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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays by Four Authors

This is an engaging collection with mystery, time travel, humor and some creepiness!
by Maia Chance , Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak,G. Clemans
File Size: 3951 KB
Print Length: 298 pages

Publisher: Grey Sun Press (November 26, 2015)
Genre: Speculative Fiction
My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0

What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!

This collection stars four authors, each with their own distinct style. National bestselling mystery author Maia Chance, who is famous for her cozy mysteries, dazzles with humor and folklore. IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science. Science fiction and fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past. And for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.

Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds into something everyone will enjoy.

This is an engaging collection although more dark than light. There are elements of Christmas, particularly folklore connections, but I think this need not be limited to holiday season reading. I liked meeting the new authors through two short stories each which gave me a good feel for their writing styles. I am inclined to look for longer works by a couple of the authors.

Wild Hunt by Janine A. Southard - my rating 4.25
Tyson Wallenstein is a preternatural (dead man) trying to prove his right to be part of the Wild Hunt. The hunt group, who are known as the best detectives…when not devouring miscreant souls… are out with King Herla trying to capture wayward pixies. Tyson is distracted by a local murder investigation while the Hunt continues on the original search. Tyson must prove his sleuthing expertise if he hopes to rise in the Hunt and gain his own hound dog.

The story has a nice writing flow with good description and well developed mystery. I enjoyed the humor that made the dead huntsman engaging.

Escape from Yorktown by G. Clemans - my rating 4.0
Lizzy is a teenager living in a galactic, live museum. Victorian Yorktown is a tourist town on an isolated planet where the inhabitants are stuck as full time reenactment characters. Lizzy is frustrated by her isolation but her mother is the Old Yorktown manager. Lizzy’a life gets excitement from an unplanned visit from J.D., the teenage son of the President of the Galaxy. He has slipped his security team but his father declares that he has been kidnapped. As Lizzy and her friend Cab try to hide J.D., they begin to run into bizarre clues that point to rebellion and conspiracy. J.D. may be in danger from threats but the biggest threat may be closer to home than anyone realizes.

This story is light with YA elements. I did enjoy the puzzle features that the youths unraveled. There were secrets but not a lot of awe in this piece.

Odysseus Flax & The Krampus by Maia Chance - my rating 4.25
This bit of darkness features a Krampus, a judgmental demon character who comes out on Christmas eve to capture bad boys or girls in his basket. The protagonist, Odysseus Flax, is an unlikely hero. His occupation is stealing from criminals. He inadvertently got off the train at the wrong station and finds himself the framed first for robbery, then kidnapping and worse. Odysseus has to hunt down the real Krampus if he wants to save his own reputation… and neck.

What I noted most in this story was the author’s wonderful ability at storytelling. It reminded me of a good ghost tale told in the dark around a campfire. There is a unique, steampunk element of surprise that caps the ending.

Ol’ St. Nick by Raven Oak - my rating 4.25
This is a version of the murder in a locked room. It is set on a spaceship and the victim is a mobster traveling under the alias of St. Nick. The dead man’s name really is Nick and he is the estranged father of the Captain of the crew who is taking the abandoned ship as salvage. Since the murder occurred after the crew boarded the disabled craft, everyone is suspect until they can be eliminated.

In addition to the mystery the story dealt with some prejudices, pitting the crew members against each other. The story also laughs at some holiday myths. I liked the space setting, the fast paced mystery and the alien crew member.

Bevel & Turn by G. Clemans - my rating 4.25
Anyone who has ever had or seen a Christmas whirligig (spinning angels or characters propelled by the candle heat) will enjoy this story built on wood crafting and a curse. Georgia comes from a long family line of wood crafters. Unfortunately many of her ancestors suffered serious accidents from their craft. Georgia’s parents seemed to have escaped the craftsman’s curse and they are hoping Georgia will too. However Georgia’s beloved Aunt and the prized three-tiered Christmas tower have disappeared and Georgia is obsessed with building a new whirligig in shop class. A new boy in class, Caleb, steps up to help Georgia finish her special project before winter break. Together they make a macabre discovery about the whirligig and the curse in Georgia’s family.

I enjoyed the time traveling element and the German history peppered through the story. The folk tale and history features show good research used to create a new tale.

