Tag Archives: fantasy

Mirror at the Heart of Time (The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek Book 3)

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Mirror at the Heart of Time (The Changing Hearts of Ixdahan Daherek Book 3) by [Laporta, Mark]

Mirror at the Heart of Time is a brilliant conclusion to an equally brilliant series that will leave readers ecstatic, on the edge of their seats, and heart broken to see such great characters go, but it’s well worth it.
In the thrilling conclusion of “The Changing Hearts of Ixdhan Daherek,” Ixdahan and Lena face the universe’s greatest threat yet: a force that seeks to erode time itself. After all they’ve been through together, defeating a culture based on a miracle diet, getting a girl from the future back to her time, and finally figuring out their relationship once and for all should be a piece of cake…right?

In case you haven’t noticed, I adore these books. The wonderful characters, the outlandish conflicts, the strange worlds and aliens, all of it. Mirror at the Heart of Time is no exception. In addition everything I loved about the first two books, the trilogy’s conclusion reaches a level of maturity that makes it a must-read for fans of YA, especially fans of YA sci-fi and fantasy.

I’ve talked at lengths about Laporta’s great world building and creative story telling in the reviews for Heart of Earth and Heart of Mystery, but I can’t emphasize enough how great his characters are, especially in this final installment. It’s been quite the adventure watching Ixdahan and Lena grow as characters over the course of these books and Laporta gives them the perfect send off, both for the characters as well the readers, I think.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again: If you write YA, sci-fi or otherwise, I highly recommend this series just to see how Laporta writes teenagers, because he does it brilliantly.

So, if you’re a fan of YA, sci-fi, or you want to take a few hours and feel like a kid again, check out the entire Changing Hearts series. It’s a smart, funny, endearing trip through the cosmos you won’t soon forget.

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Succubus– Brandon Varnell

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Succubus– Brandon Varnell

Plot: 4/5       Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 4/5

“Succubus” is a decent read, but unfortunately, it’s anime/manga tropes are probably going to loose readers who aren’t already into the medium.

Christian has repaid the Catholic church for their protection with his work as an Executioner, a killing machine charged with the extermination of supernatural threats to humanity. Vampires, werewolves, ghouls, Christian can handle it all. But when the church sends him to destroy a succubus, he quickly discovers that he’s over his head. Nothing about Lilith, his target, adds up. Succubi aren’t supposed to be afraid of men, yet Lilith is terrified. Supernatural beings aren’t supposed to be captivated by her either, yet Christian has to fight them off. Can Christian figure out what’s going on and get the job done, or will this be his last mission from God?

The mystery that drives this plot had me curious from the start and held me until the end. It’s nearly impossible to take a simple creature, like a succubus, turn it on it’s head, and not grab the reader’s attention. Varnell does a great job revealing this world’s secrets bit by bit, laying a trail of clues that you can’t help but follow and enjoy, at least a little bit.

Unfortunately, Varnell’s obsession with anime bleeds through the rest of the book, making anything outside the central plot awkward, annoying, or dull unless you share his passion.

From the very first chapter it was obvious that Varnell was trying to narrate a manga or anime rather than write a novel. The action is over-ornamented and drags on, which works well for a visual medium, but not so much for a written one, Christian is every bad-ass hero with a heart of gold and a tragic past, and Lilith is every cookie-cutter cutesy heroine from the last twenty-ish years of anime. She even yells, “Kya!” on occasion, which grated on my nerves a bit. These tropes have been overused enough in actual anime and manga. We really don’t need novel versions.

In conclusion, if you’re into anime or if you’re at all nostalgic for it, you might enjoy this. If the phenomenon is foreign to you or you’ve had your fill of it, there are definitely better urban fantasy titles out there. Maybe check those out first.

Class of ’59– John A. Heldt

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Class of ’59– John A. Heldt

Plot: 3/5        Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5         World Building: 5/5

Mary Beth McIntire just wants a quiet summer in 2017. Mark Ryan wants to know what’s hidden in in the basement of the same house in 1959. When Mark discovers a key and a few mysterious crystals, he gets his answer and Mary Beth’s quiet summer is ruined thanks to his appearance. The summer vacation that follows was more than Mary Beth and her younger sister, Piper could imagine in this decade, or the fifties.

