Canadian Rockies Haiku

Marveling at Bow Glacier Falls

I’m back after two weeks of exploring the Canadian Rockie Mountains. I hiked just shy of 55 miles (88 km) and climbed almost 15,000 feet (4572 m) in elevation. It was glorious.

The internet was horrible, and I dropped and smashed my laptop while searching for a place to get online. Oh well, more time to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. While I get back into the swing of things (on my new laptop), I’m delighted to share some photos and mountain-inspired haiku.

The view from my room – Moraine Lake – unedited photo. The water is really that color.

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glacial ice trickles

into roaring white cascades

pristine topaz lakes

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Even the bad weather is beautiful

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fragrance of balsam

northern woodlands soothe the soul

deeply shaded green

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Lake Louise sunrise, another unedited shot

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at the water’s edge

sunrise creeps down the glaciers

reflections of gold

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On the way to the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house.

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tea house in the clouds

blueberry juniper tea

on top of the world

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Wildflowers everywhere.

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Indian paintbrush

yellow columbine abound

Alpine meadows bloom

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One of many waterfalls – Athabasca falls and canyon

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waterfalls cascade

thunder through narrow canyons

carving ancient rock

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No bears were harmed in the making of this photo

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far and wide we searched

for brown, black, and grizzly bears

not disappointed

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And a few other photos from the trail:

Thanks for coming along for a look!

July Book Reviews

Yes, it’s only the middle of July, but in a few days, I’m heading out to explore the Canadian Rockies. For a couple of glorious weeks, I’ll be hiking here:

And hopefully I’ll run into one of these (at a distance):

I already have a bunch of reviews to share and didn’t want the stack to grow too high.

And, of course, I’ll be taking a pile of books with me.

Below are reviews for this month’s 4 and 5-star reads including a western romance, military suspense, historical fiction, biographical fiction, a middle-grade fantasy, a coming of age paranormal fiction, a YA fantasy romance, and a short-story thriller. Phew!

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Montana Shootists by Sandra Cox

 What a great read! This is one of my favorites of Cox’s western time-travel romances. Abby Jennings is a US Marine who just lost the love of her life in a tragic fire. She travels home to her family’s Montana ranch to get her bearings and while riding in the mountains, she falls through a portal into the year 1882, right into the sights of gun-for-hire Jake Barrow.

One of the things I loved about the book is that Abby’s stint as a marine made her so confident and tough. She has a tender heart but isn’t intimidated by the roughest, rowdiest of cowboys. She knows how to handle a gun and insists on wearing pants. No helpless woman here. She isn’t going to get pushed around or try to fit into an antiquated feminine role. It was great to watch her stand up to the disrespectful and dangerous men. No wonder Jake was not only exasperated but awestruck.

Abby and Jake are well-drawn protagonists with full personalities, and I loved the strong friendship that formed the basis of their relationship before romantic feelings rose to the forefront. Jake is more of a mystery since Abby carries most of the POV, but his genuine respect and admiration come through loud and clear. I couldn’t help feeling this pair was made for each other.

The secondary characters are equally rich, and many have character arcs of their own. The pace is just right, and I enjoyed the clever and highly satisfying way the plot came together. Very Romantic at the end and just lovely. This would make a great movie. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy westerns, romance, time-travel, and plain old great stories. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

The Choice: the unexpected heroes by Gwen Plano

This is Book Two in the series and it follows two weeks on the heels of Book One, The Contract. The Contract ended with a foiled assassination attempt on the President of the USA from within the government. Global repercussions were avoided, but important lives were lost. The international plot has yet to be investigated and those accountable brought to justice. That’s the focus of this read.

Admiral Joseph Parker is joined by civilian Donna Tucker and Airforce Public Relations employee Jim Andersen at Begert Airforce Base to begin the investigation. A trustworthy team forms and most of the book focuses on tracking down clues and following leads. The investigation is complex but logical and easy to follow.

And it’s not all routine work as the guilty parties are still at large. As the investigation gets closer to discovering the depth and breadth of the conspiracy, anyone with information that might break open the case starts dying. A sense of urgency intensifies as the bodies stack up and the death threats zero in on the team. The third-person present tense POV adds to the sense of immediacy.

I liked all of the characters, particularly the team of protagonists. They’re smart, and they care deeply about what happened and about getting to the truth. Aside from the thrills, there are romantic subplots as well as a paranormal/spiritual element to the story. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, so readers should be prepared to read onward. Highly recommended to fans of military thrillers.

*****

Loving Lady Lazuli by Shehanne Moore

Ten years ago, Sapphire, the infamous London jewel thief, slipped the Wentworth emeralds into the pocket of an unsuspecting young lord. Caught with the jewels, Devorlane Hawley spent ten years serving in the military, which included getting shot. At the end of his service, he returns home to find a very familiar face at his welcoming party.

Cassidy Armstrong feigns innocence and concocts a series of lies that unravel as quickly as she can think them up. Retired from her years as Sapphire, she’s on a mission to prove that she’s the heir to the Armstrong estate, but in order to do that, she needs to scour a stack of paperwork entrusted to you-know-who… Devorlane. Bent on revenge, Devorlane agrees to let her search through the documents as long as she agrees to become his mistress for the duration of her search.

