Talin, a Changeling

Liars and Thieves, the 1st book in the Unraveling the Veil series, is in the final stages of… everything. Lol.

I introduced two of my main characters: Naj’ar, a goblin here, and Alue, an elf here.

To finish off the trio, here’s a peek at Talin, my changeling. He starts this snippet as a jackal. I hope you enjoy!

Talin sat on the smooth stone and scratched. Other than the vermin infesting his coat, the afternoon had progressed with minimal effort. He’d shift into his familiar self and bathe, then seek a meal of roots or greens. Something edible that didn’t include voles and other Borderland rodents. He could do without ingesting any more hair, bones, and all the other peripheral disgustingness that accompanied the gobbling down of wild meat.

He raised his nose, nostrils twitching at a new scent. The scruff on his neck and shoulders bristled.

A cat. A wild one.

Changelings didn’t stalk changelings, and something big and stealthy lurked in the jungle. He leapt from the sunlight, slipped through a natural trellis of twisted vines, and spent hours evading the panther that had sniffed him out. Exasperation surrendered into a growing sense of urgency. Head down, ears alert, he bounded over a stream and between the stilts that supported the railway spur in its treacherous descent. Already too long in jackal form, he was overdue to shift. And shifting presented some serious drawbacks.

Nose to the ground, he found the path he sought, and by twilight reached one of the tree-stands that peppered the Reaches. The ladder would present a challenge, but if he could manage it, the stand would likely save his life.

He circled the base of the tree, seeking a cache of buried crystals, and found none. Another obstacle. With a huff, he scanned the shadowed growth and tasted the air for unwelcome predators. Langur monkeys crept along the upper branches, and a shy loris blinked at him with pooled eyes, but no cats prowled the area. Poisonous snakes slithering in the trees would be the greatest threat, but there wasn’t much he could do about them. He sat on his haunches and closed his eyes.

He called up his human pattern. A cold shiver accompanied the brutal constellation of pain that sparked deep in his bones. The transformation would require only minutes, but after so long in a borrowed form, it would feel like hours.

The skeletal changes came first. He sank to his knees as his oblong skull crushed inward at the muzzle and bulged in the cranium. His neck compressed. Shoulder blades and ribcage shrank while hip bones expanded and rearranged their connections to fibulae and spine. His tail withered into a pointed coccyx deep within his flesh.

The air around him froze as he drew mass from the trees and ground to accommodate his larger size. A ring of frost crept outward from his contorting feet. Arm and leg bones elongated, and he gritted his teeth as the bones in his front paws shattered, seven pieces reforming into the twenty-seven of his human hand. He curled into a ball, breathless, as his elbows, knees, all his joints and cartilage switched to accommodate altered movement. The intensity of his pain weakened as his skeleton took its final shape and the rest of his internal mechanisms rippled into alignment.

His skin shifted last. Hair altered its texture, fine on his bronze limbs, scratchy on his jaw. Long and dark on his head.

As the ache inside him faded and his sweat cooled, the air returned to its familiar sticky humidity. His heart rate slowed. Strength spent, he could barely move, unconsciousness luring him into a dreamless sleep. Naked, he rolled to his hands and knees and rung by rung, hoisted himself up the ladder.

“Death would be easier than this.” He chuckled like a tipsy drunk. At the top, he collapsed, his legs still propped on the ladder.

Good enough, he surrendered to sleep.

Coming Soon!

July Book Reviews

I’ve been writing like a madwoman, so fewer book reviews this month – but some good ones!

My offering of  4 and 5 star reviews includes romance, historical fiction, mystery, family drama, superheroes, and prehistoric fiction. I hope you enjoy browsing.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

The Sister Pact by Jacquie Biggar

I read this book in a day and thoroughly enjoyed the distraction. It’s a romance, but so much more than that. The story has a maturity to it that I appreciated, genuine characters struggling with all kinds of relationships, old hurts, forgiveness, and love.

