Review: The Last Stratiote by LeAnn Neal Reilly

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Publisher: Zephron
Publishing Date: September 2013
ISBN:9780982687581
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.4/5.0

Publishers Description: Elira Dukagjini, a mysterious partner in a firm specializing in blood law, teams up with James Goodman, an American ICE agent, to save Mirjeta Gjakova, the woman James loves, after the Albanian mafia snatches her. Drawn to Mirjeta through her desire for James, Elira struggles against an unknown, pernicious virus and the control of her senior law partner, the sinister Dr. Aconcio, who has his own agenda. A group of grieving mothers and wives calling themselves Code Red and a Kosovar imam, fanatics in the U.S. and the Balkans, propel the trio into a private reign of terror from which there can be only one end.

Review: Contrary to the authors claim that there are no zombie-like virus’ in the world, there are quite a few. Toxoplasmosis, rabies, sleeping sickness, leprosy, necrosis, lyme disease, mad cow disease, dysarthria and worst of all, Nodding Disease originating originally in the Sudan and spreading recently into Uganda. At least their wasn’t any bad firearm descriptors and their use in a presumptive manner.

Fug me, this was both the best novel I have ever read, and the worst. Why is it so good you ask? In one word, the main character, Elira. Holy shjt balls, what a finely crafted character. The intensity coupled with a past rife with history, pain and love, held within a vampire waif whom is engaged in blood debt killings that started in Albania. The angel (or so I assume) Zophie, provides this engaging weirdness that creeps around at the edges of sanity. Both there and not, she is a great addition to the complex cast.

For me this novel was riveting until you got to the pages and pages of filler that mainly focuses on religious disparity and their contribution to the mental whimsy of one character. This is the authors pundit, I presume, in airing her knowledge and subsequent take on that particular arena of interest. While it provides some context to our characters situations and subsequent story-line, it tends to diminish the overall movement of the novel.
While Shakespeare may be interesting to some and of little regard to others, Elira’s fascination with his plays and her ability to recite anything at a moments notice is kind of a neutral for me. I get that the author is trying to draw a parallel with Elira and develop her as a complex character, but it was really not needed.

So, I found myself completely absorbed and loving Elira’s character and her story-line, then in the next instant I found myself flipping through quite a bit of historical religious filler. This novel needed a really good editor, or at least someone with an objective viewpoint whom could stand back and say, ” you know, while this is great and all, there is just too much information to hold the interest of the common generalist reader.”

I thought that the sex scenes, while explicit, really added to the story-line and her character. I was surprised by some of the sexual additions in the midst of the story. There is one instance when James is looking for Elira at a drama theater, and sees her sitting in the back row. As he comes upon her he finds that she is otherwise engaged with another. The author just bops you in the head all of the time. This novel does not follow in a classic structure. Even the dialogue can be weird and stilted, given the situation…just like in real life.
The cover art is ok. Lets get a close up of her with the eye brow and lip piercings. Her blue hair and makeup was described in detail, repeatedly, in the novel, yet there is no artistic rendering.

Get this novel, the author is definitely a refreshing talent, whom excels at riveting and drawing readers into a broad tapestry of the fantastic.

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Review: Paint It Black by john Hartness

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Publisher: Bell Bridge
Publishing Date: November 2013
ISBN: 9781611943566
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.7/5.0

Publisher Description: In the fourth installment of The Black Knight Chronicles, Jimmy Black is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and a darned fine pity party, serving the finest alcohol, when a call from his not-quite-girlfriend-cop forces him to sober up and stare at jawbones.

Review: Whew does that cover stink or what? It looks like The old Hardy Boys were replaced with a retarded vampire. The Hardy Boys covers are still better.

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This is the fourth in this particular series. I had not read any of the prior novels so my main focus was if the novel could stand alone without the support from the previous stories. The author did a really good job referencing a prior instances in order to support the current story line without dragging it down. As a stand alone novel in a series, you can get right up to speed without slowing down for the usual lengthy back story.

The main character is a smartass vampire whom doesn’t really render insightful witticisms, more like this constant glibness that really gets tiring after awhile. The Trolls and goblins were really well done. You had this overt and stilted verbosity from the Trolls that would turn on a dime into this highly shrewd and intelligent creature. The goblin chef was aptly described and did not fail to entertain.
Abby, the hotty vamp, is really good. Her pointed comments and self-reliant and independent behavior is refreshing input into the so-so dialogue of Jimmy Black. Lilith, a succubus that is older than dirt, also injects interesting commentary into an otherwise flat diatribe. It is almost like the author tried too hard with Jimmy Black, to make him into this free-wheeling, witty, devil-may-care, undead vampire. What you get is this glib asshat who doesn’t really give a crap (or so you think) about anything, then all of a sudden cares about Sabrina and tries to be a father figure to Abby. He is at once indifferent then maudlin, vengeful then remorseful and glib then self-aware. Definitely not emotionally consistent to the extent that he is a believable character.

There were some fall downs with regard to firearm ballistics, firearm function and Sabrina’s mortal physical abilities to be on par or better with an undead vampires super strength and speed. The author states that the semi auto smith and Wesson gets cocked as Sabrina comes down the stairs. She first must rack the slide on a semi-auto 1911, then drop the hammer in order to re-cock it for live fire in this particular scene. In the case of the SW MP, there is no hammer to cock. Since Smith and Wesson does not make a .40 1911 series pistol, then I assume that Sabrina is carrying the M&P or one of its variants. The ballistics mentioned are not supportable either. “These cold iron bullets tumble worse than silver. Makes them drop six inches over ten yards.” While silver is not as dense as lead, silver still would accept the rifling of any barrel as “both lead and copper are common bullet materials.” The idea that silver bullets will “tumble” could only happen if the diameter of the bullet was not increased to accommodate the inherent shrinkage of silver when cast. Thus the use of a custom mold to cast silver bullets. If you’re going to use firearms in a novel, then be familiar with ballistics and the firearms basic functions.