Death Node by Janine A. Southard - my rating 4.25
This tale takes the reader on a time warp where alternate realities occur … either in spite of, or because of the time travel. The chapters jump between different times, past and present, as Marie Postrel, fulfills a mission to travel back in time. At first the style was a bit confusing but once I realized the author was presenting different time scenarios it became quite intriguing. It isn’t quite clear if Marie is to keep the directive of observation only or if she is being sent to proactively impact the people in the past in an effort to change the future. And perhaps the purpose changes with the timeline. I felt there were obvious clues that the reader gets but the time traveler misses. The ending is not the result I would have wished for but it makes for an engaging story.

The Ringers by Raven Oak - my rating 4.75
This is a story with a different tradition of bells and death, and fresh and twisted magic. The Ringers are soul eating wraiths that roam the town of Dekwood five nights before the Yule. The town people are oppressed and defeated in their daily drudgery with little hope of escape or change.
Elise is a fourteen year old girl hoping to enter the Acadame to study magic. Her father has always worked hard to set aside funds to support her efforts but now they have fallen on hard times. They move to Dekwood where magic is forbidden but Elise is not willing to settle for the depressing surroundings. When a friend who tries to help her disappears, Elise is even more determined to uncover the dark magic that is killing the community.

The story is creepy in a fascinating way. The plotting is precise and the story well-told. Even with the dark magic the author’s wonderfully creative imagination is revealed.

Mr. And Mrs. Mistletoe by Maia Chance - my rating 4.0
This story is a retro-future tale set in the 1950s that uses a theme along the line of The Stepford Wives. The local doctor tries to convince the spinster librarian, Miss Pynne, that she needs to find a mate. He reels her into an elaborate scheme by asking her to hunt down the missing Mistletoe Trophy. As she interviews the winners and scheduled contestants she begins to see several motives and bizarre likenesses in children of similar ages.

This is a bit funny crazy as well as creepy. I really liked the creative world of hover pads, Hooverpets and Robarmaids.

I received this title through NetGalley for an honest review. It is part of my NetGalley Challenge

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Post November 29, 2015/It's Monday! What are You Reading? Plus Mailbox Monday November 30, 2015

I am linking with Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading now at The Book Date.
Thank you to Sheila for the years that she handled this meme.
Thank you to Kathryn for taking up the baton.

What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I had a lovely week visiting in Biloxi for Thanksgiving with family. I even got to drive the RV part way home. I was nervous but I did just fine.
My reading and listening went well with four books completed. I finished two audiobooks, and two ebooks . I posted three reviews, a Thanks from a reader and the usual memes.

I enjoyed visiting other bloggers again at the beginning of the week.
Thanks as always to all the nice people who visit me.

These were last week's posts:
  • Book Review and Tour Giveaway: Steal Me (NYPD's Finest) by Lauren Layne ; Romantic Suspense; my rating 4.5. Ends 11/29/15.

Finished Reading:
1. eBook/Kindle

Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays
by Maia Chance , Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak,G. Clemans
I liked this different collection - 
several time travel stories.
I will post the review this week.
Click on book title for full description.

2. Audible/MP3

Omega Rising: Omega Force, Book 1
Written by: Joshua Dalzelle
Narrated by: Paul Heitsch
This is another Sci Fi that I chose
and received through Audiobook Jukebox.
This was an engaging start to a space series.
Click on book title for full description.

3. Audible/MP3

Silent Night, Holy Night:
A Colleen Coble Christmas Collection
Written by: Colleen Coble
Narrated by: Devon O'Day
I thought this would be perfect for the season.
The stories are okay but not as good as I hoped.
This was on my TBR Audible shelf.
Publisher's Summary
Tis the season for mystery and romance featuring characters from two of Colleen Coble’s most popular series!
As Christmas day nears, Bree Matthews and her faithful search-and-rescue dog Samson follow the trail of a troubling mystery into the snowy forests of Rock Harbor.Newlywed Bree Matthews and her husband Kade are preparing for Christmas guests when word arrives that a parachuter has disappeared in the North Woods, along Lake Superior's icy shore. Bree and Samson plunge into the search.
Will this snowy, silent night search lead Bree and Samson to the missing girl?
Holy Night
One sinister phone call has derailed their Christmas wedding. Will it keep them apart forever?Leia and Bane are looking forward to their long-awaited Christmas wedding on the beach. Everything is going as planned - until Leia's phone rings and her world skids out of control. A muffled voice informs Leia that her sister has been kidnapped and will be killed unless Leia calls off the wedding without explanation - and no police. If she disobeys instructions and tells Bane, she'll risk her beloved sister's life. But can she handle this trauma without his help? And will he ever trust her again if she lies to him now?
Irresistible romance meets thrilling suspense in this holiday update to USA Today best-selling author Colleen Coble's Aloha Reef series.
©2014 Thomas Nelson Publishers (P)2014 Thomas Nelson Publishers

