Fiction Book Reviews by Mae: A Cut Above by Judi Lynn @judypost, Lunar Boogie by C. S. Boyack @Virgilante #bookreviews

Cute striped kitten with open book and eyeglasses lying on white bed

Thanks for joining me for another day of book reviews. I have two fantastic indie releases to share, each part of a series. The first is the debut release for the Karnie Cleaver series, while the second is book number four in the popular Lizzie and the Hat adventures. Obviously Karnie can be read as a standalone, since the series is just starting, but the Hat can as well. Mystery and adventure can be found in both camps!

BOOK BLURB:

Karnie works in her family’s butcher shop. When Donna Amick stalks to the meat display case and tries to pressure her to leave the family business to work for her, Karnie turns her down, flat. But Donna doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer. The next morning, Donna’s body is found behind A Cut Above with a meat cleaver embedded in the back of her head. Detective Carmichael’s top suspect is Sam Lessman, who trained at their shop and then went to work for Donna as a full time butcher. Karnie knows it can’t be him and decides to prove it. Unfortunately, that’s a lot harder to do in real life than it is in the mysteries she reads.

MY REVIEW:

I enjoyed this novel introducing the Karnie Cleaver mysteries by author Judi Lynn. She has a deft pen with cozies, as proven by her Jazzie Zanders series. Lynn scores again with Karnie and her family who own the A Cut Above butcher shop. Once again, Lynn populates her tale with plenty of interesting characters. Aside from Karnie and her family, the reader gets to know several of the customers (regulars) who visit the butcher shop. I love Mrs. Sprunger! Then there’s Matt, the owner of a nearby farm, who is divorced with two small children. It’s clear from the start Matt is set on turning Karnie’s head, but she’s not so easily convinced. As he tells her, she’s “prickly.”

She knows what she wants. She’s happy living alone, working the counter at the butcher shop and producing a video cooking show with tips on how to prepare various dishes using the meats her family sells. Her following is so popular the owner of a new, rival butcher shop tries to lure her away with a chunky salary. Not long after Karnie turns her down, Donna Amick ends up dead, a meat cleaver in the back of her head. Karnie is not a suspect but that doesn’t stop her from trying to discover who is responsible, especially given the woman’s body was dumped behind A Cut Above.

The sleuthing alternates with plenty of family scenes and an evolving relationship between Matt and Karnie. I love his kids, and their dog, Jolly. Isn’t that a great name for a dog?

On the murder end, there are several suspects with motive, plus a second murder to contend with. Then somebody attempts to break into Karnie’s house, and the stakes get higher. The murderer is revealed in a tense and suspenseful moment (some nail biting on my part), and the ending provides a perfect wrap while setting up the characters for more adventure. I for one will be following this delightful series. And as a bonus, the author includes several recipes at the back of the novel. A winner all the way around!

BOOK BLURB:

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

MY REVIEW:

I’ve followed this series from the start, enjoying the unique blend of superhero antics, supernatural complications, and music a-plenty. Part buddy tale, party mystery, and part adventure, Lunar Boogie is my favorite entry to date for Lizzie and the Hat. This time they’re up against a werewolf on a killing spree, which leads local law enforcement to think they have a serial killer on their hands.

The addition of Joe Yoder, a police lieutenant who talks to his dead wife, brought a new dimension—both on the home front (he misses her terribly) and in crime solving. Normally, the reader witnesses Lizzie and the Hat tracking their quarry, but in this case, we see their progress along with the efforts of the police—and frustrations on both sides. I liked the police procedural element, plus the author’s unique take on werewolves being “the most tragic of all” monsters.

For long time fans of the series, Kevin, the vampire with a lisp, returns for a few scenes and we get more Night Bump Radio (“what goes bump in your night?”). As noted before, Boyack has a vivid and clever imagination. It’s on display here, along with the hat’s trademark snarky dialogue. The banter between Lizzie and her alien sidekick (who has to assume the guise of a hat) is highly entertaining. If you like the supernatural, superheroes, and super snark, grab a copy of Lunar Boogie. You can jump right in without needing to read the previous stories. The author designed it that way. Although the whole series is entertaining, Boyack hit new highs with this one!


5 Stars to Both of These Fun and Adventurous Reads!

Guest Author Thursday: Lunar Boogie by C. S. Boyack #newrelease #superherofantasy

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

Hello, everyone. Welcome to a special Guest Author Thursday. My friend and Story Empire colleague, C. S. Boyack has released a new Lizzie and the Hat novella, Lunar Boogie. I’ll be sharing my 5-star review next week on my blog. In the meantime, suffice to say I loved this story—it’s my favorite Hat novella to date. To tell us all about it, Craig has sent his spokes model and personal assistant, robot girl extraordinaire, Lisa, to share the details. Take it away, Lisa!

