book review, Books, Crime, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, suspense, Thriller

It’s Getting Creepy Out There – Review: MILE MARKER ZERO by Benny Sims

There’s a thin line of desperation between fame and infamy, where being a number turns deadly.

Description:

Tired of never achieving his goals, an aging blue-collar worker’s rage at the world reaches a boiling point. After a lifetime of failures, disappointments, and shattered dreams, his job has proved a fast track to nowhere. His wife left him for a younger man and his emotionally distant son has disappeared from his life. What’s left of his life has been hollowed out leaving him invisible, forgotten, and unimportant in a world where the American dream is on life support if it ever existed at all.

Tired of never achieving much of anything, he’s determined to change all that, taking charge of what’s left of his life. He sets an ambitious goal and develops a clear plan to achieve it. For the next year, he will kill one person a week, becoming the world’s greatest serial killer.

His morbid adventure zigzags across the country conjuring emotions ranging from happiness to heartache, to physical pain, to fear, and to anger. Week by week, as the highway miles mount and the body count of unsuspecting souls rises, he gets closer to his goal, but circumstances threaten to halt his progress. Will you be this week’s victim before the road ends at mile marker zero?

My Take:

Mile Marker Zero by the award-winning mystery/ suspense/ thriller author Benny Sims is a perfect book for the Halloween season. It checks both the creepy and disturbing boxes, guaranteeing a skin-crawling experience. But it’s not because it’s populated by ghosts, witches, werewolves, vampires, or zombies. Instead, the main character is a monster in the guise of an easily ignored retiree. It will leave you to wonder about the strangers who pass you on the sidewalk or in the supermarket aisles. Could the guy that follows you, maybe a bit too closely, harbor some unknown evil inside? What about that strange-looking character sitting across the aisle on the city bus or commuter train? The car behind you, the headlights you see in your rearview mirror, is someone waiting for you to exit so they can take advantage of you while you top off your tank?

Mile Marker Zero is about a goal-oriented serial killer. How’s that for words you don’t usually use together? The main character’s self-appointed mission is separating countless, nameless, undeserving innocents from those who happen to cross his path, sneaking up on them when their only mistake was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He has prepared in advance, learning the best techniques to make it quick and bloodless – because he hates the sight of blood. He carries a calendar with him to keep track of his adventures, creating a weekly ritual around his Sunday morning breakfast and a cup of coffee at whatever diner he comes to in his latest theater of operations. Always before, he has been the perennial loser but as a retirement gift to himself, he decides to spend what money he has saved accomplishing something for once: killing one person each week for an entire year while crisscrossing the country to perplex and evade any authority that might have picked up his scent.     

I don’t know if you can read this book without shedding some tears, whether for the numerous innocent victims or the plight of those in the peripheries who suffer the consequences of the main character’s methodical carnage. We learn something about his past, his family, who, and what was important. And this is what makes Sims’ achievement singular in my estimation. Not only are we seeing events through the eyes of a deeply disturbed individual but also, at times we find we share some common ground. And that is what is most disturbing. Could there be a monster within each of us that, given the right circumstances and conditions, might appear in a moment of greatest weakness?  You have a cold-blooded killer who can be completely relatable in an eerie way that might remind you of someone’s grandfather – or yourself. What’s worse is he offs a few people that maybe deserve it. If you can maintain detachment from the lack of humanity contained in his acts of murder, he serves as an anti-hero with some odd standards but standards, nonetheless.

Certainly, there is commentary lurking in the background of this story about how screwed up our modern world has become and how unimportant other people can become to us, making them completely disposable in lieu of serving some overall mission. It begs to ask whether we should be less isolated and more aware of what is going on in the lives of those around us? After reading Mile Marker Zero you will consider what goes on in the minds of those we’d rather ignore? How often do we encounter a potential serial killer while never once suspecting? All it takes is for someone or something to flick the invisible switch that unleashes the unimaginable. How many of us have unwittingly had a brush with death courtesy of some interruption that distracted some self-made grim reaper?

When you turn the final page of this one, with the story concluded, you wonder if the main character ever put even half of his effort and focus on other pursuits over his sad lifetime, perhaps he wouldn’t have adopted such a psychotic plan.