Holly Tremaine is ill and, forced to leave her job, returns to the dysfunctional home of her childhood. You couldn’t cut the tension with a chainsaw, and she immediately wonders what the heck she just did. An old beau enters the scene, but so do old wounds, misunderstandings, and hurtful assumptions between the family members, particularly between Holly and her sister Susan.

One thing that I enjoyed about the book was how genuine the family and characters felt, flawed but trying hard to make their lives work. The focus is on Holly who shares the story’s pov, primarily with her sister. The writing is polished and tight, which provides a speedy pace while allowing for some beautiful descriptions. The plot works well and wraps up nicely. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy romances, relationship stories, and a fast-paced entertaining jaunt through family life. A perfect beach read.

*****

Cape Menace by Amy M. Reade

This mystery begins in 1711 in Cape May, New Jersey, a small settlement in the new world. Sarah Hanover’s mother disappears, and despite their grief, she and her father, the local apothecary continue on. But the question of what happened to Ruth Hanover never goes away and Sarah is determined to discover what happened.

I like historical fiction and the richness that a particular time period adds to a story. In this case, the beliefs about healing are fascinating – a reliance on blood-letting, drawing out a burn with hot metal, and shaving a head to cure a fever, to name a few.

The entire tale is tole in Sarah’s first-person pov. She’s a great character, kind and obedient to her father, but endowed with a well of inner strength, resilience, and independence. She’s also a bit of a snoop, which is highly improper, and about which she feels guilty. Secondary characters are also wonderfully developed, particularly Sarah’s father.

The mystery aspect of the story is well done with a weave of red herrings and parallel running plots. Despite all my guessing, I wasn’t able to guess the ending until it came. The book isn’t particularly bloody or scary though there is plenty of tension at certain points. The writing is polished and beautifully edited. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction and cozy mysteries. Appropriate for YA and adult audiences.

*****

A Ghost in the Kitchen: Three Ingredients 2 by Teagan Geneviene

I’ve read a number of Geneviene books, and what I love about them is how light-hearted and whimsical they are, full of great characters, fantastical creatures, and quirky adventure. This one is no different. Pip and her grandmother have the ability to see ghosts and several show up in Granny’s kitchen, including a rather colorful Maestro who enjoys cooking. The story has mermen, cursed cowboy ghosts, and Daisy, Pip’s friend who died under mysterious circumstances. Pip and her friend Andy are determined to discover the truth.

This is a lively story with great characters and a lickety-split pace. Pip is a 1920’s flapper with an engaging personality, and the story is full of fun lingo. I haven’t read the first book in the series and though there are references to what occurred, this book worked fine as a stand-alone. A lighthearted, magical read

*****

Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney

Families aren’t easy, filled with flawed humans who bounce off each other in myriad directions, some sweet, some chaotic. When a family is full of secrets, things can get pretty tangled. Ben Glass was the glue that held his family together, and when he’s killed in a traffic accident, his widow Olivia and their five grown sons start the process of shattering.

Olivia struggles for control, and one by one begins interfering in her sons’ lives. She is the keeper of one of Ben’s secrets, but the young men have secrets of their own, and like an overpowering mother, she tries to “fix” everyone and “fix” their relationships. There were definitely points in the book where I wanted to shake her. That said, there aren’t any villains in this story, and I appreciated that real-life quality.

Without giving too much away, the family’s journey through grief and separation into repair is the main focus of the plot. A lot of detail and description gives the book a leisurely but steady pace. The characters are thoroughly developed, three dimensional and unique, with full emotional lives. I felt a lot of empathy for all of them, even for Olivia as she bungled along, an imperfect person who wants so much to manage her family into healing. In many ways, the story is about family strength and love. Recommended for readers of family sagas and literary fiction.

*****

Bystanders by Phillip Murrell

This is a great read for anyone who loves action, a plot-driven story, and superheroes. But it’s not typical of superhero reads since the superhero has almost no role in the narrative. Instead, the story focuses on those touched by his actions – a news anchor, hospital workers, EMTs, law enforcement, criminals, and a couple of teenage bloggers.

Don’t expect any deep character development, emotional turmoil, or personal growth. For the most part, the characters are simply reacting to events and don’t have overarching goals that drive the action. But do expect well-rounded personalities revealed through exceptional dialog, the strongest element of the book.

