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!

Fairies, Myths, & Magic II, Book 2: A Winter Celebration

Greetings, Readers, One and All.

Welcome to the launch of Colleen Chesebro’s new book, a celebration of the winter season’s Fairies, Myths, & Magic. She’s the head poetess over at Word Craft Poetry (her blog), and she’s put me in the mood for a mug of eggnog, a sprig of mistletoe, and a warm fire. I have a review of her book below, but first, I’m turning the post over to Colleen.

Day One: 12/1/22 Yule Blessings Book Tour

Thank you, Diana, for the opportunity to share the news of my new book, just in time for the winter solstice and Yule.

In Fairies, Myths, & Magic II, I researched the mythologies of Yule and the winter solstice. I was surprised to learn how almost all cultures featured a myth about Yule and the winter solstice.

In the northern hemisphere, the date falls on December 21st or 22nd. In the southern hemisphere, the dates are June 20th or 21st. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the day with the least amount of daylight, giving us the longest and darkest night of the year on December 21st.

In the Pagan tradition, the winter solstice represented the figurative death and rebirth of the sun. Yule became a time of great celebration because the people realized spring would bring warmth back to the land.

Did you know there were many female figures of Yule and winter? Many of these women are long forgotten. There’s the Irish Goddess of Winter – The Cailleach Béara, The Night of the Mothers, Frau Holle, and many others. I share their stories through short stories and poetry.

Here’s one of my favorite myths featuring Frau Holle. The wild hunt was a way to explain the wicked storms of winter. Odin bears a resemblance to our Santa Claus and could have been the inspiration for the jolly old soul.

The Wild Hunt

Call down the huntsmen,

upon black horses they ride

with hounds as black as pitch

and staring hideous eyes

their screams and howls

resound against the algid night.

*

Odin’s phantoms—the cult of the dead

glide through the ebony sky

a spectral, nocturnal horde

howling on the wind,

Frau Holle riding high.

*

When the baying winds blow,

and Yule fires are lit

stay away from nightfall

lest you manifest the restless dead.

*

Beware the berserkers…

for the host of wild souls will sweep down

and drag you to your death!

___

Prepare to embrace the darkness and the light in Fairies, Myths, & Magic II.

Colleen’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Colleen-M-Chesebro/e/B01N9MV2RX

Amazon Universal Link: https://mybook.to/FairiesMythsMagicII

About the Book

In this second book in the Fairies, Myths, & Magic series, step into a world where dark fairies and other magical beings converge in a collection of poetry and short stories inspired by winter and the celebration of the winter solstice.

From autumn’s scary fairies to the forgotten female characters of Yule, prepare to embrace the magical winter solstice myths from around the world. Meet Frau Holle in the Wild Hunt, Befana—the Christmas Witch of Italy, and the Japanese goddess Ameratasu who controls the springtime. Prepare to embrace the Scottish trows, the Irish Goddess of Winter—the Cailleach Béara, and Snegurochka—the Snow Girl.

Learn how to make Yuletide rituals part of your celebration by embracing the symbols of Yule by decorating with evergreens and crystals.

My Review:

A celebration of winter is a great description of this highly recommended collection of poetry and short fiction. It’s the companion to the first book “Fairies, Myths, & Magic: A Summer Celebration,” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Chesebro explores winter legends from around the world, from pagan creatures who steal naughty children in the night to mischievous house elves. From the wild hunt to the origins of traditions such as yule logs, holly, and Father Christmas. The book offers explanatory introductions to winter’s fairies and myths and brings them to life with syllabic poetry and flash fiction.

A few of the legends that struck my fancy were “Ameratasu” from Japan, “Gryla, the Christmas Troll” from Iceland, and “Snegurochka – Snow Girl” from Russia. Some of my favorite stories were “Tomte, the House Elf” and “The Long Walk.”

Chesebro’s syllabic poetry shines, full of beauty, humor, nature, and magic both delightful and haunting. Written in multiple forms and replete with beautiful imagery, it was the highlight of the book for me. A few favorite poems were “Lady Autumn,” “The Wild Hunt,” “Happy Dongzhi Festival,” “Swift Passage,” and “Dreaming.”

