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.
It’s not every day we have a demon hunter for a friend. Not unless you are a friend of Jesse James Dawson, that is. In A Shot in the Dark, by K. A. Stewart, an annual weekend camping trip turns into a fight for survival for Jesse and his friends. Jesse must wager everything, including his soul as he faces off with an old adversary, full of new and improved deadly surprises in the remote Colorado mountain retreat.
A Shot in the Dark is an action filled story dealing in matters, not only of life and death, but of heaven and hell. In dealing with questions of good and evil, the answers aren’t always black and white, but often lie somewhere in the gray. Now the only question is, will Jesse’s friends still be his friends if they live through this supernatural wilderness adventure.
Stewart’s likable characters and unusual villains make settling in for this demon hunting tale quite enjoyable. Antagonist Jesse James Dawson and his friends pull out all the stops, combining traditional weaponry, magic and religion to battle the minions of the underworld, but can he bring all his friends home safely?
As the second book in Stewart’s Jesse James Dawson series, I give A Shot in the Dark three quills.
I’ve just had the pleasure of reviewing a new anthology of short fiction put out by Curiosity Quills Press. When asked if I’d like to review Chronology, I had the impression that it was a steampunk anthology, which is a genre I’m newly discovering. Some of the stories in this collection do have steampunk elements, such as Wind Up Hearts, the steampunk-ish romance that is sure to break readers’ hearts, by Bram Stoker Award finalist, Stan Swanson, or Flight of the Pegasus by Dr. Darin Kennedy. There’s also That Which is Hidden, a haunted steampunk-ish werewolf romance, by Julie Frost. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find the stories in Chronology to be a diverse mixture of speculative fiction.
Some are futuristic, leaning more toward science fiction, such as the apocalyptic Afterparty by Mark Woodring, Limited Liability, a futuristic outer space story by Matthew Graybosch or Gookie Visits Her Moma by G. Miki Hayden, an alternate universe science fiction story about a space bounty hunter whose current bounty takes her back to her home planet. Many others are more in the fantasy realm, such as Draconic King, by award winning author, James Wymore, or Yours Until the Ink Dries, a true faerie tale, as a young outcast girl discovers her true identity in her drawings, by Y.A. author Jordan Elizabeth. And then there are those stories that fall into the mythical realm, such as Strange Flesh, a well-crafted story of mythical creatures by Katie Young, or Wampus Cat, a tale of Appalachian legends come true by international bestselling author Scott Nicholson.
Still, others have a horror element or two, such as The Lair, a story of a cursed treasure hunt in jungle swamps, by best-selling independent author, Tony Healey, or Lava, a spectral love story by New York Times bestselling author, Piers Anthony, or In the Clutches of the Mummy Prince, by B.C. Johnson, which was not very scary. Also I had trouble relating with the main character in Johnson’s story, who wasn’t very likeable. There is also The Comeback, the weirdest zombie romance I’ve ever heard of, told from the zombie’s POV, by techno-thriller and MG fantasy author, Tara Tyler, and Inmate #85298, a chilling death row tale, by author and screenwriter, Andy Rausch.
Of course, there are also those stories that weren’t so easy to classify, including White Chapel, which sheds new light on the story of Jack the Ripper, by author, editor and podcast co-host, Andrew Buckley, or Signs Unseen, the story of a small town race war, by J.P. Moyahan, or Bait and Witch, a troublesome witch story by speculative fiction author, J.P. Sloan. There is also The Bull, by novelist and short story writer, J.R. Rain, which turns a Minotaur into a superhero, and The Unattended Life, a reminder to stop and smell the roses by J.E. Anckorn, and an intriguing airship romance, Above the Clouds, by Richard Roberts.
Yes, it is a big book, about 530 pages, but it is definitely a good read. In addition to the stories mentioned above there are the three I enjoyed the most, which I saved to tell you about in more detail. The following stories stuck out in my mind the most, but not in any particular order.
The Room Below, by novelist Wilbert Stanton is a horror story worthy of Lovecraft, or King. This story about a stay in a mental institution that puts One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to shame. It held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat, and had a surprising, yet satisfying ending.
The Colorado King, by Nathan Yocum is a story in which survival is the name of the game as a father and daughter travel over post-apocalyptic badlands in search of kin and refuge, bringing with it some very hard lessons. This well-crafted tale grabs readers’ attention and doesn’t let go, yet it leaves readers feeling like there should be more, probably due to the fact that it is an excerpt. I’m guessing that it is from Yocum’s novel, The Zona.
And finally, Innocent Deception, by Matthew Cox is a well-crafted story which has a surprising reveal in its final pages. The daughter of a pharmaceutical company’s CEO is kidnapped and held for ransom, but the plan falls apart when the mother doesn’t want the kid back.
Overall, I give Chronology 3 Quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Wow! It’s 2014 and I just realized how long it’s been since I published here, I’ve been busy earning my degree, along with the many other demands that life places on all of us. But hard work and dedication pays off. In fact, since I began the MFA program at Western State Colorado University, I’ve produced rough drafts for two novels, which I’m now working on revising. The first is a western, Delilah, and the second is a middle grade mystery, The Adventures of Ann and Kinzi. I’m currently working on a mythological fiction/fantasy/science fiction novel, with the working title, A Playground for the Gods, which I’m considering using as my thesis.
Delilah is a tough young woman who grew up on the Colorado frontier. On her way home to the San Luis Valley, she’s brutally raped and left for dead, sending her on a quest for vengeance. Her hunt for her tormentors leads her to the Colorado mining town of Leadville, where the colorful inhabitants work their way into Delilah’s heart and give her hope for a future she’d thought lost along with her innocence. Now she must stay alive and protect her new-found friends as she faces the many dangers of the western wilderness and the outlaw elements of the growing new Colorado territory.
The Adventures of Ann and Kinzi is the story of two young girls growing up during the depression. Their shared love of animals and the fact that they’ve both lost their mothers are the common ground on which cements their friendship. When strange things start happening at the McViddie farm, where they care for the horses, and one of their classmates disappears, Ann and Kinzi set out to solve the mystery and save their friend, but they must do it without being caught by the kidnapper themselves.
In A Playground for the Gods, Inanna is the goddess of love and war on a quest to save humanity. The foolish judgement of men and their misuse of the technology the gods have provided have brought them to the brink of self-destruction and convinced the gods that humanity is not ready to receive the secrets of long life and powers that would make them godlike. They’re preparing to find a new planet on which they hope to find a new species to bestow their gifts upon. Inanna must prove that humans are worthy of their godly gifts, and convince them not to leave humanity in such a mess.
That’s it. That’s my excuse for neglecting this Writing to be Read blog. Now all I can do is ask forgiveness from my readers and offer the promise that if they stick with me, I promise to blog on a regular basis in the coming year. I don’t foresee that I will abandon novel-writing, but I do plan to try to organize my time better, so I’ll be able to commit to at least two or three posts a month. I hope you will all join me for the journey.
I’d also welcome any feedback on which of the above stories capture your interest and why. Comments are always appreciated.