November Book Reviews, Part II

A short break from muse reblogs to share a bunch of reviews. My 60-book Autumn Reading Challenge is looking grim, but I’m still going for it. I have 3 weeks to read 20 books!

November’s Part II book reviews include my 4 and 5 star reads of fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal fiction, historical fiction, a short story, poetry, and a few suspense-thrillers! I hope you enjoy the browse.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Someone Close to Home by Alex Craigie

I read on the treadmill, and this page-turner made me exercise three times my usual minutes! I think I burned off an entire chocolate cake in calories. I couldn’t put it down (the book, not the cake).

Megan was a successful concert pianist with a bright future. But her career and happiness are a part of her past at the opening of the book. Megan lives in a neglectful nursing home, unable to speak or control her body, and someone in the home is determined to torment her.

The story covers a time period of about a month or so. The progression of Megan’s life, starting at age 9, weaves through her memories, and eventually the timelines intersect. Both timelines are gripping. Megan’s inability to protect herself is heart-wrenching and infuriating. Craigie did a great job of stringing me along as Megan navigates the danger and vulnerability in her life.

Megan is a great character and the most three dimensional and relatable of the cast. I empathized with her immediately, understood her choices (even the horrible ones), and was in her corner for the duration. The pace is speedy, the setting bleak. A great choice for readers who love a gripping thriller.

*****

Harbinger by Marcia Meara

I loved the book A Boy Named Rabbit and couldn’t wait to read Rabbit’s next adventure. Once again, this little 11-year-old kid stole my heart. Rabbit and his dad, Mac, are enlisted by the local sheriff to see if they can use Rabbit’s “sight” to figure out what happened to a little girl who disappeared twenty years ago.

The book is a paranormal mystery and thriller as well as a beautiful story about goodness and love. I enjoyed watching Rabbit and his new family interact. They’re kind and thoughtful and it warmed my heart. I also enjoyed the tension and disturbing actions of Cadey, the bad guy, who slowly loses touch with reality as the story progresses.

The plot is well constructed, with the pov alternating between Mac/Sarah and Cadey. There’s no mystery as to who the bad guy is, but there’s a great deal of tension as their paths draw closer to each other. The characters are well-done, realistic and with full emotional lives. The ending of the trilogy gives a sneak peek into Rabbit’s future, which I thoroughly appreciated. I could happily read more books about Rabbit, but this one ends on a high note and I appreciated that.

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy great characters and well-told stories.

*****

The Pellucid Witch by G. Owen Wears

If you like alien world-building, this book is the tops. It’s very cool; the world is bizarre, the characters are bizarre, the plants and animals are bizarre. I loved the author’s imagination. Kryl is a human-ish man with a fungal exoskeleton that is both a symbiote and a parasite. It’s protective of Kryl while it also feeds on him. When it’s turned on his enemies, it’s downright ravenous. Did I mention the world-building?

The plot isn’t as fascinating as the world-building but both are thoroughly entwined. It takes about ½ of the book to set the story up. Then in the second half, the conflict take off. The tale is told in the 3rd person from Kryl’s POV. He’s a relatable character, nothing special while being very special. He’s a brutal killer but also holds tight to a sense of fairness.

There is blood and guts a plenty in this read, but not gratuitous gore. Kryl, his exoskeleton, and the Pellucid Witch are characters who survive on violence. This isn’t a long book and I read it in a day without a problem. I highly recommend it to sci-fi fans who want to dive into some awesome world-building.

*****

The Nine by D. L. Cross

The third book in the Astral Conspiracy Series starts off in the thick of the action. There’s little backstory, so it took a while for me to get my bearings with the complex plot and large cast of characters. Thank goodness the series was released together and can be read in one long binge.

There are a lot of factions at play – more than one of them nefarious and more than one of them trying to do the right thing. They take off in different directions so there are several stories to keep track of at once. And none of the characters are particularly gentle people. With the fate of the Earth in play, almost to a person, the good guys are tough and the bad guys are tougher. Landon continues to be the most relatable, though I have to say I enjoyed Beck’s predicament (and humor) the most.

And then there are the Aliens. The world-building continues to impress, and little by little Cross reveals the aliens’ abilities and the power of the Atlantean artifacts, as well as who The Nine are. As in the previous books, the research into alien/Atlantean theory is fascinating and adds authenticity to this sci-fi adventure. This is a dense read that required me to pay attention. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy hard sci-fi, aliens, complex plots, great world building, and lots of suspense.

