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Shadowed Flame by RJ Blain

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“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.” –  Junichiro Tanizaki

Matia Evans knows the strength of silence. A sword and a cudgel, silence is the friend that never leaves her side. And in her world of shades of black, white, and gray, silence is the truth that delves past the face of glamour. She has never seen blue, yellow, or green. But when terrorists blow up La Guardia Airport while she and her father are waiting for their plane to Boston, that particular shade of charcoal announcing the color others call ‘red’, the supposedly vibrant crimson of blood, splashes, drips and pools. And Matia Evans will never be the same. For, after hours of pushing and bullying the other survivors into searching the ruins for survivors alongside her, in a devastated and blocked off Terminal B, Matia is dying. Funny. After hours on end of brutal, bloody labors, finding endless corpses, but at times the joy of the forms of the living, Matia is dying in the lap of a stranger, of smoke inhalation and the chemical funk which permeates the air. And she’s OK with that. Lives were saved, her life ends on a positive note, and at least if her father really is dead, he will have gone before her. He won’t have to mourn her loss.

But sometimes, unlike taxes, the shadow of Death may be turned away. And when Matia wakes up in hospital, her life is about to change in ways she would have, could have, never expected.

I first read and reviewed Ms. Blain with “Beneath the Blood Moon” and though I really did enjoy it, I was disappointed that her work could have benefited from a content editor to make sure she tied up all her loose ends and kept her story focused. That isn’t the case with “Shadowed Flame.” This is, by far, one of the better written stories in the YA/Paranormal genre. And while there is a romance, it is so well written I hate to call it “Paranormal Romance.” Yes, it is there, but it is only a portion of a rich tapestry of story, character and world.  (Oh, and it is ‘clean’ too. We don’t have to know exactly ‘how’ the bedroom calisthenics are carried out – only that they occur – and they are only a small part of the overarching story line.) I was surprised, and incredibly pleased, to follow the story of Matia, her struggles, losses and pain, but also her deep conviction and drive to do the right thing, no matter the pain it caused her. Ms. Blain has written a story with solid character development and world building, two of the most important things I look for in books. Her writing is focused and crisp, and her development of Matia, especially, is probably the best representation of a driven, dedicated, loving young woman of character and strength. Only eighteen, she has taken the gifts she was given and blossomed into a woman who others respect. And when she actually opens her mouth and speaks, well, people do tend to listen.

This isn’t a silly book by any means. A good portion of the story comes before the La Guardia explosion, and builds your understanding and care for Matia and her father, as well as the more minor players in her life. Her father is a hoot, I truly enjoyed his character as well. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure I was going to like Matia.

“For the third time since arriving at work two hours ago, Dad tripped over his own feet and smacked face first into the carpet. The thump of him hitting the floor drowned out my sigh. I debated whether to get up and help him or stay at my desk and observe his efforts to restore his dignity.”

Of course, by the second page I had grasped their relationship, sighing and rolling my own eyes over the incident. Between Ralph’s apparent ‘Clumsy Curse’ and Matias parsimonious use of words, their relationship has a comedic balance that is apparent throughout the book, always showing up at unexpected times. There is a deep love and understanding between the two that made the whole book worthwhile on its own.

Once Ms. Blain begins the ‘paranormal’ portion of the book, there is a maturity and dignity to the characters that I much admired. There isn’t the ‘wham-bam’ sort of presentation of other, less developed books in the genre. ‘See woman. Take woman. HEA. The End.’ Instead, Ms. Blain turns the paranormal romance portion of the book on its head, in a most interesting way. I would have read the book just for that fact, but it is so much more that I simply couldn’t put it down.

I am impressed, and very pleased, that I picked up Shadowed Flame, and am anxious to learn how you like it as well. Though I wasn’t able to give Beneath the Blood Moon a more than moderate rating, I am very happy to say I give this one full marks! You can pick up Shadowed Flame here. It is on Kindle Unlimited, so you can read for free, or purchase the book for your library.

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Just A Quicky – But It Is A Goldmine For UF and YA Lovers!

Roz Marshall, AuthorThere are a ton of free or low cost Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, and YA books on Roz’s site if you are looking for something to read this weekend! It’s my b-day today, so I intend to indulge myself this weekend!

 

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About

Authentic Scotland. Realistic heroes. Gripping stories. 

Sometime ski instructor, horse groom and musician, I see no reason to depart from the tried and trusted “write what you know”.

As a part-time writer, progress can be frustratingly slow (I have to earn a living as well!) but I’m also finding it really rewarding.

Way back when I was about twelve, I wanted to to write pony books (those may yet come!); however, reality and achievability set in and that dream was shelved. But with the advent of eBooks and the ease of independent publishing online, the dream has been dusted-off and I find I’m daring to call myself an author!

My first series is “Secrets in the Snow”, episodic novellas about a Scottish ski school:

After being a prizewinner in a competition run by Hugh Howey and Booktrack, I’ve also been writing some science fiction:

To keep up-to-date with my writings, find me on social media:

Wicked Magic (7 Wicked Tales Featuring Witches, Demons, Vampires, Fae, and More)

Wicked Magic (7 Wicked Tales Featuring Witches, Demons, Vampires, Fae, and More)Anthologies. What could be better? I have found some truly wonderful “New to Me” authors in anthologies, as well as exclusive stories by authors I love. Wicked Magic doesn’t disappoint my expectations.

