Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blood's Voice by Aine Massie


Published synopsis:

Anya Millar had no memory of her life or an instruction manual on how to navigate the insane world of humans, biting, and reality. Instead, Anya has had to learn to navigate the world of love, life, and sanity while avoiding those that would see her dead or enslaved.

This is the ongoing journey of Anya and Nicholas, human loving vampires and the human they love, Declán. What makes it all more complicated is that they are abominations in their own world and Declán is a natural born vampire hunter called a Guardian.

Anya must come to terms with who she is and her missing past, Nicholas must win back the object of his eternal love while dealing with new cravings in his silent heart, and Declán must learn to destroy the very creatures that he has unequivocally given his heart and blood.

Review:

Anya Millar knows she’s not a normal vampire. She loves humans too much to be a predator. What she doesn’t know is why she can’t remember a thing before waking up in the house of an immortal who has taken her in and cared for her. As Anya begins to piece together the past, with the help of others claiming to be old friends, she finds that some things are better left forgotten.

In an effort to move forward with her life and live in harmony with humans, Anya decides high school would be the best place to start. She hopes to learn to move effortlessly among them, keeping her vampire traits from being too noticeable. But, she ends up introducing a whole new set of problems into her life. She didn’t plan for the mysterious pull one particular human educed from the very first day. Being near him creates a longing so great, it scares her. Her attraction for him continues to grow, which, unfortunately, complicates the new friendships she has formed with his sister and girlfriend. It also complicates her relationship with a particular vampire whom she had once cared for deeply and is also drawn to irresistibly. Balancing her love life is even tougher when other vampires from her past come looking for her – and they don’t care about who they hurt to get to her. Can she protect all those in her unusual circle of friends and family?

Blood’s Voice by Aine Massie is a fresh take on vampires seen through the eyes of a powerful vampire. Having a natural aversion to harming humans doesn’t make the character Anya unique. Neither does her physical strength, or her fear of accidently hurting humans. It’s her unique gift that makes her special; her voice that can control, and be used as a lethal weapon, against her own kind.

Though I enjoyed reading this novel, there were a few things that kept me from giving the book a solid four stars. Declan’s character, the human part of the love triangle that includes Anya and the vampire Nicholas, could have been developed more quickly. He is slow to become a strong figure who can hold his own in a vampire world, as his character is somewhat two dimensional in the beginning. It was difficult through a good portion of the book to really feel his attraction and desire to be with Anya at any cost. He often seemed more like he was caught in a spell, or a vampire weaved web of compulsion, rather than having the feelings come from his heart. Eventually, though, the reader can feel his love and desire for her.

Declan’s draw to Anya, and his blanket accepting of other vampires, is also troublesome because he is supposed to be a Guardian. Someone born to see vampires as evil creatures that need to be hunted down and killed. This character trait is missing completely in Declan, making his Guardian status hard to accept. He readily accepts the vampire world and embraces a developing love of their race when he should have had at least some aversion to being near them.

A good deal of Blood’s Voice is the internal musing of Anya as her memory comes back in pieces. Sometimes she is strong willed and independent, and other times she has childlike insecurities with no control over her emotions. This is definitely reasonable for a person experiencing amnesia. But, the end result for me, was that she seemed unlikely to be a leader among her kind. As this series moves forward, she will probably head more and more in that direction as her insecurities lessen.

Something I truly enjoyed in this novel was the development of the secondary characters. They each had their own quirks and strengths; those meant to be liked are likeable and the ones meant to be disliked have the reader cheering for their demise. Their support and unique personalities mingle exceptionally well with the main characters, helping to make Blood’s Voice a novel that is definitely worth reading.

I thank the author for a review copy and I give the novel three and a half stars.


Purchase Blood's Voice by Aine Massie

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Crushed by K. C. Blake


Published synopsis:

The Noah sisters rule Titan High with their beauty, brains, and magical powers.

Each year they play a secret game: Crushed. The girls pick their targets carefully and blow enchanted dust into the boy’s faces, charming them, but this year Kristen makes a grave mistake. She chooses the wrong boy and almost dies that same day. Coincidence? Maybe.

But something isn’t quite right about Zach Bevian. He doesn’t behave like a boy who’s been Crushed. He goes from hot to cold, from looking at her with contempt to asking her out on a date. She doesn’t know what to think. Does he hate her or is he truly falling for her? Is he trying to kill her, or is he trying to save her?

Review:

Kristen and her sisters aren’t ordinary high school students. They’re witches and they have a harmless game they like to play each school year. At least, they think it’s harmless. But, when Kristen tries to charm the wrong guy, something goes terribly wrong. Is he crushed or isn’t he? If he is, then he’s acting differently than anyone else ever has. He runs hot and cold, vacillating between contempt and adoration, and Kristen needs to find out the truth before it’s too late.

Zach is the bad guy around school. Tall, dark and brooding, he wants nothing to do with any of the Noah sisters. So, when Kristen tries to charm him, he’s more than angry. He’s homicidal. He has to decide – is it more important to keep his secret than it is to expose Kristen’s?

Thrown together, the sparks start to fly, but are their feelings real? Or just the work of magic? With family troubles getting in the way, is it even possible to find out?

In Crushed, K. C. Blake gives the reader a paranormal romance that is impossible to resist. The concept of the ultimate bad boy and the perfect princess trying not to fall for each other might not be a new one, but Crushed makes you forget that. From the beginning, the book draws you in and it’s almost impossible to put it down. The dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep prove that. K. C. Blake’s characters come to life immediately, engaging the reader in a fast paced story that will make you love some of the characters and hate others. But, do you love and hate the right ones? You’ll have to wait until the end to find out. Filled with just the right amount of paranormal mystery, near death experiences, teenage angst, sibling rivalry, guilt, disillusionment, hope and love, Crushed is a must read for lovers of YA paranormal romance. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I gladly give the book 5 stars.


Purchase Crushed by K. C. Blake

Friday, November 4, 2011

Drowned In the Grenadine by Dan Gilvezan


Published synopsis:

Fancy cars, a loving wife, a designer home in the Hollywood Hills. Nathan Lindeman had it all, lost it all, and now he’s desperate to get it back. They say there are no second acts in show business, but they just may be wrong. There’s a new TV series being cast that’s virtually guaranteed to be a success, and Nathan has a shot at snagging one of the lead roles. If, that is, he can survive the perils and pitfalls that threaten to derail him along the way. Follow along on Nathan’s journey, as he deals with teenage casting directors, soulless network execs, ego-maniacal fellow performers, hucksters and thieves, a cast of characters so bizarre and unbelievable they could only be based in reality. By turns, funny, sad, heartbreaking and heartfelt, Drowned in the Grenadine explores America’s fascination with celebrity, the nature of success and what it means to be both a father and a son.

Review:

Nathan Lindeman is determined to make his star shine in Hollywood. He’s had a taste of fame already, which ended all too abruptly, and he wants it back - desperately. He knows the ins and outs of acting. He has a great agent. Now, all he needs is that ever elusive perfect role. Or is his fifteen minutes already up?

To everyone east of the California border, Hollywood is a great and fascinating mystery. A dream world where everyone is fashionable, every day is sunny and careers bloom overnight. The petals on these careers not browning or curling until age and gravity take their toll. Anyone brave enough to breach the border of acting’s Mecca has a chance to have a successful career, if they can just get that first big break. Or, at least, that’s what we all want to believe. There has to be somewhere that all of our dreams can come true, right?

Dan Gilvezan bursts our bubble in Drowned In the Grenadine. He brings us into a world where careers are doomed by not only past failures, but past successes, as well. As an audience, it seems that we are constantly being bombarded with new shows and movies, leading us to believe that things speed along in a blur in the land of glitz and glamour. What we find out in this novel is that things actually move at a snail’s pace; and at any moment, things can change for the better or for the worse. And the Hollywood dream? A mirage created to hide the undercurrent of greed, backstabbing and loss of morals that many ending up swimming in.

