Review: The Queen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill

queen of the dark things by c robert cargillFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary fantasy
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date Released: May 13, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Screenwriter and noted film critic C. Robert Cargill continues the story begun in his acclaimed debut Dreams and Shadows in this bold and brilliantly crafted tale involving fairies and humans, magic and monsters—a vivid phantasmagoria that combines the imaginative wonders of Neil Gaiman, the visual inventiveness of Guillermo Del Toro, and the shocking miasma of William S. Burroughs.

Six months have passed since the wizard Colby lost his best friend to an army of fairies from the Limestone Kingdom, a realm of mystery and darkness beyond our own. But in vanquishing these creatures and banning them from Austin, Colby sacrificed the anonymity that protected him. Now, word of his deeds has spread, and powerful enemies from the past—including one Colby considered a friend—have resurfaced to exact their revenge.

As darkness gathers around the city, Colby sifts through his memories desperate to find answers that might save him. With time running out, and few of his old allies and enemies willing to help, he is forced to turn for aid to forces even darker than those he once battled.

Following such masters as Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Richard Kadrey, and Kim Harrison, C. Robert Cargill takes us deeper into an extraordinary universe of darkness and wonder, despair and hope to reveal the magic and monsters around us . . . and inside us.

My Review:

The Queen of the Dark Things is a very direct sequel to Dreams and Shadows. And I can’t exactly say that I liked Dreams and Shadows. I found it interesting, but it also reminded me quite a bit of Neil Gaiman’s early work, particularly Neverwhere, with a slice of American Gods thrown in to give it body. Or several bodies.

dreams and shadows by c robert cargillBoth Dreams and Shadows and The Queen of the Dark Things are contemporary fantasy, of that particular flavor where myth still lives alongside of our technological world, and where our lack of belief in magic and the old ways is squeezing out a great deal of what was once wondrous in the world. Which doesn’t mean that the nasty stuff in the shadows isn’t still there, just that most of us can’t see it. The dark things are still plenty capable of screwing us over.

The Queen of the Dark Things is about living with the consequences of our actions. Just because much of the setting takes place in a slightly fantastic version of Austin, Texas and among the myths of the Australian dreamtime doesn’t change the essential truth. This is a story about consequences.

It’s also about a very “Clever Man” playing a very long game, in the hopes and not the certainty of getting the right people into the right places at the right time to achieve what he hopes will be the best outcome. A case of the needs of the future outweighing the needs of the present.

He maneuvers two children into positions of power, one to become the wizard Colby Stevens, who we first met in Dreams and Shadows; and the other to become The Queen of the Dark Things. He does it to prevent seventy two demons from being free to wreck havoc on the world, and he hopes that he is not setting up a future that will be worse.

The demons have been planning this particular game for five hundred years, and they don’t care how much damage they do. They just want to win.

But the demons have misjudged Colby. He wants what he has always wanted. And it has never been any of the things that they want. Which might just be enough to save him.

Escape Rating C: The story in The Queen of the Dark Things takes a long time to set up, and that’s on top of having read Dreams and Shadows last year. It veers into literary science fiction, so if you like your explanations long and lyrical, this might be for you. I would have preferred that the story get to the action quicker.

The plot is incredibly convoluted. The demons made a bet 500 years ago, and in order to tally it up, they’ve been messing about with shadow puppets ever since. While Colby was still a child learning magic, his mentor left him with an Aborigine shaman for a while, the “Clever Man” Mandu, and Mandu set up this particular future in the Dreamtime.

It’s a long, sad, crazy story, but Colby and Kaycee, the girl who becomes the Queen, have been set up by the demons and Mandu to take the demons down several pegs.

The issue I have with The Queen of the Dark Things was that I didn’t feel enough for the characters to be invested in their story or what happened to them. Although Colby is the central character, so much of the story is based on something that happened when he was a child, and he’s remembering rather than feeling–his story is stripped of the emotions. We don’t see Kaycee’s feelings or thoughts in the now; what there is of the real her is stuck in the past. Even Mandu is a ghost.

The character whom I cared about the most was the dog, Gossamer. He’s an awesome dog.

The story told in The Queen of the Dark Things had the potential to be a fascinating re-imagining of old mythology into modern storytelling. But it just didn’t catch me by the heart.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Troll-y Yours by Sheri Fredricks

Troll-y Yours by Sheri FredricksFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance, Fantasy romance
Series: The Centaurs, #2
Length: 266 pages
Publisher: Temple Publishing
Date Released: May 17, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble


Determined to forge a better life, Ella launches her new business with high hopes—until a sexy Centaur bumps into her and throws her life off course forever. Voted “Most Eligible Bachelor in Boronda”, Aleksander shakes up her world and tilts her in more ways than one.


Years of warfare and countless bedroom encounters have stolen Kempor Aleksander’s luster for life. He never expects to rediscover his zeal in the small, redheaded form of Ella the Troll, who fires his blood hotter than the deepest caverns in the forest.


