Tag Archives: fiction

“Heart of Mystery”– Mark Laporta

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

 

51wgxgwbihl-_sx331_bo1204203200_   When an unlikely intergalactic alliance comes to light, Ixdahan Daharek (AKA Derek) and his human best friend, Lena Gabrilowicz, must save not only the Earth this time, but the very fabric of space itself. Between their search for alien cookware, stopping a clone army, and calming down a moody robot, Ixdahan and Lena must also figure out their feelings for one another once and for all. But no pressure, right?

 

Guys. I love these books so much. Mark Laporta officially has a spot on my “Favorite Indie Authors of All Times” list and I haven’t even been reviewing for a full year yet. “Heart of Mystery” is just as funny, creative, zany, endearing, and memorable as “Heart of Earth,” if not more-so since it builds on such a great foundation.

 

Just like the first installment, the sci-fi elements are funny, colorful, and an absolute joy to read. Between the new, strange aliens and the action there’s never a dull moment, no matter what species Derek is around and, yet again Derek and his friends are some of the best teenagers I’ve ever read.

 

Laporta knows how to tap into the most universal aspects of being a teenager and bring them to life in the most outlandish situations. Derek and Lena not only grow as an individual characters, but as teenagers entering adulthood, which can be hard to capture, regardless of the YA subgenre.

 

I don’t want to give too much away, but I just want to give an example. There’s a scene where Derek is talking with another character about the gravity of his situation and what the adults are asking of him. The conversation turns to Derek himself and how important it is for him to stick to his morals, especially in a situation with such dire consequences.

 

That kind of message is so important for young people, especially in times like these. Not only that, but Laporta makes the world around Derek and his friends so much fun and exciting that the message is bound to stick. I know the scene itself will stick with me for a long time and I’m 24.

 

So, if you like bizarre worlds, even more bizarre conflicts, and wonderful characters, go read “Heart of Earth,” if you haven’t already, and read “Heart of Mystery” intermediately after, regardless of your age. Your inner kid will thank you. And don’t forget to look for the conclusion to Derek’s adventures in “Mirror at the Heart of Time,” set to be released this summer!   

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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.

Bad Bloods: November Rain– Shannon A. Thompson

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Bad Bloods: November Rain– Shannon A. Thompson

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

“Bad Bloods” is a solid work of dystopian YA that will delight any fan of the genre. It also includes an angle that is too often overlooked by other authors in the category.

Serena was born a bad blood–a person with strange unique powers. In the city of Vendona, that’s an automatic death sentence. Before Serena can be executed, a prison guard helps her escape, setting into motion a chain of events that will determine Vendona’s political future and every bad blood’s right to be seen as human.

While I can’t say “Bad Bloods” is particularly original–we’ve seen a lot of stories like this in the past ten years or so–I think it still works. The plot is engaging, the characters are interesting and the bad bloods’ powers are unique. What really sets “Bad Bloods” apart is a world building aspect many dystopian YA seem to forget:

The political climate of “Bad Bloods” is eerily similar to our own.

This past election year has been hard on everyone and I don’t want to focus on it too much (this is a book review, after all), but it’s hard to deny that the question of who gets what fundamental rights has been front and center lately. When I realized that “Bad Bloods” dealt with a very similar dilemma, I got chills and made me want to read on.

I’m not sure if Thompson meant for the major conflict to come across like that, but that’s how I interpreted it and I think it makes “Bad Bloods” stand out in the dystopian YA genre for the better.

If you liked books such as “Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” or even James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride,” I’d definitely say you should check out “Bad Bloods.” It has all the things dystopian readers love about the genre, plus an extra kick. So, if you’ve got some free time over the New Year’s holiday, head over to Amazon and check out “Bad Bloods” for yourself.

Indiana Belle–John A. Heldt

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Indiana Belle–John A. Heldt

Don’t miss your chance to get Indiana Belle for free on Chirstmas on Amazon!

