Friday, September 22, 2017

Review: Twelve Stories for Summer by Linda Mansfield


Genre: Short Story Collection

Description:

"Twelve Stories for Summer offers a baker's dozen of fictional but realistic short stories set in summer. It's for teenagers through senior citizens who could use a few minutes of relaxation. Some of the stories take place at typical summer destinations like a state park, an amusement park, a baseball stadium, a public auction, a Fourth of July parade, an outdoor concert, a riding stable and an auto race. Others show people volunteering during a church mission trip and tornado relief efforts. One story features two college friends reminiscing over dinner. A bored boy at the beach is another subject.”

Author:

Linda Mansfield is a former editor at a Manhattan publishing house and current owner of a PR firm in Indianapolis.

Appraisal:

I’m not sure what to make of this collection and therefore what to say or even what rating to give it. I’ll try to explain.

Generally, the writing is solid, from a technical standpoint. The characters are interesting. But too often I’d hit the end of the story and think “is that all” or “what was the point.” One story that springs to mind as an exception to this is the tale of a guy on his first date in three years and how he messes up. It was good, made a point, and could have ended strong. Instead the ending made me want more, wanting to know what happened next.

As I’ve stewed about this I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue here might not be these stories, but that these aren’t the right stories for me. Yeah, that’s it, it’s not you Twelve Stories for Summer, it’s me.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Although one of a series of 4 short story collections (each collection stories about a different time of year), the author indicates that the books stand alone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: Maggie on the Cusp: Transcendence Book 2 by Lynne Cantwell


Genre: Magical Realism/Contemporary Fantasy/Drama/Native American Myths

Description:

“Maggie Muir Brandt has been charged by a Shawnee creation spirit with the renewal of the earth. But her elderly mother is losing her grip on reality, and Maggie feels she must set aside her own life to move back to her childhood home to take care of her.

Maggie’s brother Sandy objects, saying it would be better for their mother to live closer to him. Sandy abused Maggie all through their childhood, and that history makes her suspicious of his sudden interest in their mother. Then, in a vision, she sees a water panther – a monster – attack a drowning doe, and she knows the water panther is Sandy and the doe is their mother. In her vision, Maggie thwarts the water panther’s attack. But she knows he will be back, and she can’t hold him off forever.

It’s an impossible situation, but it must be solved, and soon. Because time is running out for the earth, and Maggie can’t fulfill her destiny until she has subdued her own demons – including Sandy.”

Author:

“Lynne Cantwell writes mostly urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with a dash of magic realism when she’s feeling more serious. She is also a contributing author for Indies Unlimited. In a previous life, she was a broadcast journalist who worked at Mutual/NBC Radio News, CNN, and a bunch of other places you have probably never heard of. She has a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. Currently, she lives near Washington, D.C.”

To learn more about Ms. Cantwell check out her website or stalk her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Maggie has just returned home to find her mother suddenly having memory problems, which she didn’t have when Maggie entrusted her care to her brother Sandy. Then she catches Sandy trying to get their mother to sign the deed to her house over to him alone. Compound that with the disturbing dreams Maggie has been having and she decides to take a drive to see if she can sort her thoughts out. Subconsciously she ends up in familiar territory. She recognizes the area as the place she found a turtle effigy as a child, as noted in the first volume of this series, so she gets out to walk the site. Not too far away she finds a bird effigy, which she adds to her necklace with the turtle.

At her mom’s senior center Maggie literally runs into an old classmate who is offering free legal advice to seniors. Luckily, Rick is more than willing to take on Mrs. Muir’s case to update her will and make sure everything is in order to take care of Mrs. Muir’s best interest in the future.

With that problem taken care of Maggie is left to sort out what is going on with Sandy and take a long hard look at her family’s dynamics growing up. This means confronting the truth about everything that has been denied or overlooked just to keep peace in the family. It’s an emotional journey with some devastating results.

