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 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

D.L. Cross Talks Aliens and Alternate Identities

Can you believe we are already over two weeks into August? Summer is speeding by on a rocket ship.

Speaking of rocket ships—and by default space travel—it isn’t a stretch to make the jump to aliens. Today, my guest, Straci Troilo, is serving up two crazy good books, written under her pen name, D. L. Cross. How do I know they’re crazy good? Because I’ve read them both and gave them resounding 5-star reviews!

Staci is a good friend, a talented author, an editor, and a colleague at Story Empire. If, by some impossible hiccup in the universe, you’re not already following her blog, I encourage you to visit her corner of the blogosphere and hop along for the ride.

And now, that I’ve jabbered enough, here’s Staci to tell you about her latest CRAZY GOOD books! 😀


Hi, Mae. As always, I appreciate the warm welcome. And everyone else, hello! Thanks for giving me a few minutes of your time to talk about the Invasion Universe.

If you know me and my early body of work, you know me as Staci Troilo, author of suspense fiction mashed up with romance, paranormal, legal, medical, and/or family drama. I can’t help adding anxiety-ridden situations to the works I write, regardless of the genre.

Which brings me to my latest endeavors. I’m now writing sci-fi.

Splash graphic foe The Gate, a science-fiction novel by D. L. Cross

When I made the jump to science fiction, my publishers insisted on a pen name. (They’re much more conscious of the “also-boughts” on Amazon than I am.) I used to resist writing with different pen names for different genres because I write in so many of them and didn’t want to manage several identities. Turns out, it’s not that difficult. And (if their theories are correct), it’s probably beneficial. At least on some level.

But what I found surprising is my work didn’t change. I’m still writing suspense. Only now, instead of megalomaniacs or serial killers stalking my heroes, aliens are. Actually, that’s not entirely true, either. Sometimes the villains are aliens. Other times, they’re still humans with nefarious agendas.

I have to tell you, I don’t read much sci-fi. But I love it on screen (small or big). Especially space-oriented shows and films. TV series like Lost in Space, Star Trek (original and TNG), Stargate (SG-1 and Atlantis), Roswell… I get lost in them every time they’re on. And movies? I’m hooked. All the Star Wars episodes (even the bad ones), Star Trek (yep, it’s on both lists), Stargate (yes, it made both lists, too), Independence Day, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Avatar, even Mars Attacks (there’s nothing wrong with humor—even ridiculous humor). The lists are endless. I watch as many as I can. And I love most of them.

Splash graphic for The Scout: Dark Crossings, a science-fiction novella by D. L. Cross

The cinematography is usually engaging; the world-building enthralling. But what really draws me in is the characters. Regular people fighting larger-than-life enemies against impossible odds. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?

Who wouldn’t want to read it?

That’s why I made the switch to science fiction—because the genre is wonderous. I was still able to tell my kind of stories with my kind of characters. But now, I get to do it in an alien-rich world.

If you read my Astral Conspiracy series, you’ll find aliens—beings with all kinds of advanced tech and inhuman abilities. You’ll also find a lot of history. I have to admit, Ancient Aliens is a guilty pleasure of mine. Not because I believe their theories, but because of all the amazing places the show’s hosts go and the lore they uncover. I know, it’s weird to think of ancient history melding with futuristic science, but I did it. And early reviews suggest the combination is working.

I hope it is. And I hope you agree. If you give it a try, please leave a review and let me know what you think.

If you like the Twilight Zone, you might enjoy The Scout, my Astral Conspiracy prequel story.

And if you like ancient astronaut theories, you may like The Gate, the first novel of my quintet.

Book cover for The Gate, a science-fiction novel by D. L. CrossBlurb:

He lost his job. Lost his girl. Now it’s all he can do not to lose his life.

Landon Thorne is a disgraced archaeologist, a laughing stock in his field because of his unconventional beliefs – he’s an ancient astronaut theorist. No one takes him seriously.

Until an alien armada targets Earth.

Now Landon’s in high demand – by the US government and someone far more sinister.

They race across two continents to the Gate of the Gods, the one place on Earth that might give humans an advantage over the aliens. But no one is prepared for what they’ll find.

And not everyone will make it out alive.

Universal Purchase Link | More Information | Invasion Universe Newsletter

Book cover for The Scout, a science-fiction novel by D. L. CrossBlurb:

The 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. He’s completely isolated. Resources are scarce. Comms are down.

And he’s found the enemy.

It’s imperative he’s not caught, but clandestine spying doesn’t yield enough intel. J needs an ally, someone on the inside of the camp who can feed him information. And he finds one. But he gets more than he bargained for with Aria.

