Monday, May 28, 2018

Monday Book Review: A Thousand Faces, by Janci Patterson

A Thousand Faces, by Janci Patterson
Published August 2015 by Garden Ninja Books

About the Book:
In her debut YA science fiction novel, Janci Patterson presents a thriller that #1 NYT bestseller James Dashner calls "a fantastic book" and #1 NYT bestseller Brandon Sanderson calls "hands down one of my favorite novels of the year."

In the world of high-stakes espionage, it pays to be able to change your face. And that’s just what sixteen-year-old Jory and her family of shape-shifting spies can do—alter their faces and bodies to look like anyone. Jory is in training to be a full member of the family business—when she can convince her parents to let her help with their elaborate cons.

But when Jory’s parents go missing on the job, Jory is thrown into a world of secrets, lies, and stolen identities that will put all her training to the test. Jory’s always wanted to be a member of the team—

But saving her family may be the most difficult job of all.

My Take:

Unique and totally absorbing, this YA paranormal deserves a whole lot more recognition than it's received so far.  Author Janci Patterson creates a new kind of human shape shifter - one that doesn't turn into an animal, but rather can change their bodies, faces, and even voices into other people. There have been aliens and robot terminators in books and movies who've had this ability - but a shape shifting race of humans? The concept and the world building the author invests is fascinating and utterly believable.

If you like YA paranormals and enjoy new twists and concepts, you need to read this well-written, well-executed story - the bonus being that it's the first of a three book series, and Book One is currently free, and can totally be enjoyed as a standalone, or as the start to a delicious new series.

As I'm writing this, the Amazon book only has 24 reviews - which probably has more to do with Amazon's new screwed up policing efforts and algorithms than anything else. But that's a story for another blog. Trust me, this book is so much better than many YAs I've read with hundreds more reader reviews. Which proves the point that number of reviews doesn't correlate to quality whatsoever. And that Amazon needs to figure out how to police reviews without blanket deletion.

Anyway. Back to the story.

Jory is a sixteen year old girl who's been learning the "family business" and is eager to take on more responsibility, although her parents aren't sure she's ready. The business? Corporate espionage, and the book starts with her first solo assignment, "breaking into" a high tech company by pretending to be one of the employees. Very Mission Impossible, but without the prosthetics or gadgets, because Jory and her family are shape shifters, who can mimic anyone's body, face and voice.

Shape shifters live in the shadows, staying under the government radar. Their existence is barely hinted at on conspiracy websites, and shifters are cautious about getting caught and ending up in some Area 51 vivisection laboratory. Needless to say, Jory's family moves around a lot. She doesn't attend school or have friends - only one other shifter family that they work with, who happen to have a teenaged son.

Kalif is the first shifter boy Jory has ever known, and he's somewhat of a tech genius. She's developed something of a crush on him, which her parents notice and tease her about. But when her parents don't come home from a routine assignment, Kalif is the only one Jory can trust to help her find out what happened.

Both teens have been somewhat sheltered by their parents, not allowed to participate in higher stakes missions or informed of some of the dangers of their world. Their parents think they're kids, and not ready to handle or execute anything of importance, trying to exclude them from investigating what happened to Jory's parents. Together, Kalif and Jory use their training to search for answers and conduct undercover ops that reveal uncomfortable truths for everyone.

This is a unique coming-of-age novel, told exclusively in Jory's first person point of view. The first-love romance between Jory and Kalif is sweet (nothing beyond kisses and hugs, and a growing attachment.) I think the book is misclassified as science fiction and should be YA paranormal, which would be a better audience for the POV and storyline. Because despite some tepid Amazon reviews, this is an awesome storyline, great characters, well-executed timing, and world building of a secret subset of society that doesn't rely on any apocolyptic shift in the current world, but layers right into the shadows of real-time America.

Obviously, I can't say enough good things about this book. Grab a copy on AMAZON and decide for yourself.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Graduation Season! Where does the time go??

It seems like yesterday - well, maybe the day before yesterday - when I snapped this photo of my oldest son and his dog. Where does the time go?



And now he's all grown up. And graduating.
And going on to pilot training. Like, totally adulting right out of the gate.

I'm so proud, but at the same time I feel the tears burning the backs of my eyeballs.
I keep telling myself this is normal. This unwillingness to let go. Like I have a choice in the matter.