The book releases worldwide on 10.19.22. Pre-orders are available from Amazon.

About the Author:

Benny Sims has always loved the art of storytelling. He can trace that fondness to reading Jack London’s “The Call Of The Wild” when he was in the second grade and listening to his great uncle tell war stories from his time as an artillery cannoneer in North Africa and Italy during World War II.

He was born and grew up in middle Tennessee, but his family moved to Benton, Illinois when he was fourteen years old. It was there that his teachers noticed his aptitude for writing, and encouraged him to pursue it. He attended college at Murray State University in Kentucky, where he studied journalism. His Journalism 101 professor saw his ability and affection for writing and fine-tuned his ability to tell a story. This ability helped him serve as a writer for the university’s newspaper and yearbook.

After college, he landed a job as a sports writer and editor with a small newspaper near his hometown in Tennessee. After a couple of years there, he accepted a job with the aerospace industry in nearby Huntsville, Alabama. He recently retired and moved to Foley, Alabama.

Thanks to a large family that threatened to disown him if he didn’t develop a well-rounded sense of humor, he intentionally puts something funny in most aspects of his life, whether it’s writing a blog post about how comedians were his heroes as he grew up, or by giving his niece a high school graduation gift of a check for $114.64.

As a former athlete, he’s a fan of most sports. But since he lives in Alabama, he has to declare a love for college football or risk getting kicked out of the state. He considers himself a bit of a trivia nerd with a weird ability to remember the names of obscure musicians and songs from decades ago. One of the greatest mysteries of his life is how this ability hasn’t enabled him to land a high-paying job as the host of Jeopardy.

Among his favorite accomplishments in life, aside from getting “Code Gray” published, is teaching himself to play the guitar and attaining the rank of second-degree black belt in karate. He likes to warn people not to antagonize him because he knows karate, jujitsu, judo, and several other Japanese words.

Along with his novel and blog posts, his writing credits include a self-published novel titled “The Protester,” and a short story that was published on the Huffington Post. His hobbies include traveling, fishing, reading, going to the beach, and writing…preferably at the beach.

Learn more about Benny Sims and his writing on his website.

book review, Books, Crime, Dee Rommel Mysteries, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, Publishing, suspense, Thriller

Another Mystery Solved, One Less Day

Description:

A powerful family will stop at nothing to protect its secrets…

Famous astrologist Agnes Sants-Mekler, a member of one of Maine’s elite families, pleads guilty to murder. Her gifted, pre-teen son, Zar, says she’s lying and he wants Dee Rommel to prove that – in nine days.

Former policewoman Dee Rommel, not yet thirty, is dealing with a permanent, life-changing injury sustained while part of Portland’s police force. Her medical leave is up; she’s made a contested decision to delay her return to the department and continue working with her godfather, PI Gordy Greer. Dee discovers the police are content with Agnes Sants-Melker’s confession, but her intense curiosity – and need for justice – compels her to dig deeper to find the truth. As she sifts through the evidence, misdirections, and deceptions she finds that trusting the wrong person is unraveling a more devious plot – and leading to a life-threatening confrontation.

9 DAYS is the thrilling second installment in the award-winning Dee Rommel Mystery series.

My Take:

Dee Rommel is a tenacious, badass, justice-seeking, sleuth who is recovering from a life-altering injury and amputation of her lower left leg she suffered while a member of the Portland, Maine Police Department. In 9 DAYS, the sequel to award-winning, crime, procedural, mystery, noir, suspense, thriller 10 DAYS, Dee has one less day to break the case wide open and prove the innocence of a famous astrologist who has just confessed to murder. This book checks all the boxes for me: a witty female protagonist, a fast-paced, page-turner of a plot with unexpected twists and turns along the way as Dee peels back the convoluted layers of well-kept secrets to expose the dysfunctional, darker side of a prominent New England family.