The pace is good throughout, though there are times when the dialog, though realistic, goes off on short tangents. There’s some humor around the superhero’s name, and there’s plenty of violence, so be prepared for blood. An entertaining book that I recommend to readers of plot-driven superhero and action novels.

*****

Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray

This book concludes the fascinating trilogy that began 850,000 years ago as Xhosa and her People begin their search for a new home, migrating across continents, meeting different peoples, and facing the harsh elements. They learn new skills, adapt, and develop strategies that help them survive. I recommend reading this series in order since it entails a single journey.  (For the full review, click here.)

*****

Happy Reading!

Against All Odds: New Release Review

I’ve been a fan of Jacqui Murray’s prehistoric fiction for years now. Her latest, Against all Odds, the 3rd book in the Crossroads Trilogy, is just out and my review is below.

Did I mention that I’m a fan? I’ve read and reviewed:

Born in a Treacherous Time 

Survival of the Fittest (Crossroads Trilogy 1)

The Quest for Home (Crossroads Trilogy 2)

And, newly released:

Against All Odds (Crossroads Trilogy 3)

If you need an August read, why not give prehistoric fiction a try.

The Story:

A million years of evolution made Xhosa tough but was it enough? She and her People finally reach their destination—a glorious land of tall grasses, few predators, and an abundance that seems limitless, but an enemy greater than any they have met so far threatens to end their dreams. If Xhosa can’t stop this one, she and her People must again flee.

The Crossroads trilogy is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate all those who came before.

From prehistoric fiction author Jacqui Murray comes the unforgettable saga of a courageous woman who questions assumptions, searches for truth, and does what she must despite daunting opposition. Read the final chapter of her search for freedom, safety, and a new home.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Trailer:

My Review

This book concludes the fascinating trilogy that began 850,000 years ago as Xhosa and her People begin their search for a new home, migrating across continents, meeting different peoples, and facing the harsh elements. They learn new skills, adapt, and develop strategies that help them survive. I recommend reading this series in order since it entails a single journey.

What I’ve enjoyed most about Murray’s prehistoric fiction is the meticulous research, which shines through and brings the time period to life. While the glimpses into prehistoric life were mesmerizing at the beginning of the series, this third installment focuses more on the characters and their personalities and how they adapt to situations. The natural landscape and elements continue to be a challenge but there are more encounters, both cooperative and aggressive, with other humans, including cannibals.

The cast of characters has grown over the trilogy and a glossary of names at the book’s beginning is worth browsing for a refresher. Murray also provides some research detail in a foreword that is interesting though not required to enjoy the story. The book moves along at a good pace, and the author does a great job envisioning the world through prehistoric eyes with terminology that creates an aura of the past. Highly recommended for readers of prehistoric fiction.

Meet Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also an adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, Winter 2021.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page     

Blog: Worddreams                                    

Instagram                       

LinkedIn                             

Pinterest                                

Twitter                               

Website                                 

 

Happy Reading!

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives -#NewSeries 2020- Pot Luck #Writing – Why to avoid “ing” words in fiction by D. Wallace Peach

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s today with a reblog of a writing post about why to avoid “ING” words. If you missed it, stop by for a gander. And while visiting, be sure to browse Sally’s smorgasbord of offerings. Happy Friday and have a glorious (and safe) weekend!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives… and I will be picking two posts from the blogs of those participating from the first six months of 2020. If you don’t mind me rifling through your archives… just let me know in the comments or you can find out the full scope: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

This is the first post for Diana Wallace Peach and this week some help when navigating the grammar rules regarding the ‘ing’ words..

A few weeks ago, I had a blog-conversation with Jacqui Murray of Worddreams  about editing out “ing” words. I’ve heard many times that these words should be avoided when writing fiction but never understood why. While some writing no-nos stab me in the eye every time I read them (such as filter words words), “ing” words never really bothered me.

So, a…

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Alue, an Elf

The first book of my Unraveling the Veil trilogy is with beta readers. Woot woot. So, if all goes well, I’m on target for… um… August?  Gulp. That date makes my stomach hurt.

