Monday, January 29, 2018

Review: Murder By Magic by Meriam Wilhelm


Genre: Cozy Mystery/Paranormal Romance

Description:

The word outsider describes Ola Mae Masters to a T.

Orphaned at the young age of seven and tucked away in a swanky orphanage, run by a group of dismissive nuns, the life of Ola Mae Masters is anything but normal. Especially when she realizes that it’s ghosts she sees walking and talking in the local graveyard. Shunned by her peers for being different, Ola Mae is constantly barraged by the unspoken thoughts and feelings of everyone she meets. But how is that even possible? Alone, confused and longing to be a regular kid, Ola Mae must wait until she grows up to seek her own “normal”.

Degree in hand and on a quest to create a new life for herself, she lands in New Moon Beach and is overjoyed to open her own bookstore – Literally Magic. Things seem to be looking up for the young woman until unexplainable magical abilities start uncontrollably bubbling out of her.

Plagued with fear over what is happening to her, it appears that fate has dropped Ola Mae into a cauldron filled with many more unexpected surprises. Not the least of which is that she’s not really an orphan, but part of a powerful family of witches living in her adopted city. How could she not have recognized that she’s a witch too?

Opening their arms to their sister, the witches of New Moon Beach must help Ola Mae hone her witchy powers and fast. A dark evil has descended on the beach city that threatens to engulf Ola Mae and her newly found family in a maze of murder, magic, and mayhem. And what of the handsome witch and the love he tempts her with? Will she allow this darkness to destroy her chances for a happy ending?

Ola Mae must learn quickly how to use her emerging magical skills if she’s ever going to be able to navigate this maze of death and destruction to save New Moon Beach and the man she’s come to love.

Author:

“After spending over thirty-five years in education I discovered my love for writing and decided that it was time to retire and create my own magical beach city. Modeled after Redondo Beach, California, where I grew up - I’ve had a super time introducing readers to the Merriman community. A family of witches filled with love, magic and adventure, these three sisters and their extended family members are constantly running into one paranormal problem after another.”

Appraisal:

Murder by Magic has a combination that, at least in my experience, is unique. As a general rule, I’d say unique is good. It’s a cozy mystery, but the amateur sleuth involved is a witch. While a cozy will typically involve characters from a tightknit, small community, having this community not only be a small town, but more specifically those residents of the town with magical powers, is a change of pace. Our intrepid detective, Ola Mae Masters, is a witch who just recently found out she is a witch and is still discovering and learning how to use her powers. This only adds to the story, both with some interesting twists to the storyline and some additional tension, both for her and for us as the reader. There might be a budding romance too.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries and paranormal romances that push the boundary of the genre, Murder by Magic would be a good choice. If you like both, it should be a no-brainer.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

While part of a series I haven’t read others in the series and didn’t feel I was 
missing needed back story despite not having read any of the prior installments.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

Friday, January 26, 2018

Reprise Review: The Sun Singer by Malcolm R. Campbell


Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Coming of Age/Adventure

Description:

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather's foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.”

Author:

Malcolm R. Campbell lives in north Georgia and has worked as a corporate communications director, technical writer, and college journalism instructor. He now works as a grant writer for museums and other nonprofit organizations and writes stories.

Appraisal:

As a young boy Robert Adams started having prophetic dreams. Traumatized after seeing the death of a young neighbor girl in a dream and the next morning actually witnessing her death he vowed to suppress this curse. With medication and willpower he succeeded for a few years although it left him feeling empty. On his fifteenth birthday Robert decided to bring back his dreams, with control and without the “Seer’s Prayer.” With the help of his Grandfather Elliott, a dreamspinner, he is making progress.

Grandfather Elliot grew up around Glacier National Park and has convinced Elliot’s parents, Katheryn and Laurence, to take a three week family vacation there this coming summer. Robert is looking forward to backpacking, hiking, and exploring the area since he and Alice, his younger sister, have heard many of grandpa’s adventure stories growing up. As well as folk tales, myths, and legends of other people lost in the mists of time. Grandpa Elliot has an ulterior motive on this family vacation though. Three years ago up high in the mountains things went terribly wrong. Elliot is going to need Roberts help setting things right again. The problem is grandpa is getting weak and forgetful, so he enlists the help from a longtime friend and mountain climbing buddy, to meet them at the lodge during their vacation.

