Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fun & Games

I received an ecopy of Fun & Games from author David Michael Slater.

Fun & Games starts out as a slice of one man's family, or in this case, one boy's. We have an evil genius sister, a hot sister who knows how to put her looks to use, a writer father trying to not be Jewish, a mother trying to preserve Jewish tradition, holocaust survivor grandparents, and of course our hero Jon, trying and often failing, to keep up with it all.

His group of friends are the usual mix of teenage boys fixated on girls and marathon games of D&D. Jon is forever being bullied, coerced and manipulated by one or both of his sisters. He is one of those people who try to go with the flow, a very difficult task in this particular family.

Mixed in with typical adolescent male hormone fueled goofiness are sometimes heartbreaking and life altering events. Family secrets abound and as Jon matures (at least chronologically), he is forced to deal with them. For the most part Fun & Games is a comedy, and a hilarious one at that. But the end leans more to the serious end of the spectrum.

It does evoke a bit of a nostalgic feeling: the stupid teenage tricks, the determination to lose that pesky virginity ( I didn't lose mine, I know right where I left it) and the rocky transition from adolescent to adult.

Fun & Games can be viewed as a coming of age tale but it's more the antics of the family that puts the "fun" in dysfunctional. David Michael Slater has written a fun and funny story that fans of American Graffiti style entertainment should like. Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Covens of Elmeeria

I won a print copy of The Covens of Elmeeria by Miguel Lopez de Leon in a Goodreads giveaway.

The Covens of Elmeeria is a nice, short, middle grade (in my opinion) story set in a medieval type world of kingdoms replete with kings, queens, princes and princesses and the always accompanying political machinations.

The characters are straight forward for the most part and not particularly complex. But then again, this is a book directed towards a younger audience where too much complexity may be a negative. The Covens of Elmeeria was fun for what it was intended to be; a short, fairy tale kind of story with a likable heroine who has to think for herself to save the day.

As you know I don't get into "message" books, but it doesn't take much to see that the author is encouraging readers to think for themselves and face up to problems. Okay, enough of the soapbox.

It is refreshing for me to read a book where the young person is not the only one with a brain. Parents are for the most part good and their child is neither spoiled nor disrespectful.

Is The Covens of Elmeeria by Miguel Lopez de Leon fantasy on a par with Lord of the Rings? No, but it is not claiming to be. It is a story that I wouldn't have a problem with my grandchildren reading. Enjoy!


Monday, November 27, 2017

The Elixir: A Bud Hutchins Urban Fantasy (Bud Hutchins Thriller Book 2)

JB Michaels sent me a print copy of The Elixer, the second Bud Hutchins Urban Fantasy. He did not ask for a review, but hey, it's what I do.

The Elixer is an excellent follow up to The Order of St. Michael. While the first book has a lot of background on our hero, it is not necessarily necessary to have read it first (but you really should). Our heroes get caught up in another paranormal life and death adventure.

The action takes place in and around Chicago where Bud is responsible for more damage than a Bruce Willis movie. We have several plot lines, not all of which are resolved by the end of the book. Which means there must be another book in the works (YAY!). We have all the trappings for a good paranormal story; zombies, werewolves, ghost bad guys, ghost good guys, robots, and monks to name a few.

The Elixer is a bit more mature than the previous book (mostly language wise, that Bud is developing such a mouth). The action is great, Bud is still an enigma; is he a jerk?... a poorly socialized genius? ...or just plain clueless. Whatever he is, he is still a lot of fun to follow. He is loyal to his friends and dedicated to his scientific pursuits.

Although predominantly a YA/middle grade book, I find myself enjoying this series a lot. So is my wife. When the book arrived, she snatched it up to read before I could get to it.

The Elixir: A Bud Hutchins Urban Fantasy (Bud Hutchins Thriller Book 2) (whew, that's a lot of title) by JB Michaels continues the series admirably and keeps us wanting more. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tales of His Words. Cruel Angels Pass-by, Disgusting Angel Smile

Author Keishi Ando provided ecopies of three of his short stories. As they are stand alone stories and not part of a larger anthology I will review them separately.

