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Review of Nicole Asselin’s Latest Cozy Mystery – CONCESSION STAND CRIMES – Ball Park Mysteries Book 2

Book Description:

HOTDOGS, CRACKER JACK, BEER, and MURDER. PLAY BALL!


MADELINE BOUCHER is still reeling from her first few weeks of working for her family’s Independent League Baseball Team, the Abington Armadillos. She found a dead body and survived a kidnapping before finally clearing her brother of murder. She didn’t think anything could be as dramatic as that, but she was wrong.

Her parents have given her more responsibility in running ballpark events in the hopes that they could retire and leave the team in her hands. Her brother is moving on to the big leagues, so this is her time to shine. Her first task? Deal with a concession stands kerfuffle. Redmond Brewery heiress, Alaska Redmond, storms her way into the ballpark making demands.

The next day, the son of the concessions manager finds Redmond’s body in one of the beer stands along the ballpark concourse. Again, Madeline finds herself immersed in an investigation. While the suspects start piling up, including a promising young player on the team, Madeline knows she must get involved. With the help of Davis, her new love interest, and head of the security department, she delves deeper into the death of the heiress.

Trying to run team events, solve a murder, and have a normal life takes their toll as Madeline comes to depend on those in her baseball-loving community, including Bronia, her old family friend who runs a garden center and helps her make sense of things. She even chances a psychic for advice while at a Salem Warlock’s away game. Will anyone help her untangle the mess of suspects including the victim’s family?

Can she clear the name of the Abington Armadillos and start focusing on the season?

My Take:

The story is what matters most to the reader. So foremost, an author needs to be a great storyteller. Nicole Asselin is that. For the sake of the cozy genre, though, there are tropes and conventions that readers expect, and for this, an author needs to be a well-read fan of the genre and be cognizant of the work of the best-known authors of the genre. No problem there, either. Nicole Asselin is an avid reader who takes weekly trips to her local library and bookstores adding to the to-be-read section of her home library.

In CONCESSION STAND CRIMES we are reacquainted with Madeline Boucher, the cadre of characters from Book 1 in the series, and some new friends as well. There is even a character based on a real person, an Abington resident who won a contest the author ran prior to the book’s composition. The critical challenge of the story is set early and well-executed, setting up the prevailing whodunit element. The victim is an heiress and local celebrity/socialite whose personality is the opposite of the main character who under other circumstances might be considered a peer, as she too is the daughter of a local business owner. The contrast is significant and lends to the initial conflict between them, setting up Madeline as an immediate suspect, though she is almost instantly learned. So now, she is left with the quandary of what happened and why that plays out through the interactions with the many other characters, and Madeline’s desire to clear one of her team’s players of suspicion.

Fans of the series will find a lot to love in this continuation of the storyline established in Book 1. If you’re new to the series, it’s not necessary to start with Book 1, MURDER AT FIRST PITCH, but it’s probably recommended as you’re going to fall in love with Madeline and her friends.

Author Bio:

Nicole Asselin grew up a Navy Brat and spent her formative high school years in the middle of Pennsylvania but always identified with her New England roots. Nicole’s family is originally from Connecticut, and her Grandpa Asselin introduced her into the Red Sox nation where she has been a member for her whole life and her Grandma Asselin introduced her to the world of mystery novels. Now those two loves are combined into her new Ballpark Mystery series.

Nicole graduated from Curry College in Milton Mass with a degree in English/Creative Writing, minoring in Dance in 2004. She also attended George Mason University and received a Master’s in Arts Management. She worked in the Government sector for over ten years before transitioning to Healthcare. Now working just outside of Boston as a Technical Writer, she lives on the South Shore of Massachusetts with her three cats Julia, Jacques, and Madeline (no relation to the main character of her book).

