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