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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

MRS. ROBINSON'S DISGRACE by Kate Summerscale

Reviewed via NetGalley.com


Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian LadyMrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In June 1858, scarcely a month after divorce became a matter for civil court in Great Britain, a civil engineer, Henry Robinson of Edinburgh, sued for dissolution of his second marriage to Isabella, herself a widow. His brief held that Isabella was guilty of adultery, and he had the evidence of her written personal diary to prove it. This book is a study of that case, and far more: of the changing but still rigid mores of the lengthy Victorian Era; of the awakening of women an entire century before the first public stirrings of feminism; of the groundswell among the middle class for change (hence the new prevalence of divorce filings) and among women for relief and release, of both a practical and an intimate nature.
Yes, this is an actual case; no, it is not the “Mrs. Robinson” and her approach to a younger man of the Simon & Garfunkel song. This Mrs. Isabella Robinson was a true Victorian lady, reticent on the surface and to her husband and society, but at her inner core nearly a hellion from unrequited love and lust and the emotional stiffness and distancing of her husband Henry. Likely if Isabella had been of nobility, she may have taken many lovers and little scandal would have resulted. As it was, once Henry breached her privacy, finding and reading her private diary, and presenting it to the Court, Isabella was disgraced, flaunted as a wanton and a failure as a wife.




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DEATH SCENT by S. V. Wolf_Review

Death ScentDeath Scent by S. V. Wolf




An engrossing and tantalizing novel, at times murder mystery, at times police procedural, at times metaphysical, but always riveting, “Death Scent” follows German Shepherd Titan, a trained cadaver dog, who locates human remains and identifies their location for law enforcement personnel. Titan is not a search and rescue dog; those he seeks out are beyond repair. Mentored by a Native American spirit, Titan’s handler is part of a Shawnee family whose life purposes are to assist in such matters. Titan also visualizes the crime scene as the events occur.

This novel is enrapturing on many levels, and I highly recommend it as a definite page-turner.




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HUNTER'S MOON by R. Scott McCoy_Review

A collection of 19 tales, some of which are very terrifying, indeed, while some are more subtle, these are all short pieces-so the reader can take one at a time, or read the entire set in one sitting, as did I. Evidence of a creative and vivid imagination, some of these stories are definitely not to be read alone at night. My personal favorites were “The Regular” (even though in my mind the title did not accord with the content) and the concluder, “Dish Better Served Cold”-one supernaturally terrifying, the other terrifying in terms of man’s inhumanity to man, a subject we all know too well.

UNDEAD by Kirsty McKay_Review

UndeadUndead by Kirsty McKay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Undead” is an engrossing YA story which thankfully will have a sequel this fall. Bobby (Roberta) is an adolescent under a lot of pressure, more so than most. Born in the UK, she and her parents moved to the States due to her mother’s career; then her father contracted a quick-moving cancer and passed away, and her mother’s career sent them back to the UK, to Scotland. On a school skiing trip, Bobby (who is an excellent skier) is continually made aware of her considered shortcomings, a pariah and a misfit. Mocked because of her time in the States, she is the “new girl” and doesn’t fit in, and doesn’t much want to. When almost the entire class and the teachers are stricken down at an isolated roadside café, it’s up to Bobby, two misfit boys (one wild, one geeky), and one popular girl, to save the bus driver, get away, and eventually, to solve the situation or perish trying.

Full of delightful characterization, intense setting, taut and convoluted plotting, and secrets and revelations, “Undead” is an unending joy. You don’t even have to love “zombies” to enjoy this-but if you do, so much the better. Highly recommended for YA and up (the publisher targets grades 8-12, but even this older adult was quite enthralled).




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CEMETERY GIRL by Joseph Cognard_Review

Cemetery Girl Cemetery Girl by Joseph Cognard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Adolescent Janie lives for her art, and she is accomplished. Unbeknownst to her, she is also mediumistic: she draws what is significant to a person, even if that person is long dead. When she discovers that (via a widow of a man she drew in the Cemetery), she and her best friend Bobby begin to investigate her capacity. Named “Cemetery Girl” by her other supposed-to-be best friend Vanessa, Janie spends much of her time in the graveyard near her house, just drawing (and unintentionally channeling the various deceased). Life goes on until a new student moves in from California, and most of the girls focus on him; and Janie discovers she needs to decide between Keith, the new boy; and long-term friend Bobby.



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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

FATAL INCISION by W. R. Park_Review

Fatal IncisionFatal Incision by WR. PARK




“Fatal Incision” is a compelling new version of the 19th century’s “Case of the Century,” the case which baffled then-Scotland Yard and has riveted historians and true crime aficionados since 1888: Whitechapel’s self-styled “Jack the Ripper.” In this novel, Jack is indeed a surgeon, as suspected, and a very capable and talented one. He also has an obsession: a dark-haired, scarred, woman named Joan. Hunting her through taverns both upscale and dives, he seems to kill periodically whenever his quest is again thwarted. Close to being discovered, this surgeon takes ship for the New World, becoming a trusted surgeon in New York City. Publicity surrounding his saving of the Mayor’s life sends him on the run again, only this time literally underground.

“Fatal Incision” is a fascinating page-turner, a thriller rife with mystery, unexpected revelations, and yes, romance. Characterizations are excellent, and the reader comes to know the protagonists and prime secondary characters as if they were family or friends. For all who love the Ripper mythos, this book will be a welcome companion.




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RESTLESS IN PEACE by Mariah de la Croix_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud.


Restless in PeaceRestless in Peace by Mariah de la Croix

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A truly delightful story of humble mediumship, by a lady who spent five years working toward becoming a licensed funeral director, “Restless in Peace” relates some of the experiences of one woman who lives very close to the veil dividing the living and the not-so. Author de la Croix’s approach is stunningly lacking in arrogance and hubris; she endears herself to the reading audience by her modesty and by her acceptance of the Spirit World as a natural-if sometimes unseen-fact. Her story reads like a novel, though it is biography, and we see her as the kind of person we would be proud to befriend. Her encounters with the sometimes restless, sometimes roving, sometimes repetitive dead, range from the potentially chilly (and scary) to the gentle and the helpful (such as the female ghost who appeared only just in advance of phone calls relating the death of a loved one). I highly recommend this book-those readers who enjoy reading true accounts of mediumship will especially love it, but anyone can enjoy-and receive hope-from this book.



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SOLSTICE by Donna Burgess_Review

Solstice: A Novel of the Zombie ApocalypseSolstice: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse by Donna Burgess

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


11 or 12 stars would be apropos!


An electrifying “what if”-a coronal mass ejection on the sun, an ordinary and not infrequent event, serves as the “pulse” which totally knocks out the power grid everywhere on earth. And not just that-not just total loss of communications, Internet, television, subways, and so forth-but all those exposed to it, outdoors or indoors, turn into something really worse than zombies-flat grayish eyes, burnt skin-and an enormous and intense hunger for flesh. Even worse, if possible, is the fact that there is no sun: total darkness, as if at the Poles, except now, without reflected sunlight, there is no moon-no light from the moon, only stars. The global populace is immediately in a worse state than the original humans, for at least they had sun and moon. Here is a mostly civilized planet, attempting to cope, without warning, with constant darkness, no communications, heat only from wood, dwindling food supplies; and raging “monsters” outside their doors (and too often, inside).

