Friday, August 14, 2015

The Forgotten Prince by Josh Hayes

Lt. John McNeal has been pulled through a black hole – and ended up in Neverland. As he struggles to wrap his head around this he meets the entire cast. Bella, a spunky girl that likes to tinker, the twins, Tim and Tom, and Wendy. A scary, scarred, battle-leader version.

“When do I meet Peter Pan?” John asks with a laugh. The next thing he knows he’s on the floor, the coppery taste of blood in his mouth. It’s best not to mention Pan, he’s told, especially around Wendy. And now he has to explain how he knows about Pan. How do you tell people their world has become a fairy tale on the Otherside?

And how is John going to survive long enough to get back home where he belongs?

The first book of this series read decidedly as military scifi, but the second book has delved into steam punk territory with all of Bella’s rigs. The action is still non-stop with John getting back into the flight seat to take on Pantiri’s (Pan’s) fleet as he makes a definitive strike against Wendy’s Lost Boys. I don’t want to reveal too much, but a refresh of the original Peter Pan wouldn’t hurt. I haven’t read it since grade school and I fear I might have missed some of the subtleties. This was a very imaginative and entertaining twist on a familiar story that is really drawing me in.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Uninvited Ghost by E.J. Copperman

It's the opening week of Alison Kerby's seaside Bed But Not Breakfast Guesthouse and she's packed. A tour group of retirees interested in sighting ghosts, (that would be Alison's roommates), are ready to have their senses challenged. On the first day of the ghost show, an unexpected specter arrives. It seems Paul has been advertising his P.I. business on the 'ghosternet' and this is his new client. A blind ghost.

Scott MacFarlane was tricked into frightening an old lady and now he wants to make sure she's all right. Can Alison and Paul find her? He can't spend eternity wondering.

To keep the resident ghosts 'haunting' for the guests, Alison takes the job, largely because Paul can't leave the house. She finds the old woman. She's a prominent member of the town, a wealthy woman with a taste for the otherworldly. Would she like to come to the séance tonight? Oh would she.
And then she's killed in Alison's house, surrounded by the tour group and a bunch of new arrivals, the cast and crew of a reality tv show.

This is my second Copperman book. I love the style, the wit and humor, and the characters that draw you in and keep you. I've just read there's seven of these. I'll be working my migraine way through them. That's an inside joke. Read the book. That kind of word replacement has the tendency to get a little dull as it continues. This one was managed just right. I will never be able to look at the word migraine in the same way again, in a good way.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Halfway Dead by Terry Maggert

Magic runs in Carlie McEwan's blood, literally. In the tiny town of Halfway, deep in the Adirondack mountains, Carlie carries on the family tradition, never coming right out and saying she's a witch, but accepting the letters asking for help from the townfolk - as long as the envelope and paper is handmade and plain and the ink from the forest or natural world, and they must mean no harm.
When she's not helping people with beneficial spells, Carlie makes the world's best waffles and kills things that go bump in the night, like a Wendigo.

When Carlie is approached by a stranger looking for a guide into the woods, her first instinct is to say no. Until she's shown the picture of a half circle of American chestnut trees, a variety thought to be extinct. That's not what holds Carlie's interest. There's something about that half circle. Something familiar about the tumble of stones behind it.

And it's Carlie's gran who knows why. It's an old family story, one past due to be wrapped up.
The magic in Halfway Dead is more in line with the natural world. Enough so that I was surprised when a vampire turned up with talk of werewolves and shifters. The forest teems with a full compliment of fae and that forest is every bit as much a character as the people in the story.

There was a potential bad guy and a string of murders that are mentioned, but never develop into anything Carlie has to worry about. The end of the story comes quickly and gives us a peek at what the direction the next book might take. Shifters, a missing girl, and an amorous vampire - oh my!

This is the fourth book I've read by this author. Halfway is my favorite. I look forward to the next book in this series.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Riddle of Prague by Laura DeBruce

Hana Silna is barely eighteen and on her way to Prague to meet the family. The government has returned her mother’s home and someone needs to be there to sign, but Hana’s mother is in the hospital awaiting a surgery that can’t be rescheduled. How Hana wishes her mother was beside her for the trip. Sure, she’ll be met by family, but they are people she’s only heard of. No one she’s ever met.

