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Magic of the Gargoyles by Rebecca Chastain (Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles Book 1)

Magic of the Gargoyles (Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles Book 1) by Rebecca Chastain

“Just really, really believe in what you’re trying to do. Don’t let people alter that. Let people advise you and lead you down paths to make smart business decisions. But trust your instinct and trust that overwhelming drive that made you put all your dreams and everything on the line.” – Luke Bryan

Magic of the Gargoyles
All Mika Stillwater wants to do is finish this finicky, delicate job, get paid, and maybe, just maybe, get some sleep. That doesn’t seem like such a huge request, does it? After all, if she can finish the delicate crystal vials for that grumpy, obnoxious healer apprentice Althea Stoneward, she will be that much closer to blowing off her dreary Jones and Sons Quarry job and opening her own shop. Just twelve little vials, and all of her dreams will have their true beginning.

Really. It wasn’t that much to ask.

However, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And Mika’s wishes are shattered, in more ways than one, when a baby gargoyle slams into her life. Literally. Now, Mika must decide between fulfilling her dreams or saving a clutch of baby gargoyles from true evil. What’s a girl to do? Why, saddle up and ride to the rescue!

I have been fortunate lately to read a few books that have impressed me in their portrayal of strong women characters, and this is one of them. Mika doesn’t have any illusions about her powers making her Superwoman. Instead, she is modest almost to a fault, realizing her boundaries and working hard to move herself beyond them. She is kind and honorable, willing to do what has to be done, even if it destroys her own dreams, just because it is right. Ms. Chastain’s world-building is beautifully wrought and believable within its context, and left me wanting to learn more about the world in which Mika lives. The characters are well drawn, and pace and context well designed. There is no ‘romance’ to the book, this is straight fantasy, and well worth the read.

The next book in the series is “Curse of the Gargoyles” and I already have it downloaded through Kindle Unlimited to my tablet.  The third book in the series, “Secret of the Gargoyles” is in print now.

Enjoy!

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Review: Heart Of Africa By Loren Lockner

 23355539Women have always been the strong ones of the world. The men are always seeking from women a little pillow to put their heads down on. They are always longing for the mother who held them as infants. – Coco Chanel

 It’s estimated that across Africa 100 elephants are killed for their tusks every day. It takes nothing more than simple math to get to what that adds up to in a year, and it’s a distressing figure. – Graydon Carter


The unmerciful sun refused my commands and set unconcernedly behind the dry acacias, stealing with it any remaining warmth of the day.

 Poor Mandy Phillips. Dismissed as worthless by her mother and cousin since she was a child, she is shy, introverted, and never speaks up for herself, much less having an adventure. But when her up-and-coming physician fiancé decides to toss her over for 19-year-old blonde floozy, Mandy has had enough. So, she decides to take an even more adventurous trip than the African honeymoon they had planned.

I wish to book a trip to Africa, but not to Kenya. Perhaps you could recommend a destination full of intriguing sights and wild animals? A first class safari to… um… somewhere else?”

Such begins Mandy’s Big Adventure. An adventure that will take her beyond the boundaries of Kruger National Park and into the wild in a desperate race to survive. A race through a land where every step may mean her death.

This is a beautiful book. The world building is amazingly gorgeous, filled with the life of Africa, the joy and the heartache, the poverty and pain, and the overwhelming beauty of a country ancient beyond belief, the home of humanity and of life itself. And where humans think nothing of killing a rare rhino for its horn, leaving the animal to rot in the sun, and a simple misstep can cost your life.

While this is a romantic suspense, it is much more than that. The romance portion is well done and believable – the hero is not perfect by any means, nor is the heroine. But that is what makes everything so perfect. They have to fight every step of the way simply to survive. But it is the reality of the suspense that made this such a special book. Well, and the beauty of Africa, the birds and beasts, the flora and fauna unlike any other. It fills the book with wonder, tugging my heart to its mysterious shores. There is pain there, poverty and death, but overall it is a country which calls to the soul. Lockner blends and weaves the country and its people into a story of love and survival which will touch your heart, and open your soul to adventure beyond any you might image.