4. ebook/Kindle

Sheltering Hearts (Virgin River Book 11)
by Robyn Carr
I liked this novella which focuses on the needs of single mothers.
This is Book 9 for my TBR Pile Challenge.

Currently reading:
1. Audible/MP3

Written by: Robert Crais
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews
I didn't re-read the blurb
so I was a bit surprised as this started.
I am loving this audio at 37% in.
This is from my Audible TBR shelf.
Publisher's Summary
Audie Award Finalist, Thriller/Suspense, 2014
For 25 years, Robert Crais has written extraordinary novels of crime and suspense. He is "a master of crime fiction" (Associated Press); "his novels get better with every new book" (Portland Oregonian); "Crais is hands-down the world’s greatest crime writer" (The Huffington Post).
But in Suspect, he may have written his most remarkable novel of all.
LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well, not since a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner, Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty - until he meets his new partner.
Maggie is not doing so well, either. The German shepherd survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before she lost her handler to an IED and sniper attack, and her PTSD is as bad as Scott’s.
They are each other’s last chance. He was a young cop on the rise; she was bred to guard and protect. Now they are shunned and shunted to the side. They are suspect. And together they will set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie.
Nine months and sixteen days later, they remained free. They were still out there.
What they begin to find is nothing like what Scott has been told, and where it will lead them will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.
Thrilling, emotional, intense, with some of the best characters and well-crafted writing in all of crime fiction, Suspect is further proof that "Crais just keeps getting better" (Publishers Weekly).
©2013 Robert Crais (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

2. eBook/Kindle

The 12 Brides of Christmas Collection: 12 Heartwarming
Historical Romances for the Season of Love
by Mary Connealy (Author), Diana Lesire Brandmeyer (Author), Margaret Brownley (Author), & 9 more
At 546 pages in length this may take the week.
This is (might be) my last NetGalley title to be read for the year.
Click on book title for full description.

3. eBook/Kindle (Print)

A Change of Fortune (Ladies of Distinction Book #1)
by Jen Turano
 I purchased this book in print for Ladies Book Club.
(I purchased it at Amazon for my reading.)
This is our November read to be discussed 12/5/15.
Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. After losing her family, her fiance, and her faith, the disappearance of her fortune is the last straw. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she's determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.
Much to Mr. Hamilton Beckett's chagrin, all the eyes of New York society--all the female ones, at least--are on him. Unfortunately for all the matchmaking mothers and eligible daughters, he has no plans to marry again, especially with his hands full keeping his business afloat and raising his two children alone.
When Eliza's hapless attempts to regain her fortune put her right in Hamilton's path, sparks instantly begin to fly. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces, but with all their plans falling by the wayside and their enemies getting the better of them, it will take a riot of complications for Hamilton and Eliza to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along.
"Set in New York City circa 1880, Turano's historical romance has witty dialogue, a spunky heroine, a bounty of humor, and a fast-paced plot. There are wonderful secondary characters, too, including an ankle-biting boy, a relentlessly matchmaking mother, and a full cast of despicable villains. A Change of Fortune will make a delightful addition to any library." --Booklist (starred review)
"Turano's charming story of losing and gaining both wealth and love in 1880s New York City will certainly please fans of witty and classic romance stories."--RT Book Review
"[A] delightfully lighthearted debut novel."--Desert News

October 1, 2015- I am still up to date on Bible reading and greatly enjoying the readings-- It seems my eyes are open to more details and meaning. I am reading The One Year Bible again along with my husband and others from our church. I am also listening to the companion commentary online.

