A Bargain in Silver by Josie Jaffrey

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I really enjoy storylines that are very different and unique. So, right up front I’m going to let you know this one is about vampires. Usually vampires don’t hold my attention, what with all the blood drinking and stuff going on, but this is not the typical vampire tale. (Still drinking blood, just a little more sophisticated about it.) They call themselves The Silver, because of the silver streaks that appear in their eyes, and they are a vicious group just about ready to take over the world. Then there are The Weepers, who are zombies with red tears running down their faces, and they enjoy munching on humans when they can catch them.

Emilia works at Parker’s Bar, where she and the other employees have become as close as most families. They let her know it is not a wise idea to walk home at night, but she informs them that she can make her own way. Of course, in the darkest area of the street, Emilia is frightened out of her wits when she is cut off by three strangers inside of a construction tunnel. One of them is a large man with blood around his mouth. What is that about?! Just as she is certain that she is looking death in the face, she is rescued by a very handsome man named Drew. He explains to her that she was almost attacked by Weepers and the best part…they like to eat people. Eww. As he tries to draw her away to a safe place, she refuses to budge and prefers to argue and demand answers, even as the streets fill with Weepers. Since he has the strength to rescue her from three scary monsters, I am unsure as to why he simply stands there and waits for the Weepers to get closer and closer. She’s looking rather obstinate and not too smart. Lucky for her, he has the patience of Job.

Eventually, Drew convinces Emilia that they will be much safer at his apartment. He lives in a very, very expensive building on the 10th floor. They hike their way up to his place, leaving her out of breath and exhausted. How about half dead? By the third floor most of us would be looking for the elevator key, but yes, there is a power outage. Once in the apartment, Drew brings her to the television and tells her to watch and listen. (No power outage? Or does he have a backup generator?) A very authoritative Silver introduces himself as Solomon and proceeds to tell the human population that to survive in the new social order they must do the job assigned to them and provide a monthly donation of blood. In return, the Silvers will provide for all their needs, such as health care, food, and housing. Emilia is utterly shocked and hardly capable of thinking, but moments later she is showing her strong will once again. She spots Drew on the stage with Solomon and wants to know just who he is and what she is doing in his apartment. It doesn’t take Drew long to convey his personal thoughts about Emilia (Could it be love?) and then it is up to her to decide what she is doing with him.

In time, Emilia meets Solomon and he shows interest in her. She is afraid of them both and wonders if there is a way to escape. She has a special place in this new society, though. While others are basically slaves, she is treated with care and continually speaks her mind without forethought. She questions everything and constantly makes demands, never recognizing that other women would not last long with her attitude. Even when her escape plans culminate with the deaths of three friends, she still does not soften her attitude or recognize the danger she is in.

The story is quite interesting with the a difference in the relationship between the Silver and the humans. There is a lot of action in some chapters, but then there is a slowing of the pace in the middle. Also, there is a certain amount of ‘cookie cutter’ story when it comes to the perfection of the Silvers and their out-of-this-world beauty. It’s a staple of vampire storylines and romance novels. After a few slow chapters, the story starts gaining speed again and rolls on to the end. Those who enjoy romance will like this one. Those who like vampires will absolutely enjoy the unique take on these bloodsuckers. However, I think the author had a real chance to develop a much larger and more interesting story if she had involved characters that were actually out in the slavish society, trying to survive.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy/Romance for older teens and adults.
  • Level of sexuality – There is certainly a lot of thought on the subject, but the characters have a long way to go if they’re going to have any kind of real relationship.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No. At times, I think Emilia was meant to be entertaining, but fell short. Or maybe I don’t know funny when I read it. (Yes, I do.)
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, and I admit that if the sequel were to land on my desk, I would probably read it just because I am insatiably curious on ‘unique’ takes on generic storylines.
  • Level of character development – The characters did not change and Emilia started as a spoiled child and it ended with her as a spoiled child. It would have been wise for her character to give maturing a try. I thought even Drew, the macho man, could have used at least a touch of strength when it came to dealing with his darling Emilia. The wringing of hands did not add to his character and only served to make him look weak.

I award this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

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Dead Haven: A Zombie Novel by Flint Maxwell

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Dead Haven is another zombie story, but there’s a little more to it than just killing dead guys who won’t stay down. It starts with Jack Jupiter, who hates his home town and growing up there had been the worst time of his life. Unfortunately, his mother dies and he is the only one to arrange her funeral. In actuality, it’s nothing more than a burial. Fortunately, Darlene, the woman he loves more than anything or anyone, is present and helps make the ordeal bearable.

Jack hasn’t heard from his older brother, Norm, in a very long time and he’s fine with that, seeing that Norm had been their mother’s favorite. As the older brother, he had enjoyed being a constant trial for Jack while they were growing up. To make matters worse, he considers it unusually bad luck when Norm calls and says he’ll be at the burial. Jack is not ready to confront his brother and insists he leaves. Norm, after all, is not the one who took care of their mother and it aggravates Jack to no end that Norm will appear and act as the favored son, once again.

