Book Review: Legacy of Souls

Blogging has been a blessing during this virus, helping me stay connected, providing a few laughs, and some heartwarming kindness. HRR posted a wonderful review of my book Legacy of Souls and made my day. ❤

Let Me Tell You the Story of...

Last year, I read one of D. Wallace Peach’s earlier works and ended up choosing it as my favorite indie book of the year. Excited by the prospect of truly enjoying an author’s work, I wanted to continue reading some of her repertoire and moved to one of her newest series – The Shattered Sea books.

I recently read the fantastic Soul Swallowers, and I decided following that up with the second entry in the series was worthwhile.

The Book

51r2wjeqkzl._sy346_Soul Swallowers
Author: D. Wallace Peach
2018
Amazon Link

I thought the first entry in the series was absolutely fantastic and I suggest it to everyone. I thought this seemed like a Game of Thrones done in a way more fantastical and more up my alley (i.e. less flopping wieners). I’m excited to see where this goes.

Non-Spoiler Review

Peach continues to amaze me and convince me that…

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Otherworldly #Writephoto

copyright Sue Vincent

Meriel knelt by the flame’s soft heat. “It’s so quiet here.”

The wrinkled woman sat beside her in hushed contemplation. “The stones hold the silence of time. Do you not hear it? An ancient serenade exists between the voices of the sea and the silence of the stones. There is no song without silence, and no two songs are the same, just as no stones shaping this world are the same. Each song arises from a singular darkness. Each stone bears a singular face.”

Her eyes closed, Meriel listened to the stone’s silence and peered into her clay body, attentive to the voice of her inner darkness. She waited to behold what lay hidden and fearful there, what lay wished for with secret hope, desiring to be set free. She began to see that love wove the cloth of Belonging and entwined in its folds ran threads of otherness, uncertainty, surrender, and integration.

“Will you speak to me of my journey?” Meriel asked.

With a crooked stick, the woman stirred the fire. “The Belonging never leaves us alone, child. We hold our yearning in our hearts always. We wait for an invitation to love, but we are already loved. We wait for love to fill us, but love already abides within us. When we extend our hands in love, we offer the diamonds of our souls. We offer that which is sacred and terrible in its possibility, for love is a creative and rebellious force. It is the culmination of all our dreams and desires, and therefore it is equally shrouded in fear.”

Her fingers unfolded, revealing a diamond the size of a pebble. “So, we offer the diamonds of our love. And our lover, our friend, our other, sees through the darkness only a rock, one of these pebbles worn smooth by the sea.” She closed her fist and opened it again, this time tendering a round stone. “Old wounds blind them, even though it is a precious gift we offer. We feel misunderstood, unappreciated, and in our anger and hurt, we withdraw the gift. When we are wounded, we offer the diamond conditionally. It is payment for filling our needs, for following our orders, appeasing our desires. In this way, we also turn our gifts into stone.”

A smile crossed the woman’s lips, and when Meriel looked again into her palm, the stone shimmered and transformed before her eyes. “Offer your diamonds always, Meriel. Offer them when they are rejected; offer them when they are perceived as valueless rocks; offer them when it hurts you to do so, when you tremble in pain, when your wounds gape open and bleed. Only then will they truly be the diamonds of your soul. And only then will your lover or friend or brother or sister see them for what they are. Love creates space for wounds to heal.”

Meriel wanted to believe in the possibility of transformation, the promise of hope in a world she found enormous, fractured, and filled with fear. “Where am I in my soul’s journey?” she asked.

“You are everywhere,” the woman said. “The journey is cyclical, round as our globe. We walk it individually and as communities. It ripples through our lives, often more than once.”

Meriel accepted the diamond offered in the woman’s hand.

“You must decide where you are, child, how long you will stay there, what you are willing to endure, and whether you are brave enough to risk love and hold it in your heart.” She touched Meriel’s shoulder and left her to her dreams.

