The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling


The Part That Doesn’t Burn by Sam Poling
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (319 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

In an overpopulated city-state where technology and magic are forbidden by the corrupt church, young witch, Mirabel Fairfax, plots the creation of a deadly plague to cull the burdensome rabble. That is, until she falls in love with the very alchemist she has been deceiving. Now, with soul-hungry geists flooding the city, the church scrambling for their prey, and her own mind at war with itself, Mirabel must decide what she’s fighting for before she loses everything to the evils of Autumnfall.

The Part that Doesn’t Burn is a fun romp filled with adventures as Mirabel Fairfax and Felix Eggland travel across the country…and, in the meantime, learn more about each other and are changed by each other.

The story is mostly Mirabel and Felix’s story, although we do also get the POV of the church through the eyes of the young priestess who is chasing them—I actually liked her and found her surprisingly sympathetic as she tried to do what she thought was the right thing to do. Ultimately, though, the person most changed throughout the story was Mirabel.

There were times during the first part of the story that I wanted to slap her –she was grating on my last nerve with her self-absorbtionism. However, the longer the story went on, the more I started to like her and realize that her attitude had more of a veneer of self-protectionism on it than true shallowness.

Felix is a bumbling scientific nerd who comes into his own during the course of the story and, even though this is not a romance, still made this reader’s heart fall a little in love with him.

There are some definite twists and turns in this story, keeping the reader on her toes to keep up. To me, however, it didn’t have the feel of a dark fantasy—it put me more in mind of The Wild Wild West (the old TV show) with magic instead of the steampunk elements.

I really enjoyed the world that Mr. Poling built for this story and would like to revisit it—there was a reveal at the end that came as a surprise to me and I really hope he has some other stories in mind.

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Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas


Legacy of Luck by Christy Nicholas
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (295 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Irish Traveler Éamonn loves gambling, women, and drinking, not necessarily in that order. But he’s entangled in a true mess when he falls for fiery redhead, Katie. When she’s married to a Scottish Traveler, Éamonn travels to Scotland to find her, with the help of Katie’s sister and cousin, and the magical brooch gifted by his father. Their quest takes them across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Skye, encountering war, betrayal, death. In the end, Éamonn must make his own luck.

This is listed as the third book in the series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for all things Irish and this book does not disappoint in that area.

The story centers around Éamonn and Katie—Irish Travelers who meet each other at a horse trading fair and fall in love. The story is very plot-driven and I could see it very well as a movie. In fact, reading the book was a lot like watching a movie. There was a bit of separation between this reader and the book itself. It was a good story, but I didn’t feel drawn into the book in a way that I felt part of the story itself.

It has romantic elements, but does not classify as a romance because the story is not about the relationship between Éamonn and Katie, but instead around the quest of Éamonn to find and rescue her after her father marries her off to another man.

The story is part of the Druid’s Brooch series, but the brooch itself is given only a passing mention—however, the gift that Éamonn is given by the fae does help in, but also almost gets him killed, so like any fae-given gift, should be handled lightly. I would have liked to have delved a little more deeply into this aspect of the story.

This was a light, easy read and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be looking for the other two books in the series. There was a lot of information about the Irish and Scottish Travelers that I didn’t know before and really appreciated the research the author did into this period of Irish history.

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Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen


Asmodeus: The Legend of Margrét and the Dragon by Brooks Hansen
Publisher: Star Pine Books
Genre: Historical, Sci-Fi
Length: Full (272 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

…Here again, his natural figure crouched beside her in the dank darkness of the cave, watching her in silence as she slept, struggling with cravings which were new to him, both tender and violent, and which he could only really compare to hunger… (from ASMODEUS)

On the cusp of the Great War, an even more pitched battle is waged in the furthest corner of the Nordic highlands, the final chapter of a centuries-old rivalry, pitting a troubled bloodline of thieves, journeyman, and politicians against the last and greatest dragon of the hemisphere, Asmodeus.

Until now, the source of this antagonism has been a single gemstone, the fabled shamir, whose history traces to the coffers of King Solomon. The present clash, however, has been sparked by the emergence of an even more desirable, more defiant, and more powerful force than that.