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

This is the second novel of Mr. Heldt’s that I’ve read and I’m beginning to think he can do no wrong. His dedication to portraying history in all of it’s nuances, layers, difficulties, and beauty is admirable and his ability to craft brilliant and unique stories shines across the lines of genre and time alike.

When Cameron Coelho began his doctoral dissertation, he never expected to find a photograph of the beautiful Candice Bell, nor did he expect to fall in love with her. The possibility of stepping back in time to save her from an untimely death in 1925 never even entered his wildest dreams until he met her distant cousin, Geoffrey Bell, who just so happens to know how to time travel.

When I first read the description for this book, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. As some one who doesn’t usually like romance, I didn’t expect much. I figured Heldt’s world building would be just as good as “The Mine,” but the plot would be a passable indie love story as best.

Oh, boy. Was I ever wrong.

I was right about the world building, at least. Heldt continues to floor me with his expertly crafted depiction of the past. Not only does he paint wonderful, creditable scenes with his words, but he captures the 1920’s in it’s entirety. Yes, the Roaring Twenties were new and exciting, but it wasn’t all jazz and flapper dresses for everyone. I don’t want to give anything away because I really want everyone to check out this book, but as someone who’s biracial–White and Black–I really appreciate the other half of my heritage being acknowledged in this time period. I feel like the experience of Black Americans is often over-looked when talking about history outside of the Civil Rights Era, so I really appreciate that Heldt included that experience and handled it well.

Not only is the history well done, but it’s woven in with the story beautifully. The two work together to create a unique and unforgettable narrative with plenty of twists, turns, and a climax that will have your heart racing and pages turning.

And then there’s Candice. Oh my days, is Candice Bell a delight. Anytime she’s in a scene she absolutely steals the show. She captures the sense of independence that the 20’s are so often associated with, but still stands out as her own own character, making her the strong female protagonist romance novels so often try to create, yet so often fall short of doing, in my opinion. In fact, if you writing romance, or if you find you struggle to write women regardless of genre (which is a longer conversation for another day), check out Indiana Belle for Candice alone. She’s worth it.

So, whatever you usually read–romance, historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi, you name it–take a break and get whisked away to the 1920’s with Indiana Belle no time travel required.

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.

Worst than Frost Bite: The Wendigo of North America’s Algonquian Tribes (Creature Feature 6)

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Worst than Frost Bite: The Wendigo of North America’s Algonquian Tribes (Creature Feature 6)

I’m back! Ashley has been great, but I’m here to take the wheel once again. This time, with a particularly chilling creature.

Among the Algonquian peoples of northeastern North America lurks a creature that waits for the ice and snow of winter to stalk its prey. It creeps in the cold shadows, looking for its next meal or for a lost soul to turn into one of its own. While the creature’s name and physical description varies among tribes, it is most commonly known as the Wendigo and there are several things that everyone can agree on: it is big, it is nasty, and it is hungry.

The Wendigo is said to be a cannibalistic evil spirit looking for travelers who lose their way due to the severe and ever-changing winter of its forest home. Due to its enormous size and the sacristy of victims the Wendigo is never satisfied, no matter much it eats. Its constant hunger has made its existence a cautionary tale against excessive greed and gluttony in addition to being a creature that haunts the woods.

Probably the best discription of the Wendigo comes from Basil Johnson, an Ojibwe teacher and scholar from Ontario. He describes the Wendigo as, “gaunt to the point of emaciation…its complexion the ash gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into their sockets…What lips it had were tattered and bloody [and it] gave off the strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.” That doesn’t sound like something I’d want to meet in the woods.

Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid the Wendigo in the winter months, it’s still best to use caution while traveling. What if your car breaks down in the middle of a snow storm and you don’t have the proper clothing to go get help? What if you find yourself trapped, maybe for days? What if your travel companion starts looking pretty tasty? If the temptation proves to be too much, you just might find yourself turning into a Wendigo.

Good thing for an abundance of gas stations these days, eh?

Alternatively, it’s said that anyone who becomes too greedy and self-serving is at risk for becoming possessed by a Wendigo. While you won’t look like the nasty creature that Johnson describes, sharing head space with such a nasty creature doesn’t sound any more enjoyable.