As we read about Nathan’s career, it’s easy to see how people get caught up in it. As they say, the show must go on, right? It’s not until the glitz is gone and his world shatters yet again that Nathan realizes that maybe, just maybe, his priorities are as screwed up as his career. Isn’t it more important to be a son, a father and a husband than it is to be a star? At heart, he’s a really nice guy, but his aspirations are getting in the way of his caring about anyone but himself. Will he realize this before it’s too late?

Dan Gilvezan leads us on a Hollywood journey of self-discovery in Drowned In the Grenadine. The issues in the book are not exceptional – anyone who puts work and career ahead of family and love is destined to ultimately be alone and unhappy if they don’t change. But seeing this as his characters traverse the sea of Hollywood gives the reader a unique look into the acting business that the tabloids never do. The illusion is taken down and we are given a tour of auditions, script changes, call backs, contracts, job security and second chances. The reader is torn between feeling sorry for Nathan, and thinking that maybe he got what he deserved. But, should anyone pay forever for past mistakes? By the end of the book, you will be convinced that the answer is no, and you will be rooting Nathan on.

Drowned In the Grenadine is a well written, thought provoking book that will make you laugh in some parts, and wish you could do something to help Nathan in others. Dan Gilvezan draws you into his world and keeps you there until the very last sentence and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I thank the author for a review copy and I give the book five stars.


Purchase Drowned In the Grenadine by Dan Gilvezan

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happily Ever Afton by Kelly Curry


Published synopsis:

A sexy romantic comedy that explores what happens when two perfect strangers make a deal of faux-mance...

Movie critic, Afton Lanford, had put off picking out her wedding gown until the last possible moment, but once she's all buttoned into her ruffled satin gown she spots her fiance's tongue - deep in the mouth of the dishonorable maid-of-honor's! Her mad-dash pursuit of the cheating pair leads her to run into...and over Cooper Stewart Carrington - the third - on her red motor scooter outside a Seattle coffee shop.

On the run from a persistent suitor of his own, wealthy investment banker, Cooper, agrees to the nutty plan Afton proposes to pretend to be "lovers" to throw off their exes. Their 'Strangers on a Train' deal leads to hilarity and hijinks as Afton and Cooper attend a series of events around Seattle with their former partners in hot pursuit and discover along the way if two perfect strangers can ever... criss-cross ... into perfect lovers...

Review:

Afton is getting married but she’s been putting off picking out her dress for some reason. It doesn’t help that her maid of honor keeps avoiding her, and her fiancé is so cheap, she had to buy her own ring as well as the dress. It’s no wonder she’s not excited about it. Things finally click together, though, when she sees her best friend and her fiancé strolling arm in arm and kissing like they’ve done it quite a few times before.

In pursuit to let them know exactly what she thinks of both of them, Afton runs down Cooper who’s looking his scruffiest after just returning from his latest mountain climbing expedition. Suddenly caught between a woman scorned and her cheating fiancé, he does his best to help her save face. Just moments later, he needs her help to fend off a persistent problem of his own. Out of this unfortunate bonding experience, the two concoct a plan to rid themselves of both problems for good as they pretend to be engaged. The problem is – when does the pretending stop and reality begin?

It has been a while since I reviewed a contemporary romance and Kelly Curry’s Happily Ever Afton was the perfect book to jump back into the genre. I immediately became engrossed in Afton’s quirky outlook on life and Cooper’s fascination with everything Afton. From beginning to end, this roller coaster of a relationship had me rooting for criss-cross love.

One of the things that made Happily Ever Afton such an enjoyable read is that Kelly Curry gave her characters real feelings. Afton didn’t just fall into Cooper’s arms after breaking up with her ex. Her emotions are all mixed up, her trust issues are off the charts, and she’s not sure what she wants anymore. Cooper has his own issues. He’s finding himself more and more attracted to Afton, but because of his own trust issues, he mislead her in the beginning. But now, he’s finding it harder and harder to tell her the truth after she mistakes him for a bank teller instead of the investment banker that he is. The more he gets to know her, the less impressed he thinks she’ll be with his success and lifestyle. No, the mistaken identity in a romance is not a new concept, but in this story, you won’t mind. Even though the character’s misunderstandings and self-imposed roadblocks are sometimes frustrating to read - you want to shake them and tell them to get over it, you can understand the hurt feelings and stubbornness that can lead all of us to sometimes make poor decisions. Filled with raw emotion, laughs and passion, Happily Ever Afton is one enjoyable read. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book five stars.


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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Eye of the Crystal Ball by T.P. Boje


Published Review:

When Sara was newborn her parents left her at the doorstep at Mr. and Mrs. Schneider’s house. When Sara was ten she discovered she was telekinetic. She began to move stuff around when she got angry just by her will alone. When Sara was twelve her real parents came for her and took her with them to live like the Gypsy that she was – or Romani as they like to call themselves. They told her she was going to fulfill a prophesy. That it was once said that out of the Romani people the greatest sorceress who had ever lived would be born. When Sara was thirteen she had a baby brother and when she was fourteen he got very sick with a strange illness. To save her baby-brother Sara sets off on a quest to find his cure – well knowing that it will cost her dearly. Soon Sara finds herself going through the Singing Cave, crossing Wild Witches Valley, talking to a ten foot giant snail, rescuing the Beads of Souls from the Hell-hounds, escaping a spell in Vamila, the Forest of Vanity, visiting the king at the City of Lights before she finally reaches the Black Castle where she is told the Eye of the Crystal Ball can tell her how to cure her brother’s strange illness. But nothing is free in this world - and as Sara soon will know - everything has a price.

Review:

Sara was left on the doorstep belonging to the Schneiders, a couple who longed for a child but were unable to conceive. Taking the little girl in, they raised her with love and kindness. But as Sara grew, it became obvious that there was something different about her. It is when her biological parents come back to claim her that things start to make sense. The daughter of a strong Romani leader, Sara discovers that she was born to fulfill a destiny – to become the greatest sorceress the world had ever seen.

Eventually, even though she has not come into her full powers yet, Sara makes a dangerous journey to find a way she can save her baby brother from a strange illness. Along the way, she meets magical creatures she had no idea even existed. Some are friendly and helpful, others are definitely not. For this reason, she is glad to have the company of a young Romani boy, Manolo with her. He guides her through both the easy parts of the journey and the scary places she would not have dared try on her own. He also has secrets he hasn’t shared with her.

The Eye of the Crystal Ball by T.P. Boje is a tale that gives the reader a taste of many things supernatural. Filled with gifted Romani, evil witches, giant arachnids and more, there is something for everyone who loves paranormal fiction. The story has a promising premise, one that the author can run with, following this book with sequels.

This being said, there were a few things that held me back from enjoying the book as much as I would have liked. For most of the first part of the book, and many parts after as it goes along, the story is told to the reader instead of letting the reader discover and experience the story through the eyes and voices of the characters. This makes it more difficult to keep the reader’s attention. There were some issues with Sara and her story, as well. The Schneiders, who had waited so long for their first child, easily let her go and Sara went off willingly with strangers claiming to be her parents. There was not a lot of detail about how she handled such a radical transition on a day to day basis. Long periods of time passed in a sentence or two without giving a good idea of the new day to day activities in her new life; what she liked and what she didn’t. Was she making friends in her tribe? Or were other children scared or jealous of here?

