Book Review: Rival by Arwen Paris

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Title: Rival
Series: Fate of the Stars #2
Author: Arwen Paris
Publication Date: November 1, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

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Rival
Fate of the Stars #2
Arwen Paris
Legendary Prose, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-947334-04-5
Trade Paperback

From the author—

It’s a role she didn’t want…

One deadly week has passed since seventeen year old Allison Delaney realized she must save Earth from the parasitic race of Ma’tiok. But the task is even more complicated than Allison feared, and she’s being set up to fail. Blamed for a fatal blow to the Alliance fleet that killed dozens of soldiers, Allison must face judgment for their deaths. The High Priestess Kiobaan is Allison’s only hope. Kiobaan sees the warrior spirit in Allison, along with her potential both politically and physically and agrees to train her.

And a game she can’t afford to lose.

Meanwhile, though Allison is the human host of Eenoki, protector of life, she’s not yet ready to harness their combined energy. Their bond is unpredictable at best—volatile at worst. Time is running out for Eenoki and Allison to trust each other—all or nothing—or she’ll never gain the power she needs to defeat the Ma’tiok and save Earth. When Allison is marked for death by an unknown enemy, the High Priestess Kiobaan must step-up and fight. But in return Kiobaan extracts a pledge from Allison, one that will compromise her new status and make her a target.

Just one week after the alien invasions started, there’s little left of the California beach town that was Allison’s home and her life has literally changed dramatically. Now host to an alien, she communicates through thought with Eenoki and has become the link between races, potentially the only possible salvation for Earth.

In a tone that’s reminiscent of the cultural and racial divides we’re surrounded by these days, the distrust and hostility between humans and aliens is palpable, even when they share common goals. The humans need the “good” aliens if there’s to be any hope of defending Earth from the Ma’tiok but, as you might expect, these same humans are resistant to being led by any of the invaders.

Allison and, within her, Eenoki are meant to be the liaison between the races but they face a few difficulties. First, Allison is a 17-year-old and, second, she doesn’t look quite human anymore. Getting the humans and two races of alien warriors to accept that they all need to work together is a very tall order.

Once again, Ms. Paris has given us a story full of action as well as a thought-provoking look at the suspicions and resentment that can endanger a society past hope. Well done, Ms. Paris!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2018.

About the Author

Arwen Paris is the author of young adult fiction. Her debut YA Sci-fi Urban Fantasy novel FATE OF THE STARS released September 1, 2017. The actions packed pages of her novels are filled with characters that are forced to face fears they never expected. When she’s not writing, you can see posts of her (too many) vacations that keep her sane. Arwen lives in Washington, has a big crazy family & after the day job, she writes Fiction For the Fearless – #F3Fanatic

Author links:
Website // BookBub // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

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Book Review: When They Came by Kody Boye

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Title: When They Came
Series: A When They Came Novel, Book 1
Author: Kody Boye
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks // Amazon

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When They Came
A When They Came Novel, Book 1
Kody Boye
CreateSpace, June 2017
ISBN 978-1545174210
Trade Paperback

From the author—

I was never afraid of monsters—at least, not until They came: the visitors from outer space.

Now They’re in our skies, on our streets, always watching, forever waiting.

At seventeen, I’m just about to graduate from the Juvenile Education System and declare my career of choice. The Midnight Guard—who protect our community from the vicious things that lie outside our walls—calls to me. 

It’s hard, dangerous work, with grueling hours that offer little sleep, but it’s the one thing I know will help make a difference in our ever-changing world.

I’m a pushover for science fiction of the alien invasion variety and I have equal fondness for the truly serious kind and high camp. When They Came falls somewhere in the middle and has both attractive elements as well as some that made me lift an eyebrow.

Ana Mia appealed to me quite a lot, as did her sister and mother, and I empathized with Ana’s desire to do something honorable with her life while being pretty unsure of herself. That lack of confidence rang true for a teenager but especially for one whose mere existence is a daily test. Jason and Asha also were believable characters and a real positive of the story was how much diversity there is.

