Twixt by Diane J Reed is the first in her Enchanted Outlaws series. It's also the first novel rife with faeries I’ve read, which I was not only able tTwixt by Diane J Reed is the first in her Enchanted Outlaws series. It's also the first novel rife with faeries I’ve read, which I was not only able to get through, but read eagerly without stopping. That was due to Reed’s strong characters and the refreshing jump from old Ireland to a modern Idaho setting, specifically a fabled Ophir Creek mountain area, once a site for gold panning.
Rose and her new age-y friend Amy, who babbles about so-called transmigration therapy and psychic repair spruce up Rose’s father’s miners’ outpost. Calling it The Rainbow’s End, they turn it into a warm sanctuary for hardscrabble speculators. Reed sets up vivid relationships fraught with tension: between Rose and her cold, all-business sister Laurel, between Rose and bad-boy Vincent, who has just rolled into town and set up The Magpie Saloon, a tavern across the street from The Rainbow’s End.
Rose is broke and weary. Fiercely protective of Crystal, her little daughter from a disastrous relationship, Rose worries Crystal is irrevocably damaged from a near-drowning. Crystal is mute, and seems trapped in her own distant world, where she spins and rocks. While Rose has set out exercises and learning charts for Crystal, she balks at her sister’s dogged attempt to send Crystal away to a special school. Will Crystal ever get better? If so, how? And what exactly is she suffering from anyway?
The other aspect that really deepens this story is that Reed is dealing with elements of rebirth and reincarnation. On a more philosophical level, that we all embody strong elements of those who came before us—both the upsides and downsides, the talents and so-called curses. She also introduces the possibility of a “twixt” world between this and the world of dreams where one can spin a practical, healing magic. Whatever your views, these are intriguing concepts, which Reed weaves throughout quite deftly.
I won’t post spoilers so I hesitate to say much more, except there’s also great romantic suspense. Vincent, the new owner of the Magpie Saloon is dashing yet sketchy in a way Rose can’t put her finger on. And Chance, another handsome, yet eccentric stranger has a very different pull on her. The question is who should she trust her heart with?
Twixt is highly recommended for those who like unusual mashups of genres (paranormal romance, myth, fairytale, dark fantasy) in their helping of speculative fiction. ...more
From the saga of her uncontrollable giggle fit over her boyfriend's car accident, to a cringeworthy description of her stodgy relatives who have troubFrom the saga of her uncontrollable giggle fit over her boyfriend's car accident, to a cringeworthy description of her stodgy relatives who have trouble wriggling into their girdles, Aron Lee Bowe has wicked fun revisiting her past. She successfully layers her painful childhood, teen and college disasters with a bubbly champagne glaze of hilarity. As Chekhov made clear, the comic-tragic works amazingly well in describing the horrors and joys of life.
Her drawings rock, too! They're the perfect counterpoint to her razor-sharp observations. Highly recommended for those folks who love to laugh, and who appreciate super-fun artwork....more
What an intense read! I have not read many zombie tales, but this one was very cool. A terrified young mom protects her baby at all costs, as hungry zWhat an intense read! I have not read many zombie tales, but this one was very cool. A terrified young mom protects her baby at all costs, as hungry zombies lurk outside her farmhouse. Her father had taught her to shoot and aim well, but is a simple rifle really enough to stop the horde? This short story is quite well-written. Recommended for those who like quick dark reads with unexpected twists!...more
Happily, Hunted Heart by Alison DeLuca is a novel I can truly gush about. It’s a very adult twist on the classic Snow White. Having just written a twiHappily, Hunted Heart by Alison DeLuca is a novel I can truly gush about. It’s a very adult twist on the classic Snow White. Having just written a twist on A Picture of Dorian Gray with my YA horror, Dorianna, I know how tricky it can be. The writer needs to echo the original tale enough to craft a genuine homage, yet in their new version, they should let it free-float organically out of the predecessor’s ghost to form an innovative story uniquely suited to the era and zeitgeist. DeLuca pulled it off!
