Friday, October 31, 2014

Immortal Lies (Tybalt Jones Book 1) / S. L. Gray


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“S. L. Gray is a fantasy author (urban, epic and otherwise) transplanted from many places to the not-so-wilds of northern California. A storyteller for as long as she can remember, she's tamed her magpie-like attention span, somewhat, and dedicated herself to writing stories other people might enjoy as much as she does.

She is also, as you might have guessed, a huge fan of Shakespeare. She has done theatre on both coasts. She makes beaded boxes and jewelry and is a fiber artist. She loves words in all sorts of languages, knows her way around a computer and was once an EMT.”

For more, visit Ms Gray's website or blog.

Description:

“Tybalt Jones is not your typical creature of the night. He prefers Havana shirts to capes and his ’sidekick’ is a curvy faerie girl. Not a hunchback in sight. He's been out of the vampire ’scene’ for years, and he'd be happy to stay out for the rest of his unlife.

But vampires connected to Tybalt are disappearing from St. Sebastian's streets. To make matters worse, he's on a literal deadline to clean up the city.

With a little gypsy know-how, a dab of faerie luck and a crash course in using his unusual gifts, he might just survive to restore peace.”

Appraisal:

Tybalt Jones is not your typical vampire. His mother “was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed all-American girl.” His father was an ex-steelworker, turned musician, who played at a local blues club. “Somewhere back in his line, red blood mixed with black and the rhythm of two cultures pounded through his veins.” Tybalt has separated himself from other vampires and shifters in his society. He patrols the streets of St. Sebastian to protect the innocent from predators, much to the dismay of his strong-willed faerie girlfriend, Violet.

Somewhere along the line Tybalt incurred the wrath of a man who seeks revenge. He must examine all of his past relationships to discover who this person is. This villain’s method was to attack those connected to Ty bringing about an anger from the whole paranormal community towards him. This foe has learned to use blood magic that seems indefensible. Ty has to seek unconventional means to learn how to defend himself and rescue those trapped from an inescapable prison.

Told through first person perspective, we get to know Ty inside and out. We know what he knows and feel his confusion, regrets, and desires. The narration and banter between the characters was entertaining and added spirit to the story. The characters were diverse and well developed but still have the potential for much more growth as Tybalt’s story progresses. This series has a lot of promise to have some unique storylines. Several possibilities opened up during the course of Immortal Lies and I can’t wait to see where it leads. There is a lot more going on than meets the eye with Mr. Tybalt Jones.

FYI:

Young adult appropriate language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

There were a small number of proofing errors in the copy I was given to review and a few incidences of repetition that I would like to see addressed to make this a top-notched urban fantasy.


Rating: **** Four stars

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kiss Me, Dancer/ Alicia and Roy Street


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Romance

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Alicia Street is a Daphne Award winning author writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.”

Find out more about Alicia and Roy Street by visiting their website or following them on Facebook.

Description:

“Ballet instructor Casey Richardson takes an immediate dislike to the wealthy, arrogant Drew Byrne when he pulls his nine-year-old son out of her ’silly’ dance class. Still, she cannot help noticing his smoking hot body and bedroom eyes.

The last thing she needs is for him to be the only one who can prevent the disaster of losing her dance academy, the dream she has worked so hard to turn into a reality. Can she save her school without losing her heart?

Remarrying is definitely off Drew’s list of things to do. He has no problem keeping it a game with some of the world’s most beautiful women. So why should his son’s challenging, straight talking dance teacher get under his skin in a way no other female has?

He tells himself it is because Casey is the only one able to bring his shy, uncommunicative son out of his shell. Or is it because Drew has finally met his match?”

Appraisal:

This romance caught me a little off guard, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Casey has had some hard knocks in the romance department as well as life. She is the sister who took care of everyone else first and always placed herself second. She is not na├»ve, she is strong willed and steadfast. Her biggest problem is she doesn’t think she deserves the things she has fought so hard to have. She believes that all of her dreams are just pipe-dreams that will never come to fruition and she is too willing to accept this as a truth of her life.

Drew Byrne is a millionaire playboy, there is no doubt about that. However, he has come to a time in his life when friends are starting to call him out about it. The cast is full of secondary players that are as well developed as the main characters. Their dialogue is realistic, sharp witted, and doesn’t pull any punches. There is something about Casey that has broken through Drew’s well-constructed defenses and he feels like a weak man because of this. Author Roy Street does an excellent job expressing the male perspective in his stories, which I think is an added bonus.