But as trouble lingers in their midst—and edges ever closer—Alek and Ella spiral into troubled terrain. Turning to each other, the pair face down dangers that run impenetrably deep in their mythological world. But will the two lovers discover a passion that runs even deeper?

My Review:

remedy maker goodreadsTroll-y Yours is the second book in Sheri Fredricks’ Centaurs series. The first book is Remedy Maker (reviewed here) In order to understand what is going on in Troll-y Yours it helps a lot to have read Remedy Maker. A whole lot.

The idea that that there are mythical creatures living in the Boronda Forest in Pennsylvania, mostly hidden from us humans, is kind of cool. Some of the humans that have found the mythics hunt them for big bucks, and I don’t mean antlers. The hunters tend to be asshats, mercenaries, sadists, or all of the above.

Not the point of this story, although the hint dropped at the end leads me to believe that the author might get there.

Like Remedy Maker, this is an interspecies romance. It’s also a romance between two people who are at different levels in the social/species pecking order and between a male who most people would think is gorgeous and a woman most people would think is less so. Of course, he thinks she’s beautiful. Ella really is a troll, but that’s her actual species. Only her abusive parents keep telling her that it also reflects her appearance.

Trolls are considered one of the lowest species in the Boronda social order. Centaurs are the highest species, and the queen is a centaur. So are many of the members of her guards, including Kempor Aleksander, the head of the guards.

Ella has picked up an idea from the humans. We do have a few good ones. She’s started a speed dating service, Troll-y Yours, for mythics with busy lives to find mates. She wants to earn enough money to move out of her parents’ house. Which is under a rock. They are trolls, after all!

At the first speed dating session, she mistakes Alek for one of her clients. He thinks she’s about the cutest thing he’s ever seen. Because she thinks he’s gorgeous, she mouths off. Then she’s attacked and he comes to the rescue, after her brother spectacularly fails to help her, which is one of the stories of her life.

While Alek and Ella find themselves drawing closer together, Alek still has a job to do. The rebels are still attacking the kingdom, and the queen he is sworn to protect. What it nearly takes him forever to realize is that protecting Ella has become the most important thing in his entire world.

Escape Rating C+: Troll-y Yours just wasn’t as much fun as Remedy Maker, in spite of Remedy Maker dealing with a number of more serious themes along with the romance. For this reader, the sub-plot of the rebel alliance against the kingdom just wasn’t explained enough to make whatever was going on make sense. It’s too important for the long story arc to be that confusing, especially since a major plot point with Ella’s brother hinges on it.

Too much is left unexplained on the personal side as well. Alek starts out the story as a total man-whore. He seems to regard having lots of sex as his duty to the females of his species. Ella has serious self-esteem issues as a result of a lifetime of parental verbal abuse. While it’s great that they find each other, I’m not totally sold on the relationship based on the story.

The mythic world that they live in begs to be explored a whole lot more.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Along the Watchtower by David Litwack

Along the Watchtower by David LitwackFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, large print paperback
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 214 pages
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Date Released: June 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…

The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare. Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities. The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse–and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.

In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde. His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission–a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory–and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.

My Review:

An uncertain young man who has lost his way, escapes into dreams of a magic kingdom. Normally the story would be that he finds himself a knight in shining armor, performing deeds of derring do. Or something like that.

Instead, in his dreams, Lieutenant Frederick Williams turns himself into a different young man, equally uncertain, but instead of having lost his way, Prince Frederick of Stormwind has just lost his father the King and has to earn his own kingship through a series of unfathomable trials.

In Freddie’s dreams he carries the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. In real life, he has to fight his way through rehab after an IED explosion in Iraq shattered his leg and fragmented his memories.

Freddie’s real life, rehab, the hospital, figuring out what happened and what he’s forgotten, shouldn’t blend so seamlessly with the fantasy of Prince Frederick, but it does. The Prince’s trials mirror the Lieutenant’s.

In both realities, Freddie tries to fight with a weapon something that can only be battled by looking within himself. He needs to mourn his losses, not just the men he lost in the IED explosion, but his parents and his brother. He needs to learn to take responsibility only for what he is truly is responsible for, and not bear the burden of guilt that is not his.

Only when he heals from within can he bear to remember the fallen and move on with his life. As Prince Freddie, the lesson is that not all battles are fought with a blade, some are fought by the spirit and the will.

In both worlds, he has a guide. In real life, she is Becky, his physical therapist. In Stormwind, she is Rebecca, the gardener. Recognizing her for who she can be is part of his test.

If he passes, his life will be better than it ever has been. If he fails, there is only darkness. And Stormwind falls. If Stormwind falls, does Freddie?

Escape Rating B+: The blending of the fantasy with the reality works much better than I expected when I first started it. The tests in the dream life reflect Freddie’s struggles in his real one, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he failed in the dream.

But the story is about Freddie healing, not just physically, but also emotionally, enough to know what he is and isn’t responsible for. It’s a hard journey. The dream quest worked as symbol and story.

The song “Along the Watchtower” made me think of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica when all the Cylon sleeper agents discovered who they were. This story, too, was about Freddie discovering what he was really made of. Well done.