At dawn, Meriel scaled the stone steps leading to the island’s grassy cliffs. Her arms rose to her sides. Love’s song, the song of the sea, her own song blended to fill the patient silence of the stones. The tides surged in her blood. Her heart pounded against the sheer walls with the waves, and her eyes filled with light. Love spiraled, descended, and alighted around her. The mist lifted, and as a warm wind bent the grass, her heart leapt without fear from the edge of the precipice into the rising sun.

***

A modified snippet from my Dragon Soul series. I hope you enjoyed it.

In response to Sue Vincent’s alluring photo prompt. She posts her prompts on Thursdays if you want to join in.

I apologize for my absence from visiting your blogs. I spend a few days caring for my mom while my dad was hospitalized. All better now. Stay safe and take good care of yourselves. ❤

Surviving Lockdown

Life continues to feel surreal.

A week ago, the hubby’s fixation on the news became too much.

I had to flee the house.

And ended up outside:

Beneath blue skies.

Spring said, “Hello, I’m here for you!”

I found some moss that needs a serious haircut.

And got my dirt ready.

In a week or so, I’ll plant my cold crops and watch them grow.

My dad turned 89, so I left a message in sidewalk chalk outside his senior apartment.

And in my writing room, I’m making masks.

And writing. A little.

My heart goes out to all those who are suffering.

To all those who are caring.

I wish you warmth, peace, and light.

Welcome Diana Peach #wouldyourather

Back before the world turned upside down, I answered some “would you rather” questions for Jill. If you’re in the mood for something a bit lighthearted, head over to Jill’s, and I hope you end up with a smile. And while you’re there, if you want a dose of sweet romance, check out her books. ❤

Jill Weatherholt

Today I’m excited to welcome friend, writer, blogger and devoted daughter, Diana Peach. At the risk of sounding corny, Diana is a real peach. The support she provides to writers on her popular blog is incredible, not to mention quite time consuming, I’m sure. For those of you who are familiar with her gift of world-building, you can understand why I was excited to read her answers. Thanks so much for playing along, Diana!

Would you rather be the funniest person in the room or the most intelligent?

Funny, definitely. I’m not funny. For a period of time (back in the olden days) I tried to memorize jokes and kept a little notebook for reference – yes, I was a dork. But humor never came naturally. It’s a special kind of intelligence that I lack despite my valiant efforts at joke collection. I love spending time with spontaneously witty people, but I wish…

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March Book Reviews

I’m struggling with this pandemic, distracted and unfocused, even though my family is faring well, so far. Writing and blogging have been on the fritz. I have been reading though, and what a wonderful mental vacation. I recommend it! I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews. There are some excellent books here. Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

A Cold Tomorrow by Mae Clair

Book 2 of the Point Pleasant Series starts off a few months after Book 1 ends but can be read as a stand-alone (not that I recommend skipping the first). Katie Lynch takes over as the lead character and shares the limelight with brothers Ryan and Caden Flynn.

Strange supernatural happenings are taking place in Point Pleasant—dead animals, UFOs, aliens, voices in the TNT bunker, and of course, Mothman sightings. Clair tangles in a secondary plot to mix things up a bit and provide some red-herrings. The plot is complex and the pace has to be quick in order to wrap it all up and still have time for some lovely character development.

The best plot won’t survive thin characters, and Clair doesn’t fall into that trap. Main characters, as well as secondary characters, are all unique and three-dimensional. Clair carves out time to provide an emotional foundation with a bit of backstory and to dive into their relationships with each other. I particularly like books that make me feel connected to the characters and this is one of those.

The Mothman becomes more intriguing as does Caden’s character and his connection to the creature. The emotion and compassion between them is particularly riveting, and I MUST read the next book for that reason. An excellent series with polished writing. I highly recommend A Cold Tomorrow to readers of paranormal thrillers and to those who enjoy urban legends.

*****

Subject A36 by Teri Polen

I should never have read this book, because now I have to wait for the next one in the series, and that’s going to be torture! This read is sooo good.

