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Review: “Fireworks at Midnight” by Tara Quan [Tour Stop]

“Fireworks at Midnight” (A Witch’s Night Out) by Tara Quan

Available from: Amazon, AllRomance, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo or Decadent Publishing
Released on: 12 December 2014

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: Recent college graduate and part-time cat familiar Dulcina “Sweets” Gato is having the worst New Year’s Eve in living memory. End of year expenses trigger serious cash flow problems, and her microwave just went up in smoke. To make matters worse, her best friend’s overprotective big brother is back in town, and his return threatens to put a huge crimper on her nocturnal activities. The only thing she can look forward to is Madame Eve’s 1-Night Stand service. After all, she’s sick and tired of being a 21-year-old virgin.

Enforcement Agent Mikal Knight is a warlock on a mission. Having finally scored a transfer to Washington, D.C., he’s now at liberty to pursue the object of his desires—his baby sister’s best friend. But first, he has a vigilante to track down and a mysterious matchmaking service to investigate. Sent on an undercover operation, he resigns himself to a pointless 1-Night Stand on New Year’s Eve. As luck would have it, his mystery date’s identity might let him kill several birds with one stone.

Review: What could possibly be worse than a morning without coffee? A man as dark as it coming to your rescue who you have avoided for years. Dulcina, or Sweets, as everyone but Mikal Knight called her. was a struggling artist, familiar to a shut in earth mage, and in desperate need of a fun night out. Mikal, or Midnight, is an agent for a magical group called Enforcement, and half-brother to the earth mage Sweets shared a house, and a business with.

The thing I love most about this story is the fact that Sweets has visions of the future, a gift of precognition, very strong visions if something is about to happen, and has spent her adult life altering situations where she would end up connecting with Mikal. I love the lesson she learns that sometimes, in books, authors have a sick sense of humor, and play fate like a harp string. Without giving too much away let me say that the wait was worth it.

Tara Quan writes a fun and steamy romance story, she details every situation well, until you feel like you could be watching a movie, not reading a book. This couple is fun, and addictive. I wish this story was longer, because I could spend days lost in the playfulness between them, and the eroticism her writing offers.

I give this story five fireballs my only criticism would be the length of the story, which to me is not anything more than like standing at the end of a concert and cheering encore.

5fireballs[1]

Review: “Frosty Relations” by Tara Quan [Tour Stop]

“Frosty Relations” (A Witch’s Night Out) by Tara Quan

Available from: Amazon, AllRomance, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo or Decadent Publishing
Released on: 21 November 2014

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: Attorney Jack Frost never understood why holidays did weird things to people. His secretary went on vacation, his best friend ditched their annual Aspen trip, and the law firm’s stubborn human resources assistant refuses his clerical support request. What’s a warlock to do on Christmas Eve but go on a 1-Night Stand? But when an oddly familiar empath shows up as his date, this ice mage has a hard time denying the magic of the winter solstice.

Faced with an anemic employment market and financial woes, college graduate and former witch Mina Mao lands an HR assistant job at Frost and Sons. Having spent her day saving Christmas from Frost Junior’s Grinch-like behavior, she accepts the gift of Madame Eve’s service and heads over to the Castillo Capital. When her date turns out to be her childhood crush and workplace nemesis, she braces herself for the sexiest icy ride of her life.

Review: Jack Frost might be an ice mage, but he makes this story blazingly hot. Let me say, I read fast, so when I got a book that was as short as this I was concerned because I would not have time to become invested in the characters, that concern was completely unfounded.

From the opening paragraph you are drawn into the daily life of Mina Mao then receive just enough of her and Jack’s background to tell you what you need to know to make the characters come to life, and entwine you in their lives. The sex scenes (one full on and one quick dream snippet) are hot (and with this main man, deliciously cold at times) well written and the descriptive talent of the author make them come to life. Could I have done with a whole weekend worth of reading about these characters and the terrifically written erotic scenes? Oh yes, but this wickedly perfect short was a satisfying way to curl up in bed on a weeknight.

