Dawn Menge’s Queen Vernita Visits Baja Quail-Queen Vernita’s Adventures 6

I received this book courtesy of Ms. Menge for the purpose fair and honest review.

Overview: It’s a new year and Queen Vernita has received an invitation to visit her friends from Baja Quail. Twelve friends in twelve months. This should be fun.

Story Telling: Ms. Menge has aimed for a rather young crowd with this series. The illustrations are amazing. The language used is comfortable blend of simple and challenging.

Likes: This is a great idea. Look at the little old lady. She’s not afraid to learn something new. We also have a good repetition going for the days of the week. The way Ms. Menge snuck information in. Blink, and you’ll learn something.

Dislikes: I really don’t have anything against this book. It was fun.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was the months where Queen Vernita tried a few new dishes and tried to surf.

Conclusion: This is a terrific little book. One that most children will enjoy.

Dave Stanton’s Speed Metal Blues-A Dan Reno Novel 3

I received this book, courtesy of Mr. Stanton for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Dan Reno is back. Since he is the low man in the South Lake Tahoe private investigator circle, he has decided to renew his bounty hunting license. Just in time to head out for two rapist buddies from New Jersey that have shown up in town. It should be a simple case, but where would the book go if it was? Especially, since one of the dirt-bags has his eye on one of Dan’s friends, or should I say Cody’s?

Story Telling: This was one fast paced novel, and that was before Cody showed up. Then the action didn’t let up once. Mr. Stanton blended a tale of Satanists, gang members, Mafia politics, and more quite well.

Likes: Of course, Cody Gibbons is back with his black and white judgment calls. But the cool thing was the fact that Cody is a daddy. This just begs the question: what’s worse than adrenaline junkie Cody?

Oh, and John Switton. He might have started out as a problem in life, but he made the right choice in my mind.

Dislikes: I didn’t care much for the gang and Mafia politics. That could just be the fact that I don’t like politics period.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part here was the showdown between Loohan, Cody and Dan. It was perfect. Or was that Cody’s celebration?

Conclusion: I enjoyed this novel, though it does leave the question: what will Cody’s daughter be like? I wonder if one of these novels will see her following in Cody’s path.

D.B. Martin’s Patchwork People-The Patchwork People Trilogy Book Two

I received this book courtesy of Mrs. Martin for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: It’s just about time for the funeral of the dearly departed Margaret Juste. Lawrence figures that he can figure out how to handle Jaggers with a bit of time. But some odd notes have started showing up signed only as “J.” Who else could it be if not Jaggers? It really gets heated up when Danny disappears, and a woman is found murdered in Lawrence’s house. Who can help Lawrence now? Margaret, I guess. Wonder how she’s going to do that one, since she is dead.

Story Telling: Mrs. Martin has continued her masterful story of Lawrence Juste, his past, and his attempts to be the kind of man his hero Atticus Finch would be proud of. You can feel his frustration and his anxiety throughout the whole book.

Likes: I enjoyed how Mrs. Martin handled the concerns of incest that was raised in the last novel. What seems to be an unraveling in Lawrence’s life, is more of the piecing together the quilt of truth.

Dislikes: Can we just kill Jaggers yet? Each time I thought that he couldn’t get much worse, he does something to prove me wrong.

Favorite Scene: My favorite parts in this part of the trilogy would be when Lawrence is talking to his attorney. Or when we figure out where Danny is. Or how about when we figure out who Danny is? Oh, I know. It’s when we find out who J is and Lawrence and J have their meetings.

Conclusion: It’s a great novel. I hope that I can get a hold of the final book in the trilogy, just so I can find out what happens to Jaggers. I just have to see him get his comeuppance.

Mark DeGasperi’s The Lazarus Experiment

I received this book courtesy of Mr. DeGasperi for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Dr. Jonathan Kelton has quite a problem. There was an accident in his lab the year prior to the beginning of our story here. His actual memories end around two years prior. Here’s the problem. Around the week of his accident, a student–and maybe something more–of his was murdered. Dr. Kelton doesn’t want to catch her killer really; he just wants to know what happened at the time of her murder and his accident.

Story Telling: Oh boy. Be ready when you read this one. I don’t usually like an unreliable narrator, but this is the first time I didn’t feel lied to. The reader is left confused because Jonathan has no memories for a two year span, and he’s the one we follow, hence the confusion. Between the small flashes of insight (or maybe memory sparks) he gets and the climax, it paints a clear picture of what happened. If you feel too confused, just remember that was Mr. DeGasperi’s intention.

Likes: You have to admire Jonathan when it comes to his search for the truth. And he was very determined to find it.

Dislikes: I had a problem with Oskar Rose’s great experiment. It seemed like dr. Rose wasn’t considering the effects that the implementation of his experiment would have on people’s mental states.

