Review: A Hero Born: by Jin Yong (Author), Anna Holmwood (Translator)

Rating: 5*

The epic Chinese classic and phenomenon published in the US for the first time! 

A fantastical generational saga and kung fu epic, Jin Yong’s A Hero Born is the classic novel of its time, stretching from the Song Empire (China 1200 AD) to the appearance of a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan. 

After his father was murdered, Guo Jing and his mother fled to the plains and joined Genghis Khan and his people. Loyal, humble and driven, he learned all he could from the warlord and his army in hopes of one day joining them in their cause. But what Guo Jing doesn’t know is that he’s destined to battle an opponent that will challenge him in every way imaginable and with a connection to his past that no one envisioned.

With the help and guidance of his shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing returns to China to face his foe and carry out his destiny. But in a land divided by treachery and war, betrayal and ambition, he’ll have to put his courage and knowledge to the test to survive.

*** At first I wasn’t sure I would finish this book for the first pages listed ALL the characters and their backgrounds right from the start.  And there seemed like hundreds!  [Pretty darn close too!]  And note these were not common names but ones I couldn’t pronounce so consequently, my reading was a bit slow at first until I really got into the story.  But once in I was HOOKED!   Even though the names were foreign, the action and pace moved extraordinarily fast.  And that is due to the excellent translation of the tome by Anna Holmwood.   It was an easy read with enormous momentum, and some of the key characters (of which some did not last long in this brutal world of fantasy and wonder)  added a plethora of emotions from horror and hate to caring and love.   

However, I did finish this book and there are a lot of words I can use to describe it – AWESOME – FABULOUS – UNFORGETTABLE – EMOTIONALLY STIRRING.   Loved the pace, the people, the historical strands of actual historical figures, and the wonder of the fantasy and of course, the descriptions of all the martial arts moves and action!

Highly Recommended!!!

Marilyn Rondeau *

Joanna’s Highlander by Maeve Grayson

Joanna's Highlander

Published:   April 10, 2018 by:   Loveswept Random House

ISBN:    B073YSNSLQ                       Series: Highland Protectors

Rating:    5*

REVIEW:      Grant MacDara still dreams of home – in tenth-century Scotland. His heart aches for what will never be again until a sharp-tongued, redheaded beauty leads a tour of senior citizens through his family’s North Carolina theme park, Highland Life and Legends. Though he’ll never forget his first love, Joanna Martin intrigues him like no other.  Deciding that she’s worth the risk of loving again, he tries so hard to hold her close that she nearly slips through his fingers.

Forced out of her job as a pharmaceutical sales rep by a devious ex, Joanna is trying to make the best of her quiet new life as a tour guide. But it’s not as if Joanna is immune to Grant’s charms, she’s just running scared from her poor choices in the relationship game which have made her think of herself as a “loser magnet”.  Although Grant seems to be the last honorable man left on earth, this mouthwatering stud needs a crash course in twenty-first-century women and Joanna is just the gal to teach him.

*** Let me say it – I LOVED this story!  First of all, Joanna was escorting a bevy of senior citizen widows who I believe were reliving their youth vicariously through interference in Joanna’s love life.   Having led a group of seniors once myself I need to tell you they’ll keep you hopping and find great amusement in embarrassing the hell out of you which is exactly what they did in trying to accelerate Joanna and Grant’s romance.   Those scenes were a hoot by the way!

What I really enjoyed was the dialogs between the two and the wonderful way Grant romanced her in the little things he did to show Joanna how he planned to cherish her!   There was, of course a bit of a hiccup in between before they had their happily ever after, but all in all – a TERRIFIC read!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Seastruck by Thelma Mariano


Kindle Edition, 285 pages                                   Published May 12th 2016

ASIN: B01FMWFFU0                                         Rating:  5*

Due to a very OLD curse, it is a race against time for Lura, a real mermaid, to find her perfect mate –if she doesn’t she will keep her bound to another man for life.