Nicole is a current member of Sisters in Crime (National and New England) and the Mystery Writers of America. She sits on the Board of Directors for the NE branches of both groups as Social Media Liaison. She’s attended several conferences in the past few years to study the craft including Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, and the NE Crime Bake. Her short story, “Mile High Murder” can be found as part of Z Publishing’s “America’s Emerging Suspense Writers: East Region” published in early 2019. Asselin is a highly approachable author who makes personal appearances a priority and enjoys meeting her fans or just discussing books in general. Find out more about her and per scheduled events at the author’s website.

CONCESSION STAND CRIMES launches 6.29.22 at Amazon.

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.

Alien, Blog, book review, Books, Fantasy, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Space

Review: The Greys by Becky Barnard & Dave Housley

Description:

Every teenager feels like an alien.

Deerdra Grey is the typical new girl in school. In fact, she’s been designed to be scientifically, perfectly typical. Her mission? Assimilate into Indiana’s Danaville High, 600 light years away from her home planet. While her parents go about the traditional alien business of gathering soil samples, examining crop circles, and inadvertently mutilating cattle, Deerdra’s goal is to find her missing predecessor, Eunice Tiffany.

As she digs deeper into the mystery, Deerdra enlists the help of Gavin and Barb, two high school classmates who are skeptical of the official reports about Eunice’s disappearance. Eventually, Deerdra and her allies will come up against the Reptilians, a predatory advanced species who resemble the Real Housewives and intend to take over the planet for themselves.

The Greys is a fun and propulsive read about what happens when one alien girl is forced to make a choice between following orders and following her heart.

My Take:

Growing up is a challenging time at best. For most, figuring out where to fit in is a struggle while simultaneously coping with the myriad of physical and psychological changes. Choosing the right friends, the right clubs, the right team sports, whether to be a thespian or participate in a music program helps define each of us not only in our own eyes but also in how others think of us. The risk of not belonging is intense and persistent. Consider all that in addition to being a visitor from a distant planet sent on an important mission. It doesn’t help that understanding of what it means to be young and human is somewhat flawed.

The premise of this book is immediately engaging. It’s easy to identify with Deedra Grey’s plight. We’ve all felt out of place, forced into the precarious situation of having to adjust to strange situations. But Deerdra Grey is more than just the new kid in school. Her mission is of supreme importance, but in order to accomplish it, she must break some rules and trust a couple of human friends who she discovers are not all that different from her. The Greys is a nice escape into another world that superficially seems familiar but proves to have just enough spicy strangeness to keep the adventure interesting. It pokes some fun at SyFy tropes as well as the traditional coming-of-age story while holding close to what’s expected of a well-told story. It’s a great weekend excursion I fully recommend.

About the Authors:

Dave Housley is the author of the novel The Other Ones. His other novels are Howard and Charles at the Factory and This Darkness Got to Give. He is also the author of four collections of short fiction, the most recent being Massive, Cleansing Fire, a collection of stories that all end in a massive, cleansing fire. He is one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse, a national literary magazine, small press, and literary-based nonprofit. He is also one of the co-founders and organizers of the Conversations and Connections writer’s conference. He is the Director of Web Strategy for Penn State Outreach and Online Education.

Becky Barnard is a book nerd who fell in with a crew of fantastic writers and eventually wrote a book to try to blend in. The Greys is the result, and also her first novel. She’s an editor-at-large at Barrelhouse literary journal and a web project manager in State College, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and their awesome dog.

The Greys is available as of 5.4.22 at Amazon in Print and eBook.

Blog, book review, Books, Fantasy, Magic, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Writing

Book Review: Faie and Fury – The Faie King’s Mortal Book 1 by Devon Atwood

Description:

Anwen is pretty sure she loves her future husband. The problem is, he’s not real.
When Anwen discovers that she has been under an enchantment for months and that her betrothed, Gresham is a mysterious being obsessed with keeping her forever, she escapes to the forbidden Faiewood after a voice on the wind calls her to safety. She finds herself the captive of a green-eyed Faie king who gives cryptic half-truths to Anwen’s questions and refuses to let her leave the Faiewood. With her family’s life at stake, and the safety of all Faie hanging in the balance, Anwen learns that she is his birthright. They are bound by the strings of fate, and she is left with only one choice: trust him, or watch the vales burn.

