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Monday, June 30, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Cassie Alexander with a review of Bloodshifted, the fifth novel in her EDIE SPENCE SERIES.

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, June 28, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Simon R. Green with a review of Property of a Lady Faire, the eighth novel in his SECRET HISTORIES/EDDIE DROOD SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, June 26, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Larissa Ione with a review of "Azagoth," a novella in her LORDS OF DELIVERANCE SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

This novella is one of the 1001 DARK NIGHTS novellas that are being written and published by a group of well-known authors. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Vicki Pettersson with a review of The Given, the third and FINAL novel in her CELESTIAL BLUES TRILOGY. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Alexandra Ivy with a review of Hunt the Darkness, the 11th novel in her GUARDIANS OF ETERNITY SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, June 23, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Richelle Mead with a review of The Immortal Crown, the second novel in her AGE OF X SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, June 21, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Nalini Singh with a review of Shield of Winter, the 13th novel in her PSY-CHANGELING SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Friday, June 20, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for S. J. Harper (aka Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne C. Stein) with a review of "Captured," the prequel novella for their FALLEN SIREN SERIES.     

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Author:  Maggie Toussaint
Plot Type:  Paranormal Cozy Mystery      
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality2; Humor—2 
Publisher and Titles:  Five Star/Cengage Learning, Inc.
          Gone and Done It (hardcover and e-book, 4/2014)  
          Bubba Done It (hardcover and e-book, 5/2015)

This ongoing review was revised and updated on 7/22/15 to include a review of Bubba Done It, the second novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel.

                      NOVEL 2:  Bubba Done It                      

     Baxley Powell’s pet-sitting and landscaping businesses take a back seat to her success as a police consultant, where her dreamwalking talent helps solve murders. Baxley is riding with the sheriff when the 911 call comes in—a stabbing. At the crime scene, they find the knife still protruding from the victim’s chest. With his last breath, the bank president whispers, “Bubba done it." 

     Unfortunately, Sinclair County, Georgia, is chock full of Bubbas, four of them, each with close ties to the victim. When the dead banker is forbidden to talk to Baxley in her dreamwalks, she is forced to sleuth among the living. The top suspects are a down-on-his-luck fisherman, a crackhead evangelist, a politically connected investor, and, worst of all, Baxley’s brother-in-law, the high-school sweetheart of the dead man’s ex-wife. The more Baxley digs, the more connections she uncovers. If Baxley can’t figure out who the killer is, her brother-in-law could go to prison…and the real murderer could walk free. 

     Based on the first novel, I thought that this was going to be a solid cozy mystery series, but in the second novel, Toussaint's writing skills seem to desert her, leaving us with a heroine who verges on hysteria much of the time and a simplistic plot that holds back critical information until the very end, leaving the reader without a chance of figuring out what is really going on.

     Let's start with the heroine, Baxley Powell, and her relationships with two key figures: Sheriff Wayne Thompson and Charlotte Ambrose. Wayne is a crude, bombastic, misogynistic good ol' boy who terrorizes Baxley and other townsfolk by threatening to arrest anyone who either disagrees with him or gets in his way. He constantly treats Baxley in a way that fits the legal definition for sexual harassment, but she trembles with fear and backs away from him every single time. At one point he grabs Baxley and threatens her, "With snake-like quickness, he caught my chin in his hand. He leaned in close enough for his warm breath to brush my cool cheek. 'Don't get in my way, Baxley…I have the authority to arrest you right now for being a thorn in my side. However your incarceration would delay my wife getting a flower garden.'" In the 21st century—even in a sleepy southern village—I can't imagine that this kind of behavior would be tolerated. 

     And then there is Charlotte—supposedly Baxley's best friend. Charlotte wants to be a famous journalist, and she walks all over Baxley to achieve her goals. Baxley constantly makes excuses for Charlotte's rude, thoughtless behavior, but continues to enable her selfish, inconsiderate actions every single time.

     Although Baxley is a hard-working, strong-willed young woman with a terrific work ethic, she allows others to control her every emotion by over-reacting to the simplest things—like a change in tone of voice or a quick glance or an unthinking phrase. When Baxley's young daughter, Larissa, suggests that it would be fun it they moved in with Baxley's parents, "Her innocent remark brought a tidal surge of dismay." Really? A tidal surge? That's a huge over-reaction to the remarks of a child who just spent a happy day with grandma. If an offhanded remark affects Baxley this deeply, how is she ever going to make it through Larissa's adolescence? In another scene, Baxley discovers that her parents gave away all of the money she sent them over the years—money that she couldn't really afford to send them. So Baxley wonders how they are coming up with enough money to live on. Immediately, she jumps to the conclusion that they must be the local drug kingpins: "My gut twisted at the possibility. I staggered away from the table…" Now, Baxley came back to her home town two years ago. Given the gossip mill that prevails in small towns, there is no way that her parents could be selling drugs without her knowledge. Then there's the scene in which a client hands Baxley some magazine photographs to give her an idea of the type of garden she wants. Here is Baxley's immediate over-reaction: "Dread flooded my body at the topiary gardens, wildflower jungles,…lily ponds, natural stone stays, and more. It was too much…" Now, Baxley is supposed to be a professional gardener, and she soon handles the situation. But why the huge "dread flood"? Later in that same scene, the client's husband, who is one of the Bubba suspects, arrives home in search of a pair of shoes, and—immediately—Baxley goes into her usual schtick: "Breath stalled in my lungs as I froze, a gazelle at the watering hole of lions." Even later in the same scene: "Fear trickled down my spine like beads of sweat. The Jamisons' house was…a deadly Venus's-flytrap. One snap of its powerful jaws and I would be dinner." All of this is based upon Baxley's over-active imagination. The point is that Baxley—supposedly a talented amateur sleuth—ALWAYS reacts to every issue with over-the-top, overwrought, frantic feelings that are expressed in a series of clichés. The author should either send Baxley to therapy or have someone tell her to get a grip on herself.

