Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Great Scourge

The Great Scourge (Architects Of The Illusion, #2)4 Stars

Architects of the Illusion: The Great Scourge, by C. A. MacLean, picks up where his first book, Seed of Treachery left off. Although Ashy was exiled from her home planet of Karani (a planet full of bird-like species), she felt compelled to return only to find it in peril. When things take a turn for the worse, Ashy must flee the planet and finds herself on planet Everan with mutant beings who are able to – unbelievably – reunite her with her sister, Eva. Together, they must fight all the adversaries that they come across in order find the answers they need and secure the future.

The characters in this book really come alive. The main characters are Ashy and Eva – who are adopted sisters from the planet Karani. Additional characters that play a major part in The Great Scourge are Curren, a bounty hunter, Caleb ‘Maven’ Braze, Daniel, Hannah and Admiral Andora, as well as a handful of secondary character. Mr. MacLean has a way of bringing these characters to life with their unique personalities and quirks. From the synopsis only, I knew that it would be an interesting book. When I began, my interest grew. As the pages went on, I began to understand more of the different lands. I began to get these feelings for the characters and began to feel empathy for them. Only telling a little bit of the story is very hard. What I can tell you is that every character, from major to minor, is so cleverly written and wisely interwoven, that you begin to think that if someone who was only mentioned once in the background may have a future story.

C. A. MacLean’s writing is almost indescribable. It’s simple for children and teens, yet complex so that an adult may love it. The way he writes his characters make you grow attached to them. His lands make you want to explore them. He never gives anything up too easy, leaving some of the things to your imagination. His descriptions of the lands make you feel you can reach out and touch them. However, it leaves just enough to your imagination that each person can see the land in his or her own way; which is one of the best parts.

The plot moves along at a good pace. There are surprises and mysteries that kept me reading late into the night to find out what was going to happen. This is a powerful story with some chilling and disturbing scenes without ever resorting to gore. It is deeply absorbing and has moments that I know I will remember for a long time, certainly any time I see a wisp of smoke rising on the horizon. The final paragraphs were breathtaking and managed to give a satisfying ending to the book… but I’m still anticipating the next one. You’re missing out if you haven’t read this book.

Pages: 502 | ASIN: B00P4ABLKE

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Beauty of the Fall

The Beauty of the Fall5 Stars

Fired. Workaholic technology executive, Dan Underlight is fired from his high-paying job at a Fortune 500 tech company by the woman he considered his best friend. Sixteen years of working together reduced to a severance package. He feels angry, betrayed, and heartbroken, but mostly he feels lost. Lost because being unemployed gives him too much time to think about the tragedy of his ten-year-old son’s accidental death, and the guilt he still carries for spending too much time working and not enough time parenting.

Before he’s processed this toxic blend of emotions, Dan embarks on a new relationship with Willow, a victim’s advocate, a poet, a lost soul, and an abuse survivor. Their love is deeper than anything Dan has experienced before, but will it be enough when he accomplishes his dream of opening a new tech company, one that is in direct competition with the one he left? Will Dan allow himself to grow into a kinder, more compassionate human being at the same time as he grows his company into a conscientious innovator, or will the demons from his past collide with his present and destroy him?

From the very first paragraph, Rich Marcello drew me into his book with a command of the language that I liken to a poet’s. Passages like this one, “He put his head down, tried to rekindle the wildfire he helped birth years ago, tried to daydream down a riven path.” and this one, “Don’t look down, the pinpricks have spouted and are covering the new carpet in blood.” provided me with ample proof early on that Marcello was a real deal literary composer, a master of the language, and a wordsmith with soulful depths.

But beautiful language alone can’t make a reader keep reading. Original characters with powerful character arcs and a compelling story to keep all the characters growing is fundamental. No problem there, either. From Dan to his counselor to Willow to his son, stronger characterization is front and center. I know Dan—he reminds me of the author Richard Bach. I know Willow, too, this wild child, compassionate, changer of the world woman who is always strong, always courageous even when her heart is broken. These characters kept me reading.

Then we arrive at the story. Characters and language need movement, need story, setting, pace, tension. Marcello has these covered, too. Set in New England, the vivid colors of the seasons remain clear in my brain long after I finished the book. Authors who take the time to divide their books into parts and give them names always receive a grateful nod from me. I like to know the structure of a story before I begin reading, and I like rolling back to the Table of Contents to remind myself what’s next in this journey. The Beauty of the Fall’s Table of Contents is especially brilliant; titles like “So it Spins,” “Build from the Sky Down,” “Spectacles, and Halos and Code” promised each chapter would carry its own mini-story and all the mini-stories would merge to form a powerful narrative.

