Book Review: Portraits of a Faerie Queen by Tay LaRoi

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I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. I’ve somewhat distanced myself from the fantasy genre over the years because it often felt tired and unoriginal. Thankfully, Portraits of a Faerie Queen was anything but that.

What drew me in most was how real the relationships felt between the characters. The romance develops naturally and is well paced. It was also nice to see diversity considering many books of this genre don’t feature LBGTQ protagonists. It was refreshing to say the least and the book felt much more with the times because of it.

I will admit that the plot was predictable, however it didn’t take away from the novel being a fun read.

Overall, it was an easy, enjoyable read. I look forward to the sequel!

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Interview with Author Piers Anthony

Piers Anthony is one of the world’s most popular fantasy authors, and a New York Times bestseller twenty-times over. His Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world.

Q. Who are your favorite authors?

A. If I lost my memory and had my choice of reading matter, I hope my favorite would be Piers Anthony. I try to write what I would like to read. As for other authors, I have admired many in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields, from Robert A Heinlein on down. I am also an admirer of the plays of George Bernard Shaw, and not just because he was a vegetarian.

Q. What advice do you have for other writers?

A. Publishing is changing so much now that much of what I might say would become dated about ten minutes after I wrote it. So I’ll just say read and study the genre you are in, keep writing and improving, and may the world go well with thee.

Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

A. For me the best thing is getting to exercise my imagination and being independent. I can’t be fired for someone else’s mistakes.

Q. What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

A. It used to be dealing with publishers, who were like insensitive robots interested only in money, regardless what they claimed. But the old order is passing and the new publishers I am dealing with are generally more compatible. Some of them even like good fiction. So now the hardest thing is facing the prospect of my declining ability with advancing age. I’m not capable of simply letting it go and retiring. So when I no longer write well, I hope I am the first, not the last to know it.

Q. Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

A. My web site is http://www.hipiers.com where I have a monthly column, commenting on whatever is on my mind, and background information on my titles. I have also written two autobiographical books: Bio of an Ogre and How Precious Was That While.

Q. Where can a reader purchase your book?

A. From wherever the publisher puts it.       

Q. What are you doing to market the book?

A. Precious little. I’m a writer, not a marketer.

Q. Who inspires you?

A.  The world inspires me.

Q. Have you written other books? Where can readers purchase them?

A. I have written about 175 other books. Readers can find many of them listed on Amazon. Many readers like my Xanth fantasy series, which now number 42 novels, not all in print yet.

Q. Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

 A. I needed to decide on my college major. I pondered a day and a night, and it came to me: I wanted to be a writer. It was like a light turning on and it has guided me ever since.

Q. Does your family support you in your writing career? How?

 A. My wife supported me. She went to work so I could stay home and try to be a writer. That was when I broke through with my first story sale – for $20.00. But it led to greater things, in time.

Q. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

A. Writing is my passion and my life. All else feels like dross. But I do make the meals and wash the dishes, as my wife is infirm. I also like to play cards on the computer, mainly Free Cell, which I believe is the best card game ever.

Q. What is your favorite line from a movie?

A. Great lines in movies are myriad, but it’s the quiet personal ones that get to me the most that others may not even notice. There was one whose title I don’t remember, where a man, a widower, got a girlfriend he was considering marrying. His early teen daughter lived with him. When the woman made them a meal, the man told the teen to do the dishes. The girlfriend intervened. “No, she doesn’t have to do that. I’ll do it.” Why?  “She’s your daughter and I want her to like me.” That disarming candor surely ensured that the girl would like the woman.

Q. What do you like to snack on while you write?

A. I maintain my college weight, and I exercise seriously. I don’t eat between meals. I’m pretty fit for my age, pushing 82, and mean to stay that way.

Q. When you walk into a book store, where is the first place you go?

A. The last local book store closed down.

Q. What is the funniest thing that you’ve been asked during an interview?

A. At the moment I’m not thinking of anything funny in an interview. But I was amused by a sentence in my fan mail: “Ha! Caught you reading fan mail!”

            Sometimes I do learn things from my fan mail.