I keep telling him that he'll always be my baby, but really, I have to admit that he's all grown up.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2018, not just at the Air Force Academy, but everywhere.

You guys and gals are the future. And it's filled with opportunity and possibilities.

Go for it.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday Book Review: The WIld Mountain Thyme, by Kathryn Scarborough

The Wild Mountain Thyme, by Kathryn Scarborough
Published January 2018 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
There’s a serial killer murdering Irish-American tourists all over Ireland. Jim O’Flannery of the Boston Globe and Megan Kennedy of the Irish Times, are teamed up to report on the killings. They want to work together, but also to stay clear of each other emotionally; there was A LOT of trouble with the opposite sex in the past. But, Jim’s guardian angel appears, as a leprechaun, to pester and cajole Jim into getting involved with Megan. Jim can see Seamus, Megan can’t.
Jim and Megan trail the murderer to the west coast of Ireland, piecing together his motivation and where he may strike next. 
An attempt is made on their lives, and only Jim’s quick wits saves the two. Megan disappears. Has the killer kidnapped her? Can Jim, with Seamus’s help, save her from mortal danger?
 MY TAKE:


This sweet whimsical romance is a like an old fairy tale, the kind with magical elements and hidden dangers lurking in the shadows. The lighthearted interplays of the main characters are juxtaposed with twisted ramblings of an unhinged serial killer who's fixated on the heroine.

The story unfolds from multiple points of view, mostly jumping between the two main romantic characters James O'Flannery and Megan Kennedy, journalists covering the story of a serial killer on the loose in Dublin. Jim has been sent over by The Boston Globe to work with Megan from The Irish Times, covering the murders of several Irish American tourists, supposedly at the hands of a serial killer.

The killer himself (whose identity is shadowed at first and slowly revealed) also has several chapters from his point of view, giving the reader insight into his twisted perceptions of reality. And then there are the chapters from the paranormal POV... from Jim's  guardian angel, on an assignment to earn his wings and disguised as a leprechaun.

Seamus is Jim's great-great-great-great-great-great uncle, and must be the most inept guardian angel since Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life ...but then again, it worked out pretty well for Jimmy Stewart in the end. And Seamus's heart is definitely in the right place, even if his methods are a tad unorthodox.

This is a sweet (close the bedroom door) romance that is at times silly and at times suspenseful.  To be honest, I could've done with fewer scenes (and songs) from Seamus, but it all weaves together to create a whimsical, very Irish fairy tale kind of a story. If you enjoy sweet romance with a big dash of whimsy, give this story a try.

Grab a copy on AMAZON




Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Feature: #Excerpt from FORBIDDEN TIDES by Kyla Stan


About the Book:
Some would say I look like a mermaid, the essence of nautical beauty. I looked in the mirror and saw a monster....

Astrid Murphy, born with strange webbed hands and a thirst for saltwater, feels like a freak. She desires to look and feel normal, just like her family. But Astrid doesn’t realize that she’s meant to be the next ruler of the Deep Clan, a race of merfolk who are dying from pollution and overhunting. She is the only one who can save them.

Zander’s mission was to find Astrid and bring her home. Not fall in love with his target. Surrounded in a web of danger, a forbidden love between clan daughter and warrior blossoms. Zander knows they can’t focus on each other, and the Deep Clan must come first.

But it’s the one enemy Astrid never expected who will tear it all down. Her father. The one person who was supposed to love and protect her, will do anything to keep her from fulfilling her destiny with Zander. Even kill.

As Astrid and Zander fight for their world, they learn the true depth of what it means to love, the power of hope, and what it means to be free.
Grab your copy on AMAZON

About the Author:
Ever since she was a child, Kyla Stan enjoyed creating fantasy stories. In fact, she has a notebook from when she was a child filled with stories that are being updated for a modern young adult audience. Kyla knew at a young age that being a writer was her dream, and so she pursued it at the young age of sixteen.

Kyla hopes her writing will help other people with mental illness, such as anxiety and depression. Kyla also wants people to be aware of environmental issues, some of which are reflected in Forbidden Tides and her first self-published book about werewolves titled, Poet Tongue. She has a degree in communications, and a master’s in English and creative writing. Her dream is to become an English professor and inspire others to write.

