Monthly Archives: June 2014

Cover Art

Cover Art

 by Katie O’Sullivan

Within the span of a few months, Shea MacNamara’s life has changed dramatically.

OpenQuote  To anyone watching him, he looked like a normal teenager, out walking his dog on the beach in the early morning. He wore a plain white t-shirt that clung snugly to his muscular frame, along with cut-off jeans and sandals. His long hair was the color of golden wheat and his tanned skin set off his bright green eyes. He looked like so many other local kids who spent a lot of time along the shorelines of Cape Cod. An ordinary boy. Except Shea no longer fit into that category.

He lost his father, moved from the Great Plains to Cape Cod, found his mother, found his grandfather, found a girlfriend and found out that he was Royalty. Oh yeah … one other thing … he found out he was a merman. A lot of changes for a fifteen year-old boy. However, finding things can be short-lived. Earlier that summer, Shea had a ringside seat to an attempted coup d’état which he and his girlfriend, Kae, helped to foil. His mother was being strong-armed into a dynastic marriage with a king young enough to be her son and Shea’s brother, but the coup has changed all that. Young King Theo was a casualty of the plot and Shea’s mother has departed to take over the sea throne of the Southern Ocean and his girlfriend is due to follow her once she goes to Atlantis to give testimony against the evil – you can ‘Boo’ if you want – Prince Demyan. Regent to the late King Theo, the not-so-bonny Prince was the power behind the coup and was last seen hot-footing it – or is it hot-finning it? – out of town.

On the morning of Kae’s departure, Shea is standing at the water’s edge, fulminating at the unfairness of life and perhaps secretly hoping for one final assignation with the love of his young life. She doesn’t show up. Her father, however, does. Kae is missing and what is more, she was last seen in the palace gardens the previous afternoon, holding hands with a young merman – a young merman whose name was not Shea. We will learn that Kae has been abducted and rather than joining the search for the missing mermaid, Shea is charged with the task of giving testimony before the high court of Atlantis in her stead. What is a young merman to do?

Katie O’ Sullivan has followed up on her 2013 success of Son of a Mermaid with the equally exciting Blood of a Mermaid. Katie writes in a fun and captivating style that should enthrall both young and older adults. Targeted at the younger end of the YA spectrum, her latest novel is suitable for middle schoolers and perhaps younger readers when enjoyed in the context of a library reading circle. This reviewer is pleased to find a novel in the YA sub-genre of Merfolk stories that is equally appealing to both boys and girls.

Shea has his own set of problems. Aside from discovering that he’s not human – at least in the conventional sense – and not your ordinary sort of merboy, he has been told to stay out of the water lest he becomes too easy a target for abduction or worse. And … there’s one other thing. It seems that his choice of Kae as a girlfriend isn’t going over well with some people – especially her father, Lybio. It would appear that sub-surface royalty marry much more often for alliances and connections than for actual love.

Lybio let out a long sigh, cursing under his breath. He turned his head to look at Shea. “It may not be your choice, my Prince. Royals are never free to marry whom they choose.” He let his words sink in for a few moments before adding, “In the end, you, my Prince, will always need to do what’s best for the clan.” Shea thought of his own mother, having to leave her husband and child behind. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He would never let that happen to him. Royal or not, he wouldn’t abandon the people he loved, not in a million years.

Like any good father, Lybio does not want to see his daughter drawn into a hopeless relationship, no matter how nice the boy may be. For his part, Shea isn’t too keen on this Prince business, either. It helps to explain his birthmark but has not brought much in the way of tangible benefits. While he may have a brilliant career as a merman awaiting him, living in Oklahoma did have at least some benefits. For one thing, no one called him ‘My Prince’ there. It goes without saying that Shea’s struggle to have a relationship with the one he chooses rather than the one who may be chosen for him will be a continuing theme through the rest of this series.

As Shea makes his way to Atlantis, he will have to rely on his wits to save both himself and those who are traveling with him. Katie O’Sullivan’s story of intestinal fortitude is a fine example of her values in writing for this particular target audience. Both Shea and Kae demonstrate examples of courage and determination in this series where – so far – the good guys are really good and the bad guys are truly wicked. Even the mage who plays such a pivotal role in Kae’s abduction demonstrates remorse and redemption by the story’s end. Ms. O’Sullivan has penned a truly good and exciting story for young readers; one that parents, et al. should not worry about those in their charge reading. For those of us who are – ahem – somewhat older, Blood of a Mermaid is a fun and exciting story from a time that recedes in the rear-view mirror with each passing day.

