March Book Reviews

I’m struggling with this pandemic, distracted and unfocused, even though my family is faring well, so far. Writing and blogging have been on the fritz. I have been reading though, and what a wonderful mental vacation. I recommend it! I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews. There are some excellent books here. Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

A Cold Tomorrow by Mae Clair

Book 2 of the Point Pleasant Series starts off a few months after Book 1 ends but can be read as a stand-alone (not that I recommend skipping the first). Katie Lynch takes over as the lead character and shares the limelight with brothers Ryan and Caden Flynn.

Strange supernatural happenings are taking place in Point Pleasant—dead animals, UFOs, aliens, voices in the TNT bunker, and of course, Mothman sightings. Clair tangles in a secondary plot to mix things up a bit and provide some red-herrings. The plot is complex and the pace has to be quick in order to wrap it all up and still have time for some lovely character development.

The best plot won’t survive thin characters, and Clair doesn’t fall into that trap. Main characters, as well as secondary characters, are all unique and three-dimensional. Clair carves out time to provide an emotional foundation with a bit of backstory and to dive into their relationships with each other. I particularly like books that make me feel connected to the characters and this is one of those.

The Mothman becomes more intriguing as does Caden’s character and his connection to the creature. The emotion and compassion between them is particularly riveting, and I MUST read the next book for that reason. An excellent series with polished writing. I highly recommend A Cold Tomorrow to readers of paranormal thrillers and to those who enjoy urban legends.

*****

Subject A36 by Teri Polen

I should never have read this book, because now I have to wait for the next one in the series, and that’s going to be torture! This read is sooo good.

Asher, the first-person protagonist, is a 17-year-old member of a resistance group fighting the Colony. The Colony steals attractive children (and adults) from outlying communities and kills them by stripping their DNA to serve the vanity of its citizens. Asher’s group is part of a larger network focused on freeing Colony captives before their DNA is harvested.

The plot moves along quickly and requires some suspension of belief as these teens have exceptional skills. There are twists and turns and secrets that I didn’t see coming and thoroughly enjoyed. This isn’t a story that gets bogged down with description. The science and technology is developed just enough to be believable.

The characters are beautifully crafted, and there’s none of the annoying teen angst and dumb choices that I find in many YA stories. These characters are in dangerous situations and maturity is a matter of survival. I enjoyed the authenticity. The somewhat heavy backstory in the beginning pays off as the characters develop and the events become more and more emotionally charged. Asher, his friend Noah, and lover Brynn make up the three main characters. I liked all three but was particularly enamored with Asher. I thoroughly believed his inner world, emotions, and choices. He’s a noble character, faced with tough decisions. I was hooked.

Then the book ended with a cliff-hanger, and I had a literary heart attack. Highly recommended to YA and adult readers of sci-fi. Get ready for an intense adventure.

*****

My GRL by John Howell

John Cannon is on a sabbatical from his high-powered attorney job and decides to spend a year on Mustang Island off the coast of Texas working on his used 65’ boat. Then his friend ends up shot, and the sheriff suspects that he’s keeping secrets. Add to that, it turns out that terrorists want his boat.

This book moves along at a good clip as John deals with the sheriff and then gets embroiled in the terrorists’ plot. He’s a great character, and for me, he brought the book to life. He’s kind of an average guy, but he’s smart and resourceful (for the most part), and he has some attitude. I had a great time watching him deal with all the problems while completely out of his element.

The story didn’t bog down with description or backstory, and it had just the right amount of shipboard detail to lend authenticity to the setting, John’s capabilities, and the story’s resolution. I would definitely read more of this character and author. Though a thriller, the book was also a lot of fun. Highly recommended for readers of action novels and thrillers, and book-lovers who enjoy great characters.

*****

Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner

Oh, I liked this read. In 24 AD, the Romans have arrived in Britannia to lay the groundwork for an invasion, and to that end, they’ve pitted the British kings against each other with promises of power. While negotiations with the Romans take place, hostages are exchanged to secure each party’s safety. Princess Catrin’s father instructs her to pry information from Marcellus, the son of the Roman leader. But things don’t go as planned, and Catrin must choose between the man she loves and her people.