That feeling doesn’t last long. When the house is broken into, Michal is shot, and another man dies, and Hana is glad her mother isn’t anywhere near Prague and in no condition to pick up the phone and hear how her daughter has found an old letter leading to a treasure that a very dangerous man is willing to kill for.

But which man, and why?

This was an exciting read. The action and the mystery move the story along at a good pace, never leaving me reading details I didn’t think were necessary or wishing I was getting more, as can sometimes happen in a YA read. In fact, even though the main character is a young girl, I didn’t think of this book as too young for me at all – and I’m fifty.

The story takes us through some interesting history. How can it not, being set in Prague? We get a mystery begun four hundred years past with Edward Kelley and John Dee that continues on into a second book. I didn’t want the first one to end, but the loose ends were wrapped up and the adventure into Paris an all new quest. I’ll be looking for book two.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Edge of the World by Zeece Lugo

And the short stories continue...

Edge of the World is from the world build of Daniel's fork. I did like this story - We meet the three friends, Will, Jonas, and Gabby before they come to Daniel's fork. When they are still three, not four, and fighting wild men outside of York City, what used to New York City before the apocalypse. We see up close the return of the land to nature, the running amok of some men, and the drastic actions those fighting to return a raw land to civilization.

What we really get to see in an insight into what makes Gabby tick. I have to admit, I was expecting this to be a continuation of books one and two. It isn't. It's a prequel. In that regard, I was initially disappointed. I got over it as I read, wishing only that the story had been longer. Hopefully I won't have long to wait for the story I'm really looking forward to.
In the meantime I have Strongheart's Woman to look forward to.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Decision and Secrets by Donna Fernstrom

More short stories based on Fernstrom's Vampire books.

Decision gives us a deeply personal look at a burgeoning relationship between Dave and his donor, Kel. In the Worldwalkers world build, Vampires have relinquished their murderous ways, choosing to find a better way to live among their human counterparts. Decision shows us how close the act of feeding is between Vampire and donor, especially when the donor is falling in love with his vamp. The M/M scenes are handled very well. A short, enjoyable read.

Secrets by Donna Fernstrom. An Interesting Twist on Vampire Mythology

 This a short story from inside the Worldwalker Universe. Tina has met the man of her dreams, but he steps out at night, she doesn't always know where he is, and he is very secretive about it. Then comes the phone call no one ever wants to get. The kind that sends a woman running to the hospital hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. She isn't family. She can't see him, but she can call his sister, the one she's never met.

 And that fast Mark's secrets begin to unfurl around her.

 Sometimes ignorance can truly be bliss, a point this short story makes all too well. Tina ends up having to deal with much more than a wounded boyfriend. The emotional rollercoaster she rides is well oiled without being overly dramatic. The characters are well developed in a very short space. I enjoyed this tale. It made me want to read Fernstrom's book, Sorrows, the same world build this short is set in. 

I'm a vampire fan from the old days when they were soulless predators and not much more. Fernstrom's humanizing take on them grew on me with each sentence. It's a logical progression for a species bent on surviving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Deep Shell by Paddy Kelly

I went through a short story phase recently. One of my finds was this piece by Kelly

Four decades ago, five space ships crash landed on planet of water. One sank into the depths of the vast ocean surrounding them while four landed on the surface of a massive animal they call the Behemoth.

Harkel’s job as a surgeon is the keep the Behemoth well. When the flesh cracks, forming dangerous lesions, it is Harkel who ventures literally into the beast to sew them back up. It’s a lonely job. His talents might be necessary, but they do not endear him to community he lives in.

And lately the job has gotten tougher. Fleshquakes are happening more often. As Harkel climbs down into the latest one, he has to rescue surface dwellers who have been swallowed up by the gash in the Behemoth’s outer layer. One, a woman, doesn’t want to be saved. Harkel tries to calm her down, but she pushes deeper into the Behemoth and disappears. When he files the report, the top brass turn up with an all new task for him.

The fifth ship didn’t sink into the water. It’s inside the Behemoth. There were survivors and they want Harkel to find them.