Highly recommended!

Review: Centaur Of The Crime by Michael Angel – Audible.com Edition

centaurDayna Chrissie is the lead Crime Scene Analyst for the LAPD, and from the perspective of a former crime scene analyst, I found myself breaking out in laughter at just how apt our first introduction to Dayna is. Michael Angel really “gets it.” CSI may be “sexy” to the television watching public – but it really isn’t sexy in real life!

As Dayna arrives at the crime scene where we first meet her, she cracked me up right away. First, we have the idiotic politico, Deputy Chief McClatchy, whose response to the murder in question is to send beat cops swarming all over the crime scene, stomping any possible evidence into the ground, and telling the “scene techies” to “Hurry up, we’ve got real work to do,” is spot on, and her response to him, which has him running for a puke bucket, is hysterical. Then there is her description of her crime scene wear; ‘the overall which assures that her hips stay slim and the cottage cheese stays off her thighs,’ because, damn those things are hot, and her “Stompy Gothic Boots of Doom” (They wouldn’t win any awards on the fashion runway. But they would keep corpse juices out of my socks.) Angel caught my attention right away. If you can make me laugh and identify with the main character that quickly, you have my attention. And Angel never lost it.

This particular scene is an odd case, to say the least. Peculiar clothing is only the start. Besides bullet wounds, there is a huge, charcoaled hole in the middle of his chest and Dayna has no idea how it was caused. Add that to “python-like” patterning all over his face and upper body, well, he is a puzzle wrapped inside a riddle, forensics wise.

Oh, but this isn’t the oddest thing. Oh, no. For Dayna finds an odd gold coin inside the body – a gold coin that transports her to another world. Oh, and what a world! I was tempted to say that Centaur of the Crime could be described as Alice in Wonderland Meets CSI but that is doing Dayna a disservice. She is a strong, competent, take-no-crap woman (hey – if you are a woman in a police position, you have to be all those things – just breathing the testosterone in air can cause unwarranted beard growth!) But she is also kind, understanding and very, very intelligent. A balanced character that I couldn’t help but admire.

Pulled into another world to solve the murder of a king, Dayna takes the transition well. She doesn’t go hysterical and flighty when she realizes she is surrounded by centaurs and “The Parliament” (wait till you meet these creatures – they are wonderfully written) and tasked with an investigation that no one here thinks can be done. Especially not by a woman from another world.

I loved this book. The fantasy aspects, the world building, as well as the creative development of the species and their various aspects. I have read what I would call “modern-day day fairy tales” before, and this one is at the top of my list of favorites. Enough so that I am dying to see the second volume, The Deer Prince’s Murder, come out on Audible. I am also adding some of his other works, especially The Detective and the Unicorn, to my Audible library.detunicorn

Of course, a narrator can make, or break, an Audible recording. In this case, I was very disappointed by the narrator, Katrina Carmody. Narrators should understand that they are creating a piece of performance art with every book that they read, and Carmody does a less than acceptable job. As another reviewer, Busy Reader from New York New York put it in their Audible.com review: The pacing was terrible, the characters all sounded the same (with the exception of one character, which had an Irish accent, which would have been fine except that she used this accent for the Hispanic character, who otherwise didn’t have accent); she mispronounced very basic words, sometimes used the wrong words which changed the meaning, and even left words out (I checked with the e-book). Where was the director?

Drove. Me. NUTS. Yes, I have heard worse, but she is far, far from the best. How can a professional narrator care so little for her work product? And how can the production company expect to retain business when their offering is so poorly done?

Other than the disappointing narration, I would highly recommend Centaur of the Crime to anyone who loves a good fantasy novel with centaurs, griffins, and other fantasy creatures. And if you also like procedurals, Angel has a good grasp on that aspect also, so it is all good! Highly recommended.audible

 

About Michael Angel

michaelMichael Angel’s worlds of fiction range from the unicorn-ruled realm of the Morning Land to the gritty ‘Fringe Space’ of the western Galactic Frontier. He’s the author of the bestselling Centaur of the Crime – where C.S. Lewis meets CSI. His books populate shelves in languages from Russian to Portuguese.