     An additional problem is Toussaint's word choice, which tends toward the melodramatic and is often incorrect in its usage. For example, when Baxley looks at a dead body, she says, "My omniscient gaze returned to the dead man on the floor." No, Baxley's gaze is not omniscient, which means all-seeing or all-knowing or having infinite knowledge. And here is an example of the frequent melodrama: "I'd stood in this chasm of grief myself, and the winds of loss still howled through my belly." Not only melodramatic, but clichéd

     If you were hoping for a resolution of the story line involving Baxley's missing/dead husband, you will be disappointed because Toussaint continues to keep Roland's disappearance simmering away on the back burner.

     I had a difficult time finishing this book, and I'm not sure that I will be reviewing the next one. I will, however, add the publishers' blurb to this ongoing review when it is available. Click HERE to read an excerpt from chapter one.

     Baxley Powell, the series heroine, is a 28-year-old single mom with a 10-year-old daughter named Larissa. As the series opens, Baxley has moved back to her home town and is barely making ends meet with the proceeds from her small landscaping/pet-sitting business, Plants and Pets. Baxley's husband, Roland, is/was a military man who went missing two and a half years ago and is presumed dead. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army has been stone-walling Baxley about her widow's pension, so times are hard for her and Larissa. Additionally, Baxley is dealing with the constant threat that her in-laws will sue to take Larissa away from her. Here, Baxley describes her situation: "Two survivors, slogging down the highway of life. We had food, shelter, and people who cared for us, but we'd come to this place broken." (Gone and Done It, p. 61)

     The series is set in (mythical) Sinclair County, Georgia, in Marion, the small coastal town in which both Baxley and Roland grew up. Her parents still live there. In fact, her father is the county dreamwalker. That means that he can contact the dead in the dreamworld. If anyone in Marion needs to communicate with a dead friend or relative, they ask Baxley's dad to do it for them. Neither Baxley nor her father believes that Roland is dead. Dad is certain of this because he's never seen Roland in the dreamworld. Baxley has inherited her father's dreamwalking abilities, and she knows that, sooner or later, she will have to take on his job. 

     Dad has allowed Baxley to grow up ignoring her psychic skills, but now he's not sure he did the right thing, because Baxley is sadly unschooled in using her powers, which (in addition to dream walking) include highly sensitive hearing, the ability to know when a person is lying, and getting psychic sensations from both people and inanimate objects (psychometry). Here, Baxley explains the extent of her talents: "My gifts seem linked together. Hearing is the strongest, but that's accentuated through touch. I can hear more and see more if I touch an object that someone with highly charged emotions handled. Other sensations come through distorted. And I have odd dreams on occasion…" (Gone and Done It, p. 70)  

     Meanwhile, though, she has to make a living, so she pesters the sheriff to pay her to consult on criminal cases that would benefit from her dream-walking skills. Most of the townspeople in Baxley's age group are former classmates who have known one another all their lives. Unfortunately, some of them demonstrate the very worst of southern good-ole-boy sexist behavior, which Baxley must deal with on a daily basis.  

                      NOVEL 1:  Gone and Done It                      
     As the first novel opens, Baxley is finishing up a major landscaping job at a McMansion built by Carolina Byrd, a wealthy, persnickety widow. As Baxley digs a hole for a weeping cherry tree, her shovel hits something round and hardnot a rock, but a human skull. After being tasered by one of the sheriff's over-zealous deputies, Baxley eventually is able to identify the victims (turns out there are three skeletons) as colonial settlers who died several hundred years ago. Then, a few days later, Baxley finds yet another body, but this one is a fresh kill. Once again, Baxley dreamwalks to learn the woman's identity and the circumstances of her death. The rest of the story follows Baxley as she investigates both murdersone very old and one brand newand manages to solve them both, with a little reluctant help from the sheriff.

     In this story, Baxley's life is complicated by several obnoxious people, all long-time locals: 

Sheriff Wayne Thompson: A life-long womanizer who keeps hitting on Baxley and minimizing her abilities, although he eventually realizes just how valuable her talents are. Wayne's behavior goes way over the sexual harassment line, which turns his character into a repellent creep. I mean, really, the man has a wife and kids, and Baxley knows them all—has known them for years. Late in the story, we learn the supposed reason for Wayne's randiness, but the rationale that is given (in a shocking "reveal" moment) doesn't ring true at all. 

Buster Glassman, Carolina's realtor and local lady's man: He wants Baxley to help him out by using her psychic talents to increase his odds of winning in on-line gambling, his addiction of choice.