Asher, the first-person protagonist, is a 17-year-old member of a resistance group fighting the Colony. The Colony steals attractive children (and adults) from outlying communities and kills them by stripping their DNA to serve the vanity of its citizens. Asher’s group is part of a larger network focused on freeing Colony captives before their DNA is harvested.

The plot moves along quickly and requires some suspension of belief as these teens have exceptional skills. There are twists and turns and secrets that I didn’t see coming and thoroughly enjoyed. This isn’t a story that gets bogged down with description. The science and technology is developed just enough to be believable.

The characters are beautifully crafted, and there’s none of the annoying teen angst and dumb choices that I find in many YA stories. These characters are in dangerous situations and maturity is a matter of survival. I enjoyed the authenticity. The somewhat heavy backstory in the beginning pays off as the characters develop and the events become more and more emotionally charged. Asher, his friend Noah, and lover Brynn make up the three main characters. I liked all three but was particularly enamored with Asher. I thoroughly believed his inner world, emotions, and choices. He’s a noble character, faced with tough decisions. I was hooked.

Then the book ended with a cliff-hanger, and I had a literary heart attack. Highly recommended to YA and adult readers of sci-fi. Get ready for an intense adventure.

*****

My GRL by John Howell

John Cannon is on a sabbatical from his high-powered attorney job and decides to spend a year on Mustang Island off the coast of Texas working on his used 65’ boat. Then his friend ends up shot, and the sheriff suspects that he’s keeping secrets. Add to that, it turns out that terrorists want his boat.

This book moves along at a good clip as John deals with the sheriff and then gets embroiled in the terrorists’ plot. He’s a great character, and for me, he brought the book to life. He’s kind of an average guy, but he’s smart and resourceful (for the most part), and he has some attitude. I had a great time watching him deal with all the problems while completely out of his element.

The story didn’t bog down with description or backstory, and it had just the right amount of shipboard detail to lend authenticity to the setting, John’s capabilities, and the story’s resolution. I would definitely read more of this character and author. Though a thriller, the book was also a lot of fun. Highly recommended for readers of action novels and thrillers, and book-lovers who enjoy great characters.

*****

Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner

Oh, I liked this read. In 24 AD, the Romans have arrived in Britannia to lay the groundwork for an invasion, and to that end, they’ve pitted the British kings against each other with promises of power. While negotiations with the Romans take place, hostages are exchanged to secure each party’s safety. Princess Catrin’s father instructs her to pry information from Marcellus, the son of the Roman leader. But things don’t go as planned, and Catrin must choose between the man she loves and her people.

The story starts out with some romance and a bit of insta-love, but fortunately, that is short-lived. Not that there isn’t a romantic component to the story, but the bulk of the read is taken up with action, danger, politics, and plenty of magic.

Magic is integral to the story, the plot, and the relationships. It focuses on an old prophecy in which Catrin plays the central role. Her connection to ravens enables her to see through the bird’s eyes, and ravens provide her with some protection. More so, they are the gateway to the mystical Wall of Lives where she learns how to manipulate outcomes. The magic in the book isn’t a hard system, but it works, and I appreciated the way it created friction between Catrin and Marcellus.

The characters are great, three dimensional, emotional, and flawed. Even secondary characters are unique individuals. I liked how consistent they were and how that was often a problem. Catrin is foiled repeatedly by both well-intentioned characters and villains. There are villains on both sides of the conflict which complicates matters.

The danger and action keep the pace up, and though a long read, the book zipped by. It ends with a dramatic conclusion to the negotiations but is mostly open-ended. I’ll definitely be reading onward. I highly recommend this book to epic fantasy readers who love magic, action, intrigue, and a bit of romance.

*****

Dream Warrior by Helen Mathey-Horn

Teryn is a Captain charged with keeping Princess Tasmine safe when the queendom falls. They flee and end up in one perilous situation after another. Their only ally is Rabisle, the mercenary who fought against them. But can he be trusted?

The magical system is loose but interesting. Teryn is a great character with a skill shared by few. She’s a dreamer able to enter a trancelike state where she can read another person’s mind and feelings, see what they’re doing, and influence them. The skill is imperfect, and most effective when combined with dreamweed, a drug that leaves her debilitated.

