Tracy Lawson's Resistance series' Book One

Counteract
Resistance #1
Tracy Lawson (GoodReads Author)
Lawson Publishing, Aug 25, 2015
Kindle ed, 194 pages, also in paperback and Kindle Audible
Genre(s) debut novel, dystopian sci-fi romance, YA
Source Author

Other books in this series: Spark prequel, Resist #2, Ignite #3, and Revolt #4

Synopsis
Who do you trust when your world unravels and everything you believe is a lie?

For the past fifteen years, The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has guarded the public against the rampant threat of terrorism. Teenagers Tommy and Careen have never known life without the government-approved Civilian Restrictions. For them, there’s no social media. No one is allowed to gather in public places or attend concerts or sporting events. Only a small, select group of adults have driving privileges. It’s a small price to pay for safety.

Now a new, more deadly, terrorist threat looms: airborne chemical weapons that can be activated without warning. The OCSD is ready with an antidote to counteract the effects of the toxins. Three drops a day is all it takes. It’s a small price to pay for health.

Tommy and Careen obediently take the antidote; neither considers stopping when strange things begin to happen. The day the disaster sirens signal the dreaded attack, Tommy shares his last dose with Careen, even though doing so might hasten his death. It’s a small price to pay for a friend.

Follow Tommy and Careen as they uncover a web of lies and deceit reaching to the highest levels of the United States government and join an underground resistance group that’s determined to expose the truth.


About the Author:  
Tracy Lawson knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she could read. In the first grade, she authored sixty-seven contact-paper bound books through her school's Young Authors program. Though that pace proved impossible to maintain, she always intended to be a real author one day.

While working toward her Bachelor's degree in Communication at Ohio University, she studied creative writing with the late Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon. After short stints as a media buyer and an investigative analyst, she settled into a 20-year career in the performing arts, teaching tap dancing in Columbus, Ohio, and choreographing musicals. Though her creative energies were focused on dance, she never lost her desire to write and has a non-fiction book to her credit: Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, (McDonald & Woodward, 2012).

Tracy's love for writing Young Adult fiction is sparked by all the wonderful teens in her life, including her daughter Keri, a college student. Counteract is Tracy's first novel.


My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
I wish there were half stars on GoodReads because I really wanted to give this more than four but fewer than five stars. There's really nothing wrong with it that I can point to, but "5-stars" has to really sweep me away. And this didn't quite make that. It's just really good!

This is a debut novel, which simply amazes me. The story line isn't unique. There are lots of dystopian romances out there with this same story line. But the way Ms. Lawson handled it seemed fresh and new. Well, except for The Princess Bride quote she snuck in for Tommy Bailey to say.

There's violence, but no sex. There's romance, but it's subtle and slow, they really have no time for it.Throughout the whole book, there is a feeling of impending events. Fast paced, you should have been somewhere else 5 minutes ago. Or maybe it's a sense of impending doom. There are moments of lightheartedness in there though. You won't miss the neon pink highlights or Eduardo Rodriguez and his Kahlua. Apparently, it's one way for medicine that Mary Poppins hasn't tried, but it seemed to work for Eduardo.

This is a series I need to read. So, I have purchased the prequel, Spark, and the other three books. I've added them all to my TBR list. That's a long list, so who knows when I'll get to them, but get to them I will. I strongly suggest you get to them as well.

Happy Birthday, Princess

The Dawn Warrior
Dawn Book #1
Ginny O (GoodReads Author)
Self-pub, Mar 21, 2017
Kindle ed, 289 pages
Genre(s) Fantasy
Source Author

Other books in this series: not available yet

Synopsis:  
A fateful birthday. Sleeping curses. True love's kiss? Two kingdoms in the balance. Great destinies shouldn’t be like this. Cursed at her cradle, the exiled Princess Roxana has spent almost five years trying to find the witch responsible. And now her time is running out.

Warrior and magician, Princess Roxana has spent the beginning of her adult life helping others escape their curses by dealing with the evil magicians that cast them. Now it’s past time that she dealt with her own fateful curse. Nearing twenty-one, the curse will fall whether she wants it to or not. Neither she, nor her only companion, Gorlouis, a fire dragon, can stop it. She needs to find the witch or find her fairy godmother before her birthday.

With magic involved there is no such thing as coincidence. The witch that cursed her hasn’t been idle. She’s about to curse and ensnare another young baby princess. It’s up to Roxana to stop the witch and save the child. Whether the people want her to or not.

And to make matters worse, cursed monsters are attacking villages. Heading the hunt is Prince Marcellus, Roxana’s betrothed. Tall, dark, handsome and arrogant, he thinks she’d be better off in skirts and out of his way. He knows nothing of her curse. She thinks he’ll just slow her down. True love is not in the offing.

Roxana feels responsible for the monsters and will hunt them down with or without Marcellus’ help. Even if that means she risks becoming one of them. There aren’t any moments to waste. She’s running out of time.