I like the unique take on magic in a modern world, and how different Tara Quan handles the interaction of magic between the characters. I learned a little mandarin in the book as well, though probably nothing I would wish to use in polite company.

I gave this book five fireballs. It has heat, cold, rich, poor, danger and seduction, such a great depth of description that I was in awe of Tara Quan’s ability to paint a picture with words. If I could add a fireball for the Joss Whedon references I would.

Review: “Damascena” by Holly Lynn Payne

“Damascena” by Holly Lynn Payne

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 9 September 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Holly Lynn Payne’s spellbinding tale brings the unparalleled poet, Mevlana Rumi, to life, and transports readers to the enchanting world of 13th century Persia. Simply but elegantly told, the story unravels the mystery surrounding a legendary orphaned girl, who discovers her gift of turning roses into oil. Named after the flowering rosa damascena, the girl reluctantly assumes the role of a living saint for the miracles she performs-longing for the only one that matters: finding her mother. Deeply wounded by the separation since birth, Damascena undergoes a riveting transformation when she meets Rumi and finally discovers the secret of the rose. Imbued with rich historical research and inspired by the devastating disappearance of Rumi’s most lauded spiritual companion, Shams of Tabriz, Holly Payne has courageously opened herself to receive Rumi’s teachings and offer a timeless love story.

Review: I found this book so beautifully written, and hitting so many powerful notes in me, that I don’t know I even feel qualified to write a review of it.

For almost the entirety of Damascena, I found a magical, lyrical quality to the book both in the story being told and the prose in which it was being told. There were points in the middle that it dragged very slightly, but not so much to ever pull me from it. I read it in two nights, and only because I had need of sleep the first.

This is a story about faith, but it’s not a religious story. Even if it refers to the divine in ways familiar with religion and does speak of the Sufi way, it never has the feel of religion because it feels universal to all people who seek to understand the concept of divinity and spirituality. It is faith in more than just a “higher power,” however, but about in people too.

Damascena (as the titular character) goes into the small collection of teenage female characters I don’t want to kill. She was as beautifully written as her story, realistic yet transcending reality into spirituality. The power of her, ultimately, is what she creates in others, but cannot see for herself. And that the spiritual elements in this story–where the spirit was found–were roses and dancing really just got to the heart of me.

It was a story about roses, and love, and dancing, and faith, and beauty, and poetry, and devotion… It was not a story about the human condition, but a story about how we as humans can transcend ourselves for love: love of all that we are, good and bad; love of family; love of romantic partners; love of the spirit and divinity; love of mankind; love of our enemy.

5 Fireballs, but only because I can’t give it any more than that. I liked it so much I considered creating a sixth rating just for it. This book was nearly a pyroblast.

5 Fireballs

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Review: “Atlanta Burns” by Chuck Wendig

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Atlanta Burns: Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Released on: January 27, 2015

I purchased this book for my own reading. 

Thank you Bella for giving me a place I can share my reviews.

Description:

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence.

Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.

Review:

Atlanta Burns, the book, is hard to like, but easy to love, the same can be said for the character who shares the title. There is much pain in Atlanta and just enough darkness that she can come across as standoffish, and difficult, but her past makes the rough edges understandable and easy to empathize with. The book itself deals with many hurtful subjects causing you to wonder how they can all fit, but they do. Mr. Wendig weaves a tale that draws you through loops and turns, many of which make you want to close your eyes because they are distasteful, until finally it all pulls into a masterful endgame where you find resolution and maybe a little bit of peace.

Atlanta Burns, the young woman, has been through too much for someone her age, but instead of creating a pitiful character she is written into a strong woman, unafraid to do things that others cannot, or will not. Being willing to deal with the rougher sides of life in her town means she has to face the fact she might make herself and those around her targets.

There are not many subjects that cause me to turn away from a book, but the dogfighting in this dealt with one of them. Instead of pushing me away, the manner in which the character and the writer handled it kept me saying “You can get through this.” And I did, and I am glad I did.

