Raven Flight (Shadowfell #2) – Juliet Marillier

Title: Raven Flight (Shadowfell #2)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Knopf Books
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Dystopian

This story continued the Shadowfell trilogy and Neryn‘s journey to learn to control her canny powers. It was just as good as the first installment, though there was not as much romance action in this one.

Her stories are always hard to put down and full of magic and earthy wonders. She is a master at incorporating the fae into her tales. I always find her stories enthralling and feel close to her female protagonists — Neryn included. Her protagonists are always people you want to be or hope you are capable of being.

However, one complaint is that her protagonists and their love interests are always kind of the same. The setting and the struggle may be different, but the overall personalities and identities transfer from one story to another. It is one of the reasons I don’t read her all year long. But I am always happy to come back to her writing because I still love the world and the story-lines she creates.

If you are a fan of earthly magic and young love, then this story may be for you.

You can find the story on Amazon in Kindle format for $9.99 and in paperback for $9.11.

Synopsis: Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn’s love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows.

OWL Rating:

Advertisements

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Genre: Fantasy/Magic Realism/Horror

I don’t think Neil Gaiman is capable of writing a bad story. He’s a master wordsmith and this story was just another in a long line of amazing tales he has created.

I was spellbound while I read this over the holidays. It was a true page-turner, that kept me guessing as I delved into the world of a young boy who makes a tiny mistake. A mistake that sets him down a path of darkness.

A tale of the power of the triple goddess that will leave you guessing and wanting to cross the borders of the page.

It was a wonderful treat to read and it will stay with me for years to come. It was personal, emotional and enchanting.

You can find it on Amazon in Kindle format for $11.49, in paperback for $10.77 and in hardback for $15.62.

Synopsis: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

OWL Rating:

They Who Fell – Kevin Kneupper

Title: They Who Fell
Author: Kevin Kneupper
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Dystopian/Fantasy/Paranormal

Kevin Kneupper gained my respect this past year when he used his skills as a former lawyer to take on the Cockygate war for all writers. Even though I am not a writer, I appreciate this as a lover of stories. If you are unfamiliar with Cockygate, learn more here. Essentially, no one should have the right to copyright a word that is common in the English language and used prolifically by all authors. I followed the Twitter war that raged, and then I jumped for joy when Kneupper and fellow word protecting volunteers took on the battle and succeeded in their efforts. I actually became stressed out that a writer would do this to their fellow colleagues. I couldn’t believe the arrogance of  Faleena Hopkins, the antagonist in this real life tale.

So, as you can see, I bought his first novel to show support to him. As a result, my respect has grown even more. Not only is he a word warrior, but he is also a wordsmith.

They Who Fell was an enchanting tale about an alternate reality where Earth is occupied by fallen angels. The angels in this tale are no where near angelic and can be quite cruel in their mastering and enslavement of the humans who remain post-fall.

I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Jana, a slave girl to the angels. We follow her on her path to survival. The plot points that took place in the angel’s home were the most intriguing and spellbinding to read. I felt connected to these characters and felt their suffering. I spent much of the book eager to get back to this part of the story-line. Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the various sides and personalities of all the imperfect angels.

The parts of the story that follow the humans that remain on the surface of Earth, were more of  struggle for me. There are four main human warriors the story follows in this section, and I never felt quite connected to any particular one. As a result of this, I had trouble seeing their individuality. However, their personas became more prominent as the story unfolded. By the end of the story, I saw their purpose and welcomed them as prominent characters.

Overall, I was quite impressed by this story and look forward to continuing the series.

If you enjoy stories about the good and the bad side to everyone and perceive the world with grey colored glasses, then I think this tale will delight. It has cruel and unfair violence, a pinch of forbidden romance and brave souls who fear more the prospect of being caged over meeting their maker.

You can find the story on Amazon for $3.99 in Kindle format and $11.99 in paperback.

