Indie Book Reviews: Part I

The best thing about spending the last 2 months driving between Oregon and Washington, living out of a suitcase, and ignoring my bossy muse has been catching up on reading. Indie books were gifts from heaven!

It’s been a while since I’ve shared reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. These are in no particular order. And there are more to come!

 

A Thousand Yesteryears

by Mae Clair

Intriguing plot and believable characters. At the death of her aunt, Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant to sell off the family hotel. Not only is the town known for sightings of a fantastical creature, the mothman, it’s also the location of a bridge collapse that, fifteen years ago, claimed the life of Eve’s father and friend. That tragedy still hangs over the town, and Eve has no plans to stay.

But her old crush Caden Flynn still lives in town, a man haunted by the events of the collapse that took his sister’s life. The truth about what happened that day begins to unravel when the home of Eve’s aunt is vandalized, and she begins receiving threatening notes. Someone wants her gone, even if he needs to kill her.

The story is a high-paced paranormal thriller with vivid worldbuilding and a touch of romance. The plot holds together well with all pieces falling into place. The characters are emotionally rich and thoroughly credible, not only the main characters but those on the periphery. I was intrigued by the mothman and its mysterious relationship to the events. Excellent fun and highly recommended. I’m eager to read more of the series.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Survival of the Fittest

by Jacqui Murray

Fascinating world-building. I seem to have developed a taste for prehistoric fiction. After reading Murray’s Born in a Treacherous Time, I was looking forward to her next foray into the dawn of man. This book takes place 850,000 years after Born in a Treacherous Time and is the first book in a trilogy. It’s not a stand-alone novel so be prepared to move on to Book 2 when it comes out.

The plot of the story is something of a quest as three separate groups of early man abandon their home-bases in search of safer ones. A changing climate, dwindling resources, and danger from a growing number of aggressive tribes drive them onward.

To some extent, the first half of the book is three separate stories, one for each group. They join into one larger group about mid-way through the read, and the rest of the book deals with the choices made to procure peace and ensure their survival. Subplots and characters add flavor to the story, all in the well-researched context of prehistoric life where, naturally, the norms are different than they are today.

One group dominates more of the book than the other two. The main character is a female leader, Xhosa. Her responsibility is to protect her people from a variety of dangers, particularly from other humans, while they search for a new home. She’s a complex character, thoughtful and ingenious, and callous as needed in a world where the weak jeopardize the entire group.

Secondary characters have distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks which add complexity to the “human” tale. There are power struggles, deceptions, kindnesses, and wisdom. The world-building is a fascinating foray into prehistoric landscapes. Though fiction, Murray deftly brought to life a time we have little record of. Highly recommended.

Global Link to Amazon

***

 

Short & Not Always Sweet

by Dorinda Duclos

Stories to savor. Duclos offers a generous selection of over 60 short stories, pieces of poetic prose, and flash fiction in a compilation that kept me enthralled for an entire afternoon. The writing is lovely, evocative, and in many cases emotional. Some pieces are lyrical and heartfelt reflections with themes centered on nature, serenity, and empowerment. Others are dark forays into ghostly hauntings and the realms of murder and revenge. Some of my favorites are Patience, Dusk, Wilted, and I Am. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon or to savor over a week, one page at a time.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Happy Reading!

Short Story Collections – Settle in and Read

Right about now, I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than sitting outside in the spring sunshine, nibbling on strawberries, and reading. (For those in the southern hemisphere, just turn it around, and contemplate those cool, comfortable autumn days of hot cocoa and swirling leaves).

Short stories somehow complete the picture, and I wanted to share my 5-STAR reviews for 3 short story collections that I enjoyed over the winter. All beautifully written, all with a broad variety of stories, all wonderfully entertaining. I hope one or two or all three appeal to you.

Global links to Amazon are below the books, and if you want to connect with any of these three wonderful bloggers, click on their names. ❤

Ripples on the Pond

by Sebnem Sanders

Ripples on the Pond is a mesmerizing collection of short stories. I was swept into Sanders’ imagination from the very first selection, Through the Wings of Time, and it ended up being a favorite. But that was only the beginning of this generous collection of 71 stories, all different, all exceptional reads and beautifully edited. The stories wade through numerous genres and topics including the whimsey of magic, the pain of loss, the marvel of friendship, and the cost of crime, to name a scant few. Sander’s range is remarkable and no two stories are alike, a feat considering the size of this collection.

Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey, who now lives on the Southern Aegean, thus many of the stories have an international flavor that I enjoyed (and also made we want to travel). I love literature that transports me to different settings and cultures where the wide range of human experience and emotion feels so familiar – just another reason among many to dive into this read. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a wide variety of wonderfully crafted short stories.

***

The Storyteller Speaks

by Annika Perry

Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.

The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.

I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.

***

What’s in a Name, Vol. 2

by Sally Cronin

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

(You can read my review of What’s in a Name, Vol. 1 here.)

Happy Reading!

Book of the Month… Catling’s Bane

Click on cover for Global Amazon Link

There are few online surprises quite as delightful as popping onto WP in the morning and finding an unexpected review of your book.

Or better yet, that your creation has earned a little limelight. I was grinning on Monday morning when I discovered Catling’s Bane was selected as Book of the Month on Kevin Cooper’s – KC Books and Music.

He wrote a lovely review earlier in July:

 

 

 

Already a great fan of D. Wallace Peach’s work it came as no surprise to find myself fully engrossed in each chapter as I read through this first installment of The Rose Shield. Any story that starts with hanging day is bound to bait the reader to some extent, but with her usual storytelling skills, Peach completely hooks and reels you in. The story is complex, the characters are strong, and the creatures are fantastic. The powers wielded for good and evil are unique. There seems to be no limitations to D. Wallace Peach’s ability to write gripping fantasy. I cannot even imagine what the next great installment will bring.

Thanks, Kevin!

A couple other bloggers have added to the smiles:

D. Wallace Peach creates an utterly original, lush and cohesive world inhabited by well-developed and multi-dimensional characters we instantly care about (even the minor ones), all the more so as the plot unfolds. And what a plot it is — no copycat fiction or cliche devices here. The concept of “influence” as an accepted part of life is not only entertaining but thought provoking; and the author’s attention to detail on how influence works grabs hold and will thrill true high fantasy readers who value intelligent rationale for magic. All I can say is … prepare to lose some sleep over this one. And the final chapter leads to a cliffhanger that will leave readers desperate for Book II.

I am a lifelong reader of fantasy, and out of what I’d guess to be nearly 1,000 books read to date, this book series is in my top five. Catling’s Bane is easily on par with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle series), Karen Miller (the “Mage” series) and Glenda Larke (Stormlord series). I’m confident that many readers will, like me, add this one to their top shelf.

Kevin reviewed Erik’s book: The Best Advice So Far (also a book of the month feature).

***

In D. Wallace Peach’s Catling’s Bane, the first installment in the Rose Shield trilogy, the young Catlin lives in a world of poverty, repression, and inhumanity. When still a toddler, her mother sells her for whatever she can get, which is where Catling’s life looks up. Her new family is loving, caring, humane, with a family pig business that requires working children to run. They sell their piglets at a weekly market which coincides with hanging days–when the overflow residents of the prison are hanged to make room for others. To make this acceptable to the population, the ruling class uses ‘influencers’ to throw a web of happiness and contentment out over everyone in the crowd. People–even family members–gleefully watch their friends and neighbors killed. But Catling has the power to break that web, penetrate it, and allow others to see the horror of murder lurking below the pleasant emotions. When stakeholders on both sides of this system find out she has this ability, her life changes forever.

What an excellent start to this trilogy. The characters are strong. The passion obvious. The plot addicting. Peach’s ability to weave words into glorious pictures of events and places is perfectly matched to the fantasy world she has created. The details of this environment are exquisite and believable:

“Riverfolk moored up at the docks with skiffs bearing buckets of silver eels and glass bottles dense with luminescence. Ferries plied their way up from Ava-Grea delivering merchants and travelers from distant tiers. Pulled by waterdragons, the vessels bucked the swift current. The creatures’ green-scaled heads reared through the surface, tapered snouts sprayed clouds of mist, and fins stroked the water like wings. The voyage complete, tall rivermasters with white hair flowing like waterfalls beckoned the creatures in. They slipped off tethering ropes, and the waterdragons dove.”