The characters are believable, well-rounded, and they carry the story. The pov rests solidly in Teryn’s head, and Rabisle has a lot of mystery around him, which I found compelling. Despite her skills, Teryn spends a lot of the book pretty beat up. She’s no superhero, and I liked that.

The plot isn’t anything astonishing as the two women escape one greedy, lecherous, murderous kingdom for another with Rabisle’s help, but it serves, and things do wrap up with a nice twist at the end. I’d deduct a half-star for punctuation, but based on the great characters, I’ve rounded my enjoyment up to 5 stars. Recommended for fantasy fans.

*****

Detours in Time by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

Milt and Pinky are time-traveling companions, and they jump forward 50 years into 2047. Milt can’t resist a little research and learns the details of his death. He also discovers that in the future he will have a daughter as well as a grandson who is born after his death. A bit of innocuous meddling sets the butterfly effect in motion and much of the book is about efforts to undo parts of what they’ve done.

The pace of this book is rather slow and steady, but the story is saved by the author’s attention to details and great characters. The details of life in 2047 are quirky and fun and served to remind me of how weird human beings are with our biases and creativity and how normal it all feels when we’re in the thick of it.

Milt and Pinky are adorably ordinary and sweet to each other and are thoroughly believable with loads of personality. They don’t experience much interpersonal conflict, but they are quirky in their own ways, and I loved their tenderness toward each other. In many ways, to me, the book was about the trajectory of their relationship. POV shifts are frequent but flowed naturally and somehow seemed fitting. Dialog is natural and carries most of the narrative.

The story wraps up but leaves a few dangling threads for the next book in the series. This is an interesting book, and I recommend it for sci-fi fans who enjoy a leisurely quirky read.

*****

Short Stories

The Thing about Kevin by Beem Weeks

Jacob returns to Chicago for his father’s funeral and faces the truth about the man he loved – a man who was also a mobster responsible for much misery in the community. Jacob’s brother, Kevin, disappeared long ago, and Jacob little by little learns the truth.

This short story is beautifully written and gives a striking and delicate glimpse into the complex feelings and relationships of children who grew up with a criminal parent. A quick and memorable read. I’ll be reading more of Weeks’ stories.

*****

Voodoo or Destiny: You Decide by Jan Sikes

In this short story, Claire plays with voodoo, hoping to break her husband’s heart for cheating on her. Not only is the result distressing, but there’s more going on than she bargained for. This is a quick, entertaining, and spooky story. After reading this, I’m definitely staying far away from voodoo. A great short story.

 

*****

My Sweet Lord by Fiza Pathan

Something has to be done. The year is 2020, and Buddhist citizens living in the city of Dil-e-bad, Raktsthaan, have been suffering at the hands of government officials and their military. What began with lynching and rape has become a full-blown witch hunt. Monks have been killed and their monuments destroyed. Four members of an underground get together and decide that extreme action is called for. They are a nonviolent people, but one of them, standing at the junction in the center of Dil-e-bad, is about to fight back with fire.

*****

Red Eyes in the Darkness by D. L. Finn

This short story kicks off with wild action and finishes the same way. Cass and Will know for a fact that their brother-in-law Ronald killed Cass’s sister, but no one believes them. And they are next on Ronald’s list. But there’s more here than a serial killer as angels and demons also make an appearance.

This story doesn’t completely end but is a taste of a world further developed in Finn’s other books. I’ve read “The Button” and recognized the demons called the evildwels. I recommend this short story as an introduction to the writer and her books.

*****

The Hunted by Karen Black

A short 30-minute read, The Hunted starts with solid action and doesn’t let up. The story follows Yvonne as she flips back and forth between two worlds, one a dream, one real, but the reader doesn’t know which is which. The transitions are cleverly done and it’s not until the end that the truth (and the twist) is revealed. I loved being kept in the dark until the last sentence. Excellent short story.

*****

Happy Reading!

