Review: ‘Stormcaller’ by R.K. MacPherson

Stormcaller

Power always carries a price…

For Isaura Durand, homeless life on the streets of Seattle posed plenty of challenges. She didn’t ask to become a witch. She didn’t understand how it would change her, but when she awakens to her power, Isaura finds herself plunged into a brutal struggle with dark forces.

Thrust into the heart of Seattle’s eldritch world, Isaura uncovers a series of ritual sacrifices designed to unleash magic’s true power upon the world.

Allied with a grumpy Norwegian mage, a Native American shaman on a Harley, and a beautiful medic, Isaura must overcome her own demons and her growing list of enemies. Victory is anything but certain, and to survive, Isaura must embrace her potential and become the…

STORMCALLER

Before I start this review, I should point out that I’m an editor in my day job, which means that I am among the world’s worst grammar nazis. I say this because Stormcaller is a book with so much potential, and you may not be as sensitive to its flaws as I am.

The story is fast-paced; we’re thrown into the action from the start, with Isaura waking up to her new magical powers and immediately nearly having her face eaten off by a demon. The fight scenes, especially the way Marius does his magic, remind me of Final Fantasy, one of my favourite computer game franchises. There’s also a sweet romance between Isaura and Chloe (yay, diversity!), which I loved.

The banter between Isaura, her mentor Coyote (aka Jack), and Marius — the mage who takes her in after her powers awaken — is golden, and often had me in stitches. Isaura causes a lot of her own problems, with her extremely poor lack of self control; at one point Marius describes her as having “the impulse control of a hyperactive chaos demon”. #nailedit

So Stormcaller is a good book. It could have been a mindblowing book with a professional edit. Part of it was a number of copy-editing issues, which is why I mention the grammar nazi thing upfront. The other niggles I had were with things that I’d like to imagine a good editor would’ve pointed out.

One is that the story takes a while to really get flowing, in that there are some kinks in the first few chapters. (Marius takes her in after her initiation, letting her sleep in his shop, but the circumstances were a little confusing to me. Once he gets the flat, it sorts itself out.)

Another issue was the unexpected heat level of the sex scene between Isaura and Chloe. Although both girls are around 18, the book reads like a young adult until you get to this scene, which is, ahem, quite explicit. Not to the point of being outright erotica, but it’s pretty close.

Finally, and I admit this is quite minor, Marius’s brother is named Darius. I regularly got confused about who we were discussing. (I’m easily confused.) :p

This is a regretful 3.5 stars for me — regretful as it’s exactly the sort of story I love: urban fantasy with a strong female lead and a well-developed magic system. The lesbian relationship was something I haven’t read much of, but I loved that too.

Three-and-a-half stars


Review: ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Anyone who’s followed my reviews for a while will know this isn’t my normal sort of read. However, since I finished drafting the last book in the Isla’s Inheritance trilogy, I’ve turned my mind — between edits — to my next project, which I want to set in a fantasy version of Ancient Greece. So recently I’ve been reading a bit of historical non-fiction, and some hist fic.

I haven’t reviewed any of that here on the blog, but I loved The Song of Achilles so much I thought it was worth a mention. I actually listened to this as an audiobook that I downloaded as part of an Audible trial, and I’m not sure if the fabulous voice acting of David Thorpe influenced how much I love it. It may have done — I did wonder a couple of times whether I would’ve lost patience with the way the narrator, Patroclus, lingers lovingly over descriptions of Achilles if I was reading it. Listening to it was sometimes like listening to a poetry recital, it was so beautiful.

And beautiful is really the only way to describe this book, even though parts of it are “ugly” in the traditional sense. Miller doesn’t spare us any details of the bloody violence of war, just as she doesn’t spare any details of Achilles’ nimble feet or his golden hair.

If you’ve read the Illiad or studied Ancient Greek legends, you’ll know that the Trojan War didn’t end well for Achilles; the entire story of this novel arises from his best friend and lover Patroclus’s determination that he be remembered not just as a brutal killer but as a talented lyre player, as quick to laugh as he was haughty. (And he was haughty; Patroclus doesn’t have entirely rose-coloured glasses and definitely lets us see Achilles’ arrogance.) Nevertheless, by a third of the way through the story I was in love with Achilles, and by halfway through I loved Patroclus too.