Dreaming

rosy morn, winter kissed—

fields incandescent

bursting with the glory of a brand-new day

the wheel of the year turns

another month gone

from the sun’s fiery glow

lilac shadows fade

while frost browned grasses

sing anthems to the wind

wild black-headed geese soar

far away from home

beneath the frosty rime

roots tremble with growth,

awaiting the thaw and the

warm rains to come

seeds loiter in the depths

dreaming of the spring

About the Author:

An avid reader, Colleen M. Chesebro rekindled her love of writing poetry after years spent working in the accounting industry. These days, she loves crafting syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and creative fiction and nonfiction.

In addition to poetry books, Chesebro’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of her writing community on Word Craft Poetry.com by organizing and sponsoring a weekly syllabic poetry challenge, called #TankaTuesday, where participants experiment with traditional and current forms of Japanese and American syllabic poetry.

Chesebro is an assistant editor of The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology & Gitty Up Press, a micro-press founded by Charli Mills and Carrot Ranch.

In January 2022, Colleen founded Unicorn Cats Publishing Services to assist poets and authors in creating eBooks and print books for publication. In addition, she creates affordable book covers for Kindle and print books.

Chesebro lives in the house of her dreams in mid-Michigan surrounded by the Great Lakes with her husband and two (unicorn) cats, Chloe & Sophie.

Find Colleen here:

Blog: Word Craft Poetry: https://wordcraftpoetry.com

Author Blog: Colleen M. Chesebro, Author, Poet & Unicorn Cats Publishing Services: https://colleenmchesebro.com

Facebook Page: Colleen M. Chesebro, Poet & Author: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100085941528913

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/colleen-m-chesebro-6b856b237

November Book Reviews (Part One)

The holiday season has started. It’s a great time to take breaks from the chaos and snuggle up with a book. And, of course, books make great gifts!

Somehow, I read 14 books this month. They just got away from me, and it’s too many for one post. So here are half of them!

November’s reviews (part one) include my 4 and 5-star reads of a poetry/flash fiction collection, a psychological thriller, a horror novelette, a paranormal thriller, a murder mystery, and two illustrated children’s books.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin

I’m a fan of Cronin’s syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and short stories, and this latest collection is an excellent example of why. The first half of the book is filled with 38 beautiful poems in a variety of structured forms.

Many of the poems are poignant reflections on love and loss, the wonder of life, and the beauty of nature found in her garden. Each includes a complementary image. One of my favorites:

Rejection (form: a butterfly cinquain)

silence
magnifies time
and distance between us
and your rejection leaves my heart
hollow.
the promises we made that day
are scattered in the wind
and dreams have turned
to dust.

The second half of the book is comprised of 8 short stories, most of them heartwarming tales of human kindness, forgiveness, and redemption. (With a tale of magical murder thrown in). Three of my favorites were Miss Lloyd’s Robin, The Green Hill, and The Home Help. I highly recommend this afternoon’s read to fans of syllabic poetry and short stories.

*****

The Bubble Reputation by Alex Craigie

Social media is a wonderful way to connect with family and friends, but most people know that it has a dark side as a vehicle for bullying, making threats, and spreading lies. Emmie is a highly successful children’s author, until a jealous coworker and a tabloid needing a tasty scoop decide she’d make a great target for a scandal. A lie and a doctored photograph start off a social media storm that picks up momentum with frightening speed. As the feeding frenzy intensifies, it nearly costs her everything. And I mean everything.

There are a whole lot of things that are frightening about this story. The plot is highly plausible, and though I could see the escalation coming, it was still horrifying to watch. The way ordinary citizens start going for blood is not only shocking but terrifyingly realistic. It’s a situation that not every character finds their way out of without a heavy toll.

