An Outlaw In Wonderland

15717978In my opinion there are three things that make a book good. Great characters, a fast paced story with lots of twists and turns and an unpredictable ending. An Outlaw In Wonderland by Lori Austin has all three of those ingredients. I don’t consider myself a fan of romance novels, in fact in the past I would have seen the cover for this one and avoided it. That being said, this is the second book I’ve read by Lori Austin and I’m happy to say that my perception of romances was wrong. the characters in Lori’s books are deep and the plot of her story is complex and fascinating.

An Outlaw In Wonderland is the second book in The Once Upon A time in The West series but it is a self-contained story and you won’t get confused if you haven’t read the first one. The story begins with Dr. Ethan Walsh working as a doctor in a confederate hospital. His passion is to save lives and see the Civil War come to an end. He notices the skills of his matron, Annabeth Phelan and makes her his head nurse. Annabeth has another task also, she has to find the Union spy in the hospital.

I don’t want to give away too much of the storyline because I thought the best part of the book was trying to figure out what was going to happen next. From the description you get the idea that the story is mostly going to take place in a confederate hospital but it doesn’t take long for it to move on to other locations. My one complaint of this book was that at times it felt like it was moving too fast and a little more time should have been spent on scenes such as when some secrets were found out in Freedom Kansas.

My favorite character in the book was Annabeth, she is a strong female character and nothing like I would expect a woman in a romance novel or a woman in the old west to be like. You see her grow and change throughout the book and even though she is a woman in a time where women were not looked at as equals to men, everyone takes her seriously because she comes across as tough and smart. In one scene after she helps deliver a baby, she says to the woman’s husband: “kiss your wife.” Then Ethan points out when Annabeth uses a certain tone everyone does what she says. I felt this scene really showed the kind of person she was.

I also liked in the story how Lori Austin makes the west come alive with her descriptions of Kansas, the confederate hospital and prison. I really got a feeling of what the time period was like and felt the author did her homework. The love story between Annabeth and Ethan was excellent. There were some great plot twists that made me wonder how this couple was going to end up together. It was obvious how they felt but there were a lot of things keeping them apart and it was interesting to see how they would overcome the obstacles.

I think An Outlaw In Wonderland works on a lot of different levels and even if you are not a fan of historical romances you will enjoy it. Lori Austin is the pen name for Lori Handeland and now that I’ve read a couple of her works I’m looking forward to more in the Once Upon A Time In The West series and to reading her other works as well. Another thing Lori has done for me is make me sorry that I avoided the romance genre for so long, does anyone else know of any good romances out there?

Good Enough To Share

16240816A lot can happen as four friends get together to celebrate Christmas. In Zara Stoneley’s Good Enough To Share things happen that no one could have predicted. Holly is recently divorced and has moved to Cheshire England to temporarily share a flat with her old friend Charlie.

Holly is not looking for a relationship but her friend Sophie has other plans and introduces her to a man named Dane who is just looking for a good time. Holly quickly realizes that she has feelings for laid back Charlie and Dane makes her feel like she has never felt before. All four characters have issues in their past that they are trying to work through, The question is will all four still be friends by New Year’s Day.

I haven’t read a lot of Erotic fiction so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started to read Good Enough To Share. What I got was a book with a good story that held my interest and some really steamy sex scenes. The best part though was the four main characters, they all have an interesting back story and are complex in their own way.

As far as erotic fiction goes the story was believable and each character was like someone you would meet in everyday life.  The sex scenes were also very well written and not so over the top that they were ridiculous. Being new to this genre of books, I’ve never heard sex scenes described this way and I really enjoyed it. There was a scene that was outdoors that was very good and a couple of scenes that had more than one person that was  really hot and bordering on kinky.

If you like to read books with good sex scenes and character driven stories then Good Enough To Share is one you should check out.  A sequel has just been released called Good Enough to Trust that focuses on Sophie that looks really good also. I’m really curious to see what Zara Stoneley will come up with in the sequel.

Beauty and The Bounty Hunter

13542854I haven’t read a lot of romance novels in my time but I’ve heard a lot about Lori Austin’s work lately and wanted to give it a try. while I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, I was familiar with some of the books that Lori has written under the name of Lori Handeland so I had high expectations. Beauty and The Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin is a historical romance set in the wild west in 1870.

The story begins with Cathleen Chase searching for a wanted man. You could say Cathleen lives a double life, Cathleen is a woman with a horrific past but as Cat O’Banyon she is a ruthless bounty hunter and master of disguise. Cat is on a mission to find the man who killed her husband and she is putting an end to every wanted man she finds along the way. The problem is she is also a wanted woman with several bounty hunters on her trail.

Cat learned her skills from a man named Alexi Romanov who is a con artist with a complicated past. Alexi and Cat worked together on the road but Cat left him to follow the trail of the murderer she is after. Alexi catches up with her and has some information on the man she is looking for. Her husband’s murderer is in Denver City and has put a bounty on Cat’s head. The two travel together to find the man that destroyed Cat’s world and they run into nothing but trouble on the way.