There are sex scenes, but they are more romantic than explicit — it’s entangled limbs and hot kisses rather than…well, you know. (You do know, right?) Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, Patroclus and Achilles are both male, so if that sort of thing bothers you, this may not be your book.

On the other hand, if you want to read a beautiful and tragic story with an eternal romance and an uplifting ending, this may be the book for you. Song of Achilles earned every star!

Five stars


Book blitz sign-ups for Isla’s Inheritance

IslasInheritanceBlitzBanner

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS! Next month, starting the weekend after my book comes out, I’m having a week-long book blitz. There’ll be a giveaway (a $50 Amazon gift card!) and excerpts or an interview or I-don’t-know-what-because-I-haven’t written-it-yet!

If you have a blog and are interested in taking part, please sign up here!

And now, I will express my giddiness with gifs!

 

Happy pointing

Rapunzel


Seven authors by whom I’ve only read one book and NEED more

toptentuesday

It’s been a little while since I did Top Ten Tuesday, but this week’s topic really appealed: the top authors who I’ve only read one book by, but who I need to read more from! So here goes. I’m listen these authors in alphabetical order by surname. Don’t ask me to choose between them. (Also, it’s no coincidence that most of these are books I’ve read this year; authors who’ve been publishing for longer who I read earlier are ones I have almost always read several books from by now!)

Behind the ScenesAuthor: Dahlia Adler
Book I’ve Read: Behind the Scenes, which I reviewed here. I’m devastated I have to wait another nine months for the sequel.

In Stone_newAuthor: Louise D. Gornall
Book I’ve Read: In Stone, which I reviewed here. I loved this book and I’ve been waiting for the sequel to come out for pretty much EVER. Well, since this time last year. Unfortunately, this book was a casualty of the press which shall not be named, so… :(

The Fault In Our StarsAuthor: John Green
Book I’ve Read: The Fault in Our Stars, which I reviewed here. I actually picked up An Abundance of Katherines on the weekend; I just need to find the time to read it. And about 100 other books!

"Sleeper" by S. M. Johnston

Author: S. M. Johnston
Book I’ve Read: Sleeper, which I reviewed here. Another casualty of the press that collapsed earlier this year, so I’m very impatiently waiting for Johnston to re-release this and then the sequel.

The Song of AchillesAuthor: Madeline Miller
Book I’ve Read: Song of Achilles, a gorgeously written retelling of Achilles story and the Trojan War. I’m posting a review of this one on Thursday, you guys.

Amazon | iBooks | Google Play

Author: Stacey Nash
Book I’ve Read: Forget Me Not, which I reviewed here. (Note: I’m kind of cheating here, because I’ve also read one of Stacey’s unpublished manuscripts.) Happily, the sequel comes out next month. Cartwheels!

Raven BoysAuthor: Maggie Stiefvater
Book I’ve Read: The Raven Boys, which I reviewed here. I have ordered the next book in the series; I’m just waiting for it to arrive.

What about you? What authors have wowed you with one book but you’ve been unable — for one reason or another — to read another of their books?

 

 


Mystery in Love: Good or Bad?

SmallTownCLM-MD As part of the Small Town Charm, Love and Mystery boxed set blitz, some of the many fabulous authors have stopped by to talk about love in mystery. I’d love to hear what you think too — please leave a comment! Julie Anne Lindsey

Julie Anne Lindsey. I’m a huge fan of mystery, amateur sleuths, cozies and all sorts of who-done-its with a witty heroine and a circle of friends and family that draw me in to sequel after sequel. You could say I’m obsessed. (You shouldn’t, but you wouldn’t be wrong!) In fact, I write cozies as much as I read them. One thing I never leave out is a little chemistry between my heroine and a man smart enough to keep up with her. There’s just something about throwing love into the mix that ups all the stakes. On the one hand, what wouldn’t we do for love? On the other hand, what complicates things faster than a new romance? Right? Watching the heroine juggle her real life, career, family and a budding murder investigation is great fun. Watching her do that while hoping not to ruin things with a cute new friend is just fabulous. I vote for Love in Mystery!