This isn’t a long book, and I read it in one afternoon, glued to the story. The pace moves quickly and there are a wide variety of authentic characters—some heartless and calculating, some risk-avoidant, some bloodthirsty, and others highly supportive. There are a lot of takeaways from this read, particularly a chance to decide which type of character we want to be. Highly recommended. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Dog Meat by Priscilla Bettis

This is one of the more unusual novelettes I’ve read in years, and I needed to spend a few days processing it before I could write a review.

According to the author, “30 million dogs die each year in the brutal trade that operates in nine countries.” In this story, Kalb Ward’s job is to kill the dogs that will be served to a restaurant’s wealthy diners.

Ward lives in a closed dystopian society where he has no choice in what kind of work he performs, and his one attempt to run away lands him in a reeducation camp for 18 months. Only threats to his mother’s life are powerful enough to return him to the job he can’t tolerate.

Ward sees himself as a killer, and his reactions to the endless violence move this book beyond the horror genre into one that explores the impact of intolerable guilt, brutality, and despair on a human life and soul. This is a society without empathy, where compassion and kindness can’t find a foothold.

The scenes are horrific, and anyone who loves dogs will be tested to the core. Like the author, I hope this story raises awareness and supports the end of this cruel industry. The writing quality is excellent, and Ward’s plight drew me deeply into this well-wrought world. Highly recommended, but with a big trigger warning about graphic violence against animals.

*****

The Valley Walker by T. W. Dittmer

This impressive book certainly captured my attention. Teri Altro is part of a government task force looking into a rash of drug deaths in Michigan. She’s competent, hard-shelled, and a bit of a rogue. She’s also the target of an attempted assassination. But as three men close in on her, someone gets in the way, and in a strange manipulation of reality, the three killers end up dead. That someone is John Walker Michaels, a Vietnam deserter who shouldn’t exist, and who possesses the mystical powers of the Hmong people that became his family. The Laotians call him the Valley Walker.

What follows is an investigation into the drug deaths that extends from the streets and governing halls of Michigan to the jungles of Laos, from the present time back to the dark days of the Viet Nam war. The scenes of war are eerily visceral, reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. The Laotian mysticism adds an otherworldly surrealism that connects the timelines.

Characterization is impressive with each member of the task force wonderfully unique. Peripheral characters are also fully realized and distinct. Though Michaels participates in the multiple POVs, he retains his mysterious aura, and it’s through his relationships with other characters and his dialog and action that I came to understand him.

The author served in Viet Nam and the authenticity he brought to the story was riveting. It also didn’t hurt that his writing is polished and well-paced with just the right amount of description. A complex plot comes together with little difficulty and several twists kept me on my toes. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy complex stories about war, power, and justice, topped with a metaphysical twist. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 3) by James J. Cudney

This is Book 3 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, and for readers who’ve enjoyed the first two in the series, this one was just as fun. When a renowned biologist ends up dead at a masquerade ball at Braxton College, Professor Kellan Ayrwick is once again unofficially asking questions and trying to ferret out the murderer. Some of the people close to him are suspects, and there are plenty of secrets to untangle. And then there are the postcards he’s receiving from his dead wife.

As with previous books, Kellan’s relationship with Sheriff April Montague was delightfully snarky, and I just adored their growing respect for each other. Wise-cracking, take no nonsense, Nana D is also back, and she’s a hoot. There are a lot of characters in this series. Having read the previous two books, I had the advantage of knowing a number of them already. For this reason alone, I recommend starting the series at the beginning.

The pace moves quickly, and plenty of red herrings point in multiple directions. I couldn’t guess the identity of the killer and had to wait for the reveal for everything to sort out. Though the masquerade murder is fully solved, a cliffhanger is introduced at the very end as a hook for the next book. Readers will find a likable protagonist, some fully-realized and fun secondary characters, and plenty of twists and turns. Recommended to fans of cozy mystery series.

*****

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles by Mike Allegra

The more I learn about capybaras, the more I want to cuddle with them. This book might come as close to the real thing as I get. A rainforest is a noisy place. So noisy that it’s hard to think and hard to sleep. But then along comes a Cuddly Capy, blowing burbly bubbles and fwippa fwipping its ears. Little by little the Happy Capy convinces the other animals to cuddle, and the rainforest grows quiet. But then who comes out of the swamp? A roaring crocodile! Can a capybara get a crocodile to cuddle? Of course.