There were several things that didn’t quite mesh for me. For one thing, I can’t imagine a military leader taking raw recruits—and I do mean raw—out on a mission that’s extremely dangerous and, in fact, ends badly. Also, that particular event occurred much too soon, before I had a chance to really get to know either the characters or the dire circumstances of their lives and, as a result, I was sympathetic towards Ana but didn’t care as much as I could have. Dialogue also left me underwhelmed at times.

On the whole, though, this story of humans versus aliens is based on an interesting concept and the author creates believable tension throughout with plenty of action and fear-inducing atmosphere. While I’m not entirely satisfied with this first book in the trilogy, that doesn’t prevent me from wanting to go on to the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2018.

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An Excerpt from When They Came

We didn’t find a house by the time the sun set. With no other way to seek shelter, we angled ourselves beneath the trunk of a massive pine and covered up with a pair of blankets as we watched the sun fall.

“You okay?” Asha asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, scooting closer to her. “Are you?”

“I’m scared out of my mind, but yeah—I think I’ll be okay.”

“We could always keep walking, you know? See if we find anything else?”

“I’m too tired to walk anymore.”

I couldn’t blame her. Though I couldn’t tell time by the way the sun fell, I knew, based solely on the fact that we’d risen at dawn, we’d been walking for ten, if not eleven hours. My body ached, my feet throbbed, my bones screamed bloody murder. It felt like someone had tried to drive a nail into the base of my heel, such was the pain I endured.

Rather than think on it, I opened the pack at my feet and pulled out a pair of bottled waters.

“Thanks,” Asha said as I passed hers over.

“No problem,” I said, taking a sip of my water as she popped the cap on her own. “So… how are we going to do this?”

“You mean the watch?” Asha asked. She capped her water, settling it between her knees and taking hold of the gun across her lap. “I’ll go first, then you can go until you start feeling tired. We’ll keep alternating until the sun comes up.”

“You really think that’ll work?” I asked. She nodded. “But what if we both fall asleep?”

“Then just go as long as you can,” Asha offered. “All I know is that I’m ready to pass out, but I’ll force myself to stay awake if I have to.”

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for the two of us to fall asleep at the same time. I mean, we were hours away from civilization. Surely the Harvesters had no reason to land out in the middle of nowhere, much less a copse of trees. Regardless, I knew I couldn’t argue with Asha. As I settled back against the tree and closed my eyes, she sighed and adjusted her position against the trunk.

“This isn’t going to be an easy night,” she said.

No. It wasn’t.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, Kody Boye began his writing career with the publication of his story “A Prom Queen’s Revenge” at the age of fourteen. Published nearly three-dozen times before going independent at eighteen, Boye has authored numerous works—including the short story collection Amorous Things, the novella The Diary of Dakota Hammell, the zombie novel Sunrise and the epic fantasy series The Brotherhood Saga.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

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A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 3

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

 

Deep Cover Jack
The Hunt for Reacher Series #7
Diane Capri
AugustBooks, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-940768-70-0
Trade Paperback

If you’ve never tried any of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, you need to read at least one before you tackle this series because this is all about the “other side” of the equation, the law enforcement folks who think they need to apprehend Reacher because he’s such a horrible person, a desperately wanted man. Well…our FBI Special Agents, Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar have learned a few things by the time we get to this seventh book and they’ve picked up a little help along the way from other interested parties but they haven’t yet caught the man. Will they this time when they head for Houston? Hmm…if you know Jack, you know their chances are on the slim side but will they at least get close?

This is an intriguing, entertaining companion to the Jack Reacher series and, yes, Lee Child himself speaks highly of it. Oh, and before you think these must be the most incompetent agents ever if they’ve been chasing him through seven books, think again. Try it, you’ll like it 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Stalking Jack the Ripper
Stalking Jack the Ripper Series #1
Kerri Maniscalco
jimmy patterson, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-316-27349-7
Hardcover

As you might surmise from the name of the publisher, this is “presented” by the megawatt author James Patterson himself and, if I do say so, this is a good ‘un. Audrey Rose Wadsworth loves to spend time in her uncle’s lab learning medical stuff but gets drawn into a serious criminal investigation, that of the gory deaths of some women of ill repute. With the assistance of Thomas Cresswell, apprentice to her uncle, Audrey Rose really wants to get justice for these poor women as well as bring a killer to justice but the stakes get even higher when the long arm of the law reaches out to someone close to her.