Write and Change the World

A replay of a post from 2015. Amidst all the unpredictability today, a few things are entirely within our control, and one of them is kindness. ❤
***

JeffersonMost of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our lives balanced and relationships healthy. We see the results in strengthened bonds, deeper commitment, and abiding love.

87230b4a08df4def07bae73905d9319bBut what about those times when we don’t see the ripples? When we toss acts of kindness and compassion into a seemingly bottomless well of suffering and despair? When we perceive no reward for our efforts? When we don’t know if we’re making any lasting difference in our world at all? Some strangers we’ll meet face to face, but most we’ll never know. The poignant tales of their lives will play out in other neighborhoods, other cities, and other lands, unseen and unheard.

download (1)In our political landscape, acts of kindness and compassion are often labeled as weak, a waste of time and money, conciliatory, poor investments, and unpatriotic. In a culture that values money over lives, the manipulations are intense.

Yet, I would argue that when we ordinary folk commit small everyday deeds of kindness and compassion, the ripples are there even though invisible to our eyes and silent to our ears. Those random acts are cups of water that we pour down that deep, collective well. They blend and build, until over time, the bottomless well holds a limitless reservoir from which a garden grows. I have faith that no act of kindness or compassion is wasted, ever.

gandalf quoteI’m not really surprised that Gandalf sits up there with some of the greats when it comes to quotes regarding kindness. Does it matter that he’s a fictional character? Not really. Through Gandalf, Tolkien’s wisdom reached millions. Such is the power of the written word. Books can and do have the power to change the world…

 

Why to avoid “ing” words in fiction

A few weeks ago, I had a blog-conversation with Jacqui Murray of Worddreams about editing out “ing” words. I’ve heard many times that these words should be avoided when writing fiction but never understood why. While some writing no-nos stab me in the eye every time I read them (such as filter words), “ing” words never really bothered me.

So, a little research later, here’s the scoop:

“Ing” words do three things:

They express ongoing action when combined with auxiliary (helping) verbs:
She was washing her hands.
The snow will be piling up all night.

They act as nouns:
Vacuuming kept the dog hair to a minimum.
Walking helps me stay healthy.

They act as adjectives:
The falling apple bonked her on the head.
A failing grade won’t get me into college.

Opportunity #1

Present, future, and past progressive verb combinations

When combined with little “helping” verbs such as am, are, is, was, were, been, have, has, had, “ing” words express ongoing action.

He is working every day.
He was painting on weekends.
He will be gardening after work.
He has been looking out the window since he came home.

Now, all of these sentences are grammatically correct, but they all have extra weak little unnecessary words.

Avoid weak helping verbs and write tighter.

For example:

He is working every day.
He works every day

He was painting on weekends.
He painted on weekends.

He will be gardening after work.
He will garden after work

He has been looking out the window since he came home.
He has looked out the window since he came home.

Caution: Sometimes the progressive action is necessary. Note the difference in meaning below:

He was shooting his gun when the sheriff killed him.
He shot his gun when the sheriff killed him.

Of course instead of “was shooting” you could try something like this:

He peppered the bar with bullets until the sheriff’s aim zeroed in and blasted a hole in his chest.

Which brings me to the next opportunity…

Opportunity #2

Replace weak “ing word” and helping-verb combinations with more powerful verbs.

While searching your manuscript for your “ing” words, look for opportunities to replace common “ing” words with more descriptive verbs in the simple past tense.

For example:

He was looking at the lawn for an hour.
He inspected the lawn for an hour.

She was turning over the burger with one hand and making a salad with the other.
She flipped the burger with one hand and tossed a salad with the other.

The ogre was giving the princess a long-winded explanation.
The ogre bored the princess with a long-winded explanation

Common “Ing” Mistake #1

Simultaneous versus sequential action

Did you know that participial phrases indicate simultaneous action? Not sequential action. This is a very common mistake, and another reason to look closely at those “ing” phrases!

Participial phrases aren’t actually verbs. They’re something called verbals, and they can act like adjectives. Verbals aren’t the action verbs of the sentence, instead they tell us something about the action. What the heck does that mean? Well, read on, and I’ll try to explain.