I must admit, I never really had a good feel for whether or not I liked Sara. I did enjoy that she was independent with a strong stubborn streak, but sometimes she simply came off as obstinate. In addition, the ability for several types of spells to easily catch her in their snares and not let go without Manolo’s help, gave the impression of weakness instead of the burgeoning abilities of the greatest sorceress of all times. I understand that she is supposed to be young, but as a reader, I had hoped that she would mature into more powers on her journey. Also, shouldn’t her parents have told her about some of these creatures so she could be prepared if she ever came across them? I have to say, T.P. Boje definitely did a good job with the magical creatures found along the way to the end of Sara’s journey. But, being bothered that Sara could hardly use her power to defend herself when needed, it took away some of the effect of having them in the story for me.

All in all, I found The Eye of the Crystal Ball to be a good story with lots of potential, but in need of more details and dialogue. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 3 stars.


Purchase The Eye of the Crystal Ball by T.P. Boje

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Witching Pen by Dianna Hardy


Published synopsis:

Elena is a witch with a very special gift. She can make stories come to life with a pen. When she discovers that imagination can become reality at the stroke of her nib, she thinks it's the best thing to have ever happened ... until she meets Nathaniel. With an inexplicable hypnotic hold over her, he is a demon with a familiar face that lurks in the shadows of her world, impervious to her Witching Pen, and determined to make her create the world as he would have it - with her at his side.

In order to prevent the creation of a demon dimension on Earth, and to keep her soul intact, Elena must uncover all of Nathaniel's secrets to overcome him. But what she uncovers only seems to draw her further into his world and to the demon himself, and when the final stone is turned, what she discovers could be the very thing that ends up killing her...

Review:

Elena is a powerful witch, but no one can know that. She hides her power behind new age mysticism and Wiccan ceremonies. The only one besides her mother who knows her secret is her best friend Karl. Karl has loved Elena since they were children, but Elena has always kept him, and everyone else, at arm’s length when it came to romantic relationships. The talk her mother had with her when she was a teenager made it impossible for her to have a normal relationship. But, Karl keeps hoping.

Lies and secrets abound in Dianna Hardy’s novella, The Witching Pen. Elena discovers there’s a lot more to her than she was ever told. With demons trying to seduce her in her sleep and her suppressed feelings for Karl trying to surface, she doesn’t know how to stop her world from crumbling around her. She learns that with great power, there is often great pain. As the story goes on, she suffers losses that may just push her into embracing everything she can become – the good and the bad. Are love and good friends enough to save her?

The Witching Pen is a paranormal romance that packs a lot of action in its pages. Readers enter a world with a pen that can write the future, demons who want to destroy the world, dark skeletons in family closets, and the power of love and magic done for the greater good. While the story is focused on Elena’s relationship with Karl, other characters also seek to discover who they are and who they can be; some learning that love can come in many different packages. Dianna Hardy has woven a tale of passion and intrigue that brings the reader on a magical journey that can’t be put down until the very end.

The Witching Pen is a novella that could easily be turned into a novel with all the intricate details of the main character’s, as well as several supporting character’s, past and heritage. The difficulty with writing a novella is deciding what to include and what can be left out. In this particular case, I would have loved to read more about the characters. The novella is excellently written. The main characters are well developed, all be it with secret pasts. But, I craved more without having to wait to read the sequel. There were a lot of questions left in my mind at the end. Since I enjoyed the novella so much, I guess I will just have to read the sequel to find out more about where Dianna Hardy brings her characters next. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the novella four stars.


Purchase The Witching Pen by Dianna Hardy

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy by Gregory Blackman


Published synopsis:

The Dark Prince has emerged from the shadows, ready to wage war on the Star Academy. The galaxy’s only hope for salvation rests in the arms of an anxious fourteen year old named Johnny. Portals in space have opened, spreading chaos throughout the galaxy. The monsters from beyond call themselves the Void Empire, and they will not stop until they have destroyed everything in their path. Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy is the coming of age story about a cautious young teen, who may be the only person able to close these portals and save everyone. What Johnny soon finds out, is that the hardest thing he is going to do is believe in himself.

Review:

Jonathan Rush is a shy, timid boy with dreams of being a superhero. He feels out of place in his world, always the odd kid that bullies liked to pick on. And he lets them because he doesn’t believe he has the power to fight back.

Even when Jonathan is taken to a strange space station to attend the Star Academy, and told that he had the power to do great things in time, he didn’t believe any of it. Taken under the wing of a Star Knight, he begins to train for the future; whatever that may hold. Soon, with the help of several knights, the girl of his dreams, and a robot, he is finally ready to make a stand.

In Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy, Gregory Blackman weaves his story with the important message that the only way to accomplish great things is to believe you can do it. The message does become repetitive, but it is still important, none the less. Jonathan seems a bit young for his fourteen years, though. He cries easily and is as timid as a rabbit, making his transition a little hard to believe. I would have liked to see more growth in his character if not in his power.

Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy is a good book that most preteen and maybe early teen kids will find enjoyable. The story is fast paced and filled with interesting characters and battle scenes. There’s the potential to go a long way with this series. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book three stars.


Purchase Jonathan Rush and the Star Academy by Gregory Blackman

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lorelei and the Sirens by Aaronni Miller


Published synopsis:

Lorelei Twila Adams is from the McAdams line of sirens in Ireland and as the second generation in America Lorelei must never fall in love, never let her beauty mark burn (a means of surveillance), and she must practice perfect restraint at all times; to her great chagrin. Lorelei abhors the stifling gaze of her over-protective mother and gets a breath of fresh air when Ellis Latif McMillan, the new boy, shows up at Harry P. Strange High School. With hypnotic, crystal-blue eyes Lorelei stumbles into talking to Ellis at school, trips when he writes a poem about her, and falls in love with him when she sneaks out to meet him late one night, but her days are numbered soon after. Lorelei's family finds out about Ellis and her; they call for her immediate trial to determine her guilt. Lorelei runs away with Ellis; she knows the outcome if her family finds her. Lorelei's first taste of love will either set her free from the lies of her family or it will kill her and the boy she loves.

Review:

Lorelei Adams is different from the rest of her family. She is inquisitive, far from perfect, and wants to be able to act like a normal teenager. One with friends, a boyfriend, and being able to leave the house other than just for school. Long given up on the idea, her desires come tumbling back to her when Ellis McMillan shows up at Strange High School. He’s beautiful, irresistible, and likely to get both of them killed if Lorelei’s family finds out about his growing attraction to her.

The wickedness she lives with on a daily basis - from her backstabbing sisters to her cruel mothers, is enough to break anyone’s heart. Lorelei seems destined to be unhappy the rest of her days; trapped in a world she wants nothing to do with.Once she meets Ellis, though, things start to seem possible. By the end, the reader wants a happily ever after for them as badly as Lorelei does. But first, she has to learn what secrets he’s hiding, and trust him with hers.

In Lorelei and the Sirens, Aaronni Miller has given a fresh take on the paranormal world. Sirens, which were once only able to swim in the sea, have evolved to having two legs and their own rules in society. Rules that are cruel, alienating, and deadly to humans who get in their way. Told from the viewpoint of the main character, the book is captivating. Aaronni Miller draws readers into Lorelei’s world, and lets them experience her pain, her fear, her rebellion and her love.

Based on the characters, the premise, and the style of writing, I would have gladly given the book a five star rating. What holds me back from that is one thing. I hate having to discuss editing when reviewing a self-published work because these authors do not generally have the luxury of a professional editor. So, they do the best they can. Therefore, I overlook small mistakes and grammatical errors. What makes me focus on it in this book is the fact that a final read through by the author probably would have fixed most of the many, many errors – the missing words, the incorrect words and the spelling errors. The nice thing about self- publishing is that it’s never too late to do that. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 4 stars.


