Book Review Tuesday: The Shadows by Alex North, The Girls Weekend by Jody German #HorrorSuspense #SupernaturalMystery #WomenSleuths

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 imageHello, friends, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of the New Year. Although I was offline for November and December, I did manage to read several books—not nearly as many as I hoped. I even failed in my Goodreads Challenge this year, only managing 65 of the 70 books I’d hoped to read. That aside, the next few Tuesdays will be devoted to books I devoured at the end of 2020. Let’s get started!


Book cover shows white hand on black background, silhouettes if four people at knuckles of fingers, their shadows stretching to form gaps between the fingersThe Shadows
by Alex North

I became a fan of Alex North after reading his first book. The Whisper Man. When I read about North’s inspiration for The Shadows—the horrid but true-life Slender Man case—I was immediately intrigued. It’s difficult to imagine how the assailants in the Slender Man case could have been motivated to such an atrocious act by an internet forum. North takes that idea and puts his own spin on it, changing the killers from teen girls to teen boys.

The book is told in first person and third person with two timelines, past and present. As a teen, the main character, Paul Adams, was involved with a group of four, led by Charlie Crabtree, an anti-social obsessed with lucid dreaming. Paul breaks ties with the others when Charlie’s behavior becomes fanatical. When a good friend is killed and the death is attributed to Charlie (after which he disappears) Paul is saddled with grief, guilt, and anger. He leaves town at eighteen, hoping to put the tragedy behind him.

Twenty-five years later, another teen is killed, the murder eerily reminiscent of the tragedy in Paul’s past. At the same time, he returns home, needing to deal with his mother’s dementia. The past returns in the form of internet forums devoted to Cratbtree, the old killing, and a sinister cult-like figure known as Red Hands.

North is a good storyteller and he spins a complex tale. I was surprised by the major twists at the end and the tale held my interest. Paul’s POV is delivered in first person in both past and present, while a detective in the present is relayed in third person POV.

I am a fan of books that switch between past and present, and although I enjoyed this book, there were moments that frustrated me. The gaps between past and present often stretched too long. When there was a huge hook ending on a chapter in the past, the stretch to return took too long because of the need for two POVs in the present. By that time, I had forgotten or lost the momentum from the past. Add in lucid dreaming sections, and scenes occasionally became muddled for me.

There was also a storyline that I felt was plodding, but at the end becomes a key element. Brilliant, really. Overall this is a slow burn, and the reader needs to stick with the story. Not as riveting as The Whisper Man, but still an intricately spun tale. I think it may have been better sticking solely with the main plot thread. I generally love complex novels with multiple threads, but in this case, it bogged things down a bit too much.

3.5 Stars rounded up to 4 for review ratings

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Horror Suspense > Supernatural Mystery > Supernatural Thriller


Book cover has lake at night with house in distance, windows blazing with lightThe Girls Weekend
by Jody Gehrman

Several former college friends, now in their thirties, reunite for a weekend at a sprawling estate owned by the most successful of the group. Sadie MacTavish has achieved J.K. Rowling like fame through a series of middle grade novels that were optioned for the big screen. Life with her handsome Scottish husband, and beautiful teen daughter appears idyllic and perfect.

By contrast, June Moody’s boyfriend has just dumped her via text, and she hasn’t become the great American novelist she once envisioned. The last thing she wants to do is spend a weekend with her former frenemy/rival, Sadie, and Sadie’s husband, Ethan, who once proposed marriage to June. But mutual friend, Amy, is expecting a baby, and Sadie is the one throwing the shower.

June joins Sadie and Amy, along with their remaining friends from college–Em and Kimiko. It’s obvious from the get-go Sadie is a control freak who manipulates everyone and everything in her orbit. When she turns up missing after the first night, blood splatter and a broken statue point to foul play.

There are plenty of undercurrents and baggage among the characters. Amy has suffered mental problems most of her life, Kimiko has a fondness for drink and drugs, Em wants to keep something hidden, and Ethan isn’t as devoted as Sadie has led everyone to believe. A landscaper who lives on the property was overheard arguing with Sadie, and her daughter’s boyfriend isn’t well received by mom.

Suspects, much?

This book kept me flipping pages as the relationships between the characters become more detailed, many overlapping as the chapters progress. Watching all the pieces fall into place is a bit like a slo-mo train wreck. I’m usually able to figure out “whodunit” before the end of most mysteries, but my initial guess proved wrong.

