Saturday, May 31, 2014

Harry Potter Fan Fic: James Potter and the Curse of the Gate Keeper by G. Norman Lippert

James Potter and the Curse of the Gate Keeper (James Potter, #2)James Potter and the Curse of the Gate Keeper by G. Norman Lippert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Does not disappoint.

Like the first book in the James Potter series by Lippert, this one feels like being back in Rowling's world. He's done a great job keeping the story alive. This one links back heavily to the happenings in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but it isn't the same story.

It's James Potter's second year at Hogwarts, and this year his brother Albus joins him, but they're both in for a surprise that highlights just how different the brothers are from each other. I enjoyed how the two are compared to each other and how they are compared to Harry Potter, their dad. The sibling rivalry keeps things interesting even as the overall plot deapens.

I also liked how the year is sort of taken over by a non-magical production of a play. Try outs, rehearsals, the kids trying to figure out how things are done in normal plays (and cheating when they can get away with it). Add to that a crush, continuing hints at Voldemort's heir, and a truly fantastic climax, and you have the makings of a great adventure.

This one's definitely worth a read. The humor, the mystery and the adventure are all right on the mark. One word of caution, however, is that Lippert is not afraid of killing off main characters, not even ones we've come to love from the original Harry Potter series. But, then again, neither was Rowling. She got quite good at taking out her own characters, so I don't think the same in fan fic should come as much of a surprise. I can say that it does tie in with the plot.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I had trouble putting it down, but it still took me a few days to get through. These stories are easy to read, but lengthy, just like the Harry Potter books. As I mentioned in my review of James Potter #1, I would definitely read a similar series by Rowling if she decides to write one, but I'm glad we have this one as an option.

This book is available for free on Goodreads.com.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Harry Potter Fanfic Review: James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing by G. Norman Lippert

James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing (James Potter, #1)James Potter and the Hall of Elders' Crossing by G. Norman Lippert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lippert channels Rowling very well.

It's so good being back in the world of Harry Potter. I'm impressed with how well this story fits into the world Rowling created. This is excellent fan fic.

The story pics up exactly where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows leaves off, with the adult heros of the Harry Potter series seeing their kids off for Hogwarts. It's James Potter's first year, but he's not his dad. He's heard about Hogwarts his entire life and has lived in the shadow of his father's exploits. Everything he does is colored by his need to live up to the legend that is his father. I enjoyed how the differences between him and his dad are highlighted throughout the story, simply woven into the plot without being overbearing.

As for the plot, it seems to very closely follow the formula and feel of Rowlings' books. Three friends, ancient evil, and kids of mixed talents stuck trying to prevent a catastrophe, but, unlike the early Harry Potter stories, failure is an option. Things go wrong, successes turn out to be failures, and the hero doesn't always win in the expected way. It made it hard to put this story down.

The familiar characters are there, now all grown up, and even some surprise cameos add flavor to the story. The younger cast, barely mentioned at the end of the Harry Potter series are fully fleshed out in this continuation. Personalities, strengths and weaknesses are revealed in an organic and satisfying way. It just feels right.

Let's just say I really liked this story. It's something I would recommend to any Harry Potter fan, even the younger readers, who want a peek into what happens next. Would reading the James Potter books discourage me from reading a similar series if Rowling decides to write one? No, but since she doesn't seem inclined to do so, I'm glad we have this option.

This book is available for free on Goodreads.com as an ebook download.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Fantasy Review: Source of the River by Lana Axe

Source of the RiverSource of the River by Lana Axe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source of the River is a traditional fantasy where young heroes find themselves joining together on a quest while forces of evil oppose them, though in this one, they face the known evil of a discordant spirit in a dwarvish mine and the unknown evil of a power hungry sorcerer that has taken an interest in River, the main character. Their quest to solve one problem puts them in danger from the other.

One of my favorite things about this story is the abundance of positive female role models. The dwarf girl, Kaiya, is perhaps the most charismatic of the characters. She is strong, independent, and determined to break free of the standard gender roles in her village. Lenora, an elvish girl who is also a healer, also displays an admirable breaking of the mold. Instead of settling down in town and learning all she knows from her mother (also a healer), she's out learning everything about her chosen craft, smart and focused on her goals. Even Kaiya's mom, though she's chosen the traditional wife and mother role in the dwarvish village, steps up to the challenges facing her people and helps Lenora with the sick.

