Xanthan Gumm – Robin Reed

Storyline: I could chew on Xanthan Gumm all day long! Ms. Robin Reed takes our normal and almost boring planet, Earth, and makes it extremely interesting and exciting.

Xanthan Gumm is a sweet little guy that’s not from Earth, but has been a fan of our movies for an extremely long time.  Xanth (as he likes to be called) flies to Earth to star in the Movies that he and all of the other creatures in Galactic Central have been watching and studying for decades.

Only upon his crash landing and subsequent trials, tribulations and troubles does he realize that it’s going to take a lot more than he originally thought to be the next big Movie Star. Instead of instant fame, it might even take as long as week!

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed some minor grammatical (incorrect pronoun or character’s name, capitalization and punctuation) issues throughout the story, with an increase in formatting problems (spacing, paragraph indentation, random characters) towards the end of the book. These are easily corrected by another read-through by a beta reader.

Character Development: The main character, Xanth, is adorable in his naive and innocent outlook on humans and their way of life.  Xanth isn’t dumb, he’s just very literal. Apparently, things are more straight-forward in Galactic Central than they are on Earth. He is very easy to love and the reader only wants him to be in the Movies. Xanthan almost makes the reader wish that life were as exciting as the Movies.

General Les S. Moore is likeable even in his misguided and misdirected patriotism. He is driven by his desire to protect Earth from the enemy, be it the “Commies” or otherwise. Apparently, Xanth falls into the “otherwise” category. With his overbearing mother helping to push him towards his ambition along with his over-the-top chin, General Moore will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.

Writing Style: Ms. Reed’s use of an “intergalactic” vocabulary is completely made up, yet very believable and just absolutely adorable. Her use of pop culture references is refreshing and helps move the story along quite well.

Continuity: No issues with continuity noted. The red cars remained red.

Overall Rating: 4

This story, with some minor editing for content, could easily translate into a Pixar or animated Disney film. I can almost hear Tim Allen’s deep voice as General Les S. Moore and Ewan McGregor’s soft voice full of awe as he tells everyone of his plans to be in the Movies.

Ms. Reed gave me a series case of the giggles in several points throughout the story.  Xanthan Gumm is a great lighthearted and sweet story about a little guy who just wants to make it big – something that even we, as somewhat oblivious humans, can relate to. I recommend this book to just about anyone with a great sense of humor and a true appreciation for the Movies and achieving the American Dream. Or at least trying to achieve it.

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Under Witch Moon – Maria Schneider

Storyline: Under Witch Moon by Maria Schneider is just plain entertaining (and somewhat informational too!). It has a bit of magic, a dash of romance, a dollop of mystery and an extra helping of action.

Adriel is a witch for hire, helping those who can’t help themselves (by conventional means, anyway) and when one of her latest clients ends up murdered, she must pull it together and figure out how to stop her killer. But, it isn’t as cut and dry as she first thought and things get even more complicated when some vampires, shape shifters and a voodoo witch get involved.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed very few issues with spelling or grammar. I think another good read-through by a beta reader and the story would make the story perfecto!

Character Development: It takes all kinds of folks to make the world go ‘round and even more when the occult is brought into play and Adriel is up to her witchy ears in just about every occult player there is.

Adriel is a “good” witch and she’s a good witch – probably one of the best in the Phoenix area. She’s young, but not lacking in wisdom and experience. Adriel is smart, resourceful and even pretty witty and very likeable. She shows that being a witch isn’t just about riding on broomsticks and twitching your nose – it’s all about hard work and follow-through. (Much like life in general, I suppose.)

Lynx, her link to the underground, is really something else. He’s a young street urchin and is her eyes and ears around town. Like Adriel, the reader is never really sure what it is that Lynx is until the end. He’s an opportunist, yet still very loyal. Lynx keeps Adriel grounded as much as she keeps him fed.