Duke Quigley (aka DQ, aka Dairy Queen), Carolina's builder: He believes that when Baxley discovered the bodies she cost him his job. Plus, he blames her for the death of one of his snakes.

Charlotte Ambrose, newspaper reporter and Baxley's best friend: Perhaps I shouldn't list Charlotte as "obnoxious," but really, that's how she comes across. Her career is uppermost in her mind at all times, and she doesn't mind leaking sensitive facts or walking over people's personal feelings to get a story, something she keeps trying to do with Baxley. Although she is presented as Baxley's BFF, I didn't like her much at all.

Gail Bergeron, the state archaeologist: This prickly and pretentious woman comes in to take over the investigation of the original set of bones and stays to supervise all of the deaths. She really gives Baxley a hard time every step of the way through the investigation.

     One story line that percolates in the background is the one involving the watcher in Baxley's woods. Baxley has seen this mysterious person in shadow and from afar, but never close enough to see his face, although she is sure he is a man. She is also pretty sure that her watcher is actually her husband, Roland. But Roland is supposed to be dead. And if this is Roland, why is he hiding from her? The watcher protects Baxley from harm several times, but he always manages to keep his identity hidden. What's going on here? Although this story line did add some suspense to the story, it also added some dissatisfaction because there is absolutely no resolution (except for the fact that at the very end Baxley discovers that someone else in Marion may have some information about Roland's current status). I'm sure that future books will eventually resolve this mystery. 

     Another mysterious presence is the unidentified person(s) who leaves food on Baxley's doorstep every day after she takes over her father's position as county dreamwalker. While Dad was the dreamwalker, her parents received the same daily gift. At one point, when Baxley senses that her benefactor is still in the vicinity, she opens up her senses and sees "White light. Lovely, embracing white light." (p. 126) 

     Although the plot has one or two minor bumps, this turns out to be an engaging, fast-paced story that includes an interesting cast of characters. One oddity is that Baxley's mother appears to be a good cook, but the only thing that she cooks is soup. She is CONSTANTLY putting on a pot of soup—ALL THE TIME—in nearly every chapter. Another bump occurs when Baxley's father turns the dreamwalker job over to her without giving her any training and then criticizes her when she runs into trouble the very first time someone comes to her for dreamwalk assistance. This seemed improbable and quite harsh on her father's part. 

     Also, the author throws in a few well-worn fiction tropes, like when Baxley suddenly knows just what to say when confronted by a bunch of bad guys in the dreamworld, although no one ever taught her those words. And here's another one: Early on, Baxley sees something significant that she thinks she's seen before, but can't remember where. Although this significant thing keeps reappearing as a "notice me" clue for readers, Baxley herself never seems to notice.

     Just one more nitpick: Several references are made to a recent burglary that Baxley solved by identifying the perpetrator as Maisie Ryals. This incident was mentioned so frequently that I thought at first that this was the second book in the series rather than the first. Then I thought perhaps there may have been a prequel novella. But no…I could find neither, so I'm not sure why the author inserted this irrelevant and superfluous bit into the plot.  

     Other than those minor missteps, this looks to be a solid cozy mystery series and I'm looking forward to learning more about the identities of the watcher and the food gifter. Click HERE to read chapter 1 of Gone and Done It.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Author:  Jane Lindskold
Plot Type: Science Fantasy     
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality2; Humor—2 
Publisher and Titles:  TOR
          Artemis Awakening (hardback, audio, e-book5/2014; paperback3/2015)  
          Artemis Invaded (hardback, audio, e-book6/2015)

This ongoing post was revised and updated on 7/17/15 to include a review of the second novel, Artemis Invaded. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first novel.

     FAIR WARNING: This review of Artemis Invaded      
     contains SPOILERS for the first novel, Artemis Awakening.     
                       NOVEL 2:  Artemis Invaded                       
     In Artemis Invaded, Jane Lindskold returns to the world of Artemis, a pleasure planet that was lost for millennia, a place that holds secrets that could give mankind back unimaginable powers.

     Still shaken by the events that ended with the Old One’s Sanctum off-limits for the foreseeable future, Griffin, Adara, Terrell, and the puma Sand Shadow set out for the forbidden zone of Maiden’s Tear. There they hope to find another repository of the seegnur’s technology and, with that, the means by which Griffin can contact his orbiting ship.

     But although his Sanctum may be drowned, the Old One has not given up his dreams of being the one who will resurrect—and control—the seegnur’s technology. Along with Adara’s former lover, Julyan, and the mysterious child-psychic, Seamus, the Old One stalks Griffin, Adara, and Terrell, intent that any prize they take will become his own.

     In the midst of this, Adara wrestles with her complex feelings for Griffin and Terrell—and with the consequences of her and Sand Shadow's new bond with the planet Artemis. Focused on his own goals, Griffin is unaware that his arrival on Artemis has created unexpected consequences for those he is coming to hold dear. Unwittingly, he has left a trailand Artemis is about to be invaded.

     As you can assume from the book's title, one important element of the plot focuses on a group of invaders who land on Artemis and cause some major complications for Adara, Griffin, and Terrell, the three protagonists of this series. As the story opens (two weeks after the end of book 1), the trio is unaware of the new threat because they are trying to remain undetected by the general population and are not in contact with people in the towns and villages. They have decided to go to a major restricted area called Maiden's Tear, which contains relics left behind when the seegnurs were all murdered by an unknown enemy 500 years ago. 