As the narrator, June is a relatable character, one it’s easy to get behind, especially when she finds herself the prime suspect due to her previous relationship with Ethan.

Overall, I found the story suspenseful, but at the same time breezy and fast-paced. The writing is exquisite, with many turns of phrase and descriptions that made me stop to soak them in. Highly enjoyable and atmospheric!

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur Sleuths > Women Sleuths


Thanks for visiting with me today. It’s great to be back sharing reviews again. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 🙂

Guest Author, Jan Sikes and Auras #GhostlyInterference #NewRelease

Hello, everyone! After two months away from blogging—November for NaNoWriMo, and December for a business move—I’m happy to be back at the keyboard again and back in the blogosphere. Even better, I’m kicking off my first post of 2021 with the delightful Jan Sikes, friend and talented author. She’s here to share her newest release and also an intriguing post about auras. Take it away, Jan!

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Thank you, Mae, for allowing me to take over your blog today and talk about my new book release! I deeply appreciate your generosity!

In Ghostly Interference, Charlotte Peters, Jag’s mother, has the ability to read and see auras around people. It’s something she’s done since Jag can remember. That ability makes it difficult for him to hide his true feelings from his mother. 


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

Here’s a short excerpt from “Ghostly Interference.” 

Fifteen minutes later, he perched on a stool at the kitchen counter while Charlotte Peters put the finishing touches to a vegetarian lasagna. She hummed a classic rock song from the sixties.

Jag never ceased to be amazed at how his mother held her beauty even in her mid-forties, with slender frame and long blonde hair she kept tied back in a pony-tail or in a braid. And, although he didn’t mention it, he often wondered why she hadn’t remarried after his dad died.

She slid the lasagna into the oven and handed him a chilled Perrier. “You look like you’ve had a day. Wanna talk about it?”

Jag waved away the bottle. “Can I have a glass of wine instead?” 

She nodded and turned to retrieve a bottle of Cabernet and two glasses. 

“How do you do it, Mom?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Do what?”

“Always know when things are out of sync with me.”

A smile spread across her face. “You forget I can read your aura, dear. You normally have a lot of yellow and pink around you but today there is red and orange. It’s really quite simple.”

Jag sighed. “Of course.” He’d grown up knowing his mother had special gifts. But, it seemed to him that she’d only allowed herself to be more open about them in the past few years.

Here’s what I’ve learned about auras and reading them. 


Anything that has an atomic structure will have an aura, an energy field that surrounds it. Simply put, the aura is the energy field immediately surrounding a person or thing. I have seen auras around inanimate objects as well as living entities. Children are very good at seeing auras, and often depict them in crude drawings by placing a ring of some color around a person’s head. 

To see an aura around a person or even an object, you must look a little off center and continue to stare. If you blink, the aura disappears and you start over. Sometimes you can see it right away and other times it takes a few minutes. I very often can see auras around heads in an oval shape. The color of auras tell what the person is experiencing at that time on a physical and emotional, even spiritual level. It helps if the background behind the person is either black or white with natural light.

Here are a couple of Aura photos I had taken through the years.

The first was in 2012 in Denver, Colorado and the second taken in Sedona, Arizona two years ago. The colors are completely different. 

What some colors signify:

1. Deep Red – Hardworking, physical, action, power, survival, realistic, vital, grounded, strength, stamina or physical explorer.

2. Red – Excitement, Physical, energetic, competitive, leader, winner, achiever, courage, will-power, sexual, entrepreneur, or promoter.

3. Orange – Pleasure, enjoyment, challenge, thrill, positive, action-oriented, creative expression, adventurer or business.

4. Yellow – Playful, sunny, creative, fun, learning, light, movement, entertainer, radiates optimism, warmth, charming, or easy-going.

5. Green – Social, nature, content, harmony, teacher, loves to communicate and share with others, perfect host or hostess.

6. Blue – Caring, sensitive, loving, helpful, loyal, helper, compasison, peaceful, desire to be of service and to help support others.

7. Indigo – Clarity, calm, deep inner feelings, love, seeker, introverted, inner knowing, authenticity, high sense of inner values, or artistic.

