Book Review Tuesday: The Guest List by Lucy Foley, Whisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch #psychologicalthrillers #domesticthrillers

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Happy Tuesday! I have two books to share today, both in a similar vein—a group of people on a secluded island cut off from the mainland, a murderer among them. One of these books rocked my world and the other didn’t quite live up to the hype. Both, however, kept me entertained for hours. If you enjoy murder mysteries and psychological thrillers, you’ll want to check these out.

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BLURB:

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

MY REVIEW:

Lucy Foley has done it again! Keeping in vein with her novel, The Hunting Party, she serves up a similar whodunit. The prime ingredients in both books are an isolated location, treacherous weather, and a group of characters with plenty of skeletons rattling in proverbial closets.

For The Guest List, Foley presents the marriage of two pseudo celebrities. Jules is the publisher of a trendy magazine and Will is the star of a reality TV series. Together these two make the perfect couple—attractive, glamorous, and wealthy. For their wedding, they invite guests to a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Think rugged cliffs, crashing waves, the ruins of a stone chapel, and a cemetery dotted with Celtic crosses. The setting is exquisite, wonderfully played for mood that is both over the top glamorous, yet darkly sinister. I loved how a cave along the shoreline and the sightings of cormorants added creepy atmosphere.

The story is told in multiple first person POV (I had no problem keeping track of whose head I was in), along with scattered chapters of omniscient. It’s a little slow to get off the ground, but after a few chapters—WOW! Trust me, you’ll want to stick with it.

The cast of characters is an intriguing mix—the bride, her younger sister, the groom with his frat buddies and polar-opposite best man, the caterer and her husband who are just launching their business, the plus-one and her husband…who just happens to be the bride’s best friend.

When a body turns up, Foley keeps the identity of the victim wrapped tightly until the end. Throughout, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and petty jealousies erupt. And erupt again. Entangling more and more people in the web. By the time the identity of the body is revealed, most everyone has a motive.

All of this undercutting and sniping is played against the backdrop of an impending storm and the extravagance of the wedding. I’m usually pretty good at fingering the culprit, and although I had suspicions that eventually proved correct, the whys and wherefores completely blindsided me. The plot threads are deftly woven, for a wholly satisfying and stunning conclusion.

If you like a combination of psychological thriller and whodunit murder mystery, this is a fabulous five-star read!

5 STARS

BLURB:

It was the perfect escape

Until one by one they vanished…

For friends Riley, Sam, Mia and Scarlett, their trip to Whisper Island, Alaska, was meant to be a once in a lifetime adventure – just four young women, with everything to live for…

But as soon as they arrive things start to go wrong.  First there is the unexpected arrival of Sammy’s drug addict brother and his girlfriend Opal – why are they here? 

And then the deaths begin. 

As the dream trip quickly turns into a nightmare, suspicion is high.  Are they really alone on the island?  Or is there a killer hiding in the shadows? 

And as each of the girls reveals a dark secret of their own, perhaps the truth is the killer is closer than they think…just a whisper away…

MY REVIEW:
This is an okay quick read. Four college friends, all artists, decide to vacation on a secluded Alaskan island for the summer to concentrate on their art. When they arrive, they discover the “mansion” where they thought they would be staying is a run-down relic. Other than a few outbuildings, it’s the only property on the island. Also unexpected—one of the girls’ drug-addicted brother is there, along with his latest girlfriend.

The story is told from alternating viewpoints of these six characters, all in first person. As the book progresses, the reader learns each of the characters has secrets tucked in their backgrounds. When murders start taking place, I settled in for an “And Then There Were None” Agatha Christie type story. Was there a killer on the island, or could the killer possibly be among them?

The book definitely held my interest and kept me flipping pages–despite an overabundance of internal (italicized). POV. That grew a little distracting. I enjoyed the story right up until the big reveal of the killer. Part of a mystery is trying to solve the puzzle yourself, but there weren’t enough clues peppered throughout for the ending to make sense. So, the “twist” really wasn’t a twist for lack of set up.

That aside, this is an easy read, a nice diversion if you want something quick. The author does an excellent job of crafting the spooky atmosphere of the island, and the last line of the book brought appreciation. I just wish there had been more set-up and backstory to make the identity of the killer belieavable.

3 STARS

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That’s it from me for today. I hope one of these books snagged your attention. I guess it’s pretty obvious which one I enjoyed better, but that’s the great thing about books–there is always something for everyone. As always, happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Body in the Beauty Parlor by Judi Lynn #cozymystery, Vampire on the Orient Express by Shane Carrow #vampirehorror

It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for more book reviews. I’ve followed the Jazzi Zanders series from book one, and have loved seeing the growth of the characters plus the creative plots Judi Lynn weaves for her heroine. There’s always a murder to solve when Jazzi and her hunky husband Ansel (her “norseman” or “viking”) are around. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I highly recommend this series.

BLURB:
In their hair salon, Jazzi’s sister Olivia and mother are savvy businesswomen whose creativity brings fashion and flair to the folks of Rivers Bluff, Indiana. So when their newest hairstylist Misty is caught scamming clients’ debit cards and selling beauty products during off hours to pocket the profits, Olivia fires her. But Misty retaliates by hitting back with a defamation lawsuit—which she is more than happy to drop if Olivia pays her ten grand.
 
But neither blackmail nor courtroom fees are accrued after Misty’s body is discovered in the salon with Olivia’s scissors stuck in her chest. Olivia may be the number one suspect, but her murdered employee had a reputation for making enemies.
 
Then Jazzi’s ex Chad appears, asking for help with his marital strife. This already awkward situation worsens when Chad’s wife vanishes and the police investigate him. Now, it’s up to Jazzi to clear both her sister’s and ex’s names while the killer—or killers—could be a mere hair breadth’s away . . .

MY REVIEW:
I thoroughly enjoyed this sixth outing for Jazzi, her husband, Ansel, their extended family, and group of friends. As always, Jazzi and Ansel are at the heart of the book with Jazzi playing amateur sleuth. In this case, there are two mysteries, both which hit close to home. Her sister, Olivia’s, newest employee is found dead in Olivia’s hair salon, and Jazzi’s ex-fiancé’s wife disappears under highly questionable circumstances. Of course, Jazzi, Ansel, and Jazzi’s cousin, Jerod, also have a house to remodel and flip. Add in a large family, a looming Easter celebration, and Jazzi has her hands full.

As with all the Jazzi mysteries, this is a pleasurable read. The action is split behind sleuthing and Jazzi’s family life. Lynn’s writing style is breezy and easy to read. Characters feel like old friends and the two mysteries are deftly handled. Even Jazzi and Ansel’s pets—Geroge the pug, and cats, Inky and Marmalade—get moments to shine. If you enjoy cozies, this is one series and group of characters who will win your heart. Satisfying from start to finish!

5 STARS

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And, now in a completely different vein:

BLURB:
Paris, 1914. American adventurer Sam Carter boards the Orient Express, departing France in style after an impulsive decision to desert the Foreign Legion. British diplomat Lucas Avery is already nursing a drink in the smoking car, resenting his assignment to the distant Ottoman Empire. Neither man expects anything more from the next three days and three thousand miles than rich food, expensive champagne and fine cigars.

But something dangerous is lurking aboard the train, hiding in plain sight among French aristocrats and German businessmen. Through fire and darkness, through blood and ice, the Orient Express is bearing an ancient evil across the continent – and not all its passengers will live to see Constantinople…

MY REVIEW:
The cover and the setting of this book sucked me in as soon as I saw it. Murder mystery, the Orient Express, and vampires all couched in the year 1914. What a combination! The author didn’t disappoint and delivered an intriguing plot. The main characters—Sam Carter, an American ex-Foreign Legion soldier, and Lucas Avery, a British diplomat—are set up to be polar opposites. Descriptions are good and the secondary characters provide excellent support for the two MCs. My only quibble is that I would have liked more character development for the leads. I couldn’t really connect with them, but I seem to be in the minority on that.

Given this the first book of a series, I expect the author will provide additional character growth over time. In many ways the tale reminded me of an early horror film, offering an old-fashioned vampire story wrapped in superstition, folklore, and slowly creeping chills.

The story does have a complete wrap at the end but sets the stage for Carter and Avery to continue working together.

4 STARS

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From cozy mystery to vampire horror, I had several days of diverse reading. I love how books can transport us anywhere–from house renovation and murder in a small town, to a lavish train barreling through Europe in the early days of the twentieth century. As always, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Confesions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger @lisaunger #domesticthriller

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Happy Tuesday! I’m finally getting caught up with my book reviews, so I’m changing up the format a bit. I normally don’t provide the blurb when I review, but since I’m planning on doing only one book per week, I thought I’d start adding in the blurbs. I still have several back burner reviews, but I may not end up sharing them all. For today, here’s a fabulous domestic thriller.

BLURB:
Selena Murphy is commuting home on the train when she strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat. The woman introduces herself as Martha and soon confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

Then the nanny disappears.

As Selena is pulled into the mystery of what happened, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, she begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover…

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MY REVIEW:
The plot of this novel sucked me as soon as I read it. Selena, a mother of two, is coming home on the train after a day at her office when the woman beside her strikes up a conversation. Martha confesses to sleeping with her boss, and in a moment of uncharacteristic openness, Selena confesses she believes her husband is sleeping with her nanny, Geneva. When the train reaches its destination, the two part ways. Not long afterward, Geneva goes missing.

As the police launch an investigation, Selena’s marriage and her whole world implodes. Who was the woman on the train, and why is Selena suddenly receiving text messages from her?

I found this book a bit slow getting off the ground, especially when a third character outside of the main thread (Pearl) was introduced. Although I liked Pearl—a lot—there were a few hiccups in following what was happening and when. By the middle of the book, however, I was hooked and couldn’t read fast enough to see how everything played out.

The twists and turns, much like left and right jabs, kept flying out of nowhere. A few elements stretch the imagination, but for sheer entertainment value, this is a delicious psychological thriller with a superbly satisfying ending. Another book I would love to see made into a movie. I will definitely seek out more by this author.

5 STARS

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I’m glad I stuck with this one despite the slow start. The payoff was entirely worth it and I made another dent in the TBR!

As always, whatever tale you’re presently enjoying, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Vampire Connoisseur, Wings and Fire #horroranthologies #horrorfiction #shortstories

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It’s Book Review Tuesday time, and today I have two collections of short stories for you. Both of these anthologies are in a similar vein, with the focus on horror and dark fantasy. Anthologies are a great way to discover new authors, plus glean treats from authors you already enjoy. If you enjoy fiction with elements of the supernatural, dark fantasy, or horror, you’re sure to like these.
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Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur
Various Authors

Every now and then I love to disappear between the pages of an anthology, especially when it’s delivered with a central theme. I don’t read a lot of horror, but I do enjoy it now and then, and I liked the idea of The Vampire Connoisseur being themed around, well…vampires. Don’t expect stakes, crosses, and garlic.

What made this collection so intriguing is the diversity in the plots the authors delivered–all so unique with distinctive voices. Some stories deliver subtle goosebumps and chills while others carry more than a slant of gore. As in any anthology, readers are bound to savor a few stories over others. For me, I especially enjoyed The Red Angel by Lisa Hario, The Sun Sets Nonetheless by Priscilla Bettis, Splinters by Keawe Melina Patrick, Parasites: A tale of Route 66 by B.J. Thrower and Take Me Home Tonight by Troy Diffenderfer. Of special note, I loved the mentions of Woody Guthrie in the Route 66 tale.

Read a few stories at a time or read them all at once. However you choose, this is an enjoyable collection for vampire lovers and lovers of horror.

4 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Vampire Horror . Dark Fantasy Horror

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Wings and Fire
Various Authors

Normally, in an anthology, there are a few stories that don’t quite deliver the punch of the others. Not so with Wings and Fire. This is one of the best collections of stories I’ve read, all of the tales polished with slick writing and clever delivery. I was riveted from start to finish.

A few of the many gems that stood out for me are the stories by Roberta Eaton Cheadle and Jessica Bakkers, especially An Unsolvable Problem or Not by Cheadle and Tasmanian Devil by Bakkers. Other stories (among many) that struck a chord were Wings of Prosperity by Heather Kindt, Dark Obsession by Susan Lamb, Mary by Adele Marie Park, and The Great Potto by M.J. Mallon. Creepy, eerie, and mesmerizing!

Tales vary between spooky, sinister, and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, but all are brilliant,
delivering the gut punch stories of this nature should. There is one story I skimmed, the content darker than the others, but overall, highly recommended! I thoroughly enjoyed this gem.

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Horror Anthology

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Are you a fan of anthologies? As an author, I’ve contributed to several in the past and have always enjoyed the experience. As a reader, collections like these make for nice “snacks” between longer works. Whatever title is currently on your eReader or keeping you enthralled in paperback form, I wish you happy reading! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: Ghostly Interference @JanSikes3, Perfectly Imperfect @JacqBiggar, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries @sgc58, P.S., I Love You More Than Tuna @SarahChauncey

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Hello! Wherever you are today, I hope the weather is warm(er) and pleasant. We can all use a break from winter weather, especially our friends in Texas. In my portion of Pennsylvania, we had a day and a half of snow which amounted to my office (on the day job), closing one full day and delaying until noon on the second. I squeezed in a lot of reading last week, although the reviews I’m sharing today are of books I read earlier in the month. I’m still playing catch up with my reviews, so let’s get started!
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Ghostly Interference
by Jan Sikes

Book cover for Ghostly Interference shows ghost image of kneeling GI in background, motorcycle and road in foreground

If you like your romantic reads with multiple layers, you’re sure to enjoy Ghostly Interference. Jan Sikes delivers the story of Jag and Rena who at first glance are polar opposites. He comes from a comfortable background and works in the computer industry, while Rena has been through a rough-and-tumble existence that included foster care. They say opposites attract, and in this case, the adage rings true. Both Rena and Jag have multiple hurdles to navigate on their road to a happily-ever-after. Sikes goes well beyond the trope of boy-meets-girl, delivering a plot that involves the spirit of Rena’s deceased brother, a magical rune, complex family dynamics, and the chance for her characters to embrace missed opportunities.

I particularly enjoyed the story line that took Jag from computer geek to musician and the inclusion of Damien. There’s a strong musical influence in this book. Not surprising given the author’s passion for, and inside knowledge of, the music industry. I also loved Rena finding Riley and her initial reaction to Jag digging into her past. The love of these two characters really shines through, especially during the closing climatic chapters.

Sikes delivers a polished read with excellent writing, characters who resonate with heart, and a plot that will leave you satisfied and happy.

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Romance > Ghost Fiction > Fantasy Romance

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Perfectly Imperfect
by Jacquie Biggar

If you enjoy breezy romantic reads, you’ll fall in love with this novella worthy of the Hallmark Channel. Georgina life’s dream revolves around her small start-up company, but financial setbacks force her to partner with CLO for backing. Little does she know CLO’s representative, Rhys Turner, arrives with the intent of selling her company out from under her at the insistence of his father.

From Georgina’s and Rhys first disastrous meeting—she spills coffee over his expensive suit—sparks fly between these two. This is a boy-meets-girl romance with all the squabbling and tug-of-wars you’d expect before the HEA at the end, but as always, what sets Biggar’s books apart is her gift for witty banter, clever POV, deft writing, and spot-on characterizations. Toss in an adorable puppy and some son/father issues between Rhys and his dad, and you’ve got a feel-good story guaranteed to leave you with a smile. A pleasure to read by an author who is a master at her craft!

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre:
Romance > Romantic Comedy

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Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet
by Sally Cronin

This is an entertaining collection of short stories with several poems scattered throughout. The book is grouped into topics such as Technology, Animal Magic, and Connections (to name a few) with stories and poems related to their header topics appearing underneath. It’s cleverly presented and cleverly written. All of the stories are winners but there were some that really stood out for me, including The Weekly Shopping, The Nanny, The Scratch Card, and The Night Shift.

In The Weekly Shopping we get a taste of what ordering groceries might be like with when we come to rely too much on technology. It’s both hilariously funny and worrisome at the same time. I loved the argument related to the cat!

In The Nanny, a young couple discover who is watching over their baby at night. The Scratch Card left me with a lump in my throat at the generosity of others, and The Night Shift made me appreciate the special love pets have for their owners and the kindness of those who appreciate that bond.

These stories are heartwarming and touching, with scattered poetry further enriching the sections. A lovely collection and a quick read, the stories will lodge in your heart and linger.

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Two-Hour Short Reads > Short Stories and Poetry

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close up illustration of black cat, being held , paw around person's shoulder

P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna
by Sarah Chauncey


Beautifully illustrated and written, this short picture book will touch the heart of any cat lover, but it is geared toward those grieving the loss of a feline companion. I’ve lost several over the years, and thus felt compelled to pick this up even though my current rescue kitty is healthy and well.

P.S., I Love You More Than Tuna clearly depicts how kittens and cats enrich our lives, cover our hearts with paw prints, and never let go. It portrays all the joy, whimsy, and beautiful moments of sharing life with our special companions. I was in tears by the time I reached the final pages.

I am so glad I purchased this book, and can’t recommend it highly enough. I know I will go through the pages over and over again. It makes me cherish my cat, Raven, even more. For anyone who has ever loved and lost a cat, this book is a must!

Note: I bought the hardback copy. The illustrations are a treasure, and I was worried how they’d show on a Kindle. Considering the hardcopy isn’t even a dollar more, the decision was a no-brainer. 🙂

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Pet Loss Grief

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Thanks for joining me for another round of Tuesday Book Reviews. Just another week or two of playing catch-up with my reviews, and I can actually start sharing them as I finish the books.