Among the cast of bad guys, Telorithan the sorcerer is pretty well developed. He is evil, or perhaps simply amoral, though his goal isn't all that unique among the many fantasies I've read over the years. He wants the power of a god and doesn't care who he hurts to get it. Telorithan's love interest, Sirra, is powerful in her own right, but overconfident in her influence over Telorithan. On the other hand, I didn't like the fickle nature of Telorithan's mentor and former teacher, Yiranor. He seemed to flip too quickly and completely between fear, admiration, and support of his former student. Just didn't quite ring true.

The story features various themes of acceptance, which I thought were woven into the story well. Even though Kaiya's and River's people view them with mistrust due to their unnatural powers, there are still those who accept them for who they are, and even a few who become more accepting as the story goes along. I also like the way Kaiya's parents are supportive or her decisions, no matter how far they've taken her from the norm.

Those who like a comfortably familiar escape into fantasy might like that the story followed a rather standard fantasy formula, particularly with the character and creature archetypes, though for me it made everything seem a little too familiar. However, the final battle between good and evil was rather shorter than typical in this one. There was also a tendency for the writing to be repetitive, particularly when trying to get certain points across. I would have enjoyed more of a focus on building up the world with some robust description or imagery to spark the reader's imagination and really bring this new world to life.

Overall, I found this to be a good story and a quick read, though the writing tends to be repetitive. I enjoyed the female characters the best, because they tended to be strong and confident. As for my recommendations, those who want an escape from the day to day and who enjoy exploring new fantasy realms might find this story to their liking, though I think that those who are looking for an epic might find this a bit light for their taste. It would be a good book for a casual (or perhaps newbie) fantasy reader.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Adult Fairy Tale Review: The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David C. Meredith

The Reflections of Queen Snow WhiteThe Reflections of Queen Snow White by David C. Meredith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful, yet heart wrenching. Not for kids.

Queen Snow White is in mourning. Prince Charming is dead and she finds herself in a haze, unable to feel anything but pain and loss, despite the joyous preparations for her daughter's upcoming wedding. Looking for a quiet place absent of backstabbing nobility, she wanders into a disused tower in her castle and finds herself face to face with the magic mirror her wicked step mother adored all those years ago.

I must say this story left me speachless. The language is beautiful, as are the images it brings to mind, and Snow White's story is wrought with both heartache and joy. We learn the gritty truths behind the children's fairy tale as the mirror helps Snow White take a good look at who she really is. Some of the scenes are graphically violent, such as the one that reveals the extent Lady Arglist's abuse, made all the worse because it follows on a scene of an even younger Snow White sharing what she hoped her new mommy would be like.

But the story isn't all heartache. Snow White's happiest moments are just as important to whom she has become. I wasn't exactly surprised when I encountered Snow White's wedding night. I did a cursory look-over of some of the other reviews and saw tag lines like "not your kid's snow white" when I was deciding whether to review it. That's usually code for adult content. I've read a few mature-audience stories that have fairy tale origins, and I think it's important that reviewers are extremely clear, in those cases, that there is adult content. However, I think the author did a great job making the intimate content relevant to the story and bringing the emotional aspects into play. Sure, it was explicit, but it was also beautiful, one of the most cherished memories the aging Snow White possesses. It broke my heart when she awoke in the room with the mirror and reality crashed in on her.

The mirror keeps drawing her in to experience each heartache, each triumph, each fear, all reflections of her true self, someone Snow White had long forgotten and perhaps never quite understood. This journey of self-discovery is what made me love this story. I will definitely want to read this again.

On a lighter note, I did find myself trying to match the dwarves to their counterparts in the Disney movie. I suspect Snow White's close friend Erfruet is Dopey*, because he was the youngest, and Grantig was Grumpy. I enjoyed doing so, though I think these characters were likely meant to match up with the literary version of the story, not the Disney version. Also, some of the character and kingdom names and titles were quite a mouthful. I most likely butchered them when I tried to pronounce them in my head.

So overall, I loved this story, but I must caution that it is for adult readers only. This is not a children's book. I would recommend this to people who enjoy a grown up spin on classic fairy tales.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

*I learned something new after chatting with the author about my theory about his names. He informed me that Erfruet is actually Happy (in German) and that the Disney characters were actually the inspiration for the names. I managed to guess Grantig correctly, and Artz in the book is a tweak to Arzt, for Doc. In the Snow White book, they are never actually named. He used German names because the original Snow White story is from Germany. I love little tidbits like this.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blog Tour Stop and Giveaway! Angels of the Knights-Fallon by Valerie Zambito

About the Book
When Fallon died at the age of sixteen, her life changed forever. The hallowed world of Emperica is everything she had ever hoped for as a mortal—immeasurable beauty, unconditional love and light. But, with affection for humankind still burning within her, she joins the Knight Caste to train as an angel warrior.  