Both Casey’s and Drew’s journey to accept the inevitable is a roller-coaster ride through misbeliefs, miscommunications, and pride. There were more than a few times I wanted to knock both of their heads together. Family dynamics play a huge part in this heartwarming tale of two people that are really easy to care about.

FYI:

Steamy adult situations and three F-bombs are dropped. So, not really PG rated.

This is the first book in the Dance 'n' Luv Series that include stories for Casey’s older brother, Parker, and her younger sister, Jenna. Both of whom I would love to read more about.

Format/Typo Issues:

I found no significant editing or formatting issues.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest Post from Pete Barber, author of Love Poison


As some of you know, I was raised in Liverpool, England, which makes me a “Scouser.” The nickname is derived from the Irish stew (lobscouse, shortened to scouse) that bubbled in most working class homes years ago. It’s still in use today—the term Scouser, not the stew :), and not in the least insulting.

For some reason, quite possibly connected to a beer or two being imbibed in good company, I was recently asked what I missed most about England. I struggled to answer the question. Not because I dislike my native land, but because I’ve lived in the US since 1991, and I’m pretty well assimilated. America is my home. I did not lightly become a US citizen, and provided my health holds out, I hope to live more years in this great country than I did in the land of my birth.

Perhaps because of the time of year, one unique holiday did spring to mind.

Next week, November 5th to be precise, the UK will celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. This tradition dates back to 1605, and in typically brutal English fashion it commemorates the hanging by the neck of one, Guy Fawkes, who was involved in a plot to assassinate King James 1st. For his part, Guy was guarding a significant number of barrels full of gunpowder secreted in an underground chamber below the House of Lords in Westminster (for equivalency think the Capitol Building in Washington DC). Had the gunpowder been ignited, much of the English ruling class would have been wiped out. But someone turned Guy in, and the “Gunpowder Plot” was foiled. To mark the day, Parliament decreed that the people should celebrate by building and lighting bonfires. Never a race of people to miss an opportunity to burn stuff, the English continue to celebrate the anniversary four hundred years later.

In Liverpool, the kids took responsibility for building the community bonfire. Starting in mid-October, combustible pyramids stretching to thirty or forty feet at the tip would be constructed by the local youth in any likely looking large open space. The event served a secondary purpose, providing residents the opportunity to be rid of old scrap wood, or sofas, or furniture—anything that would burn. My friends and I built or borrowed carts, or wheelbarrows--anything that could help haul the booty and pile it high. Tribalism came into play and guards would be posted at the site of the bonfire to prevent a rival group of kids from setting light to the masterpiece of wood and junk before the designated night. This happened on more than one occasion and was the cause of much anguish (and often retribution) for the local kids and even more aggravation for the local fire department.

My family back in England tells me that firework displays nowadays, as with Independence Day over here, are mostly confined to public places and carefully managed, but in my youth, this was a local event. I would construct a “Guy,” an effigy of the perpetrator from the 1600s, from an old shirt or sweater attached to an old pair of trousers, all stuffed with newspaper and topped with a hat and mask. Sitting next to my amateurish dummy on the sidewalk (pavement in English :) ) of the local high street a week or so before Guy Fawkes night with a begging-hat, I’d collect money from passers-by shouting: “Penny for the Guy?” With the cash I bought fireworks—or in my case, Bangers (firecrackers in American).

On November 5th, as darkness fell, all over Britain, huge bonfires were lit. Fireworks crackled and flared and filled the sky with light and joy. Foggy, autumnal air steamed my breath. The smell of burned sulfur from the fireworks (sulphur in English) stung my nose and to this day triggers a racing heart. My Guy, along with dozens of others, was cast into the bonfire’s flames and consumed.

At Bonfire Night parties, for those lucky enough to be invited, kids ducked for apples in a water-filled bucket, or took impossibly large bites from toffee-apples, which smeared their soot-stained cheeks with stick red treacle.

Yes, I do miss Bonfire Night.


Pete's latest book, Love Poison, is available now from Amazon US (paper or ebook) and Amazon UK (paper or ebook).


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boo: Volume Two / Various


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Short Story Anthology

Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Twelve different authors, many we’ve reviewed here before, many we haven’t.

Description:

“A dozen dark tales (and one rather sweet) make up this sugar-free Halloween treat.”

