fantasy

Destiny

Destiny
Set in Australia this YA paranormal romance is the story of Lili who, while looking for her destiny, finds herself in a world filled with vampires and ghosts. Destiny: ‘The predetermined or inevitable path a person must follow.’ When nineteen year-old Lili McIntyre decides to trade her California summer for a mid-winter visit to Australia, it’s in hope of finding inspiration and direction in the country where her father was born. But when she arrives in Melbourne, the first thing she finds is the last thing she’s looking for—a brooding man who makes her heart race every time she sees him. Against her better judgement, Lili finds herself drawn into a relationship that tests her very beliefs about life, reality and fantasy. But the real test is how to follow her destiny as she faces some of the hardest decisions of her life.

Reviewed 

Lili McIntyre just ended a difficult relationship and is now on a much-needed summer vacation to Melbourne, Australia for a few months. Her aunt Debs welcomes her Down Under and provides her with a chance to clear her head. On the plane, Lili meets Claire, and that new friendship introduces her to more than she dreamed of. Though Claire doesn’t know it, her new boyfriend, Tom, has an enormous secret. The oblivious Claire introduces Lili to Sam, Tom’s close friend. As a natural double-date, Sam and Lili find themselves thrown together and soon discover a growing attraction.

Soon, Lili discovers why Sam and Tom behave so strangely. They are vampires! Suddenly a world of the supernatural opens up to Lili and her heart will lead her to help Sam keep his secret identity and defend the city from conflicts begun in ages past.

Destiny is an enjoyable book with a fun take on the vampire genre, full of characters created with affection and care. Lili’s struggle to determine her future and the pressures from home struck a chord with me. She feels the urgency to decide her future and move forward, although the hugeness of the decision overwhelms her.

The American/Australian crossover made me wonder through the tale about the author’s origins, but I think I know. Some telling word choice clued me in. I loved hearing about life in Melbourne and all the interesting trips the characters took nearby. Though some of Melbourne’s history appears in the book, I would have like to learn more.

I appreciated the potential for the tale to discuss the subject of abuse. I think that young women, especially, need reinforcement that abuse is real, encouragement that they don’t have to endure it, and illustrations of what it really looks like. Plenty of speakers and nonfiction writers share about abuse, but tales of people enduring and overcoming it reach us in a different, sometimes more personal way.

Lili wonders through the tale why she isn’t scared that Sam is a vampire. I know why: it’s because none of the vampires in this book are the slightest bit scary. Romance and good looks trump blood-drinking. Any slip of the teeth is slight and polite to the extent that Claire never once discovers their identity. Even the scenes that should be thrilling and terrifying lose their teeth because of the detached and passive way the author describes them. My take is that the trouble lies in the author’s unwillingness to make the characters suffer. She loves them too much. Any problem is short and quickly resolved without the pain that blood-drinking romantic interests should pose.

Aside from the pressured calm of the tale, I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second book in the trilogy to find the answers to the problems that Lili hasn’t solved yet. Four stars.

Mystical Mountain Magic – Redeemer

Mystical Mountain Magic – Redeemer
An infant girl is rescued and raised by giant eagles and is commissioned by a living volcano to restore Hope back into the world before the Deceiver can assassinate her.    

Reviewed by Awesome Indies' Assessor

February 12, 2015

Imaginative and allegorical

This sequel to “Deceiver” carries us on a new path with Erickson the now vagrant ex-pirate. The living stone he tried to steal took his sanity and left him with nothing but booze to ease the maddening reality of his own evil. From the town of Pandemonium he becomes caught up unwillingly in the schemes of Razor, a truly evil man and servant of the Minstrel. Awake and fully manifested, the Minstrel now aims to attack the living mountain, Misty, and kill Hope. Razor plays an important role in her attack. On a trail of death and brutality, Erickson follows Razor toward Elysium and up the forbidden face of Misty. Can Mariah save Hope from the Minstrel, Razor, and all the forces the Minstrel has amassed? Will the natives nearby survive the battle? Will Erickson succumb to the evil inside him or rise above and embrace redemption?

I loved how this new approach embraced the character of Erickson. His terrible crimes and fantastic defeat in Deceiver fit the ending of the typical villain, but this book followed him after in a compassionate and truthful look at the vanquished monster. Without excusing any of his evils, Guy showed us Erickson’s broken, twisted heart and the wreck he became once his transgressions led him to utter defeat. I didn’t know what would happen or where Erickson’s journey could lead. The path he took and the changes it made in him captivated my interest and my sympathy.

