Reviews, Reviews

AL Kent, A Journey of Three Degrees

A Journey of Love?

Love of journeying? This book is in two parts. In the first, a college student (Anna) falls in love with her professor. It seems a romance bound to fail, and Anna resorts to flirt with a friend. Her love for the professor stops the flirting. Here the first part ends. To get over her confusion and — perhaps — to make something of her life, Anna goes to France for a holiday.

In my opinion, the first part worked well — it was easy to relate to Anna and her friends. The second part was for me less convincing. It was marred with too much description, making me wonder if this was a travel magazine or a novel.

In places, the narrative came across as memoir or true story. Was that intentional? All in all, the author might benefit from mixing the cards differently. AL Kent has potential.

Ken Stark, Stage Three: Bravo

A Zombie Fantasy with Unusual Aspects

 The biggest surprise in ‘Bravo’ was that the horror didn’t take the main stage in this Zombie postapocalyptic fantasy. It was the characters, full-blown and believable, that carried the narrative. True, there were the expected pro- and antagonist types, but none of Stark’s characters was set in stone. They lived through hell, and their personalities developed stage by stage. Stark presents his readers with love and hate, leading to misunderstandings and final acceptance. That made this an impressive read. True, there’s much blood and gore, and Stark doesn’t leave much to the readers’ imagination. Supposedly this is what the average zombie fiction reader expects. The question remains, do they expect the earnest warning against taking science too far? Do they realize — and value — the call for humanity? These were the elements that impressed me the most. An author must have skills far beyond creating a plot. If that skill blossoms, it doesn’t matter what means and effects he or she chooses to bring across a message. This is the third part of Stage 3, but the book can stand alone. Highly recommended

JS Frankel, Wink

An Aeneidic Quest

Virgil, a hapless schoolkid, blinks in and out of his normal existence. He is one of the ‘invisibles’, kids that nobody cares to know or befriend, a target for bullies. His father is dead, and his mother finds it difficult to cope with her loss. As his vanishing episodes become increasingly frequent, the FBI steps in to find out if they can use Virgil’s extraordinary abilities. Their probing finally propels Virgil to another place. Is it in space or in a parallel universe? Nobody knows for certain. Lonely at first, Virgil finds a brave new world and, eventually, other people. Some are friendly, but in any world, humans veer towards strife. It takes only one ruffian to topple the balance.   

Frankel writes confidently and with a deep understanding of his YA readers. There is a savour of old myths and human longings in his compelling yarn. Not only that, it is a fervent call for humanity and a warning against abusing the world, any world we might find ourselves in. Highly recommended.

Cynthia Hamilton, Girl Trap

A PI and Event Planner with a Troubled Past

Madeline Dawkins suffers from nightmares. She’s escaped her persecutors but not the aftermath of her distressing experiences. Nonetheless, she functions in society and develops two(!) businesses. Her experiences make a PI career the obvious choice, but she’s enough of a woman to love creating beautiful events. To stay efficient she had an assistant, who had to leave because of an investigation trauma. Her new assistant is untested. Madeline isn’t certain that he’ll live up to her expectations. Her partner, Mike searches one woman in LA, while Madeline must open a dormant case and take up a twelve-year-old thread in a catholic school to find another woman. Against all odds, the cases intertwine.

Clearly, this is part of a series, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out Madeline’s past. I haven’t read the first two volumes, but to me, it may have been an advantage. It amused me to put together the back story from the current happenings.

Hamilton puts her story together in a convincing fashion, although the double strain of two missing women makes for complications.

Despite the striking plot, the narrative failed to excite me.  I can’t pinpoint exactly what gave me a sense of being let down. Was it the omniscient narrator, telling me Madeline’s feelings? Was it too many adjectives? A remote third-person narrative can work, but in my opinion, it works better in other genres.

KV Wilson, Spiritborne

Shapeshifters and Werewolves Against the Inquisition

Man v Nature. The Covenant v Werewolves (Lycans) and Shapeshifters (Yeva’si). Skye Matthews experiences blackouts. They’re the beginning of a new phase of her life, a secret and dangerous phase. It takes her through her local urban landscape through secret portals to the world of Lycans and shapeshifters. In her everyday world, the Covenant reigns and wages war against everything not quite human. A tale of growing into a foreordained fate, Wilson puts emphasis on the obstacles a young woman must face. It doesn’t help that nobody has revealed this inheritance to her. It’s an interesting fact that there are parallels to the Spanish inquisition in the Covenant’s attitude to everything ‘heretic’.