     The first half of the book follows the group as they make their way to Maiden's Tear, find some artifacts, and discover one of the seegnurs' hidden facilities. This last event happens about a third of the way into the book, and that's where the plot bogs down a bit as Griffin and Terrell spend a LOT of time trying to figure out the seegnurs' technology and attempting to communicate with a damaged electronic monitor that has access to a wealth of knowledge about the facility. Their dialogues at that point are extremely technological in nature, full of complex concepts that are sometimes difficult to understand.Now that Griffin and Terrell have a nascent telepathic link, they are able to communicate through their dreams. They have become friends, but they are still rivals for Adara's attentions.

     Amongst the chapters dealing with their explorations, Lindskold scatters chapters that give us a peek at the Old One's activities as he develops an elaborate plan to track down Griffin's group and take all the seegnurs' powers for himself. As Griffin explains to his friends, "the Old One Who Is Young does not consider himself evil. He considers himself a scientist, a benefactor who seeks to lift the people of Artemis from the primitive morass into which they have been plunged through no fault of their own He seeks to be their savior." 

     And don't forget those mysterious invaders. When they arrive, we learn their shocking identities and get answers to some questions about Griffin's past.

     With the exception of the slow-paced chapters that focus on the analysis of the seegnurs' technological mysteries, the plot moves along at a fast pace, particularly as it nears the end. Most, but not all, of the conflicts are resolved, so there is plenty to keep the intrepid trio busy in the next novel, not least of which are Adara's unresolved romantic intentions and her extremely complex relationship with Artemis. Artemis has just awakened after a 500-year sleep, and she is having trouble acclimating to her new existence, which is causing Adara some problems. "Artemis has been dead and come to life. How could she not feel afraid that something will make her unalive again? Of course it is possible to feel fear without sensationand who is to say Artemis does not experience sensations of her own?" Adara still has no idea how her relationship with Artemis will develop once Artemis overcomes her fears and the two settle into their interconnected roleswhatever those might be. (Note: At least one question from book one is answered in this novel: Where did that spider warbot come fromthe one that tried to kill Griffin at the beginning of book 1.) 

     Once again, Lindskold masterfully and elegantly maintains her complex and very interesting Artemis mythology. She has created a fresh and inventive world in this series, along with a fascinating cast of primary and supporting characters. Particularly emotional are Adara's scenes with her parents when she learns the true reasons why they sent her off to train with Bruin at such a young age. Adara's scenes with her mother are deeply emotional, and they provide a window into her soul, explaining how she developed such an independent spirit, but still yearns for love and a sense of belonging. 

     One warning: A new character turns out to be a sociopathic sexual pervert, but his perversions are never graphically described. Oddly enough, that makes them even more horrific because we see the emotional effects they have on his victims and must imagine just what he did to cause so much anguish and rage.

     This is definitely not a stand-alone novel because it relies heavily on the events of Artemis AwakeningClick HERE to read the first chapter of Artemis Invaded, which summarizes pertinent details from the first novel and gets Adara, Griffin, and Terrell started on their journey.

     I'm labeling this series as science fantasy because it combines the advanced technology of science fiction with the supernatural elements of fantasy. As Rod Serling described it, "Science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible." Click HERE to read a discussion of the science fantasy genre. Click HERE to take a look at an annotated bibliography of the top science fantasy books.

     Here's the publisher's blurb that describes the series: "The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay…but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had 'bested' the environment.

     "The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archaeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet's secrets…and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind."

     It has been several hundred years since the demise of the civilization that created Artemis, whom the inhabitants of Artemis call the seegnur. As the heroine explains, "'Seegnur' is what we call those who came from elsewhere, those the lore tells us made this world and set us to live upon it so that we might serve them." (p. 27) Just before the huge war that nearly destroyed the galaxy, mysterious invaders murdered the galaxy's rival leaders while they were visiting Artemis and then destroyed the technology that powered Artemis. During the intergalactic war that followed, all of the advanced technology of the seegnur was destroyed on every planet. Only on Artemis are there remnants of the technology of the world of the seegnurthe underground ruins, the adapted inhabitants, and (possibly) some still-viable machines. Over the centuries since the war occurred, though, Artemis has become a mytha fable told to children. Few believe that it really exists.

     Ever since the destruction of their technology, the Artemisians have lived in what amounts to an early agricultural society: no electricity or power of any kind, no technology except for primitive pulleys and levers, and no food except what they grow for themselves. The Artemisians live mostly in small, isolated communities with little interaction between them. Most of the mythology of this world is supplied clearly and concisely in the second chapter of Artemis Awakening when Adara explains the lore of Artemis to the newly arrived Griffin.