Well-written, enticing, and captivating, this story will run chills up your spine-not the least because the situations it presents are entirely potential and plausible! The delineations of character, especially those who have fallen prey to the damage and become monsters, is superb-the protagonists’ coping with changed loved ones will tear your heart strings!




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Monday, May 28, 2012

COLD SPARKS by Peter Giglio and Catherine Cavendish_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Cold Sparks: Two Chilling Novellas of HorrorCold Sparks: Two Chilling Novellas of Horror by Catherine Cavendish

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


12 Stars anyone?


A Joy, a Delight, and Sheer Pleasure are to be found in this duet-consisting of “A Spark in the Darkness” by Peter Giglio and “Cold Revenge” by Catherine Cavendish. I am a well-read person, but both these stories break new ground, chilling me with frissons of terror, horror, and repulsion (and relief that I’m not living in either setting), and provide memories that will long linger-as well as the compulsion to read more from these excellent authors. Not just the writing, but the vividness, the stretch of imagination required to construct these special stories, have totally impressed this reviewer.
“A Spark in the Darkness” teaches us of an entirely new view of vampires-and let me assure you, they are immensely dangerous-and no, they’re not sparkly-not at all.
“Cold Revenge”-oh, the shivers! Please do not read at night while alone-and especially not if you have a guilty conscience.
Do read this set, and marvel-Mr. Giglio and Ms. Cavendish travel where no writer has gone before.




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A KILLING IN THE HILLS by Julia Keller_Advance Review

a killing in the hillsa killing in the hills by Julia Keller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I would that this book had its reader’s hooks a little closer together and a little tauter; the first hook comes in the prologue, and involves a scenic joust with one of the main characters. The second comes early in the first chapter, but then several pages ensue of characterization (nicely done, I admit) before the “real” action commences. Then again, it’s back to characterization and a little backstory.

The novel does work to develop its Appalachian background and setting, including the character of the populace. Much attention is devoted to “the new Appalachia,” overrun by prescription drugs illegally sold and consumed. Much dialogue is devoted to eliciting characterization. As for setting and character, I’ll give 5 stars, but 3 for action.




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Sunday, May 27, 2012

STILL LAKE by Sara Brooke_Review

Reviewed for Biting Dog Publications


Still LakeStill Lake by Sara Brooke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


With a gripping reader’s hook as powerful as a grappling hook-violent, graphic, and enticing-this novel is taut, well-plotted, and well-characterised. The backstory is interwoven subtly, never detracting nor distracting from the “current” events of the novel: rather, it adds to the escalating suspense and the reader will be wondering, “what’s happening now?” I was enraptured and raced through the pages, simply to find out the answers to that question! At the end, also, I was left pondering: what if these events could occur in actuality? That’s not an unlikely possibility, and it is one that makes this novel very “current” and very frightening.



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Saturday, May 26, 2012

THE BROKEN ONES by Stephen M. Irwin_Advance Review

Reviewed at request of publisher-Doubleday-ARC.


The Broken OnesThe Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



“The Broken Ones” is an extraordinarily complex second novel, well worthy of the author whose debut novel was “The Dead Path.” Set up on an unfailing premise-“Gray Wednesday,” September 10, the day every single living human on the globe was blessed-or cursed-with her or his own specifically individual ghost-the novel delves into the ramifications for economics, government, politics, and society, as well as for individuals, who must come at this each in their own way, and either make peace with the apparitions, or fail to do so. Multi-layered, with a complex set of characters, both primary and secondary, this novel is outstandingly interwoven.

Detective Constable Oscar Mariani and his partner, Detective Constable Neve de Rossa, are the only members of the Nine-Ten Unit, formed three years earlier to sign off on the authenticity of confessions of “the ghost made me do it,” or something similar-cases in which the perpetrator genuinely believed he or she was killing off their personal apparition. The “Barely” Unit, as it is widely and scathingly known, is barely existing, constantly ground under the pressures of attrition, budget downsizing, and Homicide Inspector Haig, a man who is more like the giant spider at the center of a web of bribery, extortion, power, and death, than he is like a Homicide detective. Oscar stumbles on a case of a tortured young girl, carved with arcane symbols, and refuses to relinquish it to Homicide, despite enormous pressure and the requested transfer of Neve. So much more is behind the scenes of this murder, though, and soon Oscar finds himself stalked by the Supernatural.

I highly recommend this novel, which will linger long in the reader’s mind and inhabit reader’s dreams.




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Thursday, May 24, 2012

THE CHARTER by Gillian Hamer_Review

The CharterThe Charter by Gillian Hamer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'd like to give this book 12 stars!

I totally loved this book and was enraptured by it. There is not a single loose thread or dropped stitch anyway in this wonderful interweaving of contemporary, historical, murder-mystery, treasure-hunt, Supernatural haunting, and the deep, deep characterizations, both of characters present and past. “The Charter” is a charmer! With an excellent reader’s hook, by the last sentence of the prologue I was captivated. I melded with the character of the deceased Owen-so much like me in so many ways, in other ways so divergent-and found empathy easy with all the other characters too. The author does suspense with a gentle but deft hand, building it carefully so that the reader is surprised to find new discoveries and revelations. I remain amazed at the quality of this book, recommend it most highly to readers of all stripes, and await the next novel from this very accomplished author.



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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

EARLY RELEASE FOR BAD BEHAVIOR by Kevin Hopson_Review

Early Release for Bad BehaviorEarly Release for Bad Behavior by Kevin Hopson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A smoothly-written short story, suffused with surprises, secrets, and mystery. What’s going on with death row inmates at El Dorado Prison? One at a time, they disappear, then reappear, existing in constant chronic pain. They’re not going to Lansing Prison for execution: so where are they going? Why? And why is the transport by a private corporation, not the State correctional system?
Read on and discover, and be amazed at the number of secrets (and secretive individuals) that Kevin Hopson can pack into a brief story, in this somewhat futuristic mystery. He is truly a writer to keep one’s eye on. [Mr. Hopson is also the author of “Earthly Forces,” “The Vanishing,” and “World of Ash.”]




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Monday, May 21, 2012

BODY, INC. by Alan Dean Foster_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Body, Inc.Body, Inc. by Alan Dean Foster




“Body, Inc.” is an exciting futuristic science fiction novel set in a future where the polar ice caps have melted, changing climates and topography. Africa is now in only three regional sections: North, Central, South-and South is ruled by the South African Economic Combine (SAEC-or “SICK”). Both humans and animals are routinely “melded,” or genetically enhanced and manipulated. For example, enhanced versions of the traditional Great White shark are utilized to patrol coastal waters and to remove illegal immigration.
Whispr, a meld who is so thin as to be almost invisible, and his business partner, brilliant but factually naïve Dr. Ingrid Seastrom, are tracking suspicious, possibly illegal, nanoimplants, and also trying to determine the meaning of a data storage thread Whispr had discovered. In this sequel to “The Human Blend,” former street criminal Whispr and medical doctor Ingrid travel from Savannah and South Florida to South Africa, both on the trail of information, and also to avoid SICK’s genetically modified and boosted assassin, Napun Mole.
“Body, Inc.” is Book 2 in “The Tipping Point” series.




