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Son of the Serpent

Son of the Serpent (Fantasy Angels Series Book 2) by [Quiroz-Vega, Vashti]

Son of the Serpent by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a fantasy novel of vengeance and revenge told from the dual perspective of Dracul, the Son of the serpent, and Lillith, his mother.

Dracul arises in a cave and discovers that he’s encased in a demonic body. He’s filled with agony and confusion as he pieces together his memories to determine how he arrived there. In a painful and shocking epiphany, he realizes that he is the son of Lilith, and that Lilith had tried to kill him. He vows to find out what happened and avenge himself. On this bloodthirsty journey, he faces death, destruction, and betrayal. People, encounters, and events further cement his determination for revenge. The author breathes new life into a host of fantastical characters, often from Biblical settings. Their lives and stories are familiar, yet enshrouded in darkness.

What I found most striking about the book was the depth of its darkness and morbidity. Vivid, gory scenes of slaughter left me uncomfortable, but totally engrossed. Lilith’s sections were almost unbearable. Scenes of Lilith’s cruelty towards others was always accompanied by a fascinating glimpse into her psyche. There’s a lot going on in her and just a surface glimpse was enough to leave me mesmerized. It’s been a while since I encountered such a well-portrayed and dislikable antagonist.

Dracul was just as well-written. His struggle to be good in the face of his own destiny was oddly inspiring. To fight where he came from, to whom he belongs, and the core of his being- his pain and loneliness were palpable. The ending was unexpected, but upon consideration, entirely perfect. Maybe it’s not inherent to him, but it’s clear that Dracul is a good creature.

The Biblical settings and references provided a whole new perspective on the worn-out stories. From angels to Cain and Abel, the otherworldly features heavily in this book- and not always in a favorable light. The Biblical events portrayed from a first-person and real-time perspective were super imaginative. I think it would be difficult to assign a genre to this book. Although it is set primarily in a fantasy world, the dashes of horror, romance, and the occult would make it an interesting read for nearly anyone. The world created by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is totally immersive. I was glad for the escape from reality and I would definitely visit again.

Pages: 303 | ASIN:  B07HS4C3B7

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Confessions of Eden

Confessions of Eden: A Riveting Spy Thriller (Michelle Reagan Book 1) by [Shinberg, Scott]

Michelle Reagan, alias Eden, is a CIA covert operator who conducts secret missions all over the world, and does what only a few can: take away someone’s life without getting caught. But having an undercover profession like this is not easy. Michelle works hard to be successful and gain the recognition of her boss and colleagues while trying to maintain a personal life and relationship. Every day, Michelle has to live with a burden, the moral consequences of killing innocent people. But can she handle it without going insane? And can she succeed and stay alive in this dangerous, male-dominated career?

The Confessions of Eden by Scott Shinberg is by far the best espionage thriller I have read this year: rich in action, danger, and unexpected turns. The plot is made up of Michelle’s reminiscences. This novel serves as her memoir in which she tells her story. The missions mentioned in the book are gripping and adventurous and filled with dangerous events. I liked the way the short stories and the descriptions of the missions came after each other and, despite the time gaps, there was no break in the story line, everything just falls into place to create a bigger story.

Michelle Reagan is an ambitious, hard-working agent, or assassin, who grows more confident as the story progresses. At first, she suffers from the psychological consequences of killing someone whose only fault is to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but then, as her character develops and transforms from Michelle into Eden, she learns how to handle it. Her boss Michael and her two colleagues play an important role in Michelle’s life, and I appreciated how they supported her character development and I felt like they bring out another dimension to her character which really rounds her out. Because Michelle’s private life is built upon lies, she has difficulties finding and keeping a partner without getting exposed. This contrast between personal and private lives is something that I found intriguing and well balanced in this book.

Scott Shinberg is a talented author who can make you feel like you are in the middle of a CIA office with undercover agents. He catches the reader’s attention with the very first sentence and holds it right to the end. I look forward to reading the next Michelle Reagan novel.

Pages: 333 | ASIN:  B07PTPHTXS

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Experiment X: Exposed

Experiment X: Exposed by [Haase, Nikki]

Experiment X: Exposed is the second installment of the Experiment X Trilogy. Exposed jumps right back into the lives of Karen and her commands a year after their escape from Dr. Thaddeus’s lab. Those freed from the horrors of their capture spend their days slowly recovering and training their elemental powers. It isn’t long until Dr. Thaddeus makes a grand appearance on national television to unveil his new plan to create an army of superhumans; Experiment R. The unsuspecting population rejoice. Soon droves of volunteers sign up to take part with the promises of wealth and prestige. At the same time, Karen receives a coded message from her former captain embarking her on a journey that once again puts Hher physical and mental capabilities to their limits.