Writing Style: Under Witch Moon is written from Adriel’s quirky perspective on the world. (Of course, it’s only “quirky” because she’s a witch, y’all!) The reader is given somewhat of a crash course on all things of witchery and supernatural. Ms. Schneider is both very detailed and technical with the descriptions of the various potions, spells and general magickery (Is that even a word?!) without it feeling like a how-to manual on the world of the mysterious occult.

The only issue, if it can be considered an issue, was the dialogue at the very beginning between Adriel and Delores. It seems a bit old fashioned and doesn’t really fit into the typical contemporary style of speaking. Though, after the first chapter (really, the first bit of dialogue at all) this problem disappears and the remaining characters’ interactions are realistic, believable and true to our modern day world.

Continuity:  I noticed no issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 4

I’ve got to be honest, while I reading Under Witch Moon, I was worried that Ms. Schneider wasn’t going to be able to bring all of the different elements, creatures and characters together for a cohesive resolution. Boy! Was I wrong! I shouldn’t have worried about it in the least. This book has it all: magic, love, action, drama, suspense, comedy and all of it set in the beautiful desert of Arizona! I would encourage anyone to read this and nearly anyone can read this as it doesn’t have too many adult situations or graphic scenes.

Ms. Schneider did an excellent job and I hope she’ll allow me to review her next book!

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The White Hairs – Noah K. Mullette-Gillman

Storyline: The White Hairs is an unusual short story by Noah K. Mullette-Gillman. Noah blends some interesting concepts for this story: astral projection, the existence or non-existence of the eternal soul and the acceptance of your fate.

Farshoul is a White Hair – a humanoid creature – that lives high in the mountains with his people. They’re a world apart from man and yet so closely related. The White Hairs view humans with a sort of dismissive contempt for their lack of “sight” and appreciation for the world around them.

Like many of his tribe, Farshoul has the ability to travel outside of his body and see the world via astral projection. But, his experiences are completely different than that of his fellow White Hairs and he isn’t entirely sure that he likes it. It changes him and he must fight to get back what he lost.

Grammar/Spelling: The book had no grammatical issues to speak of and zero spelling errors. My suggestion would be to combine some of the shorter sentences as there are sections that seem rather choppy and do not flow as well as other passages. I noticed a couple of formatting issues that will be easily corrected after another read through.

Character Development: The story follows Farshoul and his adventures with soul traveling, but I didn’t feel as if I got to know Farshoul very well. His experiences were pretty life-altering, but I can only assume that as there is really very little development of his character. Noah created a potentially very interesting character/creature but fell short in explaining his outlook and thoughts prior to his initial soul traveling incident. Perhaps flushing Farshoul’s character out a bit more would help the reader truly understand the exceptional differences in Farshoul’s personality before and after his excursions in the astral planes.

Writing Style: The writing style was simple and lacked any technical aspects.  The story was a little vague at times when it could have explored the White Hairs’ past and their interactions with the humans and their revere for the Giants. The ending was also quite confusing as the Giants who were evil at one point in the story were not evil at the conclusion of the book.

Continuity:  No issues with continuity.

 

Overall Rating: 4

I have to be honest and say that I don’t believe that this is a book that I would have chosen on my own to read. I want to be fair and say that as this was not exactly my cup of tea, I am basing my rating purely on formatting, grammar and spelling. It might be better if it were geared toward young adult readers.

For myself, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of the soul not being eternal. Not that I’m particularly religious, but I like to think of myself as sort of spiritual. Not in the hemp skirt and dreadlocks kind of way, but in a more casual, “Hey, yeah… I have soul. It’s pretty cool and lasts forever…” This is simply because these beliefs help me sleep at night.

The White Hairs by Noah K. Mullette-Gillman is an interesting concept and great for people who are interested in astral projection, the question of the eternal soul and different spiritual planes. There are some scenes of mild violence, but no adult language or situations.

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The Kinshield Legacy – K.C. May

Storyline: K.C. May I have another?! The Kinshield Legacy is a remarkable fantasy about a simple man who wants to do the right thing and help put the rightful heir on the Thendylath’s throne by solving the mystery of the runes.