Purchase Lorelei and the Sirens by Aaronni Miller

Monday, October 3, 2011

Shoe Strings by Christy Hayes


Published synopsis:

After being hounded by her estranged father just as her boutique shoe business is taking off, Atlanta’s Angelita Barros heads for the mountains of North Carolina where she couldn’t be a bigger fish out of water. The cabin she rents is perfect, but one look at the owner’s son and Angelita’s in lust big time. She finds resisting the charming Jesse Bloodworth as difficult as maneuvering small town life in her custom made stilettos.

Jesse has spent years rebuilding his relationship with his teenaged son and ex-wife after running out on them eleven years ago. But his dad’s not so quick to forgive and forget. The water under the bridge becomes mighty choppy when beautiful Angelita walks into their lives.

Jesse’s ex, Kerri Ann, is a far cry from where she thought she’d be in life. Even before she got pregnant with Ty, things between her and Jesse had faltered, and there was only one person to blame: Bryce Jenson. Kerri Ann never expected her long-ago crush to settle back into Sequoyah Falls to practice law. Hell, no one did.

Bryce had his reasons for returning home and Kerri Ann was at the very top. They seem destined to remain just friends, until Angelita comes to town and stirs everything up.

As Angelita and Jesse embark on a relationship, her father’s demands become threats and she’s forced back to Atlanta. Jesse’s attempt to save her uncovers more of her past than he bargained for. Will Angelita’s prince charming come to her rescue or does Jesse’s love come with Shoe Strings attached?

Review:

I would like to think it is my knack for picking good books to review that has led to so many excellent books I’ve reviewed lately. But, no, I can’t take any credit for the dedication and excellence these authors have put into their work. Finding these strong voices in literature is what makes doing reviews fun and interesting.Christy Hayes is another one of those authors I’m glad I’ve read and reviewed.

Angelita carries a lot of baggage around with her, and not just the ones filled with shoes. Her mother deserted her, her father couldn’t care less about her, and a pregnancy at seventeen started a chain reaction that sent her life swirling into a downward spiral. That is, until she met Sophie. Sophie helped her put her life back together and with a lot of hard work, they turned Angelita’s shoe designs into a thriving business. But now, her father wants a piece of that business and he’s not taking no for an answer. The only thing Angelita can think to do is run from him.Which puts her right smack in the middle of other people’s baggage.

Sequoyah Falls is a small town where no one forgets the past. Jesse is still considered the ne'er-do-well who ran out on his wife and kids; even though he’s been back in town for years and has done everything he can to repair those relationships. Kerri Ann still pines for the man she never thought she was good enough for – the man that drove her into Jesse’s arms with the end result being a baby boy. Bryce couldn’t stick around and see the woman he loved with another man, but now he’s back, Kerri Ann’s divorced and this is his chance. But it’s been several years now, and no one knows how to get their lives back on track and go after what they want. Until Angelita shows up.

Shoe Strings is a novel that showcases how bad choices made in our youth can change the course of our lives forever. Her characters have grown into their adulthood still clinging to the past, keeping them from seeing their bright futures.Insecurities, emotional scars and the opinions of other people keep them from finding the right path over and over again. But stirring up the pot a little bit can change the flavor of things. Throw a new person in the mix who sees things in an unbiased light and new attitudes and self-confidence can have a chance to sprout roots where they never have before.

In Shoe Strings, Christy Hayes transports the reader into a world in desperate need of second chances. Her story drives home the message that ghosts from the past do not get to determine the future, and love can win over even the most disbelieving hearts. The reader will enjoy watching these characters grow into the people they deserve to be, and will root them on every step of the way. Christy Hayes brings to life their hopes, dreams and desires and you can’t help but grin happily as everything finally comes together.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 5 stars.


Purchase Shoe Strings by Christy Hayes

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stupid Poetry Volume 2, New and Improved Stupidity


Published synopsis:

Stupid Poetry - Volume 2, NEW AND IMPROVED STUPIDITY! brings back the limericks that drove people to drink from the first volume. Leipold takes mundane topics and transforms them into Dr. Seuss-like poetry (for adults only) designed to elicit belly laughs.

Review:

From politics and religion to family and homosexuality, Stupid Poetry – Volume 2, New and Improved Stupidity covers it all. In a funny, sarcastic and sometimes angry way. There’s a poem for everyone in here. The rhymes can be cute, and the hearts of the poets are in the right place, even if occasionally they go a little overboard in their dislike for this or that. Some may find the poems offensive, others will be shouting, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel.’ Overall, it’s a good read for adults.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 3 stars.


Purchase Stupid Poetry Volume 2, New and Improved Stupidity

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Superior by Tracy Brantley


Published synopsis:

Superior tells the story of Joselin and Karter, two teenagers who had never met, but both of their families have suddenly moved to a minuscule town in rural Arizona. Joselin is furious with her parents for uprooting her from her comfortable life, and deep down she knows she is going to hate living in this rinky dink place. Shortly after landing here, Joselin finds herself inexplicably drawn to the mysterious Karter. Try as she might she can't seem to stop thinking about him, and very quickly both of their lives begin to change. Karter shares with Joselin a secret that she doesn't even know about herself, and the grave danger that it poses to both of them. Their lives become completely intertwined, and they will have to fight together to survive the battle they were destined to undertake. Superior is a tale of teenage exploration, discovery, and growth.

Review:

Joselin and Karter both have the bad luck of being dragged by their parents to a small town in Arizona for no apparent reason. Karter has always been a loner, not really letting anyone get close to him except his family. Joselin is strong-willed and stubborn, but sociable. She likes having a best friend to talk to and hang out with. Which is why the two make an unusual pair.

Drawn together for reasons they have yet to learn, a bond grows between Karter and Joselin that can’t be ignored. As the two become closer, they help each other understand the changes going on in their lives, supernatural and otherwise. They are also able to be there for each other when it turns out that both of their parents have a laundry list of secrets that they have kept from them. With evil witches hot on their trail, Joselin and Karter need to find some answers quickly because all of their lives depend on it.

In Superior, Tracy Brantley captured well the essence of the teenage mind, both the good and the bad. She created typical teenagers that are stubborn, independent, at times insecure, and always quick to be led by their emotions instead of logic. But, it’s the latter that led them to get close in the first place. The romance is quick to develop, but for good reason. The sweetness and the urgency of teenage love is portrayed exceptionally well as the two leave their childhood behind and prepare for the changes that will guide their future. The only thing lacking in this regard is that when intimacy occurs between them, neither discuss the possible ramifications of their actions – an important message for teenage readers.

Superior is a wonderful example of YA paranormal romance. The story is captivating and the characters lovable. The ending tied up loose ends while still leaving room for more adventures – which I would love to read about. I thank the author for providing me a review copy and I give the book 4 ½ stars.


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Friday, September 9, 2011

Cheat by J. E. Medrick


Published synopsis:

How far would you go for money? For Marcus Tiller, gambling debt was an overwhelming shadow on his life. As a neonatal attendant at St. Mercy Four Cities Hospital in need of cash, he became CGT-Inc's ideal pawn. The contract: secretly inject newborns with an experimental compound - for $1,000 a head. But, three years after he began, he disappeared.

Now, 14 years later, the effects of the compound are starting to show. 17-year old Ian Reynolds, an aspiring varsity football player, suddenly finds he can control things with the power of his thoughts. Footballs miraculously end up in his hands, girls' skirts catch sudden drafts and life is good. But the gift comes with a price, both physical and mental.

As Ian tries to understand his power, the big rivalry against the Waredo Firehawks looms. But when a stranger who may know his secret begins leaving him cryptic notes, will Ian decide his power is best left... undiscovered?

