February Book Reviews

This was a great month of reading, and I have some wonderful books to share. All but one of these books are written by indie authors, and I have to say, the talent in this community is amazing. Every month, I’m impressed almost beyond words. I hope everyone is up for some great reading.

February’s reviews include my 4 and 5-star reads of two dark short story collections, an international thriller, a romance novella, paranormal/occult fiction, a Christian thriller, experimental fiction, and an Edgar Allen Poe retelling.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

At the End of it All by Suzanne Craig-Whytock

Have you ever, while reading a collection of stories, jotted down your favorites to mention in a review? And when you finish the book, you realize that you just jotted down the entire table of contents? That’s this book.

Craig-Whytock is a marvelous writer of short stories, and I couldn’t wait to read her new batch. I wasn’t disappointed. Each offering packs a powerful punch, especially if you’re looking for skillful storytelling, lots of variety, and a dark twist. The 27 stories in this collection are short, some closer to flash fiction, and the book is a little over a 2-hour read which I inhaled in one sitting.

The stories have a mesmerizing touch of darkness, but this isn’t necessarily horror, at least not the gory kind. There’s a mixture of creepy paranormal tales like “Amphitrite,” which ends poorly, and “Night Terrors,” which ends well.

The impact of chaos on children and their disordered thinking is evident in a number of stories, and my favorites were “Misophonia” and “Resurrection.” Revenge is satisfying in “The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep.” And madness rears its head in “Shelf Sitter.”

There are wrenching tales of indifference as well as those that reflect deep empathy, such as “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” and “The High Seas.” Then there are tales of death and loss that pull at the heartstrings like “Fist Full of Dirt,” and the intense (tissue-alert) tear-jerker that I just loved: “Heading for Shore.”

The author also includes a three-part story “Nomads of the Modern Wasteland.” I wouldn’t have minded if this dystopian story had a lot more parts! And finally, one that left me chuckling: “Mr. Death comes to Town.”

See what I mean? So many stories to enjoy. Highly recommended.

*****

Feeling Human by Sheri J. Kennedy

Jac has a hyper-sensitivity to the emotional energy of other people, a barrage so intense that he spent much of his youth screaming. His life settled down when his mother abandoned him at his grandfather’s isolated ranch, leaving yet another set of psychic scars on his young mind.

When his grandfather dies, Jac inherits an alien book that steals his body and installs his consciousness in the mind of another person, then another and another, passed from body to body through touch. Thus begins a fascinating journey through the lives of multiple strangers, male and female, young and old, loving and lost, where Jac learns to understand the depth and complexity of human lives and emotions.

The alien rationale for the book’s existence was a little convoluted for me, but that part is only a few pages. Once Jac begins his journey, the book is riveting and extremely well written without the slightest confusion, a feat since Jac is constantly switching hosts. Along with Jac, readers get to observe each host’s thoughts and emotions, but we also get to feel Jac’s reactions.

Every character is deeply drawn, and the result, for me, was a pervading sense of compassion. Except for one unusual case, Jac is incapable of communicating with or influencing his host. His role is to observe and learn, and often he’s transferred to the next person before we find out what happened with the last. I really liked all the open-ended possibilities. They relate beautifully to the ongoing stories of real people we come across every day as we go about our business.

I can’t help but think that the construction of this book was an ambitious undertaking, but the author pulls it off with flying colors. The genuine humanness presented in the array of characters, their circumstances and emotional experiences, is moving. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy a deeply human story and want to try something different. (KIndle Unlimited.)

*****

A Peril in Ectoplasm by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

This was a super read. Daphne is a medium, engaged to a Spanish count, cared for by her loyal housekeeper Maisy, and plagued by the demanding Mrs. Smith, a grieving mother who insists that Daphne contact Smith’s deceased child. Under pressure from her fiancé, Daphne proceeds with multiple seances even though something isn’t right and each contact drains her health. A young woman joins the household with a connection that just might hold off the forces of darkness and save her employer’s life.

The pace is snappy, and I read this book in two sittings. Geneviene writes vibrant characters and these are no exception, their personalities distinct and engaging. Maisy was my favorite, an eavesdropper who, despite her station, is a powerful ally to Daphne. Even Count Crespo, who isn’t particularly likable, is nuanced.

Descriptions are rich with a strong sense of place, in this case, a mansion in Coral Gables, Florida. This writer is also talented in applying details and dialog that point to a particular era, and I found the read highly visual. I have no qualms about recommending this book to readers who enjoy paranormal/occult stories with fun characters and a fast-paced plot.