Each character is wonderfully written and fully developed. The dialogue is intelligent and realistic. In the first book, Maggie in the Dark, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Riley, Maggie’s ex-husband’s current wife. I now have a new-found respect for her. I can’t wait to see where Maggie’s journey takes her next. Well done Ms. Cantwell, you never fail to impress me.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Maggie on the Cusp is book two of the TRANSCENDENCE TRILOGY, following Maggie in the Dark. It is important to read this series in order.

One instance of adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Nothing significant.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Checkmate by Curt Larson


Genre: Thriller

Description:

“Sebastien ‘Bass’ Masters loved technology and machines. He loved improving the output of machinery, making them sing. When his father passed away, he took over and grew the family textile business. When the opportunity arose to get into computer chips—semiconductors—with his father-in-law, he jumped in with both feet. He put his mechanical genius to work developing new and innovating technologies that launched their start-up into a contender.
When his father-in-law died unexpectedly, his wife took over the reins of the semiconductor company—then divorced him and shut him out of not only the semiconductor business but the textile factory as well.

When his son found him in Hawaii tending bar barefoot and asked for career advice, Bass realized it was time to get back into the game. With limited resources at his disposal, starting from scratch was out of the question. With no one willing to finance him in semiconductors, textiles was his best option. A path which led him right back to his old factory, closed and shuttered for years. But his ex-wife wouldn’t sell it to him.

Undaunted, he created a shell company and stayed in the background, working all the angles to buy and close the deal. Hiring his son to work for him infuriated his ex-wife even more and she was not about to let him win.

The game was now well and truly on. Who would win? Who would lose? Who would pull off the final Checkmate?”

Author:

A native of the Detroit area, Curt Larson has had a long and varied career working as a draftsman and engineer. He has two other novels available.

Appraisal:

The dedication to this book is to the author’s sons with a wish that “the business advice buried in these pages find them and serve them well.” There is some of that buried here. For example, the idea that “the guy who doesn't make a mistake is the guy who doesn't do anything” is a good one to understand. In broad strokes, the story is a good one. However, once you get into the detail there are major issues.

Some are technical. There are too many proofing misses. There are issues with redundancy – yes, repeating the same story points over and over again. (Yeah, I have that problem too.) Did I mention repetitiveness? There are words that add nothing to the story. There are words that tell the reader way more than they need to know (or care to know).

Some issues are with the way the story is presented. For one simple example, a private investigator is listening in as the protagonist and his son have a conversation in a restaurant. He supposedly overhears father and son mention the names of their girlfriends in the conversation. If he heard Angela and Alicia, I’d buy it. But instead we have this.

Hector listened intently, hoping for more tidbits. He duly noted the name Angela Vaquero, although the name meant nothing to him, and Alicia Henderson, during the course of the conversation.

Not only am I not buying it, but as it turns out knowing the last names isn’t needed for anything later in the story. This is just one of many examples of the story stretching credibility. Doing it while telling us something that isn’t even needed is even worse. As I said, there is a decent story buried here, but not without cutting about a third of the words and lots more polishing.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

An excessive number of typos and other proofreading misses.

Rating: ** Two Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 125-130,000 words

Monday, September 18, 2017

Reprise Review: The Divide by Nathan Doneen


Genre: Travel Memoir

Description:

“How far would you go to answer a simple question?

After his final year at university, Nathan Doneen wasn't satisfied with the direction his life was heading. He had doubts … he had questions. In June of 2013, Nathan set out on his mountain bike to search for answers along the Great Divide, a 2700-mile route that traces the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico… and he set out alone.

Thrown into the world of erratic weather, cramped bivy sacks, and overwhelming solitude, Nathan was continually forced from his comfort zone, putting his personal growth on steroids.

With both his future and past in mind, Nathan's revealing and honest account illustrates the challenges of the route—and life—and how it's possible to find the strength and courage to move past them.”
Author:
“Nathan Doneen grew up on a wheat farm in the Palouse Region of Eastern Washington. After graduating from Eastern Washington University with degrees in Biology and Environmental Science, Nathan rediscovered his passion for adventure and for writing. He is currently pursuing both...”

For more, visit Doneen’s website.