These characters dislike each other intensely (despite their attraction), and that conflicting dynamic plays out for most of the book as they attempt to irritate each other. Multiple POVs give glimpses into both characters’ thoughts and motivations as well as their ambivalence. As always with Moore’s romances, there is plenty of witty humor, and to me, the action/thoughts around sex were more entertaining than the act itself.

Secondary characters are colorful and distinct, adding complications and personality outside the main conflict. The pace is snappy, and I read the book in one sitting. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy witty characters, enemies to friends romances, and a wild plot.

*****

Knuckleheads by Dan Antion

I love stories about kids, especially when they include a blend of relatable antics, tough moments, and heart-warming friendships. Knuckleheads touches on all of those elements in a paranormal tale about two friends, Zach and Billy. Zach, the pov character, has lucid dreams in which he can physically travel, and Billy can see the future.

The tale of Zach and Billy’s friendship begins when they’re in elementary school and extends until they graduate from high school with set plans for the future. It’s a story within a story, told by an older Zach to his adult daughter Abbey over a morning’s breakfast. The frequent intervals of present moment conversation (shown in italics) feel perfectly natural and are as entertaining as the reminiscence.

The novel moves at a good pace, and the characterization is excellent across the board, from teachers to a psychiatrist to the friendly but shady characters in the real estate office next door to the bowling alley owned by Zach’s dad. His father was one of my favorite characters with his endless street-smart wisdom and support of Zach as he navigates childhood challenges and his unique ability.

The question as to why Billy didn’t attend Zach’s retirement party is the reason for the conversation between Zach and Abbey, and this remains a mystery at the close of the book. The story ends without a major climax and with a sense of more to come. If readers want the answers, I suspect they’ll have to wait for the second book. I highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with a bit of a paranormal twist.

*****

Circumstances of Childhood by John W. Howell

Greg and Keith have been best friends, as close as brothers, since their childhoods. They become college football stars and life is going great. Then a tragic accident kills Keith and changes their friendship forever. Though passed on, Keith never leaves Greg side and accompanies him on his journey into middle age, at which time Greg’s investment business comes under investigation and his life falls apart.

Until Keith dies, their lives are consumed with high school football where both excel. My husband and I listened to the book while painting our old deck chairs, and hubby (who played the game in high school and college) LOVED that part of the book, chuckling at the humor, the action, and how authentic it was.

Keith functions as an omniscient narrator for about half of the book, able to describe Greg’s life, including his thoughts and feelings as well as those of the people around him. Though I usually don’t care for omniscient POVs, in this case I thought it fit the story and worked well. When Greg’s life hits a low point, the POV becomes his for the remainder of the book.

I enjoyed all the characters, especially Keith and Greg. Secondary characters were also fully formed and felt authentic to me. The plot unfolds like a memoir of a friendship until the POV switch when the investigation into Greg’s business heats up with dire risks and lots of intrigue, similar to a suspense novel. The pace picks up to match the action.

This is an unusual book (almost like two books in one). Both my husband and I enjoyed it, and we finished it while putting on the last coat of paint. It made the time fly by. Recommended to readers who enjoy stories about friendship with a taste for the paranormal and a big helping of suspense. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

Following the Green Rabbit by Chris Hall

Young Bryony, her little sister Bethany, and their tutor, Mr. Eyre, follow a green rabbit into the woods beyond the orchard and end up two hundred years in the past. All is not well in old England. Lord Childecott has imposed a curfew and increased taxes, and he rules with an iron fist.

The trio of time travelers is taken in by the village residents, and while Bethany is kept safe and busy with a kitten, Mr. Eyre falls into Childecott’s hands with a number of other adults. That leaves Bryony and a group of local young people to see if they can save the day. What follows is lots of well-paced action with captures and escapes, chases and near misses.

This is a cute story with colorful characters, and though there are a lot of them, I was able to keep them straight. Bryony is a brave young lady who cares for her younger sister, and ultimately it’s her intelligence and resolve that leads to a solution. Mr. Eyre is delightful and his enthusiasm made him one of my favorites. Childecott and his henchman Smiler have a dastardly air similar to Captain Hook and Smee (Peter Pan).

Though Childecott issues plenty of threats, there’s minimal violence, and the cast of young protagonists makes this book appropriate for middle-grade readers, young teens, and the young at heart. Recommended to fans of adventure tales where children are the heroes. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

The One Chosen: A Diasodz Short Story by Yvette M. Calleiro

The One Chosen is a novelette that accompanies The Chronicle of the Diasodz series, and it was my first exposure to the characters and world. Set in the 1600s, young people with special talents (fighting, teleportation, healing) become the Diasodz, secret protectors of humans.

Valerie, chosen for the honor, enters a period of training as a warrior. She becomes infatuated with one of her trainers, Nolan, but he’s all business and keeps her at a distance. Then a training mission goes awry, thrusting Valerie and Nolan into a life or death situation that changes everything.

This is a YA fantasy romance complete with love triangles and long looks. It’s a short 90-minute read with a rapid pace that doesn’t leave much time for significant character development or plausible action beyond the romantic elements. I liked Valerie’s spunk and would have enjoyed learning more about her, Nolan, and Drake (the third point of the love triangle who disappears halfway through the read).

I’m tempted to recommend that readers enjoy this novelette later in the series when they already know the characters. It would make a nice romantic interlude or backstory. For readers who enjoy fantasy combined with YA romance, it’s likely the perfect fix.