I introduced Naj’ar, my goblin, with a little snippet – Here.

Well, here’s a little peek at Alue, my elf.

***

The Devil’s Owl occupied a basement in the Ten’s Thrift District known for its tanneries and crude smelting operations, poisonous reek and lung-killing smoke. She paused in the gloom at the top of the littered stairs leading down below the street. The night had cooled. Stars pricked holes in the obsidian sky, and crickets chirped in a forsaken lot of tumbled walls.

The canteen’s whispered reputation suggested it was a place frequented by goblin smugglers, collared changelings, and elves with nothing to lose. It was a place to purchase stolen crystals.

She chewed on a lip and weighed the risks of entering. Even more so, her chances of getting out. She’d dressed in dark gray dahn, a long black shirt, and open vest, her hair tightly braided and tucked into a scarf. A light smudge of kohl hollowed her cheeks, lending her the starved appearance of an addict, and she’d drawn dull bruises around her eyes.

Teeth gritted, she adjusted the knife at her hip and descended the steps. A rap on the weathered door cracked it open, and a goblin’s charcoal face filled the slit. A lemon-yellow eye appraised her.

“I need to make a purchase,” she said.

“What of?”

“None of your business.”

“We haven’t seen you here before.”

“Because I’ve never been here. I usually don’t patronize dumps.” The goblin reached through the gap. She jerked back, and his sharp claws missed her scarf. “And if you touch me, I’ll cut off your fingers.”

The goblin bared a row of serrated teeth, returning the threat.

“Let her in, Tak,” someone said from the murky cave within. Tak stepped aside, and the dim room beckoned. The dank and ripe stink of unwashed bodies and spilled keva wrinkled her nose, and she sucked in a breath through her mouth.

“You coming in?” The goblin grabbed her arm and yanked her inside, closing the door behind her. She twisted out of his grip with an agility that caught him off guard, her knife tip pointed up under his scarred chin. He loomed over her, one long ear swept back and twitching, the other missing. Muscles bunched in his shoulders.

She growled into his surprised face, “I wasn’t kidding about the fingers.”

“Fast for an addict.”

“Who said I was an addict?” She lowered her knife and her voice. “I’m looking for crystals.”

The goblin’s nocturnal eyes reflected the muted light. He pointed with his chin to a corner. “Over there.” He bent down, his long nose almost pressed to her ear. “You’re not fooling anyone, elf. Get what you need and get out.”

Alue stepped back, nodded, and headed for the threesome. A bearded changeling with a collar delivered mugs of keva to his companions—a pale goblin and dark-haired elf. They leaned over their table while a glowing sphere twirled on the elf’s fingertips. He was photokinetic, like her, but with a trickster’s talent, and handsome compared to the other lowlifes that drank and gambled in the canteen’s alcoves. He rolled the sphere over the back of his hand, into his palm, back up to his fingertips, never losing contact. The movement seemed effortless, without thought, his attention focused on his companions and their conversation. She strolled up to the table and plucked the light from its perch. The orb remained bright in her palm.

The elf’s companions stiffened, but he cupped a hand and formed another sphere that popped to his fingertips. “Beware who you rob.”

Blogging Kindness

Nina’s Kindness

I started my blog in June, 8 years ago.

It’s seen me through 16 books, and I’ve made thousands of connections. I’ve met hundreds of bloggers I’m delighted to call “friends.”

Is that a hollow word? Not at all. It means that on some level I’ve felt a connection, perhaps brief, perhaps lasting for years, perhaps close enough that if I’m in your city or state or country someday, I’ll reach out and invite you out for coffee or wine.

For writers, blogging is essential, not for sales, but for the incredible encouragement, the cheers, the advice, the shoulder to gripe on or cry on. Bloggers are the ones who pat our backs, offer their time and talents, help us find resources, and support our marketing efforts. We get to showcase our reviews, our covers, our snippets, flash fiction, and poetry. We learn, we are challenged, we celebrate others and are celebrated.

But blogging isn’t only for storytellers, obviously. I’ve “met” artists, photographers, philosophers, jokers, wanderers, chefs, teachers and parents, historians, and thinkers. During these dark days of isolation, the kindness of bloggers has felt especially important. When I want to withdraw, bloggers remind me that the world is full of kindness.

I commented on a post by Nina of Method Two Madness that her painted rocks were beautiful as well as a wonderfully creative way to brighten the world when we so need beauty and light. The next thing I knew, Nina was sending me three beautiful pieces of artwork. They now sit in my garden:

Kindness in my garden

And she added in this beautiful card, which I’ll be framing from my writing room wall – a reminder of the many gifts of blogging and the kindness of very real friends.

Artwork for my Writing Room

Thank you, Nina. ❤

If you get a chance, visit Nina and Kerfe at Method Two Madness. They share a beautiful blog of artwork, prose, and poetry.

Does the kindness of bloggers brighten your world?

Coffee or wine, my friend?

Sacred Ground #Tanka Tuesday

pixabay image

The soil is charmed, morning-cool, and damp from last night’s dew. Droplets of light embroider a rose’s scarlet petals, and the zucchini by the stone wall lifts its giant green hands to catch the midsummer sun. Warmth drips like a fountain. The trees clap their leaves in approval. I don’t wear gloves and my fingernails are caked with dirt. Today, I’ll plant another batch of wrinkled kale and buttery coreopsis. I’ll pick broccoli and make a bouquet of wild daisies to brighten my kitchen sill. The bees hum a symphony. As I brush my fingers on my jeans, the enchantment of the hallowed earth sustains me for another day.

Despair cannot bind
A spirit to hopelessness
A heart to darkness
When rooted in sacred ground
Consecrated by the Earth

 

***

A haibun/tanka for Colleen Chesebro’s #Tanka Tuesday.

We had to use synonyms of Hex and Blessed (enchantment and hallowed)

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Share an Extract from a Previous Book- #Fantasy – Soul Swallowers (The Shattered Sea Book 1) by D.Wallace Peach

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s with an extract from my book, Soul Swallowers. Sally is an amazing supporter of indie authors, and a beautiful storyteller and poet. Her blog offers a smorgasbord of information, including some daily laughs. I’ll be hanging out in Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore for a few days. If you have time, come by to say hello. Happy Reading.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

The next author to share a review from one of her prevous books is D.Wallace Peach for Soul Swallowers  (The Shattered Sea Book 1)

About the book

When swallowed, some souls gift insights, wisdom, a path to understanding. Others unleash power, proficiency with a sword, and indifference to death. One soul assimilates with ease. But swallow a host of the dead and risk a descent into madness.

Estranged from his family over the murder of his wife, young Raze Anvrell wields his fists to vent his rage. Then a chance at a new life beckons, and he retreats to the foothills of the Ravenwood, the haunt of unbound ghosts. He and his mentor build a freehold, a life of physical labor and the satisfaction of realizing a dream. They raise horses and whittle by the fire until the old man dies, and Raze swallows his first soul.

When his brother…

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June Book Reviews

If you’re out and about, take a book with you on your wanderings. If you’re stuck at home, here are some reads to while away the time.

This month my offering of reviews includes fantasy, historical fiction, poetry, a thriller, a murder mystery, and more. I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

I finished this book a few days ago and it’s stuck with me. I didn’t realize until I’d reached the end that it’s historical fiction based loosely on real women in 16th century Scotland when witches were rounded up, tortured, and murdered. Somehow it was easier to read when I thought it was pure fiction. After getting to know the characters, the author might as well have stabbed me in the heart.

The whole book is beautifully written. Beautiful prose, beautiful characterization, deeply emotional. For the first half, the book is a sweet love story between Isobell (mistaken as a mermaid) and Thomas (mistaken as a bear). There are villains and obstacles, but life is full of promise and goodness. Isobell is a strong first-person POV character, and I found her thoroughly engaging, kind, sweet, and courageous.