Appraisal:

The travel memoir or narrative has long been one of my favorite non-fiction genres. Part of that is the obvious. I love to travel and since being on the road all the time isn’t feasible, experiencing new places and things vicariously is an alternative. But it’s more than that. A good guidebook or the right internet site can take you to the same places. Besides that, the way you experience a place will be different than how anyone else does. (In fact, in some instances I’ll have been to some of the places myself and the vicarious experience is replaced by comparing notes, which was true for much of this book for me.)

Books like this, what I describe as a travel adventure or quest, with a specific, usually difficult goal involved (in this case, riding a bike on roads and trails that roughly follow the Continental Divide of North America from well into Canada to the Mexican border) are also entertaining and interesting to me for other reasons. Getting a feel for the logistics of such an undertaking satisfies the curiosity of my more analytical side as does the problem solving involved when unanticipated problems come up.

However, there is a third item that I find essential for a travel memoir if it is to hit the highest mark for me, putting the journey chronicled in the story into a bigger perspective. What did this experience teach the author about life, the world, and his or her place in it? It’s this area where The Divide excelled. In between the day to day adventure and problem solving, Doneen considers his life thus far and where he wants it to go from there, not unlike a coming-of-age adventure novel. But even better, it’s true.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Adult language.

Added for Reprise Review: The Divide was a nominee in the Non-Fiction category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran December 28, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Environmentally Friendly by Elias Zanbaka


Genre: Suspense/Short Story

Description:

“Out of seven billion people, one man has declared war on Mother Nature and plans to bring it to its knees.

Out of all the criminals in Los Angeles, he’s the number one target being hunted by the LAPD tonight.

And out of the entire LAPD, one officer is hell-bent on helping him complete his mission.”

Author:

Information on the author is sketchy, but it appears he is an Australian college student.

Appraisal:

As I sat down to write this review I read the book description above and said, “oh, that’s what was supposedly happening.” Sure, that the police were chasing someone was obvious. That this was an intense chase with lots of action was apparent as well. Beyond that the only feeling I had was cluelessness. I wasn’t following what was happening or why I should care. Sometimes with short stories you have to fill in the gaps with your imagination, but my imagination came up short on this one. I didn’t get it.

The author did show a flare for language to show the intensity of what the characters were experiencing. But too often it went overboard, stretching things a bit too far. For example, one character is chasing another when the person being pursued is described this way:

“His target’s crazed eyes glared in delight at the polluted sight.”

So, we have a guy running away and the guy chasing him sees his eyes? Maybe. But they’re crazed, they’re glaring, and showing delight all at once? Seriously?

I wasn’t sure what to make of a line that said, “a globule of nausea suddenly shot into his chest” and questioned whether saying a character “resisted the anger that wanted to lunge him forward towards his target” made sense. I’m confused as to what it meant when a character spoke with “blood-curdling calm.”

However, it is a quick read. Maybe you’ll understand what only confused me.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ** Two Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 5-6,000 words

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Molten Dusk by Karissa Laurel


Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mythology/Romance

Description:

“While recovering from a devastating betrayal, Solina becomes increasingly drawn to Thorin as he helps her hunt down Skoll, the mythical wolf who vowed to kill her. If she can find and destroy the beast, she’ll bring a swift and brutal end to her enemies’ schemes. But nothing ever goes as planned in Solina’s strange new world.

During her search for Skoll, Solina uncovers a plot to unleash a battalion of legendary soldiers and launch an apocalyptic war. Before she and her allies can locate the fabled army, several ghosts from her past return to haunt her. Solina must fight for life and the fate of the world, or her hopes for love and a peaceful future will go up in flames.”

Author:

“Karissa lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky. Some of her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and super heroes. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. She loves to read and has a sweet tooth for fantasy, sci-fi, and anything in between. Sometimes her husband convinces her to put down the books and go to the flea market to find something rusty to reuse and purpose.”

To learn more about Ms. Laurel please visit her website or stalk her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

WOW! Karissa Laurel is a wonderful storyteller. All of her characters are authentic and well written with depth. The plot is riddled with twists that keeps the tension and intrigue high. There is double-crossing as well unexpected help when you least expect it. And epic battles with mindless soldiers that Solina’s fire can’t harm.