About the Author:  
I’m an Adult Sci Fi/Fantasy writer without any fancy degrees, just an abiding passion and a lot of experience pounding away at the keyboard. I love reading and I love writing. Reading is an addiction and writing is a disease. (If you don’t believe me, ask Robert Heinlein. Go on. I’ll wait.) My third grade teacher read us The Hobbit and Mossflower with voices and started my addiction to the written word. He is awesome. Redwall, Star Wars, Dragon Riders of Pern and about anything Mercedes Lackey were my comfort reads of choice in high school.

I love back rubs, cuddles and action movies. Yes, Action Movies. What is not to love? Man eye candy, gratuitous explosions and no need to think too much. I think too much already, sometimes I just want to turn my brain off, thank you very much.


My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free ecopy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
This was a magical story for me. It's what I call a fairy re-tale of Sleeping Beauty. So, you know the underlying story line. It does take a few detours from the original story, though and they are quite original and full of surprises.

My absolute favorite character is Gorlouis, the dragon. He's 400-years old in dragon years, which is about a 14-year old boy in human years. So, he never wants anyone to talk about love or sex around him. He's very squeamish about it. But he's also Roxana's best friend and he's very good at it.

Roxana is having a tough time and time is running out for her. She's been running around helping everyone with their curses, but no one can help her with hers. We get a lovely ringside seat at one of her rituals. And it's absolutely wonderful! Roxana and Gorlouis have hooked up with Prince Marcellus and his knights and they are trying to stop the spread of the "wolf-man" virus in the neighborhood. So, Roxana is going to treat everyone at one time in a large ring rather than one-by-one. The use of that much magic will flatten her, but it should be better than doing it again and again and again.

The author take us through each step of the preparation of the circle with the layers of sun and moons and the tree of life. We see the branches woven together. The butterflies are bound to the circle as well. Candles are set at important points around the circle. Then each infected person has their finger pricked for a drop of blood and steps into the circle. Then Roxana gathers her final tools and her magic within her to start her ritual. The author paints a picture that you can see in your mind of the moons and the sun rising behind the tree. The butterflies flittering in the soft glow as they rise in their column. The pretty flowers that have been provided for them to eat while they are confined. I can't paint the same picture, but Ginny certainly does in the book. It is beautiful! I found the details of the Cleansers' magic incredible.

I certainly didn't expect the ending. But I can't say anymore or that would be a spoiler, and I don't do that if I can help it. So, you will just have to get this fun book and read it for yourself while I go harass Ginny about the ending and what's in the next book!

  

Aloha!

Beach Happens
Hawaii Heat #2
Jamie K. Schmidt (GoodReads Author)
Self-pub, Aug 31, 2016
ebook, 224 pages
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance
Source Author
Other books in this series: Life's a Beach #1

Synopsis
Attorney Michaela Harris is on her honeymoon—Alone. After being jilted at the altar, she takes off to Maui, only to lose her luggage and be stranded without a hotel room, thanks to her ex-fiancé canceling the reservation. The sympathetic staff at the Palekaiko Beach Resort look the other way when Michaela makes a deal to stay in a room that’s being renovated until a better one is available. She hits the surf to forget about her problems, but when she encounters a shark, she wonders if things will ever get better.

Billionaire Marcus Kincaide is about to lose his resort. No renovations will turn this around, not with his arch enemy out to destroy him. Marcus has got to keep his head in the game, but the mysterious and pretty wahine in the teeny bikini he rescued from a shark is filling his mind with desires that demand his attention. He figures a hot, intense and short affair is in order so he can get back to the business of saving his livelihood. What he didn’t figure was falling for her and giving his enemy just what he needs to take him down.


About the Author:  
USA Today Bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt is a hybrid author who has over thirty short stories published in small press and ezines, and a variety of novellas and books online. Her Club Inferno series from Random House has been in Amazon's top 100 ebooks sold and Barnes and Noble's top 10. She has a dragon paranormal romance series at Entangled Publishing. Book one of the Emerging Queens series is The Queen's Wings.

Jamie holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz in Secondary Education English, which is a fancy way of saying she went to college to teach high school English. When that didn't pan out, she worked as a call center manager, a Tupperware consultant, a paralegal, and finally a technical writer for a major conglomerate company. She is an active member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA). When not writing, Jamie relaxes with a mug of hot tea and knits or makes beaded jewelry. 


You can reach her at Twitter: @jamiekswriter or at her website www.jkschmidt.com 

My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
This is another of those books with that wonderful blue on the cover that always catches my eye. Covers like that just have to be read! I'm so glad that Ms. Schmidt agreed to let me read it. It was wonderful, too.

The book starts out with Michaela, our heroine, getting jilted at the altar. The groom is two hours late and not answering his phone. They've already checked the hospitals.

Well, Gerald, the groom, is a totally nasty one. I won't go into all the details because that would mean spoilers. Just trust me, he's nasty start to finish. Totally oblivious, too.