A lovely book about the kindness of cuddles and inclusion, and how even the loudest roars and toughest skins can soften with a little loving care. The Happy Capy is single-minded in her love of cuddling and no one can resist. In addition to the fun story, beautiful animal illustrations fill this picture book from front to back. Highly recommended to cuddly preschool kids and their parents. (Hardcover only)

*****

Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra

Everybody’s Favorite Book has to include everybody’s favorite stuff, right? Like spacemen, pirates, pink princesses, cool detective kids, giant guinea pigs, and tea parties. But so much stuff gets to be a little crazy. Everybody’s Favorite Book ends up being nobody’s favorite book… until you get to everybody’s favorite happy ending.

This is a wild, creative, wacky picture book for kids age 3-7 (my guess) and librarians and parents who love big words like gallimaufry and codswallop. This book has everything and, of course, chaos ensues. The illustrations are big, bold, and bright and add to the fun. Kids and the young at heart will enjoy the imaginative mayhem. Highly recommended.

Our local librarian gets two new acquisitions:

*****

Happy Reading!

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 28 (Last Stop!)

Welcome to Day 28 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by along the way. I hope you’ve enjoyed:

~ My favorite books from my hosts’ lists, along with my reviews.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter.

~ Leave a comment on any of my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 28, the End of the Line!

D. G. Kaye’s Blog: D. G. Kaye Writer

Debby’s blog is a writer’s resource that occasionally ventures into the happenings in her life. She shares reviews, writer interviews, links to writing tips from all over the blogosphere, and some of her own poetry. Debby is a regular contributor to Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog with a variety of features from travel tips to her more recent discussion of spiritual awareness and personal growth.

Debby writes memoirs about different aspects of her life. From the conflicted relationships she navigated as a child to her journey of self-discovery, to the challenges of aging with those we love. From travel tips to the trials of menopause. Some are hilarious and some are poignant, and all are rich with advice for others facing similar situations.

Since losing the love of her life, Debby’s begun a series of podcasts on the topic of grief. As a previous grief counselor, I can say without hesitation that her podcasts are insightful, honest, moving, and full of gentle wisdom. Anyone interested in learning more about the human journey through grief can start here: Grief, the Real Talk, Episode One.

I’ve read all of Debby’s books. Here’s one of my reviews:

Twenty Years: After “I Do.”

My Review: Twenty years after her vows, author D. G. Kaye, looks back at the lessons learned about love, commitment, and aging. Kaye married a man twenty years her senior, already 58 at the time, and asked him for twenty years (at least) – thus the title of the book.

In a way, this memoir is a tribute to the man she dearly loves, a fact that comes through loud and clear. But it’s also about her journey as a partner, about the hurdles, insights, and growth along the way.

“In sickness and in health” is a major theme as bodies bend to the inevitable challenges of aging. Kaye shares her emotions and thoughts regarding her husband’s illnesses, but also some wisdom about preventative care, advocacy, and the adjustments needed to continue living a full life.

This is a poignant read to be sure, but full of practical advice too about laughter, travel, sex, communication, and preparation for the end of life. Most of all, it’s a memoir about love. An evening’s read and highly recommended.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Debby’s blog: D. G. Kaye Writer.

*

Thank you!

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 27 (one more stop to go)

Welcome to Day 27 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 27, here we go!

Noelle Granger’s Blog: Sailing Away

Noelle’s blog is all about books. She shares book reviews as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team as well as from her other reading interests. Her blog is also a place to learn about new releases, catch a short story, or get a glimpse of the goings-on in her life. She shares some extraordinary and fascinating research into the life of the Pilgrims, which resulted in her book: The Last Pilgrim.

I’ve read all of Noelle’s ebooks, which started with the Rhe Brewster murder mysteries series. They were great fun, and I heard there’s another one on the way! As noted above, her interest in colonial New England resulted in a historical fiction novel. Can you imagine my surprise when one of my notorious Peach ancestors got a mention in the book!