*****

The Intruder: A Short Thriller by Marlena Smith

This dark story is a quick 15-minute read. Serenity lives alone in a small town and is startled to discover intimate photos of herself on her phone, ones she didn’t take. The police are kind and helpful, but nothing will stop her terrifying journey to the truth. An entertaining read that was over all too soon. Recommended for fans of dark short stories.

*****

See you in two weeks!

Happy Reading!

Word Craft Poetry “Dreams”

A few days ago, Colleen Chesebro announced the winners of the Word Craft Poetry Syllabic Poetry Contest held to honor the Summer Solstice. The theme was dreams, and poets were instructed to use the syllabic form “tanka prose.” This form combines short prose with a 5-line tanka poem (with a syllable count of 5/7/5/7/7).

I was delighted and honored that my poem “Am I Dreaming?” came out on top. I’m grateful to the judges for their selection and to Colleen for continually encouraging all of us to learn and write poetry. She’s a whirlwind of energy and creativity.

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Please take a moment to pop over to Word Craft Poetry to read the other top poems, written by Ken Gierke, Merril D. Smith, and Jude Itakali. Not only is their poetry beautiful, but it shows off the depth and versatility of the form and the enormous talent in our writing community.

And if you feel inspired, join in Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday challenges. They’re great fun. Happy Writing!

The Necromancer’s Daughter: Joreh

Joreh Graeger

Joreh is the last of my trio of main characters. You’ve met Barus and Aster. Joreh is my reluctant protagonist. The poor guy is riddled with ambivalence. I make all my characters suffer, but Joreh is the least sure of his convictions, and he more than the other characters will be forced to make the difficult choices between justice, faith, and love.

Below is a little snippet from his first POV chapter. I hope you enjoy it.

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Lanterns lit the watchtowers, and guards held up the gleaming gold haloes in the rising squall. The bonfire in the square hissed and thrashed like a demon in iron chains, and Joreh longed to stand before it and forget the girl. The caravan had departed, and the square lay empty as residents sheltered in their homes. The woodsmen headed for the tavern.

He glanced at Aster, impatient for instructions. She waited in the blowing snow for him or whatever would befall her next. Three stiff-backed soldiers approached from the barracks. At the same time, the inn’s door swung open and several brothers of the Red Order descended the steps, his father in the lead.

She stepped back, but surrounded by men from the outpost, she lacked anywhere to run. Joreh grabbed her arm. She shook in his grip, and any strength or confidence he’d witnessed during their short trek vanished. What little color rosied her cheeks drained from her face, and her eyes sought his, white-rimmed with panic. His father terrified her. How did she even know him?

“Well done, Joreh. I’d assumed we’d lost her. How fitting that you’re the one to deliver her to the Blessed One’s justice.” His father clapped him on the back and gestured to a soldier. “Secure her in a cage.”

Her gaze flitted to the dangling cages, and Joreh grimaced, wishing they could get this over with, quietly and honorably, without the displays of intimidation. If they locked her in a cage, she’d freeze to death before morning. He drew a knife from his wide sash and cut the bindings on her wrists, eager to follow the woodsmen into the tavern. “It’s too cold in the cages. Lock her up inside or chain her in the stable.”

She rubbed blood into her strangled hands and edged nearer to him as if he held the key to her salvation. He possessed no such thing. Nor did he want it.

His father looked down his nose at her. “She doesn’t require coddling. She’s dead. And if there’s any question, come morning, we’ll hang her.”

“She hasn’t been tried.” Joreh scraped a hand over his scowl. “You can’t execute her without the goddess’s judgment.”

His father raised an eyebrow. “Oh, my son, watch me. The Blessed One requires no trial for this one. She’s far from innocent. Her very existence is a testament to evil.” He grabbed the collar of her cloak and yanked her toward the fire. She cried out, writhing like a wild thing as she fumbled with the clasp.

Joreh staggered after them. Would his father throw her into the flames? That he even asked himself such a question dismayed him.

The cloak’s brooch popped. Aster dropped to the mud, and the vicar tossed the garment into the fire. He beckoned to the soldiers. “Take her to the cage.”

Joreh gritted his teeth as his father eyed him, daring him to utter a challenge. Two soldiers lowered a wooden cage. A blade prodded her to the cell, and she stumbled inside. She gripped the wooden bars as the rope drew taut through its pulley and lifted her prison, swaying and creaking, into the air. Snow fell through the bars unimpeded. Joreh stamped his frozen feet as the woman curled into the cage’s corner, too far from the fire to feel its warmth. Wrapped in his cloak, he trailed his father into the inn.

Thanks for dropping by and reading!

The Necromancer’s Daughter: Aster

With a book launch on the horizon, I’ve started introducing my three main characters. This is Aster, a young woman who was born dead and resurrected by Barus, the necromancer. He’s raised her as his own, and though he’s warned her away from dragons… she can’t find it in herself to be afraid.

I hope you enjoy this (slightly modified) snippet introducing Aster.

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As it always did, the tide of emotion started as a trickle of anticipation at the base of Aster’s spine. The swelling excitement flowed into her chest, and her fingers tingled. It spread over her skin and rushed into her face. The feelings belonged to the dragon, not to her, but she’d become accustomed to the foreign sensations thrumming through her bones.

The dragon whooshed up the cliff into the ether, nearly knocking her from her feet. Whipped-up wind thrust her grandmother’s blue shawl open, and it flapped from her shoulders like a fledgling’s untested wings. Her fine white hair whirled with the blowing snow. Though she’d expected the creature’s striking entrance, she laughed in surprise.

The beast’s leathery wings angled for a spiraling descent far above her head. Sunlight shone through the webbing, enhancing the mottle of silver and black. She’d encountered this one many times before and raised an arm to wave. “Come down. I’m not afraid.” Would it finally heed her call? A gift for her eighteenth awakening day?

A scar striped the dragon’s snout, jagged as a thunderbolt. Its long neck arched, ruby eyes gleaming as its head dipped toward her, jaws agape. Curved incisors glinted in the raw light, and the serpentine tail snapped at the frozen stalks of asters quivering in the wind.

Barus had told her, long ago, to hide behind a tree and make herself small, and for years, she’d obeyed his wishes. But no more. If the dragon meant to terrify her, it had failed every time. She trusted her instincts, knew to her core that the creature wouldn’t shred her to pieces or whisk her away in its teeth.

But what about an apple?

She reached for the armor of scales as the massive body undulated above her, its back bristling with spikes, clawed feet sweeping the air just beyond her fingertips as she held an apple aloft. The beast circled, rising higher.

“Come down,” she teased, giving the wrinkled fruit a toss. “I brought an apple for you.”

The dragon’s wings swept back, and it dove from the cornflower sky. Aster shrieked and flung the apple. The toothsome jaws snapped the fruit from the air, and she laughed with delight.

As though in answer, the beast bellowed a cry and plummeted beyond the cliff’s wall. Aster darted to the edge as the dragon’s wings unfurled, capturing the wind with the ripple and snap of a galleon’s sails. The colossal beast skimmed the gray sea, flying for the Isles of White Sands glimmering like a mirage on the horizon.

As the drumming of wings surrendered to the waves’ roar, another sound assumed its place. The voices of men.

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Thanks for reading!

June Book Reviews (Part Two)

More book reviews for the month of June, as promised. I suspect July will be quieter (famous last words). I hope you find a great read for the beach or hammock, or for those readers in the thick of winter, a story to warm you by the fire.

Below are reviews for this month’s 4 and 5-star reads including fantasy, YA fantasy, women’s fiction, romance, historical fiction, and a 10-author collaborative suspense novel.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Can I find the words to say how much I enjoyed this magical fantasy series? Probably not. This is Book 3 of the Winternight Trilogy, and it’s easy to see why it’s a best seller. The trilogy is a retelling of a Russian (Ukrainian) folk tale, and I loved the lore and mythology, the old-world beliefs in the unseen spirits of land and rivers, dooryards and kitchens.

The invisible world is alive, but fading in the face of Christianity. Vasya embraces her identity as a witch as well as her ability to cross into the mysterious and dangerous spirit world. As war looms, Vasya is determined to save the old gods, her family, and the country that tried to kill her. Her sacrifices and courage are gripping, and there are some terrifying and heart-wrenching scenes in this book. I found it almost impossible to put down.

On top of that, the writing is exquisite with beautiful metaphors and descriptions. For readers who love lyrical storytelling, the book is mesmerizing. Characters are deeply drawn, straight from lore and legend, and the relationships are fraught with loyalty, loathing, cruelty, and love. At its heart, this is a love story, but nothing is straightforward and simple in this series. Highly recommended to fantasy readers, especially those who enjoy fairytale retellings, magic, lore, mythology, stupendous characters, a gripping tale, and beautiful writing.

*****

Bits of Broken Glass by Martha Reynolds

A twenty-fifth high school reunion is being planned for six months in the future, and for four characters it becomes an opportunity to think back on how those important years shaped them. For Kellie and Joe it stirs up old trauma. For Cherry, it’s an opportunity to make amends, and for Scott it’s an opportunity missed.

The actual reunion takes place in the last chapter, so the book is really about the lead-up to that event. Each character has a separate POV narrative, which begins to intersect with other characters as the day draws near. I enjoyed the way the author slowly revealed each character’s memories as well as how their lives had progressed. The healing that takes place was cathartic and touching. To me, it seemed that karma was in play, and that kindness bred kindness, as well as the other way around.

The characters were beautifully crafted, their actions and choices realistic and their emotions full of depth. Secondary characters had the same three-dimensional feel. The story unfolds in third-person with a little first-person mixed in. The pace was excellent, and I read the book in two days since it caught me and wouldn’t let go. Recommended to readers who enjoy women’s fiction, and stories about personal growth and rising above old hurts. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

Between the Vines by Staci Troilo

Elena is a wedding planner who doesn’t trust love. In fact, she’s downright cynical. Aaron, a local cop, has been cheated on in his past, and he’s sworn off love. But his sister’s wedding brings him face to face with Elena and neither of them know how to handle the attraction. Then Heather, Aaron’s cheating ex-girlfriend and a woman you love to hate, enters the scene and pins a target on Elena’s back.

I read this short romance in a couple of hours. The third of the Keystone Couples novellas, the book has fun cameos from the first two but can easily be read as a stand-alone. The pace moves along quickly with plenty of cross-communication, fiery ladies, and a cop who’s not sure how to handle any of it. There are also some very tender testaments to love, and a huge dollop of kindness. An entertaining quick read highly recommended to romance fans. (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

Jealousy of a Viking by V. M. Sang

This historical fiction takes place around the year 860 AD when Danes and Saxons were occupying Britain. Helgha is a young woman who falls in love with Erik, a man above her status. With marriage out of the question, Erik kills her father and sweeps Helgha away to become his bed slave. In love with him, Helgha complies and bears him two sons. And when Erik weds someone of his own class, Helgha begins a devious journey of sabotaging his wife’s pregnancies. Her actions set off a cascade of tragedies.