Tali is a poor yet beautiful and brave huntress who knows the forest in and out, and whose only family is an old man who rescued her from abuse many years prior. She is called to the palace to meet the new Queen Leila, who has taken the much beloved Queen Freja’s place after her unexpected early death. Supposedly, Queen Leila wants to meet this impressive huntress because Tali is rumored to have killed a monstrous Drauger, an undead in animal form.
Fancy digs and stuffy parties make Tali uneasy. When she sneaks away to the library to escape the snooty crowd, she runs into Prince Kas, a handsome man who loves books. This is one of the first cool twists—he’s a prince who’s a real bibliophile.
The rub: Queen Freja has lured Kas into her bed and drugged him, but Kas is not so receptive. In fact, he’s horrified once he snaps out of his drugged state to discover what’s happened. He is much more admiring of Tali, who can tell alluring stories as well as go on dangerous hunts. Meanwhile, Queen Freja has developed an obsessive crush on Kas, and when she realizes Tali and Kas have warmed up up to one another she orders Tali to complete a horrifying task: hunt Kas down, cut out his heart and bring it back to her as a trophy.
I won’t reveal any spoilers. I will only say that this novel kept me turning the pages, and reading way, way into the night. DeLuca is an incredible wordsmith! Her prose is spectacularly beautiful. The action was breathtaking and the surprises just kept on coming. Oh, and the romance was sizzling. Highly recommended to anyone who likes fresh twists on classics, dark fantasy, unusual romances, or just a flipping great novel! ...more
I appreciate a tale that makes me laugh and Loose Corset accomplished that to the max! What could be more entertaining than a bunch of horny geeks whoI appreciate a tale that makes me laugh and Loose Corset accomplished that to the max! What could be more entertaining than a bunch of horny geeks who all knew each other from an online gaming community finally getting to meet one another--in full-out Comicon type costumes!? Ms. Rains turned the stale formulaic romantic trope on its head and succeeded in making awkward, intellectual nerds super-sexy. Love, love, loved it, from the moment Morgan hurries to escape the con floor to loosen her suffocating corset in the ladies room, to the fumbling first kisses in the dark con hallway, to Dean's surprisingly masterful moves.
The rub? Morgan is insecure. Does Dean love her fictional online character more than her real, live one? Should she continue to role-play to keep him hooked? The sex is hot, the chase is fun, and her friendship with her roomie, Emily - even the angst over sharing the hotel room while Morgan is trying to have alone time with Dean is realistic. We've all been there at one time in our fumbling youth.
Even Ms. Rains' chapter heads are fun. They consist of Geek Girl Problems, each numbered the way a brainy girl would, of course, be compelled to do. I so look forward to the next in the series. ...more
I've been getting more into dark fantasy and was quite curious about the particulars of a necromancer's world. In reading Necromancer, I feel as if I'I've been getting more into dark fantasy and was quite curious about the particulars of a necromancer's world. In reading Necromancer, I feel as if I've taken a college course in dark beings and all things undead without feeling schooled. Rather I was purely entertained and on the edge of my seat.
The city of Malkandrah was expertly portrayed and painted in rich, earthy colors. I found myself as compelled by the setting as I was by the characters, though I became very fond of Maldren as I read on. His mother had been a powerful necromancer, who he'd had some misunderstandings with that were never resolved, since she passed on. And Maldren was plagued with an inexperienced apprentice that he never asked for. Nevermind that Ayla was young, beautiful and brave. Maldren had his heart set on an older woman, Phixia, who was out of his league and out of reach. His pain of not being able to get any respect as a necromancer was visceral, since the superstitious townsfolk all too easily blamed death and destruction on the necromancers and their guild.
The town was besieged by terrifying, supernatural fires. The big question? Would Maldren be up to the task of figuring out who or what was causing the fires, and more importantly, why? You'll have to read to find out.
Ing is a masterful writer, who really understands wordlbuilding and character development. Oh, and there's a compelling romance blooming, plus tons of really intense action. I highly recommend Necromancer....more
I really enjoyed J.L. Flynn’s Short Game novella, which is part of a longer series (The Long Game and The Waiting Game). First of all, it was a refresI really enjoyed J.L. Flynn’s Short Game novella, which is part of a longer series (The Long Game and The Waiting Game). First of all, it was a refreshing departure from the typical romance fare. It was set in Louisiana and the main character was from a group of Irish gypsies, called Travelers. They made their living conning folks, doing anything from completing a roofing job with many slippery shortcuts, to long games, involving cheats that required intricate planning and years of infiltration to make the steal.
