In the style of Alice in Wonderland or the Chronicles of Narnia, Shale, is whisked to a mystical place of talking animals and magic where truths about life, love and the universe are discovered. This is a novel for YA readers, and as such, I think the author does a great job of creating a believable, yet magical place that young readers will enjoy.
This is definitely NOT your typical vampire tale. Nathaniel is a rogue vampire in that he actually has a good heart and does not want to hurt humans. Apparently he escaped from his creator, an evil vampire named Vincent. Vincent is now on a quest to find Nathaniel. When he finds him in a small California town, all hell breaks loose. The annual Swedish festival is about to take place, but grizzly murders begin showing up in the otherwise peaceful town. Vincent manages to implicate Nathaniel and an all out ‘witch’ (or in this case, vampire) hunt ensues. The underlying Christian message is a prevalent theme; something that also makes this vampire tale atypical.The book is long and can be daunting at times, simply because of its length. There is a large cast of characters, many of which we just get to know before they come to their demise. Also, the book is written from an omniscient point of view, so we often see inside the heads of more than one person at a time. It doesn’t distract, though, like head hopping might normally do. For some reason it seems to work and I think helps us have more sympathy for the victims. If you enjoy paranormal tales, you will like this book. Readers need to understand up front that the gospel is an important part of the book, but also need to be prepared for some graphic language and scenes that might not typically appear in mainstream ‘Christian’ fiction.
The Art of My Life is the second book by author Ann Lee Miller that I’ve read, and with it, she has officially been placed in my ‘favorite authors’ file. We met the main characters Aly and Cal in a previous book by Miller called Kicking Eternity, (which made my top five list for 2012). Aly is a self deprecating nymphomaniac on a path of destruction while Cal is an eccentric artist and surfer; the rogue son of a pastor. They have both grown and changed since book one, Cal through spending some time in prison for possession, and Aly through self imposed celibacy. Friends in the past, they come together again along with a cast of interesting characters, including Cal’s hippy, marijuana smoking grandparents. Cal wants to start over with his own boat tour business and Aly’s dream is to open a gallery. Too many obstacles seem to thwart them at every turn however, sometimes through the actions of well meaning family and friends. Partly romance, partly self discovery, this book is beautifully written and kept me riveted until the last page. Ann Lee Miller has a way of weaving a story together at just the right pace. It’s like savoring a good meal. There is plenty of time for character development as the plot steadily moves forward. The characters are so real, full of raw emotion and human frailty, and sometimes their issues aren’t pretty. The main characters are already endeared to us from book one, so it’s easy to forgive their flaws and root for their success. I know these people: the guy addicted to too much weed: the pastor’s wife trying to deal with her own dysfunctional upbringing; the Christian girl obsessed with sex like a forbidden toy.Miller’s writing style is superb. Her use of metaphor is unique and skillful – and never cliché. Her descriptions are vivid, skillfully woven into the fabric of the story as to not overwhelm but at the same time paint a vivid picture in the mind.I enjoyed this book even more than the previous book Kicking Eternity, (and that’s saying a lot!) It is perhaps edgier than the first book in both the language and the situations the characters find themselves in, however the use of profanity wasn’t over the top in my view, even for a Christian book. It was exactly enough to make it authentic.For those who like Christian fiction with an edge, this one is excellent.
As the title suggests, Royal Opposites by Lori Crawford is unashamedly a ‘Cinderella Story’, but it does have some interesting twists. The best analogy I could come up with is “The Prince and Me” meets Jason Statham – lots of ‘edge of your seat’ action, car chases, shooting, a pseudo bank robbery and more. Not only is the story about two people from different socio-economic backgrounds and cultures, but it is also an interracial romance, although this part was not overplayed which I appreciated. Joan is a self proclaimed ‘Coupon Queen’ used to stretching a dollar. Tom Rafferty (an incognito prince from an obscure European country) is in America on a financial mission of sorts, but will soon be returning to his native land where he will become king of his small country. An accidental meeting brings the two together when they are accused of trying to rob a bank. Unfortunately it was a set up by some unsavory bank employees working with some bad cops. Tom and Joan face obstacle after obstacle as they try to get to safety. Through the mayhem, they develop feelings for one another. Not only must they endure physical harm, but Tom’s duty to his country might prove just as big an obstacle. It was a fun and fast paced read with lots of action and sizzle. I highly recommend it.
Matching Wits With Venus by Therese Gilardi is definitely an imaginative tale, bringing together modern characters and setting with ancient mythology. Amelia runs a successful matchmaking business – so successful in fact that Venus, the Roman goddess of love, is jealous. Thus begins a twisted campaign to malign the human matchmaker. Venus enlists several of her immortal cohorts to spoil Amelia’s business, but not before her son, Cupid, accidentally pricks himself with one of his own arrows. Who is the first person he sees once the love potion has taken hold? You guessed it – Amelia. This makes for some very intriguing complications, with some plot twists and surprises that I was not expecting. The story weaves in and out between worlds; following both the lives of the Olympian gods and the mere mortals of present day earth. It was a fun read, not to be taken too seriously, but still enjoyable.
Never Trust a Pretty Wolf by Elaine Cantrell deserves a solid five-plus stars. In fact, this is one I might actually read again, which for me is the sign of a really good book. It all starts out as a game as Liesel Wolf and Andy Bryce are paired up for a charity ‘geocache’ game sponsored by a local millionaire. However, the game goes sour when real danger comes their way. As it turns out, both Andy and Liesel have some nasty secrets from the past. Andy is a US Marshal on leave after an ‘incident’ and Liesel is the ex-wife of a notorious mobster. The characters are frustratingly flawed, which is one of the reasons I liked this book so much. The romance literally sizzled without anything graphic or explicit and there is a ton of action and intrigue. The author masterfully brings us to the brink again and again with a well developed plot and lots of twists and turns. This is the first book by Elaine Cantrell I’ve read, but I think I might just be a fan.
A mythical kingdom, a fairy princess, a lowly suitor and an arranged marriage – everything a good fairy tale needs is exactly what you’ll find in My Fair Princess by Nona King. If a sweet romance is what you’re looking for then look no further. The plot centers around Princess Nia of Alaeria and her arranged marriage to Shamus O’Neill, mayor of a neighboring region. She complies out of duty, but is surprised that the mayor may actually be to her liking after all. The book chronicles the slow but steady blossom of love between the two, with the major conflict being the internal one that the Princess faces as she learns to love her husband. There is a hint of danger from an unknown source threatening the region’s water supply but this is never really developed to the full. Perhaps this will be the center of another installment. Instead, we are simply treated to some beautiful description and a gently developed love that is sure to leave the reader feeling warm inside.