Mr. Campbell used his astute and unfettered imagination to weave this labyrinthine tale full of many different elements seamlessly. The landscape descriptions are dynamic and beautifully written. The matter of where Robert goes and the full blown characters that he meets along the way are all realistically believable. Well, except for perhaps Garth, the wood elf. But he was pure magic and I enjoyed his character immensely. Robert finds himself on his own, learning to navigate this coinciding world, which is exactly like our own, a few hundred years earlier in time. To do that he has to learn to trust his dreams and to listen to his intuition on who to trust. This is a wildly spirited and intelligent adventure story where Robert has to learn to believe in the energies around him for them to flow through him. I enjoyed the messages of extended families and the way things came together at the end. All ages of readers who enjoy mystical adventures, alternate universes, or epic tales will love this story.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The Sun Singer is book 1 of Mountain Journeys

Format/Typo Issues:

I found a small number of proofing errors.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count130-135,000 words

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review: The Last Line of a Goat Song by Jonathan Doyle


Genre: Literary Fiction

Description:

“Living a life of self-imposed isolation, a lonely man finds himself on a road trip to Mexico with a woman whose life becomes intertwined with his. Forging an unlikely friendship, they must learn to navigate the dangers and chaos of their adventure while confronting ghosts from the past.”

Author:

“Jonathan Doyle is a screenwriter and novelist based in Los Angeles with his large collection of books and his trusty DVR. A native of Phoenix AZ, Jonathan grew up in Southern California and is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Psychology, but still can’t overcome his fear of freeway overpasses. When he’s not busy working on a new novel/poem/song/screenplay, he enjoys reading Virginia Woolf, lamenting a Lakers loss, or watching Siberian tiger videos online.”

Appraisal:

First, this is the story of William, an older man who has never been able to speak. He knows about the lives of the neighbors in his apartment complex in great detail. The neighbors may or may not be vaguely aware that he exists.

It’s also an adventure story. Or maybe it could be described as a road trip story where a couple of friends take a road trip and stuff happens. Except in this case the “friends” really aren’t. They are William and Maggie, a twenty-something neighbor of William. Yeah, one of those who barely knows him. The reason they’re taking the trip is that William has a van he has no use for and Maggie’s family in Mexico who she hasn’t seen in years really need a van.

If all this seems slightly strange and yet a bit intriguing, we’re in agreement. And just as in those road trip stories our intrepid travelers will encounter things that make you laugh and others that make you cringe and worry. In the process, William and Maggie learn a little more about the world and themselves. An entertaining, offbeat read.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Some adult language and mild adult content.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review is based on an unproofread pre-release version, so I can’t judge the final product in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Reprise Review: Splintered Souls by Erica Lucke Dean


Genre: Romantic Fantasy/Time Travel

Description:

When Ava Flynn walks away from a scholarship to Georgetown and moves into her grandmother’s abandoned summer home in coastal Maine, she steps into the center of a centuries-old curse. On her first night, she notices a mysterious leather-clad stranger looking up at her third-story window. For weeks, everywhere she goes, Ava catches more glimpses of him, but she can never get close enough to find out who he is.

Over three hundred years ago, Lady Catherine Fairchild risked everything to protect her unborn child, sending a ripple through time that would change Ava’s future. As the mystery unravels, the horrifying consequences of Lady Catherine’s choices drag Ava deeper into a world she never knew existed, trapping her in a conflict that’s been raging since before she was born. A winner-take-all battle for her soul.”

Author:

After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost.

When she’s not busy writing or tending to her collection of crazy chickens, diabolical ducks, and a quintet of piglets, hell bent on having her for dinner, she’s either reading bad fan fiction or singing karaoke in the local pub. Much like the characters in her books, Erica is a magnet for disaster, and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces.

How she’s managed to survive this long is one of life’s great mysteries.”

To learn more about Ms. Dean, visit her website or stalk her on her Facebook page.

Appraisal:

I am totally beside myself after finishing this book. I have to admit I moved Splintered Souls to the top of my TBR list as soon as I received it. This story is different from any of the other stories Ms. Dean has written before. This is a star-crossed lovers story with a twist and right now I am torn. The story began with elegant, crisp prose that paints the picture of desperation Lady Catherine was feeling as she tried to outrace a coming storm. Here the blessing-turned-curse was laid out for the story to continue in present time.