The story starts out with some romance and a bit of insta-love, but fortunately, that is short-lived. Not that there isn’t a romantic component to the story, but the bulk of the read is taken up with action, danger, politics, and plenty of magic.

Magic is integral to the story, the plot, and the relationships. It focuses on an old prophecy in which Catrin plays the central role. Her connection to ravens enables her to see through the bird’s eyes, and ravens provide her with some protection. More so, they are the gateway to the mystical Wall of Lives where she learns how to manipulate outcomes. The magic in the book isn’t a hard system, but it works, and I appreciated the way it created friction between Catrin and Marcellus.

The characters are great, three dimensional, emotional, and flawed. Even secondary characters are unique individuals. I liked how consistent they were and how that was often a problem. Catrin is foiled repeatedly by both well-intentioned characters and villains. There are villains on both sides of the conflict which complicates matters.

The danger and action keep the pace up, and though a long read, the book zipped by. It ends with a dramatic conclusion to the negotiations but is mostly open-ended. I’ll definitely be reading onward. I highly recommend this book to epic fantasy readers who love magic, action, intrigue, and a bit of romance.

*****

Dream Warrior by Helen Mathey-Horn

Teryn is a Captain charged with keeping Princess Tasmine safe when the queendom falls. They flee and end up in one perilous situation after another. Their only ally is Rabisle, the mercenary who fought against them. But can he be trusted?

The magical system is loose but interesting. Teryn is a great character with a skill shared by few. She’s a dreamer able to enter a trancelike state where she can read another person’s mind and feelings, see what they’re doing, and influence them. The skill is imperfect, and most effective when combined with dreamweed, a drug that leaves her debilitated.

The characters are believable, well-rounded, and they carry the story. The pov rests solidly in Teryn’s head, and Rabisle has a lot of mystery around him, which I found compelling. Despite her skills, Teryn spends a lot of the book pretty beat up. She’s no superhero, and I liked that.

The plot isn’t anything astonishing as the two women escape one greedy, lecherous, murderous kingdom for another with Rabisle’s help, but it serves, and things do wrap up with a nice twist at the end. I’d deduct a half-star for punctuation, but based on the great characters, I’ve rounded my enjoyment up to 5 stars. Recommended for fantasy fans.

*****

Detours in Time by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

Milt and Pinky are time-traveling companions, and they jump forward 50 years into 2047. Milt can’t resist a little research and learns the details of his death. He also discovers that in the future he will have a daughter as well as a grandson who is born after his death. A bit of innocuous meddling sets the butterfly effect in motion and much of the book is about efforts to undo parts of what they’ve done.

The pace of this book is rather slow and steady, but the story is saved by the author’s attention to details and great characters. The details of life in 2047 are quirky and fun and served to remind me of how weird human beings are with our biases and creativity and how normal it all feels when we’re in the thick of it.

Milt and Pinky are adorably ordinary and sweet to each other and are thoroughly believable with loads of personality. They don’t experience much interpersonal conflict, but they are quirky in their own ways, and I loved their tenderness toward each other. In many ways, to me, the book was about the trajectory of their relationship. POV shifts are frequent but flowed naturally and somehow seemed fitting. Dialog is natural and carries most of the narrative.

The story wraps up but leaves a few dangling threads for the next book in the series. This is an interesting book, and I recommend it for sci-fi fans who enjoy a leisurely quirky read.

*****

Short Stories

The Thing about Kevin by Beem Weeks

Jacob returns to Chicago for his father’s funeral and faces the truth about the man he loved – a man who was also a mobster responsible for much misery in the community. Jacob’s brother, Kevin, disappeared long ago, and Jacob little by little learns the truth.

This short story is beautifully written and gives a striking and delicate glimpse into the complex feelings and relationships of children who grew up with a criminal parent. A quick and memorable read. I’ll be reading more of Weeks’ stories.

