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As of 28 February 2016, due to decline in my health and chronic illness

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review of Jaguar Sun by Martha Bourke

In an era in which the Mayan prophecy-allegedly announcing the end of the world in December 2012-has been the subject of fascination, fear, anxiety, and fact-finding, author Martha Bourke approaches the topic from a completely different perspective. What if the TRUTH about this “prophecy” was known? What if that Truth is known only to one person-a sixteen-year-old girl? Such is the premise of “Jaguar Sun.”

Poor, poor Maya-not only does she bear the name of a primarily extinct culture, she is Hispanic, attends a primarily Hispanic New Mexico high school-and doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. Her dreams are plagued by shadow animals, which then begin appearing in the day; her mother abandoned her at age four, and her Mayan grandmother is her only hope of a confidant for her experiences. She sure can’t talk about to about-to-be-ex boyfriend Matt, or even her best friends, the irrepressible Vasquez twins.

“Jaguar Sun” is such a delightful book that the reader will be immediately captivated (I want to give it 10 stars of 5 ). Martha Bourke has a knack for being hip with the slang, perceptions, and attitudes of her protagonist’s age group (and cultural dichotomy!) and doesn’t spare it in giving readers characters we can truly relate to and with whom we can easily empathise. This book is very fast-paced, partly because it’s simply so enjoyable, the reader is turning pages and racing on, not even thinking of it as a “story,” but rather as an “experience”-an experience in delight!

Review of Baker's Dozen by Troy McCombs

Baker's DozenBaker's Dozen by Troy McCombs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


An appropriately titled collection of thirteen stories from a prolific author toiling in the fields of horror, “Baker’s Dozen” depicts the many and various intersections of the ordinary, mundane, existence we call “consensus reality” with an abundance of unseen universes and dimensions and probabilities. In Author Troy McCombs’ perception, most if not all of these unseen multiverses are evil, corrupt, or hungry for consumption of humanity. Take for example, the poor trio in “Beneath the Soil,” three widely disparate individuals who fear to go outdoors-because outdoors contains grass, soil, or sand-all of which could be ultimately-and immediately fatal. Perhaps what is worst for these individuals is not that their encounters are poetic justice, but rather that they have done naught to deserve encountering other dimensions of malicious intent.



This story collection is billed as “Lovecraftian” and this reviewer will definitely testify to that. As is clear from Mr. McComb’s novels as well as these stories, the author is never afraid to look the nightmarish in the eye, and name it. Be prepared for a collection preferably consumed only in the daytime-if you read at night, leave all the lights on-and don’t read alone. And don’t let your feet touch the floor.





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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review of Neophyte by Emmalee Aple

NeophyteNeophyte by Emmalee Aple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


How many pages did I require to get intrigued in this novel? Only four: when Addisyn decides to give up the book in which she’s engrossed and take a late-night flight (against rules) with the Angel Link she considers the hottest. Only he’s not-not whom she thinks, I mean-and from then on, I was right with this story. Addisyn has been deceased for two years, and as such she is a Changed angel. Of the five in her Link of Angels, some are Changed, as is she; some are Born. When she is temporarily abducted by the grey-winged Sebastian, she realizes immediately that the Link has been secretive; there’s even more to know about the afterlife than she’s already discovered.



Author Emmalee Aple does a lovely job of building up suspense, of reeling out secrets little by little, like playing out the worm on a fishing line. With each paragraph, the reader wants to find out more, and is more hooked to continue the story. Especially as Addy discovers that her own Link is keeping secrets, and Sebastian lets slip that she may be of more value than she has been informed, the need to expose the secrecy nearly explodes in the reader.



I recommend this novel for YA readers (and fans of YA Paranormal).





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Monday, March 26, 2012

Review of Dangerous by Alycia Linwood

Dangerous (Element Preservers, #1)Dangerous by Alycia Linwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Preserve one’s own element, stick to it, don’t intermarry between elements: sounds a simple enough rule, doesn’t it? Maybe in an ideal world, people would have continued to heeded this small stricture of the God of Magic, who provided the elements initially. But any society is hardly ever ideal-and when people forget, or turn to science, or embrace the concept that such rules are simply legend and myth-then people forget, and intermarry, and elements mix. So offspring were born who possessed an element, but only weakly; and sometimes there simply was no element at all in a particular individual. So Magic itself began to decline, weakening and diluting. Sometimes, those without an element found they could acquire one-if only temporarily-by murder. As we all know, murder rarely satisfies a killer for very long-and elements acquired by murder don’t remain-so those under the control of “magic disease,” discovered to be contagious through intimate transmission, are almost always feared and dreaded-even to the point of becoming murder victims themselves.



At the University of Magic, our heroine Ria, who possesses Element of Fire, and her best friend Paula, of the Element of Air and a scientific research-oriented mind) are first-year students, with the goal of learning to use their elements. Paula wants also to find the cure for “magic disease” and eventually eradicate it. All four elements (fire, air, water, earth) attend the University, so naturally the odds are they will encounter individuals who hold other elements, and even feel drawn to some of them. A “magic disease” carrier, Adrian, is also a University of Magic student, perhaps because he had been orphaned and society really knows nowhere else to place him.



Going by the settings, the characterizations, and the issues, I believe this novel would appeal to readers who enjoy YA Paranormal, and perhaps YA Fantasy.





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Reviews Today

It's been a full day for Reviews:
I reviewed Author A. M. Sawyer's upcoming novel, Sword of Truth, to be published April 5. Be sure you don't miss this one! His Author page at Smashwords is: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/amsawyer
so keep watching that site for publication! I will post my review here on April 5.

I also reviewed a book for the blog at www.book-in-a-week.com, and will post that link here when it goes live soon.

That's in addition to my regular reviews, about to be posted.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review of The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

The Machine Stops The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A saddening and melancholic tale of a all-too-possible dystopian future, of a world where all life is lived underground, below the surface of the Earth; where human contact is mostly confined to forms of video and audio communication; and where parents’ role in child-rearing ends at the moment of birth. Children are raised in “public nurseries” and later assigned living quarters, anywhere in the globe (as long as it’s underground). The protagonist, Vashti-whom I hesitate to call “protagonist” because she is a woman far more acted-upon than acting or self-reliant-lives in one room, closed off, with many acquaintances and friends with whom she only communicates by the aforesaid audio and visual modes. She gives lectures-but she doesn’t travel-she sees no one. When her son who lives beneath the Northern Hemisphere asks her to travel to visit him, she-living under the Southern Hemisphere-is distraught.



This is a future where the Machine rules all-everything is taken for granted: climate, comfort, literature, sleep, medicine-as the Machine is in charge of it all. I am reminded of psychological studies of rats and monkeys in isolation, for even though there is communication here, it is at several removes; and as Vashti demonstrates, even the idea of leaving her room (womb), of travelling, of speaking and being spoken to, seems monstrous.





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Review of Through Darkest America-Extended Version by Neal Barrett Jr.

Through Darkest America Extended VersionThrough Darkest America Extended Version by Neal Barrett Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


12 stars of 5!





Perusing this novel’s foreword by acclaimed author Joe R. Lansdale really raised the bar of my expectations for this story. Mr. Lansdale calls Author Barrett one of the last true storytellers, and in my view this is highly accurate. I was immediately caught up in the tale, nearly a participant rather than an observer. There’s no question of suspension of disbelief in this tale; it occurs involuntarily. The painting Mr. Barrett sets out to create is incredibly detailed, a tapestry with sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches-well-defined characters, and a plot with secrets lurking just under the surface, rising only for a moment to peek at the reader with a sharp wink and then disappearing.





