Charish, Kristi; Owl and the Japanese Circus (2015)

The world of Owl and the Japanese Circus, by Kristi Charish, is dominated by antique thief extraordinaire, Owl, previously known as Alix Hiboux. Alix’s transformation from archaeology grad student to thief is in part a result of one of the laws we get to know in this urban fantasy. The International Archaeological Association (IAA) operates outside the law of the land in certain cases. Not all archaeological discoveries can be shared with the public. Also, the IAA takes care of their people in the know. Unfortunately for Alix, she fell victim to one such person.

“In exchange for saying, “No, I was wrong, none of the data in that report was falsified, the postdoc and supervisor still remain god apparent, I’m a bad grad student,” I had been verbally promised funding for the next four years and a coveted transfer to the lost city dig site in Ephesus, Turkey. Right after I had signed the paperwork that had legally absolved the university and my supervisor of any wrongdoing, all my funding had been terminated and my transfer had disappeared.”

All of a sudden, Alix was persona non grata in academia. Her reputation was ruined, and she needed to make a living. Turning thief was a matter of getting back at her old university and utilizing her outstanding understanding of the authenticity of antiques and antique languages. She chose her clients carefully (she thought), made sure they never met face-to-face, and paid a courier well to deliver the orders. All went well. Owl made loads of money. And then – poof – vampires. Once the lid is off Pandora’s box, there is no putting the monsters back. When we meet her, Owl is on the run from said vampires.

“I turned around slowly and looked up at the tallest Japanese man I’d ever seen, wearing a pair of designer sunglasses. He wore a tailored suit with diamond cuff links – real diamond cuff links – and matching shoes, but that wasn’t what got the kid. A tattoo of a dragon wound its way around his neck and disappearing underneath his shirt. It was striking, and a stark contrast to the expensive outfit. It was also a signature.”

One does not refuse Mr. Ryuu Kurusawa. Owl has done jobs for him before but never met him or his people.  That is about to change.

“Ryuu Kurosawa, a Vegas mogul known for his Japanese Circus-themed casino, looked up from a white couch and smiled that business smile you come to expect from professional sharks. Not the ones that take your money, the ones that eat you while you’re still screaming.”

In return for retrieving the missing contents of a magical egg, Mr. Kurosawa will hold off the vampires. Or else.

Like most humans I have met, Owl is incredibly inconsistent and willfully blind to her own fears. And, as is the case when we are willfully blind, she does not learn from her mistakes. Even though she now knows that there are supernaturals, she never spots them. For one so focused on the details of archaeology, Owl misses the details of people around her. This leaves her with room for growth.  Quite naturally, she also has huge trust issues. Along with those come a tendency to self-sabotage anything that might lead to friendship. Her tools are language and running away. However, there is some hope.

“You made me nervous the last time I was here. I didn’t know what to make of it, and personal conversations make me uncomfortable, so I did something stupid and decided to avoid you.” I ran my hand through my hair. “I’m a hell of a lot better with inconsequential conversations about vampires and RPGs,” I added, hazarding a look at him. He was still watching me and sizing me up from the doorway. Then he walked back to the outdoor bar and took the seat beside me. “All right,” he said. “We can go back to talking about RPGs and my vampire problems?” I said, maybe a little too hopefully. “No. We can have the conversation you didn’t want to have three months ago, and then I’ll decide whether I still want to be friends with you.”

One relationship Owl would never dream of sabotaging is her relationship with her Egyptian Mau cat, Captain. He goes with her everywhere. At first, I thought that would be a problem because of all of her traveling and her line of work. After a look at the various cat carriers out there, traveling was no longer an issue. When it comes to her line of work, Captain is a potential liability. Traveling with a cat in a carrier makes it easier to be spotted once that detail leaks. However, he is also a vampire alarm. Plus she loves him and he gives her balance.

