Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Balanced On A Blade's Edge, by Lindsay Buroker - Book Review

Balanced On A Blade’s Edge, by Lindsay Buroker
Published:  March 30, 2014 on Smashwords, and Amazon Digital Services, Inc.,
Pages:   226 kindle
Genre:  Adventure, Magical, Steampunk
Source:  Author Free Day on Amazon Kindle

Colonel Ridge Zirkander isn't the model of military professionalism - he has a tendency to say exactly what’s on his mind and his record has enough demerits to wallpaper the hull of an airship - but as the best fighter pilot in the Iskandian army, he’s used to a little leniency from his superiors. Until he punches the wrong diplomat in the nose and finds himself issued new orders: take command of a remote prison mine in the inhospitable Ice Blades Mountains. Ridge has never been in charge of anything larger than a flier squadron — what’s he supposed to do with a frozen fortress full of murderers and rapists? Not to mention the strange woman who shows up right as he arrives...

Sardelle Terushan wakes from three hundred years in a mage stasis shelter, only to realize that she is the last of the Referatu, the sorcerers who once helped protect Iskandia from conquerors. Their subterranean mountain community was blown up in a treacherous sneak attack by soldiers who feared their power. Everyone Sardelle ever knew is dead, and the sentient soulblade she has been bonded to since her youth is buried in the core of the mountain. Further, what remains of her home has been infested by bloodthirsty miners commanded by the descendants of the very soldiers who destroyed her people.

Sardelle needs help to reach her soulblade — her only link to her past and her last friend in the world. Her only hope is to pretend she’s one of the prisoners while trying to gain the commander’s trust. But lying isn't her specialty, especially when the world has changed so much in the intervening centuries, and if Colonel Zirkander figures out who she truly is, he’ll be duty-bound to sentence her to the only acceptable punishment for sorcerers: death.
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I really enjoyed reading Balanced On A Blade’s Edge as it has the right mix of adventure, sweet romance, and other-worldly elements that work for me. Lindsay Buroker’s writing style is direct, with steady pacing that moves, and she develops the romance gradually. Overall, I found this to be more of an adventure novel with magical, steampunk, and romance elements.

Colonel Ridge Zirkander isn’t thrilled about being sent to the remote Magroth crystal mines as new commander of the fortress for a year as a reprimand for assaulting a diplomat. After all, he’s a celebrated flier. Magroth prisoners are used to mine for special crystals that enable the airships of their world to fly at a bleak outpost location. I love that the Colonel isn’t a stickler for behavioural or other protocol. And he’s a bit of a quirky, funny character who cleans his own office, speaks with the prisoners, and even talks to himself.

Sardelle is one of the ancient Referatu sorcerers that settled the Magroth area over 300 years ago. Buried in an explosion long ago, she has miraculously survived and now is released due to mining activities that open the cave she’s trapped in. She’s smart and book-read, and I really like how stealthy she is about getting around on a prison base using her magical talents.

In this new world, magic and sorcerers are feared. The Colonel begins to suspect that Sardelle isn’t a regular prisoner but doesn’t know her true nature. He might not fall for her if he did. Things ratchet up when the fortress comes under magical airship attack, and the miserable General Nax shows up.

I found this a very satisfying read all around that I would heartily recommend to all adventure, steampunk/romance enthusiasts. You won’t be disappointed.

 My thanks to Ms. Buroker for a free day on Amazon, though it’s taken me a while to get through backlog. I look forward to reading more of Lindsay Buroker’s books in future.  4.5 Stars!

You will find her on the internet at the links below:

Happy New Year 2016 Readers! This will be my last review for 2015 but I’m already lining up new reads for the new year and hope you will join me again.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Vampire's Christmas Carol, by Cynthia Eden - Novella Review

A Vampire’s Christmas Carol, by Cynthia Eden
Published:  November 5, 2013, Amazon Digital Services
Pages:   79 kindle
Genre:  Paranormal, Seasonal
Source:  Author/Free Day on Kindle

Ben Prescott hates Christmas—he’s a vampire, and to him, there’s certainly nothing jolly about the holiday season. While the humans are running around being merry, he’s hunting in the shadows. Ben plans to spend the holidays his way…by stalking deadly prey.

But fate has other plans for Ben.

Three visitors are coming Ben’s way…A demon who will force Ben to face his past, a ghost who will show Ben the present he could have, and a shifter who will reveal the darkness that waits in Ben’s future. Unless Ben can change his ways, he may just turn into a real monster, one who can’t be saved by anyone or anything.