With each installment we see this fascinating protagonist grow. Not only does she mature in her new role as a private investigator, which still isn’t quite official yet, but also we are allowed more glimpses into her private life and the obstacles she deals with daily due to her injury, and how she overcomes the what life had put in her way. Her life is more than survival. It’s learning to thrive. Selbo uses this connective tissue to bind the first and second books in the series, along with a returning cast of favorites. We expect it to continue as Dee’s character is further developed. As the series counts down to an inevitable mystery that Dee must solve in a single day, I wonder what sorts of mysteries are ahead and how many criminals the seedy side of Portland, Maine will throw at her. It’s not like the small city is renowned as a hotbed of crime, but it is a large enough community to share many of the same problems bigger cities face. There are hints in the first two books, though, about some of the directions Dee’s story may take as she struggles to reclaim the life she had before a notorious local bad guy robbed her of it. And for that reason, I will continue to follow this series to its conclusion and recommend you do the same. Although 9 DAYS stands alone well as a story and the plot points are resolved by its conclusion, you should start with Book 1 of the series and join me on this wonderful reading journey.

Author Bio:

Jule Selbo grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and academic in film history. Her mystery/romance FIND ME IN FLORENCE (Pandamoon Publishing, Fall 2019), inspired by the art, beauty, romance, and history of Florence, Italy was written while working with students in Florence, Italy, and was awarded FIRST PLACE in the Chatelaine Awards for best women’s fiction/romance. Her book BREAKING BARRIERS, based on the life of 18th-century scientist Laura Bassi was released in April 2020 and is a finalist for the Goethe Award. Her historical fiction book, DREAMS OF DISCOVERY – BASED ON THE LIFE OF JOHN CABOT, was released Fall of 2018 by Mentoris/Barbera Publishing. She is an award-winning American screenwriter and playwright with work in feature film, television, and animation. She has worked with filmmakers and producers such as George Lucas, Michael Newell, Aaron Spelling, and Roland Joffe as well as with all the major Hollywood studios; produced credits include projects for Disney, Columbia Pictures, Paramount, and Universal.

She has also written for theater, with productions in New York and regional theaters around the United States).

As an academic, she has contributed to numerous journals with essays on the History of Screenwriters, her book (co-written/edited with Jill Nelmes) WOMEN SCREENWRITERS, AN INTERNATIONAL GUIDE delineates the rich past of female screenwriters from the 1890s to today. Jule was co-editor for eight years of the successful “Journal of Screenwriting” (Intellect Press) and has written extensively on film history, screenwriting, and film genre. She holds writing seminars around the world and is a script consultant for production companies and writers in Hollywood. As a professor in the Cinema and TV Arts Department at California State University, Fullerton, she has written two books on Screenwriting Structure that include information on the business of screenwriting: SCREENPLAY: BUILDING STORY THROUGH CHARACTER (Routledge) and REWRITE: FIRST DRAFT TO MARKETPLACE (Gardner); her book is FILM GENRE FOR THE SCREENWRITER (Routledge) explores all the main film genres, their components and uses for film narratives. She has been an invited guest lecturer on film genre and screenwriting at New York University, Moscow’s film school VGIK, Oxford Bridges University in Oxford, England, Bournemouth University in the UK, Disney Writers Program, Emerson College in Boston, and other venues and is a member of Screenwriters Research Network. She has earned her Ph.D. with her work in Film Genre, its historical components, and how a knowledge of film genre can be used by the screenwriter in the constructive stages of a screenplay.

For more information visit www.juleselbo.com

Purchase your copies of 9 DAYS, 10 DAYS, and FIND ME IN FLORENCE

Blog, book review, Books, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Review: BLUE BILLY by Laura Ellen Scott

Description:

Turn the Living into Corpses

I am the dirt. I am the grave.
I don’t meditate nor drink. I don’t write manifestos.
I turn people into bodies.

So begins the confession of a boogeyman that no one believes in. As he settles into the abandoned Magic River Café, Blue Billy doesn’t care that it has deteriorated into a derelict, filth-ridden shack on the banks of a rancid backwater. This is his home, now. Or it could be, if it weren’t for three women out to prove that he is real.