If you – and by that, this reviewer means readers who are young and/or young at heart – enjoy fantasy, adventure, young love and all those intangibles that make our lives what they are,  Blood of a Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan is a fun and very worthwhile read. One need not be fascinated with those living beneath the waves who swap their fins for feet to enjoy this story but the reader may very well find the world of merfolk to be a rapture of the deep.

 
My Rating:

Katie’s website may be found at katie-osullivan.com

Katie’s blog may be found at katieosullivan.blogspot.com

Buy your own copy of Blood of a Mermaid.
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Judi is spending the weekend – as usual – at her mother’s and that left Dr. Data at 6’s & 7’s concerning meals. Inasmuch as I was not  the least bit inclined to play chef again this weekend, I decided to hop in the truck and head down to Bodo’s Bagels for dinner on Saturday evening. I shared my dining experience

  • Whole-wheat bagel w/ herbal cream cheese
  • Whole-wheat bagel w/ pastrami, e-z on the mustard
  • Iced tea

with a print of this painting by Marc Chagall – one that I hadn’t seen before. Perhaps it put me in mind of Penelope’s wedding in Urban Mermaid but it did make my dinner all the more pleasurable.

La Mariee by Marc Chagall

La Mariee by Marc Chagall

June 26th & 27th, 2014

Three Great Stories

by

Three Great Authors

From

Three Great Countries

Mark Your Calendar!!!

Mark Your Calendar!!!

 REVIEWS:

Cover Art

Cover Art

 by S.K. Munt

Over the course of the past year, I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of reviewing S.K. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga and have enjoyed each story from start to finish. Inasmuch as Stained Glass is the conclusion of the series, I have chosen to deviate from my usual approach to reviewing novels and instead, have looked at the story through an analysis of the four central characters in this story. S.K. Munt has an extraordinary gift for developing the characters that inhabit her stories and each of them deserve their moment in the reviewer’s spotlight. Taking this approach also reduces the number of spoilers and I do not wish to take anything away from the reader’s pleasure in perusing this “must read” conclusion to the series.

Submitted for your consideration; A four-time loser named Lincoln Grey who has squandered the sympathy of his peers by trying, in less than a year, to emulate the lifetime accomplishments of his greatest rival and has failed miserably. Feeling used and discarded – again – by the love of his life, Ivyanne Court, Lincoln uses and discards his friends and allies in a bid to prove that he is much more than a nobody. While “Oh yeah? I’ll show her” may be the rallying cry throughout history of every lover who has been pipped at the post by his competitor, Lincoln Grey’s campaign to somehow show the woman who spurned him that anything Tristan Loveridge can do, he can do better is a disaster and Link does not even realize it. Try as he may, he can’t capture Tristan’s aura … at least among merfolk.

Ivyanne has been out of the picture for eight months and a lot has changed in the interim. She has been around the world on her post-nuptial tour, uncovered the back-story regarding her family’s origins and become a mother – not to just an heir but to triplets. The women of the Court dynasty seem to have been hitherto cursed not to bear children until after their first century but Ivyanne has apparently broken that curse and she has returned to the Seaview to find that much has changed there as well.  Her knight – Sir Lincoln Grey, as it were – has used his reward to refurbish the resort and is continuing his masque as an alcohol-fueled bon viant and playboy. Despite all of his debauchery, Link seems to be thriving, his buff body even more attractive than before. Sadly, Lincoln Grey, the person, has become increasingly less attractive to the people who should really matter.

… and though he didn’t remember most of it well, he hadn’t forgotten how perfect that coupling had felt.

Lincoln’s amorous adventures have largely been a parade of bed-partners in a desperate search to replace or relive his time with Ivyanne. Somewhere in the alcohol induced haze, there was one perfect night with one perfect partner. That relationship has gone by the boards, as has his relationship with Grace. Though she had promised to wait until he was ready, the beast he has turned in to is much more than Grace can bear and she has fled to the Philippines. Pummeled by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Link writhes in emotional and psychological anguish like a fish impaled on a spear. The past eight months have been an attempt at self-medication which has – as it usually does – failed.

S.K. Munt has deftly turned the sympathetic character of Lincoln Grey into one that the reader wants to wash their hands of and she does it in a one hundred and eighty degree tour de force that leaves the reader wondering just what it was Grace or Ivyanne ever saw in him. There is more than one point in Stained Glass where the reader expects to hear a single gunshot and then Ivyanne and her mate swim off into the sunset as the credits start to roll, the only question being who pulled the trigger.

In direct antithesis to Link’s character is that of Tristan Loveridge. The author has taken the crowd-pleasing character and made him more likeable as a person whilst showing more depth to the royal consort. Tristan is truly and deeply in love with Ivyanne and will do anything to protect what is his even if it includes shooting Link, the poster boy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “No” and “Go Away”. The question is, would Tristan really liquidate Lincoln and if so, would Link thank him for it? Tristan’s attitude towards his former rival seems to be an odd mixture of compassion and scorn. It is Tristan who wants to break things to Lincoln gently and it is Tristan who really feels for the guy and yet Tristan looks down on Link for once again feeling sorry for himself. Given Lincoln’s string of losses throughout the Fairy Tail Saga, feeling sorry for himself seems to be the only viable alternative to using the .22 calibre pistol hidden in his safe. For over a decade, Lincoln Grey has been the man of constant sorrow and it could well be that Tristan’s attitude is due to his own life of privilege. Even the ‘perfect’ have their imperfections.

The author has painted an even more detailed portrait of Ivyanne in Stained Glass that reflects her sorrow for the pain and misfortunes that her family seems to have dumped on the Greys through the years. It is questionable, however, if she is really to blame for these misfortunes or is merely where the buck finally stops. She sincerely wants to make things right but can that ever be accomplished completely? In one sense, she already has made one thing right. Ivyanne was unwittingly responsible in a way for Lincoln losing ten years of his life to misery and sorrow and yet, because of his renewed association with her, Lincoln has gained centuries in return. S.K. Munt has made one aspect of Ivyanne abundantly clear; she really and truly does love Tristan Loveridge though the reader does sometimes wonder if his physical attributes have anything to do with it.

Finally, there is Grace Londeree, the somewhat spoiled child of privilege who latched onto Lincoln like a limpet in Heads or Tails. Although Grace was seen as an incorrigible flirt – as least where Lincoln was concerned – she also showed an amount of maturity which was often lacking the other characters. However, in this, the finale to Ms. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga, it is Grace’s overall lack of maturity that is her undoing. Lincoln is searching for a clone of Ivyanne and he repeatedly cites Grace’s immaturity as an impediment. Even though Grace said that she’d wait, Lincoln’s womanising – or is it mermaidising? – was too much for her and she walks out on him. He hardly notices and the story finds her trying to ride out Typhoon Bopha with her music students. On the one hand, she dealt with Link by walking away but yet, there is still something about him that speaks to her soul. Does she hope for a rescue from Link and even if she were to accept one, what form would that rescue take? Stained Glass will see Grace Londeree grow up in the course of having responsibilities thrust upon her. While readers – and this reviewer – will miss the eighteen year-old with the hots for Lincoln Grey, the post-Bopha nineteen year-old is much more of the woman she needs to be – for herself and for her future.

Our cast of characters assembled, it is now time to consider the central thread of the plot in Stained Glass.  Ivyanne Court has discovered than an unseen hand has shaped events affecting the Court and Grey families for nearly a millennium. It is a hand bent upon destruction and its endgame is one of extinction. His name is Luca. After dumping Lincoln Grey in favour of Tristan Loveridge, Ivyanne Court has the unmitigated gall to walk back into his life and ask her knight to lead an expeditionary force to neutralize Luca. As one learns the extent of Luca’s power and the forces that he controls, the reader is left to wonder if she is asking him to go a suicide mission. The reader will also wonder just how dumb can Link be and why is he even considering this? Is Lincoln simply obsessed by Ivyanne or is there something else at work here? Even Ivyanne seems to be unaware of Link’s true mental state. Will he ever have the strength of will to tell Ivyanne to go away or is he simply a wounded animal – a rogue shark, if you will – that needs to be put down. All arguments may well be moot if the characters find that the enemy is already amongst them.

Over a five book series, S.K. Munt has treated readers to a very hot and very wild ride through the secret world of mermaids and mermen, fate, lust, and blood-lines. Up until Stained Glass, the main mystery has been which suitor would wind up with Ivyanne. In her thrilling conclusion to The Fairy Tail Saga, Ms. Munt presents the reader with the mystery of why all this is even happening and what will be the ultimate outcome. This reviewer has devoted much of this concluding review to the main players as the author has a natural flair for character development. Lincoln, Grace, Ivyanne and Tristan have made this series what it is and they each deserve a curtain call.