At first glance, this story sounded really farfetched and gross. They are living on the outside of a mammoth sea creature that never dives. Yuck. Once I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised. The author does a fabulous job of telling us exactly what we need to know to get through this crazy world he’s built for us. The medical and biological details as the surgeon Harkel does his job are spot on and none of those details are there to provide gratuitous gore. The direction the story took toward the end surprised me. I had one of those “Wow, that’s such a cool idea,” moments.

Well worth a read for fantasy and scifi fans.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Daniel's Fork by Zeece Lugo

The modern world has collapsed after an apocalyptic plague. People struggle to survive, clustering into groups to rebuild what life they can. An old fashioned Feudal form of governance forms a safe place for a very new age kind of people to flourish once again. Welcome to Daniel’s Fork.

Commander William Evers is tall, handsome and he knows it. Egotistical or realistic – you decide. He has come to Daniel’s Fork after the death of their much loved leader, Strongheart, to keep the people safe and find a safe home for his family; three friends that have followed him through hell. Three friends he would die to protect.

His new title demands he protect many people, so when a man is murdered his second day in town, Will begins work to eliminate the threat, hoping to earn the respect and trust of the people and military here in the process.

And possibly the trust of the healer, but he won’t hold his breath for that. The woman is annoying,

I have to admit, I expected this story to follow a traditional romance setup. That’s not what this story is. It’s a murder mystery. A pretty good one with a couple of red herrings that were done very well. I thought I knew who the killer was, but I wasn’t sure until the end.

There were more unexpected paths in this story. Commander Will’s love life. He’s a rogue. He knows it. He darn near shouts it from the rooftops. He’s also very good to his friends, which leads us to a quite surprising M/M sex scene. It caught me off guard with this character and then I was like, “Okay we’re going there, but it’ll stop here – nope, it won’t, they’re going on. But they’ll stop at this. Huh uh. This train pulled all the way into the station. It even went for morning bliss. There are friends, and then there’s this guy. Damn.

The characters are fleshed out and put forth with an honesty that doesn’t hide from anything. Very enjoyable read. You know it’s good when you reach for the second book as soon as you’re done. Which I did. I want to know more about these four friends. A tremendous amount of back history is hinted at, and a few tidbits are offered, but I want more. They are very interesting.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gargoyle Knight, by William Massa

Artan, an ancient Irish King of Kirkfall, defeats his brother Cael and his army of gargoyles by sacrificing his humanity to get close enough to Cael to break a magical ruby, the Eye of Balor, from which Cael draws his evil power. Thousands of years later, an archeologist brings the ancient Celtic world alive inside a museum, highlighting what he believes to be an ancient myth. His daughter, Rhianna, cuts herself on the edges of the split ruby, thereby healing the Eye and awakening the gargoyle hoard that has been locked in stone for centuries.

Artan awakenings from his prison of stone in a New York City park, fully aware after centuries of watching the world pass by around him. Unfortunately, his brother Cael also awakens and he's on a hunt to uncover the Eye of Balor and finish what he started all those centuries ago - bringing the demon-god Balor into our world.

Artan is a heroes hero. He loses all those he loves, sacrifices for his people, and even in serving up the winning blow, he is punished along with this brother in the form of a centuries long internment in stone. As I was reading, I had no trouble following along with the story as is, and enjoying every minute of it. The ending came upon me too quickly and didn't give me enough Artan/Rhianna. As the only real contributions to this story from Rhianna was bleeding on the ruby and helping Artan find a mystical sword, I really felt like there should have been much more of the romance angle played up. The girl barely gets a kiss in this book.

After I finished the story was when I thought about how things would have played out if this had been written by a couple of my fave urban fantasy writers and I can tell you, this story would have been twice as long, with some hot and heavy scenes written into it. When you bring back a muscle-bound bad boy with more than a hellishly cool accent and a magic sword, Mary Jane should get more out of it than tied to an altar as a sacrifice. I'm just saying.