For those who enjoyed the first book, I highly recommend the second. If Sacrifice was about Karen discovering her powers, Exposed is about mastering them. Needless to say, Karen is back at it, supercharged, and ready to go.

Despite the obvious difference in power, Karen is a relatable character. Her anger, pride, and raw emotions are illustrated with such care from a first-person perspective. As the main character, Karen is portrayed with enough detail to make her believable and yet still given room to grow. She is a strong girl with a strong personality. Such perfection with one character made the haphazard way that other characters were thrown in seem jarring. Because the story is from a first-person perspective, all other character growth is described through Karen’s thoughts. Some of the major players are well remembered for their importance to Karen. However, many new characters are not given the time to develop a relationship with the main character.

The pacing, I thought, quickly moved from one event to the next with barely any transition; I was left with no concrete timeline. Although the author mentioned tentative time frames, and the ambiguous period of various events was intentional, every section of the story felt similar.

But these are minor glitches in a book that has a lot of potential for the characters and expanding story line. These issues only stand out to me because I was so invested in the character and story. Nikki Haase has command of an entertaining writing style that elevates Experiment X: Exposed above many of the dystopian fiction I’ve read this year.

Pages: 262 | ASIN: B06W9NC7B7

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Phoebe Douse:S3A2

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Pheobe Douse, Secret Society for Special Abilities and Artefacts allows a view into the life of young Pheobe, a high school student whose tendency to be unusually distinct has her feeling like an outcast. After her grandmother dies, it leaves her even more unsure about herself. Her grandmother would always tell stories that seemed fantastical about her life and travels. Phoebe took those moments for granted and when she can no longer have them, she is left feeling guilty. When she receives a strange invitation to attend school in Scotland she accepts the offer with the approval of her parents. She has no close ties outside of her family and she hopes for an adventure like the ones her grandmother had lived.

She soon realizes that while she fits in more readily than she ever has before, this sense of belonging actually makes the new school, her new classmates and her surroundings pretty extraordinary. When she finally begins to accept the possibilities that come with being extraordinary in an extraordinary place, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to her new friends and her grandmother’s legacy. Pheobe has to figure out who she is able to trust before secret forces lead her on a path of no return.

It would be unsurprising if L. Samuels’ debut novel lands on the bestseller list. Any of the millions of Harry Potter fans would be a fan of Pheobe Douse and the well crafted, gifted characters L. Samuels brings to life. The origin of the main character is seeped in a legacy that is undeniably powerful but shrouded in mystery.

Every event and continuation was strategically laid out in a way that caused constant anticipation. Even so, at each moment of conflict, climax and revelation, there were still surprises. There were no moments of overwhelming unpredictability but the pace of events varied and provided an emotionally dynamic experience.

The least agreeable aspect of the book is that the reader is left wanting to know what happens next and in the world of storytelling, this kind of itch usually happens after a satisfying read. The best part is that a second installment is expected so the anticipation continues!

Pages: 348 | ISBN: 978-1-7322846-7-8

 

Freedom He Didn’t Expect

Carl Roberts Author Interview

Carl Roberts Author Interview

The Trial of Connor Padget follows Jack as he must defend his friend in a murder trial that has life changing consequences. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?

As a trial lawyer, I often thought of the forgotten Atticus Finch. How might he react to our modern world? I created Jack as a man who has experienced the dangers of combat and the demands of loyalty. I wanted to portray him as a successful lawyer with all its worldly trappings. How would he react when his way of life was unexpectedly challenged? How much would he risk in order to stay loyal to a longtime friend?

I enjoyed the backstory to Jack Carney and the depth of his character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?

An unexpected event forces Jack to reassess his life. He loves the practice of law but wonders if he hasn’t begun to go through the motions of handling cases in an automatic way. He misses his time of flying missions in the Air Force and questions the man he has become. Defending his friend in what seems to be a hopeless case brings him a sense of freedom he didn’t expect.

This is an exceptional legal drama that asks some serious moral questions. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?

Jack sees a parallel in defending one’s family and defending one’s country. He is grateful for the chance to come to the aid of a family facing fallout from our, now transient, society which puts our children at risk.