So excited to be here today, Mae. I’m excited to be anywhere after 2020, if you know what I mean. I’m on the road because Craig published a new book. This is book number four in the hat series, and it’s titled “Lunar Boogie.”

This one has Lizzie, our budding monster hunter on the trail of a werewolf. She’s really no more special than anyone else, but her partner is a creature from another dimension. He’s trapped forever in the form of a hat. When she wears him, they form a symbiotic bond that allows both of them to accomplish things they couldn’t do alone.

Today’s topic involves that bond, but falls on the side of earning a living. Chasing monsters isn’t the most profitable thing to do, but Lizzie still has rent and utilities to pay. It turns out that many years before he met Lizzie, the hat learned to play the upright bass. He needs that symbiosis, because he doesn’t have hands, but he’s pretty good.

They formed a small cover band, and spend their weekends playing around the country. He uses her fingers to play the bass, while Lizzie sings. This brings some added fun to the stories, because when the bars let out, it’s a pretty good time to chase monsters. It also lets them travel around so all their adventures don’t have to take place in Lizzie’s back yard.

Lizzie is a pretty creative girl, and tries to spend her money at thrift stores and pawn shops. This time she scored a cool jacket and bedazzled it up herself. I get to wear that outfit in my promotional poster. Tell your friends to download the image and feel free to use it as a phone background or add it to Pinterest.

Honestly, I visit with artist Sean Harrington when we make these. I was worried about this poster, because robot girls are a little heavier than the standard issue bass player. It all worked out in the end, and we came up with some fun artwork. This is a scene from a college dance the band played.

Sexy blonde woman in tight black pants,  black ankle boots and black fringe jacket standing on tilted upright bass with python image covering center of bass

The book is way fun. Plenty of banter between Lizzie and the hat like fans have come to expect, and a different kind of adventure. I hope your readers will give it a chance.


BOOK BLURB:
Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

You can connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | Novels | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest | BookBub


I’ve enjoyed each of the Lizzie and the Hat novellas, and have already picked up my copy of Lunar Boogie. It sounds like Lizzie and the (snarky) hat really have their hands full this time! If you’d like to help Craig with his book launch, be sure to use the sharing buttons below, then hop over to ONE-CLICK your copy at Amazon!

Book Review Tuesday: The Ballad of Mrs. Molony #UrbanFantasy #SuperHeroFantasy @Virgilante

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 imageIt’s pumpkin weather and I have a great pumpkin read to share today. Craig Boyack has a new Lizzie and the Hat adventure, and it’s a perfect fit for this month. The great thing about Lizzie and the Hat novellas is that you can read them in any order. Each story is complete to itself. They’re also an ideal size for a fairly quick read.

And let’s not forget the Hat or his trademark snark. I LOVE that character! 🙂


Book cover for The Ballad of Mrs. Molony shows straw cowboy hat on wooden table with cobwebs, pitchfork beside tableThe Ballad of Mrs. Molony
by C. S. Boyack

C. S. Boyack’s unique crime fighting duo is back in a new Lizzie and The Hat adventure. Not familiar with these two? Lizzie is a twenty-something who wields a mean pistol and plays the upright bass in a cover band with the help of the hat. He may look like a fedora (or whatever hat style he chooses), but he’s actually a being from another world—capable of zinging some of the best snarky dialogue you’re likely to encounter. These two play off each other with witty banter and plenty of adventure as they go up against supernatural bad guys. This time, it’s a group of vampires haunting the rodeo circuit.

That makes for a lot of colorful happenings as Lizzie, the hat, and their band take on the country music scene, mingling with broncobusters and cowboys. Boyack treats us to plenty of rodeo experiences in addition to Lizzie and the hat working to track down the vamps. Some of the moments that stood out for me included Lizzie target-shooting ghouls in a cemetery, egged on by the hat’s snarky asides; a vampire with a speech impediment; the hat’s addiction to “my internet” and his ongoing insistence the band should have a fog machine. And then there’s Mrs. Molony—but you’ll need to read this supernatural romp yourself to find out just how she plays into the story. Clever, clever, clever!

AMAZON LINK
black bat with wings outstretchedGenre:  Superhero Fantasy > Superhero Science Fiction > Paranormal & Urban Fantasy

I give The Ballad of Mrs. Molony 5 Stars, and 5 Spooky Bats


And speaking of spooky things—if you’re out and about the blogosphere, you can find me at Teri Polen’s place today. Want to find out what book scared me so much, I threw it in the trash? Hop on over for my turn on Teri’s Halloween-themed Bad Moon Rising.