Owl’s best, and oldest, friend is Nadya. The two met while at grad school. About six months before trouble hit Alix, Nadya suspected something nasty was going on and left for Tokyo. She advised Alix to do the same, but as we know, Alix ended up as Owl. Nadya is extremely smart and business savvy. She lives in the Shiyuba (sp?) district of Tokyo, owns a night club called the Space Station Deluxe and is Alix’s go-to-person when there is need of hacking.

Owl and the Japanese Circus was a fun YA urban fantasy with long-term potential. Definitely recommended.



Available at Amazon

The Purina Diet

Artist: Dan Collins
Artist: Dan Collins

Yesterday I was buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for Athena the wonder dog at Wal-Mart and was about to check out. A woman behind me asked if I had a dog. What did she think I had, an elephant? So since I’m retired, with little to do, on impulse, I told her that no, I didn’t have a dog, and that I was starting the Purina Diet again.

Although I probably shouldn’t, because I’d ended up in the hospital last time, but that I’d lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pants pockets with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry and that the food is nutritionally complete so I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in the line was by now enthralled with my story.)

Horrified , she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no; I stepped off a curb to sniff an Irish Setter’s ass and a car hit us both.

I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack, he was laughing so hard!

WAL-MART won’t let me shop there anymore.

I cannot trace this joke back further than 2008 when it was sent as email to Chris Pietschmann.

Farrugia, Nathan; Anomaly (Helix IV) (2016)

Sophia portrayed by Haylee Collins / Photographer: Andrew Maccoll / Cover design: Pat Naoum
Sophia portrayed by Haylee Collins / Photographer: Andrew Maccoll / Cover design: Pat Naoum

Sometimes getting to know the author is as fun as getting to know the characters. Farrugia is probably as adrenaline addicted as Sophia but, thankfully, seems a ways off Denton’s brand of crazy. He is also funny as hell and a great writer.

This odd group of animals I belong to, seems hell-bent on destroying itself in one way or another. Often, I wonder who profits from the unrest going on. Seeing behind propaganda, to the Dentons, Hals and Sievers of this world, takes time and effort. What Farrugia manages to get across in Anomaly is how little the pawns, even at the level of Illarion, know. Just because two parties kill each-other, doesn’t mean they oppose each other. Unlike many of the real-world conspiracies I hear/read, Farrugia’s conspiracy thriller shows us a believable chess-game where the consequences to the players are small, but to their pawns, well.

Purity is clearly one of the pawns being played. We got an inkling of that in Interceptor. Anomaly‘s use of Hal, Denton and DC pushes me to think in one direction. Farrugia is probably just messing with my mind. Cults are terrifying creatures. Especially political cults. Nazism was one. We see another one tear its way through Europe, triggered by the 70-year-long battle between USA and Russia that is, at this part of the “game”, destroying the Middle-East. Purity has reached the point of the mob. “Burn the witches” is a chant at one of their rallies. Farrugia paints the mindlessness, hysterical anger, fear and violence present in such a mob perfectly.

We get to know Marina better. I find myself curious about her. “Will this hurt?” she asked. And it did. It takes a special kind of training to acquire the mind-set of the researchers in the various Columns, training most people would pass.

Eastern Europe is clearly in trouble and the only ones who might save it are Sophia and Olesya’s people. But only if the two groups cooperate. Both feel the need to talk but are afraid to trust the other. They know that no matter what they choose, the likelihood of their groups getting out intact is nil. However, both are the kind of leader who wants to get as much of her team out alive and as well as possible.

What on earth are Intron’s goals? They aren’t what Hélio  says. Why are Fifth Column’s implants turning up in such strange people? Who are training these new, indestructible operatives? What is DC up to? How are Purity identifying the mutants? Can paranoia be taken too far?

As usual, I had fun. Lots of action, lots of conspiracy and one hell of a mystery. Definitely recommended.

I was given an advance copy of Anomaly to review.


