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Book Review: The World Below by Mike Phillips

The following is a guest post by Mike Phillips who talks about the all important book cover. Keep reading for my review of Mr. Phillips’ new book, The World Below.

Why Book Covers Are So Important

         There’s this saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ but let’s face it, it happens.  When searching for a book the first thing someone is going to notice is the cover.  The cover can then draw that person into reading the synopsis.  If the synopsis and the cover draw the reader in, they could possibly buy it or put it on their to-be-read list.

My own personal experience with a cover design came with Uniquely Unwelcome.  The first edition cover was a hand drawing of a girl looking up at an eagle.  While it was a nice drawing, it just wasn’t up to par with other Fantasy covers.  It became very apparent to me, especially after a few readers recommended that I change the cover, that a change was indeed needed.

Why did I decide to use a hand drawing?  Well it was kind of a dream of mine.  My husband is a great artist.  He’s also my support system.  Whenever I’m frustrated, stuck on an idea, or just at a complete loss, he’s there.  I wanted to pay some tribute to his support and so I thought I would have him do my first cover.  From there, I would go with the “traditional covers” but for my first publication I wanted to incorporate him in some way.

My lesson from that, sometimes we have to let go of the smaller dreams/goals to reach the bigger ones.  I felt guilty I guess you could say when I told him I thought it was best if we changed the cover.  Being a great supporter like he is, he agreed.  He was honored that I had tried and that I had even used his art to begin with.  So together we picked out the cover for Uniquely Unwelcome and then again with Blood Burdens.

So yes, books are judged by their covers.  I’m not saying that every person does this, but most probably do.  I’m happy with the new cover for Uniquely Unwelcome and have a paperback edition of both the first edition with my husband’s cover design and the newer edition so I at least have a small token of my little dream.

Horror/Urban Fantasy
Date Published: 4/1/2013

In ancient times, magical creatures inhabited the earth. They lived on mountaintops, in trees, at  the bottom of lakes and rivers. But that was long ago, before the human race declared war on the creatures they feared and hated. Now the enchanted peoples are all but gone. Those few that remain fear being stretched out on an examination table in some secret, governmental facility.

The only place they can hide from the ever increasing number of satellites and smart phones is in the World Below.  Mitch Hardy is going through a hard time in his life. In his early twenties, he was working his way through college when he suffered an accident that left him flat broke and physically deformed. When Mitch decides to make a fresh start in a new town, things start looking up. He finds a place to live, a decent job, good friends. He even meets a nice girl. Unknown to Mitch, his new girlfriend is one of the Elder Race, what some call the Faerie Folk. Mitch doesn’t know that Elizabeth is looking for a father she never knew. The key to finding him is somehow tied up with the mysterious Blade of Caro. Desperate, she steals the Blade from its protector, the despotic ruler of the World Below, the Dragon of Worms, Baron Finkbeiner. When Elizabeth is kidnapped by the Baron, Mitch is pulled into a world or magic and monsters he never imagined.

 REVIEW

 This was a very riveting book. I really got to feel for Mitch and started rooting for him early on. He’s a hero in every sense of the word, his instincts kicking in any time a friend, stranger or animal is in trouble without giving any thought to his own safety or wellbeing. Some may think Mitch is an idiot since his sense of self preservation appears to be broken but this actually endeared him to me. Hume is another character I grew to love almost immediately. He’s essentially a bad guy for going out to do the Goblin King’s bidding but as his sister is being held captive and it’s obvious the man doesn’t like what he has to do while at the same time trying figure out a way to rescue her from his enemy you start rooting for him too. All the characters are likable, with the exception of Elizabeth, who I found to be fairly manipulative and scheming personally, and I adored the story. It’s a nice blend of fantasy and reality and I can’t wait to start reading the rest of the series. If you’re a fan of Sci-fi/Fantasy stories like Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series I think you’ll love The World Below.