The previous main characters had only a supporting role, more toward the end of the story this time, but their journey was no less fantastic. Guy surprised me more with how the story would unfold and what the characters would have to face. I began to see the allegory of it more toward the end and understand a bit of what the story represented.

Occasionally, I felt, the plot did wander a bit and lose focus, though not for too long. The light bouncing between characters contributed to my difficulty anticipating where the story meant to go. The ending meandered a bit more than I like, but offered a lot of wrap-up for all the characters.

Redeemer takes an imaginative and allegorical path through a fantastic world of talking beasts, black-hearted villains, destruction, and redemption. I felt both reluctant and satisfied at the end of this fantastic story of the Mountain of Misty.

Mystical Mountain Magic – Deceiver

Mystical Mountain Magic – Deceiver
An infant girl is rescued and raised by giant eagles and is commissioned by a living volcano to restore Hope back into the world before the Deceiver can assassinate her. Set in early North America, evil fell from the stars and exploded against the mountain. Enticed by this three-legged master musician – the Deceiver – treasure seekers from all over the world come to this unspoiled country in search of their lust’s desire. As they create mayhem on this continent, an infant girl – Mariah – is rescued and raised by giant eagles that nest high on the cliffs of Elysium where she is commissioned by the mountain to restore Hope to a world without hope and save mankind from its disastrous effects before the Deceiver can assassinate her.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

This story had everything I could ask for.

The world has become a harsh and hopeless place, and the only hope for it lies in the mountain of Misty.

In the forests around Misty live two refugees and their baby girl who will play a key role in the mountain’s plans. Yes, the mountain has plans, along with his unusual friend. The natives who live at the base of the mountain and even the animals will all play a part in the plan, because a terrible creature has invaded their home. With its beautiful, haunting song it will lead them to destruction purely for its own enjoyment. This monster and its unknown plans threaten to destroy the only chance for hope in to return to the world.

Deceiver is a delightfully whimsical story, reminiscent of a Native American folk tale. The vibrant characters drew me in and pulled me through a story that kept me guessing what could possibly happen next. With so many reboots and formulaic novels out there, it is really refreshing to be able to enjoy a story that keeps me wondering.

I especially enjoyed the character of Misty. Seldom have I read about a living mountain and I loved to hear how Guy brought a geological formation to life. And he certainly did!

Aside from a little bit of poetry that worried me a little, this story had everything I could ask for. The story is written as the beginning of a series, not so much a stand-alone story. The ending made me impatient to see how the characters fare after their fantastic adventure, so I am excited to read and review the second book next.

 

The Christmas Dragon

The Christmas Dragon
All Katie Lin wants is to get away from her family: from the magic, from the mayhem, and from the never-ending war. Unfortunately, running away doesn’t always work as planned.   Katie Lin is special, but she really doesn’t want to be. Descendent of one of the few families of “humans” who can use magic, Katie long ago grew tired of the constant fight over magical heritage, land rights, and power struggles with other members of the magical Mythos.  Unfortunately, she didn’t run far enough: one day, a box appears on her doorstep. A box with a just-hatched baby dragon.  The baby dragon inside is a magical mess, and Katie flees to the only family member she trusts: the only and only legendary Merlin. It figures he’s gone missing, and with the Wild Hunt on the baby dragon’s trail, Katie runs amuck of dragon royalty, the Crow King, and at least one reluctant elf prince.  So much for escape. Sometimes, running away just doesn’t work as planned.    

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland

This is a great little story. I really enjoyed it.

Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen
Charming outlaw with own transport and limited social skills seeks lucrative, employment at minimal risk.  When you're running from a murderous government and work for an equally murderous gangster, accidentally torching his apartment is a bad move.  The Pan of Hamgee just wants a quiet life but destiny has other plans.   The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him. Unfortunately, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, and his existence is treason. To survive he does the only thing he can – getaway driving. As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it. This can only mean trouble and sure enough, it does. By doing so, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler. Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs. It’s a challenge, since previously he had no beliefs he was aware of. But faced with a stark moral dilemma, he realises his new found integrity might even stick… if he can stop running.

Reviewed by DL Morrese

February 7, 2013

5 stars

This is a cross-genre story that feels like it should be classified somewhere between Doctor Who and Discworld. I’m calling it science fiction rather than fantasy because at one point the ‘magic’ is described as the clever application of the strange effects of quantum mechanics. This is no more outlandish than the Doctor’s TARDIS, although instead of the unlikely time travel of Doctor Who, this story includes travel between our reality and an unlikely alternate dimension.

