Wickedly Spirited by Deborah Blake

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Kindle price $1.99, release date September 19, 2017, available for pre-order!

This book is marketed as a romance, but honestly it reads as more of a YA magical adventure, though I do realize Wickedly Spirited is part of a series, so I’m absolutely certain (after having read this story) the other pieces of the world Deborah Blake has built for her readers are more romantically involved. As a matter of fact, the next bit of story will be released in November 2017 (Titled Dangerously Divine). But, as is, this story can standalone and I would easily recommend it to my fifteen year old daughter.

The story revolves around sixteen year old Baba-Yaga (witch) in-training, Jazz, after having been adopted by her mentor. Behind her mentor’s back, Jazz tasks herself with restoring immortality to The Riders, companions of the Baba-Yagas. With the help of her mentor’s dragon-cat, Koshka, Jazz ventures into the Otherworld to gather ingredients to help her out.

There isn’t much to add because this is a very short read, one which I really enjoyed because sometimes I’m really too busy to get too involved in what I’m reading, regardless of how enjoyable it might be. Those of you who are busy during the day and have jobs and lives beyond the internet probably understand what I mean. The premise of the story is nice, the characters are all great, if not surreal (reminiscent of late nineties dramedies), and knowing there’s more coming in just a few months–rather than years, as with other book sequels–is a treat.

I can give my recommendation for this book without having to mull it over because it’s an easy YES. A person can read this story while they fold their laundry. Kindle gave it a bit over an hour and a half, so great to read while you’re in a waiting room or having morning coffee. I really am glad I stumbled upon this.

I am going to make sure to get a copy of Dangerously Divine as soon as it’s released because I really would like to know what happens to Jazz next. Without going into too much detail, Wickedly Spirited sort of leaves you wondering.

PRE-ORDER WICKEDLY SPIRITED FROM AMAZON HERE!

TO PRE-ORDER DANGEROUSLY DIVINE (BROKEN RIDERS NOVEL, A) FRO

M AMAZON, CLICK HERE!

DANGEROUSLY DIVINE

Available for pre-order. Release date November 28, 2017

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Empire Of Time by Daniel Godfrey

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For fifteen years, the Romans of New Pompeii have kept the outside world at bay with the threat of using the Novus Particles device to alter time. Yet Decimus Horatius Pullus—once Nick Houghton—knows the real reason the Romans don’t use the device for their own ends: they can’t make it work without grisly consequences.
This fragile peace is threatened when an outsider promises to help the Romans use the technology. And there are those beyond Pompeii’s walls who are desperate to destroy a town where slavery flourishes. When his own name is found on an ancient artifact dug up at the real Pompeii, Nick knows that someone in the future has control of the device. The question is: whose side are they on?

This novel is the second in a series. I read the first and enjoyed it, but I think I prefer the second book to the first, which is something I rarely experience.

In this second book, we get to follow Nick Houghton as he has become Decimus Horatius Pollus, the ambassador for New Pompeii as he and other citizens of New Pompeii are faced with the Novus Particles device, which can alter time.

The novel is fast paced, nitty, gritty, and comes with the teasing promise of maybe a third book. As it appears the author knows what he is doing as far as creating great characters, I hope that he continues with this series and, in doing, sates my curiosity. I want to know just where Daniel Godfrey is going next. More direly, I want to know where Nick Houghton is going in the future. Is there a third book coming or are we to be left wondering? Perhaps the ending was sufficient for other readers, but not this one.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this novel (and I would imagine you do because it’s fabulous), hop on over to Amazon and give them your money. But, buy New Pompeii first because it’s great, too. The link for that one is at the top of this review.

 

Forever And A Death by Donald E. Westlake

I’m going to give you a quick background on Donald E. Westlake. It’s a whopper. Ready? Here goes…

Westlake was a crime novelist hired by Hollywood producers working on James Bond movies to write a script. The story he came up with was about a Western businessman seeking revenge after being kicked out of Hong Kong when the island was returned to Chinese rule. For political reasons, the film was never made. But, Westlake held on to it like the absolute prize it is. And I’m thrilled that he did. It was published an entire decade after Donald E. Westlake’s death, so I feel sort of sad he didn’t get to enjoy the story’s success, but that is neither here nor there.

Honestly, if this book could be made into a film now, I would be pleased. But, onto my thoughts!

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I have absolutely nothing to be critical of here. There is no complaint to be expressed. This book was an absolute joy to read. Absolutely, positively, wonderful to escape into the pages and plot. Drama where drama need be, comedic relief (yes, I was shocked, too, but if you have an odd sense of humor like me, it’s there!) where comedic relief need be, and I expected nothing less from a man who was such a legend in his day.