Kyla loves animals, and lives with her cat Chippy, a seventeen-year old plecostomus named Suckerfish, two adorable gluttonous goldfish; Lucky and Chance, and nine frogs; Fudge, Gordita, Milagros, Spot, Little Froggie, Prince, Tiger, Sirenia, and Celeste.

Visit kylastanyabooks.com for more information about upcoming stories and tips on writing! 

Book Excerpt: Prologue:

I was born with webbed fingers and a love for the ocean. From a young age, I knew I was different. There was always a thirst for the sea, as if it called out to some deep instinct that I couldn’t understand. My life changed when I was only three years old…
.~.
“This here is the best girl in the world,” Finnegan Murphy bragged to his friends in his thick Irish accent. His daughter, Astrid, danced clumsily around to the song “Surfing USA” by the Beach Boys. A humid Californian night encircled the group of friends that huddled close to the roaring bonfire as they celebrated the arrival of the summer solstice. Airplanes resembled blinking comets while faraway stars flickered with life. When Astrid fell in the sand, Finnegan chuckled heartily and helped her back up. She pulled at her tight shoes that hid her webbed toes.

The smell of charred hamburgers on the grill made Finnegan’s stomach growl. Astrid’s mother, Maristella, chatted with the other women from the neighborhood. Her friends cackled from the over indulgence of alcohol.

Finnegan hollered to his wife to bring him a burger. She smacked the back of his sandy blond head playfully, and he wrapped an arm around her hips. He kissed her stomach, full of life with the promise of their first son. The group stopped and listened to the approaching roar of the waves crashing down before continuing their conversation. Astrid watched the beautifully hypnotic ocean with innocent, transfixed eyes. There weren’t any small inlets where they resided, just pure coastline leading out to the vast sea with no boundaries. 

She sat on the ground and played in the sand while giving an occasional tug on her uncomfortable swimsuit bottom. She looked up again as the lion’s roar of the ocean filled her tiny ears and slammed against her heart. She turned towards her father, who was laughing at some unheard joke with a bottle of beer in hand.

“Daddy, can we go to the ocean now?”

Finnegan, still laughing, looked down at his beloved child. “Of course, my dear. As soon as everyone leaves.”

When the adults began talking again, she slowly waddled off down the shoreline. Her eyes widened as the wild waves clawed desperately at her shoes, trying to bring her into the sea. Her small body trembled with delight at the thought of swimming, but she firmly planted her feet down and refused to move. She was warned by her parents that a lot of scary monsters came out at night when the water churned so violently.

Unable to hold back her urges, she bent down and stuck her hands into the cool bliss, then quickly threw them up in the air to create a splash. She giggled at the effect and continued her silly behavior while the waves licked her hidden toes.

Astrid suddenly looked up. She was sure she heard someone call her name. Her little eyes could barely see, and she had to squint just to get a basic shape.

“Astrid… come, child.”

She was frightened, but the voice seemed familiar and comforting, like a warm blanket. From the darkness of the waves emerged a man with a thick mane of azure hair and emerald eyes. He smiled as the toddler inched her way into the sea. The tides swirled around her ankles… calves…waist…

“Astrid! Get away from the water!”

The man in the sea dove back into the abyss.

Astrid turned and saw her father running down the beach. Finnegan snatched her away from the wave’s clutches in his fiercely strong arms. He was about to take her away when she pleaded for him to say hello to the man.

“But Daddy! Look!”

Her little finger steered his gaze out to sea, where a man with pale blue skin waited patiently. Finnegan’s eyes grew wide and his grip on Astrid tightened.

“No… you shall not take her from me, you beast of the depths. Over my dead body…”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Why Mermaids?

So. You might ask, “Why mermaids?” And while you are asking this question, most of you are picturing the Disney version of Ariel in your mind. Sweet, innocent, cartoon-ishly benign. Go ahead, admit it. She is the most famous mermaid of our times.

But mermaids aren’t so one-dimensional. After all, remember the sea witch, Ursula?

Throughout history, there have always been tales of mermaids. There are cave paintings of evil mermaids. Seriously. Over the centuries, mermaids have been closely associated with shipwrecks, drownings, storms and floods. Think of the syrens of Greek mythology, luring sailors to their deaths on the rocky shores.