I like the Victorian era, young adult mysteries and the Jack the Ripper case (plus I love the cover) so trying this was a no brainer for me. Mounting clues and hair-raising theories lead to a horrifying discovery but, throughout it all, Audrey Rose maintains her intelligent, thoughtful focus even if she can’t be completely objective. The next case for this young lady and the charming if annoying Thomas, Hunting Prince Dracula, involves another string of killings while Audrey Rose studies forensic medicine in Romania and I can hardly wait to dive in.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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March of Crime
A Murder-By-Month Mystery #11
Jess Lourey
Midnight Ink, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5263-1
Trade Paperback

This cozy series has been fun and frothy since the beginning and I continue to like them a lot, especially because they never seem to get stale, if you know what I mean. They have plenty of humor along with tension and Mira Ross might as well be called the Jessica Fletcher of Battle Lake, Minnesota, since people seem to drop like flies in her vicinity. No wonder this mild-mannered librarian has aspirations of being a private eye!

One thing that intrigues me about cozies is the myriad ways authors find to present a dead body without offending sensibilities and I think Ms. Lourey has outdone herself and everyone else this time. Lifesize dolls are kind of creepy anyway (to me at least) but when one turns out to be an actual corpse sitting proudly right next to Mira, well I ask you, how could she NOT want to snoop? Mira and her assorted crew of cronies and nemeses are soon hot on one trail or another and I chortled all the way to the end.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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The Enemy Within
Scott Burn
Scott Burn, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-9978429-1-3
Trade Paperback

There have been people throughout history who have had visions of the future, some believable, many more not so much, but I had to have a lot of sympathy for the 17-year-old Max who has been seeing hellfire and damnation at the apparent end of the world. In his situation, I’m not sure I wouldn’t at least consider his way of ending these horrific sights that just won’t stop but one thing that would prevent me from  doing such a drastic thing is my own suspicion that I’d bungle it. And he does, landing himself in an institution.

Three other boys have found each other but know that they’re missing one and can’t do what they’re supposed to do without him. Who are they? Suffice it to say, there’s a new unclaimed satellite in orbit and things are about to get very unsettling for us and for our survival on this planet.

This was such a fun story with aliens and other cool science fiction-y stuff. Technically speaking, this is Young Adult but I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good apocalyptic story full of adventure and mayhem, not to mention some pretty appealing characters. I hope we’ll see more of Max before too long.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
Matthew Sullivan
Scribner, June 2017
ISBN 978-1501116841
Hardcover
Narrated by Madeleine Maby
Simon & Schuster Audio, June 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

As a former bookstore owner, I naturally had to read this and, while I enjoyed it, I also had some reservations. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is a strange sort of place, attracting some rather odd people called the BookFrogs, some of whom seem to spend all their waking hours just hanging out, rarely buying anything. And, since Lydia Smith was Joey Molina’s favorite bookseller, you have to wonder why he would commit suicide in the bookstore, leaving his supposed favorite to find him.

But so he does and he leaves all his worldly goods to Lydia leading her to puzzle over certain things that pique her curiosity, not only because she thought Joey was a nice young man but also because she seems to have an odd connection to this mystery, a connection that takes her back to a most unpleasant murder-tainted past.

