Review: Special Offers by M.L. Ryan – Landra’s Take

Rating: Maybe

Genre: Sci-fi/Urban Fantasy

Magic and Aliens collide in this story. Hailey bought a Kindle to stop cluttering her house with books, instead she gets the essence of a 100+ year old Courso alien, Sebastian, in her body. The ultimate goal is to reunite Sebastian’s essence with his body. How she’ll get that accomplished she’s not sure, but Sebastian’s more than gorgeous friend, Alex Sunderland, is willing to help.

This book introduces an alien race, Courso, from an alternative dimension. I have to admit, I’m a geek when it comes to sci-fi so I was definitely interested in the species, background etc. Ryan does a good job of creating a believable group of aliens with alternative abilities, laws, and rules. The book doesn’t play too much into their own customs or practices, but focuses more on the interaction of Courso’s in the human world and the laws they’ve enacted to protect humans from Courso’s who would like to do whatever they wanted.

As far as character’s go Hailey is a snarky, take-it-as-it-comes kind of gal. The book is told entirely from her POV. Being possessed doesn’t really bother her as much as it would some, and she has a pretty strange day job… chinchilla milker, anyone? With an overbearing religious mother, an evil cat named Vinnie, and friends who just want to see Hailey get over her divorce and hook up with a nice guy, Hailey’s life is pretty much boring until the Kindle incident.

The guys are both gorgeous, alien cops. Who doesn’t like gorgeous, alien cops? Sebastian and Alex have some extra-large language attributed to the lengthy time spent on Earth, and both  have distinct personalities, but I noticed the lengthy, formal way of talking tended to bleed over into Hailey’s dialogue and thoughts. For me, the formal language took some getting used to and the author explained it away without issue. Otherwise, Sebastian was probably my favorite character. When possessing Hailey’s body the conversations are hilarious and I loved the idea of having a man live in my head for a while.

As to why this book is a maybe for me it comes down to over amount of telling and monologue. The first chapter is entirely back story  info dump and Hailey’s perspective. Some of this toned down about a quarter of the way into the book, but the majority of the first portion was very hard to get through. No action, and just an overabundance of what Hailey was doing throughout her day. When we finally get to the meat of the story, the possession and subsequent search for Sebastian’s body, there was a huge lack of conflict. A little was thrown in here or there, enough to propel the story, but I found myself skimming paragraphs of descriptive details or more internal monologing to get to dialogue, conflict, or some sort of romantic tension.

Overall, the concept and the sci-fi perspective was interesting. I would’ve liked to have seen more action, more fleshed out conflict between the 3 main characters and a more determined villain (the guy didn’t go after them, but waited for them to show up). This is the first book in the series and it did end with a bit of a cliff-hanger. The second book is currently available so if you’re up for a ride, then you won’t have to wait to find out what happens.

Special Offers is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo

This Weeks Read: Special Offers by M.L. Ryan

Special Offers coverHailey Parrish is quick-witted, irreverent, and hasn’t had a date in three years. She only wanted an eBook reader because her collection of paperbacks threatened to take over her small living space. Little did she know that the “special offers” that prompted the purchase included much more than a reduced price in exchange for a few ads. The device came pre-loaded with the essence of Sebastian Kess, an erudite womanizer with magical abilities from a parallel dimension. When she inadvertently releases him and he inhabits her body, she finally has a man inside her, just not in the way she imagined. And soon her predicament introduces her to yet another supernatural, the handsome could-be-the-man-of-her-dreams Alex Sunderland. Can Alex and Hailey find a way to return Sebastian to his own body, stay one step ahead of the criminals who want to keep him where he is, and not lose their sense of humor?

Special Offers is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo


What Draws Us – Donna Cummings

Welcome Page PhotoWe’re very excited to have Donna on the blog again! Today she shares with us what draws her to a particular book.

Take it away, Donna!

When I’m drawn to a particular story, it can be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s the setting. “Oh, this is in New Orleans. I adore New Orleans. I’ll give this a try.” Or a plot twist can make my curiosity sit up and take notice. “What?! A rodeo clown who communicates with the animals via his bright red nose? I gotta read this!”

But even if my attention has been snagged, I’ll only stick with the story if the characters grab my interest and clutch onto it until my heart gets permanently involved.

Yes, it’s all about the characters.

It’s why we can have the same basic plot, or trope, such as a marriage of convenience, or secret baby, or any of the things we see in books over and over. There’s a certain comfort in knowing what to expect from these plot devices, and sometimes when we pick up a book, that’s exactly what we need: the comfort of the expected.

However, we also love to be surprised and delighted, and that’s where different characters come in. They shake up the familiar. They give the tried-and-true a new life, making it seem exciting and unusual, so that we forget it’s a story line we’ve seen many times before. They walk onto stage and treat that setting or plot device as if they invented it.