I’m happy to say that, though jealousy and wicked thoughts follow her for most of the book, Helgha has an arc that allows her to mature and find redemption. She’s a deeply drawn character, and when she finds her heart and inner strength, it’s refreshing. As she matured and became a kinder person, I connected more with her than I did in the beginning. I didn’t like either of the men she loved (due to their treatment of women), but they did feel realistic.

At the end of the book, the author shares some of her research regarding historical events, as well as some cultural details (both researched and speculated). The book focuses on the role of women as the bearers of sons. True to life at the time, the trials of pregnancy, birth, and miscarriage occur frequently within the read, but there’s also lots of action and danger that kept me flipping the pages.

A sub-plot of Helgha’s shifting religious beliefs is exceptionally done and felt quite authentic. The pace moved at a good clip, and I found excuses to keep reading. Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially regarding Vikings in Britain.

*****

Altitudinis: Seekers, Sinners & Secrets: A Collaborative Novel

Altitudinis is a serum under development that promises exceptional endurance at high altitudes. It will benefit India’s military as well as its businesses whose employees work in the mountains. But it hasn’t been tested on humans, and unwitting adventurers are targeted for trials. And there are unscrupulous thieves who would like to steal the research and sell it as their own.

Those are only two plot threads that run through this suspense/romance/family drama written by ten authors. The complexity of such a writing collaboration intrigued me, and it may be one reason why there was so much going on in the book with the plots and subplots. Overall, it was surprisingly cohesive and consistent, as if written by one author. That’s quite a feat.

The pace moves quickly. One of the challenges with so much plot-related action, as well as the number of main characters, is that there wasn’t much time to get deeply into the characters’ psyches, emotions, or backstories. Nikhil and Nirali were the exceptions with some time given to their relationship and romance. Because I got to know them personally, they were my favorites.

With the addition of an omniscient POV, this book struck me as a broad versus deep story. Readers looking for a character-driven book may find themselves wanting more depth and focus, but readers who enjoy action-driven stories that don’t get bogged down in messy emotions, description, and backstory, may have found just the thing to fill an afternoon of reading. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

Golden Healer by M. J. Mallon

I read the first book in this series years ago, but the story came back to me quickly. Amelina continues her journey to understand her magical abilities and the power of the crystals while at the same time she navigates her teen years with her friends and family. I definitely recommend that readers start with book one to orient themselves to this world and the characters.

This book isn’t an easy read, and it wasn’t surprising to me that each chapter is titled a “Puzzle.” The writing is beautiful and rich with description, but much of it takes place in the spirit world through visions and dreams. There are helpers and kind spirits as well as dark shadow demons. Shadows take shape in multiple forms, the primary one being Ryder, who manipulates the world in both real life and dream life.

The main conflict seems to be between the forces of good and evil as they meet in different situations. The author’s world-building is often dazzling, and occasionally I lost track of the plot in all the beautiful visuals and fascinating scenes. My attention remained rapt, but the result was a slow pace.

The primary narrator is Amelina, but her father and friends share the POV. The story unfolds in first person, third person, and omniscient. The action in the book is well described as are the intense emotions of the characters. Readers who enjoy vivid dreamlike worlds, metaphysical and new age spirituality, and coming-of-age stories may find just the thing within these magical pages.

*****

Happy Reading!

Interview with Yvette at Priorhouse

Yvette Prior at Priorhouse kindly offered me a chance to do a mini-interview on her blog. Of course, I snapped it up, and it’s live today. If you have a chance, stop by to say hi. See you there.

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Hello Readers,

Today I am sharing “TEN Questions with an Author” featuring D Wallace Peach.

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Some long-time followers of this blog might know that I startsd the Priorhouse Interview series back in 2015-2016Ish – and managed to do a handful of interviews (mostly yoga teachers) and then in 2021, I decided to put more of a focus on it (thanks in part to Marsha  @alwayswrite).
Also, to get momentum, I scheduled monthly interviews ahead of time (and next month – July 2022- we have author Robbie Cheadle – here – so hope to see you back for that).

Another thing that helped the interview series was doing some unplanned interviews that unfolded on their own- like with  Paul Lucas from the Mariner’s Museum (here) and like this mini interview today.

D Wallace Peach, DWP,  has a new book coming out in August and that was one of the reasons for this mini interview post.  I also had a blog insight for authors and wanted to share that as well (see #5)

#1

Can you tell us about the new book being released in August 2022? And thanks for doing this interview here at Priorhouse.

DWP:

Thanks for having me over for a mini-interview!  And thanks for the fun questions with a chance to jump up and down about a new book!

(Continue to Priorhouse Blog)

Chekhov’s Gun

I’m over at Story Empire today with a post about forecasting, and the principle of Chekhov’s Gun. If you have a minute or two, stop by to say hello. Happy Writing!

Story Empire

Hello Storytellers. Diana here with playwright and author Anton Chekhov to explore the principle of Chekhov’s Gun. I’d love to hear your thoughts at the end. Let’s get started…

Pixabay images unless otherwise noted.

