[Indie Book Review] Vampires hiding on the high seas

Indie Book Review: City of Promise by Dawn Prough

In the not-so-distant future, Misty works as a maintenance diver at Gideon, a city floating in the middle of the Atlantic, a haven for the undead. She’s good at her job; it helps that she doesn’t need to breathe. But during one night dive, she discovers a dead body, weighted and tangled in the nets. In a world where all vampires are one deportation away from execution, Misty wants nothing to do with corpses and criminal investigations. But then she meets Li, a man with a death wish, a dangerous past, and a connection to the body Misty found.

This book was a welcome addition eBook addition to my vampire-filled shelf. Prough does something different in her novel, City of Promise by moving her story and vampire heroine out of the urban fantasy setting into the 2063. From the delightful gritty details of the world (based on a real-world proposal of a city extension off Boston in the 1970s), to the (sometimes) over-the-top action, to the (scrappy) dialogue, the novel kept me tapping the screen for the next page. Continue reading

Indie Book Review: Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick

Sleight of Hand by Mark Henwick

An Amber Farrell Novel, Bite Back #1

“For Amber Farrell, post-military life as a PI has its ups and downs: She’s been hit by a truck. She’s being sued by a client. Denver’s newest drug lord just put out a contract on her. The sinister Athanate want her to come in for a friendly chat. And it’s only Tuesday.”

Now we’re talking. Occasionally, we get a pitch in our inbox that we just can’t resist. And Henwick’s urban fantasy novel blurb brought it home. It also left me quaking on my canary perch: Book, please, please, don’t go the vampire-werewolf-cookie-cutter plot route.

Good news! Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Indie Series: Slippery Souls

Slippery Souls by Rachael H. Dixon

(Sunray Bay, #1)

This book was delightful, in the full, italicized sense of the word. It takes on a vivid, irreverent style (think Terry Pratchett) and melds it with some dark(ish) fantasy.

One moment, Libby is marching out of the grocery store, jug of milk in hand, set on breaking up with her slob of a boyfriend-soon-to-be-ex. The next, she is killed by a hit-and-run. When she wakes up, she’s in a beach house at Sunray Bay, a kind of afterlife, she assumes, since her also-dead-dog Rufus can now talk.

But not all is as it seems at the sunny beach town, and it certainly isn’t Heaven. Within an hour of her arrival, Libby is chased by the head of the local monster slayers, helps a (very hawt and rugged) rogue ex-operative, and finds herself at the top of the Mayor’s Most Wanted list. Continue reading

[ Pitch Slaps ] Weekend Picks

Part of the Pitch Slapped Series:

Blurbs can make or break the a book’s sales, especially if the reader hasn’t heard about the author before. A strong blurb is a must for query letters and getting the book read.

For this latest installment of Pitch Slaps, we’re going to do something different. We’ve talked about a lot of things that go wrong when an author writes a blurb. So instead, here is the cream of the blurbing crop from indie books recently submitted for review.

SECTOR C by Phoenix Sullivan

“Cloning Ice Age mammoths and saber-tooth cats for canned hunts seems like a good business venture — until it reintroduces the species-jumping pandemic that wiped out the megabeasts 10,000 years ago. Now history is about to repeat itself, with humans the next target for extinction.”

What works: In two sentences, the book blurb sets up the world (ours, futurist), genre (science fiction, speculative, medical thriller) and the conflict (extinction! corporation-style). It’s clear, concise, and clever.

What doesn’t: The truth of it is, I cut the rest of the blurb (not shown here), going from four paragraphs to the one (shown here).


The Phoenix and the Dream King’s Heart by James Monaghan

“The Phoenix is a cursed ship.

Exiled to the Darkland Expanse, on the fringes of the known galaxy, its captain and crew have spent the last decade struggling just to stay alive. In a galaxy full of cruel gods, terrifying monsters and treacherous allies, though, survival is far from an easy task.

When the King of Dreams offers them a bargain – retrieve his stolen heart in return for a key that may just get them home – Captain Asher Lee and his crew agree to launch a desperate mission across dimensions. When faced with an insane goddess and her army of quantum spiders, though, do they really have a chance?”