Michael currently resides in Southern California. Alas, despite keeping a keen eye out for griffins, centaurs, or galactic marshals, none have yet put in an appearance on Hollywood Boulevard.

 

Review: Spirited Legacy by Kate Baray (Edited:Links Work Now)

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Click to purchase

The library, with its Daedalian labyrinth, mysterious hush, and faintly ominous aroma of knowledge . . . – P. J. O’Rourke

I understood right from the start that every set of library doors were the sort of magic portals that lead to other lands. My God, right within reach there were dinosaurs and planets and presidents and girl detectives! – Deb Caletti

When I first met Lizzy in Lost Library, the first in Kate Baray’s wonderful Urban Fantasy Romance series, I was, in a word, charmed. As I said in my review, Lizzy is much like me – She works at home, rarely sees even her own clients, and has a terrific best friend, Kenna. She just never sees herself as anyone who is brave or anyone who could be spectacular in any way.

Of course, in the manner of all things, Lizzy’s comfortable little world blows up in her face when a seemingly ancient book shows up on her doorstep. Well, she supposes it could be a book. If it weren’t blank, that is. And when a hotty McHotterson of a werewolf shows up on her front porch looking for the book, well, all thoughts of safe, calm comfortable Lizzy are blasted right out of the metaphorical water.

Now, in Kate’s second book, Spirited Legacy, both Lizzy and her Alpha werewolf (Boyfriend? Mate? Pack Member? Maybe?) John are back in Prague, ensconced in the Library, drawn there once again by Harrington, Director of the Inter-Pack Policing Cooperative, or IPPC. Just as friendly as ever, if you find controlling stuffed-shirts to be amenable, Harrington has called Lizzy back to the Library to continue her work on translations of the magical books found within. But to a much more serious purpose than simple research. For at the end of LL Sarah, Lizzy’s co-kidnapped from the first book, was injured, severely, saving Lizzy’s life. And the only way to save Sarah’s life may be to find a cure within the Library itself. And the fact that Harrington, a top caster, has offered to mentor Lizzy, is yet another encouragement.

Come, come, time calls our close complots to action.
Go, Proximus, with winged speed flie hence,
Hye thee to Wales: salute great Vortiger
With these our letters; bid the king to arms,
tell him we have new friends, more forces landed
In Norfolk and Northumberland; bid him
Make haste to meet us; if he keep his word,
Wee’l part the realm between us. –
Ostorius, The Birth of Merlin, or, the Childe Hath Found His Father, ACT III SCENE V – Ascribed to William Rowley, and occasionally (most likely spuriously) to William Shakespeare

Of course, life isn’t getting any easier for Lizzy than it has been since the happenings in LL. Even the resident ghost is throwing rocks at Lizzy’s head – literally!

I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks. I do, I do, I do, I *do* believe in spooks, I *do* believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I *do*! The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz, 1939

After injuring the evil Zach Worth, soul sucker extraordinaire, at the end of the last book, Lizzy and her compatriots don’t know if he is still even alive – but all bets are on that he is – and that he has something even more evil up his sleeve than anyone ever imagined. What is a poor Caster to do? Is it not bad enough that John slipped in a, “Oh, BTW, you are my mate now and Female Alpha of my Pack and also BTW, my Pack hates you, even though they have never met you?” smack upside her head? Oy.

The previous cast of characters are all present-and-accounted-for, and we get to meet some awesome new characters, like Harry, Sarah’s healer (Yes, yes, “Harry the Healer.” Well, at least he thinks it is funny.) Oh, and did I mention the dragons?!