My Take:

Let’s talk about world-building. It is essential for constructing all fiction, even the genres that appear to be close variants of our world. With fantasy, where the existence of magic redefines the relationships between the living and the physics of their universe, the author’s imagination is fettered only by the nature of magic and the level of magic inherent in nature. For example, do all the inhabitants of the world have access to magic? If not, how is its distribution limited? Do only special beings control the magic? Is there one being or group of beings inherently more powerful? How well the author establishes the rules and consistently follows them allows the reader to suspend disbelief, escape into the story, and become immersed in the conflicts and adventure, same as any other well-told story.

Enter the world of Faie and Fury. Here, Devon Atwood has borrowed some character types and themes from the genre while also paving new ground, redefining myth and legend to suit a well-crafted variation of the eternal conflict of good versus evil. Anwen’s family is under attack without knowing it. When she discovers the truth, she takes flight from the source of the evil, escaping into Faiewood, a mysterious place chock full of dark places and stories of enchantment. Even though the wood borders on her kingdom, she knows next to nothing about it, having never been within it because of the suspected dangers lurking within. And it’s there that her adventures truly begin as she discovers that her fate is directly bound to a Faie who would be king. And in order to save her own family, she must enlist the aid of the creatures of a fantastic world who have at least as much apprehension and misinformation about humans as Anwen does about the Faie.

Faie and Fury is the beginning of The Faie King’s Mortal and for lovers of stories about mythical beings and magical powers. This one does not disappoint. Atwood’s imagination reveals her creation through descriptive prose detailed enough to engage the reader’s senses and it compels us to follow the characters’ travails. We cheer their triumphs and suffer their defeats, eagerly turning pages unto the end. It’s always best to get in on the ground floor of a new fantasy series and having read this one, I’m already waiting for the next installment’s release. As I understand it, the raw tale for Book 1 was composed in about a month. Atwood’s prolific writing schedule bodes well for expectations of Book 2 sometime in the near future. But for now, savor this one as your weekend read. Preorder it now and enjoy the spellbinding tale on Kindle starting April 4, 2022.

About The Author:

Devon Atwood lives in the mountains of Wyoming with her husband, their seven children, and a menagerie of animals. Devon’s favorite thing is writing in silence with a good playlist on in the background, but she will settle for her usual ambiance of bickering children, barking dogs, and Cheerios crumbs under her butt.

​Atwood holds a Bachelor of Science from Brigham Young University-Idaho, and her currently published works include Lunula, Inito, and K-Love.

Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Fried Windows, Magic, Magical Realism, New Releases, novel, Publishing, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Writing

Get the Backstory for Free

Some of you may have interest in this. It’s for everyone and it’s FREE.

On my Medium account you’ll find the backstory for the Brent Woods character who appears in The Fried Windows series as well as The Thuperman Trilogy. He also pays a visit to The Wolfcat Chronicles which will begin publication later this year with the novel Dammerwald. And Brent is involved here and there along the way in many of my yet-to-be-published manuscripts.

Brent tends to be an alter ego for me, as most of the novels in which he appears are written in the first person POV. He is a lot like me, shares some of my life experiences, but generally, he is more adventurous and less risk-averse than me.

Currently, I am posting chapter installments of FINDING IT, which is part of The IT Series that begins during Brent Woods’ senior year of high school and eventually culminates with his first semester of college. It is important, perhaps, to a better understanding of the events and character interactions in FRIED WINDOWS and NINJA BREAD CASTLES, the latter releases on 4.13.22. You will learn a lot more about what it means to be a wolfcat and how Brent came to realize his incredible abilities. The story is a magical realism/coming of age escape into a world of 70s nostalgia, teen angst, and budding romances. It also provides insight into the illusion that underlies the world and an ongoing battle between those who have the attributes, aka magical abilities, and those who have not.

I invite everyone to follow me on Medium and enjoy FINDING IT, available now.


Authors Life, Blog, Books, Fantasy, Fried Windows, Magic, Magical Realism, New Releases, novel, Urban Fantasy

Do You Want the Backstory?

