fantasy

Review of ‘Infernal Curse’

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Half-goddess Alexandra Shaw is only days away from attaining her full goddess status, but things are not looking good. Demonic and vampire incidents are on the rise, and her nemesis is still after her—only, now, it’s her magic he wants. Can she and her sidekick, the fae Kagan Griffith prevail?

 

Read Infernal Curse by Antara Mann and find out. Book two of the Half-Goddess Chronicles picks up where book one left off, and keeps the magic flowing. Exciting from beginning to end. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Review of “Grimoires, Spas, & Chocolate Straws’

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After exposing the perfidy to the king, Imogen Banks, her boyfriend, the former Prince Hank, and their friends have been banished to Badlands Island, a place that is infected with monsters that the king also banished there. Out on a monster patrol with the local defenders, Imogen falls in a raging river and is swept downstream, where she’s saved by a member of her brother Horace’s Badlands Army. She implores her savior to take her to her brother, who, despite his enigmatic and sometimes violent nature, she still wants to find. He shows her the Badlands Army encampment, but reneges on taking her to see Horace.

Later, when friends suggest a spa vacation, Imogen is all to ready for the diversion. But, as often happens with our heroine, when they arrive at the spa, a dead body appears, and Imogen, Hank, and the crew set about solving the murder.

Grimoires, Spas & Chocolate Straws by Erin Johnson is book 8 in the Spells & Caramels series, and not so surprisingly, given the fantastic job the author has done with this improbably plot, it does not disappoint. You’ll be delighted as Imogen, her flame—yes, literally a fire—Iggy, Hank, and a whole host of believably unbelievable characters, including a vampire in love with a sorceress, frolic, fumble, and finesse their way from the frying pan to the fire to the baker’s shelf.

Kudos to Johnson for keeping the interest going for eight books. Looking forward to number 9. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Mythicals’

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When Jack March, an out-of-work, alcoholic journalist attends a diplomatic function, he stumbles into Deborah Bright, who has had an accident that threatens to expose her for what she really is, a fairy wearing a body suit to make her look human. Jack just happens to see her as he removes the suit, exposing her wings before she flies away. He’s not sure he’s not suffering a drink-induced hallucination, but he responds by shouting out what he’s seen to the assembled crowd.

 

This drunken incident plunges Jack into a world he could never in his wildest moments have imagined. He learns that there are literally thousands of mythical creatures living among them, disguised as humans, prisoners from other worlds, sent to the planet to atone for their crimes. With the threat of exposure, the Mythicals, as they call themselves, set out to neutralize him. He’s given a choice, become an Ally and work with them, or be exiled to another world where others like him who wish not to be allies are kept.

 

Things get even harrier when Jack learns of a plan by one group of Mythicals to eliminate most of the population of the planet because they are viewed as a ‘terminal’ species. To add to the peril, another group, knows as the Pilgrims, are planning to take over the planet and make it their home.

 

Mythicals by Dennis Meredith is a fascinating blend of fantasy and science fiction that will grab your attention and hold it until the exciting conclusion. In addition to the science fiction elements, the author skillfully explains the existence of many mythical creatures, including leprechauns, pixies, ogres, and vampires. A story with humor, mystery, action, and danger, it’s a great winter read; the perfect book to settle down with in front of a blazing fire.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘A Knight to Remember’

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Lucy Merriweather thinks she’s met the man of her dreams. Simon Grey is an English lord, and he owns an old castle, so despite the doubts beginning to creep into her mind, Lucy allows herself to be talked into a trip to England. From their arrival, though, the doubts begin to grow stronger, and she finally decides that marrying him is a bad idea, and she tells him so. That’s when the wheels come off her rather predictable life. Pretending to accept her rejection, Simon gets her drunk and talks her into a ‘fake’ wedding, just for old times sake. The ‘fake’ wedding turns out to be real, and Lucy learns, to her dismay, that ‘until death do us part,’ has a literal meaning, when Simon announces that he plans to kill her to lift the curse from his castle so he can get rid of it and enjoy his wealth. As they struggle, Lucy finds herself falling, and she wakes up surrounded by armed knights and under the bloody body of a dead man. The leader of the knights, a rough, tarnished knight, William Brandon, takes her under his protection, and from there, her problems multiply like rabbits. She has to deal with being 700 years in the past, being thought a witch because of her alien dress, speech, and manners, a traitor within William’s household, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Simon, and the unfortunate fact that she finds herself falling for the roughshod William

A Knight to Remember by Cynthia Luhrs is a time-travel romance with generous dashes of medieval violence and stink, but also with a more than generous helping of humor as Lucy and the past come to grips with each other.

An enjoyable read. While it has a five-star theme, there are a few glitches (mostly typos) that cause me to give it four stars.

Review of ‘Precious Bones’

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Cassandra is a best-selling novelist who is having trouble starting her next book, when she sees a TV news report about the skeletal remains of a young woman and a baby that have been found in an old Tudor mansion. She feels—knows—that she knows the victims, despite the fact that they died over 500 years earlier. To the dismay of her boyfriend, she buys the house and, after getting rebuffed by the new head of her publishing company, starts to write a story about the bones. Her writing leads her to the Thorne family, who lived in England in the 1500s, and the more she writes, the more she realizes that she has an unbelievable connection to them.

Precious Bones by Irina Shapiro is part fantasy, part historical fiction. The author does an amazing job of bringing the distant past alive as she describes the abuses in the name of religion of the era, and traces a family’s roots from past to present. She puts the reader fully in the picture, and an initially gruesome picture it is. This one, I guarantee you, you will not be able to put down once you start reading.

Review of ‘The Collapsing Kingdom’

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Raised on stories of his grandfather and great-grandfather’s heroism, Brandon never thought that one day he’d be called upon to be brave and fearless. But, one day, the kingdom starts turning gray, and certain spots are disappearing. Brandon’s in trouble at his school for questioning the teacher’s lectures, and when he plays hooky to find proof that he’s right, he’s chased by the school security guard.

The Collapsing Kingdom by Benjamin Ellefson is book three in the Land Without Color series, and it continues to grand tradition of its predecessors. Really neat illustrations support a fascinating story that has subtle lessons on the importance of self-confidence and a good diet. Great reading for young and old alike.

My kudos to the author for a great series.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘The Great Sugar War’

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Young Otto is lost at sea. When he comes ashore, he finds himself in the middle of a great conflict, in a strange land where everything is gray. The two sides, the Kingdom of Color and the Kingdom of Shapes, each accuse the other of starting the war, but Brandon finds that a third party, aided by legions of sugar soldiers, is manipulating events. He must defeat the sugar soldiers, outsmart the war inspectors, and stay out of the gnome jail.

The Great Sugar War by Brian Ellefson is book two in the Land Without Color series. Great illustrations and a compelling story that, along with the action, has subtle lessons on the importance of a proper diet. The author knows how to keep a reader interested in what’s happening and anxious for what’s to come.

I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘Death Calls’

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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.

Review of ‘Full Moon, Dunes & Macaroons’

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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.

Review of ‘Uninvited Quests’

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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.

Review of ‘You Dear Sweet Man’

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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.

Review of ‘Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips’

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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.

Review of ‘Soul of Stone’

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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.

Review of ‘Joshua and the Magical Forest’

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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.

Review of ‘Mermaid Fins, Winds & Rolling Pins’

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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.

Review of ‘Mated by the Alpha Dragon’

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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.

Review of ‘Oddjobs’

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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.

Review of ‘Sister Witchcraft’

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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.

Review of ‘Gretel: Book One’

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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.

Review of ‘Within the Soul’

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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.