Themes of forgiveness, trust, simplicity, honor, technology as healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall and held me captive until the end. If I had to name a gripe, it would be that the last chapter was unnecessary. The story should have ended with “The Good-bye Return,” but I can understand why, for closure’s sake, Marcello included “In the Coming.”

The Beauty of the Fall will appeal to readers who love a compelling, well-written story with elements of literary fiction, technology fiction, and romantic fiction. Marcello doesn’t write the type of literary fiction that prizes language over story. He writes the type that uses beautifully soulful language to real unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives.

Pages: 283 | ASIN: B01MFCTYYW

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Hungry Monster Book Awards: November 2016

The Hungry Monster Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and The Hungry Monster is proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.

Gold Book AwardGold Award Winner

Bean Takes a Walk by Ann Bevans & Matthew Ethan Gray

Silver Book AwardSilver Award Winners

Mother Athina by Danny Estes

Game Over by Derek Eddington

Beyond Cloud Nine by Greg Spry

The Second Sphere by Peter Banks

Seed of Treachery by C.A. MacLean

Wolves Among Sheep by Steven Pajak

Chaste: A Tale From Perilisc by Jesse Teller

The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana by Katlynn Brooke

“When I look at a book, I see the history of books, old tomes with sacred knowledge. The authorities that controlled the books controlled the people. Books brought the old world to order. My books are how I bring my life and my thoughts to order, the only lasting way I can see to impart wisdom and ask questions.” – Jesse Teller author of Chaste

Visit the Hungry Monster Book Awards page to see award information and see all award winners.

The Heart of Hannen

The Heart of Hannen (Atriian Trilogy, #1)4 Stars

Christine Clavin is not a typical teenage girl. Her past is marred by a violent attack so scandalous that her peers avoid her, whispering behind her back. The only redhead in a family of dark-haired people, she’s certain she was adopted and doesn’t belong. She has no friends, and her rage is so deep that when she loses control, she’s dangerous, even to her own family. Her family is at their wit’s end and wants to have her committed, but her older brother Sam does what he can to protect her. Christine wants to be normal, even dating a dashing newcomer, but the date seems to end badly although she still has feelings for the boy.

Christine finds solace by the pond near her house, something catches her attention, so she dives in, and when she comes up for air, she’s in a completely different world. Struggling with the language, the oppressive culture, and her own nightmares, she must find a way to survive and get back home. Her inner fire becomes her greatest asset, but it could make her either a well-treated slave or a fugitive trying to get back home.

The Heart of Hannen is one of the most unique books I’ve read all year, with elements of dark fantasy and gothic romance that tie together seamlessly. Christine is magically transported to the world of Atriia where men rule, and women are bought and sold like horses. This is definitely not the place for hotheaded seventeen-year-olds with anger management issues to thrive, and she runs afoul of men and women alike. When she’s sold to the staff of a local Lord’s castle, she learns—the hard way—how to fit in.

I especially enjoyed that Christine could use her wits, temper, and sharp tongue to do great things, even under the control of an oppressive culture and evil men. Without spoilers, let me warn you that there are twists and turns that you will never see coming, and they are fantastic.

The best part of this book was the invented language. There’s a glossary at the back of helpful words, but I decided to figure it out myself. This helped me get deeper into the story and the main character, since we were both trying to make sense of words that were just out of reach. As she becomes more used to Atriia, so did I, and the story got even better from there.

My only complaint about the book is that the pacing is slow. The plot advances at a snail’s pace, characters are indecisive, and some scenes—while interesting—do little to advance the story. While some tension is good, drawing it out too long invites skimming to a scene where something actually happens.

If you’re a fan of dark fantasy or romance, you’ll find much to like in The Heart of Hannen. Though the main character begins the tale at age 17, this is a land of kept women, fierce battles, blood, and sensuous love scenes, so I’d recommend it for mature readers.