            I had a suicidally depressive girl in one of my novels (Virtual Mode, if you must know) who regularly cut her wrists so that they bled. So she wore red bands on her wrists to conceal the blood. A reader wrote that I had it wrong: blood dries black, so she needed black wristlets. I suspect she spoke from experience.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Contamination (Feast of Weeds #2) by Jamie Thornton

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Sequels can be hit or miss, however Jamie Thornton nailed it with her second book in the Feast of Weeds series, Contamination.

Although the story picks up roughly where the first left off when it comes to timeline, Contamination follows a brand new set of characters in their journey to survive the outbreak that is quickly turning the population into rabid zombie-like beings.

I really enjoy how Thornton ties in the past characters to the new ones, and I appreciate that the author gives some explanations as to how the virus began and the scope of the spread.

Another aspect of the novel that I like is Corinna’s backstory. The glimpses into her past make it easier to understand her decision making throughout her stuggles. As for Dylan and her “friend” Jane, well… I didn’t like them much however I don’t suspect that the reader is supposed to.

Honestly, I preferred Contamination over the first book of the series. It’s just as action packed as Germination however since Contamination is a full-length novel instead of a novella, I feel that Thornton was able to offer so much more to her readers.

All in all, Contamination is a can’t-put-down zombie thriller that will have you reading into the wee hours of the night.

NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: A Fist Full of Evil by Rebecca Chastain

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A Fist Full of Evil is the first book in the Madison Fox, Illuminant Enforcer series by Rebecca Chastain. The story revolves around a Madison, a woman who is behind on bills and doesn’t have her life quite in order, who lands a job as an illuminant enforcer. What’s an illuminant enforcer? Madison has no idea and yet somehow she is left with the daunting task of figuring it out in order to rid evil from her region.

I’ll say this; the first half of the book really had me. It was fresh, playful and funny. On a few occasions, it even had me laughing out loud. I applaud the author on her creativity since the world she has created in an overly saturated market of YA fantasy is refreshingly unique. Madison is an interesting character with a temper and her decision making isn’t always the smartest, but I liked her better for it. Her somewhat serial man-crushing and raging hormones were also pretty entertaining. I enjoyed following Madison as she discovered who she really is and what it means to have “soul-sight”. My only complaint though is that somewhere around the middle the novel seems to fall into a slump of sorts. It was also a little long for my liking and I believe that if it had been shorter the lull I experienced wouldn’t have been so noticeable. It did keep me engaged enough to want to finish the story though and happily, by the end, I did feel like I would be interested in picking up the second book and seeing where it goes.

Overall, it’s a good start to a new series. There’s potential here and I look forward to reading more work from Chastain.

Note: I received this novel for free from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Trailer: Capering On Glass Bridges by Jessica Hernandez

The Utdrendans have spoken. Sixteen-year-old Kaia Stone is amongst the two whom they have named. If she accepts the task presented to her and succeeds, it will be made possible for the accursed Kingdom of Mar to be freed. Although the assignment itself is simple, the path to success is sure to be anything but; not all is as it seems, and forces determined to work against Kaia are gathering—for many will stop at nothing to ensure that Mar remains forever cursed.

Will Kaia choose to abandon the only life she’s ever known—perhaps indefinitely—in pursuit of the greater good…in pursuit of her purpose?

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Book Review: The Quantum Door by Jonathan Ballagh

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There’s something almost Spielbergian about Jonathan Ballagh’s sci-fi novel The Quantum Door that brings me back to the glory days of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Set in the not-too-distant future, two young brothers, Brady and Felix, get more than they bargain for when they decide to ignore a No Trespassing sign and hop a fence into the unknown. They soon find themselves thrown into a dark technological world filled with secrets and danger around every corner.

Ballagh’s writing is solid and readers are quickly transported inside his imaginary scientific alternate world. Thankfully, even the techy stuff is easily understood. I feel this important considering the novel falls under the “tween” age group so super complex storyline and scientific terms could have lost young readers (and likely me as well). Although it’s aimed at readers between the ages of 10-14, The Quantum Door is fun for fans of sci-fi of any age. The characters were intriguing and I especially enjoyed the bond that forms between the two brothers.