Besides characters, S.K. Munt has displayed a talent for provocative writing and in the series finale, the Queen of Steam has delivered once more. Those readers of tender sensibilities should avert their eyes from the following excerpt:

He’d been drunk, and she’d been comforting him. She’d started kissing away his tears and before he knew it, she’d whispered her plea that he take her. He loved remembering how her vulnerable, tight little body had trembled in his arms, and how her teeth had sank into his neck as he’d gently eased himself into her- and how her tears had rolled hot and wet down his shoulder blade for only a few minutes before her pleas had become wild and her trembling had become violent, ecstatic shaking.

None but the truly jaded can read passages like this and not want a cup of tea, a long walk or a cold shower. As in her previous books, the characters, the plot and the romance of Stained Glass all come together in an expertly woven tapestry of love, lust, loss, gain, suffering and ultimate triumph. Although Lincoln Grey may have found himself to be a punching bag throughout the saga, relatively minor characters such as Pintang Kayu-Api have suffered as well and Ms. Munt has given them the same detail as she has the major characters and the story itself. For her, there are no half-measures.

This includes her treatment of Lincoln Grey’s character. Although his fans may be somewhat dismayed by what happens to Link, having him hit rock bottom is a necessary requirement that will lead to his ultimate redemption. Just below the surface lies the unspoken truth that Lincoln and Grace are more alike than the casual observer might think.

In summation, Stained Glass is a thoroughly enjoyable story which the reader will want to peruse more than once. No one who takes the time to read and absorb the finale will come away feeling that it is anything less than a wicked good tale and time well spent. To say more would only be gilding the lily.

Throughout The Fairy Tail Saga, this reviewer has admonished potential readers to start at the beginning of the series and he once again offers the same advice. This is not one of the serial novels where a person may come in during the middle or the end and easily deduce what has come before. S.K. Munt’s Stained Glass is the capstone of a carefully developed series of stories, all the more enjoyable because of what has come before. To paraphrase Bette Davis, this reviewer urges readers to Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

This reviewer lacks any and all qualifications to teach and yet, he would dearly love to conduct a semester’s course covering Stained Glass and all the books that come before. It is not merely the mythology but also the characters and their interactions with each other as well as the plot itself. S.K. Munt has a true gift for storytelling and creates fascinating multi-level characters along the way. Her stand-alone novel, Unchained Melody is positive proof that her talents extend well beyond the realm of mermaids. Those who choose to dismiss her series as simply a hot fairy tale for adults, do so at their peril.

And now, before the curtain call is over and the applause fades away, it falls to this reviewer to cry “Author! Author!” Ms. Munt, it’s time for you to take your bow.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stained Glass includes a bit of fan fiction written by the reviewer as an exercise in preparation for his forthcoming novel, Urban Mermaid – the first installment in his series, Tails from Colony Island.

 
My Rating:

Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmunt?ref=br_tf or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog
Buy Your Own Copy of Stained Glass
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Cover Art

Cover Art

 by Melissa Eskue Ousley

The second book in Melissa Ousley’s Young Adult Solas Beir series is as exciting as the first and leaves the reader wondering where things will go next. Her first book, Sign of the Throne ended with David Corbin installed as the new Solas Beir or ‘light bearer’ in his home world of Cai Terenmare. Although he was originally born  there as Artan, son of King Ardal and Queen Eulalia, he was abducted in infancy by his aunt Lucia and raised in the ordinary and indeed, mundane world which we all inhabit. A hallmark of stories in the Young Adult genre are plot lines wherein young people are suddenly thrust by the course of events into positions of power and responsibility and so it is with David. One day he is facing a pre-planned life of marrying the perfect girl for him and starting work well up the ladder in his father’s business and the next day he is suddenly the ruler of a parallel world.

David is not the only one who has had power thrust upon him. In Sign of the Throne, Abigale (Abby) Brown discovered that her way with dreams was more than an annoying nuisance which plagued her sleep. Since her escape into Cai Terenmare, she has discovered that there is a lot more to her abilities than was once thought. Coincidence or not, she and David have become quite interested in each other as well. There is one lingering question that is not resolved in The Rabbit and the Raven; how did a girl with such abilities wind up in the decidedly un-magical world we inhabit? An unfortunate by-product of the escape from our world into that of Cai Terenmare was the release of Tynan Tierny from imprisonment in the parallel world known as the Wasteland. Tierny was incarcerated in the Wasteland for commanding the assassination of David’s father and has now been sprung by Lucia. Tynan Tierny will – in one way or another – dominate the story of The Rabbit and the Raven as it unfolds.