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THE DAGONITES by Rick Carufel_Review

The Dagonites (The Chronicles of Underhill)The Dagonites by Rick Carufel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another gem of Lovecraftian horror, “The Dagonites” is a multi-layered complex: quantum physics, gentle romance, buried treasure, human sacrifice, cults, monstrous elder gods, Judeo-Christian relics, early 20th century Rhode Island’s Italian mobsters, academia, the occult and arcane. You name it, it can be found here. Another “I just can’t turn the pages fast enough and I sure can’t stop reading” from author Rick Carufel. I continue to be amazed at how totally and excellently author Carufel immerses himself (and his readers) into the Lovecraftian multidimensional multiverse. After only two novellas, I find myself repetitively glancing over my shoulder to check for approaching shadows, and cocking my ear to listen for the squish of tentacles.

Set in Providence in 1921 (accolades to Lovecraft’s own stomping grounds), a graduate student from Brown University and a female caving enthusiast and budding archeologist from Pembroke College (then a ladies’ institution affiliated with Brown) explore the myriad tunnels below the University and beyond to assist a physics professor who wishes to experiment with the relativity of time. First they uncover a treasure trove; then they uncover evil. Sometimes it’s best to leave certain doors closed, and certain tunnels unexplored.




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AND THEY CALLED HER SPIDER by Michael Coorlim_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


And They Called Her Spider (A Bartleby and James Adventure, #1)And They Called Her Spider by Michael Coorlim

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love Steampunk: let me say that right up front. I’ve adored the sub-genre ever since I realized it was not Cyberpunk, as I’d initially mistakenly thought. I love everything about Steampunk, and this novella expresses all of that. The mechanisms, the characters, the almost magical engineering, the alternate-probability history, the Victorian Era (extended somewhat farther in the 20th century than we remember in our consensus reality), it’s all fascinating-riveting-enrapturing. “And They Called Her Spider” brings mystery, suspense, action, adventure, crime, and some of the deepest character studies I have ever seen accomplished in a novella. Run, don’t hesitate, to buy this one!

A Bartleby and James Adventure, #1



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THE GIRL IN THE CLOCKWORK COLLAR by Kady Cross_Review

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar (Steampunk Chronicles, #2)The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“The Girl in the Clockwork Collar” is an endearing story in the Steampunk sub-genre, set in Victorian England and America. Full of science, magic, romance, suspense, gangsters, history, settings galore, this novel will keep the reader riffling those pages without realizing the passage of time. You will want to read this at one sitting because it’s just too compelling to put down. This is such a captivating novel that I immediately determined to read the prior books in the series (this is #2). Kady Cross is a skillful writer, who weaves actual historical fact with the spinning of her own imagination, and brings us a story that is simultaneously edge-of-the-seat suspenseful, and romantically cosy. “The Girl in the Clockwork Collar” is suitable for any YA readers, and anyone older. I recommend it highly!



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Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SELFSAME by Melissa Conway_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


SelfSameSelfSame by Melissa Conway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Selfsame” is an intriguing and convoluted novel with a unique premise: one spirit, separated into two bodies, nearly three centuries apart. While the 18th century girl, Enid, sleeps, her 21st century counterpart, Sorcha, is awake living her own life. Then Sorcha sleeps 12 hours so that Enid can wake. Each knows of the other, and has since earliest childhood; each has a grandmother who watches over the situation closely; each understands that she carries the spirit only half the time.

I’m very impressed with this novel, first because of the unique approach, and secondly, because the author has such a firm foundation in American colonial history, in character, and in plotting. There’s twice as many character sets to juggle here, because of Enid and Sorcha’s two separate lives, chronologically so far apart. What seems like it would be a major juggling job is written and interwoven very smoothly and completely, making the story a joy (and an education) for the reader.
Another poignant aspect is Enid’s recognition (through living Sorcha’s life) of “the butterfly effect,” so that both young ladies understand how important it is not to try to change either the future or the past, but that instead they each must just live life as best they can.




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PHOSPHEINDZ by Rick Carufel_Review

PhospheindzPhospheindz by Rick Carufel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A truly Lovecraftian tale, this novella is even set in H. P.’s home locale-Providence, Rhode Island, site of Brown University, where much of the action takes place. A dedicated scholar, graduate student Brian Metcalf, determines to write his Master’s thesis in psychology on the mechanisms of vision behind closed eyelids. A worthy goal, but in the process, Brian delves into both Eastern mysticism (including Kundalini energy and Tantra), as well as Western occultism. He might have made it through, if he had not become the target of a covert cult determined to open a portal for one of the Eldritch-the Old Ones-those alien gods existing in time immemorial prior to the dawn of man.

Metcalf’s only hope lies in his mentor, Professor Beauchamp, and in Beauchamp’s colleague, nicknamed “Professor Mo,” who are elected as the guardians of the light in this instance, and will do battle to the death to prevent the infestation of this other-dimensional eldritch evil into this world.

I came out of this reading feeling I had actually lived the events; that’s how powerful an impact this novella had on me. I give it 5 stars for its adherence to Lovecraftian precepts, and for upending my psyche.




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MIDNIGHT CALLER by Leslie Tentler_Review

CHASING EVIL TRILOGY #1


Midnight Caller (Chasing Evil Trilogy, #1)Midnight Caller by Leslie Tentler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars




Review: “Midnight Caller” cries out to be read in one sitting, without sleep, for the reader will be captivated and turning pages as quickly as possible. Rife with action, emotion, romance, stalking, control freaks, art, psychology, childhood abuse survivors, murders old and new, vampirism play and Goth settings; the French Quarters and environs of New Orleans, this romantic suspense has something for practically every reader to devour.

FBI Special Ageny Trevor Rivette, in the Violent Crimes Unit, has been tracking one particular elusive and apparently nearly invisible serial killer through several states. Not only is the modus operandi identical, but the killer taunts Rivette with notes signed “D.” Now he has killed in New Orleans, Trevor’s home town and one to which he never wished to return, due to the horrific childhood suffered by himself, his sister Annabelle, and his brother Brian. He’s scarcely arrived to investigate the fresh murder when he happens to overhead a caller on a late-night psychology talk program on New Orleans radio, “Midnight Confessions,” hosted by one Rain Sommers, Ph.D. in psychology-and orphaned daughter of the infamous torch singer Desiree Sommers, murdered by her husband when Rain was only two. The caller labels himself as “Dante,” and by his taunts to Rain, and his discussion of “bloodplay,” Trevor believes this man may well be the serial killer he seeks.

Meanwhile, Rain’s producer, a control freak and narcissistic philanderer, perceives giant ratings from “Dante,” and urges Rain to take his calls every night, if it so occurs. He doesn’t care that Rain is freaking out; and he certainly doesn’t want to hear that she plans to cancel the program when her contract expires in three months. No, David plans nationwide syndication, with himself at the helm, and claims he will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure just that. Nor does he care that “Dante” has a stern and murderous eye trained on Rain.