My reviews of:

  1. Helix
  2. Exile
  3. Interceptor

Anomaly is available at Amazon

Hernandez, Jessica: Capering on Glass Bridges (Hawk of Stone I)

Capering on Glass Bridges, 2015
On Fiaru Island, in the Kingdom of Greylandia, on the world Acu lives the Stone family. We first meet them at the Pairing ceremony of the youngest daughter. Meeting your canonipom and bonding with it is the most important day in the lives of Greylandians. As far as the people we meet know, Kaia Stone (16) is the only person who never did so. The Stones are humans. Canonipoms are not.

A canonipom is about a foot tall and humanoid in appearance, the same gender as its human and similar in nature and looks. Being a companion seems to be its sole purpose. Once a Pairing is complete, the two have a bond that allows telepathic communication.

Soon after the family returned from the bonding, a flird appeared with a message from the Speaker Council on Zavonia. A flird is a type of shape-changer. One form functions as a flying messenger capable of conversation and memorization. Its other form is flower-like. Travel for a flird must be instantaneous because the time it took to go back and forth between Zavonia and Fiaru was, at most, a couple of hours.

The Council invited the Stones to appear before them. Speakers are human magicians whose words, or Utterances, manifest. As with most magicians, talent and work ethics differ between Speakers. To get to the secretive island, the Stone family had travel overnight by ship. The Council of Speakers asked Kaia to go on a mission to the cursed Kingdom of Mar.

Ten years ago, Marians slaughtered the Tivmicians and, thereby, into conflict with one of the Speakers’ utterances:

“Should a group ever seek the extermination of another group, … let Acu’s skies cry blood on that day. Let the plagued realm know only misery, and let it offer escape to none.”

And so the Marians were cursed forever. Or so it seemed. Recently, the Utdrendans (one of the first three races) told the Speakers there was a chance the curse could be lifted. To do so, Kaia Stone of Greyland and Sir Pelliab Blackwell of Darlbent must go to Mar and report the Utdrendan message to King Richard of Mar and discover a cure. Kaia and Pelliab would not have to travel alone. The Council promised to send along two Speakers and five of King Robert’s (brother to Richard) sons. Mr. Stone refused outright to let his 16 year old daughter traipse off into unknown territory. Kaia felt this quest would, finally, give her life meaning and felt devastated by her father’s refusal. However, just as she was about to enter the return vessel, one of the Councillors pushed a flird bulb up her sleeve. If she chooses to go, it will have to be without her family knowing and that worries her.

Capering on Glass Bridges is a hero’s quest story, and that means we know what Kaia will decide. She is our main character and it would be strange if she stayed home. So. We get to meet five princes of King Robert’s 1000 children (busy man), two speakers and a kingsman along with the various people who are part of the adventure. Kaia and Pelliab’s challenge lies in getting to the Kingdom of Mar, then getting to King Richard, then finding out what they and the kingdom need to do to lift the curse. A solution is not found in book one of the duology.

Capering on Glass Bridges is Hernandez debut. It has a good story-line. Genre betas and/or editor would have improved it. Terminology is important and there were inconsistencies. However, there very few spelling/grammar problems, and the plot and creatures fit the “hero’s quest” genre.


The author gave me a reviewer’s copy of Capering on Glass Bridges.

Capering on Glass Bridges is available at Smashwords

Flynn, Sabrina; A Bitter Draught (Ravenwood Mysteries II) (2015)

I have followed Sabrina Flynn‘s writing since her début novel. It simply does not do her justice to say that her writing has improved immensely. That she happens to throw in important issues as well, is frosting on A Bitter Draught.

Humphrey glanced at the envelope again. Muttering under his breath about redheads and their strange temperaments, he opened the envelope, hoping he wasn’t going to get arrested. It held a neatly folded slip of paper. When he unfolded the slip, a single line of elegant words ran its width. A cold prickle pierced Humphrey’s neck and crawled down his spine, producing a shiver that no San Franciscan wind had yet managed.

And so our story begins. San Francisco around the turn of the 19th century was a hot-bed of racism, corruption and bigotry.

“For murdering a Negro woman? The police all but accused my wife of harlotry.”