In this horrible post-apocalyptic America, where farmers and townspeople and cavalry and government strive to carry on just as if the “War” had never occurred and wiped out wildlife other than birds and fish, the reader has become part of the tale and is living through it along with the characters-both those human and those not-so-human. This was an enrapturing read for a Sunday afternoon, without noise and without distractions, I was so caught up in the story and its settings. Neal Barrett Jr. is now one of my must-read-authors. I think I could read a version of the phone book if he composed it. I highly recommend this one for aficionados of dystopian, futuristic, post-apocalyptic, and science-fantasy. Devotees of best writing will find this novel a gem.





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Review of Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindquist

Handling the UndeadHandling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When one reads a novel in one’s native language, it’s easy to identify whether the writing is excellent, the characters and situations well-delineated, and the plot exceptional. I’m sure something similar, or close to it, must be true when a reader is multilingual, and can read in the original version of another language. But when a reader-say, a native English-speaker-can only read in translation from another language, that reader is then at the mercy of the translator’s talent as well as of the original author’s gift. For example, the Jo Nesbo mysteries have been translated by one person, and both the novels and the translator’s gift of writing are extraordinary. I found this to be true with Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist too (also translated from the original language).





But when a reader is confined to a translation, and doesn’t find a book particularly intriguing, how does she know if it is due to the original author, or to the translator? Such is the case with John Ajvide Lindquist’s “Handing the Undead.” I chose it, of course, for its subject matter. I know that the author had quite an acclaimed bestseller with his earlier vampire novel, “Let the Right One In,” which is on my TBR list. I just did not find “Handling the Undead” as stirring as I had expected. Granted, the characterizations are quite well-tuned. The setting and locale is clearly delineated-very helpful for a reader who has never lived in nor visited that region. What I don’t know is whether the writing style comes down to the author, or to the translator-I suppose I would have to read another novel by this author translated by a different individual in order to be certain. I also did not find that the plot particularly hung together for me; it seemed that the electrical impulse which affected both the migraines for humans and animals, and all electrical appliances within range, did not adhere to the “resurrection” occurrences. Again, that may be just my interpretation; or it may be the translation; or it may be the author. Guess I will have to read a couple of his other works to see.





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Friday, March 23, 2012

Review of The Scene (Dylan Hart "Odyssey of the Occult") by R.M. Gilmore

The Scene (Dylan Hart Odyssey of The Occult Series Book #1)The Scene by R.M. Gilmore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Perky journalist Dylan Hart thinks the murders of women-some strippers, some ladies of the night, total currently at seven-will make a great, or at least a decently-selling true crime book. So she sets off to learn what she can, put her ear to the ground, listen to the pulse of the community, and generally pick up all and any available information. Her pet detective won’t give it up, the vamp wannabes are so no help, so Dylan has to call in BFF Tatum to help her scout out the club scene and hopefully turn over a rock with some real information. As a tabloid paparazzi, Tatum has a lot of sources and in’s Dylan doesn’t have.


Dylan is a woman with an attitude, an odd mixture of in-your-face plus low self-esteem and possibly body dysmorphic disorder. She lives in near-poverty, but doesn’t seem to worry about it other than to complain and cuss. Perhaps she doesn’t believe she deserves better. I truly got the impression that the twenty-year friendship between Dylan and Tatum verged on the “plain girl-beautiful girl” mode found so often in high schools, because Dylan’s idolization of Tatum definitely has a sharp jealous edge. Then, too, I felt that Dylan’s emotions were too shallow, too much on-the-surface, and too little deeply-experienced. Even in the uproar later in the book (which would have caused most experiencers to run straight for counseling-or controlled substances) she continues to just slough it off, as if it nothing of import had occurred. That made it a little difficult for me to empathise with her.

This novel is billed as “Not your daughter’s vampire novel,” and I definitely agree. I put this at 18+ due to language.




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Michael Lorde's Interview with Author Charity Parkerson



http://michaelordeauthor.blogspot.com/?zx=ee5aed145cbb06c8

Michael Lorde's Interview with Author Charity Parkerson

Review of Progeny by Lisa McCourt Hollar

Progeny Progeny by Lisa McCourt Hollar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another 5-Star Plus from Author Lisa McCourt Hollar, “Progeny” is a real hair-curler, don’t-look-behind-you-if-you-hear-noises type of Horror. Very unexpected revelations, denouement, and climax; I was looking for a standard vampire tale and believe me, that is not “Progeny.” My recommendation is run, do not walk, to your nearest bookseller outlet and get this one if you haven’t already. If you have it and haven’t yet read it, then drop everything and read it. Ms. Hollar not only knows Horror, she knows her Early American History and sets the scene in what proves to be a very special, and most astonishing way. I will say no more to preserve the plot and its secrets-but rest assured, this is another not-to-miss story.



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Review of Fantasies of the Waking Dreamer by K. W. McCabe

Fantasies of the Waking DreamerFantasies of the Waking Dreamer by K.W. McCabe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A brief but poignant collection of seven poems-some short, some lengthier-this is a fine introduction to the poetry of K. W. McCabe. I say poignant, because most of these poems are very melancholy (I would say all except the final poem, “Looking Back,” which is a summation of life and a demonstration of contentment). Most have a strong tone of sadness; particularly so the very heartstrings-tugging “Pass the Birthday Cake.” Among my personal favourites are “Rain,” “Heart’s Dawn: The Death of Cupid,” and the aforementioned “Pass the Birthday Cake,” which will not soon pass out of my memory.




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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review of There's Something About Miss Wicker by Lisa McCourt Hollar

There's Something About Miss WickerThere's Something About Miss Wicker by Lisa McCourt Hollar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


12 stars/5

Jumping for joy!! THIS is Horror rendered just the way I like it: terse and tense, graphic and gory, violent and sentimental! Love it! Not to mention unexpected, revelatory, and very, very frightening! “Miss Wicker” is some kind of woman all right-very appealing (when she wants to be) and very empowered at all times. However, her kind of empowerment is not what feminists meant when they urged women to be authentic. Miss Wicker is her own very authentic self-and do we love it! As far as this reviewer is concerned, this is one perfect horror story, and Author Lisa McCourt Hollar has just taken her place on my list of definitely must-read-always authors. When I grow up, can I learn to write like this?





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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review of The Quarry by Mark Allan Gunnells

The QuarryThe Quarry by Mark Allan Gunnells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'd like to give this story about 9 stars!!





Excellently written, finely-detailed, good locale staging, with a keen eye for the horrific as a subtle leading up to the big noise, and that gentle contrast of “everything’s all right” propaganda with the concerns, anxieties, and fears of those in the know, the “old men” who labored in the quarry during its heyday, before its abrupt closure.



I truly loved this book. It’s exciting, well-written, well-characterised. The author doesn’t telegraph the upcoming horror, he just sets out gentle hints which make the reader want to speed on to find out what’s upcoming, and what lay in the past that nobody seems to know about or want to know about. The characterisations are special; for example, Dale, who could have been drawn from life (based on individuals I’ve known). In fact, throughout the story I found it all so realistic that I felt as if I lived right there in town and knew the folks, recognized the settings, and right along with the townspeople, feared and worried about the quarry. This is the kind of novel that just makes me want to keep on reading and never stop; I want it to be a neverending story.