After her husband’s untimely death Ava’s mom decides to move the family to their grandmother’s empty summer house in Port Michael, Maine. Ava has decided to go to a small local college—a branch campus of U-Maine—so she could stay close to mom and her eleven-year-old brother, Josh, after everything that has happened.

Ava is an academically smart but na├»ve heroine who is a little vulnerable right now. She feels drawn to a guy who seems to be stalking her. Maddox appears to be a nice guy, he’s courteous and friendly with her classmates. However, she knows very little about him or his family. Ava’s school friends are a diverse crowd, they are each well-developed and unique. Their conversations at lunch are typical for young college students. There were off campus parties and beach parties at the lighthouse that needed to be rehashed. Ms. Dean always does a nice job with her secondary characters, they are great friends and I liked them all, even Paige.

After Ava has a wild, vivid dream with who she thinks is Maddox but he says his name is Laith, she starts questioning her sanity. Not long after that Maddox starts acting possessive and jealous. Then an unexpected twist happens when Josh disappears. Maddox has to confess certain truths. Ava doesn’t know what to think now or who is who. Is her boyfriend, Maddox, being completely honest with her? She is caught up in all the sexual tension between them and she can’t think straight. The plot moves fast, I had trouble putting the book down to sleep. I was completely thrown at the ending. But don’t despair… I would describe it as a soft-core cliffhanger. I am chomping at the bit for book two.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

Only one F-bomb.

Format/Typo Issues:

None that I spotted.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by:?wazithinkin


Approximate word count75-80,000 words

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Dragon Walk by Melissa Bowersock


Genre: Mystery/Supernatural/Ghosts

Description:

"Four months ago, a pretty young marathoner disappeared while training on the isolated trails of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The police have few leads, no witnesses and no results. As a last resort, they call in private investigator Lacey Fitzpatrick and Navajo medium Sam Firecloud to pick up the rapidly cooling trail. Sam and Lacey, however, are on the outs. Their efforts to take their relationship to the next level failed miserably, and now they must redefine their working relationship, as well. Can they find the murdered girl and her killer, and still hang on to their partnership?"

Author:

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: biography, contemporary, western, action, romance, fantasy, paranormal and spiritual. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

Learn more about Ms. Bowersock on her website or follow her on Facebook.

Appraisal:

Seriously, dragons? Madison McClure, a twenty-six year old female jogger, disappeared four months ago while jogging in Griffith Park. The police have no leads or clues to follow and the case is growing cold. Maddie’s desperate parents, Esther and Randall McClure, want to call in Sam Firecloud and Lacey Fitzpatrick. Luckily the chief of police agrees to contact them as long as their investigation remains off the record.

While interviewing Esther and Randall, Lacey and Sam learn that Esther is an artist. When Maddie was young Esther would often throw a blanket over the back of her easel to make a magical cave for Maddie to play in while she painted. When Maddie grew up she was fascinated with dragons and channeled her artistic abilities into making intricate jewelry incorporating dragons from silver and gold. She was also half owner in a boutique jewelry store named Dragon’s Den in Los Feliz with Vanessa Medina, another artist friend with similar interests.

With mixed signals at every turn and the vast area around Griffith Park, even Sam and Lacey are confused.  After pinpointing a direction to focus their search, again things start looking dim. The twists and turns of the plot are captivating and enthralling. The ending will leave your jaw dragging the ground and the emotions will leave you overwhelmed. This is a tough one to wrap your head around. Well done, Ms. Bowersock.

I should also comment on Lacey and Sam’s relationship. Things are a little rocky at first, but they seem to be negotiating their situation with a lot of thought. The ball is in Lacey’s court and she decides to make her amends with Sam’s kids while she puts Sam on the back burner. He’s not going anywhere soon, their business partnership is too important to both of them. I want to thank everyone who pushed Ms. Bowersock to continues this series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK
  
FYI:

Dragon Walk is book five in A LACEY FITZPATRICK and SAM FIRECLOUD MYSYTERY SERIES. Each of these mysteries can be read as a standalone if you choose. However, I am enjoying the relationship developing between Lacey and Sam, so I would recommend reading from the beginning to get the full benefit of their storyline.

Format/Typo Issues:

None to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Finding Fiona by Donna Fasano


Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick-lit/Mystery

Description:

“If her husband turns up alive—she'll kill him!