The ebook of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore grabbed my attention despite my initial reluctance and I decided I wanted to try listening to the tale. Narrator Madeleine Maby has a pleasing tone with identifiable vocalizations and I do think the audio edition helped evoke emotions a bit more easily than the written version. Bottomline, while the rampant dysfunction in these characters’ lives made me somewhat unsettled, the mystery itself was engaging.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

Book Review: Fate of the Stars by Arwen Paris

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Title: Fate of the Stars
Author: Arwen Paris
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

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Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBook // Amazon

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Fate of the Stars
Arwen Paris
Legendary Prose, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-947334-01-4
Trade Paperback

From the author—

When the fate of the world rests upon you…

Allison Delaney wants to spend her senior year healing from the loss of her father, to leave the shadows of his death and her junior year break-down behind. A Labor Day beach party seems like a good place to start…but there’s more danger lurking than anyone could imagine. Death is coming to Earth if the pods of infectious creatures aren’t stopped. But only one human can help…

To live or die is no longer a choice.

Eenoki is a protector of life but must have a sentient host to fight the invasion. A teenage girl would not be the best choice, but out of desperation Eenoki invades Allison’s mind and body, granting her unnatural abilities and strengths – and helping her escape certain death when the first wave of pods land.

As destruction rains down on Earth’s population, Allison realizes to save everyone, she must make the ultimate choice: Reject her human side and bond with Eenoki to become the Earth’s Priestess – or be killed along with the rest of humanity.

One of my favorite oldtime science fiction movies is “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” (the 1956 version) and that’s what this book’s jacket copy sounded like so, well, I had to read it. Lo and behold, Ms. Paris has pulled off a really fun and credible take on a gloriously cheesy premise.

Every campy science fiction tale has to have a hero and Allison fits the bill quite well…or maybe I should say Allison/Eenoki. In the movie, being taken over by an alien was a very bad thing but, this time, being taken over turns out to be a good thing (if the taking over is being done by the right kind of alien) because Eenoki wants to save humanity, not destroy it. Thing is, Allison doesn’t know at first that she’s been invaded and occupied but there are some pretty strange things happening to her. It’s one thing to fight the aliens and quite another to cope with problems at home.

Besides a nifty plot, I really think Allison is a very nice girl who loves her mom and is a reluctant though well-meaning hero, just the right kind. Eenoki…well, I just can’t be spoilery so you’ll have to read the book 😉

But wait! There’s a second bunch of aliens??

Fate of the Stars is unlikely to ever be called The Great American Novel but Ms. Paris has made a place for herself in the world of adventurous, fun science fiction. I’m glad to have met Allison and hope to see what will happen next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

About the Author

Arwen Paris is the author of young adult fiction. Her debut YA Sci-fi Urban Fantasy novel FATE OF THE STARS released September 1, 2017. The actions packed pages of her novels are filled with characters that are forced to face fears they never expected. When she’s not writing, you can see posts of her (too many) vacations that keep her sane. Arwen lives in Washington, has a big crazy family & after the day job, she writes Fiction For the Fearless – #F3Fanatic

Author links:

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Goodreads

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Book Review: Aftermath by Tom Lewis

AftermathAftermath
After the Fall #1
Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis, March 2015
Ebook

From the author—

Between the time the warning had sounded on the TV, till when 16-year-old Paige O’Connor awakened sometime later, civilization had been crushed.

The attacks had come by “them” – those things in the ships in the sky that had appeared suddenly, and without warning.

And as Paige would soon discover, the attacks had only been the beginning.

Aftermath is the first book in the new After the Fall dystopian action series, which follows a young girl’s struggle for survival in the post-apocalyptic wake of an alien invasion.

Sometimes a book resonates with you for reasons that shouldn’t quite work, you know? In this case, I was particularly pulled in by two things, action that rarely slows down enough to take a breath and Paige herself, along with a little girl named Trish.

Mr. Lewis has crammed about three books’ worth of story into this novella so the pacing necessarily is rapidfire. That’s detrimental in some ways—we hardly have time to think about what just happened because the next scene is upon us and character development is a bit hampered—but it’s also what kept me flying through as fast as I could swipe the screen and I really liked that. There’s no bogging down in a sea of details but I still saw what Paige and the others saw and heard those ominous sounds.

As for Paige, this is an interesting girl. By turns rebellious and caring, she’s got just the personality needed to defy the aliens and try to survive if not get the better of them. Paige is roiling with fear and heartbreak and determination but perhaps the most intriguing thing about her is her willingness (at times) to let others into her heart. She’s exactly the kind of human being who has the best chance to find a way out of terrible adversity. And Trish, ahh, Trish—now here’s a girl, really a child, who has answers way beyond her age and I truly adored her.