KZ Howell, Dream State

A New-Age fantasy

Can dreams influence reality?

Murder, mind-warping drugs, clearheaded dreams, sex as a power game. Thriller or horror or both?                    

Edgar Cayce, the mystic and clairvoyant, features as the premise for this extraordinary tale.

Dream State draws on sleep experiments and lucid dreaming. In this connection, it may be important to remember that ordinary humans only use a fraction of their brains. This is a thoughtful analysis of the possibilities and dangers of experimenting with extraordinary minds. Recommended

Joyce DeBacco, Angel Wishes

A Gentle Romance?

Tea and comfort between friends. Will Addie choose to live for her quaint antique shop or go for a commercial career in New York? Which of her admirers will be her final choice? The childhood friend, Gabe or the flashy restaurant owner, Barry? Notable is the angel doll that infuses a red thread of wonder and hope throughout the story. Joyce DeBacco is the skilled narrator of this contemporary romance.

Ingrid Foster, My Father’s Magic

A parallel Universe, Albion, Steeped in Ancient English Myth

Esme, father Drake (Sorcerer), Fiancé Geoff (control freak and evil entity), half-sister Natasha, and childhood friend Stone. In a catatonic state, her mother is incarcerated in an asylum.

In the beginning, Esme’s father, Drake dies a seemingly natural death.

This sparks Esme’s education to become a Witch. It’s her fate to lead the witches, the wizards, the giants (Henry Brien and Helga?) the shapeshifters, and the fairies, in their fight against evil as well as for a natural, and balanced world.

JB Morris, Love Revisited

High Society Lady Meets Ex-soldier in an Unexpected Romance

Seth, an ex-soldier and Pamela, a society woman met on a plane. This apparently insignificant occurrence won’t leave their thoughts. He is unemployed and drifting, while she lives with her mother and daughter in her NY apartment. Their chance encounter sets new forces free and compels both to rethink their lives. Pamela’s mother does her worst to thwart the budding relationship. Morris takes us through the ropes and keeps us guessing.

It was easy to slip into this book and relate to its characters. Being a sequel to Seth, it shows Morris’s ability to combine back-story with developing the plot. His characters are easy to recognize and believable. Love Revisited is another take on the romance genre and works for me.

Ivy Logan, Broken Origins (The Legend of Ava)

Ava Carries the Ultimate Responsibility

Ava, a Heichi sorceress, can time-travel and sees what she shouldn’t see. Ms Logan builds the myths in this prequel to her fantasy series The Breach Chronicles on a simple premise, the interdiction against getting involved when time-travelling. Ava and her friend Selena break that prohibition and suffer the consequences. Their efforts create a worse situation than the one they wanted to avoid. The death of a young girl ultimately sparks rebellion and war between humans and supernaturals. Hence, the sorceressess’ withdrawal from the world and the beginning of the Chronicles. My only problem with this prequel is that it’s too short. Ms Logan hasn’t time or space to evolve her story. Through this, it becomes breathless and sometimes difficult to follow. Her ideas are good and deserve better.

Eva Pasco, Mr Wizardo

OZ and Kansas Revisited in Slick, Modern Writing

L Frank Baum didn’t live in vain. His inspired fiction lives and influences us to this day. So, in Eve Pasco’s Mr Wizardo. Her casual allusions to the rainbow bridge, the yellow brick road, and the other paraphernalia of OZ bring home a valid point. We need fantasy, courage, wisdom, and love to become human. To be compassionate and generous.

Doreen is Dorothy. She wears the red slippers. Of course, that’s an allusion to the film rather than the silver shoes of Baum’s invention.

Scott is the Scarecrow without a heart, Lyle the Lion without courage, and Tim the tinman without a brain. This is where the biggest difference shows. Mr Wizardo isn’t a fake. He’s the real thing and shows it through his compassion and understanding of the four misfits that assemble for his funeral.

This is a fun and appealing tale with a deep significance.

© HMH, 2019

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