Review of “The Subtle Fiend”, by Jane Dougherty

Jane Dougherty Book 2

 

The pendulum swings….slowly, inexorably…

At the height–or depth, if you prefer–of the evil that consumed Providence, the leaders of the crystal-domed city made an alliance with Abaddon, the Destroyer, the King of Demons.

They touted him to the people as their ally against the threats from outside, and the people shouldered the burden of that favor for generations. Lost to them was anything that made life bearable–at least for those who were considered the “true citizens”.

Not so for the Danaans, the people snubbed and abhorred by the common and high citizenry. Only in their ramshackle hovels is there any happiness and love–and the others know nothing of them. And the Danaans know only of the cruelty of the others.

There’s also something else that can’t be overlooked: an alliance between self-serving individuals rarely will last for long. Each member of the alliance must constantly look over his shoulder for the possible traitorous behavior of the others. And with their own agendas most important in their own eyes, it can be understood that the trust levels and cooperation will be extremely low.

But things are changing. Caste overlaps caste in ways that were never envisioned by the leaders of Providence. And with understanding comes humanity, but not without blood shed and lives lost. New alliances are made, not with the lords of evil, but among the citizenry itself.

An excerpt from the book can give you an idea of what is in store: “Providence had never seen this before. The power of the Book was waning; long-repressed humanity was struggling to express itself in people who had never shown any emotions but anger and fear. They had been to the brink of horror, but they had pulled back.”

And that’s it then?

No. It isn’t.

The field of battle is carried elsewhere, while skirmishes continue on within the city. And the very thing that started the change is now in danger of extinction once again.

And the pendulum swings…

 

The more I read of Ms. Dougherty’s books, the more I find myself immersed in her world. To say that this tale would make a good movie would be a disservice; “The Green Woman Trilogy” should have a series or mini-series of its own. This series is so rich in story that a mere two-hour version would stunt its life and growth. The way she can put color and vibrancy into a world that is mostly brown and grey is beyond tremendous.

Every character, from the vile Protector to the girl, Hera, who fights through what she knows to become who she can be, are fiercely and meticulously painted by the author. This book is just as suspenseful and tightly-written as her first book and the short stories that have sprung tangentially from it.

Fans of dystopia would do well to pick up the entire series, and wait (impatiently in my case) for the third book, “Beyond the Realm of Night”.

 

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Chocolate/Book Blog, a tour for Kimberly Sentek

Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates”. Honestly, I don’t know why–never saw the movie in its entirety.

In this blog offering, however, books are like chocolates–or so Kimberly Sentek tells me. My challenge here is to relate how some of my favorite books are like my favorite chocolates.  Ummm…’k…

I think today’s hot weather fried my brain enough so that I could actually come up with something to write, and for this I am grateful. There is nothing like watering your yard in the quiet of a warm evening to get your thoughts in order.

But I am veering. I do this a lot. You’ll get used to it; I know I did.

Since I review a lot of indie authors, and I don’t want to choose one over the other, I am  going to stick with well-known writers. I love every author I have reviewed, and it would be impossible to keep my choices down to a handful.

So–on with the show…

I used mostly candies from the kitchens of See’s Finest, because I used to work in one of their shops, and I know the various types of chocolates that are sold there. My one exception will be my absolutely, number one, don’t-try-to-talk-me-out-of-it, favorite chocolate candy in the world.

So let’s start with that one, which is M&Ms. All those different colors, but all the same flavor of chocolate wonderfulness. I will liken them to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. So many different, colorful characters–from witches, to wizards, to Death astride his pale horse (whose name is “Binky”), to a university Librarian who is really an orangutan (but don’t tell him that), Pratchett’s stories are chock full of colorful, crazy, wonderful characters.

Oh, and by the way, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are easily sidetracked by the sight of a pub…

Speaking of nutty–I also love chocolate-covered nuts. Except for the chocolate part, Tamar Myers’ protagonist in the Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery series, Magdalena Yoder, is like that–as nutty as a walnut grove. She runs a bed-and-breakfast in the Amish style, charging extra to “let” her guests do their own chores around the place. She seems to also stumble into a lot of crimes, which gets her into hot water with her Amish relatives and the seedy local police force. Her methods of detection are outlandish, her outlook is wonderfully wacky (“Do shut up, dear, and I mean that with all Christian generosity”), and her relatives (who play a big part in most of the books) are just as nutty as she is.

But now we switch to a different nut confection–California Brittle. I would like to stress the “California” part of the name, as it makes me think of Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey series. The books take place in a small town along the coast of California, which sounds a lot like Carmel. Not the candy, CARmel–it’s pronounced “CarMEL”.

We have at least three cats here with the power to speak to their human companions–sometimes more, depending on the book. To better understand this series, it would be recommended to read Murphy’s “The Catswold Portal” first. It gives a really good history and background concerning sentient cats with this ability.