With the morals tied to Wendigo’s existence, both the culturally specific one about cannibalism as well as the universal one about greed, it’s easy to brush the Wendigo as a simple story used to teach a lesson, even with its apparent sighting. But the Wendigo has a few added dimensions to its tale. Much like the demons of Western Christianity, the Wendigo has had nasty influences on communities over the years, even if it doesn’t leave behind physical signs.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Jack Fiddler, a member of the Cree tribe, was tried for the murder of a woman he claims was possessed by a Wendigo. According to his testimony, Fiddler killed 14 creatures before he was finally arrested. Some years before Fiddler’s case, a man named Swift Runner reportedly killed and ate his family during a particularly nasty Alberta winter.

Unlike most of these other monsters, many of you are probably safe from the Wendigo. Even if you live within its borders, winter is still some time away, despite the snow that might fall in October. However, I still encourage caution. Between all the candy, treats, and other indulgences of the season, Halloween is a holiday famous for its excess and gluttony. I’d hate to hear of anyone turning into the first candy-based Wendigo.

Image from offbeat.wiki.com. Original artist page deactivated.

 

Pixies: Not Just Another Creature-Guest Blog Post by Ashley Fae (Creature Feature 5)

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Pixies: Not Just Another Creature-Guest Blog Post by Ashley Fae (Creature Feature 5)

Hey, ya’ll. Due to travel and some other complication, the Creature Feature is a day late. Sorry about that. Thankfully, once again Ashely of tabbyafae.com has my back. This time, with some interesting discoveries about pixies. Take it away, Ashley!

“You’re about to learn that all that flutters are not fairies.  Pixies – also known by a plethora of other names like pixy or even pigsies – originate from Celtic roots. The mischievous pixies, in today’s world, are often confused with sprites or fairies, but throughout history, there were said to be even wars between the groups of fluttery ones.  The similarities between the races don’t stop there; it is thought that the name pixie, originating from the Swedish dialect, actually means little fairy.  Oh, will the similarities ever stop.  Perhaps not.

Today when one might look upon a pixie they’d see a short being that is very childlike.  Huge groups of them often gather outdoors dancing and even wrestling.  These gatherings often lasted all through the night.  What I found quite interesting is that when an actual description given in modern times, the pixie is described much like Peter Pan – pointed ears, dressed in green with a pointed hat.  Perhaps not an exact match, but that’s what I see in my mind.

The mythology of pixies is quite odd because it is so entwined with that of the fairy.  Even the origin of the name in the Swedish dialect means little fairy.  Pixies can often be clothed or unclothed.  It is said that in the medieval era when Christianity was prominent, pixie was often thought to be the souls of children who died without being baptized.  Once the clothing of the deceased child was placed in the clay funeral pots with their earthly toys, they would then change to pixies.

A super interesting fact to anyone who ever read, or was read, The Three Little Pigs might know that in 1853 there were actually three little pixies, not pigs.  Great Britain is where most of the myths of pixies come from, specifically Cornwall and Devon.  The legends say that pixies used to lure children into playing with them by disguising themselves as a bundle of rags.  These pixies were said to have normal relationship with people and loved music and dancing.  They were even said to be helpful to widowed women and other humans with their housework.

Although, they sound quite pleasant on the surface, they were also known, according to Wikipedia, for “misleading travelers.”  It was known as “pixy-led.”  The remedy, they say, was to turn your coat inside out.  However mischievous these pixies were, the queen of the Cornish pixies is considered to be good luck.

Pixies and fairies have battled each other throughout mythology.  The story goes that the pixies won and that by the 19th-century contact with humans had diminished.  In 1824, it was written that just as with chivalry, the age of the pixie was gone.   Does that mean they’re really gone?  Or are they lurking somewhere along the way of a weary traveler, or around the kids as they play?  Maybe they only come out on All Hollow’s Eve?  Watch out for them and tell me what you see!”

Image from pintrest.com