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Review: “Warrior Lore” by Ian Cumpstey

“Warrior Lore” by Ian Cumptsey

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 2 May 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Thor resorts to cross-dressing in a bid to recover his stolen hammer. The hero Widrick Waylandsson comes face to face with a troll in the forest. A king’s daughter is abducted from a convent in rural Sweden. A young fighter has to show off his prowess in skiing and shooting for King Harald Hardrada. And more…

The medieval Scandinavian ballads in this collection tell stories of champions and fighters, vikings, and trolls, drawing on Norse mythology and heroic legend. There are riddles, and there are appearances from Thor, Loki, Sigurd, and other figures from the myths of the Edda and from history. Narrative ballads were part of an oral folk music tradition in Scandinavia, and were first written down around 1600, although the ballads themselves are older. These new English verse translations are mainly based on Swedish tradition.

All the ballads included are:
Widrick Waylandsson’s Fight with Long-Ben Reyser; Twelve Strong Fighters; Hilla-Lill; Sir Hjalmar; The Hammer Hunt; The Stablemates; Sven Swan-White; The Cloister Raid; Heming and the Mountain Troll; Heming and King Harald.

Review: I accepted this story for review because I liked the subject matter, at least in terms of geography, but after reading it, I’m not sure I feel like the most qualified person to review this type of thing. I don’t read many old folk tales and related translations, or much poetry of any sort.

Further, I’m not reviewing the author’s work as much since the true focus is on things written long ago by many others.

Still…the translations read well and clearly, and I appreciated how the author took from multiple sources to try to build the most coherent and complete image for each work. They read with rhythm and rhyme, which I imagine is difficult for translations.

One thing, though, bugged me a little. It’s probably common in this type of academic endeavor, but reading it from a more “lay person” PoV, the introductions to each poem/ballad were repetitive. I read them for the pronunciation and historical notes mixed in, but when the entire story was explained before I read it, I felt like… What’s the point in reading it now? Maybe if it had come after, for those who needed clarification. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure this was just a me thing.

Over all, though, it was an interesting short book to read, particularly if the poetic history of this region is of interest to you. So 3.5 Fireballs.

3.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Bad for Me” by Codi Gary [Tour Stop]

“Bad for Me” by Codi Gary

Available from: Avon Romance, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Kobo
To Be Released on: 6 April 2015
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: Callie Jacobsen isn’t about to open her heart to just anyone. Not so very long ago, trusting someone changed her life forever—and not in a fun way. Now she’s better off focusing on her career, her friends, and her dog. So when former Marine Everett Silverton takes an interest in her, Callie’s more than a little wary. No matter how charming he is, men are a bad idea. In fact, she’s got the scars to prove it. But Everett isn’t convinced Callie should shut everyone out—especially not him. He may be a hero to the people of Rock Canyon, but he’s got his own demons, and he bets they’re not that different from Callie’s. Still, he knows it’s going to take more than chemistry to get her to let her guard down. Everett will do whatever it takes to show her she’s safe with him. All she has to do is take a chance, take a step…and take his hand.

Review: Who lives a life without scars? Not Everett Silverton, the male lead in this story is well written, daring, heroic, understanding and hot. And not Callie Jacobsen, the female lead is tragic and torn, a sweet heart with the inability to accept others into her life due to her past. Their romance is not easy, not is it gentle, as much as Everett tried to make it so. It felt each chapter was him offering all he was and her throwing it back at him through reactions and fear, and if there was ever a man to root for in a romance it was him.

Callie is a DJ with a crush on a male caller, Everett (or Rhett) is infatuated by the woman he hears every morning. Slowly they talk through his calls to her show and make a connection, then one morning he ups the ante and offers to meet her. Callie freezes and then fate (or author’s device) kicks in and suddenly they are bumping into one another at every turn, sometimes literally. Their lives are already so enmeshed that it is almost a surprise they hadn’t met. She was DJ’ing his brother’s wedding, she is an AA sponsor for his father, her friend ran the bookstore he spent so much time in, a small town in which lives usually mix had left these two never meeting until that day he asked her out.

It takes time for him to admit to her that he was her morning caller, and when he does she reacts badly. Her ability to trust had been ripped so thoroughly from her that all he did was being judged and weighed on a scale that he could not begin to see or imagine. From the beginning he was fighting a losing battle as her past was too unsettled to allow for the future to begin. It was clear she could not love or trust as she deserved to be able to until she allowed all the healing processes to work their way through her life. Hiding and dealing with the past as best as you can is not the same as healing.