Dire Straits by Helen Harper. I have had Bo Blackman on my “Read” list for quite a while, but haven’t had the opportunity to try yet. This story is the first in the Blackman series, and I loved it. We first meet Bo as she sits in a truly nasty neighborhood, waiting to serve papers on an errant halfbreed daemon. Well, needing to pee may have saved her this time. But who seems to want Bo locked away – and the world to change in cruel and terrifying ways. Helen jumps to my “Gonna Read for Sure” list. 5 of 5

Dog With A Bone. Hailey Edwards. Thierry’s story is a YA. The daughter of Death, literally, Thierry has a very specialized, and very dangerous, skill. One that means she is a Paranormal Marshall – or she leaves her home in Texas for the wilds of faerie. The story itself is quite good, though the whole “Eighteen-year-old girl finds love and hot nookie with a man decades her senior” thing sort of creeps me out. Enjoyed it, but I am not a YA lover, so won’t add the series to my lists. 3 of 5

A Demon Bound. Debra Dunbar. The first in the very popular Imp series. Samantha Martin is a slum lord. Well, an Imp as well. So, the whole ‘slum lord’ thing really sort of works, right? I was surprised at how much I liked Samantha. Quirky, mischievous, and generally likable, even if she is a minor demon. Besides, anyone who loves hellhounds and horses can’t be all bad, right? 4 of 5

Influential Magic. Deanna Chase. IM is the first in a series subtitled Crescent City Fae. This new series stars Willow Rhoswen, owner of The Fated Cupcake and part-time vampire hunter for the Void. Oh, and she is also a faery – complete with wings and flight capabilities. Well, when she isn’t around vampires, whose walking death drains her earth magic, and thus her life force. A very uncomfortable position to be in when your evil faery auntie, who is also the Director of the Void policing agency partners you with a vampire in order to investigate dastardly deeds by the local vampire corporation. Especially when that vampire happens to be your ‘used-to-be-human’ boyfriend. A boyfriend, who suddenly dumped you with a quick text message (jerk!), then turns up later turned – literally. I read and reviewed previously, and own the whole series. Any series that includes a Shi Tzu who turns into a wolf is worth a read! 4 of 5

Forbidden. Selene Charles. In my absolutely firm intention to not read books I don’t want to (Book Reader FlameOut is a depressing!) I didn’t read this one. If you like YA, give it a try. No rating.

All for a Rose. Jennifer Blackstream. Another I didn’t read. Violent naga, rich girl turned poor. It simply didn’t spark my interest, though that is no reflection on the book. It just didn’t strike my fancy. No rating.

 

Are You Stuck In WASP Land? Embrace Diversity In Your Reading!

One of the people I follow online is B.D. Hesse. On B.D.’s site you will find, in part, this “About” information:

My name is B.D. Hesse. I am a university student who is studying History of Religion and Philosophy. I am an atheist, a Feminist, a supporter of LGBT rights, and an activist. I am a genderqueer (born female, but does not identify as either a man or a woman) demisexual (basically, romantic attraction comes before sexual attraction).

B.D.’s  writing and attitude are often brilliantly refreshing,  reaching out to everyone with a sort of all-inclusive mental and emotional brilliance.

Back on February 27, B.D. posted, Do You Have Any Book Recommendations?

Asking for recommendations for good books by and about people who aren’t straight white men/women – different races, religions, sexual orientations, countries. I enjoyed the post, and checked it out again today.

The list of books that people posted is amazingly diverse. You can check out the post by clicking above, but here are some of the books I found interesting enough to add to my TBR pile, in no real order.

Orleans, by Sherri L. Smith
Following a series of hurricanes and a deadly outbreak of Delta fever, people in the Outer States believed life in the Delta to be all but extinct. Fen de la Guerre, one of the few people still in the Delta, must get her leader’s baby to safety after the ambush of her tribe.
The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson

In a futuristic Brazillian city, artist June Coast and the Summer King, Enki, team up to fuel rebellions against the government through demonstrations. As June falls in love with Enki, she will have to wrestle with the fact that he, like all Summer Kings, must die at the end of his yearlong term.

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafar

In a post-apocalyptic, future Africa, Onyesonwu, or “Who Fears Death,” is born to the only survivor of a slain Okeke village. Marked by skin and hair the color of sand, Onyesonwu must learn the ways of sorcery and confront her destiny — ending the genocide of her people.

Malinda Lo

Malinda LoMalinda Lo’s first novel, Ash, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the Lambda Literary Award. Her second novel, Huntress, a companion novel to Ash, is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Her young adult science fiction duology, beginning with Adaptation, will be published in fall 2012. She lives in Northern California with her partner and their dog. Visit her online at http://www.malindalo.com.

Tananarive Due

Tananarive Due is a former Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College (2012-2014), where she taught screenwriting, creative writing and journalism.  She also teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles. The American Book Award winner and NAACP Image Award recipient is the author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir.  In 2010, she was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University.

