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Review: Jesus Jackson by James Ryan Daley

Request from Publisher
Request from Publisher

Honestly, I don’t quite know how I ended up with this book. It isn’t something I would normally read, which means that, as Queen of Procrastination, it was destined for that moment when guilt drives me to catch up on the books-I-don’t-want-to-read-but-I-said-I-would-so-pull-up-the-big-girl-panties-and-do-it.

Reading the book, I can see where the religious sort would like a book that speaks to the question of faith and it’s effect on agnostics and atheists. In this case, a 14-year old boy and his brother who find themselves in an ultra-religious school, just before the older brother is murdered.

In a way, it is not just religion that is in question in the book, but also that constant teenaged question, ‘why am I here?’ Of course, we all suffer the same question at many times during our lives, but it is understandably an urgent question during the difficult teenage years, when so much of life begins to change, when ‘who am I’ is as important as ‘why am I here?’

The story sums up, for me, in a conversation between Father Kevin, the school priest, and Johnathan.

I told him that it didn’t matter how many gods he read about, he would always come back to the fact that believing in God-in any god-requires faith. And faith means believing in something you cannot prove.

Overall, I would only recommend the book to those who don’t think as I do, that the cosmos is a giant experiment, an unknowable consciousness beyond our comprehension, beginning over and over again, searching for an unknowable answer to an unknowable question. Creation, study and obliteration, time and time again. What vanity, to think we small, vicious animals could be of any interest to a consciousness so vast?

I received this book from the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own and are not influenced by this fact. If you enjoyed my review, please click “This review was helpful” at Amazon.com. Thank you!

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Review: Maddie’s Choice – Joyce Zeller Highly Recommended!

maddie
Loved the book. And that cover is beautiful!

What do I like the most about this book? Hummm. Maybe it is the setting, the hills of Arkansas, south of Fayetteville? It is gorgeous there. Maybe it is Maddie herself, a gifted New York romance author, suffering from burnout, writer’s block and a bad case of boring boyfriend – who suddenly finds herself half owner of an Arkansas cattle ranch? It could, of course, be the ensemble cast of characters, a mix of quirky, scary, funny, kind, and just plain insane that ramble around the property and it’s environs. Talk about an odd fit – a full on city girl, plopped down amongst the cattle, and trying desperately to understand not only the language (Fetvuhl is “southernese” for Fayetteville) but also the difference between ‘cows’ and ‘cattle’ (there really is a difference, of course!) and what in the world a “Wal-Mart’ could possibly be? I had giggle fits like mad when Ms. Zeller threw in a “language zinger” or two – though Maddie didn’t run across it as much after her first meeting with one of her most touching characters, Fayrene, which was sort of a shame. It is a character-driven novel, beautifully layered and widely ranging.

This is, overall, a gently comic contemporary romance, but I admire and respect Ms. Zeller for writing a book that is much more than a simplistic little novel. Those parts are good, many funny and sweet. The children are heart wrenching, having lost all their family except for a distant and deeply troubled uncle. And Maddie’s relationship with the big, scary Angus bull is hysterical. The part that is absolutely fantastic however, raising the book from a five star romance to a ten-plus star smash hit? The stories within the story – important, heart wrenching stories of poverty and brutality, drugs and ‘cook houses’ and the power of motorcycle gangs in a poverty stricken area. But most of all, what touched me the deepest – the horrors suffered by victims of PTSD, those men and women who return from the mindless, rampant cruelties of war broken and tortured in body, mind, and spirit. Ms. Zeller was in the Army herself, and speaks to the pain of the victims with a breadth of knowledge and a depth of compassion rarely seen in literature. My soul throbbed in sympathy for Gideon, breaking my heart as I watched his torment, his shame, the depth of his agony.  Not overdone, but certainly a strong enough theme to make this book much more than the sum of its parts.

Overall, even if you don’t like “romance” novels, if you are interested in solid writing with an eye to the craft, believable story line, and a variety of themes, this is a highly recommended read. I will absolutely be placing more of Ms. Zeller’s work onto my TBR pile (and somewhere near the top!)