*This review is part of Reading Addiction Blog Tours who supplied me with a free copy and is unbiased, unsolicited and unpaid.
Virtual Book Tour – May 6 – June 2
 
May 6 – Reading Addiction Blog Tours – Meet and Greet
May 7 – Logikal Blog – Guest Post/PROMO
May 9 – Kindle Obsessed – Guest Post/PROMO
May 10 – Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews – Interview/PROMO
May 12 – Bunny’s Reviews – Interview/PROMO
May 14 –My Reading Addiction – Review
May 16 – Texas Book Nook – Review
May 18- Playing Jokers – Review/Guest Post
May 20 – Bea’s Book Nook – Guest Post/PROMO
May 21 – Author Ever Leigh – PROMO
May 22 – Bibliophilia, Please – PROMO
May 24 – Must Read Faster– Guest Post/PROMO
May 26 –Mythical Books – Guest Post/PROMO
May 27 – Books and Needlepoint – Interview/PROMO
May 28 – My Cozie Corner– Review
May 30 – Faerie Tale Books – Review/Guest Post
May 31 – Noemi Betancourt- Review/Guest Post
June 2 – RABT Reviews – Review

Mike Phillips is author of The World Below and Reign of the Nightmare Prince. His short stories have appeared in ParAbnormal Digest, Cemetery Moon, Sinister Tales, Beyond Centauri, the World of Myth, Mystic Signals and many others. Online, his work has appeared in Lorelei Signal, Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Midnight Times, and Fringe. He is best known for his Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal series.

 mikephillipsfantasy.com

Excerpt

Magic sigils were hidden all over the city, but along the Riverwalk powers of earth and water converged. Magic here was strange and unpredictable, but always strong. A star was carved on the nearest of the old cottonwoods. It was ancient magic, made perhaps by the native tribes who once inhabited this place.

Hume could not guess what its purpose was. For all he knew, it would take him away to some desperate corner of the underworld to be forever enslaved. He did nothing to protect himself. He had to let events run their course.

Finding Lady Elizabeth proved impossible. If this stranger had information, then he would surrender himself to free his sister.

A breath of chill air interrupted his thoughts. He shivered.

It was his humanity giving him warning. People who didn’t know any better would attach some old wives’ tale to the feeling, but he was not so blinded by the mundane. No one tread on his future grave. Evil approached.

In the world outside the reach of the cottonwood, the sun escaped below the horizon. Night had come.

Darkness coalesced; growing deeper in this haven below the trees, gathering until the river and the bay and everything beyond the sphere of darkness was lost. A black bird flew to a nearby piling. The crow was mangy and looked only moments from death by old age. It ruffled its ancient feathers and stared at Hume, penetrating his mind.

Unafraid, he stared back, filling his thoughts with a variety of deaths the crow might suffer at his hand. The bird cawed angrily, its harsh voice a show of defiance.

“Let’s get on with it,” he said. “Sunset was an hour ago.”

“Nightfall is now,” snapped the bird.

“Point taken. My mistake.”

The crow’s voice was as harsh as its call. “Patience Hume, your eagerness does you no credit. A lesser being than I might take it as a sign of weakness, but no advantage will I press. I know what it is to have a loved one in danger.”

“Oh? So, is that why you are here? How nice.”

“Yes, I wish to help you, and I have other reasons.”

“What are they?”

“Patience, Hume. Patience” The crow laughed. “We’ll get to that later.”

“Lovely.”

Another crow flew to the piling. Soon the place within the dark was full of crows. They raced to the piling, circling Hume like a cyclone. He stood still, and though the impossibility of safety seemed assured, he wasn’t touch.

The birds fused together, forming something in the shape of a man. The man was covered in black feathers. He had a crow’s head with a sharp beak and beady eyes. A mantle of greater feathers ringed his neck.

“That’s a little much,” Hume said. “Who are you trying to impress?”

“I must admit I’ve always had the knack for the dramatic. As a show of trust I appear to you as my true self.”

“Does that make you a murder or a man?”

“Ha, ha, quite clever,” said the crow man. “I shall have to remember that one. Yes, quite clever indeed.”

LINKS TO BUY

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Book Review: Angel by Johanna Lindsey

Today we head to the Old West in Johanna Lindsey’s Angel.

