Yes, it’s only the middle of August, but travels have messed up my schedule. Fortunately, my reading hasn’t suffered, and I have some great books for you, all read between tromping up the trails.
I need to share the reviews before they pile up any higher.
This bunch of reviews is for 4 and 5-star reads including a personal growth book, an ageless illustrated book about love, an uplifting holiday novelette, two books from a series of thriller romances, two installments of a fantasy serial, and last but not least, a horror short story. Phew!
Click on the covers for Amazon global links.
Alternate Reality by Erik Tyler
I’ve read Tyler’s other books and was eager to dive into his latest. Like his previous works, I’d categorize this one as a guide for personal growth, full of practical advice for living a happier and more conscious life as we navigate this complex world. Can’t go wrong with that at a time when politics, biases, and life’s challenges drive wedges between people and create so much hardship and stress.
As the title suggests, the book focuses on our perceptions of reality, and that by challenging our preconceived beliefs about people and situations, we might learn something new, let go of erroneous first impressions, form healthy boundaries, or make new friends. Or all of the above. Choice plays a huge role, with reminders that we may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can always choose how we respond.
Tyler relies heavily on personal anecdotes, which makes for a highly relatable and often humorous read. He illustrates the situation, his initial thinking, how the challenge resolved, and what he learned through perceiving things in a fresh way. Invariably, the change in outlook is insightful, empathetic, and positive.
Each chapter ends with a few questions for reflection that readers can use to personalize his experience and advice. Though I browsed the questions alone on a long plane ride, they would work wonderfully in an informal or formal group setting. Highly recommended to humans who want to reduce stress and live a kinder, happier, and more conscious life. (Kindle Unlimited).
The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This is a beautiful book of gentle wisdom that reminded me of Pooh’s insights as he navigates the Hundred Acre Woods with his friends. But in this case, the conversations about life and love occur between a boy, a mole, a fox, and a horse.
“Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing to give up.”
The “print” of the book is hand-inked, giving it a whimsical and natural look similar to a journal. Simple, elegant, and beautiful illustrations appear on every page. The book is a short one that can be read in about 30 minutes, but it’s definitely worth savoring, especially if reading to a child.
“I’ve realized why we are here,” whispered the boy.
“For cake?” asked the mole.
“To love,” said the boy.
“And be loved,” said the horse.
A stunning, magical read that I love having on my shelf and plan to give away as gifts during the coming year. Highly recommended.
(My note: The kindle version of this one is more expensive than the hardcover, so I recommend the hardcover).
A Long Walk Home by D. L. Finn
It’s Christmas Eve, and Kenzie is in a horrible mood. She was supposed to get married on Christmas Day, but her fiancé decided to marry her best friend, Joy. On her long walk home, Kenzie growls at shoppers, almost gets hit by a car, and tells off her ex-friend. Then she finds a homeless cat with kittens and things begin to change. Not without a nudge from a pair of kindly angels.
This Christmas novelette is less than an hour’s read. I enjoy stories that show how loving others ultimately opens the door to love in one’s life. There’s a sense of karmic peace in that. And perhaps there’s a bit of karmic comeuppance for the fiancé too. A quick, enjoyable holiday story that I happily recommend.
Summer Lovin’ by Jacquie Biggar
Five years ago, caught up in the moment, Rebecca and Mitch tied the knot in Vegas, and the next day, Mitch received the paperwork for a separation. Fast forward to the present, and somehow the divorce still hasn’t happened. Both of them live in the small town of Tidal Falls and though they try to avoid each other, their attraction is as strong as ever. Then Rebecca befriends a pair of abused children and makes herself a target of the abuser. No way is Mitch going to let anything happen to any of them.
The pace never lets up. The stakes are sky-high right from page one with the two young brothers in jeopardy, and the danger they’re in makes this a page-turner right up until the end. The characters were distinct and authentic, and I connected with them all (except the bad guys—a pair of creeps I loved to hate).
This 90-minute story can be read as a stand-alone, though it was fun to know the secondary characters’ backstories from previous books. I finished it in one sitting, and I count it as one of my favorites of the series. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy an action-packed thriller with a lovely romance tying it all together. (Kindle Unlimited).
Maggie’s Revenge by Jacquie Biggar
In Book 6, the series comes around to Maggie’s escape from the Mexican drug and human trafficker Chenglei, a story that’s been hovering in the background for several books. This installment of the series is full of action and danger as Maggie leads a number of enslaved women into the Mexican desert with the bad guys in hot pursuit. They want information from Maggie, a DEA agent, and they want to make an example of them all.
Running parallel to Maggie’s struggle to keep “her girls” alive is Adam and Frank’s race against time to find her and bring her home. Here’s where the romance elements of this thriller/romance mash-up share the narrative. Adam, Maggie’s DEA partner, had a relationship with her, and though now’s not the time to be thinking about other women, he’s fallen for his boss Amanda. Frank is in love with Maggie but doesn’t want to step on Adam’s toes.
The pace is snappy as the goal to recover Maggie drives the story. The characters stay focused, even with Adam’s daydreaming about sex, and all the characters were believable to me. Maggie steals the show with her toughness and single-minded determination, and she carries the story right up until the end. This book can be read as a stand-alone or as part of the whole series. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy romance/thriller mash-ups with lots of action. (Kindle Unlimited).
Dead of Winter, Journey 13 by Teagan Riordain Geneviene
In this penultimate book to the Dead of Winter serial, signs are evident that the action is wrapping up. The battle between Arawn’s army of the dead and the Deae Matres’s force of sisters, returned spirits, and fickle goddesses has begun. The water goddess Coventina aids the Deae Matres in a sea battle with some wonderful action.
Most of this Journey is in Emlyn’s POV. She becomes the youngest member of the society, and though the other women wish to protect her, she’s embracing her pivotal role as one of the three who will repair the veil separating the dead from the living. It’s clear that she’s matured during the course of the story and, no longer a helpless child, she’s coming into her power.
The pace moves along well with a focus on the concluding action. Emlyn doesn’t participate in the battle, but views it through a mirror, giving the reader a high-level overview. The number of characters requires paying attention, but the author includes a handy glossary at the end to forestall any confusion. I’m looking forward to the final book in the series, which I’m going to start right Now!
Dead of Winter, Journey 14 by Teagan Riordain Geneviene
The final installment in the Dead of Winter serial! The battle with Arawn is over, yet the dead are still loose in the world of the living. The group of protagonists continue to encounter the dead and mop up the world in some excellent fighting scenes, and Emlyn has some tough choices to make. The magical staffs, gems, weapons, and spells all come together, wrapping up a number of threads from the story.
The action ends at about the halfway point of this journey and the denouement begins. For a long and complex story, the extended conclusion makes sense as the author touches on the main characters’ relationships and plans for the future. I was delighted with several of the results. A highly recommended serial to readers who love long epic fantasies and enjoy getting immersed in extensive and continually evolving world-building.
The BEK Curse by Jonathan Pongratz
BEK refers to Black-Eyed Kids, creepy children with solid black eyes that terrorize rural areas. In this short story, Richard and Maria are starting a new life on a farm when they have an encounter with black-eyed kids that goes very wrong. The narrative is fairly straightforward and reminded me of Twilight Zone episodes I used to watch as a kid. A creepy tale with a bit of a twist. Recommended to readers who enjoy quick horror reads. (Kindle Unlimited).