Inspired by the golden legend of St. Margaret, Brooks Hansen’s Asmodeus is a masterfully woven tapestry of history, myth, and fantasy, in the tradition of J.R.R.Tolkien, Bram Stoker, and C.S. Lewis. By turns a romance, an adventure, and the darkest imaginable Gothic, his tale is also, as seen through the eyes of the maiden Margrét, an unflinching exploration of our divided nature — what makes us beasts, what makes us human, and what makes us divine.

Mr. Hansen offers a retelling of the legend of St. Margaret of Antioch. In his version, we get “the other side of the story.”

He explains how the dragon (Asmodeus) originally loses his special jewel (the shamir) and how the family that stole it from him regarded it as something almost sacred; something to be protected for all time.

Centuries pass and it’s the early 20th century– and a young shepherdess named Margrét comes to the attention of the Provost of the area, and he steals the shamir from his brother in order to use it to seduce her.

The book is well-written and the author tells a good story– I say “tells” because it was like reading a story from mythology. There’s plenty of detail, and we get to see what the various characters are thinking, but I didn’t really get the sensation of being lost in any of the characters.  The story-telling was a little distant for me.

The story itself is very interesting, however. It has some moments of slowness as the author sets up the story, but once I got past those areas, I really enjoyed the story itself. And there was some beautiful, lyrical writing.

One thing the book accomplished was to awaken my interest in St. Margaret herself… I would like to learn more about her. And, I will be looking for more of this author’s books.

The Sage Stone Prophecy by N. S. Wikarski


The Sage Stone Prophecy by N. S. Wikarski
Publisher: self
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (260 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Where do you hide a mysterious artifact that could change the course of history? You scatter clues to its whereabouts across the entire planet. Five objects buried beneath the rubble of lost civilizations point to the hiding place of the fabled Sage Stone. A secret society and a fanatical religious cult vie against one another in a global treasure hunt to claim the prize. The Arkana wants to preserve it for posterity. The Blessed Nephilim wants to exploit it to create a terrifying new world order. Only one faction can win. More importantly, only one can survive.

This is the seventh book in the Arcana Archaeology Adventure series and I regret I’ve not read the other books in the series. Not because this book cannot stand on its own, but because this is a darn good read and I hate that I’ve missed out on six books of this kind of writing!

The Sage Stone Prophecy is exciting, the characters are well-drawn and three dimensional, and the writing is tight—it was so exciting that I finished the book in only two nights (it was good enough that, had I had the time to read during the day to my heart’s content, I could have finished it in one day).

I don’t want to give away any spoilers—and I do plan on going back and buying the first six books in the series then rereading this again—because there are so many things going on. It reminds me a great deal of the books by Dan Brown – you not only have an exciting treasure hunt with clues that need to deciphered along the way, you will learn a lot about matriarchal societies and the role of the goddess in those.

Great job, Ms. Wikarski. I’m only sorry I was so late discovering you and this series.

The Gathering Dark by Charles O’Keefe


The Gathering Dark by Charles O’Keefe
Publisher: Four Phoenixes Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full (224 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Newly-made vampire Joseph O’Reily has rejected his vampire lover Cassandra and declared their relationship at an end. Although he loves Cassandra – and she loves him – he knows their relationship cannot survive because she places such low worth on human life and morals.

Former pirate and vampire sire Anne Bonny is bored from spending almost a century on a tropical island and makes her way to St. John’s after receiving the last thoughts of her creation, John Snow. Once in Newfoundland she engages with Joseph and Cassandra, both of them surprised to see a vampire that doesn’t wish them harm.

Joseph, who is dealing with his failed relationship with Cassandra and his new one with Anne, has forgotten a human figure from his past, Augustus Green, a pimp and murderer. Green plans revenge for the brutal beating Joseph and Cassandra gave him months ago.

The Emperor Commodus, leader of the vampire council, has commanded his subjects, Count Dracula, Countess Elizabeth Bathory and others, to swell the ranks of his evil army by creating brainwashed vampires. Hope is not lost though as other vampires secretly prepare for the war to fight for their survival and humanity’s. Anne Bonny devises a plan that would mean the death of the Countess and replacing her. Joseph must make the decision to join Anne on his own. As his enemies gather, so do his friends, and Joseph discovers he has allies he never even knew about. The good side of the Council holds its own meeting that Joseph and Cassandra are secretly invited to.