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

The title is The Rise and Fall of the Pink Alligator: Jack’s T-shirt shop located on the beach in St. Augustine. Four other shopkeepers share a strip mall with Jack and, though they are all new friends, they spar over most everything – especially parking. A suspicious fire causes concern about a possible arsonist in their midst. The story explores the dream of a new life.

I hope to finish the first draft in seven months, but new ideas will appear to offer more depth to the writing, and I don’t like to tie myself to a strict schedule. Writing to me is a discovery process and to put it into a strict time frame would ruin that. I am now reading The Life of Pablo Picasso and hope to get some new ideas from his story to add to my characters’ lives. The spirit of modernism fascinates me and provides a contrast to the unique history of St Augustine, the oldest city in our country.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

The Trial of Connor Padget by [Roberts, Carl]

Jack Carney’s life is unexpectedly put on hold. He is not a criminal lawyer, but his friend needs help. He remembers his time in Japan flying covert missions against the Russians. What would his flight crew think of him now? By comparison his legal career lacks purpose. If he defends Connor, there will be consequences: his firm does not allow involvement in criminal cases.

This is the story of a trial that changes the lawyer’s life. If you like a bit of legal intrigue laced with a touch of Southern culture and the drama of a trial, you’ll like this story.

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Truths that Transform Lives

Jess Lederman Author Interview

Jess Lederman Author Interview

Hearts Set Free follows the interweaving tales of characters on a journey that illuminates both faith and love. What served as your inspiration for this wonderful novel?

People who know that Hearts Set Free contains autobiographical elements (and several historical characters) sometimes ask me, “How much of the story is true?’ And I answer, “Perhaps twenty percent—and the rest is even more true!” What drives my writing is the desire to convey truths that transform lives. Truths of the heart. There were several inspirations: the first was my own journey, from being an arrogant atheist (for the first fifty years of my life!) to a follower of Christ. The story was also born out of tragedy. At the prime of her life, only a few years after we had both become Christians, my late first wife was diagnosed with ALS and given two years to live. She’s very much the model for one of the major characters, Joan Reed. We chose to spend her last days on earth together in a small town in Alaska, and lived not far from the headquarters of the Iditarod, the iconic thousand-mile dog sled race. It’s no coincidence that my novel begins with the Great Race of Mercy of 1925, the heroic effort to get diptheria serum to Nome to save ten thousand lives, which inspired the Iditarod.

Yura and Luke are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?

One of the themes of Hearts Set Free is how people come to faith and deal with doubt. I put aspects of myself into several of the characters, including young Luke, although I only wish I had his courage and purity of heart. Yura and Luke Noongwook are native Alaskans, mother and son, and they embark on a quest to bring back Victor, who is Yura’s husband and Luke’s father. He’s a hero of the Great Race of Mercy who has abandoned them for a beautiful reporter from New York. Yura has a warrior’s spirit, and has resolved to kill the woman who stole her husband. Thirteen-year-old Luke is desperate to have his father back. I won’t spoil the plot by revealing whether or not they find Victor and bring him home, or whether Yura follows through on her plans for revenge, but I’ll say this: on their long journey, these two, who at the beginning know only the Inuit gods, do find their true Heavenly Father. God draws all people to Himself, though some respond quickly and others come kicking and screaming. How they respond when the Hound of Heaven is nipping at their heels is the key to their character development.

Your characters overcome many obstacles and are testaments to the human spirit. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

First of all, I hope they enjoy the story and love the characters as much as I do. What I’d love for readers to be inspired by is how many of the characters seek to make their faith a reality in their day-to-day lives. There are several points in the story where characters are discussing Scripture, wrestling with difficult passages, and coming to terms with doubt. What does it really mean to follow Jesus? What is involved in forgiving our enemies, let alone loving them? My characters struggle to come to terms with these things, not out of some academic interest in theology, not as a Bible-study exercise, but out of a burning desire to love God with all their heart, strength, soul, and mind. If a reader is motivated to do the same, I’ve accomplished everything I could ever hope for in writing Hearts Set Free.

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

I’m hard at work writing The Church on Misfit Row, which is set in Las Vegas in 1955. God willing, it will be completed in 2020 and available shortly thereafter!

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Hearts Set Free: An epic tale of love, faith, and the glory of God's grace by [Lederman, Jess]

Hearts Set Free weaves together three tales of men and women who journey from the darkness of doubt to triumphant faith and from the ache of loneliness to everlasting love.