‘Tis the season…to be undead.’

Ben’s redemption rests in the hands of the one woman he loved and lost—Simone Laurent. If Ben is going to have a chance at being more than just the beast in the darkness, he has to prove himself to the lovely Simone. A very hard task, considering that, once upon a Christmas Eve, Simone died in Ben’s arms…
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I’m not really a vampire book reader but I couldn’t resist this paranormal take on The Christmas Carol, especially as author, Cynthia Eden, was offering free days on Amazon! This is a unique, endearing twist to the traditional holiday tale.

Ben is busy with his usual during the yuletide season, stalking prey and sucking the life out of them, when he gets his first of three visitors, the demon William Marley. Despite the fact that Ben prides himself on using his vamp powers to hunt down only criminals and killers, he eventually learns that he may not exactly be 100% in the know about his alleged victims.

Between the demon Marley, the ghost of his former love Simone, and the panther shapeshifter, Ben is taught a thing or two to try get him to change his ways of heading too far down into the dark side. Ben also discovers the real depth of Simone’s love for him, from the beyond.

This is a charming, short, and sometimes sizzlingly sexy read that will give paranormal and seasonal readers a sweet bit of Christmas. Grab a copy for a feel good read during your holidays. 4.3 Stars!

Cynthia is an award-winning author of several romantic series and you will find her at these links:

Have a wonderful holiday season everybody!


Monday, 21 December 2015

Marie, by Ana Elise Meyer - Book Review

Marie, by Ana Elise Meyer
Teumessian Trilogy, Book 1
Published By:  June 26, 2015
by Amazon Digital Services
Pages:   PDF 339
Genre:  YA, Sci-Fi, Thriller,
Source:  Author

The human search for a solution to disease and physical decay has driven many to go to extreme measures. Dr. Carl Stanley’s efforts are no exception, his creation, Marie becomes the picture of physical perfection; possessing the ability to heal at a rapid rate. She has been groomed from infancy to apply her gifts in the service of war. However even a woman given all the physical gifts in the world is not immune to pain and suffering. One can only be pushed so far before pushing back. Can they handle what they have created....Can she?

Sometimes the cure is far more dangerous than the disease. 
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The premise of this novel is a very interesting one; medical experimentation beginning from infancy to induce certain traits in order to create super soldiers. The author begins with 10 babies that start their life and grow up in a secret military facility. Marie, an abandoned infant, is the odd girl against nine boys.

The beginning is a bit slow as everyone grows up in an endless and brutal regimentation of training and medication in the facility. Eventually something very unexpected occurs and Marie escapes with one of the boys. Some great plot twists lead to Marie’s development into a ruthless killer of evil characters.

This is the first book in the trilogy; still, I was expecting to learn a bit more about the secret biology of her self-healing. I gather this will be expanded upon in the following books but it would have been good to give the reader something in book 1 which ends up being mostly cut-throat action.

Lots of action through the second half of the book as we follow Marie and company implant, Tyler, on her satisfying crusade of revenge. Marie is incredibly clever, and just as cold and ruthless, but she does have a heart against all odds of the experimentation done on her. The ending is very unexpected!

Overall I found the writing style fast paced and I think it will resonate with younger readers more. I found the speech of the members of The Company that run and own the medical facility somewhat immature. They’re brilliant and evil scientists but to me their speech came across as if they were 19 year olds. As well, a writer doesn’t have to use the f*** word frequently to make characters appear tough. Finally, some editing to clean up odds and ends would have been helpful.

So, I thought this very interesting premise which would actually make a great action-thriller movie, but I felt the writing style needs a bit more thought and polishing to bring out the best in such a thought-provoking premise as this one. Great cover.

My thanks to the author for a reading copy for the purposes of an unbiased review. 3.7 Stars!

You will find Ana Elise Meyer on the web at the links below. The second book in the series, James, is also now available.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Starlight, by William Stacey - Book Review

Starlight, by William Stacey
Dark Elf War, Book 1
Published By:  Bastard Sword Press, August 20, 2015
Pages:   PDF 529
Genre:  YA, Fantasy, Urban, Military
Source:  Author

A secret power. The revival of magic. An ancient evil stirs.

Twenty-year-old university dropout Cassie Rogan has returned to her small British Columbia home. Tortured by an accident that killed her parents, she drifts, failing life at every turn. When an impossibly localized lightning storm hits the surrounding forest, Cassie discovers her supernatural side.