Tragedy seems to find this book at every turn and you come out feeling like you have been drug through the dirt with Atlanta. Instead of feeling “justified” in the choices she makes you can see the damage done by them. There is a saying that no good comes without a cost and the story written here is a perfect example of it.

As a new reader of Chuck Wendig’s work let me say that this book has made me ready to read more. His storytelling and perspective make for a well done point of view for bringing an outsider into Atlanta’s darkened hometown. I give this book five fireballs as I really enjoyed it.

 

5fireballs[1]

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Review: “The School of Night” by Colin Falconer

“The School of Night” (The William Shakespeare Detective Agency) by Colin Falconer

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 7 October 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: “My name is William Shakespeare. No, not that Shakespeare; and no jests please, I’ve heard them all. I’m the other one, the ne’er do well cousin, the loafer, known to family and friends as the dunce, the one who could not recite Cicero or Horace, who could never be as good as his clever cuz, the one who has just come to Bishopsgate from Stratford with silly dreams in his head and a longing to make something more of himself than just a glover’s handyman.”

What he finds in London is Lady Elizabeth Talbot, who is willing to pass a few shillings to this blundering brawler if he will help her find her husband. Poor William does not realize the trail will lead to the truth behind the death of Shakespeare’s great rival, Christopher Marlowe – or to a lifelong love affair with a woman far above his station.

Each book tells the story of William’s adventures as England’s first gumshoe, set against turbulent Elizabethan politics; of his romantic pursuit of the impossible Elizabeth Talbot; while charting the career of his up and coming dramatist cousin, the bard of Stratford, but just Will to his family.

Review: This book I loved. Being a Shakespeare fan, this naturally drew my attention but it following not the bard but the cousin of the same name made it fun. There was just enough history to keep it feeling real, but enough drama and adventure to keep it lively.

I completely hooked into Cousin Will, as just the type of character I love, and I thought that Elizabeth was a great mix of a woman of her age but with those bits of the Modern Women that we like to see. The romantic sub-plot was light, but I liked it.

Falconer’s style and Voice of the character was amazingly readable, and now I want to run off and read his other historical fiction. 5 Fireballs.

5 Fireballs

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Boom Baby Review’s Best of 2014!

2014 was a really busy year for me, and I tried to amp up the reviewing. Although there were some books that weren’t quite my thing, I was really lucky to get some great books. As such, I want to give a shout out to my 4.5 and 5 Fireball reviews of 2014! Each one is linked to the review, so you can check out what I thought about it. And now, in no particularly order, they are…

Fantasy

Wizard of Ends, Book Two: Dark Creature by Vanessa Finaughty & Majra by J. Simon

Monster Lit

Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney

Contemporary Poetry/Prose, Military

Starved for Bullets by Ryan Goodrich

Erotic Romance

The Brethren of the Coast by Barbara Devlin (Reviewed in 2014: My Lady, The Spy; The Most Unlikely Lady; One-Knight Stand)

Steampunk Action/Adventure

The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance by Ichabod Temperance (Reviewed in 2014: For the Love of Temperance; A Study in Temperance)

Superhero, Comedy

Scarlet Winters by J. Kwong

Contemporary Literary Fiction

The First Noble Truth by C. Lynn Murphy

Historical Fiction

Agnes Canon’s War by Deborah Lincoln

…and that was the best of 2014. Thank you to all the authors and readers who made this a great reading year. I’ve got the proverbial stack of books already to get 2015 kicked off with a bang, so watch this space for more books and more reviews and more everything!

Happy 2015!

Review: “Majra” by J. Simon

“Majra” by J. Simon

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 24 August 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Aris has managed to live a quiet life, even in a stark desert land of glorious tales and beautiful lies, crazed artists and mad hermits. So what if he has a knack for tales? A mere messenger can’t change the world. Mighty great works he’ll leave to mighty great men.

Now the soldiers of Majra have come to pacify his “savage” people. Few dare stand against them. Certainly Aris never meant to. Taking work with the invaders was a way to help his family, not gain insights into the alien ways of their singular truth.