Jennifer AndersonJennifer Anderson. Yes, yes, yes! A little mystery can add to the angst. The longing looks. The…mystery that is love! And I think in most love stories there is a drop of mystery. Of course, you do have those stories where the heroine is in love with a guy and she’s not sure if he’s killed someone, but I think that’s an entirely different question! In my personal life, which isn’t a story no matter how much I think it is, I like a little mystery. Being married for almost 15 years and with the same man for 20, I’ve found you need a little mystery to keep the spark there.

MagdalenaScottMagdalena Scott. Good, as long as the mystery will end well for the parties involved. I love an element of mystery in a romance novel. Maybe it’s the challenge of keeping the reader guessing and providing a pleasant surprise at the end of the story. I have done that to some extent in most of my stories, and I think sometimes it was almost unintentional. That likely stems from my own enjoyment of a nice surprise. It doesn’t need to be a gift, or expensive, but maybe just an evening when my guy decides to cook and invite me over. On days when I’ve “slaved” at the laptop for 10 to 12 hours, a home-cooked meal for which I have no responsibility is a fabulous gift. Back to mystery, I always loved reading Agatha Christie. Perhaps not one of her best-known books, but one of my favorites, is The Man in the Brown Suit. Definitely a mystery, definitely a romance, and definitely sigh-worthy.

Giveaways

Enter for a chance to win one of two fabulous ebooks: Prince Charming (Honey Creek Royalty, Book 2) by Jennifer Anderson, or Reinventing Chloe by Julie Anne Lindsey
Enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card
OPEN INTERNATIONALLY!

The boxed set

Small town America has its charm—not to mention its fair share of romance and mystery! Everyone knows small towns have their own unique charm, that’s why they make fabulous settings for stories! Turquoise Morning Press presents the best of their small town settings—all in one volume, and for one very small town price! From Drakes Springs, Florida, to Briny Bay, North Carolina, to Wheeler, Texas, where a little romance and a lot of murder and mystery take center-stage—and then to Honey Creek, Ohio and Legend, Tennessee, where home-grown romance blooms, and love lives right next door. Eight fabulous authors share their views of small town charm, love and mystery in this eight book boxed set—providing you with a satisfying glimpse into the lives and stories of the quirky characters who live in these charming settings.

Release date: September 2, 2014 ISBN: 978-1-62237-334-5 Retail Price: $5.99     Promotional Price: $0.99

TURQUOISE MORNING PRESS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE
IBOOKS
| KOBO | SMASHWORDS | ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS

Love & MysteryThe books

Bloom by Julie Anne Lindsey In a town filled with her past, she never expected to find her future. Seven years ago Cynthia left Honey Creek with a broken heart. Three years ago Mitchell arrived with one. If they let it, love will find a way to bloom. Julie Anne Lindsey really brought me back to the books that made me love to read. Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars; Bloom is one of those romances that transports you back in time. Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars

Buried in Briny Bay by Bobbye Terry Roxie Turner finds herself up to her neck in trouble her lifelong nemesis, Georgia Collins, is discovered buried in the town’s landfill. Worse, with her characteristic Southern sass, Roxie has been saying she’d kill Georgia for more than twenty years. I had Janet Evanovich, Julie Garwood, Jill Shalvis and Pamela DuMond all grouped together for this category. But I think the crazy sisters, Roxie and Trixie just had to come out on top. What a feel good book Buried in Briny Bay was, as it kept me smiling from the first page till the last. Another Look Book Reviews Award, Best Book to Bring on Smiles

Midnight in Legend, TN by Magdalena Scott. Midnight Shelby has grand ideas to help her adopted hometown, and she’s not going to let a stick-in-the-mud realtor get in her way. I loved this book and highly recommend it. I must warn you, however, that [Magdalena Scott] will quickly become addictive. Brenda Tulley of The Romance Studio, 5 Hearts

Murder at the Blue Plate Café by Judy Alter Small towns are supposed to be idyllic and peaceful, but when Kate Chambers returns to her hometown of Wheeler, Texas, she soon learns it is not the comfortable place it was when she grew up. Alter serves up a delicious whodunit by stirring up a healthy serving of suspense and a splash of romance, then bakes them to downhome perfection. Add an appealing protagonist, and you have Murder at the Blue Plate Café. Highly recommended. Polly Iyer