Book Review Tuesday: Grinders by C. S. Boyack

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 imageHappy St. Patricks Day, everyone! Whether you’re Irish or not, ’tis a day for the wearing’ o’ the green, and a tip o’ the hat to the wee folk. Right now, we could all use a little luck given the state of the world in view of Covid-19. Whatever your corner of the planet, I hope you stay safe and well. If you’re stuck inside, it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading.

With that in mind, let’s jump into this week’s book review!


Book cover for Grinders, a speculative fiction novel features neon lights and holographic images by C. S. BoyackJimi Cabot, and her partner Lou, are two cops assigned to the “Grinder Squad” in a futuristic San Francisco. Grinders are people who have their bodies altered through illegal surgeries which use computer chips to provide enhanced senses. Despite their department assignment, Jimi and Lou usually find their days eaten up by the drudgery of routine patrol and domestic disturbance calls—until they happen upon a trail that may lead to the most wanted grinder in police databanks.

There is strong parallel storyline involving the grinder they’re after, enabling the reader to see both sides of the situation. Beyond that, however, there is so much more that goes on in this book. I loved the friendship that developed between Jimi and Brandi (a grinder), and I loved Lou’s tie to Sailor, the horse he rode when he was on mounted patrol before the division was disbanded.

Most intriguing of all is the world Boyack has created. One that includes a “grid” for travelling, bots in all shapes and sizes, and a constant bombardment of advertising. “Holobarkers”­—floating globes broadcasting advertisements—roam the streets, swarming around people with their messages. Cars and buses flash moving advertisements and 3D holographic images are found everywhere. There is an “electric forest” (one of my favorite elements), in the process of being torn down because it is already considered old technology. Holographic spiders and jack-o-lanterns bob around on Halloween, and a 3D King Kong climbs a building to promote a movie. The creativity of this world is off the charts. Every page brings some new wonder or futuristic element that is vividly portrayed. Between the story and inventions, I was mesmerized. A highly original work!

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Cypberpunk > Science Fiction


Grinders is quite the gritty and colorful world. I could so see this as a series on Netflix! 🙂

New Release: Grinders by C.S. Boyack #cyberpunk #speculativefiction @Virgilante

Happy Monday! Welcome to the last week of February. Today my good friend C.S. Boyack has dropped by with his newest release, Grinders. I was fortunate to get a sneak peek of this highly imaginative novel and am enthralled by this one, folks. I asked Craig to share a bit about his AI creations (especially Cole) and holobarkers (a creation I’ve been in love with since he first introduced them in a short story by the same name). Here’s Craig to tell you more…


Thanks for inviting me over today, Mae. I won’t go into a lot of detail that will show up in the blurb, this is a cyberpunk novel. That means extensive world building on par with fantasy, and part of that is artificial intelligence and robots. Those are my topics for today.

Grinders is set in San Francisco, so it’s already got a leg up on being colorful. However, that isn’t enough to make a story like this work. I took the concept of Siri, Alexa, and others then attached the jumper cables and threw the switch. Those devices are long since gone, having been replaced by robots, smart home systems, and holographic companions.

Close up of cute black cat with big yellow eyes looking at camera, My main character, Jimi, has a robotic cat. I’m including him today, because Cole was one of Mae’s favorites. Cole is basically patched into her apartment and the internet. When she needs something from the store, Cole summons a drone to have it delivered. She carries on conversations with him, just like another person. The fun part is that Cole has cat personality programming. He doesn’t quite understand why the catnip mouse drives him crazy and says so as he bats it around the living room. He’s interested in birds and fish, and doesn’t understand quite why since he doesn’t eat. His kitty bed is a magnetic charging station to keep him at full capacity.

Jimi’s partner, Lou, isn’t quite as well off. He doesn’t have a bot, but relies on old holographic technology that provides him with a companion named Piper. She serves the same practical functions, but also has a bit of sexuality. This is more titillating than pervy. My stories tend to keep such things kind of mild. The company that produces her is similar to a gaming site, which gives her a unique spin.

Piper is capable of getting new skins. This means she can be a completely different girl on the exterior, for a price. There is also a points lottery where they can use daily login points to spin a wheel that might let them win something for her. She also gets outfits, but those are tied to external purchases. A case of Budweiser might net her a one-piece swimsuit with the logo emblazoned across it.

Advertising is everywhere in the world of Grinders. Piper constantly pushes Lou to buy products that would provide her with new things. Makeup, hairstyles, shoes, a tattoo bundle, etc. She picks up on his conversations and actions to suggest things, which isn’t dissimilar to the stream of advertising we get via social media today.