I’d like to highlight the cover and inside art work done by Ben J. Adams. I loved the illustrations and felt they related beautifully with the story.

The Quantum Door is an impressive debut by author Jonathan Ballagh and I would recommend to fans of adventure and sci-fi.

Note: I received this book from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: Frostfire (The Kanin Chronicles, Book #1) by Amanda Hockings

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“Remember my name. Because I’m going to be the one that kills you.”

Frostfire is the first book of The Kanin Chronicles which takes place in the same world as Hocking’s Trylle trilogy. Much like her previous work, Frostfire made for a fun and easy read. Although it is a stand-alone book and focuses on a different kingdom, I’d still recommend reading the Trylle trilogy first. By doing so, you’ll have a more in-depth understanding of the background and inner workings of the trolls.

Did I just say trolls? Yup, that’s right; no vampires here. And don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that the story revolves around trolls (I mean, it’s on the back of the book after all). That being said, these trolls look nothing like the 90s dolls we had growing up. They are smart, powerful and for the most part, pretty freakin’ hot.

Hockings sweeps you away with the snowy landscape set in an undisclosed northern area of Canada. Her characters are well developed and the main character, Bryn, isn’t the typical angsty teenager normally found in the YA genre. She is a strong and goal-driven young woman, determined to climb the rankings in her dangerous career. Because I always appreciate a kick-ass female character, Bryn had my vote of confidence from the get-go.

The romance felt a little slow but since it’s a three book series, I suspect that we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Bryn’s love-life. The story also ends on somewhat of a cliff-hanger which can sometimes be aggravating. Thankfully, all three novels are out and can be read back to back (which is likely what I will do).

Overall, Frostfire offers an adventurous story filled with just enough action and mystery to keep you wanting more. If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, I recommend picking up this book!

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Book Review: Germination – Feast of Weeds by Jamie Thornton

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I received this book as a free download from the author’s webpage and with Halloween just around the corner, this zombie thriller could not have come at a better time!

The story revolves around Mary, a homeless runaway, who quickly runs into problems when faced with an unknown viral outbreak spreading across the city. The book is enjoyably fast-paced and seldom allows its reader to come up for air before hitting them with another wave of groaning zombies. The plot is strong, while the narrative and characters hook you instantly. Moreover, I liked its perspective and how Mary fits into the story. It’s a unique spin on a genre that has grown significantly over the last few years.

Another aspect I enjoyed about Thornton’s story was that it didn’t only revolve around zombies. The author offers a pretty graphic idea of how difficult life must be for a street kid and doesn’t spare us from the harsh realities that come along with it. That being said, if you’re looking for suspense then you’ve come to the right place; zombies are here, they’re awesome and they are totally taking over.

My only complaint would be that the book felt far too short. At 92 pages (it’s a novella after all), it leaves you absolutely reeling and begging for more. Mercifully, there is more; Germination is the first of four in the Feast of Weeds series.

If you’re a fan of the YA genre and apocalyptic tales of the Walking Dead variety then read Germination – Feast of Weeds.

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Book review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

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Time travel stories tend to be a hit or miss for me however John Heldt’s The Mine manages to fall somewhere in the middle. I liked the premise of the novel and the quality of the writing was very good. My main issue is that I feel it needed more drama. Given the situation that the main character was thrown in, I was expecting a fair amount of conflict and chaos. The transition into Joel’s new life and every situation that he subsequently faced seemed to go a little too smoothly for the protagonist. Where is the terror at the realization that he’s just been sent nearly 60 years back in time? Where is the panic?

Overall, the characters were likeable enough. The standout for me was definitely Ginny, who had just the right amount of sass and candor to really bring the character to life. Personally, I believe that Heldt’s strong suit lies in his well developed description of the era. The world the author built made it easy to imagine what life was like in the early 40s.

Did I enjoy The Mine? Sure. Was it an edge of your seat page turner? Not quite. However it did have enough substance and redeeming qualities to make up for the aspects it lacked. Bonus; the twist at the end was absolutely brilliant.

Note: I received an ecopy of The Mine from the author John A. Heldt in exchange for an honest and unbiased review of the novel.

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