Michaela's a lawyer and doesn't really act much like a lawyer other than one time. I think maybe she could have been more helpful to Marcus and Amelia with the resort and their problems. But I'm not the author, I'm just the reviewer.

But, Michaela and Marcus (her knight in shining armor!) are really fun once they get going! Life's given Michaela the short straw, but she's making the best of it in a big way. Marcus can't concentrate because she's wandering around in her tiny white bikini. And there are times I just wanted to slap Marcus, the Kahuna.

They go surfing and have a great time. She goes snorkeling, too. They have shark scares a couple of times. There's a bit of violence, but not much. There's sex, and it's hot. The writing is really good. Overall, this is a great book to take to the beach or out by the pool or wherever you may be reading this summer. It's a really fun read.

Knight Fever Series by Alexa Dare

Knight's Journey
Vampire's Quest
Knight Fever series prequel and book one
Alexa Dare (GoodReads Author)
Towering Pines Publishing, Apr 2017
Kindle ed, KJ 58 pages, VQ 193 pages
Genre(s) Paranormal Romance
Source Author

Other books in this series: not available yet

Synopsis
A knight’s journey and a woman's fate set in motion. Troubled pasts lead to a passionate present. What desires does the future hold?

Journeys to knighthood and to womanhood feature Ryderholt, Son of Jud, & Jess Willowbrook, as destiny conspires to bring the vampire knight and the touch healer together as fated mates in Knight’s Journey, Vampire’s Quest Prequel. And the story is continued in Vampire's Quest.

Steamy. Light swearing. High heat. Unique, refreshing, edgy vampire romance, shifter romance, and fated mate romance.


About the Author
Author Alexa Dare, with the oversight of the Jellicle Three (Jasmine, Lightning, and Stormy of feline persuasion), pens time travel and paranormal romance the way she likes to read them: sensual, adventurous, memorable. Along with spending time with her happily-ever-after alpha outdoorsman, Alexa cozies up at home—when not devoting her time to writing and bringing sexy romances to readers—with movies, popcorn, and triple chocolate cupcakes, not necessarily in that order.

For new releases, sneak peeks, and exclusives, sign up for Alexa's New Release Notification newsletter.

Dare to Desire!


My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of each of these books by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
I'm reviewing the two books as one because they blend seamlessly. The author has done a wonderful job of taking the ancient warrior vampires from their making to their last quest for the sacred relics they must find before they can be free of the spell Merlin set on them...and maybe be human again.

There are thirteen of them. And each of them has a great name worthy of an ancient warrior who's survived down through the ages. So, I'm taking a chance here and thinking that each one will have his own story? This first one is about Ryderholt Judson or Ryder. He's the captain of their band, which for now is traveling as a motorcycle club. It seems fitting. They're now in East Tennessee getting ready for each of them to go off on their individual quests for the relics. And fated mates. Ryder's quest is focused in this area.

Also in this area is a small group of young women with some unusual talents. Olivia Trudeau is their self-proclaimed leader. But this is Jess Willowbrook's story. Jess is a touch-healer. She's also a traveling nurse. She hides her talent within her job, but the locals still call her a witch. Some in a nice way, others not so nice. It's the not-so-nice ones giving the gals trouble right now and Ryder is willing to help deal with the trouble if Jess can keep him healed up long enough to fight. He has his own evils dogging his trail, too. 

Ryder finds his relic and Jess gets him healed up. The women find a secret in their mountain worth keeping secret. The local bad guys get taken down, but the magical bad guys take off to bother the other knights. I'm sure we'll meet them in other books. I suspect some of the knights will end up coming back to East Tennessee since we still have five other witches as yet unclaimed. And Ryder and Jess will be using this as their home base.

The writing was very good and the sex was well-done. There was violence, but it was fitting for the book. My one comment is that there are no down times, no normal times. They are always on full alert, charging full ahead dealing with trouble. It would be nice to hear at least one normal conversation.  

FREE! Book One of the Callaway Series!


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From #1 NY Times Bestselling Author, Barbara Freethy comes a romantic, contemporary series about the Callaways, a big, blended Irish family born to serve and protect. 


The second oldest of the Callaway clan, Aiden Callaway veered from the family tradition of urban firefighting and became a smokejumper, never questioning his choice until the job took the life of his friend, Kyle, and left Aiden with injuries and fractured memories. Everyone blames Aiden for what happened, but he doesn't remember, nor is he sure he wants to remember. The truth may clear Aiden of blame but destroy Kyle's reputation and hurt the people he left behind. 
 


Aiden seeks help from an unlikely ally … 
 


Sara had always been untouchable, sweet, innocent, his sister's best friend, and the girl next door. But one reckless night in their youth took their relationship to a new level. Sara has never forgiven or forgotten the way Aiden brought it crashing down, but she's no longer that girl with the crazy crush. She's a woman in search of her own truth.

The sparks between Aiden and Sara have been smoldering for a very long time. Sara is afraid to take another chance on a man who broke her heart, and Aiden knows better than anyone how dangerous an intense fire can be.