8. Lavender – Imagination, mystical, daydreamer, fantasy, artistic, soft, creative, fragile, sensitive, often appear spacey, unrealistic or etheric.

9. White – Transcendent, transformation, spiritual, healing, quiet, enlightened, sensitive, or live in higher dimensions.

10. Black – Black is probably the most negative colour to appear in one’s aura. It is associated with mental illness, stress, depression, hatred and negative feelings. It can also indicate the person’s habit of acting miserly.

Of course, there are many more colors, but these are a few of the basics. 

I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve had any experience with auras, please share them! 

Banner ad for Ghostly Interference shows book in paperback, kindle and phone versions

BOOK BLURB:

Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

BOOK TRAILER LINK

BOOK PURCHASE LINKS: 
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | iTUNES | GOOGLE PLAY

Connect with Jan Sikes at the following haunts:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Author Page


I hope you enjoyed Jan’s post and are looking forward to meeting Jag and Rena in Ghostly Interference. I’ve already got my copy loaded on my Kindle, waiting on my TBR. Please kick off the New Year by taking a moment to drop Jan a comment and share the news about her release by using the buttons below.

Happy Halloween and a Break for NaNoWriMo

Illuminated home garden path patio lights with halloween pumpkin lanterns

Happy Halloween! Wishing you plenty of treats and no tricks!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going to take a break from blogging for the month of November. I’m focusing on NaNoWriMo and attempting to finish a WIP that has been languishing far too long (wish me luck!).

I’ll be popping in at Story Empire from time to time, and hopefully, can make a few rounds of the blogosphere as well–especially if I get stuck. Although I’m hoping that won’t happen…er, the getting stuck part. Please pardon my absence.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. Regardless if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or working at your own pace, I hope your muse is extra generous. See you in a month. 🙂

Returning Soon

Cute tabby cat peeking over a rim

Hi, friends. Just peeking in to drop a quick note asking that you pardon my absence these last few days. I had a chance to grab several unexpected vacation days and jumped on the opportunity. I’ve been off work for most of the past week. As I already had guests scheduled, I’ve made an effort to keep up with those posts but have been lax in my visits. I should be back to normal by Monday, but in the meantime am still enjoying lazy fall days and plenty of shopping (my favorite sport). Looking forward to catching up with all of you soon!

Guest Author Thursday: Marica Meara with The Emissary 3: Love Hurts #newrelease

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

My guest today has a lot of pluses in her corner—she’s a good friend, a Story Empire colleague, a gifted writer, and has been blessed with a wonderful sense of humor. She’s also a fabulous supporter of others. I have gobbled up everything she’s written, including her first two Emissary novels—and this one! You can find my 5 STAR REVIEW HERE. I thoroughly love these characters! You’ll find out why soon enough as you read the blurb and excerpt she’s sharing. Take it away, Marcia!

Banner ad for Emissary 3 by Marcia Meara shows Kindle with book cover displayed lying next to red rosesThanks so much for having me here today, Mae. It’s a great pleasure to be sharing the news of my latest release, The Emissary 3: Love Hurts, with you and your followers. I hope you’ll all enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 2. Dodger is battling a panic attack as he tries to get ready to visit the library where he’s just discovered the girl of his dreams works. I think it’s a pretty good example of the unofficial father/son relationship between Jake and Dodger, the bedrock of this series.

But first, let’s start with the blurb, so those unfamiliar with the novellas can get an idea of what’s going on overall.

Blurb

Header ad for The Emissary 3 by Maricia Meara

The archangel created his emissaries to help mortals avoid choices that would doom them for eternity. He hadn’t planned on the youngest member of his team falling in love with one.

~~~

Azrael’s emissarial program was growing daily, but it still met with stubborn opposition from many on the Council of Angels. Dodger’s request to be allowed to experience what falling in love was all about didn’t help matters, but Azrael thought the boy was onto something. He agreed emissaries who’d shared a loving relationship during their mortal lives would have a deeper understanding of human emotions and motivations, thus enhancing the skills they needed to do their jobs.

With that in mind, Azrael gave Dodger one chance to search for true love. He then laid down a daunting set of stringent rules and guidelines that could not be broken under any circumstances lest dire happenings occur. But while the angel sincerely hoped Dodger would find a way to make this endeavor work, he feared an avalanche of unintended consequences could be in store for his youngest emissary.

Sometimes even angels hate to be right.