What encounters Lura has had with mortal men though have caused her nothing but grief, but when she spies a man drowning in the Gulf of Mexico, a sacred law compels her to save him.  Funny though, she couldn’t understand why he seemed so different from most mortal men she’s ever had contact with.  Still.before the full moon cycle ends, she must mate with a human in hopes of conceiving.  Actually, it is her only way of preserving the ancestral memories of her dying race.

Now the man she saved seems to have all the genes she needs for her offspring, so she shape shifts into a leggy blonde in the hope of seducing him.  However, Tyler has just come from a divorce and though he is mesmerized by Lura he is not going to get careless and have another woman get pregnant even though his ex really wasn’t pregnant to begin with.  Tyler now practices safe sex and that is not what Lura is looking for.

When Lura is captured by a treasure hunter, he triggers an ancient curse that keeps her in his power.  Unless she breaks this spell, her captor will father her child and ruin her life forever.

***. Very nicely done, definitely a bit of fantasy, but who can really be sure mermaids don’t exist and wouldn’t it be grand if Mermaids were real.   After all – think about it –  even some of the oldest tomes were written about the mermaids of old!  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I loved the description of how the mermaids change into two legged humans and how they live in the ocean.  I wanted to cry over the way the sea has become a huge dumping ground and the fish and turtles become caught in the garbage.

The interaction between Tyler and Lura, her grandmother and sister was wonderful and even though some did not get along with one another the closeness of their hearts was beautiful.

Bottom Line:   I loved this story and thought the dialogs were great and at times even funny as Lura became more and more frustrated trying to get pregnant.   Very enjoyable!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: The Gettysburg Ghost

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As young children Daniel Sutherland and Sarah McKee met, fell in love, and knew one day they would wed. Their plans to wed would be delayed when war broke out and the call to serve and preserve the country Daniel dearly loved beckoned so with promises to write every day Daniel went off to fight. At first the letters came regularly then after some months went by without word from Sarah, Daniel learned from a new recruit that back home he’d been reported as killed. What shocked Daniel most was that Sarah had wed his best friend so soon after hearing of his death. Terribly hurt and bereft of hope the inconsolable Captain Daniel Sutherland bravely led his men in a battle in which he was mortally wounded. He died in Trostle House where his spirit remained as he couldn’t resolve the conflict of why Sarah, whom he loved so dearly and thought loved him, would have married so soon after hearing of his death.

Some 140 years later a very sad and beautiful Lindy Dennsison and her friend Jane arrived at Trostle House for the 136th Annual Gettysburg Reenactment. Having just come off of another failed relationship Lindy had decided to start life anew. However, she could never have imagined that the ghost she encountered in her room would reach out and teach her the true meaning of love.

There are times when I am simply at a loss for words, when beautiful, gorgeous, heartfelt, and memorable just aren’t strong enough to describe the feelings that a story suggests. It took me a while to read through this short novella because of tears that streamed down my face caused by the sheer emotional intensity of writing that this beautiful love story evoked. Mr. Rogone’s writing was pure poetry. The letters from Daniel to his beloved Sarah were so heart-wrenchingly beautiful that I had to re-read them several times through tear-filled eyes. While Daniel and Sarah’s story was so heart wrenchingly sad, Rogone ventured further in picking up the various threads of other peoples lives and weaving them all together in one believable story to bring forth the truth of that long ago betrayal. In so doing he brings new hope and love to those in the present. This was a truly beautiful and moving love story that should make anyone yearn for that once in a lifetime special soul mate that so few of us are able to find. Rogone will not disappoint with this dramatically moving, memorable and engaging love story. If you are in love or hope to be some day, this would make the perfect gift for that very special someone in your life, or just as a gift to yourself.