As teenagers, they weren't ready for each other. Are they ready now?

Short and Sweet

The Post-it Note Affair
A Romance Novelette of Love Lost and Found
Justine Avery (GoodReads Author)
Self-pub, Sep 19, 2015
Kindle, 38 pages
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance
Source Author

Synopsis:
Emily really can't complain. She's married to a wonderful man, her high school sweetheart, who still dotes on her as he did when he first laid eyes on her. They have a beautiful home together, and they each enjoy successful careers. On the outside looking in, Emily has what any woman would be perfectly happy with.

But it's just not enough. Emily can't help wishing for just a bit more—for that special spark, for that thrill of something new and surprising, for the shivery tingles running down her spine. For real passion—for true romance.

She never expects to find it during the workday and definitely not in the form of a sticky note.

Just one square slip of paper with a few handwritten words, tucked mysteriously into the contents of her purse and dropped right into her small world, marks the first of a slew of sexy surprises Emily couldn't have anticipated no matter how hard she wished for them. She's desperately sought after every one of the special moments in store for her, and there's no question that she deserves them.

Even as Emily eagerly anticipates and thoroughly savors all of the excitement and mystery of what may come, she just can't guess the roller coaster of emotions she's soon to experience—or just how much it will change her.

And she may never guess just who—is leading her on the romantic adventure of her dreams.

Just when she feels she's lost the life and love she most wants to have, she finds them—in the last place she'd ever think to look.


About the Author:
Justine Avery Is a Genre-Transcender, a Writer of Delicious Story Above All Else. Justine Avery is an avid reader of all genres, weaves her own stories among them all, and sets out to surprise her readers at every opportunity. She's an acutely observant introvert with an insatiable yearning to explore, a risk-taker who's based in reality, a wanderer with a mission, and a grown up blessed with childlike wonder at the world. Her stories reflect the same, and readers can't get enough of them.

Avery writes genre-transcending fiction with universal appeal, emphasizing enticing story above all else. She writes powerful, affecting stories accessible to all readers, regardless of what your own favorite genres happen to be. She writes the tales all readers are drawn to, the stories capable of changing your view of the world around you, the narratives that will become a part of you.


My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
High school, college and into first jobs all with the same man. That's a growing time for people, couples. Things change and then things start to settle into a routine for the years. Oh dear, that sounds dreary, doesn't it? It doesn't have to be. Men, in particular, can settle into routines, while women tend to still want romance. That's why we have created such a market for romance novels!

Emily wants something she can't seem to convey to Stephen and she's stopped trying. Then there's the tiny sticky note in her purse. Who put it there? It's all so exciting and she feels wonderful and feminine and excited.

There's a new guy at work, too. He's really good looking and he seems to be flirting with her. Is it her imagination?

When things fall apart and she needs to feel safe and loved, there's only one place to be.

This little story packs a punch. Ms. Avery has really done an excellent job of putting those emotions out there on the page for you to feel right along with Emily. It's marvelous! Wish it were longer, and yet perhaps the beauty of it is the fact that it's such a small gem of a story. Definitely, a sweet summer read!

The Hellearth Saga Book #1

The Last Archangel
The Hellearth Saga #1
Trevor Gates (GoodReads Author)
Self-pub, May 24, 2017, also in paperback
Kindle ed, 736 pages
Genre(s) dystopian adult fantasy, horror
Source Author

Other books in this series: The Infernal Descent (not yet available)

Synopsis
The seas run rotten, polluted by the flesh of millions... The skies grow black and the land barren with grief... The dunes of sand stained with the blood of the damned...in the midst of the Apocalyptic War, Hell and its forces have consumed the Earth in an unprecedented chain of events, perpetuated by Mankind's own evil endeavors. Out of the chaos descended Earth's final hope for salvation: The Archangels. Among them is the young knight Adrian Evangelista, destined for glory but fearful of what will come of him in Humanity's most dire time of need. With the legions of Hell swarming the globe, Adrian must decide what sacrifices he will have to make to ensure his survival as he treads through the wastelands of betrayal, pestilence, greed, lust, war, and death. This version includes new cover artwork by Trevor Gates, as well as additional & extended chapters, and a special sneak preview of the second book in the series, THE INFERNAL DESCENT. This is the brutal, definite, uncensored cut of THE LAST ARCHANGEL: BOOK I OF THE HELLEARTH SAGA, the adult Apocalyptic Fantasy series almost too metal for mere mortals.

About the Author:  
From the mind and soul of TREVOR GATES (AKA The infamous Mr. Gates): A roguish cynic, hopeless romantic, passive idealist, grunge monkey, space hippie, classy occultist, greaser casanova, barbaric weaver of words, He-who-rocks-the-kasbah, heavy metal slave, goth in the closet, and lover of the surreal.

My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
This book is definitely for those over 18. Actually, I don't think an age limit is the only warning it should have. It should also have a warning for Gratuitous Graphic Sex Gore. At 93% in the book, there is a scene that really isn't necessary. We already understand the guy is sick. This just went too far. So, for those of you who are squeamish, take a pass on this one.