~~~

Will Azrael ever tire of popping up behind Jake just to see his first emissary fall out of his chair in shock? Will sharp-eyed motel owners ever notice a big red and white semi mysteriously appearing and disappearing from their parking lots overnight? And will Dodger be able to track down the mystery girl who caught his eye two weeks earlier to see if she’s really The One?

To find the answers to these and other angelic or emissarial questions, come along on one last adventure with Jake, Dodger, and that ginormous, glowy-eyed archangel, Azrael. They’re waiting for you!

Excerpt

In the Somewhat Cool Trailer of Their Big Semi,
Gulping Down Coffee While Talking Over His Shoulder
And Hunting Everywhere for His Cleanest Pair of Jeans.

“WHERE THE HELL are the good ones? I only wore them to dinner the other night. They shouldn’t be in the laundry yet. And have you seen my belt? Or my other sneakers?”

Jake studied Dodger’s frustrated grumbling and frenzied search. “I don’t suppose it’s me you’re trying to impress, is it? Or maybe you think Azrael will be dropping in today?”

The boy didn’t answer, but an embarrassed flush spread across his cheeks.

“Okay, kid. If it isn’t either of those, I’m going to take a wild stab and say you’ve finally worked up the nerve to stop by the library.”

Shoulders slumped, Dodger glanced back at Jake, his eyes filled with panic. “That was my plan. Of course, it was my plan yesterday, too. And the day before.”

“So, what happened then?”

“Same thing that’s happening now. I start thinkin’ about all the ways I could screw this up, and I chicken out and put it off to go lookin’ for folks you and I can help, as usual.”

“But today, you’re not going to give in to the temptation to overthink this, right? You’re just going to jump in feet first like you always do with everything else and figure it out on the go.”

No answer.

“Dodge? Please tell me you’re going to quit driving yourself insane with needless worry and go talk to the girl. You don’t have to do more than that, you know. Just stop by to say hi and see how it goes.”

Still no answer.

“Look, kid. I understand how you feel. I do. Trying to have those first conversations with someone you really want to get to know is one of the hardest things in life, even without all the complications Azrael added into the mix. But I think you’ve put your own roadblocks in the way now, by inventing things to worry about that probably won’t happen at all. It’s time for you to trust your instincts and go for it.

book cover for The Emissary 3 by Marcia Meara shows silhouettes of couple gazing an ocean, angel wings over sky“You don’t have to settle every rule and regulation and goal for this relationship right off the bat. All you have to do is drop in for a quick visit. I have a feeling she’ll be happy to see you. Everybody likes to know others enjoy chatting with them, right?”

With a shaky sigh, Dodger plopped down on his bunk. “I know, I know. But I can’t help it. When I think about her, nothin’ works right. My heart beats too fast and my mouth gets dry and my knees shake. I can’t mess this up! I just can’t.”

“Oh, ye of little faith. In all the things Azrael said, did he once mention you’d screw up this possible relationship due to being too scared to carry on a normal conversation?”

“No, but—”

“No buts about it. It sounded to me like our angel wasn’t worried about how things would start out. His concern was directed at how it might end up, and the potential for future scenarios you wouldn’t like. I didn’t pick up on a single thing about you messing up right off the bat. Only that finding a way for it to turn into more would likely be pretty tricky.”

Jake rose, stepped to the little bookcase they used for storage, then grabbed a pair of jeans from the top shelf. “Here.” He tossed the jeans at the boy. “Are these the ones you were digging all over creation for?”

As Dodger caught the jeans, his embarrassed smile morphed into a sheepish grin. “Yeah. I guess I wasn’t lookin’ very hard.”