Crocus Rowe is a parolee with anger issues, who finds herself on the run after she assaults a professor over his unspeakable crimes. When the professor winds up in a refrigerator submerged in the ironically named Magic River, things look bad for Crocus, whose first call is to Alma Bell, a memoirist and much-maligned Blue Billy “expert” from New Royal University’s notorious Crime Writing Program. Haunted by the unsolved 1992 murder of her best friend, Alma will go to any lengths to prove that Blue Billy is responsible. And then there’s Tara Rowe, Crocus’s damaged cousin. As one of Blue Billy’s rare survivors, she’s endured years of experimental therapy and exploitation to become the person she is today: Blue Billy’s stalker.

Children still whisper “Blue Billy” around the campfire, but if Crocus, Alma, and Tara can uncover the truth behind New Royal’s darkest mystery, they may just put an end to the legend, once and for all.

My Take:

In BLUE BILLY, the third book in Laura Ellen Scott’s New Royal Mysteries Series, she has created a monster that is equal parts myth, local legend, and deranged psychopath. As has become a tradition for Scott’s novels, she assembles a cast of quirky, damaged, dysfunctional characters to resolve the essential crime mystery, a thread that strings all three installments of the series together. And she does it with the expected attention to detail of which nightmares are made and carefully crafted exposition that often makes one’s skin crawl. A deviation from the previous parts of the series, this one ventures into the country where the natural decay of nature has intersected with the demise of what was once a recreational hot spot. There is a scene that involves a submerged refrigerator that I guarantee will haunt you afterward.

But this gritty, visceral story is as much about relationships as it is a series of unsolved murders. Crocus and Tara, cousins who share as much disappointment in their lives as DNA, must resolve enough of their past issues to join forces with Alma, a self-proclaimed expert, in exposing a demonic presence that has plagued the surrounding community. It’s no Sunday picnic at the riverside where the drama draws to its climax where the survival of the trio demands destroying their shared nemesis that no one else believes exists.

If you haven’t yet discovered Laura Ellen Scott, Blue Billy is a great place to start. Even though it is part of a series, it stands on its own, though it will compel you to dive further into the weird world of New Royal, Ohio for more of the background.

About the Author:

Born and raised in the tiny Northern Ohio town of Brimfield, Laura Ellen Scott was named after the classic noir film and song, “Laura,” so it makes sense that she enjoys writing dark, quirky fiction in the tradition of Tom Robbins, Kelly Link, and Robert Altman. She started out writing short fiction, and her stories can be found in places like Ploughshares, Pank, Mississippi Review, and Wigleaf, but it wasn’t until she received an out-of-the-blue email from the great Dorothy Allison (BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA) that she started writing novels. That email said, among other things: “Damn you are good. You are just seriously satisfyingly good.” Eventually, Allison would blurb Laura’s first novel, DEATH WISHING (Ig Publishing, 2011), a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

These days she is an author with Pandamoon Publishing, and her latest novel, CRYBABY LANE, is the second book in the NEW ROYAL MYSTERIES, a series set in a fictional college/prison town in Ohio. The first book in the series is THE MEAN BONE IN HER BODY (2016). The second book is CRYBABY LANE (2017). Book 3 is titled BLUE BILLY, coming 5.11.22. Prior to launching the series, Pandamoon published Scott’s THE JULIET (2016), a western/mystery about a cursed emerald lost in Death Valley.

Scott is a term full professor in the English Department at George Mason University, and she divides her time between Fairfax, VA and Great Cacapon, WV.

Blue Billy is available at Amazon as of 5.11.22.

Amazon, Books, Mystery, New Releases, Noir, novel, Publishing, Writing

Review of 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery #1 by Jule Selbo

As a father of three, two of them daughters, I struggled to find heroic stories to read to my girls. It was easy to find such fare for my son, but there was a gross absence of children’s books that offered a brave female with whom my girls could identify. And so I fabricated a few stories to tell them at bedtime. But the experience made me acutely aware of gender bias. And it has not been limited to children’s books. Gratefully, that is changing in all age groups, largely due to the explosion of great female authors who are unafraid to buck the system and create strong female protagonists in genres that in the past have been dominated by male main characters.