Pages: 488 | ASIN: B00IWYP17S

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Eden’s Apple

Eden's Apple4 Stars

In a whirlwind of emotions and laced with tragedy, the lives of two women are laid out in Pamela Blake’s Eden’s Apple. Both of their lives are fraught with heartbreak, circumstance and secrets. Between drugs, sex and violence these women barely eek out an existence. Both are tainted, both are damaged. One of them will recover, the other will not. Rose and Lucy; our two heroines who are connected to each other by the special bond mother’s and daughter’s share will lose themselves for the sake of love and at the hands of love. Barely out of childhood Rose finds herself forced to endure her father’s expression of love that ends up changing her life forever. Lucy, a product of that illicit union is damaged not because of who her parents were, but because of the loss of love that she should have been entitled too. One woman will break from her burdens and the other will fracture almost irreparably.

The books opens with a scene of violence: Rose is being raped by her father. While readers won’t be aware of who the man is until chapter 2, Blake handles the violation with a strange sense of delicacy. It is through Rose that the reader will understand how damaging to her mind the act is. Set in early 1930’s in England Rose faces more discrimination and humiliating isolation than a modern woman would hopefully need to bear. The regret and self-loathing her father goes on to feel throughout the book seems a bit unrealistic, but it lends to the story.

Rose is damaged by this act of love; an act that is supposed to bring two people together. She bears her incestuous child, only to leave little Lucy with her parents and attempt to live a life that a girl of her age is entitled to. Blake does a good job of showing the delicate state of Rose’s mind as she struggles to understand what happened to her and what she needs to do to regain her sense of self. This is a dangerous path for writers to tread: too much realism can make a reader uneasy. However, not lending an air of reality to how a character handles such critical moments can be damaging to the novel as well. Blake teeters on the edge of this line. As we move forward through Lucy’s life and her experimentation of drugs and sex, the lack of consequences seems unfathomable. While one of her children does suffer from illness later in life, the fact that she gave birth to two healthy children while being addicted to opiates and other drugs steals some credibility from the tale.

The story itself is a captivating read. While Rose certainly had her life altered against her will at such a young age Eden’s Apple is more about Lucy and her struggle to find the love she should have received as a child. She struggles with loving too much and desperately needing confirmation of love in return. Pamela Blake tells this story of two women scorned by fate who struggle to overcome the cards that have been dealt to them. Eden’s Apple is a devastating tale of desperate love, true love and the agony laced between.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B01C4F5QCU

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Sprk.It

I Was In Hell

Jesse Teller Author Interview

Jesse Teller Author Interview

Chaste focuses on an evil god and his followers in a remote town that has been overcome with a sickness. Five strangers arrive and all their destinies take a turn. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?

My inspiration was vague. I’d had a few negative experiences with churches in the past, when I was a religious man. I had the idea of a small town that had experienced the same thing, the perverting of God’s word, of His ideals and methods. The title of the book came with the inspiration of a town struggling to be pure, but unable to find it. A lot of my books are studies of an issue that I’m dealing with in my life. This was my attempt at making peace with God and church, along with a few other dark issues. And Chaste did give me peace. I think it worked out. This book gave me hope, and I hope when other people read it, they can find a path back to God, or at least a path back to purity.

There are plenty of characters in Chaste that I felt were intriguing and well-developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?

I would have to say Sob. I repressed a lot of the abuse and darkness from my childhood. When it started coming back to me, it was debilitating and random. It would come back in the middle of a conversation, with a trigger word I didn’t expect. An entire scene from my past would flash before my eyes. When things like that are happening in your everyday life, you feel mad, as if you’re trembling out of control. So I wrote Sob, a woman haunted by shreds of a past she doesn’t want to remember, a powerful woman, a proficient killer, unapologetic in action and methods, but fragile in mind, always a breath away from the horror of her past. Sob healed me. I will always love her for that.

I felt that Chaste delivers the drama so well that it flirts with the grimdark genre. Was it your intention to give the story such a dark tone?

Chaste was originally supposed to be a short story. I was 63 pages in, and barely scratching the surface of the story, when I realized I was writing something bigger. Chaste was an accidental novel. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote the rough draft of this book. But I had just been through a lot of mind-numbing therapy, and most of me was a raw and open wound. I was not trying to write a dark book. It just kind of happened. When I wrote the rough draft, grimdark wasn’t an idea yet. This was 12 years ago. There was no such term as grimdark. I didn’t even know to call it dark fantasy. It was just a story I was writing. I entered Chaste broken, and when I left it, I was healed a bit. When you’re going through that kind of catharsis, there’s no internal editor. You literally can’t hold back. There were times when I would write a scene, stand up, back away from my computer, fight back a scream and weep openly. Things were being hammered out that there were no rational words for. I was walking a razor’s edge between reality and fantasy, able to speak about my past without talking about my past. Chaste is dark because when I wrote it, I was in Hell, and the character Cheryl dragged me out.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?