Review:

High schooler Ian Reynolds comes from a single parent home and things are okay, but a football scholarship to college would sure help out. With this in mind, his dad pushes him hard with extra practices, but Ian appreciates it – he wants to succeed as much as his dad wants him to succeed. But when he suddenly finds that he has the ability to control things through telekinesis, the temptation to use this skill on the football field becomes almost too much to resist. Not only would he become a varsity hero as a junior, he may even be able to impress the girl of dreams, as well. The only catch? He may alienate his best friend in the process.

The novella Cheat is a promising beginning to the Icarus Helix series by J. E. Medrick. The idea of DNA manipulation testing on people who don’t know they’ve become lab rats is always a scary premise – mostly for how easy it is to imagine it could happen. Know the right people, have the right credentials; you could slip in under the radar with no one being the wiser.

As much as I enjoyed reading Cheat, there were a few things that I felt could have been improved. The characters in the novella were interesting, but I would have liked to have seen more depth in them. For instance, the main character did not always come off as a guy dedicated to his education as well as football. He seemed to lack understanding of some well-known scientific principles, as well as limited understanding of some typical high school social issues, that would have been normal for a junior in high school to be aware. The idea was there that he was a smart guy; he just didn’t come off that way. The ending was another area that left me wanting more. It was abrupt. There was no lead in to the next book, no resolution to the physical, social and moral situations introduced into this book, and no clue as to where the series is going. I can guess, but I would rather be tempted. A handful of carefully chosen sentences at the end would have made reading the next in the series more tantalizing.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 3 ½ stars.


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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coffin Dodgers by Gary Marshall


Published synopsis:

Eighty is the new thirty. Nobody's having babies, the old massively outnumber the young and the hip crowd has become the hip replacement crowd. Twentysomething barman Matt Johnson would be bored senseless if someone wasn't trying to kill him.

When Matt isn't playing silly pranks on his elders with his colleague Dave or laughing at Dave's dating disasters, he's trying to summon up the courage to ask best friend Amy out on a date. Then Matt narrowly escapes a car wreck, and he discovers that his accident was no accident. Someone's murdering young people, and dozens are already dead. Can Matt, Amy and Dave stop the killings? The answer involves guns, gangsters, an angry bear and plenty of irate pensioners.

Review:

Being in your twenties when most of the people in the world are in their twilight years isn’t easy. Most entertainment, music and wealth is controlled by the elderly, and businesses that may have once catered to a younger crowd have closed up shop. To keep themselves from being bored completely out of their minds, Matt and Dave liven things up by playing the occasional prank on their elders.

Matt’s biggest concern in life right now is how to get up enough courage to ask his Dave’s best friend Amy if she would like to be more than just friends. At least, it is until a car accident exposes a conspiracy that is big enough to get them all killed. With the very reluctant help from a police detective, the three friends race to catch the bad guys before the bad guys catch them.

In a world where having children has become virtually impossible for those who can’t afford IVF, you would think that society would value its youth. But instead, society has reverted back to the old philosophy of ‘children should be seen, not heard.’ And there are some who take this idea to the extreme.

In Coffin Dodgers, Gary Marshall has written laugh out loud comedy. His characters could be the guys who live next door – you know, the ones you want to hang out with? And despite their penchant for teasing each other, the reader has no doubt that their friendship is based on genuine affection. The story line is a fun twist on the most often dystopian idea of what the world would be like if only a hand full of women could have babies. Instead of the doom and gloom, Gary Marshall creates a world where society adapts with gusto. Elderly, wealthy members of Generation X are happy to have the world revolve around them as they age. Who needs youth if you have money, right? I don’t know if I would like to live in Mr. Marshall’s world, but I certainly enjoyed reading about it. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 4 ½ stars.


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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ephemera by Jeffery M. Anderson


Published synopsis:

Nester Cab, a second rate magazine writer, goes about his mundane life, disenfranchised and hiding from the city he lives in. But, a mysterious note left in his office awakens his ravenous curiosity and sets him on a journey to find a missing soldier. In his travels, he becomes entangled with a clandestine anti-government organization, witnesses a delusional and violent American society and stumbles ever deeper into unfathomable government conspiracies. Inspired by Internet conspiracy theorists, talk radio, and the media, Ephemera explores the visions of the ideological voices in American society and speaks to all of us through the extreme that permeates modern life. With satirical humor and sorrowful sentiment, Cab encounters a bizarre set of madmen, killers and megalomaniacs. He struggles with his search for truth as he flees for his life and the right to reclaim it. Where the forces of good lie is never clear, but, with certainty, Cab’s journey will lead to an ending that is epic and unforgettable.

Review:

Nester Cab has always wanted to do something, go somewhere, maybe make a difference in the world. He eschews most of the gadgets and gimmicks of modern technology and convenience that is driven by consumerism and greed, and does his own little things to fight against it. But he’s not quite prepared for the turn his life takes when he is thrust into the middle of a war between radical outcasts and power hungry politicians.

As a mother in this new technological era, I have often been known to say that we are raising a generation of kids who don’t know how to be alone. Access to their friends is always immediate and constant through smart phones, texting, and internet social sites.The idea that you can be ‘unplugged’ for days at a time is a foreign concept; one that may lead to an early dramatic death – either from boredom or withdrawal.

In Ephemera, Jeffery M. Anderson brings this idea to the extreme. The world has gone mad with technology and marketing. Movies aren’t just movies, they’re sales platforms.Sunglasses don’t just protect your eyes from the sun, they allow you to surf the internet while walking down the street. Cars don’t need to be driven, just sit back while the car does all the work for you. The world has become a place where people no longer have to think for themselves. It has become a world where the general public is susceptible to the evil machinations of the power hungry minds of politicians; politicians who have no problem taking over their thinking for them.

Ephemera is a book that will make you laugh and cringe – sometimes at the same time.Action abounds with kidnappings, murder, and intrigue. Humor is sprinkled in with odd characters and the reality of everyday life in a truly technological world. Political corruption is showcased as those in power purposely create information that will mislead and control the public. But most of all, Ephemera makes you think about the course society is on and about how far we want to let it go.

Jeffery M. Anderson does an excellent job of bringing home the idea that we need to be more aware of technology’s impact on us as human beings. His writing style grabs the reader and pulls him or her in with an engrossing plot and characters that range from charming to terrifying. Reminiscent of the works of Christopher Buckley, Ephemera brought me on a journey I hope to only read about, and never have it become reality. If at times a bit preachy, sometimes overselling the point, it is none the less a book that should be read and pondered.

One side observation that must be written about, though, is the cover of the book. Once the book is read, it makes perfect sense. As a book that may be sitting on a stand at the bookstore, I don’t know that it would have begged me to pick it up to discover what it was hiding. For me, it doesn’t capture the essence of the book’s content which is a shame. I hate to think the book is being passed over by potential readers because of a cover that doesn’t give a feel for the treasures inside.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading Ephemera. I would like to thank the author for offering to share his work with me and providing me with a review copy. I give the book four and a half stars.


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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Haunt by Amber Delaine


Published synopsis:

Artist Megan Nelson has never lived anywhere but the tiny Texas town in which she grew up. There is one bus, one corner store and everybody knows everybody. So when a stranger shows up, Megan is more than curious.

Adam is more than he seems: beautiful and strange. Megan soon finds herself falling in love with him as she learns who he is and where he comes from.

But being with Adam comes with a price. The closer Megan gets to Adam, the more she realizes he holds a dark secret which threatens to tear apart everything she has ever known.

On top of it, Megan is plagued with guilt over her best friend, Tony. As her new love life puts a strain on their old friendship, Megan learns how love can help her overcome her terrifying circumstances and change the rest of her life.

Review:

Megan’s biggest concerns in life are graduating high school and how to ignore the fact that her best friend, Tony, is in love with her. So, when the beautiful, mysterious Adam works his way into her life, he is a welcome distraction. And it takes no time at all for Megan to realize that she’s falling in love with him. But Adam has a secret so big, it may cost Megan her life.