 

Review: All for You by Jessica Scott – Very Highly Recommended

 
Some Army families who recently lost members to suicide criticize the branch for failing to aggressively shake a culture in which soldiers believe they’ll be deemed weak and denied promotion if they seek mental health aid. They also blame Army leaders for focusing more heavily on weeding out  emotionally troubled soldiers to artificially suppress the branch’s suicide stats versus embracing and helping members who are exhibiting clear signs of trouble. – The Enemy Within: Soldier suicides outpaced combat deaths in 2012
Thursday Jan 3, 2013 5:23 PM Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

allforyou
Very Highly Recommended. A romance, yes, but also an extremely well written call for compassion and assistance for those soldiers who are in deep and abiding pain.

Write what you know. It is a simple rule, a pillar of “How To Write A Good Book” and probably one of the most misunderstood. As Nathan Englander, the critically acclaimed author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank once said, “Write what you know” isn’t about events. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss?

In her new book, All For You, A Coming Home Novel Jessica Scott takes that advice and builds upon it, writing a heart wrenching story which left me sobbing on the floor, my heart broken for all those soldiers who return from war broken and lost, and just how badly they need our help – help that the unremitting machine of the military and government would rather deny them. As K. Lang from Las Vegas put it in her Amazon review, no matter the branch, there are raging morons who don’t care and people with flaws trying to fix things in spite of those same raging morons. And the raging morons are thick on the ground at Fort Hood, Texas. (Having done a job there many years ago, I can tell you – I met my own fair share. And that was in peacetime.)

For all of you romance readers out there, this is indeed a romance, never fear. And an extremely well written one. If you don’t like romance? Just skip through those parts, but you HAVE to read this book. What is says is too important not to.

Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli is a broken and deeply damaged man, a leader of men with a long-time alcohol problem and a broken soul. He has had to live within a shell of alcohol and brutality for so long, he truly doesn’t know any other way to be. Captain Emily Lindberg is the psychologist who has left behind a life of privilege and familial control, striking out on her own in order to do good for the soldiers who truly need her services, leaving behind the spoiled, rich kids of privilege looking for excuses for their own bad behavior.

What Emily walks into is far from what she expects. Fort Hood is a place of systems and procedures that don’t work, that are devastating to the very people they are supposed to protect. Those soldiers, both men and women, who have come back from war, from death and dirt, blood and insanity – actions that are beyond the normal person’s comprehension. Scott lays it out in all its brutal simplicity – get EM’ in, get EM’ back out into the field. No matter what. And if they are damaged? Get EM’ all the way out, back into society, no matter what the war has done to them, no matter how the blood and gore has broken them. No matter how much they have given and suffered for their country. They are coldly thrown away, like so many broken, irreparable tools.

Jessica Scott knows of which she speaks. A career Army officer and wife of a career Army NCO, Scott has written for the New York Times’s At War blog, PBS’s Point of View Regarding War, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice. So, yes, she does know that of which she speaks. And what she knows is horrifying.

Scott is careful to point out in her Note From The Author, “This book is not meant as an indictment of our men and women in uniform or the military that we serve or the thousands of leaders who do the right thing every day and try to take care of their soldiers.” And there are those who do try every single day to do the right thing. Who try their best, despite a broken and uncaring system that rolls right over the top of them in a heartless march to simply fill out the paperwork, follow the rules, and move on to the next thing – which, in too many instances, is gaining their next bar or pip or stripe no matter the cost to their own soldiers, those very soldiers whom their very purpose should be to protect and honor.

Yes, Jessica Scott has written a brilliant story of romance between two people who, no matter how different they may be, not only learn to love one another, but also need one another in order to do what they need to do, who need one another to do good and to provide the strength that not only they need, but also those around them need in order to stay sane, focused, and safe. But she has also written a story which points out just how badly our soldiers need our help. How the pain, death, and the horrors they face every day can often be more than even the strongest among them can bear, and how more often than we would like to admit, the uncaring military machine simply throws them under the bus, leaving them to lives of drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness, and ultimately suicide.