If I could change any one thing about this book, I wouldn’t. I don’t get to say that often, either, so please photocopy this as a reference. Just kidding. Don’t do that.

If you’d like a copy of this gem, please do buy it at any book retailer, but for quick reference, here is the AMAZON LINK. 

Books I haven’t enjoyed…

cropped-snapshot_20150626_1.jpgSometimes when I go through my review pile, I come across books I don’t like. It happens and I hate it because in most cases I know there will be other people who might really love those books. So, I try my best to write an honest review and give the author their fair reviews.

I have a list of those books here. And, for the sake of fairness, I’m not going to write a full review of any of them because I don’t feel like I’m the right person to do so. However, I feel like there is a handful of books that deserve some attention and a few mentions in my blog as being books I would recommend to friends, even though I didn’t enjoy them myself.

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

This book was good,but I didn’t finish it because I wasn’t interested. The beginning is strong, as a beginning should be. Characters are fleshed out the right way, too, but the story itself found me looking for something else to do by the third chapter. iO9 gave it a great review on Amazon (link above, just click the book’s title).

The Age Of Olympus by Gavin Scott

Duncan Forrester’s research on an Aegean island is interrupted first by the murder of a British archaeologist, and then by the outbreak of the Greek Civil War. The worship of ancient gods may provide a clue to the murderer, but in such a tumultuous time, little is what it seems.

Another one I couldn’t get into. I think I had such a hard time with this novel because it’s the second in the series and I haven’t read the first one. I may remedy that one day soon. There is already a third in this series for pre-order, so I assume the author is having some good success with these books. I wish him all the best, too. If you’re interested in this book, click the title and check it out.

The Vinyl Detective- The Run Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel 

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second begins with the discovery of one.  When a mint copy of the final album by “Valerian”—England’s great lost rock band of the 1960s—surfaces in a charity shop, all hell breaks loose. 

This one is another that is a second in a series. I have no idea why I keep ending up with books that are out of order from series, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. As a general rule of thumb, a writer’s job (when writing multiple books in the same series) is to ensure that the reader can enjoy the book out of order without feeling something is missing. That is sometimes not how it is done, unfortunately, but with this novel (which I DID manage to finish, even though it wasn’t my type) I was able to set it apart and it could easily live on its own. Kudos, Andrew Cartmel. It still wasn’t my cup of tea, but I would recommend it to others, so it is here, in THIS post instead of on its own, though I’ll give it its own rating on Goodreads and Amazon. I may actually pass this book onto my daughter as it seems more her speed than mine! As always, click the title and head over to Amazon if you’d like to know more or purchase your own copy.

 

Stay tuned for more reviews and some overdue ones! I’ve just gotten my little office nook into order and figured out what on earth was going on with my blog. Technical issues are not my strong suit. 

But, nonetheless, keep calm and read on, folks! 

 

Welcoming 2016 With Stories and Changing Tastes

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Every year I keep a log of books, short stories, and articles of note that I’ve read. In 2015, I logged an awful lot of books. Some were new releases, but more often than not, not. By this log, though, I figured that I read more how-to books, gardening books, and history books than anything else. I don’t know why it happened this way, but maybe because I’ve been sort of fighting a dark depression and anxiety with hobbies–gardening, sewing, and just about anything I can do which would keep my hands busy. I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something, even if it’s something small, such as mending a buttonhole or planting a seed. And, once I’m focused, that’s it. I’m addicted to something new and you’ll soon find me in bookshops and online seeking out books regarding my new hobby, whatever it may be. I can’t just be a novice at anything. I will constantly strive to master it.

But, in 2010, for example, I logged mostly romance and horror novels. In 2011 and 2012, same. In 2013, by some strange tap of the reading fairy’s wand, I changed directions and returned to my science fiction and fantasy roots. You see, the firsts books I really loved–and I mean REALLY loved–were sci-fi novels, comics, fantasy tomes, and short stories in magazines involving elves, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, aliens, and vampires. I started reading time travel novels again. I started picking up newer novels by authors I’d forgotten I loved so much in high school. And, I began to change the way I think about things again. I think that’s just something that happens ever so often in life. Your life changes direction, so your reading lists change direction, too.

By 2014, I’d changed completely. I haven’t completely let go of reading romance, but I want to read everything about everything. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space on a year’s worth of bookshelf for all of the books a person would wish to read. I think that might be what happens to me. I am too ambitious. But, there are just so many books!

But, back to 2015.