The main character, Jimmy starts to fall for a girl named Tracy, who works at the local hardware store. He considers this an impossible relationship from the start because she’s what the Traveler clan calls a Buffer, a village person, who the clan is never supposed to interact with in any deep way.
It’s a perfect setup for a forbidden romance, and to add to the tension, Jimmy is also quite worried about what’s happened to his older brother, Shay, who was sent away for a long con, or long game.
My only quibble with this fascinating, fast-paced story was that the ending was too much of a cliffhanger. That's why I gave it four rather than 5 stars. I understand why—Flynn is setting her readers up to nab the next story and continue reading. But I am a believer in at least tying up a few loose ends in any series book. That said, I still heartily recommend this read, which stands out as unique, among other all-too formulaic fare....more
Callie’s a sweet, shy girl who left her hometown to attend college where she wouldn’t be pegged the uncool recluse as before. Her secret crush on herCallie’s a sweet, shy girl who left her hometown to attend college where she wouldn’t be pegged the uncool recluse as before. Her secret crush on her guy friend, Tayber is very believable, even for these days, where the assumption is that most girls are fast, free and up front about their desires.
Callie and Tayber are great friends, but in truth, she’d longs for much more with him. He’s also been hurt, by family issues, and has closed himself off except for fast, commitment-free hookups. Callie’s found a way to get inside his fantasy world through, but it’s the most dishonest thing she’s ever done: she sets up an account as Sasha, a sex freak, and when Tayber goes for it, their back and forth messages get quite steamy. There are huge drawbacks: Callie finds herself terrified that she’ll slip up in real life and blurt out something to Tayber that only “Sasha” would know, and then he’ll discover who she really is.
I powered right through this novella by Shari Slade, and totally enjoyed it. Slade’s writing style and characterization is a cut above many of the novels I’ve recently read in the new adult and adult romance genre. Highly recommended, and I look forward to her next new adult read. ...more
In Boomtown Craze, Craze has grown from being a Candide-esque innocent to a lovable, but sharp realist. Plenty of bad things still happen to him: hisIn Boomtown Craze, Craze has grown from being a Candide-esque innocent to a lovable, but sharp realist. Plenty of bad things still happen to him: his tavern tables get delivered in all the wrong colors, his obnoxious, user family arrives just as he is finally making it big in the tourist trade; yet Craze has learned how to play hard. He has grown quite suave with women. For instance, he’s able to make a strategic decision to forgo seducing the young lady of his choice in order to flatter and charm that girl’s mother, who has planetary power and a massive crop of Wonder Ricklets, a sort of small bovine type herd that he wants in on. I enjoyed the scenes where we get glimpses of his sexual charm. One of the women is a Sprinkler, a blue-hued race that sloughs off mist and a continual drizzle that, on this dry and dusty moon of Pardeep definitely has its benefits! I love Pax’s inventive side: the way the characters’ hair curls and swirls and has its very own life; the beautiful yet toxic plants of Photwit and the nanite-laced chocolates that one can control a subject’s mind with when offered as a treat. M Pax has true imagination and humor, and the prose just keeps getting better and better. I’m a fan. ...more
In a desperate quest to make it to the coast and to the heart of the rebellion, Princess Semara travels with hunky, kindhearted Ryder and his quirky,In a desperate quest to make it to the coast and to the heart of the rebellion, Princess Semara travels with hunky, kindhearted Ryder and his quirky, mentally damaged (but somehow charming sister) Raeth across a scarred postwar earth. On the way, Semara learns from a confidant that the rebellion might just find it more lucrative to turn Semara in to her mother, the evil queen and Semara’s archenemy than to accept Semara into their own fold. This is part of the uncertainty that fuels the tension throughout this perilous journey. Knight is quite adept at action and battle scenes, and there were many. I particularly loved the terrifying desert critters that slithered up from the sand to startle and bite. Other page-turners were the battle in old Chicago with heat-seeking assassins and a rousing train chase.
The romance between Semara and Ryder was full of passion and switchback twists, and I do like a fiery mismatch between lovers of two different classes. The most compelling element for me was the hatred of the mother for her daughter. This plot point was so disturbing, and against the natural order that it really got my attention. I only wanted more insight into why the mother hated her daughter so much. I didn’t have the benefit of reading the prequel novella, Weighted, which may have explained this more. That said, I highly recommend Escapement to those who love action, romance and sci-fi. ...more
Lirium has a tough job, but someone’s got to do it! He’s a collector of life energy in a gritty future world that goes to paying off debts. he can takLirium has a tough job, but someone’s got to do it! He’s a collector of life energy in a gritty future world that goes to paying off debts. he can take it or give it, depending on the situation, but there's often a price to pay. When he meets the sex worker he dubs Apple Girl, for her fruit-laced perfume, he’s surprised to discover that she wants something other than a quick, addictive hit of life force. As suspicious and paranoid as Lirium is about her motives, he’s drawn in enough to travel with her to her place to find out more.
Quinn’s voice mirrors the classic hardboiled noir authors, yet it also pings with a fresh, edgy, no-nonsense bravura that sets her apart from the pack. It’s a clever blend of sci-fi and noir, and it really works. Highly recommended for those who love mystery, drama and dark tales of suspense. Stay tuned for each succeeding installment. ...more
Meg is a tennis freak, and is quite disciplined about practicing her game. She has a sure shot at making it to varsity if she keeps up her game. But tMeg is a tennis freak, and is quite disciplined about practicing her game. She has a sure shot at making it to varsity if she keeps up her game. But there are undeniable and continual distractions! One of these is her main squeeze, Ash, a dreamy and sweet guy who she's sure is on the verge of blurting out the L word--love you!
Noah Turner, a super confident and outgoing ace player is even more of a distraction because he won't leave Meg alone after never giving her the time of day before. Does he really like her, or is he angling to mess up her game? Meg has her mind made up to ignore him and remain faithful to Ash--that is until Noah sidles up to her with his handsome eyes and undeniable charm.
Grayson, her best friend, and tennis buddy, is getting fed up with all of Meg's male distractions because Meg has promised Gray she'll spend the rest of her precious free time helping Gray up her game. Without Meg's help, Gray doesn't have a shot at varsity.
Will Grayson make the team? Will Ash ever tell Meg he loves her? Or will Meg choose Noah over Ash after all? I like that this story has a sporty element that raises it above the typical YA romance. The twists and turns will leave you breathless--in a good way--and looking forward to the sequel.
Sports loving Peb has a hard life. The planet’s been involved in a war for almost as long as she can remember. The government is repressive and the waSports loving Peb has a hard life. The planet’s been involved in a war for almost as long as she can remember. The government is repressive and the war weaponry, including the use of bacterial bombs is truly frightening. Plus Peb must keep her love, fellow courtball player Zel a secret, as it’s a crime to have a same-sex partner in this society. As a cover, she dates a guy named Balk, who she’s friendly with, but not attracted to, and this deception plagues her.
Cross creates a fresh world here, filled with sporty, determined courtball players and bands of teens who form gangs to make sense of their harsh, oppressive world. Inventive worldbuilding fits the gritty society. Zel’s mother works in a league of professional courtesans, Peb works at a munitions plant putting guns together and the Thwaasians, resident aliens work as janitors, which is reminiscent of the metics of ancient Greece. At first, Peb and her friends are mainly interested in hanging out, but eventually they join the resistance and up their game from courtball to working to better the society.
Eventually, though, Peb’s guilt over how she’s using Balk gets the best of her. Will she come clean to him? You have to read Discarded Faces to find out. There is a learning curve with all of the tongue-twisting names of people and places, but overall, this is a fresh take on dealing with repression a la 1984 and other political dystopias. Recommended for older teens and new adults. ...more
Miriam's comfortable world is thrown into chaos when her father dies and his so-called business partners, Virgil and Theodosia Marchpane move in and sMiriam's comfortable world is thrown into chaos when her father dies and his so-called business partners, Virgil and Theodosia Marchpane move in and start to take over the mansion. They've brought along their spoiled son, Simon, and his friend of more modest means, Neil. Upon the horrid realization that Theodosia is intent on moving Miriam up to the attic and installing Simon in her room, is not going down without a fight. She throws things, she curses, and is relegated to her room for days with only bread and water.