Favorite Scene: This is going to be simple. I believe, no matter how painful it is, that everyone does better with the truth. At least Jonathan found it.

Conclusion: It’s not bad for a crossover novel. Some of the science used was a bit difficult to follow, but the murder mystery part was fun. I hope you enjoy it.

Holly Webb’s Rose and the Magician’s Mask-Rose 3

I received this book for a fair and honest review.

Overview: After helping to solve a kidnapping case with her master Mr. Fountain, Rose is looking forward to the holidays. Of course it would be easier if anyone knew where the kidnappers went. Oh, it turns out that they stole a valuable magical item from the Royal Palace as well. What’s the apprentice to the Chief Magical Counselor to the Treasury to do? Find the mask, what else?

Likes: I liked how Rose seemed to have a place of sanctuary in Mr. Fountain’s home. As well it seemed to be a place where you couldn’t count on the fact that ordinary meant, well, ordinary.

Dislikes: I didn’t care for the caste-like system that magic holds in this world. Children are born with it, it usually comes out by the time they reach ten years of age, and the stronger families are notorious for inbreeding or cross-breeding into other magical families. There really is no chance for the average person to be given a chance to learn these skills.

Favorite Scene: I guess it would be when Miss Fells saved her cousin’s life by knitting a strand of his daughter’s hair.

Conclusion: If you like the ‘Harry Potter’ series, you might like this one.

Dave Stanton’s Dying For the Highlife-A Dan Reno Novel 2

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Stanton for a fair and honest review.

Overview: Dan is back. After the events in “Stateline,” he has moved to Lake Tahoe. He has a nice little cabin, and a few odd jobs help make ends meet, at least between his private investigator jobs. Then, one day the stepmother to one of Dan’s high school classmates comes by to hire him. Turns out that Jimmy Homestead has just won the lottery, and Shelia isn’t the only one looking to cash in.

Story Telling: Mr. Stanton has done a great job referring back to “Stateline.” This is how a second novel in a series should work. Mr. Stanton has included just enough information to remind you of what has already happened, but not enough to spoil the first story if you’ve started the series late.

Likes: I rather liked Lou Calgaretti and John Homestead. Lou seemed to be the straight arrow here; he was willing to go only so far to get the information his client needed. And John seemed different from most of those who were searching for Jimmy.

Dislikes: One of my biggest problems here was how Dan as shifted over to the brawny side of the investigation. Lou was cool and all, but he just almost overtook Dan as the focus of the story.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was when Cody decided to get the photos that Dan needed. It was such a compromising situation, for the subjects of the photos anyhow.

Conclusion. While I might have re-written the ending, I found this a great addition to Mr. Stanton’s Dan Reno series.

Sarah Healy’s House of Wonder

I received this book for a fair and honest review.

Overview: Jenna Parsons has always felt constrained in the house that she grew up in. Her mother, Priscilla Parsons, has always tried to fill a hole in her life with objects, and Jenna’s twin, Warren, seems to be getting odder everyday. But that’s not too bad. All Jenna has to do is just worry about her daughter, keep in contact with her family, and don’t let them draw her back to the house. Um, let’s not tell Warren that last one. We definitely don’t need to tell Jenna about the thefts either.

Story Telling: Ms. Healy has gifted us with a slice-of-life novel, well two novels anyway. Interspersed throughout Jenna’s story is one of another generation, Silla’s. It can be al little jarring at times, though Silla’s story explained a lot of hers and Warren’s problems.

Likes: Priscilla was stronger than most would see her as. After all she was willing to be the support that Warren needed. Who cares how she had to fortify herself. She wasn’t hurting nobody.

Dislikes: Oh, let me count them. We had the stepmother jealous of her stepdaughter. We have the home wrecker skank, and the shame-felt fathers. If that’s not bad enough, we get the insistent exes. As well, Ms. Healy has done what most female authors do, she included a sex scene. In my opinion it was unnecessary and makes it so I have to be picky with my recommendation.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part was when Warren received his birthday present from his father. That and the fact Warren found his niche in society.

Conclusion: The story is a good read for a rainy day. It’s also good for those who dislike a lot of tension in their stories.

Don Castle’s Shadows: A Jake Somers Novel 3

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Castle for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Jake Somers, owner of Somers Agency, has a new investigation going on. Other than a surveillance case against an alleged drug pusher, a young woman has been found murdered out behind the office he shares with Steve Evans and their receptionist Maria. Why would somebody shoot a girl and then take her shoes? The missing purse makes sense, but the shoes? Oh, and they have to solve the case before Maria gets married.