Imagine you’re watching a movie. The good guy and the bad guy are just about to face off in the tool shed. As the camera shifts to the bad guy, you get a glimpse of a pointy meat hook hanging on a chain. Just a glance. But it’s enough to know that someone’s going to get hooked before the fight is over.

This is one example of “Chekhov’s Gun,” though Chekhov was referring to a gun on the mantel instead of a hook in the tool shed.

At the beginning of the year, Beem talked about sprinkling a story with clues for the Big Reveal (Here). This post is a bit of a spin off…

View original post 890 more words

June Book Reviews (Part One)

It looks like June is going to be another successful month of reading, so breaking my monthly reviews into two posts seemed like a good idea. I have a bunch of great reads for you to browse, and more on the way.

Below are reviews for this month’s 4 and 5-star reads including a sci-fi thriller, three poetry collections, a paranormal suspense novel, and a romance/action mash-up.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

The Insurgent by Teri Polen

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series (Subject A36) and couldn’t wait to get into the second. It didn’t disappoint. Our hero, Asher, has surrendered to his bio-engineered personality (A36) and become a serious threat to his old team of insurgents. The insurgents are battling the Colony, a diabolical organization that harvests the genes of children (by killing them) so wealthy people can enhance their bodies.

The leader of the Colony, Silas, is a great antagonist because he’s so horrid! And sadly, Asher has become his killing machine. Declan rises to the top as the main protagonist in this book, and he has some relationships to repair after betraying his friends in the last one.

The author spends the first part of the story catching readers up on the characters and what happened during book one. Forward progress doesn’t really take off until about the 20% mark and then it’s non-stop action, twists and turns, deception, plotting, and battling right up until the end, which wraps up nicely.

Despite Asher’s months of murdering people, I still felt a lot of empathy for him from the first book (and recommend reading them both, in order). Declan was convincing, and I liked his sense of humor, but Brinn, and her unwavering trust in Asher’s love, was my favorite. This isn’t a long book and I had a hard time putting it down. Highly recommended for sci-fi readers and fans of fast-paced action. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes

Van Noble lost his leg in Afghanistan, and he has a huge inferiority complex about being an incomplete man, but when he discovers Nakina Bird on the run from a Mexican cartel, he steps right up, determined to help her. Thus begins this exciting romance/thriller mashup.

The story has a nice balance of action and romance – the book is definitely both, and Sikes spends a lot of time on character development, which paid off. I connected with both Nakina and Van, and I liked how the action grounded their relationship. Nothing frivolous going on here as they have some serious goals to achieve.

For fans of paranormal fiction or new age mysticism, Nakina has psychic abilities that thread through the story and impact the plot. There are sex scenes and a great deal of sweetness with these characters, but the action ramps up the pace between the romantic lulls. I found both aspects of the story realistic and engaging. Characters from Book One play a secondary role in this story, and this book can be read as a stand-alone without any confusion. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy romance/action mashups.

*****

Life & Soul by Harmony Kent

I read the first book of poetry by this author and was happy to pick up the second. This little collection is full of gems and took me about two hours to read, spread over several days. The styles of poems vary, including both free form and multiple forms of syllabic poetry. Some of the poems run for several pages and some are very brief (but wonderfully powerful).

The book is divided into six sections that address different aspects of a soul’s journey or state of being. Part I, Lonely Soul expresses isolation and longing. Seeking Soul addresses disillusionment and pain. Brief Soul is full of short but impactful poetry, such as this:

Beneficent sage
This old willow
Bowing its crown

Part IV is titled Friendly Soul and explores the importance of friendships. Loving Soul extends into love relationships, and finally, Life of a Soul is a long poem that tells the story of the author’s life, one that I was familiar with from her first book.

There were a lot of poems that I enjoyed. Several of my favorites were Echoes, Life Goes On, Hope, Lost Property, Not Looking, and Unconditional. Okay, more than “several,” but all calling attention to the author’s talent. Highly recommended to fans of poetry looking for a touching read about a soul’s journey. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

Quantum Wanderlust: A Short Story Anthology

I love time travel and all the ways it can manipulate reality. This book of thirteen time-travel short stories by thirteen authors offers a wide variety of twists on the topic. The genres vary from fantasy to horror to romance. Some stories are spooky, some are sinister, and others are wonderfully poignant.

The Butterfly effect enters into a number of stories but not all of them. Time travel is used to recover lost memories, and to deal with overpopulation in a dystopian future. It plays out in connecting families, getting revenge, and preventing tragedies.

I appreciated the variety of stories, and as with most anthologies, I enjoyed some more than others. There’s plenty of high-quality writing in here with compelling characters and satisfying conclusions. This is an excellent way to explore new authors, and after each story, there’s a short biography of the author with links to their other books and social media.

One thing was clear from reading this collection: Avoid traveling through time, because more often than not, something is going to go terribly wrong. Recommended to readers who enjoy short stories and speculative fiction, and who adore time travel twists. (Free on Kindle).

*****

A Voice in the Silence by D. L. Finn

Drea, a recent widow, lives alone in her home far from town. There’s a serial killer roaming the area and a winter storm on the way. But what initially finds its way into her home isn’t a murderer, but a trio of animals who’ve escaped from a lab—a dog, a cat, and a rat. And before she knows it, they’re doing things that no animals should be able to do. They talk.

