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The Stone of Mercy: Book 1 of the Centaur Chronicles
There is a legend known throughout the land of Crystonia that foretells that the rightful heir of the kingdom will be wearing a silver breastplate adorned with four stones, the Stone of Mercy, the Stone of Courage, the Stone of Integrity and the Stone of Wisdom. However, in the last century and a half no such ruler has come forward and this has thrown the kingdom into a war between the races, with each wanting to rule the throne. Now, more than ever Crystonia needs someone to unify the land and rule with an honest, steadfast hand before an all out war destroys everything. Unknown to anyone but a select few, the silver breastplate is being forged and it will be given to the most unlikely person - a person no one ever dreamed would rule Crystonia.
In a small village a sixteen-year-old Duende girl named Carling worries little about the problems going on in other parts of the land. The Duende race is known to be very peaceful, keeping to themselves and their specific tasks, as Duende are known for their beautiful artistry in carpentry, weaving, and other domestic skills. The most rebellious thing Carling does is go out hunting with her lifelong friend Higson and practice her aim with a bow and arrow. In fact it’s on one of these hunting excursions that Carling and Higson came upon a group of young centaur fillies playing in a meadow. It was rare for Duende and Centaurs to mingle so Carling and Higson decided to take a moment and enjoy watching the fillies have fun. The fun, however, is short lived as a group of enemy centaurs burst through the bushes and attempt to kidnap the group of fillies. Without thinking of the consequences, Carling and Higson begin firing arrows at the enemy centaurs wounding them enough that they run back into the woods, leaving the young fillies behind.
Of course the herd of centaurs are extremely grateful for Carling and Higson’s bravery. The young Duende are a little surprised that they acted so quickly, deciding to fight back against the group of enemy centaurs which they soon learn are called the Heilodius herd. Through the struggle for power the Centaurs had divided into two groups - The Minsheen Herd who preferred keeping peace while the Heilodius Herd wanted to start war with the Cyclops to win the throne and rule Cystonia. Even though the Minsheen Herd is overwhelmingly grateful for what Carling and Higson did, this act causes a terrible chain of events that lead to the destruction of the Duende village Carling calls home. Now, whether she likes it or not, Carling is thrust into the conflict that she never wanted to be a part of and matters are complicated further when she finds the breastplate...
As soon as I heard the description of The Stone of Mercy I knew I wanted to read it and I was not disappointed. The unique fantasy world filled with unforgettable creatures created by author M.J. Evans is a wonderful escape into a great adventure. The main character of Carling grabbed at my heartstrings instantly and I felt as if I was right there next to her though the entire book, through the battles, the tears, and the triumphs. The end of this book leaves on a nail-biting cliffhanger as well, and I cannot wait until the next installment comes out so I can continue this adventure.
Quill says: A breathtaking adventure that I cannot wait to continue!
For more information on The Stone of Mercy: Book 1 of the Centaur Chronicles, please visit the publisher's website at: www.dancinghorsepress.com
By: Andrew Diamond
Publisher: Stolen Time Press
Publication Date: September 2016
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 21, 2016
A computer hacker trying to make good by staying on the 'straight and narrow' gets dragged into a high stakes mystery of trying to find the "key" that is, literally, the key to vast sums of illegal funds. Along the way he is followed by some seriously bad guys, and meets a woman who may just change his life for the better...or is she really out to get him too? This is the premise for Impala, an action-packed computer hacker mystery that I read in record time.
Russell Fitzpatrick knows his way around computer code. In a previous life (four years earlier), he and a few friends did some illegal hacking that drew the attention of the FBI. After being forced to help the agency, Russ had had enough of hacking and tried to lead a normal life. He found a relatively boring job, working for a small software development company. Now, his biggest challenge is to stay awake during his software presentations to clients.
Unfortunately, Charlie, who was always the instigator in all those hacks, had other plans for Russ. Before he careened off a cliff in Bogota, Colombia, and got himself killed, Charlie created an encryption key that allowed the user of said key to get a whole lot of Bitcoin funds that was worth millions of dollars in the real world. The Bitcoin came via The Twilight Bazaar, a very illegal cyberspace place where heroin is bought and sold. Of course with so much money at stake, there are some very unsavory criminals who want to get the key - and are convinced that Russ knows where it is. Before Russ realizes what's happening, two nasty Colombians, as well as some beefed-up Russians, are chasing him, and beating him up, every time they find him. Poor Russ doesn't just have those criminals after him...the FBI wants to talk to him, again, and his girlfriend just dumped him too.