What works: This is an example of a blurb that does it all–dramatic tension, a hint at the plot, and a glimpse of the world. It adds an extra lure by promising to combine science fiction (space, dimensions…) with fantasy (gods, monsters…). And of course, who doesn’t like a story that has some treacherous frenemies?

Torn by Dean Murray

“Shape shifter Alec Graves has spent nearly a decade trying to keep his family from being drawn into open warfare with a larger pack. The new girl at school shouldn’t matter, but the more he gets to know her, the more mysterious she becomes. Worse, she seems to know things she shouldn’t about his shadowy world.

Is she an unfortunate victim or bait designed to draw him into a fatal misstep? If she’s a victim, then he’s running out of time to save her. If she’s bait, then his attraction to her will pull him into a fight that’ll cost him everything.”

What works: This blurb takes a different approach. It woos the reader with the very fact that it presents the traditional star-cross-lovers plotline with a dash of paranormal intrigue. There will be romance and there may be betrayal, it says, and in the YA PNR genre, what more can you ask for?

What doesn’t: As a reader, I would love to see what sets this book apart. There is safety in being generic in this genre, but give me a hint of something concrete.

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Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar?  Email it our way with the subject “Pitch Article Submission” at canarypost@gmail.com. 

Read more slapped pitches here.

[ Small Chirp ] An Indie short story worth checking out

As a general rule, we at tCR do not review author requests for short stories. We are wing-deep in novels and rarely have time to spare to read even the shortest of one-shots. So it was pure serendipity that Tracy Marchini’s review request for The Engine Driver came through at the height of my work-place boredom. I clicked on the attached PDF before I’d even read the blurb. And I must say that I’m quite happy I did—partially because the blurb needs a little Pitch Slapped lovin’, but mostly because it was an absolutely delightful story.

The story follows Brig, a depressed teenager in a world where any negative emotions are attenuated by an internal playlist of music meant to adjust mood.  When her best friend is selected to be a Musician, someone who can actually craft music, Brig sees an opportunity to finally hear a song that she wants to listen to—rather than one that has been carefully selected to attenuate her constantly sad existence.

That explanation actually makes the plot sound about 800% more emo than the story actually was. The characters were engaging even while wading through the subplot of wanting to hear a love song played when standing near a boy. The fact that a 6,000 word story has a flipping subplot should be an indication that Marchini has a knack for story-telling. The Engine Driver had nice subtleties to it, enough to gloss over a couple of places where the narrative stumbled.

Since this is just a Small Chirp and not a review, there’s no official Canary rating, but an unofficial rating would put it solidly in a four happy canaries territory. I hope this is the first of many forays that Marchini takes into Brig’s life. I would happily read an entire novel set in the music-controlled world she lives in.

Read More Indie:

[ Book Review ] Indie Series: Falling–A Flirty Fantasy of Fallen Idols

Falling: A Flirty Fantasy of Fallen Idols by Cecilia Gray

(Book #1 of the Fallen Idols)

(4 romantic canaries, right here.)

This was a wonderful weekend read–fun, light, with one of the strongest first-person narrators I’ve read in the romance genre in a long, long time.

Our main character, Alexis, isn’t afraid to climb mountains to get what she wants–literally. Labeled The World’s Bravest Woman, she rappels down buildings and rafts rapids. But when her fiancé dumps her for a busty Italian model, she’d rather hide under a blanket on her sister’s couch. Her sister has other ideas, and Alexis finds herself being dragged into the latest all-exclusive club for some post-break-up therapy.

Enter one plotting goddess, a coven of witches, and one immortal Greek warrior with an 184-year-old curse hanging over his head. It’s a night on the town in downtown San Francisco.

So where does this chick flick treat water in the enormous pool of paranormal romance? The story is told from Alexis point of view, and she is an engaging, intelligent narrator who has no problem realizing that instant attraction isn’t exactly real love, and that erratic behavior on the guy’s part calls for the psychiatric ward, not an elopement. I do love me a sane heroine.

At this point, I didn’t even mind Alexis’ hang-ups over her own appearance or the turbo-charged attraction–unavoidable when the plot demands true luv in ten thousand words or less. It was a solid five-canary romance right until the main action hit the metaphysical fan. Continue reading