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Review of Sanctum Angels (Shadow Havens #1) by Edenmary Black

Sanctum Angels (Shadow Havens #1)Sanctum Angels by Edenmary Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Is praising the cover art of a novel appropriate in a review? Well, I am-because the art of Robin Ludwig Designs is simply stunning, awesome, and truly gorgeous! That said, let me add, I am so totally glad this is first in a series, and that Book 2 will soon be coming our way! The pacing is very rapid, and the setting reminded me more of fantasy rather than just paranormal. Since there are different species here-vampire, daemon, angel-I think it is not amiss to consider this a fantasy as well. I easily found myself turning the pages without really being aware of doing so, as I was so caught up in the story line. I really enjoyed this juxtaposition of paranormal species, and thought the author marvelously explained the various talents, dissimilarities, and other characteristics of each, building up the background in a subtle way without needing to bludgeon the reader with information. What the reader needs to know about each just flows naturally as part of the plotting and characterization. Intriguingly, there is no question about suspending disbelief; the reader just automatically accepts that here are vampires, over there are daemons, and elsewhere are angels; and that sometimes the groups mix, sometimes not, and then additionally there are humans. Not everyone can carry off this suspension of disbelief but author Edenmary Black does it most excellently. At no time did I need to stop and anchor myself to real life, because I was so engrossed in her story. I’m definitely anticipating Book 2 in this series because I’m sure it will be just as captivating as the first novel.



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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review of Visions (The Holly Nather Trilogy) by Sara Daniell

Visions (Holly Nather Trilogy #1)Visions by Sara Daniell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Visions” is the first novel in a trilogy, a delightful and fast-paced read, very realistic in its understanding of the character of a college coed. I found myself chuckling because Holly is such a “natural”-to a point. Holly has a stalker-at least, if this were an ordinary story about an average life, that is what Luke would be. A guy who looks up a student’s cell number, sends he r texts, stations himself outside her dorm, and seems to know her mind before she does (and appears without notice) in most occurrences would be a stalker and the girl would recognize him as such, and either avoid him or even report him. But Luke seems to have a sort of unspoken hypnotic effect on Holly-she just falls right in line with his slightly strange but winning ways. In the context of the novel it makes sense, because suspension of disbelief is so easy.

I also liked the way the author Sara Daniell built up the suspense. Clearly Luke is a man with secrets, urgencies, and needs and intentions that he’s not about to reveal. The characters are drawn very subtly: Holly, the college student, who considers herself to be smart and sensible, even street-smart-yet falls in with the plans of this strange guy she’s just met; and Luke, who definitely has his secrets, and one major issue-he lets himself be ruled by his emotions-walking away from an arranged betrothal; dropping another relationship even though the girl is in love with him, because he doesn’t have any strong feelings for her; then finding and isolating Holly just to “keep her safe.” By building the protagonists with these conflicts, issues, and failing, the author has made them much more realistic and very easy to comprehend as individuals. The story is fast-paced, and I found myself racing through the pages just to see what would occur next. This is a debut novel, and this reviewer anticipates Books 2 and 3 in this series.




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Review of Sticks and Stones by Charlie Morgan

Sticks and StonesSticks and Stones by Charlie Morgan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What’s NOT to like? A protagonist that immediately elicits my empathy, a despairing situation for him, a male protagonist at that who has Emotions! Matt is not afraid to own up to his feelings, either; and I liked that because it makes him stand out from the usual crowd. Then in his quest for distraction (and how nice it is that he didn’t run immediately for alcohol, drugs, or promiscuity) he finds himself in the midst of utter terror-I gasped out loud and nearly dropped the laptop!-and again! This is non-stop horror-bizarre, far-fectched, but ultimately realistic (no difficulty suspending disbelief here!)-and the reader is going to sit with jaw dropped, heart pumping out of throat, eyes as wide as saucers-and ears perked for any unusual sounds outside-just in case it’s even more real than we thought.

This story was riveting-I didn’t want to take my eyes off it and railed at every distraction. My reader’s sense is screaming “more! More! More!” I’d say Charlie Morgan is a talent to watch!

Reader Caution: I loved this story but it is gory, graphic, and intense-not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. That said-go get it!




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Review of The MZD by Michael Ramberg_A Making Connections Review

The MZD: A novella of undead horrorThe MZD: A novella of undead horror by Michael Ramberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Great reader’s hook! I love it-when you read a hook like this, you just know immediately you’ve got a rewarding story to read. Why “rewarding”? Because sometimes a reader just finds herself glad she picked up a particular story! Maybe it’s inappropriate to chuckle at a dystopian zombie infestation story, but I just couldn’t help myself; the author’s subtle humour is too much not to laugh out loud. His grasp of the social realities of “foreigners” in South Korea is so detailed, it’s easy to imagine oneself in that situation and locale. Another aspect I enjoyed of this novella is the author’s approach to the Zombie situation. Instead of slapping us right away with “hey, these are zombies” type of narrative, he gently allows the information to flow in, or to rise up, like a corpse’s hand might poke up from a rushing river when it’s bumped by a fallen log also floating downstream. Instead of starting with the Zombie problem, he starts with character, and lets that develop first, then subtly weaves in the plot background. That makes for a much better and more appealing approach. The only question this reviewer has is:

“Mike, when’s the next story?” 





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Monday, March 19, 2012

Review of Attic Toys edited by Jeremy C. Shipp

Attic ToysAttic Toys by Jeremy C. Shipp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The announcement of a new volume or new story collection by Jeremy C. Shipp resonates with the alarum to readers: GET THIS BOOK NOW! Such is true of collections edited by Author Shipp-and with the addition of the adjective “Attic” in the title, we know we’re in for a fun-house horror ride of epic proportions. Readers who’ve enjoyed the incredible selection of Mr. Shipp’s four volumes of “Attic Clowns” will be pleased as pitch to know that his editorial eye never fails here. 19 stories from divergent accomplished authors, all with that exquisitely horrifying theme: The Attic. How much easier life would be if houses were built differently-no attic, no root cellar, no basement-and especially no closets!

Dare I pick favourites? The very down-home flavor of Emily C. Skaftun’s “Down in the Woods Today” scared the living be-jabbers out of me! I doubt I shall sleep tonight! Joe McKinney’s “A Little Crimson Stain” ran shivers up and down my limbs from the very beginning. These are just two of my personal favourite chillers-but nowhere is there a story not worth the price of admission. Take a cue from this reviewer-you want to be scared-you know you really, really do-so hop on over to your nearest bookselling outlet-and make this a top priority buy. Go on, do it-then curl up and read, while you keep one ear perked for the creaking in your attic, and a sharp eye cocked toward your bedroom door…




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Review of The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse

Evil Jester Digest Volume OneEvil Jester Digest Volume One by Peter Giglio

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A delightful and literate “Note to the Editor” opens the gates to the ten stories contained in this first episode of “Evil Jester Digest.” I very much enjoyed this foreword, but Editor Peter Giglio is accurate when he suggests that readers-mostly-do buy anthologies for the authors and stories. Let me be one of the first to tell you; this is one exceptional selection. Tracy L. Carbone; David Dunwoody; Hollie Snider; Gary Brandner; Rick Hautala; Eric Shapiro; Gregory L. Norris; Phil Hickes; John F. D. Taff; and Aric Sundquist, are the stunners contributing to the excellence of this volume.

From the very first story by Tracy L. Carbone (by page two I thought I’d been kicked in the chest, and literally jumped backwards in shock and surprise, and I’m pretty sure my hair stood to attention the entire duration of the story) right through to the tenth story, Aric Sundquist’s novella, this is extraordinary writing. I don’t want to spoil the extreme pleasure for future readers-but I will say, if you enjoy horror in the slightest, if you have a skewed bone in your body, if you like your terror to creep up on you and scream “Boo” in your ear, if you want horror to sink into your bones and never leave your consciousness-you MUST acquire Evil Jester Digest Volume One. Volume One readily earned its place on my Keeper-Must Reread shelf-and I know it will do so for readers everywhere.





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Review of Evil Jester Digest Volume One

Evil Jester Digest Volume OneEvil Jester Digest Volume One by Peter Giglio

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A delightful and literate “Note to the Editor” opens the gates to the ten stories contained in this first episode of “Evil Jester Digest.” I very much enjoyed this foreword, but Editor Peter Giglio is accurate when he suggests that readers-mostly-do buy anthologies for the authors and stories. Let me be one of the first to tell you; this is one exceptional selection. Tracy L. Carbone; David Dunwoody; Hollie Snider; Gary Brandner; Rick Hautala; Eric Shapiro; Gregory L. Norris; Phil Hickes; John F. D. Taff; and Aric Sundquist, are the stunners contributing to the excellence of this volume.

From the very first story by Tracy L. Carbone (by page two I thought I’d been kicked in the chest, and literally jumped backwards in shock and surprise, and I’m pretty sure my hair stood to attention the entire duration of the story) right through to the tenth story, Aric Sundquist’s novella, this is extraordinary writing. I don’t want to spoil the extreme pleasure for future readers-but I will say, if you enjoy horror in the slightest, if you have a skewed bone in your body, if you like your terror to creep up on you and scream “Boo” in your ear, if you want horror to sink into your bones and never leave your consciousness-you MUST acquire Evil Jester Digest Volume One. Volume One readily earned its place on my Keeper-Must Reread shelf-and I know it will do so for readers everywhere.





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Review of Stalked by Brian Freeman (Jonathan Stride #2)

Stalked (Jonathan Stride, # 3)Stalked by Brian Freeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is why I love Brian Freeman mysteries! Almost no other author in my experience can interweave a tapestry of secrets, characters, retribution, traumas past and present, revelations, and just plain outrageously exciting denouement, like this author. “Stalked” is non-stop excitement and intrigue. When I grow up, I want to write like Mr. Freeman.

Jonathan Stride is back in Duluth, Minnesota, his home town, after a brief and unpretty stint as a homicide detective in Las Vegas. Offered his former position as Lieutenant of the Homicide Bureau once again, he jumps at the opportunity, and his new love Serena Dial agrees to resign as a Vegas detective and become a private investigator in Minnesota. Stride even manages to find a home on the Point, where he grew up and lived during the twenty years of his first marriage and for three years after his beloved Cindy succumbed to cancer.

Stride doesn’t just “take up where he left off,” though-his former protégé, forensic technician Maggie Bei, has undergone a series of miscarriages, is in the midst of marital conflicts-and then her husband is suddenly murdered, with her gun, while she is upstairs asleep. Stride refuses to believe Maggie could be guilty, but the evidence, and the conviction of the detective in charge, stand against her. She adds to the mountain of evidence by refusing to tell the truth about the last few months, and about the troubles in her marriage. Shortly Stride and Serena begin to unravel an incredibly complex multi-layered tapestry of crime, immorality, selfishness, and greed, as only author Brian Freeman can construct it.




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Review of Stripped by Brian Freeman (Jonathan Stride #2)

Stripped (Jonathan Stride, #2)Stripped by Brian Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I first read the newest mystery by Brian Freeman-The Bone House-and enraptured, determined to read all his novels. I loved Immoral, Jonathan Stride #1. Not so much this novel, #2. The writing is still just as excellent, the convoluted plotting still delivers punches harder than a kick to the heart. But the setting in this one-the gritty, noir, greedy, Id-driven setting-I think is what turned me away. Granted, the author does nothing wrong in this novel-everything I’ve come to love in his mysteries is here. I think I reacted to “Stripped” and its tales of the ugly side of Las Vegas in much the same way as I reacted to “Chinatown.” Let me impress the reader with this, though-unless you have a godly omniscience, you will not figure out the real secrets in this story. It is worth reading just for a study of how a master of mystery delivers.



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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Today at Amazon: Tales from an Apartment by Gerald Rice_My Review



Tales from an ApartmentTales from an Apartment by Gerald Rice

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


8 stories of horror and the bizarre from the extraordinarily creative (and wild) imagination of accomplished author Gerald Rice are set in apartment venues, where the “normal” frame of reference is turned-on its head, on its side, even reversed. This is apartment living like you’ve never experienced it before.

The very first story, “Slug,” contains one of the best sentences I’ve read in forever, as if author Rice stood inside my mind and perceived life the way I do. If I hadn’t determined some time ago to read everything he writes, I would decide that right now. I’m a convert! The prose, the characterizations, the plotting, the settings, are all delightful-fast-paced, yet the reader will keep pausing to savour, and even reread, some of these excellent sentences. A Gerald Rice story or novel is a joy indeed, a pleasure meant to be sipped at, and never rushed. Every story is an adventure, one from which the reader will return subtly altered, for the better. This short story collection can be perused very quickly-but please don’t: settle in, take your time, enjoy.




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Friday, March 16, 2012

Review of Dead Again (Zombie Diaries Book 1) by George Magnum

Dead AgainDead Again by George Magnum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Author George Magnum approaches the Zombie infestation not from the point of view of the dead, nor of the victimized, but rather through the eyes of Commander Peterson, heading an elite military force scrambled to the cause in the interests of national security (while there is still a nation-or any society-remaining to protect, which begins quickly to seem very doubtful). Peterson is rather an unusual character for his role, in that he is much more three (or four) dimensional than we usually expect, either in this type of story premise or with a military or Special Forces individual, who is usually coloured as silent, strong, and deadly-but not emotional or fanciful. Peterson is both-although he usually overcomes it from interfering with his assigned purpose.

Generally I prefer my reader’s hook on the very first page, if possible in the first paragraph or the first sentence. Here I had to wait a few pages, although the hook was subtly telegraphed early on. Once the action starts, however, the story hits the ground running at gazelle speed, spewing out character, adventure, blood and gore, grief, tragedy, terror, and adventure. The novel is very fast-paced from here on in, and surprisingly, the gore is not overdone (surprisingly because this is after all, a zombie story, a kill-or-be-eaten venue). The settings are well done, and I especially appreciate the author’s deft hand at characterisations. As Zombie novels go (and these days there is an enormous number available), this is one of the better and more appealing ones.


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FREE at Amazon: She Wasn't Allowed to Giggle-poetry by Lavinia Thompson

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005QTX282

Review of A Secure Heart by Charity Parkerson

My first review for my new Goodreads Group MalloryHeartReviews! So proud and privileged!


A Secure HeartA Secure Heart by Charity Parkerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



I was first introduced to Charity Parkerson’s novels when I went hunting in February 2012 for unread Werewolf & Shapeshifter books, for a group challenge on that enormously creative site, Goodreads. I found Ms. Parkerson’s “Society of Sinners,” and I was floored! If I could have awarded 12 or 13 stars instead of 5, I would have. So I’m enormously pleased to have he r request a review of “A Secure Heart.”


That subtle humour that makes me chuckle at the same time I’m smiling over the characters; those delicate brush strokes painting in the protagonists and the secondaries; that homespun wisdom (feeling beautiful improves one’s perspective and beams through her or his life); all this clues me as to what special author I’m reading.

Maybe it’s not etiquette to laugh out loud at a romance-but I can’t help myself. Charity is hilarious! Also touching, heartwarming, special, enjoyable, and A DON’T MISS EVER AUTHOR!


“A Secure Heart” (yes, the title does have resonance in each of the four stories, Gentle Reader) is woven from four divergent but linked stories. Each one is a gem-but if I had to choose a personal favourite, it would be the first and the fourth, which really tugged my own heartstrings. If you enjoy your romance well-plotted, well-characterised, steamy but heart-entangling; if you love good writing, a sense of humour, an author who knows her stuff and knows her readers, RUN, DO NOT STEP, DO NOT WALK, DO NOT WAIT to your nearest available book outlet and GRAB THIS BOOK (and if you haven’t already, get her “Society of Sinners” series too). Face it, Gentle Readers: Charity Parkerson rocks!




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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Burning Edge by Rick Mofina_Review

This is a Hearts on Fire Reviews review.