I had the great fortune to read an early version of 10 DAYS by Jule Selbo. Honestly, it read like a finished work with nothing major that I saw needing to be addressed, which didn’t surprise me. Selbo is a highly competent writer with oodles of experience as a playwright and she wrote numerous screenplays while working in Hollywood. Recently she has become an award winning novelist as well. 10 DAYS: A Dee Rommel Mystery #1 is her debut foray into Crime Mystery fiction, a genre she loves reading.

10 DAYS’ plot is solid, engaging, and compelling. The pacing feels perfect, building suspense toward a thrilling climax. Selbo’s cast of characters, even the minor ones, are authentic, well-developed to the point that some will become your friends while others will feel like enemies. The protagonist, Dee Rommel is, in a word, remarkable on so many levels that she is destined to become a fan favorite. She is a quick-witted badass in ever sense of the word with a burning desire to find justice for the wronged. It often compels her into risky, ill-advised, confrontations with bad guys as she champions her friends and family. And she does it all without toting a gun.

What Selbo accomplishes more than adequately establishes bedrock for the series yet to come. She creates an endearing female noir private investigator with whom most of us can identify. Selbo pays homage to genre archetypes while venturing into some largely uncharted territory, allowing the reader to share Dee’s dilemmas as well as overcoming the pain of her daily routine. We cheer for her because she’s just the kind of heroine who could easily be a sister or cousin. Her strong, overriding sense of justice and loyalty to her friends and family drives her always, even against mounting odds as her principal foil is fully revealed and fleshed out.

The book releases to the public worldwide on August 11, 2021 in eBook and print, so you don’t have long to wait. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect crime fiction novel, but this one will rank on everyone’s list. It checks all the right boxes and appends a few more in the process. I can’t wait to read the sequel. And yes, this thriller deserves to be made into a movie. So, take note, Netflix.

Books, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy

Review: SNOW IN SUMMER by Laura Kemp

Description:

Front Cover

It’s been a year since Justine Cook defeated an immortal enemy that had hunted her family for generations. Settling into a peaceful life with her boyfriend in the small town of Lantern Creek, Michigan, she hopes to escape the events of the summer before. But the past won’t let go so easily.

When a woman named Amanda Bennett survives a fall from a cliff on Mackinac Island, it triggers a series of events that reawakens the past. Soon Justine and her brother Adam are pulled into a mystery that threatens to destroy the new life they have worked so hard to create. As people begin to die- people only Amanda Bennett can see- Justine must race against time to destroy a dark power she thought she had buried the summer before.

My Take:

SNOW IN SUMMER is Book 2 in the Yellow Wood Series and is scheduled for publication on 11.18.20. It is highly recommended that you read Book 1 in the series prior to reading Book 2 as many of the events from the first book have direct bearing on the characters and their many challenges in Book 2. Although the author does a good job of refreshing the reader’s memories where relevant, there is not a detailed summary of the previous work included. Having said that, the book stands alone fairly well as a compelling read with a solid plot and fast pace once the rationale for the extension of the previous story arc is established.

Justine and Dylan return from book one and the story is set in the summer following the events of Book 1 in the series. A new character, Amanda, is introduced early in the prologue, and her difficulties draw in the series’ returning characters. A portion of the story is set on picturesque Mackinac Island, a favorite vacation spot off the Lake Huron coast of northern Michigan, as Troy, Amanda’s lumberjack/horse trainer boyfriend has an apartment above the Calhoun stable near the Grand Hotel on the island. The strong romantic elements of the story present complicated triangles among the characters that challenge the stability of relationships, while the villain uses their human weaknesses to torment them and force a confrontation. Kemp does this extremely well while bending and twisting the paranormal elements of the backstory around the realism of the everyday struggles of the characters, like working their jobs, paying for school, and trying very hard to resist being drawn into the unsettled issues that remain from Book 1. The result is a mind-blowing, breathless, rollercoaster ride of life-threatening obstacles requiring tough choices and ingenuity to negotiate, while seeming plausible at an extraordinary level for a magical realism mash-up with a mystery/suspense/thriller.

