Review: Where the Carnies Are

Where the Carnies Are
Where the Carnies Are by Kayla Curry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review was done on behalf of The Author Visits:

Note – the author provided a copy of the book for an unbiased review in return.

The Magical Land of the Carnival Kingdom. This is a short, sweet paranormal fantasy that is really a fairytale in disguise. Olive Sear is having a REALLY bad day – she caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman, she lost her job, her car stopped working on her way to going back to live with her parents, and it was raining….so when she suddenly finds herself in a bouncy house after taking off across the muddy fields to find a phone, she doesn’t flinch, being already numb from the days events. She continues on into the strange carnival-like place. The first person she mets, Alex, a sword thrower, becomes her guide into this new and fascinating place where she feels strangely at home. A closed, magical kingdom where carnies spend their off-season and retirement lives.

Pros: The characters are likable. A must for me. And plenty of side characters to liven up the place. At the end of the book we are promised “Sideshow,” a collection of 26 flash fiction stories about these side characters, which is what I wanted, although the link didn’t go anywhere at this time. Hopefully they are coming. They interested me, and I wanted more. This world she created was imaginative, and fascinating, and I wanted to step right into it. The author shows great promise, obviously loves a charming story, and a good, solid editor could fix some of the issues mentioned below, and help flesh out some of the people, and the in-between action scenes. I wanted more carny life. Her tone though is perfect for the story, and she obviously knows her knife-throwing stuff. She creates a world you hunger for more of. Who are these carnie folk, how did they come to be there, are they are born carnies, or are there any “new blood” ones? The castle, where a lot of the action occurs, is intriguing, mystifying and perfect for the book.

Cons: First person voice, which jumps in tense in some places. But it works for me, seeing everything through her eyes, even though it isn’t usually what I like. The characters are simplistic, slightly cardboard, and each has a place in the resolution of the story, and sometimes that is all they seem to be there for. There are some inconsistencies in the story, actions left out or skipped over where a page break or something would be appropriate, and places where it was confusing. She asks why her parents didn’t want her to know about carnie life, after just saying that she never knew them (her birth parents). She doesn’t seem to feel alarmed or freaked out as she casually absorbs the workings and people in the carnival kingdom. A normal response for a young woman, who just had a horrendous day, only to be confronted by a wondrous magical place, would either be to break down in tears, or dig in her heels and demand to see someone in charge. But instead, she allows herself to be cared for by the first person she meets, and towed round like a doll.

It doesn’t hurt of course that he is dressed like a pirate for his knife throwing act, and is handsome to boot. She hasn’t been there more than a few hours before she is agreeing to be his assistant until the gates open again in 2 months. Again, no break-down over that either. She is going to be there for two months, and she just accepts it. She takes the attitude that she must have carnie birth parents and so goes right for it. And although there is mention that an “advancer” – someone who can get out of the kingdom when the gates are closed – could get a message to her parents, she doesn’t do so in the month that goes by. Under the guise of “building trust,” she is blindfolded and led around the kingdom. Not sure most young women would go for that, with someone they just met the day before, under very strange circumstances. Her absolute trust in him, so soon, does’t read “real.” By the first few days they are in romance mode, and by the week’s end, in love. Too quick to be believable, but not if it’s a fairy tale. But when she finds out something special about him, instant change – she must be dreaming. Tends to go back and forth. Told she’s in a bubble, not on any planet, and the stars and sun aren’t real, are merely an illusion, and all she says is “Wow. That’s an interesting fact.”

But there is plenty of carny action, and in true fairy tale fashion, the bad are vanquished or rehabilitated, and everyone goes home happy and taken care of.

I think that’s why this became a fairy tale for me. While it can be classified as a paranormal fantasy, it’s slight nature, the somewhat two-dimensional characters, and the neat way everything got tidied up and resolved felt like one of the hundreds of fairy tales I read growing up. But in spite of this, I happen to love fairy tales, and when I had to stop reading in the middle and wait for the next day to finish, I was anxious to get back to the story, and kept thinking about it, always a great sign. The story was clean, love scenes were few and “fade-to-black,” so it’s suitable for the YA crowd. And I loved it’s cheerful, hopeful nature. So, judging it as a YA fairy tale,
My Rating: 4 /12 pixie dusted stars

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Review: DragonFly


DragonFly by Charles A. Cornell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review was done for, a website devoted to authors and readers.

Here’s the review. It’s a dieselpunk, alt. history WWII story about aerial combat between Germany and Britain. Early on, I was going to give it 4 stars, but I so enjoyed it, and wanted to read the next book, and knew I wanted to reread this one, that I had to give it 5 stars. Very inventive, and with lovely illustrations that can be zoomed in on.

