“Kistishi Island”: An Unbelievable YA Journey

Kistishi Island

I recently had the pleasure of reading Kistishi Island, by Jordan Elizabeth. This YA novel was a well-written story, with a plot that comes full circle. Although the names are a bit difficult to pronounce, the characters are interesting and likable, especially Corvo (goddess of crows, and Krieg, goddess of war). The main character, Serena, is portrayed to be a teenager with depth, but still a teen, and you won’t be able to help but like her.

When Serena talks to her imaginary friends, they just don’t feel imaginary. The kids at school taunt her and she winds up in trouble all the time. Her aunt thinks she’s crazy and wants to send her to an asylum, her mom is off on archaeological digs all the time and is never around, and her imaginary friends are the only friends she has.

What will happen if she learns her imaginary friends are really goddesses watching over her? We’re about to find out, when she runs away to the Island of Kistishi to find her mom, where the walls of the ruins suck you into underground dwellings and other people see her friends, too. Besides learning that her friends aren’t imaginary, Serena also learns that she is capable of depending on herself, and that she’s capable of having real friends.

This story is well-crafted and perfect for YA readers, (or older readers who secretly love YA stories but don’t want to admit it). It is a fun and exciting read. I give Kistishi Island four quills.

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“Darkscapes”: Stories That Will Keep You Reading

Darkscapes

Darkscapes is a top quality anthology of short stories put out by Curiosity Quills Press. I must say, this anthology delivers on the promise of the premise. The title says that the stories within may be on the darker side of things, where danger lays hidden beneath the layers of the mind’s eye. The cover image tells me I’m in for some rather unusual stories, ones that go to places which may defy logic. And, having read many books produced by Curiosity Quills Press, the fact that they published this book says it’s a collection of good quality, well-written stories. And that my friends, is exactly what I got – all of the above.

There are twenty-one stories contained in this collection, too many to be able to discuss all of them here. So, I will give you a brief overview of the six, yes six, stories which I deemed to deserve a five quill rating, meaning the authors of these stories have done an exemplary job of storytelling. Keep in mind that these stories are the best of the best in this collection, but all of them are good reading.

The first story in the anthology, Exley Avenue, is an extremely well-written ghost story of sorts, with a surprise ending. Going between the 1920’s and the twenty-first century, storytellers Jordan Elizabeth and W.K. Pomeroy unravel the unsavory history of the stone castle on Exley Avenue, when several bodies are uncovered on the premises.

Further into the collection is a cute noirish story, with an unlikely P.I. for a protagonist, which is sure to keep you chuckling until the end is Skeleton Jim, by J.R. Rain. Noir with humor is the only way to describe this bizarre tale. But, rest assured, Skeleton Jim always gets his man, (and the girl, for some reason). Things are no different when the client, Lucy Newman, hires him to find out if she killed her abusive husband, and who is blackmailing her, Jim may have his work cut out for him. No bones about it. (Skeleton humor. Har, har, har.)

Then, there is The Giovanni Effect, by Robert J. Defendi, an extremely well-crafted story with excellent world building. Readers will live this one. On a desert outpost planet where sand and wind are constants, Allred and his wife and child are the planets only occupants. They’ve always known others might come, but when a ship lands on the planet Allred is forced to put their emergency plans to the test. The planet’s harsh atmosphere may be the death of him, or it might just be his savior.

The forth story, Landing a Job in the Private Sector, by Rena Rocford, kept the pages turning with the best of them. Furies are conditioned assassins, but when Boxy, an enslaved fury acquires an organic ship that is loyal to her, and becomes a rogue mercenary, she learns that everything is negotiable, even under pressure.

The fifth five quill story is Out of Sight, by Mathew S. Cox. Sima is a street kid, who wakes up to find she’s been relocated to another planet and her pod crashed. She all alone, with no supplies, no clothes and no idea where she is. But then she discovers three other children who were sent here, as well, and she has more to worry about than just her own survival.