“Fear makes us blind, Dodge, and not always just about the big things. Get dressed so we can grab a quick breakfast. You’ve got a library to check out.”

~~~


Buy The Emissary 3: Love Hurts HERE


Bio

Author, Marcia MearaMarcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years and four big, spoiled cats.

When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. She enjoys nature. Really, really enjoys it. All of it! Well, almost all of it, anyway. From birds, to furry critters, to her very favorites, snakes. The exception would be spiders, which she truly loathes, convinced that anything with eight hairy legs is surely up to no good. She does not, however, kill spiders anymore, since she knows they have their place in the world. Besides, her husband now handles her Arachnid Catch and Release Program, and she’s good with that.

Spiders aside, the one thing Marcia would like to tell each of her readers is that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. If, at the age of 69, she could write and publish her first book (and thus fulfill 64 years of longing to do that very thing), you can make your own dreams a reality, too. Go for it! What have you got to lose?

CONTACT MARCIA HERE:
marciameara16@gmail.com |
The Write StuffPinterest | Twitter: @marciameara

Find Marcia’s Books Here: MARCIA’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Book Review Tuesday: The Body From the Past #JazziZanders #Cozy Mystery @judypost

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

Happy Tuesday! I only have one book review to share this week, but it’s a charmer, and part of a cozy mystery series I love. It was so good to catch up with some of my favorite characters in The Body From the Past.


Book cover for The Body From the Past by Judi Lynn shows cute pug dog in devil costume with jack-o-lanternsThe Body From the Past
by Judi Lynn

The latest Jazzi Zanders mystery delivers in a big way. I have enjoyed all of the books in this series to date, but this is my favorite. Jazzi, her hunky husband Ansel, and her cousin Jerrod are in the process of flipping a new house when they discover a young woman who lived there in the past was murdered.

Jessica Hodgekill had everything going for her when someone pushed her from a second-floor balcony the night of her high school graduation party. The suspects are plenty and range from rivals to a busybody neighbor, and even family members. As Jazzi digs for an answer, rattling skeletons that shouldn’t be rattled, new murders occur in the present and the roster of suspects mounts.

I really enjoyed the multiple angles in this story that included glimpses into Jessica’s past and even journal entries she’d left behind. The mystery builds slowly with each suspect rising to the surface as individual motives are revealed. The author does an excellent job in painting several characters as having plenty of reasons to plot murder. Set against the backdrop of October, the story also offers a nice balance with Jazzi’s homelife as she and Ansel prepare for a Halloween bash. There is plenty of warmth with familiar secondary characters who have become like friends and neighbors throughout the series. Even Jazzi and Ansel’s pets—pug George and cats, Inky and Marmalade—get moments to shine in multiple scenes.

The plot threads are tightly woven for a satisfying ending when all the pieces fall into place. Judi Lynn knows how to deftly juggle numerous characters within an engaging story, while continuing her characters across a series that leaves the reader eagerly looking forward to the next mystery. 5 Stars!

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Cozy Mystery > Amateur Sleuth Mysteries


And there you have my latest read. As we head into October, The Body From the Past with its Halloween theme and long unsolved murder mystery makes for perfect reading during jack-o-lantern season. I give it 5 Plump Pumpkins! 🙂

Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #19 NEW Image Prompt! Join in the fun! @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity #WritingPrompt

I had some free writing time this weekend, and although I tinkered with my WIP,  I also found time to participate in Suzanne Burke’s latest flash fiction challenge. If you’d like to play, you can find all the details HERE.

This week’s photo prompt:

A shot of the iconic Hollywood Sign on hillside

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Shattered Dreams

“It’s iconic, you know that, right?” Terrence pointed to the photo behind his desk.

“You have to ask?” Marco smirked, rolling a toothpick in his mouth. “Who doesn’t know the Hollywood sign?”

The town inspired dreams, fantasies and stardom. Sometimes, it inspired hate.

Terrence studied his fingernails. “How much?”

“Depends.” The toothpick tasted woody. Marco flicked it aside. “Do you want it flattened or—”

“Obliterated.” Terrence circled his desk. Stood gazing at the framed photo on the wall, hands clasped behind his back. “I was thirteen when this was taken. Family vacation. That’s me and Russ in front of the sign. He was ten… grew stars in his head that same night. Said he was going to be a big name when he was older.”

“Sorry it didn’t work out.” An outright lie. Marco didn’t give a rat’s ass, but he’d learned it helped to project a measure of sympathy until the payout was in hand.