     The three main characters are Griffin, Adara, and Terrell. Griffin is a normal human who comes from a wealthy family on the planet of Sierraa place with advanced technology. Both Adara and Terrell were born on Artemis and both have bioengineering in their genetic history. As Adara explains, "As time passed, the seegnur realized that merely having people who could serve them in menial tasks was not yet paradise. They desired those who would be wise in the ways of Artemis, specialists who would show the seegnur the secrets of this vast world they had created. So were made the factotums and the pros, the hunters and the divers, and all the other specialists. At this time, too, were shaped the altered beasts, so that not even the seegnur might be able to predict every creature's actions." (p. 29) 

     Now, after generations of cross-breeding, many Artemisians are almost completely human, while others have adaptive natures and are, in fact, called the adaptedEach of the adapted has a specific skill. Adara is one of the adapted, and she is a hunter who is descended from an altered beast. She has catlike characteristics: slitted eyes that can see perfectly in the dark and fingers that can turn into claws. Each hunter has a demiurgean animal with whom they share certain characteristics and with whom they can communicate telepathically, kind of like a witch's familiar. Adara's mentor, Bruin, has a demiurge in the form of a bear named Honeychild. 

     Click HERE to take an online quiz to determine what would be your profession is you were an Artemesian.

                      NOVEL 1:  Artemis Awakening                      
     The story begins as Griffin's shuttle craft crashes into the mountains of Artemis very near where Adara and Sun Shadow are hunting. When the crash causes a massive rock slide, Adara rescues Griffin and takes him back to her village to meet Bruin. Griffin's appearance on Artemis is a shock to Adara and Bruin because no one has visited from off-planet since the seegnur left, centuries ago. With Griffin's spacecraft buried under earth and rocks, he is sure that he will never be able to leave Artemis. Then, Bruin suggests that he go to the port city of Spirit Bay to visit his mentor, The Old One Who Is Young (aka the Old One), who has a deep knowledge of the seegnur and what they left behind. The Old One is several hundred years old, but looks like he is in his mid-twenties, thus his name.

     Adara and Griffin are both good-looking, healthy 20-somethings, and they are almost immediately attracted to one another, but there is a complicationactually there are two complications. First, Adara had her heart broken by her first boyfriend, Julyan, a hunter who bedded her and then dumped her. Second, Adara has a handsome admirer named Terrell. Terrell is not a Hunter; he is a factotum, an adaptive who is trained in history, culture, and folklore so that he can be a guide to the seegnur if or when they return. At first, I was afraid that this was going to turn into one of those boring love triangles, but no, that is not the case. Just keep reading, and you'll see that the relationship among the three blossoms into something very complex and quite interesting. (No…not a three-way! Get your mind out of the gutter.)

     Unfortunately, just as Adara and her group are journeying to Spirit Bay, they learn that the Old One is not the kindly intellectual he seems to be. Apparently, he has started an adaptive breeding program using unwilling participants. The rest of the plot follows Adara, Griffin, and Terrell as they investigate the Old One and his home, the Sanctum, which is the seegnurs' former arrival facility. The Sanctum was the waiting area and processing center for the seegnur when they visited Artemis. 

     Basically, the first half of the book describes Griffin's arrival and his introduction to Artemis, and the second half deals with the nefarious deeds of the Old One and the efforts of the three valiant protagonists to stop him. Along the way, we get to know all of the main characters quite well, both the good guys and the villain. Thankfully, this villain is portrayed in a relatively nuanced manner. Even though he is committing unspeakably evil acts in the name of science, he is not a raving, power-mad lunatic out to take over the world. He's more like a mad scientist who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a basic lack of human decency that allows him to rationalize his horrific behavior. 

     The relationship among the intrepid protectors of the planetAdara, Griffin, and Terrellis extremely complex and constantly in flux. Both Griffin and Terrell are historians and have many of the same interests (including Adara), but Griffin sometimes lets himself get carried away by his research at the Old One's Santum because he is desperate to find a way to go home. Of all the characters, Griffin changes the most. When he first sees the Artemisians, he views them as "noble savages," primitive artisans and farmers working the land in their own resourceful way, but he is soon ashamed of his own pompous presumptions when he recognizes the Artemisians' high levels of intelligence and intellectual curiosity.

     Throughout the book, the author has scattered about twenty "Interludes," which look like short poems and read like impressionistic thoughts. The meaning of these "Interludes" gradually becomes apparent. If you can't figure them out, don't worry about it because they are fully explained near the end of the story. Here is the first one (p. 23):

     Darkness. Deadness. Purest cold.

     Heat. Intense, incredible heat. The beginnings of awareness.

     Awareness. Purpose. Purpose displacing darkness. Purpose
     displacing awareness. Awareness becoming purpose.

     This is a terrific opening novel in which the author has done a brilliant job of weaving her complex and creative mythology into a well-constructed, fast-paced plot. She also does excellent work with her character development, particularly with Adara and Griffin. Even the supporting characters are well-defined and multi-dimensional. I'm not usually a big fan of either science fiction or pure fantasy, but this book really kept my interest from beginning to end, and I highly recommend it. Can't wait to see how the relationship among the three friends develops and what the Old One has up his sleeve in the next book. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read the first chapter of Artemis Awakening, which describes Griffin's crash and his first meeting with Adara and Sun Shadow.

Monday, June 16, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Kait Ballenger with a review of Immortal Hunter, the second novel in her EXECUTION UNDERGROUND SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Saturday, June 14, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Jenn Bennett with a review of Banishing the Dark, the fourth and FINAL novel in her ARCADIA BELL SERIES.     

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Thursday, June 12, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Terry Spear with a review of Jaguar Hunt, the third novel in her HEART OF THE JAGUAR SERIES. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Dana Fredsti with a review of Plague Nation, the second novel in her ASHLEY PARKER SERIES.     

