Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Underneath: a merfolk tale" by M.N. Arzu

As promised, here is the second review from my vacation reading. This one is a science fiction story involving merfolk. In this story, a man walking along a deserted beach comes across what he at first believes is a dead body wearing a fishtail costume. After calling 911, he realizes that the young man is still alive, and that the tail is actually part of his body and not a costume.

He records the encounter on his cellphone camera before the ambulance arrives to take the merman to the hospital. In the emergency room, it isn't long before the ER staff also realize the young man isn't human. They work to treat his injuries and save his life, though they don’t know how an apparent merman wound up injured and nearly dead, having washed up on the beach.

The merman clearly breathes air perfectly well, but where did he come from? Who was he? Was this his only form or could he somehow transform between merman and human? Were there others like him? Did they live among humans, in the ocean, or both? These were only some of the questions his discovery brought up.

Naturally, with a discovery such as this, government agencies and even the United Nations soon become involved. Ray (as the merman is called by his doctors) is transferred to an oceanic marine animal facility where he can be better (and more quietly) treated without the press printing stories and spreading rumors about a merman who was captured by the government is being held.

"Ray" is actually Christopher Brooks, the adopted son of the CEO of a tech company. His adopted family, like he himself, are merfolk who live quietly among the surface humans. They have the ability to transform between merfolk and human forms, although Christopher's tail injury has him currently trapped in his merman form until his tail can heal.

He also has another problem. The underwater city where a good portion of the merfolk reside has never been discovered or revealed to the human population, can he manage to keep the location a secret? Or will the scientists, the government officials, and the military men trying to study him get tired of his silence and move on to other methods to gain information from him before he can be rescued?

I liked this book. It was not merely a fantasy or a science fiction tale about the possibility of other forms of life besides our own. It was well thought out with believable reactions from all the characters involved, from the man who first found the merman to the family of the merman living among the humans. And while I do not have any type of medical knowledge or background myself, to me the actions and reactions of the various scientists, doctors, and military personnel involved seemed quite realistic as well.

This book is the first book in a series, though it does seem to work well enough as a stand alone novel for anyone simply wishing to read a single story. Will I continue on with the series? I haven't decided on that yet. I might at some point, but for now I think I will move onto something else for a bit. It was a good book, but not something I feel compelled to continue with right away.

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Cinder Heart: The Fairytale Prophecies" by Amy Linnabary

My apologies on the delay of new reviews. I have been on vacation and away from my computer, but I shall attempt to make up for the delay by posting reviews of the books I have read while we were gone. (With a little luck there should be at least a couple of reviews that I can post almost right away.)

This first post-vacation book review is about a book that I generally would describe as a "twisted fairy tale." It was based on the classic Cinderella tale with a few rather interesting twists. To begin with, we are introduced to a high school girl by the name of Gabriella (Gabby). As with the typical tale, she lives with her stepmother (Sybil Tremain) and two stepsisters (Deirdre and Ana). Her father is dead and Gabby is forced to work as a servant in her own home. However that is where most. though definitely not all, of the similarities end.

While Gabby is for all intents & purposes Cinderella, she also has started having her hands burst into flame when she gets angry. The very first time this happens is in the girls bathroom at school. Needless to say, this comes as quite an unpleasant surprise to Gabby as she has no idea how to control it.

Not long after that, one of Gabby's teachers reveals herself to be Gabby’s fairy godmother. It takes a minor display of magic to convince the high school senior of the truth of the whole situation so that she can begin to learn to control her newfound powers. This also comes with a warning that Gabby must keep everything secret as there are others like Gabby somewhere in the world whose lives also match the pattern of the classic fairy tales. Like Gabby, they will also have some type of power that they will need to learn to control as well as those who seek to find ways to use them for their own benefit once those powers are discovered.

One thing I will say that struck me as rather cheesy about the story was the fact that some of the scenes involving Gabriella’s mistreatment at the hands of her family felt almost as if they were lifted straight from the Disney cartoon. Other scenes were very different, but the ones that evoked the cartoon in my mind were just a little too obvious for my tastes.

Overall I found this a very interesting twist on a classic fairy tale and greatly enjoyed reading it. After all, a Cinderella with super powers? She could just as easily turn evil as she could be good. And with all that we know that Cinderella suffers at the hands of her stepfamily, who could blame her if she were to want to look out for herself first for a change? Also, what is to keep a fairy godmother from deciding to use her magic (as well as the powers of those she is meant to help) for her own benefit instead of helping those others?