*****

With this Heart by Jacquie Biggar

Romance fans are going to love this novella. It’s got bridesmaids, beautiful dresses, and wedding plans. It’s got cute kids, loving dads, and even a baby Bambi. But there’s also some drama, and despite the best of intentions, happily ever after isn’t guaranteed.

Jaden and Annie are engaged, and with their wedding a few weeks away, Jaden takes his ten-year-old son, Chris, fishing. He wants to enjoy some bonding time with the child he didn’t know he had. What starts out as an adorable outing ends up as a harrowing experience, and worried about her son, Annie loses it. The wedding is off.

This is a fun way to spend an hour. Biggar writes a good tale with engaging characters, and the kids in her stories are frequently irresistible. For fans of her Wounded Hearts series (which I’ve read end to end), it’s a welcome chance to visit with most of the characters of Tidal Falls and see how their lives are going. Highly recommended to romance readers looking for a quick read. (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

Story of a Stolen Girl by Pat Spencer

Eighteen-year-old Darby Richardson and her college roommate get an invite to a private gambling club. Darby leaves to get breakfast with one of the patrons and disappears into the world of human trafficking and sex slavery. Her mom, Nina is beside herself with fear. She begins a relentless effort to find her missing daughter that includes law enforcement agencies, private investigators, social media, and television. Her story reaches the highest office of the US government, and yet no one seems able or willing to get the job done. The only recourse she has is to rescue Darby herself.

The book is a thriller with a definite time crunch. The action is frighteningly realistic but most of the coercion and brutality (and all of the rape) occur off-stage. There isn’t any graphic sex or violence, so readers can focus on the complexities of the investigation and ultimate rescue. It’s a tough subject, so I appreciated the way the author handled it.

The story does go into some detail about a drug called Devil’s Breath used in kidnappings. It’s scary stuff that leaves its victims compliant and without memories of what happened to them. The perfect drug for the slave/sex trade. And it was convincing enough to make me look it up. Yes, it’s real. That alone will give a reader the creeps.

This is a page-turner with a strong plot and engaging characters. I appreciated Darby’s guts even though she wasn’t able to free herself. Nina’s daring was admirable, and her ultimate plan wasn’t as easy to execute as she thought it would be. I liked that everything kept going wrong for her.

The author makes a strong statement about human trafficking with some frightening statistics about its prevalence in all corners of the world. One of her points is that this could happen to any family. She reinforces her warnings and outrage in an afterword with a call to arms. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy fast-paced thrillers. (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

Vampire of the Midnight Sun by Priscilla Bettis

I read the two short stories in this book in under an hour, and it was a great way to pass the time. The first story, “Vampire of the Midnight Sun,” was my favorite, a thriller loaded with suspense as two friends are stuck in the Alaskan wilderness and attempting to walk to civilization. One of them is falling apart physically. The other is physically strong but desperate for human blood. The tension in this tale escalates until the last line. I was riveted and late to an appointment because I HAD to read to the end before leaving the house.

The second story, “The Fire Witch and the Cowboy,” deals with the threat of wildfires on the Texas plains. As a fire approaches the town of Dusty Bend, Henderson, the local coward, convinces the widow Vandermeer to let them use her train to fight the flames. She agrees, but they have history, and things don’t go as planned. I connected more with the characters in the first story compared to this one, but the tale is intense, the chaos easy to follow, and the fire scenes are truly horrifying. Readers who are looking for a couple of short horror stories can’t go wrong with this selection. Highly recommended.

*****

Redemption: A Father’s Fatal Decision by Gwen M. Plano

Lisa and Trace’s father was an abusive murderer and an international criminal, but when he’s killed, they begin a hunt for answers about his secret life and the reasons for his death. While their mother recovers from gunshot wounds in the hospital, she feeds them clues, and together with their childhood friend Ryan, they begin unraveling the mystery, finding secret messages and puzzle pieces everywhere they look.

The trio has one ally, but otherwise, they don’t know whom to trust, including law enforcement. Their mother’s home is ransacked, their hotel room is bugged, and they’re constantly tailed. They make a good team: personable, supportive of each other, and easy to root for. They’re also smart, their efforts highly successful and conclusions rarely mistaken. At one point they’re referred to as “The Sherlocks,” which I thought was perfect since, for me, the read leaned more toward a “cozy” thriller than an all-out nail-biter. There’s plenty of tension, but modest danger and minimal violence.

This present-tense story is told from the third-person perspectives of the three main characters. The pace is speedy throughout the book with short intermissions for Lisa and Trace to reflect on their childhood and how it impacted their lives. Themes of family dysfunction, redemption, atonement, and forgiveness unfold in these moments, setting the stage for further revelations and a heartwarming conclusion. The book has a Christian slant during these scenes, but it’s not preachy. Recommended to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries, sleuthing, and thrills, and like a solid message about letting go and healing from the past.

*****

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

This is one creepy tale. It’s not in-your-face horror, but it definitely makes the skin crawl. The book is a retelling of Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which the author didn’t think was long enough and didn’t answer all her questions. I haven’t read the original and now I might.

Alex Easton arrives at the Usher home after receiving a letter that his childhood friend Madeline Usher is unwell. She not only looks on the verge of death, but her brother Roderick is also suffering, and the house…well the house is falling apart, damp and peeling, invaded by mold and a strange spreading fungus that looks like fish gills. There’s a creepy pond on the property as well as creepy animals dragging themselves around. Did I mention this book is creepy? It gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Alex enlists the help of an older woman who studies mushrooms and an American doctor residing in the home to care for Madeline. Time is of the essence to figure out what eerie malady is consuming the Ushers and their home, as well as to prevent it from spreading.

The writing is excellent and the pace moves along quickly. Alex carries the first-person POV, and he’s the driver behind finding answers to all his questions. The other characters are fully drawn with a range of distinct personalities. The biology of fungus gets a fair amount of attention, and I found it fascinating (and creepy, of course).

This is an entertaining, well-crafted afternoon’s read, and I highly recommend it to fans of Poe, and readers of atmospheric horror and plain old creepy stories.

*****

Happy Reading!

224 thoughts on “February Book Reviews

  1. Thank you for the fantastic reviews of my favorite authors and new authors to me, Diana! I have a lot of catching up to do in reading. I downloaded four books on your list! Congratulations to all the talented authors.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lol. All of these books are great, Miriam, so I hope you have fun when you get to them. You may feel behind, but there’s no rush. And it’s actually good that you moved without the stress of other obligations. Sometimes focusing is the best you can do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Daedalus Lex says:

    Hey Diana. I finally got my copy of Gabriela’s “Hidden in Childhood” — found a great tip in there about bologna and safety pins! Gary

    Liked by 3 people

  3. dgkaye says:

    Love your reviews and recommends Diana, so I had to pop by and read. As always, thanks to alerting us to new books and authors and congrats to them all. Hugs from sunny Mexico ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Layla Todd says:

    The books on this list are all so different in a way I love! What Moves the Dead and At the End of it All sound like fascinating stories and I just love the cover of With This Heart is stunning. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Layla, and the kind comment. I’m always surprised to see the variety at the end of the month. It explains why I never get bored with reading, I guess. Three excellent reads if you’re tempted. Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your amazing reviews Diana and some new to me authors. Looking forward to checking them all out and congratulations to all the authors. ♥

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Beem Weeks says:

    Wonderful reviews! So many from which to choose. But choose, I shall!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. memadtwo says:

    You make every book appealing! (K)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Joan Hall says:

    Nice reviews, Diana. I’m reading Redemption now and have Priscilla’s book coming up on my TBR list.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Lady Tessa says:

    So many wonderful sounding books! I’ll take them all,please. And you’ve never read Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher? Then you must soon! Excellent reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for browsing Tessa. I think I was forced to read The Raven in high school and analyze it to death. Ugh. Talk about destroying any enjoyment of Poe. So this story piqued my interest and I may read it/him now. Lots of good reads here if your tbr has any room. Ha ha ha ha. Happy Reading, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Fantastic reviews! Congratulations to all the authors. I’ve added a few of these to my TBR. Thanks for sharing, Diana 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. joylennick says:

    Hola Diana, Wow – what a lot of amazing reading you got through in February! All the stories sound intriguing and original. Must dig in pronto…Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hola, Joy. Lots of good books here, and some variety too. It was a great month of reading and I’m excited to see what I find languishing in my tbr pile this month. I hope you find something you might enjoy. Happy Reading!

      Like

  12. Toni Pike says:

    Fantastic, Diana – a wonderful selection

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Well, my TBR has increased by one, thanks to your review of At the End of It All. The author is a fellow Canadian, too!

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re in for a treat, Audrey. I think Suzanne’s book is right up your alley. Yes, a fellow Canadian, and her blog is a hoot. Thanks so much for stopping by to take a peek at the reviews, and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. These books are so amazing Diana. Thanks for sharing this idea. Anita
    Let’s follow our blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A multitude of reading riches! I have two of these books on my Kindle, eagerly awaiting their turn to be read. I’ve read “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which I found creepy enough as Poe wrote.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Story of a Stolen Girl caught my eye. Wonderful reviews, Diana. Thanks for including your thoughts on With This Heart. I love that cute cover 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Reblogged this on Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author and commented:
    Thank you, Diana Peach, for the lovely reviews including my romance novella, With This Heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. acflory says:

    ‘Feeling Human’. Read it. Loved it!
    Off to check out one of the stories that caught my eye today. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Steven Baird says:

    Congratulations to all authors for the wonderful reviews!

    Liked by 4 people

  20. amreade says:

    Great reviews, Diana! There are more than a few that caught my eye. The last one, a riff on The Fall of the House of Usher, sounds particularly intriguing. I am a huge Poe fan. Thanks for your recommendations!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Excellent reviews, Diana! Your description of each book is so compelling and almost makes me want to jump into all of these. I really should read more :/

    Liked by 4 people

    • LOL. That would be a lot of reading, Terri, but I’m glad that the reviews captured your attention. It was a really good month of books. I suspect I’ll slow down a little this month, but you never know. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Excellent reviews, Diana! Thanks for sharing them!

    Yvette M Calleiro 🙂
    http://yvettemcalliero.blogspot.com

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Jan Sikes says:

    Thanks for sharing your reviews on these, Diana. Some of these are new authors to me, and your reviews intrigue me to look closer. Gwen Plano’s new book is up next for me, and I look forward to it! Congratulations to all the authors!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Jan. All but the last book are written by indie authors, I have such a great time reading the work from this community. I think you’ll enjoy Gwen’s book. She did a great job. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. What a great month. All these books sound interesting. I loved Vampire in the Midnight Sun too. 😊

    Liked by 4 people

    • Wasn’t that great? The story was my favorite of the two. It was a fun month of reading, Iseult, but I’m rarely disappointed by this community of writers. Thanks for stopping by to check out the reviews! Happy Reading.

      Liked by 2 people

  25. Rebecca Budd says:

    Diana – you have the best reviews. You give us just enough to send us scurrying to find the books and put them on my TBR stack. The creative and imaginative thinking that went into this collection is staggering. Thank you to these amazing writers who give us brilliant stories.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for swinging by, Rebecca. I’m so glad you enjoyed the reviews. It’s easy for me to be enthusiastic when there’s all this talent flying around. I can easily recommend any of these. Have a beautiful day and Happy Reading.

      Liked by 3 people

  26. Reblogged this on Reality With a Twist ~ Books and commented:
    I’m honored to have Feeling Human among these reviews of great book recommendations by D. Wallace Peach, one of my favorite authors, as well. Enjoy!

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Thanks for your great review of Feeling Human, Diana! I’m honored to be featured along with such a great sounding batch of books. Sounds like you had quite a February of reading. 😀
    I’m very intrigued by At the End of it All and will add it to my teetering TBR.
    Cheers to all these authors!! I wish everyone well with their reading and writing.
    I noted your comment that you plan to dive in more on writing this coming month, Diana. Good luck, and Happy Writing! ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  28. suerovens says:

    The first and the last sound most intriguing to me. I’ll make a note of them too. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Congratulations to all the authors, great reviews Diana, and a nice selection of genres. I was captured by your description of At The End Of IT ALL, as she explores a range of emotion, and of course I love the crow! Always grateful for your insights on new publications Diana, hugs, C

    Liked by 6 people

    • That was a great read, Cheryl. If you enjoy short stories on the dark side, it’s a winner. I started your book last night. What an enjoyable read. I can’t wait to get back to it! Thanks for the visit and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  30. You’ve been busy! Thanks for sharing these reviews.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Pat Spencer says:

    Thank you, Diana, for your support of Story of a Stolen Girl. It is my honor to be featured here today! The other books look interesting. I am putting them on my TBR list. You are much appreciated! pat

    Liked by 4 people

  32. balroop2013 says:

    Thanks for sharing these Diana, I’ve picked a few, as your recommendations are always spot on.

    Liked by 4 people

  33. Gwen M. Plano says:

    Thank you, Diana, for sharing your beautiful review. I’m humbled by your assessment and endorsement, but mostly, I’m elated you liked the story. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are so welcome, Gwen. I loved all the clues and how they led the characters to the answers (on a couple different levels). And delighted to share here, and again when I host you. ❤ Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 2 people

  34. Staci Troilo says:

    I read Gwen’s and loved it. A few of these others are already on my Kindle or I’ve been considering them. (I just saw What Moves the Dead for the first time today and was immediately intrigued.) Excellent reviews all around, Diana. Thanks.