“I’ve dumped every dollar I have into supporting my brother. I’m out of cash, and patience. The idiot thinks he has a shot at the lead in the Merchant Mercury franchise.”

Marco snorted. This was too rich to pass up. “Your brother’s claim to fame is a shaving cream commercial. Merchant Mercury is supposed to be the next Star Wars.”

“You see what I’m up against.” Terrance grimaced. “I want you to take down that damn sign, so he realizes the whole thing is a pipe dream. He needs to man up, start earning a living. Forget this ‘acting is my destiny’ crap. The guy’s a loser. It’s time he faced the facts.”

“Consider it done.” Marco had already stockpiled the explosives. “You know where to send the money.”

++++

Terrence scrubbed his face, suppressing a yawn. He folded into the couch, coffee in hand, then snatched the TV remote. Every channel had the same news—someone had blown up the Hollywood sign sometime after 3:00 AM. Videos and images showed police swarming the scene. What remained of the iconic sign was strewn in chunks and splinters over the hillside. Helicopters pinwheeled overhead and reporters angled for face time. Talking heads popped up in a mosaic of windows on his screen, one after another.

“Hell, yes!” He pumped a fist in the air. Marco had blasted that wretched sign into fragments and—if Terrance had calculated properly—Russ’s dreams right along with it. When his phone rang, he juddered to his feet, snatching it from the end table. “Yeah?”

“Hey, Terrance, how are you, big brother?” Strange that Russ sounded energized. He should be crestfallen after seeing his altar blown to smithereens.

“I, um…” Terrence knew he should feign horror or sorrow. Maybe outrage. Outrage was always good.

“I’m so freaking stoked I don’t even know what day it is.” Russ didn’t give him the time to decide.

“Where are you?”

“My pathetic shoebox of an apartment, but not for long.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I hit the big time.”

Terrence muted the TV remote. “You’re not making sense.”

“Probably because I kicked a bottle of champagne in under fifteen minutes.”

A queer sense of foreboding spread in Terence’s gut. “You’re celebrating?”

“Sure am. I landed the lead in Merchant Mercury.” Russ’s voice climbed an octave. “Just got the call. Can you shittin’ believe it? The studio head is already saying I’m going to be the next Harrison Ford. First thing tomorrow, I’m hiking to the Hollywood sign to have my picture taken.”

Terrence’s knees buckled. He sank onto the couch, eyes glued to the emergency personnel on the screen. What the hell had he done?

“I’d love it if you could be with me big brother. You always believed in me. Never gave up on my dreams.”

Terrance dropped the phone, cradled his face in his hands. He’d spent every dime he had paying Marco’s price, figuring Russ would crawl home when broken. They’d start over, go into business together. But all of that had changed. His bank account read zero and his younger brother was destined for stardom. Who was the loser now?

He clawed the phone to his ear. “Russ…” His voice broke. “I, uh… I hate to ask, but I’m out of cash.”

“Seriously? How?”

“I did something stupid.” He swallowed bitter tears. “I shattered my dream.”


Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my take on the photo prompt, and—as always—I wish you happy writing wherever your muse may take you!

Book Review Wednesday: Eternal Road, The Emissary 3: Love Hurts, The Choice: Unexpected Heroes. @HowellWave, @MarciaMeara, @gmplano

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colors

If today’s post seems a little out of place, that’s because I’m a day late with my book reviews. I already had a post in place yesterday, so I moved my reviews to Hump Day this week. Every now and then you just have to go with the flow.

I have three titles to share, all from authors I admire. I’m pleased to say I’ve read and enjoyed every book each of these fabulous authors has released to date, so it’s no surprise I found their latest offerings equally up to snuff. All three are also Story Empire colleagues. That’s right–if you haven’t already heard the news, Gwen Plano has joined SE, and we couldn’t be happier! So today, it’s a blog 3-FER for SE reads, all recommended with plenty of fanfare and applause! 🙂


book cover for Etneral Road by John W. Howell shows blue and white 1965 Oldsmobile on road heading into cloudsEternal Road
John W. Howell

A combination of paranormal suspense, fantasy, and time travel, Eternal Road delivers on multiple levels. James dies in a car accident and finds himself on the “eternal road” where his soul offers ripe pickings for Lucifer. James hooks up with Samatha (Sam) a soul he knew in grade school, now a woman, who partners with him through numerous learning experiences that take them through various moments in history–the OK Corral, the Alamo, WWII–and even decades into the future, where the human race is at stake.

What stood out for me in this story was the spiritual aspect of good vs. evil, the love and protection of God, and the choices the characters have to make. The love between James and Sam transcends that of mortal scope, and many of the scenes related to their family (when they’re able to reach those moments) are beautifully written and heart warming. Eternal Road delivers adventure, history, fantasy, and spiritual warmth in equal measures. Although the ending delivers a solid wrap to the events, I could easily see this becoming a series, and would eagerly sign on for future stories! 5 Stars.