There were a few spots in the book where the author could have used a good editor, but not enough to make me want to put the book aside and stop reading. The rest of the fairytale prophecies books should be an interesting series to read as well. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for the next one in the series.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"The Ruby Brooch" by Katherine Lowry Logan

Today I read the Time Travel Romance “The Ruby Brooch,” by Katherine Lowry Logan. The main character, Kitherina MacKlenna (Kit) survived a car crash on New Years Eve that killed both of her parents as well as her fiance. On this particular day, she received a letter that her father had left for her should something happen to him before he could tell her the tale of her birth himself.

It seems that Kit had been left on Sean MacKlenna’s doorstep, wrapped in a bloody shawl pinned with a ruby brooch. The brooch contained an inscription that when he read it aloud, magically transported Sean back to Independence, Missouri in the year of 1852. It took him some time living in the past before he was able to figure out how to return to his own time. When he returned home, it was with a woman named Mary that he had fallen in love with and married while living in 1852.

Sean and Mary raised Kit as their own, intending to explain everything they could about her origins to her when she was old enough, knowing that someday she would likely want to find her birth family. Kit grew up learning how to do everything that she would need to know in order to survive in the past. Being raised on a highly successful horse ranch was explanation enough for her to learn to ride, to shoot, to camp and cook on a campfire, and anything else that she would someday need to know if she chose to visit 1852 without having to explain to her why she was learning these things.

After doing her own research, Kit decides that she needs to go find out the truth for herself. She packs and loads a wagon with everything she thinks she will need, including a number of modern day medical supplies so that she will be prepared for any emergency she might find herself in (though she is careful to keep anything modern well hidden). As well as the medical supplies, she also hides a modern rifle with extra ammunition as she knows there will be dangers she will likely encounter that might require more than just the period pistol that she also carries.

I was very impressed with the amount of detail in this book. Clearly the author did her research on the time period that her main character visits. She included details such as a reference to the Donner party tragedy that took place around that time on the Oregon Trail. And while she is clearly a very talented writer who made certain that her book was as well edited as it was written, I did have one issue with this book that really disturbed me.

As a romance novel, I expected there to be sex scenes. (Yes there were, and yes, they were detailed enough to make the book inappropriate for younger readers.) I only had an issue with the scene where Kit loses her virginity. That scene was so problematic for me that I don’t even know how to explain my issues with it. I even handed the book to a friend and asked her to read that scene without telling her why. The expressions on her face told me that she found it as poorly done as I did. Oddly, this was the only sex scene that I had an issue with. The others were all very well done. (And yes, there were a good number of other sex scenes in the book. It was a romance novel, after all.)

Over all, I enjoyed this book for both the time travel and the romance aspects of the story. Would I be willing to read other books by this author? Yes, especially if they are as well researched and written as this one. (Although hopefully she does a better job describing any “first experiences” that her female characters may have in those books.)

If there are subjects or types of books that you would be interested in reading my reviews on, please feel free to leave a comment to let me know and I will try to include at least a few more of that type of book in future entries. Otherwise, you’re stuck reading about whatever I felt like reading that day. Regardless, I hope everyone is enjoying my reviews. Thank you for visiting my site and until next time!

Mom Kat

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Recoil: The Game is Real" by Joanne Macgregor

Today’s book, “Recoil: The game is Real”, takes place in what could be an alternate version of our world. Much of everything is the same, save for the fact that everyone keeps themselves very isolated from the people around them. At some point in the not too distant past, terrorists have attacked and set loose a deadly pandemic. There is currently still no cure and the disease is highly contagious. Those who catch it always die a slow and painful death. Because of this, most people tend to stay within their homes and wear protective gear when they must go outside or among others. School is attended online and most teenagers play in an online virtual reality game that involves different aspects of fighting terrorists to protect society.

In this book we follow a 16 year old girl by the name of Jinx E. Jones (Jinxy). JInxy plays a sniper in “the game.” In the beginning of the book, she wins a competition by “killing” the main terrorist and is offered a chance to attend a special training academy based on her in-game scores. There, she and others are trained physically & mentally based on their game specialties. For Jinxy, this feels like a wonderful opportunity as she has not gotten to spend much time with anyone other than her mother and brother since the beginning of the war. She soon proves herself to be an expert sniper, and along with the others attending the training camp, she graduates and is offered a position as a sniper shooting infected rats and other animals who are carriers of the plague.

While Jinxy is proud of her skill as a sniper, she doesn’t like the idea of actually killing anything. The other members of her squad soon manage to convince her that she will be helping to protect her family and other innocent citizens from these plague carriers. She eventually agrees to take the position, and does her best to harden her heart by telling herself that she is helping to save lives by shooting a few rats & other animals. Still, it bothers her much more than she likes to admit. And to make matters worse, being a sniper has cost her the love of another cadet. Once he found out what her specialty was, he broke up with her without any explanation. He wouldn’t even talk to her afterwards or explain what it was about her being a “ratter” that offended him so much.