Gavin Kinshield is the descendent of the last great king’s champion and would like to live simply while patrolling the countryside, lending out his protection and skills as a warrant knight.  However, as Gavin nears the completion of the Rune Stones’ mystery and the fulfillment of the prophecy that he become the next, albeit a reluctant, king; he must confront his past in order to face his future.

Ms. May has written The Kinshield Legacy as an entertaining and well written fantasy that draws the reader in within the first chapter and pulls us along for the fantastic journey of the reluctant would-be king of Thendylath.

Grammar/Spelling: I did not notice any issues with grammar and spelling.

Character Development: Ms. May has a wonderful cast of characters that are well-developed and each has a life of his/her own prior to becoming entangled with Gavin and the runes.

When the reader first meets Gavin, he appears to be a roughhewn, scraggly Warren Knight just happy to make some money, buy some ale and a little company. But, as we get to know Gavin, it becomes apparent that there is definitely more to this solid man. He is forever standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and trying to right the wrongs from his past.

There is nothing kind about Brodas Ravenkind, Gavin’s enemy. Ravenkind is a power hungry wizard that plans to usurp the throne from whoever is solving the mystery of the Rune Stones. He is quite easy to dislike and after learning all of the horrible things he has done to get where he is, the reader can only hope that Gavin can give him a good what-for.

Writing Style: Ms. May creates a new and entertaining fantasy world without overwhelming the reader with too much fantasy lingo. With this story, the reader doesn’t have to have a vast knowledge of all things fantasy to keep up; instead, they just need a little imagination to enjoy it. Ms. May uses a good mixture of story telling and flash backs to help move the plot along and you can almost feel Gavin’s pain (literal) and anguish over losing his family.

Continuity:  There were no problems with continuity.

Overall Rating: 4

I sincerely hope that the Kinshield Legacy will be the first in a series! Do you hear me, Ms. May?! I am really looking forward to finding out what Gavin will do when it comes time to face his fate and fulfill his destiny as the new king of Thendylath.

There are some adult themes (language, situations) and some violence throughout the story. So, it might be suitable for younger readers. But, I would highly recommend this to anyone who believes in fate and magic.

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The Eye of the Idol – Paul Dayton

Storyline: We should all keep an eye on the Paul Dayton as his story, The Eye of the Idol, is surely the first out of many successful books.

The Eye of the Idol follows an incredible journey from the early 1600s to present day and impacts nearly every corner of the globe along its amazing journey and mystery.

The story starts with an obsession and a murder that leads to a series of unfortunate accidents and even more mysteries and murders. What could possibly be in that box that would mean the destruction and potential start of another world war?

Follow SIS agent Coleman, Detective Antonin and Professor Sanchez as they attempt to chase the clues to solve the mystery before it’s too late.

Storyline: Mr. Dayton would make any boring history class a lively and entertaining experience with his true talent of taking seemingly unrelated (and potentially boring) historical events and weaving them all together into a believable and compelling story.

Grammar/Spelling: I have a few, let’s call them quirks (I like that better than “ticks” because “ticks” implies that either I’m a little mad like the Hatter or I’ve been in the woods and forgot to check for those gross hitchhikers), one of which is the misuse of ethnic descriptors. I have a rule as it pertains to Asian peoples: If it’s a rug, it’s Oriental. If it’s a person, they’re Asian.

Of course, if the character is designed to be racist, then I can adjust the rule for that personality flaw, but I don’t think Mr. Dayton intended that when he wrote up this sentence: “Of those twenty, are any oriental looking?” I only noticed it once and it should be an easy fix.

Character Development: From the laidback Canadian agents, the oh-so-proper and well-prepared British SSI agent to the delusional North Korean agents, the characters are wonderfully developed. I even found the poor Jesuit priest who became obsessed with the Eye of the Idol easy to imagine – given I’ve met my fair share of fanatical Christians here in the south. (Not knocking those of the Flock – just saying I’ve met a few that kind of made me say, “Whhhhaaaaaaaat?!” and then quickly run away.)