Tales of His Words is a paranormal romance set outside an ancient castle in (I believe) Japan (Keishi Ando is Japanese after all). A young woman attending cooking classes enters into a romantic liaison with a man  she meets while siting outside the local castle. As the relationship progresses we get glimpses into the girls mind and her at times ambivalence and even anger towards her suitor. The conclusion is an interesting twist.

Cruel Angels Pass-by is a rather bizarre story of a victim of terrible abuse at the hands of society. This abuse seems to be the accepted behavior of the local inhabitants. Then our main character meets an angel. This may seem like a spoiler, but I guarantee I haven't told you anything that would spoil the story. You need to read it for yourself to find out what I mean.

Disgusting Angel Smile is the tale of what we might refer to as an urchin, a child on the edges of society who has connected to her favorite toy an angel and a devil. They bear witness to the child's bleak existence, but don't seem to get too involved. Again we have a somewhat strange ending.

Although not presented as connected, these three stories represent a very bleak outlook on life. For sure a very dark tone. This is not inconsistent with the authors biography, which I leave for you to read. They definitely have a different flavor from what many readers are accustomed to. Part of this is no doubt due to English not being the authors first language. I don't know if the stories have been translated from Japanese or written directly in English by the Japanese author. Enjoy!


Spine Chillers: Book One: Hair Raising Tales

I received an ecopy of Spine Chillers by Q. L. Pearce. Although I'm not sure who provided it, my ereader identifies another author of similar books, but the file itself identifies Pearce as the author. Looking at the goodreads page for Q.L. Pearce does show the book to be hers.

As the title says; book one. I haven't seen how many more are projected.

Spine Chillers is a fun set of short stories aimed at middle grade readers but are enjoyable for older readers as well. The stories are in the mode of a Goosebumps or, for older readers, a Twilight Zone feel. Great stories to curl up with on a dark and dreary day, or to share with younger readers. The stories are sufficiently spooky to keep mature readers hooked while short enough to fit younger attention spans. Enjoy!


The Itching Scars

Author Mohy Omar provided me with an ecopy of The Itching Scars.

The Itching Scars is a triad of thematically joined short stories. Focused on the darker aspects of humanity, the stories delve into life. death. and morality. It is also the first in a series The Scars. I don't know how many books are planned.

The stories are graphic in nature, both psychologically and physically. We get graphic depictions of sexuality, murder, and torture as well as existential suffering and longing. Quite a package.

Psychological types (like I used to be) could spend hours discussing the nuances of these stories. They would make excellent fodder for a class in psychological literature. The stories are actually quite deep. I was particularly impressed with the authors treatment of death. Although all three stories are excellent, this first was for me the most moving.

For a deeper look into what it means to be human, I recommend The Itching Scars by Mohy Omar. Enjoy!


Bittersweet Symphony

I requested a copy of Bittersweet Symphony from author Rebecca McNutt and she generously provided one.

Bittersweet Symphony is the first example of this authors writing that I have read. I was somewhat concerned because Miss McNutt is considerably younger than me and I wondered if her book would be aimed at my age group. I quickly realized my fears were completely unfounded. Bittersweet Symphony is a story that speaks to anyone who has experienced life at all.

Our author has packed an incredibly rich story in a fairly short framework. The only reason I had to spread my reading over an extended period of time is that (as usual) my ereader ran low on battery power before I could finish (I hate when that happens). The characters are so well developed and engaging (though not necessarily likable) that they could easily inhabit future stories.

How the reader will categorize Bittersweet Symphony will depend more upon the reader, I think, than the story itself. More so than many books I have read, this story lends itself to interpretation influenced by the readers own outlook on life. It is dark, twisted horror, maladjusted human interaction, and yet, redemptive. When you read it you'll see what I mean.

Bittersweet Symphony is, in the beginning at least, a dark and foreboding horror story fueled by the greed of several participants. And spooky it is. A bit reminiscent of Poltergeist. We also see demonstrated some of the darker aspects of human behavior. The characters are at turns, callous, unfeeling, and downright mean spirited. It is easy to dismiss them as poor examples of basic humanity. But as the story unfolds and we see them develop more fully this opinion may change for some.