There are lesser bots in the environment, too. Piper signs Lou up for a shared service for something called Handi-bot. Several people in his building share one Handi-bot, who cleans, folds laundry, and even cooks to a degree. Since Piper is a holographic projection, Handi-bot can assemble recipes and put them in the oven before Lou gets off his shift.

Cole even bats vacuum-bot until he’s wedged behind the toilet while Jimi is at work. There are high-rise window washing bots, delivery drones, and many more. They kind of blend into the environment, and they would for people who live under those circumstances.

Some of them get misused by entitled people. One example might be having a bot hold a prime spot along a parade route while its owner dawdles doing something else. The owner only wants to show up at the opportune time to snap a picture to share on social media.

Advertising is pervasive in Grinders. It’s programmed into the skins of public vehicles like police cars. One day the cruiser might be promoting a firefighter’s charity, the next day reminding everyone to get a flu shot.

One of the things I did was a callback to an old short story I published. There are holobarkers in Grinders. These orbs float everywhere and accost people with advertising. As an example, since my main characters are police officers, most of the holobarkers that swarm their encounters are promoting the services of attorneys.

I tried to keep the environment busy with this kind of stuff but in an “oh cool” kind of way that enhances the story. You’ll see floating billboards, holographic movie promotions, traffic boards, and much more.

I hope this post intrigues you enough to check out Grinders. I also hope I did Cole justice on Mae’s site. He’s one of those rare characters that took on a unique voice in my mind as I wrote him. (Jeremy Irons) That’s usually a sign that I’ve come up with a pretty good character


Book cover for Grinders, a speculative fiction novel by C. S. BoyackBlurb:
Jimi Cabot made one mistake as a starving college student. When she went to work for the San Francisco Police Department, it nearly cost her the job. The union stepped in and they had to reinstate her. They did so by assigning her to the duty nobody wants, Grinder Squad.

Grinders are people who use back room surgeries to enhance their bodies with computer chips, and various kinds of hardware. Jimi is sure that if she can just bust one grind shop, it will be her ticket back.

Paired with veteran cop, she soon learns that Grinder Squad is a cash-cow for the department. They are nothing more than glorified patrol cops, and generally get the worst assignments.

Matchless is the most wanted grinder of all time. He disappeared years ago, leaving only the evidence of those he enhanced during his career. With these pieces, Jimi picks up the cold trail to try working her way back to more respectable duty.

Grinders is a cyberpunk story set in a world where global warming has eroded coastlines, and society has solved many of our current problems by replacing them with new ones. There are cyber shut-ins, cyber-currency skimming schemes, and more in this futuristic tale.

This book also takes the opportunity to poke a stick at current issues that seem to have lasted into the future. Entitled people, helicopter moms, overzealous homeowner associations, and lack of decent jobs are all present. Never preachy, these issues make up the day to day work of a patrol officer.

I hope you enjoy Grinders as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.


Cool, huh? Trust, me, you’re gonna love this one! There are so many intriguing aspects of this story. I would LOVE to see it on a TV screen. For now, I’ll settle for reading it on my Kindle. To pick up your copy, use the link below, and please help Craig out by using the sharing buttons!

PURCHASE LINK

You can contact Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | My Novels  | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook 

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

Cover Reveal: Grinders by C.S. Boyack @Virgilante #cyberpunk #sciencefiction

Hey, friends—don’t you just love looking at book covers? I do, and always get excited whenever someone I know has a new cover to unveil. Today, I’m delighted to host friend and Story Empire colleague, Craig Boyack, for the red carpet roll out of a sparkly new book cover!


Book cover for Grinders, a speculative fiction novel by C. S. BoyackI’m here to reveal my newest cover and talk a bit about Grinders. This time, I’m tackling a cyberpunk world. It’s one of those worlds where the Internet and being connected too much controls our lives.

One of the things I like about science fiction is the ability to project current events into the future. I call this, “Poking things with a stick.”

I poked a lot of things in this book, but most of them are in passing. Some of them show up in advertisements, which are invasive in this world. Others might just be a news blurb. There are times when I dive a bit deeper, and not everything is negative. Here is a small list of things that show up in the story:

  • Global warming
  • Plastic pollution
  • Helicopter moms
  • Cyber shut-ins
  • The energy crisis
  • New ways for package thieves to operate
  • Police who can’t carry guns until they are five-year veterans
  • Homeowner associations

There are a lot more, and most of them are pretty subtle. Cyberpunk is not known for deep plots, but I wanted one anyway.