Title: DragonFly (Missions of the DragonFly Squadron #1) Illustrated

Author: Charles Cornell, Jose “Cutangus” Garcia, Illustrator

# of Pages 365 (no pages on ebook)


Veronica “Ronnie” Somerset, is a ferry pilot of Lancaster bombers from the factories in Canada to England, or flying the ‘grumpy hippo’, the Sunderland flying boat, on mail runs. Known for speaking her mind, she is sent down to Enysfarne, down by Penzance – a radar station and outpost, but also what was to be her headquarters for the duration of this part of the war. It is also the birthplace of the Dragonfly, a “special” plane, highly experimental, and mysteriously powered. Here she will live up to all that was the British spirit of have a cuppa, and save the homeland.

Joining her in this wild ride of a diesel punk WWII alternative history combat story is her best friend Busbee Collins, Dr. Nigel Pennbridge, the inventor of the Dragonfly and it’s special mechanics, and the girls’ childhood friend, Vicki, HRH Victoria, Princess of Wales, and heir to the British throne, who also happens to be a damned fine pilot.

With an assortment of characters on both the British and Nazi side, and a slew of planes both real and invented, this story takes off and doesn’t stop except to refuel. We go behind the scenes with Hitler and his inner circle and his obsession with the mystical, and are treated on both sides to some interesting and inventive inter-weavings of truth and “fiction.”

Cons: Although there were some areas where it could be tightened up, and a few loose threads snipped, a few leaps in action without explanation, a few misspellings that could be British or jokingly said (cow-towing), and a few references that are un-PC, but probably okay for the time period in question, overall it was more than a decent job.

Pros: Here’s why I have them backwards (pros v. cons). Although I noticed most of those cons in the beginning, by the middle of the story, either they disappeared, or I was so caught up in the story, and in the wonderful flying world the author invented, as well as the incredible illustrations that can be blow up much bigger of the “new” aircraft by “Cutangus” that I never noticed any more issues.

I flew through the book like one of the pilots, nimbly jumping from one sortie to another, from Cornwall to Devon, from Jutland to the Baltic Sea, and back to England to be one of the main reasons the great Nazi invasion of Britain was fought back, esp. after the Americans caved, and made a truce with Germany, withdrawing all their aerial support of the B-17s, the Lancaster bombers, and other aircraft in service at the time, leaving England to stand on it’s own, even as most of the royal family, including the King, went via submarine to safety in Canada.

This is a book about WWII, and the planes and aerial combat figure prominently in it, but with the illustrations, and the website full of additional supporting information on the crew and team members of both sides, the aircraft from both (also experimental, but incredible), and the main hero(ines) being three indomitable young ladies with great talent at the stick, this book would appeal to most people. I’m a 50 something woman, and I really enjoyed it, and would give it the highest praise a reader could – I’d love to read more in the series, and I’d read it again!

My Rating: 5 loop-the-loop stars

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Escape Kit

Here is a good friend’s post on a book that I would enjoy so I thought I’d pas it along. K

The Automatic Cat

I’m more familiar with William Thirsk-Gaskill’s poetry than his prose. The self-confessed ‘socially inept Northerner,’ ‘the lost love-child of Ted Hughes and Alan Bennet,’ is a very fine poet, and I’m delighted to discover that he’s also a fine fiction writer.

Escape Kit is a novella in five parts and it’s a little gem. It revolves around four characters – fourteen-year-old Bradley, who’s travelling from York to Stevenage to visit his grandparents; his parents, Celia and Edmund, who have recently parted; and a man who is escaping from a German prisoner-of-war camp.

It would be unforgiveably spoilery to tell you exactly how all this fits together – there’s one beautifully-constructed reveal in particular – but it fits together with the precision of a Swiss watch. The characters are very well-drawn, each voice distinct, the prose is economical and unshowy. There’s no fat on the story at all.

It’s a very…

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Review: The Aquatic Labyrinth: A Venetian Mystery

The Aquatic Labyrinth: A Venetian Mystery
The Aquatic Labyrinth: A Venetian Mystery by Alastair Fontana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Due to eye problems I am late with it, and apologies to all concerned. This is first and foremost an historical thriller/mystery. Set in Venice, one of the most fascinating cities in the world, in the 14th century, it is a period piece, much like Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose. The historical detail, and description, as far as I can tell, is well-researched, and even the outlay of the book itself, with illustrations and such, gives it the feel of a more ancient manuscript. I won’t summarize the plot as that is everywhere, but I can say that the characters were well-drawn, and interesting, which is essential in a book to me. The mystery was intricately plotted and added much to the overall gothic feel of old Venice. whose canals create the labyrinth. My rating of a 4 versus a 5 is due to the heavy reliance on historical facts and details, and the Italian parts of the book. They tend to pull me out of a story. That is not just this book, but any book that has much substance. By nature I prefer more action to fact, although he did do a great job of world-building or in this case recreating a world. Would recommend for any who enjoy works such as The Name of the Rose, Kate Mosse, and even Ellis Peters medieval monk series. Great start for this budding writer.

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Europe In Autumn

Europe In Autumn.

