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.