Arthur ‘The hat’ Salzman, thief, gambler, and wizard, has always been able to revive when he dies. But, when he dies for the 50th time, the Grim Reaper, old man Death, informs that it’s time for him to fulfill a deal he made when the power was granted—he must become the Grim Reaper.
For Arthur, it doesn’t sound like such a good deal, and he’s determined to find his way from the endless void in which he’s imprisoned, and back to the land of the living. When his trusty sidekick commits suicide to come and rescue him, things just get even more complicated.
What follows when she arrives in the void is quintessential Wildcat Wizard fare, as Arthur pulls every trick he has out of his sleeves to beat the odds. As usual, along with the gore is a good dash of humor, grim humor, and a puzzle that it seems at first that even the smartest wizard on the planet can’t solve.
If you’re a fan of this series, this one won’t disappoint, and I can promise you, you’ll be surprised at the ending.
I received an advance reader copy of this book, and what can I say – it’s another five-star story.
Imogen Banks, a witch who can bake, or a baker with witch’s powers, keeps telling herself that she’s fine with Prince Hank’s engagement to Princess Shaday, but at the engagement dinner in the Fire Kingdom, which she attends with her other royal kitchen colleagues, she’s feeling conflicted. The festivities are only slightly disrupted when one of the guests, a hated prison warden, is found murdered in his tent, but when Imogen’s foul mood affects her cooking, she’s banned from the kitchen and decides to solve the murder. There is a long list of suspects; the journalist the warden was blackmailing, his ambitious assistant, and even his daughter, Eve, Shaday’s best friend. And then, there’s Imogen’s brother, Horace, a rebel and the most wanted man in all the kingdoms. He makes contact, and begins to teach her new magic, but is he up to something else?
Along with Iggy, her trusty, and sometimes crusty, baking flame (that’s right, flame as in fire) Imogen sets out to untangle this knotty problem, almost getting herself eaten by a bat in the process. You’ll have to read the book to figure out that one. What book, you ask? Why, Full Moons, Dunes, & Macaroons by Erin Johnson, of course. The fifth book in her Spells & Caramels series, she keeps the energy flowing and the plots twisting most effectively, giving us another strong, though sometimes ditzy, female main character to cheer for. My seven-year-old granddaughter who, like me, has been reading since she was four, is also, like me, a diehard fan of this series—although the previous volume had a rather adult theme, so I’m holding it back for at least two or three more years. This, though, will give you a clue—this series can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
I received a free copy of this book. Another five-star performance.
Lucan, an aspiring squire, and Manuel, an aspiring knight, are on a mission to slay the Dargonqueen, when Wort, the prickleberry winemaker diverts them on a search for a mythical sword. Brae is a half-human paladin on an apology tour for a once evil god—only, she’s not sure about the formerly part—when she, too, is diverted by Wort. The three come together in a cave of slime, oozy, dangers, and Manuel gets himself killed—twice before the death finally takes—leaving Brae and Lucan to complete the original quest.
Uninvited Quests by Lex Wilson is just what its subtitle suggests, a comedic fantasy adventure that turns fantasy novels on their ears and will have you laughing so hard you’re likely to fall into the slime. I don’t know what hallucinogenic substance the author ingested before sitting down to write this, but if he’ll send me the address of the supplier, I’ll take a couple of pounds.
A really, really enjoyable read. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it five stars.
Advertising is propaganda. Not propaganda as in the message spread by the Church in the olden days, but that of Lenin and his ilk; the shaping of a message—often based upon a lie—to move people in a desired direction.
When Charles Hamilton, CEO of BurgerBlast, Inc., wants a new ad campaign to reverse his companies declining revenue he encourages his board to come up with a campaign, Energized, they enlist the help of two computer animators to create a ‘thinker’ ad, an animation that draws the viewer in to concentrate on their ‘new’ message. Now, Fast’n’Fit, Inc., formerly known as BurgerBlast, Inc., has a new ad on the subway featuring the seductive but sophisticated Samantha, a sex film star with a deadly secret ability to control minds, one person at a time. Her target is Bobby Fastow, an overweight, depressed supervisor in a newspaper print shop who is seduced into the ‘world’ of her ad.