The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger

My Review: I just finished this amazing historical fiction, and despite its length (458 pages) I clung to every word. The story chronicles the true events of the Pilgrims’ journey to the New World in 1620, and then continues through 80+ years as the colony struggles for survival and contributes to the growth of a nation. The author deftly weaves two narrative threads from beginning to end: the historical events of the times, and the personal lives of those who lived them, as seen through the eyes of Mary Cushman.

One thread, about 50% of the narrative, focuses on the politics of the time—conflicts between the venture’s investors and the colony, friendships and wars with the Native Americans, and problems with governance, both civil and religious. This is primarily narrated through the eagerly prying ears of Mary Cushman whose family(s) are leaders in the Plymouth colony.

The other 50% of the narrative is Mary’s personal story of growth into a pioneer woman, wife, mother, and grandmother. Mary is 4 years old at the crossing and the book ends when she’s in her eighties. The story is told initially from the perspective of Isaac Allerton, her father, and then gradually shifts to Mary’s point of view alone.

One thing I found enthralling was how “true to the time period” she was in her thoughts and actions while at the same time demonstrating her innate intelligence and will. She’s a lively character, and the connection to her was instantaneous. All of the characters are 3-dimensional and beautifully written, and the themes of friendship, loyalty, faith, love, loss, and family are no different than today.

The author’s research was clearly extensive—of both the actual events and politics of the time but also of the daily lives of men, women, and children. Wonderful details brought the story to life, transporting me smack into the 1600s. This isn’t a glorified tale of colonization. The events are conveyed through the lens of those who made choices for the colony and their families. Some are disturbing to our modern sensibilities, but I thoroughly appreciated the authenticity.

Having grown up in New England, many of the places were familiar and I was captivated by the history. I highly recommend this novel to history buffs and readers of historical fiction.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Noelle’s blog: Sailing Away.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 25 (3 stops to go)

Welcome to Day 25 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 25, here we go!

Audrey Driscoll’s Author Blog

Audrey’s blog alternates between gardening tips (and glimpses of her beautiful flowers), and all sorts of information and tips about writing. She’s a member of Writers Supporting Writers and provides links to the group’s video discussions on different aspects of the craft, covering “topics related to writing, publishing, and everything in between.” She also shares some of her own writing-related projects, short stories, and books.

Audrey’s publishing list includes her popular Herbert West series and a duology set in Egypt that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re an armchair traveler, it’s worth the read for the adventure alone. Here’s my review:

She Who Comes Forth by Audrey Driscoll

My Review: 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.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Audrey’s blog: Audrey Driscoll.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 24

Welcome to Day 24 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 24, here we go!

Martha Reynolds’ Blog: Martha Reynolds Writes

Martha’s blog focuses on book reviews. She reads a wide variety of genres and her reviews are wonderfully informative and well-written, so it’s easy to browse and find something that fits your mood and preference. She also shares her own writing news and partakes in blog challenges. She’s been participating in the A to Z challenge for 10 years and had covered a wide range of topics. This year was songs from 1981!

Martha’s books are award winners and best-sellers. Here’s my review of her Amazon #1 bestseller Bits of Broken Glass:

Bits of Broken Glass by Martha Reynolds

A twenty-fifth high school reunion is being planned for six months in the future, and for four characters it becomes an opportunity to think back on how those important years shaped them. For Kellie and Joe it stirs up old trauma. For Cherry, it’s an opportunity to make amends, and for Scott it’s an opportunity missed.

The actual reunion takes place in the last chapter, so the book is really about the lead-up to that event. Each character has a separate POV narrative, which begins to intersect with other characters as the day draws near. I enjoyed the way the author slowly revealed each character’s memories as well as how their lives had progressed. The healing that takes place was cathartic and touching. To me, it seemed that karma was in play, and that kindness bred kindness, as well as the other way around.

