1 September 2011

Review of Paramourtal

Title: Paramourtal
Author: Various
Publisher: Cliffhanger Books
Genre: Paranormal/Horror/Romance
Length: 205 – Anthology.
Heat: Mixed.
Review requested and book supplied foc by Kevin Hosey

Review: Story One.
A Touch of Sand by Nicole Brugger-Dethmers

Blurb: The Sandman is forbidden to love humans. Then he gazes upon the enchanting face of Angeline and wonders why she stirs his cold heart.

Review: Almost as soon as I started reading this story I heard the lyrics of the song Mister Sandman playing in my head.
Creating a full-bodied story within twenty pages is not easy. And in A Touch of Sand the author creates a charming tale within an indeterminate time period, cast with characters this reader instantly connects with. So why is there a ‘but’ coming?
Because I wanted more!
The opening line “Out of the night sky, above the sleepy English town of Ashborough, a whirlwind appeared.” Is guaranteed to grab the attention of any reader who knows there are few, if any, whirlwinds in England. Thus hooked and bombarded with several questions already you can only read on.
It contains lost love, betrayal, undying love that conquers and a happy ending in two parts.
From Sandman and his gnomes, to Angeline, her precocious sister Margaret and Nicolas each character is fully formed and plays their part impeccably. Emotion packs every page, and Ms Brugger-Dethmers’ fluent writing offers up a medly of scenes each as fascinating as the last.
This delightful story is a brilliant opening shot for the Paramourtal Anthology.
* * *
Review: Story Two
Dark Legacy by Elizabeth Ireland

Blurb:  As a teen, Katherine was saved by a mysterious lake spirit. Now she returns to that lake to face a dark family pact that may end her life.

Review: Occasionally a story pulls at the depth of the reader’s emotions whether it be sorrow and tears, joy and laughter, or the chills of horror and fear of the unknown. In this story I felt the intense and unquestionable love between Katherine and Patrick. And yet the skilful weaving of words at the beginning of the story gives a moment of doubt. A second of questioning about what might come.
Three people monopolize Dark Legacy, Katherine, Patrick, and Katherine’s cousin Julie. In the background Nana and Granddad lay the background story and Julie’s daughter, Rachel portrays the possible future.
In between Ms Ireland tells a tale of spirits, boundless love that lasts beyond the grave, the pull of the lake and what happens when one of them tries to evade destiny.
This is a story that will linger in my mind long after turning the final page.
* * *

Review: Story Three
The Fisherman’s Wife by K. Stoddard Hayes

Blurb: In an Irish fishing village, Sean has the perfect life with his loving wife, Muireen. But then she discovers a very dark secret he’s hidden for years.

Review: Deception, betrayal, forgiveness are the themes of The Fisherman’s Wife. Muireen, a selkie bound to the land by a scheming old man concerned only with his own comforts, discovers his plot, she leaves home and returns to the sea, ignoring her husband’s love for her. The way Ms Stoddard Hayes weaves past, present and myth together so fluently compels the reader to take pity on poor Sean.
So far, The Fisherman’s Wife is the shortest story so far, but like its predecessors is packed with emotion and charm. The author depicts the lifestyle of her characters in few words that add to their impact. Combined with the her seascapes and the call of the sea Ms Stoddard Hayes offers characters who will pull at her readers’ heartstrings and a compelling story that complements its companions in this anthology.

Review: Story Four
The Prince and the Spoon by Kelly Wisdom

Blurb: Walking in the park, Summer is attracted by strange fairy tale creature who seem to know her. And then things really get weird.

Review: The slow and compulsive build of tension--written in 1st person. Sibling rivalry, magic spoons and wishes granted. It’s all in this amusing tale by Kelly Wisdom takes the mystery of swamps and Summer’s love of nature, breaks all the rules and adds in a cast of hundreds, and makes it work.

Faeries, pixies and humming birds, with teeth, all walk through The Prince and the Spoon. And then there is Hunter. Hunter, who saves Summer and wins her heart. But how he does it and what he has to do to prove himself is part of the author’s magic.

I have read and reviewed man anthologies and this one is out there in front. Like the previous stories this has charm plus an effervescence of its own.

Review: Story Five
The Flower of Hell by Noree Cosper

Blurb: When Gabriella a demon hunter, meets the handsome Dimitri, it kindles long forgotten desires. But those desires may get them killed.

Review: Now, I have to ‘fess up. Mention demons as a book subject and I’ll usually choose to ‘pass’. But I am so glad I had the chance to read Ms Cosper’s The Flower of Hell. If I have a small nit with this story, it is set in Paris, but I can’t say I got a flavour of the city at all.
Gabrielle is no prissy heroine. She has scores to pay off, traumas to deal with, baggage to decide whether to continue carrying it through millennia or not, and when Dimitri barges into her well laid plans and creates mayhem she is not best pleased.
Considering his ancestry I am surprised he made such an apparently elemental mistake about Gabby’s potential target.
The author held my attention and carried me through her fantasy, so much so that when the end came I was both startled and disappointed. Coming from a reader, who’d previously avoided stories about demons that’s quite an admission.

Review: Story Six
His Familiar Touch by L.K. Below

Blurb: Unable to shift into natural cougar form, Rikkita seeks the help of Derek, a mystifying man who may have the cure—for a price.