Suspension of disbelief was a necessity for this book. In some ways, the fantastical abilities of the animals gave the story a whimsical, childlike innocence. But that quality is countered by the presence of a serial killer outside in the storm, and the suspense intensifies when Drea finds his footprints in the snow. With the help of her animal family, a ghost, and a caring police officer, she just might get through the storm alive.

Three major plot lines thread through the story, and each comes to its own satisfying climax rather than all resolving at the end. The main protagonists are well-rounded characters, and that includes the animals. My favorites were Drea, Adam, and Charlie the dog. The villains range from mentally ill to completely deranged.

The story unfolds primarily from Drea’s perspective though the overall POV is omniscient. The pace is good, and descriptions gave a clear picture of the action and setting. There’s a romantic undercurrent and some violence, including an off-stage suicide. Overall, I’d say this book is suitable for YA and adult audiences, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy paranormal stories and want to try something whimsical, suspenseful, and entirely different. (Kindle Unlimited).

*****

Summer Magic by Marcia Meara

I loved Meara’s Wake Robin Ridge series, and this short book of 18 poems is written by the main character Mackenzie Cole (not really, but you get the idea). The poems are lovely glimpses of childhood summers and growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. For this nature-loving reader who spent her summers exploring the woods of Vermont, it was like a trip down memory lane.

The book is divided into two parts: Mac at Ten (about his childhood), and Poems of Love & Life (told from the perspective of an adult). Some of my favorite poems were: The Rope Swing, Star-gazing, and Bruises.

One stanza from Bruises:

Badges.
Attesting to his bravery,
Marking his adventures,
And confirming in his mind
His place among Immortals.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author (ages ago) without any expectation of a review. I’m glad I finally read it. Highly recommended to poetry readers and grown-up kids who remember the magic of summer.

*****

Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships (WordCrafter Anthology)

I enjoyed the first Poetry Treasures anthology and decided to give this one a try as well. The anthology includes a selection of poems from twelve poets, and as the title suggests, the theme of relationships guided the work. Despite the unifying theme, the poems were quite varied in content and style, and I enjoyed the diversity of forms and voices.

In many anthologies, there’s a range of skill, and some pieces reflect more talent than others. I have to say that in this case, I found all of the poems well-crafted and a pleasure to read. Some of them I recognized from previously published anthologies, and it’s a good sign of their quality that they were so memorable.

That said, I did have some favorites—too many to list, of course. Here is a handful that I especially enjoyed: “The Red Petticoat” by Elizabeth Merry, “A Jar” by D. Avery, “She Lives and Yet She’s Dead” by Robbie Cheadle, and “Fat Belly Joy” by Marjorie Mallon. And so many more.

Prior to each set of poems there’s a short biography of the poet. Many of these poets have their own published collections for readers who didn’t get enough here. The book took me about an hour to read (approximately 36 poems in all) and it was an hour well spent. Highly recommended

*****

Happy Reading!

The Necromancer’s Daughter: Barus

Over a year ago, one of my beta readers, after reading The Ferryman and the Sea Witch, challenged me to write a beautiful character. Not a physically beautiful character, but one filled with kindness, a truly good person. Not easy for a writer who enjoys deep flaws and hanging out on the dark side.

But I took the request to heart and created Barus.

He has a handsome face and those lovely pale eyes, but he’s a physical wreck – back bent, muscles cramped, joints swollen, and he’s in constant pain. By profession, he’s a healer, and for Barus that includes “healing” the dead. Necromancy, the arcane ability to raise the dead, is a talent most often associated with evil and horror stories. I love turning stereotypes on their heads.

I wanted to introduce him to you and give you a little tease too. Below is a scene from Chapter One, in which Barus has yet to learn the art of Necromancy. It’s a little long, but hope you enjoy it.

***

When the fire dwindled into scarlet embers, Barus padded to his piled mats at the far wall.

And froze.

Behind the wind, a voice called, a lost sound like the hoot of a faraway owl.

He turned toward Olma and paused, listening. The voice called again, nearer, harsher, rising over the rattle of wagon wheels. He limped to the old woman and touched her shoulder. “Someone comes.”

Olma rose from her chair. “I’ll light a lantern. See who it is.” She unhooked their oil lamp from a peg and knelt by the fire.

Barus shuffled to the door. Nighttime visitors weren’t uncommon, but any ailment or injury requiring travel through the dark leas didn’t bode well. He unlatched the cord and slid the panel aside. Beneath a gibbous moon, a horse and wagon charged toward him. He jerked backward and clawed at a chair for balance.

Wild-eyed and frothing, the horse veered only moments before it smashed into the dwelling, and the wagon juddered to a halt. A tall man jumped from the bench. “I need the necromancer.”  He darted to the wagon’s bed, lifted out a small body, and dashed for the door.

Olma pulled Barus from the stranger’s path before the onslaught knocked him down. The man, dressed in a soldier’s brown robe and flowing trousers, barged into the home, a dead boy in his arms.

“Lay the child here.” Olma patted the table. “Let me see him.”

The man rested the crumpled body before her. Sweat glistened on his forehead and streaked his shirt. “I need help. He’s….” A cry lodged in his chest. “He’s dead.”