Buy the book. Read it. And then take a look around you. In Jennifer Scott’s words, if you know someone who is hurting, if you suspect someone is having a hard time, ask them. Don’t be afraid. Speak up. Ask the question. Because you never know what someone else is going through. And you might just make a difference.

I would go beyond that. Take the time to check out the heart of her story yourself. Talk to veterans and their families. If you are a family member or friend, be there for them, ask the right questions of your Congressmen and Senators. Write letters and give your support. These men and women give their lives and their souls in order to ascertain that you can stop at Starbucks for your latte. The least we can do is help to make sure that they get the help and support that they richly deserve.

VERY Highly Recommended. This book was provided to me by Netgalley in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin

another
The Audio Edition is available here!

As a culture, we are always looking for the next best thing. Computers, cars, you name it. And, of course, books. Everything from urban fantasy to suspense, young adult to horror. Sometimes, though, what is New isn’t what we really need. Instead, what is Old is new again, or rather, it should be!

I just listened to Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin, and narrated by Noah Michael Levine.  First printed in 1978, I found the series way back then, and have the whole collection in paper. Recently, however, the books have come out on Audible.com and, of course, I have to buy them all again. How can I help it? Noah Michael Levine does an amazing job of narrating! His voice and cadence are absolutely perfect for the reading. His grasp of accents is amazing, and he really brings the characters to life. I spent all night last night in my workroom, working on holiday gifts, and though I got really tired about 4AM, I couldn’t tear myself away. There is a sample reading on Audible, check it out and you will love it too!

Why SHOULDN’T Robert Lynn Asprin’s Skeeve be the next Harry Potter?!  It’s all there. Witches, Demons, and Wizards, Oh, My! And the Myth series is FUNNY. Like, burst out laughing on the airplane funny. And the voices by Noah take the laugh-out-loud character to a whole new level of laughter. Though Robert is now gone from us, his collaboration with Jody Lynn Nye means that the wonder of the tale lives on, and it is well worth the journey of discovery!

Skeeve, the main character of the series, is an apprentice wizard. He doesn’t really care all that much about being an apprentice wizard, of course. He was previously a thief, who got busted by the Wizard he was trying to rob. Instead of turning him into a frog, or something just as icky, the Wizard makes Skeeve an apprentice wizard. What are ya gonna do?

During the summoning of the Demon Aahz, an Assassin comes to call – and that is when things get rather messy. When the Wizard is killed, Skeeve is stuck now with the Demon Aahz, summoned from his own world, and none too happy about it. What follows? Well, you will just have to read the book to find out! Or rather, I would actually listen to it. You will NOT be disappointed if you like funny, well paced, creative and wonderful story lines.

Enjoy!!!! Highly Recommended

Review: Sealed With A Purr- Celia Kyle

sealedwithapurr
Strong paranormal romance.
#6 in a series, though. You might
want to look for the first and go through.

This was the first book of the Ridgeville series that I have read. It was a loaner from a friend who thought I might enjoying reading and reviewing the story, and she wasn’t wrong.

Apparently this is number six in a series. I did feel a bit lost a few times in the book, as there are references to happenings that I was not familiar with, but I still was able to keep up and enjoy without being frustrated with the book, unlike some series that I have jumped into the middle of.

I truly enjoyed the fact that there are many levels to the story. Happiness, heartbreak, terror. Grinding loneliness and pain that are soothed and overcome by love and family. There is a scene near the end of the book that broke my heart – the “bad guy” was just so sad, I wanted to save him, no matter what he had done.

Overall, this was an extremely creative little paranormal that kept my attention throughout. Tess, the heroine, has been to Hell, done the tour, and been left with the scars. However, with friends like Maya and Carly, a lion and rabbit shifter (funny, huh?) and a perspective mate who not only understands her pain and her history, but is willing to take his time and allow her to heal, the story is a heart-string puller.

My favorite adjunct character is Maya, the female alpha, or “Prima” of the pack. She has an AWESOME dirty mouth, and made me cackle like a hyena at her antics. Overall, this book left me feeling light and cheerful and has put me on track to finding the first of the series and enjoying them all.