The storyline is good. The whole idea of one last Archangel helping to fight the demons of Hell is awesome. And no trip in the park, either. I understand that. The characters were not as developed as I would have liked. Adrian, of course, is the one who is the most developed. The rest of them were rather two-dimensional for the most part. But there were so many characters, and they passed in and out of Adrian's life, that they didn't really have time to be more than what they were. Like I said, some were a bit more developed than others.

Why do authors write a whole book using big words when small, simple words will get their point across just as well? Then, they can use the big words when it really counts, when they want to emphasize something and really make a point. I've seen this a couple of times lately and again in The Last Archangel. The author uses exaggerated forms of words throughout the book, so, that when he would really like to make a point and the big words would be useful, the reader is tired of seeing the exaggerated forms and doesn't feel the raised tension in the situation. It becomes commonplace and boring. It's when I feel like an author is writing with a thesaurus or writing list.

I cannot stress to independent authors enough that their money is not wasted when they put it into editorial services. Such services could save many a book from reviews such as this. I simply cannot recommend this book.

It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.

A Bucket Full of Awesome
Zainab T. Khan
Publisher & 2015
Kindle ed, 184 pages, also nook and paperback
Genre(s)
Source Author

Synopsis:
"Reasonable things will never bring you joy as much as unreasonable ones do."

Summer Wallace is a wild, crazy girl who simply couldn't care less about her appearance. She strongly believes in the saying, "You Only Live Once", in teenage subculture also known as YOLO. She plays basketball like her life depends on it. Well, it sort of does, she loses one game and there's a dent in her ego, not a small one either.

Meet Blake Walker, her best friend, and her partner-in-crime. Saner of the two, however, together they can turn a rather normal, boring day to a momentously crazy one. But one day changes the course of their lives which leads Summer to make a 'bucket list' and complete it before her whole life takes an 180 degree. Whereas, Blake is determined to keep her as long as he can. And he is perfect for the job. After all, he does know her more than anyone else. And they have no room for regrets. As Summer Wallace says, "There shouldn’t be any space for regrets in our beautiful lives.”


About the Author:
"I promise if you keep searching for everything beautiful in this world you will eventually become it." - Tyler Kent White

Hello, you beautiful person.
The only thing you need to know about is my favorite book boyfriends (Yes, boyfriend(s), deal with it. We all have them.) Jesse de Silva, Maxon Schreave, and Flynn Rider (he's a fictional character too) and of course Adrian Ivashkov. Oh, how I wish I could resist them. But, David 'Tag' Taggert has my heart. Sorry, you four gorgeous guys.

"Negativity isn't the way to go, smile more, eat some chocolate."
- Ed Sheeran.

(And I also love him, maybe more than the above-mentioned guys.) 


My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review
The reviews for this book are all over the place, literally all up and down from 1 to 5 stars. From people who couldn't even finish reading the book to those who couldn't say enough about it and wanted more of it. So I really wasn't sure what to expect from it. Plus, it's a YA book written by a young woman whose first language is not English. Hmmm.

Well, I gave it 4 stars. Yes, it does need an editor and it probably is due to the fact that the author's first language is not English. Other than that, I really found nothing much wrong with this book.

One person said she couldn't like this book because she couldn't like Summer. She was rude and not even nice to those close to her. Summer is a young woman who has just been told she has lung cancer. So, what did you do on your summer vacation? Well, I fought lung cancer. Yeah. She's a bit rough around the edges and speaks sort of tough. She's given up swearing for the duration of her cancer. And yes, she does come off as rude. But she's unsure and defensive and it's all a front because she's so scared.

I loved Blake, Summer's best friend and getting better. He really is a knight in shiny armor. He's so supportive of her throughout the whole ordeal. And I loved the idea of the bucket list as the supporting structure for all the fun and hijinks. It leads to some really wonderful surprises and friendships.

I can't recommend this highly enough to anyone who needs a good cry. Yes, you will cry.




Legends of Dimmingwood Book One

Magic of Thieves
Legends of Dimmingwood, Book 1
C. Greenwood
Self-pub, Nov 27, 2012
Kindle ed, 191 pages, also available in paperback and audible
Genre(s) Dystopian Fantasy, YA
Source Author's newsletter

Other books in this series: Betrayal of Thieves, Circle of Thieves, Redemption of Thieves, Journey of Thieves, and Rule of Thieves

Synopsis:  
In a province where magic is forbidden and its possessors are murdered by the cruel Praetor, young Ilan, born with the powerful gift of her ancestors, has only one hope for survival. Concealment. In the shadow of Dimmingwood, she finds temporary protection with a band of forest brigands led by the infamous outlaw Rideon the Red Hand.

But as Ilan matures, learns the skills of survival, and struggles to master the inherent magic of her dying race, danger is always close behind. When old enemies reappear and new friendships lead to betrayal, will her discovery of an enchanted bow prove to be Ilan’s final salvation or her ultimate downfall?