Readers, run out and grab this multi-layered, totally suspenseful, and exciting mystery, and revel in the reading.




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Reviewed for HEARTS ON FIRE REVIEWS

THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE by Carin Gerhardsen_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


The Gingerbread HouseThe Gingerbread House by Carin Gerhardsen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Bullying among children and adolescents has probably been occurring for centuries; certainly we’ve all read enough about its occurrence in British public schools throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and we’re familiar with the practice of hazing in many colleges and universities. We know about the injuries and occasional fatalities. But what do we know about the survivors of childhood bullying? The very young, pre-school age, who are daily subjected to not just the taunts, but actual physical brutality of equally young children, who should not even be capable of such? Author Carin Gerhardsen examines this very subject, in the context of pre-school bullying in Sweden, and its consequences in middle age.

Young Thomas is a pre-school victim; a couple of the children, specifically Hans and Ann-Kristin, lead the assaults against him, some of which are quite potentially dangerous (such as tying him up in a jump rope and pushing him into the road in front of an oncoming truck; pulling off his cap and pants and making him walk home without in the winter snow; and tying him to a frozen lightpost). All this and lack of emotional support at home, or protection against the constant bullying (indeed, young Thomas seems to wear an invisible “victim” tag) result in zero self-esteem, and a lifetime of both solitude and loneliness. Even in his late forties, Thomas is still often the brunt of coworkers’ pranks. Then one evening, by sheerest chance (or fate), Thomas spots one of the preschool ringleaders, now a middle-aged, self-assured, business partner with a loving and devoted family. Thomas just cannot face it-and for probably the first time in his life, he decides to act, not react-and discovers that he does indeed have power: the power to take life.

I first became interested in Scandinavian crime fiction via Lars Kepler’s “The Hypnotist” and the novels of Jo Nesbo. Carin Gerhardsen ranks in that high category also, and I anticipate further crime novels from this author, who effectively brings to life the character study so essential to good fiction.




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Saturday, May 19, 2012

AURARIA by Tim Westover_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Auraria: A NovelAuraria: A Novel by Tim Westover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A delightfully winsome and cozy historical fantasy, set in Northern Georgia; an alternate history of a factual locale, a near-ghost town which, like so many, was founded on the potential boom of a gold rush. Auraria, in this book, is not what one might expect to find, however; instead, it is something more akin to Faeryland: singing trees, fish that live in mist, and much, much, more.

Staid Mr. James Holtzclaw, right-hand man for a land acquisitions firm-a man who values order and symmetry-is about to experience his perception of reality undergoing a kaleidoscopic change. Holtzclaw plans to travel to Auraria to buy up all the land possible, for his employer’s unstated purposes; but folks in Auraria are much more clever than he has any right to expect.

Really, Holtzclaw should have paid much closer attention to the mythical and bizarre figures on the gold coins his employer handed him, to use for payment to the landowners of Auraria and environs. And he should have listened to what folks told him about Auraria…




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QUARANTEEN: THE LONERS by Lex Thomas_Review

The LonersThe Loners by Lex Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Genetic engineering gone badly wrong motivates the focus in this action-packed YA adventure thriller. On his epileptic young brother Will’s first day at Pale Ridge’s brand-new high school, David expects trouble because on Saturday he had punched out a rival for his girlfriend’s affections, and opened a vendetta among his former football teammates. But moments after entering the school, that becomes a minor problem, as first an explosion destroys the east wing of the high school, then teachers start falling dead in gory fashion, while the students remain untouched-for the time being. Nearly instantly, armed military SWAT teams appear beyond the confines of the school compound, shooting students who approach too close, and welding shut the doors and windows of the remaining wing.

Now every two months a military helicopter drops supplies onto the quad, for the survivors to fight over. One student kills another, while the seniors also begin to die of the same virus that killed the faculty. Even David and Will, so close up to this point, begin to fight as Will turns tough guy to overcome his epileptic vulnerability.

Rugged and uncompromising, “Quaranteen” is a not a book to be read in the dark or while alone, but it does deserve reading. Very well-written, very compelling, this novel will be virtually unforgettable.




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HANGING BY A THREAD by Sophie Littlefield_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Hanging by a ThreadHanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A YA paranormal mystery which fully engrossed even this much older reviewer, “Hanging by a Thread” pivots around Clare, an about-to-be high school junior who returns with her mother to Winston, California, to the town where Clare was born and spent her formative years. In fact, Winston had been the home of Clare’s maternal ancestors since her great-great-grandmother Alma operated a seamstress shop. Alma and one of her clients were killed by the client’s pathologically jealous fiancé, but her unborn child was rescued and became Clare’s great-grandmother. For decades the shop had been considered haunted; now Clare and her accountant mother live there. Clare herself is haunted in a sense; an extraordinarily talented fashion designer, she renders vintage clothes new and exciting and unique-but she also sees and experiences visions from some items.

Winston as a town contains its own sorrows: two years ago on the Fourth of July, a young boy who had been a Little League All-Star died in a fall off a cliff. One year ago on the same date, a popular and beautiful adolescent girl disappeared, with no evidence remaining. Now Clare is getting very interested in one of that girl’s many boyfriends-and she is also seeing intense visions from the girl’s favourite designer denim jacket.

“Hanging by a Thread” is a strong page-turner which will captivate readers. Author Sophie Littlefield delves deep into each of her characters, more than is usual, making this book even more appealing. The twists and convolutions of the multiple plot lines keep readers guessing, and riveted. “Hanging by a Thread” should not be missed.




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TALISMAN OF EL by Alecia Stone_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Talisman of El (Talisman of El, #1)Talisman of El by Alecia Stone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Talisman of El” is Book One in the “Talisman of El” series, and is a totally absorbing YA page turner, of mystery, magic, fantasy, otherworldliness, with a gentle dose of conspiracy theory as well. The writing is so smooth, it’s fascinating, and readers will race through the novel gripped by the multiple plot lines and empathetic of the characters.

Protagonist Charlie is an orphan, who’s had trouble finding a long-term home situation. Finally, he is placed with funeral director Jacob, a widower who lives in the woods near the small village of Capeton in West Sussex, England. Little does Charlie realize at first that he has been fostered for a purpose, not out of the goodness of Jacob’s heart-not at all.

Charlie is also apparently psychic-he dreamed his father’s death, the day before it happened on Charlie’s tenth birthday. Now he has dreamed of a father and his adult son in Manhattan, and of the father’s mysterious and inexplicable disappearance-and it all surrounds a magical talisman…




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THE EMPTY GLASS by J. I. Baker_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


The Empty GlassThe Empty Glass by J. I. Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Marilyn Monroe’s 1962 death: accident? Suicide? Murder?

The coroner, Thomas Noguchi, ruled “probably suicide,” despite the fact that no evidence remained of barbiturate overdose, and evidence was present that her body had been moved. Nearly 50 years later (August 5, 1962, will mark the 50th anniversary of the then 36-year-old actress), conspiracy theories are rife, probably nearly as many as abound over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, reputedly one of Marilyn’s many lovers (along with his brother Robert, also later assassinated while a Presidential candidate).

