Review: Portal Prophesies Book 1

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The Portal Prophesies Book 1 is called A Keeper’s Destiny and it is by C.A. King. This is a high fantasy epic novel.

The book starts with Willow, the orphaned teenage misfit who has a tattoo of two black cats that she doesn’t remember getting, it’s always been there. She also hears voices. Willow lives in a little village where she sells produce. The village is segregated by caste or class. The people of her village have hair that changes colour when they are young until it settles on a colour at sixteen cycles. Their hair reflects their mood until it stops changing, then it would announce the strength and type of her abilities. Which means this world also has in-born magics or abilities.

From here we move on to meet the people of her town and get a feel for the social structure. The history of the world, which involves Guardians and Keepers, who are bonded to each other, dividing up and protecting realms of fantastical races to keep them safe or keep them from causing harm, is gradually revealed, as is Willow’s role in all this.

The social turmoil within the village provides the opportunity for an attack that ends their peaceful existence and forces the survivors to use a Portal to one of these other realms. We get a few training sequences and some character growth, and then end with a major character in distress.

On the one hand this world is extremely unique with an interesting history and some potential for “that’s not what you told me” and a bad guy who believes he’s the good guy and the Guardians are evil tyrants. On the other hand, it’s prophesy based, and that runs the risk of being either cliched or forced or both. She can’t lose because she’s the chosen one, right? She’s just going to keep unlocking abilities until she’s big enough and strong enough to win no matter what. BUT I hold out hope for this series based on the wide cast of characters, the interesting set-up with potential for betrayals and side reversals, and the decent writing style.

This book is perfect for older middle years and high school students. It has that teen drama feel to it, with amazing powers and adventure and self-discovery.

Considering what this book is trying to be, and what it achieves, I give it a four out of five stars and I look forward to reviewing the second book later this summer.

Book Review – Dragonfly

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Dragonfly is a young adult paranormal romance by Alyssa Thiessen. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Alyssa-Thiessen/dp/0994021003/ (Please note this is not an affiliate link).

Dragonfly is a quick, easy read, but perfect for grades 8 and up. It’s clean, so no sex, no graphic violence, no major swearing. What really sets this book apart are the wings. No dragon, bat, or angel wings here. Not even hawks like the Maximum Overdrive stories by Patterson. No, this time we have dragonfly wings.

I read this book with my book club so the first week we read chapters 1-9. In our first discussion we were listing all the possibilities for how the main character, 18 year old Joshua Miller, had ended up with dragonfly wings. Born that way? Mutant? Science experiment? Alien? What? Halfway through the book and you still have no idea.

The plot of the book is people centered. It’s about Joshua, a boy who has always hidden from the world for as long as he can remember, a boy with no family, no friends, no connections. Until he meets Lexi. His connection with Lexi triggers a whole series of mishaps that lead him to the only piece of his past he remembers. And from there we find out everything that Joshua doesn’t know about himself.

The book follows that winning YA romance structure: bored rich girl, roguish bad boy, becoming friends when they shouldn’t. Lots of him holding back because he’s no good for her and her stubbornly holding on because she’s never met anyone like him. But it was still a fun book to read. Really, Joshua and Eric and Nik aren’t so bad, Lexi was my only complaint with the book.

I gave this book 4 stars and would recommend it to young readers and anyone who likes YA fiction. I’m looking forward to her second book, which is not tied in to Dragonfly in any way, titled Infusion.

Book Review: If We Had No Winter

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I had the chance to read an ARC copy of this amazing book which is being officially released today by D.L. Pitchford. You can download your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Had-Winter-Billie-Dixon-Book-ebook/dp/B06XR4PZ81/

If We Had No Winter is a contemporary drama set in a small college city in the US. The main character, Wilhelmina, is a freshman living in the dorms, just down the hall from her childhood friend and next door neighbour, Jimmy. In a refreshing twist there is no romantic connection between Jimmy and Wilhelmina (who is called Billie by her friends and Mina by her father).

Billie’s family includes her mother and sister (Imogene or Mo) back home and her father, Dr. Elijah Dixon, who is the head of the Mathematics department at the same college Billie is attending. Billie has not seen her father in the three years since he and her mother divorced.

Jimmy’s parents, Charlie and Thea (which is my grandmother’s name!) also feature strongly in the background. Other characters include various professors, Jimmy’s roommate, Xander, Billie’s roommate, Val, a half dozen other freshmen living in the same hallway, and Zane, a senior whom Billie is tutoring in Calculus.

 

I guess this book is best described as a coming of age novel. Billie has a lot of hang-ups because of the divorce. She was always closer to her father than her mother and he left. She has trouble with trust, with letting people in. Her pain and the way it manifests in her life is honest and feels very real. I never felt that she was whiny or annoying, except that I completely understood her friends’ frustrations with her. Xander was a complete ass but at least he was an honest ass and I found myself liking him even though Billie, the first person narrator, found him aggravating.