I want to preface this review by saying that I have the utmost respect for John Heldt. He breaths life into the past, his dedication to research and accuracy is admirable, and he clearly has a passion for what he does.

That’s probably why “Class of ‘59” felt like such a step down after “The Mine” and “Indiana Belle.” Especially “Indiana Belle.” 


To be fair, it’s as well researched and put together as Heldt’s other works. If you have any sense of nostalgia for the 1950’s, this is still definitely the book for you, but it could have been much more. While his other works had interesting conflicts and/or exciting plots, “Class of ‘59” felt like fluff show casing how great the 1950’s were. Both “The Mind” and “Indiana Belle” felt like well-rounded snapshots, so I was hoping for something similar here. What conflict exists is underplayed in favor of small talk and simply strolling around the era.

So, if you want to take a break and step into the 1950’s and like romance, “Class of ‘59” is a solid read. Like Heldt’s other books it’s also a good example of how to put together and execute a historical era. For you writers out there. However, if you’re looking for something with a bit more excitement, you might want to take a look at some of Heldt’s other work.

Emerald Child (Kalika Magic Book 1)–Karen Hughes

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Emerald Child (Kalika Magic Book 1)–Karen Hughes

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 4/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 4/5

Fun, whimsical, and just a tad nostalgic, Emerald Child is a great fantasy adventure for young readers.

Far away on a secret island, Indie as grown up in hiding surrounded with burning questions and no questions. When smoke starts to rise from a mysterious chest, Indie thinks it must hold more questions, but it actually holds all the answers: who she is, where she’s from, and, most shockingly, the role she plays in saving a magical kingdom.

Hughes has done a brilliant job crafting a story that no doubt will capture young fantasy lovers and their parents alike. Indie is a wonderful, strong, capable girl–something I’m always excited to see in books meant for young readers–her supporting cast is fun and memorable and the adventure whisks you away from start to finish.

It reminds me of all the Studio Ghibli movies I watched as a kid, which is what make me think kids today would really enjoy it. It’s clean enough to be age appropriate, yet just dangerous enough to feel like there’s real weight behind characters’ choices. It’s whimsical and fun, but clever enough to treat kids like they’re smart.

If I really had to nit-pick, I’d say my only real complaint is that type of narrative Emerald Child goes on a well-worn path. It’s one that’s been used in a ton of fantasy novels, both for children and adults, over the years, which made it a bit predictable. However, given that it’s a book for kids, odds are they haven’t been as exposed to all the tropes yet, so they’ll still enjoy it well enough. Even if they can see what’s going on, there’s enough fun stuff here for them to still enjoy the ride.

So, if you have a young one in your life that loves to read, or you want to introduce to the love of reading, Emerald Child might make a good gift. It’s fun enough to get them to pick the book up and exciting enough to convince them to never put it down.

Alpha Male–Joshua Corey Mays

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Alpha Male–Joshua Corey Mays

Plot: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Characters: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 3/5

Alpha Male is an interesting thought experiment about the world of super heroes and their actions, but the areas where super hero stories usually shine, the characters and the action, it falls a little flat.

Thanks to Alpha Male, the city has grown quiet. As a result, few people see any real need for him and treat him either as a celebrity or a washed up attraction, until a new super villain comes to town, anyway. With the city looking to him once again for protection, can Alpha Male rise to the occasion? Or have his days of catching common criminals caused him to loose his edge?

I have to admit, Mays has done an brilliant job exploring the long-term and far-reaching effects a super hero would have on a big city. From the police force, to the lives criminals have after Alpha Male has captured them, to the manifestation of the resentment people feel due to Alpha Male’s collateral damage, Mays puts a great deal of thought into how the hero exists in his world. Not a stone is left unturned and there were quite a few that I hadn’t expected to show up, which as impressive. So, if you enjoy idea-driven books, especially of the sci-fi/fantasy type, I think Alpha Male would be a good piece to add to your reading list.

If you like more story or character driven works, however, you might not enjoy this as much. I still can’t put my finger on why, but none of the characters really clicked for me, Alpha Male least of all. To me, he’s just not an enjoyable character to watch, which really hurt the story since we’re supposed to want to see him save the day. In a similar vein, while the action is passable and definitively has some creative scenarios, it never felt as exciting as one would expect from a super hero piece.