Highly recommended to anyone who loves fantasy adventure and big dreams.

Kevin reviewed Jacqui’s book: Twenty-four Days just this week.

***

If you’re intrigued…

Catling’s Bane will be free this weekend.  ❤

5-Star Reads: No More Mulberries and Atonement, Tennessee

My writing break has freed up some precious time for reading, and I have two more reviews to share. These books are quite different. I hope you give one or both a try. 😀

Click on Cover for Global  Amazon Link

No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith

My Review: Where do I even start with all the things I loved about this book? The story is about Miriam, a Scottish midwife who first fell deeply in love with an Afghan and then with his country. It’s a story about love and loss, fear and courage, and the strength of family and the human spirit.

In many ways, this story could be told anywhere in the world as individuals, couples, and families aren’t that different from each other no matter where we find them. Miriam’s story and her emotional struggles are deeply relatable. Her search for self, her struggle to balance her various roles, to fill expectations and have her expectations filled, and her commitment to her family and community could be anyone’s story.

But Miriam’s tale doesn’t take place anywhere in the world. It unfolds in 1995 Afghanistan. The book portrays a multi-dimensional country with remote villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years to more modern communities with a forward-leaning vision of the future. And though it’s clear in the story that love is love, family is family, and people are people, the narrative reveals the stark differences in the lives of those people marked by isolation and all it entails, and those who have high hopes for education, healthcare, and their country. Miriam’s story is deftly intertwined with the story of a country and its people, and I loved it all.

Smith’s years in Afghanistan give the read it’s undeniable authenticity, and her skill as a storyteller shines. She doles out the backstory details in small doses. They’re little gems that slowly illuminate the present story and build understanding while increasing tension and a desire for resolution. Settings are well described, the pace is steady, and characterization is flawless. I stayed up late and lost some sleep over this one.

One beautiful book that I highly recommend.

Click on Cover for Global Amazon Link

Atonement, Tennessee

by Teagan Geneviene

My Review: Esmeralda is a new arrival in the town of Atonement. She’s purchased an old estate that comes with its own cemetery and some interesting trespassers – a marvelous gang of gal-pals, an irresistible florist/handyman, and a mysterious, handsome neighbor. The magic starts off almost immediately while “Ralda” waits for the moving van and starts settling into her new life.

The tale is full of whimsy as ancient magic threads through the home and cemetery. Ralda is curious but not particularly fearful, and I enjoyed her level-headed, low key approach to the strange noises and events happening around her. The story is told mainly from her point of view. The exception is Lilith, her cat, who witnesses some of the magic but isn’t able to fill her owner in on the details.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters. If you enjoy strong female characters and genuine friendships, you won’t be disappointed. Ralda has a wry sense of humor and authentic voice. Geneviene does a great job with her internal dialog and with character interactions as a whole. The gal-pals are a delight, well-rounded individuals with a nice balance of wit and sensitivity.

Alongside the unfolding mysteries that inhabit the property, a second plotline centers on a darker “real”-life theme, which wraps up cleanly in the end. The main plot around the home’s magic and Ralda’s role in the mystery leaves a few loose ends and questions that might lend themselves toward a sequel. The minor danglers did not impact my delight in the overall story.

A light and magical read for all ages.

I’ll be taking a short break (offline) to head north and visit family.
Have a great week. ❤

Two More Summer Reads: Blogger book reviews

I usually read in bed at night and pass out after one or two chapters. One book can easily take a whole month to read. Not so while on vacation. Here are two more reviews of blogger books that I read during my trip to Colorado. Enjoy.

Eclipse Lake

by Mae Clair

A blend of mystery and romance with strong characters.