Still, very cool premise. Loved the story and the mythological history twist into the contemporary world. I wish the ending had been longer, but the book was well worth my time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Silver Tongue by Evelyn Ink

Belin has a few problems. She’s engaged to the Crown Prince of the realm – and doesn’t want to be. It seems her ability to diplomatically smooth over her friend Chloe’s verbal gaffes and being overly nice to the prince to compensate for not actually liking him have both worked against her. How does one go about turning down a future king? It simply isn’t done.
The young man she is in love with treats her like a little sister and when she determines to run away from it all, Belin finds out firsthand what’s happening to all the youths going missing in the realm. Posing as her maid to make her get away, she is kidnapped by the rebel force that’s seeking to overthrow the current king. Unsure whether being found out to be from a family of consequence will work for her or against her, Belin stills that tongue of hers and falls in line with the other girls to work the mines.

But she doesn’t curl up and whine. Belin puts some callouses on those hands, uses that silver tongue of hers to make some friends, and begins to plot how to stop a rebel army bent on revolution.

Silver Tongue is the second book of a series begun in Ill-Fated. I was expecting the characters from Ill-Fated to move forward with their next adventure. Instead, Ink delivered a second story inside the same fantasy world build. This one has an element of steampunk and like the first, action, action, action. The good guys are smart, tough and heroic – and the bad guys are working their devious plot. All of the characters are completely believable, fitting into the world and their roles effortlessly. This is YA well done.

The ending felt rushed a bit to me. I wanted more with Belin and Sender, but maybe I just wasn’t ready for the story to end. I love that I expected a completely different story and within a chapter realized I was just being silly. Can't wait for book three. There's a book three, right?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hunter's Haven by Linda Thackeray

I ended the year needing to catch up to my Goodreads goal for the year and I'm still more in 'read mode' than 'write mode'. I finally made some serious progress on Crane's War, my upcoming Military Space Opera, yesterday. Hunter's Haven I finished on Wednesday. It's few books these days that tempt me to stay up past my bedtime, but this one did that. Great read!

John Hunter signed up to protect his country. Proving his abilities on the fields of war, he was quickly recruited to special ops - where he lost himself in the inanity of killing, feeling less like a man fighting for freedom and more like a killer for hire. If it weren't for the letters from a little sister desperate to connect with a much older big brother she barely knew, John felt he would have toppled over the edge.

He comes home to join the police force, still protecting those who needed it. He couldn't be bought, and when the gang lord killed his little sister as an act of retribution, Hunter let the rule of law fall away, and rampaged wielding the sword of revenge.

And then the plague decimated the world, leaving little to run from and nowhere to run to, Hunter roamed the highways. Until he heard of a place called Haven.

This story begins with Hunter's attack on the drug lord. I was immediately drawn in. If you like your heroes hard, gritty, and realistic this is a book for your TBR shelf. The action never stops, and while the story gets dark, you never have the feeling that what you're reading was written for shock value. This author either knows a veteran or is one - I have a hard time thinking this amount of realism: in details, hardware, and emotion, was written from searching the internet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid

I have a couple of confessions before we get into this. First, this was an audible listen while I treadmilled (is that even a word?), drove, and wandered about the house. I'm not a huge music fan. Audible books are a welcome addition to my life.

The second thing is I saw the British series television make of this before reading it. Robson Greene plays the part of Dr. Tony Hill in those. I love them. I love what he does with that character. The book version hasn't decreased that in the least, and might have even elevated my appreciation of his talent as an actor.

That said, the movie version does not follow the book exactly - and for once I love that too. The book, as it should be, is much more in depth, letting us deeper into the detectives who work so hard to bring a serial killer to justice. It's more difficult than usual with this case as the killer they've set their sights on is a national sports hero turned tellie star and the National Profiling Task Force that Dr. Hill has only just started aren't even supposed to be working a case.

To add to that, the district they've been set up in is full of coppers who don't give a fig about profiling. When one of Tony's team gets too close to the suspect and is murdered, it's the profiling team those detectives look into for a suspect, not the wealthy T.V. star whom the murdered detective was last seen alive with. It's up to Tony and his team to find evidence on Jacko Vance before they lose a second detective from the task force to an incompetent frame up.

From a writers perspective, since I write too, I appreciated the way the author used third person unrestricted along with the judicially placed omniscient sentence or two. The transitions between the characters, which included the killer, never left me feeling jolted out of the story. It flowed with impeccable and certain aim to the ending. That tends to be one of my pet peeves with third person- that feeling that I've suddenly been dropped into a completely different book when I turn the page. One could argue my experience is because I had already been introduced to the story, and I can't discount that, but the way the author handled transitions between scenes and characters had something to do with it as well.