And that’s how characters should be. They have their own history, and personality, and likes and dislikes, and hurts and pains, and all the little quirks and annoying traits and lovable ones that make them unlike anyone else. Because of their own particular DNA, they can turn a story on its head, just by their presence.

Think of your favorite trope. Maybe it’s friends to lovers. Now think of your favorite characters, whether they’re from a TV show, or movie, or a book. How would they react in a situation where they’re falling in love with their best friend? Would they roll up their sleeves and get to work persuading that friend what a great idea it is? Or would they be a fish out of water, flailing around, trying to figure out what to do?

This is what draws me to a story. I want to see a character jump into a situation and, based on what I know of their personality, see how they’ll act and react. I want to see them head into those moments that test their fears, and their resolve. I want to cheer for them when they actually do what they believed so fervently they couldn’t do. I want to hug them and jump up and down when they achieve their victory, and I want to hug them and sob when they don’t.

When characters grab onto my emotions, I’ll follow their story just about anywhere, even if it’s someplace I’d never go to otherwise. I’ve become their life coach and support staff and their most fervent admirers, because they are more than just pixels on an e-reader screen.

Yes, it’s all about the characters.

Bio: I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances. I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton. In addition to my current release, I Do. . .or Die, a romantic comedy/mystery, my available books are Summer Lovin’, a free romantic comedy novella, and Lord Midnight, a Regency romance. My contemporary novella, Back on Track, part of the Strangers on a Train collection, will release from Samhain on April 2, 2013.







The Author’s Journey – Donna Cummings

This week, Lord Midnight author Donna Cummings is gracing our blog with her presence once again! This time, she’s sharing with us her author journey. Thank you for your post, Donna!

If you missed the Lord Midnight review, check it out here, and her author interview here.

The Author’s Journey

For anyone who has been on the author’s journey for a little while, it’s comforting to think it’s always going to be a straight shot, and that you actually know where you’re going. But it’s a comfort only because it’s a delusion. Whatever you know about writing or the writing journey is based on someplace you’ve been, not where you’re headed.

You change as a writer with every book you write. So it makes sense that the path you’ll take is going to morph as your writing abilities grow and improve. Also, every “next book” we write is always going to be slightly outside our skill set. Even though we’ve just added to our resumé and repertoire by writing that last book–the one that stretched us way beyond our comfort zone, leaving us half-dead on the side of the road–we won’t be writing that book anymore. We have to accept the fact that we never really know how to write the book we’re writing–until we’re done writing it.

The other thing I’ve learned about the author’s journey — and let me stress that I have resisted learning this — oh boy, did I resist: this is a journey without an end goal.

Now, before you start wailing because you’re envisioning a football field that goes into infinity, with no goal posts. . .well, that’s kind of what I’m talking about. Those yard markers are the real goal. They represent what we’re trying to reach when we talk about getting published, or getting an agent, or hitting a bestseller list. It’s important that we celebrate each and every one of these awesome achievements.

But we have to remember they are “a” goal. Not “the” goal. Because if we’re writers, “the” goal is to keep writing, no matter what. No matter if we get bad reviews, or editor rejections, or a story idea that kicks us in the groin every time we try to whip it into shape. “The” goal is to keep putting words down, yanking them back out, figuring out where they really belong, and polishing them until the gleam of that awesome story brings tears of joy to a reader’s eyes.

Now, I know it’s not easy to accept that we’re on a trip that has no real destination. We’re writers, and we’re used to having a beginning, a middle, and an end. What I’m saying sounds like there’s just middle, endless days and days of middle, without the bookends of a beginning or end.

But instead of being discouraged by that, it’s actually kind of liberating. We can continue jotting down every story idea that comes to us. There’s never going to be a time when a proctor says, “Put down your pencils”. We get to decide when we’ve accumulated enough writing goal markers along the way.

At least once a month I’m convinced I’m done writing. I tell myself it’s not worth the time and effort I put into it. I want to have a life that doesn’t include writing, or at least one where I don’t have to feel guilty about not writing, or despairing about how to get a written story to match the perfect one in my imagination.

When I have these thoughts, it’s usually because I have a specific end goal in mind, and I’ve just plowed into it face-first. I’ve practically garroted myself by flying into that goal line that has no business being there. But since my mind has installed it, stopping me from moving forward, I have to sit down and re-evaluate. This is not when I want to gauge how far I’ve got to go. No, this is when it’s important to look back, to see where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

It doesn’t take too long on that jaunt down memory lane before I get antsy. Quit writing? What was I thinking? I just needed a little R&R, a reminder that I felt this same way with the last book, and the one before that. And then I’m off on another new adventure. . . one without any kind of final goal to impede my progress.

That’s what the author’s journey is really all about.