Author Bio:

Laura signing books outside the Island Bookstore on Mackinac Island

Laura is a teacher who loves to write about her home state of Michigan. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University where she studied under Stuart Dybek, and has had her short fiction and poetry published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Word Riot, Tonopalah Review, SaLit and SLAB: Sound and Literary Art Book. “The Pursuit of Happiness,” – a short story she wrote while at WMU, was chosen as a finalist in the Trial Balloon Fiction Contest.

When not writing, Laura enjoys musical theatre, hiking, swimming, reading and performing with her Celtic band- Si Bhaeg Si Mohr. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and children as well as her dog, two hamsters, two gerbils, ten chickens, two horses and eight (and counting) cats.


Connect with Laura: Sea Legs on Land, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and Woody’s Book Tour.

Get Laura’s Books at Pandamoon Publishing and Amazon.

Amazon, Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing

Review: SUICIDE SOULS by Penni Jones

Description:

Front Cover

Death is not always final…

Naomi and Luke have only one thing in common: they both died by suicide. They can earn a second chance at life by efficiently guiding their loved ones through grieving their untimely deaths.

Naomi excels at making her friends and family mourn, but the Death Shadow stalks ever closer to Luke. The dark entity carries non-compliant souls straight to Oblivion where unspeakably terrifying torture and the final goodbye await.

The two are forced to work together to navigate the in-between world in which they’re stuck. The only certainty is that the rules are unclear and shifting, and things are not always as they seem.

The pair must prove they’re worthy of another shot at life before time runs out. Can Naomi and Luke get better at living now that they’re dead?

My Take:

You’ve got to love an author who is willing to take chances, challenging norms, and pushing beyond the conventions of a genre. Penni Jones has done that with each of her previous novels: ON THE BRICKS and KRICKET. Although her writing has elements of mystery, suspense, and thrillers, there is always a gritty kind of realism as well. We can readily identify with her characters because they remind us of someone we know, or perhaps ourselves. She is frank, honest, and unafraid to tell us things others might decide not to. And what she says tends to be what we would think if we were in the same circumstances. This lends an immediacy to the story that allows the reader to become immersed into the story and care about what happens to its characters. SUICIDE SOULS is no different in its style but deviates from its siblings in subject matter. It is about life, death, and an afterlife that clearly is not exactly what the characters might have been led to expect. There is depth here that is subtly presented as a fairly simple, straight-forward story becomes more involved and complicated as the telling progresses. And in this, death becomes more and more like life, just with more frustrating differences.

As Naomi and Luke introduce themselves, we not only learn how they offed themselves but, over the course of the telling, we learn more than just the why. We learn about their character flaws, their insecurities, and their self-images that have followed them beyond death. Even though their physical natures perished with their bodies their self-images have followed them beyond the grave. For example, Naomi is busty and, in her own eyes, that has defined her relationships with men. Luke is insure about nearly everything including his obsession with superficial primary gender characteristics. Luke’s eyes rarely stray from Naomi’s boobs, even though they are merely echoes of what they were in life. As the story evolves, each of them must reconcile their pasts with their current situations. In due course, they come to realize how thin and vapid they were in their own lives – and perhaps why these flaws contributed to why they ended their lives. Although their lives were complicated and not all the different from the situations that define many of our own lives and those of our friends, they decided to end it all, only to learn that the end is only the beginning of a more complicated mess.

In death, Naomi and Luke’s existences become convoluted, confusing and, on the whole, a lot worse. Jones envisions an arbitrary structure that permeates everything around her characters as they navigate a minefield of manipulation and selfish intentions set against them. Redemption is not guaranteed as the author presents the world with a wry eye for the absurd and ill-conceived that reminds me of the societal commentaries embedded in the stories of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Jones’ characters make do with their lots as they progress toward uncertain conclusions. What results is an often biting treatment of the human condition that attacks conventional aspirations, ambitions, hopes, and dreams with hellish potentials largely beyond the characters’ control. The taking of one’s life is not glorified. Far from it. Death here is not the escape from life that some assume but an inevitable consequence of a larger process. Nothing is given. Nothing can be taken for granted. Your situation may vary and is not intended to get better. The best anyone can do is paying a lot of attention to the decisions one makes. The result is an engaging story that becomes more compelling and even hilariously farcical at the conclusion.