Beset by beguiling widows and vengeful plutocrats, firebrand Sheyks and sword-tongued maidens, the choices Aris faces could save his land—or break it.

Review: I was reading this book and I had a little trouble getting into it at first, because it kind of just has this unique way about it; it just seemed kind of strange and I was like, “What am I reading?” Thinking I was perhaps not in the right mind for it–this happens a lot–I took a break, read something else, and then returned to it. Since it then took me only three nights to finish it, I figured I had the right mind this time.

You have to get used to it. It’s just kind of… Well, the word that kept coming to mind as I laughed my way through certain scenes was “ridiculous” but I’m not using that negatively. It was just kind of wild, like a permanent stream of consciousness between actions of the characters, to their interactions with each other, their sarcasm and storytelling. Once you get in the flow, though, it’s quite a ride–funny and engaging and even powerful.

As you come to the end of the book and look back over the steps you’ve taken with it, you realize that this was actually a very multi-layered tale. It’s a story about right versus wrong; what we know versus what we think; faith, but from many perspectives, including those who embrace it earnestly and those who pervert it; coming of age, and how children turn to adults before we realize it; the places of men and women; of grown children with their elder parents…

I know, right? But it’s done very subtly, so it’s not until you’re almost done that you’re like, ‘hey…’

Also? Also? And this was big reviewer-hearts from me: We had some smart, strong female characters here too, which was awesome. Our female lead (this book was written in dual first person) was a riot. “Rescuable Commodities” was fantastic. I loved her perspective, but she was very real. Not perfect. You aren’t sure you’re going to like her at first, but you really get behind her and root for her.

It had a few missteps, but it’s really sticking with me, so 5 Fireballs.

5 Fireballs

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Review: “The First Noble Truth” by C. Lynn Murphy

“The First Noble Truth” by C. Lynn Murphy

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 25 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: “Just as the wind, blowing back and forth
Controls the movement of a piece of cotton,
So shall I be controlled by joy,
And in this way accomplish everything.”
-Shantideva

Machiko Yamamoto pulls out her hair, picks at her skin, and triple checks the locks to the house behind the school where she works. When a foreigner moves into a neighboring thatched roof cottage, she quickly falls in love with the quiet woman with the mangled hand.

Krista Black does not mind the weekly visits from the local English teacher. The scarred woman seems harmless, but she always wants to talk about travel and language and why Krista has come to the remote, Japanese village. Krista avoids her questions. She has seen much of the world, and she knows what it does to fragile people. Machiko may want to know her, but she could never understand her.

Set in Kyoto, New England, Africa and Kathmandu, THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH is a story of redemption, interwoven between two protagonists, across two cultures. It peers beneath the comfort of expected storytelling to investigate the dualities of suffering and joy, religion and sex, and cruelty and kindness.

Review: I was about a quarter of the way through this book when I realized that I had no idea what was going on, or where the book was going; yet only a moment later, I knew that I didn’t care that I didn’t know. Some books feel kind of pointless and I’m disappointed. Some books feel without point, but that’s only because they meander through their prose.

This book was the latter, but it worked. It was addictively lyrical, and I just could not stop reading, even when I felt clueless.

Much of this book had an undercurrent of sorrow and it brought in many “harsh realities,” I’ll call them, but very subtly done. Through out, though, the sadness was mixed with enough streams of light that it didn’t drag you down. It just pulled you into the characters more, as you wondered about them and with them. Enough to bring hope along with it. And our two main characters were an interesting counter-balance to each other in terms of the sorrow and hope.

I’ll also note that Michiko’s troubles are of an interesting sort, in that it’s not something you expect to be chosen for a character. I know enough about the disorder from a non-fiction perspective, but it surprised me in fiction. Yet it worked, and added an intriguing layer.

This book entirely gripped me, but quietly. Like hands snatching my lapels but then smoothing down the wrinkles made. 5 Fireballs.