I struggled with this book because some pieces didn’t fit, minor things really, but enough that I was questioning their place. Callie is an AA sponsor, but then admits she never took the full process of the steps to heart and healed herself through them as they are meant to be, this was one of my main struggles outside of struggling to like Callie. To me addiction recovery like that is an almost sacred trust and being someone’s sponsor when you never gave your all to the program yourself seems hypocritical. Everett hit every key in me that makes me enjoy a good male lead. Callie, on the other hand, had me banging my head on the wall chapter after chapter, making me want to stand up and defend Everett to her over and over and make her get the help she needed to be able to move forward with her life, and their life together. Also, I felt something interesting that could have been used to greater purpose was the original communication in the story, the couple had their first connection through the radio and that line of their relationship just stopped once they met in person. I loved that between them and wished Rhett had kept calling each morning, showing her he still cared about that woman he first began to fall for.

I give this book 3.5 Fireballs because of the details above and because I really struggled to finish the book as I could not bring myself to like Callie. I felt for her, but being empathetic and actually enjoying a character are two different things. Scars can be on the inside or outside, and these characters have both types. Through the book the details of their lives unfold and you see both characters and all their flaws, or the flaws they perceive in themselves. The romance is interesting, the sex scenes are well written, if too few. Codi Gary wove a story of people that both deserve a forever kind of love, and all the struggles that deserving that kind of love brings.

cgary_banner

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Review: “The Dragon’s Prize” by Sophie Park

“The Dragon’s Prize” by Sophie Park

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 7 January 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: The prince has been kidnapped! Carried off in broad daylight by a dragon with no hope of being saved except an exorbitant ransom. Only one royal guard is brave enough to attempt a rescue: Sandra.

Known for being the best warrior in the guard, Sandra’s prowess was also her downfall. Disgraced and moments away from an unfair execution, Sandra seizes this last chance at redemption. Her journey will take her across a forbidding wilderness where she’ll face off against deadly conspiracies and hungry trolls before ever getting a chance to challenge the dragon. With the kingdom’s ruin, and her own life, hanging in the balance how can she possibly triumph against such odds?

Review: I’ve been Miss Review Girl over here, jumping not just on one soapbox but a whole stack of them, about how so many books–especially epic fantasy–have Pointless Female Syndrome, with women characters thrown in to say HEY WE HAS A GIRL. And then proceed to make her an idiot, or just completely pointless, or with the entire purpose of sacrificing everything she has and is for the male hero.

Honestly? I would rather a book with only male characters.

When the author of The Dragon’s Prize approached me for a review, I already had a sizeable To Be Read pile, but a lead character in an epic fantasy that’s a female warrior? Then I saw other themes in the sequel that drew my eye, though I won’t say what since I haven’t read it yet, but I knew I had to try it.

I’m so glad that I did.

First off, the writer drops you right into the story, writes action very well, and is funny. The story and book moved along at a great pace, and I was giggling through much of it. (The writer and character have my sense of humor.)

This is what I liked even better: our main character is a female warrior, member of the royal guard and everyone hates her. But not because she’s a woman, because she’s a commoner. And when they turn on her (which happens early so I feel okay noting it), they beat her up but sexual assault doesn’t happen or is even an idea. (Too many authors use this for shock value, I think, without working with it realistically or really thinking it through.)

Even if I didn’t like the rest of the book, this would have thrilled me. Not only a strong female lead but actual gender equality in the story, because it wasn’t A Thing. She was just another warrior. But I did like the rest of the book, a lot: our hero, a kickass woman. Our sidekick? Also a pretty kickass woman. And the one they have to go save? The prince!

Seriously. This was great. 5 Fireballs of Awesomeness and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

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Review: “Slice of Life” by Ellie Ann & Others

“Slice of Life” by Ellie Ann & Others

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 12 January 2015
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: “This was no longer her world against the queen. It was the queen’s world against her.”

The Queen wants to destroy the life force of earth and has destroyed the last being that can stop her. Or so she thinks . . .

The last powerful mage in the world, Princess Aura, is the sole witness to the nefarious plot. The good news is she knows how to stop it. The bad news? She can’t do it alone.

Aura must summon someone she hoped never to see again. Saint George, her lover who left five years ago for another woman. And another. And another.

Can they work together long enough to defeat the queen and save the world?

Told collectively by a troupe of digital artists, Slice of Life employs every medium available: prose, pictures, poetry, illustration, audio scenes, and music, to provide an immersive and exciting reading experience.

Review: I was first drawn to this book for the intriguing “multi-media” concept, as I had not read a story comprised of narrative, illustrations, with a “saga” and music and audio scenes that you could listen along with. So for all that, it was fun. (Although the narrators didn’t quite click with me.)

The story itself was interesting too, taking a whole bunch of fairy tales and tossing them on their ear, while still being a standard fairy tale in many ways.