Over all, Alpha Male explores some really interesting ideas and premises, which definitely make it worth your time if you enjoy books with that sort of focus. If you’re looking for the fun characters and exciting action that usually comes from the super hero genre, you may want to keep looking.

My Fair Assassin–C.J. Anaya

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My Fair Assassin–C.J. Anaya

Plot: 4/4       Characters: 5/5       Writing: 4/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 4/5

My Fair Assassin is a rare gem in the Paranormal Romance genre. The two main leads are both enjoyable, the writing is engaging, and the alterations to traditional faerie lore lend themselves to some fun and creative world building.

Crysta has come to accept that she’s strange. For years she’s tried to hide her white hair, strange powers and pointed ears in hopes of finding an adoptive family with little luck. Now, at seventeen, she’s chosen to be on her own, but her independence is short lived when an assassin from another realm appears in her living room. While his intentions of killing her seem clean cut, the more he learns about her, the more complicated their relationship becomes.

As someone who was in high school when Twilight was getting big, I honestly thought I’d seen it all when it came to YA Paranormal Romance. I’m so glad Anaya proved me wrong.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually really liked Crysta. She’s a rarity all on her own in that she’s a girl who is legitimately not like other girls, resulting in a personal struggle that my heart broke for. Normally I roll my eyes at these kind of characters, but Crysta’s struggle for belonging and identity felt real and sympathetic, making her a character I would actually like to see teen girls exposed to and sympathize with.

Her relationship with Jareth, the assassin, is pretty great as well. Their interactions are funny and genuine. Nothing feels forced or contrived. Every line of dialogue and interaction feels like a real interaction between two people, even if one is an assassin sent from Faerie. In fact, if you write YA, especially romance, I recommend you check this book out for Anaya’s use of dialogue.

Her take on Seely and Unseely fae seems interesting as well, all though I can’t say too much about it since we don’t actually get to see either of the courts. However, as someone who’s seen a fair amount of them in urban fantasy (heck, I’m even working on a book about them), it was nice to have a different take on the lore. I’m actually really curious to read more about them in future books.

I just wish the actual romance held my interest like the rest of the book’s elements. As great as the rest of the book was, the actual romance felt a tad bit cliche. What do romance writers have against letting couples fall in love like normal people? I don’t understand it.

However, I do acknowledge that it’s a matter of personal taste and a symptom of the entire genre more than an error on Anaya’s part, so I’d still highly recommend giving it a read, even if you’re not usually a fan of Paranormal Romance. There’s still plenty of great stuff there to enjoy, so if you’re looking for a quick light read with some great characters, fun dialogue, and an interesting take on Faerie, give My Fair Assassin a try.

Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth. Re-imagined and Remastered–Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

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Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth. Re-imagined and Remastered–Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

Welcome back to a regular review! With Halloween over I’ll try to get back to posting these as often as I can. 🙂

Given the nature of this work, I’m going with the more traditional rating method and give it a 5/5

“Twice Upon A Time” is a brilliant collection of tales that breathe new life into classic stories and introduce readers to ones that feel like they should be classics. It also provides a wonderful chance for independent authors to showcase their work along traditionally-published authors, proving once and for all that they have what it takes to write along side those who take more conventional routes to success.

My favorite thing about retelling fairytales is that the creative possibilities are endless. These stories speak to people in different ways, resulting in different characteristics being emphasized in their new versions while other things are change or diminished, depending on the writer. Nowhere is that more apparent than in “Twice Upon A Time.” Each author has their own unique take on stories most people know very well. That or they know exactly what makes a story feel like a fairytale and work to make something new and just as timeless.

I also love how dark retellings tend to be since it hails back to these stories’ earliest roots. The authors of “Twice Upon A Time” do a brilliant job making their fantastic tales spellbinding, eerie, and downright terrifying in equal measure.

So, if you’re a fan of the fantastic, the creepy, and the creative, I highly recommend “Twice Upon A Time.” The stories are diverse, well-written, and unique as the people writing them. And if it turns out you really like a particular work, “Twice Upon A Time” does a great job giving you ways to connect with those particular authors. There are quite a few I want to find on social media because I really want to read more of their work. If for no other reason, check out “Twice Upon A Time” for that, because there are some magnificent writers here waiting to be discovered.