Isobel Saavedra Amsel (formerly Kingston), aka Bel, aka Charlotte Bonnie, aka Mr. Morgan is back in town and finds San Francisco unforgiving of people running out of capital. Bel has never been a helpless damsel, waiting for her knight in shining armor, and she aims to solve her emptying purse. The San Francisco Call hints at a solution.

Reporter Charlotte Bonnie gets wind of an unusual death on Ocean Beach. That people die after entering the water at Ocean Beach is in and of itself not interesting. It is a dangerous place to wade. What makes Ms. Bonnie’s detecting muscles stretch is the note in the sand that went with the death of Violet. Clues are given early on and continue throughout the story. Keep your eyes open and brain at attention and you may well solve the mystery before our favorite cross-dresser does.

Mr. Morgan is not alone in his cross-dressing. We also meet our favorite gender fluid and gay side-kick, Loratio, aka Madame de Winter, aka Paris. Since before they ran away to the circus, Bel and Loratio have caused their parents heart problems. Both are wild for their time. People often think of the “Wild West” as wild. And it was. But that wildness was pretty shallow when it came to gender- and sexually-fluid people. Our twins hold many of my favorite moments in this story.

Atticus Riot is both cynical and naïve. Despite his childhood as the son of a crib-whore, he thinks that as long as he does his part in fighting the darker sides of people, justice will prevail. He might also be deemed nuts. Ravenwood has not yet left him and conversations between the two seem a bit one-sided when all people see is Riot. Yet Riot needs both his naivety and his ghost to keep living and helping people. A husband comes to him seeking to understand the death of his wife. They had only been married three months, and the man knew little of her background. San Francisco being San Francisco, Riot warns the husband he may not like the answers he gets. As it turns out, neither does Riot. But the road towards understanding brings him, once again, into contact with Bel.

And Kingston. Will Kingston find out that his dead wife is back in town? Good question.

I loved A Bitter Draught. Yeah. Loved it. Definitely recommended.


My review of From the Ashes (1)

The author gave me a reviewer’s copy of A Bitter Draught

Just because: you-tube clip from 1903 of Ocean Beach w/Cliff House, Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.


Cheek, Kater; Parasitic Souls (2016)

Cover art by: Fiona Jayde Media and Kater Cheek
Cover art by: Fiona Jayde Media and Kater Cheek

About five years before the beginning of Parasitic Souls, the Earth experienced a magic apocalypse. As a result of the apocalypse, some people became magical. The strangest form of magic is SL (spontaneous lycanthropy), in this case to coyote . More common is magical talent. Those who had practiced magic before the apocalypse, like brujas/brujos and witches/wizards, had a head-start. The magically talented are able to use their energy to set wards, make charms or influence people. Scientists study magic in hopes of understanding its underlying principles.

One of the magics discovered is a fountain of youth. Not a particularly ethical magic, but one that might potentially earn the inventor loads of money. Many people would be willing to use this highly questionable form of magic and pay almost anything. However, before this fountain of youth could be sold to the wealthy and unscrupulous, it needs testing. Which is how we meet Lenny.

The apartment was dark except for the streetlight shining rudely through the curtains. Since she had a raging thirst and an urgent need to pee, Fiona got up. She managed to find the bathroom without shinning herself too badly on the birch Ektorp coffee table, and she only had to open four cabinets before finding a cup to drink out of. As she was downing her third glass of water, she heard a non-human voice creak at her through the kitchen window.

“Let me in!”

She dropped the glass on the floor. It bounced and rolled under the table, spilling water everywhere.

Fiona gets called to Clementine, California, by her step-mom’s assistant, Sophie. Fiona’s step-mom, Carlotta, had done a disappearing act. There was little the two girls could do to find her, except wait and hoped that the only thing wrong is a severe hangover. Turns out, Carlotta’s problem is a bit more serious. In fact, her whole demeanor changed from warm and kind to cold and mean. At least towards Fiona and Sophie. Something is up, and the two of them know it has to be bad.