My next book is called Mestlven. It, as well, is A Tale from Perilisc. Mestlven tells the story of Sob, after she has put a face on her past, and she can go home. She has been victimized, her world shattered, and now, after Chaste, she knows it. So Sob goes back home to wreak her revenge and fight for her sanity. I went a little mad when I wrote this book. When Sob punished her abusers, she punished mine as well. So look for Mestlven. The soft release date is April 15, 2017.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Chaste: A Tale from PeriliscWhen her devout parents died, Cheryl turned her back on her god. Years of denial and self-loathing have defeated her. Her life consists of taking orders and succumbing to abuse. A group of strangers stops in Chaste for the night, but an unnamed threat is preying on the town. Tragic deaths have become more and more frequent. Cheryl wants to protect these travelers, expose the evil force, and save her fellow citizens, but she must find a way to believe in hope.

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Slippery Things

Slippery Things4 Stars

Slippery Things by Lane Baker is a short novel about the things that go bump in the night, alien invasions, and a fight to save humanity. Larissa Locke is your typical teenager that has an attitude and objects to parents and other authority figures.  Her mom is in a mental hospital, her little brother is “Mr. Perfect” her boyfriend cheats on her, and her best friend is too wrapped up in her own love life to see what is going on anymore. While she comes across as a trouble maker she soon turns out to be the only one that understands what is lurking in their small town and she alone must figure out how to save everyone.

The novel starts out with Larissa explaining why she filled the head cheerleader’s locker with manure. While this is interesting and sets up some of the teen drama for the characters, it set’s the tone and pace for the rest of the novel which is fun and engaging. The story takes place in a small town where everyone knows everyone. The general feel is one of your small town high school where the kids form cliques and stereotypes are the norm. Overall a very relatable setting for any reader.

The first night Larissa she wakes up thinking she is dreaming that aliens are performing tests on her. You get the standard amber light filled room, fuzzy feelings and mysterious instruments. The night time encounters continue and they start talking to Larissa. There are four of them that she has named Dark Eyes, Scarface, Curly Locks, and Sunspots. These aliens claim to be harvesting her blood to cure a disease in their world. At first she is okay but realized they are taking more blood and more often and when she tried to avoid them they went after her brother Carter and father Gary. At this point Larissa’s only thoughts are to protect her family and start sending the aliens to other homes. After one victim ends up in the hospital Larissa decides she needs to stop them. This begins the battle.

Larissa makes a trip to the hospital to visit her mom. She finds out her mom is there because of these aliens and everyone thinking she is crazy. She also gives Larissa a tip to help fight them off. From here we get Larissa planning out her attack on the aliens and her capture by them. She is taken to their world where she must escape and save her own family and town.

Aside from teen banter with cheerleaders and the cheating boyfriend stories, the overall plot of this novel is entertaining. It takes the alien abduction story in a different direction and has a few surprises for the reader. This is a great quick read for anyone looking for a quirky young adult novel in the science fiction genre.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B00WOXCYYQ

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The Fool’s Truth

The Fool's Truth5 Stars

Murder and mystery with shimmers of romance are all the delectable things that Loretta H. Marion has to offer with her tantalizing tale The Fool’s Truth. We are introduced to our protagonist, Cordelia Richmond through a first-person perspective on this tale. She is calling an old friend: someone to whom she trusts her very life. She’s been locked in a dangerous situation and her maternal instincts are telling her to run. And run she does. Cordelia is fleeing an unsatisfactory marriage to a man of impressive power while trying to retain her sense of self. It is during her flight that our sweet Cordelia becomes wrapped up in a devastating mystery through what many would consider coincidence. Given the spiritual aspect of our protagonist one can only pause and recall: ‘there is no coincidence, there is only fate’. For all the colorful experiences Cordelia has accrued in her lifetime, nothing could quite prepare her for what was to come.