Author Bio:

Penni Jones

Penni Jones is a writer, movie buff, concert t-shirt enthusiast, reluctant multi-tasker, grunge music listener, and blogger extraordinaire of Scapegoats and Sacred Cows
Penni started writing stories as soon as she learned how to hold a pencil. She is an avid reader whose favorites include Mark Haskell Smith, Ariel Gore, Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut, Gillian Flynn, Christopher Moore, and Kelly Braffet.

Penni is an Arkansas native with a nomadic spirit. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. She has worked as a bartender, restaurant manager, bank teller, payroll specialist, event planner, and office manager. These days she focuses on writing. She currently resides in Michigan and probably has too many pets. She is currently the Membership Chair of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Follow her on Twitter at .

Pre-Order ebook of SUICIDE SOULS (launches on 2.10.21). Find info on her other books at Pandamoon Publishing.

Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Mystery, New Releases, novel, Publishing

Review: CRESCENT CITY SIN by Nola Nash

Description:

Front Cover

In the Crescent City, darkness blurs the lines between sinners and saints.

Having been brought back through the veil after her death, Zéolie wakes to find she’s being cared for by the mother superior. Secrets are slowly revealed as Mother Micheaux explains her connection to the past Zéolie’s father kept hidden all her life. Once her strength has returned, Zéolie tries to ease back into her home and life without Louis, but soon finds herself helping a young man who mistakenly shows up at her house looking for his long-lost mother. Feeling compassion for the young man who is far from his home in France, she and the Marchon girls attempt to help him locate his mother while making him feel welcome.

Julien, the young man, finds himself strangely drawn to Zéolie and slowly loses his heart to her, but his feelings aren’t returned when Zéolie makes a new discovery that changes her life once more. Jilted, Julien unleashes his grief in the form of magical power he didn’t know he had and finds comfort in the friendship of a local madame. Out of control and angry, he succumbs to the darkness inside of him and the taunting voice of a raging spirit hungry for revenge.

Can Zéolie and her magical menagerie pull Julien back from the edge of hell, or will the past take them all down? Walk down the gritty dark streets of 1830s New Orleans where the line between sinner and saint is as blurred as the line between life and death.

My Take:

As a follow up to the wild ride of CRESCENT CITY MOON, Nola Nash outdoes herself with the sequel, CRESCENT CITY SIN. I’m compelled to write spoiler alert here, but I will refrain from revealing any secrets. Having said that, if you haven’t yet started your journey into the freaky, surreal, spookiness that permeates The Crescent City Series, you need to punch your ticket now. Trust me, you need to start with CCM. However, you could easily read these two books out of sequence as each is solidly written and entertaining in its own right, though the second book would spoil some of the surprises of the first.

CCS begins shortly after the conclusion of CCM with a well-conceived, succinct first chapter that eerily links the two books, while reinforcing the underlying theme of the series, that the city of New Orleans is a world unto itself where natural laws are often subjectively applied. After all, voodoo is not only practiced but generally accepted as part of the subculture. So, it should be no surprise that witchcraft is practiced with often life-threatening consequences and the line between devout faith and magic is at best blurred or ignored altogether. The barrier of death can be transcended if you possess the method and means for the right reasons. Nash reminds us nothing in New Orleans stays buried for long.

Nash’s rare gift is weaving her descriptive settings and well-developed characters into the plot. Truly, the city she loves is a character in this story. It serves as a bridge between old and new, and an effective backdrop for the creepiest elements of this tale. The story ranks among the best I’ve ever read, both engaging and memorable. It becomes a fast read because of its pacing, which builds gradually to an adrenalin-pumping, gut-punching crescendo. And we’re left with a hint of yet another story to tell because, after all, nothing ever truly ends in the Crescent City.

CRESCENT CITY SIN releases worldwide on 10.28.20 from Pandamoon Publishing.