I posted three reviews last week which keeps me up to date with four for this week. I finished one NetGalley selection and added the last one on my shelf -- at the time. (There is one other but it has to be read on the computer so I'm not sure if I will get to it so I haven't been counting it.)
I have read 9 of my 12 TBR Pile books.  The last three are full novels so I will have to read one a week after the Netgalley reading is complete.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs.  This Meme started with Marcia at A Girl and Her Books (fka The Printed Page) and after a tour of hosts has returned to its permanent home at Mailbox Monday. Thanks to the ladies sharing hosting duties: Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit and Vicki of I'd Rather Be at the Beach.
Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I did select one NetGalley title for 2016.
I purchased one kindle title at $.26.
And of course I added more free kindle titles to my library.

Are your mailbox and TBR piles blooming?

Review Titles
I picked out on;y one title at NetGalley although I have my eye on a couple others for 2016:

Night Study
by Maria V. Snyder

This releases in January 26, 2016 so I can save it for January reading.
I really like this series and thought I would see if it was available at NetGalley since I saw other bloggers reading it.



I stumbled across this for the strange, but very affordable (click) price of $.26.

A Texas Christmas: Six Romances from the Historic Lone Star State Herald the Season of Love
Ramona K. Cecil, Lena Nelson Dooley, Darlene Franklin, Pamela Griffin, Cathy Marie Hake, Kathleen Y'Barbo

This looked charming and I couldn't resist at the price. :-)


Over the past week I added 48 free Kindle titles to my library. Titles found linked through Bookbub, Bookfun, Ereader News Today, Free Par-tay, Ignite Your Book, Inspired Reads, Pixel of Ink or Kindle ebooks.

Sunday Words of Encouragement November 29, 2015

I had prepared thoughts from an older Sunday School message but then I was directed to a different song and brief message for the conclusion of Thanksgiving week.
I gave a short devotional a week ago for our Women's Club. I found the wisdom in a sweet book, Tell Me Again Lord I Forget by Ruth Harms Calkin. The message was that we are often ready to give thanks for blessings but do we ever stop to give thanks for the divine "No"?
Another woman shared that her pastor son reminds her that God answers prayer in four ways: Yes, No, Not Now and I have a better plan.

I found this song Saturday night while preparing for this post and it fits perfectly.
Verse for Today
James 1:12 NIV
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

As I gave thanks this past week, I was mindful to give thanks for the times God told me "No" and "I have a better plan". In ALL things, Lord - I give thanks to YOU.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sharing Beyond Books #229 November 28, 2015

Hello again and Welcome to Sharing Beyond Books, SBB!
I hope everyone has had a lovely week and maybe a little time to relax. Our weather started the week cold but finished beautifully. We've had a grand visit with our son and family. :-)

Thanks to everyone who commented last week.
Most of us (eight) had not seen bookish accessory blogs/ads. Also most of us agreed that it wouldn't change our choices. Two think it is too early to think about gifts for Christmas and two only want books, with a third only wanting adult coloring books.


The Winner from SBB #228 comments is: #10 Linda  who can make a GC choice if international or book choice from the Updated ARC/Review titles or (not yet updated) Love titles - all linked near the end of the post. I'm hoping to update the book choices - maybe the beginning of next year, lol. Please let me know your choice by completing the (new) WINNER FORM.

WEEK #229 (One Question.)

Nikki asks: 1) If you were given the choice of getting one book, would it be a book from a brand new and positively reviewed series or would it be a book from a series you are currently collecting??
This is such a hard question and one I face often. When I am choosing a review book or how to "spend" my audible credits I am often weighing the choice of picking the next title in a series I love or am collecting or picking a book from a new series. I try to get to both. However, based on my last few Audible choices I think I have chosen books in series I am currently collecting. Three examples: The Monster Hunter Series; The Destroyermen Series; The Andy Carpenter Series.
 There is truth in this quote. :-)
Image found at Lifehack.

Thanks to those who are sending in Questions. DON'T BE SHY! Surely everyone has a Q or two you'd like to ask. Input suggestions in this Suggested Question Form. At the end of each month I draw from the suggestions I used during the month and that person will get a book choice or GC. I thank everyone for submitting questions. Thanks for sending in questions! The supply of questions is dwindling so share some if you think of any -- even if they are duplicates I'll weed through or try to modify to use.
THE COMMENTS IN NOVEMBER WERE FROM: bn100, Elizabeth, Miki and Nikki. The Comment winner for November is ELIZABETH.

Your turn to share:
Nikki asks: 1) If you were given the choice of getting one book, would it be a book from a brand new and positively reviewed series or would it be a book from a series you are currently collecting??