After the funeral, Jack figures they’ll have to eat eventually and heads off to the nearest mom and pop grocery story. He prefers to keep a low profile, but sooner or later he will be recognized as the successful zombie author he is. At the store, he is noticed by an old school bully who asks Jack about his success. He decides that belittling his former tormentor is the best way to handle the situation and announces that he’s disgustingly rich, and this once upon a time bully proceeds to beat the stuffing out of him. Jack limps back to the motel where Darlene waits. She tries to soothe his battered ego, but this is the final straw and he elects to work out at the gym owned by an old school friend, even though he despises working out.

This is where the zombies make their debut and where said bully’s father happens to be at the same time. You have probably guessed he is going to cause Jack all sorts of trouble, because he is a gem much like his son. As a group, they decide to sit and wait for rescue. Except Jack is not in agreement. He is terrified for Darlene and wants to get back to her. It’s amazing what a group of petrified people will do. Argue is first and foremost. They also look to Jack, since he’s a well-known author of zombie tales. That belief won’t get them far, as he has never actually encountered one and never expected to. This is an opportunity for Jack to show what he is made of. When pushed to lead, he doesn’t turn away, but attempts to lead a cantankerous, frightened group of people through the zombie apocalypse. Although Jack is a disappointment to himself, he actually comes across as someone who will do what needs to be done. All in all, he is not a letdown for the reader nor the book.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Science fiction for teens and adults who enjoy those scamps we lovingly refer to as zombies.
  • Level of sexuality – There is some sexual activity, but it does not drive the story so much as it defines the relationship between Jack and Darlene.
  • Is there graphic language? There is some, but not to an extent that it had my attention more than the story.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? I had to smile sometimes just because of Jack’s opinions.
  • Is this part of a series? It is book one of the Jack Zombie series.
  • Level of character development – Jack continued to mature as a leader and a man in love with Darlene throughout the entire book.

I will be honest here and say that although I liked this storyline, I read the sequel and found it to be a more interesting book. For book one, I give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. Start here and keep going.

Available here on Amazon

The Eye of Hermes by William Howard

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Yannick DcCullen is a blue and green Trionyx – seven-foot-two, spikes down his back and razor-sharp claws on paws and feet. Buddash Kyo is a Cranitian – skin cheddar-hued and large saucer-shaped eyes on either side of his oblong face. He has his own personal body armor – a scaled protective layer from the back of his head to below his ankles. Then there is Legate Prime Buzz, Diabolox, Dr. Rabun, and Sobek Bokhan, just to name a few. The names and species just kept coming. I only had a vague sense of the storyline, because I was overwhelmed by so many players. Also, there were several goals, individually, involving many characters.

What it comes down to is that these are bugs. Big bugs. Humans barely have a place in this plot and it turns out bugs are just as greed-driven as humans, and just as murderous. If they are not plotting to rob one another, they are plotting the demise of some equally nasty bug. Almost each chapter is a bombardment of some bug fighting other bugs, discussion of their ability to fight, and the body type needed for surviving fights. I was fascinated by the fact that you never want to kill a bug outright, because it immediately births a whole slew of more bugs. Incapacitation works much better, so the best way to handle bugs is to whack off appendages.

This story obviously involved a lot of brain-power from the author and, unfortunately, an awful lot from the readers. I was half-way through the book before I started recognizing who was up to what and why. Sadly, part-way through, the editing broke down and there are several confusing sentences sprinkled about. I decided by the time I neared the end of the book that I was liking the story. However, it took too long for me to appreciate it and the editing did muddy the writing. Is this a good story? I think it can be and some readers may enjoy this buggy tale. If you want to dive deeply into this, bring a roadmap and take notes. However, if you are just plain interested in what bugs may be thinking, this is the book for you.

Oh, don’t ask what the Eye of Hermes is. I barely know myself.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – I’m going to call this sci-fi and the reading age is anybody who likes bugs.
  • Level of sexuality – There were some pleasure bugs, but overall I don’t think they’re too interested in that kind of stuff.
  • Is there graphic language? Some, but it was all spoken in Bug-ese and easily ignored.
  • Did I cry? Are you kidding? These are bugs!
  • Did I laugh? After I finished the book. After all, it’s about bugs!
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – What can I say? Bugs.

I give this ⭐️⭐️…Bugs!

Available here on Amazon

 

The Brothers Three by Layton Green

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New Orleans, Louisiana

Will works evenings at Medieval Nights, a joust-themed dinner theater. A few nights a week, to help his finances, he engages in staged battles with a group of fellow under-achieving twenty-somethings. To Will’s disappointment, he knows this is as close to Middle Earth as he will ever get. His brother, Caleb, is a bartender at the House of Spirits, and Val is the oldest brother and a corporate lawyer. Will’s routine includes two drinks at the House of Spirits, a little online gaming, then asleep by midnight, so he can get to his day job as a general contractor’s assistant.

