Review: Aquila

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Aquila by Sue-Ellen Pashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Advanced Reader Copy provided by the Publisher ***

It has been a long time since a novel captivated me so completely that I finished it in a single sitting. Aquila is the first to do so in ten years or more and every second I spent with the novel was worth it.

The characters were complex and yet so believable that I could envision them being friends when I was growing up or as friends of my daughters. And while the novel was written in the traditional three act style, the author did not let that her stop her from creating a world that grabbed me from the start and would not let me go. The alternating of the perspective between the two main characters kept the story moving and made you more fully understand the anguish that each of them felt about the situation.

It is, ultimately, a novel that tries to show you that who you fall in love with is a decision that you need to make for yourself. Whether that love is based on years of gradually getting to know each other or through “love at first sight”, the decision is yours.

While this may be the debut novel of Sue-Ellen Pashley it is impossible to tell. Weaving story and emotions into an elegant tapestry of character development, this is a novel that I am very happy that I got to know.

 

Foundation of Love

Based upon the writing prompt located at A Writing Prompt a Day

He stepped up to the pulpit, his normally steady hands shaking as he set his notes down. While his mouth was dry, he didn’t dare pick up the glass of water that sat waiting for him for fear that he would spill the contents. He looked out at the crowd, standing room only today, and waited for them to quiet down on their own accord before he started. When they had done so he scanned the church one more time and found the eyes of Miranda Hutchins. Her eyes were filled with sorrow and pain, fear and sympathy, but most of all, filled with love. He straightened up, wiped the sweat from his brow, cleared his throat, and began his last sermon.

“Thank you for coming out today.  The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful spring morning so I won’t keep you long as I am sure that you have gardening and barbecues to work on today.”  A few chuckles came from the congregation as he knew a number of them had standing afternoon beer parties on Sundays after church having been at a few of them himself.

“I wanted to talk to you about something that exists within each of us and drives us to do strange and miraculous things.  I wanted to talk about love.  I’m sure that you’ve heard me talk about 1 Corinthians before, but let me repeat myself one last time.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love endures.”  He moved away from the podium, his voice becoming louder, carrying to the far corners of the church as the emotion took over.

“Love is what keeps us going from day to day.  It is the driving force for some of mankind’s greatest acheivements and it is the glue that holds families together.  Love is the greatest of gifts that God has given us.  The ability to love.  The experience of love.  As 1 Corinthians states, if you have not loved you are nothing and have gained nothing.  All of your faith and hope mean nothing if you don’t have love.”

“I want you to look around at your family and friends and know that there is love in this church.  There is a deep and abiding love from the other members of this church for you and from God, for you.  You are not unloved.  Each and every one of you are part of the reason why this church is so strong.  Your love is the foundation upon which this church sits and that foundation will never be broken!”

“Amen,” said many of the parishioners, their excitement building with his oration.

“I have seen this love in action.  I have seen you care for each other in times of need and sorrow and raise each other on your shoulders in times of happiness. I have seen acts of devotion that have brought me to tears and have seen commitment and love that has taken me to my knees.  I have prayed with you and for you.”

He paused as his throat closed up.  He went back to the podium, reached for the water and was pleasantly surprised that his hand was steady.  He took a sip of water and looked towards heaven.  “Thank you,” he whispered, confident that his newfound strength was a sign from above.

He stepped away from the podium and sat down on the top step leading to the altar.  He was still higher than the congregation so they could still see him.  He was noticeably quieter as he continued, forcing the parishioners to concentrate on what he was saying.

“In the midst of prayer I came to the realization that there was something missing from my life.  Something so core that my life, so full of meaning and duty and love for my fellow man, felt empty.  While I felt love, it was an empty love.  The love one feels for a good book or a good beer.”

“So I prayed.  I prayed for God to show me what to do.  I prayed for an answer to my question of whether or not I will truly find love. He answered my prayers.”

He stood back up, walked back to the podium and faced his congregation.  Faced his friends.  Faced his love.