You Dear Sweet Man by Thomas Nevaiser is a short, but enticing, story of how ads can pull viewers in all the wrong directions. A compelling read that, though fantasy, is all too real in its description of how companies use advertising to push an agenda that’s not always good for you.
I received a free copy of this book. Once I started reading, I was pulled into the story, unable to extricate myself until the end.
I give this one five stars for a captivating story.
Things have gotten both better and worse for Imogen. Her bakery is thriving and she can now openly acknowledge her relationship with Prince Henry. On the negative side, though, she must spend time with his awful family. Just when she thinks things could get no worse, her wayward brother, Horace, a member of the Badlands Army, approaches her and her colleagues with an offer they can’t refuse—because he uses threats—break some prisoners out of the impenetrable prison of the Water Kingdom.
Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips by Erin Johnson is book five in a series that I’ve come to love. The author takes us on a madcap journey as Imogen and her friends take on an impossible mission, one that will change the future of Imogen and the magical kingdom that she has come to call home forever.
While this can be read as a stand-alone story, it would be far more interesting if you went back and started reading with book one—just a suggestion, but you’ll thank me for it if you do. Nonstop action, suspense, and double-dealing in a story that will have you chuckling and shivering by turns.
I received a free review copy of this book. Another five-star offering from an outstanding author.
Gabriel Stone, the lost angel and gambler supreme, is back, and badder than ever. Draxil, the ex-Prince of Hell, has been reawakened, restarting an old feud with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They demand that he be turned over to them, or they will destroy Earth. Gabriel, though, has a problem. Draxil is linked to Aurora, for whom Gabriel is guardian, and if he dies, so does she. In order to prevent destruction, Gabriel must reunite Draxil with his team of demons, who, unfortunately, are either caged in Hell or scattered across the many planes of existence.
Gabriel’s challenge; break the demons out of Hell. Quite a gamble, and one he can’t afford to lose.
Soul of Stone by Leo Romero is the third of the Fallen Angel books, and it takes the reader deeper into the depths of perdition than the mortal mind can fathom. Action and humor war with each other on every page. This one’s a don’t miss for fans of the series.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it five stars.
For a long time, Joshua has searched for his missing father. With the aid of the Oracle, he travels through mystical lands and battles strange creatures, until he’s faced with a final choice, save the world, or give up his one true love. With his friend, Andrew, and one of the last remaining imps in the world, Galleon, this young woodsman must prove himself again and again.
Joshua and the Magical Forest by Christopher D. Morgan is book one in the Portallas series which takes the reader to strange worlds filled with even stranger creatures. While mainly escapist reading, this story does have its magical moments. A nice read on a chilly day.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.
Murder and mayhem follow Imogen Banks everywhere she goes. Still trying to learn to control her witch powers, under the tutelage of Prince Hank, and worrying about Horace and his minions of the Badlands Army, she sees a trip to the Mermaid Kingdom to cater the wedding party of the Mermaid queen and the Pirate king as a welcome diversion. But, when a member of the mermaid court is found murdered and entangled in a pirate’s net, and a confection from their kitchen is thought to be the murder weapon, Imogen must find the real murderer before she and her friends become fish food.
Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins by Erin Johnson is book three in the Spells and Caramels series, and it builds on the previous two books, but with a refreshing difference. As Imogen and her cohort has to deal with the licentious behavior and secret scandals of the mermaid court, smuggling of illicit substances, and a deadly octopus; while Imogen struggles with her romantic feelings for Hank, who is betrothed to another, and their susceptibility to an intoxicating monster’s brew, this story will hook you from the opening pages until you get to the startling conclusion, when Imogen discovers more secrets from her own past.
This story makes a shift from the relative innocence of the first two volumes, as intimate relationships are explored in a more explicit manner, raising the series from one that appeals to fantasy lovers of all ages to one that is aimed at a more mature audience.
I was attracted to this series from the beginning, but am now irrevocably hooked. I received a free copy of this book.
It promises a lot from the opening, and delivers on every page.
