Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Guardian by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I don’t currently own a copy of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The Guardian.  A book this special must be shared and so I have sent mine to a good friend and by the end of this weekend, I will have gone to buy myself another copy.  While I’m there, I’ll pick up an extra for one random commenter to this review.

The reason?  That’s easy.  Emotion.

Seth and Lydia’s story will evoke it from you, twist your heart and wring you of everything before it’s finished.  Notice I said before it’s finished with you and not the other way around.

Sherrilyn does not waste a second of your time in this book and neither will I trying to simply fill the page.  If you’re a writer, this is a great example of how it’s sometimes necessary to tell a story that’s going to break and then heal your reader’s heart.  Don’t be afraid to go there if you must.  If you’re a reader, hold on tight.  It’s going to be a devastatingly beautiful ride.  Trust me, you’re in good hands.

From Sherrilyn Kenyon’s website:

As a Dream-Hunter, Lydia has been charged with the most sacred and dangerous of missions. She’s to descend into the Nether Realm and find the missing god of dreams before he betrays the secrets that could kill all of them. What she never expects is to be taken prisoner by the Realm’s most vicious guardian.

Seth’s time is running out. If he can’t hand over the key to Olympus and the heart of Zeus, then his own life and soul will be forfeit. No matter the torture, he hasn’t been able to break the god in his custody. But when a rescuer appears, he decides to try a new tactic.

When these two lock wills, one of them must give. But Lydia isn’t just guarding the gates of Olympus, she’s holding back the darkest of powers. If she fails, an ancient evil will roam the earth once more and no one…

I give this one 5 out of 5 mermaid flippers and a GIGANTIC red heart!  If you’d like to be entered into the drawing for a copy of this wonderful book, just say so in the comments section by midnight EST February 10, 2012.

Happy Almost Valentines Day,

Carlene Mermaid ;&

Flat Stanley

I am a proud mama. My daughter has recently graduated to chapter books. With more words than pictures. And more complex story lines. And real chapters! I have to say, this is an exciting milestone in my life, although it’s probably about par-for-the-course in hers.

Like many of you, I am sure, my childhood was dominated by books. My parents used to yell at me to put away my book at the dinner table. I made my way, surely and methodically, through the children’s room at our local library. I looked forward to my airplane rides to Thailand, so I could read for 24 hours straight and no one would tell me to stop.

I’ve always wondered, will my children fall in love with words in quite the same way? Will their imaginations take them to lands no airplane can reach? When they pain of real life becomes too much, will they escape into stories and forget their problems, for just a little while?

I hope so.

A brand-new world is opening up for them, and I get to go along for the ride. Our first foray into chapter books is FLAT STANLEY, by Jeff Brown, which is the story of a boy who is flattened to half an inch thick when an enormous bulletin board falls on him. I’ve learned so much by reading this book out loud.

I’ve learned about world-building. At half an inch thick, Stanley can do loads of cool things other ordinary boys and girls can’t. He can slide underneath doors. He can be lowered into a sidewalk grate to retrieve dropped jewelry. He can even be placed into an envelope and be mailed to distant places, in order to avoid the cost of a plane ticket.

I’ve learned the importance of chapter hooks. Since these books are meant to be read out loud by parents a couple chapters at a time, the story must be interesting enough to hold the child’s attention from day-to-day. (Although not so interesting it has the child refusing bedtime and begging for more!)

I’ve learned that the joy is in the details. One evening, it was late, and I was skipping over a few words to hurry along the story (which I was re-reading for the second time). After Stanley slid into the envelope, I read, there was still room for an egg-salad sandwich and some milk. No, Mommy, my daughter corrected me. It’s a toothbrush container full of milk. Excuse me, I apologized, smiling. My dear daughter had just shown me first-hand that it’s the details that make a story come alive!

I expect I’ll learn many more lessons as I guide my children through the exciting world of chapter books. And I couldn’t be more excited.

What about you? Were you a bookworm as a child? What do you remember most about your favorite childhood books? What have you learned from re-experiencing the wonder of reading?

Productive? Prolific? Sign Me Up!

I am so happy to bring my first book review to the Waterworld Mermaids’ lagoon immediately after posting on the problem of Fear.  Being a writer who spends way too much time worrying about not writing, I am always hoping to find words of wisdom that might help me embrace my craft.

       The Productive Writer, by Sage Cohen, is one book in my arsenal.  Ms Cohen writes as both a business professional and a poet.  She believes, as she states early in her introduction, that productivity is a lifestyle choice.  I used this book extensively last winter, carrying it in my satchel and dipping into it for reading on my train rides to and from the Bronx each weekday morning.  I could dip into a chapter (“Transforming Your Realtionship with Time,” or “Writing in the Margins of a Full-Time Life”, among others) and meditate on ten or so pages.  Even if I only scanned the headings of part of a chapter, I felt comforted and reinvigorated, ready to face the task ahead.  Productive Writer remains at my elbow here at home most days.  After Thursday’s post and responses, I think it needs to go back in my satchel.

