January Book Reviews

Now that I’m writing again, my reading has dropped off. *Sigh*

January book reviews include my 4 and 5 star reads of paranormal fiction, a vampire anthology, Gothic anthology, and YA fantasy! I hope you enjoy the browse.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

The Light by Marcia Meara

I could read a book about 11-year-old Rabbit navel-gazing and be entertained. I’m in love with this character and as long as he’s in the story, I’m satisfied. Once again, Rabbit is using his gift of “sight” to solve murders and heal old wounds. In this book, one of the Brown Mountain lights is different from the rest. It’s full of sadness, and Rabbit wants to find out why.

This story has less violence and minimal danger compare to the previous books in the series, and though Rabbit solves the mystery, the more dire consequences unfold on their own. In this read, the focus has shifted somewhat to Rabbit’s expanding “family” as he spreads around his good will and makes connections with other good people. There’s a sweetness to this story and to these characters, and that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Rabbit’s journey and happily recommend Meara’s Wake Robin Ridge series to fans of paranormal fiction, addictive characters, and expert writing. I will miss this little guy. A solid five-star read.

*****

The Vampire Connoisseur (anthology – multiple authors)

I’ve avoided vampire stories for years. I think Anne Rice spoiled me with Interview with the Vampire, which I loved. And the vixen vampires on television… ugh. But this anthology has a great cover and vetted stories. I gave it a go, and I’m glad I did.

There are sixteen stories by sixteen authors, and each story is vastly different. Some have sublime characters with unique voices. Others have incredible world-building. And still others have unusual plots. My favorites included some of each, particularly those stories that surprised me with their originality or made me empathize with vampires, or both. Be prepared for some gruesome blood and guts too.

Favorites were The Red Angel (amazing), The Sun Sets Nonetheless, Finch, and Dissidents. Recommended for readers of horror who enjoy well-written vampire stories.

*****

The Brinwade Chronicles (anthology multiple authors)

This is the third book and second anthology I’ve read from the Fosseway Writers, and so far, it’s my favorite. The collection of Gothic short stories is loosely organized around Brinwade, a fictional village near Nottingham in central England. A map is included in the Foreword, a nice touch that helped orient me as I read.

Though the 29 tales take place in the same village, the authors had leeway when it came to timeframes. Some of the stories take place in modern England, while others unfold elsewhere in a history that spans hundreds of years. This increased the variety already created by having multiple author-contributors and character voices.

As a fan of speculative fiction there was a lot for me to enjoy: ghosts, vampires, elves, very creepy scarecrows, visits from the fae, and haunted marshes, to name a few. Not all the stories are frightening. Some are tragic and others heartwarming. All are well edited. Highly recommended to readers of Gothic and speculative fiction short story anthologies.

*****

Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall

I enjoyed this read though I think it’s geared more toward young teens and precocious middle-grade readers. In this magical fantasy world, young people compete for a chance to bond with mythical creatures and become arcanists (wizards). If you can think of a magical creature, it’s in this story—from phoenixes and pixies to leviathans and yetis. Suspending my disbelief was a necessity from start to finish.

In this first book of the series, Volke and other new arcanists travel to a magical manor on a giant turtle’s back to begin their magical training. The arcanist guilds are struggling with a mysterious plague that’s corrupting the mystical creatures and turning their masters into pirates. The kids are trying to figure out what’s going on and who they can trust.

For the most part, the human characters are fifteen years old. They and their creatures are all different and distinct. The creatures talk and some of them have mysterious or fun personalities (a ferret-type creature called a Rizzel reminded me of some of the hilarious Disney side-kicks.) The adults are the biggest threat in the story though one of the teens is a bit of a bully. The pace moves along with a steady stream of action. Recommended to young readers of YA fantasy who are looking for a kid-driven adventure.

*****

Happy Reading!

Bats in the Writer’s Belfry

pixabay

I have a three-season writing room. Four-season, if I light the wood stove and heat the place up. Finishing the roughed-in room over my husband’s workshop was one of the first projects I undertook when moving to the wilderness of Oregon.