The elders warn her that the path she chose will be a solitary one. That she will not have the same bond with humans as she once did. But, as far as she knows, the elders had never met Kade Royce. When her duties place her in the path of the handsome former cop, emotions buried long ago rise to the surface and she is powerless to ignore the depth of her feelings for this young man. Ignoring the risks, she invites him into her world of danger, but soon their lives collide with explosive consequence. As a result, Fallon realizes with heartbreaking despair that she can no longer hide from the painful truth. In order for Kade to live, she must destroy him. 

Keep reading for a chance to win the complete trilogy in any format, and maybe even a $25 gift card!

My Review


As an angels and demons book, this one's pretty good. I've read a few and many seem to draw away from the Christian theme, but this one seemed to embrace it. People who die are guided to heaven (Emperica in this story) and welcomed into the arms of the Creator. There, they are free to choose one of four callings, one of which strips the angel of their wings and sends them back to earth to battle the evil Kjin (or demons) and protect people from them.

This is the calling that Fallon chooses when she realizes that it was Kjin who were responsible for the death of her family and herself. Fallon is a strong woman, who is both powerful and fearless, yet still subject to emotions, doubts, and attraction.  As she investigates an abnormal gathering of Kjin in a small college town, she finds herself unavoidably attracted to Kade, a handsome ex-cop who unknowingly worked with her predessesor to fight the growing threat.

Despite the instant connection between the two, I still enjoyed the romance and wanted the two to make it. The story is well-written and well-paced with plenty of action, romance and danger. The angelic technology and caste system is interesting, and the hints of growing danger and organizing Kjin build up strongly to the next installment, Blane, without ending in a cliffhanger.

Overall, I liked this story, but some might find the instant love a bit of a turn off. Still, the angelic science fiction spin is quite original, and the clean approach to the romance makes this a good choice for young adult Christian readers. And, I must say I love that cover art.

I picked up a free copy of this book from Amazon so that I could read and review it for this post.



Book Links

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Valerie-Zambito-Author-Page/207290402664749

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Angels-Knights-Fallon-Paranormal-ebook/dp/B008KP6GJG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1379775955&sr=1-1&keywords=angels+of+the+knights

Barnes & Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/angels-of-the-knights-valerie-zambito/1111916662?ean=9780615650135&itm=5&usri=valerie+zambito


About the Author

Fantasy author, Valerie Zambito, lives in New York with her family.  After having been involved in a busy sales career for fifteen years, a passionate love for great storytelling, world building, character creation, and all things magic led to the release of her epic fantasy series, Island Shifters, in 2011, and YA paranormal series, Angels of the Knights, in 2012.  Other works include:

Island Shifters - An Oath of the Blood (Book 1)
Island Shifters - An Oath of the Mage (Book 2)
Island Shifters - An Oath of the Children (Book 3)
Island Shifters – An Oath of the Kings (Book 4)
Angels of the Knights - Fallon (Book 1)
Angels of the Knights - Blane (Book 2)
Angels of the Knights – Nikki (Book 3)

Website:   www.valeriezambito.com
Email:   vzambito@rochester.rr.com

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Children's Chapter Book Review: Maisy and the Missing Mice by Elizabeth Woodrum

Occasionally, I'll pick up a children's book instead of the usual YA, NA, or adult fiction I tend to prefer.  This is one of those that caught my eye, and it didn't hurt that I found it for free on Amazon.  So, if you have kids or if you're a kid at heart, this may be a good read for you.

Maisy and the Missing MiceMaisy and the Missing Mice by Elizabeth Woodrum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Totally cute, well-written, and logical. Great story for young readers.

Maisy is a fourth grader who has an extraordinary talent for solving mysteries. Someone has stolen the mice from one of the classrooms, and the students are beyond worried. The little critters are the school's unofficial mascots and are beloved by all. It's a good thing Maisy is on the case, but her newest challenge may be more than she can handle. The culprit, soon known as The Black Boot, has taken her beloved collection of cherry lollipops hostage. Can Maisy rescue the mice and her stash of lollipops from the mysterious thief?

I loved this little story. Maisy's a cool little kid who totally gets into her role as investigator, even allowing her surroundings to fade into the black and white of the old detective movies she loves. Her fedora in place and her notebook in hand, she cannot be swayed by The Black Boot's attempts to get her off the case. I liked how splashes of color begin to leak back into her world as the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.