“I have come here today to tender my resignation as your spiritual leader.”  The crowd gasped and started talking, but he continued and they quieted down quickly. “I am tendering my resignation because God has answered my prayers and he sent me someone that I could love and who loves me in return.  Not for what I am, but for who I am.  I am tendering my resignation while I discover what lies in store for my future. What lies in store for me … and my wife.”

The congregation erupted but he merely looked at Miranda, saw the tears of joy, smiled and then left the altar.

Review: Marked

21805566Marked by Sarah Fine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Reader copy provided by the Publisher ***
*** Goodreads rating 4.5 / 5 stars. Rounded up ***

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading [b:Marked|21805566|Marked (Servants of Fate, #1)|Sarah Fine|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1408475509s/21805566.jpg|41068478], but what I got was a surprisingly engaging novel that had a number of plot twists and thoroughly engaging characters. Cacy and her extended family are part of the Ferrys and the head of the family is the Charon. Those familiar with Greek Mythology will see where the genesis of the novel began as Charon guided the souls over the river Styx. Cacy and her family perform a similar function, shepherding souls into Heaven or Hell.

Into Cacy’s life comes Eli, her paramedic partner and the first person to penetrate the “no man allowed” wall that she put up after she escorted the soul of her last lover into the Afterlife. At this point things start to get complicated.

Sarah Fine does an excellent job at combining mythology and a futuristic world after an ecological collapse brings most of the nation to its knees. Add into this world a plot where no one is really what they seem and you have the makings of an excellent story. Sarah Fine delivers a fun romp that captured my attention from the first page.

Light and Dark

Based upon the writing prompt located at A Writing Prompt a Day

They say that in order for there to be good in the world there must be evil. Balance must be maintained. The creation of the most vile causes the birth of the most holy. Sinner begets saint. Darkness begets light. Whereas most people are grey – light souls with a streak of darkness – there are those for whom there is no light or dark. And there are those that go beyond, those for whom the words light and dark have no meaning. The darker the blackness of the damned, the brighter the light of the redeemer. My wife, Miranda, was a soul of blinding light. I was not.

Miranda would stop to talk to people who appeared lost, sad or confused.  She would help people cross the street, reach items on high shelves and carry parcels to their cars.  Children flocked to her as if she were the only light in a darkened room.  Everyone loved her, but no one more than I.

In a bleak and angry world of my own creation, she appeared as the lighthouse to anchor my soul and keep me human. She reached out to me, to me!  The blackness within my soul was a searing cold that burnt all that touched it and yet, when Miranda held me close there was no cold nor black, no depths of despair, only bright glorious love.  She showed me the heights of love and how two people,  so different in temperament, could find a common ground, could find solace and comfort with each other.

She gave me so much that given an infinite amount of time I could never describe the gifts that she left me with every single day that we were together.  She gave me the gift of compassion, the ability sympathize with my fellow human beings and express my concern for their sufferings.  She gave me the gift of altruism, where I truly felt concern for others and strived to make their lives easier.

She gave me love.

A love that I had never known existed, that I had never known could exist.  A love so pure and free that I drowned in its expression and was reborn a better man.  I strove to make myself worthy of her love.  I did my best to return her love in every way I could.  I felt that my love for her was never what she gave me in return, falling short of what I wanted to give her, but she didn’t care.  She loved me for the person I was, the person I wanted to be and the person that I would be.

She was, most assuredly, the brightest star that banished all shadows.

But, as darkness begats light, so does light begat darkness.  As Miranda dragged me from the screaming abyss of darkness the universe was out of balance and, in an effort to balance the universe, a new evil was born.  An evil that made my previous self seem pale in comparison.

All of this came to me as I stared down at the still, cold form of my wife, her head nestled in my lap.  The sounds of sirens approached, police and ambulance coming together.  They were too late, both of them, for my wife was gone, as was her killer.  The darkness that Miranda had kept at bay in my soul leaped upwards and threatened to consume me, threatened to fill me with a burning cold of hatred.