Writing Style: His use of flashbacks and references to actual events and stories told from the point of view of someone going through the experience is fantastic. It really did seem like a movie. Maybe I lack the imagination to think beyond the reference of a movie with flashbacks, but dang it! That’s how I sees ‘em!

Continuity: No issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 4

Diamonds. North Korean agents. British spies. Murder. Mystery. And even some Canadians. This story has it all.

Get out your Kindle, your Wikipedia and get to readin’ The Eye of the Idol. It’s sure to grab you by your scruff and shake some knowledge, action and adventure into ya!

A great read for everyone over the age of, let’s say, 14 because I have a hard time imagining my 6 year old son really following along with all of the historical references and there are some particularly violent situations, as well as adult language.

Great job, Paul! You’ve really knocked it out of the park with this one!

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The Crystal Facade – Debra Martin & David Small

Storyline: Debra and David: double the authors, double the greatness. The Crystal Façade is book two (really, it could actually standalone) in a fantasy series that I can only hope continues until the end of time. Or at least until I can’t stands it no mo’!

The Crystal Façade picks up the story six months after the first adventures on Otharia and Earth. Dyla has been having increasingly disturbing visions of Sir Blackheart and know that until she goes back to Earth to finish the quest they started, these visions will never go away. The glamour has worn off Otharia for Cat and all she wants to do is to go back home to Earth and start living a normal life – teaching her students and archeology-ing – again.

Together Cat, Dyla and Éclair, the very powerful telepath, make the trip back to Earth. After they leave, the conspiracy doesn’t seem to stop weaving out of control. Darius must figure out who is trying to kill him and prevent an evil power from taking over Otharia.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed some minor issues with punctuation and grammar. I also noticed an odd twist to an old saying (Perhaps it’s due to the differences between Earthlings and Otharians?): “She was a beautiful, headstrong, young woman who seemed to attract men to her like flies to the fire.” I have always heard it stated as, “like moths to the flame.” This phrasing did nothing to detract from the story at all – just something that I noticed and thought it was worth mentioning.

Character Development: The Crystal Façade is fairly well-written and developed. Even though it is book two, the characters were flushed out well enough that it was easy to follow the storyline. Of course, now I must read the FIRST book so that I can get the ENTIRE story. Geez! Thanks guys! Like I don’t have ENOUGH books to read! I kid, I kid!

Darius is the new lady-loving young Duke of Telkur (Well, he’s always loved ladies, so that part isn’t new, per se.) and he might have met his match with the beautiful, spit-fire Crystaline. He decides to prove his mettle by saving her from kidnappers. (At least attempting to!)

Éclair is the strongest telekinetic that has ever been born in Otharia and, because of that, he is also one of the youngest teachers at the Otharian Institute for Paranormal Studies. His techniques have been ill-received by the older teachers and staff, so his decision to take the trip back to Earth is met with very little resistance on their part.

Writing Style: The Crystal Façade is unique because it runs in parallel timelines on Earth and Otharia to keep the action moving along and the reader quite entranced.

The trip to Earth should have been an easy, in and out expedition, but of course, it’s not. Cat, Dyla and Éclair are being followed and harassed by Blackheart’s goons while searching for Merlin’s cave; while back on Otharia, we have kidnappings, coercions, secret societies and even a rebellion.

Nothing is ever simple, is it?

Continuity:  I noticed no issues with continuity.

Overall Rating: 4-

I really enjoyed Debra Martin and David Small’s fantasy collaboration, The Crystal Façade. I can promise I’ll be buying the first one – unless *ahem* for some other reason I get a copy – and will be able to highly review and recommend it as well!

The Crystal Façade is a distinctive and exciting journey into the fantasy genre and I can only hope that there are many more great trips to Otharia!

The story had some minor adult situations and language, so I would give it a PG-13 rating.

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Lessons and Other Morbid Drabbles – Michael Crane

Storyline: Michael, you leave me CRANE-ing for me! (And she’s back with the puns! HI OH!)