Marilyn Rondeau, Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 10.44.14 AM


Review: The Enchanted Swans by Christy Nichols


Net Galley – March 7, 2017                                      ebook, 282 pages

Published March 8th 2017 by Tirgearr Publishing    ASIN:  B01N9VB6PZ

Rating: 3-1/2*

In pre-Celtic Ireland, Fionnuala, a fae princess, born in a loving household to a kind king and his beloved queen was born to a life of luxury.   She knew her duty loving her family and adoring her parents.  Unfortunately, at the age of ten, her mother struggled and died in childbirth leaving Fionnuala, her brother Aed, and now, newborn twin brothers to care for.  Fionnuala’s father was completely devastated and withdrew from all who cared for him including his children.  He went from completely withdrawn to bouts of rage over losing his beloved wife.

Fionnuala was worried about her father but was strong having promised her mother to care for her brothers.  Eventually the high king issued a proclamation that her father would have to choose a bride from one of two step-daughters of the king.   Not only that but the daughter who was not chosen by her father would be wed to the young man Fionnuala had set her sights on.

Not only were Fionnuala’s dreams ripped from her by these proclamations but the woman to whom her father married turned into a vicious viper and threw a curse upon Fionnuala and her brothers -– turning them all into swans.  Their stepmother was caught and would not cancel out the curse but for another time penance of 600 more years, she would allow them to speak in their normal voices.

The story then follows the swans lives over the next 900 years, through all their ups and downs, learning to live as swans along with the royal retainers who lived near their watery home in order to care for them and keep them safe.    Naturally, the story covered so many issues of trying to live within the confines of each body of water they were attached to.  The writing was very good although some of the names and terms used slowed down the pace as I tried to pronounce the words in my head the story was interesting.   THE ENCHANTED SWANS was original, but after all the trials and tribulations they lived through for 900 years the ending was a terrible let down.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Bound Together by Christine Feehan


(Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart #6)

Net Galley  – March 21, 2017 Mass Market Paperback, 1st edition

Publication: March 21st 2017 by Jove ISBN13: 9780399583933

Series:  Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart #6 Rating: 5*

Viktor Prakenskii has for the last five years put his life and love on hold in order to take down one of the most feared motorcycle club from the inside.  Along with wanting to take down the seemingly untouchable head of the organization Viktor wanted desperately to stop the exploitation of innocent children who were being sold into lives of perversion and shame.   But most of all Viktor wanted to reclaim his wife, Blythe Daniels whom he had left behind after he’d murdered her stepfather.

***  First of all, I have to say how sad I am that this is the last book of this remarkable series of the Sea Haven/Sisters of the Heart.  To say this was remarkable is almost an understatement, but I personally will definitely miss all the wonderful characters whom I’ve come to love.

Blythe hadn’t heard a word from Viktor in five years and had never even informed her sisters of the quickie marriage she and Viktor had embarked on all those years ago.   When he showed up in Sea Haven after no word in all that time Blythe was full of emotions and least of all was the physical response he invoked just by being in the same vicinity as she.

With Viktor came his ‘family’ a group of damaged souls whom Viktor had grown up with and protected as best he could.  This group were all ready to kill and die for Viktor and would not and by and see him hurt – by anyone.   As far as Viktor was concerned, Blythe was the key to both his and his ‘family’s’ future.  Viktor know that with Blythe’s gifts of healing and compassion she would be able to help him and his family heal from years of hellish abuse.

Bottom Line:   With fantastic writing and super strong characters, BOUND TOGETHER, is the cherry on the top of this amazing series.   I only hope that Ms. Feehan finds it in her heart to do another series similar to this and focus on Viktor’s other ‘family’ of misfits and how they go on with their lives.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Beloved Beast by Karyn Gerrard


Series: Ravenswood Chronicles   Book 2 of 2      Paperback: 196 pages

Publisher: Lyrical Press (February 28, 2017)        ISBN-13: 978-1601836625 Rating: 5*

I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up BELOVED BEAST by Karen Gerrard, based on the title, but having read this author before I figured it would be good.  I wasn’t wrong and luckily for me … good turned into GREAT!

