Ameca J and the Revenge of Rex-Ultar by Paul Xavier Jones

Ameca J and the Revenge of Rex-Ultar by Paul Xavier Jones
Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (271 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

In Book I of the Ameca J Chronicles, Ameca aka The Flame, Fraya aka The Flower, and Paul aka The One are the heirs of Menindus, each with fabulous, magical powers. Previously thought to be normal people from Earth, the father and daughters had been magically transported to the land of Mythrania where they successfully battled the Scelestus, the evil entity bent on domination of the entire universe—or was it successful?

In Book II, Paul is dead, murdered while rescuing Fraya from the clutches of the malignant Scelestus. Torn with grief, both Ameca and Fraya jump at the chance to bring their father back to life. Seeking the guidance of Menindus, the ancient Magi tells the girls they must leave Mythrania and return to their own world, taking three companions with them on a quest to recover a powerful magical artefact that has the ability to return the dead to life or make the living immortal.

But all is not as they left it on their world. Their mother has been abducted—and so have they—according to the newspapers. The girls must contend with the police, who are trying to “rescue” them; Lord Bellatrix, the High Priest of the Scelestus, who is implementing a plan to enslave humanity; and the immortal Rex-Ultar, who has been waiting for them ever since Menindus killed his father, centuries ago. While they are occupied on their quest, the Scelestus’ agents continue their work to dominate the Kingdoms of Mythrania by infecting the population with a disease that turns them into almost indestructible, flesh-eating monsters.

Can Ameca, Fraya and their companions recover the artefact and stop Bellatrix, rescue their mother and return to Mythrania to restore their father to life before the Kingdoms are overrun and the Scelestus returns triumphant?

Look out evil…here come the girls…again.

Ameca has been forced to age beyond her fourteen years and become the leader of not only her family but the people who follow her. As the leader of the search party to find the ancient artifact to bring her father back to life, she will have to prove that she is the leader those around her believe her to be.

This second installment of the series picks up right where the last story ended. Anyone who tries to read this as a standalone novel may have some difficulty. Those who have read the previous story will feel right at home with the storyline and excited to see how the girls fix their new installment of problems. The book also brings in a few new interesting characters that I enjoyed getting to meet and learn about, including the girl’s mother.

Ameca and Fraya really seem to be coming into their own in this story. It was nice to see the girls growing as their surroundings demanded. You seen a new patients and understanding to Ameca that she has been missing previously especially when it comes to her sister. Fraya, on the other hand, no long seems to be the small, timid little girl that relies on those around her to make all the decisions. I think that this really helped to display the strength of the Flame and the Flower and how their new roles are creating self assured young ladies and heroines.

While some old enemies are still in the picture some new one also present themselves in the forever growing obstacles against the group of merry men and ladies. We learn who Rex-Ultar is, as well as some authorities from the world who have been searching for the girls and their family. I especially enjoyed how they seemed to foil the authorities plans on trying to capture them under the assumption that they need saving.

This story is one that anyone of any age can enjoy. Their subject matter and content is one that I would feel comfortable with any of my kids reading. I especially enjoy the lesson on family bonds and friendship ties that the author incorporates into the story. This is a story I would recommend to any parent who is looking for an entertaining story to read with their child or as one that they can trust their child to read on their own, but you’re going to want to enjoy it with them.

The Last Best Hope by David L Parrott

The Last Best Hope by David L Parrott
A Civil War Era Alternative History
Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Historical, Fantasy (Alternative History)
Length: Full Length (261 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Historians have often asked, “What if the South had won at the Battle of Gettysburg?—what if, indeed?

1865: The South has won The Civil War; Robert E. Lee is President of the Confederate States of America; and Abraham Lincoln is paralyzed and a fugitive, protected by remnants of the defeated Union Army after being shot in the spine when Washington was sacked by the Rebels. Slavery is legal and has penetrated all sectors of the land that was once the United States of America. John Wilkes Booth, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and The Pinkertons all play a pivotal role in the shaping of the now permanently divided nation. Set in the oil boom area of Northwest Pennsylvania, THE LAST BEST HOPE follows the lives of Captain Ezekiel Edwards, Chastity Stottish, and others deeply impacted in the aftermath of both stunning victory and shameful defeat in a sweeping drama of romance, adventure, and hope for a better tomorrow.

What if all you thought about the Civil War was a lie?

History states that the Civil War ended in 1865 with the South surrendering. But with The Last Best Hope the reader is introduced to a world where the South hasn’t fallen. In fact, the North surrendered. The concept is intriguing. What would’ve happened if the South got one last surge and won? What if Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated? These are all interesting questions Parrott tackles.