Story Telling: This book is registered as a mystery, particularly a cozy murder. That means no sex, usually. Personally, I’d call it more of a suspense novel. There were a few typos, mostly a disagreement in the verb tenses, but they are more of an aggravation than a real problem.

Likes: I like how Maria was willing to work with her boss and his friend to make it a peaceful transition from a single receptionist to a married one. Not only that, but she was willing to push back her wedding so everyone could attend. Mr. Castle did a great job in showing a proper relationship between parent and child. Jake and Josie were fun to read.

Dislikes: My only real problems dealt with the antagonist. I believe that it is just too simple to say that (s)he gets to claim mental illness for all of the bad things that she has done. I call it a cop-out. Not only that, but I would prefer a showdown with the bad guy in my stories. By all means kill the murderers, but let it be a showdown. No easy way out for them.

Favorite Scene: My favorite part of the novel is when Jake walks in to visit Josie Somers in the hospital and sees her in the midst of planning a wedding. Complete with over fifteen consultants.

Conclusion: It’s a pretty good story. One that I think is good especially for the young teenaged reader.

The Urban Fantasy Anthology

Overview: This ought to be fun. It’s a collection of stories, long and short, in the three sides of urban fantasy. The editors and writers have included essays on the different sides of urban fantasy. Useful for those, like me, that have barely scratched the surface. Let’s get on with the stories, shall we?

A Bird That Whistles by Emma Bull

Overview: It’s a musical journey for John. The journey starts when he meets Willie for Open Stage night at the Orpheus. Willie dresses in an old-fashioned way, has plenty of advise about music to offer, and seems otherworldly at times.

Likes: Good switch Ms. Bull. I could have sworn that Willie was a vampire. But the clues to his identity were well placed. Biggest hint: music, singing…hint, hint.

Conclusion: I liked this one. It was fun.

Make a Joyful Noise by Charles de Lint

Overview: Wow. Maida and Zia, part of the Cousins as they call themselves, have gotten themselves caught up in human affairs. Well Maida has anyway. Promises are sacred to the Cousins, and she has made a doozy. Oh, did I mention that it’s to a ghost?

Likes: This story explains a lot of how family relationships work. Maddy’s death was open to your interpretation. But it was Donnie and their mother that I felt for the most. Every family has feelings like this, and it’s nice to see it being portrayed as just the way it is.

Conclusion: As close as this is to a true depiction of mother and child, this will be a ‘love it or hate it’ story. I enjoyed it , even though it was sad.

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

Overview: Um, what was this? I have no idea where we were going here. All I know is it’s all 30 minutes away.

Conclusion: I didn’t like this one. It was confusing. This is the second time something from Mr. Gaiman just confused me, so I’ll count my losses with his works.

On the Road To New Egypt by Jeffrey Ford

Overview: This starts out like a bad joke. A guy picks up Jesus and the Devil. It wasn’t a funny one either.

Conclusion: This is another one that I didn’t care for. Jesus wasn’t portrayed in the best light. And I’m not talking about the smoking and drinking either.

Julie’s Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Overview: What do you get when an artist with a magical background finds a tapestry that shows something that she doesn’t like? Hang on for Julie here.

Likes: This was kind of cool. A teacup unicorn, the joy of all little girls. Or was that just me? The ending was sweet.

Conclusion: I liked this one. Julie’s grandmother must have been one scary woman to disobey.

This ends the “Mythic Fiction” sub-genre. We go to “Paranormal Romance” next.

Companions To the Moon by Charles de Lint

Overview: Mary is worried. Edric has seemed to close himself away from her. And she fears he might be cheating on her.

Conclusion: This is a cautionary tale. I’m not sure what to make of this one. All I do know is that the relationship could never work under the guidelines both parties put it under.

A Haunted House of Her Own by Kelly Armstrong

Overview: Tanya and Nathan have bought a supposedly haunted house. Haunted bed and breakfasts are considered to be all the rage these days. Not that Tanya has bought any of those stories. So why are there so many freaky occurrences with Nathan at the center?

Likes: I like haunted house stories. This one is no different. Tanya’s fear is quite understandable. The ending now, that was the real kicker.

Conclusion: Isn’t karma something? I liked this one.

She’s My Witch by Norman Partridge

Overview: Oh my. Young love, or more like teen love. A teenager with his witch and the last night of summer.

Likes: It was a pretty neat story. A guy bringing out the beauty he sees in a woman. It just got a little weird when you find out Johnny’s secret.

Conclusion: What comes around, goes around. Why can’t anyone get this? I liked this one.

Kitty’s Zombie New Year by Carrie Vaughn

Overview: Kitty just wants a New Year’s kiss. Is that too much to ask? When a woman in a stupor shows up at the party, it’s up to Kitty to figure out what’s wrong with her. The joys of having a supernatural call-in program.