Two centuries after nuclear war has destroyed human civilization, the few survivors live in isolated settlements in a kind of servile condition. The effects of radiation have affected a few, causing them to transform into dragons, while the rest exist as serfs. Theo lives with his mother in a village under the dominion of the cruel King Harold. When Elise, whose mother has been taken away by Harold’s men, comes to live with them, Theo’s life changes. He discovers that he is one of the few with the ability to become a dragon. Worse, he falls in love with Elise, who is also a dragon-shifter. When, fearing for the safety of those around her, Elise runs away, Theo is determined to find her.
Mated by the Alpha Dragon by K. T. Stryker follows Theo and Elise, as they struggle against Harold’s tyranny and learn to control the changes in themselves. One series of adventures and misadventures after another until the final confrontation in Harold’s castle—a bit predictable, and a touch of deus et machina at the end. Despite the predictability of the story line, it is still an entertaining story that delves deeply into the internal motivations of the two main characters.
I received a free copy of this book, and I give it three and a half stars. High marks for a compelling theme, but subtracting a few for the predictability.
Mythical beings, demons and demi-gods really, have taken over earth, and at some unannounced future date will pull the plug on humanity. The British, being British, are determined that the end of the earth will at least be orderly. A special government organization has the task of seeing to the paperwork and other bureaucratic actions to achieve that. Morag Murray is assigned to the consulate in Birmingham as a new field operative, but she has a problem; in her previous job, she offended earth’s new masters, and is now marked for immediate death. While dealing with murderous starfish, a strange old woman with cats, and new colleagues who are anything but normal, she has to try and avoid her own inevitable death.
Oddjobs by Heide Goody and Iain Grant is a rib-tickling, heart-pounding book that I have a hard time categorizing. Is it fantasy or is it science fiction? After reading it, I’m still unable to decide. What I can say, though, is that it’s funny; funny and scary at the same time. The characters in this (unimaginable?) dystopian future are believable, even the aliens, because they behave in a consistent manner, they talk like people we’ve all encountered at one point or other in our lives, and the action flows, if not exactly in a linear manner, in a way that makes sense under the circumstances that the authors so skillfully describe.
If you want a tickle and a tingle all wrapped in one package, read this book. I give it five stars.
Mimi AuClair moved from L.A. back to her home town of Lafay to reopen her grandmother’s tea shop. Her older sister, Sybil, is not too happy about the prospect, much preferring that her two younger sisters not upset her nice, normal suburban existence with her husband and two young daughters. To add to Mimi’s problems, the Jigg sisters, owners of the town’s other tea shop, are determined to prevent the competition. The Jigg sisters, Mimi learns, are witches, who also are on the town council, and are willing to go to great lengths to sabotage her grand opening. She’s not completely helpless, though, being a witch herself, and from a long line of witches, and she has her grandmother’s familiar, a wise-cracking black cat, to help her. Things go awry when a customer, the town troublemaker, dies from poison at the opening, and the police, at first, suspect her.
Sister Witchcraft by J.D. Winters and Dakota Kahn is a short book; it can be read in less than an hour; that is thoroughly delightful. An interesting cast of characters, and scenes that would play extremely well in an animated movie, will make you wish it was even longer.
I read this book on a dreary, rainy day. The weather and witchcraft gave me goose pimples, but Mimi’s antics kept me laughing. If you’re looking for a short, entertaining read, get this book.
I give it five stars.
If you’ve read the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and you think you know all there is to know about a girl and her brother abandoned in the forest by their father at the behest of an evil stepmother, think again. You simply have to read Gretel: Book One by Christopher Coleman.
An ancient evil lurks in the back country. For a long time, it was sleeping, but it’s now awake, and is hungry. It sets its sights on a mother, alone in the forest and seeking help. Gretel, in charge of taking care of her ailing father and brother while her mother, Anika, is away, she longs for change. That change comes when they determine that Anika is missing, but it’s not the change she sought. Evil, she learns, is everywhere—including right in her own home. Gretel has to grow up fast if she’s to deal with corrupt police officials, a father and grandfather who are not what they seem, and an evil as old as mankind.
Your pulse will race from the first page, and the tension doesn’t let up, even at the end. This is not your usual fairy tale.
I give this one five stars.