*****

Contract by John Howell and Gwen Plano

Pete and Teresa are sent from heaven to assume the bodies of Brad Channing and Sarah O’Brien, two strangers who recently died. Their mission is to prevent a political cataclysm that could destroy the world.

The first third of the book relates Brad’s and Sarah’s individual stories as they are given second chances at life and eventually find each other. It switches to solid romance until the midpoint when the action and thrills take off. Brad (an ex-Navy Seal) takes over as the book’s hero as Sarah fades to the background. I wondered why the authors chose to start the book in heaven, but it does make for a cool ending.

There are some red herrings and twists, and it isn’t clear who the bad guys are until the end. The plot doesn’t answer all the questions raised by the story, and I questioned the bad guys’ motivations and choices here and there, but I also read the book in a day, so it clearly held my attention. An entertaining book for readers who enjoy a bit of romance and a lot of action.

*****

Virtually Gone by Jacquie Biggar

A serial rapist and killer is on the loose, and a DNA match links the killer to the murder of Detective Matthew Roy’s sister a decade ago. The story tracks the police investigation, led by Matt and his partner Connor. Conner’s girlfriend, Julia, a head-strong journalist, is also on the killer’s trail.

This book is part of a multi-author series that focuses on the same group of characters and features a different character per book. I read this story out of order, and once I got to know the characters, it worked fine as a stand-alone, tying up with a satisfying conclusion.

As main characters, I found Matt and Julia believable. The secondary characters were equally three dimensional with rich backstories. The reality and details of the investigation seemed plausible including the high-tech aspects that serve as a connecting theme of the series. There are red herrings aplenty, and the clues add up logically. Not a long read, I read this book in a day. Recommended to readers who enjoy police investigations and suspenseful murder mysteries.

*****

Elizabeth’s War by D. L. Finn

When WWI breaks out in Europe, brothers, sons, and fathers leave their livelihoods and families in the US to fight overseas. This story is told from the point of view of Elizabeth, an eleven-year-old girl whose life changes dramatically. At home on the farm, she begins her own version of “fighting the war” with new responsibilities and challenges – increased chores, learning new skills, nursing sick family members, worrying that Christmas may come without gifts, and more (no spoilers!). It clearly demonstrates the quiet strength of women and the valuable role they played while the men were away.

The young perspective and gentle kindness reminded me a lot of Laura Ingalls stories. I think this book is perfect for middle-grade readers and young teens, but can be enjoyed by adults too (like me). In the Afterword, the author writes about how the story is based on her own family’s experiences, and the details of the time-period seem well-researched. A lovely story.

*****

Reckoning Tide by Anneli Purchase

This book picks up right at the end of The Wind Weeps, which should be read first. Andrea’s reprieve and escape from her abusive husband, Robert, is brief, and he’s out to get her. What ensues is a stalking nightmare as Andrea and her lover, Jim, flee Robert through the windswept coastal channels and islands of the Canadian Pacific.

The action starts immediately and continues right to the end with several breaks for sexy romance. As in the first book, the authors knowledge of the area and the life of a fisherman add a lot of authenticity to the setting and action.

Purchase does a good job of showing the lingering complexities around domestic violence, how women aren’t believed, and how hard it is for them to be safe from their abusers. Even Jim is a bit of a jerk for a while. But Robert escalates rapidly and the need to escape him becomes critical to the couple’s survival. I liked Andrea’s arc from dependence on a man in book one to a strong woman who sticks up for herself and is determined to take charge of her life. A fast-paced series for romance and suspense readers.

*****

Conscience by Jonathan Pongratz

In this science fiction short story, Epher, the leader of the Free Thinkers is dead. The Corporation has the rebel’s body in their lab, and Rory Bennel’s job is to conduct a cerebral upload of Epher’s mind into data storage. When things go wrong, Rory makes a frantic adjustment, and the next thing he knows, he’s on the run.

This is an entertaining story of a brutal governing corporation, the manipulation of the masses, and the power of one person to make a difference. The story moves at a quick pace with a cohesive plot and empathetic characters. Recommended to readers of sci-fi short stories.