Will we ever know the truth? It’s not likely, but that never prevents conspiracy theorists, journalists, nor novelists from taking a go at discovery. “The Empty Glass” presents a theory as seen through the eyes, activity, and narration of one Ben Fitzgerald, employed by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office at that time as “Deputy Coroner, Suicide Notes and Weapons.” It’s a fascinating segment of history, whether one is a film buff, a feminist, an aficionado of historical mysteries, or a died-in-the-wool conspiracy theorist. Read “The Empty Glass,” and then decide for yourself:
Marilyn-suicide? Accident? Natural Causes? Or Murder and Staged Death Scene?




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Friday, May 18, 2012

THE PALLOR OF DEATH & OTHER STORIES_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


The Pallor of Death & Other StoriesThe Pallor of Death & Other Stories by Amanda Lawrence Auverigne




“The Pallor of Death and Other Stories” is a collection of ten short stories by author Amanda Lawrence Auverigne. I would classify this set in the category of “the New Weird.” Yes, there is horror; yes, there is Paranormal and Supernatural. Vampires and werewolves appear in some of the stories-so do insane killers who in some way remind me of some of the classic madman tales of the 1950’s. Some of the stories take place on a college campus, others do not. If I had to pick favourites, mine would be “Land Line,” and “Raid,” both of which make the horror and the terror very close and up front, before exploding into bizarre denouement. These stories are all very fast-paced, and the reader will be through them almost before realizing it; and then comes the looking over the shoulder, checking to make sure the doors are locked and the alarm system is on.



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WOMEN SCORNED by Angela Alsaleem_Review

Women ScornedWomen Scorned by Angela Alsaleem

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I would classify this book under the sub-genre “bizarre” rather than strictly as horror. At its heart hides a covert “Order,” founded some three hundred years earlier by a young student who had lost his beloved to death. Taking refuge in a hidden cave to grieve, he was contacted by the “Dark Lord,” and given orders, dreams, and visions. Over the course of three centuries, his beloved Eve’s spirit has been transmitted over and over again into new bodies, each body after the first being his own child, birthed by the successive Eves. Now the Dark Lord has promised it is time to bring together the spirit world with the realm of the living, and to do this, the female half of what he calls “Rory” must be retrieved; the male half has been incarcerated in the Order’s secret castle in Ireland for several months. The female half is Camilla, a young solitary artist brutally destroyed by a rogue cop, who wanders, mostly invisibly, and has now discovered she can steal the spirit from destroyers of women by capturing their breath. Following her is Libitina, whose burning desire is to become a pathologist, but who has been rejected by many medical schools, and so resorts to visiting hospital morgues and cemeteries, and eventually, stealing Camilla’s corpse.
“Women Scorned” is quite well-written, and although convoluted, makes logical sense according to its own premise. It is not designed for the faint of heart, as it does contain many instances and descriptions of graphic violence, torture, rape, murder, and repeated incest. However, for those who like their horror outré and flavoured with the fragrance of Grand Guignol, this is quite a story.




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CRAZY DANGEROUS by Andrew Klavan_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Crazy DangerousCrazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“Crazy dangerous” is an appealing YA novel with excellent scenery, realistic characters, and a pair of empathetic protagonists, one female, one male. Sam is a wiry, dedicated, sometimes invisible but too often bullied, boy who wants to train himself to be good enough for the track team. Surprisingly, especially considering he is frequently the victim of physical bullying and brutality, Sam harbors a tremendous amount of rage-and sometimes that erupts.
Jennifer, unlike her older brother, is also a victim. But Jennifer has additional issues: she hears-and now sees-visions: otherworldly creatures, in addition to the repellent voices. Her brother is kind to her and protective of her, but usually her mother is too tired and just doesn’t want to know. Even though Jennifer and Sam are classmates, their spheres don’t intersect until some time after Sam has made a wrong choice, to hang with a trio of thugs. When he discovers that these boys are not just potential thieves as well as troublemakers, but are captained by a vicious sadist who wants to seriously hurt Jennifer, Sam has to make the decision: do right and suffer, or fall in with the group and let someone else be seriously hurt.




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THE UNHOLY by Heather Graham_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


The UnholyThe Unholy by Heather Graham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another fascinating paranormal from this prolific and multitalented author, “The Unholy” is set in Los Angeles and Hollywood, focusing on a special effects firm which has a particular forte for “film noir,” the classics of the 1930’s through 1950’s, when movies such as “The Maltese Falcon” drew viewers in by the hordes. As well as showcasing these classics of the genre, the company also works on newer films in the same venue, and operates a museum showcasing classic film noir favorites.

But now, during filming of a new film entitled “The Unholy,” intended to be a reprise of the early film “Sam Stone and the Curious Case of the Egyptian Museum,” something in the museum has turned deadly: the “mummy” of the murderous Egyptian priest Amun Mopat. So either someone is disguising himself as the priest-or something seriously paranormal is occurring. It hasn’t escaped notice, either, that the original film had been marked by untimely and inexplicable death. Since one of the special effects firm’s employees not only views the dead, but many of them speak to her, she can function as a medium to reach the “Other Side.” The FBI agent and erstwhile effects wizard specializes in odd investigations too, and these two may be exactly what is needed to delve to the source of this case.

A Heather Graham paranormal is always a delight: smoothly written, with superb suspension of disbelief. Author Graham never has to convince us that the paranormal is real, we take it for granted. That’s how talented is she!




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DARK COMPANION by Marta Acosta_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

Dark CompanionDark Companion by Marta Acosta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A warm and delightful YA, full of surprises and unexpected revelations, “Dark Companion” is just the type of novel I hope for when I seek out a YA story. A young girl whose life has been hellish unexpectedly and inexplicably receives a ticket out, and ascends to a new lifestyle she could never have expected within the ordinary routine. Out of a foster home at sixteen, sheerly by studying herself to a frazzle, dedicated to the memory of a wise older foster resident who died of bacterial meningitis, Jane is offered a full scholarship-plus cottage accommodations-at a fancy day school for girls, in a fog-ridden valley some distance away.

What seems like a fairy tale and too good to be true might be just that-and soon Jane discovers that the hellish foster experience is likely not the only horrible life experience she might encounter.

Marta Acosta’s prose is compelling, and her descriptive settings are lyrical. I highly recommend this book to YA readers, and older, and hope it meets with a wide audience. I look forward to more from this author.




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BLACK MOUNTAIN AFFAIR by Drew Lindsay_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

Black Mountain AffairBlack Mountain Affair by Drew Lindsay




“Black Mountain Affair” is a riveting, fascinating, mystery set in Far Northern Australia, in a territory once inhabited only by Aborigines, later settled by whites in what was often a bloody and violent confrontation. At sacred Black Mountain, where the fauna is often dangerous, including carnivorous “ghost bats,” two Aboriginal women-mother and daughter-are discovered, brutally murdered, in a cave. Next one of the investigating police detectives is killed while at the residence of a potential suspect. The brutal deaths don’t end here. Out there somewhere is a serial killer with a vengeance, and a hidden agenda the police cannot unravel.
The multicultural foundation of this novel is fascinating, and the author interweaves the socioeconomic conflicts between the native Aboriginals and the Caucasian culture.
This is a true page-turner; this reviewer could not set it aside. The author’s perception of the multicultural, socioeconomic, caste, and historical layers of this region of Australia would be worth reading. In addition, Drew Lindsay weaves a taut and complelling, multilayered, and very complex mystery which keeps us guessing throughout.