Lessons and Other Morbid Drabbles is a collection of shorts with a most decidedly humorous and horror filled twist. Each short, or “drabble” as they’re called in the Biz (I was just educated about this particular style myself. Thanks, Michael!) is a little snippet of a potential whole story – usually the most amusing and horrific bit. They’re almost like one-liners for horror writing.

Grammar/Spelling: I noticed no issues with grammar or spelling.

Character Development: Since these are each less than 100 words, there isn’t really a need to develop a character in-depth. But, each character adds there own unique morsel of delicious drama to the story.

I especially liked the doting father. That poor kid should have listened and made sure his daughter was home on time! Reminds me of my own father…

I know that I’ve had a similar thoughts regarding nearly every story involving a child’s fear of a monster… Because, sometimes, there really IS a monster even if the adults don’t see it!

Writing Style: The writing style is quirky and hilarious. Even though each blurb is quite short, there’s no lack of talent. I’m dying to read more of his short stories! A few of these might even make great short stories themselves.

Continuity:  No concern with continuity given the style of the work.

Overall Rating: 4+

Michael Crane does a phenomenal job with his dribbles and drabbles in Lessons and Other Drabbles. I hope that he continues to churn these out and maybe even consider making them into an anthology. Maybe release a new one each October…?  (I’ll be expecting SOMETHING for that brilliant suggestion. Maybe even a new pair of shoes?! Hmmm?!)

I would say that this is definitely not for the young, the old or even the infirm. And if you have a fear of clowns or puppets: FORGET IT! There are some pretty serious scenes of gore and quite a bit of adult language.

Character Interview with Mr. Giggles

An interview Mr. Giggles, evil Monkey sock puppet, about his relationship with his author, Michael Crane.

Celia:  How did you first meet your writer?

Mr. Giggles:  Hee-hee-hee… I was hiding under his bed, and when I heard he was writing a book of horror shorts, I told him to put me in one—otherwise I’d bite his effin’ legs off.  Tee-hee-hee…

Celia:  Did you have a hard time convincing your author to write any particular scenes for you?

Mr. Giggles:  It doesn’t take long for me to have anybody see things my way.  Those who refuse to see things my way… well… it’s kinda hard to argue when you’re a rotting corpse.

Celia:  Do you infiltrate your author’s dreams?

Mr. Giggles:  Of course.  I get bored easily.  Have to find something to occupy my time, now don’t I?

Celia:  Would you be interested in a sequel if your writer was so inclined?

Mr. Giggles:  It’s already happened.  I made darn sure that I was in LESSONS II.  I mean… what’s a LESSONS II without Mr. Giggles?  Of course… one other author was upset that stupid Clown didn’t make it into the sequel.  He keeps crying about it.  You know… I may have to pay that little punk a visit.  Both of them, actually.  Hee-hee-hee…

Celia:  What is the lamest characteristic your writer has attributed to you?

Mr. Giggles:  Look, Missy… I don’t like where you’re going with this.  Lame?  LAME?  Are you calling me lame?  Really?  Do you really want to go there?  I don’t think you want to know what happened to the last person who thought I was “lame.”  Let’s just say he has a permanent smile now, thanks to yours truly and a very, very sharp kitchen knife.

Celia:  Do you like the way your story ended in the first LESSONS?

Mr. Giggles:  Hee-hee-hee… But of course.  That kid’s mother thought I was harmless… well, I quickly showed her otherwise.  Her hand was delicious…  Hee-hee…

Celia:  If you could give yourself a superpower, what would you choose?

Mr. Giggles:  Superpower?  Mr. Giggles doesn’t need any superpowers!  I’m an evil puppet!  What more can one ask for?  Batman would “S” himself if he saw me.  That’s the truth, Lady.

Celia:  Anything else you would like to add before our time is up here?

Mr. Giggles:  If you see that idiot Clown, tell him I’m coming for him.  Stupid little swine.  Thinks that leaving threatening notes is so evil… give me a break!  I’ll show that punk what true evil is once and for all!  Tee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee!

Note from Celia:  I feel that I may have to have my locks changed after this interview.  The little guy looked so cute… but don’t let that fool you.  He is evil incarn

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