In the early 1800’s a very debauched Viscount Ravenswood lost his life, only to be revived  some time later as a new man with a new name and yearning for love.  Only now the once handsome man was horribly scarred with a monster like visage.  He married a woman he fell deeply in love with and they lived a quiet life together blissfully happy for 37 years before he lost her.   Luke knew that you didn’t get second chances on meeting your soul-mate more than once in a lifetime.  One other fact was for some unknown reason, Luke was not aging and still looked like a young man while friends aged out and died.   Watching the people you cared for age and die was a penance he was finding difficult to bear.

Now as a spy Luke was being asked to assist a young woman, Gillian Brown, whose spying activities in pre-war Germany had been discovered making her a target.  Luke found himself caring for her more than he should and recognized that she was finding him equally fascinating.   But knowing his own reality could he put his heart on the line and love again?  But first, he had to get Gillian out of the country and safe from the clever assassin whose job it was to silence her forever.

Bottom line:  Extremely fast paced, interesting and original plotting.   I truly enjoyed every page of this lovely spy thriller…   Highly recommended.

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Lady of Silver by Shona Husk


Publisher: Lyrical Press (February 21, 2017) ASIN: B01G0GBDTO

Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services Rating:  4*

Detective Dale Morgan is really up against it.  He’s got a murdered young woman found on the city’s outskirts with her blood drained.  He honestly believes she was murdered by a fanatic in town that is the leader of cult of vampire wannabe’s.  Only the killer is extremely efficient and leaves absolutely no clues at all.  Now Dale has his reasons for not believing in psychics and the woo-woo types of folks who peddle and con the public but he also knows that he has to try to find some/ any leads he can by going to interrogate one of the psychics that has given the police assistance in the past.

To humans, Saba Venn is a psychic, but she’s Albah, a race long forgotten by humans but who live amongst them, her powers fueled by blood and silver.  She agrees to help Detective Morgan, if it means stopping the vampire cult she believes is behind the killing. But the attraction she feels with Dale is immediate, and as their relationship intensifies she begins to doubt she can keep the secret of who and what she is from him.

*** Very interesting take on another type of Vampire world of humans and other worldly beings.   Saba is very unique – quite beautiful and naturally Detective Morgan in spite of his skepticism of thinking psychics are merely con artists, he can’t deny the feelings Saba has brought forth.   He realizes his mistake soon after she proves to him she could glean facts from just a small sample of the victims blood.   Unfortunately, in realizing Saba was the real deal, Dale had broken a small protective barrier she had and now the killer knew who she was and would be able to find her.

This was an overall short and fast read that can be read in one sitting.  I find that when the writing is succinct with a lots of  action the pages fly by, especially when each chapter kind of leaves you at the edge of a cliff and you just MUST see what happens next.   The world building was interesting, and the story held enough interest to keep you reading it straight through!!!

Marilyn Rondeau

Review: Wanted by Betsy Schow


Rexi Hood has a problem. As the perpetual sidekick in the fairy tales, she’s destined to be Forgotten. Her name will be wiped away and no one in Story will remember her. Rexi is determined to be more than a sidekick, however. She’s the daughter of Robin Hood and an outlaw. All it will take is a devious plan- and a whole lot of luck- but maybe Rexi can avoid being Forgotten.

WANTED is the second book in the Spelled series and I highly recommend reading SPELLED first. The events in WANTED strongly depend on the reader understanding the ongoing story threads as well as the character development already established. In fact, I wish Betsy Schow would have given us a short recap of the past events as it took me a while to reorient myself to the intriguing world she has crafted.

I really wanted to like Rexi as her underdog role appeals to me. I cheered her desire to become the hero of her own story, rather than disappearing from all memory as a forgotten sidekick. Unfortunately, WANTED seemed overly convoluted at times as the story twisted and turned, and then twisted and turned yet again. To further confuse things, Rexi’s own identity becomes dangerously entwined with Dorothea’s and it became difficult to distinguish what in the world was going on.

I finished WANTED with mixed feelings. The ending, although somewhat abrupt and unexpected, leaves me hopeful about the third book in the Spelled series. There are elements of WANTED that reminded me of the magic in SPELLED that first enchanted me and I’m hopeful Betsy Schow can rekindle those aspects in the third book.