All in all, Mr. Lewis has crafted a tale well worth reading, especially if you want something quick and exciting mixed with a good deal of pathos. He doesn’t leave Aftermath with a true cliffhanger but there’s definitely more to come and I’m ready for it PDQ 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2015.

Book Reviews: No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff, Pickle in the Middle Murder by Jesse Chandler, and Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard

No Time to DieNo Time to Die
Kira Peikoff
Pinnacle Books, August 2014
ISBN 978-0786034895
Mass Market Paperback

Why don’t people live forever? That’s a question people have been seeking an answer to since time began. If possible, don’t we have a responsibility to find a way to prevent old age just as we found a way to prevent polio? And smallpox. And the plague. What about cancer research? Look how many resources are dedicated to that.

But there is also a faction that says the planet is already overpopulated. That we—meaning humanity—can neither afford nor provide for so many people. They say nature needs to take its course. People need to live the life span allotted to them.

Up until now, that’s the reality and the unanswered question, until a genetic mutation in one small girl changes everything we know.

It isn’t only that Zoe Kincaid stopped physical growth at age fourteen. Mentally she’s remained the same child/woman she was then. Her physician wants to know why, as does Zoe, who is odd-man out in her college class. She just doesn’t seem to have much in common with other twenty-year-olds. Zoe’s best friend is her grandfather, who is in the twilight of his life.

But now Zoe has the opportunity to discover why she’s different from everyone else, and just maybe, something within her can help keep her grandfather from dying of old age.

There’s a whole underground area of research that delves into the problem of aging. Dr. Natalie Roy is using the facilities at the university where she teaches to look for the secret of longevity, right up until she gets fired for doing unsanctioned work.

Further underground is a secret society that provides the money and facilities for Natalie to continue her work. The mysterious Galileo works covertly to bring her into the fold.

And then there’s Les Mahler, head of a task force for the Justice Department’s Bioethics Committee. He’s got his own agenda, which includes wiping out anyone who steps outside his moral compass—if that’s what you want to call it.

These people are on a collision course in this thriller by Kira Peikoff. I think the science comes too easily, although for the purposes of the story everything seems plausible. The characters are engaging for the most part, with a villain to hate side-by-side with several to root for. Zoe’s relationship with her grandfather is especially endearing.

The action rolls along. Twists and turns abound. You’ll be kept guessing right up until the final moments on how it’s all going to resolve and you won’t be disappointed. If a science and medical plot with non-stop action is in your wheelhouse, this book is for you.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

 

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Pickle in the Middle MurderPickle in the Middle Murder
A Shay O’Hanlon Caper #3
Jessie Chandler
Midnight Ink, July 2013
ISBN 978-0-7387-2598-7
Trade Paperback

Café owner Shay O’Hanlon has never been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, until her girlfriend JT Bordeaux persuaded her to give it a try. The busty wenches, the jousting knights, and the peddlers of strange medieval crafts amaze Shay. When JT goes in search of a pickle vendor, Shay sets out for the Porta-potties. Before she has a chance to sigh with relief, she catches sight of the man slumped on the toilet, the back of his head blown away. There’s a large green pickle protruding from his lifeless mouth.

The cops are called, and while Shay is interviewed, she wonders where JT went to. JT’s a cop, and knows how these things work. But to Shay’s horror, JT is arrested for the murder. Who is the victim, and why would the cops suspect JT of the crime? Shay, with the help of her friends, sets out to prove her girlfriend’s innocence.

Third in a series, this appealing comic cozy ends on a great cliffhanger—you’ll have to wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2014.

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ConquestConquest
The Chronicles of the Invaders, Book 1
John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-5712-4
Hardcover
(In UK: Headline, 8/24/14 pb, 496 pp., 978-1-472-20960-3, 7.99 BPS)

John Connolly is best known as the author of the Charlie Parker mysteries and has written a trilogy for younger readers and even a modern fairy tale. Now he has turned his attention to a new series called the Chronicles of the Invaders, sort of sci-fi aimed at teenagers, teaming up with his life partner, Jennifer Ridyard. It is the story of the invasion of the earth by a highly developed alien species, Illyri, and of resistance by humans to the occupation.

