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Transgressions: The Apprentice Volume 3 - E.G. Manetti

Of the three volumes, this is my favorite although it gets pretty dark for awhile.

Swords & Spaceships! Romance & Adventure! 99 cent deal!

The Cartel -  The Apprentice Volume 1 - E.G. Manetti

Spring Celebration - 99 cents until April 1, 2015! 

GoodReads Rating: 4.2
Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars


Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AGNFHJA

I-books: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-cartel/id974743901

Nook:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cartel-the-apprentice-volume-1-eg-manetti/1114370315

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-cartel-3

THE CARTEL, - The Apprentice Volume 1

Raised to wealth and privilege, Lilian’s future was shattered when her father was convicted of terrible crimes. By law and custom she should have followed him into death to redeem her corrupt genetics. Desperate to avoid execution for crimes not her own, Lilian accepts an indenture contract with a powerful warrior. For three years he will have total control of her body, will and intellect. 


Ash to Steele

Ash to Steele - Karen-Anne Stewart I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ash to Steele has all the elements of great weekend read. Small town girl Emma moves to Boston to follow her dream of being an artist. Add in the worldly alpha male, Breck, along with some loyal and interesting friends, and it’s everything one could ask for an entertaining escapist read. While parts of it were fun and engaging, I never warmed up to Breck who came across as juvenile rather than damaged by his difficult childhood. After the initial attraction, Emma, who is portrayed as very bright and determined, should have seen through some of his posturing and called him on it rather than catering to it. The Emma who is able to defend herself verbally and physically from the quintessential ‘mean girl’ would never let Breck push her around.

On the plus side, the interactions with Emma’s friends Jess and Jason, her preacher father, and her former boyfriend were very well written and completely believable. Emma’s determination to make a place for herself as an artist was also very well depicted including the entry level job that she slogs through to pay the rent and establish her credentials.


Balancer - Patrick Wong Patrick Wong’s Balancer is a fast paced and inventive addition to the Young Adult Paranormal space. This well written first novel portrays the confusion and impetuousness teenagers through the story of Nix and her BFF, Ames. When Nix suddenly develops a supernatural ability to cure, she finds it comes at a price. By turns charming and thoughtful, Balancer explores the tension between having the ability to act and having the right to act.

The only flaw in my mind is that the story opens with 2 high school seniors camping alone. Not a lot of parents would go along with that and the way Nix‘s and Ames’ parents are portrayed, they wouldn’t. That said, the story moves along quickly and believably after that. Sometimes uncomfortably so as good teens make bad decisions. Played out against the backdrop of Metropolitan Washington DC, the action includes the FBI, mysterious academics and a senator’s son it contains all the elements of an excellent suspense story. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

An Executive Decision

An Executive Decision - Grace Marshall Just finished An Executive Decision, 3.5 stars. Good relationship development between the MCs, steamy non-BDSM sex. Decent plot but it kept snapping my willing suspension of disbelief (almost anything with a 'corporate' setting will). Round to 4-stars because it was free in the i-book store (I think on amazon, too.)

On Basilisk Station

On Basilisk Station - David Weber Fun space going update of Horatio Hornblower novels (which I love). Bogged down by excessive explanation of sci-fi propulsion and weapons systems. Which I skimmed over and missed nothing although it's probably 30% of the text. The e-book version I had tended to skip from one scene to another with out notice (extra space, ***, etc.) but that may be translation from print mode. All in all fun, but if you don't like and can't skim the heavy explanations, skip this one.

Emma's Education

Emma's Education - Abby Blake Fun read. A little improbable - the main characters fall in love over a weekend. The ending was a little abrupt and almost reads as an after thought. Reasonably good development of M/F/M ménage dynamic.

Over Cast

Over Cast - K.W. Benton I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

K.W Benton’s Over Cast, is a delightful addition to the Young Adult Paranormal space. The precocious fifteen year old G.J hits the right note for her age as she veers between sophisticated references to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and fumbling awkwardness in her attempts to assimilate to a new school mid-year. Adding to G.J’s challenges are the double upheavals of tragically losing her mother and moving from Louisiana to Washington State. Benton’s narrative addresses the loss of a parent compassionately while having some fun with the ‘language barrier’ between the southern state and the Pacific Northwest.

And, since this is fantasy, G.J’s life is further complicated by the fact that she has supernatural powers that routinely get her in and out of trouble. At the center of the story is G.J.’s attempt to grips with her increasing abilities while attempting to keep them hidden. In the process, she also discovers that her new neighbors have secret abilities of their own. In fact, there are so many ‘extraordinary’ people in this small town one does wonder how it hasn’t made it onto Youtube. Although certain aspects of the book are predictable – the local ‘mean girl’ who decides to make G.J her next victim, the clueless High School Principal – overall the story is a charming and enjoyable read. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

From Heaven to Earth

From Heaven to Earth - Sherrod Wall I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

In From Heaven to Earth, Sherrod Wall has created a vivid and violent universe where Angels, Demons and half-breeds of both species roam freely on earth and between dimensions, mostly causing pain destruction to each other and any nearby hapless humans. The narrative moves quickly from one battle to another, one set of characters to the next as the story explores the nature of good and evil, loyalty and love, and the component of free will in both. The pantheon of characters itself is large and creative, although limited in character development making it difficult to become invested in their fates. The rapid shifts in perspective from one character’s narrative line to the next can be confusing, and require some backtracking. The rapid pace of the narrative flow does keep the novel moving as each dramatic encounter or battle builds in intensity. Fans of fantasy action/thriller games and movies will enjoy this book with its graphic and often gruesome battles and the lush use of color in descriptions

Light & Shadow: The Complete Series

Light & Shadow: The Complete Series - Moira Katson I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
The trilogy charts the development of two young girls – Catwin a servant and Miriel noble – from adolescence into their late teens. The backdrop is the Kingdom of Heddred where a sickly boy-king, Garad, is surrounded by advisors who want to control the King and the Kindgom. One of the advisors is the Duke of Voltur, war hero and Miriel’s uncle. Using his niece and Catwin as pawns, the Duke places Miriel in the light to charm and engage the young king. Catwin is to stay in the shadows as Miriel’s guard, the Duke’s spy, and if the Duke commands it, his assassin.