Billie was sympathetic without coming across as pathetic. She struggled without her issues feeling fake or repetitive. She gained ground and lost ground. She was stubborn and sometimes that resulted in some poor choices. She was hurt and that led to other poor choices. But she was always able to make her own choices and she had to face honest and realistic consequences for them.

Also – Zane was a detailed, subtly written character whose presence grew on you in a certain way. The reaction I had was exactly right for who he turned out to be. You could see the hints of it. It was masterfully portrayed.

I loved how each of the little steps Billie took towards growing up snowballed forcing her to take each of the next steps. But at the same time she still had every opportunity to make bad choices, and regularly did. She just felt so real. I could believe the choices she made and her motivation for making them.

 

I give this book a hearty 5 stars and I look forward to reading more by D.L. Pitchford, especially Billie Dixon Book 2.

Book Review: Casey’s Climax

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Casey’s Climax is an erotic short romance for mature readers. 18+ is advised. The story was written by Jax Lane and can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Caseys-Climax-Jax-Lane-ebook/dp/B01DOW75Q2/ (NOTE I do not receive any royalties or kickback from the sales of this book)

This was an odd story for me to read because most people don’t call me Casia – they call me Casey. However, I am not the super curvy sexpot teenager that is depicted in this story. Not at all.

This is a fairly typical erotic short featuring a too good to be true gorgeous teen girl who is so sexy she’s intimidating and can’t get laid even though she wants it. Her best friend is pretty enough to get laid but not as sexy as her BFF.

The story relates their various plans to get Casey laid, including a taboo encounter with her BFF’s father. Yes, Casey is 18 in this story so no underage sex occurs.

The sex scenes are, well, sexy. They weren’t exactly realistic but then I don’t think people read these for the realism. The dialogue was a little stiff but the text was relatively error free.

It was short, 9 chapters over roughly 20 pages. I found it a little overpriced for the length compared to other fiction in this genre.

I gave it 3 stars.

Book Review: Children of Laramie

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The Children of Laramie is a series of 8 clean western romances by Eliza King. (Note I do not receive any royalties or kickback from the sale of these books)

The Uncertain Bride and the Shy Rancher: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Uncertain-Historical-ebook/dp/B01LYQJFNF/r

The Reluctant Bride and the Jealous Teacher: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Reluctant-Historical-ebook/dp/B01MFAKRJB/r

The Christmas Bride and the Nearly Ruined Pastor: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Christmas-Historical-ebook/dp/B01MFFJJ4V/

The Unexpected Bride and the Eager Shopkeeper: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Unexpected-Shopkeeper-ebook/dp/B01MSTQOB2/

The Doubtful Bride and the Two Suitors: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Doubtful-Historical-ebook/dp/B01NAPHL5C/

The Adventurous Bride and the Sheep Farmer: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Adventurous-Historical-ebook/dp/B01NCTZ389/

The Distressed Bride and the Drifter: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Distressed-Historical-ebook/dp/B01NAY3NGD/

The Hopeful Bride and the Fur Trader: https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Historical-Children-ebook/dp/B06WD1V211

In this series Eliza King returns to Laramie 20 years after Heather’s Humility, the final book in her Brides of Laramie series. This series features the children of the original 5 couples: Julie and Daniel, Claire and Edmund, Hannah and Jonathan, Vera and Christopher, and Heather and Mathew. Between them there are 11 children with the eldest, Claire’s daughter Katharine, now working at the Boston Women’s Academy.

Unlike the first series in which all the girls were mail order brides from Boston this series has more variety. But Eliza’s tight writing style and strong characterization continues to shine.

Gus is Mathew’s son from his first marriage, Heather’s step son, and he is sweet on Julie’s daughter, Beatrice. Of course they’re both shy and there’s a rich rancher’s son to compete with. It’s young love at its finest.

Christian is Christopher and Hannah’s son, just returned to from Boston to become a school teacher. He requests a bride and is sent a young woman who has no intention of marrying anyone! It’s up to him to win her affections before he loses her to some other eager bachelor in town.

Anna is Gus and Heather’s daughter and her gift is her voice. She loves to sing in the church choir. Unfortunately the new young pastor’s praise of her gift causes quite the scandal.

Samuel, Claire and Edmund’s son, was not looking for love when Sarah, a banker’s daughter, arrives in town. They pursue a brief, sweet courtship but her father’s work takes the family away from Laramie on short notice. Only with her gone does Samuel realize how deep his feelings for her are.