In Haunt, Amber Delaine brings the reader on Megan’s tumultuous journey through infatuation, obsession and love. Adam’s hold on Megan is dangerous and she becomes helpless in his clutches as he drags her into the darkness of his world. Held captive by her unwanted desires, and deeply immersed in something she doesn’t understand, turning to Tony for help may be the only thing that can save her.

Haunt is a supernatural excursion that pulls you into Megan’s world and keeps you there until the very end. Amber Delaine’s writing style is strong and the rhythm of the book flows naturally. She gives her characters voices that are believable and makes you care about them as the story goes on. I stayed up late into the night to finish the book because I simply couldn’t put it down. I truly enjoyed the review copy I was given by the author and I give the book five stars.


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Monday, September 5, 2011

Helper12 by Jack Blaine


Published synopsis:

Helper12 works as a Baby Helper in Pre Ward, the place where babies spend their first six months of life before they’re tracked for vocations and sent to training. She does her job well, and she stays out of trouble. But one day, the Sloanes, Society members who enjoy all the privileges of their station—family unit clearance, a private dwelling, access to good food and good schools—come to “adopt” one of the Pre Ward babies. The Director makes a deal and the Sloanes walk out with a brand new child.

They also walk out owning Helper12—the Director sells her to them, and there’s nothing she can do but go. At the Sloanes, Helper12 enters a world where people should be able to enjoy life—with high position and riches come the opportunity for individual freedom, even the chance to love—but that’s not what she finds. The Sloanes are keeping secrets. So is their biological son, Thomas.

Helper12 has some secrets of her own; she’s drawing, which is a violation, since Baby Helpers aren’t tracked for Art. And she’s growing to love the child she was bought to care for—at the same time that Ms. Sloane is becoming disenchanted with her impulse baby buy.

When all your choices are made for you, how do you make some for yourself? Helper12 is about to find out.

Review:

Helper12’s life has been laid out for her since she was born. She was tracked as a baby helper and she was given just enough education to be able to do her job. As long as she did her job well and didn’t break any of the numerous rules society has set on her social class, she could go home every night to her monitored cube in a sub-standard housing community. At least, she could until she was sold to the Sloanes.

Reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s tale, Jack Blaine brings the reader to a future where there are Society members and there are human cattle. Cattle who will be turned into Breeders, Helpers, Laborers, and even Leisure Dolls. And there’s nothing the human cattle can do about it. Any resistance will lead to a much harsher life or death, and that’s enough to make even your closest friend turn you in for fear of being thought of as a coconspirator. So, Helper12 is completely unprepared when she’s thrust into the privileged life of the Sloanes. She’s even more unprepared for their son. Is she willing to risk the Labor Camps or death for the possibility of life without boundaries?

Helper12 is a well written story of the road to freedom and the difficult choices that have to be made to get there. Jack Blaine pulls the reader into the harsh world he has created and he doesn’t let you go. The feelings his characters display let you feel their sorrow and pain, and even their hope. What little there is of it, anyway.

The one thing I felt the book didn’t have enough of was backstory. I liked the approach the author took with immersing the reader immediately into the sometimes horrific world his characters live in, but it would have been interesting to read a little bit of how this society came to be. What drives some people to treat others so harshly? Was it world war, pestilence, or just a swing in the morals of human kind? Aside from that, I found Helper12 to be an interesting character study of human emotions. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book four stars.


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Sunday, September 4, 2011

House Haunting by Mary Merrell


Published synopsis:

Rosemary Fernandes is a divorced, naïve woman, determined to make it in the tough world of real estate. Keith Laumer is a ghost, eager to leave his earthly haunt. As a real estate and a womanizer in life, Keith is the perfect partner to teach Rosemary the ins and outs of the real estate business, and he’s willing to teach her anything else she wants to know.

Frank Perez is a tough guy tattoo artist with ah-so-wide shoulders, and a chest Rosemary can’t wait to get her hands on. He thinks she’s a tease, jerking him around with this ghost story. And the ghost wouldn't be sad if the tattoo artist just went away.

In struts Laura Toste, Rosemary’s gorgeous, best friend. She’s going to make all the bad voices go away. Keith wishes he can join these two lovely ladies, but all he can do is watch, as they recklessly investigate his death, staying one step ahead of the killers.

Can there be a love triangle between a goodie two-shoes, a tough guy, and a ghost? And how long will Rosemary remain naïve and alive when her less-than-subtle sleuthing drops her and her friends into a sinister years-old plot?

Review:

With a cheating and greedy ex-husband, a teenage son, and a new job she’s struggling in, Rosemary Fernandes does not need any more stress in her life. Especially the sudden ability to see and communicate with ghosts. But Keith Laumer bursts into her life anyway and he offers Rosemary a trade. He’ll help her learn the ropes in the world of real estate and all she has to do is figure out how he died. How hard could that be?

As Rosemary digs into the death of Keith, she finds herself being sucked farther and farther into a dark world she didn’t even know existed in real estate. With the help of a police officer, a hot tattoo artist and her best friend, she wades through the greed and jealousy that had surrounded Keith while he was alive, not knowing where she’ll end up.What it eventually comes down to is that it might be someone she knows who killed him.Will that same person kill her before she has a chance to get to the truth?

Filled with action, House Haunting is a fun and suspense filled ghost story. Mary Merrell does an excellent job of creating a book that grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go until the very end. Even with the seriousness of the plot, she is still able to weave humor in amongst the action while keeping the reader glued to the pages trying to guess who killed Keith. As for the main character, I found it heartwarming to read how she grows throughout the book from an almost devastated and overwhelmed ex-wife into a strong, independent woman who can take care of herself. I truly enjoyed this book. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book five stars.


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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lightning of Her Own by Levi Montgomery


Published synopsis:

When the aliens landed seventy-two years ago, the first thing they did was turn off the power.

Then they ran for the hills.

The aliens themselves killed very few people, but riots, looting, disease, natural disasters and the sheer brutality of a harsh life that no one had lived for generations have reduced the population of Earth to a few tiny handfuls, scattered among the abandoned ruins of a lost civilization. Now word has come to Amarylla’s father, the chief civil engineer of the Federal Republic of New York, that an unknown man in the far northern plains may hold the key to turning the lights back on.

But when Amarylla sets out with her father to find this mysterious man, she is a just young girl whose life has been filled with operas and riding lessons and needlework, a young girl schooled only in the history of fashion, classical philosophers, and the proper navigation of knives and forks at a state diner. A young girl totally unprepared for the raw edges of life beyond the walls, totally unprepared for the closeness of a young guard named Marlowe, totally unprepared for danger.

Can she become what she needs to be? Can she learn what she needs to know? Can she grow up in time, or will this alien dystopia kill her?

Review:

Amarylla has a good idea that her time as a little girl has come to an end when she sends most of the things that her mother packed for her back home. She doesn’t have any idea what’s ahead as she journeys with her father to find the man who may be able to turn the electricity back on, but she knows it won’t include fancy dresses and operas. She also doesn’t know that along the way, she’ll see firsthand the cruelty and destruction the aliens are capable of when threatened, or that she’ll learn to defend herself as well as any of her father’s guards, or that sometimes, love can develop even under the harshest conditions.

Lightning of Her Own was a wonderful surprise. I never would have thought that a novel about a cross country trip in a post-alien invasion world would keep me riveted, but it did.The depth of emotion shown by each of the characters as they faced trial after trial of both their fortitude and their physical needs was exceptionally well written. The growth of Amarylla, in particular, was portrayed in in such a way that you are torn between being frightened of who she will become and proud of whom she may come to be.