Grinders is set about a hundred years in the future, in San Francisco. The main characters are cops assigned to the Grinder Squad. This is the duty nobody wants, and you almost have to screw up to get this assignment.

Grinders exist today, but I ramped them up for this story. These are people who surgically modify themselves, or each other, in basement surgeries, beauty salons, and tattoo parlors. Real world examples are those who implant chips under their skin to allow themselves to unlock doors or start cars without a key. There has even been one who injected dye into his eyeballs in an attempt to see in the dark. In that example, it actually worked but the results were temporary.

My story involves the downside of these modifications, why they’re illegal, and most of them are a bit more extreme than the real world versions. For example, you’ll meet Brandi, who has moth-like antennae implanted into her forehead. They aren’t just cute, they allow her to taste virtually everything. She’s almost like a bloodhound, only using the sense of taste.

Grinder Squad rarely ever does anything, but the new girl on the squad, Jimi, wants to bust a grind shop in the worst way. She feels like it could be her ticket off this crap detail and on to better duty.

One of my silly goals was to release the book in time for Chinese New Year. I’m not going to make it. I still need to finish my final pass, send it to the formatter, and get my promotional posters. It’s going to need a blurb, too.

I targeted this date because in the story, it’s the Year of the Rat. An important part of the story takes place at San Francisco’s annual parade. There are even a couple of rats in the story that play a pivotal role. Aside from that, I was born in the Year of the Rat.

Readers won’t actually care about my silly target date, and it’s more important to give everything the final polish. What I did get in time was cover art. So Gong Hei Fot Choi, everyone, and enjoy the cover. The story will be available before you know it, and I’ll announce that on my blog.


I’m really looking forward to this one! I got a sneak peek of it, and the story is unbelievably imaginative. That’s always the case with Craig’s work, so I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for news of Grinders release. I know I am!

Please help Craig out by using the sharing buttons below!

Connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | My Novels | Twitter GoodreadsFacebookPinterest | BookBub

Biography box for author C. S. Boyack

 

Book Review Tuesday: Serang @Virgilante, If Darkness Takes Us @bsmithnovelist, My Baby Wrote Me a Letter @JacqBiggar

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, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of December! Bear with me, because I plan to share several books I read in November today and next week. After that, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve pop up on Tuesdays and I know many people go offline until the first of the year. Because I want to ensure the authors have exposure for their hard work, I won’t be reviewing on those days. Hopefully, that makes sense. :)

I’m pleased to say all of today’s books earned 5-Star reviews from me. Now, let’s get started!


Book cover for Serang by C. S. Boyack shows young female monk with shaved head in martial arts poseSerang
by C. S. Boyack

A vivid story that follows an orphan’s path as she matures from a child adrift, to a confident young woman and warrior. Serang is a character from Boyack’s popular Voyage of the Lanternfish tale, but you needn’t have read that book to enjoy this story. It stands on its own, allowing the reader to grow with Serang.

Through the course of the story she learns valuable lessons—many from a wise monk—faces multiple challenges and discovers herself along the way. There is danger and adventure. Heartbreak as well, but there is also plenty of humor, and the ending delivers a beautiful reward. As a reader I loved seeing the growth of Serang’s character. Enjoy this as a backstory to Voyage of the Lanternfish, or as a brand-new tale. Either way, it is a wholly entertaining read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Coming of Age > Travel Adventure Fiction


Book cover for If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith shows high tension utility tower shrouded in darknessIf Darkness Takes Us
by Brenda Marie Smith

I’ve always had a weak spot for apocalyptic novels. What makes this one so intriguing is the author confines the action to a single suburban neighborhood. A solar pulse is responsible for wiping out the power grid, turning life upside down. Bea Crenshaw is a 70ish woman who has her four grandkids for the weekend when the disaster strikes. As the world she knows falls apart around her, she steps up to take charge, not only in protecting her family—teaching them how to function in a world without internet, cell phones, or even refrigeration—but also taking on a leadership role in her neighborhood. Fortunately, Bea has been stockpiling goods for some time, preparing for the day when tragedy strikes, though she never expected it to come from the sun.

The kids vary in age from grade school to older teens, and each are forced to do some serious growing up before the book is over. Bea is a strong character who does what she can in an impossible situation. There are plenty of hardships including balancing the need to help others with caring for your own family. Bea has a huge heart, but she can also be secretive and controlling when she needs to be. She makes a unique MC, especially in a novel of this type. Her oldest grandson, Keno, is also particularly strong, as is neighbor Jack Jeffers. The characters lodge in your heart, including many of the secondary ones who arrive halfway through the book. The pace moves swiftly, and the author’s easy style of writing will keep you flipping pages to find out what happens next. The ending is rather surprising and not one I expected. As an apocalyptic novel this one is unique in its approach and characters, and well worth reading.