Before long, her impressive skills bring her to the notice of the commander. “Sarge” begins trying to convince her that it is in everyone’s best interests for her to agree to accept missions involving killing infected humans to prevent the spread of the plague. When she hesitates, he takes her to visit an area hospital so that she can see for herself what happens to those who are infected. Again, though she is very upset at the idea of killing any living thing, she is convinced to accept this new assignment in the interest of protecting other innocent people.

She still doesn’t like the idea, but being young and impressionable, she is soon convinced that it is the right thing to do. Before long, they also manage to convince her to go on missions where she must assist in capturing terrorists themselves for interrogations. Again, she is not thrilled with the assignment but is convinced by the others that it is in the best interest of society as well as the best hope for protecting her family and everyone else. And finally, she manages to get her ex-boyfriend to talk to her. Realizing that she truly doesn’t know, he explains to her what is really going on...

I found this book somewhat disturbing because I could very easily see what happens in this story happening in the world today. (There is much more going on in the story than I explained here, but I don’t want to spoil the whole plot for you.) It is a very well written story and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels. This one really makes you think about whether or not something like this could really happen in today’s world. And if it did happen, how would it start?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Genevieve: Bride of Nevada" by Cynthia Woolf

Today I decided to indulge in a guilty pleasure of mine and read a Mail Order Bride novel. Why do I call it a guilty pleasure? Because just about every mail order bride book that I have read follows a pretty standard formula. 1) Something happens causing a young woman to need to relocate. Generally she doesn’t have a lot of money or options, so she winds up answering an advertisement in a newspaper from a man across the country who is looking for a wife. 2) She takes a long train ride to wherever her future husband lives and marries him the day she meets him. 3) There are usually a number of hardships or difficulties that they must endure and overcome together. And 4) Once they overcome these difficulties together, love wins out and their happy ending is ensured. There are a few variations of this from different authors, but in general that’s the standard formula. The book I chose for today was no different.

“Genevieve: Bride of Nevada” definitely counts as your standard Mail Order Bride novel. It’s one of a series of books that were written by a number of authors. In this series, there is a book for every state in the USA. This one focuses on Genny, a young woman who has just lost her job as a factory employee when the factory burns down. She answers an ad for a Mail Order Bride from a rancher in Nevada who was recently widowed and needs a wife to help him raise his two small children. The problem she encounters after she meets him is that he doesn’t intend for it to be a “real” marriage. His wife had died in childbirth and he is unwilling to let himself love another woman and risk losing her that way as well. And no “real” marriage means that there will never be any more children and no risk of losing someone else.

As she really has no other options at that point, Genny agrees and marries Stuart. She falls instantly in love with his children, and they are almost as quickly in love with her. Then she discovers that her new husband intends to share a bed with her, though there will be no physical intimacy between them. (Remember, he’s not willing to risk his heart or to father more children.) Unfortunately for Genny, she truly wishes to have children of her own in addition to the two of Stuart’s that she is helping to raise. As expected, she falls in love with a husband who keeps pushing her away.

Next comes the expected obstacle they must overcome. Genny, realizing that she loves her husband, but miserable over his unwillingness to return her feelings and make their marriage a “real” one, packs her few belongings, leaves her wedding ring behind, and returns to the nearby town. She hates leaving the children, (the youngest of which had just that day started calling her mama), but she can’t remain as nothing more than a caretaker and housekeeper. Back in town, she takes a job waitressing at the hotel restaurant in the hopes that she might at least be able to see the two children once in a while.

I’m not going to go into further detail as to what happens next. After all, I don’t want to give the whole story away. I’ve mentioned already that this book follows the standard formula for Mail Order Bride stories, so you can pretty much guess at what will happen. Several times this book did make me tear up, sometimes due to sadness and others at happy moments. (The subject is one of my guilty pleasures, after all). There were a couple of spots that could have been slightly better edited, but overall it wasn’t bad. It was a very quick book to read. I finished it in less than a day, and as expected, I did enjoy it. Hopefully you will too.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Netopia" by Y.G. Levimor

Okay, so this is another book that I had to give up on before I even reached the halfway point. I really wanted to like it since the concept of the story was very interesting, but the more I read, the less I wanted to keep reading. Eventually I just reached a point where I decided that I just couldn’t take it any longer and had to quit.