*****

Voodoo or Destiny: You Decide by Jan Sikes

In this short story, Claire plays with voodoo, hoping to break her husband’s heart for cheating on her. Not only is the result distressing, but there’s more going on than she bargained for. This is a quick, entertaining, and spooky story. After reading this, I’m definitely staying far away from voodoo. A great short story.

 

*****

My Sweet Lord by Fiza Pathan

Something has to be done. The year is 2020, and Buddhist citizens living in the city of Dil-e-bad, Raktsthaan, have been suffering at the hands of government officials and their military. What began with lynching and rape has become a full-blown witch hunt. Monks have been killed and their monuments destroyed. Four members of an underground get together and decide that extreme action is called for. They are a nonviolent people, but one of them, standing at the junction in the center of Dil-e-bad, is about to fight back with fire.

*****

Red Eyes in the Darkness by D. L. Finn

This short story kicks off with wild action and finishes the same way. Cass and Will know for a fact that their brother-in-law Ronald killed Cass’s sister, but no one believes them. And they are next on Ronald’s list. But there’s more here than a serial killer as angels and demons also make an appearance.

This story doesn’t completely end but is a taste of a world further developed in Finn’s other books. I’ve read “The Button” and recognized the demons called the evildwels. I recommend this short story as an introduction to the writer and her books.

*****

The Hunted by Karen Black

A short 30-minute read, The Hunted starts with solid action and doesn’t let up. The story follows Yvonne as she flips back and forth between two worlds, one a dream, one real, but the reader doesn’t know which is which. The transitions are cleverly done and it’s not until the end that the truth (and the twist) is revealed. I loved being kept in the dark until the last sentence. Excellent short story.

*****

Happy Reading!

February Book Reviews

I’m still buried in editing, but I figured I’d better make an appearance on the old blog!  February was a fun month of reading. I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews. Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Life Lines by Sue Vincent

This collection of 52 poems by Sue Vincent is a gem. I’d give this book 6 stars if I could. It’s hard to put into words how moving I found Vincent’s poetry. The poems are free form reflections on the profound moments of life, the deep emotional wells of love, loss, and memories, the rhythms of nature reflected in our journeys, and the poignant journeys themselves.

It was almost impossible to pick out a few favorites, but I’m giving it a try: “I See You” is an exquisite poem about aging and the lasting echoes of youth that we carry inside our memories. “Flowers” (which makes me weepy just thinking about it) chronicles a woman’s life-stages in flowers from birth through death. Two touching poems are told from the point of view of someone watching a loved one sleep. They’re both gentle and heartachingly beautiful. “Just for a Moment” is a rare syllabic poem in the collection about the peace of love, and “Memory” about love lost.

Though the poems can be read in an hour or so, I would suggest savoring them. Highly recommended.

*****

Vanished by Mark Bierman

This story kicks off the action on page one and doesn’t let up. In fact, when I was about ¾ of the way through, I needed to sit back, take a deep breath, and work the tension out of my shoulders. Bierman’s ability to write non-stop, intense, dangerous action is noteworthy. And though in many ways, I’d characterize the story as plot-driven, there’s some deep emotion when it’s called for.

And the story isn’t a picnic. Though the author maintains that it’s fictional, he also states that it centers on a very real and tragic situation – child slavery. Tyler and John are two likable Americans who team up with an anti-hero in Haiti. The story follows their attempt to rescue a Haitian’s young child from a mine worked by kidnapped children. The difficulty of this plan is skillfully complicated by cultural barriers, corruption, poverty, and, of course, the ruthless adults who treat children like disposable tools – use them until they break and then throw them away.

Even though the book is plot-driven, I felt connected to Tyler and John. It was hard not to feel for them and root for them when things weren’t going well (which was the whole book). In a way, they are ordinary men who, as things got worse and worse, had to keep remaking decisions about what they’re willing to sacrifice, including their lives. They give it their all and it was very heroic. I’d read more about the characters and will read more of this author. Recommended for anyone who loves an intense action-packed adventure/thriller.

