Zoe Tasia

Fiction Author

Review of The Lost Fairytales of the Dewdrop Forest by Bianca Scharff

A wish is made upon a dandelion setting in motion a terrifying series of events. Lucy, a young lady nearing her 18th birthday, must travel to the enchanted Dewdrop Forest to find answers before it is too late to stop her descent into madness.

I’ve always been a big fan of fairy tales and love reading them, so I was immediately drawn to this book.

Despite the cute, Disneyesque title, this is a fairy tale in the vein of the original Brothers Grimm, replete with disturbing, often violent scenes. I was hooked from the beginning. With foreboding, I read of the wish in the first chapter. The mere appearance of the weed hints at the troubles to come.

The lines between reality and fantasy are blurred and there are cyclic elements to the story. Plying ethereal language, the author visits the similarities between such dichotomous duos as love and hate. The prose has a lyrical quality. I am still pondering the cryptic ending.

Although the book would benefit from tighter editing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Lost Fairytales of the Dewdrop Forest has an inventive plot and is a well-written, phantasmagoric story.

Review of Kitty’s First Day of School by Sarah Linx

Linx’s entertaining book introduces children to the concept of school. The vocabulary in this engaging story about Kitty the Calico’s first day is geared toward emerging readers. The colorful, detailed illustrations by the author immediately drew my eye, especially since the main character is a kitten. This book would make a perfect gift for any child.

The Month of April by Chad Ard

In The Month of April, the main character, April Boyd finds out her mother has died and returns to her hometown with her girlfriend, Abby. Her mother left instructions to cremate her body, take the ashes to New Orleans, and scatter them in the river in front of the Jackson Brewery. Inside a box of personal items, they discover an account April’s mother had written about her trip to New Orleans the year before April was born.

They read about how April’s mother, Dani met the love of her life in the Crescent City. The account, entitled “The Month of April,” chronicles the couple’s brief time together and what transpired afterwards during Dani’s time in the military. 

Though grief-stricken after reading the sad tale, April understands her mother better and feels closer to her. Caring for her girlfriend and emotionally moved, Abby encourages April to take steps to bring closure to the tragedy and together, they investigate the occurrences and right twenty-year-old wrongs.

As a fan of epistolary books, I especially enjoyed the sections of Dani’s story.  The setting descriptions transported me to a city I’ve briefly visited, but never had the opportunity to tour. Ard’s admiration of Raymond Carver is evident in his writing. I would characterize this novella as dirty realism. The sparse, unadorned prose conveys the author’s meaning succinctly. As a poor, unwed mother, Dani epitomizes the kind of characters which populate the genre.  I found the dialogue somewhat flat, however, that too, could be attributed to an aspect of realism.  I do not typically read this style of writing and the fact that I found the first few pages too compelling not to finish reading the novella says much about this author’s exceptional writing ability.

Update

It’s been just over a month since my book was released and I’ve been so happy with the reviews! (Reviewers, I love you, full stop!) I hope Book 2 will be well-received too.

Speaking of which, Tartan and Thyme (The Shrouded Isle Book 2) is written! I am currently deep in edit mode—an unpleasant, yet necessary task. I have a short story available for free upon signing up for my newsletter. Don’t worry about being inundated. (Trust me when I say, I’m not putting ones out unless I have something to say—or to confirm rumors of my death are exaggerated.)

 I do have another, untitled novel (first of a series) finished which I’m undecided about when and how to publish it. It’s a bit grittier than the Shrouded Isle universe. I am thinking about sharing the first chapter in one of my newsletters. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve been busy writing guest blogs, editing, outlining Book 3 (YES!), and working on various short story projects. It’s been awhile, I know. I’ll try to be better about blogging. Mwah!

Review of Race for the Sun

This book has an interesting take on the afterlife. After death, in an incorporeal state, beings wait to be reincarnated. As they wait, they act as soul watchers. A soul watcher will choose one person on Earth to help. Soul-watcher Soledad, returning to the afterlife after committing suicide, chooses Ally, a relative from her most recent life, to aid.

Ally is my favorite character. As the one, able-bodied individual in her small family, many duties fall to her. Though exhausted and frustrated at times, she loves her family and strives to do everything possible to keep them safe and happy. Ally is a middle child. Her older sister, Jessica, is an intransigent, forty-year-old, type one diabetic in need of a kidney. Ally’s sweet, younger sister, Alyssa, was born with special needs and requires twenty-four-hour supervision. Their mother’s heart problems prevent her from performing many activities.

Ally is an animal-loving artist who loves riding motorcycles. I think that, since she has many responsibilities, she needs that freedom to fly—be it on the canvas or the road. Though confident in other areas of her life, after her divorce, she finds herself gun-shy around men. As Soledad spiritually guides Ally, we learn about both women, their goals, desires, mistakes—and come to care deeply for them. The secondary characters are written with equal care and detail.

Race for the Sun is a life-affirming journey. The author packs an emotional punch in her writing. I cannot recommend this book enough.

A Two Horse Town By Kathleen Kaska

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A Two Horse Town opens with a visceral scene. It’s a moonlit night in Big Sky Country. An acrophobic woman scales a boulder ever aware that one wrong step, one slip of a sweaty palm, could lead to a painful-at-best fall. A straight-outa-the-chute beginning to an excellent mystery.

