When my older daughter was about four years old, she had Ariel pajamas that she would have worn everywhere if we'd let her. One of her favorite videosWhen my older daughter was about four years old, she had Ariel pajamas that she would have worn everywhere if we'd let her. One of her favorite videos was Disney's The Little Mermaid, so I've seen it myself countless times. That's why LeAnn Neal Reilly's The Mermaids Pendant felt so familiar to me. The first half of the book is a retelling of the familiar fairy tale from an adult perspective. The prince is replaced by a computer science doctoral student named John. The mermaid's name is Tamarind but she's still the somewhat ethereal beauty who's almost totally clueless about humans and their inscrutable ways. A "midwife" named Anna, who creates potions and elixirs from what the sea provides as she wanders about her island home, assumes the role of the sea witch. Valerie, a maker and seller of jewelry, befriends Tamarind in her human form and incorporates aspects of Flounder, Scuttle, and Sebastian from the Disney movie. The first half of the book predictably ends with the marriage of John and Tamarind but instead of the "happily ever after" end of a fairy tale, we're led to the second half by Anna's sinister admonition as they fly off to Pittsburgh that, "You'll be back, young one. Mark my words - you'll be back."
As enjoyable as the first part of the book is, it's the second part that makes this essential reading for anyone who has ever been or ever will be in a relationship. The first few years of their relationship are sustained by the magic that helped bring Tamarind and John together. As the demands of jobs and children and houses and moves chip away at the magic, John and Tamarind lose the ability to "hear" each other's thoughts. Tamarind begins to doubt her relationship with John, but because she is still unfamiliar with much about her humanness and because Anna is actively trying to separate them through her potions and spells, she withdraws into herself. John, in his turn, becomes so immersed in work that he barely notices that his marriage is beginning to crumble around him. When they move to Boston their new neighbor, Lucy, befriends them. Lucy, who is herself still trying to come to grips with her late husband's decades-old infidelity, becomes the catalyst for the revival of John and Tamarind's relationship by learning how damaging unforgiveness can be in a person's life.
I enjoyed this book from cover to cover. The characters are so well developed that I often found myself talking to them - generally along the lines of "Ah. Don't do that you idiot." or "What the hell is wrong with you." (some of them have a lot to learn about life). The action/drama scenes - an assault on Tamarind, riding out a hurricane, and a fight between a woman and her doppleganger - were gripping and the transition into them was very smooth. The magic of fairy tales is a major part of the book but it feels natural and its use in the metaphors for how to make relationships strong is excellent. This is a great fairy tale that takes us beyond happily-ever-after to the real world, where love and relationships have to struggle against everyday life and can't depend on magic to survive....more
Tree of Life begins as a fantasy somewhat reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. Adventure is added to the fantasy when the protagonist, Deacon, sets oTree of Life begins as a fantasy somewhat reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. Adventure is added to the fantasy when the protagonist, Deacon, sets off on a single-minded quest for vengeance against those whom he perceives have harmed him and taken his childhood from him, either directly or by their failure to protect him. He reluctantly allows his two cousins to accompany him on his journey and begins to understand - if not fully appreciate - the importance of having others to stand alongside one in the face of hardship and danger. The introduction of Magenta transforms the story to a romance with the adventure as a backdrop until the climactic final chapters. This being Part I of the story, there remain several issues to be resolved in the second part.
