November Book Reviews (Part Two)

Wishing you all a wonderful winter as we head toward the solstice and the return of the light. I’m finishing off autumn with more books and reviews from November! I hope you find a few to enjoy over the holidays.

To all my blogger friends in the southern hemisphere… have a wonderful start to your summer, and I hope you find some beach reads!

November’s reviews (part two) include my 4 and 5-star reads of a romance/thriller mash-up, paranormal short stories, fantasy, and a children’s book.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Secrets, Lies & Alibis (Wounded Hearts, Book 8) by Jacquie Biggar

I can’t believe I’ve finished Book 8 of the Wounded Hearts romance/thriller series. Now that I’m caught up, I’m ready for Book 9 whenever it hits the press. Each of the books features one member of a Seal team that’s returned to civilian life. They’re a close-knit group and characters overlap as they need each other’s help.

In this book, the focus is Adam, who now works for the DEA, and his ex-boss/ex-lover Amanda, who took a demotion and transfer because she’s pregnant. She’s working behind the scenes to wrap up a big drug case, and the cartel would like to see her eliminated. Adam has a new perky partner and is following leads. As things heat up, they all end up in Texas where Adam will risk his life to close the case, and Amanda will have one big surprise to share with him.

The plot holds together well and the characters are distinct and consistent. Though the books can easily be read as stand-alones, I liked reading them in order, tracking the course of the over-arching investigation, and learning how the familiar characters’ lives are going. The book has plenty of romantic drama, but it’s evenly balanced with action and danger, which kept me flipping pages. I read this 2-hour story in one sitting. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy romance/action mash-ups and getting to know characters over a long series. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

In this stand-alone fantasy, Mer is in hiding. She’s the last of the water diviners who once served the realm’s cruel prince. He used her skills to find the wells of his enemies, which he poisoned, killing hundreds of men, women, and children. On the verge of capture, she’s rescued by Renfrew, her handler while in the realm’s employ. No longer beholden to the prince, Renfrew enlists her in a daring heist of treasure that will guarantee her freedom and a comfortable life. How can she resist?

The heist requires assembling a team to destroy the wellspring that protects the prince’s land and where untold treasure is hidden. The journey and magical traps provide plenty of danger, but even more compelling were the secrets and hidden agendas of each character who joins the party.

I particularly liked Mer and Fane, the cursed fighter enlisted to kill the magical boar that protects the wellspring. Their distrust of each other is balanced by their tenuous loyalty. There are hints of a romance that can never be, and that possibility kept me rooting for them. Renfrew and Ifanna, a master thief, were the most distinct and interesting of the secondary characters.

The pace moves along, and there are twists and surprises throughout. The plot tracks well, and the magic was engaging. I’d definitely read more of this author’s work. Highly recommended to fantasy readers.

*****

The Christmas Bird by Robbie Cheadle

After the family dogs destroy a bird’s nest, Stella and her younger sisters discover a surviving Hoopoe chick that they take into their care and raise in a basket. As the bird grows, the sisters must come to grips with the nature of the bird to fly free and start a family of its own. What feels, at first, like a loss becomes a celebration.

Themes of kindness and honoring nature and wild creatures take the forefront of this gentle novelette. The pace moves well and the characters are endearing. In style, the story reminded me of Laura Ingalls’s Little House on the Prairie books. Under an hour’s read, it’s appropriate for young children and middle-grade readers. Highly recommended. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Raven Spell (Book 1) by Luanne G. Smith

I enjoyed the lyrical writing and wonderful world-building of Smith’s The Vine Witch and was delighted to discover Book One of a completed duology. It’s fantasy and magical realism, the story taking place in 19th century London, where witches and magic are an accepted part of society.

Edwina and her sister Mary are witches who scour the riverbanks for trinkets that they sell in their shop. Mary also collects “corpse lights” the vibrant, shining memories of the newly deceased. Her fetish takes her to hospitals and morgues, as well as to scenes of murder.