Fragmented into small chapters that focus on one character at a time, The Fool’s Truth is eloquently written and carefully plotted out. As is the case with many mysteries if the author doesn’t know where they want the story to go, you’ll end up with a hot mess. Marion leads her readers through many twists and false starts to bring them to the satisfying end of their journey. Even the first chapter of the book is almost a ruse; meant to cause the reader to picture and assume something entirely false. It’s important to note that Marion does wrap up all her threads by the end of the tale.

A drawback from being written so fragmentedly is that the chapters concerning Cordelia are written in the first person. This can throw the reader off if they are expecting a third-person view like the rest of the book. However, while this may be off-putting, it does not detract from the story itself. It does its job to cement Cordelia as the main character of this novel, though there would have been little doubt of that. For all the trouble our heroine finds herself in, this is still very much her story.

What a twisted journey it is. The characters are all intricately tied together with false identities, broken pasts and loveless marriages built on security, not affection. There are some surprising truths near the end of the book and the final part does an excellent job of wrapping everything together. In what must have been a labour of love The Fool’s Journey spans more than three hundred pages, yet every single one of them unfolds pieces of the puzzles that Marion scatters throughout the tale.

At times breath-taking and other times heart-pounding a true mystery lover will not want to let The Fool’s Truth pass them by. Even the romance aspects of the story are not overpowering and flow naturally, without taking away from the central core of the tale. The romance is a side dish to the main course of full-bodied mystery that Marion has to offer.

Pages: 377 | ASIN: B01LY8U5B1

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The Crown Princess’ Voyage

The Crown Princess' Voyage proposed cover by Rona Dijkhuis4 Stars

We’re brought into a fantasy world right after a princess has ascended her throne while another plots the death of a beast. The Crown Princess’ Voyage by Dylan Madeley tells two intertwined stories about young women thrust into power and broken from that power at the same time. Both have won, both have lost and in the end they both will fight over the same possession. Our princess Chandra is about to be thrust from her kingdom as a peace-keeping act to satisfy those disenchanted with the monarchy. Alathea has ascended to goddess-hood and viciously fights to keep her place. Both women are wrapped in mystery and an air of sorcery, yet which one of them will be victorious in the end?

In the beginning of the book it is a bit difficult to fully grasp which tale is being told. The switch from one to the other can be a bit confusing, especially when Alathea’s peculiarities are taken into consideration. A self-proclaimed Goddess who needs to wear a mask in order to fulfill the dirty parts of being royalty could just as easily be a figment of Chandra’s imagination.

They are two separate women, however, and while they are living different lives they share something in common: Derek Wancyek. This assassin-turned-knight who serves Chandra is also desired by Alathea. There comes a point when he is offered an easy life or the choice to struggle. This means betraying one for the other and the decision our dear Derek makes will be surprising to some readers.

The first section of the book seems devoted to world-building which is important when you’ve got complicated structures like those that exist in this tale. After the first few chapters when the reader realizes that Chandra and Alathea are two separate women who will eventually come into contact with each other, the book is easier to read.

The joy of this book is that we’ve got two strong female leads. More often than not it is the men who shine in tales like this. While both Chandra and Alathea have men that they confide in, trust in, it is clear that these two women are the ones who call the shots. Alathea especially. Her youth was twisted and taken from her in the most dramatic of ways, yet she used this to her advantage and pressed forward with her goals.

One of the best parts of Madeley’s tale is the description. Everything is explained with intricate detail that would have taken ages to compile and keep straight in the mind. Dialogue isn’t used to fill gaps, as it sometimes can be. While there are some rough areas that need tidying up, the story as a whole is compacted into a single volume that does lead to a resolution. The only thing that can be a bit difficult to digest is the large cast of characters and learning about their fates post-story. But in then end, readers won’t be disappointed with this fantastical tale.

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Get book one of the Gift-Knight series available NOW at Amazon

The Gift-Knight's Quest by [Madeley, Dylan]

When a young woman named Chandra takes the throne under suspicious circumstances, she has to solve the deaths of the King and Queen before those responsible get to her. She has to maintain peace in an empire where people consider her the number one suspect. Derek is summoned by an official letter and his people’s tradition to be Chandra’s personal guard. He’s immediately suspicious given that her family ruined his once-noble ancestors, but if there’s no way to escape the world’s largest empire, what might he do to turn the tables? Interwoven with Derek and Chandra’s story is the history of their ancestors, infamous and famous, that lead them to confrontation. A new world is built before the reader’s eyes, and key groundwork is laid for the impending sequels, leading to a highly detailed narrative.

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