Amazon Link
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction > Thrillers > Dystopian Science Fiction


Book cover for My Baby Wrote Me A Letter by Jacquie Biggar shows young woman in front of old manual typewriting, sepia-tone wash over coverMy Baby Wrote Me a Letter
by Jacquie Biggar

This is a beautiful, heart-warming story of family, long-ago secrets, and healing. When Grace Freeman discovers a letter from her mother–a woman who abandoned her, her brothers and her father many years ago–it opens a door to the past and wounds that have never quite healed. Impacting the emotional level even more—Grace is expecting her first child, and her Navy husband is overseas.

I love Jacquie Biggar’s stories. She knows just how to tug on a reader’s heartstrings, and she does it again in this tender short story that touches on so many levels—fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives. The warmth in this story is like wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket, then settling in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Sheer bliss!

I particularly enjoyed the thread regarding the names Grace chose for her unborn baby. Each one made me smile and appreciate the effortless warmth in this beautiful tale. A true gem!

Amazon Link
Genre: 90-Minute Literature and Fiction Short Reads > Family Life Fiction > Contemporary Short Stories


Have you read any of these? Are they on your TBR? Did you have a hard time balancing NaNo and reading, like I did? I can’t wait to get back to my regular patterns, LOL!

Lisa, the Robot Girl Talks Viral Blues and Grenades #SomethingWickedTour @Virgilante @StoryEmpire

It’s Friday, and the final day of the Story Empire Something Wicked Blog Tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts this week. I’ve had a blast! To wrap things up, you can find the complete tour schedule here.

And what better way to close, than by having one of my favorite guests visit. Lisa, the robot girl, spokesmodel for C.S. Boyack has been here many times. I’m delighted she dropped by again to help me close out the tour. As always, Lisa is a class act…


Hi, Mae. Always a pleasure to see you. I understand that you’re over at P.H. Solomon’s place today with your own promo, so I hope you’re killing it over there.

Craig sent me to push his newest book, “Viral Blues.” This is a sequel to “The Hat,” but it’s so much more. A bunch of Craig’s characters got a sequel in a way. Including your favorite robot girl.

Gina Greybill gathered us all together under her Host Program. This is kind of a secret society that deals with paranormal threats. Someone, or something, is tampering with the nation’s vaccine supply. It’s our job to sort it all out, and still keep the general public from knowing about us at the same time.

Craig’s making me take excerpts around this time. This one is kind of embarrassing, because I’ve just been taken out by an electro magnet. Sometimes, robot girls have problems the regular folks don’t face.

Anyway, we’re in a fenced area that seems to be the place where the tampering is going on. Our position is inside a junkyard where the magnet moves cars to the crusher.

***

Lisa leaned against the Jeep. She spoke in a chorus of three different women’s voices. “Hi, guys. Welcome to Jurassic Park.”

“She’s still incapacitated,” Gupta said. “Where did the others go?”

“Those disgusting smelly people keep coming from the garages, and they’re even wading out of the river. Gina went into that building to talk to their boss. She took Clovis with her to make sure they listen. They’re going to stink up our garden party.”

“Stack the grenades across the car. When you get a cluster, let ‘em have it,” the hat said. “We’ll head for the river.”

“Wait.” Gupta leaned against the wrecked Jeep. “How do they work?”

“Such children,” the hat said. “Unscrew the cap at the end of the stick. There’s a bead in there. Grab it and pull. Throw it at the bad guys.”

Gupta removed the cap and found the bead. “I think I have it, and – Oh my, God.”

Lizzie and the hat turned to face Lisa. She used one of the grenades to repair her hairdo, and stuck bobby-pins to keep the victory rolls in place. “These things are great. Wish I had a blow dryer to go with them.”

Lizzie took the grenade away. “We need to borrow your curler for a minute, okay.” She turned to Gupta, and the whites of her eyes flashed wide. “You’re going to have to watch her.”

***

What would one of my visits be without a free poster for your readers. This is me trying to fix my hair with one of the grenades. Honestly, it was working pretty well before they took it away.

illustration of sexy red head in revealing midriff plaid shirt and jeans, curling her hair with a grenade

Lisa, definitely gets herself in a few fixes in this story.  Good thing she’s a robot, girl, and has options for turning the tables on the bad guys. It’s always fun when she drops by to promote one of Craig’s books. While I trot out the blurb for Viral Blues, Lisa and I are going to talk shoes and accessories. 🙂

BLURB:

Someone knows about the hat. The creature from another dimension that helps Lizzie fight against the creatures of darkness.