With Anne and Cassandra at his side, they wage a desperate battle against the Countess, in the hopes of not just defeating her but striking a pre-emptive blow against the forces of evil. Joseph is ready to take on his greatest challenge yet. If he wins, good will prevail. If he fails, he will enable the destruction of the entire world. With a lot riding on him, Joseph can only hope for help from old friends and old flames alike, if he is to turn the tide of destiny.

This is the third book in the series and while it can be read as a standalone for the most part, I feel I would have enjoyed the book more had I read the first two in the series. I’ve bought them and look forward to reading the series from the beginning.

Because the book has a history, there was some confusion at times as I tried to work out the different relationships. But that eased out as I got into the story.

The characters are complex and well-drawn–they are definitely not one-dimensional copies of vampires. They have their faults and foibles, and all is not fun and games in the vampire camps. In fact, they take great joy in killing each other. There is a side that fights for right and a side that fights for evil and this is where this book has us.

Joseph, a reluctant vampire at best, is doing his best to get on with his life and studies. Unfortunately life had different plans, and he is caught up in a battle to help save the world. The intricacies of his relationships with a former love and a new love set up an interesting dilemma of its own. While it’s not a romance, there were a couple of sex scenes that, in my opinion, did not add much to the book.

The book is easy to read, but I do suggest reading the entire series in order. I think you would find it a richer experience.

Cubeball by Michael Leon


Cubeball by Michael Leon
Publisher: self
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (286 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Rose

A naturally gifted ex-national champion and a savant with a computer-like mind compete against the world’s best in the 22nd century’s most popular sport – CUBEBALL – the chess-like, technology-enhanced, snooker of the future where the world stage is dominated by gambling, drugs and massive audiences.

Mr. Leon has done it again – brought us an exciting story with some wonderful characters. As the story is not told linearly, we get a chance to see Mickey’s background while at the same time living his present day live with him. We get a chance to see the underside of the professional sports heroes (and wonder if our own professional sports heroes fall prey to some of the same kinds of things).

The characters are where Mr. Leon really shines through—they are richly drawn and by the end of the book you feel like you really know them.

The world building is wonderful – I feel like I was really there. I hope Mr. Leon sets future books in this world. I would love to revisit it.

This author is quickly becoming part of my “look for new releases” list!

A Study in Temperance by Ichabod Temperance


A Study in Temperance by Ichabod Temperance
Publisher: Goldenbear Creative Works
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (214 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

“Gee, Miss Plumtartt, after our calamitous arrival on this unsuspecting city, do you think we are still under threat of imminent murder by gangs of assorted, yet stylish, assassins?”

“I say, I do fear this to be the case, Mr. Temperance. The machinations of intrigue are not unlike one of your ingenious spring-driven contraptions, sir. Yes, plots boil and swarms of suspicious characters are at our every turn, eh hem?”

“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am. It’s a good thing we have enlisted the assistance of this notorious, Victorian-era London detective to assist us in this baffling murder mystery adventure, for I fear there is more to this tale than meets the eye!”

What fun! This steampunk mystery is told very much (and unapologetically) tongue-in-cheek. It is obvious that it’s not the first volume of the series, but can be easily read on its own.

Ichabod Temperance and his companion Persephone Plumtartt arrive in England and are instantly plunged into a rousing adventure and well as making the acquaintance of a certain detective whose last name is Holmes and who has a brother high-placed in British circles. The brother wishes his younger sibling would settle down and do something with his intellect.

The story is told from many different POVs which is surprisingly not as confusing as I would have thought. Each POV character has very much his/her own voice so it was instantly evident who was doing the talking.

And, the laughs! My poor husband was trying to read his own book but kept being interrupted. “Let me read you this part!”

I adore Temperance and Plumtartt, however I would be amiss if I did not mention the supporting characters and how much they added to the story. My very favorites had to be the BarbaraHaughnne brothers, Yababadabadoiah and Scubidubeduiah. As you can see, there are many cultural in-jokes that will not detract from your enjoyment of the book if you don’t get them, but add another level of pleasure when you do—so much so I now want to reread the book just to find them!

I am so going to go back and buy the rest of the books in the series—starting with book one. Mr. Ichabod Temperance, you have found a new fan!

Emissary by Michael Leon


Emissary by Michael Leon
Publisher: self published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (283 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rose

Emissary tells the tale of Vincent, a scientist plagued with strange nightmares since childhood. He has successfully treated his mental illness with drugs and kept it hidden from his colleagues, particularly Ella, the beautiful and intelligent scientist from whom he also struggles to hide his affection. But what if his experiences were real and the dark energy that crawls inside him now threatens the existence of the universe?