Kate’s writing remains crisp, her character development spot-on, and the intensity in this book keeps the reader enthralled from first page to last. There is a bit more relationship building between Lizzy and John, her Alpha boyfriend who is trying to pull his pack out of the Dark Ages in terms of their view of the world. John is one of the more interesting Alpha characters on the scene today. Much like Kate Daniels’ Curran, John comes off at first as all macho-macho man, and yet, if you look closer, there is a great deal of compassion and understanding underneath all that drool-worthy body and drive to protect. Independent Lizzy is having a heck of a time managing the transition from Totally Independent Lizzy to part of a couple, and John is having a hard time learning that sometimes being the full-time protector isn’t the right way to go. But they are getting there, and again, this is one of the more interesting couples that I have read in Urban Fantasy recently.

I highly recommend both books in the series, and would suggest that you grab a copy of Lost Library and read it now. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway to win a copy of Spirited Legacy. If you can wait that long, that is. Once I ended LL, I couldn’t wait to start SL!!

I received an ARC of Spirited Legacy from the author, Kate Baray. This fact does not influence my reviews of either book.

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Blog Tour And Review: Spirited Legacy: A Lost Library Novel, Book 2 by Kate Baray

Hooray!!!! Spirited Legacy is out, and after Kate Baray’s splendid first novel, The Lost Library, this newest edition does not disappoint! My review later today, but until then, enjoy the Tour information, read my review of The Lost Library – and don’t forget to get your copy of Spirited Legacy, available NOW!

Synopsis
Lizzie receives an offer she can’t refuse—an internship at the Lost Library, home to hundreds of magical books. And to make the deal even sweeter, her prospective boss has offered to act as her magic mentor. What’s a girl to say, but yes? Except…there are the questions of her unresolved love affair, her recently acquired arch enemy, and a haunting past.
 
Can Lizzie tackle a new job, learn the magical ropes of spell casting, and save her relationship with an amazing man—all while eluding her nemesis? She’ll sure as hell try.
 
Join Lizzie as she muddles through another magical adventure, with old friends and new, making the most of what life—and the afterlife—throw at her.

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Excerpt
This excerpt is unedited and subject to change.
Lizzy felt a hard yank on her scalp. She wanted to cry out, but no sound emerged from her lips. Someone was dragging her down the path. Her muzzy, pain-filled brain tried to put the pieces together. If he was carrying a gun, he might have a very good reason to hate her. A personal reason to become emotional over her appearance at his front door. Maybe his magic was gone, too?
The painful pulling at her scalp was joined by a steady wrenching feeling in her shoulder. She must have passed out for a moment, because suddenly she was inside the house and being pulled across a floor. She could feel the wood floor and then the rug underneath her—but it was all distant and fuzzy, like she’d just woken from a dream but wasn’t yet able to think clearly or move. She could feel even these sensations start to slip away as her thoughts became hazier. A sharp pain pierced through the darkness. Her body slamming into a wall? A doorway? Briefly she tried to grab at the door jamb she was being yanked past, but her fingers wouldn’t move to clench the frame.
She was so tired. Even the mounting terror—what would happen to her?—couldn’t keep her awake. She didn’t want to die like this. She didn’t want to die at all, she thought right before she lost consciousness.
She woke briefly as a guard pulled her body this way and that as he restrained her. Her shoulder screamed with a tearing pain, and tears were running down her face. She could just barely make out Worth speaking in the background. He was giving instructions to one of his men for evacuation. As she struggled to hear anything that might hint at their destination, the guard had finished binding her feet and moved to her hands. He pulled her hands together, wrenching her damaged shoulder. She bit down on her cheek frantically as waves of pain tore through her. She didn’t want Worth to hear her scream, she thought a fraction of a second before her mouth filled with her own blood, and she lost consciousness.
MeetTheAuthor


 

 

Kate Baray is a paranormal romance and urban fantasy writer. She writes and lives in Austin, Texas with her pack of pointers and a bloodhound. Kate has worked as an attorney, a manager, a tractor sales person, and a dog trainer, but writing is her passion. When she’s not writing, she volunteers with a search and rescue team, sweeps up hairy dust bunnies, and watches British mysteries. Sign up for Kate’s newsletter:

 

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Review: Lost Library By New Author Kate Baray

library
A great story by a new author who I will definitely be following! Click for the Goodreads page!