Recommended for urban/paranormal/fantasy/romance readers.

Review: Entangled-An Anthology to Benefit Breast Cancer Research

Entangled: An Anthology To Benefit
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Sometimes it amazes me.

entangled
Your purchase helps fund Breast Cancer Research.
Please click the cover to purchase!!!!!

With all that is bad with this world, that some people can be so generous, giving and kind. That is what happened here, as this wonderful group of authors gave generously of their time to write this group of amazing shorts, especially to benefit the Beast Cancer Research Foundation.

As a survivor myself of advanced Stage III breast cancer, I cannot tell you what a great help the Foundation was to me, and to others like me. My heartfelt thanks to all these women who gave a part of their hearts in these stories!

Proceeds from this wonderful paranormal, contemporary anthology, Entangled, are being donated to the Foundation in full. Please, purchase a copy. It costs less than a cup of Starbucks Latte, and these stories will nourish your soul. Thank you!

Halloween Frost
A Mythos Academy short story
Jennifer Estep
www.jenniferestep.com

Gypsy girl Gwen Frost has the gift of psychometry – the ability to collect images from things she touches. Pretty cool, if a little nosy at times. Hey, she is a teenager, what should we expect?

In this short story, Gwen and her friend Daphne, a Valkyrie, are primping out for Halloween when we first meet them. Well, at least Daphne is. Gwen? Well, not so much.

I haven’t read any of Gwen’s young adult tales previously, though I have heard nothing but good from authors I know and admire. Set at Mythos Academy, the stories revolve around a teenage girl and her friends, learning magic, how to fight and how to serve their ancient Warrior Ancestors. Having not read Jennnifer’s work before I would say that the overall feel is very ‘Percy Jackson’ though, from this short reading, I would say that should I read the first of the series, First Frost I believe I would like Gwen and her friends quite a bit more than I liked Percy.  One thing that does bother me about the story? Gwen apparently keeps getting her ashes pulled out of the fire by a “Big Strong Drool Worthy Spartan” – bummer. Girls rock, let’s see her Kick some butt, not get hers saved!!!! On top of that, Why is it the BOY teenage wizard characters get all the attention in the media?! No fair. I liked Gwen’s personality better than Harry’s too – shh… don’t tell anyone, I don’t want to be lynched! LOL

Cute story that gives you enough of a taste of the mythology and background to capture your interest and place Gwen and friends on your reading list if it isn’t already there.

Note: Jennifer Estep’s grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and this story was written to honor her strength and spirit, as well as that of other survivors.

The Fat Cat
Edie Ramer

http://www.edieramer.com

Another writer I haven’t previously read, Edie Ramer’s story, The Fat Cat was a perfect introduction to her writing. Funny, quirky and highly readable, Edie’s story is a happily-ever-after fairey tale with a healthy dollop of excitement to round it out.

Nikki just lost her loser boyfriend (thank goodness) and has decided that the perfect companion is no longer a man, but a cat. A young, healthy, female cat. After the loser boyfriend, she fully intends for her apartment to be a ‘penis-free’ zone! What she gets and where it goes from there is a fun romp of a tale with a surprise twist of an ending that left me uplifted and laughing. I believe it will leave you similarly touched.

Note: Edie is herself a breast cancer survivor. Though fairly young and doing all the right things for her health, Edie’s story is like many others who suffer this horrible disease. It strikes out of nowhere, destroying lives, families and souls.

Medium Rare
Nancy Haddock
http://www.nancyhaddock.com/

I have had the satisfaction of visiting with Nancy Haddock on Good Reads, and it has been a great pleasure. She is the person who originally introduced me to Entangled: A Paranormal Anthology when we talked about my own breast cancer, books, genres, writing and other ideas. She is a lovely person, inside and out.

Colleen Cotton worked her fanny off to get her degree and start her psychotherapy practice. However, finding clients was harder than she thought. Well, until she discovered a knack for ghosts. And then? Everything changed. Now, if it goes bump in the night (or the day, for that matter) Colleen can interact with it. And usually sooth it. Trouble is, once the ghost is gone, the client no longer needs her. Bummer.