When she takes the memories of a private investigator (Ian) who ends up surviving his attack, Edwina attempts to restore them, setting off an investigation that entangles both sisters in a mysterious disappearance and a string of murders.

I enjoyed everything about this book – the solid plot, the quick pace, the twists and slow reveals. The magic is great fun and includes some comic relief provided by a small hairy hearth elf who’s aligned with Ian. There’s also danger and tragedy and a touch of romance. The characters had me rooting for them, particularly Edwina who has some difficult truths to face.

I’m eager to dive into Book Two. Highly recommended to readers of fantasy and magical realism who love beautiful writing. (Kindle Unlimited).

(Note: I did read Book 2, The Raven Song, but struggled with it. My review is here: Something to consider if you’re interested in Book 1.)

*****

The Last Sun Born by Kate Frantz

In a land where only those born beneath the moon are allowed to live, Lewel enters the world during the day. Her infant life is spared at great risk, for with the sun-born comes a dark force called the Absence, capable of destroying the kingdom. And only she can kill it, a battle that may very well demand her life.

Veigo, the king-in-waiting, and his advisor Marrlen, an old woman with the power to cast magic, know the truth of her birth and begin training Lewel to face the Absence. Veigo and Marrlen grow fond of her, and she of them, but intrigue and deception and hatred of her kind run rampant. As a reader, I didn’t know who to trust.

The world-building in this book shines, and I liked the concept of the Absence – the evil twin of the sun born. The characters were complex and nuanced. Lewel and Veigo had fully realized personalities, and their relationship felt genuine to me. I particularly appreciated the way Veigo struggled with his feelings toward Lewel and his duty to the kingdom.

The pace moves along, and the magical elements worked well with the plot. From the description, there’s no indication that there will be a second book, but this one ends on a huge cliffhanger with very few plot lines resolved, so I think it’s a good guess. I suspect it will be worth the read. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Hildie: At the Ghost Shore by Paula Cappa

This 15-minute read includes two short stories: “Hildie” and “Abasteron House.” I thoroughly enjoyed both haunting stories and wanted more of this author’s work the moment I finished. The prose is beautiful and atmospheric, exactly the kind of writing I enjoy.

“Hildie” is a mesmerizing and magical tale with a folklore feel to it. Hildie is a young woman who reads runes, and one day an old man comes seeking information about his daughter. The end is a touching surprise.

“Abasteron House” is where Davida lives with her grandfather. Each day, he walks the dunes alone, his vision peopled with angels that she can’t see. When he dies, she takes over the house and meets his dream people, and they aren’t what she expected.

Highly recommended for dark fantasy and speculative fiction readers looking to fill a few minutes with beautifully written and riveting stories

*****

Between the Darkness and the Dawn by Paula Cappa

In this beautifully written short story, Edward Fane is an employee of the Institute of Perceptual Studies, and he’s traveled to Massachusetts with his instruments to measure ley lines that connect past and future realms. He books a tour of an old manse once inhabited by Nathanial Hawthorne but it’s what he feels as he gazes through the window on the Old North Bridge that captures his attention. On that bridge, he meets the past, and though Nathaniel warns him away from his pursuits, can he forget the lovely woman he meets there? Highly recommended to fans of short stories who enjoy atmospheric writing, and haunting tales.

*****

Happy Reading!

140 thoughts on “November Book Reviews (Part Two)

  1. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m always impressed by the number of books you read, and how well you pick them, and how fabulous and clear your reviews are. These bunch sound like winners – and all so different. SO Much talent out there, so little time to sink into it all. Thanks for helping us out with that, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Pam. I don’t know how I read this many either. No focus for writing is probably the answer. I hope to start writing again in January. Until then, books are good company. And I’ve no trouble finding good ones in this talented blogging community! Happy Reading, Pam. And enjoy the holidays. Hugs ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Secrets, Lies & Alibis wins the prize for best book title. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Resa says:

    All great sounding books, Diana! Still, I was most excited by your review of “The Christmas Bird by Robbie Cheadle”. I’ve read 3 of Robbie’s childrens’ books, and they are wonderful. I have several more to read, then I do a review…..sans “The Christmas Bird”.
    Something to look forward to!