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014



I have just updated a previous post for Glen Duncan with a review of By Blood We Live, the third novel in his LAST WEREWOLF TRILOGY. 

Click on the pink-link series title above to go directly to the updated review.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Author:  Erin Kellison
Series:  REVELER   
Plot Type:  Light Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2-3 
Publisher and Titles:  Fire Flower Publishing, LLC
             "Darkness Falls" (5/2014)
             "Lay Me Down" (5/2014) 
             "Darksider" (6/2014) 
             "Night's Deep Hush" (7/12/14)  
              "Bring Me a Dream" (8/19/14)

     This post contains reviews of the first five e-novellas in this series.  As each novella is published, I will add the new review to the end of this post. The review of  "Bring Me a Dream." the fifth novella was added on 8/21/14.

     This series is published only in e-book form, and as of the date this post is being published, "Darkness Falls," the first novella, is free in numerous e-book formats. Click HERE to go to a page on Kellison's web site with links to download the various free versions. The price of the second, third, and fourth novellas is $2.99 on amazon as of 8/19/14. Click HERE to keep up with Kellison's publishing schedule by checking her Facebook page.  

     Although the chapter approach to series writing is—on the surface—repellent to me, I must admit that I can empathize with the authors. The publishing industry is in the midst of a violent upheaval, with various lawsuits over pricing and accessibility, the amazon slow-down with Hachette, and the proliferation of authors who want their voices to be heard—now rather than later. Sometimes, if an author's short fiction sells well in e-book form, print publishers will buy their future books, so it's good for the author to have a solid and lengthy sales record. Also, readers are more apt to pay $2.99 for an unknown writer's novella than $7.99 or more for a paperback book. So…it's a conundrum with no right or wrong answer. I am enjoying Kellison's series, and I'll continue to purchase and review the novellas as they hit the market—but only up to a point (one that I haven't defined as of yet).     

     Kellison's mythology is filled with dark dream worlds called Rêves (aka dreamwaters, aka Darkside world). Rêve is kind of a mash-up of flash crowding, raving, and virtual reality—but all of the Revelers are asleep and sharing in one huge, complex dream. In this world, Rêvesshared dreamswere invented fifteen years ago by Didier Lambert, a French scientist, who figured out a way to attune the alteration that sleep brings to people's brainwaves and align groups of Revelers to the same frequency. The Revelers in a particular Rêve wear headgear (usually crown-like hats) that stimulate the right frequency for shared dreaming.

     Now Rêves are a pop culture phenomenon—a Rêve-olution—and companies sell the Rêve experience just like travel agents sell cruises and spa trips. Some Rêves are similar to exotic vacation trips, but others might be set up like stories, with plots enacted by the Revelers. One Rêve that is actually an extreme fighters' club set in a post-apocalyptic world, is nicknamed Apocalypse Pow. 

     Here is a Rêve guide explaining her company's vacation Rêve to a group of soon-to-be Revelers: "We are going to a very exclusive island tonight…One that this beautiful ship could never reach, no matter how far it sailed. The island literally exists on a plane dominated by imagination. You many wander it at willstroll the midnight beach, attend a party under the stars, strike off into the trees for some privacy, or climb an active volcano for an unparalleled view. It is a free place, a place where you are all-powerful, where you can push the limits of experience with no threat to yourself, no pain. While the dream is shared, your interactions with others are voluntary; and if you become agitated or disruptive, you will simply be awakened." ("Darkness Falls," chapter 1)

     Some Revelers are much more talented at negotiating the dreamwaters than others. A talented few can build huge and complex personal dreamscapes, while others are stuck with the ones manufactured by those with better dream-world skills. Some can travel around the dreamwaters at will, while others are more limited. 

     Two big problems have developed as Rêves have become more and more numerous and popular: First, people become addicted to them because they offer a drug-like enhancement to people tired of living mundane lives. Who wants to live in the Waking World when a much better world is available through the Rêves? Second, some of the Rêves are run by criminals who steal the powers of dreamers and use the dreamwaters for various criminal activities. The enforcement officers of the dreamwaters are the Chimera, a group of multi-talented Revelers who are kept busy tracking down the bad guys and rescuing the innocent Revelers who stray away and get into trouble.

     The series story arc involves Lambert's attempts to take control of the Darkside, using Nightmares (violent humanoids with strange eyes who live in the Scrape) to take out his enemies. The Scrape is a desolate sandy wasteland adjacent to the dreamscapes of the Darkside. "Scrape sand originated from the vast, unending nothingness outside of dreamscapes where the great dust storm blew…No one in the waking world even understood the sand's properties, though there was plenty of theoretical mumbo jumbo: the sand was the windblown, leftover chaff of millennia's [sic] worth of humanity's dreams, or the sand was the discarded cells of the collective unconscious's [sic] psyche. Blah, blah, blah" (Malcom's explanation, from "Night's Deep Hush") In other words, no one is really sure where the Scrape sands came from or what they really are.  

     The novellas are separated mainly by their love stories—one per e-book in the first three. Most of the events of the first two novellas take place concurrently, and they share a plot, so they really could have been combined into a single novel. "Darksider" takes place in time immediately following "Lay Me Down." If you just read one, you'll get the all the details of the romance, but you definitely won't get the full scope of the plot. 

