Saturday, January 24, 2015

4 Stars for Candice Fox's Hades

Summary:
Hades is the debut of a stunning new talent in crime fiction. Hades Archer surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies they want disposed of become his problem - for a fee.Then one night a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants 'lost'. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything...Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there's something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can't quite put his finger on.At first, as they race to catch a very different kind of serial killer, his partner's sharp instincts come in handy. But soon Frank's wondering if she's as dangerous as the man they hunt.

Review: 
Candice Fox’s Hades is an interesting twist in Crime Fiction, one that turns good cop to bad leaving the reader surprisingly sympathetic to evil. It reminds me of Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter. The Dexter book hooked me in the first paragraph, first because of the genius way the serial killer Dexter is first implanted in the reader’s mind, second the writing is fantastic.
         “And the Need was very strong now, careful cold coiled creeping crackly cocked and ready…it made me wait and watch.
I had been waiting for the priest for five weeks now.”
The use of alliteration is better than Peter Piper, no pause in the need – to kill. Right away, you know Dexter will kill himself a priest. But, why? And better, why does he have this need? For anyone whose watched Dexter, you’ll know there’s a great reason for that.
Now, back to Fox’s Hades, she proposed that same kind of mystery in her story; however, I don’t think it was as fleshed out as it could have been. The reason was there, and it was good, but not great as in the Dexter book. There the reason exploded in all its gory detail, and in it Dexter was our hero, odd but true. I didn’t come out of Hades finding a hero, just a lot of lost souls. I'm a girl that likes a hero, someone to root for.
         First, the character of Hades felt like a deep, dark shadow with no real face, and I thought he had the most potential to be interesting. Fox’s set-up of him was interesting, but I would have liked to see more into what made him tick, not just a glimpse of his childhood but a deep probing. I never really understood his need to help young Eden and Eric other than he didn’t kill innocents. Eric came across as just a stereotypical bully, sadistically psycho, sure, but nothing too mind blowing. Eden was interesting, but like Hades I wish I could have seen more, maybe even before of who she was before meeting Hades. Overall, the three of these characters competed with a fourth character, Frank. Frank was the primary perspective the story was told in. Frank was a typical cop with a history of being unreliable and selfish. His character made an unusual turn towards heroic at one point, where I started to like him a little, then he did something at the very end of the story that simply said there was no changing this guy. He was always going to pursue his own interest which meant chasing down Eric and Eden’s secrets rather than protect those that needed protecting. Frank started selfish and ended that way for me.  I wish someone else had told me the story, maybe Hades.
         In the end, I will say the double plot worked. The serial killer Frank chased never felt like it was competing with his need to find out more about Eden and Eric. The ending was predictable, but for a good vengeance story, and serial killer story this is what I expected. Hades was a fast read, with a neat ‘Desterish’ premise that I would recommend. It’s worth your time if your into a good crime story, with a serial killer, and some messed-up cops looking for vengeance, Hades is your cup of Joe, dark roast no vanilla, thata be your hero.

Hades can be purchased at Amazon.com

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

5 Stars for Shady Cross by James Hankins, a crime thriller


Summary
In one hand, small-time crook Stokes holds a backpack stuffed with someone else’s money—three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of it.
In the other hand, Stokes has a cell phone, which he found with the money. On the line, a little girl he doesn’t know asks, “Daddy? Are you coming to get me? They say if you give them money they’ll let you take me home.”
From bestselling author James Hankins comes a wrenching story of an unscrupulous man torn between his survival instincts and the plight of a true innocent. Faced with the choice, Stokes discovers his conscience might not be as corroded as he thought.

Review

This is the third book I’ve read by James Hankins and it is the best one. Obviously, this writer gets better the more he writes. I prefer a book that’s character driven, and Shady Cross is entirely dictated by the actions of the main character, Stokes, a guy down on his luck and a complete loser. Stokes is a guy you don’t expect to be heroic saving a little girl from some ruthless kidnappers willing to do anything to get their money - even hurting the girl in bits and pieces.

Shady Cross is a terrific example of how a great story can be developed from well-done characterization. Stoke’s character peeled away like an onion, revealing him first as the loser he’d become, then the motives that made him that way, and finally the choices he was trying to make to change. Every other character in the book developed through their relationship to Stokes, highlighting his actions past and present.

The biggest characteristic I liked about Stokes was deciding quickly to save/or not save the girl. Don’t get me wrong, the inner struggle to do the complete opposite was a constant conflict. In Techniques of the Selling Writer, quick decision making by the main character is a must…

“The issue is the moment of commitment. True suspense only comes when you establish the story question. And the story question moves into focus only when your character, desiring, looks danger full in the face and then takes up the challenge that the situation offers. Implicitly or explicitly, he must say, ‘I’ll fight’, before your story can begin.”