The characters were beautifully crafted, their actions and choices realistic and their emotions full of depth. Secondary characters had the same three-dimensional feel. The story unfolds in third-person with a little first-person mixed in. The pace was excellent, and I read the book in two days since it caught me and wouldn’t let go. Recommended to readers who enjoy women’s fiction, and stories about personal growth and rising above old hurts

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Martha’s blog: Martha Reynolds Writes.

compliments of bang2write

October Book Reviews (Part Two)

Can you believe all the new releases this autumn? I feel like they’ve been coming out daily. My October reviews have included a lot of new and entertaining reads.

Thank you again to everyone who’s supported me on my book tour with your visits and comments. It’s been such a blast chatting with you. Five more tour stops to go, and I’m done. More time for Nanowrimo!

October’s (part two) reviews include my 4 and 5-star reads of prehistoric fiction, a coming-of-age novel, two romance/suspense/ contemporary western mash-ups (one with a paranormal bent), a poetry book about birds, and a children’s Halloween book.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

New Release:

Natural Selection (Dawn of Humanity, Book 3) by Jacqui Murray

The final book of the Dawn of Humanity series ends on a positive note though I suspect that Lucy’s story of survival in the prehistoric world will continue to be riddled with danger and challenges. As the title suggests, not all the branches of primitive mankind will survive and those who do will depend on their ability to develop new skills and think strategically.

The plot is straightforward with two main threads. The first is Lucy and her group’s continuing search for a sustainable homebase. The second is their plan to rescue past members of her tribe from Man-who-preys before they become so weak from hunger that they’re killed. Lucy is the main character, but not the only point of view, and other characters are frequently brought to the forefront. These include her two-legged group members as well as those with four.

Murray’s research continues to add depth and realism to the read, and I found it as fascinating as I did in the first book. Our ancestors had it tough, and their lives were intricately entwined with the world around them. I appreciated that Murray didn’t spare our modern sensibilities. Grooming bugs from each other’s skin, eating rotten meat, and “fear poop” aren’t very glamorous, but they added to the authenticity of the story. Her word choices—to describe the harsh environment, its rhythms and wild creatures, and the nature and skill of each member of her diverse group—bring life on Earth 1.8 million years ago into vivid relief.

For readers who enjoy a meticulously researched primitive world and the remarkable challenges faced by our evolutionary ancestors, I highly recommend this series. It’s fascinating. (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

New Release:

Letting Go (The Defiant Sisters, Book 1) by Jacquie Biggar

My favorite books from this author are the ones that dive into complex relationships, especially those between family members. This book checks all the boxes as a group of characters navigate the trauma, losses, and sacrifices they’ve made in their lives.

Renee fled her family after witnessing her father’s suicide. Her teenage sister Izzy, left behind with a family falling apart, had to hold it all together for their younger brother Benjamin. Simon, the boyfriend Renee abandoned without a goodbye is getting married, but he’s never forgotten her. Then Renee returns home when her mother dies, and all the difficult feelings bubble to the surface.

One major strength of the story is the way it had me rooting for every character. They’re richly drawn with authentic emotional lives, full of accomplishments as well as mistakes. There aren’t any villains beyond the unfairness of life, and it was easy to empathize with the protagonists’ anger, hurt, and love. Renee, Izzy, and Simon carry the three alternating POVs, all in first person.

The focus on human dynamics doesn’t slow down the story one bit. It moves at a good clip and I had a hard time putting it down. I read it in two sittings only because I needed to sleep in between. The action is compelling and toward the end, it’s riveting. It wrapped up well but with a sense of more to come in Book Two. It will be worth the wait. Highly Recommended! (Kindle Unlimited)

*****

New Release:

Saddled Hearts by Jan Sikes

What romance reader doesn’t love a cowboy who rescues and rehabilitates horses? That’s like, “You had me at hello.” When a stranger shows up at Colt Layne’s horse sanctuary, claiming that he won the ranch years ago in a card game with Colt’s deceased grandfather, Colt needs some answers. He visits long-time widow Sage Coventry, a medium with the ability to receive messages from the dead.

The attraction is immediate, but the couple takes their time getting to know each other, and there are problems worrying Colt. First a pasture fire, and then the stranger ends up dead and Colt is framed for murder. Cut fences and sick horses add to his suspicions that someone’s out to destroy him, and he needs to figure out who it is before he ends up in prison.