Explaining to the seriously sexy cop why she hasn't noticed her husband has been missing for three days is both embarrassing and sobering. But the day Fiona Rowland lifts her head above the churning chaos of kids, carpools, and a million things to do, annoyance turns to fury...then to worry. Where is Stanley?

Having one of those wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moments changes the way a woman looks at things: marriage, money, family, and friends. And when her best pal from high school arrives (packing her own secrets) to lend support, it turns out even the past isn't quite what it seems. Scrambling to make sense of the drama unfolding, Fiona discovers there's an upside to having your whole world turned upside down. It's easier to grab the good stuff.”

Author:

“USA Today Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 40 women's fiction and romance titles that have sold over 4 million copies worldwide.”

Appraisal:

Finding Fiona is many different, sometimes contradictory things. It starts with a mystery. Where’s Stanley? Fiona’s husband disappeared and there aren’t many clues as to where he might be. There’s romantic comedy in a few different ways as romance threatens to take hold, but there are times when the romantic side of things is way too serious to be funny. Fiona’s best friend from her high school days stumbles into the middle of this crisis and alternates between helping and exacerbating the situation.

This was a fun story that kept me guessing, both about the mystery part, but also the romance and relationship part. I wasn’t sure who was going to end up with who, or how the different conflicts would resolve. It kept me guessing and, even more importantly, I liked the characters enough to care how it turned out.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Monday, January 8, 2018

Reprise Review: The Princess, the Pea, and the Night of Passion by Rosetta Bloom


Genre: Erotic Romance / Fairy Tale

Description:

“In this grown-up version of the famous fairy tale, Princess Adara is running from her old life and a forced betrothal. Adara wants love and passion, but knows she can't get them back home. When a raging storm halts her escape, Adara seeks refuge in the first dwelling she sees.

Prince Richard is tired of the trite, vain, frigid princesses his mother introduces him to in hopes he'll marry. On this stormy night, he's in the mood to love a woman, but he's all alone.

Adara arrives on the castle doorstep, saying she's a princess in need of help. The queen is doubtful and decides to lock Adara in a room with a pea to determine if the girl is as royal as she claims. Richard believes the beautiful, charming stranger, but he wants her locked in a bedroom for other reasons.”

Author:

Rosetta Bloom is a pen name for a thriller writer whose desire is to tell great stories filled with romance and passion. She loves adding a sexy twist of passion to give old tales new life. Her first endeavor is The Princess, the Pea and the Night of Passion.

To learn more visit Rosetta Bloom’s website.

Appraisal:

I have to admit I was just after a little guilty pleasure when I finished my last book. My brain needed a reset. So I chose this little fairy tale. I was absolutely delighted and impressed with the quality of this story. I was just expecting a spicy little fairy tale without much substance. That is not what I got.

Amira Adara Tafweek, daughter of the amir of Bastalia and her servant, Nasiha, are on the run and seeking shelter from the freezing rain one night. They are dressed as peasants when they knock on the castle kitchen door to ask for shelter from the night’s elements. The butler tries to turn them away, but when Prince Richard walks in and sees Adara he senses an opportunity for a little action. He insists the butler ready guest rooms for the wayward travelers. Here are the first two sentences of the story:

Prince Richard was feeling randy. He was trapped in the castle tonight, as the weather outside had turned unexpectedly nasty.”

This quote gives you the impression that the prince is just a playboy without any substance. At dinner that evening with the King, Queen, and Prince Richard things went well as Adara lied about being on a diplomatic mission for her father when their carriage broke down. After the carriage roof collapsed from the rain and ice they sought shelter. The men had supposedly gone for assistance. The Queen suspects that Adara is lying about being royalty and offers to send a messenger into town to let her delegation know that their Amira is safe and sound at the castle. This is the last thing Adara wants while trying to escape her fate back home. She and Nassi could both be put to death for embarrassing her father if they find her.

The Queen is sly and has the butler lock Adara in her room that night. Adara is sure her fate is sealed since there is no chance for escape now. Of course Prince Richard knows all the secret passage ways and lets himself into her room. They share a torrid night of passion that will curl your toes. Here we start seeing glimpses of the true Richard. He comes up with a plan to save Adara and Nassi that blew me away. You are sure to enjoy this retelling of a classic fairy tale. I look forward to reading more Passion-Filled Fairy Tales from Rosetta Bloom.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

The Princess, the Pea and the Night of Passion is Book 1 of Passion-Filled Fairy Tales. Book 2 of Passion-Filled Fairy TalesBeauty and Her Beastly Love, is published and waiting for you to purchase at Amazon.