Cassie Stewart is a professional meddler. Having caused havoc at her childhood home of Wyoming she heads down to visit her estranged father’s ranch in Texas where she manages to make a feud between two families even worst when she convinces the daughter of one family to fall in love and marry the son of the other family. However, unlike the famous Romeo and Juliet, the two star-crossed lovers don’t commit suicide together but get yanked apart by their respective families before turning their venom on Cassie and give her a deadline to get out of town or face her very own Texas BBQ.

Break out the weiners, ma!

With her father out of town and the mother who usually cleans up her messes still in Wyoming, Cassie doesn’t know what to do except she has a strong desire to finish what she started for once and sends for a man known as the Peacemaker. Unfortunately, the Peacemaker gets badly injured in the line of peacekeeping and sends a man who owes him a favor in his stead. This man is the tall dark and silent gunslinger known throughout the West as the Angel of Death! After Cassie gets over her initial terror she tries throwing her weight around and ordering him to leave first because she tells him the problem he came for was already solved and then because his presence will only make things worst. Angel won’t budge and over the coming weeks Cassie gets to know the man behind the legend and finds him to be warm, sweet and sexy while he comes to the realization that the woman who drives him absolutely insane has also managed to steal his heart.

Angel is action packed with likable characters and tame but sweet love scenes. I’m not crazy about the meddling empty headed heroine often portrayed in romance novels (it’s my biggest peeve about Jane Austen’s Emma) but Cassie’s ability to defend herself and her loyalty to her family and friends compensates for any irritability I felt about the character. Angel reminded me of a cross between Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef so I couldn’t picture him being attractive or sexy but the man’s sense of honor and his restraint not to kill as many challengers as he could have earned my respect for him so I was glad to read their HEA. There’s also a pretty cool little twist at the end but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

All in all it was a nice enjoyable read that has put me in the mood to hunt down more Romance Westerns:) PS look out romance fans, this book was published in 1992 so we’ve got a few turgid things puckering throughout the story.

******

And now a quick update. To celebrate the launch of Descendants of Quendaris, my first book Heroes and Hearts will now be FREE for a limited time! Witness Isabel’s rise to greatness and her smoldering love affair with the Prince of Calfragor before journeying with the couple as they join forces with Queen Valeska and King Iskander save our worlds from the forces of evil!

Book Review: Katherine Irons’ Atlantis trilogy

Today I’ll be reviewing Katherine Irons’ three books focused on the Atlanteans. These are fantasy romance stories centered on the crown prince and his brothers but also gives some insight into the life and enemies of the people of Atlantis.

Seaborne

Claire Bishop was a wealthy athletic and beautiful young woman whose life was changed forever when a drunken boater crashed into her and her friends. She has spent the last two years wheelchair bound and wallowing in serious pain and self pity and has managed to escape her controlling father to Seaborne, the seaside Maine home her grandmother left her when she died. She meets Morgan, crown prince of Atlantis, on the beach one day and it’s love at first sight. Morgan is already in trouble with the High Council for violating one of the cardinal rules of the land, make no contact with humans. Having already gotten off for rescuing a drowning boy in a storm, it is absolutely vital that Morgan keep his strong attraction to Claire a secret. He knows he should avoid her at all costs but her pull is just too strong. On top of everything else Morgan and his brothers, Alexandros and Orion, also have to deal with one of their father’s concubines and mother to their half brother, Caddoc, both of which want to kill the immediate family and take their places as rulers of Atlantis.

This story starts out a bit slow but really picks up steam and you can’t help but fall in love with Morgan. Claire can be a bit annoying but when you figure everything she’d been through and having absolutely no support network, except for people who insist on treating the 29 year old like a child because of her injuries as well as a husband who screwed around on her and now wants her for her vast settlement from the accident, you can kind of begrudge her a little self pity and low self esteem. Thanks to her interactions with Morgan however, Claire develops the strength she needs to fight back when she’s hospitalized against her will and tells her greedy murderous ex-husband to take a hike. I especially love the villainous shades that the Atlanteans battle and how Irons incorporates the old mermaid stories and mythical elements to her world.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and dove (heh) straight into the others.