It’s an interesting place.

This alternate Earth is run as a police state, and our reluctant hero, The Pan of Hamgee, is a Goverment Blacklisted Indivdual. His existence is therefore illegal, and the fact that he has survived as a GBI for five years, which is about four and a half years longer than normal, proves that he is very good at not being caught. This talent comes to the attention of Big Merv, a major crime boss, who recruits him as his new getaway driver.  For the Pan of Hamgee, this is good news for two reasons. As a GBI, no legitimate employer will hire him, and Merv’s other option was dumping him in the river – with cement overshoes – but these are details we don’t need to go into here.

This story has flying car chases, a bad guy you love to loath, likable gangsters, and a hero you can really identify with since, like most of us, he’s not terribly heroic – at least not intentionally. He reminds me a bit of Rincewind in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He’s a professional coward whose talent for getting into unintended trouble is only exceeded by his talent for escaping from it. All he wants is a simple, normal life, but the universe seems to have another fate planned for him. The book also has a few laughs, a lot of smiles, and even a bit of political and religious satire. There are far too few books like this. Great characters, interesting setting, humor, and cultural satire, with a genuinely good plot providing a framework holding them together is a hard blend to achieve and an even more difficult one to do well. This book does.

The prose is well executed with just enough description for the reader to visualize the scenes. Backstory, where needed, is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. Dialog is believable and suitable to the characters and to the situation. Grammar, spelling, formatting, and other of technical requirements of the storyteller’s trade that sometimes pose a problem for the independent writer are executed professionally in this book.

It passes my personal 5-star test. In addition to all the basics needed for a well-told tale, it has that something extra that would prompt me to read it again. I enjoyed following the misadventures of The Pan of Hamgee, a likeable sod thrown into an uncomfortable situation in an imaginative world that has certain parallels to our own. I highly recommend it to readers of lighthearted speculative fiction or anyone who may be looking for something a bit different and a lot of fun.

 

Reviewed by Richard Bunning

5 stars

This is a good comic fantasy title off the same sort of humorous planet as writers like Tom Holt, Ben Elton, and Terry Prachett. There is satire and certainly parody, and as with those listed she has the gift of dramatic timing. In other words, MT McGuire is in great, Great British, comic company. The fact that she used to do stand-up comedy doesn’t surprise me a bit.
I’m sure it helps to be a Brit to catch all the clever turns of phrase in this book, but those from once were distant outposts of Britannia will get just as much out of this read; even The ‘us’ should be able to catch the crest of her comic wave.
Of course, if you are not into Peter Cook, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig, or MT McGuire Authorholic then you probably won’t like K’Barthan books either. Get a life!

The Silver Collar

The Silver Collar
Categories: ,
Published: April 20, 2012
Lyneth suffers under a curse, relieved only with a silver collar. Her dangers increase as she matures and life takes a drastic turn. Bought as a child to slave at an inn, Lyneth suffers under a terrible curse. Her frightening transformations can only be stopped when a priest places a silver collar around her neck. The collar stops the change, but makes her ill. Her dangers increase as she matures into a beautiful and desirable woman. When a mysterious nobleman visits the inn, her life changes forever.  

Cliff of the Ruin

Cliff of the Ruin
From post-Civil War New York to Ireland's emerald shores, a lawyer investigates a bizarre case linking an ancient legend to the woman he can't forget.   There are three good reasons why dashing Civil War hero and New York lawyer William Teague cannot tell artist Mae Kendrick he’s in love with her. One, she told him he was dull. Two, she is the niece of an important client. Three, she just hired him to find the man she doesn’t remember marrying. As Will unravels this peculiar case, he makes a shocking discovery about Mae’s childhood, one that shifts the investigation to the land of her birth–Ireland. But on the voyage overseas, circumstances become increasingly bizarre. Mae is taunted by ghost-like visions, and Will is pursued by a beautiful stranger who might be trying to kill him. When Mae suddenly vanishes, Will is forced to enter a thin place, an ancient monastic ruin leading to Ireland’s Celtic otherworld, in what becomes a race against time to find her. But are Will’s war-honed instincts any match for the alluring forces of Irish legend? Can he protect Mae from the apparitions of her past? And just how far beyond the breaking point can secret love be tested? A captivating tale of mystery and self-discovery, Cliff of the Ruin escorts the reader into a mythical world to explore the ever-hazy lines between romanticism and love, regret and repentance, wishful thinking and hope. “Carefully researched and steers well clear of tired stereotypes about the Emerald Isle.”–Historical Novels Review Bonnie McKernan was voted “Best Up and Coming Author” by Affaire de Coeur.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