When I first started reading this book I thought, what did I get myself into? In the beginning it seemed like it was going to be way to heavy on the romance for my tastes. I kept reading though and I quickly fell in love with this book. When you first start reading you don’t know anything about Cat and Alexi and the details are filled in as you go along. All of the characters in this story are very complex and have a good back story including the supporting characters.

I loved the characters of Ethan and Mikhail, even though  they weren’t a big part of the story. Lori Austin makes you care about them by telling their story and it added a lot more depth to the book. The villains in the story are also very deep characters and you get the feeling they are what they are because living during this time period was so brutal. 

While I loved the characters, I also loved how the settings are described. The west really comes to life in Beauty and The Bounty Hunter. I liked the scenes in the Indian territory and the civil war prison. There is also a  scene in the saloon where the patrons were talking about the health problems they had and I found myself thinking that is probably exactly what they talked about in the saloons during that time. I got the feeling that Lori Austin put a lot of research into the history of the west. The world these characters live in is a brutal place and it shapes who they are.You see that in Cat and Alexi, they’ve done some bad things but its because they are doing what they need to do to survive and not because they are bad people.

They actually become better people by being together. They have tortured pasts and they understand each other’s pain. I think this is an excellent romance but it is much more then that. The story is excellent and halfway through the book I was hoping that there was going to be a sequel because I felt there was so much more you could do with these characters. I was glad to see that there is a sequel to Beauty and The Bounty Hunter coming soon. So give this book a shot no matter what kind of genre you like, a good story is a good story and you won’t be disappointed.

Crazy Lovebirds: Five Super-Short Stories

17904760Crazy Lovebirds: Five Super-Short Stories by Carla Sarett is a short but sweet read that will make you laugh and not take up much of your time. These five flash fiction stories cover love, dating, marriage and family, in a not so serious way. The first story in this collection is called: For Better Or Worse.  It’s about a middle ages married couple who decide to make some changes to themselves. This story has a science fiction twist to it with the couple able to change what they don’t like about each other. Despite how short this story is, it’s funny and makes a good point about how a happily married couple will stay together through all kinds of changes.

The next story is A Dose Of Eternal which is a good little tale about a love potion and a blind date. In this story I liked how the main character brings up a couple that divorced after 60 years of marriage. So she has to buy an eternal love potion because love shouldn’t end at 60 years.  The ending of this story was great.

Crazy Lovebirds is the third story in the book and shows how love isn’t always perfect, but you can make things go your way.  The fourth story is Victor’s Proposal which looks at a vary detailed marriage proposal between a couple at dinner that doesn’t go over well, but love still finds a way. The last story is Dad Takes Flight which takes a look at a different kind of love and how it can effect a relationship.

Crazy Lovebirds Five Super-Short Stories is an excellent read if you’re a romance fan with not a lot of time on your hands. Carla Sarett does a great job of building a story, making you laugh and making a good point in a short amount of words. This book is the perfect read if you have an hour to spare and its a lot of fun. It’s also a good example of how good flash fiction can be.

L.A. Banks and Octavia Butler

This is a guest blog post that I wrote for Sumiko Saulson back in February for Black History month. You can check out Sumiko’s blog by clicking here.

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To celebrate Black History Month and Women in Horror month, Sumiko asked me to write a blog post on two writers that really don’t get the attention they deserve. I’m talking about L.A. Banks and Octavia Butler. Both of these authors have won several awards and had long careers, but their writing style is very different L.A Banks wrote primarily in the horror, dark fantasy and the romance genre,  while Octavia wrote primarily in the Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy.

The first author I want to talk about is Lesilie Ann Peterson who was born in Philadelphia in 1959 . She started writing in the Nineties and has written under several different names, such as L.A. Banks, Lesilie Esidale, Lesilie E. Banks and Alexis Grant. She has written 40 novels, 12 novellas, and has written several non fiction pieces for magazines. The first novel that she wrote was in 1996 and it was a romance novel called Sundance. She then went on to write 14 more romance novels. She has also written six crime novels and has written non fiction for the Chicken Soup For The Soul series of books.

What Lesilie is best known for is her Vampire Huntress Legend Series. There are 12 books in this series and they center around Damali Richards, spoken word artist, singer and vampire hunter. Damali leads a team of guardian protectors dedicated to exterminating vampires and demons. There are 12 guardian councils made up of the bravest and wisest men and women who are dedicated to fighting evil in all four corners of the earth.

One person is chosen from each of the guardian councils to form The Covenant. Only The Covenant can foretell the coming of The Neteru, an infant that would balance the swaying force of light every thousand years. L.A Banks has created her own mythology of vampires, hunters, demons, ghosts and goblins in her Vampire Huntress series. To find out more about this series check out vampirehuntress.com.

L.A. Banks has also written six novels in the Crimson Moon series which  tells the tale of Sasha Trudeau. Sasha leads a group of soldiers in the U.S. government that have been infected by the werewolf virus. This team investigates paranormal occurrences such as shadow wolves, unseelies and vampires. To find out more about L.A. Bank’s take on werewolves, check out her website at leslieesdailebanks.com.