Revenge of the Remora – Lynne Cantwell
Crayfish – JD Mader
Accidents Will Happen – Erin McGowan
The Greengrass Legacy – Jen Daniele
Rites of the Heart – Ann Cathey
Toynbee's Folly – Rich Meyer
Under the Moon – LB Clark
Houdini Night – Laurie Boris
Beauty is Only Skin Deep – Asher Cathey
Greenlight – David Antrobus
When Ghosts Want to Play – Kristina Jackson
The Procedure – Christopher O’Banion
Blood of Christ – Rich Meyer

Appraisal:

The thing that struck me about Boo: Volume Two is that, while aiming to frighten, spook, and creep-out the reader, they aren’t all stories I’d classify as horror. Genre-wise they read like fantasy, science fiction, and others (usually whatever genre the author specializes in) with a horror-like element. For example, Lynne Cantwell’s Revenge of the Remora is a Contemporary or Urban Fantasy about two girls who are friends, but both after the same guy, a high school friend who is now a big time musician. The fantasy element of the story turns out to be where the spooky or frightening part of the story comes from. I enjoyed most of the stories with Cantwell’s, Rich Meyer’s Toynbee’s Folly, LB Clark’s Under the Moon, and The Procedure by Christopher O’Banion as those that stood out for me. But, with a wide variety of stories, none of them bad, your list will surely be different.

FYI:

From the book’s description:

“Attention—the stories in this collection may contain one or more of the following: violence, dark or disturbing themes, profanity, humor, wit, sappiness, and flashes of genius. The stories may induce nausea, creepy-crawly sensations, random bursts of laughter, or twisted dreams. Do not attempt to drive or operate machinery while consuming Boo! Volume Two. For external use only. Use only as directed.”

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and other proofing misses.


Rating: **** Four stars

Monday, October 27, 2014

Meaningful Conversations / Richard Godwin


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Richard Godwin is an author, poet and playwright. He holds a BA in English and American English from King’s College, London where he has also been a lecturer. Richard splits his time between America and the UK.

Description:

Bertrand Mavers looks like your average, successful man. He’s an accomplished cellist and has a therapist. He’s also a serial killer, collecting people for his project, The Farm.

Appraisal:

Writing the description for this review was the toughest element to achieve. This is a difficult novel to pin down in terms of ‘what it is.’ What makes this novel tick is a supremely high level of psychological tension, an aspect which the author has excelled in previously, but takes to a new level here.

I’ve previously reviewed two of Godwin’s novels. Meaningful Conversations has parallels to Piquant: Tales of the Mustard Man in that as the reader I always had a question mark in my mind as to what was real and what was in the characters’ minds. There are also parallels to American Psycho, Mavers is one sick puppy. His mysterious project, The Farm, consumes his time. He collects people to populate it and entertain him.

But back to the psychology – the narrative is tense throughout. Mavers lives an unusual life in the ‘normal’ half of his world. Everyone around him, including his therapist, Otto, is equally mad in their own way (except they don’t kidnap and murder people). They live debauched lives, orchestrated by Mavers - making the classical music angle from the protagonist particularly interesting. When Mavers plays, others follow, a little like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. In a bizarre way Mavers is the sanest of his fellow characters.

Meaningful Conversations will appeal to readers who have strong stomachs, some of the scenes are gruesome. But this is a highly entertaining, thought provoking and challenging novel that I read in a single sitting.

FYI:

Some gruesome scenes.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.


Rating: ***** Five Stars

#HaleNo



Some may not be aware of the recent post in TheGuardian by YA author Kathleen Hale which detailed her stalking of a blogger who didn’t love her book and the varied reactions to it. Some book bloggers, reacting to a subset of authors who see Hale as their hero, have chosen to have a blackout. What that means varies from site to site, the most common being not publishing new reviews for some period of time. For those who are learning about this for the first time here, this post at Bibliodaze and the several links it contains, will send you as far down the rabbit hole as you care to go.

We won’t be participating in the blackout. (If you want us to, pretend that we’ll be refusing to review any books published by Harper Teen, Hale’s publisher. Forever. Not that we ever would have any way.)