SBB Comment Winners can choose a selection from the Valentine and "Love" books or the February 2015 Newly Updated ARC/Review List. (My daughter pulled several of the Christmas titles to give with gift bags we made up for the nursing homes. One of these days I will get together a new box of Christmas titles.)

SBB Rules:
a) Must be a follower.
b) Share a comment on the question above.
Open internationally and an international winner may get a smaller book or a $5.00 GC if I decide the mailing is too much.
I will pick a Comment winner from all comments made through Saturday December 5, 2015 at 5 PM central.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Audio Review: Special Talents: Goon Squad, Vol. 1 by Jonathan L. Howard

This is fun listening entertainment in the style of Marvel superheroes – with offbeat talents!
Special Talents: Goon Squad, Vol. 1
Written by: Jonathan L. Howard
Narrated by: Gabrielle de Cuir
Length: 4 hrs and 42 mins
Series: Goon Squad, Book 1
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:08-25-15
Publisher: Blackstone Audio Inc. and Skyboat Media, Inc.
Genre: Sci Fi, Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0

Publisher's Summary
An ongoing, episodic "prose comic" from which the pictures are summoned by the magic of words, Goon Squad is set in a version of modern-day Manchester. Its biggest divergence from the real city is that it - along with most other large urban centers - has a team of superheroes to protect it against unusual threats with which the conventional forces of law and order would have problems.
Goon Squad, Volume 1: Special Talents is composed of six tales: "The New Girl", "Nightclubbing", "By the Water, by the Grave", "Changes", "No-No Dojo", and "Exterminating Angel" as well as an introduction read by the author.
©2015 Jonathan L. Howard (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc., and Skyboat Media, Inc.

Nadiya has a very special talent. At one time she was part of a minor crime group and earned the name “puppet girl”. Over the past year Nadiya has succeeded in suppressing her skill. Then a quick stop at a local mini-market changes her life. She is present when two young thugs commit armed robbery, knocking an older woman to the floor. Nadiya watches the thugs exit the store and her anger grows. She loses her control and manages to bring down the thugs and hold them until the cops arrive. Nadiya is taken to the police station before she can leave town. She expects trouble but is surprised when a man, who has previously warned her, appears to interview her. Nadiya is surprised to be recruited to an unusual crime group – the special talents force - known to the others as “the Goon Squad”.

Nadiya meets her three new team mates, each with their own special talent. Ian is clearly a “dead man” walking, Gilbert appears to be a geek interested in history, and Tessler is a huge metallic robot. Nadiya isn’t told of their skills, and they don’t learn the full extent of her abilities, until they are suddenly called into action. Although there is some stumbling in the pursuit of the gangsters they are after, the Goon Squad, working together, finally manage to complete their assignment.

Think of The X Men or Marvel superheroes with unusual - as in paranormal - talents. This very fun story starts with an introduction from the author that begins: “Hello, and welcome to the first volume of the Goon Squad saga. I’m Jonathan L. Howard, and I wrote it, so I’m to blame. Sorry about that.” No need to be sorry. I found the characters and stories delightfully fun and the sound effects included in the audio book add to the entertainment. The first story, The New Girl, sets the stage, introducing Nadiya to the squad. "Nightclubbing" is her first experience in the field which could have gone better if she had been prepped. "By the Water, by the Grave" continues the team’s efforts to capture the mobster, Des Garbo, as they track him through a graveyard. "Changes" shares some difficulties that Ian has observed over the years, while "No-No Dojo" gets Nadiya some desperately needed training. In the final installment, "Exterminating Angel", the team faces a truly deadly power that takes some non-human help to overcome.

The characters are developed through the short story collection. The stories fit together like an old time radio serial. The author’s wonderfully creative imagination and humor quickly shine through. I will definitely look to pick up Volume two in the audio format for more unusual crime fighting stories from the Goon Squad. The stories are available individually in eBook format.

Audio Notes: Gabrielle de Cuir does a great job with each of the voices, British and others. The underlying humor comes through easily in the narration and the sound effects enhance the listening experience. This is a quick listen (under five hours) of entertainment that I recommend in audio format.

I received this title through Audiobook Jukebox. It qualifies as part of my Audio Challenge.

#1 The New Girl; #2 Nightclubbing; #3 By the Water, by The Grave; #4 Exterminating Angel


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