Last year, my children grew. My fortunes changed (sort of) with the coming of a move which will take me from living in a small 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a small 4 bedroom house with a yard that reaches beyond what the eye can see (my husband’s family’s farm). In anticipation of this move, my family and I have discussed a lot of changes. We’re letting go of cable because it won’t be available. We’re going to have an internet connection to watch Netflix and Hulu and do internety things. But, we’ve also decided that we’re going to raise some chickens and continue growing beautiful herbs and Cherokee purple tomatoes (which are to die for, by the way, and can be found at Burpee’s online). On the farm, my father-in-law and brother-in-laws (and their wives and families) raise chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and sometimes goats. And, I think my niece has some rabbits somewhere. So, with all of this in mind, I’ve been reading about soil, about how to raise animals (because I’m absolutely terrified of horses and have no clue how to manage livestock, much less live with them), and about how to live a simpler life.

Now, hold on, people. Before you start thinking ahead, NO. No, we are not homesteaders. Absolutely, just no. I have mad amounts of respect for homesteaders, but that’s not what we’re doing  at all. We’re just simplifying things and moving forward with raising our family in an area where I won’t have to worry about being so close to other people. Well, except for my husband’s family. Two of his brothers, their wives, their collective six children, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law all live on the same stretch of property, but it’s big enough that none of us have to look at each other if we don’t want to. Or unless I need to be saved from the horses (ha ha).

The beautiful part of how life changes your reading habits, though, is that when I move to my little farm shack in the middle of nowhere, I’ll have new places to read. Also, I have a niece and a sister-in-law who both love to read, too, so maybe we can exchange good books ever so often. Who knows–we might even start our own book club right on the edge of the mountain. I’m sure the new experiences I have there will absolutely reflect in the 2016 reading log. I have plans to pick up a Farmer’s Almanac and a Gardener’s Almanac next time I’m in the Dollar General store in town. And, beyond that, there’s a discount store in Beckley (about 35 minutes from me) where I can pick up as many books about flowers and plants as I want because they’re really cheap. I’d love a book about flowers so I can learn about which ones are the easiest to grow and which ones need what because I do have plans for a white rose bush and roses are not things I know a lot about, although I’ve always loved white roses (among other white flowers, I also love the white moonflowers/Datura).

bookThere are a few crime fiction novels I plan to read this year, though, and they’re already sitting on my nightstand. AND, I do have some drama, history, and romance novels sitting in my shelf, waiting on me to give them some attention. First, though, I have a book filled with the love letters between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo. The book is called “The Prettiest Love Letters In the World” because they truly are. I’ve already taken a peek at them.

scandalsAnd, of course, it’s January 3rd, which means I’ve already read a book this year. It’s was called “Treasury of Royal Scandals” and it was published some years back, but still such a great read. Books aren’t like food–they don’t ruin after a while. They stay great. I’ve learned that there is also a book out there called “A Treasury of Great American Scandals,” which I’d like to add to my collection, too. The author, Michael Farquhar, has many books out I’d like to snatch. Seriously, where has this guy been all my life as a reader? “Treasury of Royal Scandals” was brilliant. It was a great way to start the year, in my opinion.

I’m curious to know how everyone else feels on the subject of changing tastes in books. Is it just me? Do the rest of you change tastes every now and then? I can’t imagine I’m the only person on the face of the planet who sometimes switches from medieval kings and queens to cyborgs and werewolves.

 

7 Things A Writer’s Spouse Should Expect

GaimanI sometimes feel very, very sorry for my husband because he’s stuck with me. I’m not the easiest person on the planet to live with. I blame being a hermit for the majority of this, but there are other reasons, I suppose. I’m difficult. Plain and simple. But, I’m a decent writer. So, if you’re in a relationship with a writer and you are planning on marrying them, there are things you should come to expect.

  1. Expect coffee- Expect it at 6 AM, noon, and 4 PM. And sometimes at midnight.
  2. Expect silence- Writer spouse will sometimes vacate all senses. He/She will disappear into their own world for long stretches of time. It is in my experience that these stretches of time are optimal buying times for presents for the writer. Or, ya know, a good time for the spouse to have a bowling night or catch a movie with friends. Whatever.
  3. Expect messy hair and pajamas- I can’t write very well if I’m uncomfortable. And, I can’t shower if I’m in the middle of a big scene.  I know I’m not alone in this.
  4. Expect a blizzard of post-it notes- These little pastel colored sticky paperlets (Is that a word? Heh. It is now.) are excellent for jotting down single thoughts or making short lists of murder suspects. And, they’re all over my kitchen. Also, I have index cards and other piles of papers all over the place. Don’t worry. They file away nicely in large zip-lock bags.
  5. Expect nary a dish to be washed- I wash dishes, sure. But, I don’t wash them when there are only a few in the sink. Now, I realize this drives some people crazy, but shut up. No, really. Shut up. I refuse to abandon my manuscript for three coffee mugs and a couple of saucers.
  6. Expect your bed to be vacated in the middle of the night- Have I mentioned that sometimes the mood to write strikes at the weirdest times? Like, when you’re lying in bed…Because it does.
  7. Expect take out meals- I don’t think a lot of folks would complain about this. My husband doesn’t. The man loves his pizza. Little Caesar’s drive-thru window is a place we frequent. Nobody can beat a quick meal for $5 a pop. But, sometimes cooking is just not on a writer’s mind. Neither is eating, for that matter. Sometimes we just forget that there are other people in the house and that, by most standards, food is expected to be served at some point.