I have to admit, at first I wasn’t pulled in by the book. There are moments where the story dragged and I had to fight a bit to keep going. Also, I’m not a huge fan of first person narrative. This book is in parts. While these made the read slower for me, that might not be the case for all readers, especially those intrigued by alternate history. After a few pages, the story did pick up and there were more than a few moments of turmoil and lots of adventure. The charcters are people, though in the past, I could relate to. The small town which has become a ghost story could be any small town. Chastity and Ezekiel made a good pair, both broken in some ways, but just right for each other. I think they were the best part of the book for me.

If you’ve ever wondered what would’ve happened if the South hadn’t fallen… then this might be the book you’re looking for.

Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus by Paul Xavier Jones

Ameca J and the Legacy of Menindus by Paul Xavier Jones
Book 1 of the Ameca J Chronicles
Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (381 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

The Legacy of Menindus… Teenage life seems vastly unfair to fourteen year old Ameca or Ameca J, as she prefers to be called always being pressured by her Dad to watch out for her stupid and annoying ten year old sister, Fraya. But when the girls are mysteriously transported by The Spirit to a dangerously different world populated by mediaeval Men, noble Elves, magnificent Dragons, and savage creatures, Ameca s whole perspective has to change and change quickly if they are to escape the clutches of an evil entity known as the Scelestus, who wants them for the magical powers they did not even know they possessed.

Their stressed out and overworked father, Paul is summoned by The Spirit to join his daughters in the mythical land of Mythrania, where he learns that they are the One, the Flame and the Flower . They are the heirs to the legendary High Magi, Menindus, who foretold of their coming to save this world and their own…But this is no fairytale; the dark entity known as the Scelestus has a plan to harness the power of the universe and to completely dominate all life…… Can Ameca and her family stop the Scelestus, and prevent a catastrophe that would see the enslavement of countless worlds, as well as the destruction of their own…?

Look out evil…here come the girls.

This is unlike any fantasy story I have ever read. From start to finish this story drew me in. With a vast array of both recognizable and new mythical creatures, I was truly entertained.

Ameca J is everything you expect in a fourteen year-old girl. She has a strong will and sassy tongue that can rival anyone. I also enjoyed her view of her “annoying” little sister, Fraya. Though she has all the makings to be a great woman, I was still able to see her innocence and inexperience. I could not wait to see what she did next throughout the story. Especially since she was dealing with forces that could break even the strongest of adults.

Though I can see how Ameca was the main character of the story, the author provided me some insight on other characters such as her sister, father, and others helping them on their quest. Each character had their own traits that seemed to shine through and make them intriguing. Whether it be Ameca’s father’s impatience, or her sister’s ability to manipulate people, I looked forward to their actions and what kind of effect they’d have on the plot.

The fantasy element on this story is what really made it stand out from the rest for me. The author did a wonderful job with incorporating fantasy with various myths such as werewolves, wizards, and folklore. I quickly found myself picturing Menindus and felt as if I was there with the characters experiencing all this fascinating world had to offer. I can easily see why kids and parents would enjoy reading this story.

The Shadow Cabinet by Harol Marshall

The Shadow Cabinet by Harol Marshall
Publisher: Storyteller
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

In a top-secret bunker… buried deep beneath FEMA headquarters on Mount Weather, a mysterious doppelgänger organization know as THE SHADOW CABINET prepares for the unthinkable. Secretly appointed by Congress, members of the Continuity of Government initiative prepare to carry on government functions in the event of a catastrophic national emergency. But Shadow President Fred McGuire has other ideas. His unhappiness with the current Administration translates into a cold-blooded plot to overthrow the executive branch and seize control of the White House. McGuire s co-conspirators include high-ranking government officials, a wealthy corporation, and a notorious private military contractor.

Tensions mount when CIA analyst Malcolm Hall stumbles across evidence of the conspiracy, a discovery that costs him his life. Acting on clues Malcolm left behind, Dan Chavez at the National Counterterrorism Center, and Henry Larson, Director of the CIA s National Clandestine Services, begin a secret investigation that extends from Washington to Hawaii and beyond. Determined at all costs to disrupt the planned coup d état by tracking down the homegrown terrorists and preventing high-level assassinations, Dan and Henry place their lives and those of their colleagues in mortal danger.

A person who would seem a powerless cog in the scheme of things uncovers evidence that costs him his life but starts an avalanche of toppled government officials.