In 1930, the rag-tag riffraff of a railway stop called Las Vegas need a fighting man to shepherd their tiny church after their pastor is murdered. Might David Gold, a washed-up boxer and Bible-school dropout who fights as the Pummelin’ Preacher, be the answer to their prayers?

At the same time, Luke, a native Alaskan boy, is on a quest to find his father, who has abandoned his family for a beautiful woman his warrior mother vows to kill. The journey of mother and son will lead them to the Nevada desert, and to truths–and terrors–of which they’d never dreamed.

In 2011, Science Cable T.V. producer Tim Faber is determined to prove that mankind has no need of God, while his lover, Joan Reed, strives to regain the faith of her youth. They’re bound for Las Vegas to meet with a 99-year-old man who holds the key to a mystery they must solve–and answers that will forever change their lives.

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From That Truism

Robert D. Rice II Author Interview

Robert D. Rice II Author Interview

Burn Marks is a collection of fictional short stories that give readers a unique perspective on historical events. Why was this an important collection for you to write?

  1. Fort Worth Star: The public only saw and heard about what Lee Harvey did. Nobody ever got to feel how Mrs. Oswald absorbed it.
  2. Ethel: The public heard and read what the government said she did. No one got to hear Ethel’s side of it.
  3. The Jumper: Sure, we know the skyjacker jumped from the plane with the money. What about that which his daughter went through.
  4. The Conductor: Of course, there were sympathetic whites in the south who opposed slavery. Her was one who had his own solution.
  5. It went without saying, Leopold & Loeb were the worst of the worst. What about a young women, hanging out with them, who was just as bad?

The stories are all engaging and well developed. Did you write them over time or did you write them specifically for this collection?

Each story is the result of an individual thought process. It was not until the last story was completed when I realized the similarities; the letters. That was when I decided to make a book from them. The first story that I did was about Ethel Rosenberg. For the longest time, I had been fascinated by how Ethel Rosenberg maintained her silence. She was eventually offered a deal by the prosecution: tell on your husband, Julius, spend minimal prison time, then be reunited with your children. She remained stedfast, silent. From that truism I was compelled to speak for her. When “Ethel” was completed, I knew that I had to venture out and speak for others who historians recorded differently.

My favorite story from the collection is Deja’ Blue. What is your favorite story from the collection?

Ethel is my favorite. For me, there is something nice, almost romantically innocent, about writing to Santa Claus in the face of the hardships that she suffered through. In a somewhat odd way, I found myself relating to that type of pen pal relationship—comforted in a canal of calm while in the center of a whirlwind chaotic storm.

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

I am working on a sequel to Burn Marks. Jack, Siobhan and Deja resurface. What is easy about the sequel is that readers need not have read Burn Marks to grasp the full flavor of my second book.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Burn Marks: A strange time for letters by [II, Robert D. Rice]Here are five fast-moving short stories that offer a delightfully humorous and insightful view of famous events in American history.

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Lost My Sense of Morality

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

No Old Souls at Fury Tavern follows the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. What pulls you towards telling the story of the people many others seem to use only as background characters?

While watching movies or reading books, like many other people I’m sure, I take note of as many background details as I can, including the people populating the background. I get to thinking, I wonder what that person’s story is, I wonder what they do for a living, what their troubles are and all that juicy stuff that we’re supposed to wonder about the main characters. No Old Souls at Fury Tavern most definitely has a story that follows the main character, but it’s also largely about the other characters and how all their pieces fit together to form the overall picture. In a way, Rocko Pitts wouldn’t be who he is without the other characters, and vice versa.

I always enjoy how you bring your characters to life and make them seem real. Were you able to use anything from your own life in this book?

Every one of the people populating Fury Tavern and Grocer Junction in the book were inspired by people I’ve worked with, drank with, had relationships with, and lost my sense of morality alongside of.

What were the driving ideals behind Rocko Pitts character development throughout the story?

Rocko Pitts, if he can be, while compared to most everyone else in the story, really has no particular drive. He’s a wallflower and he’s okay with that. But while the book progresses, he starts to wonder if he’s going to be okay with that lack of purpose for the remainder of his life, or if he’s just going through a phase of apathy. The main story of “Fury Tavern” is his coming-to-the-realization that while everyone else around him has their own lives, he really doesn’t have much of a life at all.

What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?