A few days ago I finished a revision of an unpublished manuscript. I have submitted it previously to my publisher but initially, I composed it as one book and it weighed in at a hefty 200K+ words, which is just not viable for a print book these days. Yet, after painstakenly condensing it and breaking it into two books, it was still passed over. It is not a critique of the work or the story so much as whether it meets the publisher’s overall preference for genre. You see, it’s a quirky story like Fried Windows, but it is more of a coming-of-age tale with a good bit of romance in it as well. It tells the story of Brent Woods coming to terms with his true nature as a wolfcat and his experiences during his senior year of high school. As you might expect of a book set in the mid-1970’s, there is an overall nostalgic feel to it and, of course, it is also filled with magical realism, since the main characters are wolfcats and witches.

Long books, especially when an author is nurturing a following, are not necessarily a good gamble for a publisher’s investment. However, I feel the story told in the manuscript is essential to understanding Brent Woods, the main character in the Fried Windows series. It even serves as the backstory for Pamela Roberts, a character who appears in the soon-to-be-published Ninja Bread Castles (coming April 13, 2022), the second book of the Fried Windows Series, and Dawn Penobscot, a character who will appear in book 3 of the Fried Windows Series.

There are some other unpublished manuscripts hanging around in ‘limbo’, which is what I call one of my computer’s storage drives that contain lots of my writing which may or may not ever be published. You see, it is a writer’s job to write and in order to do that, sometimes you create character profiles that evolve into background stories that allow for a better understanding of a character’s influences and motivation for a work that becomes published. Still, for those readers who become heavily invested in characters, knowing the full backstory is compelling enough that it merits an author sharing the notes in a story form. For that reason, I’ve decided to publish Brent’s story as chapter installments via Medium.

The process of publishing through Medium may take a year or so to complete. There are currently three books in the ‘It’ series (Finding It, Going For It, and Losing It) that are at a point of being ready to post as chapters for consumption. And, in the future, there is another story that I may bring to the world in this same way. That one goes much further back in Brent’s life, to the time when he was around 7 or 8 years old.

Look for my posts on Medium here

Books, Fantasy, Magic, Magical Realism, New Releases, novel, Publishing

Review of ROSEWOOD BURNING: Everly Series Book 2 by Meg Bonney

Published December 15, 2021 by Pandamoon Publishing #Fantasy #Magic #Adventure

Description:

Madison Rosewood returns to the cloaked magical world of Everly on a mission to find her mother, unite the kingdom against her tyrannical father, and stop the execution of the Magics once and for all. Before her revolution can even begin, however, Madison quickly finds her new life in flames.

As she prepares for the upcoming confrontation with her father, Madison grapples with her masked grief as she struggles to both control her new magical abilities and be the leader that her friends and Everly expect her to be. Vengeful villagers, blood-thirsty mermaids, deadly energy storms, and unexpected romances challenge her at every step. Forced to turn to her enemies for help, Madison faces revelations and betrayal and in their wake must make a decision that will change every relationship she has in Everly, including the one with herself.

My Take:

In the first book of the series, Bonney focused on establishing characters, the conflicts that would play out not only over the course of the first installment of the story but also the entire series. She also did a great deal of world-building so that we could experience the realm of Everly through the main character’s eyes. This is essential in fantasy writing because the physics of the created world might operate differently than the world with which we as readers are familiar. Since magic plays a key role in this story, ground rules were set for how it works and what the limitations are for its use. And the reader needs to know whether magic depends on the peculiarities of certain species or individual characters who may have mastered their abilities to stand out as somehow unique from others even of their own kind.

Bonney introduced us to Madison, who hates her nickname, Mad Dash, which she earned from her amazing speed on the high school track team, something that also gave her hope of a college scholarship. Despite her great ambitions, she suffers from several internal conflicts about her past and not knowing much about her parents, information about which her aunt who has cared for her since she was an infant has not been forthcoming. Her aunt has also been obsessed with preparing her with warrior skills well beyond mere self-defense. The adventure begins when Madison and her best friend Jason are lured into the fantastic world of Everly where magic is real and much less restricted than it is in our world. We are also introduced to the variety of mythical and magical beings that populate Everly.