I really enjoyed Bittersweet Symphony and when I finished, I found myself amazed at how much story was packed into 134 pages. Rebcca McNutt, young though she may be, is a talented storyteller. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Little Night Magic

I won a print copy of A Little Night Magic by Angie Fox in a Goodreads Giveaway.

A Little Night Magic is the second book from Angie Fox that I have had the good fortune to read.
Here we have a collection of short stories involving characters from two different series written by Ms. Fox.

We start with Verity and Frankie of the Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries. Two light, funny and heartwarming tales which bring to mind Ghost Whisperer, only leaning more to the humorous side.

Next, we have Amie and Dante from the Accidental Demon Slayer series and a great story set in New Orleans voodoo. Still a funny, while suspenseful, read.

Finally, three stories starring Lizzie and the Biker Witches, characters I met in The Accidental Demon Slayer. Biker Witches who are also senior citizens are hilarious, and frustrating (at least for Lizzie).

Angie Fox has a talent for presenting us with leading ladies who don't appear to have to be more macho than the men they are around. I like this approach, they are women, not weepy girls or out to prove their superiority. They laugh, joke, and have sexual thoughts at inopportune times (kind of like men do, okay, like I do). I guess what I am getting at here is that we get fun stories without a heavy dose of social commentary, and I like that. I like my reading to be fun and so far the two books I have read by this author have been that; great fun.

A Little Night Magic is a sampler platter of MS. Fox's story telling ability and does its job of enticing readers to want to read more of her work. It has for me anyway. I recommend A Little Night Magic as an introduction to Angie Fox's work, or for fans, a visit with characters you have come to know and love. Either way; Enjoy!


Sunday, November 19, 2017

From Ice to Ashes (Titanborn Universe, #2)

Author Rhett C. Bruno was kind enough to provide me with an e-copy of From Ice to Ashes book #2 in the Titanborn Series.

From Ice to Ashes continues the story from Titanborn, the first book in the series. And an excellent continuation of the story it is. Although a sci-fi space fantasy, the story unfolds like a good mystery, little bits of information scattered throughout keeping readers hooked and guessing.

Characters, often not particularly sympathetic, are well developed and multidimensional. We have basic human emotions; love, hate, and bigotry wrapped up in a story of rebellion and oppression. All the makings of a book that will keep readers enthralled from beginning to end. I am stepping out on a rather stout limb in thinking that a third book (fourth if you consider the prequel, which I have not read) will be forthcoming. I don't have any verified information of that, but the story does lend itself to continuation. Not a cliffhanger ending (YAY!), but one which definitely leads to my expectation.

As I said; a story of rebellion, so we have all the best ingredients. We have the Titanborn being oppressed by the Earthers both socially and economically, as well as medically. We have love and romance, honor and deception, hate and violence, and a healthy dose of political intrigue. We have sex, consensual and non, vengeance, retribution and unexpected twists. We have players who don't know they are players and others who don't really want to be.

From Ice to Ashes is a character driven story rather than a techno story. This appeals to me as I don't enjoy stories that rely on the technology of space life. I like the human aspects with space being just where the story is set.

As with any story focused on human emotions and relationships, things are seldom plain and simple. We have conflicting motivations and dynamics. Sometimes even within the same relationship. Author Rhett C. Bruno has given readers a vivid portrayal of an alien world fraught with very human problems. From Ice to Ashes is a great world to get caught up in. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Wizard's Dark Dominion

Author Lee H. Haywood gave me a print copy of A Wizard's Dark Dominion. The first entry in The God's and Kings Chronicles series.

 A Wizard's Dark Dominion is fantasy at its best.  Okay, I'm done (you know better than that). Seriously, this book hooked me immediately. I finished it last night just before going out to dinner. I kept looking at the clock because had the person I was going to dinner with arrived early, I was wondering how they were going to like waiting while I finished. Fortunately I did finish about five minutes before they arrived.

As the title shows, this is a book about magic (duh! ... I'm just getting started, okay?) Our main character, Demetry, is clearly teetering on the fence of good vs evil. We are not really sure which way he will finally go. I found myself rooting for him to make the right choice, but he didn't always. The other characters are portrayed just as morally ambiguous. For me, this makes for a first rate story. I like not being able to pigeon-hole characters. That leads to predictability and less enjoyment. A Wizard's Dark Dominion keeps us readers on our literary toes, so to speak.