Review: I have come across Ms Below’s writing before and so looked forward to reading her story, and I wasn’t disappointed. From the title I garnered the content of His Familiar Touch but the way she twists the normal expectation is masterly.
It is a sibling’s aim in life to annoy, and Rikkita’s sibling wastes no time, thus triggering long withheld secrets and the key to her future. A key she spurns. And so, with Ms Below’s skilful manipulation her heroine enters a world she has long scorned and has to face reality. But will her pride win over her heart and allow her to walk away from the only man to inspire emotions within her she’s never experienced before?
The author’s scene setting is vivid and immediate. Her characters are flawed, yet strong enough to take that leap of faith not knowing the consequences.
While this story lacks nothing, I came away feeling I wanted more.

Review: Story Seven
Of Fate and Fire by Rebecca Rhielle

Blurb: As a child Eleia last her family to strange marauders. Now she falls in love with a beguiling stranger whose past is even darker than hers.

Review: It had to come. The story that broke the pattern. The story that takes the reader to the pinnacle of emotional perfection and leaves them crying with frustration as the Fates combine to destroy true love. And this is the one that does that, and yet--.
The author takes the dark and paints it blacker by the end of a sweet and sensual tale of love and bonding. There are three characters in this tale and all have a major impact on each other’s future. All have the Knowledge, but not all of them are fully aware of the powers in store for them.
This is tightly and fluently written, and peopled with characters of impact. While it is a love story there is no HEA and I, for one, was left with many unanswered questions. Not something I would normally enjoy, but the sheer skill of Ms Rhielle’s writing ensures I ‘turn the last page’ and forgive her for not answering those questions.

Review: Story Eight
Sympathy From The Devil by M.C. DeMarco

Blurb: While protecting a soul from temptation, angel Ariel faces Forcas, a charming demon. And she soon learns her own soul may be at stake.

Review: I laughed so much through this story it took twice as long to read as expected. It’s all there. The two sides of the coin, the irreverent look at heaven and hell, and everything in between. And yet this is another story that leaves you with unanswered questions. Does that mean it would make for a longer story? Perhaps. We’ve all heard of Guardian angels, but the concept that they all belong to heaven is shot to piece, or perhaps hell, in this encounter.
You could say we meet guardians from both departments in this story, and it is Forcas’ job to lead Ariel astray. Which he does with great aplomb. Thanks to Ms DeMarco, I’ll never quite look on Guardian Angels in the same way ever again!

Review: Story Nine
The Underlying Beat by Evelyn Welle

Blurb: After meeting the reclusive music composer Lee, Megan soon encounters mystifying forces that test both her sanity--and her heart.

Review: Ms Welle provides enough false clues in this short story to fill a full length novel, and offers a tightly written and provocative story for her readers. The build up is beautifully paced and she builds her characters at an equal pace. As someone who enjoys listening to music, but not knowing the first technical thing about it, I may well have missed a specific beat in the author’s writing to represent a heartbeat. And it is the heart that is the central engine that powers The Underlying Beat.
The back story is interwoven seamlessly with the present and future and adds to the power of the author’s presentation. Each secondary character, none of them ‘seen’ all play their part in carrying the story forward.
Combine a sneaky spirit with Fate and lace it all with music and you have yourself a charming story you’ll not forget in a hurry.

Review: Story Ten
Rain by Kevin Hosey

Blurb: When his wife leaves him, Kyle escapes to a mountain cabin. There he meets the beautiful Reanna, a mysterious woman who can only appear when it rains.

Review: We were promised dark, we were promised horror and in this final story we get both. The longest offering in this anthology is hard hitting, dark and pretty horrific. That said a reader can empathise with both the hero and heroine and their dilemmas.
In both cases it was a matter of be careful what you wish for... for there are always consequences.
Reanna, a spirit of the rain is ‘living’ with the consequences of her wish and there is still more of her ‘contract’ to be worked out.
Kyle’s dilemma appears to be one familiar to many, and yet, nothing is quite as it seems. And the final confrontation with his wife take his life in a direction he never anticipated.
This story has not pretention towards the ‘feel-good-factor’ and the skilful writing of the author beguiles his readers into hoping for the best until the very end. And yet... in a convoluted way you can almost persuade yourself it IS a HEA. What I do know, is that Rain is a ‘disturbing’ story.

Overall Summary of the Paramourtal Anthology.

Fairy tales are for children! Aren’t they? Well, not these ones. O.K. but if they are fairy tales they all have happy endings, right? Wrong!
Some are inspired by mythology, other from these very children’s fairy tales mentioned above, but all take the reader to a fantasy land of one kind or another. All touch on the other-world reality.
Some will have you howling with merriment while others have you reaching for the tissues. But all of them have you totally involved with the unfolding events and the characters caught up by them.
More than once I touched on my disappointment the stories were not longer. I hold by that comment. Not only did I love the characters, but felt when reading I must have skipped a page on a couple of occasions.
I have reviewed many anthologies and understand the importance of balance of content, and in this I have to compliment both Cliffhanger Books and their editors for their selection.
For those who enjoy the paranormal, then this is definitely a book worth checking out. For those looking for well-written stories which, on the most part, will have you smiling, then dip your toe into the paranormal with this book. For those of you always looking for new authors to read, here are ten well worth adding to your TBR lists.
I know Cliffhanger books will be launching another edition of new Paramourtal stories. If they are as good as this anthology, the second book is one to put at the top of your wish list.

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