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Thursday, May 17, 2012

THE DARK WINTER by David Mark_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


The Dark WinterThe Dark Winter by David Mark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What do an elderly man who survived a trawler accident in 1968, an adolescent girl adopted from war-torn Sierra Leone, and an alcoholic former arsonist have in common? The police don’t know-yet; but someone has decided that since these individuals didn’t die when they should have, they will die now-each in the way that they had each earlier survived. So the old man dies of exposure off Iceland; the young girl is murdered in church, in front of the congregation, priests, and acolytes, by machete; the arsonist who murdered his family dies in a house fire, in a temporarily empty residence on the Hull council estate.
In this character-driven suspenseful mystery, it devolves to Detective Inspector Aector McEvoy, a man widely disliked for pulling down the reign of a crooked CID officer who had ruled Hull for years, to determine what the connection between these murder victims is, and why. He must turn his brain inside out to decipher the identity of the murderer, and put an end to these slayings.
“The Dark Winter” is quite a page-turner, keeping the reader’s focus throughout.




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DEAD SCARED by S. J. Bolton_Review

Dead ScaredDead Scared by S.J. Bolton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Any mystery from S J Bolton will be a gem and a treasure and “Dead Scared” is no exception. Here is the return of Detective Constable Lacey Flint, who first graced us in “Now You See Me.” Lacey (of course not her real name) is recovering from an incident some months ago which nearly took the life of Detective Inspector Mark Joesbury, a man who unwittingly holds her heart, as she holds his. Joesbury recruits Lacey to go undercover at Cambridge University, where the suicide rate in the last few years has been unacceptable. Lacey, under yet another assumed name, plays a new undergraduate, discovering patterns among the suicides (horrible dreams, believing that someone enters their rooms while sleeping, claiming rape during their sleep). The methods of suicide are becoming more and more bizarre and violent, leading Joesbury, his superiors, and the head of the counseling clinic at Cambridge (herself a woman being stalked and “gaslighted”) to suspect a subculture of encouragement to suicide, possibly focusing on Internet web sites or chat rooms.

Reading an S. J. Bolton is like settling into a comfortable armchair before a crackling fireplace. The outside world drops away and nothing seems to remain but the story. I became a devoted fan with the very first novel I read and will continue to be one.




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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

THE INVASION OF 2020 by Ami Blackwelder_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

The Invasion of 2020 (Shifter Evolutions, #1)The Invasion of 2020 by Ami Blackwelder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


On the Fourth of July, 2025, Kenai Lake in Alaska and a number of other locations are the site of mysterious descending lights, that are not fireworks, meteor showers, nor shooting stars. Without explanation, without advance notice, these lights actually incite a watershed event in the history of Planet Earth.

I found the characterizations drawn with a light hand. The scenery was well-delineated. The book is rife with adventurous action and intrigue, as the “visitors” continue to explore this planet, and to interact with the human population. However, Idid find the writing rather choppy and uneven.

“The Invasion of 2020” is the fifth book of the “Shifter Evolutions Saga.”




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SCARS by Cheryl Rainford_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


ScarsScars by Cheryl Rainfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


"Scars" is a glorious recounting of an adolescent girl’s travails with awakening, and awakened, memory. I call it glorious because it so precisely delineates the events, emotions, thoughts, paranoia, justifiable fears, anger, resentment, that Kendra undergoes. Her classmates, mother, therapist, and much older gay friend Sandy are so true-to-life. Her budding friendship with classmate Meghan, also a survivor (and current victim) is precious and hope-inspiring. Kendra’s slowly awakening-yet halting-memories ring true and realistic. I marvel at the multiple ways in which author Cheryl Rainfield has delineated Kendra and those around her. It is so easy to see through her eyes, hear through her ears, think her thoughts along with her-and most importantly, to empathize with Kendra’s pain, and the other emotions that accompany it: the perception of betrayal, the bitterness, rage, resentment-the longing for help, but more, the yearning to replace her past with a different one, a positive, loving, affectionate, and protected past.

I totally recommend this book: for survivors of childhood abuse of any nature; for those who are still undergoing abuse; and for the loved ones, friends, and helpers who live with, befriend, or work with survivors. Everyone can benefit from this book. I give it a rating of 13 or above, due to the terrifying situations which Kendra experienced, even as a very young child. This book rings out truth, and deserves a vast audience.




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QUEST TWO: THE CURSED NILE by S. W. Lothian_Advance Review

This book will be available on June 1!

Quest Two: The Cursed NileQuest Two: The Cursed Nile by S.W. Lothian

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sequel to Quest One: The Golden Scarab
The lyrical delight of the first volume in the “Quest” series-“The Golden Scarab”-continues apace in this new entry relating the new series of events in this magical fantasy saga. The delightful storytelling approach also continues here, making this an excellent choice for a parent, grandparent, or other caregiver, to share aloud with their child. In the initial novel, the Ancient Egyptian god Seth, who craved power and just couldn’t get enough, wanted to take over all of Egypt, and his wise and Solomonic brother, the god Horus, summoned three youngsters from our present back to Ancient Egypt to hide the Golden Scarab, which confined Seth’s powers and restrained his evil nature. Consequently, those statues of Egypt which had aided in the battles against Seth were given free reign to roam, walk, dance, and generally participate in life.
Now life is good on the Nile, and the Festival of Ahket is about to begin, celebrating the god Hapi, who protects and guides the Nile, and who is ultimately responsible for the success of Egyptian agriculture-for without the Nile, there can be no harvest. No harvest is about to become a reality, though, because suddenly and inexplicably, Hapi disappears, and with him the Nile; and once again, it is up to contemporary youngsters J. J., Rani, and Linc, to solve this danger, stop the curse, and return Hapi to his rightful place.
If you’ve already enjoyed “Quest One: The Golden Scarab,” don’t miss this and hurry up about it. If you haven’t read “The Golden Scarab,” what are you waiting on? Middle-graders, YA, and yes, adults can all find delight in this series.




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HENRY FRANKS by Peter Adam Salomon_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud


Henry Franks: A NovelHenry Franks: A Novel by Peter Adam Salomon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have been an avid reader of mysteries for five decades, working diligently to piece out clues, marveling when authors don’t telegraph ahead of time, and I can truthfully say I came to only a tentative conclusion about this story, and that was quite a way into it! So author Peter Adam Salomon has done a really excellent job of interweaving the characters, plotting, backdrop, and settings in this story, never allowing any information too early.