Bio: I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances. I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton. In addition to my current release, I Do. . .or Die, a romantic comedy/mystery, my available books are Summer Lovin’, a free romantic comedy novella, and Lord Midnight, a Regency romance. My contemporary novella, Back on Track, part of the Strangers on a Train collection, will release from Samhain on April 2, 2013.







Author Interview: Hour of Predators

Hour of Predators cover1) Claire is an interesting girl. Her decision-making surprised me several times, and led me to wonder: do you think she might be borderline sociopathic?
 An interesting idea, but I see Claire as an extremely damaged girl who has been betrayed and violated by those with power over her. Her suspicion of almost everyone, paranoia, and desperation aren’t neurotic; they’re well-earned. Her inner strength, however, is indomitable, and she survives despite everything her small world can dish out.
2) A lot of this book revolves around the relationships, and how people approach them. Were there any characters whose ideas about relationships turned and surprised you?
No, I’m not surprised by the things my characters do, although they so often veer from my carefully planned order of events. Their unexpected actions are the inevitable results of the characters themselves–their personalities, lives, experiences, etc. They are so fully formed in my mind that I just go with it and let them have their ways!
3) What sparked your interest in Native Americans and their culture?
I grew up in Oklahoma and like many Okies I have Native American blood in my veins, in my case Cherokee. That might have sparked my interest initially. I have always been fascinated with the most ancient Americans. I have traveled to the ruins of their habitats, collected their pottery, and studied their languages. When I encountered the Nuxalk in a college linguistics class I had to know more and visited Bella Coola. The place seemed the perfect setting for a mystery.
4) What’s in the future for your writing? Any current projects?
I’m eight chapters into the second Marcus Chao mystery, A Premature Death, and have rough ideas for the third.
Lane Stark has had three enduring passions through her life: travel, art, and the written word. She has traveled the world, lived abroad in both Europe and Asia, and experienced many cultures. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in linguistics, has studied eight languages, and recently ended a career as a graphic artist. She has now turned her creative attentions to full-time writing and leisure-time photography. Travel provides a wealth of inspiration for books, and she finds herself weaving tales around the people she meets and the places she explores. She and her husband have indulged their love of the vagabond life by moving into an RV full-time and following the roadways to new adventures. She is currently working on a second novel featuring RCMP Inspector Marcus Chao, A Premature Death.
The Hour of Predators can be found at Amazon and Smashwords.

Review: Hour of Predators, Mari’s Take

Genre: Mystery

Rating: No

This book left me with mixed feelings. We follow Detective Chao and a cast of other characters as the mystery of three strange murders with ritualistic elements smothers a tiny Canadian town. The rituals harken back to the Native Americans who live in this town, and of course, the racial divide is all aflutter.

The story itself was tantalizing. We have all the fun bits of Native American religion maligned for the killer’s purposes. There’s a healthy list of suspects, and the small town nature of the crime lent itself to some fun gossip flavoring.

Note the followed a cast of characters. We end up seeing from no less than 7 character’s POVs. In a book this size, seven POV’s doesn’t enhance the story. Unfortunately, it gave so much away that the mystery became more of a pseudo-thriller. While I don’t oppose multiple POV’s, there’s a reason few mysteries go beyond two POVs—any more and the suspense drops. In some books, it can work if done very well and suited to the story. This was neither.

I did enjoy the characters. Each of them had their own distinct outlook and it certainly dictated their actions. Sometimes in a mystery characters can run together or sound alike, neither of which happened here.

Unfortunately, after being introduced to these interesting fellows, the swapping around caused the story to become quite lethargic.  Large informational monologues slowed the story down further, and between all of these different pieces, we didn’t get to really know the characters and sink into them. I didn’t get the chance to be part of that story and really get into it. It picked up after about halfway in, but the problems were still there.

Capping it off, I found grammatical errors, some typesetting issues, and a few typos. As a big reader, this was quite annoying. All of these issues could be fixed with a stiff editing.

If you can overlook these sort of problems, the story is good and provides entertainment. It’s all in the eye of the reader.


The Hour of Predators can be found at Amazon and Smashwords.

This Week’s Read: Hour of Predators by Lane Stark

Hour of Predators cover

Two gruesome murders have shocked and divided the community of Bella Coola, a small, isolated village in a remote river valley on the coast of British Columbia. The evidence points to a teenaged Nuxalk boy, and the simmering tension between whites and tribe members heats up. RCMP Inspector Marcus Chao must sort through misleading clues, cultural conflicts, tangled relationships, sexual scandals, and even rumors of sorcery to find the truth.

Marcus is a man whose life has skidded into remorse and misery. His own infidelity has ended his marriage to the woman he still loves, and now he finds himself with only two things to keep his sinking spirits afloat: the need to serve justice and his eternal fascination with solving the puzzle of the crime. This latest puzzle, however, is proving to be a maze of intrigue, and his mettle as well as his principles will be tested.

The Hour of Predators can be found at Amazon and Smashwords.

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