The Burning EdgeThe Burning Edge by Rick Mofina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A novel by Rick Mofina is a joy to behold, and this one is no exception. Opening like a runaway train, the excitement never stops; and this accomplished, prolific author manages to weave in so many levels that all the characters are fully three-dimensional, realistic, and if not always likable, at least comprehensible. His plotting takes in contemporary society, recent history, and even suspicions of terrorism. Mr. Mofina always manages to juggle a large cast of characters, both primary and secondary, never dropping one and never giving any less than their due. Every one is demonstrated as essential to the story line.


A sudden attack, an armed robbery in progress, leaves four dead and six million dollars gone missing. Lives are ended and upended, trust and peace of mind are destroyed. No one knows who, what, or why-only where and when. None of the survivors will remain the same. It’s incumbent on a middle-aged FBI agent with serious drama of his own  to discover the source, the rationale, and the killers, and to bring justice for one of the FBI’s own. It will become a horrendous ordeal, for the killers were extremely skillful and concealing of any evidence of their identities. The organization required to pull off this armed robbery-when clearly the intent and expectation was also to kill-was masterful, and a masterful mind will be required to unravel it, whether that be the FBI Agent-in-Charge, a top journalist with unnamed sources of his own (and an anonymous tipster who’s been trying to clue him in), or the survivor closest to the agent’s murder-who blames herself for his death.



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Memoir of a Mermaid by Adrianna Stepiano_Review

Reviewed for Goodreads Book Review Program Group


Memoir of a Mermaid: When, at last, he found me. (Book #1) Memoir of a Mermaid: When, at last, he found me. (Book #1) by Adrianna Stepiano
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Seraphina Shedd graduates high school, she is handed the keys to her Grandmother’s home. She’d lost her dad when she was ten, rescuing her from her sudden inexplicable disobedience, and was reared by her grandmother until the latter’s death. Now she’s free of the family friend who despises her, but is still fearful of moving on, into the unknown. Unbeknownst to her as yet, Seraphina is venturing into a much greater unknown than just the anxiety of leaving her Bar Harbor high school, of returning alone to her Grandmother’s home, and of finding a career and making her own way through life. For Seraphina Shedd is hardly an ordinary, routine, average, eighteen-year-old graduate. She is a product of the ocean, playing an essential role in the protection of the contemporary marine environment and thus of this planet.


Suspension of disbelief is so realistic in this novel; while the protagonist is thinking, “No, that can’t be,” early on in the story, the reader is thinking instead, “oh yes, it can! That makes such good sense!” That is how very easily the reader is hooked into a tale of the fantastical-it just seems right. Character delineation is very superbly and subtly done; and there is good character evolution, especially in the role of Seraphina, whose life is very unusual, but again, acceptable as real. One of my favourite portions of the novel, in addition to the scene at the swimming pool between Seraphina and her favourite teacher Mrs. Z, was the ending, because author Adrianna Stepiano leaves us simultaneously with a gasp of “What?!” and with a potential cliffhanger that will make readers eager to await the next book in the series.



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Shepherd's Moon by Stacy Mantle_Review

Reviewed for Read 2 Read at Goodreads Group Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy:


Shepherd's Moon (The Shepherds, #1)Shepherd's Moon by Stacy Mantle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A catchy reader’s hook, and the protagonist’s jocular but wry sense of humour make for an intriguing beginning. Alexandra is a kind of a misfit, with a longing she keeps repressed for a normal, routine (read simple, average, human) life. Instead, she is a Shepherd-one who tracks and rounds up, not natural wildlife, but preternatural creatures. Outsourcing for the police department’s Special Assignments Unit frequently puts her on the lookout for and trail of what are called “PSKs,” “Preternatural Serial Killers,” who of course are much more effective at achieving high body counts in a shorter time than their human counterparts. It’s dangerous work, but somebody needs to do it. Alexandra complicates matters by living with a pack of preternaturals-not really surprising, since her adoptive family included shifters and vamps…


There is good character evolution in this novel, as Alex grows out of her yearning for normalcy, learns to accept what and who she is and comes to terms with acceptance of her purpose in life. Additionally, author Stacy Mantle doesn’t stop at just the usual run of paranormal encounters, but builds on intriguing layers of suspense, plotting, and wicked characters to place Alexandra right in the center of a web of corruption, which she must unravel, if she can. Even better, the ending is such that a sequel could fit in, yet the reader still feels that the important goals  of this novel have been achieved; nothing is left untended.



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Alexx Mom Cat's Gateway Book Blog: LET'S PAR-TAY! 40 ebooks, FREE ! YES FREE!:                            Lucky Days Free Par-Tay March 14th-18th! Discover over 40 amazing ebooks: Romances, Thrillers, Myster...

Relentless by Dean Koontz_Review

This was a reread for the March Challenge on the Goodreads Group, Koontzland.


RelentlessRelentless by Dean Koontz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had read this book at the time of original publication, as I do all Mr. Koontz’ novels; but in the intervening time since the fall of 2009, I had forgotten again (or had set aside remembrance of) how this very special author affects my perspective. Mr. Koontz looks the decline of culture right in the eye, and acknowledges how low society has sunk; yet despite his clear-eyed awareness, he can find hope, faith, and yes, joy, in life-and he can communicate those qualities to the readers of his excellent storytelling. Dean Koontz is not just a bestseller; in my opinion he is an icon.

In “Relentless,” Mr. Koontz takes on a subject that I’m certain is close to his heart, and one that I have become aware of as an unpublished novelist and member of writers’ groups and book clubs online. Just how far is a reviewer-a literary critic-allowed to go in condemning or denigrating a novel? Are insults allowed? Condemnation? Threats?

Certainly no normal reviewer would take the routes that Shearman Waxx does. An “esteemed” critic (or so our protagonist Cubby is informed), Waxx is much more than he appears-and all of what he is and does is utterly horrendous-violent, graphic, and the epitome of sadistic. Waxx doesn’t just insult novelists: he destroys them. Now it’s Cubby’s turn-he and his family have been targeted, and he doesn’t yet know why-unless it’s something to do with this exceptional, child-prodigy, son. Whatever the reasons behind Waxx’s parade of atrocities, if the answers aren’t discovered soon-and Waxx leveled six feet under-Cubby, his wife Penny, and their son Milo-will soon be tortured and murdered too.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Orb by Gary Tarulli_Review

OrbOrb by Gary Tarulli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Immediately my attention is caught as that fine reader’s hook sinks in. The subtle trace of humour in which it is couched only makes me want to know more, to read on. Amazingly, a short way into the novel, I discovered that the society of that far future is Dystopian (really, why should that have surprised me?) As a voracious, lifelong reader, a writer, and a reviewer, the notion of existence in a society where reading is considered to waste energy and time is so mind-boggling as to make me light-headed. Pray I never live to see such!

Author Gary Tarulli has such a wry turn of phrase and sense of irony that reading this novel is comparable to having an in-person conversation, and would make the novel worth the reading even if it didn’t have a great story-which it does.

Protagonist Kyle Lorenzo (who might be characterized as in the throes of a mid-life crisis) decides to throw over his routine life and travel out of the Solar System, the sole writer on the spaceship packed with scientists and technicians. Why would a normal Earthling in a dystopian society decide to travel on a vessel where he sticks out because of his occupation and nature, to a planet he’s never seen? Similarly, why would the expedition’s Screening Committee determine a writer was necessary at all?  There  are reasons for everything, and I’ll leave it to the reader to find out, with my recommendation. Don’t put this one aside, don’t delay, just get it, read, and enjoy!


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Legend by Marie Lu_Review

LegendLegend by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Legend” is a highly complex dystopian novel. I’m reminded of why, for some years, I had stopped reading dystopian fiction (until Dan Simmons’ incredible “Flashback” published in 2011). Each time I read a dystopian story, my emotions kick in along with my fears, and I dread living in this type of society, whatever the failings of the culture in any particular such novel or novella or short story. This was the case with “Matched,” also.

I understand that this is not Ms. Lu’s first novel, but it is her first published. She demonstrates a real grasp of writing accomplishment. The novel is very fast-paced, and her world-building is excellent (even though the type of society is so depressing!). Her characters are very well filled-out and three-dimensional, and there’s no difficulty in experiencing empathy for them. Personally, I would have preferred as a reader’s hook that the novel start a couple chapters in, with the hospital incursion, but I believe most readers will enjoy “Legend” just as it is. Although it is a YA genre novel, adult  readers can enjoy the suspense, the world-building, and the romance just as well, including the philosophizing.


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The Magdalena Curse by F. G. Cottam_Review

The Magdalena CurseThe Magdalena Curse by F.G. Cottam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another stunning tour de force from the accomplished author of “The House of Lost Souls” and “Dark Echo,” this novel philosophically examines the nature of evil in a fashion that will raise hackles and curl hair. More than a ghost story, more than a romance, more than a mystery, “The Magdalena Curse” is the kind of outstanding novel that should gain 12 stars out of 5! I cannot recommend this novel, or this author, highly enough.

Mark Hunter is a former British Special Forces operative, devoted to his wife and two children. The most bizarre experience of his life occurs on a mission he tried to avoid, a joint British-Canadian-American operation in Bolivia, deep in the Amazon jungles. Here he comes face to face with naked evil, and in his horror and morality, commits an act which he expects to end the situation-but instead delivers a curse upon his young family. At the unexpected and tragic accidental death of his wife and daughter, Hunter retires and moves his sont to an isolated home in Scotland. But the curse tracks him, and possesses his son. Hunter wants more than anything to deliver his child, and if not, he will die in the process, a willing sacrifice. Enlisting the aid of the local general practitioner, Hunter (and Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft) discovers that evil dons many guises.


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Monday, March 12, 2012

Witches of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase_Review

Witches of Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun Series, #2)Witches of Bourbon Street by Deanna Chase
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jade is convinced she’s only an empathy-emphatically not a witch, white or otherwise. She needs to help her elderly friend Bea, whose essence was drained while effectively battling an evil haunt. But Jade thinks she just can’t do it. Experience through many attempts at helping Bea heal by transferring energy from nephew Ian to his aunt seems to continue to prove her failure. Although Jade truly is a white witch, life experiences have caused her denial and taught her to reject anything that smacks even in the slightest of magic or of witchy powers. At age twelve, her mother disappeared during a coven gathering at which the leader drew down an excess of magic, and was never found, and after a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital (Jade had been spelled to shadow her grief), she was raised in foster homes. As an adult, she will have nothing to do with any of it, and admits only to being an “empath,” someone who can pick up on the emotions of others, and occasionally, shift emotional energy to them. But magic has a way of finding its own, and Jade has a lot to learn and much denial to overcome.


This is the second in a series and Jade’s story will continue in a third book. Recommended for 18 up readers.



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Deathly Quiet by Lisa Forget_Review

Deathly QuietDeathly Quiet by Lisa Forget
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story might be short, but it has an unbelievable-and unavoidable-reader’s hook! Excellent going for a debut author-sure riveted this reviewer’s attention. Lovely descriptive narration builds the suspense, subtly but intensely, and the anthropomorphic rendering of the Crow only adds to the mounting intrigue. This is a delectable horror story which packs a lot of punch into a short story format. I highly recommend it-the character evolution and character delineation, settings, and plotting make it very special. I look forward to reading more from author Lisa Forget.


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The Tunnelers by Geoff Gander_Review

The TunnelersThe Tunnelers by Geoff Gander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An intriguing story of a Canadian Aboriginal legend proving to be factual, “The Tunnelers” is presented in first-person narrative by a psychiatrist who treats a mining safety inspector after a cave-in. When awake and conscious, the man, Kirkwood, is perfectly lucid, but hazy about memories of the incident. However, in his sleep, he raves about “Tunnelers,” and over and over again, moans “too deep, too deep!” Dr. Armstrong is deeply intrigued, and decides to investigate the legend for himself, to find if there is any basis for Kirkwood’s strange remarks. What he discovers not only surprises and astounds him, but actually alters his life.


I really appreciated the contrast in this short novel between the reality that science delivers to us, and the possibities that may lie beyond that consensus reality. The author creates several instances of character evolution, as individuals find their beliefs upended and altered, and grow into a new perspective of what may or may not exist in our Universe.



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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Darkness Become Her by Kelly Keaton_Review

Darkness Becomes Her (Gods & Monsters, #1)Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another “wow,” another 5 stars. This is a complex, convoluted, complicated, yet endearing novel of Paranormal, Dystopia, Fantasy, Mythology, Legend-you name it, even History. Kelly Keaton is an accomplished author under a pseudonym, and her experience shows in this YA novel. I truly hope this is the first of the series; what a shame it would be if not!

Southern Louisiana after two Category 4 hurricanes consecutively: no New Orleans, no Federal aid, no “America” in that area ever again. Just “Novem,” the new dystopian society formed when certain incredibly wealthy families paid billions to the U.S. Federal government for the privilege of declaring the area all theirs and only theirs. Into this forbidden zone comes Ari, a girl who might be schizophrenic, or might just be talented, powerful, different-and cursed. She embodies a generational curse common to all the women in her lineage-but she doesn’t discover it until her adolescence-and then her world turns topsy-turvy in a heartbeat.

I cannot imagine a reader jaded enough not to love this novel. For aficionados of Dystopian fiction; for lovers of the Paranormal, the Supernatural (even Horror, even Science Fiction), there is something to appeal here-no, there’s MUCH to appeal! This is a don’t miss-so don’t, or you will miss out on something special.


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Incarnate by Jodi Meadows_Review

Incarnate (Newsoul, #1)Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


So much is amazing in this novel that it’s difficult to get a handle and say, “Here, look over here,” or “check that out.” Just take my word for it; this is a book like no other.

I call this book “dystopian” because in its strictest sense the term refers to a society that is dysfunctional (such as the culture of the “Matched” series). In “Incarnate,” the society is structured so that one million souls reincarnate-over-and over-again, neverending. But only these one million! No “new souls” or “no souls” are allowed-until Ana’s birth, only eighteen years earlier. Ana could not be identified by the Soul Tellers at the time of her birth, so instead of having centuries of stored memories, she is like a blank slate-a child born to be abused by her terrorizing mother Li, taught that she is of no worth nor value, and that worse, her birth caused Ciana, one of the million and very valued, to die, on the night the Temple went dark. So by Ana’s eighteenth birthday, she is well trained in perceiving herself to be a pariah, an outcast, one with no redeeming social value-and so some others seem to see her as well-but not all. I hope this will be only the first in a long series.


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White Witch by Trish Milburn_Review (GMTA Review)

White WitchWhite Witch by Trish Milburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jax is a Coven deserter-a generational witch who wants nothing more to do with her family’s Coven, she has utilized magic to acquire a car, an RV, and to disappear from her Miami home, traveling to the North Carolina mountains hoping to-of all things-enroll in high school. For this she needs a little more magic-some temporarily enraptured human to play Mom till the files are processed and she’s a new student. Jax just wants to be your normal, average, adolescent girl-which of course she isn’t-but that’s her dream, and it’s one she’s sure her father and the hunters he’s undoubtedly sent on her trail will never detect. Seems like a doable plan, if not a lofty one-and Jax manages the enrollment process swimmingly-until skidding to an abrupt halt at her second encounter with a hunter whose presence she can’t sense in advance, who can handle bloodstone (any dark Supernatural beings cannot), and who just happens to also be enrolling-at the very same North Carolina mountain high school Jax has chosen. What kind of trouble is bound to ensue from this?