Along the Watchtower banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

13 for 2013: A Baker’s Dozen of My Most Anticipated Reads

“Love looks forward, hate looks backward, and anxiety stalks NetGalley and Edelweiss for early review copies.” That is not the way the saying goes, but it works for me.

I’m also hoping that there will be review copies of the Spring books at least on the American Library Association Midwinter Exhibits floor–especially since I won’t need to worry about what I carry home with me. I’ll be home. The conference is here in Seattle this year.

So, what books are at the tippy top of my wishlist for 2013?

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, otherwise known as Sookie Stackhouse’s last hurrah. Even though the last few books in the series haven’t been quite up to the high bar set by the early entries, I have to know how Sookie’s story ends. Don’t you?

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon is the 8th doorstop in her giant, world-traveling, era-spanning Outlander series. The series has been described as “historical fiction with a Moebius twist,” and that’s the best short summation I’ve read for the damn thing that makes any sense. What they are is the best way to lose about three days, every time there’s a new one–and I can’t wait.

The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay. I’ll confess that I have this one because I did stalk NetGalley for months after reading The First Rule of Ten, but the official date of publication is January 1, 2013, so it’s on the list. Tenzing Norbu is interesting as a detective because he is just different enough to see the world slightly askew, and it helps him solve crimes. The world he solves crimes in is itself slightly askew. Of all the places for an ex-monk to end up, Hollywood? Really? Marvelous!

Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara will be number 9 in her Chronicles of Elantra. I just finished book 8, Cast in Peril, last week, and I’m already jonesing for my next fix. It doesn’t help that Cast in Peril ended in the middle of a very dangerous journey, not that Kaylin ever manages to stay out of trouble for long. So this wait is even more cliffhanger-esque than normal.

Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt Jr. When I finished the first trilogy in Modesitt’s Imager Portfolio, I thought he was done. The story was marvelous, but his hero’s journey was over. Little did I know he had a prequel in mind. Quaeryt’s journey from bureaucratic aide to military leader reads a bit like Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. And that’s not bad company at all.

Untitled Psy-Changeling #12 by Nalini Singh. I hate this. The publisher and the author are being particularly coy about this one. Even the title is supposed to be a huge spoiler for some shocking secret mystery. As annoyed as I am about this, I adore the Psy-Changeling series, so I can’t wait for the book. Whatever it’s called.

Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French is the second book in French’s new mystery series featuring therapist Frieda Klein. Something about the first book, Blue Monday, absolutely grabbed me. I think it had to do with how much Klein wanted to keep the case at arm’s length, and how personal it all turned out to be.  Blue Monday was chilling and I want to see if Tuesday’s Gone is just as good.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear is something I’ve wanted for a long time, but never expected to see. It’s a continuation of her utterly wondrous Promethean Age series. The Promethean Age books were urban fantasy of the crossover school, something that isn’t done well nearly often enough. In the Promethean Age, Faerie exists alongside our world, and events can effect both, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Wicked as She Wants by Delilah S. Dawson is the second book in Dawson’s absolutely yummy Blud series. The first book, Wicked as They Come, was dark, creepy, sensual and extremely eerie. At the same time, the love story was hauntingly beautiful. And I want to see more bludbunnies. Any writer who can come up with piranha rabbits has to have more tricks up her sleeve.

Calculated in Death  and Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb. I still want to know how Nora Roberts does it. Calculated and Thankless are the two In Death books scheduled for 2013. I have a hard time believing that they are numbers 36 and 37 in the series. Odds are that one will be close to awesome, and one will be a visit with old friends, which is still not bad. I’m going to buy them both anyway and read them in one gulp the minute I get them.

The Human Division by John Scalzi is Scalzi’s first novel in his Old Man’s War universe since Zoe’s Tale in 2008. Old Man’s War is military science fiction, with a slice of social commentary, and just a hint of a love story. It’s also just plain awesome. And anything new by Scalzi is automatically great news. Even more fascinating, The Human Division is going to be released as a digital serial, starting in January. So the only question is whether I get it in bits, or do I wait for the finished novel? Or both?

Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens is the twelfth book in Owens’ Celta series. In Celta, Robin D. Owens has created the kind of world that readers want to live on, as well as experience vicariously through her stories. I’ve read the entire Celta series, and they are one of the few romance series I’ve read that manages to make the “fated mate” concept work–probably because she occasionally subverts it.

Blood and Magick by James R. Tuck. This is the third book in the Deacon Chalk series, and I love them. I found Deacon because it’s getting to be too long a wait between Dresden Files books (and it looks like 2013 will be a year without Harry). Deacon Chalk mostly takes out his demons with guns. Lots and lots of guns. But he knows some on the side of the righteous, too. Deacon Chalk is urban fantasy of the purely kick-butt fun school.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay will be my birthday present this year, or close enough. Kay writes fantasy mixed with a large helping of historical fiction. The result is a magical blending of history as it might have been. Beautiful, complex, breath-takingly poignant. Kay writes worlds of awe and wonder. I can’t wait to be awestruck again.