Solina’s journey is enhanced by a vision quest, which helps her sort out the nightmares she is having and the guilt she feels about her brother’s death. Thorin also shares some of his fond memories as well as heartbreaking times of his past with Solina.

Through it all Solina remains true to herself, meaning she still defies Thorin occasionally. Despite that, they both do their share of saving each other in dire times. Solina knows how Thorin feels about her, but she is strong-willed and won’t admit her emotional walls are crumbling.

There is so much more I haven’t mentioned and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed in Molten Dusk. All plot points are tied up nicely with a satisfying ending. I’m not sure if this series is finished though, I can see other stories stemming from this solid foundation.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Molten Dusk is book three in THE NORSE CHRONICLES. I would recommend reading this series in order starting with Midnight Burning then Arctic Dawn.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: All Out For Grinder's Switch by Trevor Judd


Genre: Science Fiction

Description:

“While investigating a nearby entropic zone, Professor Henry Kelvin stumbles upon Grinder's Switch, a small, idyllic town which only appears for three days every ten years. But life in Grinder's Switch is not as tranquil as it first seems. The townsfolk are forced to participate in a lottery as a means of population control, and Kelvin's budding romance with the town's mayor, Pearl Jessup, sets off a chain of events that ultimately forces him to choose between staying with the woman he loves or returning to his life.”

Author:

“Trevor Judd grew up in rural Tennessee but moved to Colorado after serving six years in the U.S. Air Force where he was an exceptional golf caddy for various generals and his coffee making skills became the stuff of legend. He was raised on a steady diet of comic books, violent cartoons, science fiction novels and action movies, so it wasn't very surprising when he started writing his own stories at the age of 8. He continues to write in his spare time, between classes or when the boss isn't looking.”

Appraisal:

The premise, a town which is largely trapped in the past and exists in what I’ll describe as another dimension most of the time, is an interesting one. Their limited resources mean they have to control the population, which they do by means of a lottery. If a baby is born, the lottery “winner” gets to die. Throw in a protagonist who stumbles on the town during the short period it is accessible to those from our dimension, have him and the town’s mayor fall in love, and you’ve got the makings of a short, entertaining read. What would you do?

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of proofing misses.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Monday, September 11, 2017

Reprise Review: Game Changer by Beth Orsoff


Genre: Chick-Lit

Description:

“When it comes to relationships Samantha Haller has seen it all. As a top LA divorce attorney she knows love doesn’t last. On a rare night out at a Hollywood nightclub she isn’t looking for love, or even a relationship, but with the help of a spiked drink she may just let loose and have some fun for a change.
For sports agent extraordinaire Jake Jensen dating means sex, nothing more. That’s why his ‘relationships’ last, on average, two weeks. As long as the women go away quietly and don’t make a scene, he’s fine with that. Finding a new one to take the former’s place is never a problem for a handsome, generous, eligible bachelor.

They both want sex with no attachment — what could possibly go wrong? They could fall in love . . .”

Author:

An entertainment attorney based in Los Angeles, Beth Orsoff writes humorous chick-lit with six previous books to her credit. She continues to deny (despite mounting evidence to the contrary) that her book Romantically Challenged is a memoir.

For more, visit Ms. Orsoff’s website.

Appraisal:

Budding relationships provide a treasure trove of possibility for books of all kinds, especially in humorous chick-lit. Miscommunication (or lack of communication) almost always plays some role, just like in real life. That Jake and Samantha both want the same thing, something negotiated thousands of times in only a few hours every Friday night in singles bars everywhere, adds to the humor. Of course, sometimes that real people, just like these characters, don’t always know what they want, doesn’t help. A fun story with great characters.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Mild adult content and some adult language.

Added for Reprise Review: Game Changer was a nominee in the Women’s Fiction category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran October 22, 2014.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Friday, September 8, 2017

Review: The Rocker and the Bird Girl by Rod Raglin


Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Description:

“If someone called Mattie a bird brain she'd take it as a compliment. She loves birds, has spent her entire twenty years surrounded by them and believes they are more intelligent, loving and loyal than, well, most anything else in this world.