*****

Crimson Skins by Devika Mathur

I’m a fan of freeform poetry that’s thick with imagery, that explores the language of the senses and seeks out beautiful words. Mathur’s poetry does all that. Overall, the tone of the collection struck me as melancholy, full of pain and longing. There’s little romance, though the poems are often sensuous. The book is structured as a journey, starting with Isolation and moving through sections titled Detachment, Delirium, and Attachment, and into Revival (where the poems have a stronger, more self-assured theme).

The imagery often has a dreamlike quality, and I found myself reading aloud to “hear” the language and let the meaning and emotion behind the words find a place to settle. Some of my favorite poems were: Pointless, Sentiments like Silk, Madness, and the Art of Embalming. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy freeform poems, beautiful language, and a reflective journey.

*****

Picky Eaters 1 by S. J. Higbee

An elderly dragon named Castellan has to move in with his daughter and her family, which puts an end to his quiet life. His precocious granddaughter, Sammy-Jo, is full of energy and adventure and practically forces Castellan into resurrecting his time-traveling skills. His talent doesn’t go over well with the other dragons or the dwarves.

This story made me laugh a few times, particularly because humans are referred to as “food” and knights in armor are “canned food.” The dwarves fare about as well as their human cousins in terms of ending up crispy and delicious. This novelette moves quickly. A plot-based story, it didn’t steal my heart, but readers who like some time-traveling twists may enjoy this short tale.

*****

Happy Reading!

I’m Not A-mused

Jess goes on a hunt for her muse… and discovers her Xbox controller. I wonder if her muse showed up? Enjoy.

Jessica Bakkers

D. Wallace Peach shared a highly entertaining conversation with her muse, and invited us all to do likewise. I lamented that, sadly, my muse has gone missing. But, as I went on a desperate search for Mr. Muse, I began to wonder if he had indeed gone missing, or had he simply become neglected?


The house is in disarray. Furniture knocked over, the rubbish bin upended, clothes strewn from half-open drawers. And yet, I still can’t find what I’m looking for.

My muse. Mr. Muse. He went missing a few months back.

I know he’s in the house somewhere – I don’t let him outside. He’s an ‘indoor muse’.

He has a nice dedicated writing space. Comfy chair. The works.

So, why he ran off, I haven’t the foggiest idea. Maybe something to do with Covid? Something to do with an operation I had a few months back? Maybe…

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Wednesday Writing — Meet the Muse

Of course Teagan’s muse is high on imagination. Our first monster muse (but is he really scary? Or just helpful in his own way?) Enjoy.

Teagan's Books

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Javier Rodrigues at PixabayJavier Rodrigues at Pixabay

Every now and thenDiana Wallace Peachtalks about her muse. In fact, she has more than one. She gets other authors talking about their muses. I listen, mystified. Apparently most authors have a muse — or several. Then I usually respond with the complaint that I don’t seem to have a muse. Actually that could explain some of my problems… but I digress.

Diana has invited everyone to share a conversation with their muse. I was instantly befuddled. However, Diana replied, “Don’t have a muse? Just open the door and see who shows up.”

Well, I already had a post scheduled for today. Plus, it’s dark outside and I wasn’t about to open that door… But then I heard a soft sort of scraping sound, just outside…

Doorknob

Dry, rustling accompanied the movement of huge leathery wings. A long claw…

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Meet My Muses Lydia and Lilly

Another unique and fun conversation. Elizabeth’s two muses discuss her letter to an agent. Enjoy.

Before Sundown

Author’s Note: Diana at Myths of the Mirror has a new prompt: Meet the Muse. The rules are: Post a Muse conversation on your blog and leave a link to your post in the comment section of Diana’s post: https://mythsofthemirror.com/2020/11/20/meet-the-muse-prompt Many thanks, Diana. This was fun.

Lydia looked up over her glasses at Lilly. “What areyoudoing here?”

“I’m allowed.” She peered at the computer screen. “How far did she get?”

“5thgrade level.” Lydia waved a hand in the air. “She used the writing app for readability.”

“Down to grade 5? That’s insulting an agent’s intelligence.It’ll hit the trash bin.”

“Oh, really? What would you do?” Lydia poked loose strands of brown hair into a back bun.

Lilly’s long brunette curls framed her face. “Well, obviously, there’s something missing.”

“What do you mean? The book description is concise and grammatically correct.”