The three cats in the series speak only with their human counterparts, and the secret must be kept from the law. However, as the books progress, it is more and more likely that the local authorities will have to know soon. After all, they are smarter than they look.

“They”, meaning the police, that is.

Let’s continue with the cat-mystery-solving idea. Years ago, I fell in love with the Midnight Louie series by Carole Nelson Douglas. Another cat sleuth, Louie is sleek, black, lovable, and sure to please. Rather like chocolate fudge.

Living in Las Vegas, among the high and low, the glitter and glamour, of the biggest gambling arena in the United States, he and his housemate, Temple Barr, seem to find themselves embroiled in mysteries and murders from A to Z. And, yes, the titles of the books utilize the letters of the alphabet to go from one story to the next. And in the backdrop, there are many ongoing sub-stories–and many questions that will not be answered until the bitter Z.

Douglas is on “X”–we’ll know all soon enough!

I hope…

Let’s move on to another country and another flavor–Butterscotch Square. This puts me in mind of all of those “Square”-named areas of London, which in turn leads me to the author Jacqueline Winspear and her Maisie Dobbs series.

Maisie is a woman before her time–a strong-willed, ambitious British woman who fought her way through a man’s world of the early 20th-century to become a detective in her own right. I love that she is capable, strong, and does not put up with any guff from people who consider her “out of her place”. Again and again she proves those naysayers wrong, and it cheers my heart to see her rise above those critics.

And this concludes my choclolate book blog tour. I’d like to add a few words about Kimberly Sentek, whose book, Oh Brother! A Nico and Tugger Tale, is a very charming children’s book. The subject, sibling rivalry, is dealt with so very well, and I enjoyed that tale a lot.

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Kimberly Sentek has spent her entire life telling stories—so much so that her parents swear she was born talking. A lifelong New Jersey resident, she is owned by two cockapoos, Nico and Tugger. Her first book, Oh Brother!: A Nico and Tugger Tale, is a story of sibling rivalry that was inspired by her dogs. According to a ForeWord Clarion review, “Many readers—children and adults—will hope there are more Nico and Tugger tales as charming as this one following soon.”

Kimberly plans to continue writing a series of books about her two furry children, where both main characters tell their sides of the same story. The second book in the Nico and Tugger Tale series is tentatively scheduled for release in January 2015.

 

Kimberly’s website is www.kimberlysentek.com. You can follower her on twitter at @kimberlysentek and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kimberly-Sentek-Author-Page/365737483515252?ref=hl. You can contact her at info@kimberlysentek.com.

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Review of “Fear the Light: Who Killed Dracula?”, by William Massa

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The unthinkable has happened–the King of the Undead, Dracula, has been exterminated.

Not by the usual means–he’d been looking out for those for centuries, and had always been able to sidestep them. No, his killer was extremely ingenious in the method used to vanquish the oldest vampire in existence.

His offspring gather at his chateau in France to make some important decisions. But as they settle in, the killer strikes again.

Or does he?

The killer definitely has an agenda–and so does each of his children of the night. Whether they were brought into the world of the undead eagerly–such as Faust, the Nazi who chose eternal dark life over being slayed by the enemy; or quite unwillingly, such as Justin, the priest whose vows were snatched from him in one swift movement of Dracula’s fangs. Any one of them could have a reason for killing the rest off, and even when they are murdered, there is some doubt that they were actually destroyed. Could any one of them have come back to kill the rest?

One by one, the vampires are picked off, and they are unable to escape. All ways are closed to them, because the killer knows them all. And it is full day, another factor that is used to its fullest against those trapped inside the chateau.

Who is responsible? And why? No one, including the reader, will know until the bitter end.

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Fantastic story! Another great offering from William Massa, this tale is very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. The major difference is that the methods of murder have to be such as to wipe out the denizens of the dark. And quite ingenious they are, too.

Mr. Massa throws in surprising twists and turns, and just when the reader is sure who is behind the killings, something else crops up to send that guess straight down the drain.

This was a book I was loathe to put down, because it was so tightly written that I didn’t want to lose the momentum. This is writing at its best, right down to the last written word.

Highly recommended!

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Review of “Lupa”, by Jane Dougherty

Lupa

In a world made desolate by ancient beings, in a city that survives solely on the whims of its masters,  the populace slogs through its existence. Fearful of making the tiniest wrong move, under threat of a midnight visit and extinction, no one shows the least bit of interest in anyone else–even in those with whom they share a roof.

Lupa is one of the rarest of humans under that crystal dome that keeps the visible demons away.

She cares.

She cares about the loss of her first child, the lives of her parents, and the relationship she has with the second child that comes along; doubly so, because children who are born under-perfect are destroyed. And her Elina, her second-born, was dangerously close to extinction like the first one.

Step in another rarity: a doctor who cares.

Lupa is fortunate to find him, and him, her. Through the years of abuse by her husband and the fearsome drudgery of living in the grey of Providence, Lupa’s only hope is to meet up again with the doctor who showed her kindness.