About the Author:  
USA Today bestselling author C. Greenwood started writing stories shortly after learning her ABCs and hasn't put down her pen since. After falling in love with the fantasy genre more than a decade ago, she began writing sword and sorcery novels. The result was the birth of her best-known works, the Legends of Dimmingwood series. In addition to her writing, Ms. Greenwood is a wife and mom and a graphic designer.

My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author's newsletter. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
C. Greenwood is one smart lady! She has hooked up with a fantastic artist for her cover art and kept the cover art consistent through all of the Dimmingwood books. Too many self-published authors don't have great cover art and don't stay consistent with the art or look of their books throughout a series or related series. The eye-catching art created by Michal Gauss has served her well in the marketplace and been worth whatever it cost. It has given her instant identification early on.

Writing in first-person makes book one a bit of a diary type piece, but the drama of the story carries it through. I mean, Dad goes back to stall the Praetor's Fist so that you and Mom can escape. Then Mom goes back to stall them so you can escape. Then you're attacked and taken away. Raised in the woods. You literally stumble across a magic bow in a barn. All this time you are wandering around with a little flame of magic in you that you don't quite know how to use. And you're the only female in a male environment.

There's good pacing throughout the story letting you take in the details you need to absorb. There's not a lot of scenery, but there's plenty of action and dialogue. The ending isn't exactly a cliffhanger, but it does lead you towards book two rather firmly. And there were enough loose ends in the book to make you want to find out what happened to this or that. Personally, I'd like to locate Hadrian. And I think Ilan would, too. I'd like to know more about the magical bow. And I'd like to know about Ilan's magic and see her learn to use it. It's frustrating to her as it is. And, of course, the words on her mother's brooch. Those need to be explained, too.

The fact that the titles of this series all have the word "thieves" in them tells me that Ilan doesn't really ever cut her ties with the band in the woods. Is it still Rideon the Red Hand in charge through all this? And is Terran still with the thieves? Or does he ever get his chance to train as a priest?

I was confused by the number of two-star reviews for this book. I'm not sure what these people were looking for when they read it. But it has an interesting storyline and plenty of action. It definitely sets itself up well to continue into the series the author has obligingly written for us. I feel it is well-deserving of the 4 stars I gave it. And I am looking forward to reading more of the series. The cover art is so appealing, I would get it to see more of that! I wish more authors paid such attention to this important detail.

I wholeheartedly recommend this young-adult fantasy book to you and feel sure that you and I will both be reading the whole series in time.



Asking Bestio for advice? Maybe not.

Bittersweet Sanctuary
The Bittersweet Series Book #1
TaM D'Lyte
Self-pub, Feb 28, 2017, Kindle ed, 317 pages
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance, Debut Novel
Source Author

Other books in this series: coming soon 

Synopsis:  
Putting her black ops past in the rear view mirror, Terese hit the road like a modern-day gypsy, pounding along the asphalt highway, staying nowhere long enough to be found. She’d saved a few lives . . . and took a few that needed taking. The death, the blood, the dirty deeds, stored in a corner of her mind she never visited. But there was one life she couldn't save that would never go into that dark corner. That one was constantly there, day and night, that small face looking up at her.

And then Alex. The man who wanted her, loved her, struggled to understand her, but above all, offered something to her she’d never had . . . a normal life. How could she allow someone like Alex into the mortal peril that pursued her? He’d be eaten alive.

She’d only failed the one mission. But it had been the most important one. Can she forgive herself for the evil of others? Only second chances will tell . . .


NOTE: Intended for 18+ due to child endangerment; swearing; explicit sexual content; not a cozy story . . . at all!

About the Author:  
When I was seven, I was bored. That happened a lot when I was a kid since I’m an only child! :) I whined to my dad, “I’m bored!” His response, with a magnanimous wave of a hand, “There’s a bookcase. Go get a book.” So, I grabbed the biggest, brightest book there (a college biology book) and began from the beginning. It took a long time, a looong time to finish that book. Never one to do anything by halves, I wanted to be an actress, a vet and an astronaut--simultaneously, of course--but decided to be a horse trainer instead. (Really? A horse trainer? Yes, what of it?) No, I’m not a horse whisperer. A horse doesn’t care what you whisper at it. A horse wants apples, carrots, and cookies. Especially cookies. Just like people. ;) I’m also not a cowgirl (cows scare me!) and I don’t race my horses. Sigh . . . I’ve heard it all a million times! LOL Anyways, my mom was a reader, books tucked everywhere around my childhood home, and my dad was a writer, little half-finished stories under the coffee table and between the cushions. I’ve acquired both habits on a grander scale (remember, nothing by halves? LOL) and have boxes of books above your head filling up a whole room and my computer hard drive filled up with bits and bytes of half-finished stories. It’s a disease, I kid you not! 