“It is and it’s boring. Where’s…

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The Specialist

Pam wrote about her muse “The Specialist” back in October, and in case you missed it, it’s worth the read. I’m delighted to share it. Enjoy!

roughwighting

muse, writing, creativity, Pixabay“I’m not sure this is possible,” she says to me in a not altogether nice way. In fact, she’s rather blunt.

“Pleeese?” I plead. “I heard that you’re the best. I wasn’t even sure how to find you. I Googled first, of course, but no answer appeared about how to locate someone with your skills.”

She rolls her large, turquoise eyes.

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Speed Dating With a Muse

Greg’s stories always crack me up and this one is no exception. Enjoy!

Almost Iowa

As many of you know, my muse and I broke up last year.

I cast no blame, the fault was just as much mine as hers.

She wanted more from me, or perhaps she wanted more than me, but either way the result was the same: harsh words, flashes of anger and disappointment.

The usual stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, she was a good muse – and she promised to make me a great writer – but as good as some people are, they are just no good for each other.

I reminded her that I never aspired to greatness. She reminded me that I never aspired to anything.

We were both wasting each other’s time.

It was not an easy break. She fooled around and I goofed off. We split up, came back together, split up again and finally she stomped out of my writing room and snatched away…

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(Short) Conversation with a Muse

Frances’ muse is our first sprite. I hope you enjoy the conversation…

***

D. Wallace Peach over at Myths of the Mirror has challenged us to imagine a conversation with our muse.

I don’t know what my muse looks like.  He or she is shy, spends a great deal of time in absentia,  on holiday perhaps (think Robin Williams -bless him – as the genie,  finally freed from thousands of years stuck in a bottle).

In order to take part in this challenge, I had to tempt him or her to make an appearance.

I write both poems and fiction and I often use images of ghosts and rivers/seas/water so perhaps my muse is a water sprite.

A water sprite with a short attention span, I think not always helpful yet always in a hurry.   And probably wearing odd socks.

(Continue reading at Volatile Rune)

Musing for Moka

To all those who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope your day was peaceful and full of gratefulness for the year’s blessings, despite the pandemic. Now, we’re back to “musing” with Brad and Muse Brad. Enjoy!

writing to freedom

Musing for Moka 

missing muse, seance Image by Vinicius Vieira on pexel.

Thanks to Diana for the nudge to go looking for my missing muse. She and her muse have a tortuous relationship, which apparently works well for both of them. Her mercenary muse is a foul smelling hunk with serious control issues. May your relationship be long and ornery! If you want to join the hunt for our missing muses, please visit Diana’s hilarious prompt called Meet the Muse

It’s been a while since I’ve seen or heard from Muse Brad. I think he’s mad at me. I’ve been a poor host; disciplining, judging and worst of all, ignoring him. But thank god I don’t have a taskmaster like Diana’s mercenary muse. I need a sweet sexy temptress to motivate me during this covid nightmare. I think our muses have gone missing to protect themselves from our crazy world. Last I…

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Meet the Muse

HRR has a fun relationship with her pipe-smoking muse. Enjoy!

Let Me Tell You the Story of...

“Pah! You’ve never had such adventure. How do you expect to write about space warriors or musketmen if you’ve never been one?” He leans over a bit and lights a pipe, but as he puffs the smoke has no scent. He’s not exactly real. He’s a figment, a muse.

Or so he’s led me to believe. Otherwise this smoke crap’s going to make me sick one day.

I type with nimble fingers despite his prodding. “If you’re such a stone-cold killer, why don’t you tell me how to write this? Get through this battle scene so I can go on with the politics I’m better at?”

“I will! I am your muse, after all. I’m also better at politics than you, so you can rely on me to help with that.” He clears his throat, straightens his bow tie, and puffs on his pipe. “Now, let me point you to…

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I Can’t be Shackled

Balroop submitted the first poetic response. I hope you enjoy meeting her muse.

***

“Welcome home,” I hope your adventures are no longer alluring for you.

“Please don’t close that door,” she sprawled on the couch, hardly paying any attention to my smile.

A cold sweep almost knocked me over, and I closed the door.

“Do you want to asphyxiate me?” She leaped toward the French window to get out into the patio and collapsed on the loveseat.

Teenage tantrums don’t sway me. I buried myself into the murder mystery that was more interesting than her shenanigans.

“I know those thoughts! Don’t mess with me; consider me as your blessing. Don’t try to tie me to your strings.”

I looked up in awe, as she spouted:

(Continue reading: I Can’t be Shackled)