As the first book in the trilogy, A Wizard's Dark Dominion sets the stage well for the next books. Thank yous to Mr. Haywood for not using the ever despised cliffhanger ending. The ending keeps us hooked without leaving us up in the air (aka: hanging).

So, we have lots of magical action (stealing a line from Arlo Guthrie; ...blood, guts and gore, and dead burnt bodies...) no romance, magical and mythical creatures, political intrigue and a tantalizing tease of big things to come. The other two books in the series are already available so readers are able to continue the story uninterrupted. You can't beat that.

Epic fantasy readers definitely will find a lot to like in A Wizard's Dark Dominion by Lee H. Haywood. Enjoy!


Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Me, Hannah

I recently had the pleasure of meeting author Carleen Bunde at a local craft fair. After talking with her for a while, I purchased (yes purchased) her book It's Me, Hannah. 

It's Me, Hannah is the story of a young girl growing up in North Dakota from the 40's til present. Our main character, Hannah is a bit of a rarity in literature these days; a nice, respectful, basically good, farm girl. We get a slice of a bygone era in America. We follow Hannah as she copes with loss of loved ones, but thankfully, does not use this as an excuse to embrace a wild lifestyle. She is basically a happy well adjusted child coming into adulthood.

The best thing about It's Me, Hannah is that it is not full of dysfunctional characters (there may be one). But we still have an engaging, well written story, told in snippets, almost like memoirs. Perhaps at times the reader may wonder what ever became of some story or another, and this may be the drawback to the book. At times we read of some event or other but we don't get the final outcome. Minor, but I felt it a couple of times.

A sideline, one of the things that interested me about Ms. Bunde was that her family had at one time lived in the same small town, Fox Lake, Wisconsin, as my family. I don't know if it was during the same time-frame, but it was a nice little connection.

It's Me, Hannah  is a wonderful change of pace for those who tend to read more action oriented works that often tend to be on the darker side (that would be me). It tapped into a nostalgia for simpler slower paced times, though I am not old enough to have lived in the 40's, I do remember simpler times.

If you are in the mood for a clean, fun, at times funny, at times heartbreaking read, It's Me, Hannah  will satisfy that craving admirably. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

City Of Gods Hellenica

I won a print copy of City Of Gods Hellenica by Jon Maas (Jonathan Maas on Goodreads) in a Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway.

This book is outstanding! Probably don't need to say anything beyond that: but what fun would that be?

City Of Gods Hellenica is the story of ancient gods behaving poorly; petty and selfish. An academy is created to bring stability to the world. In true YA fashion, the proposed saviors are kids. The godlings (my word not Mr. Maas's) don't seem to get along much better than their adult counterparts. The four main characters are about as diverse as can be. As City Of Gods Hellenica is the beginning of a series we do see these disparate characters starting to meld into a somewhat cohesive unit.

We have plenty of action, violence, political intrigue, young love (or at least infatuation), horror, honor and youthful idealism. Author Jon Maas does a good job of painting a mental picture of the sometimes disturbing atmosphere of the academy. Particularly the more disgusting parts of the local environment.

The development of the characters is progressing nicely, complete with flaws and prejudices. There is suspense and intrigue. The true motivations of several peripheral characters has yet to be revealed. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series; good YA fantasy that does not talk down to its younger audience. I actually hesitate to use the term "YA" in reference to City Of Gods Hellenica. It is simply just very good fantasy that appeals to pretty much any age group of fantasy readers (like me).

I'm finding it very difficult to identify any negatives for City Of Gods Hellenica, so, I guess I'll stop trying now. Jon Mass has given us a fantastic fantasy read in City Of Gods Hellenica (fantastic fantasy, see what i'm doing there? Okay, sorry). Fantasy readers should find this book very enjoyable. So as I always say, Enjoy!

Oh, before I go, one tongue-in-cheek complaint: How on earth do you pronounce "Saoirse"? I think I hurt my mouth trying.