For Aura Mishan, thanks to her superior reflexes and speed with a gun, killing is all too easy. All she wants, though, is peace and quiet, and to be left alone to run her shop. When a new machine is invented that draws power from the sun, she is drawn into a life or death struggle over its control. Her mission is complicated by the reappearance in her life of the Maker of All Things, who also happens to be her father, the presence of Janns, a Regulator for whom she has unsisterly feelings, and, Cobb, another gunslinger with abilities equal to hers, who has been hired to steal the machine.
Within the Soul by Craig Allen is a fantasy story, continuing the adventures of Aura the gunslinger, with a decidedly modern touch. Fast action, with scenes of conflict not for the squeamish, and non-human characters that are all too human. Parts will make you squirm, and others will make you laugh. A good read.
I give this book four stars.
Hope is a young woman with a secret; she had the ability to heal others, and helps her father, a doctor, with critical patients. She is unaware that there are those who know of her secret, including two warring gods who compete with each other for her love, and a fallen god who wants her for less-than honorable purposes. Forced into a dream-like state, she lives her life as Mikomi, princess of an empire and the Healer of the world. As Mikomi, she joins forces with a rebel group against her evil father, but falls prey to a ‘friend’ who has her own deadly secret. Finally, when the veil between life and death is weakest, Hope/Mikomi must face her fate.
The Healer (Box Set, Volumes 1 – 3) by C. J. Anaya is a three-volume set of books that follows Hope/Mikomi through her battles, physical and metaphorical, as she fights evil and finds love. I previously read book one in this set, and was impressed with the author’s plotting and facility with the prose. She’s created a strong character who, surprisingly, holds up extremely well through three books, and a fantasy/science fiction world that, while unbelievable, is acceptable.
Her treatment of Asian culture, and the melding of ancient lore with popular modern Western culture is very well done.
This is a good starter set for young adult sci-fi/fantasy fans.
I give this set four stars.
Kady and her aunt have, it seems, always lived a nomadic life. They are fleeing some unknown, dark force, which her aunt will never name, because ‘words have power.’ When Kady is awakened one night by some force destroying their home, her aunt uses magic power to spirit her away to safety, while she battles the dark mage, Zyam. Alone, and seeking to rescue her aunt from the dark mage’s clutches, Kady learns from the dwarf mage, Pylum, that she, too, has magic powers, but they have yet to fully awaken.
Prophecy of Light – Trapped by R. J. Crayton is the opening salvo in a three-part series that introduces Kady as her powers begin to manifest themselves. This story is short, but powerful, and does a masterful job of setting out the characters, their histories, and the obstacles they must overcome in order to prevail. The author has built a credible world, and peopled it with characters the reader will have no trouble relating to—either to cheer on, or to jeer at.
I give this book four stars.
Enchant by Demelza Carlton is a retelling of the story ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and it’s definitely not for children.
When the wicked king, Thorn, forces the enchantress, Zuleika, to cast a terrible spell, and then imprisons her in his castle, she flees to wander the world and provide magical help to those in need. In her wanderings she comes upon an island, whose ruler, Prince Vardan, has been cursed to be seen as a beast. Repulsed at first, Zuleika soon finds herself warming to the man who, under the beastly exterior, is really a kind person. She’s determined to undo the curse upon him, but even her power is taxed to the limits—especially when she learns that it was Thorn’s curse that turned his brother, Vardan, into a beast.
This story follows the general theme of the original ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ in that the beautiful woman finds herself drawn to the Beast because of his kindness which enables her to see past his horrific exterior appearance. The machinations and action from that point on, though, are completely different, and makes for entertaining reading. Carlton is a competent story-teller, whose work is worthy of note.
I give her four stars for this one.
The hunter, Oborren, and his not-so-merry band of eccentric allies are enroute to Helltowne, on a mission of revenge. Not only must they face the town’s hellish (pun intended) supernatural threats, but they must contend with the philosophy of its red dwarf masters and their leader, Commissar General Noel. The philosophy of Equalitarianism is a threat to the human race and all the other beings, but an even bigger threat is their inability to get along with each other.