Mysterious, steampunky elements appear: twelve silver circles set in the stones near the shore, a seemingly magical night train that inspires strange dreams, and Miriam's own secret possession: her old-fashioned Crown Phoenix manual typewriter, which takes on a larger aura.
Miriam overhears Virgil and Theodosia's whispered business dealings. She reads their private papers and learns of shocking details. The Marchpanes hate her snoopy ways and hire a governess to keep Miriam in line.
Enter Manalapata Postulate, a character every bit as trippy as her name suggests. As Miriam's new governess, she has a hypnotic hold on everyone--for instance, the very racist Theodosia cannot recall saying yes to hiring Miss Postulate, who is the color of dark chocolate, yet Theodosia's signature's on the contract!
At first Miriam rails against her new governess, but soon Miss Postulate, or Mana, not only turns Miriam into a proper lady, she has also, to Theodosia's horror, charmed young Simon and Neil. When Miriam asks Mana why she's being so nice, we wonder too! Most everyone has a nefarious motivation that is big fun trying to figure out. Miriam is much more than she seems as well. Danger lurks, and finally, the kids learn that Mana has been taken. Upon trying to rescue her, Simon and Miriam are whisked away on none other than the Night Train that inspires fearful dreams.
Part two brings us to the island of Lampala where Miss Postulate grew up. She's been kidnapped and Neil is determined to search her out and save her. It is here that DeLuca crafts her most original setting and language, a testament to her vivid imagination and prowess as a storyteller. Neil is charged with watching a native girl, even more impossible than Miriam ever was, and the earlier plot is echoed in his own creative ways of bringing Riki around. The more serious task is to rescue Mana, who they find hanging in a cage off the edge of a cliff!
I admire DeLuca's quirky sense of adventure, and expertise at weaving together all of the mystifying threads without dropping any. Her prose is gorgeous. Tweens and middle-graders will love this series, as well as teens and even adults. I look forward to reading book #2. ...more
Jordan Pendragon is a multilayered guy. He's handsome, an ace at ice hockey and math, but not as at ease with navigating the emotional realms of highJordan Pendragon is a multilayered guy. He's handsome, an ace at ice hockey and math, but not as at ease with navigating the emotional realms of high school and at staying clean. When he learns that he's being followed by a strange British man Kolin, and Jordan turns to chase him, Kolin leaves behind a glowing, seamless watchband. Jordan is in dire pain when he tries it on and the thing sucks green oil from his arm. He later learns from Kolin that the band is called a Life Extractor, and Green Life is a hot commodity in Kolin's world.
In a tense chase scene in a carnival, where Jordan is double-dating a friend of his sister, Katy and pretending to like her (and girls in general), he, his sister and Kolin get sucked through a Slipstream, which Jordan knows, from his study of physics is kin to a black hole from which he can come and go.
This lands them in Avalon, a fascinating yet frighteningly devastated place, an alternate earth of AIs and mega-cities and shiny skyscrapers that churn out Life Green and all manner of questionable digital playthings. Kolin reveals that it's been prophesized that a boy from earth with the name of an old king (Jordan's last name Pendragon is the name of an ancient king) would bring order to chaos. Jordan has just been tagged!
In a breathless blend of myth and sci-fi adventure the world of Avalon rolls out! Offutt's desire to square theoretical physics with spirituality is hugely ambitious and I applaud it. For one, an entity called The Shadow operates a supercomputer in an unknown location that has imprisoned The Light, and Kolin's Master. There are enormous glassy spiders, brains uploaded to jars and new-fangled mafia types in seedy bars just waiting to smoke someone-take your pick of bloody fight scenes!
Without giving anything away, I can say that Jordan will find love within the mad action--in the form of Kolin. This serves to deepen Jordan's character, and let the reader in more. This world is so cinematic that I could easily see it made into an edge-of-the-seat sci-fi extravaganza! ...more