Due’s novella “Ghost Summer,” published in the 2008 anthology The Ancestors , received the 2008 Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society, and her short fiction has appeared in best-of-the-year anthologies of science fiction and fantasy. Due is a leading voice in black speculative fiction; a paper on Due’s work recently was presented at the College Language Association (CLA) Conference. Her website is at www.tananarivedue.com.

I picked up Almanac several years ago to read on a very long international flight. It is still a “go-to” novel.

Almanac of the Dead, by Leslie Marmon Silko

At the heart of Almanac of the Dead is Seese, a haunted, enigmatic survivor of the fast-money, high-risk world of drug dealing–a world in which the needs of modern America exist in a dangerous balance with Native American traditions. In Tucson she encounters Lecha, a well-known psychic hiding from the consequences of her celebrity, whose larger duty is to transcribe the ancient, painfully preserved notebooks that contain the history of her people–the Almanac of the Dead.

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An Indigenous Australian Young Adult science fiction/Apocalyptic story featuring illegal mutants. “There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below. . . . And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.”

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Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, High Priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.


As I said, just a few of the recommended books that caught my attention. Now, I have to find the time to read them!

Review: Becoming Alpha By Aileen Erin

18242939Normally, I don’t really pay attention to Young Adult novels. Hey, I have been a young adult – didn’t like it back then, don’t really want to read about the angst, you feel me? But the fourth or fifth time it caught my attention, and having an evening which really called for something light, I went ahead and picked it up.

Huh. The heroine is 17, and a touch telepath, which is interesting to me. Can you imagine touching some boy in your high school and knowing everything he is thinking about? Actually seeing what is on his grubby little hormone-crazed mind? Euuu. Just. EUUU!!!! Gross. And yes, I sound like a high schooler!

Anyway. The good part is the heroine. She has her stuff together. She has been switched from school to school as the bullies and weirdos glory in someone even weirder than them. Being different amongst one’s peers is pretty much like being chum thrown in amongst the sharks. But I liked her. Life is tough, but she handles it, though it hurts.

After being ‘outed’ at yet another school, and left with pretty much no place to turn, her famous father/attorney to the stars in Hollywood is moving them to Texas. Texas?!?????! Well, at least there won’t be as many people around to touch, right? But things are not all what they seem at the new school her father will be working for. And before Tess knows it, her life takes a hard left and roars off into a new, and even more painful direction. Like Really. REALLY. Painful.

The storyline is good. The characters are interesting. Overall, it should have been a pleasant evening read. But then, the whole thing goes off the tracks. Why WHY do authors not invest in Editors?!?! Come ON PEOPLE!!! Most of the book was well done, editorially, but then the whole train ran off the tracks and plot holes you could drive a freight train through reached up and slapped me in the face, ripping through Discontinuity Land with no brakes. Totally ruined the whole thing for me. Ugh. I was right there on the whole “recommended for people who get a kick out of paranormal for the YA audience”. Now? Not so much. Sigh.

If you aren’t upset by discontinuity issues, the book is OK for its audience. Otherwise, I would give it a pass. And I hate that. It had such potential!

Gateway to Faerie – M.D. Bowden – Young Adult Dystopia

Gateway to Faerie was provided to me by the good folks at storycartel.com for an honest review. Of course, that in no way adjusts my review of the book, but it does give me access to some books that I wouldn’t have normally picked up to read. Whether I like those books on a personal level sometimes varies.

faerie
At least the cover is well done.

Gateway is a book that I would recommend to the Young Adult and Teen audience looking for a dystopian novel that qualifies as an ‘easy, clean’ read. Bowden has written a nice story with sharp edges and an unusual world build.

Fayth Blackman lives in a dystopian world, set two hundred years or so after a global apocalypse blamed on religious fanaticism and growing to nuclear war. In reality, the destruction is the outcome of a gateway between worlds, allowing the faerie world to intersect with our own through a gateway opened by evil fae.

I have read and enjoyed many YA books, some of which as exceptionally written. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. Though not offensively incompetently written, there is still a great deal that could be better about the book. The story line when dealing with the three main characters is pretty much ‘rinse and repeat’ – the whole walk, fight, walk, fight, teenager finds love in a time of terror situation. The editing of the book is poor, the sentence structure is choppy, and overall I wish that the author would find a really good editor and work to outgrow the “See Fayth Run, Run Fayth Run” flow of the books narrative.

The concept pulls the book back from a lower star rating, simply because the government line of what happened to the world two hundred years ago vs. the reality is interesting. Even now, the books and schooling which Fayth receives are “humancentric” rather than realistic. The book also ends rather abruptly. I note that there is a second volume, but I won’t be reading it, as I understand from reviews that it is not written any better than the first, is novella length and basically would have been better served to be added into this volume.

Overall, this is a “tell it” not a “show it” and it simply didn’t enthrall me, even with the understanding that it is designed for a YA audience. Just because that is your audience doesn’t mean that your audience should be talked down to. A great number of the YA readers out there are smarter, better educated, and more literate than their Adult counterparts.

I would rate this book a 2.5 on a 5 point scale based on back story only.

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