These are the books. For 2013 it seemed fitting to choose a baker’s dozen, or 13, books that  I’m looking forward to the most.

If you’re curious about what happened to last year’s “Anticipateds” stop by Book Lovers Inc. on Thursday.

What books are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, September 2012

Welcome to the First Anniversary Edition of Ebook Review Central!

The first issue of Ebook Review Central was published a little more than one year ago. But what it covered, well, that’s the anniversary part. Roughly this time last year, ERC started with the Carina Press titles from September 2011.

And here we are, back again, with the Carina Press titles from September 2012.

Carina Press publishes slightly fewer titles per month than they did a year ago; 15-ish now instead of 20. However, everything they publish gets reviewed. Every single title. Usually in more than one blog, and often by RT Book Reviews, or Library Journal Xpress Reviews, or both. It must help a lot to have Harlequin’s deep pockets, but that wouldn’t matter if their books weren’t consistently good. And they are.

Talking about good books, which titles did reviewers say were good this month?

Number one has to be the re-release of  Christine d’Abo’s Long Shots Books 1-3. Not just because it garnered another bunch of extremely positive reviews for the very nicely priced set, but because it got people to go back and re-review the three titles that make up the series: Double Shot, A Shot in the Dark, and Pulled Long. This series of erotic novellas is the story of the Long siblings, the coffee shop they own, and a local sex club named Mavericks. There’s one friends-into-lovers story, one BDSM story, and one male/male story to round out this set that is guaranteed to warm up a winter night.


Sometimes, the number of reviews makes a book a clear choice, just because so many people are talking about the book. The Reluctant Amazon by Sandy James is that kind of story. Readers loved the idea of a normal woman discovering that she is a superhero with the power to save the world, and then they (well, we) all debated the merits of the details. The story has an absolutely fantastic opening scene, and the worldbuilding shows promise. Read Tracy’s review at Tracy’s Place for the positive spin and Mandi at Smexy Books for the so-so reaction.

The third featured book this week didn’t get quite as many reviews as a couple of other titles. But, every single reviewer who reviewed this book liked it. In many cases, they liked it a LOT. No mehs. no 2/5 or DNFs. Just a lot of good feelings about a fun book.

This week’s final featured title is How to Date a Henchman by Mari Fee. It’s a fantasy romance about a  girl who works for a mysterious agency. One where she doesn’t know what’s going on in the basement. She starts finding out when she goes on a date, not with the guy who comes to visit the company, but, you guessed it, his henchman. Mayhem ensues. The biggest complaint about this story was that it was just too damn short. Everyone wanted more of the fun!

So in September 2012 for Carina we have erotic romance and superheroes. Back in September 2011 we had urban fantasy, shapeshifters and romantic suspense. Still sounds like lots of things going bump in the night to me!

We’ll be back next time with the Dreamspinner Press titles from September 2012!

Ebook Review Central, Carina Press, July 2012

The July 2012 Carina Press titles, at least when it comes to which ones got the most reviews, could definitely be said to owe something to the “Fifty Shades” effect.

The hottest books — in the erotic sense — were also definitely the hottest titles in the reviewing numbers.

Fifty shades of tie-ins!  Although the popularity of the book opened doors for more books that show a kinkier side of sex, it also spawned products in areas that the author couldn’t possibly have dreamed of. This one from Etsy may be the furthest after “Laters, baby” as later can get.

I’d much rather (make that much, much rather) get back to the Carina books.

First, I’d like to give a shout-out to Natasha Hoar’s urban fantasy title, The Ravenous Dead, which was one of the featured for Carina last month. Its date of publication seems to have changed, so now it’s on this month’s list. But I can’t feature it again, dagnabbit! Because it absolutely earned a featured slot this month, too. But each book only gets one bite at the apple, and The Ravenous Dead have already bitten.

So who are this month’s featured titles for Carina? I’m so glad you asked.

The number one featured title was so far out in first place that the sheer quantity of reviews is worth mentioning. The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden attracted over 40 reviews, all good or better. Those are pretty big numbers for an ebook-only title. What was it about The Theory of Attraction? Yes, it’s a BDSM story like Fifty Shades, with the virtue that it’s a heck of a lot shorter. Ms. Dryden’s story is also a geek love story, with two socially awkward scientists as the hero and heroine. Lots of readers identified with the couple and their geeky social circle. The geek dom made for a different twist on the trope: the hero was intelligent but not super-rich. RT Book Reviews described it as “erotic romance done right.”

In the second position we have another erotic romance, and another boundary-stretching and review-grabbing title as well. Sharing Hailey by Samantha Ann King pushed at the erotic romance envelope in a different direction. Hailey has always had a crush on her two best friends, Mark and Tony. But Mark and Tony are best buds, and don’t want to mess up their friendship by forcing Hailey to choose between them. Solution: the three of them get together! It’s perfect until Hailey’s abusive ex returns and tries to spoil everything. This story has 29 reviewers behind it, so far, all of them generally thinking it was pretty good or better. Again, 29 reviewers is a lot of positive feedback. This one looks worth checking out.