Author Bio:

Nola Nash

Originally from south Louisiana, Nola Nash now makes her home in Brentwood , Tennessee, with her three children. Growing up in Baton Rouge, she spent long hours onstage or backstage in the local community theaters, or writing stories that refused to leave her head any other way than to be put on paper. Her biggest inspiration was the city of New Orleans that gave her at an early age a love of the magic, mystery, and history. There are few better places for her to dream up stories than walking through the French Quarter or Garden District imagining what those places could tell.

When she isn’t writing, Nola is teaching middle school English, which means she gets to play with words all day while dodging hormones and drama. Except for the school plays and musicals, that is. Then, she’s the one creating the drama. If the weather is warm enough, she’s out on her balcony tending her garden and suburban wildlife that hang out there. If the weather isn’t great, she’s geeking out over BBC America. When she can, Nola sneaks a few minutes to meditate (only a few minutes because meditating can lead to naps and those make her discombobulated.) She also considers tacos and coffee major food groups.

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Review: FUR by Ward Parker

Description:

BRING OUT THE ANIMAL IN YOU

FUR Front Cover

Teens lighting firecrackers at front doors, ringing doorbells, and running away. What could go wrong? When one of them is shot and killed by a homeowner, it looks like the shooter will get off under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But wouldn’t you know it, the shooter ends up bludgeoned to death with a golf club.

The dead teen’s adoptive father, Jimmy, is arrested for the murder. He’s an old friend of Zeke Adams, former sleazy tabloid journalist and landlord to a menagerie of weird tenants. Zeke promises to save his friend by finding the real murderer. He discovers the dead shooter’s profession involved opposition research on politicians. And that includes scandalous video footage of a U.S. Congressman. If the video goes public, it could throw the upcoming election.

Zeke has to navigate the worlds of kinky furries, animal-rights militants, anti-government militias, horny dolphins, a wayward alligator, and a conspiracy-buff assassin who has Zeke in his sights. Can Zeke stay alive long enough to clear his friend? Find out in this dark, deadly, and diverting Florida-noir thriller. If you enjoy Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, and Janet Evanovich, you’ll go wild over Fur.


My Take:
Although I usually recommend you read previous books in a series, it isn’t necessary to enjoy FUR, the new installment in the Zeke Adams Series. In fact, during a recent video interview on the Pandaverse Book Club, Ward explained that the foundation of the storyline for FUR predates the writing PARIAH, the first book in the series. So, technically much of the plot for FUR came first.

Once more, Zeke Adams is drawn into a convoluted puzzle disguised as a seemingly simple whodunit. While his intentions are mostly pure – are talking about a reformed tabloid sleaze monger – he tries to help Jimmy, a high school friend and current husband of an old flame, who is wrongly accused of murdering an unpopular neighbor who has accidentally killed his adopted son. But, as was the case in the series’ first book, things in Zeke’s world are not always what they seem, and certainly never easy.

The more Zeke pulls on the threads to unravel entangled mess, seeking the find the true culprits, the more the knot tightens around him, endangering not only his life but also his other friends, his unique assembly of weird tenants, and his latest lady friend. Springing his wrongly accused friend from jail requires Zeke to dive tail-first into a strange world of the Furry subculture as the twists and turns expose corruption at the highest levels of state and national politics. While he battles for his own survival against extremists bent on pushing their own agendas and a whacked out murderer skilled in the many ways of eliminating “problems” like Zeke, reluctant prosecutors, hesitant police, and misdirected federal agents, keep telling him to stay out of their investigation. Zeke must enlist the aid of his collection of weird tenants as he navigates a procession of absurd circumstances that likely could only happen in coastal Florida.

If you’re looking for something guaranteed to give you lots of laughs – and who doesn’t need that in these times? – FUR by Ward Parker is a top pick. You can find it at Pandamoon Publishing’s website and on Amazon.

Author Bio:

Ward Park is a Florida native and author of the Freaky Florida series, a romp through the Sunshine State with witches, vampires, werewolves, dragons, and other bizarre, mythical creatures such as #FloridaMan. He also pens the Zeke Adams series of noir mysteries and The Teratologist series of historical paranormal suspense. He lives in Florida (of course) with his wife, cats, and a demon who prefers to remain anonymous. Learn more at his website.