Their relationship grows complicated. Her people get defensive. His superior becomes suspicious. He doesn’t know who to trust. His loyalty’s divided, and pressure’s mounting from all sides.

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

Universal Purchase Link | More Information

Bio:
D.L. Cross has loved science fiction ever since she was a young girl and fell for Major Don West on television’s Lost in Space. To this day, she still quotes the show, though her favorite lines were spoken by the robot and the antagonist. Parallel universes or alternate realities, aliens or dinosaurs, superpowers or super viruses, time travel or AI… no sci-fi theme is off limits and all of them fascinate her. D.L. Cross also writes other genre fiction under the name Staci Troilo, and you can find more information about all her identities and all her work at her website: https://stacitroilo.com.

Other Links:

Staci’s Amazon Page | Staci’s BookBub Page | D.L.’s Amazon Page | D.L.’s BookBub Page


I loved so many of the television shows Staci mentioned in her post, plus many others. I remember reading my first science-fiction novel in the fourth grade and being immediately smitten. As someone who’s loved science-fiction from a young age, it’s been a pleasure to discover a new universe populated by remarkable characters and riveting story lines. As I said in my review of The Scout, “You can’t go wrong with anything from the pen of D.L. Cross!” Still not sure?

Check out my review of The Gate, too, then go forth and one-click these wonderful titles! 🙂

Cover Reveal: Eventide by Mae Clair #thriller #supernaturalsuspense

Hi, friends! Thanks for joining me today as I roll out the cover of the final book in my Hode’s Hill Series of novels. A special thanks to Staci Triolo for designing the snazzy header image for me. Isn’t it great? I was so appreciative of Staci’s help, given I feel like I’ve been treading water lately. But then I know she is, too. Most writers recognize it as a regular state of mind.

Every once in a while, we get something sparkly to distract us. For me it’s my latest cover.

Book cover for Eventide, a Hode's Hill novel by Mae Clair shows an old abandoned house in a wash of blue tones

Release Date: December 31, 2019
Genre: Supernatural Thriller / Suspense /Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington Publishing • Lyrical Underground Imprint


As with the first two novels in the Hode’s Hill series, Eventide features a dual timeline with two mysteries—one set in the present, one in the 1800s—that intertwine at the end.

Blurb:
The darkness is coming . . .

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?

Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…


I hope you’re intrigued! Pre-orders are already available through all major book retailers via this Universal Purchase Link. Naturally, I am very appreciative of your interest. It’s always hard saying goodbye to a series.

The first two Hode’s Hill novels—Cusp of Night and End of Day—can be read as stand-alones, but Eventide is best enjoyed with the knowledge of what occurred in End of Day. No need to worry though!

There is still plenty of time to catch up with the series as Eventide does not release until December 31st. Books 1 and 2 are available through the links below:
Cusp of Night
End of Day

You can also add Eventide to your Goodreads list HERE. I hope you find this book as intriguing as I did when writing it.

Many thanks for visiting with me today. Cover reveals always feel like a party, and what better way to celebrate than with friends! 🙂

The Saga of a Refrigerator

I’ve been meaning to share this story for a while now. Let me roll back the clock to early July . . .

When your refrigerator doesn’t work, what do you do? Tweet, of course!

But the saga starts earlier than that. In September 2017 my husband and I remodeled our kitchen. We did a complete gut and redo, opening it up to what used to be the dining room. See those wires hanging from the ceiling in the photo below? There used to be a wall there (and yes, Raven had to nose in on the action).

Room the has been gutted for remodeling, wires hanging from ceiling, plywood subfloor, ladder and tools aboutSix weeks of construction was miserable, but when all was said and done, we had a new kitchen complete with a full appliance package from LG—stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher.

Open kitchen concept with black stainless appliances and white cabinets

The French door refrigerator came loaded with bells and whistles, including a door-within-a-door, multi-use drawer, and a deep freezer with multiple trays. Because of the size, the delivery guys had to remove the doors to get it into the house. We’d never bought LG before, but were sold on the features.

French door black stainless LG refrigerator with middle drawer and bottom freezer

I was really pleased with our purchase until the morning of July 3rd  of this year, when I opened the freezer and realized it was defrosting. My husband and I scrambled to move everything into the garage where we have a spare refrigerator/freezer. Unfortunately, not everything fit in the smaller freezer, and some things were too far gone. After trying to figure out what went wrong ourselves, I found a number for LG online and DH called. They had him do several diagnostic tests, but nothing worked.That meant calling in a service technician. Again, I went online and found a local appliance vendor who worked on LG products.