There are a lot of things that catch my attention about different books. Interesting story lines, great character development and wonderful world building are all equally important to me. In the case of Lost Library: An Urban Fantasy Romance it is the heroine of the piece that truly tickled my fancy and kept me reading. This is not to say that the story line and world building aren’t superb. They are. But I could really identify with Lizzie. Maybe it is the fact that she is a lot like me. She works at home, rarely sees even her own clients, and has a terrific best friend, Kenna. She just never sees herself as anyone who is brave or anyone who could be spectacular in any way. But that is about to change.

A book has shown up a Lizzie’s house. A very unusual book. Very old and bound in leather, at first she thinks there is nothing in the book. But she slowly realizes that not only is there writing on the first page of the book, but every time she opens it the writing, and the hand it is written in, changes. Now, if only it wasn’t all blurry and unreadable . . .

Kate Baray has written a fast paced, interesting book which I glad to say is much more story than ‘romantic scenes.’ Her magical world building is both unusual and comprehensive, and made me smile over the creativity. Overall, the only thing I don’t care for is that now I have to wait for the next book! It seems clear that there is more coming in what I hope will turn out to be a series. However, there is no real “cliffhanger” at the end. There is plenty of room for “more” but if you want a stand-alone, well, you could certainly end here and be satisfied. Of course, again, I really like Lizzie and hope that we can learn more in future about her growth as magical ‘Record Keeper’ and her interactions with others of the magical world.

Highly recommended – and not just for romance readers. While there is an undercurrent of romance and “boy gets girl” there is good, solid storytelling to be had in what appears to be Ms. Baray’s first published work. I look forward to more from this talented writer! Besides, anyone with a pack of pointers and a bloodhound has got my attention anyway!

Review: The Slayer and the Sphinx: Book One by Adam Bolander

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Click for the Goodreads page!

When I was approached by Adam Bolander to review his book, The Slayer and the Sphinx: Book 1 I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. There are quite a wide range of books in print today by Indie Authors who write within the realms of Fantasy, Mythology, and Urban Fantasy. As well, there are wide ranging demographics of age, character development, and world building. When each requirement is met, and well developed, there can be a really great story – or something not so good.

Bolander has done a ‘fair-to-good’ job with his first in this new series. Definitely a book for a younger set, you shouldn’t hesitate to hand it over to your younger child who would enjoy a book with a good, solid quest theme. Porter belongs to a secret Order of Slayers, who track down and kill “Mythics,” mythological creatures with well developed cultures and mythologies of their own. Hated and persecuted by humans, especially the Order, the Mythics are races besieged by xenophobia.

When Porter, the teenaged slayer, attacks the home of the young sphinx Sarah, there is an accident, leaving Porter with no idea of what his mission was, why he was doing it, or even who he is. Forced to work together, they must overcome problems, and learn to trust and depend upon one another. This is, in my opinion, one of the better developments within the story line, as it encourages young readers to embrace the idea of personal growth.

There are drawbacks to the story. I felt that it was limited, in some ways, by the lack of world building that would have pulled me more into the story. There were also some bothersome contradictions in the storyline. For example, right at the beginning of Sarah’s story she is left at home by her parents when they go off to what is supposedly one of the safest spots for Mythics to be – and they travel by “transport beam” so it just didn’t make sense to me. Of course, if she wasn’t left alone at home with the Banshee housekeeper then there wouldn’t be a story – but the reasoning could have been handled better. Other issues of “Now why in the world would that person do that?” were a bit of an issue, but not something that the target audience should be bothered by.

All in all, I really liked that Bolander didn’t fall into the over utilized werewolf, vampire, elf, fairy habit. I have been looking around for more gargoyle, sphinx, barghest sort of creatures in stories based upon more Northern and African prototypes. This is quite a positive in my opinion.