After centuries of atrophy, the forces of magic are flowing back into our world, and Cassie can wield arcane powers. Her life seems destined to turn around, until the downside of magic brings everything to a screeching halt. Horrifying mythical beasts now prowl the northern wilderness—including the Basilisk—an enormous eight-legged lizard that can turn its prey to stone.

Recruited by a secretive agency, Cassie must quickly master her powers to protect mankind. As she develops her skills, a dark power secretly watches from the shadows. The Fae Seelie (a.k.a. the Dark Elves)—humanity's ancient enemy—have returned to settle the score.

Starlight is the first book in the Dark Elf War series, an epic urban fantasy and coming of age series that features fast-paced action, mysterious creatures, careful world-building, and breathless pacing. Author William Stacey is a 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist.
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Starlight is an action forward, well written tale of troubled youth finding their way via military special Task Force Devil that both enables their unique abilities and brings them to Faerum, a magical land. The author weaves extensive military knowledge expertly into a journey to a fae world, then criss-crossing back with Maelhrandia, a dark elf of the royal line, and her dangerous, magical creatures back to earth.

I thought Cassie a great female lead protagonist. She’s troubled and can’t find her way in the beginning, but then hits her stride as she becomes involved in the black ops program Task Force Devil. I admire Cassie’s toughness, and that she knows her own mind. She eventually agrees to travel to Faerum with the task force as the basilisk killed her sister in our world and she is seeking justice.

Supporting characters are well hashed out, and I especially liked the evangelical Elizabeth as a foil to Cassie, bringing events a curious, alternative perspective. It’s interesting that Elizabeth is portrayed as powerful in her own right and cannot be just dismissed as a religious nut job. All the characters are well thought out and each has their good and bad.

The author’s military knowledge is apparent right away and we are given great descriptions of high-tech weapons and military equipment throughout. Tracking scenes are well thought and played out. This is more of an adventure/YA military ops read with overtones of Fae Seelie, Amerind lore, and a bad-ass monster basilisk.

Starlight is a long book and I was getting combat reading fatigue by about page 360 though it’s well written and kept me engaged all the way through. I think for the general, or YA/fantasy reader the long tracking scenes could be lessened without diminishing the book.

I liked learning about the use of mana, or how the sensitives tuned into the ambient energy around them, drew it in and then used it as their growing supernatural abilities allow. I was also interested in Maelhrandia, 12th in line to the Fae Seelie throne. I would have liked to spend more time in Faerum but think that will be coming up in future books.

The Canadiana was a treat as I don’t usually read Canadian-themed novels.

Starlight is a great action novel that approaches a magical fae world from a militaristic perspective. I found myself rooting for the human side of course but wondered about the combative take to the story. I would probably give Starlight 5 stars for all of its merits but I’m not big on military. If you are, you'll love this book. 4.5 Stars!

My thanks to the author for a reading copy for the purposes of an unbiased review. I was unable to access his author website at this time, but you will find William Stacey on the web at the links below. He is also the author of Monastery, a fantasy/horror.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Crystallum by Laney McMann - Book Blitz

Crystallum, by Laney McMann
Published by: Booktrope Editions, October 26, 2015

Kadence Sparrow wasn't born a devil's child—she was turned into one. Now, she's hiding from the truth, and running for her life.

For years, Kade's true nature has lurked behind an illusion, so when her dad gets another job transfer, she knows the drill: no close friends, no boyfriends, and most importantly: don't expose what she is. Ever. Keeping secrets is easy. Lies are second nature. So is the loneliness—and the fear. But when the Shadows attack and Kade meets Cole Spires, he could expose everything she's trying to hide.

As one of the Celestial Children, Cole lives by an oath: defend the Ward, protect the Primordial race, guard the gateways, and stick to his own. Everything else is a distraction, and besides, he’s lost enough. Cole's job is clear, and no one his age does it better. So, when he meets Kade in a club downtown, he assumes she just wants his attention. Most girls do, but Cole soon realizes ... Kade isn't like most girls.

The children of heaven and hell are living among us, fighting an age-old war. And falling for someone from the opposition is not an option. But a chance encounter between Kade and Cole will blur the rules, as Kade's journey to keep her truth hidden catapults them together and into a web of lies, forcing her to not only face the demon inside her, but to answer the hardest question of all.