Daniels' characters are very well-wrought. They're easy to visualize and their personalities are developed in ways that elicit responses similar to those one would have to meeting a flesh-and-blood person. Although my reaction to Deacon was ambiguous and sometimes contradictory, this was appropriate because throughout the story, Deacon is generally unsure himself of who he is and of who he's becoming. I look forward to finding out in Part II who he finally becomes and how he arrives at that destination....more
An imaginative and interesting concept all but ruined by poor writing skills and the apparent lack of any revision by the author or proofreading by anAn imaginative and interesting concept all but ruined by poor writing skills and the apparent lack of any revision by the author or proofreading by anyone. Spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors are rampant throughout. The disjointed telling of the story and the overabundance of adverbs and adjectives remind me of an out-of-focus, black-and-white photograph in a gaudy, plastic frame. This is an excellent example of the abuses referred to when self-publishing is denigrated....more
Rendezvous Rock is difficult to classify as to genre. It could easily be classified as YA, Romance, or YA Romance, but none of those comes close to coRendezvous Rock is difficult to classify as to genre. It could easily be classified as YA, Romance, or YA Romance, but none of those comes close to covering the variety of the story Rickey Bray has crafted. In addition to the romance of its youthful protagonists, the story is built around an earth-based religion that espouses, as one of its tenets, natural genetic engineering. Healthy doses of action, espionage, fantasy, adventure, conspiracy, magic, and borderline erotica also run through it.
When fifteen-year-olds, Eric and Susan, consummate their summer romance atop the title edifice, Eric is unaware of what he has helped to set in motion. Susan – a witchling of the 6,000-year-old religion known as The Three Circles – has recognized the role she and Eric are to play in fulfilling the prophesy of her religion’s coming messiah. She elicits from him a commitment to her and to meeting her on Rendezvous Rock ten years hence. During those ten years, Eric is taught the principles of The Three Circles, and trained to assume his role in the prophesied events of the religion. He, his family, and his closest friend – although always considered outsiders – are incorporated into the religion over time. Eric enthusiastically learns and applies the skills necessary to protect the magic of the Circles from those who would steal it, and the child messiah from government agencies bent on destroying her.
Bray’s prose has a mystical – almost poetic – quality that is perfect for the fantasy and religious aspects of the story, but that doesn’t detract at all from the impact of its action and adventure aspects. He moves over a wide range of characters, settings, and storylines without losing any of them…or the reader. This is an excellent book that will appeal to the literary tastes of many readers....more
In a world where Humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities, Lanore Vesta – a Mixbreed – witnesses a brutal murder while returning homeIn a world where Humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities, Lanore Vesta – a Mixbreed – witnesses a brutal murder while returning home from school one night. Rather than report what she’s seen to the police, she races home to her apartment, hoping the killer didn’t notice her. Those hopes are destroyed when dead bodies start showing up in her apartment. Still unwilling to turn to the authorities, she enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend, MeShack, and Zulu, the leader of a revolutionary organization – Mixbreeds For Equality. They turn out to be as much of a hindrance as a help due to their constant sparring for Lanore’s affections. Despite the distractions they cause her, Lanore focuses on finding the killer before she becomes the next dead body. In the process, she begins to believe that solving the mystery may also be the key to achieving the equality she seeks.
Fire Baptized could stand as a good murder mystery in any setting. Wright chose to weave it around a world in which supernaturals of different types exist within a strict caste system. In the process, she’s created beings who must learn to control their darkly powerful abilities and urges and cooperate with each other in order to survive – both individually and as a society. At times, I felt I was reading an urban fantasy and at others a murder mystery, but I always felt the unity of the two as a single story as well. The environment and characters are well-developed. One can sense the change in atmosphere from one part of town to another and the difference in the passions of the various characters....more
While being attacked by a large dog, Kiera and her nephew, Alex, are suddenly and mysteriously transported to an alternate Alaska, populated by magesWhile being attacked by a large dog, Kiera and her nephew, Alex, are suddenly and mysteriously transported to an alternate Alaska, populated by mages and shapeshifters. In the process of trying to find her way back to her own Alaska, Kiera learns much about herself. The similarities between this theme and that of The Wizard of Oz struck me several times as I read Lauri J. Owen’s Fallen Embers. It could have been an effective fable or parable if it had been written as such. Instead, it is basically certain elements of a novel, thrown against the framework of a moral treatise on slavery, hoping that some might stick.