Mattie's grandfather spent all his retirement, time and funds, establishing a sanctuary for homeless, imported, exotic birds.

Now granddad was gone and so was the money to support the sanctuary. In her desperate search for funding to keep the refuge open Mattie had read that lead guitarist and lyricist Bodine, of the notorious rock band, Seditious, owned a Macaw as a pet.

The guy was obviously fabulously wealthy. Maybe he'd like to spend some of that money saving these beautiful, precious creatures instead of on drugs and expensive toys?

He wasn't answering her emails so she guessed she'd have to try to get his attention at the Seditious concert that was coming to town. She'd never been to a rock concert and wasn't looking forward to it, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

***

Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll have taken their toll on Bodine, lead guitarist and songwriter for Seditious, the chart topping, outrageous rock band. He's just playing the part until something better comes along. The problem is what's better than being a rich and famous rock idol? Certainly not helping some over zealous young woman save exotic birds, even if his best friend is a Blue and Gold Macaw.”

Author:

Rod Raglin lives on the west coast of Canada where he works as an author, journalist, and photographer. For more, visit his website.

Appraisal:

The Rocker and the Bird Girl has a lot of elements that would lead me to expect I’m going to like it. Things like a tie to the music business, a budding romance, someone trying to make the world a better place, and characters that challenge your expectations. While some of the story is predictable, it should have been an enjoyable read. It fell short. Why? Due to the atrocious job of proofreading it received. (Assuming someone actually did proofread it.)

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

More than twice as many proofing issues (typos, missing words, wrong words, etc.) than I would find acceptable in a book twice as long.

Rating: *** Three Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 19-20,000 words

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reprise Review: Evolution of a Wine Drinker by Alicia Bien


Genre: Humor/Culture/Non-Fiction

Description:

“Do you like wine but don’t know anything about it except it’s 1) Alcoholic and 2) Wet? Well, Alicia Bien is here to remedy that. Pronto!

Here's a collection of wine stories, the highs—and lows—of Alicia’s own evolution as a wine drinker from novice to—many bottles later—an expert wine bottle opener. These pages contain an alphabet’s worth of wine stories from 'Drinking Alone' and 'How the Army Changed My Life’, to ‘Ullage Uvula, U Know’ and ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-Ay, My Oh My What a Zinfandel Day’.

So grab a bottle, sit back and enjoy. CHEERS!”

Author:

“Raised in Ohio, Alicia Bien received a Bachelor's Degree in Literature and a Master's in English Linguistics. She is a Fulbright Scholar, wine lover and comedy fan. While interning in the U.S. Senate, she saw lots of funny things.

Drawing on life's humorous experiences, Alicia writes and performs comedy. She studied sketch and improv at Second City, Hollywood and the Upright Citizens Brigade.

She lives in California with her husband and adopted cat.”

Her blog looks like a fun site to visit.

Appraisal:

Every now and then I have to step away from my fantasy diet and read something… well, more down-to-earth.  As I was scanning the books submitted for review database, I came across Evolution of a Wine Drinker and thought, “I like wine! Perhaps I could educate myself a little.” So I stepped outside of my comfort zone to review a non-fiction novella, hoping some of the wine culture will rub off on me. These are stories of Ms. Bien’s experiences with wine, wine tasting, and vacations centered on wine regions. Bien takes her wine very seriously and has taken the time to educate us novices on the finer points of all things wine.

It all started in college (go figure) when she was looking for an elective and her academic advisor pointed out a “wine tasting class” in the catalog… She grinned. So begins Alicia Bien’s love of wine. She learned how to hold each wine glass, judge a wine by its color, how swirling wine in the glass aerates the wine to improve its flavor, and how to smell the wines to help your taste buds better define and appreciate the flavors and nuances of a wine. She studied grape varietals, wine growing regions of the world, and their histories. In time her instructor managed to turn a college beer chugger into a passionate wine drinker.