Sexual scenes that are graphic and may not be suitable for all readers.

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues with formatting or proofing.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count14-15,000 words

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review: The In-Between Years by AB Plum


Genre: Psychological Thriller

Description:

“Already a killer, thirteen-year-old Michael Romanov jumps at the opportunity to please his father. Attaining financial independence while indulging in deliberate depravity is an unexpected bonus.

This dark story paints a corrupt man’s twisted demands from a son obsessed with gaining a father’s love and respect.”

Author:

“AB read at birth according to her mother. At age four, her public librarian rejected her application for a card. She was too short to see over the desk.

She stormed home undeterred. Older neighbor kids and loads of cousins provided a fix for her reading obsession. She traded them dolls and colors and small trinkets for scary comic books.

Years of teaching adolescent boys and working with high-testosterone tekkies fuel her interest in neuroanatomy and behavioral psychology. The terror those comics imprinted in her brain surfaces regularly.

Her dark, psychological thrillers probe the impact of the family on wounded hearts. She still holds public librarians in high esteem.”

Appraisal:

If you don’t like dark and twisted, this isn’t the book for you. But if you don’t mind an occasional excursion to the dark side, it might be. The protagonist of the story, Michael, may only be thirteen, but he’s way beyond his years in intelligence. I don’t think calling him a psychopath would be going too far either. Yeah, he may have a lot of advantages in some ways, but he’s still one sick puppy.

I could have easily found it impossible to like Michael or care what happened to him. Luckily (for me, not for Michael) the people and situations he had to deal with were bad enough that I could pull for any thirteen-year-old to make it through. Not even Michael deserves to go through stuff like that.

Intense. Dark. Twisted. If that appeals, this is for you.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

FYI:

While this is the third book in a series I haven’t read the first two and didn’t feel like this made it hard to follow what was happening in this installment. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reprise Review: Woods Runner by Rejean Giguere


Genre: Historical Action Adventure

Description:

Before there was Canada or America, there was New France and New England. In the late 17th century the French and British fought for territory and riches in the new lands of North America.

On the French side, among the soldiers and the Indians fighting for their country were men called the Woods Runners. Coureur de Bois, the men who became known as Voyageurs - tough, hard-bitten adventurers who shaped the course of two countries.

Author:

Rejean Giguere is an avid outdoorsman, adventurer, photographer and artist. He enjoys fishing, hockey, golf, tennis, skiing and snowmobiling, his V-Max motorcycle and vintage Corvette. He grew up in Canada and Europe, and enjoyed a business career in Toronto and Ottawa. 

For more, visit his website.

Appraisal:

I never read historical novels. So, clearly, I picked this story because of the author—not too unusual, that’s how 60% of books are chosen. I’d previously read two stories by Mr. Giguere, and they’d both been a lot of fun, but more importantly for this easily bored reader, they’d both been very different from each other and from anything I’d previously read. Woods Runner also hit home on both counts.

The action takes place in the late 1600s on the North American continent before it was named and partitioned into America and Canada and deals with the conflict between the English and French invaders and the Native American tribes that lived and thrived around the Great Lakes.

In an author’s note, Mr. Giguere explains that his family tree originated around this time and one of his ancestors was a scout who was involved in an infamous massacre at Schenectady, New York.

Had the story focused closely on the historical details of the massacre and the politics of the time, I would certainly have nodded off--did I mention I never read historical fiction? Instead, I was given a fascinating glimpse into a fictionalized life of a Woods Runner as he traded ironware for pelts with the native American tribes. When this Woods Runner offered his services as a scout and unwittingly aided in the massacre, I saw the brutality and futility from his viewpoint.

I was particularly struck by how realistically the weather and terrain of what is now southern Canada was portrayed. Ever present, Mother Nature controlled the lives and actions of the humans in the story so ubiquitously that it effectively became another character in the story. I have no idea how accurate the historical details were (and I certainly don’t plan to read a history book to find out), but the authority of the writing gives me confidence that the author truly captured life in the 1600s.

This was an engaging read that kept me involved throughout and taught me some history despite myself. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I’m certain you will enjoy this novel even more than I did.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words