In one popular Greek legend, the gods turn Alexander the Great’s sister into a mermaid. She lives in the Aegean Sea and when she encounters a ship she asks its sailors only one question: "Is King Alexander alive?" The proper answer is yes, saying "He lives and reigns and conquers the world." Placated, the mermaid calms the waters and wishes the ship farewell. Any other answer spurs her into a rage where she summons a storm, dooming the ship and its sailors.

Just a few hundred years ago, Christopher Columbus famously reported sighting mermaids in the Caribbean, saying they weren’t as beautiful as legend proclaimed. And just a few years ago, Johnny Depp befriended those same Caribbean mermaids as Jack Sparrow, in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Remember how scary those mermaids could be?

The main character of my series, fifteen-year-old Shea MacNamara, grew up in Oklahoma far away from any oceans, never thinking about mermaids. Raised by his emotionally distant father, he never knew the mom who left when he was a baby. Since Dad never even mentioned her, Shea figured it had been a surprise pregnancy, and that his dad had gotten “stuck” raising the unwanted child.

Shea never understood why his dad always seemed sad and isolated, urging Shea to keep his odd abilities secret. He’s never felt like he quite “fit in” with his classmates, but couldn’t figure out why. He endures the taunts of school bullies, developing a deep mistrust of authority but a strong sense of right and wrong. When a freak tornado destroys his farm and claims his father, Shea feels completely abandoned. A grandmother he’s never met arrives on the scene, and he’s forced to leave everything familiar to move back to Cape Cod, where his father was born and raised.

He meets a mysterious girl along the shores of the Atlantic – a girl with secrets, and who knows secrets about Shea as well. She introduces him to an undersea world which he never knew existed, and suddenly all the odd abilities he’s developed over the years make total sense. He also discovers that not all mermaids are beautiful and sweet, and that bullies and evil exist everywhere.

We readily accept that there are all sorts of vampires in literature – from the sparkly kind to the more grim and bloodthirsty versions. Why is it we think all mermaids should be sugary sweet?

Just as people come in all shades of good and evil, so should merfolk. It makes life under the sea that much more intriguing!



Monday, May 7, 2018

Monday Book Review: FORBIDDEN TIDES, by Kyla Stan

FORBIDDEN TIDES, by Kyla Stan
Published April 2018

About the Book:
Some would say I look like a mermaid, the essence of nautical beauty. I looked in the mirror and saw a monster....

Astrid Murphy, born with strange webbed hands and a thirst for saltwater, feels like a freak. She desires to look and feel normal, just like her family. But Astrid doesn’t realize that she’s meant to be the next ruler of the Deep Clan, a race of merfolk who are dying from pollution and overhunting. She is the only one who can save them.

Zander’s mission was to find Astrid and bring her home. Not fall in love with his target. Surrounded in a web of danger, a forbidden love between clan daughter and warrior blossoms. Zander knows they can’t focus on each other, and the Deep Clan must come first.

But it’s the one enemy Astrid never expected who will tear it all down. Her father. The one person who was supposed to love and protect her, will do anything to keep her from fulfilling her destiny with Zander. Even kill.

As Astrid and Zander fight for their world, they learn the true depth of what it means to love, the power of hope, and what it means to be free.
MY TAKE:

We all know how much I like mermaids. And yet, I don't read a lot of mermaid novels. I haven't wanted them to "color" the way I write my own mermaid world. But now that I find my own undersea kingdoms pretty well established (and nearing a close, once book 4 is finished) I'm branching out and dipping a toe into other mermaid worlds and novels. Even though it would seem that "mermaid" is a universal character, there's much that's not canon about life beneath the waves, and it leaves so much to the individual author's imagination that each mermaid story ends up with unique twists and explanations for how mermaids survive, speak to one another, and travel on dry land (if they can.)

Kyla Stan has created one such unique world. FORBIDDEN TIDES is an engaging mermaid fantasy, where the myths of Selkies and Mermaids are twisted together and set on the California coast. Danger, greed, suspense and light romance weave together with a strong environmental message to create an interesting tale.

My youngest son was in a summer stock performance of SELKIE a few summers ago. Set in Ireland, the play begins with the father figure tricking a young selkie woman into marriage when she was in human form at the full moon. Their half-breed child, a girl, was born with webbed feet and hands, and a love for the ocean, like it was calling to her. The father becomes evil and greedy, killing as many seals as he can to sell the pelts, even though he knows in his heart that they are selkies, like his beloved wife. He routinely slices the webbing between his daughter's fingers to keep her from being bullied in their small village.