Then, be prepared, for the story takes a dark turn. The author deftly intertwines the cruelty with kindness and faith, and so the story continues to hold onto its commitment to love. The ending is gorgeous and deeply moving. I had a hard time putting the book down. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, love stories, tragedies, and the resilience of love, kindness, and faith.

*****

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This is a great read! The four raven boys are students at a private school with a raven mascot. Aglionby caters to the super-wealthy, so class plays a part in defining the characters and their relationships. But the story doesn’t focus on school activities. Instead, it follows the group’s paranormal investigations, led by Gansey, their un-proclaimed leader. The fifth of their party is a local named Blue, the daughter of a clairvoyant. Though a YA story, there isn’t much romance (phew), because Blue happens to know that if she kisses her true love, he’ll die.

The first 50% of the book focuses almost entirely on character development with the plot taking a back seat. It’s time well spent as these are deeply developed characters with complex personalities and relationships. Each character is unique, and by unique, I mean UNIQUE, fascinating in their own right but also as the different personalities blend together and bounce off each other. To a great extent, this is a book about deep friendships and loyalty.

All the character-prep in the first half of the read pays off when the plot ramps up. I was thoroughly invested when things got dicey. The presence of magic increases as sacrifices are set in motion and the number of characters involved in “waking the corpse road” increases. The book ends well with plenty to look forward too as their hunt for an ancient king continues. I’ll definitely be reading onward into this series. It’s well worth it. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.

*****

Wake Robin Ridge by Marcia Meara

Part romance, part thriller, part mystery, part ghost story, part epistolary, and most of all a love story, this first book in the Wake Robin Ridge series has it all, pulled together into a well-crafted tale. It’s quite a feat and thoroughly engaging.

The first half of the book alternates between two stories. One is Ruthie’s narrative, set in the early 1960s. She runs away from an abusive relationship and rebuilds her life in a rural cabin in the Carolinas. Ruthie’s story is definitely a nail-biting thriller, and I wanted to hide under my blankets.

The second narrative belongs to Sarah, who moves into the same cabin in 2011 and starts up a romance with her neighbor, Mac, a man with a secret who’s conflicted about starting a relationship. Romance readers will enjoy many of the tropes that pepper their relationship.

Then in the middle of the book, an event changes everything for both women even though they live 50 years apart. Ruth’s story continues through a series of unmailed letters, and Sarah and Mac are determined to find out what happened to her. The romance and thriller parts of the book fade as the narrative shifts into mature love, grief, loyalty, and sacrifice. There were times when I got a little choked up.

Clearly the book has a lot going on, but it’s beautifully told and kept up a good pace, particularly in the second half. The characters are three-dimensional with rich emotional lives and distinct voices. Ruthie was my favorite and the most sympathetic; it was her story that blurred the eyes. Highly recommended to love story and romance readers who enjoy a bit of a thrill and mystery blended in to add interest to the tale.

*****

Death in a Dacron Sail by N. A. Granger

This is my third Rhe Brewster book, and it was fun to read this character again. Rhe is a mom, wife, ER nurse, and part-time detective, helping out her brother-in-law who’s the sheriff in a small Maine town. A crabber finds a child’s finger in a trap, and Rhe is on the case which quickly grows into a search for four missing girls.

She’s a well-rounded character: witty, competent, brave, and very relatable as she navigates family, relationships, and work. Life is far from perfect, and as a reader, I enjoyed getting to know her on multiple levels. Secondary characters are equally human and engaging. There’s a wide range of relationships from sweet and loyal to distant, violent, and downright pathological.

The plot is well-paced and multi-layered including not only the investigation, but personal danger to Rhe (who’s pregnant), the deterioration of her marriage, and her boss retaliating for a previous investigation that involved the hospital. Red herrings add to the suspense. I was engaged in each plot thread and the book flew by.

A great read for lovers of mysteries, thrillers, and engaging characters. I hope there’s another in the series because I have to read what happens next…

*****

The Memory by Judith Barrow

The Memory, though fiction, reads like a memoir, chronicling the love-hate relationship between a daughter and mother. The story is told from the point of view of Irene, tracking her life from 1963 to 2002. Irene’s young sister, Rose, has Down’s Syndrome and dies at the age of eight. Irene is devastated. She knows what she saw. The secret of her sister’s death is never once discussed between Irene and her mother, though the rift it creates is ten miles wide.