Maria is Anna’s younger sister and she has long been the subject of Kenneth’s admiration. Kenneth, Julie’s son, is certain he will marry his childhood sweetheart one day, even if she doesn’t pay him much attention. But then Jonathan’s son, Joseph, returns from law school. Once friends the boys become bitter rivals for Maria’s hand.

At the end of the love triangle story Maria makes her choice and the sore loser runs away to Texas where he buys a dilapidated sheep farm.Lonely, he sends Katharine a letter requesting a bride that is Maria in every way possible. What he gets is a feisty young woman who is not afraid of getting her hands dirty.

Helen is afraid for her life so Katharine helps her escape Boston by putting her on a train to Laramie. There she tugs at the protective heartstrings of the town drifter, Christian’s younger brother, Connor.

Shawn, the last of the Children of Laramie, has grown cold and cynical. He is out watching sheep for a local rancher when Helen arrives and he feels that if he had met her first he’d have had a chance with her. Everything he tries seems to fail. He winds up in Alaska chasing the golden dream. Instead he finds a young woman working in a tavern with no options. She’s not easily won however, and Shawn will have to straighten out his life, and his attitude.

The series wraps up with a sweet epilogue that illustrates how one couple of childhood sweethearts, 3 bachelors, 1 widower, and 4 mail order brides have grown into a three generation clan of family and friends.

I was really excited to read this story and revisit characters I already knew. The town of Laramie has grown in 20 years and the original characters are all in their late 30s, early 40s now. Eliza King gives a glimpse into the world of the wild west and provides a full array of varied and exciting characters.

I gave these books a range of 4-5 stars depending on the story.

Book Review: Tools for Your Creative Side

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Tools for Your Creative Side: Free and Easy Online and Application Resources for All Things Creative is a tech guide written by Jason Greiner. It can be found on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Tools-Your-Creative-Side-Application-ebook/dp/B01LX7QS48/. (NOTE I do not receive any royalties of kickback from the sale of this book)

Tools for your Creative Side is a short e-book, only 72 pages including front matter. Each page has a screen shot, a website name, a website address, and a brief description of the website. Each website is either free, freemium, or inexpensive to use.

Websites range from meme creators to video editors, sound editors to grammar checkers. A few websites are for removing backgrounds from images, useful for logo and ad design.

Personally I found there wasn’t much in this book for me, as a writer. The majority of the sites and apps were for visual artists, videographers, and musicians. I also found that while the descriptions were good they were very basic. More details, such as a basic tutorial or site tour would have been beneficial.

While it is nice to have all of these services listed in one place I’m sure you could get most of this information from a search engine. The only benefit to buying the book is that these sites have been vetted by the author so you know you’re not going to a spyware/malware site.

I gave this book 3 stars because it is error free with good presentation. I just didn’t find it overly useful.

Book Review: Mail Order Brides of Laramie

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Mail Order Brides of Laramie is a clean romance series by Eliza King consisting of 4 short novellas. (NOTE I do not receive any royalties or kickbacks from the sale of these books)

Claire’s Courage https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Claires-Historical-ebook/dp/B01LWHX3MO/

Hannah’s Hope https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Hannahs-Historical-ebook/dp/B01M0H8UPU

Vera’s Victory https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Victory-Historical-ebook/dp/B01M0VBOYN/

Heather’s Humility https://www.amazon.com/MAIL-ORDER-BRIDE-Heathers-Historical-ebook/dp/B01LYMZYAN/

Each book is about a different young woman, a recent graduate of the Boston Women’s Academy in the mid-to-late 1800s. Each makes the journey to Laramie Wyoming at the request of a different bachelor. With such a closely linked premise I was impressed at how different each book was.

Claire finds out she was requested not by the shop keeper but by his sister on his behalf and must win his heart while fending off his old flame.

Hannah is escaping an unwanted arranged marriage which would end all her dreams and arrives in Laramie to find the lawyer who requested her hand in marriage has had an accident.

Vera is the awkward younger sister living forever in the shadow of her perfect older sister. She leaps at the chance to leave home and pursue a life of adventure. If only the town doctor were as excited to have her around.

Heather is Vera’s older sister and after an social faux pas she is sent to Laramie to marry a widower with an infant son.

The girls have very distinct personalities. Claire is quiet, almost demure, but she has a back bone of steel. Her sister-in-law, Julie, a frequent side character in the series, is humorous, welcoming, and a romantic. Hannah has big dreams and a lot of faith. Vera is frustrated at first but once she finds her freedom she becomes an energetic and adventurous woman. Heather begins her story as a stuck-up prideful socialite out of place in the small mid-western city of Laramie but she softens and becomes a warm, mothering character.

Each of the girls continues to make appearances in the following books. I really enjoyed that. I got to see the girls after their marriages as their families started. By the end of book 4 I felt that I was a part of this community.

I gave the books 4 or 5 stars each depending on the title and some specific quirks in each book.

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