Autumn has arrived in Oregon with some welcome rain. I’m sure you haven’t missed that I’m in the midst of a book tour. Huge thanks to everyone who’s stopped by, commented on posts, and checked out my talented hosts’ books!
Some of you may know that my husband has been navigating the emotional road of a cancer diagnosis. It’s not something I shared widely, but I wanted to thank those who knew for their kind words of support. He had successful surgery about a month ago and his cancer is officially gone! Yay! That journey is over. ❤
Today was supposed to be a tour day with the lovely author Chris Hall. She’s recovering from a bout of ill health and had to step away from her blog for a while, but I’m so grateful for her willingness. I’ve included last year’s review of her book Spirit of the Shell Man in the reviews below in appreciation for her kindness.
September’s reviews include my 4 and 5-star reads of two paranormal cozy mysteries, a touching memoir, a western-paranormal-romance mash-up, and a YA fantasy.
Click on the covers for Amazon global links.
Spirit of the Shell Man by Chris Hall
This is Book 2 in the series, and I enjoyed getting together with the same quirky and delightful characters from Book 1: Song of the Sea Goddess. The series isn’t named, and the books may not need to be read in order, but I’m glad I did since there are a number of details that happen chronologically.
As with the first book, the characters were my favorite part of the read. They’re quirky and good-hearted, and thoroughly believable with distinct voices and personalities. There aren’t any dastardly bad guys, and though a few greedy interlopers are creating problems in the South African seaside village, it’s the group of main characters, their kind relationships, and the multiple mysteries that carry the story.
The pace is quite fast, and I read the book in two sittings. The action scenes were well written, especially the time spent in the underground tunnels (which accounted for my decision to finish the book rather than sleep). Similar to the first book, the loose plot is light and whimsical with all kinds of strange and supernatural elements, mysterious notebooks and puzzle boxes, underground tunnels, spirits, magical creatures, and ordinary creatures acting magically. The story has an African “myths and legends” feel to it which I really liked. Recommended for fantasy readers who enjoy great characters and a whimsical adventure.
The Haunting of Chatham Hollow by Mae Clair and Staci Troilo
Co-authored books intrigue me. How do the writers blend their pieces of a story so well that I don’t notice differences in pace, detail, or skill? This cozy mystery/paranormal ghost story takes place in two time periods – 1888 and 2022. The authors split the task by time frame, and the differences in their styles played perfectly into voice and tone.
The plot of his novel is complex, and at 500 pages, it’s not a quick read. The pace moves steadily and the tension continually ramps up. Each timeline climaxes with an ill-fated séance in the Chatham Manor, the events conducted by spiritualists and attended by both citizens and ghosts. Hidden gold, betrayals, mistakes, revenge, and curses weave together in this tale with a dangerous subplot and some big red herrings. There’s also love, loyalty, and a goofy sheepdog.
In the 19th-century plot line, I enjoyed all the characters, especially Victor whose gentility, restraint, and sentiments were wonderfully written. The authentic belief in spiritualism at the time was fascinating. In the present timeline, my favorite parts were sections of banter embedded in the excellent dialog. The main character Aiden is verbally outgunned by a number of women including his grandmother, and he doesn’t stand a chance.
This story has great characters, exciting action, and a multi-layered plot. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist. (Kindle Unlimited.)
The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival by Miriam Hurdle
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 the 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. (Kindle Unlimited.)
Geller’s Find by Sandra Cox
Luke Geller is a college professor planning to enjoy the last few weeks of his summer digging for potsherds in Nevada. In Cox’s western-romance-paranormal mash-ups, I just knew Luke was in for an unexpected ride through time. He finds himself in 1882, oddly dressed and, for all intents and purposes, homeless. He also finds himself in the company of Lily, the young owner of a ranch who’s struggling to hold onto her place. Stryker, a man of questionable character, wants to buy her out, and Luke is curious as to why. And then there’s the shooter who’s taking aim at Lily and her household.
I’ve come to expect great characters from Cox—independent women, handsome and endearing men, and strong-willed antagonists. Luke, Lily, and Stryker fit the bill, but there are some great secondary characters in this book as well, particularly the flirtatious Saffron, shy and vision-impaired Taffy, and Luke’s mom, a character that had me laughing out loud toward the end.
The plot holds together well with some red herrings tossed in, and I liked the two-way time travel in this book, which added a fun twist. The romance isn’t steamy or gushy, which I really appreciated. And the pace is lickety-split. I polished off the book in half a day. Highly recommended to fans of western romance with a bit of time travel and a lot of great characters. (Kindle Unlimited.)
Library Lost by Laurie Graves (The Great Library book #2)
Book Two in The Great Library series picks up where Book One concluded. The Great Library is in danger, and the villains’ plot to gain control of the Books of Everything and control the vastness of knowledge puts more than one planet at risk. Teenage Maya and her young friend Viola use the magical books to travel through time and space, not only to thwart the villains, but to rescue those in jeopardy.
The settings are immersive, and each planet they visit is unique, from the medieval, magical forest of Ilyria to Cinnial’s oppressive, technological world. The pace moves along well, and in this complex plot, there are a lot of threads happening simultaneously. Multiple worlds and storylines generated a large number of secondary and ancillary characters, which required some focus to keep straight.
The main protagonists are distinct and fully developed, while the villains are thoroughly ruthless with few redeemable qualities. Maya is a formidable heroine, but what I enjoyed most were the magical books, which possessed an ability to talk. The books have varied personalities from devious to crabby to kind and full of wisdom.
The omniscient POV provides some distance for the reader, which softens some of the violence. That and the age of the protagonists make the story appropriate for precocious middle-grade readers and up. The books don’t stand alone, and this one ends without much resolution as the story continues, so be prepared to read onward. Recommended for young fantasy readers who love an epic magical tale. (Kindle Unlimited.)