My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
This is such a great book! The characters are fairly well developed and you get a bit more insight into things as you go along. There is obviously a lot in Terese's background that's dark and scary and that she really doesn't want to talk about, but it may not stay in her past.

I absolutely love Bestio. He's the perfect touch. A really great sidekick for Terese. He's beautiful, well cared-for, and well-school. It was such a touching scene and revealed so much about her feelings for children when she gave rides to all those children. And Alex watches the whole scene. Later on, he asks Bestio for advice! Not that it does him any good.

The relationship between Alex and Nick was great, too. The solidity of it gave Alex the security to take chances. I love Nick's loyalty.

The way the author wrote scenes was awesome. So very descriptive that you could see it all. You weren't just being told what was going on, you could see it as it happened. That window scene was so dramatic. I felt like I watched it in slow motion.

And now there's Malice. What part did he play in her past and what does he plan to do now? I have to read the second book, obviously. I suggest you get started on book one and I'll go find out when the second one is due out.




Typically a Female Written Genre...

Eccentric Intimacy:
Love Like a Fairy Tale
Adam Lynch
Self-Pub, May 1, 2017
Kindle ed, 252 pages, also available in paperback
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance, Christian
Source Author

Synopsis
He’s no normal person—but that’s what intrigues her the most. And he likes the fact that he can’t deduce everything about her at first glance. She does things that aren’t recognizable—simply because these things are original. There’s something about these two that makes the other curious—and that curiosity is what unconsciously keeps them together longer than they’ve ever been with anyone else before. 

They share dreams of old-fashioned romances, but as irresistible as they find each other, can they wait that long? What about trust when their relationship gets more intimate? Can she accept vulnerability in exchange for the love that he wants to give her? And can he be patient with her when she starts doing insensible things that he doesn’t understand? Are they really meant to be like the universe keeps suggesting, or is all this a wishful fairy tale in their own minds?

About the Author:  
No information is available.

My Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book by the author. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
Writing a romance novel is not an easy thing. Ask any of the many women who write them. Very rarely do you see a man take on the task. It's typically a female written genre. I think that perhaps it should stay that way.

The story line of this book was easy enough to follow, but the way the story was told, was absolutely crazy. The characters were not well developed. At least not well enough to survive what they went through. The story was choppy and the flow was broken up by all the preaching. The Christian aspect of it was totally overwhelming. I have never read a Christian novel with anywhere near so much preachiness in it. It came off as pompous and boastful. 

That suits the main female character quite well. She claims to be a Christian and an artist. She's rich and throws her money around to have her own way. She drinks more than she can handle on several occasions. She's often rude. She's very attractive and uses her looks to get her way. And she's a tease with men.

The description of the trip to Kenya, which should have been amazingly graphic, sounded like it had been written by a teenage girl in her diary and was being read back to us after the fact. It had no feeling in it. This was a place they were supposed to relate to passionately.

An editor is needed to handle the misuse of words and to tone down the aggrandizement of a lot of the words that were used. Simple straightforward words will serve better in many cases.

I'm sorry that I couldn't give this book a better rating. I had been looking forward to reading it for awhile. But the amount of sermonizing and the way the author handled the story simply didn't justify it in my mind. I've read romances of all types, Christian included. That's not to say that there isn't room for new things. But if I wanted a sermon, I'd go to church. When I want a romance to read, I open a book. Opening this one was definitely disappointing. I simply cannot recommend it.







  

The Final Book in the Grimoire Saga

Illusion
Grimoire Saga #4
S.M. Boyce (GoodReads Author)
Kindle ed, 269 pages, Nov 2014
Also available in paperback and audiobook
Genre(s) Fantasy, Dystopian
Source Kindle

Other books in this series: Lichgates #1, Treason #2, Heritage #3

Synopsis:  
The final chapter in the war for Ourea ends with blood.

Kara Magari is an icon. A hero. The people love her. The royalty tolerates her. She has everything—an army, allies, and a close circle of chosen family. They believe she will end the war, and they shouldn’t. She’s as scared as they are. She just can’t show it.

The war she accidentally started ends with a final battle that will either save or enslave her people. She will do anything to win—until she learns the cost of victory.

Braeden Drakonin is afraid of what he’ll become when he takes over his father’s kingdom—that much authority can change a man. But his father has already tried to kill him more than once, and it’s time to end his reign. Braeden’s armies are ready. His strategy is foolproof. His generals are waiting for the order to attack. It’s only in the final seconds before the battle begins that he realizes he missed one crucial detail—the traitor. 


About the Author:  
S. M. Boyce is a lifelong writer with a knack for finding adventure and magic.

My Disclaimer:  I purchased this book for full price at Kindle Books. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don't know who said that, but they were right. And in this series you see it happen over and over again. Ms. Boyce has done a wonderful job of showing it time and time again. In so many of the characters, the power has done terrible things to them. Destroyed them. Even the best of them have had to battle against the pull of the power. Look at what Braedon has gone through to overcome the pull of his power just while he is a prince. Imagine what being a Blood will be like for him. And for Kara with her grandfather's legacy awoken, she has to wear the wrist guard just to keep it in check. Even then she is incredibly powerful. If she weren't also incredibly good, she could be as awful as some of the monsters in Ourea.