They are summoned to a cryptic meeting with a secret society, where they meet other people with enhanced skills. It turns out someone, or something, has been tampering with the world’s vaccine supply. The goal doesn’t appear to be political or financial, but biblical pestilence.

Can this group of loners come together in time to make a difference when even the proper authorities are obstacles?

Check out Viral Blues, for your dose of paranormal adventure, with a strong sample of dark humor. And in recent superhero style, don’t miss the secret last chapter after the back material.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

Connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | My Novels | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest 

What can be better than zombies for Halloween reading? This is a fun, imaginative story with a diverse cast of characters who keep every page entertaining. Highly recommended.

And to close out the week, I’m visiting with P.H. Solomon talking about a very specific curse that has haunted a town for centuries. I hope you have an opportunity to visit!

Book Review Tuesday: Viral Blues @Virgilante, Nine Lives @jaydawes2, Here to Stay @mredwards

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 imageHi, Friends! I’m back from Maine and eager to catch up with everyone. I’ll be chatting more about my trip to the Pine Tree State tomorrow, but first, I’d like to share this week’s book reviews. Ready? Let’s dive right in!


Viral Blues
by C. S. Boyack

When nefarious forces tamper with the population’s vaccine supply, substituting lethal viruses in place of inoculations, a group of players with unique gifts unites to bring down the supernatural forces responsible. Think a mash-up of superheroes, zombies, and music, and you’ve got a hint of the fast-paced and highly imaginative story that comprises Viral Blues.

Our group of power players includes an ex-thug who hasn’t lost his knack making people talk, a sexy, brilliant robot girl, a street savvy detective with a habit of evaporating into fog, a girl as handy with pistols as she is fronting a band, and an extra-terrestrial being in the guise of a hat. Yes, a hat.

Boyack gives each of these colorful characters (and more) a chance to shine in his high-octane tale. Our heroes battle hordes of zombies, organized crime bosses, and supernatural bad guys. The action sequences are peppered with near escapes and shoot-outs, and the dialogue flies as fast as the bullets (I love the hat’s snarkiness). Most all of these characters have appeared in other books and novellas Boyack has written, but tossing them together in a melting pot was a stroke of brilliance. I loved watching them interact, particularly Lisa, the robot girl (a favorite of mine) and Clovis, the thug. The hat pretty much steals every scene he’s in (did I mention I love his dialogue?).

The climatic confrontation is explosive and should be filmed. If you like imaginative stories, memorable characters, and superhero theatrics, you’ll love Viral Blues. As an extra treat the author adds a secret chapter at the end, much like the final in a movie after the credits roll. Highly enjoyable! 5 Stars!!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy > Superhero Fantasy


Book cover for Nine Lives by Jaye Marie shows close u of woman's face super imposed over sunset on oceanNine Lives
by Jaye Marie

In Nine Lives, we meet Kate, a fifty-nine-year old artist who has had a wretched string of bad luck when it comes to men, and who is now going through the motions of a day-to-day existence. She has health issues, smokes too much, and is plagued by an inner voice that constantly monitors her decisions.

Much of the story is written in expository style, admittedly not something I am used to. The reader is treated to a lot of background information about how Kate’s life has evolved and how each day unfolds. She’s made mistakes, bad choices she now recognizes, and has been taken advantage of by more than one man. Kate hopes the worst is behind her—especially now, with a female mentor and friend who offers the steadfast support she has been lacking. Sadly, there are still hurdles to overcome, the toll of which becomes evident when several in Kate’s orbit meet with foul play.

The writing is crisp, the descriptions vivid. Dialogue, when it appears, is well done, although the bulk of the book relies on narrative. I did find several of the scenes difficult to read and had to skim them. That aside, the author did an excellent job in creating a thoroughly reprehensible villain, who I couldn’t wait to see reach a justifiable end.
4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Here to Stay by Mark Edwards shows part of house at night, lighted upper window with someone standing in front of window, tree to left of houseHere to Stay
by Mark Edwards
It’s every newlywed’s hope for wonderful in-laws. In the case of Elliott, a mild-mannered science teacher, his neat, orderly life is turned upside down by the in-laws from hell. A chance encounter with Gemma ends with her saving his life. Four months later, they’re married, and shortly after that, Gemma asks if her parents can move in for a few weeks. They’re coming back to England after being in a France for an extended time and have no place to go.