Though the focus of the book is the arc of Irene’s life, each chapter starts with a glimpse into two days in 2002 when she is caring for her mother who suffers from dementia. Lily is an extremely difficult patient. These glimpses are frequently just a paragraph long, minutes apart, and they clearly convey Irene’s exhaustion. They serve as a backdrop for the longer story that leads up to those final days and moments.

The story is a long one, full of details that create rich well-rounded characters and a sense of time and place. By the end, I knew Irene well, and as a caregiver myself, I found her story moving and authentic. The pace is moderate overall and well suited to the narrative, though there are some tangential details in places that slow it down. Short chapters help keep it moving, and the unspoken secret creates the tension that pulled me through to the end, even though I guessed the truth early on. A beautifully written and edited book, perfect for readers of memoirs, women’s lit, and family dramas.

*****

His Revenge by John W. Howell

His Revenge follows on the heels of the previous book, My GRL. I had fun revisiting a great character, John Cannon, an ordinary nice guy forced into the role of a hero. He’s once again kidnapped and trying to outwit the terrorist mastermind plotting to create havoc in the US. I do recommend reading the books in order, even though the author provides adequate backstory to get the gist of what previously happened.

There’s plenty of action and danger, though less than in the first book. The pace starts out a touch slow, but when it picks up, it charges ahead. John isn’t a macho, gun-toting character, and the solutions to his problems rely more on his wits and a clever plan, along with some strongly developed allies that added depth to the story. The characters face some tough choices that will make the reader squirm.

The bad guys are quite diabolical, heartless, and seemed to cover every base. But they also struck me as a touch gullible, especially since they’ve been outwitted by John before. That said, the rationale backing up the plot is detailed and the solution well-crafted. The writing is professional, the dialog and characterization excellent. I’ll be reading more of John Cannon in the future.

*****

Walk Away Silver Heart by Frank Prem

I purchased this book because I loved the premise of taking a poem (in this case, Amy Lowell’s “Madonna of the Evening Flowers”) and using each line as an inspiration for a wholly new work. The original is beautiful as are Prem’s poems that it inspired.

Prem’s style is different from Lowell’s, more like chains with each link composed of a word or three, yet he captures the tone and language of Lowell’s poem with lovely originality. Each response becomes a glimpse, and combined, they encapsulate a graceful reflection on a loving relationship. There’s a sense of depth and maturity in the feelings it evokes. A beautiful collection.

*****

Father Figure by James J. Cudney

This family drama alternates chapters between two women who, 20 years apart, are transitioning from high school to college. Amalia lives in rural Mississippi under the abusive thumb of her mother. Brianna is from New York City, and though she has a loving mother, she is desperate to know her father’s identity. Her mother, Mollie, refuses to disclose any details of her past.

In a way, the book is a character study, chronicling the two young women’s journeys from adolescence to young adulthood primarily through their sexual experiences and relationships, both positive and negative. This part of the narrative, for me, explored how each woman finally grew into her own skin.

I felt a great deal of empathy for timid Amalia, more so than for Brianna who is so persistent about finding out who her father is that she causes endless problems for everyone around her. It’s Brianna’s search that leads to the climatic end where the mysteries in the book are resolved.

The pace for most of the book felt very slow to me until the last 15% when things started coming together. Otherwise, the writing, characterizations, descriptions, and dialog are all well done. I think this read might be too long and slow for a YA audience, but I recommend it for readers of women’s lit and family dramas.

*****

Guns of Perdition by Jessica Bakkers

This is the first western-horror to cross my Kindle, and the blend of genres was a treat. Jessie is a young man sweeping up a saloon when Grace, one tough and dusty drifter, saunters in. Her face is hidden by a broad Stetson, and her holsters boast a pair of pearl-handled Smith & Wessons. It doesn’t take long before Grace’s guns are blazing, but she isn’t shooting criminals. She’s hunting demons and out to get revenge against the Darksome Gunman. With no idea of what he’s signing up for, Jessie decides to tag along. Oh, Jessie, don’t do it!     (For the full review, click here.)