A well-built man with a tuft of beard jutting from his chin, the soldier paced in a tight circle, almost spinning as he raked his windblown hair. Eyes the color of rusted iron darted from the cluttered shelves to Olma, to Barus, to the herbs hung from the tangled branches holding up the thatch. Anywhere but at the child. “He’s dead. A horse kicked him. It’s my fault; I shouldn’t have let him near. I never meant it to happen, and I need you to heal him.”

Barus stared at the dead child, the bloodless skin waxy and ghostly pale. A horse’s hoof had bashed in the side of his face, his skull shattered into blood and brain and chips of white bone. Barus’s heart lurched into his throat, and his eyes welled at the loss of so young a life, at the man’s desperation. Could such a death be undone?

Barus had never seen Olma restore a life, let alone one so damaged. Necromancy was a guarded skill, an art she held close, and not one she practiced at home. He met her gaze before she placed a gentle hand on the child’s chest and peered at the soldier, the creases in her ancient face brimming with wordless sympathy.

The boy’s father ceased his pacing. Alarm piled on top of the fear already blanching his skin. “Which of you is the necromancer? Why aren’t you doing something?”

“I am the one you seek,” Olma said. “But I cannot heal him. He is beyond life, his injury too severe.”

“No. That can’t be. You’re a necromancer.” The soldier’s panic surged into slit-eyed rage. His jaw hardened, and his fist hammered on the table. “No! He died less than a day ago. He’s barely cold. You can save him. I order you to try.”

“What is your name?” Olma asked, her serenity undaunted by the furious command.

“Tamus Graeger.”

“And the child?”

He’s my eldest, also Tamus.”

Olma brushed the child’s ebony hair from his forehead as the soldier held his breath. “Tamus Graeger, your son’s injuries are beyond a sustainable life. He would never be whole. You must remember him as he was, a young and vibrant child. Grieve his passing, cherish your memories, and continue with your life.”

Tears glistened in the soldier’s eyes. His tragedy dragged down his cheeks and cut furrows in his skin, aging him beyond his years. “I’ll pay whatever you ask. Anything. You’re a necromancer. You know how to do this. I beg you. Please, I beg you.”

“I am sorry, Tamus. There is no life here I can save.” Olma placed the boy’s hands one atop the other in the manner of a body mourned.

Tamus Graeger

“No! Don’t touch him.” The soldier thrust Olma from the table and knocked his son’s folded hands aside. “I should have known you’d refuse. You’re a witch and a liar, and this place is thick with evil.”

He stalked toward her, teeth gritted, and she reached out a hand to console him or ward him away. Barus hung onto the back of a chair. Fear babbled from his tongue and rooted him to the floor like a twisted cliff-top tree.

The soldier’s fist flew up and punched Olma in the face. She lurched back, flailing, and her head pounded against the wall. Blood ran from her shattered nose as she slid to the floor.

A cry ripped from Barus’s throat, and he hobbled toward her, misshapen hands raised as if he could protect her from further assault. He stumbled into the table. Graeger pivoted and shoved him in the chest. Barus stepped on his robe’s hem and tumbled backward onto the stone hearth like a sack of clattering sticks. A yelp burst from his lungs as his spine wrenched.

The soldier swept his hand across the shelves, casting jars and tins to the floor. He hurled containers at the walls. Glass bottles shattered. Healing tinctures and poisonous distillates splattered the room, their droplets reflecting the fire’s embers like beads of rolling blood. Barus cowered by the hearth, helpless to stop the destruction.

With a roar, the towering man smashed a chair and flipped over the table. His son’s body rolled against Barus’s legs, a flopping, boneless husk. A child’s shriek, keen as a razor, sliced through the clamor.

The rampage halted. Graeger stood motionless in the lantern light, lungs heaving with the power of a bellows as he seemed to grasp his desecration, the brutality of what he’d done. He gazed at his son’s dead body, eyebrows locked together in confusion as if expecting the boy to leap, smiling and whole, into his arms.

The child screamed again, a longer, thinner, knife-edged wail of terror. The soldier spun toward the open doorway. A young boy of three or four years tottered on the threshold, framed by silver moonlight.

A second son.

Young Joreh Graeger

The child’s mouth hung open, eyes deep pools of horror, body trembling as if his joints might shake loose and bones fall into a hundred pieces. Shards of glass lay scattered at his feet. He crumpled to the dirt floor and howled as the wreckage sliced his hand.

The soldier glanced across the shattered room. His lips parted as though he meant to speak, and when nothing emerged, he pressed them closed, no sign of regret or grief in the grim lines framing his mouth. The lantern sputtered, casting the contours of his face in sharp-boned shadows. He staggered toward the door, snatched up the bleeding child, and disappeared into the desolation of the cold autumn night.

Barus crawled to the overturned table. He wheezed through his teeth as he hung onto the edge and climbed to his feet. Glass crunched beneath his wood-soled shoes as he limped to Olma.

She slumped against the wall, gazing through the open door, bloodied lips between her teeth and brow furrowed. He held her hand, breathing through his terror and guilt, his dismay at all they’d lost, and his helplessness to stop it. Any of it. Scattered leaves soaked in spilled liquid, and the broken chair lay in a pool of glittering glass. “Do not worry, Olma. I will clean it up.”

As the wagon rattled into silence, her gaze turned to the boy’s limp body resting by the hearth. “Remember the soldier’s face, Barus. One day, Tamus Graeger will return.”

Thanks for reading!