It was much more difficult to decide on the third spot. Two books were very close. But by a whisker, the featured slot goes to Rogue’s Pawn by Jeffe Kennedy. Rogue’s Pawn is the first book in her Covenant of Thorns series, and it’s a contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy with a touch of fantasy romance. Gwynn the bored academic in 21st century America crosses over to Fae at Devil’s Tower Wyoming and becomes a powerful but totally untrained sorceress–one who nearly gets killed as a danger to herself and others in her first day on the other side. Everyone wants a piece of her, and everyone wants her to be their pawn. Only one fae, a trickster named Rogue, might possibly have some of Gwynn’s better interests at heart. If Rogue has a heart. This is one twisted, dark and decadent fantasy world.

If I were giving honorable mentions, and I can, one would go to Karen Erickson this month for A Scandalous Affair.

Ebook Review Central will be back in two weeks (no issue next week because of the Labor Day Holiday!) with Dreamspinner Press.

Interview with Author Sheri Fredricks + Giveaway

Today on Reading Reality I’d like to welcome Sheri Fredricks, the author of the utterly scrumptious Remedy Maker. (For a more in-depth look at Remedy Maker, read my review) Sheri is here to talk about her new book, and to answer some questions about her yummy hero, how she got from ranching in general to centaur-heroes in particular, and just what genre Remedy Maker falls into, anyway. Not that it matters, this one is good!

But here’s Sheri with the answers to a few of those questions… 

Marlene: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What are your other passions besides writing?

Sheri: Hi Marlene! Thank you for having me here today.

Living on a ranch and working in my husband’s contracting office leaves little time for my hobby-type activities. But I do love the times when I can jump on my horse and take a detoxifying ride in the hills.

Marlene: Do you think of Remedy Maker more as a paranormal romance or contemporary fantasy? Why?

Sheri: After I wrote Remedy Maker, I had to categorize it into a genre for when I submitted it to agents and publishing houses. I had a hard time answering this very question. What it boiled down to was there are more fantasy elements involved (centaurs, trolls, nymphs, satyrs) than there were paranormal activity – such as shape shifting the centaurs perform. Contemporary fantasy is where this story calls home.

Marlene: A centaur with PTSD, what a fantastic concept! Who or what inspired you to come up with the concept of Rhycious as a character?

Sheri: After I conceived the centaur idea, I made a character chart for my major characters. Rhycious was given a name, and his personality grew as the chart evolved. Also, a few years back I met a war veteran who told me of his problems with PTSD. Specifically, how those problems interfered with his ability to interact with others on a social level. He didn’t trust himself.

Marlene: The setting of Remedy Maker is fascinating. Boronda skirts the edges of the contemporary 21st century, using a nearby Amish community as a link. What made you decide to set your fantasy romance in the so-called “real” world? And why the Amish?

Sheri: The fictional town of Willow Bay made an effective backdrop for my story because of its small town feel. A place where everyone knows everyone else. While there are other Amish mentioned in the story, Samuel Beiler is the only character involved. I chose the Amish people because they are private, don’t need the modern frills, and have a love of family and life.

Marlene: Give us a teaser. What’s your favorite scene from the book?

Sheri: Oh boy! This is a tough question because I have so many favorite scenes. I’ll share the one where Rhycious talks Patience into coming with him to the Centaur palace, a place she was taught to fear. “Nymphs go in and they never come out.”

Bacchus’ breathe. Here she stood, at the very opening where destruction had reigned on the Nymph race for over two hundred years. Even a century out of war, it struck her dumb. Humbled by the magnitude of the simple palace entry, and honored by the trust Rhycious gave her, Patience felt very inconsequential.

Rhycious turned to look over his shoulder, scanning the tree line behind them. Across the meadow, birds chased one another between leafy branches, and purple flowers waved.

He gave her fingers a tug. “Come on.”

Patience pulled back and hesitated for two heartbeats. Her dream of harmonious living and her life’s work to achieve the goal mirrored that of Rhy’s. To live with races co-mingling—the way it used to be. Before war and devastation took a toll on their people, back when trust existed between races.

Her gaze flew to Rhy, who loosened his calloused grip. Warm brown eyes watched her, gleaming like glassy volcanic rock, taking in her features. Perspiration gave his skin a healthy glow. She was acutely aware of his tall, physique du role. He thumbed the skin of her inner wrist, waiting for her to work through her fears. His touch sent electric pulses to dance up her arm.

Her lips dried out, and she licked them. It’s now or never, homie. She nodded that she was ready.

Well-lubed metal hinges swung the rock door inward. Dwarfed by the immense height of the hand-carved entrance, the narrower width was a surprise. Built expressly for Centaurs in true form, the craftsmanship appeared superb. When closed, she imagined the barest of hairline cracks—if one even knew where to look, that is.

Rhycious took a deep breath. He held it a few seconds before releasing it out in a stream. At his insistence, she entered the dark portal first, ahead of him.

Beyond the beam of daylight sneaking in with the open door, the interior loomed pitch black. Devoid of the brightness of a moment ago, the dark maw disoriented her. Cooler air mixed with the warmth from outside, another stark difference to her senses.