A tattoo that Kiera gets at the beginning of the book and the presence of Alex’s father in the alternate Alaska seem to be significant to the story line, but each is flung into the plot at some point, and then either glossed over or completely ignored for the remainder of the book. The only character who has any personality is Kiera, and she is so inconsistent that, were she real, it would be hard to spend more than five minutes in a room with her. The rest of the characters are no more than props. The most thoroughly developed feature of the book is the system of magic that Kiera finds herself able to manipulate, but one would need some kind of star chart to follow it. The story leads us to what should be a climactic event, only to snatch it from view when Kiera is wounded and falls unconscious as the event commences. Regaining consciousness a few days later, Kiera is repeatedly stalled for several days – and many, many pages – when she asks about the outcome of the event. I suppose the intent here is to build suspense about the surprise ending to the book, but it is quickly clear to anyone who has read the book to this point what that surprise is....more
Book series come in several varieties. There are those based on a character or characters that are present in each book of the series. The charactersBook series come in several varieties. There are those based on a character or characters that are present in each book of the series. The characters may not change much from book to book in the series and the plot of any book in the series may not depend significantly on what occurred in previous books. To some extent, Tom Clancy’s books about Jack Ryan and the John Wells Series by Alex Berenson fall into this category and could therefore be read in any order. The Harry Potter books are an example of a series that must be read in order because the characters change and the series itself has an ongoing storyline. Some series – like Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series – have a storyline that continues throughout the series, but any book in the series can be read as a standalone or as an integral part of the series. Elements: The Beginning is the first book in a different kind of “series”; something I would call a cliffhanger series. There are several reasons – none good, in my opinion – that I can think of for turning a story into such a series. Regardless of the reason for doing so, the result is several incomplete books since all but the last have no ending and the last in the series has no beginning in itself.
The Elements Series is the story of Gage and Talon Thorn – twins born in Montana but moved to New Zealand by their father when they are six months old. Under the guidance of their Maori nanny’s uncle, Maui, they learn to control and use the supernatural powers they’ve inherited from their mother and her Gaelic family. On their eighth birthday, they discover that they are instrumental in a prophecy related to the king of the underworld, Maradati, and his desire to destroy humankind. As the twins learn more about their powers, they realize that they are stronger together than they are separately. This knowledge is of little use as Talon is left behind when Gage dives through a closing portal in pursuit of Maradati.
At about 150 pages, I see no reason to make this the first book of a series. Even the title screams for a single book called Elements. If the series contains three books, combining them would only create a moderately long novel that would likely allow for a less jumbled approach to the story. With dream/vision sequences and changes in tense and point of view, it’s often difficult to tell where in the story one is. Also distracting is the frequent mischoice and misuse of words – such as “detour” where “deter” is clearly intended.
Ardent paranormal fantasy fans – regardless of context – will likely enjoy this one....more
Great literary first lines come in all shapes and sizes. Some are short and classic: Melville’s “Call me Ishmael.” in Moby Dick. Others are more recenGreat literary first lines come in all shapes and sizes. Some are short and classic: Melville’s “Call me Ishmael.” in Moby Dick. Others are more recent and longer: “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” from John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. The best are a little edgy: Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – “We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.” Regardless of their size and shape, though, great first lines all get a firm grip and pull the reader straight into the story. For some reason, most of my favorites are in the first person. I've recently added Inkarna’s – “Tomorrow will be the first time I die.” – to my list of favorite first lines.