Having recently finished the remodeling work on his dream home and eager to meet his in-laws, Elliott is happy to oblige. Jeff and Lizzie Robinson arrive along with Gemma’s younger sister, Chloe, who appears almost catatonic. It’s unclear why the three left France—which seems to have been in a hurry—or how they managed before they did. Gemma is tight-lipped and jittery around them, and barely acknowledges her sister. Although Chloe eventually comes out of her shell, it becomes evident Jeff and Lizzie have no plans of moving.

They settle in like squatters. Much like parasites or roaches who invade and take over. These two are revolting—obnoxious, gross, filthy, loud, rude, utterly repellant. Jeff is a bully, Lizzie a piranha. Gemma refuses to stand up to them and avoids them whenever possible even as they start to trash Elliott’s home. They’re brazen enough to haul in paint and start arranging furniture to their liking (side note: if you think the law should be involved, that’s addressed).

Frustration? Yes! I was irritated with Elliott for being so blind about what was happening and refusing to take a firmer stand. He is a likeable protagonist, one who garners sympathy from the reader, but someone you want to see take forcible action. When that moment finally arrives, it’s not in the way I would have expected. But this is a Mark Edwards psychological thriller which means there are going to be numerous curveballs. In that respect, the author delivered several. If that’s not enough, he tossed in a few mysterious murders early in the book for good measure.

Here to Stay is a story about what people will resort to when pushed to the breaking point. This is dark psychological fiction—darker than I would normally choose to read. I’ve been a fan of Mark Edwards for a long time, which is why Immediately grabbed the book upon release. Well written, well-told, and certain to wring a host of emotions from the reader, it’s a gripping tale with a dramatic ending. 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction> Mystery, Thriller and Suspense


Have you read any of these? How do they sound to you? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments!

Book Review: Voyage of the Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack #FantasyAdventure #PirateAdventure

For the new year, I’m going to be adding a variety of posts, including sharing book reviews. With the amount of books I read a year, why not? 😀

I still haven’t finalized the format. Most likely it will be something I do on a monthly basis with reviews of the books I’ve read during the month.

But to get started, I’m doing a stand alone review. I finished Voyage of the Lanternfish by C. S. Boyack last night and am still thinking about the highly imaginative world the author created. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this story. I’ve read a number of Craig’s books, but this one rocks the boat! Heehee. Pun intended.

Book cover for Voyage of the Lanternfish by author, C. S. Boyack, shows bow of old clipper ship with glowing lanternfish headFirst the Blurb:
An honorable man is mistaken for his disreputable father. Now he’s pushed into a political scheme to start a war that will spread across multiple kingdoms. James Cuttler’s fiancé is being held captive to ensure he goes through with the plan.

He soon decides his skills are at sea and procures a ship to wage war upon those who disrupted his simple life. He can’t do it alone, so he recruits a band of cutthroats to help him. But first, they need guns and munitions to outfit the ship properly. Deception and trickery will only get them so far. Eventually, they’re going to have to engage the enemy.

James’ goals aren’t necessarily the same as his crew. It’s a delicate balancing act to collect enough loot to keep his crew happy, while guiding them back to rescue the girl.

Voyage of the Lanternfish is filled with adventure, magic, and monsters. Lots of monsters. Hoist the colors and come along for the ride.

MY 5-STAR REVIEW:
What a rollicking, magical, high-octane, deftly plotted adventure! Remember when Dorothy steps from her black-and-white world into the Land of Oz for the first time? That explosion of color, wonder, and delight is equivalent to what the reader experiences in Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Wow, where to begin? I won’t reiterate the plot (just hop up and read the blurb), but I will say you’re in for a treat with this story of pirates, high-sea adventure, a diverse cast of characters and plenty of bizarre creatures. Where else will you encounter root monsters, an anvil bird, Fu dogs, owlcats, and a moving reef? And those are just some of the imaginative beings Boyack introduces with his latest release. I developed a special fondness for the root monsters with their unwavering loyalty, nightly story-telling sessions, rabid delight in receiving names, and atrocious mangling of language. Of special note: You can’t read this book and not appreciate the cleverness of “I I I I”

Trust me. 🙂

The cast is every bit as colorful as the creatures and extremely diverse in backgrounds. They each have such strong personalities, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Even secondary characters and third level characters get plenty of moments to shine. The battle scenes involving mortars, guns, and claiming ships are perfectly executed. I was dazzled and glued to the pages.

I have read several books by this author but this one is in a league of its own. Hop aboard and set sail. You won’t be disappointed!


Gang, go forth and ONE CLICK. This isn’t just a adventure story, but one that builds on character relationships, too. You won’t regret setting sail!