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Historical Thriller > Supernatural Thriller


book cover for The Emissary 3 by Marcia Meara shows silhouettes of couple gazing an ocean, angel wings over skyThe Emissary 3: Love Hurts
by Marcia Meara

In The Emissary 3: Love Hurts, author Marcia Meara returns to the world of Jake, Dodger, and Azrael—two emissaries and an angel whose job is to keep humans from making poor life choices. Azrael is in charge (or “Boss” as Jake calls him, to the non-amusement of Azrael) with Jake and Dodger working as his emissaries. Jake and Dodger have physical bodies, but they have previously passed from this life—which becomes a problem when Dodger falls for Juliet, a girl he sees at the library.

Azrael is willing to give Dodger a chance to explore his feelings and develop a relationship with Juliet, but the complications far surpass those of a normal couple, especially given Dodger is unable to share with Juliet who he really is or what he does.

As in past Emissary novellas, the story abounds with warmth and humor. I never tire of Azrael suddenly appearing and giving Jake a jolt. There is plenty of banter between angel and emissaries, but also plenty of near-parental type guidance and sternness from Azrael. That big angel has a huge soft spot for his recruits!

The story is polished with spot-on dialogue and emotions that tug on heart strings but ultimately leave the reader with a feel-good finish. This is a beautiful story, and a beautiful wrap to an enchanting series! 5 Stars.

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy


Book cover for The Choice by Gwen Plano shows silhouettes of man and woman from back holding hands on rocky beach, helicopter with search beam in starry night skyThe Choice: the unexpected heroes
by Gwen Plano

If you enjoy military fiction and political intrigue, you’ll enjoy this well-polished and plotted novel. The sequel to The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth, the story delves into the murder of Brad and Sarah (from book one) and who ordered their deaths. The author does provide a forward which helps cover what occurred in the first novel if you are new to the series.

In The Choice, new characters are introduced, including two who set up a romantic theme. I liked how the relationship grew and flourished between Jim and Donna. The bulk of the story, however, focuses on the investigation and political twists and turns as our “unexpected heroes” work to stop a power-hungry man known as “the Lion” from creating a one-world government. The pace moves steadily throughout with a few unexpected and well delivered twists at the end. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Military Policy > Mystery Action Fiction > Action and Adventure Romance


Thank you for checking out my latest round of reviews. As always, I hope you have your nose buried in a good book and I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: HMS Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack, The Twins by D.L. Cross @Virgilante @stacitroilo

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 imageWelcome to another Book Review Tuesday. I have two five-star reviews to share today. Both of these books are wildly imaginative and engrossing from start to finish. If you enjoy ingenious fiction, you’re sure to love both of these!


book cover HMS Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack shows clipper ship on stormy seasH.M.S. Lanternfish
Lanternfish Series Book 2
By C. S. Boyack

C. S. Boyack delivers another colorful adventure with HMS Lanterfish. I loved the first novel, Voyage of the Lanternfish, which introduced us to James—pirate captain Bloodwater—and his crew. The gang is back again (including the scene stealing root monsters), along with new characters, imaginative creatures, and plenty of action. James is drawn from a peaceful retirement to act as privateer for the war effort.

As always, Boyack delivers a story that brims over with adventure and explosive action. There are exploding monks (and that’s only part of the “explosive” action, LOL), a possessed weapon, a shogun, con artists, terrifying creatures, a beautiful princess, and a crew of thoroughly unique characters. Some standouts for me are the relationship between James and his adopted son, Mule, and Serang, a fiercely loyal female warrior who can kick butt like no other and who gets her own ship this time around. It’s hard to catch your breath when Lanternfish sets sail.

If you enjoy fast-paced fiction, a good sea yarn and a fun time, you’ll love this book and this series. And if you have no clue what a root monster is, grab your copy of HMS Lanterfish and prepare to be enchanted, as these guys have plenty of tales to tell, and they are not shy about it as the crew can attest. When a root monster earns a name, it is really something special, just one more highlight in this wildly entertaining book!

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Sea Stories > Pirate Adventure > Epic Fantasy


Book cover for The Twins by D. L. Cross shows black sun with fiery corona above ruins of city, UFOs and Ying and Yang symbols The Twins
Astral Conspiracy Series Book 4

by D. L. Cross