*****

Happy Reading!

Guns of Perdition: Interview and Review

A couple of years ago, I beta-read Guns of Perdition, and (woot woot) I’m delighted to see it out. I’d never read a western horror before this one, and Jessica Bakkers’ debut novel was a treat. My review is below, but before going there, I wanted to pick this author’s brain a bit. If you follow Jessica’s blog, you’ve discovered a kind, friendly, introverted Australian with a wry sense of humor. So, what twisting creative road led her to write an America western horror story? I asked Jess that question, and here’s her answer:

Jessica: I’ve always loved dark fantasy – both reading and writing it, but I was always much more of a sword and magic fancier than guns and cowboys. I actually had (and still have) a massive saga outlined about an assassin in Roman times that I was all set to write, when Grace (the main character from Guns of Perdition) popped into my head and demanded to be written. Actually, it was her strange love affair with a reverse werewolf that demanded to be written. Something about the story of tortured lovers who can only appreciate each other once a month by the light of the full moon needed to be told.

So, I wrote the first chapter of GoP without any clear idea where the story was heading, only knowing that I had two star-crossed lovers to play with and there would be supernatural themes and horror aplenty. I may be inspired by romance at times, but I am a dark writer at heart! The story – as stories do – evolved from there. Grace turned into a no-nonsense hardcase, so I needed a soft foil to counterbalance her loutish ways. Jessie was born. Then, somewhere around the middle of the first Part, the whole story – for all three novels – came to me. I was finally able to outline and write to some kind of plan…well, a loose plan! Call me a Planster!

After researching a different time period, different country, and completely different way of ‘jawing’ (talking), the characters and setting came alive for me, and telling their story went smoothly. Plot holes, editing, writer’s block, and crippling self-doubt… not so smooth. But, with the support and help of my friends in this writing community, I pulled it out, and am immensely proud to finally have my debut novel finished and published.

If you take a chance on Guns of Perdition, I hope you enjoy reading it – after all, that’s why we writers write, isn’t it?

Diana’s Review: Guns of Perdition

This is the first western-horror to cross my Kindle, and the blend of genres was a treat. Jessie is a young man sweeping up a saloon when Grace, one tough and dusty drifter, saunters in. Her face is hidden by a broad Stetson, and her holsters boast a pair of pearl-handled Smith & Wessons. It doesn’t take long for Grace’s guns to start blazing. But she isn’t shooting criminals. She’s hunting demons and out to get revenge against the Darksome Gunman. With no idea of what he’s signing up for, Jessie decides to tag along. Oh, Jessie, don’t do it!

The action in this dark and bloody story starts on the first page and doesn’t let up until the last. As Grace and Jessie ride through the wild west, each destination brings evil creatures, villains, and dangers, and the gunfights are frequent. They also pick up a few unsavory horsemen who join them on the hunt for vengeance.

As a horror novel, there’s plenty of gore, death, and horrifying scenes. I actually shouted, “Oh my God” near the end. Bakkers doesn’t hold back the punches, and I appreciated her unabashed commitment to the genre and plot. The over-arching basis of the story becomes increasingly clear throughout the read, and it gave me goosebumps.

The story is told from several POVs, and the pace moves along at a gallop. The characters are well-drawn and terribly flawed. I really liked Grace’s character, and I really hated Grace’s character. She’s sympathetic and ruthless. Jessie grows up and grows wiser, and he pays a price for falling for the drifter. The language uses western vernacular and has a western twang that I needed to get used to, but ended up enjoying.

This is the first book in a series. It doesn’t wrap up in a nice neat bow in the end, but I found it satisfying and will be reading on when book 2 comes out. Definitely a gruesome, creative, entertaining tale. Recommended for readers of horror and paranormal stories, who enjoy the Old West, flawed characters, and some intense writing.

Guns of Perdition – Amazon Global Link

Jessica’s Blog

Happy Reading!