Romance and murder-mystery share the pages in equal proportion. There’s plenty of lusty attraction, including a steamy sex scene, and I think romance readers will find everything in here that they love about the genre.

The parallel mystery plot is also well done with some red herrings tossed into a mix of paranormal impressions, family secrets, old journals, and a mysterious key. There’s also an underlying theme dealing with choices, forgiveness, and redemption. Though this book can be read as a stand-alone, I highly recommend the entire series for fans of romance-paranormal-mystery mashups.

*****

Secrets in the Blood by Unity Hayes

(This book just got a new cover and pen name, so don’t be confused by the Amazon info. It’s the same book.)

Family secrets, murder, paranoia, romance, redemption. Cassidy Tanner works in a reproduction western town called The Watering Hole. It’s set up to give tourists a true old-time experience including gun fights and train robberies. Her grandfather owns the place and her brother-in-law Kenton is the sheriff. She’s in charge of hiring, and one day, Shane Weston comes looking for a job.

“West” is quiet and respectful, and he has secrets, including the scars crisscrossing his chest and back. He’s running from someone and looking for a safe place. Where better than the town where his brother Kenton lives? But is Kenton ready to accept the brother he’s always believed was paranoid? When people start dying, can West run and leave the woman he’s come to love?

This debut novel gripped my attention, and I read it in one day. Secrets added a lot of mystery, and at times, I questioned what was true and false. The characters were all richly developed. I connected with West and felt for his situation, but what was he hiding? I enjoyed Cassie’s no-nonsense strength, and though, most of the time, Kenton drove me nuts, he had good reason to question his brother’s stability.

The pace moved along quickly, full of action and suspense between interludes of romance. The town was cleverly realized, and the plot was intriguing with a few twists along the way. The story is told through multiple perspectives with some mid-scene POV changes that occasionally popped me out of the story. Even so, I highly recommend this novel to readers who enjoy mystery-thriller-romance mashups.

*****

Avian Friends: Encouraging Poems Inspired by Backyard Birds by Yvette Prior, Ph.D.

Avian friends starts with the author’s foreword on how the book came to be – the result of newly planted trees and journaling about the influx of winged visitors. The book is a collection of 45 free-form, lightly rhyming poems inspired by birds, and is appropriate for both adults and children.

The poetry is divided into five sections: Musings, Mixed Enjoyment, Life and Death, Seasons, and Faith. After each poem is a half-page “Behind the Poem,” which shares the author’s inspiration. I didn’t read all of the explanations, but for my favorite poems, it was delightful to get a glimpse into the avian happenings that inspired the verse.
A few favorite poems:
“Thought Whirls” – a peaceful and whimsical flight of the imagination.
“Connecting” – a lovely memory of the author’s grandmother leaving threads on her clothesline for birds to build their nests.
“New Life” – the sweetness of discovering a nest of baby birds.
“Fall Crunch” – a walk in the autumn leaves and spying a cardinal.

Fall Crunch (an excerpt)

Crunching leaves
beneath my feet
ice cracklin’ below
red, freezing nose
shivering
hoodie pulled close
waiting for the dog to get relief
looked up
what did I see?
bright red cardinal
looking at me –
(continued)

A lovely glimpse into the author’s thoughts as she observes the birds in her yard. Recommended to fans of birds and readers who enjoy free-form poetry with a light rhyme. Only available in paperback.

*****

New Release for Kids:

Haunted Halloween Holiday by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Count Sugular and his family are going to a Haunted House Halloween Party that promises to be great fun. Why not turn it into a weekend getaway? This delightful children’s book introduces many of its spooky characters with limericks. There’s Baby Howler, Skelly the Skeleton, Jiggle Jelly the pet sea monster, and a pair of trolls, to name a few.

The book is illustrated with fondant (frosting) characters, and though they’re spooky, they are generally happy and kind and enjoy time with their friends and family. This is a lovely read for parents and their young children who are just starting to discover the spookiness of Halloween. Only available in paperback.