The One You Feed, by Katie Young was the last story in this collection to fall into my best of the best list. This was a well-written werewolf story, which left me wanting more. Dupree is haunted by more than just werewolves. As he spins his tale for the cowboy he just hired on with at the last rodeo, we learn more about the ghosts who haunt his past, and the curse that controls his future.

The above mentioned stories are, in my opinion, the best stories in this collection. However, they are all entertaining tales. I wouldn’t rate any of the stories in this collection with less than three quills. They really are that good. The smashing cast of talented authors whose work appears in this anthology also includes: Richard Roberts, Ann M. Noser, Randy Attwood, Nathan Croft, Tegan Wren, James Wymore, J.P. Sloan, Andrew Buckley, Darin Kennedy, J.E. Anckorn, Piers Anthony, B.C. Johnson, S.E. Bennett, Mark W. Woodring, and Benjamin Sperduto.

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Overall, I give Darkscapes four quills.

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Gnarled Bones”: A Collection of Five Brief Tales

Gnarled Bones

Short stories carry the burden of telling the tale in few words, so they often sacrifice many of the qualities one finds in a novel length work, including details that fill in our mental picture for us, making readers work harder to gain a clear vision for the story. Another common complaint that I often voice is the fact that they are a brief glimpse into the character’s lives and don’t always have a complete story arc, making them feel incomplete, like there should be more. Such is the nature of the beast we call the short story. I have had to learn to expect these things when I’m reviewing short fiction, and not mark against the story for these faults alone. So, while I may comment on some of these qualities when reviewing anthologies or short story collections, they will not be the basis for lower ratings. Those will be based on the quality of the writing and how well the stories are crafted, just as they are with a longer work.

That being said, I found Gnarled Bones and Other Stories by Tam May to be a collection of highly crafted stories, with brief descriptions that skillfully put readers in the scene and allow them a clear vision of each story being told. Each story in this collection has heavy literary qualities and each carries the theme of empowerment, or the lack of it, in some way. Although most of them felt unfinished to me, they were none-the-less captivating, capturing my full attention during the brief snapshots I was allowed.

Along with Gnarled Bones, the story which sticks out most in my mind is The First Saturday Outing, which I enjoyed at first, but was later disappointed in, when the woman’s inability to empower herself and embrace her freedom became apparent, making the character, whom I’d been routing for, appear weak and inept.

Also to be found in this collection is Mother of Mischief, where Marie is driven by her need to look after and care for someone, drawn to mischievous men who need to be kept in line. Bracelets, where Isabelle, a circus acrobat is drawn to her circus family through the tragedy of a lion attack on a child. And, Broken Bows where, for Anne, a train ride becomes an act of defiance and two very different souls find one another briefly.

Along with theme, the stories in Gnarled Bones and Other Stories have other things in common, as well. Each has a female protagonist, each has literary qualities and feel, and each is well crafted to tell the story with skill and ability. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Smothered”: An All Around Enjoyable Read

Smothered

Smothered by B.T. Clearwater is a paranormal romance that readers won’t want to put down. Paranormal and romance plot lines are skillfully woven together with well developed characters and just a dash of mystery, to create a well-rounded story that draws readers in and doesn’t let go. Smothered is currently offered in a limited print run, as well as in digital format.

Annie and Mark are two hot messes who belong together. They both have crazy exes, who they can’t rid themselves of; both have issue that need to be resolved; and both need someone they can lean on in the low times. They’re the perfect fit for one another, but between their exes and Annie’s manipulative dead mother, they may not be able to see the rightness of their relationship. They must find a way to overcome the obstacles before them, or risk being forever “smothered”.

An engaging story, well-developed and likable characters, multi-dimensional plot lines – Smothered has everything a good story should have. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Something Borrowed, Something Blue” Will Chill Your Bones Through and Through

Something Borrowed

As rare as it is these days to find a truly well written horror story which draws the reader in and gets a grip, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, by DeAnna Knippling was a pleasant surprise. This novelette gives off a feeling that something ugly lies just below the surface, something that we can’t quite see, but the feeling says that the situation will not end well, and in that we are not disappointed. In the fashion of classic horror, this story makes readers want to say, “No! Stop!” even when it’s clear that events have already been set in motion and there is no turning back.