Oceanborne

Elena Carter is an underwater archeologist on a mission. With her father disgraced in the field, she aims to prove herself by excavating an ancient Phoenician ship sunk off the coast of Greece. Unfortunately for her, Melqart, Phoenician god of war and ruler of the shades, doesn’t take kindly to a bunch of humans crawling around a ship loaded with his tributes and so Orion finds himself constantly coming to the aid of the beautiful woman who rescued him.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t thrill me like the first one did and I had to struggle to finish it. There were just way too many things wrong for me to enjoy the story and it just went from bad to worst!

First of all, why would Poseidon not only forgive the son who was involved in a plot to kill him and take the throne but allow him to return to Atlantis to do still more damage? He also has a nasty habit of believing every accusation that flies out of the schmuck’s mouth despite the fact that he oh y’know TRIED TO HAVE HIM KILLED AND USURP HIS THRONE!

We’re treated to more displays of Halimeda’s wrath and pension for octopi as her being rescued by Melqart and being in league with him seems to consist of her throwing fits because her servants are undead monsters and her being unable to eat anything even though she doesn’t actually need to anymore. To me, the sorceress seems less like a powerful witch to be feared and more like a spoiled bitch who needs to lose some teeth.

Will you STOP SCREAMING?!

Then there’s Elena who aggravates the hell out of me. First of all, this chick is just out of college and yet her entire career rides on an excavation that’s being interrupted by weather all because her father was a nutjob who claimed to have discovered Atlantis but later couldn’t provide proof before he disappeared? Really? Also, she’s the ultimate damsel in distress whose only reaction to frightening things is to panic and run or scream, freeze and close her eyes waiting for imminent death or to be rescued. Frankly I can’t imagine how she managed to get this far in her career without being eaten by a shark! And don’t even get me started on that time traveling BS where things happened one way and then suddenly everything changed or changed back or whatever. This was the third time this book flew out of my hand. Yet for the sake of this review I persevered.

*sob* It’s just SO bad!!!

Another thing that bothered me was how friggin easy it was to kill Melqart! The insipid Elena, who seemed to grow more childlike and brainless as the story went on, stands there in the temple and actually LAUGHS and makes fun of the big scary hulking roaring beast that just finished bursting out of his own statue and pulls a maneuver straight out of Peter Pan which results in Melqart doing an impression of the Wicked Witch of the West!

Lookit me, NOT believing in Phoenician gods. You can go ahead and die now!

He dissolves into a steaming puddle of goo and turns to dust out of which appears “a warty toad.” Seriously, these are the words a grown woman uses to describe the animal later on, and hops into a fiery chasm.

Finally, Orion isn’t nearly as interesting as his brother Morgan but then you kinda saw that in the first book. I’m actually looking more forward to picking up the next one as Alex always struck me as the most interesting of the three.

Waterborne

Ree O’Connor is a trained assassin with special abilities such as clairvoyance and setting things on fire. While targeting a rich Russian bastard who makes his money causing destruction both above and below the surface of the ocean, something goes wrong and she’s nearly killed. Luckily for her Prince Alexandros is onboard, also tasked with a mission to kill the rich Russian bastard and he takes her under the water and saves her.

Alex meanwhile is having serious issues clashing with the queen of the Lemorians who, in an attempt to sire a princess to sit on the throne after her, is banging Prince Caddoc like a screen door in a hurricane. Caddoc meanwhile is tired of his mother’s abuse so when the Lemorian queen declares their goddess needs a sacrifice he offers her up in his place to fling into an underwater volcano.

Alex also can’t understand why, despite his own aversion to humans that led him to lecture his brothers against taking human mates in the first two books, he can’t suppress the urge to plow Ree. There’s more trouble in store for poor Alex because while he’s fighting along side Ree to kill the rich Russian bastard, who apparently has a fleet of helicopters to rush him to safety at any given time, his brothers are playing hot potato with the crown.  It seems nobody wants to be Poseidon since daddy bought it in book 2.