Review: The 13th Apostle

The 13th Apostle
The 13th Apostle by Rachael F. Heller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another mini-review -This was another in a long line of “artifact” thrillers, with an American cyber sleuth and a biblical translator and former Israeli commando female lead. A lot of the book is spent back in the past, as we follow in the footsteps of one who was “there.” The story is fine, although lacking depth, and the characters were also a little bland for me, and I didn’t connect with them as I would have liked – that really colors how I react to a book. And the ending to me was trite, and sort of too mystical? But it is an okay read for the beach, for a trip, etc. No big shakes, but no major flaws to me.

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Review: Rift

Rift by Kay Kenyon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first of my mini-reviews, due to a backlog of books I have grown. My computer was dying and it took too long to write them, so I set the books aside. With my poor memory, I can’t give much, but I will try. Eventually I will get caught up, and we will go from there. So, as for Rift, it’s a good solid space story. A multi-generational space station, terraforming gone wrong, and various factions that want to stay up in space, or come down to the surface and keep trying to get it to work, and people who have been living there, and been “changed” as the planet changes. Add in a strange race of aliens who capture human women, and it becomes a somewhat odd story, from many POVs, about finding what is right for the planet, and for it’s inhabitants. I gave it 4 stars for it’s unusual approach, and subjects. Otherwise I would give it a 3 for simply being too far out for my tastes, and too many characters to follow.

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A Sailor’s Dying Wish

A Sailor’s Dying Wish.

Review: The Twelve

The Twelve
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second book in the series, this sequel/prequel to The Passage was very different, but equally good. Splitting it’s focus between the early days of the outbreak, and how it affected a few key people, and the continuation of events in The Passage, it presented a fuller picture of how and why, and fleshed out characters, as they parted ways, came together, found old friends, new ones, etc. Some of the main characters from the first book remained key players, but a few minor ones rose to prominence, and some old ones from the beginning of that book also showed up in the battle against The Twelve. At times mystical, at times gruesome, it is much more grandiose in scope about an outbreak of disease, like the zombies in World War Z, which was a sharp contrast – a slim volume that packed a loaded punch on the zombie war. This is more Micheneresque, broader in scope, and flowing in and around like eddies. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if they are zombies from WWZ or vampires from these – the end result can be the same – the near collapse of civilization, and the loss of hope for some, and the glimmer of it for others. Prose that is both poetical and laconic at times. Descriptive and insightful.

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Review: The Passage

The Passage
The Passage by Justin Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Addendum to review: I really loved this book. But after writing my review, I read some of the others, and found a large spread, which leads to an overall rating of about 4.0. Reading them, I was struck by the different expectations of the reviewers/readers. Some objected to it’s length, over 700 pages, and some found it dull at times, or with uneven pacing. Let me clear this up with my thoughts on it. This book is not guts and glory, blood and gore (although that’s not such a bad thing at times). It is not your typical vampire/zombie book. It is the journey of the intertwining lives of several people, over a space of time and place. At first it starts out with how. Then moves on to the journey they take, and then the why. You don’t have to believe in God, I don’t, but I think it helps if you believe in some uniting thing, like humanity, “the Force,” or simply cosmic threads that interweave – the Butterfly Effect, or even Kismet, fate, etc. It is both a metaphysical journey in places as well as the personal journeys of these people. Its companion book, “The Twelve,” both a prequel and sequel combined, says on the back that it was a top ten book for 2010 for Time and Library Journal, as well as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, Esquire, U.S. News and World Reports, NPR, etc. So my stance on it is in good company. But if you are cautious about exploring new avenues, I encourage you to read the other reviews as well, to get a feel for the divergent views on this book, ranging from 1 star to 5. Since they all balance out to 4 stars, I’d say the majority gave it a high rating.

This over 700 page book took me 5 days to read – a rec ord, since I read for hours each night. But it was worth it. A tour de force, in a undead-vampire hybrid book. It starts out with the story of a military experiment gone awry, which quickly escalates into chaos that collapses the U.S. and possibly the world. Left are at least one pocket of survivors. Most of the book focuses on the group – how it came to be, and some central characters, strongly delineated, that stood at the heart of the book – ones that wanted to know, not just survive. Among them was “Amy” a young girl, maybe 13, who arrived at the Colony walls one day, about 100 years after the virus came and wiped out most of the population. Where she came from, how she got there, how she survived was a question she couldn’t answer. She didn’t speak. But some realized that she was different – that she radiated a power and a peace about her, and were determined to protect her at all costs. This led to a dangerous journey from southern California to Colorado – to the heart of where it all began, and finally down south to Texas. Sweeping, majestic, full of hope, human triumphs and failure, it is the most upbeat book on a world of chaos, which is why I didn’t classify it as “dystopian,” even though things are not rosy. Much is gone and most are barely hanging on, knowledge lost. But throughout the book, the message is clear – that if you open your mind and heart, answers will come, and things will get better. It delves deeply into each of the twelve that started out – with complex interpersonal relations, secrets, and yet abiding deep friendships. A must-read. Not sure how I missed this book that graced a large number of best books lists of 2010.

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