As his nightmares return, Vincent unravels the secrets of his past, with the help of Ella and ever-guarded Constantine. Revealing their other-world origins, they need his help to destroy the Entity that was created when Ella created a portal to Vincent’s universe. As Vincent grapples with his love for Ella, he traverses Europe in pursuit of answers, learns how to travel at the speed of light and confronts his perception of what is real. But can he trust his friends? Could he ever truly be with Ella, and what is his scientific destiny so revered by his colleagues.

Emissary is a science-fiction adventure novel that travels at the speed of light, where multiverse theory collides with quantum mechanics on the dark side of Saturn’s moon.

What an exciting book! From the very first the reader is dropped into the action, and the mystery surrounding Vincent. This is science fiction like it is meant to be and I could so see this on the big screen (some of the special effects would be awesome).

The characters are wonderfully drawn. I really enjoyed them and their interactions, all the while rooting for the developing relationship between Vincent and Ella. There are some sad moments, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The book is vibrant and is full of surprises. The author takes the reader on a whirlwind of new discoveries and forever changes the lives of the characters in it. Kudos, Mr. Leon. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

Into the Void by Emma Stein

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Into the Void by Emma Stein
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Historical, Satire
Length: Full Length (215 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

The country of Anglina is teeming with social upheaval, and its officials have found an unlikely national hero in a philosopher and social activist named Horace. The Anglinian government has appointed the effeminate, irreverent, and stubborn scholar to undertake a journey around the world to learn the secret of other countries’ success. Unfortunately for Horace, most of the societies he visits turn out to be drastically different from what he expected, and he repeatedly sends scathing but witty reports about his travels and the people he encounters. At the end of his journey, Horace encounters a series of communes whose inhabitants welcome him into their ranks and open his eyes to more a liberal and egalitarian way of life.

Into the Void is a very interesting book—consisting of letters from Horace to Addie detailing Horace’s visits to the different areas around Anglina to see if there is anything he can learn that will help clear away the rot that is present in their own land.

Each of his letters can be seen as satirical commentary on our own ways of living. In this it reminds me very much of Gulliver’s Travels. Where Swift examined governments, Stein puts human relationships and ways of living under the microscope.

The letters are interesting in themselves and, even though I’m not normally one to re-read books, I think I will make an exception here. I am interested in rereading several of the letters to dig a little deeper into the meaning behind it.

In addition to the foibles of the human condition that Stein provides, the letters also give us insight into Horace and his relationship with Addie that was quite interesting to discover.

Good job, Ms. Stein. A masterful achievement!

A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman

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A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman
Publisher: Terra Nova Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (228 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

From the high desert of New Mexico comes a tale of mystery, murder and redemption. When journalist Kevin Pitcairn receives a disturbing letter from a serial killer, he is drawn into a compelling journey with profound psychological and spiritual implications, not just for the murderer, but for himself and society as a whole. As he tries to investigate and then tell the story, he finds himself battling his own inner demons and sordid history. Events conspire to propel an isolated matter to a national stage and audiences that are increasingly hostile. Forced to explore the roots of human psychology and sanity, Pitcairn must navigate moral and philosophical realms. What is the nature of evil? What powers of choice do humans actually possess? How may we be redeemed? And in the end, how do we reconcile with ourselves?

Despite starting off as a regular suspense novel, this book turns out to be so much more. Kevin Pitcairn, a recovering alcoholic journalist, receives a disturbing letter from a convicted serial killer—but unlike you might expect, the killer does not deny he killed. Instead he reveals information that sends Pitcairn reeling with the implications and sends him on a search that has a deeper implication than he could ever imagine.

This book is less a suspense than it is a psychological look at Pitcairn, and in a lesser way, with his friends and family. It’s told from his POV and the reader is on the journey with him. The discoveries we make together are something this reader will be thinking about for a long time.

There is a deep spiritual component to this book which is intriguing without being preachy (Pitcairn is a self-confessed agnostic) and it’s interesting to discover the “grace” that underlies the story. I found it hard to put the book down once I started reading it.

I recommend this book—the story flows well and this reader felt caught up in the search Pitcairn was on as he sought to understand what was happening.