This political thriller sends chills and shudders skittering all over the body—goose bumps, prickly hair, and breath-catching moments. The Shadow Cabinet is hard to put down when once started for fear the “bad guys” will get away with their horrible plans if left alone. Of course, trying to separate the “bad guys” from the “good guys” is no easy task—lots of shades of gray between the distinct black and white.

Fred MacGuire and Zachery Browning, both high ranking government officials, crave POWER, making them uneasy co-conspirators. Each has an agenda of his own and needs the other to reach that brass ring each strives for.

Henry Larson is a thorn in MacGuire and Browning’s sides. Henry, directory of Clandestine Services, is not good at sharing information; plus, he seems to march to the beat of a different drum. When Dan Chavez, one of his special agents calls about his friend Malcolm Hall’s death, Henry listens to Dan and Malcolm’s wife. The alarming information prompts Henry to start an investigation. A tiny crack is found in the Shadow Cabinet’s plan and the race to pry that crack open wide to reveal the conspiracy begins AND the reader gets to share the adrenaline-pumping experience vicariously. From Prague to Hawaii and in the hotbed of Washington, D.C. politics, agents manipulate, deceive, and do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

The Shadow Cabinet is full of alpha personalities that create riveting action. Some secondary characters that keep the action revved up to fever pitch are Alicia Michel and Tom Kerrington in Hawaii. They stir up a deadly fire storm, while Evan and Elena in Prague start something that ends up in the U.S. in a hotbed of lethal secrets and driven megalomaniacs. Seemingly innocuous old Charlie, with his secretive ways adds a new diminish to the plot.

Bjorn Nilsson, boss of the powerful Sigma Services, a para-military contract group, is known for hiring out to the highest bidder with no concern for moral issues. His group is made up of people with proven military skills. They have the best equipment available and operate with few restraints imposed on them. With big corporate money to finance their deal with the Shadow Cabinet, they become a threat to be reckoned with.

Dead bodies mount up, assassination plans race along and evidence of moles in the system, putting even the best of agents on edge. Tension, fears, and suspense keeps one turning pages and about the time it looks like the “good guys” have thing under control, sleepers in powerful places reveal plans that send shock waves rippling—could it really happen?

Harol Marshall weaves together a multitude of intriguing characters ranging from the quiet, reclusive computer operator to some of the most powerful people in government. She weaves sub-plots into the major plot and keeps the reader enthralled with actions that seem shockingly real. The format she uses keeps the reader tuned in to both protagonist and antagonist activities while showing the inmost desires of both major and minor characters. The foreshadowing, clues, and hints she sprinkles in along the way make THE SHADOW CABINET spine-tingling. Ms. Marshall has created a political thriller that comes alive like today’s news, making one hope the “good guys” keep winning.

An intense, compelling read!

A Life Worth Living by Lorrie Kruse

A Life Worth Living by Lorrie Kruse
Publisher Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (392 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

A Surefire Way to Jinx Your Future…

…is to perfectly map it out and then expect your journey to go as planned. Twenty-six year old home builder, Matthew Huntz, is on his way to making his dreams a reality—gorgeous fiancée, perfect job, and the house he’s always wanted. Until the accident. Paralyzed from the chest down, with his life’s GPS offline, Matt is forced to recalculate his path in life.

In A Life Worth Living, Lorrie Kruse shares a look at an ordinary man becoming exceptional – not because of injury, but largely through deciding on who and what he values most.

Matthew wakes to a different world…or perhaps, more correctly, as a different person, in a world he will see forever from a different perspective.

Matthew’s sweet, strong personality is evident at the outset. Any reader will quickly feel an emotional attachment to him. We soon grasp details of his history and understand him to be a good person… and yet, we are there at the start of his personal journey. His growth is partly from needing to cope, but also, from rising to meet challenges. His spinal cord injury changes his choices, but not who he is.

This story isn’t what you might expect; not at all. I set off, I admit, with trepidation because of the title. I thought this would be a story about disability, about heart-tugging yet predictable struggles and overcoming. Yet, it’s not: it’s neither predictable nor precious. It’s not about disability.

Matthew’s injury doesn’t change the people around him: for example, it doesn’t make his girlfriend a better or more genuine person. He still has to work, and must cope with people who antagonize him, (in fact, the believability of characters, in general, contributes enormously to this work). Quality conversations move the story along and reveal a lot about various individuals. If I had one complaint, it’s about the total number of characters – some lesser players contribute little and might have been omitted.