Eclipse Lake is one part cozy mystery and one part romance. The story focuses on Dane Carlisle, a teenage lost-cause who grew up and turned his life around to become a multi-millionaire. He returns to his hometown with his adopted son, hoping to make amends with his older brother. But memories of the teenage Dane persist, and the discovery of an old skull raises more suspicions about his past. Set against Dane’s dark history and the current turmoil is his fairytale romance with a spunky photo-journalist who’s in town shooting pictures of the scenic lake.

The conflict between the three male characters – Dane, his teenage son, and his older brother – was what hooked me on the book. All well-rounded characters, they were emotionally genuine and likable, but also flawed. The relationships were convincingly volatile, and the emotional arcs felt authentic. Clair did a nice job with the cast of secondary characters and the quaint setting – a small mountain town where everyone knows everyone’s business. The story moves speedily along during the action and conflict scenes, and slows to a leisurely pace during romantic interludes.

Eclipse Lake is a well-constructed story with clean writing and some unexpected twists. Readers who enjoy mysteries, family secrets, and a strong romantic thread will love this book.

What’s in a Name

My Sally G. Cronin

Twenty stories by a master storyteller

What’s in a Name is a delightful collection of 20 short stories organized alphabetically by the names of the main characters. A few stories are dark, some are magical or humorous, and many close with a sense of poignancy.

Cronin is a marvelous storyteller, and for a reader, spending an afternoon immersed in the lives of the people behind the names is time well-spent. For me, the last story in the collection “Jack” was the icing on the cake, but all the stories are unique and well worth the read. Highly recommended for any reader who enjoys short stories about the human journey.

Happy Reading!

Summer Reading – 2 Reviews

Nap or read?

It was the main decision I had to make while visiting my parents in Colorado. Poor me, right? Well, reading won out!

Fortunately, my ipad was (is) crammed with books, and I had a pile to choose from. I’m happy to kick off a couple of reviews of fellow bloggers’ books.

A Thousand Rooms

by Helen Jones

My review:

Keep a box of tissues at your elbow for this one! A Thousand Rooms had me red-eyed and snuffling. This is a character-driven book with a simple plot: Katie, newly dead and unfortunately overlooked in her transition from life, goes on a quest to find “her heaven” and travels through a series of manifestations (rooms) before she finds her own.

Jones draws on a variety of mystical traditions and beliefs to design the experience of being dead and the concepts of heaven, soul mates, and reincarnation. These were interesting, but what I loved, loved, loved about his book was the incredibly touching and heartfelt expressions of human emotions, particularly grief and sorrow and, ultimately, of pure love.

Jones writes beautifully. Descriptions are rich, and the characters, even those on the periphery, are wonderfully developed. As the main character, Katie is thoroughly relatable with a wide range of emotions including some delightful sarcasm. I found her personal evolution compelling as her earthly concerns slip away and she discovers the essence of who she is and the point of her journey. Katie’s realization of what it means to live a blessed life is uplifting and full of hope. Highly recommended for readers who love character-driven books and want to feel inspired.

Death by Pumpkin

by Noelle Granger

My review:

Death by Pumpkin was my second read in Granger’s Rhe Brewster series and a pure joy ride. Rhe is a single mom, ER nurse, and police department consultant in the small Maine town of Pequod. She, once again, takes an active role in a police department investigation when the pumpkin-drop at a local festival reveals a murder. She rapidly goes from investigator to target as an old nemesis is determined to make her and those she cares for suffer.

The book is fast-paced and well-researched. The scene in the small plane was particularly riveting and highlighted Granger’s attention to detail. Other than the villain, the characters are all beautifully three-dimensional and full of quirky personality. I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay in the authentic relationships. In addition to the murder investigation, romantic and political subplots add interest and tension. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with plenty of thrills.

More to come!

 

 

 

Indie Book Reviews: Part II

Once again, while I’m away, I’m catching up on posting the book reviews that I completed over the past few months. This is Part Two. Comments are open, but since I’m still off the internet grid, it will be a bit longer before I can reply. Please click through and check out a wonderful blogger’s site. Or, better yet, try out a book! Enjoy!

my-vibrating-vertebraeMy Vibrating Vertebrae: and other poems by Agnes Mae Graham 

A wonderful collection of poems by Agnes Mae Graham, saved and published by her children C. Graham and L. J. Baker as a tribute to her mother. I read this book over a weekend. Many of the poems are playfully clever, a clear sign of Ms. Graham’s robust sense of humor. She even titled one “Nonsense Rhyme.” Yet she also writes poignantly about her love of home and family, and the trials of life including a beautiful piece about the war “The Terror and The Tears.” The poems stand on their own, but they also provide a sweet glimpse of the poet and her life. A great read.