Sometimes being prepared isn’t the best policy, especially when you’re faced with something no one could be prepared for; something unimaginable that makes the skin crawl, yet demands action. Something Borrowed, Something Blue makes a connection with readers because it’s a situation they can place themselves in, if only in the dark recesses of their minds. Sometimes, that’s where the monster’s dwell which we fear the most. The story’s resolution may leave readers with more questions than answers. This is the kind of story that makes you think, maybe for a long time, after you read it.

Something Borrowed, Something Blue is a well-crafted tale that honors great story telling tradition by capturing readers and not letting them go until long after they’re finished with the story. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Unpredictable Webs” Keeps Readers Guessing

Unpredictable Webs

Unpredictable Webs by international award winning author, Darlene Quinn, is an intricately plotted and tightly woven story of mystery and intrigue. A vivid cast of characters, who all think they know what’s best keep the pages turning. Although the book is a single piece in a much larger tapestry, it easily works as a stand alone for those who have not read other books in Quinn’s Web series.

As moguls of a major department store chain, Conrad and Ashleigh Taylor are open targets for attacks from all directions. Whether from protesters, who don’t want the iconic name of John Stewart’s to be swallowed whole by their Jordan’s conglomerate, or predators who see only dollar signs when they consider the wealthy couple, the threats are always near. When one predator goes after one of their twin teenage girls in a kidnapping gone awry, there is no telling what will happen next, and the Taylors will stop at nothing to get their daughter back.

Unpredictable Webs is a complex tale of suspense, which keeps readers on their toes with skilled crafting and well developed plot. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“A Slapshot Prequel Box Set”: Good Stories, Bad Editing

Slapshot

A Slapshot Prequel Box Set (Slapshot Prequel Trilogy Book 4), by Heather C. Myers is a perfectly good story line, offering the POV of three characters, in three alternate stories, running parallel to one another. Nicely done. If you’re into hockey, A Slapshot Prequel Box Set (A Slapshot Prequel Trilogy Book 4), by Heather C. Myers may be just what you are looking for. The set contains three separate stories, which unfold simultaneously, the first a murder mystery with a romance element, the second and third romances.

In Blood on the Rocks, Serephina must learn to manage the hockey team she just inherited, and figure out who killed her grandfather at the same time. The problem is, she doesn’t know who to trust, and she finds herself strangely attracted to the prime suspect in her grandfather’s murder. In Grace on the Rocks, a romantic relationship is the last thing Emma is looking for. That is, until Kyle Underwood, the handsome young hockey player, skates right into her life. In Charm on the Rocks, Madison is a college student who goes for brainy guys, not athletic ones, until she meets Alec but she can’t let her dad know she’s a Gulls’ Girl, scraping ice for the Newport Beach Seagulls hockey team, or she may lose his love as well as her tuition, and Alec Schumacher provides a means for her to gain her independence, making her finally admit that she is interested in him.

I was glad this set is labeled prequel, because the overall story, doesn’t feel complete. In fact, I can’t be sure what the main story that ties these three together is. So it was good to think there’s more to come. But then, it is also labeled Book 4, so I’m not so sure about the continuation. I hope there is more to come, because the most serious conflict in any of them is the revelation of Serephina’s  grandfather’s killer.

The biggest criticism I have of A Slapshot Prequel Boxset was the editing, or lack thereof, distracts and pulls the reader out of the story repeatedly, to the point of annoyance. There are so many spelling errors, typos, and repetitive wording that it pulls the reader out of the story repeatedly. The stories were interesting enough to keep me reading, but the errors were bothersome and annoying at times.

The three stories in A Slapshot Prequel Boxset are nicely overlapped, but definitely feel like only three parts of a whole. Although the story lines are good, they are lacking true conflict and, combined with the poor editing, I  give it three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.