Last Saturday, I was the lucky winner of Hillary Rettig’s The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.  I’d just been treated to a presentation from this speaker at a CTRWA monthly meeting, and was thrilled to know that I would be taking her wisdom home with me.  Ms. Rettig writes that, yes, writers procrastinate for many reasons.  She takes time to examine perfectionism, resource constraints, time constraints, bias, internalized oppression and exploitation, just to scratch the surface.  In discussing these, she seeks to help us change our inner dialogue and unsnarl the spaghetti that keeps us blocked from fully embracing our mission to be productive. 

I know that these two books, alone, won’t make me the writer I dream of becoming.  They are tools.  But the wisdom and insight contained in each helps provide a re-dedication to my talent and goals.  Suddenly, I’m looking forward to all those train rides this winter…


The Productive Writer is available in print and as an ebook at both and

The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is available as an ebook at Print copies can be purchased at

Book Review: Men Under the Mistletoe Anthology

Carina Press is offering great holiday anthologies this Christmas.  A Clockwork

My new reading companion

Christmas is a collection of steampunk novellas that I am currently making my way through with yultetide delight! “Holiday Kisses” is a contemporary romance set of four stories that is sitting in my TBR pile.  Lot’s of opportunities to curl up by my fire with hot chocolate, my new puppy, and a romantic Christmas tale.

Men Under the Mistletoe is a four novella collection of M/M romance by four, amazing voices in this genre: Josh Lanyon, K.A. Mitchell, Ava March, & Harper Fox. While the stories are shorter in length, they arre not short on drama, humor, sexy moments, and unforgettable characters.  And the emotion . . . wow.

As I’ve studied the craft of writing and putting my own stories on paper, my criteria of what makes a great story for me.  Sure, I want a happy ending, lots of yummy romantic sexy bits and an intriguing plot.  But, what really gets me about these authors is their enviable ability to put the emotions into every word on the page and get me completely and totally invested in the outcome for the characters.

The theme woven throughout these four stories was one of  the expectation and disappointment that can occur when two people are drawn together but not quite at the same place emotionally.  Time gives all of our destined lovers the chance to grow individually and come together at the right time for a a chance to seize the love of their life – if they can be brave enough to take it.

My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March

The Blurb:  Alexander Norton loathes the festive season. The revelry of the ton is a reminder of Christmas four years ago, when his first love, Thomas Bennett, broke his heart and fled to New York without a word. So when he encounters Thomas at a holiday ball, Alexander is determined not to let on how much he still hurts.

Thomas has returned for one reason only: Alexander. Having finally come to terms with his forbidden desires, he will do whatever he must to convince Alexander to give their love another chance. But instead of the happy, carefree man Thomas once knew, Alexander is now hard and cynical. Saddened to know he’s to blame for the man’s bitterness, Thomas resolves to reignite the passion he knows lies hidden behind the wall of disdain…

Set in the Regency period in London, England this story is full of young love, heartbreak, angst, sweet reunion.  Both characters as full-bodied and completely relatable but at the beginning of the story. Alexander is so much in love that he tries to drag Thomas into that place with him but Thomas isn’t ready and breaks his heart. Now his own man, Thomas is back to get the chance he passed up three years earlier but Alexander is a cynical, cold man and nothing like the open, trusting boy he left behind.

I loved the heartbreak in this story. Both let it manifest in their fear and cruelty and had to navigate the wasteland of their broken hearts to find each other again.

Ava March handles the time period perfectly without weighing down her words with too much historical information. I’ve read several of her books and they are always a delightful read.


Winter Knights by Harper Fox

The blurb: Historian Gavin Lowden is in Northumberland on Christmas Eve for two reasons: to find evidence of a romantic bond between Arthur and Lancelot and to finally tell his partner, Piers, that he loves him. Piers has promised to come clean with his conservative family and join Gavin for their first holiday as a couple, but at the last minute, he bails. Devastated, Gavin heads out onto the moors alone, just as snow begins to fall …

Gavin stumbles into an underground chamber, where strange happenings cause him to question what is real and what is fantasy. He’s found by two mysterious men, who offer him a bed for the night — and awaken him to nuances of erotic pleasure he didn’t know existed. Pleasure he hopes to be able to share with Piers.

When Piers learns that Gavin has gone missing, he is desperate to find him. He knows now breaking up was a terrible mistake, and he’s ready to take the next step in their relationship — if it’s not already too late.

If you want to write books and you haven’t read a book by Harper Fox – you need to. She is the master of wringing every ounce of emotion out of her characters but you never feel overwhelmed or melodramatic.  Her characters are real, solid people who try to survive everything life throws at them with grace, dignity and the occasional bout of emotional breakdowns fortified by a few stiff drinks. (Hell – Just read her book, Life After Joe, and you will see what I mean.)

This story mixes questions of faith – spiritual, mystical, historical, and emotional.  There were times in this story where I cried because I just couldn’t see how these two superficially opposite people could ever get together.  The old Patty Smith/Done Henley song kept going through my head – “Sometimes love just ain’t enough”

Add into it the subplot of Arthur and Lancelot and you’ve got a story that will keep you turning the page.