 

Why I’ll Never Write A Happy Ending

There are an awful lot of romances in my stories and I try to make them as realistic as possible. I don’t go for characters no one can ever resist–the brooding, muscle bound hero meets the dainty, helpless damsel in distress–and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s real and it’s something a lot of readers can identify with. I read a lot of romances, too, and I love them. I just don’t want to write them.

gentlerogueRomantic heroes are often stereotyped and, while that may suck, there’s a reason for it. Apparently, lots of women like the man next door, the hunky fireman, the long-haired, shirtless werewolf… And, this stereotypical romance hero is often given a bad name for being just that, so let’s not do that here. As I said a paragraph ago, I read a lot of romances. I like them. But, you’ll never see Fabio rescue a fair maiden and ride of into the sunset on a unicorn in one of my books. Never.

The closest to a perfect romance novel hero I’ve ever come to writing was The Demon King. He was close, but no cigar. He had the look, he had the brooding demeanor, and he had an excess of power, but he was flawed from the beginning because he wasn’t in it to marry the girl and live happily ever after. I just don’t think demon kings get that sort of an ending. Realistically, they might achieve other goals, but how on earth would a romance really work in the Underworld? I just don’t get it.

Moving past romance novels, other stories with happy endings make my head spin, too. Does every single time traveler make it home safe to live out the rest of their lives as though they hadn’t just traveled through space and time? What about the traveler who becomes trapped? Or is obliterated en route? What about the traveler who wanderers onto an alien planet and is captured by the emperor of the Zed People and thrown into a rusty cage for the rest of his life?

And, what about crime stories? Does the PI always capture the bad guy? What if they didn’t? What if the main character lets the guy go because he’s paid an amount of money he simply can’t refuse? Or, what if he doesn’t let the bad guy go. What if, during the climax of the story, the PI meets up with the mass murderer in an alley somewhere and the murderer does what he does best–murder?

I don’t write happy endings. I did when I was a kid, but then life floated through me and I through it. At some point in my life I realized that not every story has to have a happy ending to be a good one. Not every book has to end the way we all want it to. Characters can fall into their destinies the way in which they are meant to and the endings of THOSE stories can be just as satisfying, just as wonderful, just as horrifying as a story with a happy ending. And, people will continue to read them because some of us enjoy a good book full of wonderful, flawed characters doing beautifully flawed things. I enjoy it when the outcome of a book isn’t what I might have thought it was going to be. I don’t like coming to the last chapter of a story and already knowing what’s going to happen before it happens because at least a million other stories have ended that way. I like to be surprised, both pleasantly and otherwise.

I think that’s why I’m drawn to horror and realism. There isn’t always a happy ending in those stories and it’s almost expected that the author is going to shred their character’s lives into a zillion pieces. I like that, no matter what’s going on in my life, I can crack open one of these stories and realize that it’s entirely possible that someone else out there might just be having a worse day than me.

All of the many things that go through my head kill me sometimes. I’m a constant thinker. Sometimes my thoughts are darker than velvet and sometimes they’re light as air–but, they are always realistic because I can’t stand the thought of writing a story that isn’t somehow true (even if it’s not). There’s no way on this earth I could ever convince myself to write a story where everything turns out okay because that’s just not how the world works. I will always tie up loose ends in my stories and if I leave something up for interpretation, it’s because sometimes life does that, too.

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“I can’t go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands.”- Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind

Romance novels are notorious for their happy endings (there are few without them, but Gone With the Wind comes to mind, though I don’t think that book was classified as just a romance novel). It’s totally possible that I might write romance again one day, but know that if I choose to do so, you’re not going to see the hero rescue the damsel in distress and ride off in a million dollar car to a million dollar wedding where their friends and families are waiting on them with smiles and bags of rice to choke the birds with.

It’s more likely that my romance novel will end with the anti-hero and anti-heroine in some sort of stand-off. They might be together at the end of the book, but at what costs? Their fortunes? Their dignity? A limb? Or, possibly even their very lives.

I don’t write happily-ever-afters because that just isn’t real. People pay taxes, they lose properties, they have accidents causing permanent impairments, and they fight like cats and dogs (or demon kings and half-mortals, as the case may be). So, ask me again why I don’t write happy endings.

In short, because shit happens, that’s why.

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“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”-Rhett Butler, Southern gentleman not giving any damns (on film) since 1939.