This book seemed to be set in a futuristic world where you could connect to one person or to many through a sort of mental internet. (Sounds interesting so far, doesn’t it?) Everything about your living space can look however you want it to look, from your furniture, to the view from your living space, and even to your clothing. Since you rarely have to leave your living space, it doesn’t even matter if you wander around all day in your underwear or in nothing at all. Anyone you connect with through “Minds” will see you however you want to be viewed.

Even physical relationships can take place in this virtual world, and your avatars can look like whatever you desire. You can also genetically design your own children. Though it would appear that sometimes the computer program helping you to design your child might not catch a “bug” in the programming that causes unintentional and unfortunate results. These “accidents” don’t usually appear until the child is several years old; clearly far too late to correct the problem. (That program was quickly shut down and children went back to being conceived and born the natural and old-fashioned way.) One of the more disturbing parts here involved the creator of the child design software secretly wishing he could collect all the unfortunate results of his program and kill them all off.

What really lost my interest in this book was when it often seemed to degenerate into gratuitous, graphic sex. I don’t mind when sex scenes fit with the story, but here they were just starting to devolve into random encounters that the author would throw in when it appeared that he felt he needed one. Since the two participants didn’t even need to be in a room together, they often were set as fantasy encounters designed by the participants to amuse themselves. This is definitely not a book for younger readers. A few of these encounters were more than enough for me.

I’m sure there are those out there who might enjoy this book, I just don’t happen to be one of them. My apologies for another incomplete review, but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish this book. I tried, but I kept finding myself getting distracted and wandering off to do other things with little desire to return to reading it. Eventually I just had to admit that I really wasn’t enjoying it and didn’t want to continue. My apologies for anyone who may have been looking forward to a full review of this book.

Please feel free to leave me any comments on any of my reviews. So far, while I’m sure that at least some of you are coming back and reading my opinions, no one has given me any feedback. Hopefully you’re enjoying what I’m saying about the books I’ve read and reviewed. And with a little luck, maybe some of my reviews are helping you find something to read that you might not have picked up otherwise.

Happy reading!
Mom Kat

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Royal Replicas" by Michael Pierce

This time around, I chose a sci-fi/fantasy novel that takes place in the Kingdom of Westeria. Westeria appears to be technologically slightly ahead of our time with a touch of old world royalty thrown in. It is ruled by a queen whose heir and daughter has not been seen in public in close to a decade. It’s well known in the kingdom that the Princess Amelia has always been very ill, though she is being treated and rumored to be getting better.

The story is told from the perspective of a girl by the name of Victoria. She is being raised by a family, and it seems unclear if she is merely a servant (as she is treated as one) or a member of their family. (She has a governess and is expected to learn much the same things as the two daughters of the household.)

One thing I do need to mention here, as a warning, is that the main character of this book is physically abused by the man raising her, and it does happen more than once throughout the book. While there doesn’t seem to be any sexual abuse involved, the man doing the beatings clearly seems to take pleasure in causing her a great deal of pain as punishment for any perceived fault. He also forces his two daughters to participate in the beatings as well. It is clear that his wife is aware of this abuse, though she never seems to do anything to try to stop it or to protect any of the girls from her husband’s temper and beatings. For many readers, this may be enough to cause them to want to avoid this book.

The premise of this story is that Victoria, as well as 6 other girls scattered across the kingdom, are clones of the Princess Amelia. None of them were aware of their heritage, nor had they any reason to suspect they were anything other than ordinary girls. Then one day, a message arrives from the capital summoning them all to the castle. The girls learn that they are each clones of the sick princess. They are told that the princess had died several years earlier and that one of them would be chosen to take her place, would be married to the Prince from the neighboring country, and would someday become the next queen of Westeria.

The girls are given 4 weeks to get to know the prince and to try to win his heart. Only one of them can become Princess Amelia, but what will happen to the other 6 clones who aren’t chosen for the role? After all, while their personalities differ from each other, they are all physically identical. It was known that the queen only had one child, so there can only be one chosen to take the place of the dead princess. What will they do with the 6 extra girls once the prince has chosen the one he wishes to marry? And what happens when Victoria accidentally discovers the secret room in the basement where the crippled, but still very much alive, real Princess Amelia has been locked away and begins visiting her?

The book is well written, and despite the issue of the abuse from one of the chosen parents, it is an interesting concept. It does, however, end with a cliffhanger. The sequel is due out in October, so anyone choosing to read this book will have to wait for a few months before they can find out what happens to the original Amelia and the cloned princesses. I will admit to being curious as to what will happen next, though I am as yet uncertain whether I will seek out book two in the series or not.

"Underneath: a merfolk tale" by M.N. Arzu

As promised, here is the second review from my vacation reading. This one is a science fiction story involving merfolk. In this story, a ...