Will’s unfortunate tendency towards severe panic attacks precludes him from any career with danger or stress. Because of this, the closest he gets to excitement is with Lance Wesson, his high school friend, who is a police officer. One evening during Will’s ride-along, they receive a call about a dog howling in the cemetery. Thinking this could be interesting, even Will gets out of the car. As they move through the headstones the howling dog can be heard and is suddenly directly in front of Will, leaping on him with chomping teeth. Lance fires his pistol and the monster runs. The young men give chase and see it disappear in the direction of the nearest home, a huge two-story with a wrap-around porch. At first, it seems to be abandoned, until a man opens the door, dressed as an eighteenth-century French aristocrat, reminding Will of a costume party. During their conversation they learn absolutely nothing, other than the fact that this situation is starting to creep Will out.

The next night, having nothing to occupy his mind, Will decides to spy on the freaky guy in the mansion. Climbing a tree and using his binoculars, he sees the man in a room lined with shelves, crammed with books and the occasional skull. Two people enter, dressed in white, and begin dusting and sweeping. Only they’re not people dressed in white; they are skeletons busily cleaning. Suddenly, one turns towards the window and Will can sense that he’s been noticed. The man jumps to his feet and rushes to the window, just as Will’s branch gives way with a loud crack.

Charles Zalinkski, a friend of the brothers’ father, calls Will and requests a meeting with all the Blackwood brothers, which Will finds odd, but lately there seems to be a lot of weird things going around. Upon meeting with Charles, they are shocked and disbelieving when he explains he is a member of an organization that studies magic. Also, he has promised their father to watch over them if there came a time that the boys needed to know more of their circumstances, and just perhaps some of their talents. Charles explains their father was a wizard and from another world. As Charles tries to tell them more about their father, the back door of the bar is flung open, as the man from the cemetery comes striding into the parking lot carrying a bag of bones.

Thus begins the adventure of a lifetime.

This is an intriguing story with lots of action. One thing with fantasy is that the author can take the story almost anywhere, stretching the reader’s imagination. It’s a long story at three-hundred and thirty-three pages, but it never drags. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters and, of course, Will’s mental health issue is a real attention grabber. Naturally, they will visit another world and that is total entertainment, as they adjust to being Beginners in the arena of magic. This is a great read and I think most of us will enjoy this book.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – This is YA fantasy. Both adults and teens will appreciate it.
  • Level of sexuality – Low.
  • Is there graphic language? Very little.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? Sometimes.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, this is book one of the Blackwood Saga.
  • Level of character development – I found them to be fairly well-developed and obviously some of the main characters will be embellished in the sequel.

I gladly give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone

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October 2047. Eliza Ramsey is a paramedic, and although she has never been to the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories (RIPT), she is excited when she is asked to accompany a group of Americans traveling for Habitat for Humanity. At first, she doesn’t feel comfortable waiting at Samarra’s International Airport for the others to arrive and, unfortunately, as time passes she catches the attention of Security and spends a nerve-wracking time being questioned. Finally, she is informed that the rest of the team will arrive that evening.

After waiting for hours, she spots fifteen Americans. She introduces herself and they all toss their luggage into the back of a large truck and climb aboard their waiting bus. After her ordeal with Security and her long wait, she is exhausted and looks forward to a relaxing two-hour ride to their camp. She is jolted awake when the bus pulls into a gas station; time for snacks, drinks, and restroom breaks. Knowing this is a break in their expected schedule, Eliza feels uneasy and moves into the truck holding their belongings, hoping to calm her anxiety.

As the vehicles travel through Samarra, Eliza’s nervousness increases, noting they are off track. She is confused when they pull into the local police compound and soon after she hears loud voices and screaming. Deafening gunfire drowns out the screams and just when she thinks it is over, more shouting ensues and she realizes the police are in the middle of a gun fight. Racing from her hiding spot, she notes that none of the Americans have survived. It is in the midst of this chaos and fear that Eliza meets Captain Hashim Shariff, the police commander, and the one person who can ensure she survives her trip to RIPT.

This is a story of a Canadian woman and a Muslim man carefully feeling their way into a relationship in a tale ripe with action, loyalty, love, treason, and murder. I enjoyed this book immensely and it is definitely not a run of the mill romance. I remained on high alert throughout, watching for the next betrayal, murder, or finally the first kiss. The author presents a well-informed story of the morals, beliefs, and dress code of this Arabic society. It was utterly engrossing!

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – As I said, it’s not just a romance. This book is more suspense than anything else. The age is geared towards adults and there is a political aspect, many characters to juggle, and the need to understand how religion can engulf a people and their society, making this a more mature read.
  • Level of sexuality – Mild.
  • Is there graphic language? I think I have read too many books that have graphic language as a given, so I didn’t really notice it. However, the author warns of the violence and vulgar language, so I’m pretty sure she’s spot on. Therefore, she recommends 18+ and I agree.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No. Far too much suspense for that!
  • Is this part of a series? I have not heard of a sequel, but it does have a cliffhanger at the end, so I hope to see more.
  • Level of character development – These characters were highly developed and never let the story down.

It is with great pleasure that I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon