May Book Reviews (Part 1) and a Blog Break

Spring came and went in about 5 days. The garden is demanding immediate attention as are a bunch of other chores that I’ve been delaying until the sun returned. I have my dad’s storage unit to empty and sort, and a deck to scrap and paint. And I suppose it’s time to move the spiders outdoors too. I’ll be offline for a few weeks and promise to return refreshed.

I didn’t want to get too far behind on sharing reviews, so I have some great reads to chat about today. So far this May, I’ve read a lot of books that aren’t published yet. Funny how things happen in bunches like that, so a short list to browse.

May’s (Part One) reviews include my 4 and 5-star reads of a self-help book, a cozy murder mystery, a historical fiction, a book of short stories, and a contemporary fairy tale.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.


Re-Create & Celebrate 7 Steps to Turn Your Dreams Into Reality by Cindy Georgakas

Note: This book is scheduled for release on May 20th, so close that Cindy asked me to share my review now rather than wait. Keep it on your radar. It’s worth waiting for. Here’s my review:

There aren’t many people who would turn down the chance at a happier, more fulfilling, and more productive life. Re-Create & Celebrate 7 Steps To Turn Your Dreams Into Reality lays the framework for a multi-approach personal journey.

Though the author shares her wisdom and some practical advice, stemming from her years working as a life coach, the focus of this self-help guide is to aid the reader in a deep exploration of the personal factors that get in the way of realizing our goals. Georgakas provides questions to ponder about ourselves, our beliefs, and our experiences. She offers frequent anecdotes about her own explorations and growth, as well as what she’s observed in clients.

The tone of this book is positive and uplifting, determined to empower the reader by suggesting that the answers to achieving our best selves lie within us. All possible if we can muster the courage to seek them and if we’re brave enough to examine the worn-out messages and ways of being that hold us back. A well-written and well-organized book that deserves a thoughtful read. Highly recommended to anyone seeking to overhaul or fine-tune their lives.


Death by Ice Cream (A Pismawallops PTA Mystery) by Rebecca M. Douglass

JJ is outspoken and snarky, and her running commentary on her life is hilarious. But all is not well in this cozy whodunnit mystery when a dead body shows up in the school’s ice cream case, strangled with JJ’s scarf. JJ’s a suspect, a parent, and an amateur sleuth who can’t keep her nose out of the handsome sheriff’s investigation. She’s also a member of the PTA, suddenly saddled with getting the yearbook done… and all the photos are missing. Add to that, she’s a single mom negotiating a divorce who’s sworn off men… except that the sheriff has her imagination running on overdrive. And I should mention that someone wants her out of the picture.

This book has a lot going on, and JJ is in the thick of it. She’s a great character, extremely likable with a sharp wit, a wry perspective, and a big heart despite all the snarkiness. Secondary characters are equally engaging, with distinct personalities. JJ’s best friend Kitty is the perfect sidekick, and I loved the non-romance romance with the sheriff, Ron.

The pace moves quickly, clues are dropped along the way, and they tie up beautifully in the end, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are plenty of threads to this mystery, and I didn’t know who the murderer was until the reveal. It wrapped up with a nice twist too. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy cozy murder mysteries with a high-energy main character, a tangled plot, and lots of wry humor.


A Low Diving Bird by Libby Copa

This is a beautifully written and heartfelt historical fiction. The US Civil War officially ended a year ago, but for those who fought and for those left behind it continues with poverty, lawlessness, retaliation, and death. On both sides, the wounds of war are deep and lasting, and this is true in Missouri, in the home of Hester Cain.

She’s on her own, a young woman caring for three orphaned boys while her brother and father continue attacks against Union soldiers. She’s sold everything (everything!) she owns to put food on the table. And I’m not sure which was worse, the Union militia hunting down Confederate soldiers and sympathizers, or the rebels killing Union families. Hester walks a fine line to keep herself and her family safe. Then Eben, a Union soldier, walks into her yard and offers to stay and help. Her life improves in small steps until her brother returns home and all she’s gained may be lost.

There’s a tangible feeling of melancholy pervading this story. The war’s psychological damage is profound. Hester and Eben are sympathetic characters, as are the boys though their life’s wounds are slow to heal. Even Hester’s brother, despite his despicable acts, earns some sympathy. The author makes it easy to see the terrible misery endured on both sides of the war. The story ends with a dose of hope and it’s hard-earned. The writing is beautiful and well-paced. I highly recommend this read to fans of historical fiction, literary fiction, and books about the US Civil War, and to readers who enjoy an emotional and beautifully crafted story.


Comes this Time to Float: 19 Short Stories by Stephen Geez

This is the first book of short stories I’ve read from this author, and I was impressed. The quality of the writing is excellent, and the 19 stories in this generous collection cover a variety of genres including a bit of speculative fiction. I was swept away by the many heartwarming tales of friendship, love, and loss.  A number of the stories have a “slice of life” feel to them, reminiscent of flash fiction, a style that I enjoy.

I had a lot of favorites in this book including:

Sidekick – an amazing tale about the power of friendship between two boys
Veneer – a story about two people who discover the truth about each other.
Lunatic – beautiful writing about an unusual being and a little boy
Halfway House – a tender story about second chances, full of twists
Vapor Girl – a wistful sci-fi love story with amazing descriptions
Ready for Company – a sci-fi tear-jerker
Kitty Makes Three – another love story. *Sigh*
Tailwind – a story about the friendship between two old men.

Need I say more? Obviously, I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to fans of short stories and beautiful writing and to readers who want to be moved by some memorable stories.


Clay Tongue: A Novelette by Nicholas Conley

When Katie’s grandfather has a stroke, he loses his ability to speak, and his care becomes more than her mom and dad can handle, especially with a new baby on the way. Katie learns, through snooping in her grandfather’s old notebook, that in a forest cave, there’s a giant magical golem who grants single wishes. One night she sneaks from the house to find the creature. But that single wish is harder to make than she realizes.

This novella-length book read like a fairytale or fable with a powerful dilemma and message about choices and kindness. The plot moves quickly, and I read it in less than an hour. It kept me engaged throughout with lovely characters and vivid action. I’d recommend this book to any child ready to read (or listen to) a chapter book, as well as adults looking for a quick magical tale.


Happy Reading!

See you in June!

Unexpected #tankatuesday

The Expected One
painting by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (Museum: Bavarian State Painting Collections)


the bookworm’s romance

fancies of her secret heart

inked in poetry

rise from the path of pages

with roses unexpected

After all the bookish posts, I thought I’d go with something short and sweet. I love these visual prompts. And I always learn something new about the featured artwork. Colleen thought the young woman might be holding a cell phone. Lol. I went with a book of poetry.

This is an example of ekphrastic poetry, a poem written in response to a piece of art. I wrote a tanka with a syllable count of 5/7/5/7/7.

To read more responses to the challenge, learn about syllabic poetry, or submit your own poem, stop by Colleen’s blog: Wordcraft Poetry.

Colleen is also sharing an announcement about the “Around the Campfire Literary Journal” which is accepting submissions through the month of May. I hope you feel inspired.

In The Tree’s Shadow: Book Tour with D. L. Finn

I’m delighted to share a new book by my Story Empire colleague Denise Finn. She lives in the magical forests of Northern California among the bears and coyotes, and she writes in a wide range of genres from middle-grade fantasy to horror, from speculative short stories to poetry. I hope you enjoy this introduction to her latest release. Take it away, Denise.


Thank you for having me here today, Diana, to discuss my short story collection, In the Tree’s Shadow.

“Effervescent Potion” was part of my personal short story challenge. I’d request a word from a family member and then use it to find an image to work from. I asked my son, Jeffry, the youngest of the children, for a word. Our biology graduate from Oregon came up with effervescent.

Bubbling pictures popped up, and from there, I went to a potion in a lab. What if it wasn’t a routine experiment?

Poor Arnold is forced to work in a lab for a cruel man he is forced to call Sir Charles. Although he and many others are prisoners, Arnold may have a surprise for Sir Charles.


A collection of short stories where dreams and nightmares coexist.

Nestled inside these pages, you’ll meet a couple in their golden years who take a trip with an unexpected detour, a boy desperate to give his brother the Christmas gift he asked for, a girl with a small glass dragon who is at the mercy of her cruel uncles, and a young mother who has a recurring dream about murder. You’ll be introduced to worlds where people get second chances and monsters might be allowed their desires, while angels and dragons try to help. Happy endings occur, but perspective can blur the line between good and evil in these twenty-seven tales. Since the stories vary between 99 and 12,000 words, whether you have only five minutes or an entire evening to settle into reading, there is something that will suit your time and taste.


The round man in the white lab coat dropped a blue pill into a glass beaker. It immediately burst into a rush of bubbles racing to the top of the water. The man dabbed the sweat off his forehead and offered a tentative smile. “It works as soon as it hits the liquid, sir.”

A deep scowl crossed the taller man’s thin face. “I can see that, Arnold, and I prefer Sir Charles. Will it do what I want it to?”

Arnold gulped loudly as the water turned a bloody red and boiled with no heat source. Its froth spilled over the beaker like a volcano exploding. “Yes, Sir Charles. The test is going exactly as planned. We will test it in its chocolate form tomorrow. Its reaction will happen in the mouth and stomach, but we are confident it will succeed.”

Sir Charles’s thick black eyebrows hovered over the bloodshot eyes that defined his madness. “Good, good. I need it to be perfect for Halloween. You understand?”

“Of course, Sir Charles. We will test it tomorrow.”

“On the rats, I assume?” His black-clothed body sank into the shadows, but the clinical lighting from the high ceiling shone directly on his displeased face.

Arnold tugged at his itchy white collar. “Yes, it’s wise to try it on the animal subjects first because—”

Sir Charles slammed his fist on the white Formica counter. The beaker containing the roaring concoction tipped precariously but stayed upright and held its precious elixir. “This potion is meant for humans, not rats. I can’t believe I have to think of everything. I will bring some healthy young specimens from the holding area.”


Readers who enjoy speculative fiction and short stories will find a lot to like in this book. The tagline refers to dreams and nightmares, and I found plenty of both in the read – well, maybe more nightmares and monsters than angels, but they’re both here within this eclectic and generous collection of 27 stories.

The stories cover a wide variety of speculative fiction subgenres, including horror, sci-fi, paranormal fiction, and fantasy. In the darker tales, readers will find Bigfoot, ghosts, demons, and human villains. Some of the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories were my favorites, including “In That Moment” and “The Last Ride of the Night.”

But the collection isn’t all doom and gloom by any means. There are plenty of stories about animals and angels and the renewal found in nature.  Some of my favorites were “End of the Road” about a woman’s recovery from abuse, “The Bench” about the way animals come into our lives, and “The Bike” a tale about kindness. Many of the stories offer original twists on old spec fiction tropes, and the final story, a sci-fi novelette titled “Stranded,” is no exception. I’m happy to recommend this read to fans of speculative fiction short stories who enjoy a wide variety of tales.



  1. The astronauts walked on the moon for my seventh birthday. I believed it was a gift to me.
  2. I love being a part of the underwater world. It is so peaceful and beautiful.

D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include children’s books, adult fiction, a unique autobiography, and poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

D.L. Finn Links:






D.L. Finn blog

Amazon Page