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Review: “Scarlet Winters” by J. Kwong

“Scarlet Winters: The Berona Chronicles” by J. Kwong

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 16 August 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Welcome to the city of Berona – a city governed by four Superheroes with great superpowers. Thanks to the Superheroes, Berona is mostly crime-free, and is touted as one of the best cities in the world. However, there are some people who aren’t so sure about Berona’s greatness…

Meet Terry Landers – a genius inventor who can create anything out of nothing. But Terry knows that she’s unpleasant and rude. which is why she’s surprised when she’s asked to become a Superhero’s sidekick. Terry is one of the few people who questions the wisdom of having the Superheroes govern Berona, and as she dives into her new role as a Superhero sidekick, she begins to realize just how right she might be.

Throw in a child kidnapping and evidence that links the crime to the Superheroes, it’s now up to Terry to save her beloved city. But will she be able to fulfill her duties as a sidekick? Or will danger find her first?

Recommended for young adults, aged 16+, Scarlet Winters is a humorous book that pokes fun at comic book superheroes.

Review: I ate this book. I mean, almost literally. I’m a very fast reader and can tear through books, but even I was surprised at how fast I got through this one. It was immensely readable, and parts were honestly laugh out loud funny. (Dammit, I almost snorted coke through my nose at one time, thanks to a badly timed drink. I think it was the “tools and idiots” part.)

This book is not for everyone, I’ll admit. You have to have a particular sense of humor, but there are lots of people out there with that sort of twisted, dark funny side and all those people–you, yes, I’m talking to you!–need to read this book.

Our main character actually has a good heart but nothing at all resembling a filter on her brain or mouth, and it’s hysterical. She says everything and anything, and just doesn’t give a damn what people think about her. The inventor thing is funny, too. And the setup of the city of Berona is equally as fascinating and amusing. Poking at comic stereotypes along the way.

I liked this book so much that I can even forgive the author for the Warehouse chapter, and for the PoV thing in the last two chapters. (‘Cause it actually worked.)

It’s clear there’s more to come, and I want it. 5 Fireballs because I cannot give it any more…

5 Fireballs

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Review: “Starved for Bullets” by Ryan Goodrich

“Starved for Bullets” by Ryan Goodrich

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 22 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Pulling readers beyond their comfort zones and into the darkest corners of modern warfare, Sgt.Goodrich, medically-retired U.S. Marine, asks us to look at unspeakable truths from the battlefield, cultural differences, religion, and the shaky hand that is American politics through unflinching eyes as reality spews from the pages. Fifty mesmerizing poems and prose recount the struggles military members endure when death stares them in the face and what happens when red lines fade into the darkness of the desert. Interwoven with inflexible truths and grotesquely beautiful imagery, this collection of scars will resonate long after the final bullet is spent.

Review: A couple of years ago, I read The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko. In that review, I discussed the conflict that comes upon a person when they hear a song or see a dance (some performance) that is so moving but not joyous, and at the end you know you should applaud but are just too emotional for such a jubilant outburst. So do you applaud or not?

Although Starved for Bullets did not connect with me on the same depth that The Scar did, it was only because the topic of the latter was nearer my heart. (The Scar dealt with a character with crippling anxiety, which I’ve dealt with, but I’ve never been a soldier, so Starved for Bullets couldn’t resonate on that level.)

Even so, this book was still powerful in what it was.

Now, poetry isn’t usually my thing. So I am not qualified to rate it on anything other than my visceral reaction to it. And that reaction found it amazingly raw. Like our author was bleeding on the pages, because we know this wasn’t someone trying to think what it would be like to live as a deployed soldier but someone that had, and that is always powerful to read. There was a lot of darkness and a lot of anger, but you could understand it.

I found “Superman Ultimatum” to have the imagery and feelings that affected me the most, while “Silent Dark” was the harshest in many ways. (To me, at least.) And I will say, only a mind with a darkly twisted sense of humor, as it were, would come up with “The Night before Death,” but I actually liked that macabre about it.

So like with The Scar, this one must be applauded. It was ragged, rough, and raw to read along with, but the ability to evoke that in the reader is worthy of praise. 5 Fireballs.

5 Fireballs

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