Chris Graham’s Blog: The Story Reading Ape
Amazon Universal Link: My Vibrating Vertebrae

 

dog-boneDog Bone Soup by Bette Stevens 

Dog Bone Soup is an engaging tale set in the 1950’s and 1960’s and though Stevens indicates that the book will speak to boomers, in particular, the family drama and the emotional world of the characters are timeless and relatable. The story follows the oldest brother in the family, Shawn Daniels, a boy whose young life is burdened by dire poverty and an abusive, alcoholic father. His proud mother does the best she can for her children, and Shawn becomes a man before his time, helping to support the family.

Though the story deals with a struggling child in a tough situation, the book has many moments of childhood humor and delight, especially between the brothers. Shawn not only survives his rough start but comes through as a strong individual with solid values and high personal integrity.

Stevens writing is captivating, raw and sweet, with well-drawn characters. I read the prequel “White Trash” prior to this book, however, I feel that Dog Bone Soup easily stands on its own. A compelling read about childhood resilience and growth into manhood.

Bette Steven’s Blog: 4 Writers and Readers
Amazon Universal Link: Dog Bone Soup

 

conflicted-heartsConflicted Hearts by D. G. Kaye 

D. G. Kaye writes a compelling narrative about her narcissistic mother who whirled through Kaye’s childhood life like a tornado, prone to rages, self-absorbed, and unreliable as a parent. Her father was in and out of the household, his relationship with his wife volatile, and Kaye remembers dreading his next departure and worrying that he might not return at the end of each day.

It wasn’t until she turned 18 and left home that she was able to begin looking back at her life, evaluating the dynamics of her relationship with her mother, and making choices for her own well-being.

Conflicted Hearts doesn’t read as a story as much as it does a reflection on Kaye’s life and emotional growth. For those who grew up in emotionally chaotic households, the dynamics of blame and guilt will sound familiar. The constant worry, the burden of responsibility for siblings, and the desperate need to keep the peace will ring bells.

Kaye’s writing is candid with bits of humor and some light moments of joy in her journey of growth. The message of the book speaks to the strength of a positive attitude and outlook, and the role of forgiveness in moving forward. If you love memoirs and reflections on personal growth, this book will hit the mark.

Debby Kaye’s Blog: D. G. Kaye Writer
Amazon Universal Link: Conflicted Hearts 

 

twin-desiresTwin Desires by Pamela Wight and Ashley Brandt 

Twin Desires accomplished it’s twin goals with plenty of romance and a thrilling plot. Sandra Eastman is making a comfortable life for herself when corporate CEO Blake Sinclair takes an interest. Unfortunately, his attentions coincide with the escape from prison of Blake’s psychotic twin brother. Alex has one goal – to murder his brother and flee with his fortune. Sandra is a pawn in a deadly plot between a brother who loves her and his twin who wants to kill her. Wright has developed distinctive characters with a lot of personality and fun dialog. Frequent point of view shifts took some getting used to, but otherwise, Wright’s writing is on the mark. A fast-paced and suspenseful read. Lovers of romantic thrillers will have a great time with this one.

Pam Wight’s Blog: Roughwighting
Amazon Universal Link: Twin Desires

 

poetic-ritualsPoetic Rituals by Ritu Bhathal 

Bhathal’s Poetic Rituals is a collection of poems that explores life’s rituals, those of a mother, wife, lover, and teacher. There are real gems in here with lovely imagery, humor, passion, and ambivalence. My favorite poems were the lighthearted rhymes about being a mother of young children. A great read to visit and browse throughout the day.

 

Ritu Bhathal’s Blog: But I Smile Anyway
Amazon Universal Link: Poetic RITUals