Rhycious—now there’s a contradiction. She huffed a nasal laugh to herself. Widely famed Remedy Maker, a powerful warrior trained to wield a sword. A man of peace and healing, yet searching for the villains who attempted to kill his queen and threatened their society’s structure.

Like the human’s biblical hero, Daniel, who was thrown into the lions’ den, Patience found herself locked in obscurity when Rhycious pushed the rock door closed behind them. Her eyes hadn’t adjusted to the dark—she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face.

Behind her, tumblers in the door’s lock fastened in place, resounding clicks broke the still, musty gloom. A trickle of water played off-key notes in the blind distance.

And Patience’s heart began to pound.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Sheri: I’m a plotter and proud of it! I tried pantsing once and found myself trapped in a corner without a way out. From that point on, I plotted. With the kids out of school for summer, my writing regime flew out the window. Right now, I’m writing at night when they’re watching TV with full bellies. When they’re back in school, I’ll write from about 9am to 3pm. My husband’s office work and the ranch chores get worked in…somehow. LOL

Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Sheri: Every teacher I ever had between Kindergarten and high school. My dad is a big proponent of reading, too. His favorite saying around the house was, “Readers are Leaders!”

Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

Sheri: My husband, but I look back now and wonder if it wasn’t more of a dare than influence. I was reading three books a week and he suggested I write “one of those” myself. So I did.

Marlene: What book do you recommend that everyone should read, and why that book?

Sheri: Aside from a book of faith, I think everyone should read The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. The masterful way he built the world, the way readers could visualize and be there with the characters, is astounding. It’s one of those books you can read over and over again, and find parts you’ve missed the first time. Love, death, heroes, villains, they’re all part of the intricate weave of Tolkien’s world.

Marlene: What projects do you have planned for the future? Do you have any more books that follow Remedy Maker (it’s a very cool world!)

Sheri: I wrote a short story called Portals of Oz, a spin-off from the Centaur/Wood Nymph world introduced in Remedy Maker that I’ll be publishing soon. I’ve also started the next book in the Centaur series, titled Trolly Yours. This story takes one of my beloved side characters, a centaur named Aleksander, and gives him a story of his own. He’s very naughty…you’ll love him.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?


1) If you’re looking for a book that will take you away to a mythic world that might exist…
2) If you love hot guys with insatiable appetites who have a dash of vulnerability…
3) If you’re looking for a sensual read with the power to make you gasp…
This would be the book for you.

Marlene: Morning person or Night Owl?

Sheri: Morning person. The horses and sheep start screaming at 6 AM!