Unfortunately, this story lacked something for me to really be drawn in. Maybe it really did try to do too much and in too small a span to really feel it all. Some parts were very rushed and so you couldn’t quite hook into the story, and the characters didn’t have as much development since they were so busy rushing through the plot.

Still, it was fun and different and interesting. 3.5 Fireballs.

Review: “The Blood Detail” by Arvin Loudermilk

“The Blood Detail” by Arvin Loudermilk

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 20 January 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Vigil No. 1, a novella.

“The city of Los Angeles is infested with vampires. I’ll bet you had no idea. I sure as hell didn’t. My name is Grace Kimble and I was on patrol the first time I ran into one of these murderous bastards. The perp in question had just drunk a girl dry, and was looking to do the same to me. Totally outmatched, I took the only option I had left. I put up my dukes.”

Review: I can’t say that I disliked this story, but I can’t say that I really liked it either. It was a quick read, and moved along at a very active pace. For the story it was telling, or the piece of the story, that worked for it. It was well-written and I did like the overall idea.

Grace was a jerk, but she was written that way and the character is aware of it, so that works and she has her endearing points. Some personal development aspects felt a little forced, however.

Ultimately, there was just some factor missing for me to say that I liked it. I think this is just a me thing and another fan of paranormal suspense would get a lot out of the story. For me, though, it’s 3 Fireballs.

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Review: “In a Latitude of Temperance” by Ichabod Temperance

“In a Latitude of Temperance” (The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance #5) by Ichabod Temperance

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 14 August 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: The adventure prone Ichabod Temperance and his capable cohort Persephone Plumtartt are again hurtled into baffling mystery and hair raising intrigue. A dangerous mission exposes an unspeakable danger to the safety of the entire world. Assisting our brave protagonists is an amazing cast of extraordinary and charming individuals. Thrilling action in this humourous ride to once again save our imperiled planet from certain destruction carries Ichabod and Co. to uncharted waters of surprise and terror.

Review: Oh, Ichy… Ichy, Ichabod, Ichy…

This wasn’t really my favorite book of the series, I’m afraid. While it was still a fun and lunatic romp through the steampunk realm and full of inside jokes, as well as a lot of alliteration and crazy excitement, there was one big problem for me.

There wasn’t enough Ichabod.

I love the namesake character of the series. Ichabod Temperance is a fun character, adorable and endearing, and what made the first books so much fun. And while he was part of the adventure–he was there–I would estimate…80% maybe of the chapter narrators were everyone but Ichabod and Persephone. And even in those, it felt like we didn’t see as much of him. We saw more of Persephone through the eyes of others.

I want my Ichabod back! My unsophisticated, ‘bama boy jetting around England and elsewhere making funny inventions and swooning over Ms. Plumtartt. While all the rest is fun and funny, it’s just not a real Ichabod adventure without, you know, more Ichabod.

Otherwise, the accents of the exposition make the book kind of hard to read in parts, but more chapters from the perspectives of Ichabod and Persephone would fix that. I don’t have any complaints beyond that, and since I still like this series better than most, I still give it a 4 Fireballs. I do hope to see more Ichabod in the next book, though!

4 Fireballs

Review: “The Only City Left” by Andy Goldman

“The Only City Left” by Andy Goldman

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 17 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Eighteen-year-old Allin Arcady only wants one thing: to reach the Roof of the World and see the Sun for the first time in his life. The problem is, he’s lost in the depths of the ruined planet-city called Earth, fleeing the horrors of his past.

When his past catches up to him, Allin is thrust into a science fantasy adventure in which he meets a race of genetically-modified cats, tangles with vengeful werewolves, and parlays with cyborgs. Along the way, Allin is forced to decide: will he spend his whole life running or take a stand against the forces that want to finish off the Earth once and for all?

Review: This book was a lot of fun, really. Thanks to a bout of insomnia, I was able to read it in one night. It had a great active reading flow to it, starting quite actively at the beginning and rolling through the narrative with one event after another. There are some points where these events feel a bit rushed, bouncing too fast from one to another, but never so much to pull you out of the story.

There were some paranormal and fantasy tropes that aren’t uncommon, but felt new in how our author presented them. Namely: the apocalyptic setting, werewolves, and talking cats.

At the end, I read how this book was originally a serial and you can kind of see that as you go, but it works. Our narrator was engaging. You enjoy watching his transformation. He is flawed and might drive you a little crazy at times, but it makes the character a three-dimensional human and never so much that you don’t care what happens to him.

Since it says “Book One” right on the cover, you know there will be more, and there are some threads left not wrapped up so they can return for these future installments. I’m curious what will come next. It missed some element to really give me that rave factor, but it came pretty damn close: 4.5 Fireballs.

4.5 Fireballs

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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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