Book Review: Eve of the Exceptionals by Parker Sinclair

Eve of the Exceptionals
Parker Sinclair
Rawlings Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9984053-0-8
Trade Paperback

It begins in a darkened room one night when Gem is fourteen. She and her Anima, Finn, are in the process of locating and stealing a magical object when the room bursts into light and they are accosted by Prince Ryzen, also fourteen. Gem resists her initial instinct which is to shoot the prince with an arrow. He, in turn, tells her how to escape while warning her that she cannot do so successfully with the Heart of Cyan, the magical gem she is trying to steal.

Fast forward four years. Gem is now a soldier in the Northern Guard and well on her way to becoming the best in her group. She hasn’t seen Ryzen since that fateful night, but still feels the warm, strong emotions that flowed through her when their eyes met. She’s often wondered whether he felt the same way, but has no way to determine whether that’s true.

Ryzen has harbored similar emotions about Gem, but no matter how hard he’s searched, often using magical methods, no trace of her has surfaced. Meanwhile, a dire threat is looming on the horizon. Dark and evil creatures from the Shadowlands are sweeping toward the kingdom and Ryzen must determine who the other is who must align with him to fully release the power of the Heart.

When Gem is assigned to guard Ryzen as the threat escalates, it sets in motion several things. She will learn who she really is and why she so strongly doubts the probability she’s the other one able to fully power the Heart. Both she and Ryzen will encounter a host of interesting and unusual creatures, many magical. They must fight their way to a place where another royal is being held captive by the most evil of forces and work with the witches who have long considered mortals as treacherous beings to win the day.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, the overall adventure is a good tale and the magic and magical creatures are well crafted. However, there are places where modern slang like ‘freak out’ and ‘How do we test the new powers this baby has,’ are used and mess with what I call the rule of internal consistency regarding fantasy. The entire story takes place in a medieval type world. If it happened in a back and forth between such a world and our present day (urban fantasy) these wouldn’t stick out.

There are also places where things aren’t explained completely, like how and why she was in the room to steal the gem at the beginning of the story and these pulled my attention away from the story as I wondered about them. Still, it’s an enjoyable tale in an interesting world.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, July 2017.

Book Review: A Memory of Muskets by Kathleen Ernst

A Memory of Muskets
A Chloe Ellefson Mystery
Kathleen Ernst
Midnight Ink, October 2016
ISBN
Trade Paperback

I’m having a hard time thinking of this novel as a mystery. For one thing, the death that occurs early in the book may, or may not, be anything but an accident. And when murder does finally appear, no one can find a motive. This is my way of saying the mystery seems a bit weak.

What’s strong is the core of the novel and, for the most part, that has to do with Chloe’s chosen profession. She is a curator at Old World Wisconsin’s living history museum, where the docents carry out chores, dress, and inform visitors of the German immigrants who, in the 1860s came to America. Sadly enough, in those times, many of them were soon conscripted into the Union Army and lost their lives.

Chloe is planning a special weekend to spotlight the Civil War’s effect on the home front when her boss, a disagreeable ass with political aspirations, throws out these plans and insists on a mock battle between two sets of re-enactors. A big, explosive mock battle. Trouble in the making, you may be sure. Who hasn’t contended with a crappy boss, just probably not as bad as Chloe’s?

Interspersed between Chloe and her fiancé’s, Roelke McKenna, chapters, we travel with Roelke’s ancestors to America. His great-something grandmother, Rosina, and the story of poor German immigrants is integral to the novel.

Along with everything else, Chloe and Roelke are trying to move in together on his grandparents old farm, which Roelke has recently bought. Look out. It’s apt to be a money pit. And that is aside from Chloe’s problem with the original farm cabin, where she senses a sadness so terrible she can’t even enter. Uh-oh.

This book is sure to encourage a reader to learn more about the immigrant experience.  The author has included some photos of the actual artifacts mentioned in the book. Also a list of websites where readers can learn more. I suggest you start with https://oldworldwisconsin.wisconsinhistory.org

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, February 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Cover Reveal: Polarities by Carissa Andrews

************

Title: Polarities
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 2

Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

************

Synopsis

Polarities is the second novel in the Pendomus Chronicles Series.
To see where it all began, be sure to check out Carissa‘s first
novel, Pendomus: Book 1 of the Pendomus Chronicles.
 

With Runa separated from the only people who’ve had her
back, she must go on a quest alone to uncover what it really
means to be the Daughter of Five. Dropped in an unknown
location, presumably still on the planet, she only has a monolithic
book — the Caudex — as her guide, but it’s not giving up its
answers easily. Will she be able to uncover the mysteries?

In the meantime, Trae and Kani are on a mission of their own,
which may turn out to be disastrous. With Fenton dead and Runa
gone, their next course of action is to strike Videus back where he’ll
hurt most. Will their plan succeed to bring down the mysterious
man behind the Helix? Will Runa be able to find her way back to
her friends? Or is the planet doomed to destruction after all?

************

Purchase Book 1
Pendomus

Barnes & Noble // Amazon

************

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) will be released at the end of 2017.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: www.carissaandrews.com and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011fb5962824326eaa/

Book Review: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Breakdown
B. A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-12246-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

It used to be that when a book was labeled as a thriller, I knew exactly what I was about to read, a pulse-pounding story full of action and with danger chomping at the heels of the good guys at every turn but without a lot of introspection. Short chapters and a frenetic pace would keep me flipping the pages as fast as I could. Nowadays, though, the term has become so loosey-goosey that it means almost nothing and I have to wonder what I’m going to get.