February 26, 2014

Cliff of the Ruin by Bonnie McKernan is an awesome historical fantasy with complex undercurrents, spiritual depth and many surprises. It takes us from post revolution America, across the ocean to Ireland and into the lair of the Shee (the Sidhe). The story begins like a straight historical novel. Mae lives with her aunt and uncle, and their children, Aaron, a young man, and Charlotte, still a child. All of them are keen to find a husband for twenty six year old Mae, but after a broken engagement, she isn’t particularly interested in taking the risk of opening up again.

Until she meets the man on the riverbank.

Kieran the fisherman was so beautiful, that I suspected some other worldly intervention, but the full truth of what was to become a mystery around this man only became clear at the end. The influence of the Shee grew as the story progressed, and I found myself gradually drawn deeper and deeper into a world where spaces dwelled within spaces and time had a different meaning.

After a shocking revelation about her supposedly dead father, Mae disappears with Kieran for two weeks, then returns with a fever, a ring on her finger and no memory of how it got there. Clearly, Kieran is a scoundrel, and Will, a handsome lawyer friend of Mae’s uncle, is called in to help sort out the mess. Mae must become free of this husband, but the options for divorce for women in the nineteenth century were limited.

To reveal more of the story would do the potential reader a disservice, so I will only say that the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns, and the end provides a dramatic culmination of a rich story. The pacing is impeccable, and there is nothing extraneous yet everything we need to go deeply into the characters which are finely drawn and very real.

Mae, Will, Aaron and Finegal, the old man who befriends them on the ship, positively leap off the page. Each have their secrets, their flaws, and their ghosts from the past, and for Mae and Will in particular, their journey to find the scoundrel husband and force a divorce becomes one of personal reckoning and eventually healing.

Will in particular is an interesting character, his qualities of faith, strength and discipline are endearing, and his words to Mae about love underline the theme of the book.”A love that rests on beauty is meaningless.” He also says that though God is love, love is not God. A distinction that becomes clear in the actions of Petra, a Shee woman who wants to keep Kieran for herself.

The other major theme is that of forgiveness. It is clear from this story that bearing a grudge brings no happiness and rights no wrongs, and that no matter how much others forgive us, we are only forgiven when we forgive ourselves.

There are some lovely passages and snippets of wisdom in the book, like this one from Mae’s aunt when referring to issues in our life that we would rather forget, but need to deal with.

“No. Not forget. We never forget.” Aunt Gwendoline caressed her cheek. “To drain poison from the memory.”

And this lovely metaphor as a description of the state of grace that came over Will when he put his trust in God.

He didn’t need to search for the truth or even test it; it poured over him now and filled him like a dried up sponge becoming new again.

When I first read this wonderful book, I could not be as enthusiastic as I would have liked due to a lack of sophistication in some of the prose, particularly at the beginning. However, the author has earned my great respect by researching the private comments I gave her, and when she found them to be valid, studied the principals involved, then made the changes needed to turn a good book into a great one. I haven’t re-read the book, but she gave me a list of the changes she made and I now have no hesitation in awarding it 5 sparkly stars.

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Magic

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Magic
Colleen is a normal girl. She loves shoes, chick flicks, and cute clothes. The only thing abnormal about her is that she’s just become a magician; not the disappearing bunny kind, but the power-shooting-out-of-your-hands kind of magician. Her problem now is that she doesn’t believe in magic. Well, she believes in it. She’s seen it shoot out of her own hands, but she opposes it in a moral sense; no hexes, no spells, no incantations, no potions, no amulets, no tomes, no casting circles, no eye of newt, none of that. She has to be very clear because people pressure her about it. Whatever they say about “how it’s done,” this is a morality issue for her and she will not cave in to their pressure. Join Colleen at Seattle Pacific Regional University, where she becomes a part of The Convergence. She’ll learn the freaky side of Work Study, Financial Aid, and Vyxhepiocht. Seriously, she’s never seen so many hot guys. It’s going to be wild!

Reviewed by Meredith

This was an enjoyable book for the most part – it made me laugh and smile a fair amount. It’s very light – not for someone looking for deep subject matter.