Here are some examples of incorrectly used participial phrases. Note that the structure implies that the actions are happening simultaneously, even though that would be impossible:

Peeling off his pajamas, he turned on the water and stepped into the shower.
Sprinting down to the lake, he dove in and swam to the other side.
The gymnast landed the dismount, dancing with her fists in the air.
The cat jumped to the window sill and curled into a ball, sleeping in the sunshine.

Yeah, those are wrong. I’m not kidding. Clearly, the actions need to be sequential, but that’s not what the sentences indicate.

Here are examples of those sentences with sequential action:

He peeled off his pajamas, turned on the water, and stepped into the shower.
He sprinted down to the lake, dove in, and swam to the other side.
The gymnast landed the dismount and danced with her fists in the air.
The cat jumped to the window sill, curled into a ball, and slept in the sunshine.

Can participial phrases be used to indicate simultaneous action? Sure. Here are some cases where it’s done correctly:

Peeling off his pajamas, he tangled his feet and fell on the bed.
Sprinting down to the lake, he waved to his sister and her friend.
The gymnast landed the dismount, her feet snapping to the mat.
The cat jumped to the windowsill, knocking over the vase.

Common “Ing” Mistake #2

Dangling participle phrases

We’ve all enjoyed reading these literary bloopers, and many of them can be tied back to those “ing”-phrases.

A dangling participle phrase functions as an adjective and unintentionally modifies the wrong noun (or a missing noun) in a sentence. They’re often found at the beginning of a sentence.

When the modifier or participle is not attached to the correct subject, it “dangles.”

Incorrect: After finishing my homework, the teacher gave me an excellent grade.
Correct: After I finished my homework, the teacher gave me an excellent grade.
Correct: The teacher gave me an excellent grade after I finished my homework.

Here’s another one:

Incorrect: While snacking on trail mix, a rainbow brightened the horizon.
Correct: While we snacked on trail mix, a rainbow brightened the horizon.
Correct: A rainbow brightened the horizon while we snacked on trail mix.

I hope this was helpful. In summary, “ing words” are useful and they help us vary our sentences and paragraphs. But, they require vigilance!

 

February Book Reviews

I’m still buried in editing, but I figured I’d better make an appearance on the old blog!  February was a fun month of reading. I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews. Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Life Lines by Sue Vincent

This collection of 52 poems by Sue Vincent is a gem. I’d give this book 6 stars if I could. It’s hard to put into words how moving I found Vincent’s poetry. The poems are free form reflections on the profound moments of life, the deep emotional wells of love, loss, and memories, the rhythms of nature reflected in our journeys, and the poignant journeys themselves.

It was almost impossible to pick out a few favorites, but I’m giving it a try: “I See You” is an exquisite poem about aging and the lasting echoes of youth that we carry inside our memories. “Flowers” (which makes me weepy just thinking about it) chronicles a woman’s life-stages in flowers from birth through death. Two touching poems are told from the point of view of someone watching a loved one sleep. They’re both gentle and heartachingly beautiful. “Just for a Moment” is a rare syllabic poem in the collection about the peace of love, and “Memory” about love lost.

Though the poems can be read in an hour or so, I would suggest savoring them. Highly recommended.

*****

Vanished by Mark Bierman

This story kicks off the action on page one and doesn’t let up. In fact, when I was about ¾ of the way through, I needed to sit back, take a deep breath, and work the tension out of my shoulders. Bierman’s ability to write non-stop, intense, dangerous action is noteworthy. And though in many ways, I’d characterize the story as plot-driven, there’s some deep emotion when it’s called for.

And the story isn’t a picnic. Though the author maintains that it’s fictional, he also states that it centers on a very real and tragic situation – child slavery. Tyler and John are two likable Americans who team up with an anti-hero in Haiti. The story follows their attempt to rescue a Haitian’s young child from a mine worked by kidnapped children. The difficulty of this plan is skillfully complicated by cultural barriers, corruption, poverty, and, of course, the ruthless adults who treat children like disposable tools – use them until they break and then throw them away.