The main characters are two teen-age Illyri girls, Syl and Ani, daughters of the Governor and commanding general of the Illyra in the British Isles and Europe, headquartered in Edinburgh, and two human boys, Paul and Steven, members of the Resistance, and their interactions. Each, in turn, saves the other pair from either capture or death. And thereby hangs a tale.

This is the first of the Chronicles books, introducing the characters for what apparently will be a fairly long-term project.  Written with all sorts of scientific mumbo jumbo, the plot contrasts all kinds of human and other types of emotions.  As otherworldly as the subject may seem, when it comes down to basic values there does not seem to be much difference in either personalities or beliefs between the cultures.  Only circumstances.  While the book is mainly intended for a teenage audience, an adult also can easily enjoy the novel, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2014.

Book Reviews: Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout, The Ashes That Remain by A.M. Griffin and The Whispers by Lisa Unger

Dog Gone, Back SoonDog Gone, Back Soon
Nick Trout
Hyperion, April 2014
ISBN 978-1-401-31089-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Dr. Cyrus Mills returned home after inheriting his estranged father’s veterinary practice, The Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, the last thing he wanted was to stay in Eden Falls, Vermont, a moment longer than absolutely necessary. However, the previously reclusive veterinarian pathologist quickly found that he actually enjoyed treating animals and getting to know the eccentric residents of the tiny provincial town-especially an alluring waitress named Amy.

So Cyrus is now determined to make Bedside Manor thrive. Not an easy goal, given that Healthy Paws, the national veterinary chain across town, will stop at nothing to crush its mom-and-pop competitor. And the rival vet practice isn’t Cyrus’s only competition; a handsome stranger shows up out of nowhere who clearly has a mysterious past with Amy. To top it off, Cyrus finds himself both the guardian of a very unique orphaned dog and smack in the middle of serious small town drama.

 

I’m a pushover for veterinarian stories, fiction or nonfiction, no matter where they take place, and Dog Gone, Back Soon filled the bill quite nicely indeed. It’s funny; I know I’m going to get essentially the same tale every time but that never feels same old same old like it does in other books. I include country (human) doctor and small town minister stories in the same bag—they’re all what I call comfort fiction and nonfiction and, basically, they can do very little wrong in my eyes. When it comes to veterinarian authors, James Herriot is the gold standard for me, and Nick Trout has followed in his footsteps in a lovely way.

The cynical Cyrus is a guy I could relate to, feeling guilt over the way he and his father spent recent years but intent on bringing his dad’s practice back from the brink of failure without destroying its appeal to local animal lovers. I found myself rooting him on in his efforts, especially as he begins to realize how much it means to him and that he really does love this small town and its four-legged and two-legged citizens.

A bit of romance is not out of order and there’s a gentle humor about the troubled path of love between him and Amy. Still, it’s Cyrus’s battles against the “evil” conglomerate and his growing attachment to a Labradoodle service dog named Stash that truly drew me in.

I hold out my hand in front of Stash’s mouth. “Stash, lick.” Nothing. “Stash, lick.” Not a flicker in his eyes. Either this is not in hisrepertoire or, more likely, I’m using the wrong language.

“Stash, pucker up.”

No dice.

“Stash, kiss.”

The world goes black as sixty pounds of dog leaps onto my chest and begins coating every exposed surface of my skin with a shellac of saliva from a serpentine tongue.

“Stash, sit, Stash, sit.”

It’s as if the feeding frenzy never happened, Stash calm and distant, me dripping drool and panting.

Stash probably should be on the cover but the English Mastiff, Tallulah, is his first patient so that’s OK. My other favorite stars of the show were an obese cat named Marmalade Succabone , a cow named Ermintrude and a taxidermied dog named Crispin. I was also more than a bit fond of a pair of teens named Charlie Brown and Gabe Stiles and office manager Doris.