And the love that is returned to her by Elina–who is far more than what she seems.

 

Another fantastic offering from Jane Dougherty, who has proven herself to be a formidable story teller. Every tale weaves more reason, life, and color into the drabness that is post-apocalyptic survival under unbelievable tyranny.

Ms. Dougherty just keeps writing the most wonderful tangential stories, finding more lives in Providence to bring to life. I am so eager to find out how their lives end up, because I am sure that they will all intertwine somewhere along the way.

Somewhere along the way, reason and life will return to Providence. I hope many people will be there, through Jane’s books, to see that happen.

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Review of “Zombie War: The Beginning”, by Jean Booth

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Sarah is first-hand witness to the mutation of the AIDS vaccine, and barely escapes with her life. With her husband, Matt, and two other survivors, she runs from the rapidly-spreading disease and hides out in a home that is easy to defend against all comers.  But will it be enough? From what happens to them at the sports store, where they have very little competition in looting for supplies, it doesn’t look promising. But they settle in and wait for whatever comes, safe at least in knowing who they are among themselves.

But just how much of that supposed knowledge can be trusted?

 

This short story is a precursor to “Zombie War: Little Apocalypse on the Prairie”, and is a nice, concise introduction. My favorite thing about this story was how the author seemed a little self-deprecating in her writing. In a couple of places, she wrote something like “just like in the movies” or “like an actor in the zombie movies”. Fun that way.

Even though my usual method of interaction with zombie stories is usually “Nice. When’s the next commercial?”, this story kept my interest completely. Ms. Booth did a nice job with descriptions and action, keeping the reader running alongside her throughout the entire book. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.

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Review of “Runaway Clothes”, by Olga D’Agostino

Nika never saw it coming. She was so set in her ways, in her neglect of the things that were important, that it was a complete surprise.

The hangars told her, in words crisp and stern.  Her clothes had run away.  And they were of the same mind, as were Nika’s toys.

Why? Because she did not take care of them.

What happens when Nika learns her lesson? And what are the lessons learned–by all?

 

I love Mrs. D’s works. Every one of  them is a charmer, and every one teaches a lesson. Her illustrator, Chanoa, is gifted beyond telling.  Such lovely art work. I loved how the tree friends from Ms. D’Agostino’s “The Trees Have Hearts” were incorporated into this story. Nika couldn’t go outside to play with them, because she didn’t have anything to wear, and the tree friends can be seen waiting for her to come outside.

Not to fear–this book isn’t a scary one. There is a misunderstanding that leads to the clothes being returned–all small children will understand the very real reason behind the disappearance of the clothes. But they will also realize the importance of taking care of what they have. And that is the very real message that the author is trying to convey–gently and sweetly, as is her way.

Always a treat to read Mrs. D’s books!

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Review of “Hall of the Golden Crocodiles: The Aten Sequence 2″, by Cynthia Marsh

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It’s one thing to run out of fuel on a country road, miles from anywhere.  It’s quite another when that country road is on an insignificant planet, in an ancient time, on the other side of the galaxy.  Not only is there no fuel, no one even knows what “fuel” is–even  if you were to ask them.

Aten and his band of space travelers, which includes dog-faced Druitt, Galasian cocktail waitress Tuy, and 21st -century Earth boy Luke, find themselves in this situation.  Looking for a remedy to their fuel problem, they befriend Egyptian royalty, waiting for a chance to learn their magical secrets.

And they finally get that chance, when a plan goes very wrong.  Surprisingly enough, it’s the errors they make that bring them success.

Although they didn’t really need a tomb robber turning into a tiny-brained Galasian.  (His fault–he shouldn’t have made Tuy angry…)

The plan was for Luke and his friend Neferptah to plant a tracking device on the princess, Merytamen, and then let Aten do what he had to do.  But that turned into a fiasco, which saw the boys, Aten and the crew, Merytamen’s brothers and their friends, and a group of terrified tomb robbers under the claw of aforementioned Galasian newbie, all converging on the Temple of Karnak.  There is danger everywhere under the temple, and they all find themselves running from a host of problems–mostly each other.

And, of course, from the now-living golden crocodiles.

Words to live by:  if you see a jewel-encrusted gold crocodile–do not take his treasures.  Ever.  Tuy is easier to deal with.

 

This is the second book in the series, and even though I didn’t read the first one, it was still very enjoyable.  Of course, there were references in the story to the first book (“Pharoah’s Gold”), but they didn’t detract from the story line here.  In fact, they gave the story a little extra flavor–the references were built in smoothly  throughout the book, and gave “Crocodiles” a dimension that it otherwise would not have had.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and Ms. Marsh has done an exceedingly good job of giving each one a personality and a life all his or her own.  The egocentric Aten, sarcastic Tuy, unhappy Druitt, and happy-go-lucky, fun’s-where-you-find-it Luke are just the tip of the iceberg–or should I say pyramid.

Add in a talking cat or two, and you have one fantastic adventure!

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