*****

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine by Teagan Geneviene

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine is a sweet short story set in the Victorian age with several steampunk gadgets, a mischievous pet duck, and a masquerade ball. What better way to spend an hour of reading? Fiona and her adopted brother Steele are delightful, and the duck steals the show as the ultimate matchmaker. As a short story, the pace is brisk, but not lacking in fun details. The mood is light and all ends well. Highly recommended.

*****

While the Bombs Fell by Roberta Cheadle & Elsie Hancy Eaton

This story reads like a memoir, and I loved it. It follows the daily life of Elsie, a 4-5-year-old growing up on a farm in England during World War II. The story starts with the family listening to an air-raid siren and climbing into their shelter beneath the garden. And though the war is the backdrop to the story and impacts daily life in significant ways, this isn’t really a story about war. At heart, this is a story about the resilient spirit of children growing up within a strong family.

The details of daily life are incredibly well-researched, and this book could almost serve as a guide to rural life in England in 1942 when rationing required adults to make some careful and creative choices. At the same time, the story is filled with delightful anecdotes of family life and the perspectives of a child, including a fear of Jack Frost, the trials of a stinky outhouse, and a trip to the movie theater to see the Three Stooges outwit the Germans.

The story unfolds in an omniscient point of view, and there’s not really a plot (thus the feeling of a memoir), but from beginning to end, the book is thoroughly engaging. I read it in one sitting. As an added bonus, the author included a few wartime recipes. Highly recommended to readers of memoirs, historical fiction, WWII fiction, and warm family stories.

*****

She Who Comes Forth by Audrey Driscoll

France Leighton and her beloved cello, Eudora, arrive in Luxor, Egypt to take part in an archeological dig. It’s not quite the adventure she expected, but she hangs in there. After a cello performance, she meets the mysterious Adam Dexter, who turns out to be far more than she expected, and not in a good way. Egyptian mythology comes alive as France must find a way to save the world from destruction.

This book is well written, the kind of writing that disappears into the background and therefore leaves the reader fully immersed in the story. I loved the setting, the details about Egypt and its mythology, the elements of the dig, and France’s interest and reverence for the magnificent tombs. In the afterword, Driscoll points out that she’s never been to Luxor, but as a reader, you’d never know it. Her research shines.

Told in first person, the story is wholly France’s. She’s a rich and thoroughly believable character, and her struggles were relatable to me. Secondary characters are beautifully three dimensional as seen through her eyes. I loved the advice of her “talking” cello and totally fell for the relationship.

The story moves at a moderate pace, a slow burn, with hints at something supernatural at play dropped here and there along the way. At the 75% mark, there’s a giant leap into the paranormal/occult that I wasn’t quite ready for, though in hindsight I could see the preparation. A compelling story that I highly recommend to readers of literary fiction and to those who enjoy a strong female protagonist.

*****

Wham! by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

This book has some fresh and unique worldbuilding that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story takes place in a dystopian future. The air is poisoned, the land withered, and there’s a clear sense of Big Brother ugliness about the place. The ruling class, a mega-powerful organization called the Alliance, controls the world and monitors everyone’s lives through surveillance orbs called Skinnies. The main character, Tess, is a disgruntled teen with a green-mohawk and combat boots. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s also a fairy with magical powers. Her barber is a troll, and her friend’s pet crow is a skinshifter.

The story starts with the government brutally whisking away Tess’s parents and sister, Nia. Nia is taken to the Capital and is forced to be a sex-worker for the Potentate (the main antagonist). Despite this role, there isn’t any explicit sex in the book, and her role quickly changes. Tess is assigned to live with a couple of mean-spirited derelicts, the Warrens. Book One focuses on Tess’s and Nia’s adjustment, as well as Tess’s discovery of her heritage and her attempt to rescue her parents with the help of the underground.

The characters all struck me as three-dimensional and authentic with full emotional lives and flaws. Maxi, the troll, has a unique way of speaking which I found incredibly creative. There is also some fairy-speak, which was difficult to read and understand, but short in duration (thank goodness). As part of the world-building, it was all a lot of fun.

Great pace and clever writing with vivid descriptions. The plausibility suffers a tiny bit when all the magical beings come together for the big showdown, but it’s well-down overall, and things don’t go magically well, of course. The book ends smack dab at the climax of the action. Be prepared to read the next book or you’ll be left hanging. If readers can deal with the abrupt end and plan to continue with the series, I can highly recommend this fantasy novel.

*****

Swords of Destiny by Sue Vincent

In this modern-day adventure, the world is in peril, and the immortal Merlin (of King Arthur fame) has gathered four ordinary people with extraordinary heart and courage to stand against the destructive forces. Their mission as the Champions of Light is to acquire the four swords of destiny and bring balance to the world.

The tale draws heavily on the legends and myths of the British Isles, the sacred places, and the beliefs of those who were intimately connected to the spirits of the land. The Fae are alive and well, trolls hide out in caves. There are unicorns, elves, and mountain giants. Most of the story unfolds in conversation/exposition, though it does have some action scenes that are quite intense and emotional. There is also quite a bit of romance, and some fun humor.

What I enjoyed most was the characters, not only the human champions, but Merlin, his brother Heilyn, and the fairy queen Mab. Point of view is shared by most of the main characters with pov shifts in the middle of scenes. The dialog is witty, including sections of clever banter. There’s mischief, for sure. Recommended for lovers of ancient British Isle mythology who will likely recognize some of the sacred places and characters.

*****

Mind-Shaft by S. Burke

This collection of six short stories focuses on the dark side of speculative fiction from paranormal romance and revenge to good old horror. Each of the stories is unique with a well-developed plot and engaging characters. My favorite was A Place So Cold which had me on the edge of my seat even though I could predict the ending. Other stories were less predictable with fun twists. Definitely bloody, evil, and entertaining. There are a few formatting particularities in kindle, but they don’t impact the reading so I’m going with 5 stars.

*****

Visitors by W. J. Scott

Brody and Tom are sent to live with their aunt by their ailing mom. Aunt Sally is a recluse in a town that doesn’t take well to visitors, at least to one kind of visitor. When the boys find out what’s really happening at the lake, they learn why everyone in town is so secretive. A sci-fi short story full of kindness and hope, and though predictable at its conclusion, a sweet read.

*****

Happy Reading!

More Indie Book Reviews

It’s time to share a few more reviews. Another eclectic bunch: short stories, a middle-grade gem, and of course, speculative fiction. I have a stack of reading for the holidays. I hope I can add a book or two to yours.

Flights of Fancy

by Sally Cronin

I’ve read several of Cronin’s books of short stories, and this collection of eleven tales is as enjoyable as the others. I inhaled it in a single afternoon, completely immersed. As usual, the author includes a wonderful variety of tales from touching stories of eternal love in The Other Side of Heaven and Curtains, to adorable cuteness in Henry’s Story, and humor in Psychic Parrot. Highly recommended for anyone who loves short stories and well-told tales.

***

Talon

by Gigi Sedlmayer

I had no idea how much I would enjoy this book. It seems appropriate for middle-grade readers with short chapters and a charming story, but will appeal to younger kids as a chapter book, as well as adults.

Matica is the ten-year-old daughter of missionaries in Peru. She has a disability that leaves her tiny for her age and socially isolated from the indigenous community. She befriends a pair of condors and her adventures begin, changing her life in marvelous ways. Matica is delightful, caring, and undaunted by these giant birds.

The setting adds to the book’s interest as well as the details on the condors. Matica interprets the bird’s “language” which adds a bit of magic to the tale. The pace is just right and the plot wraps up nicely with more to come. A wonderful first book in the series. Highly recommended.

***

The Gate

by D. L. Cross

An alien invasion is imminent, and Landon Thorne goes from being a recently fired college professor to a much sought-after expert. His unconventional theories on ancient alien astronauts have caught the attention of top-secret government operatives and a group of mysterious bad guys.

This is classic first-contact sci-fi, and Cross appears to have done her research. Combine fact with a dose of imagination and a bunch of ruthless characters, and this is a story that moves at a fast clip.

And those “ruthless characters” include just about everyone. The main characters are well-rounded, ambitious, competitive, and argumentative. And Cross has no problem letting characters cross the line and/or killing them off.

The Gate, the first book in the Astral Conspiracy series, leaves off with a cliff-hanger, so be prepared to read the next books to reach the conclusion of the tale. Highly recommended for readers of sci-fi thrillers.

***

More to come. Have a lovely holiday season and Happy Reading!

 

Silent Payback Blog Tour

If you don’t know Jaye Marie, she and her blogging cohort, Anita, are both writers and wonderful supports to the indie community.

Jaye Marie has a new book out. I’m delighted to be your tour guide today and share my review.

I love including a review when I help with a launch. I prefer to read a book before offering blog-space so I can impart my genuine thoughts and recommendations. But Jaye Marie’s book wasn’t out yet when I signed on… I crossed my fingers. Silent Payback arrived in my Kindle on Tuesday. I finished reading it on Tuesday. Yeah, it’s good.

Amazon Blurb:

A serial killer roams the streets of Brighton, hunting for his next victim.

When the case lands on detective David Mallory’s desk, will his personal demon prevent him from bringing this vicious monster to justice?

As the body count rises, Mallory finds himself sinking under the weight of his heavy secret – one that could jeopardise his job and his reputation.

With the pressure building, can the troubled detective reconcile his issues and solve the case before more women die?

Diana’s Review

I read this book in two sittings when I should have been doing other things. Another chapter…. okay another chapter. Eh, just one more. That’s how my day went, and suddenly I was at the end of the story. In reflecting on the read, one thing I noticed is that the pace is flawless, unrelenting in the way it pulled me through the pages. Not every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, but there is barely a wasted word, so I was never bored. I was intrigued.

The main character David, a police investigator, is the focus of the story, but multiple POVs (first and third person) gave me glimpses into other characters. That included the people surrounding him in his personal life… and the soon-to-be victims of a serial killer. And both (all) perspectives were valid since there are two – almost equally important – storylines running through the novel.

For one, there’s a killer on the loose. He has an interesting twist to his personality, which occasionally had me second-guessing his identity. The peeks into the lives of the ordinary people who ended up being victims intensifies the wrongness of the murders.

The second plot-line follows David’s struggle with a secret, and he has a significant choice facing him in the near future (no spoilers here). The author handles this topic with grace, and the human story is a nice counterpoint to the descriptions of senseless murder. I enjoyed both as well as the way they were woven together. In general, characterizations are well-done. These are believable people, and the ones we get to know are flawed with imperfect lives, trying to make them work with what they have. Sounds familiar.

There are a few editing glitches, but I recommend getting past those for the well-crafted drama beneath. In Chapter One, the story settles in and is well worth it. An enjoyable read for those who like murder mysteries, thrillers, and a human story.

Global Link

About Jaye

Jaye Marie is affectionately known as the giant redwood, probably because she is very tall, but also because of her love for trees. Most afternoons she can be found repotting or taking care of her bonsai collection, but her love of detective mysteries soon brings her back indoors. She has written three fiction novels in this genre, Nine Lives, Out of Time and Crossfire and is looking forward to publishing Silent Payback, her fourth book.

She spends any free time learning everything she can about self-publishing, and despite all the obstacles, she never gives up on anything and is as stubborn as a mule. She also shares a website Books and Bonsai with Anita Dawes…

 

Jaye’s Links

e-mails              jayemarie01@btinternet.com

website              Books and Bonsai

Twitter               https://twitter.com/jaydawes2

Facebook           https://www.facebook.com/doubletrouble44/

Goodreads         https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6586480.anita_dawes

Amazon             http://mybook.to/SilentPBack

Author Page       https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jaye-Marie/e/B00O2ZUFOK/

Pinterest             https://www.pinterest.com/anitajayedawes

Instagram           https://www.instagram.com/jenanita01/

Medium              https://medium.com/@jaydawes2

 

More Indie Reviews (or Part III)

I have so many reviews to share, and I’m reading faster than I can get my reviews posted. Three more 5-star books, all different!

The Gemini Connection

by Teri Polen

Oh, what a fun read. Sci-fi fans will have a blast with this thriller, but readers who love human stories will thoroughly enjoy this book too. Simon and Evan are twins with a unique connection even though they are strikingly different. Simon is cerebral, a scientist and gentle soul. Evan is a jock with a temper and a painful chip on his shoulder—he’s never been able to live up to his parents’ expectations.

Despite their differences, the brothers are fiercely loyal to each other, and when Simon goes missing, Evan makes it his mission to find out what happened and bring him home. He’s a successful bender, capable of entering the dreams of clients to unblock their memories or fight their nightmares. Their connection and his talent lead the way.

The world-building is excellent, and though “bending” is a bit of a scientific stretch, Polen does a credible job making it feel plausible throughout the story. The pace moves along at a speedy clip, and there are plenty of tight spots and danger.

The story is told in the first-person point of view of both brothers. You might have guessed that I just loved the characters, particularly Evan and Simon. Their relationship wasn’t without its bumps and bruises, but the steadfast loyalty they felt toward each other had me rooting for them from the start. Secondary characters were richly drawn and three-dimensional, as were peripheral players. A great read that I highly recommend.

Global Amazon Link

***

The Hat

by Craig Boyack

In this short read, Boyack has teamed up Lizzie, a young woman with two part-time jobs, and a talking hat that she stole/inherited from her grandmother’s estate. Yes, you heard that right—a talking hat. At first, she’s rather suspicious and freaked out by the hat, but when a friend’s newborn is stolen as part of a larger baby-napping ring, Lizzie and the hat set out to rescue the infants.

What ensues is pretty entertaining. The banter between Lizzie and the hat is exceptionally witty, particularly as the hat navigates advances in technology (it’s been in a box for a long time). The duo reminded me of wise-cracking detective team with snappy dialog and lots of attitude on both sides.

This book can be polished off in a couple of hours and is well worth the time. Highly recommended.

Global Amazon Link

***

Amanda in Holland

by Darlene Foster

This book was quite a bit of fun. Foster combines a middle-grade fiction plot with a colorful tour of Holland, including its famous sites, snippets of history, and its wonderful flowers and food. I had the great fortune of visiting my grandparents in Holland when I was Amanda’s age, and her experiences in the book mirror my memories in great detail. It was a blast to traipse along beside Amanda and enjoy the country once again.

The main plot focuses on the recovery of a lost puppy, but secondary plots weave through the story, and all come together nicely at the end. There’s a bit of mystery and some danger to keep the tension up. There are also some very moving scenes when Amanda visits Anne Frank’s home and a war memorial dedicated to the Canadians who helped liberate Holland during WWII. A lovely book for young readers and absolutely perfect for readers who plan to travel the world.

Global Amazon Link

***

 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

The Quest for Home: A Review

A few months ago, I offered to beta read Jacqui Murray’s new prehistoric fiction book, A Quest for Home.  And, to be honest, with all the craziness going on with my parents, my followthrough was rather tardy. Good thing I get to make up for that now with a little hoopla and a review!

The Quest for Home:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland, leading her People on a grueling journey through unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, the one destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

My Review

I’ve become a huge fan of Murray’s prehistoric fiction. “The Quest for Home” is the second book in the “Crossroads Trilogy,” following “Survival of the Fittest.” I recommend reading them in order, though other reviewers have commented otherwise.

In book two, Xhosa continues to lead her group of ancient People across a harsh and unfamiliar terrain, seeking a new home. They encounter other humans on alternate evolutionary paths, some kind, others violent and territorial. And though the journey is riddled with danger, the greatest threat to her group stands at her elbow.