Lone Star by Josh Lanyon

The Blurb:  Growing up in rural Texas, Mitchell Evans’s ambition to be a dancer made him a target. Though he found success in New York City, Mitch is at a crossroads, and heads home for the first time in twelve years to figure things out. When what appears to be a reindeer jumps out in front of his car, he drives off the road and into the path of the one man he hoped to avoid.

The last person Texas Ranger Web Eisley expects to see four days before Christmas is his first love. He hasn’t seen Mitch since they quarreled over coming out to their friends and family years ago. Though he’s not in the closet now, Web has worked hard for the respect of his fellow officers, but he still regrets the loss of Mitch in his life. And his bed.

The attraction between them is as strong as ever, and it doesn’t take long for the men to pick up where they left off. But is love enough to keep Mitch in town in the New Year?

Oh Josh . . . how I love thee . . .  let me count the ways.

Josh Lanyon is a master of the smoothest prose I have ever read. I’ve studied is books to try and figure out how he uses an economy of words that are always so pitch perfect.

This story of reunited lovers in Texas is chock full of everything I wanted in a Christmas tale: reindeer, an old ranch, a cast of secondary characters I want to have their own stories, and a protagonist who is a Texas Ranger – a freakin’ Texas Ranger!

Mitch had to get out of their small town in order to escape the rules preventing him from become his own person. Web stayed right where he was – quietly being his own man on his own terms. Two very different lives but they both recognize the gift of second chances and they might just have the strength to accept it this time around.


The Christmas Proposition by K.A. Mitchell

The Blurb: It’s Christmas in Epiphany, Pennsylvania—the busiest time of year for Mel Halner. But running the family Christmas tree farm has worn down his love for the happiest season of all, and lately Mel’s been wondering what if he’d said yes to a ticket out of town with millionaire Bryce Campion three years ago.

Bryce isn’t used to people saying no to him, and he can’t forget Mel or their brief but sizzling affair. He might not have been offering forever, but Bryce can’t understand a guy as sexy and smart as Mel choosing to stay rooted on the family farm over enjoying the high life with him. He’s determined to make Mel see what he’s missed out on the first chance he gets.

K.A. Mitchell always makes me laugh. Everything from a snicker to a full-on belly laugh was wrung out of me by this story. The humorous dialogue and witty repartee gives me perpetual line envy.

Mel is a funny guy stuck in a life that isn’t what he wants and not what he chose. Bryce is a guy who life is all of his own making and he knows what he wants – and that is Mel.

Watching Bryce woo Mel  like an old-fashioned suitor was a toe curling, sigh-inducing adventure.


I give this one 5 out of 5 Mermaid flippers.

I heartily recommend this anthology for your bookshelf. This is one that I will pull up on my Kindle year after year.






Baby it’s Cold Outside

A man receives the gift of pleasure at the hands of two expert lovers. Boyhood sweethearts get a second chance at romance. Two very proper gentlemen indulge their forbidden desires. And a Christmas tree farmer has an epiphany. It may be cold outside but these four holiday novellas will warm you up.

Anthology includes:

My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March
Winter Knights by Harper Fox
Lone Star by Josh Lanyon
The Christmas Proposition by K.A. Mitchell

J.R. Ward’s Covet – POV on the Deep Side

A book about redemption with an angelic twist—fallen angels with a mission, demons with secrets, and two people falling in love—lives intertwine at the right time in all the right ways as well as a few really wrong ones…

J.R. Ward’s Covet, the first book of her fallen angel series, is about “a savior who doesn’t believe and a demon with nothing to lose!”  (That’s straight off the back cover.) Released in 2009, it’s not spanking new on the bookshelves or via Whispernet, which may or may not be a prerequisite for writing a review, but I just finished it recently and loved it. But for me, at this stage of my writing career, I read with a purpose.  And with this particular book, I was struck by J.R. Ward’s choices with POV or point of view.  But I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Covet has a number of my favorite things—heroes with major flaws, heroes and heroines with hearts of gold, secrets, passion, fear, guilt, falling in love, falling in lust, and demons (yes, a good demon tale gives me a happy:). The protagonist in this story is Jim Heron. A journeyman, or so we are led to believe initially, who soon discovers he has a mission and he must straddle two worlds to complete it. Before we know it – we are hip deep in fallen angels, bad girls, good girls, and a man who needs Jim’s help, but has a lot to learn before he can be saved.

But what pulled me into this story, as a reader who writes, was the intensity of J.R. Ward’s characters (and not just the supernatural stuff). J.R. was able to immerse the reader (me) in her story with memorable characters that were people, funny, sad, silly, hot, brittle, and a major tool she used to accomplish this was her expert use of Deep POV or third person limited. She also used it selectively, and those choices enriched the story even more for me. Now, I am not an expert on Deep POV, but I hope to be in the near future:). In the meantime, I read and I write, and I read and I write. But if you’d like to explore  POV with an expert, I recommend Alicia Rasley’s book The Power of POV.

So tell me what POV do you find yourself writing in most often? First person, third person, Deep POV? Second person (oh my:)…here’s your chance…also, have you read J.R. Ward? Covet? What do you think?