In this short by Nancy, the ghosts are restless – not on behalf of others, as in a haunting, but rather on behalf of themselves. If the ghosts themselves are frightened, there must be something particularly nasty on the wind. And someone particularly handsome, and particularly slanderously rude stuck in her living room wing-back.

Now, besides the ghosts themselves having the heebie-jeebies, the legend of St. Augustine (a breast cancer and lymphoma survivor herself) has more trouble with her House Ghost Zavier who is spazing out in a most irritating manner. What is happening is a fascinating story, and brought me a great deal of pleasure. Mostly because Colleen is so likeable and her Da is a hoot. Will without a doubt add Nancy’s work to my read-list!

Note: Nancy lost her beloved grandmother to the ravages of breast cancer, as did far too many of her friends and family members. She begs that all women, young and old, do breast self-exams and have yearly mammograms, as well as living a healthy lifestyle.

Sweet Demon
Misty Evans

www.readmistyevans.com

What a cool thing to be – a Vengeance Demon! That is what Kali Sweet is, and her main goal in her existence is to protect humans. Oh, she can protect us from our own dumbass selves, but she can certainly try to save them from supernaturals. And working for the Bridge Council, the supernatural version of the Justice Department, lets her do just that.

Another author I hadn’t found before – how cool is that? This is the great thing about anthologies – you get to find all these wonderful authors you didn’t know about before you found their story amongst other little gems. And this one sparkled!

I adore it when stories and characters have a sense of humour, and Misty doesn’t disappoint. However, she weaves a deep layer of darkness through this story and has addicted me to her character. She will definitely be on my to-read list!

Note:  Misty managed a breast and cervical cancer-screening program for uninsured women. She also lost an aunt to breast cancer, and recently had a friend go through a double mastectomy.

Sian’s Solution
Dale Mayer

http://www.dalemayer.com.

Vampires and humans are living in a fragile balance in this young adult short story by Dale Mayer, another author I was unfamiliar with. Geeze! You would think I never read! Sian is a vampire whom you first meet as she works desperately to free her lover, Taz, a human, from the clutches of a “Blood Farm” the humans know nothing about. A farm where humans are hung, like sides of meat, and kept for their blood. Her determination to save Taz, and her strength, endeared her to me.

Sian and Taz are minor characters in Dale’s Vampire in Denial series. If they are indicative of Dale’s characters, I look forward to finding time to read more of her work.

Note: Dale’s aunt and two friends are breast cancer survivors.

A Bit of Bite
Cynthia Eden

http://www.cynthiaeden.com

Crossroads, Mississippi. The home and stomping grounds of Sheriff Ava Dushaine, but not exactly the first place you would think of for paranormal activities to be the norm. Werewolves and vampires, oh what a set of critters to try to enforce law and order upon. Oy. Especially when it’s been only ten-years since the ‘coming out’ party for the goolies and goblies and things that go bump in the night. And the dead bodies that are currently showing up in Ava’s county. But who is to blame? The wolves? The vampires? Or something even more deadly?

Note: Cynthia speaks of friends who have struggled with breast cancer. Thank you, Cynthia, for your contribution to this anthology!

Sinfully Sweet
Michelle Miles

http://michellemiles.net/

I love scones. My favorite is dark chocolate chunks with dried cranberry and walnuts. Yummers, yummers!! So, of course, with the first page of Michelle’s story including scones and cupcakes and tarts, (oh, my!) I was happy to settle in for this story.

Chloe O’Shea is a baker with a secret. She is a witch on the run, running from her previous coven. A coven filled with secrets. Secrets, and murder. Hiding in plain site amongst the humans as a baker and owner of Sugar Mamma’s Bakery, Chloe has been enjoying her new life. Well, until a sexy hunka-hunka burning man invades her bakery. And suddenly, Sugar Mamma’s is under siege, and Chloe’s new life is blown all to hell.

Note: Michelle has donated her story to this anthology to honour all those who have suffered from not only breast cancer, but cancer of all types.