Likes: Kitty’s research on zombies was kind of fun to follow. And the way that they were able to help Beth was sweet.

Conclusion: I liked the character of Kitty, not so sure about reading her story any further though. I did like this story.

Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs

Overview: Tom is searching for Jon, his brother both in blood and in blue. To aid his search, he is sent to Moira to help him. Since the group that has Jon is called the Samhaim Coven, he needs a witch’s help. Good thing Moira isn’t scared.

Likes: Tom is my kind of guy. He doesn’t care what he has to do to get the job done. Let him watch my back.

Conclusion: I liked this one. Maybe I ought to find more on Patricia Briggs.

Hit by Bruce MacAllistair

Overview: Would you take out a repentant vampire for the chance of ultimate forgiveness? That’s what Anthony has been offered. Did I mention that the hit takes place in the Vatican?

Conclusion: I didn’t like this one. God doesn’t play these games.

Boobs by Suzy McKee Charnas

Overview: We have another werewolf story. One about young teens.

Conclusion: This one is just sick. I’m pretty freaked out by the main character. I hated it.

Farewell My Zombie by Francesca Lia Block

Overview: A woman’s son was eaten by zombies. So she’s out to help others threatened by them. The only question is, was Max really eaten by zombies?

Conclusion: Have I mentioned how little I like unreliable narrators? I think it’s the feeling of being lied to. This is just one reason I didn’t care for the story. The other reason is how Ms. Block referred to those with the slightest conservative slant.

This ends our trip through “Paranormal Romance.” All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip. We’re starting the “Fantasy Noir” next.

The White Man by Thomas M. Disch

Overview: Another bipartisan story with an unreliable narrator. Tawana is worried about vampires attacking the Somali refugees in Minneapolis.

Conclusion: Why is it that there is no backlash when the liberals start preaching in their stories? C.S. Lewis is still taking flack for “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Preaching, of any kind, isn’t much fun to read. I didn’t like this one.

Gestella by Susan Palwick

Overview. This is different. Here we have Gestella, a werewolf who falls in love with a man named Jonathan.

Conclusion: This story was awful. Between the second person point-of-view and the ending, well it made for terrible reading, and made no sense. Especially since the ending made the story void.

There are more stories in the “Fantasy Noir” section, but this is where I stop.

Over all Conclusion: After ‘Gestella,’ I bummed out on the anthology. Out of twenty stories seven were good, eight I couldn’t stand, and five I couldn’t read. I did look up the last five stories, and found that “Fantasy Noir” really isn’t my style. Maybe, you will like it better.

Books: A Team Effort

Oh boy. The Amazon and Hatchette debate has certainly heated up. The only result, that I’ve seen so far, is that the self-published, indies, whatever you wish to call them, but they’re basically the ones who say they need no one, have all come out ringing the funereal bells for the printed book. But I ask you, have you ever considered that it takes more than one person, the author, to get these books out?

Let me ask it another way. Picture this: you’re at the stadium and are going to be watching your favorite team sport. It’s even your favorite team playing. The opposing team comes out in all of their glory, ready to play. And then, your team is to take the field/court/ice/whatever they play on, and all that comes out is the star of the team. Doesn’t look like it’ll be a good game does it?

Now let’s replace the opposing team with other books, the critics, and all of the ones that will be pushing against you. And let’s place the author, you, in the position of the home team’s star player. How do your odds look now? Not very comforting are they? This is how I see those authors who say that they need no one to make it big. They are the sole player going against the full team. And I don’t care how they were published.

Yes, we all give credit to the person whose name is on the cover of our books. And occasionally the authors will give credit to those who have inspired/helped them, usually through the Acknowledgements section. But, and this is a doozy, where do you think the money goes in regards to the books? Let’s take traditional publishing for example. We have the author, the author’s agent (if applicable), the editors, the copy editors, the line editors, the copy setters, the gallery printers, the proofreaders, the book binders, the publicists, and the stores of all kinds.

I can just hear someone out there saying that they don’t need these people. Okay, so you have to now hire an editor, and maybe a copy editor, this time you have to pay for them. Have you joined a writer’s group? Do you have any beta readers? Have you gotten your story from a news article or an anecdote? Do you count those providers that stock your book, be they digital or brick-and-mortar stores?

You see even a self-published book, the good ones anyway, have a lot of people helping with the author’s work. What’s worse some of these authors seem to think that they don’t need any help editing their novels. Mistakes are easy to miss with only one set of eyes. If you can’t afford the editor, at least let a family member or a friend comb over your work to spot anything that can jar the reader out of the story.

I’m not saying that you should even think about quitting your writing. By all means, write your stories. Just remember books of all kinds are a team effort. Even your e-books. You don’t want to be in the position of our hypothetical team’s star, do you?