Which is thicker—blood or water?
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Welcome to my blog. Today I'm featuring Laney McMann's Crystallum, Book 1 in her new Primordial Principles series, for Xpresso Book Tours. Please read on for an excerpt!
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PLUMB STOOD in the driveway, hands on her hips, a piece of bright yellow paper in her hand. Cole groaned, exhausted, as he made his way toward her. The only light was a dim one above the door on the Brotherhood's front porch.

Plumb waved the paper in the air. "It's four fifteen in the morning, and I'm afraid to even venture why I received a notice for you to appear in front of the Warden later today. And Danny has nothing to say, which could only mean one thing—" Plumb looked him up and down. "With the condition you're in, I'm not sure I want to know where you've been."

"You probably don't." Cole held his hand out for the summons.

Plumb handed the paper over, scowling, and Cole slipped it, unopened, into his pocket.

"Are you going to tell me where you've been?"

"Thought you didn't want to know." He walked toward the porch. There was a time, when Cole was much younger, that he never would have spoken so bluntly to his Lead, but those days, buried by all of his new responsibilities within the Ward, had faded. They were close to equals now, even though Plumb was about fifteen years older.

“Cole."

"I'm tired as hell. I've been up all night." He turned to face her. "Okay? I need to get some sleep."

"What were you doing in the middle of the night that the Principals couldn't handle?"

"A girl."

"Excuse me?”

"No...I, no, I wasn't doing a girl. She just...never mind." He headed for the door, flustered. The last thing he needed to do was think about Kadence like that. His brain already went into some kind of jumble every time her name was mentioned, and it was bad enough that she'd had her hands all over him.

“You were with Tiffany? Until four in the morning?" Plumb sounded like a disapproving mother.

"Cole, I understand you're seventeen, and boys—"

"I was with Kadence." He wished she would shut up.
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Laney is also known for her Fireborn series.
I just love her book covers!

Crystallum is available now at many fine online book sellers, including:

You will find Laney on the internet at these links:

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Oracle by D.J. Niko - Book Review

The Oracle, by D.J. Niko
The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book 3
Published By:  Medallion Press, October 19, 2015
Pages:  423 PDF
Genre:  Historical
Source:  Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Medallion Press

In Delphi, the mountain city deemed by the Greek gods to be the center of the Earth, a cult of neo-pagans re-create with painstaking authenticity ancient rituals to glorify the god Apollo and deliver oracles to seekers from around the world.

When antiquities are stolen from a museum in nearby Thebes, British archaeologist Sarah Weston and her American partner, Daniel Madigan, are drawn into a plot that goes beyond harmless role-playing: someone’s using the Delphian oracle as a smoke screen for an information exchange, with devastating consequences for the Western world.

Pitted against each other by the cult’s mastermind, Sarah and Daniel race against time and their own personal demons to uncover clues left behind by the ancients. Their mission: to find the original navel stone marked with a lost Pythagorean formula detailing the natural events that led to the collapse of the Minoan Empire.

But will they find it in time to stop the ultimate terrorist act?
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The Oracle is a fast-paced, well written novel about the nitty gritty and often treacherous world of antiquities black marketing, in relation to the ancient Oracle of Delphi.

D.J. Niko runs two timelines; that of Aristea, the last Oracle (or priestess) of Delphi, back in 393 CE, and Sarah Weston in modern day working on an important artifact related to the Oracle. I like Aristea’s story running along intermittently with the present as it gives us a window into the world where the sacred objects that garner so much interest now come from, and to see past and present action occurring in the same Greece location.

In modern day, the continuous action sequences of Sarah’s and Daniel’s pursuit and investigations on the obelisk stake make me a feel like I’m in a James Bond film as we also travel to different locales to uncover the mystery. There’s good flow and sense of urgency throughout and we are treated to military and Russian villains, and even Syrian IS. The oracular artifact is of great interest to these and other groups as it can give them enormous power.

I like Sarah as a strong female protagonist; she’s smart, and brave. As the story focuses more on the race to find out the truth about the artifact and why a mysterious group is after it, there’s not really enough room to develop a romance between Sarah and Daniel though there’s a thin subtext about it throughout. However, they do have a special and very solid connection.

The Oracle is based in the fabulous cultural heritage of Delphi and the author has obviously done a lot of research so there’s a certain amount of info relay. Niko writes some wonderful descriptions, but sometimes I felt the story a bit dry. I also found the type script technically is just large enough that you have to continuously keep scrolling the pages fast which kept my finger always on my mouse (or maybe I was anxious to see what’s happening next!). I really liked the secondary characters that add a lot to the story.