In so many ways, this book reminded me of that play.

Astrid is obviously a half breed, although she doesn't know it and it's unclear for most of the book whether her mother is a mermaid or not. (She does seem to know an awful lot.) Astrid's father is the greedy monster who gets rich by catching and killing mermaids to sell for their "pelts" and as specialty food. He also routinely cuts the webbing from between Astrid's fingers. He doesn't want her to ever know of her close connection to the ocean or to the underwater creatures he now hunts.

Zander is the merman given the mission to find Astrid and bring her back to the clan before they die off from over-hunting and pollution. He doesn't expect to fall in love with her, or to end up spending time on dry land with her and her human family. He certainly doesn't expect her to love him back.

And it gets more complicated from there.

The book is an odd mix of light ocean imagery and banter, and soul-wrenching darkness. Told in alternating points of view between Zander and Astrid, the book also has a disturbing amount of head hopping and omniscient narrator going on. The author also describes a few merfolk feeding frenzies that makes the race sound downright scary. Even scarier are Astrid's father and the other fishermen, bloodthirsty and driven by greed, as well as the directors at the local aquarium, who decide it's easier to study the mer-creatures when they're dead. Rather than embrace this new race and try to learn about them, everyone acts like they're fish. Animals. Less than.

I'm not exactly sure who the target audience is for this story, as there are aspects that are far, far darker than my own mermaid stories, and yet other parts that are too light and playful for adult readers, with not enough sexual tension to interest New Adult readers. I guess this is for mermaid lovers only, and it's really an interesting look at one author's mermaid vision and world.

If you love mermaid stories, grab your copy on AMAZON now.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday Feature: #Excerpt from Arresting Mason, by Amber Daulton

Arresting Mason, by Amber Daulton
Published by The Wild Rose Press, April 2018

About the Book:
Once you’re in a prison gang, you’re in it for life. That’s what Mason Harding thought until the boss accepted his resignation. After the State releases him on parole, a sexy divorcĂ©e behind the wheel of a car almost ends his life quicker than a shank. His chance encounter with Mia Eddison results in a night of passion, but her brother—his parole officer—catches them together and doesn’t approve.
Mia falls hard for the cocky ex-con, but not because of his chiseled body. She vows to break through his walls and discover his secrets, but never expects those secrets to threaten her life. 
When members of an organized crime ring kidnap Mia to force Mason’s return to the gang, he goes up against an old friend to save the woman he loves. Will his sacrifice be enough or will everything fall apart in a blaze of gunfire?
EXCERPT:

“Which one is your car?” She glanced around the crowded parking lot. A few streetlights pushed back the darkness and shadows. The restaurant served customers until midnight on the weekends, but no one loitered in the lot, at least from what Mia could see.

“Don’t have one at the moment.” Mason hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans. “I took the bus. It stopped a few blocks from here.”

“Would you like a ride?” She pulled the car keys from her purse. “I feel a little ridiculous we met here tonight. I just wasn’t sure if you were some kind of freak.”

His eyebrow lifted, and he closed the distance between them as a tiger would zero in on its mate. A sexy, masculine smile curled his lips. “Have you made up your mind yet?”

“I’ll let you know in the morning.” Desire trickled down her spine. Mia nodded toward the passenger side of the car for him to hop in.

He confiscated her keys instead to unlock and open the driver’s side door for her like a gentleman. Then he leaned closer and nuzzled her temple with his nose.

Not sure if he planned to seduce her in the parking lot or if he merely wanted to tease her, Mia pressed her hand to his chest and tried to think straight. “You’re the first guy I’ve gone on a date with since my divorce. I haven’t slept with anyone since Evan.”

He tunneled his fingers through her wavy, chestnut-brown hair. “I haven’t dated anyone in a long time either. We’ll take it slow or fast, whatever you want, but I promise you one thing. After I’m done with you, you won’t even remember that bastard’s name.”

Oh, God. She almost melted right then and there. “Fast. I want you, Mason.”

“Take me to your place and you can have me.”




Buy Links:

Barnes and Noble – https://bit.ly/2uOj90J
The Wild Rose Press store – http://bit.ly/2FSVvBa