Shady Cross began right away and kept up an intriguing fast pace all the way till the end. I read it in three days. This book is loaded with suspense, conflict, and tension. Suspense on whether or not the girl would be saved kept me reading, the constant conflict inner and outer with Stokes kept me reading, and finally the tension beneath the suspense layer kept me turning pages.  The final ending felt perfect to the events leading up to it. Although, the ending is not necessarily the happiest – it works splendidly. A bold move from Mr. Hankins. I highly recommend Shady Cross to mature readers looking for a good fast pace thriller with an unlikely hero.

Shady Cross comes out February 24th, but can be pre-ordered through 

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

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Monday, December 15, 2014

4.5 Stars for Coming Home for Christmas

Author: Joanne Rawson
Genre: Women’s Romance (Novella)

Reviewed by: Nancy Pennick

Summary:

After her husband’s death, Sophie and her young daughter return to her family in Derbyshire. The Ferguson’s seem like a perfect family until you scratch the surface. With so many emotional baggage, and only nine weeks to Christmas, can Sophie bring them altogether for the perfect Christmas she dreams of?

Thomas, the gorgeous, moody renovator, is a man with his own agenda that doesn't seem to include Sophie. Even in his paint-smeared tee shirt, faded jeans and scuffed boots, he is immodestly masculine, handsome and sizzling hot. But when his eyes reflect the pain she knows so well, Sophie cannot help but wonder if there is another side to the cold exterior.

Thomas finds his heart opening to this beautiful, wounded woman from his past. A passion smolders as they work together in the months before Christmas. But he has been hurt before and hesitates to stoke the fire between them.

Will the magic of the holidays heal a family and bring two lost souls together?

Review:

Sophie returns to her small village in England following the death of her husband. She has a small daughter and feels that would be the best place for her to grow up, surrounded by family and friends. She finds a house just weeks before Christmas and is determined to have it ready by the holiday. Her mum helps out and finds just the right kind of decorator—handsome and hunky. Sophie falls almost immediately for the guy. He, in turn, is quite standoffish.

Joanne Rawson is becoming one of my favorite authors. She needs to stop writing novellas and dive into a full book! Her novella is filled with rich characters with baggage to boot. Sophie and her sister, Shelly, have a lot to deal with when it comes to mum. I could relate. The writing is fun and the pace keeps moving.

The only small problem I had with the story was Tom, the decorator. He did an about face too fast. He went from barely a hello to spilling his personal history on their furniture building date. Tom was like a different person from then on. I would’ve liked to seen Sophie call him out on that. The relationship happened a little too quickly for me, but since this is a shorter story I can understand why.

If you’d like a romantic, fun Christmas read for the holidays, I suggest picking up Coming Home for Christmas. Join Sophie and the Ferguson family in typical dysfunctional style for the holidays.


Purchase links:

Amazon Kindle
Satin Romance

Author Links:

Blog

Monday, December 1, 2014

5 Stars for The Spider and the Stone.



Reviewed by: Miccilina Piraino
Genre: Historical Fantasy



Summary:


As the 14th century dawns, Scotland’s survival hangs by a spider’s thread. While the clans feud over their empty throne, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades the weakened northern kingdom, scheming to annex it to his realm.

But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the Plantagenet monarch’s path.

The beleaguered Scots cherish James Douglas as their "Good Sir James." Yet in England, his slashing raids deep into Yorkshire and Northumbria wreak such terror that he is branded the Black Douglas.

As a boy, James falls in love with the ravishing Isabelle MacDuff, whose clan for centuries has inaugurated Scottish monarchs on the hallowed Stone of Destiny. Their world is upturned when James befriends Robert Bruce, a bitter enemy of the MacDuffs. Forced to choose between love and clan loyalty, James and Isabelle must make fateful decisions that will draw the opposing armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn.

Here is the story of Scotland’s War of Independence and the remarkable events that followed the execution of William Wallace, whose legend was portrayed in the movie Braveheart. This thrilling epic leads the reader to the miraculous Stone of Destiny, to the famous Spider in the Cave, to the suppressed Culdee Church, and to the unprecedented Declaration of Arbroath, the stirring oath document that inspired the American Declaration of Independence four hundred years later. A saga of the star-crossed love, religious intrigue, and heroic sacrifice that saved Scotland during its time of greatest peril.