A Night of Forever
Lori Brighton

http://www.loribrighton.com/

Who was Aidan Callaghan? A seemingly simple question. With a rather complex answer . . .

I have to admit, I am not a fan of, what do you call it? Regency romance, I believe? This story is set in 1859 England, so whatever that means is what I mean! Surprisingly, however, I found this piece quite entertaining and pleasant. My feeling on these pieces is based on a despite for a society that saw and treated women as belongings. Women of the period were often little more than pretty baubles, with no power and no recourse from brutality or ill usage. I suppose that is why I have never cared for these period pieces – women as toys, easily left behind as broken bits, crushed under the male heel. This is a fate Mary Ellen is terrified of, and with good reason. Her background is one of crushing poverty, and she has no intention of returning there. When she meets Aidan, she sees only that falling for him could put her right back into that place, and it terrifies her. But Aiden is so utterly fascinating, so intriguing; she can’t help but wonder what his story might be. And his story is one she could never have imagined.

This is another lovely addition to the anthology. I may not read others of her works, but I found this quite pleasant overall. Should you be a lover of period pieces, this is highly recommended. Or even if you, as I, are not a lover of same, you may still find it as enjoyable as did I.

Note:  Lori lost not only an aunt, but also a grandmother and a grandfather to cancer. This story was contributed to honour their memories, and to provide hope for those who still suffer.

Feel The Magic
Liz Kreger

http://www.lizkreger.com

Liz’s story is one I truly got a kick out of. Jenna is a Practitioner (a fancy title for a recognized witch) who has a big job to do. A weird, quirky job, but an important one, not only to her but to all Practitioners. Did I mention the weird part? Politics, backstabbing and nasty people, oh, my! A cat, a witch and a pimp walk into a bar . . .

This is a lovely little story, unusual and quirky, funny and well worth the read.

Note:  Liz is a 15-year survivor!

Breaking Out
Michelle Diener

http://www.michellediener.com

Guess what, Michelle? You did a kickin’ job with your very first Contemporary/ Paranormal short! A self-avowed historical fiction writer, Michelle has written a terrific short story full of action, close calls, and a heartrending take on military horrors. Each time I think the last story was the best I read in this anthology, each author seems to kick things up a notch, in a very good way.

Kelli has been imprisoned and tortured for three years, her small gift of telekinesis pushed beyond all limits, while ‘Dr. Greenway’ and the sadistic orderlies torture and abuse her and her gifts, twisting her mind and body. She is nearly beyond all hope, when a fluke occurs, and Kelli has a chance. What happens next is by turns exciting, heart wrenching, and disappointing – disappointing because I would happily buy a book based upon this short story and I am not sure that there are any plans for one!

Note: Michelle’s grandfather, mother-in-law and aunt died of cancer, and she states that any small part she can play in helping to find a cure for this disease is something she is proud to do.

Ghostly Justice (A Seven Deadly Sins Novella)
Allison Brennan

www.sevendeadlysinsbooks.com

Detective Grant Nelson has had a bad month. A. Very. Bad. Month. Demons, black witches, supernatural war. And he had to cover it up. Besides the fact that his girlfriend was massacred in the mess. Now, he has another job to do, and some people he truly doesn’t like are the only ones who will be able to help him; that is, if anyone can help him at all. Did I mention that Detective Nelson has had a bad month?

This novella is partway through Allison’s Seven Deadly Sins series. Though it doesn’t fit ‘exactly’ into the concept of returning the Seven Deadly Sins Demons to Hell, it still does an excellent job of giving you a wonderful feel of the story behind the story, and introduces you to Moira and Rafe, kick-butt demon hunters, as they return a favour for the wounded Detective Nelson. The story is fast paced and truly interesting, with a solid story line and great character development. I had read the first of Allison’s series quite some time ago, but never got time to read the rest. After reading this novella? I believe my TBR list (which is groaning under the weight) may have to have a new addition.

Note: As Allison puts it; we all know someone, and sometimes more than one someone, who has been stricken by breast cancer. Thanks to Allsion, and all the other incredible authors who donated stories to this anthology, funding is just that much closer to helping find a cure.

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