I definitely recommend The Oracle as a great read for those who love action-oriented novels with a flavour of ancient history, and linked directly into important issues of our times. 4.5 Stars!

The Oracle is D.J. Niko's third book in the Sarah Weston Chronicles, archaeological thrillers.  You will find her on the web at these links:



Sunday, 22 November 2015

Next Stop: Nina by Robin Raven - Book Review

Next Stop: Nina, by Robin Raven
Published By:  Batham Press, July 26, 2015
Pages:  241 PDF
Genre:  Psychological, Time Travel
Source:  Author

Nina never was one who felt comfortable in this world. As she struggles to cope with the pain of her present and past, the young girl's life is changed through the beauty of art. When Nina grows up and winds up in over her head in a dark place, she finds herself somehow transported to another time when nothing is quite what it seems. She must fight the horrors of her past all over again. Along the way, she faces greater challenges than she imagined.

This is a character-driven novel with a heroine who faces life, love, and overcoming suicidal depression on her own terms.
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Reading Next Stop: Nina is something of a departure for me but I was interested in the time travel aspect. It is difficult to know whether this is true time travel or some kind of internal psychological mechanism that Nina has for re-making a life that was extremely difficult for her to consciously deal with.

This book is beautifully written around the very difficult issues of abuse, depression, and thoughts of suicide. The 37 year old Nina is somehow transported from a moment when she wishes to end her life back to the time when she was 10 years old.

How incredible to take your mature self back to the time when you were 10 and experience your world again. It makes me wonder how I might see my own childhood through my adult lenses; my memories are certainly hazy.

Ultimately, this novel is about Nina experiencing recurrent echos, or repeated resets to her youth where she begins to relive her adult life over and over again. Recurrent themes are seeing her brother and mother before they are killed, her love relationship with Leonard/Lens, and her understanding of herself and learning about the beauty and goodness in life. She’s very resilient despite her issues and chooses something beautiful, delicious, or lovely over death every time.

If you’re of a mind to contemplate the strange forces that influence our lives and have a strong emotional/mental constitution, then reading Next Stop: Nina is a good choice.  4.3 Stars

My thanks to the author for a reading copy for the purposes of an honest review. You will find Robin Raven on the internet here:

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Once Upon A Stolen Time by Samreen Ahsan - Book Review

Once Upon A (Stolen) Time
by Samreen Ahsan
Stolen Series
To Be Released: Amazon Digital
Services, December 1, 2015
Pages:  210 PDF, 221 print
Genre:  Fantasy, Romance, Historical, Paranormal
Source:  Author

All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles, and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy video game designer, Steve Bernard, wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle, a cursed, barren, colourless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

1415…
Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.
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At the outset, I’d like to say I just love the premise of this book and think it would make an awesome movie; producers and film makers please check out this interesting novel (first in series).

Myra finds herself accidentally engaged to Steve, a young game software developer from a wealthy family who wants to have her model for his new game that he plans to shoot at the reportedly haunted Hue Castle. They investigate the ancient castle and while exploring the totally grey and lifeless structure, Myra starts to pick up visions and premonitions from a screened mirror.

The author runs two timelines, one in 2015, and one in 1415, set in the same castle. Myra and Steve are in 2015, and in the past, prince Edward lives horribly oppressed at the hands of his very cruel father and King, yearning for the love of the woman who haunts his nightly dreams.

While the storyline is fascinating, the writing style is a mixture of youngish YA, and advanced vocabulary (can you guess what caliginosity means?), along with philosophical quotes between chapters. I caught one anachronism when King Stefan in 1415 taps his cigar ashes into an ashtray :)

The two male leads have interesting developmental changes. Steve completely changes his feelings for Myra from the start to end of the novel, though some of his evolution may be on account of a new revelation about him. Edward in 1415 appears to go in the reverse direction, from being hopeful to hopeless. Myra has a couple of important and perhaps scary revelations about herself that will definitely impact her in the next book.

Both past and present storylines are relayed from their respective POVs so we see things from Myra’s perspective, and then from Edward’s. The storylines are brought together at the cliff hanger ending but pose a new, possibly frightening, scenario for the next installment.

If you’re into cursed castles and love YA books, this novel is definitely worth checking out for the great atmosphere and inventive, haunting story. I think if Once Upon a (Stolen) Time was made into a film and shot with a lavish, classical hand, this would make an amazing movie.  4.3 Stars!