Levi Montgomery has created a world that takes away some of the things that most of us, especially in the United States, consider basic life essentials - electricity, automobiles, and the freedom to travel unhampered and safely from state to state. To think that society could fall apart so easily and quickly when these are lost is frightening. Yet, also, believable. Lightning of Her Own takes the reader on a dangerous journey; one that will leave you thankful that our world is still intact. I thank the author for sharing a review copy with me and I’m excited to read part two of the trilogy. I give this book five stars.


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Friday, September 2, 2011

One Size Fits All by Gary Scott


Published synopsis:

The Cinderella story takes on a fresh twist when told from the perspective of a slightly depressed glass slipper salesman. One Size Fits All is a breezy, modern romantic-comedy tale of love at first sight -- and of realizing that it's never too late to write the ending you want for your own fairy tale.

Review:

Roman has become so disillusioned by his chosen life path that he is just walking through the motions of living, not actually living. He goes to his shoe store every day; he puts on his fake smile and his fake personality, and he sells some shoes to his wealthy clientele.His evenings are spent in front of the television, though whatever is on barely registers as his mind tries to determine what his life is missing.

That is, until the day Tara and her Aunt Freda walk into his store. Roman is intrigued by not only Tara’s beauty, but by the way she seems to be at the same crossroad in life as he is. He finds his pain and disillusionment mirrored in her eyes. Roman wants to get to know this woman and he’s willing to leave his comfort zone to do it.

In One Size Fits All, Gary Scott makes a strong statement for the need to live the life we love, not the life we should love. It takes Roman some time to figure out how to do that, but when he does, a weight is lifted from both his heart and his mind. As the novella progresses, it is inspiring to read the transformation from the man who is consumed by immobilizing depression to the man who is willing to recreate who is. He climbs out of the black hole in search of happiness, and forgets the life he leaves behind. But throughout, I felt like there wasn’t quite enough information regarding Roman’s past to fully appreciate his character. I wanted to know more about him – why did he get into the business to begin with, when did his downward spiral begin, what is his strange relationship with his father about and why are they living together. As a reader, I needed more information to truly understand the depths of Roman. But I did enjoy reading about his journey.

Much as I enjoyed Roman’s transformation, though, I was not as impressed with the romance aspect of the novella. I kept waiting for the spark of all-consuming, can’t resist you love between Roman and Tara, but I never felt it. I probably would have enjoyed the novella more if Tara’s character had been further developed. The reader never truly gets the feeling that she is looking for true love or that she has found it in Roman. As a symbol of his epiphany, she is a good tool; but as her character is written, the romance portion of the novella sometimes came off as awkward and mostly unrequited. If there had been more interaction between her and Roman, some of the awkwardness may have been avoided. To me, the novella felt more like a journey of the soul than a love story.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the novella three stars.


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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Terminal Departure by Joe Crubaugh


Published synopsis:

Dissident secret agent Cleo Matts teams up with starlet Julia McMichaels as he attempts to foil a CIA plan to blow up Delta Flight 1420. The covert operation takes a surprising detour when the flight is hijacked by aliens.

While evading ruthless assassins and men in black, the unlikely pair get help from a veteran pilot, a red-hot waitress, and a NASA UFO researcher. The laughs, chases, and shoot-outs come fast and furious as they race to uncover the shocking truth behind a germ warfare conspiracy to gain control of Venezuelan oil.

Review:

Cleo’s job was to protect the man in the seat in front of him. Simple enough. All he had to do was foil the attempt of the CIA to blow up the plane. Which turns out to be anything but simple. Aliens, CIA cleaners and assassins, and one of the most famous actresses in the nation seem to be conspiring to make his covert operation as complicated as possible.

Government conspiracy at its best, Joe Crubaugh creates an all too possible world in Terminal Departure. A world where some of the most powerful governments on the planet are controlled by a secret international association made up of the world’s elite. On top of that, alien watchers really do abduct people and the deaths of a couple of hundred innocent people are justified by the need to control the populace. With keep you on the edge of your seat action, this book will have even the most unbelieving readers turning the pages to see what happens next.

Written with the spirit of Christopher Buckley over his shoulder, Joe Crubaugh knows how to spin a tale of political satire. The main characters are quirky but entertaining. The secondary characters are sometimes frightening but definitely interesting. All in all, this was a great read. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book five stars.


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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Coexist by Julia Crane


Published synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Keegan is struggling to keep her huge secret from her friends--she's an elf, descended from a long line of elves that live in secrecy alongside humans.

In elfin society, mates are predetermined but not allowed to meet until they are eighteen. Against tradition, Keegan's brother Thaddeus told her Rourk's name because his visions warned him she'd need Rourk's protection, especially since Keegan will play a key role in the coming war between the dark and light elves.

Rourk finds himself drawn to Keegan's side every time she thinks his name. He wants to talk to her but remains in the shadows, silently guarding her every time she mentally beckons him. A twist of fate thrusts the two of them together when Rourk is forced to step up his protection and make his presence known.

An ancient prophecy deeply entwines Keegan's family and the future of their society. Somehow they must find a way to thwart fate and win the battle...without losing Keegan. With war brewing, and dark forces aligning, will Keegan and Rourk ever have the life together that they both desire?

Review:

Keegan is a typical sixteen year old girl who loves to shop, hang out with friends, and date the cute boys from school. She also happens to be an elf. Keeping her true identity a secret, she enjoys life to the fullest and waits in happy anticipation for the day that she’ll meet the one chosen to be her mate.

Rourk is a warrior through and through. His mind is focused and he knows his importance in elfin society. But every time Keegan thinks his name, he is irresistibly drawn to her. Keeping his identity from her for the next year and a half is going to be slow torture.

With the ultimate battle between light and dark fast approaching, each must face what fate has in store for them.

Coexist by Julia Crane is a fresh take on the YA paranormal genre. Her vision for elf society, as well as other supernatural beings, is unique and charming. Coexist is a fun, quick read that leaves the reader wanting more.

Something that I felt the novel needed, though, was more dialogue. The conversations between characters tended to be a little choppy, with only a few lines in each section. The novel sometimes has the feel of a story being told instead of a story developing through character interaction and detail. It gives the reader a somewhat superficial feel for the characters, especially supporting characters that have important roles in the end. The story line is excellent and the characters are more than likeable, but I would have liked to have seen more development of their personalities through conversation and detailed interaction. This would have given the intriguing twist at the end even more impact. That being said, Julia Crane is an excellent writer and I thoroughly enjoyed my escape into her magical world of elves. I give the book four stars. (I received a review copy from the author.)


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Merlin's Kin by Everett Coles


Published synopsis:

Unaware of the compulsion put upon them by the sleeping spirit of Merlin the Magician, Francis Steele and his four friends explore the subterranean chambers of an old ruin. Lost, they escape through a door to the outside only to find themselves in a new and unbelievable world where mammoths draw gigantic caravans and two great blue moons light up the night sky. Here too are primitive birds – small, sly and intelligent; unicorns and huge fighting beasts; Big Foot is here and a race of Elf-like creatures as well as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights who long ago lost the ideals of chivalry.

Against this backdrop, the fifteen year old Francis and friends have to find their way back to their own world while making sense of this one and helping Merlin to keep his secret cave hidden.

The story races along with caverns used as a prison, manned bird racing and slave trading all mixed in with magics rediscovered by the heroes.

Welcome to Merlin’s world, explore it, enjoy it, but tread carefully.

Review:

Merlin’s world is crumbling around him and he has to use his last resource left to save it. Called from the depths of a crystal cave on another world, five very different children are compelled to leave the safety of their life on Earth and journey to what they had believed were the fabled lands of Camelot. What they find is nothing like the world they left behind. This world is filled with magnificent beasts and magical creatures. Though they once lived in peace, a battle of power now rages between them and the humans, and the children find that very few can be trusted. As they try to discover the reason they were called, and also search for the key that will open the doorway home, the children are led on a magical adventure that is as dangerous as it is exciting.