     Kellison is the author of three other paranormal romance series: SHADOW, SHADOW TOUCHED, and SHADOW KISSED, all of which take place in her  mythological Shadow World, a place teeming with wraiths and demons. Click HERE to read my reviews of those interrelated series.

            NOVELLA 1:  "Darkness Falls"            
     The hero of the first novella is the multi-talented Malcom Rook, who has been one of the Chimera since the beginning. His job used to be tracking down and eliminating sociopathic Revelers, but the mental and emotional stress of his work got to be too much for him, so now is he a recruiter. He goes to Rêves in search of talented Revelers and tries to recruit them to Chimera.

     As the story begins, Rook is attending the vacation rave described in the World-Building section above, where he finds a talented pair of sisters, one of whom is on her first Rêve and the other of whom is involved in criminal activities. Jordan Lane is going on this Rêve solely to protect her sister, whom she believes to be a fellow Rêve newbie. She has no idea that Maisie has been delivering contraband packages in various Rêves for quite awhile.  As it turns out, both Jordan and Maisie have powerful Rêve talents, and Rook wants to recruit both of them, particularly Jordan, to whom he is mightily attracted.

     The story follows the relationship between Rook and Jordan as it develops and blossoms. At first, Jordan fears that Rook is one of the bad guys, and that belief is inflamed by another mana former client who is also after Jordan for her dream-world talents. Mostly, this is a love story, but there is a bit of action involving a nightmarish boy named Joshua. Joshua is a part of Rook's tragic childhood who has been possessed by something or someone sinister. 

     Since this is a novella, both the recruitment and the romance happen super quickly. Within 48 hours of meeting Rook and learning for the first time about her dream-world talents and the existence of Chimera, Jordan has moved in with Rook and signed on as a Chimera agent.

     The best part of the story is the world-building, which is innovative and fresha nice break from vampires and werewolves. Although the plot has a few minor bumps and holes and the characters make some huge leaps in logic, Kellison basically tells a good story. Click HERE and scroll down slightly to read an excerpt from "Darkness Falls."

            NOVELLA 2:  "Lay Me Down"            
    If you have read "Darkness Falls," you'll know that the hero and heroine of this second novella are Special Agent Steve Coll and carefree Maisie Lanethe colleague of the book 1 hero and the sister of that story's heroine. Coll's job is to get Maisie out of the grip of the crime boss for whom she has been delivering illegal packages in the dream world. At first, Maisie wants nothing to do with Coll and Chimera, but when she learns the horrible truth about what she was delivering, she changes her mind. She also changes her mind about Coll when they are forced to share a hotel room and she gets a good look at his six-pack abs.

     Although this, too, is primarily a love story, there is a bit more drama and action than in book 1, with Maisie going undercover and meeting with the evil villain of the series. Both Maisie and her sister are smart, tough women (although Maisie hides her intelligence behind her fuchsia hair and black eye make-up). Even though they are sometimes rescued by their men, the sisters also show off some brainy moves, particularly Maisie. Both have extremely powerful Rêve skills, which will certainly come in handy as the foursome tries to take down the evil kingpin.

     Again, this novella has a slightly bumpy plot line and a few awkward transitions, but the the lovely wild child and the handsome, but buttoned-down, geek are interesting and humorous enough to hold your interest. Click HERE and scroll down slightly to read an excerpt from "Lay Me Down."

            NOVELLA 3:  "Darksider"            

    This time around, the hero and heroine are Chimera Marshall Harlen Fawkes, who has been a supporting character in the previous books, and his ex-girlfriend, Serafina (Sera) Rochan, an up-and-coming chef. As the story opens, Harlen is called on the carpet by his Chimera bosses and questioned about his association with Rook and Coll, who are now on the run, along with their lovers, Jordan and Maisie. Then, Harlen gets a frantic call from Sera, who is dealing with a stalkera sinister man who is not only haunting her dreams, but has just showed up in the Wake World (WW). 

     Harlen is in the middle of lots of action in this story. Rook and Coll want his help in stopping the villainous Didier Lambert and his cohorts; Sera needs him to find and eliminate her stalker; and Lambert wants him to join the dark side. Harlen has the powerful Darkside talent called Indirect Surveillance in which "A tracker marks the subject and then…drops a proxy into the subject's dreamspace." As the proxy (Harlen) merges with the subject, he sees and knows whatever the subject sees and knows. It's very dangerous, though, because the threat of the proxy being caught by the subject is very high, and the physical emotional after-effects on Harlen are extremely painful and long-lasting.

     Once again, there are two story lines: the romance and the action. Because Sera and Harlen were once lovers, it doesn't take them long to pick up the sexy action where they left off several years ago, and their romance proceeds quite smoothly—not at all like the rough road travelled by Coll and Maisie. Although Sera gives up her dream of being a chef way too quickly, the lovers are both interesting characters. The action scenes relate to the series story arc that focuses on identifying and stamping out corruption within Chimera, particularly that which involves Lambert and his traitorous minions. 

     The story ends with yet another cliff-hanger: one of the heroes has gone missing and someone from Jordan's near-past promises to help find him. Who can be trusted? How deep does the Chimera corruption go? We'll have to wait until mid-July for the next installment. Click HERE and scroll down just a bit to read an excerpt from "Darksider."  