My thanks to the author for an advanced reading copy. Samreen Ahsan is the winner of many worldwide book festivals and you will find her on the web here:

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff - Book Review

A Vanishing Glow, by Alexis Radcliff
The Mystech Arcanum #1 Shattered Dreams, and #2 Dark Omens
Published:  September 15, 2015, CreateSpace
Pages: 397 PDF
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Steampunk
Source: Author

When the High Sovereign of the five kingdoms of Ghavarim is murdered by a mysterious assassin, the realm is plunged into chaos. Jason Tern, a noble captain with a tragic past, must battle shadowy assailants and untangle an ever-widening web of lies to discover the true identity of the killer before mounting tensions spark a bloody civil war. Meanwhile, Nilya Valsu, a talented army engineer with a broken heart, finds herself used as an unwitting pawn in a plot that has deadly consequences. Wracked by guilt, her sole chance for redemption lies with a man who would loathe her – but only if he knew her secret.

As the conflict intensifies between the magic-fueled technology of the West and the disaffected rebels of the East, all must fight for what they hold dear. Who will reign victorious and who will lie bloodied on the ground in the light of a vanishing glow?
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Alexis Radcliff’s first novel is a well written, intelligent, and complex foray into a fantasy world focused around the ancient city of Adaron. While her novel really defies genre definition, it has elements of adventure, magic, and tech/steampunk on the background of a ruling noble hierarchy somewhat akin to old European. One thing this book is not however is a romance novel.

We begin with Captain Jason Tern’s return from duty out on the savannah to Adaron to serve with friend, Nole Ryon, the future High Sovereign. Jason is likeable though has clear self-doubts stemming from his past.  At his first social gathering, he and the reader are plunged into Adaron politics, governmental and military, that underscore much of the story.

The author introduces original themes such as the mystech crystal (a blend of magic and machinery), and constructs (humans that have suffered bodily injuries that have been repaired with mechanical prostheses powered by mystech). The idea of East versus West marking increasing industrialization and the attendant problems this brings is also an important theme.

There are two expertly interwoven plotlines of Captain Tern’s investigations of the High Sovereign’s assassination, and that of Nilya, a young tech engineer who wants to improve her life. Her course is a peculiar one, in part influenced by the machinations going on in Adaron. Nilya comes to an emotional, and very interesting end.

Several unexpected and fantastic plot twists really kept me going. I wouldn’t normally read a book like this (political/military/adventure) but found myself enjoying the author’s smooth writing style and unexpected plot twists. Exciting ending as a lead into the next instalment.

A great read for those who enjoy adventure/thriller type novels set in a framework of magic, fantasy, and quasi steampunk.  4.3 stars!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Books and Manuscripts - Invaluable Auctions

In our digital age, we are less and less in contact with hard copy books and I for one admit to going completely with the flow. No more heavy books to lug around, great!

The downside is that we’re losing the comfort and permanence of our hard copy books to the ephemeral digital. Ryan of Invaluable Auctioneers recently emailed me about their book and print materials auctions and I agreed to write about a few of my picks from their book offerings. Invaluable auctions books and manuscripts on diverse subjects. Feel free to check out the Antique Books and unique manuscripts that Invaluable have on their site.

The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux.
First published in September 1909, the Phantom is now mostly known by the various musical productions that bring this macabre story to life. Here is the original written version. Opera singer, Christine, is kidnapped by the phantom, a strange, deformed man that secretly lives in hiding in the opera house. This cover is from lot 212, being auctioned November 10. There are other copies available on other dates.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. This was first published in 1938 and continues to be a favourite with many. I love this strange tale of a young woman who is a companion to busybody Mrs. Van Hopper. While visiting Monte Carlo she meets widower, Max de Winter, owner of the fabulous Manderley. Max surprisingly asks her to marry him and takes her back to his seaside mansion. The novel title is of Max’s first wife who has drowned less than a year before in a storm. So intriguing is that the reader never discovers the name of Max’s new wife throughout the entire book.

The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay
by Francis Burney (later Madame D’Arblay).
Fanny was an English novelist and diarist born in 1776. I don’t have a specific interest in Madame D’Arblay but I think that works like these are excellent studies for historical research into specific time periods. At $50.00 starting bid, it’s pricey research but it would be awesome to consult one of these when checking out social customs or ideology of a time period.