This book is full of short personal essays cleverly arranged from A-Z which include humorous and educational stories from Ms. Bien’s adventures with wine and wine country not only here in the states but around the world. Along with stories about her friends and their own wine tasting club parties, which almost convinced me to try hosting one. :) This book is a fast, pleasant read that will leave a smile on your face. It may also make you feel a little more confident in choosing your next bottle of wine. This review was written while enjoying a glass of Belle, a sweet red wine from Red 55 Winery located in Texas. Ha! See, I never would have checked that out if I hadn’t read this book!

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Added for Reprise Review: Evolution of a Wine Drinker was the winner in the Humor category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran September 21, 2014

Format/Typo Issues:

I came across no editing or formatting issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review: Once Upon a Spell by James Agee Jr., Josie Dorans, Kellie Honaker, Paul Dellinger, Christina Lockhart, and K.R. Thompson


Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tales/Witches/Magic/Sci-Fi/Anthology

Description:

“Six magical tales based on the fairy tales you thought you knew! Discover a mix of fantasy and science fiction stories in this cross-genre collection.”

Red Greta by James Agee Jr. - “Life is dismal for Greta and her brother Hans after he signs a magical contract with a witch. The siblings are bound to one another and the witch’s life-altering demands.”

A Different Sort of Beauty by Josie Dorans - “A curse is laid upon two innocent babes in retaliation for the indifference of the village. Elana is given ethereal beauty with a heart of cold disdain where love cannot grow. Cecil is granted a beautiful heart full of love and kindness that is encased in a twisted and hideous body.”

The Cursed Prince by Kellie Honaker - “Jealous of the king's good fortune, the witch Hazel curses the king's son with the inability to feel fear. The prince spends his childhood embracing every danger and gradually falling into madness. A talking toad, a fireproof girl, a dying goblin, and a deal making dragon must join forces to save the kingdom.”

Walk to the Moon by Paul Dellinger - “The boy dreamed of touching the moon and, when he reached out one night, the moon reached back.”

The Raven of the Loch by Christina Lockhart - “Born the daughter of a great Pictish warrior king, Fiachna is spoiled and headstrong. Before her birth, a prophesy was told- two paths were set before her. One path was full of God's blessings, while the other was full of heartache and despair.”

Rose's Beast by K.R. Thompson - “As her punishment for accidentally turning a prince to a frog, the fairy Morgana has been tasked with fixing other spells that have gone awry. Her next assignment takes her to a tower deep within the Dark Forest guarded by a beast like none she has ever seen.”

Authors:

James Agee Jr.: “…writes fictional stories that border on the unknown… Stories surround him and he cannot help but to write a few of them down. He firmly believes that words have poser and that if you are reading, you are doing yourself a wonderful favor.” To learn more check out Mr. Agee’s website or Facebook page.

Josie Dorans: “Josie Dorans is the pen name responsible for unleashing the feistier side of a rather nice indie author who grew up in the heartland, currently lives surrounded by the mountains, but sometimes wishes her toes were still in the ocean of her twenties.” To learn more about Ms. Dorans visit her website or Facebook page.

Kellie Honaker: “When Kellie isn’t reading and rescuing animals, she’s busy mastering the art of becoming a hermit while sharpening her writing skills. When she edits her stories, she reads them aloud to her blind rescue dot named Teddy. She considers him to be her most valuable critic.” To learn more about Ms. Honaker visit her website or Facebook page.

Paul Dellinger: Is a multitalented author of short stories, novellas, and a play performed at Virginia’s Barter Theater. He also wrote a radio comedy-adventure serial that ran for two years on a Wytheville, VA station. He also worked as a newspaper reporter for forty-four years. To learn more visit his Amazon Author Page.

Christina Lockhart: “Blessed to be the mother of twins, Christina stays on her toes…She only recently started dabbling in writing and instantly fell in love with her characters. In her downtime, she focuses on her photography and hopes to one day combine that with her love of animal rescue.” The Raven of the Loch is her debut short story/novella. You can follow Ms. Lockhart on Facebook.