Fiona is 24-years old and born to a messed up mother and father. One of her father’s marriages had been to Carlotta. Carlotta was everything Fiona needed, and she was there for Fiona even after she divorced Fiona’s father. So Fiona has reason to expect Carlotta to, at least, let her sleep on the couch. Instead, Fiona has to shack up with Sophie.

Sophie is 18-years old and the adopted child of adoring and overprotective parents. Because Carlotta is related to her mother, Sophie was able to move to Clementine and apprentice with Carlotta. Up until the personality change, Carlotta had treated Sophie kindly. Now neither Fiona or Sophie has a job, and they certainly have no idea what to do about Carlotta. Should they go back or stay and try to fix things?

Parasitic Souls would be a terrible, and probably realistic, story if they chose to give up. However, the two do not. Things happen, and through them we meet Marcello and Xavier. Marcello teaches magic theory at Clementine Preparatory Academy for Magic and Technology. Xavier is apprenticed to his grandmother, the bruja, Luna. Luna is a woman you do not want as an enemy. The two men are in their early twenties and both of them are interested in the two women. So. Some romance.

Parasitic Souls is a Young Adult story with three types of stories in it. Coming-of-age, romance and “what if”. There is plenty of action, some of it rather unusual. Kater Cheek also manages to thrown in her odd, but cool, sense of humor. I liked it and recommend Parasitic Souls.

Parasitic Souls is available at Smashwords

Kater Cheek gave me a copy of Parasitic Souls in exchange for a review

Moore, Mary C.; Angelus (2012)

Angelus has three kinds of humans. Evolution made us look different, but we are able to interbreed. The three breeds are Homo Angelus (angels), Homo Daemonis (demons) and Homo Sapiens (us). Because of our high birth-rates, there are more sapiens than angels and demons. During Greek and Roman dominion  angels and demons enjoyed playing gods. The Bible often portrays angels as “good” and demons evil. Around the 11th century persecution became so bad  “The Great Immigration” started and Yeti became more common in the Himalayas.

Neither angels, demons or sapiens have mystical powers in Angelus. Only their looks (and birth-rates) differentiate between the three. Angels are dark-skinned, have dark hair, large, dark leathery wings and a bony ridge along their forehead that looks something like a tiara. Demons are light-skinned, have blondish hair, large horns and a prehensile tail.

Sarah Connelly’s father is a demon and her mother a sapien. Sarah works with SITO (Satellite Intelligence Tracking of Others) in Santa Rosa. Her boss, Starks, is head of the Santa Rosa Department. He is half angel and half sapien (I’m not sure if angels and demons can inter-breed). SITO’s main purpose is to protect angels and demons and to keep them from extinction. Sarah has worked two years in CPU (Child Protective Unite) with families who lost children (runaway or disappeared) or who have mixed children. She also works as nanny for sapien children.

Due to understaffing, Sarah finally gets a chance to show that she “deserves” more than CPU. A half-breed child, subject 342, has come to the attention of SITO. This child is adopted by sapien parents (Code Yellow). Informants have told SITO that the kid and his mom would be at Burbank playground. Sarah takes her nanny charges there and gets the youngest boy to help out with 342. Turns out 342 is something of a surprise to the unsuspecting Sarah. So are his sapien parents. And his stalker. Oh, yes. Subject 342 has his very own stalker.

A broad-shouldered man wrapped in a trench coat, was leaning against the massive trunk of a tree at the edge of the park. The smoke of his cigarette blurred the lines of his dark face as he watched the children. He had been lingering for awhile, but it wasn’t until he started to stare at the children that warning bells rang in my head.

SETI become extremely worried when the stalker’s name is tied to the cult of Moloch. Sarah becomes part of the team that tries to keep Kel out of the hands of the Cult. I totally get that, because cults are scary things. But keeping Kel out of Molochite hands proves difficult and Sarah discovers that maybe getting what she wanted, wasn’t what she really wanted.

Angelus contains some violence but not much gore. But there is plenty of action. There is some drooling but little romance and I really liked that. I think the target group is Young Adult.

Definitely recommended.


Angelus can be found on Amazon

Remember to use your public libraries when you can

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