This story at first reminded me of K.M. Shea’s “My Life at the Magical Beings’ Rehabilitation Center” because of the age of the main character, the light/witty inner commentary, and having to learn the rules of a magical society. But that similarity only lasted so long – my one complaint about the book is that it quickly becomes focused almost solely on which guy the heroine will choose….there’s not much else driving the plot. Which is disappointing because I think there’s a lot that could have been made of this set up. That said, I truly did enjoy it. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next one or not.

Note – I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

The Stone Lions

The Stone Lions
In the throes of the 14th century, Islamic Spain is under pressure from Castile and Aragon. Ara, the twelve-year old daughter to the Sultan, finds herself in the center of a political intrigue when her eunuch tutor is magically transformed by the evil Wazir. Can a little girl save her friend and tutor with the help of a Sufi mathemagician. Intertwined in a mystery of math, art and magic, Ara races to find the seven broken symmetries before time runs out? Will she succeed or will the Alhambra fall and with it all that she loves? And will the stone lions awaken in time to help her? This cross-cultural fantasy combines mystery and math to teach the geometry of symmetry.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

The Stone Lions is an excellent young adult novel set in Spain in the early 1400’s. Ara is a twelve-year-old Muslim girl and daughter of the Sultan. She lives with her cousin Layla in the Alhambra Palace, a place of great halls and courtyards decorated with beautiful tiles. Protective magic is woven into the symmetry of the mosaics, but the Sultans advisor is using his magic to break key symmetries and weaken the palace so the infidels/ book lovers/.  Christians from the north can take over the Kingdom.

Ara and Layla discover the treachery and with the help of a Sufi mathmagician take it in hand to fix the broken symmetries and try to find solid evidence of the advisor’s treachery to submit to the  Sultan.

The story is unique in that it is both highly educational and entertaining. In order to fix the magic, the girls must learn about symmetry and that is their first step towards becoming a mathmagician – I love that word and the concept of maths being magical that goes with it. Not only do we learn about this aspect of mathematics, but we also learn about the kind of life led and the values followed by these Muslim women. We learn that the harem is not a bunch of sex slaves – as Hollywood would have us believe – but the women and children’s part of the palace, where they have complete control and are safe from the men.

There is a wonderful scene where a group of Christian women and children come to visit, and though some cultural differences become apparent, it is clear that the similarities between the two groups are far greater than the differences. This is a truly excellent book to help foster religious tolerance.

The story is well-edited, so that it reads smoothly. The plot is sleek and engaging, and the pacing excellent. The characters are well-drawn and likeable – except for the creepy bad guy, of course.

I highly recommend this book for all young adults.

5 stars.

 

Reviewed by Amy Board

I highly enjoyed reading this book. Dandridge did a very good job of introducing the reader to an unfamiliar time, place, and culture while making it feel authentic. This was particularly impressive to me considering the story addressed many cultural norms that would seem out of place in Western society today, especially regarding the position of women. Yet Dandridge created a realistic, likable female lead, and gave distinct voices to the rest of her cast of characters, all the while uplifting and honoring the culture of that particular time and setting. I also loved (LOVED!) the idea of mathmagics. Using mathematical formulas and concepts to perform magical spells–brilliant! I’d love to read a follow-up novel that goes into greater detail about this, given that the emphasis of this book was on geometric symmetries. To that end, Dandridge did a wonderful job explaining the mathematical concept of symmetries in a manner that could be understood by a young audience and integrating it into the heart of the story. There were a few times, however, when the emphasis on explaining the concept of symmetries caused the scenes to drag on a bit, and I wondered whether younger readers might lose interest. Nevertheless, the story was very well crafted, the characters were likable and relatable, and the world building was phenomenal.

I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

Reviewed by Dharshi

 

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I picked it up because the concept of mathemagics intrigued me, but the unique setting and characters ultimately captivated my attention. I liked that Dandridge chose to include controversial topics like the role of women in the society. She treated these subjects thoughtfully and subtly. In particular, her women characters are clever and strong despite the limited power they hold. There are fewer male characters in the story, but all of Dandridge’s characters are well-developed and play a unique role in the story. I felt the story had two weaknesses. First, I thought it was a little slow. Second, the concept of mathemagics was hardly explored. The mathematics was explained well, but it was never clear to me how the mathematics translates to magical spells. Besides these minor points, I recommend this book.

I received this book free from Awesome IndiesBooks in return for an honest review.