Shades of the Future by Suzanne Lilly Mariah Davis loves animals, running, and her hunk of a boyfriend, Kevin Creamer. Everything looks bright for her until the day she finds a pair of sunglasses that allows her to see the future. Suzanne Lilly weaves an engaging world populated with charming and eccentric characters that readers will want to visit again and again. Brenda Hiatt, award-winning romance and young adult author

Heart to Heart by Jan Scarbrough When Jeremy’s aunt gives him a second chance, he must decide if he believes in the unbelievable and the pet psychic who teaches him about faith…and love. If you want a humorous, sweet book for a quick read at the pool or beach, this is it. Ms. Addie is still stirring up things in the town of Legend, even after her death. Amazon Reviewer, 4 Stars

Rebuild My World by Cheryl Norman More than anything, Taylor Drake wants her life back. Suffering from the agoraphobia that has plagued her since a brutal attack, the once confident and successful photographer now cowers behind closed doors with a loaded pistol. …Ms. Norman is a gifted storyteller. I loved Rebuild My World and eagerly turned the pages, excited to see what event would next happen to keep this story moving. Not only is it well plotted, but the characterizations draw you into the lives of these people. Ms. Norman tells a compelling tale that keeps you guessing. Vine Voice Amazon Reviewer, 5 Stars

Ice Princess by Jennifer Anderson Mya Newman never minded the routine or quiet that came with living in Honey Creek, Ohio. For her senior year, she craves something exciting to happen instead of it melting into a cookie cutter routine like the previous years. …a wonderfully emotional short story with just the right balance of sweetness and sadness. I recommend it to anyone who relishes a charming story of love and friendship. LASR Review, Great Read! 4 Stars

The authors

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. Julie writes sweet romance for Honey Creek Books, the Calypso series with Lyrical Press/Kensington and pens the The Patience Price Mysteries for Carina Press/Harlequin.

Bobbye Terry is a multi-published author of romantic comedy, fantasy and suspense—writing where southern charm sometimes meets macabre reality. Her awards include Eppie finalist and two-time finalist of Detroit’s Bookseller’s Best Award.

Magdalena Scott lives in her own fantasy world of Magdalenaville, Indiana, and spends her time writing stories with small town settings. Magdalena knows that life in a “burg” is seldom dull—if you’re paying attention. She is the Amazon bestselling author of the Ladies of Legend romance series.

Judy Alter, award-winning author, penned the five books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, she moved from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.

Suzanne Lilly writes lighthearted young adult stories with a splash of suspense, a flash of the unexplained, a dash of romance, and always a happy ending. Her short stories have appeared in numerous places online and in print. She lives in Northern California where she reads, writes, cooks, swims, and teaches elementary students.

Jan Scarbrough is the author of the popular Bluegrass Reunion series, writing heartwarming contemporary romances about home and family, single moms and children, and if the plot allows—horses. She is an Amazon bestselling author of the Ladies of Legend contemporary romance series and a RWA Golden Heart finalist.

Cheryl Norman turned to fiction writing after a career in telecommunications and won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort. A mention in Publisher’s Weekly called her one of ten new romance authors to watch. She resides in Florida and is currently writing the Drakes Springs romance series.

Jennifer Anderson wears the hats of Mommy, wife, cat owner, author, and marketing coordinator. She has lived either coast, but has spent the majority of her life in the Midwest, where she says her heart grows with the love of family and friends, and where she finds inspiration for her young adult and romance stories.


Review: ‘Unhinged’ by A. G. Howard

Unhinged

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she’s always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland — where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

I commented on a friend’s blog the other day about how it’s so true that when in your life you read a book has a huge impact on how you (well, I) feel about a book. Unhinged may be a good example of that … or maybe it is simply a better book than the first in the series, Splintered. (My review of Splintered is here if you want to compare.)