Review:

Glen Craney's The Spider and The Stone is a work that takes some time to read, but in the end is well worth the time. When you get into the meat of the story, learn to adapt to the language of the time and read between the lines of the story within the story (the fictional parts), then you relax into a darn good read. I had some general knowledge of The Stone of Scone (The Destiny Stone) culled from reading and watching a PBS Special on Westminster. I also knew of Robert the Bruce, the Plantagenet and Stewart names and William Wallace from history class and of course from Braveheart the movie. I have to admit to being sadly lacking in knowing who James Douglas (The Black Douglas and the Co-protagonist was.)

The historical part of the story was very well done (I admit, I googled it all to see if he had it right). He Did! The fictional parts were also very well done; a love story (If you are expecting a happy ending - Don't!), some lore and legend, some magic and sorcery and of course recounting individual conversations, all within the half century or so that this book covers. You get invested in how the book recreates this period in Scotland's history, the terrible suffering that the people endured just to be recognized as an independent sovereignty. The questions you find yourself with at the end of each part are answered in the next. I really loved the interplay among the characters and with my fascination for all things Celtic - I am half Irish with a wee bit o welsh thrown in - I found the language fairly easy to follow. Overall a satisfying several hours. Bravo Mr. Craney - Well Done! Five Stars from Me.



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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

5 Stars for The Waters of Nyra.

The Waters Of Nyra, Volume I
by Kelly Michelle Baker
Middle Grade Fantasy
Book reviewed by Lasa Limpin


Summary:

Never an ordinary dragon, Nyra grew up forbidden to breathe fire or fly. Like her mother before her, she has only known a life of enslavement, held in thrall by mountain dragons, which need Nyra’s ripening wings to secure hunting for the future.

But at the cusp of her first flying lesson, new rumors whisper through the herd. Mother pursues friendships in forbidden places, blurring the once succinct enemy line. In a whirlwind of realization, Nyra uncovers a secret in plain sight, one thought unknown to her enslavers, and one putting her at the focal point of rebellion should it come into play.

And come it does, but through a terrible accident, killing the slaves’ last chance of escape. To survive, Nyra must conquer the sharp-ended lies cutting her future to ribbons and the war threading in their wake.



Review:

This is the story of a young dragon named Nyra. She and her family are a kind of dragon called Agring and they live in a small colony of Agrings by the sea. Unfortunately, the Agrings have been enslaved by the Sperks, large dragons who use the smaller Agrings to hunt fish. Together they are ruled over by the menacing Sperk leader, Darkmoon.

I’m giving this book five stars because, despite its flaws, I found Nyra’s story to be engrossing. Baker has done an excellent job of immersing herself and the reader into a believable world of dragons. The author never loses sight of the fact that she is writing about non-human characters, and, because of that, neither does the reader. Furthermore, the development of Nyra over the course of the book, both physically and mentally, is eyes-glued-to-the-page reading.

The novel has a few weaknesses. The main weakness is that the book gets off to a very slow start. The setting and backstory develop without the use of meaningful conflict beyond an initial encounter with Darkmoon. But once siblings Nyra and Blaze begin a week long punishment the story gets going and I strongly suggest readers hold on for that. Meaningful conflict at the beginning of the novel would have helped considerably, and I’m afraid readers will put down the book (I myself had begun skimming) before the story takes off and becomes fully engaging (after which I was riveted).

Furthermore, there was a simple issue that nonetheless marred my initial acceptance of the novel’s premise. And here, I will phrase my inquiry in the manner in which it troubled me, although it already implies a misunderstanding: Why was it so important to the Sperk overlords that the Agring didn’t learn to fly, let alone open their wings, until age twelve? For much of the book I didn’t understand the point of this rule, or whether the rule was part of Nyra’s enslavement or simply the Agring way of raising their young.

All that aside—and yes, throw all that aside—this is a good book. The Waters of Nyra is a perfect novel for dragon enthusiasts. What’s more, it’s perfect for readers who enjoy novels which leave humanity behind and focus exclusively on the animal point of view, be it dogs, owls, cats, or in this case, dragons. There is not a single human being in The Waters of Nyra, and due to that, and the writer’s exceptional focus on conveying to the reader the tactile experience of living in the body of a dragon, this novel is sure to delight fans of this middle grade fantasy sub-genre, which includes the cat-centered Warriors series by Erin Hunter, and similar titles.

In summary, if you or your children enjoy novels about dragons, or stories that center on a world of animals, I strongly recommend The Waters of Nyra. Skim the slow bits up front if you have to, because The Waters of Nyra is an extremely worthy book and a welcome addition to the lore of dragons.



Purchase Links: 

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This book was reviewed by guest reviewer Lasa Limpin, author of numerous novelettes and the historical fantasy novel, Unlanded: Mask of the Revolution. All her ebooks are currently available at Amazon.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

4 Stars for Deceived

Genre: Paranormal YA
Reviewed by: Miccilina Piraino

Summary:


They say a soul is the immaterial essence, the animating principle, the actuating cause of an individual life.