*****

Happy Reading!

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 23

Welcome to Day 23 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 23, here we go!

acflory’s Blog: Meeka’s Mind

Andrea’s forte is science fiction, so her blog includes cool science and technology articles, but that’s not all by any means. She also shares progress on her writing, book reviews, music she loves (often to write by), and commentary on some of the wise and less-than-wise human endeavors that are happening around the world. She has one of those inquisitive minds and shares what she finds.

I’ve read all of Andrea’s books, including her novels and her collection of short stories. I’ve been bugging her for another book from her alien Vokhtah series, which she’s diligently working on. It’s a story written entirely from an alien POV, which intrigues me no end.

Her Innerscape series is complete, and it’s riveting. Here’s a review:

Miira (Innerscape Book One) by acflory

My Review: What a beautifully written book. Innerscape is a science fiction story about a middle-aged woman Miira whose disease-ravaged body is dying. She decides to enter Innercape where her body will be pared down to her essential components and preserved while she lives out her life in a virtual world as a younger, healthy version of herself.

The first book in the series covers two aspects of her immersion in Innerscape – first, the preparation of her new body and the tests to prepare for her transition, and second, the transition into the VR world and her orientation. As a series, the story continues beyond the initial book, and Flory hooks the reader with the introduction of several challenging characters, corporate compromises, questionable ethics, and love.

The science is detailed and utterly entrancing, as well as completely understandable to the layperson. The premise and technology also seem entirely plausible, if not now, then in the not-so-distant future. Flory’s writing is meticulous and detailed, and the world she’s created held my fascination throughout.

And all that wasn’t even the best part! Set against the scientific backdrop, is an engrossing human story. Miira is reserved, sensitive, inquisitive, and vulnerable, a beautifully rendered human being undergoing a process that requires complete trust and a step into the unknown. The story is told primarily from her point of view and the immersion in her experience is complete. The Innerscape staff that supports her are multidimensional and believably flawed characters.

The pace is steady and yet I flew through the book because I could NOT put it down. Exquisite writing, gorgeous descriptions, high-tech science, and human pathos that grab the reader. I’m a fan and gladly recommend this book to readers of science fiction and anyone who enjoys an unusual human story.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Andrea’s blog: Meeka’s Mind.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 22

Welcome to Day 22 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 22, here we go!

Miriam Hurdle’s Blog: Showers of Blessings

Miriam is one of the nicest bloggers around. She always has a kind word for her visitors and is happy to engage. She shares tidbits about her family and her latest projects – including raising endangered Monarch butterflies. How cool is that! Her posts are eclectic as she partakes in a number of writing challenges including poetry and flash fiction, and shares her photography and book reviews. She’s always willing to lend a hand when it’s time for a release.

Miriam is an eclectic writer too and has three published books: A poetry collection, a children’s book, and her just-released memoir about her battle with cancer, titled The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival.

The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival by Miriam Hurdle

My Review: I read this short book in an afternoon, the same day I picked up my husband after his cancer surgery. It struck a chord, and the author’s journey, though intensely personal, resonated.

Hurdle kept a diary from the time of her hysterectomy and the discovery of cancer, through her treatment, and onward to her recovery. Her cancer wasn’t only extremely rare, but her prognosis was bleak. She relates the events of her journey with a great deal of honesty and courage.

One of the important lessons I noted from reading her story is the need for patients (and their families) to advocate for themselves and their loved ones. For example, Hurdle describes long waits for information and finally driving to her physician’s office and refusing to leave the waiting room until she received the help she needed.

She also shares the kindness and competence of her treatment team, as well as the huge difference her church and community made in supporting her with rides, meals, and prayers. The love of her family and friends and her strong faith were important contributors to her emotional strength when her physical body was being devastated by the disease and treatment (intense chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries).

This book is a worthwhile read for anyone supporting a cancer patient. And I highly recommend it to those brave souls who are facing their own diagnoses and are seeking strength and wisdom through another survivor’s story.

***

If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Miriam’s blog: Showers of Blessings.