            NOVELLA 4:  "Night's Deep Hush"            

   The fourth installment focuses on Malcom Rook and Jordan Lane, the lovers from book 1. In the opening pages, Malcom is abducted by a thuggish acquaintance and forced to work for one of the strange Nightmare peopleMirren, a woman who is searching for her missing son. Rook soon figures out that Mirren is the daughter of the series villain, Didier Lambert. Lambert has kidnapped his grandson in the Darkside, while his mother retains his physical body in the Waking World.

     The story is told from alternating perspectives as Malcom tries to find and rescue the boy, and Jordan tries to find and rescue Malcom. Complicating Jordan's rescue efforts is Vince Blackman, the man Jordan sent into the Scrape when he tried to force her to work for Lambert back in book 1. Vince escaped from the Scrape by killing one of the Nightmares, and now he wants Jordan to tell him who killed his father. 

     As Vince accompanies Jordan into the Darkside, he meets and falls for Mirren, so I'm assuming that the next novella will pick up with their love story and their confrontation of Mirren's father. Their situation forms an unresolved cliffhanger near the end of "Night's Deep Hush."

     As usual, the story has plenty of action and suspense as Malcom searches for the boy while trying to avoid the Chimera and lots of old enemies, and Jordan is forced to mug people on the street to get enough money to buy her way into the Darkside. For the first part of the story, Jordan believes that Lambert abducted Malcom, so she skulks around the city not knowing whom to trust.   

     As Malcom jumps from Rêve to Rêve on his quest, we learn a few more details about the Darkside mythology. For example, one Rêve is filled with "men and women...hunched over laptops at desks, chained to their chairs by their anklesno waking up for them until they couldn't work anymore. On the screens before them was what looked like programming code. The night shift, as it were." This is an illegal labor Rêve in which dreamers are forced to work while they are Darkside. Another type of Rêve is an Echo, which allows the dreamer to relive his or her memories. Echoes are frequently used by people who have recently lost a loved one and will do almost anything to have them back, if only for the length of a dream.

     Although the couple shares a few passionate kisses, this story focuses on the drama rather than the romance. The scene at the end when Malcom has to deal with the rescued toddler is very funny. The problem with a novella series, though, is that events (in both the action and the romance) occur at breakneck speed, and we have very little time to get to know the characters.   

            NOVELLA 5:  "Bring Me a Dream"            

     The story begins just moments after the end of the previous novella and tells the love story of Vincent Blackman (who was a semi-villain in the first novella) and Mirren Lambert, daughter of the ruthless, power-mad Didier Lambert, the main series villain. Both Mirren and Vince want to kill Didier. Mirren hates him because he abducted her son and killed the boy's father. Vince hates him because Didier killed his father and threw Vince into the Scrape, where he nearly lost his life and his mind. "Vince had barely survived, emerging stained with nightmare blood, harrowed by the Scrape wind, and bearing the realization that…he'd always been meant for the dark." Vince is still a bit unhinged from his battles in the Scrape, and all he can think about is killing Didier. Mirren has also been born to darkness. She is half human and half nightmare and has rare powers in the Darkside World. The two are attracted to one another, but first they must confront and take down Mirren’s father.

     Unfortunately, that confrontation doesn’t go very well, and all three find themselves locked up in Chimera prison cells. Two trustworthy Chimera—Marshall Harlen Fawkes and Director Allison Bright—offer Mirren and Vince their freedom if they agree to find out who the mysterious Sandman is. Some people believe that the Sandman is just a myth or a fairy tale, but Fawkes and Bright believe that he is real and that he poses a real threat to the Waking World.

     Meanwhile, Allison has secretly trapped Didier in a special cell using his own technology against him. That entrapment provides one of the story's most memorable images as Allision tells Didier, "'My mother used to make a Sunday dessert with fruit suspended in cherry-flavored gelatin. If this dense dream water is analogous to the gelatin' she smiled 'right now you're basically bananas.' And then she laughed…while Lambert struggled against his own trap." Although Didier eventually escapes (as you knew he would), his brief imprisonment gives Mirren and Vince time to get started on their search.

     The story follows Vince and Mirren as they make contact with a mysterious organization called the Oneiros (aka the One Group). This cult-like organization is led by Didier and believes in that the Sandman is real and that he will eventually destroy the Dark World, allowing nightmares to creep into the waking world and forcing people to dream alone. When Mirren and Vince contact a young member of Oneiros named Agatha Fleight, they manipulate her into giving them information by implying that Mirren’s father has sent them to her because she is so important to the movement. Agatha tells them what she knows about the Sandman and takes them to the Dark World, but once again, events do not occur as planned and violence ensues.

     By the end of the novella, the conflict with Didier is resolved in a brief, but satisfactory, manner, and a new villain steps up to take his place. Throughout the story, Vince and Mirren see more and more people being followed around by nightmares, and no one seems to know why. This is a serious situation because in this mythology, a nightmare is a dangerous creature—a reflection of your own fears—that can drag you into the Scrape to your ultimate death.

    Mirren and Vince eventually consummate their union and are obviously headed off to their HEA, but first they must accompany Maisie Lane as she goes off into the Scrape looking for her missing lover, Steve Coll. Kellison does a good job fitting both the action and romance story lines into the brief novella format. Best of all, she has created an inventive mythology and a diverse cast of fascinating characters. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Bring Me a Dream."