But, within that void, within that black soulless night that filled me there lay a shining beacon of light.  My memories of her would not fade.  My memories of her would keep the darkness from completely filling me.  She would survive, within me, I would survive because of that.

Revenge is black.  But justice?  I do not know if justice is dark or light, but I intend to find out.

Review: Unseen

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Unseen by Amber Lynn Natusch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*** Reader copy obtained through the publisher ***

Unseen the second book in the Unborn series by Amber Lynn Natusch continues the story of Khara and her discovery of who/what she is. Written in the same style as the first book, the characters are somewhat stuck in the same mold as they were in the first book. While only a brief period of time has passed since Unborn, the main characters, with the exception of Oz, have not changed that much and as a result the novel is depending upon the storyline to capture the readers attention. And, for the most part, it does.

The story is different enough to keep your attention and yet familiar enough not to require you to think too hard while reading the novel. To be honest, my novel reading time is done in 15 – 30 minutes chunks of time so the novel needs to allow me to read in small segments of time and not feel lost or out of touch. Unseen allows me to do that.

My biggest complaint is that the ending did not feel like an ending. Like some other novels I have read recently, Unborn seems like part of a larger novel and not necessarily a completely self contained story. The last chapter is most definitely the setup to the next novel and could have actually been used as the opening chapter of the subsequent novel.

That being said, it was still an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next novel in the series.

Review: Unborn

Unborn

Unborn by Amber Lynn Natusch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*** Rated 3.5 / 5. Rounded up for Goodreads ***
*** Copy provided by the publisher ***

The Unborn by Amber Lynn Natusch is an interesting book in that one of the major premises in the book is the fact that Hades is actually a good father while the goods that we traditionally associated with “good” aren’t necessarily that good. Up is down and left is right and nothing is every as it seems.

One of the difficulties in writing a novel is being able to give each character his or her own distinct voice such that the reader is able to immediately identify the character by what they say and how they say it. Ms Natusch does a good job of differentiating the different characters within Unborn and imbuing them with a distinct personality. The only character she has trouble with is Ozereus and, unfortunately, this is one of the main characters.

Because she knows the changes that Ozereus is going to go through the character is somewhat muddy in the beginning and never really crystallizes into a unique character until closer to the end. Our protagonist, Khara, is also a bit confusing in her reactions to Ozereus (Oz) and this also shows throughout the novel.

I appreciate the effort that she spent working on the character of Khara and how her upbringing has shaped her decisions and her attitudes. The pain of her early years, the agony suffered at the hands of others, all of these things combined to create the character that came to life on the pages.

I look forward to the sequel to see how the characters change and develop now that their big reveal has shown them for who they really are.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Review: The Fold: A Novel

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The Fold: A Novel by Peter Clines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Advanced Reader Copy received from the Publisher ***

The Fold: A Novel surprised me in many ways. Peter Clines previous successes revolved around the EX series of novels with superheroes and zombies. The Fold: A Novel is about ordinary people and how they change both subtly and, occasionally, in dramatic fashion.

A sweeping, world-saving epic, the novel is surprisingly focused on just a single individual: Mike Erikson, a man with the ability to recall anything that he has seen. But Mike doesn’t want this gift/curse, he just wants to be “normal”. And he is relatively successful at being normal until an old friend of his dangles a situation in front of him that they both know he cannot resist. Apparently a group of DARPA researchers have discovered something better than teleportation, the ability to “fold” space/time and create a doorway to another place. This doorway, dubbed The Albuquerque Door, is what forces Mike to use his perfect memory.

The characters in the novel are well conceived, quirky, and fit together like pieces of a jigsaw. I can envision the group working together towards a common goal as they feed off each other.

The novel, beyond the first chapter, has a slow build up, but by no stretch of the imagination is it boring. When the novel shifts gears there is so much momentum in the story that you are swept up and just hang on for the ride.

Combining the best of the twentieth-century disaster novels and twenty-first century writing, The Fold: A Novel introduces two new heroes into the world: Mark Erikson and Peter Clines.

View all my review on Goodreads