I’m not going to go into my rationale for not blacking out. However, I will say that despite that, we support those who are doing so, and thought a quick post expressing solidarity with our fellow bloggers was in order.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Journey to Felicity / Nathan Jewell


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Romance / Contemporary / Humor

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Availability    

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Nathan Jewell lives in the Seattle, Washington area with his wife Natalie, two children William and Renee and his dog Matzah. He is a former New Yorker and proud alumnus of The Bronx High School of Science. He currently spends his work days on completely different topics from the subject of his writings. The Journey to Felicity marks both his first literary effort and the first time he has used the right side of his brain in twenty-five years.”

Description:

“In 1987, a hysterical chance encounter on a Grecian topless beach sparks a love bond that flourishes into a profound and a visceral connection that transcends eighteen years and ten thousand miles. Zach Stillman, a Jewish born New Yorker and Felicity Williams, a Christian beauty from northern England, come from radically different backgrounds, etymologies and belief systems. Their relationship is tested and taxed from both sides of the Atlantic as they face sexual theatrics, tragic illness and meddling fathers. Was their coincidental meeting just happenstance, or are the underlying linkages they created strong enough to withstand the life choices and diverse backgrounds that threaten their destiny? Anointed with both wit and hilarity, this romantic comedy is more than a raucous love story; it highlights the emotional fabric of lives woven into the very depths of our souls.”

Appraisal:

This is an entertainingly different sort of romance novel that contains “many autobiographical truths… drawing from personal experiences…” according to the author, Nathan Jewell who tells his story through Zach. We first meet Zach and Marshall, two mid-twenty Jewish brothers, who are planning a trip to Greece to retrace their roots. The author does an excellent job introducing us to the brothers, their father, and stepmother at the family dinner table. Seymour, the boys’ father, filled the role I pictured as a Jewish mother perfectly, until he started reminiscing about his honeymoon in Greece with his first wife, which didn’t sit well with the stepmother, Wilma. The characters came through as genuine and likeable, no more dysfunctional than any other realistic family.

After following the brothers around and getting a good feel for the dynamics between Zach and Marshall’s characters, before their Grecian vacation, we are whisked off to Sheffield, England and introduced to Ellen and Felicity. Two sisters in their early twenties who decided they are in need of an extended vacation as well. They decide on the Mediterranean nude beach they have enjoyed in the past. Felicity has spent the last few years caring for their sick mother and the last year helping their father get past his depression after her passing. Their dialect is heavily accented and Mr. Jewell attempts to convey this in their dialogue. I found it difficult to read when there was a lot of speaking between these two or their friends. Here is an early sample of Helen speaking to Felicity: “Y’got to get on w’yer life! You know why Mum named y’Felicity, don’t ya? It’s b’cause y’gave ‘er ‘appiness ‘er ‘ole life.”… “Felicity, w’need t’start up our ‘oliday trips ag’n.”

As the young men travel around Greece we are given interesting history lessons of the different sights and the author does a nice job conveying Jewish history as well. When they finally make it to the Mediterranean beach locale the real fun begins. The boys are thrilled with the nude beaches, Marshall ends up in the wingman position after Felicity introduces herself to Zach. Their attraction is immediate and Marshall has no problem pairing up with her older sister Helen who is taller and bustier. Helen is also the more sexually aggressive sister which really pleases Marshall until their acrobatic sex gets out of hand. All I can say is comedy ensues. As Marshall is convalescing Felicity and Alex are able to spend more time together to develop a more meaningful relationship.  

After returning to their respective homes, Zach in New York City and Felicity in Sheffield, logistics become a problem and years pass. Life goes on… Through twists of fate Zach decides to write a book about his Greek vacation and his tryst with Felicity. When the couple reconnects old emotions rekindle and things get complicated concerning their respective spouses and mayhem arises. I felt like parts of this journey were glossed over and the turmoil that forces the characters into revelations about themselves was not explored fully enough for my satisfaction. Even with the Happily Ever After I was left wanting.  

FYI:

This book contains some adult situations however, most were behind closed doors. There was only one F-bomb dropped.

Format/Typo Issues:

I came across a significant issue in the formatting that didn’t translate well to the Kindle PaperWhite I read on. It is a symbol that otherwise translates to some of the Kindle apps. However, I could not get it to display on my Galaxy III phone or my first generation Kindle Fire. I found it a bit annoying until I found out what it was. This did not make the book unreadable.

I also noted a number of proofing errors, which bordered on being too many. These consisted of wrong, missing, or extra words, and extra or missing quotation marks.


Rating: *** Three stars