I’ve been following this series since book one. The Stones has been my favorite to date, but The Twins comes in a close second. Once again, the action is nonstop, following different POV characters through separate pulse-pounding situations, all coming to a head in the closing quarter of the book. For fans who have followed the series, there are several surprises in store, including one jaw-dropping revelation that sets up book five, the closing novel in the series. That revelation is sheer brilliance on the part of the author, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. I also really loved Cross’s slant on Roswell with what took place there and why. Yet another perfectly lobbed plot grenade.

There is strong cast of characters in this series, and by now I’ve spent a good deal of time with all of them. As their loyalties change, and circumstance reveals news sides to their personalities and underlying motivations, I found my own loyalties changing—including grudgingly admiring more than one character I once detested. Although each chapter is a constant adrenalin rush, it’s almost impossible to catch your breath in the closing quarter of the book. I fully expect The Lab, book five, to deliver a nail-biting and riveting finish to this stellar series. If you enjoy alien invasion stories with exceptional character development, polished writing, and an engrossing storyline, The Twins, and the Astral Conspiracy series are not to be missed! I would love to see Netflix turn this into a series.

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Alien Invasion > Colonization Science Fiction


Book cover shows two figures in black silhouette in an empty room with large windows and curtains behind, gunman shooting victim in backI also read Murder They Wrote last week, a murder mystery anthology in which I have a short story. It was great to sit back and enjoy tales my co-authors created. C. S. Boyack, and Judi Lynn set up murder mysteries that allowed me to revisit with characters I love.

Boyack used Jason Fogg to tell his story, and Judi Lynn brought back Jazzi and Ansel from her popular series. Both were stellar mysteries.

I enjoyed every offering in this collection, but must give a special shout out to Julia Donner for  Murder at a Garden Party or The Unpleasantness in the Study, a Regency tale full of dry wit and humor. I enjoyed it so much, I want to track down more stories with these characters.

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Anthology > Murder Mystery


As always, I wish you happy reading and hope that a title I’ve shared will spark your interest. I am also still reading the Harry Dresden series, and recently finished book 14 of the 16 that are currently in release. Book 17 releases in October, so I’ve got to read fast to catch up. Most of the Dresden books run 500-600+ pages, so it’s taking me a while, LOL!

And if you’d like to learn about Murder They Wrote, and the story I wrote for the anthology, I invite you to visit Marcia Meara’s blog today, where I’ve got the spotlight for Guest Author Tuesday. Marcia is a good friend, a Story Empire colleague, and a fantastic author. If you’re not already following her blog, you’re missing out on something special. You can find today’s post, HERE.

New Release: Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach #fantasy #swordandsorcery

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script
It’s my pleasure to have D. Wallace Peach on my blog today with her newest fantasy release, Liars and Thieves which is book one in a brand new epic fantasy series. Diana’s books are always rich in world building with intriguing, fully-fleshed out characters and plot lines that leave me in awe of their complexity and dexterity. I love that I can step into a vividly imagined world and lose myself in the beauty of her writing. She has a remarkable gift with words, and I’m honored to be taking part in her blog tour.

Banner ad for Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach shows book, plus Kindle and e-reader versionsAt one point, the story suggests that all people are changelings. Diana explains what that means:

I’m intrigued by the idea that our choices define who we are, and that we have the ability to remake ourselves every moment of every day. We have the power to “change.” This applies to our appearance but, more importantly, to our thoughts and beliefs, how we speak and behave, whether we approach others with defensive hostility or kindness and compassion. We have the choice to seek a better world, a healthier planet, or to contribute to chaos. And simply by changing out choices we can become whole new people. That’s powerful!

I know the book will be powerful, too. Check out this trailer!


BLURB:

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—

When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—

Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—

Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.


Liars and Thieves Global Purchase Link


Author Bio:Author, D. Wallace Peach
D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Connect with the author at the following haunts:
Website/Blog | Website/Books | Amazon Author’s Page | Facebook | Twitter


Are you ready to get lost in this richly-layered fantasy world? Then I highly suggest you go forth and ONE-CLICK Liars and Thieves. Thanks for visiting today and joining in the launch excitement of Diana’s release. Please don’t forget to use the sharing buttons and help spread the news!