K.R. Thompson: “K.R. Thompson writes paranormal stories with a bite and fairy tales with a twist. An avid reader and firm believer in the magic of stories, she spends her nights either reading an adventure or writing one. She still watches for evidence of Bigfoot in the mud of Wolf Creek.” To learn more about Ms. Thompson visit her website or Facebook page.

Appraisals:

Red Greta is an extension of Hansel and Gretel’s tale after they leave their parents’ house to live on their own. It’s an engaging tale that will capture your sense of adventure. With Greta’s luck with witches should she trust another to help her and Hans out of their current situation? Enjoyable and highly detailed story.

A Different Sort of Beauty is an emotional and inspiring tale that will pull at your heartstrings. Elana’s mother has done all she can to combat the curse that was placed on her daughter by the angry witch at the annual May Day blessing ceremony after her birth. However, the curse is strong and deeply rooted in the beautiful girl’s cold heart to be affected by a mother’s love. The curse placed on Cecil, at the same blessing ceremony, was the opposite of Elana’s. He was given a beautiful heart full of love in a twisted monstrous body. The mothers of these two cursed babies develop a lasting friendship through the years. Together they come up with a plan. Neither of them took into consideration how this would affect Cecil, even though he was a big part of the plan. I loved this story, and consider it my favorite.  

The Cursed Prince is full of many fantastical elements. While you might think the cursed prince, Ezben, might be the hero of this tale, it is witch Hazel’s daughter Chasta who deserves heroine status in this story. Hazel curses the young prince with fearlessness and the castle with a dragon and goblins when the king refuses her gift of Chasta. Chasta is a mere three years older than the prince, who was ten years-old at the time of the curse. Chasta vows service to the king to help protect the prince from his fearlessness. She also vows to herself she will find a way to remove the curse her mother placed, she is not without powers of her own.

I found this a unique and captivating story that will take the reader on an adventure far greater than I expected. 

Walk to the Moon took me entirely by surprise. It started out as a fairy tale like story that turned into an emotional drama I wasn’t expecting at all in this anthology. We follow Boyd, a six year-old boy, from a dirt-poor dysfunctional family with two older brothers and an alcoholic father. Luckily for Boyd he had some teachers who recognized his desire to learn. And it all started off with the nursery rhyme Hey, Diddle, Diddle. Walk to the Moon is a captivating and inspiring story of trying to recapture the magic of childhood. Hold on tight for a heart wrenching ride, which may leave you with a sigh and a smile.

The Raven of the Loch is a heartbreaking tale wonderfully told by Christina Lockhart in her debut story. Have you ever wondered where or how the Loch Ness monster came about? It all starts out quite innocent with the 13th child of a great warrior king. Fiachna is the only female child with twelve older brothers. So, of course she was a little spoiled by her parents. She was also headstrong and tended to wander off on her own looking for adventure. She was lucky enough to make some good friends in the magical world around her who helped look after her. The Raven of the Loch is unique, fast moving, and full of vengeance with too much testosterone. Stupid men, ruined my HEA… However, I do believe Ms. Lockhart is a new indie author to watch.

Rose's Beast: In this twist of Beauty and the Beast, Morgana, a blue fairy, is tasked with fixing other fairy spells that have gone awry. Morgana is up to the challenge to set things right, even though her ways are somewhat questionable, which lead to humorous hijinks. She has a wonderful caring personality, but Prince Almond/Ormond has had dealings with her before and he’s not sure he trusts her. (Ms. Thompson switched back and forth on the Prince’s name, I assume this is a proofing error.) All magic has a price and the plot twists are entertaining and I found the twisted tale enjoyable. There is a mystery as to what is happening with the magic scrolls and Morgana has her own suspicions as to who is behind it all. Rose’s Beast is part of The Chronicles of a Blue Fairy.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Once Upon a Spell is book two in The New Fairy Tales anthologies.

Format/Typo Issues:

Red Greta, A Different Sort of Beauty, The Cursed Prince, and The Raven of the Loch had no proofing issues to mention.

Walk to the Moon – A small number of extra or missing words.

Rose’s Beast – Several proofing errors. Mainly with the prince’s name, it kept changing back and forth. I consider this a grave error.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words