On July 5th a tech arrived and spent over an hour trying to solve the problem. He finally had to call LG. More diagnostic tests with the end result being the control panel had to be replaced. LG warrants the compressor on their refrigerators for ten years, but everything else is one year only—unless you buy an extended warranty.

Of course, we didn’t.

Let’s not forget this refrigerator, which cost a sizable chunk of change, isn’t even two years old. DH and I were aggravated but figured paying a $350 repair bill was better than buying a new refrigerator. The control panel wasn’t in stock—naturally—so we had to wait for a return visit from the technician.

On July 10th, he installed the new panel, and…nothing. After more poking, prodding, and trying to figure out what was wrong, he thought it might need a new motherboard. Might.

He couldn’t guarantee that was the problem. He also thought the freezer could need a new fan, but wouldn’t know until he replaced the motherboard so the two could “talk.” Sigh. Remember when refrigerators didn’t need a computer brain to operate?

Naturally, the motherboard had to be ordered (apparently stocking parts no longer makes sense). If, after the motherboard was installed, and the freezer still wouldn’t cool, he’d order a fan. At this point, he asked how far we wanted to go with ordering and replacing parts. We didn’t have to pay for the control panel. Since that wasn’t the issue, that part was going back. The new motherboard would run in the area of $450 to $500, and then, of course, there was the potential it wouldn’t work anyway.

We told him to order the part.

Meanwhile, frustration got the better of me. On July 15th, aggravated at not having had a working fridge for over two weeks, and ticked that this very pricey appliance hadn’t even lasted twenty-four months, I took to Twitter with a single tweet:

So disappointed in my state-of-the-art French door refrigerator by @LGUS. Not even 2 years old & motherboard has failed, freezer doesn’t work, 2 repair calls & techs are struggling to fix it. Waiting yet again for another part. So frustrated I got a lemon!

In less than 2 hours I had this reply:

So sorry to see this. Please send a private message, and we’ll be more than happy to look into this.

Did I DM? Darn, right! I love the power of Twitter!

LG hopped to it, said they’d send one of their techs at no charge, despite the refrigerator being out of warranty. Two days later the guy showed up, took one look at the size of the behemoth and asked, “Did they have to remove the doors when they delivered this?”

Yep, they sure did. So, Mr. tech checked a small compartment at the top of the left door to discover a wire connection popped loose. Apparently, when the delivery guys reattached the doors, they didn’t set the connection firmly. Over time, from opening and closing the door, it jiggled loose and couldn’t communicate with the panel which controlled the temperature in the freezer. Not even in the house five minutes and the LG tech solved our problem!

He spent a lot of time with us, went over tips and tricks and showed us all manner of little things we wouldn’t have known about the refrigerator. This man had a PhD in LG! I can’t tell you how pleased I was with LG. And yes, I did DM to thank them.

Here’s the thing: if I hadn’t made that tweet, we probably would have continued replacing parts with the first company, never getting to the bottom of the problem, and possibly having to purchase a new refrigerator. Companies are brand conscious. They monitor their handles and hashtags to see what others are saying about them. No one wants a flurry of negative tweets aimed at their brand. If I doubted LG, I’m now in love with the brand. I’m also in love with Twitter (though I always have always been).

Even my husband, who never uses social media, now recognizes the power of a single tweet. Best of all—I have a working refrigerator again!

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 Two

I’m back again with the second half of my reviews for June. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Summer is a huge reading time for me, with pool season the perfect opportunity to float on a raft with a paperback or my Kindle (have to be extra careful it doesn’t fall in the drink). These are the books that rounded out the second half of the month for me. To read the official blurbs and learn more about each, just click the Amazon link below each review.

book cover for Primal Waters by Steve Allen shows diver in scuba gear about to be swallowed in the open mouth of a mammoth sharkMeg: Primal Waters
By Steve Alten

Book three in the Meg series launches with an intriguing premise. It has been eighteen years since Jonas Taylor last crossed paths with a colossal Carcharodon megalodon, a.k.a. “Jurassic shark.” At sixty-four, he’s the father of a soon-to-be eighteen-year-old daughter and a slightly younger son. Along with his wife, Terry, he’s juggling family and mounting bills, when he gets an offer he can’t refuse—doing commentary on a reality TV survival show called Daredevils.Taking the job means going to sea for six weeks, his daughter in tow, along with a film crew and an adrenalin-fueled cast of thrill seekers. But all is not on the level, and there is more than one Meg haunting the Pacific, presenting separate challenges for each member of the Taylor family.