Another thing I like is that this story is very well-written, providing a great reading opportunity for young readers without giving everything away. The quality of the writing and the choice of vocabulary would make this a great option for challenging young minds in a fun way. Teachers might want to stock this on their shelves.

I totally recommend this for older elementary school and up readers as a starter chapter book. Adults who like a lighthearted escape into their own childhood might also enjoy this. I was reminded of how I used to feel reading Beverly Cleary books. It had me smiling the whole time I read it.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: The Supreme Moment by C.G. Garcia

The Supreme Moment (A Fractured Multiverse Novel)The Supreme Moment by C.G. Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Entertaining, but extremely racy for a YA, at least at first.

The Supreme Moment is about a young girl named Avery who is faced with an impossible choice. She chooses the lesser of two evils and allows herself to be claimed by a mysterious crime lord in exchange for the safety and protection of her mother and sister. Darrien Stathos is a frightening man, pale, with mismatched, disturbing eyes, and he's had both of them on Avery for quite some time.

At first the story seems paranormal romance (almost erotica, definitely for the 18 and up crowd). Then, the bad guys start multiplying, and the danger grows; but as the danger grows, the romance fades into the background. I stopped feeling it right about 30% in. It was a little disappointing. That first part of the story was very emotionally intense, then it suddenly wasn't. I'm not saying the rest wasn't good, it just seemed the book switched genres.

As for the romance, I would have liked to see a little more reason for Avery to begin to return Darrien's love, but mostly she just seems grateful and creeped out in turn, even as she seems to become more attached. Darrien is constantly referred to as an older man and a crime lord, and I frequently wished he would simply be called Darrien instead. Like Avery, I had trouble deciding whether to like Darrien or dislike him.

Overall, I thought the story was fairly good. The beginning in particular kept me on edge and unable to put the book down, but the romance suffered when the paranormal/sci-fi kicked in. Despite the main character being a teenager, I think this one borders on NA/Adult due to the degree of violence and sexual content.

I received a free copy of this ebook in return for an honest, non-reciprocal review.


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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Allegory Review: Let's Kidnap the President by Lalit Bhatt

Let's Kidnap The PresidentLet's Kidnap The President by Lalit Bhatt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyable, good story. Needs some polishing, but worth a read...

Let's Kidnap the President is an entertaining read featuring the self-discovery and self-actualization of four monkeys from the jungles of India. Monkeys typically live to meet their basic needs, but these four soon become dissatisfied with their lot, and the Boss has noticed, making things very difficult for them.

They finally decide to leave their group and end up in a village, where they begin to want more for themselves, though initially their goals are limited to returning to their group and overthrowing the Boss. From that point, the story follows them through self-awareness, self-identity and personal growth, and eventually, their desire for riches and renown, which ultimately leads to the quest that names this book.

The growth of the monkeys into individuals is well portrayed and entertaining. Their quest is humorous and yet sprinkled with the psychology and science at the heart of their progression. Maslow's hierarchy is used, as are philosophies from Indian culture. The four make mistakes, learn from them, and discover that they are more and can be more than they'd ever imagined. Occasional shifts to humans trying to figure out these four strange monkeys add to the entertainment value.

Overall, this book is smart, well-thought, and well-researched. However, the language use is rough, and the book needs some serious editing. The good side is that would only be for grammar and usage, not content, plot, etc. Despite the grammar, I enjoyed this story. There are some beautiful passages, often insightful and sometimes even musical. I hope that one day this gem can be polished.

I would recommend this lighthearted, though insightful, story to those who enjoy allegory and humor and who don't mind some rough edges.

I found this story while it was on a free promotion on Amazon, but I can't remember exactly when. This one's been on my kindle for a long time, perhaps a couple of years. Anyway, I'm glad I picked it up.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fearless is free on Amazon Kindle, 2 days only!

Hurray it's May!

To celebrate, I'm offering my zombie apocalypse novel, Fearless, for free on Amazon, May 1-2 only.

These freebees are rare, so grab a copy today.

Of course, I love this book (I wrote it), but check out what others have to say:

"Wow! I didn't want this story to end. This is one of the best zompoc books that I've read in a while." -Lisa on Amazon (See her full review here.)

"This is a good book. I love the title- Fearless. I think if you like a zombie book without a lot of blood in it ,you would like it..." -Tori on Amazon (See her full review here.)

Did I mention I love finding new reviews of my books?  If you pick up a copy, I'd love to hear what you think.  Short reviews, long ones, I love them all.

So again, Fearless is free May 1st and 2nd only. Grab a copy and tell your friends!

Fearless is exclusively available on Amazon. Here are a few links:
In the US
In the UK
In Canada