I would have liked to give this a higher rating than three stars. Maybe by the next volume Bolander will be able to loosen up his writing, filling in more of the world building requirements, backstorying more carefully, and generally giving us a broader view of his characters and his world. If that happens, I will be more than happy to kick in another star. Oh, and of course, a better editor would be nice.

Fine for children, preteens and teens. There is some violence – Porter cuts the head off of a Kitsune in the first chapter of the book, which I personally found distasteful for a children oriented book, but then I always root for the “Mythic” creatures! Possibly not of interest to readers who are not fans of high fantasy.

Review: Rise of the Retics (Rosehaven: the Hidden City)

Intolerance is the most socially acceptable form of egotism, for it permits us to assume superiority without personal boasting. – Sydney J. Harris

rise
Highly creative, with exceptional world-building! Click to order.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will. – Patton Oswalt

The right to survival. Throughout history, there have been those who have seen that right stripped, demeaned, destroyed. Native Americans decimated by the white invaders, the Jews (and everyone else) by the Nazis, and everyone not of their religion by the Church. And the depredations of the Church weigh heavily upon the world and the lives of those who are “different” in Rise of the Retics. In this new and fascinating world, based loosely upon the Spanish Inquisition, the church and government attempt to decimate all of the retics, creatures of myth and legend. Driven into refugee camps and denied the most basic of rights, this is their tale, a tale of imagination and great humor, yet also of viciousness and discrimination, pain and angst. And as much as I would like to say that it is only the humans who bring pain, it is also the retics who bring about pain and intolerance amongst their own.

Lantz is brilliant in his character development and perspective, his humor and world building. There are levels and degrees of creativity that are rare in many more ‘idolized’ modern books. While Lantz’s writing is perfect for the preteen audience, it is extremely pleasant for a more adult audience as well. Honestly, I would like to see this wonderful novel rise to the level of the Harry Potter series in popularity. It is more creative, the characters both more and less likable, the world fascinating and beautifully written.

And let us not forget the footnotes – they are absolutely hysterical, and lend an extra level of brightness to the story.

All in all, if you are open to a new and creative world, filled with layers and dimensions, I would highly recommend Lantz’s story. It was, in a word, fantastic.

I received this book from Storycartel in return for a realistic review. All thoughts on the book are my own. It is beautifully written, though it could use a bit of an edit. I would recommend it to the adventurous reader!

The Better Part of Darkness – Kelly Gay

better part of darkness
Click to purchase from Amazon

 

Since I am taking a couple of days off, I thought now would be a good time to re post one of my older reviews from Amazon. This is the first in the Charlie Madigan series.

I go back to the series every few months, as I really enjoy reading it. And, of course, every time I go back to an “oldie but goodie” I find something I had not seen before, or something I had forgotten.

I had never really read anything by Kelly Gay before, so was curious when I picked up the first in this series as to what I would think. Fantasy of this type, admittedly, is my favorite. When it is done well, as with the works of Andrews and others, it is stunning. Or, it can be the biggest let-down you can ever imagine (I have checked out some real stinkers in my time).

One of the first things I noticed about this book is the fact that the main character is not only a kick-butt cop, and having just returned from the dead (drum-roll please) she is also a single mother of a teenage daughter. Oh, the horror! LOL….

Like the Andrews “Kate Daniels” series, this series is set in an alternate, ‘Post-Revalation’ world. Gay’s work is different and clever enough to stand on it’s own in a changed Atlanta, which I was glad to see. In fact, the world building is the best part of the book in my humble opinion. Oh, it is a good book for a first of a series, it kept my attention throughout. But I am always looking for that extra bit of “oomph” in the character building over the next books to push it into 5 star territory.

With this start, I am hoping that I can soon award that extra star.

Note:  The following books in the series didn’t fail to live up to the promise of the first.

darkest edge
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hour of dst
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shadows
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