Russ, a very gifted computer "genie" (Charlie's nickname for him), decides that he's not going to go down without a fight. The only clue he has to finding the key is a Craigslist ad that Charlie had arranged to post upon his death. Along the way, Russ meets Cali, a beautiful young woman who Russ believes to be his soul mate. But is she really in love with him or just trying to get the key like everybody else? The tensions run high as Russ tries to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and the FBI, although he doesn't always manage to avoid a fight.
It took me exactly four pages to get drawn into Impala, and once caught up in the story, I couldn't let go. Told in the first person by Russ, I found him to be a very likeable protagonist. Frequently self-deprecating, often funny (when talking about his new love Cali, "I am not Mr. Smooth. The way I'm acting right now, I'm halfway between Mr. Lost and Mr. Restraining Order."), the author does a great job of bringing Russ to life and getting the reader to root for him. The author, a software engineer, shows his expertise with computer code as he guides the reader through some fascinating computer lingo and hacking tricks in an easy-to-understand way. I didn't just enjoy a good read; I learned a few things about computer hacking too.
Quill says: A fast-paced, can't-put-down suspense story that will keep you guessing along with Russ as you try to solve the mystery of where/what the key is and beat the criminals to that stash of money.
By: Mary Hutchings Reed
Publisher: Ampersand, Inc.
Publication Date: August 2016
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 14, 2016
A combination of humor, liberal activism, the issues of today, and religion...is it possible to utilize this recipe and come up with something so “delicious” that you never want to put it down? You wouldn’t think so. But when readers are brought, by this author, to a small town called Stirling, Wisconsin, that’s exactly the “dish” they sink their teeth into.
Stirling is a great deal like any small town, where everyone knows your name, your past, your mistakes and victories – and they never mind repeating them or reminding you of them when you really want to forget. Some neighbors are friendly, but there are days you wish wholeheartedly that everyone would just leave you alone. We’re talking about a place of volunteer fire departments, pancake breakfasts, a local library and a conservative mayor who oversees it all, Thomas Donaldson, who just happens to be married to a very liberal woman named Daphne. She’s an activist, and highly vocal about it.
Stirling has very few problems, except for the “neighborly gossip” to contend with. Yet one day, a whole lot of problems enter into this rosy community in the shape of the...Virgin Mary. A vision of the devout and beloved figure appears on an underpass (yes, an underpass—not a piece of toast or a potato chip like the Virgin’s Son has in the past). George McBurney, a citizen who has dwelled in Stirling since birth, takes this as a sign and decides to go about building a perfect imitation of Noah’s Ark that will sit across from the State Forest. Because it is a religious icon, he makes sure that the town knows he does not need a permit from them to complete his task.
George was known to say, before he began the project, that Noah was 600 years old when he made his Ark and George is a ripe, young 37 when he gets the idea. In other words, he doesn’t know how to build the Ark, he doesn’t have the Lord whispering in his ear, and has never lived anywhere even remotely close to the sea. The result of these facts is that he’s more than a bit clumsy with a hammer. Upside is, he owns a lot of property, so he has perched a big sign on the land stating: “NOAH’S ARK, COMING SOON TO THIS LOCATION.” Which would actually be completely normal if placed on Route 66, along with the world’s largest ball of twine.
With the Ark coming along, the plot is rich with all types of characters and their own personal beliefs, values and abilities to either support or deflate George’s idea. From ecological and environmental conversations to religious versus business and liberal principles, the reader will delve into this book and not only see different points of view, but enjoy the heck out of the humor that each character displays.
Whether small town or big city, all “folk” will completely get entangled in this terrific, thought-provoking, entertaining read that separates the talkers from the doers. Mary Hutchings Reed has done a spectacular job with this title and it most definitely deserves 5-stars in every category!
Quill says: Clear a place on your bookshelves because this is one that you will constantly turn back to in order to think, learn and laugh out loud.