    So first, I have started to draw Aster. Then my review of “The Necromancer’s Daughter”.

    I just finished drawing a new Art Gowns Gowntoon’s fashion show. With the appearance of some sun, apparently on Monday, I’ll be able to take pics and make the post.

    Then I know Aster will flourish from my pencils. Well, I hope flourish!

    Amazing that you read all these books in a month. Dizzying, actually.

    Sending early holiday wishes, and more to come!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. markbierman says:

    Congratulations to Jacquie, Emily, Robbie, Luanne, Kate, and Paula! I’ll have to make some room on the Kindle. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Diana you always come out with best reviews. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts with us. Keep it going 🙏🏻🙏🏻😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great collection of books with excellent reviews, Diana. I thoroughly enjoyed Robbie’s book for this holiday season. Congratulations to all the authors! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Teri Polen says:

    You’ve read some good ones, Diana. I knew you’d enjoy Paula’s writing. It’s the kind where you re-read sections just to savor them all over again. Reminds me of your own. Congrats to all the authors!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jaya Avendel says:

    Raven Spell and The Drowned Woods have such gorgeous titles, but I love the sounds of Secrets, Lies & Alibis as well. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Another fantastic selection Diana and some new to me authors that will need checking out.. I know that Jacquie’s and Robbie’s books are always a great read.. ♥

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Joan Hall says:

    Great reviews, Diana. I’ve read only one of these selections, Between the Darkness and the Dawn. It was an enjoyable read. The others sound intriguing.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Lady Tessa says:

    I haven’t gotten to book 2, The Raven Song, but you are not the first person to mention that they loved the first but not the second. Maybe I don’t need to spoil my love for the first by reading the second 🤔. Excellent reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering if I just wasn’t in the right mood for Book 2, Tessa, but then noticed the same comments in some of the other reviews. I almost DNF’d it. But like you, I loved the first one. Thanks for browsing and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. CarolCooks2 says:

    I always love your reviews even if its a genre I don’t normally read they always leave me with hard choices to read them all or be kind to my TBR list xx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Toni Pike says:

    Fantastic books, Diana

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Most of these books sound atmospheric and diverting, Diana. Thanks for these reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paula Cappa’s books are definitely atmospheric, Audrey. The fantasy is pretty straightforward, I think, and you’re right that they were all diverting! 😀 December will be a slower reading month (I think). Clearly, I can’t tell. Have a wonderful day, my friend, and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. dgkaye says:

    I always enjoy your reviews Diana. I also just finished Robbie’s book and your review is perfect. I notice you too enjoy reading short stories. Thanks for the intro to some new authors too. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. petespringerauthor says:

    You are a well-rounded reader, Diana. I think there’s a lot to be said for reading across many different genres. Most of these are new to me. The Paula Cappa book reminds me of my recent visit to the east coast where I visited the Old North Bridge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do like reading across genres, Pete. Each one has something to offer and I’ve tried to incorporate things I notice into my stories – secrets, red herrings, unreliable narrators. It helps me grow as a writer. And yes, Paula’s book definitely has that aura! It might even include the Old North Bridge (I can’t remember since it wasn’t significant to me). Thanks for the visit and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I just reread my review, Pete, and it WAS the Old North Bridge. (Yes, the memory is shot.) That’s cool that its a real place and you’ve been there!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Another great reading list, Diana. I’m happy to see both Robbie and Jacquie here — plus new-to-me folks to add to my list. Congrats to everyone. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. memadtwo says:

    I always enjoy your reviews Diana. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Mae Clair says:

    An eclectic collection of books and genres, Diana. Congratulations to all the authors. I need to catch up with my TBR, and make room for more books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ll never catch up, Mae. It’s the bane of every readaholic. Reading blogger books exposes me to genres and stories I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward, which is a load of fun and broadens my reading horizon. I hope you’re doing well and wish you some reading time this month. Thanks for the visit!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Our choice of genres is certainly similar, Diana. Great reviews–don’t you love Biggar’s books? I haven’t read this series yet… Robbie’s looks good–I’ll check it out–thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I also enjoyed “The Christmas Bird” very much.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I just read another of Paula Cappa’s stories yesterday, Beyond Castle Frankenstein. You’re right that she can create atmospheric passages. Until I read your review, I had forgotten that The Christmas Bird is a children’s story. I enjoyed it, and it’s sticking in my head like a meaningful adult story would.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. acflory says:

    Some truly intriguing stories in this lot, Diana. I particularly liked the idea of the Sun-born, but I might wait until the whole story is complete as I hate waiting. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thanks for the awesome review on Secrets, Diana! These books are so much fun to write!
    I see some new choices for my Kindle, as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A nice 1-Click selection of books and authors. I’m always happy to read your reviews, Diana. Keep sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Again, thanks for checking out these books for us. It helps to sort out the millions of books that are out there and to narrow it down to ones worth reading.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. HI Diana, thank you for your lovely review of The Christmas Bird. I am delighted you enjoyed that little tale. I have this book of Jacquie’s on my TBR and just finished her new book, Letting Go, a few days ago. The Paula Cappa books both sound excellent.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Great work, Diana. You’re amazing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. balroop2013 says:

    Sometimes I think do you ever sleep? When do your eyes rest? But I envy your reading prowess Diana! I’ve read a few books under Wounded Hearts series… light and enjoyable. Thanks for the reminder that Jacquie’s books make a cozy reading. The Drowned Woods sounds intriguing!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Thanks for sharing these reviews, Diana. The one that really caught my eye was Between the Darkness and the Dawn. Set in a time period that I like, and the premise of the story sounds very intriguing indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    Great reviews, Diana! I loved Jacquie’s series too 🙂 I found a couple more to add. It was a bonus the last two are free.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. H. S. Monroe says:

    The Last Sun Born, sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by H.S. It was a good one, with interesting magic and compelling characters, though it doesn’t have much resolution at the ending. Definitely one where you need to keep reading the series. I hope you enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Excellent reviews, Diana. I always find something I’ll love. Thanks for your hard work in sharing these reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Jan Sikes says:

    Fabulous reviews, Diana! And guess what? I added two new books to my extremely large TBR list. 🙂 The life of a reader! Congrats to these authors. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these!

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Super reviews, Diana. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. This sounds like a great batch of books Diana, but unlike most of your friends here, I’m resisting the urge to add more to my tbr pile. Sadly, I haven’t even read your latest book or the other 15-20 that are languishing in my files due to my distaste for reading books online.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. noelleg44 says:

    You’ve read up a storm this month, Diana. I’m happy to see Robbie Cheadle’s book here. Such a sweet story!

    Liked by 2 people

  38. You had a great reading month, didn’t you, Diana? I really need to binge on Jacquie’s books. I’ve yet to read one that didn’t transport me.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. The Raven Spell sounds great, but I’m sorry the subsequent book didn’t measure up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know. I didn’t post the review of the second book because I only share 4 and 5-star reviews, but I wanted to warn readers. I almost DNF’d it. It was all over the place. Oh well. Plenty of good books in our community to fill the post. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  40. Kymber Hawke says:

    How many books can I add to my tbr before it falls over? The answer is all of them. LOL I’m adding all of them. ❤️ Great reviews, Diana!

    Liked by 3 people

  41. More books to check out, particularly The Drowned Woods.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. A wonderful collection of books and authors. Congratulations to all the writers on these great reviews. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Diana 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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