The second volume of Dame Topaz Treasures!
Five Fantastical Tales from the Treasure Trove of Dame Topaz.
Readers' Favorite Awards: Winner Best Fiction Anthology of 2013.
5.0 stars "There is a bit of everything in this anthology. You can end up in Hell, find a locket and love, meet St. Nicholas, get tricked by a witch or find true love that's hard to keep. It's all fantasy and the stories are interesting reading.
The author creates stories that are different. Each one has a plot that is fascinating and captivating. They all flow well, you hope the story will turn out pleasantly, and the last story is about being in hell and trying to escape the devil.
Ms. Masek creates stories that contain magic, love, life after death and more. They are entertaining and captured my interest quickly. My favorite story was Topaz and the Lucky Seven. A young princess is to choose her mate and potential suitors come to visit. Someone is making people sick and putting them to sleep and it's not apparent which suitor is doing this. It seems there is no hope for a happy ending, but more than one person is joyful at the end of the story. Another tale I liked: Special Delivery. An old woman visits a graveyard and sits on a bench to wait for the next bus. She gets picked up by a unique individual in van. She also finds herself able to play guardian angel with young ones.
I found all the stories easy to read and liked the variety. I'm going to buy a copy of this anthology for my personal library because I was impressed by the tales and will enjoy reading them again.
Why not give them a try and see if you can figure out how the stories will end before you get there? She teases you with the story line and I had to see just how she ended them. ~ Aloe for Long and Short Reviews
5.0 stars "Dame Topaz Treasures, volume II: Spirits, Ghosts and Magic" is an anthology with something for everyone. The first tale features Will Connor, a dealer in jewelry and antiques, who begins to have dreams of a young woman with arresting blue eyes. These dreams intensify when he acquires a gold and topaz locket from his friend, Shorty, a second-hand dealer. The locket contains the picture of the woman of his dreams, and he becomes determined to find her. The second tale is set on Halloween and is magical and filled with fun as a young teen and his six-year old sister have an evening to remember. Topaz and the Lucky Seven is an engrossing fantasy epic with wizards, princesses and a strong and adventurous female hero.
This is the first time I've read anything by Carrie S. Masek, but I know it won't be the last. I was wrapped up in Will Connor's narrative from the start of the story and really enjoyed the dream sequences. Likewise, the Halloween tale was vivid and magical. The real star of the book, for me, however, was Topaz and the Lucky Seven. It is easily one of the best fantasy tales I've read in a long time and is a refreshing entry into that field. Zaida is a fabulous hero -- she is strong and resourceful, and her relationship with Cook, the closest thing to a father she has ever had, is a joy to experience. This tale is sword and sorcery fiction that kept me enthralled to the very last page. I enjoyed every tale in this book and will be recommending it to my friends. ~ Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
"... Reading these stories reminded me of watching an episode of the 'Twilight Zone', for they all had fully developed characters with a problem to overcome, and in the end things were set right, even if it was in an unexpected manner. Masek has great talent for writing tales in the short form, and she does it gracefully in this volume." ~ Alexander Rigby for Readers' Favorite
5.0 stars "Dame Topaz Treasures, Volume II: Spirits, Ghosts and Magic" consists of five novellas by Carrie S. Masek. These are 'The Topaz Locket', 'Special Delivery', 'Trick or Treat', 'Topaz and the Lucky Seven' and 'Cybergeist'. In 'The Topaz Locket', an antique dealer, haunted by the picture of a beautiful woman in a locket, finds his true love. 'Cybergeist', on the other hand, is the story of a disturbed teenager who commits an act of violence prompted by a computer. 'Special Delivery' is the story of a woman who goes with St. Nicholas on a Christmas Eve and 'Trick or Treat' is about two kids having the most exciting Halloween experience in their lives. And in 'Topaz and the Lucky Seven', love proves to be more potent than luck.
As an original member of Jewels of the Quill, Carrie S. Masek belongs to a group of award winning writers. Except for 'Cybergeist', the other novellas in this compilation were already published in award winning anthologies. Her writing style is straightforward and the flow of words is spontaneous. This is perhaps what gives these novellas a special appeal for young readers. There is no doubt that Masek has a fertile imagination and she covers the contemporary, romance and fantasy genre in this collection. This gives us an insight into her range and versatility as a writer. Above all, these novellas are as exciting as well as easy to read. All these factors make her a promising author and it will be interesting to see what she comes up with in her next book. ~ Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite
Death didn't hurt. One minute, Russ Jenkins was hanging out in front of McDonalds, the next he was dead. He heard an engine roar, caught a split second glimpse of Jack Clayton behind the wheel of his dad's Lincoln Navigator, and felt the slam of the grille. A rush of air. Breaking glass. A scream. Russ hit a table, bounced and rolled. Then nothing. No pain, no light, no heat.
Fumes and a damp, searing heat wrapped around Russ. His skin itched. His nostrils burned. It smelled like sulfur something-or-other from Chemistry last year. A sneeze blew his eyes open, revealing a worm's eye view of a worn linoleum floor. What happened to McDonalds?
"Hey, Russ." Russ scrambled to his feet and turned toward the voice. A thin, balding man peered over the messiest desk he'd ever seen. Piles of papers covered the desktop and most of the floor around it. The man held a phone, his palm pressed over the receiver. "Grab a chair. I'll be right with you."
"What's going on?" Russ didn't like the way his voice shook, but the man didn't seem to notice. He put the phone to his ear and swung his chair to face the wall. His words were too low and fast for Russ to follow.
Where the hell was he? The room was small. Framed photographs covered the walls, but instead of smiling kids or flowers, the pictures showed disasters -- tilting bridges, burning buildings, a close-up of a crying baby. There was no window or door. A shiver ran down Russ's legs. Maybe he should sit down.
A stack of folding chairs leaned against the back wall. Russ grabbed one and opened it. Straddling the seat, he rested his forearms along the back. The metal warmed his clammy skin. After a moment, the man turned and hung up the phone.
"Emergency call. You know how it is." The quick words and nasal tone reminded Russ of his last trip to New York City. The man stood and walked around the desk, hand extended. "Gideon Scratch. Call me Gideon."
Russ reluctantly took the hand. It was chill to the touch. Though the man standing wasn't much taller than Russ sitting, his grip was brutal.
Russ tried to yank free and couldn't. Gideon pulled a thin-lipped smile. He had a long, narrow face and wide-set eyes. The eyes were dark, charcoal gray with huge, gaping pupils.
Just when Russ thought his hand would break, Gideon let go. He turned, took a folder from the desk and opened it. "Russ Jenkins. Seventeen years old, second class jock, first class bully."
Russ was busy rubbing his aching knuckles. It took a moment for the meaning of the words to register. "What?"
"Specialty: intimidating younger, weaker kids. Methods: physical threats and verbal abuse. Actual damage done: minimal, due to lack of focus. Killed by a drunk driver, 11 PM Saturday, April 19. Status: Undetermined."
Killed? Russ remembered the rushing SUV, the grille, and the breaking glass, but . . . dead? He wiped his damp palms on his cargo pants. Dead people didn't sweat. Sweat didn't soak through their old football jerseys and run down their backs. He couldn't be dead.
Gideon slapped the folder against his thigh. "No one knows what to do with you. That's why you're here."
"I don't get it."
"I'm offering you a job." Gideon's smile stretched to reveal small, crooked teeth. "To keep your old friend Tristan Donal company."
"Who the hell . . . ?" A picture formed in Russ's mind before he finished the question. A skinny kid with black hair hunched over an armload of books, running. Russ and his friends slinging taunts after him. "You mean Booger Boy?"
"Tristan Donal is a very disturbed young man. Isolated. Alienated." Gideon pointed to one of the pictures on the wall. The World Trade Center vanished and a photo of a dark-haired kid slumped over a computer terminal took its place. "If it wasn't for the internet, he wouldn't have any friends at all."
"So? What's it to me? I just want out of here."
Gideon shrugged. "It's your choice." He raised his hand, and the office vanished.
Darkness. Russ strained his eyes, but there was nothing to see. Silence cradled him, filled him. He touched nothing, tasted nothing, smelled nothing. He thinned and spread across a sea of nothing. Memories of sticky heat began to fade. Memories of life began to fade. If he disappeared completely, would he be lost forever? His grandfather's sermons had often ended with the threat of hellfire, but Russ would rather face a hundred Hells, a million fires, than an eternity of nothing. "Help!" he wanted to scream, but he no longer had a mouth to scream with. "Gideon, help!"
The office returned along with the heat and stench. Russ was sitting in the same chair. Gideon hadn't moved.
"That was Limbo." Gideon's voice was level, pleasant. "I'm not bringing you out again. Understand?"
Russ nodded, too scared to answer.
"Good." Gideon walked back to the desk and sat down. "As of now, you're on probation. Think of it as a tryout for my team. Do well, and you're in. You'll get an office like this one, more challenging jobs, two weeks vacation every millennium. You've always wanted to be important, Russ, a big man. Stick with me, and I'll give you people's lives to play with." He leaned forward. "Mess up, and you'll wish I'd left you in Limbo."
Gideon smiled and leaned against the edge of the desk. "Now about the job. Tristan Donal's at a crossroads in his life. If all goes well, he'll grow to be an exceptional young man. He's very gifted, you know, and could do a lot of good."
"You want me to help him?"
"Yes, to choose the other road."