So, worth checking out their website if you love hard copy books, hard to find early editions of popular and various topic books, and unique manuscripts.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

On The Evil Scale by Yza-Dora - Book Review

On The Evil Scale, by Yza-Dora
Keeper of La Tecla, Book 2
Published:  Amazon Kindle eBooks, July 4, 2015
Pages: 397 PDF
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Epic, Adventure
Source: Author

A year has passed and the young woman/Keeper, Yzavela, returns from her trip to Ireland with new skills. The tension between the vampires and werewolves at Ravenstone is growing and the situation is becoming more chaotic than she can handle. She must also deal with the horrific creatures known as Boar-wolves that kidnap her best friend’s little sister. After putting together a rescue party and destroying the creatures, unknown to everyone, another threat from the Great City is beginning to spread on a larger scale, causing destruction everywhere.

And now, even the peaceful sanctuary of Ravenstone will be affected. The Keeper gathers a small army of five hundred men, vampires, and werewolves to aid her in the fight against the evil that has materialized from the Great City. After the war ends, with the necromancer's death, and that of his brother and minions, difficult decisions are made to save Yzavela's life. Her vampire husband, Erik, had promised to turn her in the event of a crisis, and he fulfills his promise turning her not only into an average vampire … but his alpha matriarch.

When she returns to Ravenstone, how will they react when they find out that their Keeper has been turned into one of the most dangerous and vicious race of all?
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Yza-Dora’s second book in the Keeper of La Tecla series also comes in at a hefty 397 pages of magic, mayhem, and amazingly earnest goodness.

Yzavela and her mother return from nearly a year in Ireland, learning about the uses of herbs and witch lore, only to find things at Ravenstone in something of an uproar.  Yzavela, as Keeper at Ravenstone, must regain control over the situation in a magical place where several paranormal races exist together in a curious balance partly mediated by the Keeper.

Between the vampire-werewolf issues, boar wolves, and the onslaught of the red death from the Great City, there’s a lot going on here.  I really enjoyed this quite amazing story of Yzavela’s efforts to come into her own as Keeper at Ravenstone. She’s a brave, self-assertive young woman with a strong sense of herself which is expressed very clearly throughout the entire book.

This is a compendium of possibly every paranormal and magical thing all rolled into one with high tech and steam punk bits, set in the tone of high moral ground. So, this is a great role model/example for younger readers and a highly entertaining read, though the ending gets somewhat violent with war, changes in Yzavela, and generally more violent language.

The book has a number of structural irregularities. POV is quite irregular; in one example, Yzavela is talking about the activities of others in another city using “I”, or from her point of view in scenes where she is not present. To me, these should be omniscient. Sentence structure is a little irregular as well as it loosens out to a sort of rambling dialogue in some places. There are some incorrect word forms/homonyms (click/clique, fowl/foul), misplaced commas, and some typos. As well, I think for the age level I understand the book to be, “mommy” sounds too young to me; I’d use “mom”. So, I think the book would benefit quite a lot from some editing.

I think this is a very enthusiastic and talented story teller but she needs to slow down and focus on correct sentence structure, word forms, etc. Possibly the book was written in a bit of a hurry, or just that it’s quite long and a lot to keep control over. However, these structural issues didn’t keep me from enjoying it!

For epic story-telling and sheer positive enthusiasm, I give On The Evil Scale 4 stars. My thanks to the author for a reading copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Demon's Grave by E.M. MacCallum - Review

The Demon’s Grave, by E.M. MacCallum
Published:  Amazon Digital Services May 31, 2015,
Smashwords May 2015
Pages: 289 Adobe Digital Editions
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Source: Xpresso Book Tours, via NetGalley

When strange shadows and messages plague Nora's daily life she fears for her sanity. To escape questions from her family, Nora joins her friends on a weekend getaway. Despite not liking Aidan Birket, Nora finds his remote, Victorian house charming. Until they discover the marble doorway on the third floor and, against Nora's better judgment, they open it.

Drawn into an unfamiliar place called the Demon's Grave, the group face a charismatic demon and a set of Challenges. Six nightmarish realities for the six of them is the punishment. Those that make it to the end can go home, but those that don't will be his forever. Friendships are tested, secrets revealed and sacrifices will be made.

Nora battles zombies, doppelgängers, eyeless bikers, and the demon--whose interests are more than just a game of cat and mouse. If it's all in her head, then it should be easy. But, if not, it means the demon knows everything and her past and the death of her twin sister.
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Happy and safe Halloween all! My review to set the mood here is The Demon's Grave.