I found this story perky, and I’m sure it will appeal to YA readers who are in the younger and midpoint of that age set. For myself, I found it a little unrealistic, as I could not understand why someone would enter high school if she could get by with self-education, as she had been (and home-schooling), nor why a Supernatural being would desire not only anonymity (that I can understand) but mediocrity (impossible for me to coneeive). However, these are probably just my personal peccadilloes. This will be the first of a Trilogy.


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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Floating Lady Murder_The Harry Houdini Mysteries by Daniel Stashower_Review

Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Floating Lady MurderHarry Houdini Mysteries: The Floating Lady Murder by Daniel Stashower


Daniel Stashower’s Harry Houdini Mysteries are delightful cozies for readers who enjoy quiet but fast-paced mystery, delectable period detail, and excellent prose from an author who is deeply versed in the historical period he chooses. Mr. Stashower sets actual historic individuals into a setting of his own invention, rendering the locale, events, and persons as realistically as if they themselves stepped forward off the pages of history just to entertain contemporary readers.

In this “episode,” Harry Houdini, far fro the famous (or infamous) stage magician and escape artist he will eventually be, is working for a then-famous magician known as Kellar. Accompanied by wife Bess and younger brother Dash, Harry finds himself the sleuth in a case of unexpected, and unexplained death: Kellar’s noted “Floating Lady” trick goes awry, and the levitated assistant is killed-but by drowning, not by falling from a height!

These Mysteries are presented as recollections of Dash Houdini-now in his eighties-who recounts them, rather like a stage raconteur, for newspaper reporters who wish to fill up a column block on the anniversary of Harry Houdini’s unexpected and sad demise during a stage act. By doing so, Author Stashower brings to these tales a sense of immediacy not always found in historical suspense, and creates a delightful setting for the reader to indulge in excitement, wonder, and mystery.


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The Dime Museum Murders (The Harry Houdini Mysteries) by Daniel Stashower_Review

The Dime Museum MurdersThe Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Daniel Stashower is an accomplished author who has written prolifically on the 19th and early 20th century eras. A magician himself, it is perhaps natural that he writes of Harry Houdini, the acclaimed stage magician and escapist of the early 20th century. Houdini is perhaps best known for his promise to his wife Bess that he would if at all possible send her a sign after his demise. Bess was his stage partner, and in “The Dime Museum Murders,” his younger brother, “Dash” Hardeen-now in his eighties-recounts his and Harry’s early years in New York City, as Houdini strove to break into “big-time” stage show business.


Harry Houdini had done fairly well on the small-town tour (promoted by his brother “Dash”) but New York City was already suffused with show business, so he had to take employment while trying to “break in.” Dash found him work at what was called a “Dime Museum,” the kind of activity that in a carnival or fair was called a “ten-in-one,” a line-up of “freaks” or other attractions past which a crowd, having paid admission in advance, is quickly routed.


As well as enjoyable writing and good depths of characterization, I enjoyed this mystery for the period details and references. Mr. Stashower is an excellent historian of this era, and really brings it vividly to life for modern readers who quite possibly can’t imagine the slow pace of life “back then,” but yet who share emotions, drives, and motives in common with our historical predecessors. Set side by side, they are individuals much like ourselves, just without the trappings of contemporary society, and novels like this make that abundantly clear.



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Speak No Evil by Allison Brennan_Review

Speak No Evil (No Evil Trilogy, #1)Speak No Evil by Allison Brennan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In San Diego’s beachside college communities, a stalker lurks, hunting young women he identifies pursuant  to identifying them online. Growing up in an abusive household, with a father whose criminal acts were mostly but not completely disguised (and glossed over by his wife), this man has decided that all women are irrevocably promiscuous, and he both desires, and denigrates, to the point of death.

A strongly-plotted mystery/romance that grips the reader by the throat, “Speak No Evil” demonstrates prolific author Allison Brennan’s capabilities and talents. This novel deals with themes central to present-day society, including Internet and in-person stalking and the impossibility of true online safety. Many important lessons are encapsulated here, such as the need to keep one’s private life safe-which is impossible whenever one is linked online to friends and acquaintances who share personal information such as school name, team name, geography, favourite coffee shop or mall, etc.


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Friday, March 9, 2012

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder Series #2)_Review

Desires of the Dead (The Body Finder, #2)Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another sure-fire winner from the author of “The Body Finder,” this is the second in that series. If possible, this novel is even more intensely suspenseful. It hits the ground running with the Prologue and goes on nonstop. Readers who enjoyed the exploits of Violet in “The Body Finder,” as she hears from the wrongfully dead who will not be silent until they are interred in peace, will joy to find her pursuing similar aims; although in this book, she is dealing with the vagaries of a brand-new relationship mode with her lifelong friend, Jay.


Violet is especially targeted by humans who have died violently, specifically via murder, and of course, as she responds to these cries for release and justice, she naturally disturbs the status quo of their murderers, who then seek to destroy the disclosure problem: Violet.


Author Kimberly Derting is a special kind of writer, and appeals to YA age groups as well as to older readers (read, adults) who enjoy her deft characterisations, inimitable characters, and superb plotting. She is able to explore the ramifications of both natural death and serial murder without flinching, but also without bludgeoning readers with unnecessarily gory details. Then, too, she weaves the friendship-become-love fest between Violet and Jay with a deft sweep, endearing the characters to the reader and making them very difficult to forget.



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Thursday, March 8, 2012

The White Devil by Justin Evans_Review

The White DevilThe White Devil by Justin Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stunning novel-parts mystery, coming-of-age adolescence, history, English literature, Romantic poets (Lord Byron), ghost story, haunting, English public school subculture, character-in-depth, plotting, budding romance-or not; this novel has everything and more, including a superb writing style that catches and enraptures the reader, making us want to go read everything this author writes. Justin Evans encapsulates the British public school (what we in America would term private schools) equally as well as fellow NYC author Jonathan Rabb writes of Germany between the Wars. I am just amazed and entranced with “The White Devil.”

Young Alex, never the cynosure of his embittered father’s eye, is shipped to London’s Harrow school (which boasts the poet Lord Byron’s tenure), due to his being caught using heroin with a school friend at a private Connecticut boys’ boarding school. This is Alex’s last chance, according to Dad-it’s shape up or be cut out of the family. Alex is an immediate loner because he is the only new Sixth Former (it’s his extra year now to try to convince any University, anywhere, to accept him), he is American, not British; and he so closely resembles alumni Lord Byron that his housemaster, a failing alcoholic poet, casts him in a school play about Byron’s life. The playwright is not the only one to notice Alex’s resemblance; the house ghost, a younger contemporary-and lover-of young Byron’s-discovers Alex to, and sets about to haunt him, whilst simultaneously causing deaths and other bizarre events.
Don’t take my word for it: “The White Devil” is a substantial winner. Get it and read!


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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness_Review

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"A Discovery of Witches" is a complex and multi-layered novel-one could call it a work of paranormal suspense-which is only the first of a series. Delving into British University culture (Oxford), witches, vampires, daemons, history of alchemy, library archivism, and much much more, this novel is a romp across Britain (16th century to present) and New England (17th century Salem to present-day upstate New York), set in a reality only slightly different from ours: a world in which three types of non-humans exist, collectively known as "creatures": witches, vampires, daemons (which are energy beings, sort of an advanced case of humans with extreme ADHD; very intelligent, artistic, creative, but each one is like a full team of Geminis on speed-full speed ahead, man the torpedos). Although the three groups co-exist with each other and with humans, humans remain unaware, and the three species of creatures keep strictly apart-until now. When Witch Diana Bishop (descendant of the first Witch executed at Salem) discovers Ashmole 782, an archived alchemical manuscript, all Hades breaks loose as vamps, daemons, and witches converge from everywhere on Oxford's Bodleian Library trying to acquire this manuscript-believed to contain the secrets of the creation of all creatures.