If you like a really fun read and a good story-line with shallow character development, get this novel. It is at once entertaining and absorbing.

Review: The Dream Runner by Kerry Schafer

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Publisher: TKA
Publisher Date: October 2013
ISBN: 9781937776633
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:3.2/5.0

Publisher Description: What if you could order a custom dream? Any kind. Dark and twisted, sweet, sensual, or redemptive. For the right price, a dream runner will deliver one to your doorstep. Jesse Davison skipped town the week she turned sixteen, with nothing but the clothes on her back and her father’s vintage Indian Scout motorbike. She swore never to return to the town where in one night of tragedy she lost everything she ever loved.

Review: This is the third novella in the series. If you pick up this novella without having read the others in the series, you can get up to speed easily. The cover art is really good. I am a sucker for ravens and crows.

I gave this novella a middle of the road rating as short stories are really hard to rate in terms of character development and story-line. I like the author’s prose. It is very smooth and merges scenes with story-line content seamlessly. There just isn’t enough meat on this bone to make a verbose evaluation. You would have to combine about 7 of these short stories to make a novella with any viable content.

Review: Black Heart by Christina Henry

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Publisher: Penguin Group
Publishing Date: October 2013
ISBN:9780425256596
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.2/5.0

Publisher Description: As a former Agent of Death, Madeline Black is no stranger to witnessing violent ends. But being the one to cause them is an entirely different story….

Review: This is #6 in the Black Wings series of novellas starring Maddy Black, a fallen angel of mixed decent. I am kinda bummed out that I never heard of this writer or her novellas in this series prior to reading #6. This had many good elements to make for a riveting read. Great magic elements, character development, story-line with minimal internal dialogue generated a well crafted story that was fun to read. The praying mantis insectoids, the Cimice, were a great addition as was Daharan in dragon form. I also liked the Retrievers, Lock, Stock and Barrel. They will be a great addition in subsequent installments.

Puck was especially conniving and convincing as one of the “brothers” along with a brief appearance (in this novella) of the Fae Queen, Titania. The only mildly disappointing interlude was the Nathaniel love interest and the waxing and waning of Maddy’s and Nathaniel’s powers. Not real consistent as when a building blows up and they cannot save Bendith, Titania’s son, and barely save themselves. Then in the next scene, she destroys one the oldest beings in the universe with incalculable power. Hmmm. As I am new to this series, I wonder how she is able to put shirts on if she has wings that can only be veiled but not magically removed. I was also pretty neutral on the whole Beezle the gargoyle thing. I think he is pretty weak and formulaic as comedy relief. The cover art really blows. It looks like Jennifer Lawrence is blasting magical fire laced farts.

Despite some inconsistencies in the logic, I really enjoyed this novella. Maddy is a well constructed character whom lends herself to the eternal battle of good and evil not only without, but within. This dichotomy certainly draws you into her inner world, and you find yourself cheering her ability to resist the dark power and triumph with good intent.

Review: Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin

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Publisher: Ink Monster
Publishing Date: November 2013
ISBN:9780989405010
Genre: Fantasy/ YA
Rating: 3.8/5.0

Publisher Description: One stupid party. One stupid boy. One stupid kiss. And my life was virtually over.

Review: This novel was purely made for the Teen/YA crowd. I didn’t really connect and/or sympathize with Tessa and her constant insecure reactions to peers at her school(s). I remember high school pretty well, and although it sucked, I don’t remember the girls running around bitch fighting for every guy morsel. Tessa’s internal dialogue is never constant or consistent. It ranges from the manic insecure to the goo goo ga ga, head over heals in love with Mr. “muscles rippling beneath his shirt” then back to jealous chick with a stiff spine whom fights those bitches and leads charges against vampires….then back to “OMG how did I get here, I am so frail and weak, please take care of me??”.

So as a main character, Tessa was under-developed and overly emotive, as was Dastien. I think there was too much of the story invested into developing Tessa, as a heroine when she would have been fine finding inner-discovery as the action progressed. At times we have a main character that is at the same time conflicted/resolute, insecure/dominant, shy/angry, lusty/spinster and whiny/agreeable. I get that teenagers have inconsistent emotions with regard to love/life, but it tends to wear a bit as you follow those rampant emotions throughout the course of a novel. Tessa, as introduced, was a bit conflicted and unsure of her ability and was actually pretty fun to read about. She had cool T-shirts, liked certain bands, was into her own perspective and had parents who were supportive. I was looking forward to this character become someone whom discovers her place in the world of magic and were-wolves while retaining that core wit and ambivalence. The most interesting characters were the sub-characters around them. Her friends, enemies and teachers at Albien; Meredith, Chris, Mr. Dawson etc. give you just enough insight into their psyche to fully render them while leaving room for the unknown.

The cover art depicts Tessa wearing a dress with little gloves on. She should be wearing jeans, a cool T-shirt and a mussed up look. I did like the end of the book with a different cover art perspective on Tessa. Inventive.

I really liked the overall story-line. Tessa and the school with outside influences wreaking havoc. The vampires were great. Floating, decaying evil with poisonous saliva. I like that Tessa’s cousins are getting involved and look forward to seeing them developed in subsequent novels. As much as I am not in to heavy teen angst novels, I could not put this one down. It was fun to read, even wading through the “ripply muscle” content. I attribute this to the authors ability to craft prose in such a way that the story lends itself to desirable outcomes. Keeps you interested in that way, even though sometimes those outcomes are predictable.