Life and its various incidences are what change Matt, not his disability. It never forces him to become a different person, he decides that himself… and his choices bring him to second chances. Abby is a woman who understands disabilities — but more importantly, about the need for two people to be sincere.

This is Matthew’s story. It’s about his family and his dreams and his love. Ultimately, this is a wonderful and moving story that shares both disappointment and achievement, joy and pain.

Ms. Kruse has a straightforward writing style that makes for comfortable reading. She presents injury and life struggle details in a realistic (and perhaps uncompromising) manner. Do read.

Night Journey by Goldie Browning

Night Journey by Goldie Browning
Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full length (367 pages)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Zan and Emma’s romantic weekend at a haunted hotel—which includes a wedding and a ghost tour—goes horribly wrong when a bizarre accident leaves Emma in a coma. Following a near-death experience, her soul is catapulted backward in time to 1938. While on her journey into the past, she meets Ivy and Harry—a Depression Era Romeo and Juliet—who will someday become Zan’s grandparents. Night Journey is an eerie tale of ghosts who weave in and out of life, past and present, from fact to fiction.

Ghosts and time travel, the living and the dead, passion and love, this book has them all. Emma and her husband Zan go to a historical hotel for the occasion of Zan’s brother’s marriage.

The hotel in not a normal hotel. It’s filled with ghosts and an exciting past. Emma and Zan meet some of these ghosts in the present. Their family and friends are an interesting group and play important roles in the story. A psychic among them gives Emma a bit of a creepy reading.

Then something weird happens. Due to a terrible headache, Emma goes back to their room, alone, and an evil presence lures her behind a wall. There, Emma has a bad accident. One of the hotel’s locals, a ghost, alerts Zan, leading to yet another exciting scene. Zan and his friends race to help Emma.

She actually crosses over, and the reader gets a look at “the other side.” This book has plenty of interesting insights into the paranormal.

There’s a story within a story here. The tale in the middle, the one set in the nineteen thirties, is both romantic and tragic. This internal plot mixes effortlessly with the story that sandwiches it. When Emma passes over, she finds herself in the past, the thirties. Now she has a chance to set things right where they had a traumatic end once. But can she? She arrives back in time in the body of a cancer-ridden woman, very weak and sick. The suspense is great. The characters, past and present are well drawn and likeable. The evil ones can make a person cringe.

While Emma is in a coma in the present, there’s another race against the clock for her husband. A corrupt hospital manager wants to harvest her heart. Zan must fight a losing battle. The reader will truly feel his pain and desperation.

Night Journey is a unique story that blends its elements perfectly. The paranormal, the romance, the suspense, the characters, and the history make this a book worth reading.

Trust No One by Laurel Bradley

Trust No One by Laurel Bradley
Publisher: Storyteller Publishing
Genre: Mystery/suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (330 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

It’s all about secrets.

Taylor Wilson’s husband, Phil, has them. His best friend and art agent, Sean, has them. Everyone has them except Taylor—yet she’s the one someone is trying to kill.

Moments before a bomb destroys Taylor’s home, Phil disappears. Soon after, her landscape design business blows up as well. FBI agent Mark Cochran puts her into protective custody, but whoever is behind the bombings continues to stalk her.

Cochran thinks Taylor’s husband is the culprit, but she refuses to accept it. She believes the cryptic messages Phil is sending her are proof he’s trying to protect her and lead her to where he is hiding. However, while searching for Phil, Taylor learns he may not be as innocent as she believed.

Will Taylor’s faith in the man she loves keep her safe—or get her killed?

Women in jeopardy stories are some of my favorites and “woman in trouble” just about sums up the theme of Trust No One. It was full of twists and turns. Just when I thought it was safe for Taylor to trust someone, they turned out to be not so reliable or were somehow involved in the mess her husband appears to be tied up in.

I thought the clues Ms. Bradley planted, especially in the beginning of the book when Taylor decides to take her safety into her own hands, clever and definitely made me think. Was she on the right track or heading for more trouble?

The pacing was perfect for this length of book and the dialogue natural sounding for all the characters. I also thought there was the right mix of dialogue with narration.

The only thing I felt would have drawn me into the story more was a different introduction to Taylor and her relationship with Phil. I was cheering her on but somehow needed to have more of connection with her to amp up the enjoyment of the story. I think had the opening chapter been more of a “get to know Taylor” and a look into her life with Phil, the consequences of what happened to her and what followed would have had more of an emotional effect on me as a reader.

However, I did enjoy Trust No One and if you like mysteries and suspense stories with a female lead character this is a good pick, especially for summer reading.