All in all a riveting setup for intrigue, danger and adventure. Told from Catwin’s perspective the trilogy carefully develops the relationship between Catwin and Miriel who move from distrust to friendship as they unite in their fear of the Duke and their determination to forge a destiny where they are more than pawns. A number of excellent plot twists and turns keep the narrative moving although the momentum is often lost due to Catwin’s extensive internal musings. By the middle of each volume I found myself skimming sections looking for the next development in the plot. I also found the sophistication of two fourteen to sixteen year olds a little hard to accept in some instances even with fear being a great motivator. I was also disappointed in the final character resolution of the Duke which really did not track to the rest of the story.

Minor flaws aside, the books are well worth reading. By the third volume, the reader is thoroughly invested in the outcome not only for Catwin and Miriel but for the kingdom of Heddred, its king and its people. In a welcome departure from currently popular Young Adult Fantasy, the main characters achieve their goals through hard work and ingenuity rather than magical powers.

The Chinese Spymaster

The Chinese Spymaster - Hock G. Tjoa I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Chinese Spymaster has a creative premise, the maneuverings of the Chinese Intelligence service in response to a threat that an ethnic group in Central Asia will acquire a nuclear device in an attempt to establish an independent state. As with all good espionage thrillers, the story moves among a variety of international locations including China, the United Kingdom and Central Asia. Intertwined with the main story line are subplots related to political maneuverings in the Chinese Government, corrupt mullahs, and matchmaking friends.
For all its pluses, the novel is hampered by the frequent use of flashbacks that occasionally confuse the narrative flow and a clinical narrative style. The occasional action sequences are oddly cool and ‘bloodless’ despite the body count. The emotional response of the characters is muted or absent. For example, when Spymaster Wang learns his sparring partner wants to assassinate him there is no sense of an emotional response as the character mentally sets up a mental ‘to do list.’

All in all, the premise and interrelated plot lines are interesting, well-constructed and researched, but the detached narrative style fails to fully engage the reader

The Swan Bonnet

The Swan Bonnet - Katherine L. Holmes I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Swan Bonnet, set in Alaska in the 1920s’, does an excellent job of portraying what was at that time, still very much a frontier environment. As historical fiction this story has a lot to recommend it; a complex and interesting family dynamic; a careful depiction of various immigration cultures intermixing with each other and the Native American population; and the tension between those who protect the swans and those who would exploit them for short-term gain.

Told primarily from the perspective of 14-year old Dawn, the story lacks a compelling tone of voice due to the muted tone of Dawn’s internal monologue. When she observes that that she would rather draw than learn to knit there is no context. Is this a source of friction with her grandmother? Something that is valued? When she is accosted by a strange man, there is no sense that she is frightened. This detached viewpoint also makes Dawn seem younger than fourteen and keeps the reader at a distance.

In marked contrast, when the passages focus on the interaction and conversation between Dawn’s parents or her uncle’s tales, the narrative picks up considerably with those characters clearly telegraphing emotion a sense of drama. All in all, the story is interesting without being compelling.

Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray - Joleene Naylor Not for the faint of heart, Shades of Gray moves at dizzy pace from threats of violence to actual violence as the heroine, Katelina, struggles to survive her sudden entrance into the world of vampires. Real vampires, as in the scary people eating ones. Exception: Katelina's hot protector, Jorick.

Blaze Ignites

Blaze Ignites - J.L. Madore JL Madore’s Blaze Ignites is a fun romp through a modern day Fae kingdom where armor and swords are supplemented by cell phones and headsets. Blaze, the female main character, is a strong, determined force with the currently predictable tendency towards wise-cracking. Some of which is funny and some is only predictable. Although Galan (MMC) holds outdated notions about women, in an interesting twist on the conventional romance, he is more prone to emotional turmoil and the gentler one in the pair. The villains are suitably loathsome so that it easy to enjoy it when they meet violent ends at the hands of the heroes.

Bright Star - The Apprentice Volume 2 (The Twelve Systems Chronicles, #2)

Bright Star - The Apprentice Volume 2 (The Twelve Systems Chronicles, #2) - E.G. Manetti I wrote it, so I think it's great.

The Keepers

The Keepers - J.L. Block I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

JL Block’s The Keepers is inventive and creative in rendering a world where magic and reality as we know it intersect. Her depiction of hidden cities and magical races is very engaging. Her main female character, Ava, is refreshingly free of dark secrets or feelings of unworthiness. At 18, she is struggling to find her place in life, whether it is part of a magic using secret society or working as clerk while living with her family.

Regrettably, Ava does not develop past two dimensions. I often wondered, where did that come from? The motivation behind her decisions is often minimally expressed or sometimes not all as when she initially decides to join the Keepers. We hear about her getting hurt on missions, but don’t see it and don’t see its impact on the rest of the team, again leaving the reader wondering, why is she sticking with this? The lack of development made it difficult to stick with the story despite the inventive premise.

The plot line as a whole is well thought out with decent, but not overwhelming, foreshadowing that indicates all is not what it seems. And while the stage is definitely set for a sequel, the existing narrative line wraps up sufficiently to make for a complete story.