At sixteen, Henry Franks has no memory beyond a year earlier. He remembers the present, but nothing before what his father has informed him was a vehicular accident in which Henry was injured quite badly and his mother killed. Henry knows he has scars, he has pain, he has numbness, and he is an outcast, a pariah, at high school in Brunswick, Georgia. His only friend is his next-door neighbor on St. Simons Island, Justine. His father, William Franks, works in the morgue at the Regional Psychiatric Hospital nearby. Life is mostly a mystery to Henry, and his father has become increasingly estranged. Henry’s psychiatrist, Dr. Seville, reassures him memory recovery is a process, but why, after a year, has there been no progress?

This is only the surface story; as the friendship between Henry and Justine intensifies, as Henry’s emotions mature, and as a violent hurricane approaches the Georgia coast, so too do events intensify, including multiple unexplained murders. Readers will marvel at the denouements, and be thankful they picked up “Henry Franks.”




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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE by J. T. Ellison_Review

A Hearts on Fire Review


Where All the Dead Lie (Taylor Jackson, #7)Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison




: In this seventh mystery in author J. T. Ellison’s Nashville Homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson series, Taylor has fallen just about as far as she humanly can, short of losing her life-and she had come very, very close to doing just that-two weeks in a coma, after being shot-she still can’t speak, even though her vocal cords appear normal, and the head shot hit nothing vital. Her friends were injured, she can’t get back to work yet-and oh, did we mention she can’t speak? Her physician insists she see the department therapist, and she’s willing, even though it means reliving her memories of the events of that fateful and nearly fatal night. Meanwhile, her emotions are riding a rollercoaster in regard to her home life, as her fiancé appears to be so supportive, yet she can’t countenance his lies and considers it his disloyalty. A Scottish friend who works for Metro Scotland Yard in London offers her a relaxing, solitary, convalescence at his ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands. But he also considers Taylor an unconquered challenge, and won’t allow her to bring along her fiancé. So what is the right choice for her? What will she face in Scotland that may even be more terrifying, more dangerous, than facing down the serial killer who brutally injured two of her friends, and nearly killed Taylor?

Author J. T. Ellison does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the continuing characters in this series as well as continuing plot lines. Even though this is the seventh, and the first I had read in this series, I had no trouble in immediately comprehending the situations and characters, and the backstory was subtly introduced. I would recommend reading the entire series, but “Where All the Dead Lie” can function as a stand-alone novel as well.




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BENEATH THE SHADOWS by Sara Foster_Advance Review

Beneath the ShadowsBeneath the Shadows by Sara Foster




A captivating British country mystery, “Beneath the Shadows” commences one week after young couple Grace and Adam, and their small infant Millie, have taken possession of the isolated rural cottage Adam’s inherited from his late grandparents. Their new situation could not be more divergent from their “regular” life in a London flat, with their two careers-but Adam begs Grace to give it just a try, just six months while she extends her maternity leave. One week into their new living situation, though, and Grace discovers Millie, in her pram, soundly asleep, outside the front door-after twilight, and no sign of Adam, who had penned her a note while she was out at the shops. Grace has no idea where Adam is, why he’s disappeared, how Millie was returned to the door (and why outdoors and not inside). Adam’s passport is missing, but by the time another year has passed, it’s not ever been used. Grace returns with Millie to the cottage from her parents’ villa in the South of France, determined at last to search for clues, sort out Adam’s grandparents’ furniture and possessions, and rent the cottage out, long-term or for holiday travellers. But she will quickly discover that Adam’s going missing is not the only mystery.

Multi-layered, impeccably crafted, and smoothly-written, “Beneath the Shadows” is a riveting page-turner with a great reader’s hook and unrelenting suspense and mystery.




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THE DEVIL IN SILVER by Victor LaValle_Advance Review

Advance Review for Great Minds Think Aloud


The Devil in Silver: A NovelThe Devil in Silver: A Novel by Victor LaValle




“Big Man” Pepper finds himself transported to a psychiatric unit when he defends himself against three interfering men he didn’t recognize as police; he was simply trying to back his friend’s ex-husband away from her. Now he is on seventy-two-hour involuntary commitment, quizzed about his mental status and his life, with no access to an attorney nor any other rights usually accorded if a suspect is taken into police custody. Since he is in a mental unit, none of that applies. But this is not an ordinary mental unit: something else lives there, something that isn’t the inmates-nor the staff-nor the social workers, psychiatrists, psychologist. Something that makes animal sounds, adjusts television volume and channels, and might just be invisible-and dangerous.

“The Devil in Silver” is a well-written, smooth-reading, novel with immediate suspension of disbelief; trust in the universe of the novel is readily available, including even the weird goings-on at New Hyde Psychiatric Unit (where no one would voluntarily wish to check in, especially on Northwest Corridor Four!). Author Victor La Valle wields a subtle and deft touch with his characterizations, and all are delightfully done. I must admit to having a special soft spot, though, for Pepper-he’s so likable, so understandable, and his moral integrity just shines through. He certainly doesn’t deserve the troubles to which he’s subjected.




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Monday, May 14, 2012

BLACKWOOD by Gwenda Bond_Advance Review

BlackwoodBlackwood by Gwenda Bond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A truly riveting tale of contemporary Roanoke Island, Virginia, “Blackwood” interweaves YA issues (loneliness, outcasts, the cool crowd vs. those shunned, alcoholic parents, misunderstood adolescents, and more) with the history of the Island, and with Supernatural overtones. Miranda, Phillips, and Bones are endearing and comprehensible characters, who seem like our friends, or even ourselves-easy to elicit empathy, despite their flaws and foibles.

What made the story even more appealing for me is the way in which Gwenda Bond intertwined the centuries-old mystery of the “original” colony on Roanoke Island-the villagers who were “there,” then three years later “not there,” with no trace or survivor remaining-as if they had simply been removed from the face of the earth-all 114 of them. Now, 114 more Roanokers have “disappeared,” gone missing, the night that Miranda has seen a vision of the audience for the “Lost Colony” stage play being swallowed by a Ghost ship. Her own father is among those who have disappeared, and it may be up to Miranda, and her fellow pariah Phillips, son of the new Chief of Police, to hunt for clues to the newest baffling mystery of Roanoke Island.




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Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud and via NetGalley

SHIFT by Kim Curran_Advance Review

Advance Review via NetGalley.com


ShiftShift by Kim Curran

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I found this YA novel fascinating, from characterization to plotting, from suspense to quantum mechanics, and the unexpected twists and turns. The premise set forth is intriguing, and is approached in a way that will make it both understandable and appealing to YA-age readers, while at the same time interesting adult readers as well.

It’s not uncommon to be considered a loser in one’s adolescent years; in fact, it occurs far too frequently, to far too many individuals who find themselves putting aside their dreams and goals and accepting that label. One such wrongly-labeled young man is Scott Tyler, who suddenly finds even his best friend rejecting him publicly. In a bid for acceptance (or just a foolish move), Scott tries to climb an electrical pylon, only to find the top strut collapsing and himself falling forty feet-but did he fall?

Incredibly enough, Scott discovers himself (via the entrance into his life of punky Aubrey Jones, a girl with an ugly past of her own, that he has metanormal abilities as a “Shifter,” an individual who can shape his reality and change his probabilities. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? But not when a covert government agency is determined to locate, and train, all young Shifters; and not when “entropy” is expected to set in during late adolescence, rendering Shifting a thing of the past. When Shifting means mapping the consequences in advance, or living to regret the Shift, it’s also not so cool-and quite possibly a danger too.