Visiting Maitland Cemetery on the eve of her death, Elizabeth Rae Perry – Lizzie – recalls the nearly nine decades of her life and wonders with more than a little apprehension what’s in store for her beyond the Black Gate. Forty-six years later, Lizzie is reincarnated in the body of Ashton Kennedy, a man who’s been in a coma for four months following a hit and run “accident.” Lizzie is confused and disoriented, but she knows something has gone horribly wrong. She was supposed to have reincarnated five years earlier in a little girl who had drowned. Unable to change her circumstances, she begins trying to adjust to them while figuring out what went wrong. Her most immediate problem is getting used to being in a man’s body. Having always been a woman, she must deal with this man’s very rough nature and past…not to mention, “parts” that are completely new to her. Then there’s Ashton’s girlfriend, Marlise, who’s been at his bedside almost constantly for the past four months. When Lizzie leaves the hospital, she quickly discovers how big an ass Ashton was before he was run over by an SUV. She tries to clean up the messes he’s created while figuring out what her current role is in the world of the Inkarna – an ancient Egyptian cult. The more she learns, the more uncertain she is that she’ll be able to keep herself – much less Marlise – alive.
Inkarna is told in the first person present by Lizzie. Sometimes the feel is that of someone telling her life story. Other times she’s grabbing your hand, pulling you through the danger with her. This is a very dark story with respect to both content and environment. Dorman establishes that darkness early and maintains it throughout. She seamlessly transitions Lizzie’s initial confusion and abhorrence at being in a man’s body to her acceptance of it. Dorman is from South Africa, and her writing reflects that. Her idioms, syntax, and so forth are occasionally strange to an American ear, but not enough so to distract from the story or the flow of her writing. There is some explanation of the Egyptian mythology associated with the Inkarna but it’s very general and fairly sparse. For those who like to end their reading sessions at the end of chapters, be prepared to read for quite some time. I didn’t actually count, but some of the chapters were probably in the fifty to seventy page range, and could have easily been broken into several chapters. The end of the story was not a happily-ever-after ending – well, not entirely anyway. It wasn’t even neatly tied up, but that’s okay. The ending fits the nature and feel of the story very well.
For those who like dark tales, fantasy, Egyptian mythology, some romance, or even just a good action/mystery, Inkarna is a must read....more
It’s not unusual for a series to have a prequel. Generally, the author reaches a point where he or she feels the need to provide additional context foIt’s not unusual for a series to have a prequel. Generally, the author reaches a point where he or she feels the need to provide additional context for the characters or for the story arc of the series, and writes a prequel as opposed to awkwardly plopping that information into the middle of a book. Don’t Call Me Angel is unusual for a prequel. It should actually be considered a series prologue rather than a prequel, because we have it well in advance of Possession – the “first book” of the series – which is due in April, 2013. I hope others will follow Brewster’s lead in this method of introducing and building interest in their upcoming series.
Six – a fallen angel – is somewhat surprised by what she learns when she escapes from Hell. She finds that Alden – another fallen angel she brought with her – has a far darker side than she ever imagined when they were trading blood debts just to survive in Hell. Then she realizes that Earth isn’t the idyllic place she believed as she viewed it on countless occasions through the portals. She can’t understand why people are so dissatisfied with how much they have and are so desperate to have more. Alden introduces Six to the multitude of demons, fallen angels, monsters, and others who have previously escaped Hell and are perpetrating their now-unrestrained lust on defenseless humans, and she realizes life on earth will not be the peaceful existence she’d dreamed of. When he begins killing human’s souls along with their bodies, she goes after Alden to prevent him from exposing their escape to Luke – the being she fears more than any other.
This is a fast-paced, dark story that will hold your attention from start to finish. It introduces the main characters and conflict in a way that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the release of the upcoming series.
The characters are well developed. You can feel Six’s confusion over the attitudes of humans, her disgust at the behavior of the other former denizens of Hell, and her terror of being found by Luke. Alden’s foul existence will slither about your feet seeking a way into your soul.
Don’t Call Me Angel is very well written. The prose flows easily and the descriptions are so good you can almost smell the garbage in the alleys and feel the warm southern rain. The descriptions of what can be done to human bodies may have you wondering what Brewster has been up to the past few years, but the flicker of hope that she keeps burning in Six’s heart will assuage any such “concerns.”...more