 

Kate Caraway hadn’t anticipated how much she would miss Kenya, a place where she immediately felt a sense of home, and a research position that fulfilled her. But her husband had a prime job opportunity, so they moved to Chicago. Disliking her work at the University of Illinois, she eagerly agrees to help her student, Nate Springfield. She takes a leave of absence to go to Montana to save wild mustangs endangered by a purposed dam which would leave them without a water supply. Soon after her arrival, Kate discovers a dead body, that of her student’s grandfather. When Nate becomes the prime suspect, Kate struggles to not only save the horses, but also to clear his name.

 

In Montana, Kate stays with Nate’s great-grandmother, Ida, a gun-toting nonagenarian. She is against the building of the dam, but her reckless outspokenness may work against their cause. Kate also senses that Ida is not as forthright as she seems.

 

Time is against Kate, and the enemies aren’t afraid to use deadly force. I won’t spoil the ending, but will say it is full of heart-racing excitement and fascinating revelations.

 

When I read the vivid descriptions of the settings—so bright, compelling and very much a key part of the story—Nevada Barr’s series is brought to mind.  Kate Caraway has much in common with Barr’s main character, Anna Pigeon. Both feel strongly about protecting the environment and both have the willingness to take on an active role.

 

Like a mustang, the story gallops across the pages and I flew like a rider, gripping the horse’s mane in exhilaration. I encourage you to take that ride too. You won’t regret it.

 

Dead Shrinks Don’t Talk, A Mother-and-Me Mystery by Sandra Gardner

Dead Shrinks Don't Talk: A Mother and Me Mystery by [Gardner, Sandra]

Marabella Vinegar is late for her therapist appointment—thanks to her mother. Normally, this pain in the tookus would be par for the course. After all, most of Marabella’s sessions are spent addressing her relationship with said relative except, Mama Vinegar died.  A week ago.

After tucking her not-so-dead mother in for a nap on the couch, apparently ghost travel is taxing, Marabella rushes to Dr. Ditstein’s office anxious for answers. None are forthcoming because she finds her supportive shrink murdered. Any guess who is the prime suspect?

Marabella’s ambivalent relationship with her mother is captured perfectly by the author. Mom drives her nuts. But she loves her. But she drives her NUTS. The balance is perfect. I “get” both characters and am sympathetic.

I’m a big mystery series fan, but one of my complaints is that, in some cases, the main character doesn’t grow. I can’t say this for Marabella in Dead Shrinks Don’t Talk.  Happily, Marabella is adaptive and determine. She is a flawed character that you can’t help but root for because, aren’t we all flawed? And, fyi, she solves the mystery. Let’s hear it for Team Marabella! A wonderful read and I can’t wait for more from this author.

Uthuru (The Traveler Chronicles Book 1) by Paul Biagi III

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Uthuru is a science fiction novel about Mitchell Surrey, a man accused of a murder he didn’t commit. He travels to space for the proof needed to exonerate him and, not only does he find it, he also discovers answers to the over one-hundred-year-old mystery of the alien attack that came to be known as the Traveler War.

I enjoyed this first person POV tale. The world building was detailed and believable, the main character, resourceful and easy to relate to, and the reason for the aliens’ hostilities, unique. Being a fan of the Alien movies, I loved the horror elements in the story.

Despite the new sci-fi technological terms, I had no trouble following the plot, though the author has thoughtfully included a glossary. Never a dull moment, this was a quick read. In some ways, I am reminded of the movie, The Martian, because Mitchell must be self-reliant and spends a goodly part of the book on his own. I strongly recommend this novel and, since this is book 1, can’t wait to see what else this author has in store for Mitchell.

Review of Gypsy Magic by Tonya Royston

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Who hasn’t had an event in life so bad, that you wanted move on, both literally and figuratively? When Gracyn has an opportunity to do so, she seizes it. Her mother is offered an overseas promotion, which she refused, unwilling to uproot Gracyn her senior year of high school, despite the many alternatives Gracyn suggests. To the main character’s surprise, her long-lost sister comes through, offering to take Gracyn in.

Adjusting from living in a big city to a small town, making new friends, and fitting into the rhythm of life in her new home is expected, however this move isn’t typical and Gracyn is faced with surprising changes and challenges.

Gypsy Magic is a well-paced YA book with engaging characters. The teens are depicted accurately. I was raised in a small town and yes, we gathered around bonfires and drank beer. When there’s not much to do, young adults find ways to occupy their time—often in activities that adults wouldn’t approve of. Royston inserts fully-realized parental figures in a believable manner. In some books, the adults are cardboard figures, not touched much upon, or portrayed as idiots.

I loved that horses were prominent in the book and I totally get Gracyn’s fear of them. (Hey, they’re large, have hooves and chompy teeth.) I’m a big-time animal lover, so I’m always thrilled to see them in books, and yes, I love horses too. When I finished this book, I was eager to find out what would happen next.

Review of The Download by RE Carr

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The world Carr has created is wildly imaginative and completely believable. Jenn’s mad scientist roomie is experimenting and, unfortunately, Jenn becomes a variable. She is transported via funky rock to another dimension where she’s given a choice: die or be reconstructed (add AI unit and vigorously stir) to help a god. Not much of a choice, to be sure. *takes deep breath* And then things really get crazy. Jenn ends up in a beast world—think Planet of the Apes, but a lot more diversity than gorillas, orangs and chimps. One of my favorite things about The Download is the way the characters evolve. I love that the AI (Artificial Intelligence, I know, I know, you knew) unit doesn’t remain static, CALA changes and is as much a character as the flesh and blood ones. If you love a rollicking tale that makes you think, I strongly recommend this book.

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