Sadly, this series started out promising but just ended in colossal disappointment. The sex scenes actually become fairly dull especially in Waterborne and just happen way too often. In fact, you kind of get the feeling that even Irons starts getting bored with them because she stops giving details, which is a shame since there really isn’t much variation to the scenes she does describe in the whole series. I also don’t get why Irons insists on giving her heroines boyfriends when none of them actually become important characters. The only reason I could think of is the only way she could convey the sex appeal of her heroines is to saddle them with a boyfriend, fiance or husband which is pretty damn sad if it is true.

One thing I did take away from reading this series is writing style and plot devices NOT to use. I don’t mean this to be harsh or insulting, I’m actually serious. As I write my own series and books I will be keeping in mind not to have easily killable enemies, tedious sex scenes and secondary characters the plot could do without. I’m honestly hoping Katherine Irons’ writing improves with time because she’s incredibly imaginative and I do like her use of myths. I would actually prefer to read something that was an absolute train wreck from page one than descend into a spiral of dismay as I witness the demise of a promising storyline.

Harlequin Book Reviews & Operation Paperback

Today I’ll be reviewing two short romance novels, one I liked and the other well, not so much. The first book is a Harlequin Blaze anthology called Once Upon A Valentine with authors Stephanie Bond, Leslie Kelly and Michelle Rowen.

I’ve always been a sucker for alternative retellings of fairy tales and popular stories and this book definitely delivered. The book starts with Stephanie Bond’s All Tangled Up which is an incredibly loose take on Rapunzel. Busy NY ad exec Andrew McMillan returns to his native sleepy hamlet of Tiny, Tennessee to bury his father and drives into a tree to avoid running into a horse he didn’t see because he was too busy being captivated by the sight of his neighbor’s beautiful long golden hair. Summer Tomlinson has had a longtime crush on Andrew and of course now that she’s a beautiful woman with hair so strong he keeps getting tangled in it throughout the story, the feeling soon becomes mutual. Andrew hates small time life and after helping Summer market the hair product she and his father developed, which is responsible for the length and strength of her hair, he needs to decide whether to return to life in the big city or spend the rest of his days in the arms of his beautiful neighbor.

Sleeping with a Beauty by Leslie Kelly is another interesting story that involves a historian from an alternate fantasy universe trying to complete her father’s lifelong search for the elusive mythical castle from the story of Sleeping Beauty. She soon finds herself under the protection of an adventurer from our world hired by her uncle to keep her safe from the clutches of ruthless parties also interested in the castle. I love Ashlynn’s reactions to what we take for granted in this world, such as missing Chunky Monkey when she goes home once she realizes the ice cream doesn’t actually contain animal chunks, and I think this story is my favorite out of the three.

The final story is a very cute take on the Gingerbread Man story called Catch Me by Michelle Rowen. Ginger and her best friend Stephen work in his book publishing business and have to tackle a very difficult author who also happens to be their cash cow. After yet another disastrous blind date, Ginger is approached by an employee of the Valentine Cafe who gives her a magic gingerbread man and tells her to make a wish when she eats it. Shrugging, Ginger wishes she would be wanted by men before devouring the cookie. Suddenly she finds herself dealing with lots of unwanted attention, which includes getting screamed at by a couple of wives, before facing her ultimate dilemma. When Stephen is unable to control himself and confesses his love for Ginger, she wonders whether or not the words she’d always wanted to hear came under the influence of the cookie.

I don’t usually read holiday based books but this one centered around Valentine’s Day is a light and pleasant read and I highly recommend it:)

Monarch of the Sands by Sharon Kendrick

Francesca O’Hara is a pretty useless heroine. Her mother abandons the family because her father is a boring old scientist or something and her daughter didn’t turn out to be the bombshell she’d hoped she would be. With her father now dead, Frankie becomes engaged to a stranger who appears at her door trying to get her to sell her house and land and offers her a job at his agency. When sheikh and king of Khayarzah, Zahid Al Hakam, appears on her doorstep he turns her world upside. Apparently their fathers had been old friends because Frankie’s dad discovered oil in the country which boosted their economy to the moon and so Zahid is kind of a family friend except being royalty he seems incapable of being a douche. Actually since the man’s a king he wouldn’t just be any old douche, he would be Super Douche!