Synopsis: They say that long ago, there was a rebellion in Heaven. That an army of angels sought to seize the throne, and were cast down into the pits of Hell in punishment. Those are the affairs of angels, and everything would have been fine if they’d kept them to themselves. But there’s been another uprising, and another Fall. Cast down to Earth, the rebel angels ravaged the globe in an orgy of sin and violence as they indulged in their newfound freedoms. Their new home is the Perch, a black, towering monstrosity that blights what’s left of the New York City skyline.

Life inside the Perch means you watch your tongue, if you’re a servant. Jana has lived there since she was a child, and now she’s found herself thrust into the middle of angelic politics. Some of them want to torture her, just for the fun of it. Others say they want to protect her. And Rhamiel, a charismatic and powerful angel with one of the few faces that wasn’t burnt and scarred by the Fall, is relentlessly pursuing her affections.

Life outside can be just as dangerous. Strange things fell with the angels and wander the countrysides. The roads are filled with Vichies, cringing humans who’ve thrown their lot in with their oppressors and won’t hesitate to take advantage of the weak. But some are still fighting, including William Holt. He leads a small cell of fighters, searching for a way to strike back against the angels without getting themselves killed in the process. And all around, the fallen angels inflict their savageries on the dwindling remains of humanity, enjoying every vice they’d been forbidden during their long centuries of service.

They Who Fell is the first book in a trilogy.

OWL Rating:

Heavy Metal Pulp: Money Shot (Netherworld #3) – Christopher Rowley

Title: Money Shot
Author: Christopher Rowley
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Pulp/Science Fiction

This is the last installment of the Netherworld series by Rowley. It was a fast paced, action packed ride that takes the reader down an alternative reality that might not be too far off from our near future. A world where manufactured and natural born humans find love. And a place where rulers wish to suppress and control the populace, instead of embracing and representing.

The story is short and just continues from the first two installments. It wraps up nicely and is a good escape story where you don’t have to think too hard. It’s a fun read that never gets dull.

Interested? You can find it on Amazon in Kindle format for $7.99 and $29.99 in paperback.

Synopsis: Detective Rook Venner was a successful investigating officer for the Hudson Valley Police Department—until the General Sangacha murder case came across his desk and his world exploded.

Now after being dragged through hell and back, Rook is on the run with Plesur, a Pleasure Model who is the one eyewitness to the murder. Plesur carries a secret in her brain that terrifies the powers-that-be. A secret that they will do anything to destroy—even bring in a Tactical Robotic Regiment to track Rook and Plesur down and annihilate them.

The only choice the two have is to locate the coordinates that were planted in the pleasure mod’s head to the isolated mountain ridge where it all began. Deep underground, in a warren of machine halls and ice caves, something so horrific is happening that just knowing three code words is enough to get you killed: Operation Taste Imperative.

Rook and Plesur have no way back and no way out. If they want to survive and have any kind of life together, they must uncover the terrifying secret that lies deep inside the mountain.

OWL Rating:

The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M. L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Fiction/Cultural/Historical

I started this novel over a year ago and have been steadily reading a little here and a little there. It is a quiet novel where not much happens, but what does happen changes peoples lives. One choice is made that devastates a town and two families.

I don’t read a lot of general fiction anymore, so it was a nice change of pace. A tale of familial love that does not recognize blood ties, but instead recognizes the needs of a child and the desires of two mothers.

It’s a sad tale, but a real one. For being Stedman’s first novel, it is spellbinding. An infant is claimed by the lighthouse keeper and his wife one night, but she belongs to another. There are no happy endings here, instead there is heartache, love and forgiveness that shreds every page of this story.

If you are looking for a tale that reflects reality and contains within it a treasure trove of emotion then this story will captivate you.

You can find the book on Amazon in Kindle format for $8.99 and in paperback for $7.59.

Synopsis: A captivating, beautiful, and stunningly accomplished debut novel that opens in 1918 Australia – the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.

Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

OWL Rating:

The Demon Seeds – Derek Muk

Title: The Demon Seeds
Author: Derek Muk
Publisher: Black Bed Sheet Books
Genre: Fantasy/Horror

I want to start this review by first recommending readers ignore the cover, which is awful. The story is better than the representation.