A couple of the awards L.A. Banks has won include the 2008 Essence Literary Awards Storyteller of the Year and in 2009 she won the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Paranormal fiction. Reviewers have called her work on the Vampire Huntress series fresh and hip. While Fangoria magazine caled it far superior to Buffy the Vampire series. Sadly L.A. Banks died of late stage adrenal cancer on August 2nd 2011 leaving behind a daughter, hundreds of fans and several great books to remember her by.

butler2Another great African American author is Octavia Butler. She was born on June 22nd 1947 in Pasadena California and was raised in a strict Baptist household by her mother and grandmother. Octavia grew up in a lower middle class racially mixed neighborhood. She was a constant daydreamer, very shy and was diagnosed with dyslexia. At an early age she was drawn to Science Fiction and at the age of 10 she started to write to escape her boring life.

In 1969 and 1970 she attended two writer’s workshops that she says helped her writing. One was the Screenwriter’s Guild of America shop where she met Harlan Ellison and The Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop that was recommended to her by Harlan. The first story that she sold was in 1971 and was called Crossover which came out of the Clarion workshop and was bought by Harlan for his Last Dangerous Visions Anthology. Octavia thought she was on her way to becoming a writer but it would be five more years before she was able to sell another story.

Since then she has gone on to write twelve novels and several short stories. Her best known work was released in 1979 and called The Kindred. The story is about a woman named Edana who as she turns 26 gets pulled back in time to the year 1815 by a boy named Rufus who is the son of a slave owner. Rufus calls on Edana every time he feels his life is in danger and when Edana is there she has to live as a slave and also keep one of her direct descendants and fellow slave alive. Octavia said that with this book she was trying to get people to feel what slavery was like. Octavia also called the book a “grim fantasy”

Octavia Butler has written three different series of novels including the Patternist series, The Lilith’s Brood series and the Parable Series. Her last novel came out in 2005 and was called The Fledgling. It was about a girl named Shori who looks like she is 10 years old but is really a 53 year old vampire. While she does crave human blood she can walk in the daylight. Shori is part of a family of genetically engineered human/vampire hybrids and she is the lone survivor. Shori is on a mission to destroy the ones that destroyed her family and at the same time deal with the fact that she is different than everyone else.

Octavia has won several awards for her writing including the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant,a Nebula award, a Hugo award and she has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Octavia died in 2006 at the age of 58 after a stroke. Octavia is considered by many to be the best known African American Science Fiction writer and she went on to inspire many writers. Among them is Tananarive Due, her husband Steven Barnes  and pulitzer prize winner Junot Diaz who said Octavia has written nine perfect novels. Octavia’s works touch on many different social issues, to find out more about her work go to octaviabutler.net.

Information Cloud

13616868Information Cloud by Peter J. West is an action packed science fiction novel that takes place in a technologically advanced future where a decades old government is under attack by a terrorist organization called the Kamari. Cinnamon City is ruled by the Council of Lords which no one has seen for several years and they are under the protection of Central Command. The head of Central command, Gail Thompson has just sent a transmission to Commander Nick Chambers stating where the Kamari base is along with orders to attack.

Unbeknownst to Central Command the message has been intercepted by Riser Trent, a hacker working for the Mekinet News corporation. At Riser’s disposal is the information cloud which is a swarm of remote control droids that he can use to give himself enhanced powers and let him have awareness of everything that the droids sense. Riser’s new power has made him an enemy of both Central Command and the Kamari. A three-way battle for Cinnamon City has begun and there may be no survivors.

Information Cloud is a fast paced novel that is hard to put down. It has a great story, interesting characters and the descriptions of all the futuristic technology is fascinating. I loved the explanation on how the information cloud works as well as the description of the equipment that they use such as the crocs, roaches, crab scanners and the bull rangers. The scenes where the Bull Rangers are tearing up the Kamari base were my favorite and I loved the way the Kamari deal with the problem

Along with the political commentary and great battle scenes. Information Cloud also has a good human interest story. Under Nick Chamber’s command is his former lover Rachel Henson. The couple has a daughter named Lisa who is in a building thats close to the battlezone. The two parents have to put aside their differences and decide how to save their daughter and follow orders at the same time. I enjoyed how the couple both come up with different solutions to their problem and both doubted that they made the right decision.

Another thing I liked about Information Cloud is how the author lets the reader decide who the villain is. Both the Kamari and Central Command have their good points and bad points. Neither side is presented as being good, the leaders of both organizations come across as uncaring and power hungry while the people in the middle of the battle are put in a sympathetic light.

One complaint that I’ve read about Information Cloud was that there was not enough backstory to The Cinnamon City government and the Kamari, but I think if the author would have focused more on the backstory it would have taken away from the action and the human element of the story. While there are political elements to the story, its more about the people who are affected by the two organizations and how they react to the world around them. Information Cloud is an excellent book and I can’t wait for future installments in the story.