I’m going to look at the prologue later in my review since this section is quite different from the main story. After the prologue, author MacCallum starts the reader out with modern-day Nora receiving spooky messages from the beyond in mysterious ways. Unbeknownst to her, she’s not the only one. The writing style here has kind of like a New York, Italian ginette feel to it that’s snappy, funny, and fast moving though this settles out after a while. I like the overall directness of conversations and events.

Nora and friends head out to Aidan’s parents’ Victorian fixer-upper just outside of town for a party night, and discover a strange door upstairs. They’re drawn through it into the darkness and the fun party gets totally derailed. Non-stop action ensues as the demon of the portal besets them with challenges based on their worst nightmares and secrets.

Through this madness, Nora and Aidan discover each other. What a challenging way to begin a relationship! They battle their way through pretty much every Indiana Jones scenario and then some throughout the book.

Back to the prologue. The author begins with a ceremony of sacrifice to a demon that is botched and not accepted. This section is written in quite a different style to the rest of the book and in of itself is a little bit choppy. I found this part so different in style, I wonder if it’s written by the same person. But it’s tied in neatly to the storyline at the end of the book.

Despite the disjointed prologue, and initial writing style cultural time warp feel, somehow the author manages to make this a page turner and I wanted to find out where the crazy ride was going to end. Demon’s Grave is an interesting, action-packed novel that left me wanting to know more about what’s with Damien. Cool unexpected ending!   4.0 stars

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Gathering Darkness - Review

The Gathering Darkness, by Lisa Collicutt
Published By:  Curiosity Quills Press, Sept 22, 2012
Pages: 305 PDF
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Source: Curiosity Quills Press

They say "third time's the charm", and for sixteen-year-old Brooke Day, they had better be right. She’s been here before, twice in fact, and an evil demon-witch wants her dead a third time.

When Brooke is forced to leave Boston for the small town of Deadwich, she thinks her life is over. Before long, her new friends start acting strange—downright evil. But worse than that, nightmares she’s had her whole life become reality.

Enter Marcus Knight; popular, hot, and the only person Brooke can trust. Not to mention, they’ve shared the same nightmares.

With the discovery of an ancient Celtic amulet, Brooke and Marcus unravel the secrets of her past, which reveals the key to her future.

As the equinox approaches, darkness and light merge for the first time in a century. Soul mates reunite. Magic awakens.
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I’m excited to be starting my Halloween week reviews with The Gathering Darkness, with thanks to Curiosity Quills Press for a reading copy!

Brooke Day is sent to her aunt’s in Deadwich for the next school season, and given a part-time job at the spooky Ravenwyck Inn. This means a new high school, friends, boys, and all the social awkwardness of fitting in. Right away Brooke starts to have creepy visions, and returning nightmares. She and high school hottie, Marcus Knight, find an ancient Celtic amulet during a party weekend that seems to bind them together somehow and the story unravels around the amulet.

The Gathering Darkness is an entertaining, easy read about reincarnating lovers who have found each other again in a new life in order to vanquish old betrayals and ancient witchcraft reaching out to destroy them in the present.

Overall, I found the cute social awkwardness of young love and teen life to be a little more than I was expecting. Somehow I did not want to think that Brooke is just 16. Or maybe I was lucky/clueless at 16 to not really be fazed by all of the stuff.  For me, in this case, less on this is better for good writing.

Early on in the story, the Celtic amulet plays a large role, giving way in the second half to witch lore and dark practices, so intriguing to readers with an interest in witchcraft.

As Brooke and Marcus begin to realize that something bigger than them is going on, I really like that Marcus brings Brooke to see his uncle, a wiser/mature person for help, though in some ways this gives an easy, fast explanation about what’s happening to them. Marcus I think is a really nice guy.

I enjoyed the creep factor descriptions, especially of Maggie, Ravenwyk’s owner, that hint at what she really is. Maggie is a great villain who will do anything to attain her own interests.

Brooke’s fairy origins are intriguing, though I feel that this hampers rather than helps define her character and draws away from the core story. Her fairy blood becomes essential but this story element I think could have been handled in a different, more intrinsic way that would have made the story more concise.

So, I felt the story and plot line were interesting and secondary characters okay-decent. I think the 16 year old group will really vibe with this, and recommend reading this interesting novel to all young at heart.  3.75 stars