Muk is a seasoned short-story writer and The Demon Seed is one of his newer tales. In regards to length, I would classify this story as a novella.

What was good about this story is that Muk is a decent writer and I enjoyed this Supernatural world fan-fiction tale. It is a ride or die kind of story. You are immediately thrust into the action, so the story flows quickly. I was never bored and I felt that it could have been a spin-off episode of the Supernatural show, where you follow different/new hunters.

What needed work was the classification of what a Bubog was, the evil creatures of the story. They sounded like vampires. I was initially confused why he was renaming vampires. However, as the story progressed, I was able to piece together that essentially they were demon spawn that had fangs and fed off blood, and they were obsessed with reproducing creepy little bubog babies. So maybe like a vampire cousin?

Additionally, I would have really enjoyed more information about Taylor and Jan, the main protagonists and evil killing duo. I felt that I would have been more invested in the story and their kickass-ness, if I knew more about them. It would help me care more about their journey.

I feel Muk is a writer to watch as he gains experience as a storyteller. I will be interested to see how he grows in the years to come.

If you are looking for a story in the vein of monster hunting, then this tale is worth checking out. It is a good lunch break read. Keep your eyes out because I think we will continue to see more from Muk in the future as he refines his craft.

You can find the story on Amazon for $3.98 in Kindle edition and $11.98 in paperback. I do feel based on the length of the story that the price is a bit steep.

Synopsis: Taylor and Jan have an edgy, exhilarating and dangerous occupation: they’re monster hunters. While they’ve endured many strange adventures in their Southern California/Los Angeles area turf, their latest is as harrowing as it gets….for they are about to encounter the nefarious bubog, the demonic offspring of the cult leader Bubog, an entity carrying the seed of the Dark Prince himself, and he is trying to impregnate as many human women he could lay his hands on. While the intrepid monster hunters track the bubog down in an attempt to put an end to their evil scourge, Jan learns that her best friend, Carol, has been initiated into their cult and the two must save her before she too gives birth to one of these abominations. But can they save her? And can they rid our world forever of these diabolical Demon Seeds before it’s too late?

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY

Derek Muk is a writer and social worker from California. His short stories have appeared in various online and small press magazines, including: “The Dead Walk” (anthology), “Fear and Trembling Magazine,” “13 Magazine.” “Diabolic Tales 3” (an anthology of horror), “Both Barrels of Legends of the Monster Hunter I and II” (anthology), “The Trigger Reflex: Legends of the Monster Hunter II” (anthology), “Suffer the Little Children” (anthology), “Splatter: An Anthology of Horror,” “Death Rattle,” “Dark Things II” (Anthology), “Anthology of Ichor: Hearts of Darkness,” “Twisted Tongue Magazine,” “Static Movement,” “Sex and Murder Magazine,” “Sinister Tales,” “Night to Dawn,” “M-Brane SF,” “Sonar4 E-Zine,” “The Ethereal Gazette,” “7th Dimension Magazine,” “Switchblade Magazine,” “ESC! Magazine,” “Scorched Wings Magazine,” “Hardboiled,” “Masque Noir,” “Detective Mystery Stories,” “Dawnsky,” “The Pinehurst Journal,” “Mystery Forum Magazine,” “The Green Queen,” “Kracked Mirror Mysteries,” “Golden Visions Magazine,” “Crossroads Magic,” “The Street Corner Magazine,” “Calliope Magazine,” “Unspoken Water,” “Space and Time Magazine,” “Infernal Ink Magazine,” “Tales of the Talisman Magazine,” “Dark Eclipse,” “Whispers From The Past: Fright and Fear” (anthology), “ParABnormal Digest,” “The Haunted Academy” (Novella-Midnight Frost Books), “Fiction On The Web,” “Bards and Sages Quarterly,” “NeaDNAthal” (anthology), “Aurora Wolf,” “The Horror Zine Magazine,” “Nebula Rift,” “9 Tales,” “Story of the Month Club,” “Cranial Leakage,” “New Realm,” “Ink Stains Anthology,” “Cheapjack Pulp” and “Disturbed Digest.”