Merlin’s Kin is a YA paranormal novel that will have young teens flipping the pages to find out what happens next. Packed with action, the world Everett Coles created is an excellent mix of Arthurian lore and fantasy. Villians abound, but along the way, the children find that they have the courage and wisdom of their ancestors, and just maybe, they can help bring this world back to its once peaceable state.With little twists in the plot and on common similes, metaphors, and adages, the author was also able to weave humor in among the action, keeping the dialogue fresh and interesting.

The story line of Merlin’s Kin is an excellent premise and puts a new twist on an old subject. At times, though, the dialogue and scenes seem a bit disjointed as transitions between narrators are not clearly denoted and the story jumps quickly and often between locations. This, however, may be the key to holding the attention of youngsters in a fast paced electronic world where things are constantly changing. I would have enjoyed the book more if the children had received more instruction from Merlin earlier in the book as to why they were there in the first place after his desperate plea for help. As the story progressed, it seemed that the only goal was to get home until quite far into the book. Other than that, I enjoyed Merlin’s Kin and the new world it took me to very much and I give it four stars. I thank the author for giving me a review copy.


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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Omega's Shepherd by J. T. Brewer


Published synopsis:

Hidden in the midst of human kind is a race of immortals calling themselves Stewards of the White Circle. They live and interact with us and, without our knowing, guide mankind, helping us to achieve our highest potential. The Stewards know a day of apocalyptic destruction will soon take place on earth and they are working feverishly to prepare the world to survive this catastrophic event. Human society sees white-bearded, charismatic James Omega as a renowned biologist, venerated college professor, successful author, and host of a popular nature series on PBS. But, he is also a Steward who has taken on a human identity well fitted to his immortal role of preserving and protecting the world's animal life in a time of shrinking habitats and world pollutions. For some time, he has been on a painstaking mission to find the "Shepherd," the one mortal foreordained to inherit his carefully-protected secrets and who must also take on a unique and perilous destiny. Now, he has found Michael Johns, a student, who seems to have all of the qualifications and appears to be the one long sought for. But how can Omega be certain? The candidate will have to be thoroughly tested without realizing he is being examined. Then, if the lad passes, things won’t get any easier, for the Shepherd does not know about the immortal world. How is Omega going to reveal his true identity without appearing to be afflicted with senile dementia? More difficult still, how is he going to convince the young mortal to accept a task requiring him to sacrifice everything of this world, including, perhaps, his own life? If this were not enough trouble, two more obstacles stand in the way: a demon spirit has taken human form for the sole purpose of destroying everything the Steward is working for; and then there is the matter of a certain strong-willed, red-headed coed who may unknowingly upset the balance of events. Either diversion may prevent or delay Omega's plans from moving forward. Meanwhile, the Master Clock is ticking. The Days of Destruction draw nigh. Life would be so much easier for a Steward if humans did not have their free will.

Review:

Omega’s Shepherd follows the seemingly disjointed lives of a famous biologist, a dairy farmer/college student, a botanist/cellist, and a demon. But as the book progresses, their lives are more closely related than any of them knew. Drawn together by cosmic forces, both good and evil, their paths are destined to cross as the world moves closer to a day of apocalyptic destruction.

Omega’s Shepherd by J. T. Brewer brings the reader on a journey through the worlds of endangered animal poaching, underworld violence, academia and wildlife preservation. I found the book to be extremely well written and detailed, and the different story lines keep the reader vested, wondering how things will draw together in the end. I also found some of the secondary characters added an interesting depth to the stories, and they did a good job of giving the reader better insight into the main characters. I’ll admit, though, James Omega had to grow on me. But, by the end, I was firmly a fan. As I read, the book did on occasion seem to meander, making it feel overly lengthy here and there, but most of it kept me glued to it and turning the pages. I do think that the book would have been just as strong, if not stronger, if some of the story lines were less detailed, though.

Filled with vivid imagery, an interesting array of characters and a touch of the supernatural, Omega’s Shepherd is a thought provoking and engaging read. I thank the authors for sharing a review copy with me. I give the book four and a half stars.


Purchase Omega's Shepherd by J. T. Brewer

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Choice by Lorhainne Eckhart


Published synopsis:

Marcie Hollis is a Wiccan, who’s always played by the rules. That’s until she meets Dan McKenzie, a man who she believes to be the knight in shining armor she’s been searching for all her life. However, Dan’s not who he appears to be. He lures Marcie into his world of lies, greed and high-grade marijuana. But fate intervenes on Marcie's illicit trip for Dan to New Orleans, when she's robbed in a crowded airport. The thug not only makes off with her suspicious backpack, he knocks her down, her head slams on the concrete floor, and she loses her memory right in the path of DEA agent, Sam Carre.

After a six-month investigation into the activities of a big time drug dealer crumbles, the same day damming evidence is found stuffed in Sam’s locker – evidence suggesting he’s the notorious leak on the team, Sam jumps on the first plane home. Arriving in a crowded airport in New Orleans - his reputation and loyalty are in question. But even though Sam’s tired, disillusioned and haunted by a past that gives him no peace, he stops to help an attractive stranger when she falls in front of him. Then in an act of chivalry, he takes her to his home until the police can identify her. When questions arise about Marcie, and what she’s involved in, the answers lead them to the exact felons Sam investigated in the Pacific Northwest.

When her illusive memory returns, this complex case pushes them both to explain the unexplainable, and leaves Sam with a haunting question. Was she set up, or was this a game she played? Sam’s forced to make a choice, walk away from the attraction that connects them, or risk losing everything.

Review:

Sam and Marcie’s lives intersect at a crucial juncture. Marcie has gotten herself in too deep in the world of high-grade marijuana, and Sam has left the DEA to do his own investigation to discover who set him up as the fall guy in an international drug bust gone bad. Both victims of past love, there is a lot of mistrust between them. But they hold on to each other throughout and keep each other safe.

The Choice by Lorhainne Eckhart has an interesting paranormal twist. Marcie is able to read auras and has several spirit guides. If only she had listened to them earlier, she wouldn’t have ended up in the mess she did. Now she’s given a second chance to change the path her life is on, and she has some difficult choices to make.

The Choice is a book filled with suspense and characters that draw the reader in. The mystery and intrigue keep you turning the pages. Though it is a little cookie cutter suspense at times, the paranormal twist adds to the uniqueness of the book, letting the reader overlook that.

As I read the book, I grew fond of most of the characters, but I admit, I never really clicked with Marcie, unfortunately. She is well portrayed by Lorhainne Eckhart in the beginning as a victim of childhood abuse who puts all her self-worth in the hands of others, one man in particular. A simple thing such as not opening a door for her can send her into a downward spiral of self-doubt and abandonment. As the plot progressed, I hoped her character would grow out of some of this as she developed a sense of self-worth that came from inside of her, as she made better choices. What I got was a woman who simply switched which man’s hands carried her self-esteem. Despite this quirk in her personality, I was still going to give the book a solid four stars.But then the ending of the book was not what I expected. There was too much left hanging. In a good suspense novel, most loose ends are tied up, and if the author is looking to write a sequel, a mystery or two is left to entice the reader to buy the next book. This ending simply confirmed things the characters already knew instead of bringing to light new knowledge. Too much went unsolved. I needed more resolution. I believe that Lorhainne Eckhart is a wonderful author – her technique as a writer is excellent and her plots are engaging and entertaining. In this particular book, though, I felt that some of the subplots could have been left out to leave more room for growth and resolution. I give the book three and a half stars.


Purchased The Choice by Lorhainne Eckhart