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Review of Immoral (Jonathan Stride #1) by Brian Freeman

Immoral (Jonathan Stride, # 1)Immoral by Brian Freeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have seldom read a mystery as complexly plotted as this one, and for a debut novel, it is simply amazing. (It would be astounding if produced by an accomplished, prolific author). The layers of mysteries, secrets, covert possibilities (where is she? where are they? did he do it? who might have? were they really? type of questions abound) keep the reader quite literally guessing what is going on, who did what to whom, and most of all: why, why, why? The ending is beyond anything this reader could have imagined or expected-but yet, when explained, it all works out, everything makes sense, and indeed-it is almost inevitable. I am reminded of the mysteries of Jo Nesbo; that is the only author I can think comparable in terms of riveting, incredibly-convoluted plotting. This is the second mystery by Brian Freeman I have read, and I shall not rest till I've devoured them all.


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slippery Souls by Rachael Dixon_Review

Slippery Souls (Sunray Bay, #1)Slippery Souls by Rachael H. Dixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful writing style and very wry humour makes an enjoyable novel and a fast-paced read. Poor Libby, thinking the worst problem in her life is waiting to dump her boring, unpleasant, live-in; she just doesn’t realize worse things are in store-namely, not living at all. If Libby could have expected any sort of afterlife at all, instead of oblivion, it’s for certain she would never have imagined Sunray Bay, the strangest “other side” ever. What’s more, not only is she installed there, her terrier Rufus (who also was involved in the automotive hit-and-run that cancelled Libby’s tenure on Earth) is right there with her-and he talks-and a cheeky bloke he is, too. Not only has Rufus learned sarcasm and wit in profuseness; so has Libby, and uses it as she explores her new after-death “life.”


An intriguing juxtaposition of the wry and the violent (in Big Brother style, termed “Peace and Order Maintenance”), “Slippery Souls” will keep readers on the edge trying to puzzle out its mysteries, while enjoying the outspoken Libby and Rufus, and the delightful characterisations of Sunray Bay’s citizenry, mayor, and Peace and Order Maintenance officers and prisoners. All is not sweetness and light in the afterlife, and there exist creatures and events one might never imagine for life after life. Luckily, this is only the first in a series, because readers will want to tumble on along after the Sunray Bay way of “life.”



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Twyla Shift: Blood and Magic by S. M._Review

Twyla Shift: Blood and MagicTwyla Shift: Blood and Magic by S.M.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anne’s clairvoyant dreams began before she can remember, but she well recalls at age six, the first-and final-time she spoke of them to another. Bullying, fear, and hatred resulted, and she subsided, eventually learning to recognize the dreams as guidance, and that meant specially for her, not usually as warnings or help for anyone else. At Uni, where she is engrossed in her chemistry course, her strange dreams take on a new turn, and she barely escapes from a dangerous fire in the chemistry lab. She’s about to find out that more than just the loss of two lives has occurred; she herself comes under a spell and is magnetized to a stranger she doesn’t ever remember seeing, a man who claims to be in love with her and to be marking her as his own. Next she realizes, she’s been transported to another realm, a world of magic, witches, and vampires, a realm known as Twyla; and Anne can view, hear, and transfer to Twyla for the very same reason she has spent her life feeling odd: her clairvoyance.


The descriptive settings are very well done, as are the action scenes. Readers will find it easy to emote  with the characters in Twyla, who all seem to live “larger than life” and are more dimensional than most humans. The plotting is nicely twisted, with many surprises along the way. “Twyla Shift: Blood and Magic” is not recommended for readers under 18 due to detailed scenes of intimacy.



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Black Oil, Red Blood by Diane Castle_Review

6 Stars:)

Black Oil, Red BloodBlack Oil, Red Blood by Diane Castle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could not ask for a more effective reader’s hook than the Prologue of “Black Oil, Red Blood.” No possible way a reader could turn away from this novel after reading just the first few sentences-but even better, the entire Prologue rocks with excitement, danger, and potential fatality, with character, revelation, superb plot and setting. Amazingly, this is Author Castle’s debut novel! It’s almost too much to expect to find great writing, enjoyable characters (some of which inspired me to laugh out loud despite the serious circumstances), plotting whose torque is tightened till it almost squeaks (that means darn good plotting and layers upon layers of concealed secrets), a setting that is drawn with such attention to detail yet with subtle brushstrokes it makes this reviewer want to shout “Hallelujah!” What all this comes down to is: do NOT miss this novel, Gentle Readers! I don’t care what your position is on Big Oil, the economy, natural resources, or litigation-you simply must read this book.


Attorney Chloe Taylor hoes a hard row in the petroleum backwater of Kettle, Texas, a tiny town where Big Oil is King-and Queen-and Emperor. Kettle is a community where the most a person can look forward to is finding out which type of cancer will be one’s demise, because if you work at PetroPlex, which fully half the town does, you’re going to come down with some kind of terminal health crisis. Chloe’s game is to win damages on wrongful death settlements, but she’s playing David to an enormous Goliath-and PetroPlex doesn’t want to pay out, and especially not to air its secrets. If Chloe isn’t extremely careful-well, the next wrongful death just might be her own.



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Awaken by Garth Reasby_Review

AwakenAwaken by Garth Reasby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jordan Law is an exceptional human being, with powers that border on the outright spooky, such as the ability to become temporarily invisible to one individual or to small groups. She is also stronger, more enduring, a faster runner, and a very quick-almost instantaneous- healer. Using her abilities as a trained sniper for Britain’s intelligence service is effective, productive, and mostly satisfying, until she encounters a very odd, nearly dangerous event while on a sniper mission in Afghanistan, when she discovers the chosen target also has telepathic or psychic powers. Then she is tapped to join a more covert organization within the ranks of the Intelligence Service, fearing that her siblings might be selected for extreme testing to see if they too possess these extraordinary powers, and also because of her lifelong search for answers to why she is as she is.

“Awaken” is the first of a series and is packed to the rafters with action and adventure. It will appeal to fans of thriller novels who enjoy detailed explanations of missions, weaponry, and the hierarchy of covert organisations. Jordan is an unusual protagonist, because she is female and that is not the usual case for highly-trained snipers on assassination missions. This gives the author an opportunity to weave in her emotional tapestry, her engagement, and her approach to work and relationships. Despite her gender, however, Jordan Law is a super-hero type, never the ordinary routine field agent.


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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Died on the Vine by Joyce Harmon_Review

Died On The VineDied On The Vine by Joyce Harmon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cissy (Cecilia) Rayburn, in 1996, is a happily married (for the second time, and for the past twenty-two years) wife, her husband retired, and she working at home, the former “summer place” in Virginia, where they now live year-round and operate a vineyard, her husband Jack’s new “retirement passion.” Life is good, slow-paced, and full of contentment-until the unexpected arrival of MIA hunter “Colonel” Obadiah Winslow, waving a photograph he claims proves Cissy’s first husband might still be alive, and missing, not killed in action thirty years earlier. Colonel Winslow spews much bluff and bluster, endearing him to conspiracy theorists, but few, if any, are the “missing” soldiers he has actually found and returned. So his approach to Cissy is soon forgotten; until she and her dog Pollyanna find Winslow dead in the vineyard, wearing her husband’s missing secateurs.


A delightfully intriguing novel with an exciting premise, and a perfectly set-up introduction: what’s not to love? I was fascinated from page one, and never lost my interest. Ms. Harmon writes well and delectably, introducing characters and situations (and memories) with which I “fell in love” immediately. On the surface, this mystery is a “cozy,” but below the surface are more levels than one might expect, and justifiably so-rendering even more delight to the lucky reader.

A page-turner for sure, “Died on the Vine” will endear itself to mystery readers and more, and certainly makes me want to find more novels from this author.



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