Horses, screaming, ARGGHH! This is why I live in the city. But all that detoxifying horseback riding certainly produced one awesome fantasy world, no matter what hour of the (ick) morning it occurred. Thanks so much, Sheri, for stopping by, and for creating the neat new fantasy world of the Mythic Boronda Forest. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

~~~~**Tourwide Giveaway**~~~~

Sheri is giving away a $20 Amazon Giftcard to one random selected commenter during the tour. 

This giveaway is open to everyone.
To be entered, leave a substantive comment about the interview or the book.
One lucky commenter will be selected from all the stops on this tour, so the more tour stops you make comments at, the better your chances! (A list of participating blogs is right here)


Review: Remedy Maker by Sheri Fredricks

Remedy Maker by Sheri Fredricks is a contemporary fantasy/paranormal romance that I took on a lark. It turned out to be a delicious treat with some fairly serious underlying themes in the middle of its mythological creatures’ Romeo and Juliet love story and backroom political machinations.

Rhycious doesn’t start this story in a frame of mind to be anyone’s hero. Or anyone’s much of anything. All he wants is to be left alone. This centaur is the Royal Remedy Maker for Queen Savella of the Centaurs, but he’s used the excuse of needing to gather herbal remedies to live in a remote cabin as far from the center of court life as possible.

Rhycious suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as result of his service in the two-century-long Centaur-Wood Nymph war. One of the problems with being a healer is that Rhy knows exactly what his problem is. He just doesn’t know how to stop the flashbacks. Living alone just means that no one else suffers when he has one.

The war has been over for one hundred and thirty years, and they’re getting worse, not better. Maybe living alone isn’t the cure Rhy thinks it is.

His nearest neighbor is Samuel, a young Amish farmer. Rhy has been friends with Sam’s family for centuries. Sam knows about mythologicals, and he knows what Rhy is. Most humans have only seen Rhy by day, in his human form, but Sam has seen his true form, his  Centaur form, between sunset and sunrise.

Sam also knows that Rhy is a healer, so when his buggy nearly runs over a young woman in the woods, Sam brings her to Rhy. Sam just thinks the woman is English, meaning not Amish, and Rhy is the nearest healer.

She’s way more than not Amish, she not human. She’s a Wood Nymph. The first one to ever enter Rhy’s house.

The nymph’s name is Patience. A quality that Rhy is sorely lacking thanks to his PTSD. But a quality he absolutely must find in order to treat the female now in his care.

Meanwhile there is also a second female in Rhycious’ care. He is the royal physician, and someone manages to poison the Queen. In the investigation, a plot to overthrow Savilla, and the peace and prosperity of her reign, is uncovered.

There’s corruption in the court. Some centaurs would prefer they go back to war. Savilla, Rhy, and his friend Alek want the peace to continue. And Patience, she was born after the war ended. She believes in the dream of peace, the way it was before the war started all those centuries ago. She’s an ally.

But the more she and Rhy work together, the stronger their attraction for each other, in spite of the difference in their races. Peace seems barely possible between Centaur and Wood Nymph; can they have a long-term future?

Escape Rating B+: I was surprised at just how much I liked this book. The world of the Mythic Boronda Forest is well thought out, and everything hangs together very well. It was neat the way that the Centaurs switched from human appearance to Centaur form, that was nicely done.

And the whole thing with the mythicals bordering Amish country in Pennsylvania was fun. I realize that if this had been written a bit later, Rhy would probably have gotten his t-shirts from someplace other than Penn State, but maybe not. Still, I like the idea that the world is bigger and more eerie than what we think we know. That’s the fun of fantasy. And there would be asshat hunters trying to pull the crap that happens in one of the sideplots of the story. Unfortunately some of human nature sucks.

The court politics about the war, and folks wanting to go back to the “good old days” of the war, and the “good old days” when they were on top, sounded all too possible. As did the undercover operations. Politics is often a dirty business. So is the environmental pollution that affected the wood nymphs.

This just missed being an A rated book because there were some points in the middle where I felt like the story could have been tightened up a bit. I enjoyed it a lot, but there may have been one too many subplot threads. YMMV

I can’t wait for book 2. The author’s website lists it as Trolly Yours. Soon please!

Interview with Author Jeffe Kennedy on Writing in the Mist

The guest-of-the-day at Reading Reality is Jeffe Kennedy, the author of the new contemporary fantasy Rogue’s Pawn. It’s the first book of her new series, Covenant of Thorns, and there are definitely some thorny things going on in Faery, based on events in the first book. But I still can’t wait for what Jeffe calls RP2 in this interview. Rogue’s Pawn was fascinating, confusing and complex (see this review for more details on that) and I can hardly wait to learn more about her take on the Fae. 

But in the meantime, here’s Jeffe on how she’s really a lot like her cats, and more.

Tell us a little bit about Jeffe Kennedy when she’s not writing. Who is the inventor of Rogue’s Pawn away from her keyboard?

She’s not all that interesting, really. 😀 I like to read when I can and lie in the sun. I drink as much wine as I can get away with and I exercise every day to compensate. For the most part, I like being at home and I like being outside as much as I can. I have a series of little sitting spots – the front patio, the back patio, the grape arbor. I’m like a cat that way – I move from soft spot to soft spot.

What inspired you to write Rogue’s Pawn as the type of contemporary fantasy where someone crosses from our world to a world where magic works?

I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction – and the stories I liked best were the ones with the ordinary person who got transported to another time or world. Usually the person was a boy and I often felt like a girl would do it differently. I usually wanted more detail, like what would happen to the contact lenses I’ve had to wear since I was 12? I always came away thinking I’d tell the story differently. This was my big chance!

In Rogue’s Pawn, Gwynn is such a “fish out of water” character. Did you plan it that way from the beginning? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or do your characters take over?

I did plan it that way, to the extent that I plan anything . I’m very much a pantser, though I like the term “mister” better. I knew what would happen to Gwynn, that she’d end up in Faerie and it would be bizarre and frightening and beautiful – and totally alien. But after that, I just ride along on the shoulders of my characters and discover things as they do. That’s why I like “misting” as an analogy. Much of the story for me is shrouded in mist and I can’t see what’s going on until I get right up close to it.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

My mother. She read to me every night and is a great reader herself. As a young woman, she made lists of “great books” she should read to improve her mind and she’s been involved in one book group for over thirty years now. Over time, I’ve managed to corrupt her somewhat and taught her to love the jucier genre books, too.

Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

That’s a very interesting question. Really, no one did – not in the way you mean, I think. I had teachers who told me I wrote well, but none of them suggested I become a writer. I showed a lot of aptitude for math and science, so I think they all thought (rightly so) that those would be more secure and lucrative career paths. I decided to become a writer all by myself, because I was profoundly unhappy doing the math and science thing with nothing else. I had reached a crisis point in my life where I had to ask myself what I *really* wanted. The answer surprised me.

What’s your favorite part about the writing experience, and why?

When the story takes over and I’m just along for the ride. It’s the most exciting, exhilarating experience there is.

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

Hmm. I’m not much for “shoulds.” I think writers are well served  by reading extensively, both in and out of their genres. If there’s a blockbuster book, a phenomenon like Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey, then I think writers are foolish not to read them, regardless of their personal opinions. There are reasons why readers love these books – and that’s worth studying.

For readers? I think A.S. Byatt’s Possession is one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood tells one of the best tales of young female friendships that I know of. In nonfiction, I think it’s really worthwhile to read Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face and then immediately read Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, for her side of the story and great insight into the friendships authors – and women – have.

Other than that, I really recommend that everyone read exactly what they wish to, and don’t let anyone tell them what they should and shouldn’t read.

What projects do you have planned for the future? And there’s more of this series, right? Please?

LOL – yes! I’m thick in the middle of the sequel to Rogue’s Pawn, which I’m just calling RP2 at the moment. I feel very action-hero calling it that. And let me tell you – hearing you all ask for more is now my second favorite part of the writing experience. I’m just so thrilled.

I saw on your website that you have (or are had by) quite the menagerie. Does the border collie try to herd the Maine Coon cats? And how’s that working out?

Just the opposite! Our border collie is a quintessential beta dog and the older Maine coon cat is very protective and sassy. She does *not* like to be stepped on. Or any behavior that might lead to being stepped on or crowded in any way. Our old kitty died in March 🙁 and now we have a new Maine coon kitten. Fastest little thing any of us have ever seen. Both the older cat and the dog and running in circles trying to keep their eyes on him – and him off their tails!

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl by nature but I trained myself to be a morning person, just to get everything done that I need to!

I got lost in the cute kitten pictures on Jeffe’s blog. If Jackson (the Maine Coon kitten pictured above and at left) isn’t the cutest kitten ever, he’s definitely in the top ten. I’m amazed she gets anything done with this little guy in her arms. Oh the sacrifices we cat servitors must make!

I know I’ll be looking forward to RP2 as soon as the cats permit!


Review: Rogue’s Pawn by Jeffe Kennedy

Rogue’s Pawn by Jeffe Kennedy is part of an interesting and fascinating sub-branch of urban fantasy. I call it crossover fantasy, where someone from our reality literally “crosses over” to another reality where magic works.

But just because magical powers are made manifest, doesn’t mean that the person suddenly manifesting them has a magically good time in whatever place he or she has found herself in. Magic can be both wondrous and terrible.

As the story opens, we don’t even know her name. But we’re in her head. And we know that she’s finally gotten fed up with her boring fiance and her academic/scientific job in the middle of a party where Clive (the truly boring fiance, she should have ditched him long ago) has belittled her for the last time. But in walking out, she follows a compulsion to go to nearby Devil’s Tower (Wyoming, iconic scene of Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and enact a very strange ritual.

She winds up in Fae, with the ability to wish things into being, and no idea how she got there. Compulsions to enact rituals don’t really figure into her calculations.

She’s attacked by a huge black dog, and captured by the fae. She wakes up in extreme agony, her throat nearly torn out. From there, she discovers that she has terrible magic powers, and zero control.

She truly does think things into being. And she has no mental controls at all. As far as the fae are concerned, she is a dangerous weapon that should be eliminated immediately. But the man who has rescued her wants her trained for war. He believes she is a weapon that can be used, with the proper conditioning.

His name is Rogue. She is chained within his castle. She is his pawn, his property. If he saves her life, she owes him.

Everything in fae is negotiable. Life, death, power, souls. Eternity can be bargained away. A person is only worth the price they can negotiate. Rogue has saved her because he wants something from her, but she doesn’t know what that might be.

She doesn’t know anything. From being an academic with knowledge at her fingertips, she has been thrust into a situation in which she has no information except what she can gain through negotiation.

She doesn’t even have her own name. Rogue calls her Gwynn. It is close, but not quite. And for the damage she caused in her first flush of power and lack of knowledge, he negotiates her use as a weapon in the war. She will be trained by utter sadists, but she cannot be permanently damaged. And she cannot be raped. Because Rogue has the rights to her firstborn child in return for saving her life.

Confused? So is Gwynn. She has lost everything, even her identify. She must remake herself in this strange new place where she has no friends, only enemies. And where she has power she must learn to control. She has to become more than just Rogue’s Pawn.

Escape Rating B: Gwynn’s voice is snarktastically terrific. Which is a great thing, because we see the entire world of Rogue’s Pawn through her first-person viewpoint. We only know what she knows and see what she sees. Her sarcasm is hilarious, but, because Gwynn is such a complete fish-out-of water, her knowledge is limited and adds to the reader’s confusion. I think I might have enjoyed the story more if I’d been less confused.

Gwynn’s lack of information is necessary to the story. I’m less certain that the reader’s total blindness is.

The training Gwynn undergoes to become a sorceress for the war effort is unquestionably torture, and equally unquestionably sadistic. Some desperate measure were definitely required to save Gwynn’s life by training her magic. She absolutely had to learn to make her mind a blank. Whether this was the only way, and how much of a betrayal it was, and how Rogue felt about it, etc., is one of those things that a different form of narration might have helped with.

Rogue’s motives and thoughts are difficult to fathom for a large part of the story. Gwynn simply doesn’t know enough about this world to have any handle on him. And we filter through her. Although we do finally get the big picture at the end. It’s the smaller pictures, like the war (hard to believe that’s the smaller picture, isn’t it?) that I’d love some explanation for.

And I truly wish I understood about Titania. Hopefully, I’ll find out lots more in the next books in the Covenant of Thorns series. Please?