    Liked by 5 people

  35. Your certainly covered a lot of books and genres this month Diana! The romance and mystery sound like my typical favorites.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. Diana, I’m so happy that among all these amazing books, you made time to read “A Peril in Ectoplasm” and that you enjoyed it. I’m particularly glad you enjoyed the setting. My voluminous research paid off then.
    Congrats to all these authors. I look forward to reading them myself. Hugs all around.

    Liked by 4 people

  37. Excellent reviews, Diana. Congratulations to the authors.

    Liked by 4 people

  38. noelleg44 says:

    Great recommendations, Diana, especially since three of these authors I know and enjoy their books!

    Liked by 5 people

  39. Thanks for these great recommendations and the reviews on them, Diana! Gosh, i never will reach your reading speed. Thanks again, and best wishes! xx Michael

    Liked by 5 people

  40. Hi Diana, I am delighted to know you also enjoyed A Peril in Ectoplasm. I have Jacquie, Priscilla, and Gwen’s books on my TBR.

    Liked by 7 people

  41. What great reviews by amazing Indie authors Diana our queen or reading writer! You rock! ❣️

    Liked by 5 people

  42. Wow, your collections of excellent reviews always make me wish I had more reading time!
    For me, ‘A Peril in Ectoplasm’ stands out as the one I’m going to take a look at this time.
    Cheers!

    Liked by 5 people

  43. What an eclectic collection, Diana. You read so many genres and are conversant in all. A few I’ve read (like Story of a Stolen Girl by Pat Spencer). A few I want to read like Feeling Human by Sheri J. Kennedy–read one of her others and loved it. I love that so many are Indies.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jacqui. Reading indies has exposed me to lots of genres, and I just have to change hats as I read. 🙂 I try to read one mainstream books a month, but honestly, I find the books from our community great fun. Happy Reading, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Pat Spencer says:

      Looks like some interesting reads here! Both you and Diana are fabulous for your support of indie authors.

      Liked by 4 people

  44. Annika Perry says:

    Diana, you’re spoiling us with these fabulous reviews! I laughed that you were late for an appointment as you just had to finish Vampire of the Midnight Sun! A recommendation alone! I was hooked by every single review and in awe of the imaginative creativity of the authors! Congratulations to them all and thank you so much for sharing here! It will be tricky for March reading to match these riveting and thought-provoking books of February!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks for the visit and the wonderful comment, Annika. It was a great month of reading and I’m off to a good start for March. I’m truly amazed at the talent. I WAS late to my appointment, but it was worth it. Lol. I’m glad you enjoyed the reviews. Happy Reading, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  45. Marcia says:

    Wow, thanks for some great, thought-provoking reviews, Diana! Definitely have some new titles to go on my TBR pile now. And I have to add, as a HUGE Poe fan, I can’t even imagine a retelling of anything he wrote, but I’m going to check this one out.

    Thanks again, and have a great Wodin’s Day! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Marcia. Oh, I think you’ll enjoy the Poe retelling. It’s really well done and so creepy. But tons of good books here from indies too. You can’t go wrong. Have a wonderful Wodin’s Day, my friend. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  46. Teri Polen says:

    More fastastic recs, Diana! Some of these I’ve read – and yes, What Moves the Dead is super creepy. Just finished Priscilla’s novella (still need to write the review) and Teagan’s last month.

    Liked by 6 people

  47. Fantastic reviews, Diana! It looks like you had a great month…I’m jealous! Many of these books are patiently waiting on my Kindle. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Jill. I was a little panicked at the beginning of the month with the number of books I wanted to read… but it was the good kind of panic since they were all great reads. When you get to them, I think you’ll enjoy yourself. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  48. More to add the TBR list, especially “What Moves the Dead.” Wonderful title and terrific concept.

    Liked by 3 people

  49. Diana! Thank you for including Vampire of the Midnight Sun in your February reads.:-)

    You read some awesome authors this month. I’ve read several of these books, but I haven’t read anything by Jacquie Biggar in a while. I need to remedy that!

    Liked by 5 people

  50. Dan Antion says:

    Excellent reviews, Diana. I’ve read Teagan’s book, and I am close to finishing Gwen’s. Two others are in the TBR pile. They all sound like they need to be there.

    I hope you’re having a great week.

    Liked by 4 people

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s