Even though the book is plot-driven, I felt connected to Tyler and John. It was hard not to feel for them and root for them when things weren’t going well (which was the whole book). In a way, they are ordinary men who, as things got worse and worse, had to keep remaking decisions about what they’re willing to sacrifice, including their lives. They give it their all and it was very heroic. I’d read more about the characters and will read more of this author. Recommended for anyone who loves an intense action-packed adventure/thriller.

*****

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine by Teagan Geneviene

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine is a sweet short story set in the Victorian age with several steampunk gadgets, a mischievous pet duck, and a masquerade ball. What better way to spend an hour of reading? Fiona and her adopted brother Steele are delightful, and the duck steals the show as the ultimate matchmaker. As a short story, the pace is brisk, but not lacking in fun details. The mood is light and all ends well. Highly recommended.

*****

While the Bombs Fell by Roberta Cheadle & Elsie Hancy Eaton

This story reads like a memoir, and I loved it. It follows the daily life of Elsie, a 4-5-year-old growing up on a farm in England during World War II. The story starts with the family listening to an air-raid siren and climbing into their shelter beneath the garden. And though the war is the backdrop to the story and impacts daily life in significant ways, this isn’t really a story about war. At heart, this is a story about the resilient spirit of children growing up within a strong family.

The details of daily life are incredibly well-researched, and this book could almost serve as a guide to rural life in England in 1942 when rationing required adults to make some careful and creative choices. At the same time, the story is filled with delightful anecdotes of family life and the perspectives of a child, including a fear of Jack Frost, the trials of a stinky outhouse, and a trip to the movie theater to see the Three Stooges outwit the Germans.

The story unfolds in an omniscient point of view, and there’s not really a plot (thus the feeling of a memoir), but from beginning to end, the book is thoroughly engaging. I read it in one sitting. As an added bonus, the author included a few wartime recipes. Highly recommended to readers of memoirs, historical fiction, WWII fiction, and warm family stories.

*****

She Who Comes Forth by Audrey Driscoll

France Leighton and her beloved cello, Eudora, arrive in Luxor, Egypt to take part in an archeological dig. It’s not quite the adventure she expected, but she hangs in there. After a cello performance, she meets the mysterious Adam Dexter, who turns out to be far more than she expected, and not in a good way. Egyptian mythology comes alive as France must find a way to save the world from destruction.

This book is well written, the kind of writing that disappears into the background and therefore leaves the reader fully immersed in the story. I loved the setting, the details about Egypt and its mythology, the elements of the dig, and France’s interest and reverence for the magnificent tombs. In the afterword, Driscoll points out that she’s never been to Luxor, but as a reader, you’d never know it. Her research shines.

Told in first person, the story is wholly France’s. She’s a rich and thoroughly believable character, and her struggles were relatable to me. Secondary characters are beautifully three dimensional as seen through her eyes. I loved the advice of her “talking” cello and totally fell for the relationship.

The story moves at a moderate pace, a slow burn, with hints at something supernatural at play dropped here and there along the way. At the 75% mark, there’s a giant leap into the paranormal/occult that I wasn’t quite ready for, though in hindsight I could see the preparation. A compelling story that I highly recommend to readers of literary fiction and to those who enjoy a strong female protagonist.

*****

Wham! by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

This book has some fresh and unique worldbuilding that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story takes place in a dystopian future. The air is poisoned, the land withered, and there’s a clear sense of Big Brother ugliness about the place. The ruling class, a mega-powerful organization called the Alliance, controls the world and monitors everyone’s lives through surveillance orbs called Skinnies. The main character, Tess, is a disgruntled teen with a green-mohawk and combat boots. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s also a fairy with magical powers. Her barber is a troll, and her friend’s pet crow is a skinshifter.