The “quest” plot isn’t new, but Murray is a master at worldbuilding, leaving me with the sense that I’ve read something unusual. To varying degrees, most storytelling relies on a reader’s understanding of modern sensibilities, norms, and behaviors, all the trappings of civilization that simply didn’t exist 850,000 years ago. The well-researched details of prehistoric life bring a fresh and fascinating layer to the read.

The characters are decidedly human in their nature, riddled with the familiar emotions of love, hate, grief, anger, ambition, and jealousy. There are norms, primarily based on what’s necessary for the group to survive, but beyond that, there is little restraint. Xhosa is a powerful character, but not the only one. A number of compelling characters, both female and male, have strong three-dimensional personalities and play important roles in the story.

I flew through this read. The pace moves quickly, occasionally veering into the story of another group, one which split from Xhosa’s People. Xhosa commands the primary point of view, but it does switch to other group members on occasion. I highly recommend “The Quest for Home” to readers of prehistoric fiction, speculative fiction, and adventure.

Available at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU

 

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.

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More Indie Book Reviews

A few more fabulous reads from my travels!

Simple

by Anita Dawes

This story was a riveting page-turner that I was unable to put down and couldn’t wait to get back to when I did. The tale takes place in the backwoods hill country of the Eastern US where life unfolds according to different rules than it does in town. The law has no influence, relationships are frequently brutal, and survival requires living by one’s instincts.

The main character, Leanne, grows up in a cabin with her grandmother and extended family where a “meanness” comes out in violence and cruelty. She and her mentally disabled uncle, Simple, are burdened with kind hearts and eventually, their defiant choices put them in mortal danger from their own family.

Part of what makes the book so engrossing is its utter unpredictability. The tension sits on a knife’s edge at all times. The family is explosive, and Leanne, though only fourteen, survives by her wits, knowing full well the nature of her adversaries. All of the characters are thoroughly believable and so real that I’m staying far away from any place where I might run into their like. Honestly, it’s a bit chilling.

Dawe’s prose reflects the colloquial dialog and lack of education among the hill-folk, and yet it flows smoothly and is effortless to read. Each character’s voice is distinct and consistent. There is no gratuitous sex or violence, although these elements are frequently present as ways in which the family’s goals, anger, and revenge are carried out. The details regarding hill-life lend credibility to the story and increase immersion.

Despite the brutality, ultimately this is a read about the power of kindness and love, and finding one’s way home. This book is one of my favorites this year. Definitely high on my recommendation list.

 

Mahoney

by Andrew Joyce

Mahoney is a family saga that follows the lives of three generations of fathers and sons. Part I chronicles the immigration of Devin Mahoney from Ireland to the US in the mid-1850s to escape the potato famine. Despite rampant discrimination, he contributes to the growing nation as a brick-layer and railroad man. Part II extends into the American West with Devin’s son, Dillon, who becomes a US Marshal and California oilman. Part III transitions to the story of David Mahoney as he rediscovers the country his forefathers helped build and finds himself in the process.

Joyce tells the story in an omniscient point of view, sprinkling third-person and first-person narratives with historical details about the time and place, the men’s vocations, living conditions, war, justice, and injustice. These details are well researched and add a fascinating backdrop to the human story. Descriptions are vivid, and the pace is leisurely.

The characters are richly developed. The dialog is exceptional, and relationships feel authentic. I felt connected to each of the three men and their stories and was moved at the end as David Mahoney embraces the legacy left by his father and grandfather. An excellent read that will appeal to anyone who enjoys stories about multi-generational families, historical fiction, or the making of a nation.

 

Life in a Flash

by Geoff Le Pard

This generous collection of flash fiction is full of quirky humor. Le Pard has a way of exaggerating recognizable human interactions and bringing to light their inherent nonsense in a fresh and delightful way. I kept opening my Kindle during the night to read one or two more.

But humor isn’t the only offering on the book’s pages. Sprinkled among the laughs are some poignant stories that strum the heartstrings, and some social commentary that points to the human condition and the current struggles faced by many. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy flash fiction and a clever and imaginative take on life.