human. But what good is any Crimson Shadow story without a bit of the forbidden to make things sweeter? Of course there's conflict, arrogance born of self-confidence in ones ability, nobility in striving to prevent friends from being injured or killed. And let's not forget Trepis, such a pretty "kitty" who behaves much like Emily's cat, Aries.

I really enjoyed having this background on the Odin clan and what they were trying to accomplish. Their purpose echoes life in a very real way as they strive to better the world in which they live. They are attacked by a group who believes Stryker, and by extension the Odin clan, have no business trying to regulate how anyone in the mythos community live. Sound familiar?

Of course it's not all smooth sailing, but it wouldn't be an interesting read if it was. The characters are, once again, wonderful, and the editing was nearly perfect. Very glad I added this book to my library. I'm looking forward to reading more from both this author and the world of Crimson Shadow. 4 stars

This book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Lover (Scarlet Night Prequel) by Megan J. Parker

Of course I had to do things backwards and read Scarlet Night first. But it's all good. Seriously. The Lover, as the title indicates is a prequel to Scarlet Night. This is a very brief story introduces us to Serena and Devon and explains how he became a ghost. The story is sweet, intense, sad, and painful. A lot gets packed into ten pages. In spite of the low page count, I'm glad I bought the book. Having their history helps me to better understand Devon's part in Scarlet Night.

You really can't do much in ten pages, but Parker was still able to infuse them with the intense feelings of a love cut short and remembered by the one left behind. A poignant story I wish I'd read first. 5 stars

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

Scarlet Night by Megan J. Parker

I didn't bother to read the book description before requesting a copy of this book to review. My decision was based solely on the cover art and the author's name. Although I've bought books by this author, I'd not yet gotten around to reading them. The cover art is reminiscent of the Crimson Shadow series, so I followed a hunch that proved right.

Scarlet Night is set in the world of Nathan Squiers' Crimson Shadow. As soon as I saw there were therions in the story, I knew I'd hit gold. Yeah, I've really got it that bad for this series. This story moves fast. Real fast. Something is always moving - the action, emotions, dialogue. Serena, the daughter of the leader of the Vail clan of vampires, left home after a disagreement with him. She's accompanied by the ghost of her boyfriend, Devon. They've been searching for a body for him so they can be together again.

Someone from her father's clan has found her and is demanding she return with him. Serena has quite the talent for annoying commentary guaranteed to anger who ever the unlucky target may be. She does a good job of it with Zane until he tells her he is there because her father has died and she's inherited the mantle of leadership for the clan.

Because of a curse that was set on Zane several years ago, he transforms to a monster when his anger becomes too great. Unfortunately for him, his body isn't designed to handle that transformation, so when it happens too often, he's in trouble. Serena manages to get him and Zoey back to the clan home after a fight in public before the police show up to make things even more interesting.

Now Zane is laid out in bed while a medical technician is running off at the mouth about his condition. Serena, pretty much fed up with the lack of tact from the technician, just lays into him with some of the funniest, sharpest, sarcastic commentary I've ever been fortunate enough to read. I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face.

Give me something set in this world and I'm a happy person. I started reading this book toward the end of my shift and seriously debated whether to go home when my relief came in, or staying to finish the story. He was in a bad mood so I went home. Even so, that was a tough choice. I so wasn't ready to stop reading. This story has everything I've come to expect from this worldscape - tension, conflict, people breaking all the rules and making their own and a bit of romance.

This story fit seamlessly into the world Squiers created. The characters were wonderful, the writing is excellent and the editing nearly perfect. But I have to say... what the heck is that at the end?! She left me hanging with my head was reeling. 4 stars

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Definable Moments by Don Stephens

I knew, more or less, what I would be reading from the book description. When I reached the end of the book, I reread the book description and sat back to think about it for a bit. The title of the book couldn't be more accurate. I found myself looking for those "definable moments" as I was reading.

The book opens with Isaac taking part in a robbery gone wrong. The security guard that wasn't supposed to be there shows up surprising Isaac and Sean, a fellow gang member. Sean attacks the security guard and takes off on the motorcycle they were there to steal, leaving Isaac to get away on his own. After Isaac makes it back to the house where they are to meet up with everyone else, he learns the security guard is in critical condition and may not live. The situation gets worse; there was an eye witness in the alley when Isaac fled the scene. An artist's sketch of him is all over the news. Once his parole officer learns of it, he's looking at going back to prison.

With help from the gang leader and his girlfriend, Isaac makes arrangements to leave East LA and relocate to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Taking his brother's truck and the stolen motorcycle, Isaac drives across the country to his new home, a new job and, he vows, a new life. Like all of us, Isaac has several events in his life that shape who he will be from that moment on. Some of these moments are given to us as the story unfolds. We learn more when he tells Clarice bits and pieces about himself as the two share stories getting to know each other.

Isaac isn't as free of the gang life as he'd hoped his new start would be when he sees the Thirteenth Street tattoo on his boss's neck. Clarice is the girl of his dreams, the one he never thought he'd be lucky enough to find. What happens after is the stuff of nightmares.

The beginning of the book was difficult for me to get through. I have never been interested in reading about gang violence, not in stories, not in books. However, once I got through that, the book took off and I was able to enjoy the story. I was crying near the end of the book, which rather surprised me. Stephens pulls out a few surprises that I hadn't anticipated. I was grateful for them as they brought additional interest to the book.

I was pleasantly surprised by how very accurate the book description was. Isaac is the stereotypical good looking "bad boy." Clarice is the typical small-town "good girl." The romance was sweet; the problems were enough to create tension for the reader. There were a few grammatical errors that created some minor hiccups in my reading, but not enough to reduce the rating. 3 stars

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book is available at Amazon.