He has three chapbooks published: “Three Parts,” “The Sacrifice and Other Stories,” and “Sin after Sin.” In addition to writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, museums, art, dining out, and meeting new people. He has a bachelors and masters degree in social work.

“The Occult Files of Albert Taylor” is his first full length collection of short stories.

CONNECT WITH DEREK

Website

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

OWL Rating:

*We received the story for free in exchange for an honest review

Shadowfell – Juliet Marillier

Title: Shadowfell
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA/Fantasy

I have not read Marillier in what feels like forever, so I was giddy to sit down and crack open one of her newer series.

You can always count on some supernatural element and romance to blossom in Marillier’s tales.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the tale of Neryn as she treks a journey to freedom from the oppressive and violent tyrant known as, Keldec. He wishes to eradicate or control all that possess the canny ability. The canny ability is one that manifests differently in selected people, but it is a magical gift. Neryn’s ability involves being able to see and call the Fae (Good Folk). Keldec would very much like to possess this gift and the person who wields it. It is the one power that has the potential to overthrow him.

The tale lived up to my expectations of Marillier, and I whizzed through the story in one sitting. I could not put it down. It was a magical and romantic read and I look forward to continuing the story in the sequels that follow.

If you are interested in magical period stories that have a romantic slant, then you will not be disappointed.

You can find the story on Amazon for $9.99 in Kindle format and $10.22 in paperback.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill–a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk–Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death–but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban’s release from Keldec’s rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

OWL Rating:

 

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Romantic/Contemporary Fiction

I was super excited to read this book after seeing the trailer for the movie this past summer. I love the actress, Constance Wu, best known for her role in the TV show Fresh off the Boat.

She plays the character Rachel Chu from this series. I have yet to see the movie, instead wanting to read the real story first.

Now that I am done with the first book, I can’t wait to watch the movie. However, I now am committed to at least 2 more books of this series to find out the ending. I didn’t realize when I began this tale that it spans several books. But the story is good, so I will keep chugging along.

I can’t tell you how repulsed I was by how the wealthy were depicted in this story. Such horrible behavior that made me ashamed for them. I wanted to scream at them about how pointless their obsession with wealth and beauty was and to just plain grow up. I can’t deny that for a moment, I thought about putting the book down because the majority of the wealthy girls were maddening to read about. Thankfully, the tale was equally filled with grounded and real characters like Rachel and Astrid (cousin to Rachel’s love interest Nick) who are more complicated humans and have kindness inside of them.

This was a great story that shines a light on the 1% of society. It embellishes the inhumanity that money can bring out in our characters and the power of bloodlines and family names. A satirical tale of how imperfect life on a shelf can be. And how difficult melding lives can be when you live on different sides of the haves and haves not fence.

If you like dramatic fiction with a dash of comedy and romance then this will likely wet your appetite. You can find the book on Amazon in Kindle format for $9.99 and in paperback for  $10.69.

Synopsis: Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.


When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

OWL Rating:

 

The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump – Robert Sears

Title: The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump
Author: Robert Sears
Publisher: Canongate Books
Genre: Comedy/Poetry

If you are looking for a good laugh then this story will be sure to tickle your funny bone. This is most definitely satire and should not be taken too seriously. I think the cover picture is a shining example of what you will find inside.

Please enter this with a sense of humor. It pokes a little fun, but it is overall just a lively play on President Trump’s famous tweets.

It is a quick read — something to munch on after dinner. Some of the poems are better than others. I found most of the haiku’s to be a bit lacking, but I find this to be a clever gift for your more democratic friends.

I bought this on a whim and found it entertaining for the 30 minutes of delight it gave me.

You can find the book on Amazon for $11.66 in Hardcover and $7.54 in Kindle format. However, I do feel this is way overpriced for what it is. I bought it used instead for a much more agreeable price.