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THE KULT by Shaun Jeffrey_Review

The KultThe Kult by Shaun Jeffrey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“The Kult,” first of the Detective Chief Inspector Prosper Snow novels, is an incredible, complexly-plotted, mystery/thriller/suspense/horror. Not for the faint of heart due to its graphic violence, it is nevertheless well worth the reading-and the violence is never gratuitous, but rather an integral part of the plot line and characterization. Well-written, fascinating, and riveting, “The Kult” serves as a fine introduction to author Shaun Jeffrey, and convinced me to read his entire oeuvre.

Unraveling this plot is the joy of the story, so I won’t detail it other than to say that on the choices of the past are founded the mistakes of the present and the fears of our future. As Detective C. I. Snow discovers, not only are our choices in the past part of our present, but so are the choices others around us made. As John Donne penned centuries ago, “No man is an island,” and this is very true for Snow and the friends of his youth. Seeds planted in secondary school bear fruit now decades later, both for good and for bad; and Snow and his friends discover that the foundations laid in past years are sometimes very shakily constructed indeed.




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Saturday, May 12, 2012

AT ROAD'S END by Zoe Saadia_Review

At Road's End (Pre-Aztec series, #1)At Road's End by Zoe Saadia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



“At Road’s End” is a detailed yet readable and heartfelt historical novel of the land that became early Mexico and the eventual American Southwest, land of the Anasazi, Aztecs, and Toltecs. A routine trading trip, guided by a disgraced warrior for the protection of the merchants and their trading goods, discovers a cliff village ransacked and burnt, the villagers murdered. Only one survivor remains, a young married woman who had the luck and good sense to hide out. She tells the warrior of her people, who live in Great Houses against the Cliffside, and whose spiritual beliefs he cannot understand. Her tribe, of course, were those history came to know as the disappeared Anasazi.

Readers will find themselves turning pages, engrossed with the story line. One needn’t be an aficionado of historical fiction to enjoy this novel, but simply a person who loves good reading.




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SANCTUM WARRIORS (SANCTUM HAVENS BOOK 2) by Edenmary Black_Review

Sanctum Warriors: Shadow Havens Book 2Sanctum Warriors: Shadow Havens Book 2 by Edenmary Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Sanctum Warriors,” Book 2 in Edenmary Black’s “Shadow Havens” series, has been eagerly awaited by readers who devoured the first novel in the series, “Sanctum Angels,” a fast-paced paranormal romantic urban fantasy (yes, all of that ). Like its predecessor, the new “Sanctum Warriors” is just the ticket for readers who like their paranormal fantasy highly-populated, with many different “species” included, action-packed, intriguing, and the romance subtly erotic (sensual but never overdone).

Fallen angels-werewolves-vampires-hybrids of any of these-and “protected humans,” blood donors for the vampires, who are supposedly safe from the other predatory species-all these populate the Sanctum and the Demesne, separate realms which serve as home for various species of paranormals. It all seems so sensible, but paranormals come in male and female too, and that means opportunities for love, lust, cupidity, and aggression; nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Hurry to your nearest bookselling outlet and get your copy of “Sanctum Warriors” (get “Sanctum Angels” too, if you don’t already have it!) and settle in for a comfortable yet exciting sojourn in the realms where the paranormal comes true.




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SHADOWS OF THE REALM by Dionne Lister_Review

Shadows of the RealmShadows of the Realm by Dionne Lister

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This debut novel is the first of a series (The Circle of Talia) and is a smooth-reading, delightful, high fantasy. Even readers who don’t usually head for the fantasy shelves can find much to delight in here, as did I. The writing is excellent, and author Dionne Lister deserves much more than five stars for her ability with lyrical description, which makes the reading flow so well.

The characters are superbly delineated, and the action is realistic and intriguing. A good balance is achieved between destiny and free will in the lives of the characters, an effect not always managed in fantasy stories. The world-building is also very accomplished. In fact, I encourage readers to keep an eye on author Dionne Lister and anticipate, as I am, the next installments in The Circle of Talia series.




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SKELETON CREW by Cameron Haley_Review

A Hearts on Fire Review

Skeleton Crew (Underworld Cycle, #2)Skeleton Crew by Cameron Haley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Review: “Skeleton Crew” is a rip-roaring, uproarious, non-stop monster/zombie/underworld/between-world/magic story that never ever takes a break, barely stops to breathe. Sequel to the popular “Mob Rules,” “Skeleton Crew” is set in a magical Los Angeles where all that glitters may actually be faery glamour, where witches can be sorcerers (as is our protagonist), not just Wiccan-and where nobody is really surprised if dead gangstas reanimate. Well, not too surprised, and not too happy either. Domino is a “mobbed-up” witch who literally takes no prisoners as war as war chief of an important L.A. area gangster. It’s trite now to speak of a “Kick-***” heroine, but Domino gives a new meaning to the term: on the mortal plane, in the Underworld/underworld (dead and mob), and in the “Between.” Even ghostly ghost-hunters know her name and reputation.

Readers who like their urban fantasy gritty, graphic, violent, and paranormal will flock to this one. Caution: the profanity is excessive-in keeping with the characters-but might be offensive to some readers. The violence is graphic, albeit “magical.”




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WHEN WINTER RETURNS by Kathryn Miller Haines

A Hearts on Fire Review;


When Winter Returns (Rosie Winter, #4)When Winter Returns by Kathryn Miller Haines

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“When Winter Returns” is a most delightful historical mystery with a strong, independent, flawed heroine, a woman who is not afraid to experience her emotions. Rosie Winter especially is unafraid of jumping into situations to help her friends, be they fellow actress Jayne (a lovely blonde who usually has no trouble finding acting or dancing parts), Al (a former mobster now on the run from his erstwhile sociopathic gangster boss), or Jack Castlegate-the wealthy Navy enlisted man with whom Rosie fell in love, only to suffer his disappearance, then reappearance in love with another woman. Rosie’s loyalty is unquestioned, even though following her loyal instincts can lead to serious, possibly fatal, trouble, as occurs when she helps Jayne on a condolence visit to the parents of her late fiancé, killed in action in the South Pacific. When Jayne and Rosie discover that the older couple’s son is NOT the boy whom Jayne knew-despite sharing a name and parents and home life-Rosie turns “detective” and starts tracking down the person impersonating the actual Billy DeMille-who had been killed at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, not while piloting a plane in the South Pacific in June 1942!

Layer upon layer of mystery abound, and author Kathryn Haines Miller superbly juggles a large cast of very well-developed characters. One of the most appealing aspects of this book for historical fiction fans is her grasp of the era: the slang, the locales (remember Horn & Hardart’s?), the neighborhoods, World War II in the South Pacific; and also the perceptions common at the time-all Germans were suspect, treated as potential spies, and only those who could “pass” as Americans (without accents, with generic adopted names) were safe. Ms. Haines has made a series convert of me, and I will definitely buy the first three books in this series soon. The author also has a YA series set in the same exciting historical period.




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