We've come down to the last book. The days before the big battle. Braedon and Kara are desperate for some time alone. They want to cement their relationship before events can possibly tear them apart. Things never go quite the same when you mix a human into yakona rites. But Kara has something that's uniquely their own that will make up for it.

The allies know they have a traitor, but they've been so busy they have sort of forgotten about that as they draw near to battle time. Now, as they march off to meet the enemy it occurs to Braedon, who is it and how will they interfere? Well, of course, they find out in a big way.

Each Blood has been assigned one of Kara's people for communications. All the armies are in place. Timing has been worked out for each to move. One by one the armies make their moves until the traitor makes a move that brings chaos to coordination. Can Kara, Braedon, and their forces counter the traitor's move? Will Braedon face his father and fight? And what comes after the war? Will there be peace? Who will be in charge?

Read this book, Illusion, Grimoire Saga #4, to find out the final answers.
-----------------------------------------
This completes my requirement for the COYER Can You Read A Series In A Month Challenge June 2017   
  

Who's the mistake and who's the murderer?

The Westing Game
Ellen Raskin
Speak (Penguin Books) 2004
Kindle ed, 204 pages, also available in hardcover, paperback, and audiobook
Genre(s) middle grade, puzzle-mystery
Source Kindle Books

Synopsis:  
A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

About the Author:  
Ellen Raskin was a writer, illustrator, and designer. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and grew up during the Great Depression. She primarily wrote for children. She received the 1979 Newbery Medal for her 1978 book, The Westing Game.

Ms. Raskin was also an accomplished graphic artist. She designed dozens of dust jackets for books, including the first edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time.

She married Dennis Flanagan, editor of Scientific American, in 1965. Raskin died at the age of 56 on August 8, 1984, in New York City due to complications from connective tissue disease.


My Disclaimer:  I purchased this book at full price at Kindle Books on Amazon. I am providing an honest review for which I am receiving no compensation of any kind. All opinions are fully my own unless otherwise stated.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review:  
My husband came home the other night and tossed a book on the loveseat next to me and said that his class was reading it and he thought I might like it. Mr. Easley teaches 6th grade. I thumbed through it and told him I'd take a look at it. As usual, he was right. I have to give him credit, he really is good at picking out books that might interest me.

This is a puzzle-mystery written by Ellen Raskin in 1978, She won a Newbery Award for it in 1979. Who am I to argue with the Newbery Award committee? I'm just the reviewer. I gave it an enthusiastic 5 stars.

If I had to choose a favorite character out of the sixteen, I'm not sure who it would be. One of them is a mistake. One of them is a murderer. A judge and a doctor. A track star. A secretary. A dressmaker and a Chinese cook. 

I'm sure Turtle is the usual choice. She's certainly the most outstanding character. But more than any one character, I loved the pairings. At first glance, the pairings didn't seem to work at all. How were these people to get along well enough to actually solve the riddles presented to them? 

What could possibly come of the pairing of Mrs. Hoo and Dr. Wexler? Mrs. Hoo didn't even speak English and all she thought about was returning to China and cooking the food ordered in the restaurant. Dr. Wexler was a podiatrist and married to social-climbing Grace. He's the father to Angela and Turtle. But Grace sees her husband as useless socially and so pays him little attention. Mr. Hoo pays Mrs. Hoo little attention also. She's his second wife and not content. As long as she cooks, he's not too worried about her. She has no friends and doesn't speak the language. Dr. Wexler is a caring man who likes to take care of people. So, each day Dr. Wexler has lunch at the restaurant and starts teaching Mrs. Hoo words in English. They become friends and both of them are happier. Simpatico! A very beneficial pairing. All the other pairings are the same way. Each member of the pairings finds something in their partner to benefit themselves.

Mr. Easley said that he liked the scene when the pairings were reshuffled the best. That's just like him. It's something he'd do with his students.

I preferred the ending scene when Turtle is saying her goodbyes and giving an update on what's what with everyone. It brought me to tears. I'm a sap for a sad scene.

Let's see what the students said about the book...

As far as favorite character goes it was Turtle with 14 out of 20 students choosing her. The fact that she is 14 and they are 11 and 12-year-olds may have something to do with their identification with her as well as her being such an active character. Mr. Easley says, "that makes her human in their eyes".

GA, a 6th-grade girl said, "I really liked the book. I couldn't put it down. I finished it the first day. I was very surprised that I had to work so hard to answer Mr. E's questions. I am now interested in reading more mysteries."

MP, a 6th-grade boy said, "I really enjoyed The Westing Game. It was fun and exciting. I was really mixed up with all the twists and turns. I really like Turtle the best. She was tough and smart."

Thank you for sharing this with me, Mr. Easley and Class! I think this is a book I can recommend for just about anyone of any age!