Dog Gone, Back Soon is the sequel to The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs. Since I now have to claim Dr. Trout as one of my favorite authors, I’m heading over to get Patron Saint just as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The Ashes That RemainThe Ashes That Remain
Cimmerian Moon #2
A.M. Griffin
Three Twenty-One, August 2014
Ebook
From the author—

We’re at war against the aliens that have invaded Earth, fighting the only way we can—by surviving. I have more than most people do, but although I know it’s stupid to hold on, I can’t let go of what might have been—can’t help dreaming of something more. No matter how I tell myself it would be easier to do what everyone else wants me to, there’s a part of me that can’t give in.
Making the best of the situation is one thing. Settling, even to make other people happy, is something else.

Then we hear the alien mother ships have disappeared. Of course we have to go and investigate. What we find lands us in a huge mess that we somehow have to clean up and, as our little enclave is rocked to the core with even more changes, I’m learning a hard lesson.

The more things change—for the better or the worse—there’s no fighting human nature, and building on the ashes that remain will take everything we have. And maybe more.

 

I mentioned in my earlier review of Against the Darkness that worldbuilding was somewhat lacking but that didn’t impede my enjoyment of the novel. The same lack continues in this second book but it mostly revolves around not knowing what the aliens are really here for; we know much more this time about how our small band of humans is surviving, actually thriving in some ways.

Time hasn’t passed much since we left Sinta and her companions at the end of Against the Darkness but there has been a distinct change in the teens, a maturing that only dire circumstances can bring about. Sinta and Mia are still thick as thieves and Ian, Wade, Jason and MJ are as likeable as I remembered them but their travails have turned them into thoughtful and self-reliant young adults who have melded into a community with little trouble. in fact, were it not for the aliens, Iife would be fairly decent. However, the lizards are still around and, when disaster strikes, some of the crew sets out on a rescue mission fraught with peril from rats and the cold as well as the lizards. Most puzzling is the recent news that the alien population may be thinning out.

Romance plays a much larger role in this second book but an amusing passage about the Sinta-Wade-Jason love triangle with 10-year-old Brook and teens Lexi, Sinta and Mia in the cafeteria helps make said triangle a little more palatable. Mia makes fun of the drama, as I have done in my own thoughts, and Brook gazes off with her dreamy musings about an “older man” named MJ.

As with the first book, it’s unfortunate that this book is riddled with construction errors, primarily typos and incorrect word choices, but I’m still completely engaged and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, In Danger’s Embrace, coming this winter.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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The WhispersThe Whispers
A Whispers Story #1
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, October 2014
ISBN 978-1-4767-9778-6
Ebook

From the publisher—

It’s a day like any other for Eloise Montgomery—until tragedy strikes. While she is recovering from a horrible accident that takes the lives of her husband and oldest daughter, and as she works to help her younger daughter move forward, Eloise experiences her first psychic vision. Though she struggles to understand her newfound gifts, Eloise finds a way use them to save lost women and girls—for whom her help may be the only way out…

 

Lisa Unger is one of my go-to authors when I’m in the mood for a thriller, something intense and nail-biting, a book that will keep me up at night. She does it so very, very well  😉 but The Whispers really doesn’t fit  the mold. The first of three short stories that comprise a novella, this is more of the psychological suspense sort and I was not the least bit disappointed.

After the tragic deaths of her husband and elder daughter, Eloise is nearly crushed emotionally and, yet, she’s strong enough to stay focused on her younger daughter, Amanda, who may not be suffering physically but is just as wracked with survivor’s guilt. When Eloise begins to have psychic visions, she’s naturally confused and disturbed but she’s driven to pass the information about these missing girls and women on to the authorities. Why is she hearing whispers and “seeing” these people in extreme distress? We don’t really know—perhaps more answers will be forthcoming in the next two short stories—but the true essence here is how the four lived a life of love and normalcy and then what’s left after the accident. It’s a compelling tale and I’m looking forward to the second story, The Burning Girl, due out in late November.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.