It is a good gag gift. The price is not justifiable at almost 12 dollars for 30 minutes of entertainment.

Synopsis: What if there’s a hidden dimension to Donald Trump; a sensitive, poetic side? Driven by this question, Rob Sears began combing Trump’s words for signs of poetry.

What he found was a revelation. By simply taking the 45th President of the United States’ tweets and transcripts, cutting them up and reordering them, Sears unearthed a trove of beautiful verse that was just waiting to be discovered.

This groundbreaking collection will give readers a glimpse of Trump’s innermost thoughts and feelings on everything from the nature of truth, to what he hates about Lord Sugar. And it will reveal a hitherto hidden Donald, who may surprise and delight both students and critics alike.

This timely publication also includes Sears’ scholarly footnotes and introduction, in which he excavates new critical angles and insights into the President’s poetry which the casual reader might initially overlook.

OWL Rating:

 

Silverwood: The Door – Keene, Chizmar, Kozeniewski, Sisters of Slaughter & Valenzuela

Title: Silverwood: The Door
Authors: Brian Keene, Stephen Kozeniewski, Sisters of Slaughter, Richard Chizmar, original creator Tony E. Valenzuela
Publisher: Serial Box Publishing
Genre: Horror/Paranormal

Have you ever heard of Serial Box? Not the box you find your Cheerios in. Well I hadn’t, not until someone reached out to me and told me all about it.

It sounded like Netflix for books, except a bit different. It is serialized fiction that like TV, is released in episodic segments. You find a book you’re interested in and then pay for that books narrated episodes and eBook. Kind of cool, right?

When all is said and done, you’ve paid the price of one book and you get two different formats to choose from.

I listened to the first episode for free of Silverwood: The Door. But I have an auditory processing disorder, so I prefer to read instead of listen. I was excited to see that I can just continue the story on my own in eBook format, instead of waiting for each episode release. Regardless of my wee hearing disorder, I think this is pretty neat. I know when holiday travel starts up again, I will be looking at this site for audiobooks to make the traveling a bit easier.

Now, about the story Silverwood: The Door. I have been keen for sometime to read Keene, but have never gotten around to it. And we all know my bookworm heart beats fast for Kozeniewski. So, when this title came across my inbox I was eager to check it out.

This is a story that combines both primal violence and otherworldly phenomenon. An X-Files tale on steroids that there is no coming back from. If you like stories about the darkness that creeps under our moral humanity then you have found your bedtime fairy-tale.

The story has four authors who seamlessly weave their tales together. Each chapter is written by a different author, but you can’t tell because they have melded their voices as one.

The story felt like a movie as you follow the characters individual journeys. The level of detail paints a vivid picture, a picture that contains much gore and mayhem. However, even with the horror that unfolds on each page, the authors still are able to bring a level of humor to the scenes. I think my favorite involves a character named Devin, who is surrounded by terror and chaos, but tries to maintain an air of professionalism as bodies hit the ground. It tickled my gooey insides.

It was a well crafted story by some of the best horror writers currently alive. If you are interested in reading more or listening to the episodes, check out the first episode/chapter on Serial Box. You can listen to the first episode for free.

The original inspiration for Silverwood: The Door began with a YouTube show called, Silverwood, which was a 10 episode anthology series that came out in 2012. Keene and fellow authors are now continuing the story.

Check out the original inspiration by Tony E. Valenzuela on YouTube below. Then continue the story with Keene and the rest of the horror writing crew.

Synopsis: Deep within the forest of Silverwood, California, a crack between dimensions has appeared. A dark force that lurks among the trees is growing stronger, determined to return home if it can only gather the strength to open the door—bad news for a Cub Scout troop and the employees of Hirsch Capital on a company retreat nearby. As their darkest fears and impulses power the mysterious force, their bonding exercises take a deadly turn. Will anyone be able to keep their minds long enough to close the door before our world is torn apart? 

*I received a free copy of the story in exchange for an honest review

OWL Rating: