Book Review: Black Crow Speaks @FrederickAnder2 #shortstories

In my post yesterday, I mentioned having read a third book last week but not having the time to write a proper review. Black Crow Speaks is a book I have been patiently waiting —okay, not so patiently—to release. The author shies away from promotion so I wanted to make certain I gave it the attention it deserves. I know I will be reading many of the stories in this collection over again.

First some background . . .

I started following Frederick Anderson’s blog a few years ago and was immediately enthralled by his gift of storytelling. I’ve been hoping (I even did some pestering) that he would cobble a collection of short stories together for a book. When I realized he had released Black Crow Speaks, I was ecstatic. This intelligent, literary, diverse, often bizarre, but always riveting collection of tales is not to be missed!

Let me explain the crow of the title­—Black Crow shows up at various times throughout the book to discuss everything from neighbors (blackbirds), immigrants (seagulls), family matters, homelife, kids, the wife, temptation, getting old, and social matters. Given Fred is British, I can get away with the expression “bloody brilliant.” Crow has a unique take on life.

book cover for Black Crow Speaks by Frederick Anderson shows a large black crow with book title beneathHere’s a sample from Corvid Values, my favorite crow story. Crow speaks first, followed by Fred.

He fidgets uneasily, preening a troublesome mite from his breast feathers. “S’pose. Yes and no. There’s the immigrants, see?”

He hasn’t lost his capacity to surprise: “Immigrants?”

“Yeah. You must have noticed – fousands of ‘em. Same every winter, innit? They comes flockin’ in just because they reckon there’s free food and everyfin’. They takes all the best bits and we don’t get a look in. Bleedin’ gulls!”

“Oh, the seagulls! The bad weather drives them in from the coast. The westerlys don’t trouble them so much, then? They can fly into the wind, can they?”

“Well, they work harder, don’t they? They work all the bleedin’ time, them!” He fluffs furious feathers. “They don’t even go to roost, most nights. And…and!” He squawks his emphasis; “They eat almost anyfin’. Jus’ anyfin’!”

“Surely there’s enough for all? I haven’t noticed you losing weight over the winter before.”

“Ah. Ah! But I don’t demean meself, me! You won’t catch me turnin’ over house rubbish like a – like a bleedin’ fox, for fox sake!”

“Oh, really? I seem to recall…”

“Never mind what you ‘seems to recall.’ Never mate, never! I’ve got my pride”

I treat him to one of my penetrating inquisitorial looks. “They’ve been raiding the bins at the back of the Pizzeria, haven’t they? That’s one of your favorite haunts, isn’t it?”

The crow hunches his wings and dips his head. I cannot remember seeing him so annoyed. “That place is a place for crows, gettit? Crows! Respec’able birds, mate. I got a right to that place!”


First, let me point out that no one—no one—does accents like Frederick. The ones he spins in this book are spot on. Second, the message of this story hits with a thunderclap at the end. The first time I read it, it stayed with me for days.

But the crow only makes up a few stories in this collection. As the preface says you will meet “a crow with wisdom we call could learn from, an airline pilot who qualified by correspondence course, an enthusiastic accordion player with a portal to the universe under his dining table, tales of fairies and goblins and ghosts within the machine.”

There are plenty of humans too—some who face heartbreak, others who find their lives altered in unexpected ways. Twists and surprise endings abound. Scene setting is off the charts with descriptions that are sometimes lyrical, other times gritty and raw. Every story brings something unique, but I must make special mention of Birdie, A Visitation from Mary, Goblins, Gloves, Reincarnate, Siobhan, and The Newquay Train. Wow. Just…WOW!

If you like smart, witty, and riveting fiction, don’t pass this collection by. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The great thing about short stories is you can read a few at a time or many at once. However, you read them, do read them. 5 Walloping, glittery, gargantuan stars!

PURCHASE FROM:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

You can find Frederick’s blog HERE if you’d like to give a looksee as to what else he gets up to. I’m presently enjoying a novel he has been serializing, but he’s hinted there is short fiction around the bend and Crow will return. You have no idea how happy that makes me!

Thanks for checking out this special review today. Given I’ve been badgering Frederick to publish this book, I am more than happy to help promote such a fabulous collection.

Book Review Tuesday: Shari Lapena, @BalroopShado

Hello, and welcome to another day of book reviews. As always, you can find the blurb for each by clicking the Amazon link at the end of the review.

I hate it when I can’t recommend a book on BookBub, and unfortunately, that happened with one of my favorite auto-buy authors last week. I was thankful my remaining reads for the week counterbalanced the first.


Book cover for Someone We Know by Shari Lapena shows silhouette of someone crossing a leafy neighborhood street at nightI’ve read everything Shari Lapena has written. Her novels The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest remain two of my favorite books, but Someone We Know fell short for me. The premise—a teenager secretly hacking into his neighbors’ computers and discovering secrets—sounded like an awesome plot, unfortunately that’s not the main focus of the novel.

The book opens with a brutal murder and “whodunit” quickly takes center stage. No problem, I like a good murder mystery—except the murderer is pretty easy to peg from the start. Along the way, the reader is treated to the tangle of lives that make up the small neighborhood where the victim lived. There are illicit affairs on top of illicit affairs, each tied (in some manner) to the woman who was murdered. Lapena sets up several false trails and paints several characters with a gloss of suspicion. There is an unexpected “bonus” twist at the end I didn’t see coming. Had the author left it at that, I probably would have given this book 4 stars (it was slow getting started).

What I found problematic was the second murder. I couldn’t swallow the motive behind it or the fact the killer would even commit the crime. Toss in a plot thread that is hinted at throughout the book, but left wide open at the end, and I was disappointed overall—especially after reading Lapena’s earlier work. She remains a talented author who I will continue to follow. I just hope her next book is a step above this one. 3 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Domestic Thrillers


Book cover for Moments We Love, Poetry by Balroop Singh shows flower petals and heart, all in pastelsMoments We Love
by 
Balroop Singh

I find reading poetry extremely relaxing. It’s not something I read frequently, but when I do, I enjoy the moods verse conjures. Balroop Singh weaves words like a tapestry, In Moments We Love she touches on multiple aspects of love, the people we love, and events which shape our lives. Divided into three sections: Moments of Love, Moments of Harmony, and Moments that Make Life, each segment is supported by poems matching the theme.

Each reader will find verses that resonate with them. Plenty stood out for me but my two favorites have to be Do You Remember? and Spring Memories.

From Do You Remember:

Do you remember the days?
When we played with clouds,
Rolled in colors,
Wore them around
Drenched and smiled
When we splayed colors at each other.

The imagery throughout easily transports the reader to the setting or moment in time the author conjures. Some are filled with whimsy and wonder, others with melancholy, but all are beautifully rendered. 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry


I also managed one other book during the week—one I have been waiting on the release for a very long time. I didn’t have time to write an adequate review but hope you will join me tomorrow when I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Black Crow Speaks. Until then, I wish you happy reading and hope you found my reviews helpful!

Book Reviews: Gideon’s Corpse by Preston and Child, The Betrayed Wife by Kevin O’Brien

Hi, friends. I hope you had an enjoyable weekend and that your Tuesday is off to a good start. We had friends over on Friday for a small pool party then spent our weekend gearing up for a family reunion we’re hosting this coming weekend.

We had a scare on Saturday when we walked out front and realized our door was standing open. It was a windy day and when I opened it (about twenty minutes earlier) I must not have shut it tightly. The problem is I have a totally indoor cat. To say that I was spastic is putting it mildly. I looked all over for Raven, starting with her “safe spot” under our bed then went room to room while hubby looked outside. Five minutes of frantic searching without results and I was on the verge of blubbering. I decided to take one more look under the bed and there she was, tucked at the end, blissfully unaware I was seconds from a meltdown. Needless to say, she has been getting lots of extra fussing and cuddles.

And now on to this week’s book reviews, both of which garner five big glitzy stars from me.

Book cover for Gideon's Corpse by Preston & Child shows title in large lettering overlaying a file with tear, nuclear symbol in backgroundGideon’s Corpse
by Preston & Child
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’re probably aware I’m a HUGE fan of the writing team of Preston and Child. Gideon’s Corpse is the second novel in the Gideon Crew series (currently at five novels). I read the first when it was released a few years ago but wasn’t immediately smitten. Then a certain someone (ahem…Marcia) convinced me I needed to give book two a try.

Dr. Gideon Crew is a unique combination of con artist, ex-professional thief, and brilliant physicist. Recruited by a mysterious and powerful organization to run interference in impossible situations he routinely lands in a melting pot of danger. In Gideon’s Corpse, Crew finds himself acting as a liaison to the FBI when a former colleague and top nuclear scientist takes a family hostage at gunpoint. The outcome leads to a terrorist plot to vaporize a major American city in ten days—and the clock is ticking.

I remembered very little about the first in the series but had zero difficulty falling into the story. It starts off with a bang (the hostage situation) and moves at a blistering pace. Gideon pairs up with a strait-laced FBI agent. Much of the fun of the novel is watching the two work together, gaining respect for the other’s methods and for each other.

Clues build in a clever, twisty manner but just when you think you know where the plot is headed it does a complete 180 leading to an explosive, action-packed conclusion.

If you like your characters with a mix of trickster and quick-thinking brilliance, Gideon Crew is your man. He has a good heart, sometimes makes stupid mistakes, but somehow always manages to land on his feet. I will definitely be reading the rest in this series (thank you, Marcia!). Preston and Child once again deliver the kind of intelligent thriller that has become their trademark.

Amazon Link
Genre: Terrorism Thrillers > Medical Thrillers


Book cover for The Betrayed Wife by Kevin O'Brien shows the face and neck of a blond-haired woman from the nose downThe Betrayed Wife
by Kevin O’Brien

I can always count on Kevin O’Brien to deliver a juicy thriller, and he does not disappoint with his latest, The Betrayed Wife. This book has it all­—a not-so-perfect marriage, illicit affairs, dark family secrets, suspicious deaths, and an illegitimate child.

Shelia O’Rouke has had to overlook a number of her husband’s indiscretions, so when sixteen-year-old Eden shows up claiming to be his daughter, Shelia tries to make the best of it. She welcomes the girl into her home and encourages her three children to do the same. But Eden has an insolent attitude and a creepy boyfriend. It isn’t long before things start to go horribly wrong. Someone tampers with the breaks on Shelia’s car, rigs her washer so that she is almost electrocuted, and tries to poison her. An obnoxious tenant moves into the house next door, and an anonymous caller starts sending Shelia and her teenage son, Steve, mysterious texts. O’Brien has a knack for writing teenagers, and he juggles several successfully in this novel.

As usual, the deftly-orchestrated plot serves up plenty of misdirection to keep the reader guessing. Although I did (eventually) decipher the ending and motive prior to the conclusion, I followed several false trails before putting the pieces together. There are characters to hate, characters to love, and a multi-layered mystery that ties up neatly at the end. Riveting from start to finish, the book works as a psychological thriller, domestic thriller, and page-turning suspense novel. Finished in two sittings and highly recommended!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Domestic Thrillers > Serial Killer Thrillers

Reviewing Meg: Nightstalkers @meg82159 and All the Missing Children (Muddy River Mystery 3) @judypost #BookishTuesday

Hi, friends. Since I’ve been reviewing books on a regular basis, rather than holding all my reviews for of the end of the month or even splitting them into two parts, I’ve decided to make a regular habit of sharing book reviews on Tuesdays. This may amount to only one book, or—depending on how much time I have on my hands during the week—it could be more or less. A big fat goose egg (hopefully not). Today, I bring you reviews from two series I love. To read the official blurbs and learn more about each novel, click the Amazon link.

Meg: Nightstalkers by Steve Alten

Book cover for Meg: Nighstalkers by Steve Alten shows two colossal sharks going after a swimmer below water, fishing boat on surfaceIn book five of the Meg series, sister sharks Bela and Lizzy are causing havoc in the Pacific Ocean after having escaped from their pen at the Tanaka Institute owned by Jonas Taylor and his wife Terry. Worse, the sisters are able to reproduce without male insemination and have started birthing genetic clones of themselves, the pups roaming lose in the water. Suffice to say, a few people meet with unfortunate ends.

Across the globe, Jonas’s son David has once again teamed with an expedition set on capturing a prehistoric creature responsible for the horrific tragedy that has left him with night terrors and a thirst for revenge. Eventually, the paths of David, Jonas, and Scottish marine biologist, Dr. Zachary Wallace will converge near Antarctica. This is where the book goes a little south for me, no pun intended. Wallace is a character from Alten’s popular Loch series of novels (I read the first one years ago) but the plot thread veered off course with a stab at time travel.

The storyline devoted to Bela and Lizzy gets five solid stars. The action is adrenalin-pumping and tight. The sisters, with the way they hunt—one brains, one brawn—make for plenty of nail biting and riveting moments. These two sharks are devious, intelligent, and dangerous. They routinely steal the show!

Alten swaps chapters/scenes of Jonas hunting Bela and Lizzy with David deep diving after dangerous predators. There are plenty of hair-raising encounters with both plots, keeping the tension ramped high and the reader flipping pages. This would have been a five star read for me if not for the spin with Zachary Wallace. Even so, I plan to devour the next Meg book. I can’t wait to see what happens next! 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Space Marine Science Fiction > Horror Fiction


All the Missing Children (Muddy River Mystery 3) by Judi Lynn

Book cover for Where are All the Missing Children by Judi Lynn shows hooded cloaked figure holding crystal ball with young dark-haired man in foregroundRaven and Hester are back again, battling one of the strongest foes they’ve ever faced. When a new supernatural settlement is attacked—all the adults killed, the children missing—Muddy River’s demon enforcer and his powerful witch mate discover an ancient evil is behind the deaths and abductions.

Murlyn, a warlock who practices the dark arts, and who isn’t above using others to amplify his power, has set a devious plan in motion. One that uses gullible supernaturals and innocent children. Murlyn’s thirst for power is unmatched, and unless Hester, Raven, and their band of friends can stop him, all of Muddy River and other supernatural settlements face extermination.

Once again, Judi Lynn has created a fast-paced mystery of good vs. evil. Characters I’ve come to love from the first two novels in this series are back, joined by a host of others who quickly make their mark. Lynn knows how to pull heartstrings while layering her plot with clues that play out like a trail of breadcrumbs. She levels each scene to ratchet the tension, all the while heightening the relationship between characters, forging emotional bonds with the reader. Consider me smitten. I love all of these characters, and the supernatural battles that ensue between good and evil more then satisfy with plenty of breathless action. Party cozy, part urban fantasy, part mystery, this book and those in the series, score gold on multiple levels. Vivid and imaginative. 5 big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Witch and Wizard Mysteries > Occult Fiction


Thanks for visiting with me today and for checking out my latest reviews. As always, it’s fun sharing these, and I hope to spark your interest in the wonderful stories these authors present!

Book Review: The Scout by D.L.Cross #sci-fi #aliens

Closing out my July reading is a standalone novella that I was super-excited to have land on my Kindle. D.L.Cross gives us a peak into both the Invasion Universe and her Astral Conspiracy series (I devoured the first and am eagerly awaiting the second). Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb:

book cover for The Scout by D.L.Cross shows large scary tree on dark backgroundThe aliens have landed. The humans are panicking. The scouts have been sent.

J’s mission is clear — find an alien outpost, observe, report back. Simple enough. It’s what he’s trained to do. But he’s always worked with his team, never as a party of one. Now he’s been sent out alone to blindly navigate a dense, dark forest until he finds his target. The dynamics are foreign to him, the stakes never higher. Resources are scarce. Comms are down.

And he’s found the enemy.

J is shocked when everyone’s true allegiances are revealed. And the consequences of betrayal will be deadly.

A short story set in the bestselling Invasion Universe, “The Scout” by D.L. Cross will have you hungering for more. Pick up your copy today!

And now my 5 star review:

An excellent short story that takes a look at what happens when alien cultures clash.

J is determined to complete his mission as a scout, gathering intel on an alien outpost, but the assignment grows murky when he connects with one of “the enemy.” The pace moves quickly, hurtling the reader toward a confrontation which addresses the nature of loyalties and betrayal.

A quick read, The Scout is part of the Invasion Universe, but stands perfectly on its own. The author also writes the Astral Conspiracy series of novels which made this bit of short fiction a treat for someone eagerly awaiting book 2 in that series. New fans and established fans will enjoy The Scout for its fluid story, tight plot, and polished writing. You can’t go wrong with anything from the pen of D.L. Cross!

Ready to blast off with an out of this world read? You can grab your copy of The Scout: Dark Crossings  at this Universal Purchase Link.

Happy reading!

July Book Reviews, Part Two @bakeandwrite @meg82159 @harmony_kent @MarciaMeara @BetteAStevens #BookishTuesday

Hello, and welcome to the second half of my book reviews for the month of July. If you missed, part one, you can find it here. Summer heat was nearly unbearable for several days this month, but I did manage to devour a number of novels and novellas poolside. To read the blurbs for each, click the Amazon link. My thoughts on each are below . . .

Book cover for Death Among Us a murder mystery anthology shows a limp hand turned palm up on solid surface in wash of gray shadowDeath Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories
by multiple authors including Stephen Bentley, Greg Alldredge, Robbie Cheadle, and seven others

I’m a mystery/suspense fan so these stories hit all the right notes for me. The collection is varied with several authors contributing multiple tales to the collection. Read one or two at a time or gobble several back to back. The authors are great at transporting you into twisted worlds of murder most foul. You’re bound to find your personal favorites, but there are several that really stood out for me.

I was mesmerized by the historic angle Robbie Cheadle used in her all of her tales that address such unusual characters as chimney sweeps in Victorian England and monks, among others. She did an exceptional job of dropping her readers into the grimy period of the Industrial Revolution and other equally intriguing settings. Red Solo Cup by by Kelly Artieri has two couples undertaking a day boating. A twisty little tale with a cool title and an unexpected ending. She also does a great job with That’s What Best Friends Do which has a kick-butt ending, The slightly horror jive of Monitaur by Michael Spinelli kept me enthralled, and he hit a home run with No Man’s Land involving a dangerous fugitive. The dialogue is spot on.

All the authors are to be commended for such a great collection. Enjoy! 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery Anthologies > Mashup Fiction


Book cover for Meg: Hell's Aquarium by Steve Alten shows small child standing in front of aquarium with colossal sharkMeg: Hell’s Aquarium
by Steve Alten

Book number four of the Meg saga has left me with mixed feelings. In some aspects, this is my favorite of all the novels. Angel, the albino Megladon shark, has birthed a litter of five pups. Three are “runts”—Angelica, Mary Kate, and Ashley (yes, after the Olsen twins—there was an internet contest to name them). The other two are “juveniles”—Lizzy (after the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathroy) and Bela (the Dark Queen). Jonas Taylor is now 66. His son, David, is a twenty-year-old college student working toward a marine biology degree and trying to step out of his father’s shadow. To do that, David agrees to train a roster of potential pilots in an extreme depth submersible for an Arabian Prince who is offering mega $$$. Naturally, said prince is not on the up-and-up about what he’s really after—possible prehistoric creatures that live in depths few men have breached.

The first half of this book blew me away. Lizzy and Bela (the “sisters”) have a symbiotic relationship that makes them mesmerizing from the moment they’re introduced. Angel has held her own for several books, but these two deserve the crown. Entrahlling is putting it lightly.

In the past, the Meg books have always had a kick butt last quarter, but that’s where I was disappointed. The focus shifted away from the Megs to the prehistoric fish and David’s time trapped in the submersible. While there were plenty of heart-pumping moments in the deep, those scenes went on way too long, and I disliked the shift from the Megs. Fortunately, Alten brought his three most powerful sharks back for the conclusion—Angel, Lizzy, and Bela—and set up an intriguing opening for the next (final?) book. I can’t wait to see more of the sisters! 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Thriller and Suspense Action Fiction > Sea Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Fallout by Harmony KentFallout 
by Harmony Kent

Note: I received an ARC of this novel. The scheduled release date is August 25th, but FALLOUT is available for pre-order through the link below.

Fallout by Harmony Kent is a dark, gritty, twisted apocalyptic story guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Exxon 1 has been devastated by a virus, the planet an inhospitable environment where no one can be trusted, especially the planet’s president who is responsible for the outbreak. While people succumb to the virus and others struggle to resist, a vial containing a potential cure becomes the focus of ruthless individuals.

Pryia, a young woman who finds out just how savage her devastated planet can be, becomes entangled in getting the vial into the right hands. But who can be trusted? In the world Kent has created, her multi-layered characters are far from black and white. No one is who they seem, each driven by dark histories and darker goals, each a study in duplicity. There are crosses and double crosses, noble characters who sink to corruption and corrupt characters who discover a sliver of conscience when the clock is ticking to zero hour.

The world building is exceptional, the plot complex but fast paced. This isn’t simply a book about rebuilding a decimated planet, but a story that takes a raw look at human nature. Finally, I loved the full circle arc of the opening scenes gelling so perfectly with the close. A wholly satisfying and riveting read. Highly recommended! 5 Big Glittery Stars!

Amazon Pre-Order Link
Genre: Dystopian Fiction > Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction


Book cover for My Maine by Bette A. Steven'sMy Main: Haiku Through the Seasons
by  Bette S. Stevens

This collection of seasonal haikus is a treat for the senses. Journey through spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the gorgeous state of Maine. The author’s passion for her home state is evident in every word, as she brings nature alive in resplendent images. These haikus are ones to relish. No matter what season you may be experiencing in the “now,” Stevenson skillfully transports you to her Maine, where she evokes nature’s changing face with ease. Photographs and facts about Maine round out the collection. Although this is a short read, it’s one to draw out again and again to savor the images, escaping into the tranquility of the Pine Tree State. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Haiku and Japanese Poetry > American Poetry


Book cover for Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine shows single person in a row boat, oars extended out to each side, at night on foggy akeStillhouse Lake
by Rachel Caine

Gina Royal, mother of two, living a quiet suburban life, suddenly has to reinvent herself when her husband is revealed to be a sadistic serial killer. Gina creates a new identity for herself and her children in a remote wooded area near Stilhouse Lake. It’s not the first time she’s had to run or change identities because of haters and stalkers. Not long after she moves in, a body turns up in the lake, mutilated in the same horrific manner as her husband’s victims.

Stillhouse Lake starts off with a gut punch­—Gina discovering her husband’s secret life as a murderer, but then bogs down for a bit. I wasn’t invested until about the 35% mark. There’s a lot of Gina/Gwen thinking/explaining her life before “the event” (as she refers to the discovery) and how she and her kids have managed since. I’m glad I stuck with the novel. It does take off once it gets going, and Gina/Gwen is a force to be reckoned with.

Good story telling, but for me there were some plot issues­—namely Gina not going into her husband’s garage/killing den the entire time she’s married, the kids never curious about what their dad is doing in there. The author would have been far better to set Melvin’s torture chamber somewhere way from the house, not in the attached garage!

The book itself is pretty grim, and although the plot of the novel is resolved, the overall arc doesn’t finish. I will probably skip the next in the series, my stomach for serial killer novels not as strong as it used to be. And although I pegged the killer early on, the ending delivered a nail-biting conclusion with an unexpected twist. All things considered, 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Serial Killer Thrillers > Women’s Crime Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Summer Magic by Marcia Meal shows tree at night, backlit by starry skySummer Magic: Poems of Life and Love
by Marica Meara

I loved this collection of poetry that effortlessly transported me back to the magic of childhood summers. Meara divides her collection into two parts. The first is a glimpse of camping out through the eyes of a character from her popular Wake Robin Ridge Series when he is a ten-year-old boy, the second half a view of love, life, seasons and dreams.

The words and scenarios she weaves throughout are spell binding—camping under the stars, soaring through the air from a swing suspended above a creek, splashing through rain puddles, watching a meteor shower, delivering a final wish to a soul mate—all sheer magic. Read this wonderful book any time of year for a journey to summers filled with love, curiosity, and wonder. 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: American Poetry > 90 Minute Literature and Short Fiction Reads


As always, I hope you found something to intrigue you among my collection of titles. I’ve already got several titles on my radar for August. Happy reading!

July Book Reviews, Part One @rijanjks @Wendy_Walker @riley_sager

It’s been hot. Extremely hot. We’ve had heat indexes topping 110. A few days ago the standard temperature was 99. My pool (at night) was 91.5. How warped is that?

As a result, I didn’t get to float on a raft and devour novels as much as I would have liked because the sun was blistering. I did, however, get to read several great tales before the sun turned toxic (see below). Click the Amazon link for the blurbs and  learn more about each title.

The first three are novellas, perfect for reading on coffee or lunch breaks. All selections are 5-star reads, so dig in!


Book cover for Voodoo or Destiny by Jan Sikes shows homemade voodoo doll with button eyes, stuck with pinsVoodoo or Destiny, You Decide
by Jan Sikes

Claire and her friend, Jade (who is descended from a New Orleans voodoo queen) are having a girls night with several bottles of wine. Jade is there to cheer up her friend who was recently dumped by her husband, Daniel, for a younger woman. Fueled by too much alcohol, the two friends decide to even the playing field by causing Daniel heartache. Jade suggests a voodoo doll ceremony and Claire hops on board. But the next morning, while dealing with a hangover, Clair receives shocking and unexpected news.

An entertaining short story that allows the reader to draw their own conclusion.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Occult Fiction > Occult Fiction > Short Reads


Look cover for Jewel by Jan Sikes shows attractive young woman in evening gown in front of dilapidated old shackJewel
by Jan Sikes

I loved this story. Jewel is an innocent young girl just shy of 18 who has spent her entire life living in poverty. When her mother, struggling to raise Jewel and Jewel’s younger sister, Sara Sue on her own, becomes terminally ill, she makes arrangements for both girls to have a shot at a better life. For Jewel that includes an education in the ways of the world, men, and love.

If you like Cinderella stories, tales of love and sacrifice, this short story will warm your heart. Beautifully rendered and told, the HEA ending is a sweet wrap.

Amazon Link
Genre: Contemporary Short Stories > Women’s Short Stories


book cover for A Soldier's Children by Jan Sikes shows close up of one side of a young girl's faceA Soldier’s Children
by Jan Sikes

A lovely story that takes the reader from hardship to a well deserved HEA.

Fourteen year-old Jennifer is doing her best to care for her younger sister, hold down a part time job, and attend school—all because their mother deserted them, running off with a man she recently met. Their father has been MIA in Afghanistan for a number of years, leaving Jennifer no choice but to take on the role of provider if she wants to keep her and her sister out of “the system.”

The story starts off with a bang. Jennifer’s sister, Emily has gone missing at the amusement park where Jennifer works part time. The resolution to that scare is both sweet and heart wrenching, setting up a string of dominos that put the sisters closer and closer to being discovered. How long can Jennifer get away saying her mother is out of town, or home sick in bed? Although this is a short read, the ending is guaranteed to leave you with a smile and plenty of warm fuzzies. Most enjoyable!

Amazon Link
Genre: Short Stories > Fiction Short Stories


Book cover for The Night Before by Wendy Walker shows close up of woman's face, one half natural, the other half overlaid by murky blue tintThe Night Before
by Wendy Walker

Laura and her sister, Rosie, along with Joe and Gabe, all grew up in the same neighborhood, tight friends from early childhood. Rosie and Joe are now married with a toddler, and Gabe has married. After her most recent relationship ends badly, Laura moves into her sister’s home to recover. It isn’t long before she connects with “Jonathan,” a man from an online site and agrees to a date. When she doesn’t return home the next morning, Rosie fears the worst.

What sets this slick page turner apart from others in a similar vein is that Rosie’s concern isn’t only for her sister. If the date went bad, she’s also terrified what Laura might have done to Jonathan. That unexpected curveball sold me on the book, and I was not disappointed.

When she was a teen, Laura’s boyfriend, Mitch, was bludgeoned to death during a party. The events of the night have always been murky, though a homeless man with a mental disability was eventually convicted of the crime. Even so, suspicion has hung over Laura given she was found standing beside Mitch’s body, a baseball bat in her hand, blood on her clothing. Combined with a rough-and-tumble childhood and her own doubts about what she did that night, she has been trapped in a downward spiral ever since.

The story alternates between Laura’s first person POV during her date with Jonathan, Rosie’s third person POV as she, Joe, and Gabe frantically search for Laura, and transcripts of Laura’s sessions with her psychologist. There are plenty of false leads to make the reader think they’ve figured things out, several jaw-dropping moments, and enough plot twists to make this work as both a psychological thriller and a twisty whodunit. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but suffice to say I was riveted from page one and devoured this book in a single night. Highly recommended!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Thrillers > Domestic Thrillers


Book cover for Lock Every Door by Riley Sager shows old fashioned door open to room, silhouette of woman fleeing in backgroundLock Every Door
by Riley Sager

Riley Sager is one of my auto-buy authors. He’s mesmerized me before, but he hit it out of the ballpark with his latest release.

Jules has had a string of bad luck, starting with getting laid off from her job, followed by discovering her live-in boyfriend banging another woman. She ends up near penniless, sleeping on her BFF’s sofa until she finds a classified ad for an apartment sitter. $12,000 to occupy a luxury apartment in the Bartholomew—a New York high society landmark—for three months. It sounds too good to be true, especially given the building is the fairy-tale setting of a novel that bound Jules and her sister as teens.

The rules are bizarre. Among other things, no visitors and no sharing any information about the residents who live in the Bartholomew, but Jules is too desparate to give them a second thought. Not long after she’s in the apartment, more luxurious than she could have imagined, she realizes something is not quite right. Previous “apartment sitters” have gone missing, one of the current sitters hints all is not as it seems, and the woman who wrote the novel she and her sister loved as teens is—surprise!—a resident.

The “big reveal” is a blind-side from left field, nothing I would have ever seen coming. Sager uses history, both fake and real to weave a tale that feels urgent and present-day as well as dusty with the footprints of a faded yesteryear. An intoxicating tapestry every bit as formidable as the bizarre wallpaper in Jules apartment in the Bartholomew. Extra points for the atmospheric use of the building’s gargoyles. Superb!

Amazon Link
Genre: Women’s Crime Thrillers > Ghost Thrillers


This week is supposed to be mildly cooler so perhaps I will be reading poolside again. Either way, I’ll have a second round of reviews shortly. In the meantime, I hope you found something to pique your interest. Happy reading!

June Book Reviews, Part One

Happy July! It’s a new month and that means new book reviews! I should have broken this post into a mid-June post, followed by one the latter half of the month. But I didn’t do a lot of reading the first half of June, expecting to come up short at the end—then my reading unexpectedly exploded. Throughout the month I managed to devour a host of awesome books. I’ll be sharing part two of my reviews tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope some of the titles below intrigue you.

To read the blurb and learn more about each book reviewed below, just click the Amazon Link. Here’s hoping something strikes your reading fancy.

Book cover for The Trench by Steve Alten shows a shari's dorsal fin cutting through waterThe Trench
By Steve Alten

An excellent follow-up to The Meg, this book is an equal dose of deep-sea adventure and personal drama. Jonas Taylor and Terry (from book one) are now married, but Jonas’ obsession with Angel, the pure white albino “Jurassic shark” contained in a Sea World type establishment has taken a toll on their marriage. Not to mention Jonas’ reoccurring dreams of being trapped in the Mariana Trench with Terry on the cusp of death and Angel bearing down on them like an avenging…well, Angel.

I thought I’d run out of boo-hisses for bad guys in book one, but the villains in The Trench (male and female) put a whole new spin on obnoxious. While I didn’t like Terry and Jonas being separated for the bulk of the book and found Terry’s predicament with a gazillionaire psychopath and a Russian hoodlum at times tedious—not to mention a blonde piranha after Jonas—the underlying theme of shark vs. man kept me flipping pages.

Some of the diversions—a wedding party on a tall sailing ship, and kayakers hoping to catch migrating whale pods on camera—had me biting my nails when Angel threw a dangerous wrench into their plans. As for the end—OMG!!!—the last quarter of the book had me on the edge of my seat. Did the story deliver? Big time! Talk about an explosive pay-off. A little of down time here and there, but Alten knows how to deliver adventure, especially when creating mayhem with a colossal-sized shark. 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Sea Adventure Fiction > U.S. Horror Fiction


Book cover for Mixing It Up With Mortals by Judi Lynn shows young attractive woman in black robe with hands held openMixing It Up With Mortals
By Judi Lynn

I am addicted to this series! Take a cozy murder mystery and cast all of your characters as supernatural beings—a demon enforcer, a powerful witch, shifters, vampires, Fae, druids, even voodoo priestesses, and you’ve got the intoxicating mix that is Muddy River. The people who populate Lynn’s vividly imagined town feel like buds you could sit down and have a beer with. Each is unique, with their own special gifts. They often gather at the local tavern to rehash the day’s events or put their heads together while trying to solve the latest “big bad” to infect their town.

In this book, it’s an incubus, a particularly nasty demon who’s been sucking the life from mortals outside of Muddy River. Matters get even more interesting when it’s discovered each of the victims is a “whistle blower” of some sort, and a mortal may be involved in ordering their deaths.

Sexy demon enforcer, Raven, and his partner, the powerful witch Hester, team with Meda, another member of Hester’s coven, and the half-human shifter, Brown—who happens to be a sheriff on the mortal side of things. The plot is twisty with a number of supernatural battles and vendettas—old and recent—plus everyday problems. Meda is attracted to Brown, but he seems clueless. This is a secondary plot, but it’s delightful, offsetting the more intense moments of the story. Like the big supernatural battle at the end. And if the reader thinks Raven and Hester are going to get a break, think again. Lynn sets up the closing with yet another mystery to lead into book three. All I can say is “bring it on!” If you love urban fantasy, supernatural elements and cleverly-plotted cozies, this series is gold! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy Mystery > Werewolf and Shifter Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for Girls Night Out shows light shining into dark waterGirls Night Out
By Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Natalie, Ashley, and Lauren have been friends for twenty years, but ugly fissures have taken a toll on the foundation that once glued them together. Ashley and Lauren haven’t spoken for a year after a tragedy drove a knife between them, and Natalie and Ashley are on opposite ends of a major decision. The two friends are also business partners, their once start-up company now mainstream with a buyout offer from Revlon. Natalie wants to sell, Ashley is opposed. Each has hidden personal reasons for their stance.

In an effort to repair their friendship, Ashley invites Natalie and Lauren on a vacation to Mexico—sun, beaches, margaritas, and good times. But once they arrive it becomes apparent how far apart they’ve drifted. Toss in an enigmatic stranger who takes a shine to Ashley and offers to act as a personal tour guide and the three friends find the minimal glue holding them together quickly deteriorating.

The book starts with Natalie waking up on the beach, after a night of partying, her clothing soaked, with no memory of what happened the night before. One thing is apparent, however—Ashley is missing. Told from multiple viewpoints and moving back and forth between the present and the nights leading up to Ashley’s disappearance, the reader becomes privy to how this vacation—meant to heal relationships—went very wrong.

I was hooked on the dynamics of the three women, their backstories, and their efforts (and non-efforts) involved in salvaging their friendships. The book lost me a bit when it delved into Mayan beliefs and made a major player out of Marco, the mysterious local who beguiles Ashley. This is one of those books where everyone is flawed, capable of doing despicable things. Most of the book holds up well, keeping the mystery intriguing, although the ending fizzles a bit. Could have been better, but still entertaining, and an easy read. I can see the movie in my head. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Psychological Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Lizardville: the Ghosty Story by Steve Altier shows old factory with smoke pumping from smoke stacksLizardville, the Ghost Story
By Steve Altier

During a thunderstorm when the power goes out, John Malone entertains his two young sons by telling them a story from his childhood. When he was a kid of 13 or 14, John and his five friends spend a summer night camping out in the woods, fishing, and telling ghost stories.

One of those tales is an old legend about a triple murder/suicide and a woman whose restless spirit refuses to embrace the grave.

This is a great book for tweens or anyone who wants to immerse themselves in childhood memories of riding bikes, collecting soda bottles, and shooting rapids on the local creek. It brings back memories of camping out, chasing fireflies, and toasting marshmallows around a campfire. But there is also a dark side that involves a secret puzzle box, a malevolent spirit, and a friend taken by the darkness. Some of the formatting is a little rough and there are a few grammatical issues, but the story is entertaining, and the characters well developed. I loved the reference to Middleswarth chips! 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Children’s Scary Stories > Children’s Spine-Tingling Horror


Book cover for Summer Lovin' shows three tier wedding cake, bride on top tier with groom jumping from tier, two red dice belowSummer Lovin’
By Jacquie Biggar

This is a positively enchanting story about second-chance romance. Five years ago, Rebecca Sorenson and Mitch Taylor said “I do” in Vegas after partying in a night club. They’ve been separated ever since and now Rebecca is one step shy of signing divorce papers. Does she love Mitch? Of course—if she’d only wise up and admit her feelings. Does he love her? He never stopped, but she walked out of his life.

Part of the fun of this book is watching this made-for-each-other couple go through a tug of war of feelings. But there’s far more to Summer Lovin’ than an HEA romance. Biggar layers her book with a subplot involving two young boys remanded to the custody of their alcoholic and abusive uncle. When Rebecca’s life becomes entwined with the boys, danger follows close behind.

One thing you can always count on from this author is a heartwarming story that leaves you with a warm glow long after you’ve finished the story. She knows how to tug heartstrings and create characters who feel like friends and family. Male and female characters are handled with equal ease and the writing is breezy and polished. I had to re-read several passages just for the enjoyment of the author’s clever turn of phrase. This book is part of a series but is also perfect as a stand-alone. A thoroughly entertaining read. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense > Short Stories


That’s it for today. I hope you found something to entice you. Come back tomorrow when I share the remaining books that helped round out my June reading list.You can never have too many titles on your TBR!

May Book Reviews, Part 2

I’m excited that June is finally here, and pool season has arrived! I spend a lot of time during the summer pool season reading and plotting my WIPs, and am looking forward to my warm weather routine. But first, I’d like to share the books I read in May. You can find part one of my reviews HERE. And now for the books I read during the last half of the month. Click the Amazon Link below each review for blurbs and additional information. Perhaps something will strike your fancy!

Book cover for Global WeirdnessGlobal Weirdness
By Climate Central

If you’re interested in climate change, this is a good place to start. Greenhouse gases, severe weather, global warming, extinction events—it’s all here. The chapters are short and the material presented in such a way that it’s easy to understand and follow. A few chapters seem repetitive in places, but overall the flow from one to the next follows in smooth succession. The book addresses more than just greenhouse gases, also looking at ocean evaporation, sunlight reflection, cloud cover, threatened species and predictions for the future. This is an older book (I think was written in 2012) but I still found it informative and interesting. 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Weather > Environmental Science


Book cover for The HousemateThe Housemate
By C. L. Pattison

Chloe and Megan have been best friends for twelve years. When they find the perfect home for lease, they need a third roommate to swing the rent. They meet Sammi who seems a perfect fit, but after she moves in things start to go haywire. Sammi is secretive about her past and doesn’t appear to have friends or family. Items go missing, Chloe suffers a setback at her job that appears to be the result of sabotage, and a special dress belonging to Megan is irreparably damaged—just a few of the oddities that arise after Sammi enters their lives.

This book reads very quickly (I finished it in two nights), and it is definitely a page turner. Chloe and Megan alternate POVs, along with a third mystery narrator who isn’t revealed until the end. Although I guessed the identity of that narrator halfway through the book, there were plenty of twists that took me by surprise, and when the ending was said and done, I admired how the author let the story play out.

There are a few places where you need to go with the flow and not analyze too closely (i.e, nope, that wouldn’t happen in the real world) but if you’re looking for an entertaining read that would translate well into a cable channel movie, this book is gold. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Thrillers


Book cover for Fever DreamFever Dream
By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I recently hooked yet another friend on this series and decided to reread this book (for the third time) while she was reading it. Although I have devoured all of the Pendergast books, several stand out as my personal favorites and this is at the top of the list.

Aloysius X. L. Pendergast is a Special Agent with the FBI, a man who holds two doctorate degrees, and comes from a very rich and very old southern family. To say he is eccentric is equivalent to calling the ocean a lake. Pendergast does things his way, has little if no regard for authority, favors immaculate black suits, and drives a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. He is a near-albino with extremely pale whitish hair, silver eyes and pale skin. He’s also damn good at solving crimes, even when they have a bizarre or potentially supernatural slant.

In Fever Dream, the crime becomes personal when he suddenly discovers the wife he lost twelve years earlier was likely murdered—and wasn’t exactly who he thought her to be. This book revealed a side of Pendergast readers hadn’t seen before which is one of the reasons I love it so much. That, and a scene involving boats, rednecks and a rundown bar that SCREAMS to be filmed. The audience would be on its feet cheering. 5 whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Thriller > Suspense


Book cover for To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee

I can’t believe I never read this book before! It’s truly a classic in every sense of the word. I picked up a paperback copy a year ago to read on a flight but never got around to it. My loss. I recently came across my copy and devoured it in two days, riveted from the opening page. I’m almost intimidated to write a review. No wonder this book was voted Novel of the Century in a 1999 poll by Library Journal.

A beautiful coming of age story set in a small town at a time when racial prejudice was rampant, this book positively brims over with heart, wisdom, and wit. The characters are simply outstanding. I fell in love with Atticus Finch, Scout, Gem, Dill, Boo Radly, Calpurnia, and so many more. As for the meaning of the title and the way it ties into the story, I had goose bumps.

Brilliant ending, brilliant characters, brilliant story. Star ratings don’t do it justice. A masterpiece of literature!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Literature > Classic Literature and Fiction


Book cover for The Meg shows a behemoth shark under water, many small boats aboveThe Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror
By Steve Alten

I first read this book back in the late 90s when it was originally released. Given I’m a fan of creatures and monsters, I was eager to dive into the story all over again. Happily, I was not disappointed.

Discovered in the Mariana Trench, a “Jurassic shark” (a prehistoric megalodon) manages to reach surface waters, where it goes on a rampage in the modern world. The characters are great—people you can cheer for, others you boo with relish.

Dr. Jonas Taylor, ex-Navy deep sea submersible pilot is especially excellent in the lead role. There are good guys, bad guys, a cheating wife/pushy reporter, billionaire playboy (who happens to be Jonas’s best friend) and a brilliant, beautiful scientist. I recently discovered the author wrote a number of books that piggyback on this one, hence my desire to re-read The Meg. The story has also been made into a movie—which I’m sure (when I finally see it) will have me breaking out the popcorn. I can’t wait to follow up reading the other books in this series of shark adventures—maybe just not at the beach!  5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Action Thriller > Suspense Action > Sea Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Unclear uses shows setting sun reflecting off lake, dark tree line in background, ghost outline of woman's head and shoulders in foregroundUnclear Purposes (Driscoll Lake 3)
By Joan Hall

I’ve followed the Driscoll Lake series from book one. Each novel is excellent, but the final is in a league of its own. The author clearly owns her small-town setting and the people who populate it.

When a woman is found murdered in Driscoll Lake, and two women die by similar means in a neighboring town, ex-FBI agent, Vince Green (now a private investigator) finds himself center stage trying to solve the murder. He and Christine Lawrence are the ones who found the victim in Driscoll Lake—a victim with a secretive past who has ties to multiple people in the town, including Christine’s ex mother-in-law. Toss in an old, unsolved crime, an arrogant police detective, art gallery clues, and the blossoming attraction between Christine and Vince, and you have book that will keep you entertained from page one.

Hall doles out her clues a little at a time, dropping them like breadcrumbs into a forest of divergent paths. Just when you think you’re starting to fit the pieces together, a new twist sends you down the wrong trail. The strong ensemble cast is handled with dexterity, each character awarded moments in the spotlight. Several of the secondary players are particularly notable. Equal parts mystery and romantic suspense, this intriguing novel presents a fabulous close to an excellent series. Each Driscoll Lake novel can be read as a standalone, including Unclear Purposes. Highly recommended! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery > Romantic Suspense > Crime Suspense


Thanks for checking out this month’s reviews. I’ll be back in June with 1-2 more review posts (depending on how much I read). I hope you found something to add to your TBR and I wish you happy reading!

 

May Book Reviews, Part 1

Hello, and welcome to another round of book reviews. I’m splitting them up this month, sharing half now and the remainder in another post at the end of the month. As always, click on the Amazon link for the book blurb or to learn more about the individual title. First up is a book I read in April but forgot to post. Oops!

Book over for Esther by Angela HuntEsther
By Angela Hunt

I love stories based on those who populate the Old Testament and found this an enjoyable read. It moved a bit slowly in some spots, but overall the story kept me riveted and flipping pages.

King Xerxes of Persia orders all young women who are comely in appearance to be brought to his court to serve as concubines. One will be chosen as his new queen. Esther, a Jewish girl is abducted and taken to the palace. Although she eventually wins the pagan king’s heart and becomes his queen, she must hide her faith for fear of reprisal. But when a man who gains the King’s ear wants to exterminate all Jews, Esther must boldly take a stand—for herself, her people, and her God.

Esther doesn’t get much coverage in the Bible, but the author did an excellent job of staying true to her story. Anything that was fictionalized fell logically into place and the historical and religious elements were brought vividly to life. I fully intend to look for more books by this author. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Ancient World Historical Romance


Book cover for the Moses Chronicles: Exodus by H. B. MooreaThe Moses Chronicles #3: Exodus
By H.B. Moore

This is the final book in a trilogy about Moses. Books one and two take the reader from his birth to his time as an honored son in the Egyptian court, his exile, marriage, and discovery of the burning bush on Mount Horeb. In book three, Moses returns to Egypt to confront Pharaoh with God’s order to set His people free.

I didn’t read the first two books, which could be why the story slowed for me in some places. There are references to previous events and relationships between the characters. That was all interesting to a degree, but what I was most interested in was the test of wills between Ramses and Moses, and—most especially—the many plagues the Lord sent to Egypt. When the author concentrated on those, the book soared.

Told in third-person POV, the chapters shift between the perspectives of Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Moses’ Egyptian mother, Bithiah. I found the chapters from Moses’ POV and Bithiah’s the most riveting. And, yes, the author handled the parting of the Red Sea. This made me want to watch my DVD of The Ten Commandments again!  4.5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction > Religious Historical Fiction


Book cover for The Invited by Jennifer McMahonThe Invited
By Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is one of my auto-buy authors, and I get excited whenever I see a new release from her. The Invited is a ghost story with threads of witchcraft and spiritualism that serves up a generous dollop of greed, tragedy, and twisted genealogy. This book creeps along—a bit slow at the beginning—as characters are introduced and an old legend gradually unfolds.

Like a ticking time bomb, the book builds to an explosive conclusion, sucking the reader deeper and deeper with each successive chapter into the grim history of a small New England town. This isn’t a hide-under-the-covers type of book, but one that delivers shivers and goose bumps, while examining the darker side of human nature.

In the early 1900s, Hattie Breckenridge was hung as a witch, her body discarded in the bog where she made her home. Enter Helen and Nate, a married couple who purchase the land where Hattie lived. In a desire to escape the bustle of suburbia, they begin constructing a home, hoping for a quiet life.

It isn’t long before odd occurrences start. Things go missing, the sound of screaming rises from the bog at night, Nate sees a mysterious white doe. As he becomes fixated on the doe, Helen delves into Hattie’s family tree, learning Hattie wasn’t the only one who met a terrible fate. With the help of an odd young girl named Olive, and a new friend, Helen is soon immersed in digging deeper into Hattie’s past, trying to discover what became of her descendants. Helen grows certain Hattie is trying to communicate with her, warning her of an ugly tragedy to come.

If you like atmospheric reads, small town settings, and things that-go-bump in the night, you’re certain to love this spooky novel. It’s all here—broken families, spirit circles, small town gossip, haunted objects—there’s even whispers of buried treasure. Brilliantly packaged and delivered as only McMahon can do, she once again proves her skill as a gifted storyteller. Now, how long until her next book? 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Ghost Fiction > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for The Gate by D. L. CrossThe Gate
by D. L. Cross

In this fast-paced story, author D.L. Cross creates a melting pot of conspiracies, government coverups, and ancient civilizations. Professor Landon Thorne is an expert on alien theories. Unfortunately, most of his speculations have left him labeled a crackpot—until alien spacecraft are detected hurtling toward Earth.

Suddenly, Thorne is the man everyone needs—from secret government operatives to mercenaries for hire. Worse, the woman Thorne thought he loved turns out to be an operative who was assigned as his handler. In the matter of a single day his world goes from routine college campus to hidden government facility, to the wilds of Peru.

Cross sets a breathless pace, juggling a diverse cast of characters, most with their own agendas. There are alliances, crosses and double-crosses, betrayals and perceived betrayals. Tension is kept high with the impending arrival of potentially hostile aliens.

A good deal of research clearly went into this novel, as the author addresses the Roswell Incident, Incas, the Serpent Mound, and a web of other threads that leaves the reader constantly guessing where the next curveball is coming from. Cross throws plenty of them and sets her chapters for hooks that makes it impossible not to keep swiping pages. The writing is tight, the dialogue exchanges, rapid-fire. I found the Roswell thread particularly intriguing. This is the first book in what promises to be a riveting series. If you’re a fan of ancient alien theories mixed with fast-paced intrigue, and characters who command the pages, you don’t want to miss this one! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Alien Invasion Science Fiction > Colonization Science Fiction


book cover for Whatever it Takes by S. BurkeWhatever It Takes
By S. Burke

I was sucked into this story from the get-go. The idea of a celebrity character and a Hollywood setting brought unique appeal to the story. Toss a serial killer into the mix and I knew I was in for a good read. The author crafted a complex plot with realistic characters. Kudos for a strong female lead who didn’t come off over-the-top, something I trip over frequently in popular fiction. Andi O’Connor is competent and convincing while harboring emotions and flaws that make her believable. Her relationship with James grows through the story—at a realistic pace—as the investigation draws them together.

This is a well-crafted mystery that takes an up close look at investigative work. I felt like I was putting pieces of the puzzle together along with Andi even as the danger level ramped higher. The procedural aspects of the book are exceptionally well done, the characters thoroughly developed. One of the secondary characters in particular was a surprise, sadly flawed and utterly human.

The plot ensures the reader is sent through twisted paths before delivering a satisfying conclusion. I could see this book unfolding as a movie. It has a dark underbelly, seasoned with gritty aspects of life. From the glitz of James’s Hollywood career, to the killer’s cold and abhorrent deeds, it examines two sides of life. I would love to see the character of Andi O’Connor return in a sequel. She definitely has the strength and appeal to carry a series. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Suspense > Suspense Thrillers


Look for more reviews from me the end of the month. In the meantime, hopefully something I’ve shared appeals to your reader radar. There’s always room on the TBR for a few more! 🙂