Normally when you read a mystery, it's all about finding answering "who done it". Not so with this story. We know who the killer is practically from the beginning and that doesn't lessen the tension built as the team works to prove he's their man before his latest victim dies. It is a story about profiling after all, and it was expertly handled.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rambling on a Friday

So I've made this new deal with myself. I need to exercise every day. In the interests of actually seeing that happen, I either have to hit the yoga mat or the treadmill for thirty minutes, or I have to clean something for an hour.

I hate to clean. I come from a long line of women who hate to clean. I don't mind working out. I like the way I feel when I'm done. I like the positive effects it has on both my physical and state, but I'm a really bad starter. Procrastination Central, that's where you'll find me.

You'd think that given the option, I'd chose working out. I thought I would. My house has never been cleaner. I'm a little bemused, bordering on confused, blinded by all the shiny, dusted surfaces surrounding me. A journal entry into Good Housekeeping was not the expected result.

Don't get me wrong, I do kind of like it, but I still need to hit the mat at least three times a week. I have major house projects that need to be done this spring and summer and I'd really like to skip the part where I end up hobbling around like a ninety year old after spending all day moving rock. Using muscles you haven't stretched for years in full weekend-warrior-yard-apocalypse mode is painful. I'm trying not to do that this year. I've hit the stage in my life where I actually know I have a lower back.

I have landscaping to do. The house needs a coat of paint. The crawlspace needs a vapor barrier and some insulation - which is what started this repair list in the first place. I was standing at my computer typing and my feet became ice cubes. That's what happens when you live in an old house in need of some TLC.

That also led to new fur-lined boots I can wear around the house. They look ridiculous, like I could snow shoe in them, but I now understand why so many people wear them despite that fact. My tootsies are toasty. Now if I could just get them on the treadmill.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Stone Gods, by C.B. Pratt

Eno the Thracian is back! If you read Hero for Hire, you know what I'm talking about. Stone Gods finds Eno in route to see his mother. Even monster slayers get homesick, but Eno has a reason for seeking out the woman who bore him into this world. One of the Gods let it slip that Eno's father might not be of the mortal realm, and Eno decides to ask the only person he knows who can either corroborate or deny this claim.

Intent on getting the truth one way or another, he sets out for home only to find that the path to his homeland is besieged and that he's developed a sidekick - Naunet, Princess of Egypt, has been told by every seer she's spoken with that her fate lies in the hands of a barbarian. She's decided that's Eno. Between working out how to stay single and sirens, Eno finds his trip rerouted. But that's all right. He's in need of some good will with the Gods after killing Pan's daughters. Even Apollo thinks Egypt is a good idea.

Like the first book, this story is full of history, humor and action. I love how the history is tight, but the quips often reflect our own current culture. It's a lighthearted peek at the past following a character that's larger than life and not taking himself too seriously.

The next book is Dark Mountain. Going to have to get cracking - I have to know who Eno's father is!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dark Shadows, The Mercy Carver Series by Jana Petken

Born on a night that took both her parents, Mercy Carver is raised and sheltered by her grandparents. On the eve of her eighteenth birthday she finds out she's been promised to the local butcher for four years. Mercy's stomach turns. She tries to think of a way out, but coming up with nothing, plans a single day of freedom over the bridge in London - a town she's never seen. If she'd only known what that day would bring.

This story starts off like a gothic, but quickly turns to an historical romance reminiscent of the old 600 page 'bodice rippers' full of kidnappings, damsels in distress, thwarted lovers, and a trip to a new country. It's not 600 pages, thank goodness, and while the author doesn't spare the details of our heroines trials, the story doesn't get as dark as some others I've read in the past. It isn't full of happy coincidences either, staying true to a reality I may not have always liked as I read, but understood.

Set in the American pre-civil war era, there is a great deal of attention to history delivered in a very conversational manner. Again, the author stayed true to the period. When you're introduced to a slave owner, he talks and thinks like a slave owner. It's a tad bit bracing, but honest.

I no longer read a great deal of historical romance, but this one took me back. Glad I picked it up.