Currently I’m working on the follow up to “Fury Tavern”, titled “A Scorched and Mystified Wilderness”. It continues the story of Rocko Pitts and the other denizens of Fury Tavern. I can’t really say too much about the plot without spoiling the end of Fury Tavern. But there will be chaos of all kinds, and I’ll be exploring deeper into the characters introduced in the first book. I am also working on Book II in a western/post-apocalypse trilogy, and my seventh collection of poetry. All three of those books I’m hoping to have released at various times next year.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookTwitter | Website

Rocko Pitts is a low-ranking receiving clerk at Junction Grocer Supermarket. He doesn’t like going to Fury Tavern with his coworkers, but he does it anyway. He likes the woman at Register 4 but everyone says she’s ugly. He doesn’t have any interest in politics, but the Mayor wannabe, Rand Sleeman, will do whatever it takes to get his vote. Rocko lives a quiet life and likes it that way but doesn’t seem to know why he likes it that way. In fact he doesn’t seem to have any purpose at all, and he’s okay with that. But travesty begets travesty, forcing the simple-pleasure-seeking Rocko to complicate his life just a little bit more than he’d normally be comfortable with. “No Old Souls at Fury Tavern” is a story about the seemingly meaningless meanderings of the dredges and sloths of society who exist in the background and behind closed doors, the denizens who populate the barstools at Fury Tavern, and more importantly, the very soul of Fury Tavern itself.

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Butterball Goes to the Beach

BUTTERBALL Goes to the Beach by [Seaborn, Julia]

Butterball is a fun-loving dog who enjoys playing with all types of balls. He’s curious about the world around her, and loves visiting the beach. When Butterball and her owner arrive at the beach, Butterball immediately begins to explore and forms some new friendships as she roams. Along the way, she learns how she compares with her new seaside friends. When her exploration goes a tad too far, Butterball relies on her new pals to get her out of a tight spot.

As an elementary teacher, I can’t say enough positive things about Butterball Goes to the Beach by Julia Seaborn. Seaborn’s book about Butterball’s beach adventure is simple to read but contains enough challenging vocabulary to make it a wonderful teaching tool. This short picture book fits easily into a life science lesson for kindergarten through second grade students and features illustrations that engage readers and emphasize the educational aspects of the story line.

A unique aspect of Butterball Goes to the Beach is the author’s choice to include websites with further information about the sea turtles mentioned in the book. In addition, Seaborn has added a short list of discussion questions at the end of the book for teachers and parents to use to engage readers more completely with the book and its characters. Young readers will enjoy the activity pages following the story as well.

Seaborn’s book is an easy and engaging way to involve students with both an interesting main character and to teach facts simultaneously. I highly recommend Butterball Goes to the Beach to any teacher or parent needing a picture book for a text set or unit on sea life.

Pages: 34 | ASIN: B07V71XNT1

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The Dream Defenders

The Dream Defenders: A YA Sci-Fi Adventure by [DenHartog, Neal]

The Dream Defenders by Neal Denhartog is a young adult science fiction adventure story following Nolan Erling, a fourteen year old boy who has felt forgotten by his parents ever since his baby brother, Max, joined their family. When Nolan keeps waking up with a headache in the morning, he doesn’t suspect that the cause of his problems is his dreams. But Aeryn Sandman knows. She is a junior agent at the DREAM institute, and Nolan is her first official assignment. Her job turns into more than just a simple recruitment mission, however, after Nolan’s unchecked powers release two nightmares into the dreamstream. Suddenly, things turn deadly–because dreams can kill. Will Nolan and Aeryn succeed in protecting millions of innocent dreamers while they sleep?

This book had a unique premise and the writing style was engaging and kept my interest. The author’s descriptions of the actions taking place pulled me into the story. I enjoyed reading about the weird details of Nolan’s dreams and how he could control them and make things happen. There were several humorous parts, as Aeryn fumbled her first official assignment and failed to keep Nolan under control. I liked the descriptions of the whimsical and frightening dreamscapes, which painted a vivid picture of the setting. I loved the Wispes, Stan and Scranton. They were one of my favorite parts of the story.

I felt that the initial ‘reveal’ of the villain happened too soon. Or maybe it could have just been handled differently. Since it seemed as though I’d already learned the villain’s identity at one third of the way through the book, I felt that the story lost some of its momentum after that. Although it took me a little while to get excited about the story again, it did happen well before I got to the crazy twist at the end.

Although the ending was entertaining and thrilling it left me with many questions. I assume that this story is intended to be the first book in the series, and if that’s the case, I would definitely want to read the next book to find out what happens and learn all the answers to my lingering questions. Overall, this is an exceptional book with a unique premise that is guaranteed to entertain.

Pages: 318 | ASIN: B07S475R84

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