I read Unhinged in less than 24 hours; I read the first third while I was waiting to have surgery, and the rest of it after I’d had surgery, that night and the next morning. There were a lot of drugs in my system at the time. Maybe that enhanced the experience. I was a little worried that the book would have a lot of trippy Wonderland scenes in it, but it didn’t — which maybe is a good thing, because I didn’t really need a general anaesthetic Wonderland dream scaring the hell out of me!

This preamble is by way of telling you that while I loved the book, I couldn’t give you a blow-by-blow account of the plot if I tried. But that’s ok, because I never summarise the plot when I write a review anyway. (Why do people do that?) ;)

Unhinged is mostly set in the human world. Alyssa is determined to live her normal life and not give in to Morpheus’s demands that she abandon everything and live in Wonderland. I really respected her determination to do so, for a few reasons. One is that she has a family and friends, and a boyfriend, and it would’ve been more than a little crazy if she’d just run off. I also liked that as a lead she had the spine to stand up to the demanding bad boy, Morpheus, and say no. Not that many YA heroines achieve that.

It was a little unfortunate that she didn’t try and integrate both sides of her nature a little better in between the first and second books, but that’s one of the major plot arcs of Unhinged. There was character growth there, and it was very satisfying to see.

I still wasn’t wild about Alyssa’s boyfriend, Jeb. He’s not as physically domineering in book two, but I can’t help but feel that’s because he was off camera (so to speak) for a large part of it, so he never really got the opportunity. He does become a bit of a damsel in distress at one point, and she has to rescue him; I enjoyed the role reversal.

On the other hand, Morpheus, the other player in this love triangle, was very much front and centre, and just as charming, manipulative and obnoxious as he was in the first book. In a love triangle I usually prefer the nicer guy, the boy next door. In this book the choice is between a boy who does happen to live next door (Jeb) but whose attitude I don’t much like, and the bad boy who — while he no doubt has his appeal — is way too deceptive for me to cheer for him wholeheartedly. Instead, I find I’m on Team Alyssa; I want her to choose the guy who mends his ways and ultimately earns her respect and trust.

I am kinda hoping that’s Morpheus, though… ;)

One thing I didn’t notice in Unhinged that bothered me in Splintered was the over-the-top descriptions of clothing and settings. The setting descriptions weren’t as necessary, I guess, because it was mostly set in the human world. I’m not sure if the clothing descriptions weren’t as intense or if I was just less sensitive to it. (See previous comment about lots of drugs in my system.) Either way, it didn’t bother me this time around.

I’m really looking forward to the last book in this trilogy, whose cover is just as gorgeous as the first two. Did Howard hit the cover artist jackpot or what?!

Five stars


Cass goes AWOL

Hello! Remember me? I know I disappeared for a week there; I confess, I knew I was going to be offline but I wasn’t organised enough to schedule posts (with the exception of yesterday’s) in the interim.

Coast boyThe reason I was AWOL was that our family had a gathering down the coast, which meant wrangling the five-year-old for a night away. We had a good time, though he did insist on dragging me into the surf when the water was about ten degrees celcius at best. (Google tells me that’s fifty degrees fahrenheit, if you’re wondering.) I only went in up to my knees, but it’s a miracle I still have toes left.

He’s declared he wants to learn to surf. I’m quietly having conniptions about that.

On the Monday when we got home, I had surgery. Planned surgery — it wasn’t because of frostbite or anything! My boy and I stayed with my folks for an extra night so I only got home yesterday afternoon.

I’m slowly getting better, although I am sore. Mostly I’m just glad it’s over.

Cover giveaway competition results

The winner of the $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift voucher as part of my Isla’s Inheritance cover reveal giveaway is Alicia. Congratulations!

IslasInheritance-CPage-MD

Goodreads 2014 Challenge Complete

Goodreads challenge

As I did in 2013, I set my Goodreads Challenge target at 40 books. Unlike last year, I finished it in the last week rather than in December. However, I feel a bit like I cheated, because among my 40 this year are three novellas and nine childrens books (mostly by Roald Dahl). So my new goal is to get to at lest 52 books by the end of the year, so that I’ve read 40 adult or YA novels. That’s also one book a week, which is quite nice!

We’ll see how that goes!

What have you been up to in the last week?


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