But what if you had to share yours with the one person you hated the most?

The soul mate principle states that for every one soul there is another that will recognize its match, hence creating the perfect union.

But what if you had two soul mates, which would you choose? What if your choices had eternal ramification?

Deceived, the debut novel in the Soul Keeper Series, is a modern day love story about the implications of having more than one soul mate, and having to choose between the two of them. The decisions of the gods has left the next generation, their heirs, torn between fate and reality, and the balance of the future hangs in anticipation of what's to come.

Review:

Four Stars - I liked it!

The story takes a while to unfold and has many twists, turns and details. When you get what the writer is saying and where she wants to take you, you understand the finer points. The main characters of Samantha and the "Brothers"; Marcus and Nicolas are engaging and interesting.

The story within a story approach can be confusing at times, with flashbacks and asides, but in the overview, it works. The additional characters of the uncles gives us a way to connect the timeline, they provide a good link to family and what the story is ultimately about. There are good elements in the story tying mythology and legend to a prophecy and WHY we want to stay involved.

I loved the "factual" accounts of the mythology and appreciated the detail that was used to flesh out our characters and their back story. I enjoyed learning about them and in the end was very interested in knowing more about their circumstances. As in a lot of the E-Books, there is more story to be told, to be continued... To the writer: Good Job!



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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

4 stars for The Good Sister (Sister Series, #2) by Leanne Davis


Summary

Lindsey Bains Johanson has spent her entire life practicing the art of denial. She was always the obedient, perfect daughter of General Travis Bains, until she learned of the atrocities he committed against her own sister. Now, free of her father, she has become the perfect wife. A lifetime of training has enabled her to keep quiet about anything and everything, including the monster her husband becomes behind closed doors.

Circumstances allow her to take an unprecedented vacation, which she uses to visit her sister in Washington State, clear across the country from her home in Arlington, Virginia. Free of her husband’s presence, she starts to step out of the confines he keeps her shackled in. With the help of veterinarian, Noah Clark, she learns that she doesn’t have to be so good or obedient. But she also knows that the woman she is becoming is someone her husband will never allow her to be.

When her husband eventually comes for her, she goes home, without telling anyone the secret she has kept at the expense of her mind and body. But this time things go too far; and only then does Noah discover what she has hidden for years. But Lindsey knows that nothing will stop her husband from destroying her, no matter how long it takes.

**Please be warned that all my titles contain swearing, sexual situations, mature content matter and often mild violence.**

Review

This book is a great example of using an old plot and carrying it through all the way until the end. The Good Sister is about domestic abuse and how one woman, Lindsey is able to have the strength to break free of it. It is courageous, heart-breaking, and in definite need of tissues. It mocks every well-done Lifetime Channel movie known for in luring its target audience in and giving them exactly what they want. It is no wonder The Good Sister got such raving reviews from the audience it intended. Plus, this book is a much better story than The Good Sister currently on the Lifetime Channel; mainly because it does what the reader wants without the unwanted weird plot twist at the end. It did have a surprise or two, but only towards complimenting the ending and maintaining the expected outcome.

I ended up giving it four stars rather than five because of character development. I just finished reading Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King and the character development rocked. Dolores, while no angel was absolutely worth rooting for if for no other reason than killing her no good husband. But it wasn’t just Dolores that was written with the precision, Joe, her husband stunk like a rotten potato and left in the bag that was sure to rot the whole Claiborne family. This is how Delores describes Joe after finding out about an indiscretion of his:

“I never knew about before that day, and all I could see with it was Joe’s long, horsey face, with his lips always cracked and his dentures always kind of yellow and his cheeks always chapped and red high up on the cheekbones.”

In The Good Sister, the plot worked, but I needed more from the protagonist (Lindsey) and her abusive husband, the antagonist, Elliot. First, I would have liked to see more of a transition from Lindsey the docile beaten wife to the Lindsey the warrior out to kick the bad man’s butt. The pacing moved too fast. Second, I would have liked to see Elliot drawn out more, maybe even given a slight sympathetic edge into what made him tick, one that twisted and curled around making you hate him more because he disappointed you. Delores’s Joe didn’t start out a terribly bad guy, but he evolved into it leaving a real nasty picture in the reader’s head that made you want him dead, the sooner the better. I would have liked to seen more of that evolution with Elliot, maybe even liking him a little in the beginning. I love feeling torn with a character.
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Overall, I found the book in its entirety to be quite the fast read and would recommend it to a mature female audience.

You can find The Good Sister by Leanne Davis at Amazon.com.
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