The Breakdown is not a thriller but it can fairly be called suspense. Yes, there is a sense of danger but we also spend a lot of time in the protagonist’s head (amplified by the first person present tense narration) trying to figure out what’s going on, stressing out over every little thing, suffering guilt over whether she might have been able to prevent the murder and obsessing over the possibility she has started early onset dementia. That last is frightening all by itself and made me feel very uneasy for Cass but it was hard to relate it to the core mystery of the story until certain things started to become pretty obvious.

I have mixed feelings about this book because, while I found it too predictable and I really don’t like first person present tense in crime fiction, I still enjoyed it enough to keep reading. I was relatively sure early in the story what was happening but I wanted to see how Ms. Paris would get me there because she has such a command of words, a nice turn of phrase, if you will, that the simple act of reading her work is a pleasure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: A Good Place to Hide by Peter Grose

A Good Place to Hide
Peter Grose
Pegasus Books, May 2016
ISBN: 978-1-68177-124-3
Trade Paperback

The period between 1939 and 1944 in Europe was not smooth and elegant. Relative calm settled over France as the Vichy Government moved to solidify itself and accommodate German occupation in the Northern Zone. As author Peter Grose notes, the central figures were Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini and Winston Churchill. War was the order of the day and as competing armies surged across the land, residents of a small, almost unnoticed group of farm villages found themselves responsible for a large humanitarian effort.

It didn’t seem to matter that for a thousand years the Huguenots had been persecuted for their religious and social beliefs. They were prepared to hide Jewish refugees at the drop of a trigger. And because of Haute-Loire’s proximity to Switzerland, they became a conduit for protection and saving of thousands of Jewish refugees from all over Europe, hiding them and moving them on to safety in neutral Switzerland.

The book is at times mesmerizing with it’s incredible tales of seventeen-year-old Piton, a guide who made the perilous journey perhaps a hundred times, to Virginia Hall, an American woman who asserted herself into the fabric of Resistance command and directed dozens of parachute drops, movement of large amounts of cash, rescue of prisoners and destruction of key transportation links to disrupt German military operations.

The book is over-long in some details and in places needs trimming to increase its impact. But it is a strong inspiring tale of man’s humanity toward man and a detailing of some clever and scary maneuvers by those same humans. It was hard to put down and is a grand testament to the women and men of Haute-Loire villages who refused to bow to the fascist German fist, who saved almost a generation of Jews.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan and Longbow Girl by Linda Davies

Eden Summer
Liz Flanagan
David Fickling Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-12120-9
Hardcover

Words are influential, able to constructively and destructively affect both the speaker and the audience. Final words feel eerily efficacious; especially when there is absolutely no expectation that they are indeed, last words. Vicious, venomous verbalizations can compound an already catastrophic event. In and of itself, crippling in its cruel randomness; devastating and gut-wrenching when choked with guilt.

A cloud of culpability completely cloaked the sun inside of Eden just as its rays tentatively began to reach out again.  Regret remained whenever she recalled begging her bestie, Jess, to walk her to the bus stop in a dismal downpour months ago.  Of course, she did not commit the heinous hate-crime, nor could she have stopped it; but that knowledge isn’t enough to alleviate feeling at fault.

Being the best nurse-cheerleader-therapist-buddy that she could be, Eden was instrumental in Jess’s healing and found that she was also helping herself move forward and focus on the important matters.  After all, she is a normal teen girl and she did catch the eye of the admittedly adorable Liam that Jess was always talking about.

Liam and Jess, comfortable chums and coffee-shop coworkers, both love Eden with the all-encompassing, unconditional, wholly-heart-felt love of fierce friendship. The bond built from “…looking after Eden all summer.” seems strong enough to support Eden indefinitely, until she disappears.  Will their devotion, even when paired with resilient determination and dogged belief, be enough to find Eden?

“She’d gone inside herself, somewhere a long way down, and I didn’t know how to follow.”

Wonderfully woven with stunning, unique, yet complimentary, threads; Eden Summer is a familiar, but fresh fabric.  Ms. Flanagan’s finesse in tackling two terrifying topics results in a relatable, engaging read that is as enjoyable as it is significant. Fast-paced with flashbacks filling in details, the story quickly captivates and keeps hold, even after “the end”.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Longbow Girl
Linda Davies
Chicken House, March 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-85345-3
Hardcover

One of the coolest things about Longbow Girl is that while the events happen in present day, one character lives in an actual castle and another on a working farm; so it feels a bit like it is set in the past.  A pretty groovy way of lending an authentic feel to a story entrenched in history.

When an old tomb is inadvertently uncovered, Merry discovers an old book that appears to be one of the tomes from the Middle Welsh collection known as Mabinogion.  Although some folks believe whole-heartedly that the narratives are filled with truths, many others insist there are only myths.  Either way, there is no argument as to the value of the text.  Merry’s find may be the very thing to save the farm that has been the life and heart of her family for more than seven hundred years.

Of course there are challenges with having the artifact authenticated and obstacles in the way of proving it was found on her family’s land.  Weighing heavier than the legal red tape is the unshakable feeling that disturbing the grave will exact a higher price than the book could bring.  Nothing about this “solution” is sure or easy.

Fortunately, Merry is vibrant, fierce, cunning, and strong.  Often, a heroine struggles to come to terms; drum up courage to conquer that which seems insurmountable. Merry does not.  It’s not that she’s oblivious.   For her, doing the right thing is intuitive.  She is aware of the risks and possible loss, personally; but that is of small consequence when compared to the potential greater good for the masses.

Longbow Girl is a spectacular smash-up of Historical Fiction, Action and Adventure, Mystery and Suspense, with a shot of Science Fiction that features heroes, heroines and horses and touches on relatable social issues, family feuds and friendships.  And that’s just a few of the things that I dearly loved about it.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2016.