Well it takes one douche to sniff out another and Zahid is unimpressed with Frankie’s fiancé Simon. He soon discovers Simon is a fortune hunter and has another woman and breaks the news to Frankie who breaks the engagement. Of course this means she’s out of a job so this young woman who despite growing up around scientists and working by her father’s side in the lab (I wasn’t very good at it so I gave it up cuz science is hard TEE HEE!) has absolutely zero job skills or education. So Zahid decides to hire her to type up his dead father’s diaries but she has to come back to Khayarzah to do it because (I assume) there are no typewriters or computers in modern day England and the postal service doesn’t exist.

Even before they arrive, Frankie starts experiencing culture shock and is ticked off by various aspects of Zahid’s country such as the fact women aren’t allowed to go to college or drive and when she confronts him about it he merely shrugs and tells her how his advisors are old fashioned and aren’t open to modernization. After this he takes Frankie to a racetrack so she can check out the women’s facilities before starting on the diaries. Seriously. What one has to do with the other I have absolutely no idea but when he tells her of his plans to attract international clientele to the race track she informs him that if the wives of the wealthy men he’s hoping to attract aren’t happy, they won’t be happy and won’t do business with him because clearly all successful businessmen are pussy whipped.

After this blow up, which is one of many, they drive off to his secret little bungalow or whatever in the desert and finally have the sex they’ve been dodging throughout the story. Frankie hasn’t even caught her breath when Super Douche makes his appearance and starts bitching her out for not telling him she was still a virgin. This is after he spends half the book pissed off at her because he assumes she’s been sleeping with other men now that she’s a beautiful woman and not the awkward tomboy he knew when he last saw her five years ago.

I’m sorry but I hated this book and flung it across the room at this point. I found it so unbelievably stupid that it actually pissed me off! Kendrick spends half the book establishing how Frankie basically spent her entire life in her father’s laboratory with the sheikh and his father being constant visitors to her home and spending a considerable amount of time with the family yet she knows absolutely nothing about anything! She says how her father always told her stories about the country, their cuisine etc. yet she’s astonished when she finds out things about the culture that’s different from Western society. Zahid meanwhile has such a hard time dealing with his attraction to Frankie that he develops a tendency of being nice to her for 3 seconds before turning into an explosive asshole for the rest of the week. This is what I hate about certain romance novels. As I’d said in an earlier post, my pet peeves are an insipid and useless heroine and a hero who’s nothing but a colossal schmuck but because he’s rich and handsome all is forgiven. Ladies and gentlemen, this book has both along with plot holes so large you could drive a tanker truck through them. I advise you to stay away from this book with as much enthusiasm as I say to pick up Once Upon a Valentine.

By the way, I thought I’d take a moment to do a shoutout to a fantastic organization. Being a military couple for 10 years and with my husband about to be medically retired from an injury he sustained during a deployment, we’re not exactly rolling in dough. We both love to read but can’t always afford to buy the books we’d love to read and sometimes the selection at our local library can be seriously lacking. Thanks to the good folks at Operation Paperback, we both receive lots of free books that appeal to our interests every month or so.  The books that go to our troops at home and abroad, both in the field and recovering in the hospital, come from donations from people like you. If you’re interested in sending in a monetary donation or have some books you’d like to donate click here.

A week of reviews

Well folks, it looks as if our tour is coming to a close. Today’s review of Heroes and Hearts comes from Book Maven. Tomorrow Fairy Tale Books gives their review and on Friday we wrap up with RABT Reviews. Of course we still have the big announcement of who won BookRix’s major giveaway to look forward to next week and the release of book two of the Crystal Palace Chronicles: Descendants of Quendaris!

If you haven’t entered the big giveaway now’s the time!

Aaah!

You can also still enter the smaller (but still important) giveaway by clicking the rafflecopter link on the bar to your right.  Good luck to all!

Come along on a fantastic voyage!

So how are you enjoying the tour so far? Would you like another pillow? Coffee, tea? We’ve had a few hiccups but today we journey Inside BJ’s Head for a review of Heroes and Hearts and another chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a free copy of my eBook. Tomorrow the tour takes us to another review of Heroes and Hearts and an interview at The Serial Reader.