I hope something today has caught your eye and is a candidate for your TBR. Thanks to all of these excellent authors for keeping me entertained. As always, I wish everyone happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Prince’s Man, The Prince’s Son #epicfantasy #fantasyromance @DeborahJay2

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Happy Book Review Tuesday. I hope the weather is tolerable in your part of the world. February has been most unkind to the northeast, bringing non-stop snow, snow squalls, and freezing rain and sleet. Needless to say I’ve hunkered down indoors whenever possible–a great time for reading. Today I have two novels in a wonderful fantasy series to share. As the log line for these books say . . . “Think James Bond meets Lord of the Rings.”

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Book cover for The Prince's Man shows image of long-haired handsome young man in cloak on horseback

The Prince’s Man
Five Kingdom’s Book 1
by Deborah Jay

One of the best fantasy novels I have read in ages, The Prince’s Man combines court intrigue, nefarious plots, and dazzling realms. Rustam (Rusty) Chalice is a debonair dance master who lives a double life as a spy in the service of his prince, while also frequenting the beds of highborn ladies.

His life takes a turn when he is forced to team with Dart, the court’s royal assassin—a woman—with the goal of transporting a sickly elf across hostile, mountainous territory. Through the arduous journey, all three characters undergo brutal transformations and evolve as they are tested time and again, forced to rely on one another. At the same time, threats to the throne involve a traitorous noble, an illegitimate heir, and a diabolical torturer. There are layers upon layers of plot, all woven neatly together for a satisfying conclusion in this first book of what promises to be a stellar series.

I was smitten with all three of the lead characters, especially Rustam who undergoes the most compelling transformation of all. You can’t read this book and not be caught up in the lives of Jay’s rakish spy, Risada, Elwaes, and so many others. Even the secondary characters are fleshed out and vibrantly written. We meet so many along the journey, yet each leaves a distinctive mark.

The writing is exquisite, layered with beautifully detailed descriptions of enthralling realms, fantastical creatures, and breathless adventure. Every bit as riveting are the cloak-and-dagger machinations of several royal houses and the cruel manipulations of power-hungry men who seek the throne. From the moment I opened the first pages, I was sucked into the author’s expertly crafted world of intrigue and danger. A truly engaging story. Although book one delivers a wrap to the story as presented, I look forward to continuing for the full scope in books two and three. Highly recommended!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Epic Fantasy > Fantasy Adventure > Fantasy Romance

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The Prince’s Son
Five Kingdoms Book 2
by Deborah Jay

Book cover for The Prince's Son shows image of long-haired handsome young man in cloak on horseback

The second book in a series, The Prince’s Son picks up where the first book left off. Rustam Chalice is once again in the thick of things as he leads a bridal caravan delivering the older of twins to her intended. Nessa, the younger twin, joins her sister for the journey, along with their maid and friend, Enya. What starts off as a simple journey soon twists into nightmarish proportions, especially for the girls when they are abducted by a vile clan chief.

As in the first novel, I was enthralled by the deftness of the author’s writing, her ability to weave scenes that kept me on pins and needles, and a plot that leaves the reader eagerly flipping the pages.

Whether Jay is writing a beautiful descriptive passage or one rife with danger and raw brutality, her talent places the reader in the heart of the scene. She did an excellent job of wringing emotion from me. I alternately cheered, recoiled, wept, and felt the same broken, joyous, or determined fortitude of the characters. Some are truly abhorrent, and the author didn’t shy from showing that side of them. Others, heroic, complex, resilient.

The relationship between Rustam and Lady Risada will always be the heart of the story for me, but there are layers upon layers of plot threads in this deftly built world. There are several surprises in store, plus a wonderful “comeuppance” for one of the more loathsome characters. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey in book three!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Epic Fantasy > Fantasy Adventure > Fantasy Romance

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Aren’t the covers for these novels positively gorgeous? I’m thoroughly smitten with Rustam and Lady Risada and look forward to reading more of their story in book three. Rumor has it Deborah has a fourth (and final?) novel in the works for this series. I’ll be grabbing it on pre-order as soon as it’s available. Book three, The Prince’s Protege is already waiting on my Kindle.

Thanks for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Wherever you are, stay warm, and happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam #psychologicalliteraryfiction #suspense

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Thank you for joining me today for another Book Review Tuesday. Normally, when I finish a book, I write my review the same day, the next at the latest. It’s a habit I keep because I like the story and my impressions to be fresh in my head.

In the case of Leave the World Behind, it took me several days of ruminating to decide how I felt. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that left me waffling so indecisively. This one haunted my subconscious and is still rattling around in my head.This is a novel that will keep book clubs talking, debating, and discussing. ____________________________________________________________________________

Leave the World Behind
by Rumaan Alam

Book cover shows in-ground swimming pool at night

I want to say I loved this book, and in many (most?) ways I did, but there were more than a few moments I found frustrating. It’s a hard book to recommend because readers are likely to either be enthralled by it or hate it. There’s not much room for middle ground with this one.

The plot enticed me—Clay and Amanda, a middle-income white couple with two children rent a rural luxury home on Long Island for vacation. Not long into their stay they lose power, internet, TV—but not before getting a few jumbled hints that something terrible has happened. Something big.

In the middle of the night, G.H. and Ruth, an older, wealthy black couple arrive claiming they are the owners of the home, and that there has been a massive blackout in New York City. How these two couples react to each other, their relationship changing as it becomes more and more apparent something more than a blackout has taken place, is the foundation of the story.

Although I found this book hard to put down, there were moments that amounted to fingernails on my reading blackboard. As an example, near the beginning we get at least two pages listing what Amanda bought at the grocery store. What writer gets away with that? What editor lets it slide past? Then there are the sometimes-crude passages focused on Clay or Amanda thinking about sex. I’m not prudish, but some was just…gross. Thankfully, those passages weren’t long, but I found it weird how the author veered in that direction multiple times.

Honestly, the whole book is weird. Strange. Odd. Curious. Bizarre, and atypical. And yet it’s compelling. Riveting. There is a commanding sense of urgency as well as a building atmosphere of claustrophobia throughout.

The story is told from an omniscient point-of-view, with insight into all the characters, even the two kids, Rose, a thirteen-year-old and Archie, a sixteen-year-old. Every now and then—as the reader is experiencing what a character is feeling at a particular moment—the author inserts something unrelated. A tragic happening to someone the reader doesn’t know, in another part of the country. These “glimpses” which only last a few sentences, are never fully fleshed out, but serve to heighten the need to know exactly what catastrophic event took place. The reader is as much in the dark (no pun intended) as Clay and Amanda, G.H. and Ruth.

Of particular note, there are a few moments that I considered sheer brilliance and which made the hair prickle on the back of my neck—when Rose spies thousands of deer that suddenly appear in the woods. When a huge flock of flamingos land on the in-ground pool (you have to read the book to understand why this is so eerie) and most of all, “the noise.”

Many reviewers felt this book was poorly written. I disagree. There are passages weighted down in telling (Amanda’s grocery list, anyone?), but the passages related to the noise (and there are many) were so vividly and expertly described, I felt as if that horrific happening had reached through my Kindle and echoed in my ears. Pages upon pages of goosebumps!

Finally, we come to the ending.

Or lack of one.

I know that infuriated many readers. I actually swiped back through my Kindle thinking I must have missed a few pages. Then all I could think was “huh?” But the more I dwelled on how the author chose to wrap things up, the more I was okay with it. I really hope this book is optioned for the big screen as I can see it making an excellent movie (although I’m sure many movie-goers would be frustrated by the ending).

So… is it a good book? Yes. Is it a bad book? Yes. Did I like it?

After debating for a few days, I can fully see myself reading Leave the World Behind again when I want something unusual. A curious, sometimes annoying, but fully engrossing story. I started this review with “I want to say I loved this book.” Quibbles and problems aside, I thoroughly loved it. Guaranteed, should you give it a go, you’re bound to have a strong opinion one way or the other.

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction > Mystery, Thriller, Suspense Fiction

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If anyone out there has read this, I’d love to know what you thought. The book has had a lot of buzz, with readers mostly split on their feelings. If you haven’t read it, what do you think? Something you’d pick up or not? Let’s chat in the comments!


Book Review Tuesday: The Forgotten by D.L. Cross, The Culmination by Gwen Plano @stacitroilo @gmplano

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Thank you for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Today, I am featuring titles from two of my Story Empire colleagues–Staci Troilo (D.L.Cross) and Gwen Plano.

From aliens to military coverups and political intrigue, these novels will keep you flipping the pages and scrambling to reach their exciting conclusions!

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The Forgotten
by D. L. Cross

Book cover for The Forgotten shows large space ship on angry sky hovering over Grecian-inspired building

If you’re unfamiliar with the Astral Conspiracy series, The Forgotten is a great introduction. If you’re already a fan of Astral, this story is a treat—icing on the cake, so to speak. As with the series itself, the action is fast paced, an adrenaline rush of danger and intrigue. Cross delivers excellent characters in Colonel Jack Morley and CORE director Victor Cannon.

A clever prequel, The Forgotten delivers all the elements that makes Astral so mind-blowing—Titans, Reptars, Reclaimants and Separated to name a few. Whether you’re new to the series or not, there are several surprises in store. Of special note, I have to mention the plot thread involving Cannon and Tiny. It kept me glued to the pages! The Forgotten is another great entry in a spectacular series, but it reads as either introduction or standalone. I positively loved the ending!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK NOTE: This novel is FREE, so scarf it up!
Genre: Alien Invasion Science Fiction > Colonization Science Fiction

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Book cover of The Culmination shows silhouette of couple holding hands with young girl in pigtails, war tanks in background

The Culmination
by Gwen Plano


Book three in a series, The Culmination reads easily as a standalone novel. A political thriller, that addresses denuclearization, tensions in the Middle East, and the fate of refugees, much of the story echoes current headlines. The plot is complex involving multiple heads of state, along with the strategical give and take of political maneuvering on a global level. The author clearly put an extensive amount of research into this book, and it shows. Adrenalin-fueled scenes alter with more cerebral moments, and even a few romantic interludes.

I especially loved the evolution of the relationship between the two central characters, Margaret Adler, VP of the United States and Ivan Smirnov, acting President of Russia. During the course of the novel those titles change, and we learn more about each, including richly developed backgrounds. I was thoroughly invested in the difficulties Margaret and Ivan faced, both on personal and political levels. Their scenes together were among my favorites of the book. There’s also a young refugee child who factors into the story and who stole my heart.

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Military Thriller > War Fiction

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I want to send a huge round of applause to Staci and Gwen for keeping me entertained with such adrenaline and emotion filled reads. These are definitely two books you want to add to your TBR!

Book Review Tuesday: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #GothicFiction #HistoricalFantasy

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageI only have one review to share today. This is a book that lingered on my reading radar for a long time. Then I reached a point where I HAD to read it. I was in the mood for something spooky and gothic, grabbed it from Amazon, and devoured it in days. Surprisingly, I couldn’t give it five stars.


Set during the 1930s in Mexico, this Gothic novel hits all the right notes—a crumbling old mansion with a family cemetery, a dying patriarch, twisted family history, suicide and murders. Socialite, Noemi, travels to High Place, the home of her recently married cousin after her father receives a strange letter from Catalina that includes references to the walls “talking,” among other oddities.  When Noemi arrives, she finds her once vibrant cousin subdued and sickly, attended by members of her new husband’s family. Noemi is uncertain what to make of the handsome and charismatic, Virgil Doyle, but finds his stern and aloof Aunt Florence—Catalina’s primary caregiver—uncommunicative and regimental. Florence’s son, Francis, is somewhere in the middle, a bit timid, even awkward. These characters drive the plot, but revelations come slowly. Although set in Mexico, nothing really marks this as a Mexican mystery. Except for Noemi and Catalina, all the characters are English. For the most part, I was glued to the pages, especially the descriptions of the moldy, depressing mansion and cemetery. The history of the Doyle family, including their ownership of a once profitable silver mine is intriguing, as are glimpses of several Doyle ancestors and the murders and suicide that bind them. As the main character, Noemi is strong, an excellent protagonist.  I give an A+ for all the above, but the horror elements didn’t work for me. I was hoping for a good ghost story, but the “big bad” is something entirely different. That plot thread got tedious, especially in the middle of the book, although the ending is fast-paced and climatic. C+ for the horror elements/plot thread, so 4 stars overall. I did like how everything turned out, and would certainly read this author again.Mexican Gothic
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Set during the 1930s in Mexico, this Gothic novel hits all the right notes—a crumbling old mansion with a family cemetery, a dying patriarch, twisted family history, suicide and murders.

Socialite, Noemi, travels to High Place, the home of her recently married cousin after her father receives a strange letter from Catalina that includes references to the walls “talking,” among other oddities.

When Noemi arrives, she finds her once vibrant cousin subdued and sickly, attended by members of her new husband’s family. Noemi is uncertain what to make of the handsome and charismatic, Virgil Doyle, but finds his stern and aloof Aunt Florence—Catalina’s primary caregiver—uncommunicative and regimental. Florence’s son, Francis, is somewhere in the middle, a bit timid, even awkward. These characters drive the plot, but revelations come slowly. Although set in Mexico, nothing really marks this as a Mexican mystery. Except for Noemi and Catalina, all the characters are English.

For the most part, I was glued to the pages, especially the descriptions of the moldy, depressing mansion and cemetery. The history of the Doyle family, including their ownership of a once profitable silver mine is intriguing, as are glimpses of several Doyle ancestors and the murders and suicide that bind them. As the main character, Noemi is strong, an excellent protagonist.

I give an A+ for all the above, but the horror elements didn’t work for me. I was hoping for a good ghost story, but the “big bad” is something entirely different. That plot thread got tedious, especially in the middle of the book, although the ending is fast-paced and climatic. C+ for the horror elements/plot thread, so 4 stars overall. I did like how everything turned out, and would certainly read this author again.

4 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Gothic Fiction > Historical Fantasy


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book. I was torn on writing the review because so much of the novel was spectacular. Is Mexican Gothic something you’d consider reading?

Book Review Tuesday: Liars and Thieves, Allies and Spies, Lord of Chaos #UnravelingtheVeil @Dwallacepeach

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageToday, I have the pleasure of reviewing an entire series, written by a stellar author.
D. Wallace Peach is a gifted story-teller. She not only delivers riveting fiction time after time, but does so using beautiful prose, vivid imagery, and complex world-building. It’s my pleasure to share my five star reviews for all three novels in her Unraveling the Veil series.


Book cover for Liars and Thieves gives appearance of old medieval tome Liars and Thieves
by D. Wallace Peach

In any D. Wallace Peach novel, you can count on a diverse cast of characters and an exceptionally detailed fantasy world. With Liars and Thieves, Peach delivers both, mesmerizing the reader from the first chapter. Goblins, elves, and changelings maintain tenuous relationships, one step away from erupting into war. At the center are Savan crystals, mined by the goblins, but necessary for the survival of all three races.

The trio of main characters—a temperamental elfin solider, a sly and cunning changeling, and a half-breed goblin—are inexplicably thrown together among a backdrop of political machinations and festering hostilities. All three have reasons to distrust, even loathe the others. As a reader, it takes a while to warm up to Alue, Talin and Naj, as none come off as the typically crafted fantasy characters, but all are equally compelling. Glimpses into their backstories are doled out morsels at a time, deftly reeling in the reader.

I can’t applaud the author enough for her brilliant use of description, gift for imagery, and—most especially—her complex worldbuilding, all of which held me spellbound. If you enjoy flawed characters, a plot that moves like a chess game with moves and countermoves, plus exquisite writing, don’t miss Liars and Thieves. I am ready and eager to dive into book two!

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror > Sword and Sorcery Fantasy


Book cover for Allies and Spies gives appearance of old medieval tomeAllies and Spies
by D. Wallace Peach

The danger ramps up in the second installment of this series. Alue, Naj, and Talin, tenuous allies forced to work together at the end of book one, now find themselves dependent on one another as the mysterious earthquakes and disappearances responsible for bringing them together increase in frequency. The richly detailed world Peach crafted in the first novel of this engaging trilogy is more closely examined as the reader learns more about the three races at its core—elves, goblins, and changelings. The power of shifting is key to how things play out. Peril is constant, scenes hurtling into each other as Alue, Naj, and Talin are thrust from one dangerous situation into the next.

But it isn’t just the constant menace that elevates this book in its genre. Character development is given equal attention. I loved seeing the roller coaster range of emotions in the three main characters as they shuffle through various degrees of skepticism, mistrust, forced reliance, and slowly-gained but often questionable loyalty. There are several surprises, including one mind-blowing revelation regarding one of the three leads that left me slack-jawed and stunned.

Descriptions are engrossing, immersing the reader in Peach’s vividly imagined world. The writing is polished and professional, making this middle book a pleasure to read, as it sets the stage for what I’m sure will be an exceptional conclusion. Now, thoroughly invested in the lives of the three leads, and the squabbling races that comprise this world, I’m poised to launch into book three. When you want epic fantasy at its best, you can always count on D. Wallace Peach to deliver!

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror > Sword and Sorcery Fantasy


Book cover for Lord of Chaos gives appearance of old medieval tomeLord of Chaos
by D. Wallace Peach

In the concluding novel of this outstanding trilogy, the alliance between the three lead characters¬—Alue, Talin, and Naj—fray, even as tenuous relationships between their respective races—elf, changeling, and goblin—completely break down. War looms and battles erupt. With changelings able to assume the guise of others, including those in positions of authority, deception abounds. The action is constant, barely giving the reader a moment to catch their breath. There are also multiple scenes, especially those that take place in the Authority, that had me squirming as I awaited the outcome.

As in the other books, the plot threads are tightly woven and complex, with surprises along the way. The writing is polished and professional, scenes intensively vivid. This is one writer who knows how to craft a riveting tale while delivering a subtle message. A superb conclusion to a phenomenal series. I will miss these characters.

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror > Sword and Sorcery Fantasy


I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys high fantasy or books with complex and exquisite world building. If fantasy is not your normal genre of reading, I expect you will be enthralled regardless, given this author’s superb talent. Happy reading!