Once again Alten knows how to ramp up the excitement. The book starts off with a slow burn, the reader knowing there is more behind the Daredevils offer than meets the eye.

There are also plenty of opportunities for various Megs to answer the dinner bell. The Daredevil characters—good and bad—are all well drawn, and the reality TV angle adds a great edge. I particularly loved when Jonas intentionally flubs the name of the show’s airhead host after she repeatedly goofs his. Small things like this add flavor to the book, especially given the high-octane action scenes. I do wish Jonas and Terry weren’t always fighting off unwanted sexual advances (a theme in the last two books), but those small distractions aside, this is summer popcorn reading at its best. More than one Meg invades the Pacific. Give those sharks 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Suspense Action Fiction > Sea Adventures Fiction > Fantasy Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Red Eyes in the Darkness bu D.L.Finn shows a wash of black and grays with tree branchesRed Eyes in the Darkness
By D.L. Finn

This is another entry in the author’s evildwel series, which addresses the balance of good and evil across mortal and supernatural realms.  Retirees Will and Cass, along with their two dogs have a comfortable life—until murder hits close to home, and they suddenly find themselves the prime suspects.

Finn does a great job building tension with “It” watching and stalking them, their own daughters falling into the mindset of suspicion “It” has orchestrated.

This is a short story rife with tension that steadily builds as Cass, then Will, come to realize the evil which has infiltrated their lives. I didn’t expect the twist at the end. On a side note, I love how the author always includes pets in her stories, crafting yet another aspect that makes her characters feel like neighbors. 5 stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy > Short Stories


Book cover for The Sheriff Meets His Match by Jacquie Biggar shows man huge red stiletto high heeled shoe with man in jeans and untucked shirt leaning against heel, with arms crossedThe Sheriff Meets His Match
By Jacquie Biggar

After reading Summer Lovin’, part of Biggar’s Wounded Heart series set in the fictional town of Tidal Falls, I immediately wanted to read The Sheriff Meets His Match which tells the story of Jack and Laurel, hinted about in Summer Lovin’. Laurel is a transplant from the sunshine state of Florida who takes the job of secretary to Tidal Falls hunky sheriff. Their attraction is quick and flirty, but complications arrive in the form of Laurel’s charismatic Uncle Max, and her cousin’s lowlife ex-husband.

As guaranteed in any Biggar novel there is plenty of heartwarming moments, including Laurel bounding with Jack’s teenage daughter, and the introduction of a cuddly lost kitten. Every time I read one of these novels, I am amazed by how effortlessly Biggar brings her characters to life with spot-on POV, snappy dialogue, and fleshed out descriptions. This is an author who knows how to set a stage for maximum effect. Each and every book screams “Hallmark movie.” 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Holiday Romance > Short Stories


Book cover for To Hunt a Sub by Jacqui Murray shows submarine breaking water with focus on large conning towerTo Hunt a Sub
By Jacqui Murray

Wow! This book delivers a complex mix of academia, covert ops, terrorist plots, and artificial intelligence. Once started, I couldn’t stop reading. Murray populates her espionage tale with a roster of characters that include an ex-Navy SEAL–now college professor–two brilliant grad students, an eccentric mathematician, and a Middle Eastern terrorist with deep pockets to name just a few of the highly diverse cast.

Kali Delamagente has invented an AI to track the evolution of prehistoric man. But “Otto” is capable of much more. In the wrong hands, Kali’s cutting-edge technology can decimate U.S. submarines. She attracts the attention of a mysterious unseen donor who funds her research, as well the FBI. Enter Dr. Zeke Rowe, ex-SEAL and Navy Intel officer who pursued a career in academia after a failed mission left him with permanent injuries.

Working together, Delamagente and Rowe struggle to remain one step ahead of a terrorist network that has infiltrated most every aspect of Kali’s life. Friends and colleagues are not always who they seem. As the stakes grow higher, Kali’s lab is broken into, her dog vanishes, a new friend is abducted, and her son is kidnapped. The book rockets to an explosive end, but the journey there is alternately a slow burn and a roller coaster of twists and turns.

The research that obviously went into the book—from the origins of prehistoric man, to the workings of submarines, intelligence agencies, and military protocol—is mind-boggling. I’ve already purchased book two of the Delamagente/Rowe espionage thrillers and look forward to three when it is released. 5 Whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Technothrillers > Action Thrillers


And that rounds out my June reading. I hope something I’ve shared intrigues you. I’ve already got my nose buried in July books and look forward to discovering more titles. I love when I find new authors to add to my auto-buy list and discover fresh gems from authors I love. Here’s hoping your reading is every bit as inspired and satisfying!