Melissa Oussley’s narrative begins within hours of Sign of the Throne’s conclusion. Newport Beach, California is infested with Kruorumbrae and though Abby is relatively safe in Cai Terenmare, her parents back home are not. The Brown family are not alone in this, either. Jon Reyes, Abby’s childhood friend, escaped with Abby and David to Cai Terenmare and his mother, Blanca, is just as exposed as the Browns. Faced with this dilemma, David, Abby and Jon conduct a rescue sortie to Newport Beach and return not only with their families but Marisol Cassidy, a mutual acquaintance as well as a girl whom Jon rather fancies. There is a lot to learn now that everyone is – supposedly – safe in Cai Terenmare. Both David and Abby have much to learn about their newfound abilities. David’s kingdom is under threat and he will need to begin to pull things together and quickly. Abby’s power with dreams is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that she and David can arrange a rendezvous in their dreams. The curse is that the royal road to the subconscious is Tynan Tierny’s road to Abby’s mind. It will seem that Tierny knows quite a bit about Abby – perhaps more than is good for her – and he uses that knowledge in his attempts to undermine and control her.

Abby could feel the beast’s hot breath on her skin. Don’t show fear, she thought, planting her feet in a fighting stance and drawing herself up to look taller, brawnier. Look him straight in the eye. If you’re going to die, at least have a little dignity about it. She stared into his eyes and spoke his name: “Tierney.”

Not to be forgotten in all of this are the Kruorumbrae; the thoroughly evil stuff of which nightmares are made. These creatures can shift from one form to another and find humans to be rather tasty. Lacking human or animal flesh to consume, other Kruorumbrae will do nicely. Added to the threats facing Cai Terenmare is the fact that their numbers have rapidly increased and Tynan Tierny has promised them a feeding frenzy of their very own if they help him come to power. No place, not even our own mundane world, will be safe from them. It falls upon David to help repair a village suffering from the depredations of the Kruorumbrae – or is it something else? – and to gain the allegiance of the four Oracles who govern the peripheral territories of Cai Terenmare. The Oracle of the North is loyal to the Light and the post of the Western Oracle – once held by a particularly nasty siren – has been given to a more friendly creature of the sea, the mermaid Nerine. It is the Southern and Eastern Oracles who are the big unknown factors and neither lives within easy travel of Caislucis, the seat of the Solas Beir. David, Abby, Jon and Marisol will have to traverse a perilous rainforest and somehow cross the barren desert to reach the city of the Eastern Oracle.

“Well, David Corbin, you may be the Solas Beir, but you are just one man, and there are greater things at work here than you. Keeping me safe is not your job.” He stared at her, shocked. “It’s not? I kind of thought it was.” Abby put her hands on her hips. “Nope. Your job is to stand up for your people and to serve the Light. So is mine. At some point, we’ve got to trust that the light will prevail, even if it means we have losses of our own.”

With the publication of her second YA novel, Melissa Eskue Ousley effortlessly maintains the action and story flow that so well defined Sign of the Throne. She has extended her well-deserved reputation for storytelling, the rendition of that story into the exacting artistry of the printed page and it goes without saying that the plaudits accorded Ms. Ousley in the first installment of this series most definitely appertain to The Rabbit and the Raven. If she continues to follow the standards she has thus far set for herself and her writing to the third book of this series, The Sower Comes, Melissa Eskue Ousley will undoubtedly achieve a literary trifecta. The Rabbit and the Raven is an enthralling and exciting story for Young Adults. The central characters – David, Abby, Jon and Marisol – are heroic, each in their own way and while there may not be a Cai Terenmare connected to our own mundane world, it is nonetheless a fascinating place to visit via the written word. The reader will find themselves caring about what may befall them throughout the course of the story and nurture the hope that all of this will somehow work out for each of them in the end. Melissa Eskue Ousley continues to follow the benchmark of quality writing she set in Sign of the Throne and it is hoped that this reviewer will hear more from her once this series so stories is complete.

In the interest of full disclosure, the reviewer was provided with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

My Rating:

Melissa’s website may be found at melissaeskueousley.com/

Buy your own copy of The Rabbit and the Raven.
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