Red Noon at Helltowne by Dan Oberchuk is a book that defies genre classification. It has elements of fantasy and magic, science run amok, blood-curdling and blood-letting action, and as much humor as you can stomach. As you follow this band of misfits on their quest, it’s hard to know who to root for. Sure, Noel is a bully who is trying to install a Soviet-style rule over all, and destroy the human race in the process, but our ‘heroes’ have many stains on their escutcheons as well. Nevertheless, you’ll find yourself rooting for them—after all, genocide’s a bummer.
This was an entertaining bit of escapist reading that had me chuckling as often as cringing.
I give this rib-tickler five stars.
Mired in a 9 to 5 job, short, and a bit too curvy, Isabel’s only outlet involves visiting a local drinking establishment looking for a late-night hook-up. One night, she hits the trifecta, hooking up with two gorgeous men (one after the other). The next morning, though, she wakes up feeling strange, and looking even stranger—she has turned into a gorgeous woman, one that no man can resist.
Isabel learns that her gorgeous hunks of the previous evening were Oz, and angel, and Gavin, a vampire, and that her encounter has transformed her into a succubus, an immortal being who can control any man’s mind and desires. Then, she discovers that she’s caught in the middle of a war between angels and vampires over who will have ultimate control of hybrids like her.
Eternal Desires of a Succubus by Lucy Lyons is a bit of an erotic romance story laced with the supernatural. It gets off to an achingly slow start, plods along a bit, and then takes off like a NASCAR driver heading for the checkered flag.
Competently written, and the characters, after a blasé start, become mildly interesting. I didn’t particularly care for the cliff hanger ending, and the interesting action started too late and ended too soon for my taste.
I received a free copy of this book.
This one I give three stars.
When Alice visited Wonderland, or so the story goes, it was a magical and wonderful place—well, there was the Queen who insisted, ‘off with their heads,’ but over all, it was a nice story for kids. But, when Katherine ‘Kat’ Nottington found herself back in her hometown looking for a job, any job, and she chased a marauding rabbit into a cave and found herself in a strange place called ‘Underground,’ she discovered that Alice was wrong—there was nothing wonderful about Wonderland.
Chasing Rabbits by Erin Bedford isn’t exactly a parody of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ It’s more a sequel with a radically different take on the old classic; and, it’s definitely not for kids. Kat has to deal with strange creatures, like a brown troll and a talking rabbit addicted to her tasty carrots, a queen with a murderous bent, and a sexy Cheshire Cat who gives off seductive vibes. What she wants to do, or so she thinks, is go home, except, home for Kat is not exactly a welcoming place either.
Funny, scary, and thoughtful, with a touch of romance, this story gives a whole new perspective on Wonderland, including a startling revelation about Alice. It turns out that she’s not the innocent little moppet we thought she was.
When you start reading this book, make sure you have nothing else on your schedule, because you won’t be able to put it down.
I give this outstanding story five stars.
When Cassie Mason turned sixteen the strangest thing happened; she developed magical powers. At a loss as to how to deal with it, her parents summoned her Aunt Jenni, a paranormal investigator, to help teach her how to control her new powers. In the meantime, people in her hometown begin to make magical transformations—the town is going magically crazy—and, it’s up to Cassie to set things right.
The Magic of Cassie Mason and the Oracle Witch by Keith Coppuck and Kelly Proudfoot follows Cassie as she learns to take control of her magic, while at the same time fighting off a magic invasion of her home. This is an interesting story, but it’s somewhat clumsily told—I couldn’t tell if I was reading a variant of UK English with which I was unfamiliar, or just some grammatical gaffes—and, the narrative is a bit choppy. The biggest sin, though, is that the book just sort of . . . ends. Cassie’s brother is missing, accidentally sent off with Loki, who was invading the human realm, and we have no idea what might happen next. The epilogue describes a young man, not identified, walking through a space containing interesting artifacts. Is that Cassie’s brother? Who knows? I hesitate to call the ending a cliff hanger, because the image I have is a reader hanging from a ledge by his or her fingertips, and that, believe me, is not a pleasant thing to contemplate.
There are some interesting passages in this story, and the overall idea is laudable—sort of your magical coming-of-age story, complete with humor and action. It needs work though to make the story flow more smoothly, and an ending that has at least some of the loose threads accounted for.
I received a free copy of this book.
I can only give it three stars.