The story starts with the government brutally whisking away Tess’s parents and sister, Nia. Nia is taken to the Capital and is forced to be a sex-worker for the Potentate (the main antagonist). Despite this role, there isn’t any explicit sex in the book, and her role quickly changes. Tess is assigned to live with a couple of mean-spirited derelicts, the Warrens. Book One focuses on Tess’s and Nia’s adjustment, as well as Tess’s discovery of her heritage and her attempt to rescue her parents with the help of the underground.

The characters all struck me as three-dimensional and authentic with full emotional lives and flaws. Maxi, the troll, has a unique way of speaking which I found incredibly creative. There is also some fairy-speak, which was difficult to read and understand, but short in duration (thank goodness). As part of the world-building, it was all a lot of fun.

Great pace and clever writing with vivid descriptions. The plausibility suffers a tiny bit when all the magical beings come together for the big showdown, but it’s well-down overall, and things don’t go magically well, of course. The book ends smack dab at the climax of the action. Be prepared to read the next book or you’ll be left hanging. If readers can deal with the abrupt end and plan to continue with the series, I can highly recommend this fantasy novel.

*****

Swords of Destiny by Sue Vincent

In this modern-day adventure, the world is in peril, and the immortal Merlin (of King Arthur fame) has gathered four ordinary people with extraordinary heart and courage to stand against the destructive forces. Their mission as the Champions of Light is to acquire the four swords of destiny and bring balance to the world.

The tale draws heavily on the legends and myths of the British Isles, the sacred places, and the beliefs of those who were intimately connected to the spirits of the land. The Fae are alive and well, trolls hide out in caves. There are unicorns, elves, and mountain giants. Most of the story unfolds in conversation/exposition, though it does have some action scenes that are quite intense and emotional. There is also quite a bit of romance, and some fun humor.

What I enjoyed most was the characters, not only the human champions, but Merlin, his brother Heilyn, and the fairy queen Mab. Point of view is shared by most of the main characters with pov shifts in the middle of scenes. The dialog is witty, including sections of clever banter. There’s mischief, for sure. Recommended for lovers of ancient British Isle mythology who will likely recognize some of the sacred places and characters.

*****

Mind-Shaft by S. Burke

This collection of six short stories focuses on the dark side of speculative fiction from paranormal romance and revenge to good old horror. Each of the stories is unique with a well-developed plot and engaging characters. My favorite was A Place So Cold which had me on the edge of my seat even though I could predict the ending. Other stories were less predictable with fun twists. Definitely bloody, evil, and entertaining. There are a few formatting particularities in kindle, but they don’t impact the reading so I’m going with 5 stars.

*****

Visitors by W. J. Scott

Brody and Tom are sent to live with their aunt by their ailing mom. Aunt Sally is a recluse in a town that doesn’t take well to visitors, at least to one kind of visitor. When the boys find out what’s really happening at the lake, they learn why everyone in town is so secretive. A sci-fi short story full of kindness and hope, and though predictable at its conclusion, a sweet read.

*****

Happy Reading!

At the Mirror: Just So

I’m taking a wee bit of a blogging break to prep for draft 3 of my WIP (focusing on characters).

I leave you with some breathtaking prose by Violet Lentz. Notice the exquisite choice of details that brings her character, Willard, beautifully to life. I’ve closed comments here; please click over to Violet’s blog for a writing treat. ❤

Just So

by Violet Lentz

Though Willard had always pictured himself in the subtle gray pinstripe, he decided against it at the last moment. Years of maintaining a keen edge on the trouser crease that was once the definition of a well groomed man, had weakened the fabric and left what now appeared to be a light gray chalk line running dead center down the front and back of each pant leg.

He chose instead a polished silk blend, in charcoal. He had always loved the tapered waist on the jacket and hand carved ornamental buttons on the sleeves, but felt the tri-pleat on the front of the trouser insinuated a pauchiness that distracted from the otherwise clean cut of the suit and therefore was never comfortable wearing the jacket open.

There would be no reason to wear the jacket open today.

Scrupulously shaved, and every hair oiled into place, Willard chose a muted striped tie that would neither add to nor distract from the sheen of the suit, and…

(Continue reading Just So)