Wilderness naturally entails a plentitude of wildlife, and my writing room has endured its share of feathered, winged, and furry visitors.

I love it when the hummingbirds fly in the window and hover over my head before zipping out again.

I didn’t even mind when the walls filled with wasps. The room vibrated with a soft hum while I sat peacefully among them and wrote. After two years of friendly buzzing around my head, they mysteriously moved out all on their own.

Then the bats moved in.

We are a bat-friendly household even though Nature Boy (aka the husband) has watched a few too many Dracula movies. He swears that “Batty” swoops at him as he runs the gauntlet from the door to the car every morning.

For two years, the bats and their buddies have been partying in my writing room, and it didn’t look like they intended to take a hint from the wasps and relocate any time soon. In fact, they were inviting their friends to take up residence. It was getting a little crowded, and though bat poop isn’t horrifyingly gross, it’s still gross.

So, a week ago, it was time for Batty and his buds to git.

The first task was to plug up their access to the room, which meant closing the gaps around the windows and doors, hauling the nail gun and compressor up there and securing the wooden slats on the ceiling. I knew where they were getting in because I could see the grubby mess left by their little hands and feet. Eeek.

Then I needed to find them. In US politics, you follow the money; when seeking bats, you follow the poop.

Photo by John Pearce via Flickr

I found two tiny fellows, no bigger than my thumb, hanging behind my picture frames.  I opened the door and windows, and fitted with gloves, nudged the little guys from their roosts. That probably wasn’t the best idea, because I found myself in a small room ducking and weaving as two bats flitted, swooped, and dove around my head.

The dummies had no idea where the windows and door were, and all three of us were in a bit of a panic. I considered running out of the room screaming, but I feared they’d simply find a new place to hide. And honestly, I’ve never been particularly scared of wild animals, so I stayed and encouraged them with a kind voice to scram!

Finally, Batty and his cousin flitted out the window and I slammed the thing shut quick!  After that, it was a matter of a deep clean, and my writing room is ready for the summer. It’s been a week and no new visitors… yet.

Bat Friendly Facts from the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and me:

  • Oregon’s bats do not turn into vampires.
  • They eat only insects. An adult bat eats about 1,000 insects every hour!
  • Bats hang upside down because it gives them an ideal position for take-off.
  • Bats can fly 20 to 30 miles an hour and travel more than 100 miles a night.
  • A baby bat is called a pup because it’s so cute and furry.
  • Bats are not birds.
  • They’re the only flying mammal.

 

Beneath, Below, I Go.

Mermaid (title unknown) by Victor Nizovtsev

Mermaid (title unknown) by Victor Nizovtsev (Link to Source)

If you haven’t stumbled across Richard Ankers’ blog, you are missing something special. I’m having a crazy week, so what better time to share a piece of stunning writing. I’ve closed comments, so please let Richard know what you think.

And, if you like his style of writing, you might check out his book, The Eternals. I’ll vouch for some beautiful writing. Enjoy his story:

Beneath, Below, I Go

The sea rose in tumultuous swells rocking my small boat like a hammock in a hurricane. With each undulation I would rise up to God, stretch out my hands in prayer, only to be dragged away. The sky had never seemed so near yet so far.

I’d grown long past the point of uneasiness, my stomach having vacated it’s contents the previous evening. All that remained was my soul — I wasn’t ready to give it up without a fight. With no food and only half a bottle of tepid water, I knew time against me, but I refused to yield; I owed it to the others. That’s when I saw her. That’s when I knew hope.

She dipped up and down like a buoy brought to life, a demarcation to more hazardous waters — weren’t they all. I rubbed my eyes but only managed to knead salt into them. By the time I’d finished blinking, her aquamarine fingers clung to the boat.

I backed away — for what good that extra foot did — and waited as she peeped over the rotting wood; she was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. More defined than a dream, yet more surreal than reality, her topaz eyes took me in appraising me from head to toe…. (continue reading: Beneath, Below, I Go.)