In Book 2, Meg Bonney’s imagination unleashes greater detail and substance for the reader to explore as Madison and Jason return to Everly on a mission to save the magical beings from persecution and lead a revolution that everyone knows is necessary but hardly anyone seems eager to join or eagerly support. Madison’s heart is still broken over her tragic loss which intensifies her internal conflict. She is as irrational as any other teen can be, and her focus is divided at times, but her motives are pure. She wants to save Everly from her father who she blames for everything wrong with her life and Everly. In a real sense, the fantastic world around her seems to reflect her confusions and frustrations, serving as a metaphor for her life. She seeks revenge against her father and his tyrannical rule but also she fights against her own failing and uncertainty. What results is a solid and necessary next step in advancing the story and setting the stage for the third installment in the series.

Returning are all of the primary and most of the secondary characters from book one with whom we are familiar and whose stories we have invested in. But as the variety of Magics is expanded the reader experiences the diversity of culture and customs lending more of a realistic feel to the story. As was true of the first book, the story continues to have believable dialog despite the magical elements of the story and the fantastic environment of the settings. For example, Madison and Jason live comfortably safe amongst the Trolls who are extremely gifted at preparing meals. We also learn more about Mermaids and Witches as the story progresses and we root for the revolution that suffers as much from its ambitions as its disorganization. And there are some secrets that were hinted in Book 1 that are revealed as well as a surprise ending that foreshadows the major conflict ahead in Book 3.

Will Madison resolve the issues with heritage and spare her friends in Everly from the prohibition on magic? Rosewood Burning provides an exciting escape that I highly recommend as a continuation of the Everly franchise, which by the way, has been optioned for a future film or TV series.

About the Author:

Author Meg Bonney is a paralegal by day, a TV reviewer by night, and a writer every moment in between. Meg enjoys stories with strong emotional relationships that aren’t necessarily romantic. Her TV watching and writing have always been more focused in the sci-fi/fantasy genre where the stakes are high and the consequences are dire and because fairies, mermaids, monsters, and witches make her happy. Meg lives in Wisconsin with her husband, her two young daughters, two cats, three hermit crabs, and one very spoiled fish. Meg enjoys impromptu dance parties with her daughters, strong coffee, baking, and getting way too emotionally invested in fictional characters.

Book Available at Amazon.

Watch The C & E Show’s Interview with Meg Bonney 

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, New Releases, novel

Review of Priest Hunter by Jeff Messick

Priesthunter Front Cover

The Magehunters are no more, pulled down by the efforts of Jace and his Disciples of Arn. However, there is little time to get used to the new order of things, as Jace learns his father has been forcibly taken by the Church of Arn to serve out the remainder of his life as a warrior priest.

As a young mage, Jace needed to learn to control his magical might. Now he will learn power comes in many forms. To free his father, Jace must learn priest magic, the pitfalls of faith, and the downside of leadership. He must learn, then master these ideas, to even stand a chance against the leader of the church.

Morvane doesn’t want Jace’s father, he wants Jace’s power. Jace is all that stands between Morvane and a world that worships only those that hold power over others. Worse yet, when Jace uses his vaunted magical might against Morvane, his magic has no effect.

My Take:

Where Magehunter, the first book of the series, is an extended coming of age story overlaid upon the makings of a good epic fantasy tale set in a world where those who wield magic are more common than not, Priesthunter rapidly evolves from a quest to find Jace’s father into a classic battle of magic between good and evil. Our hero, Jace Kendrick, returns with full command of his gifts, which have often seemed more of a curse to him, along with Amicus, his companion and former enemy. They set out for Elorien, the seat of the Church of Arn where they believe Angus, Jace’s father, has been pressed to return into the service of a Warrior Priest. The stakes quickly escalate as Jace discovers that Morvane, the head of the Church, has imprisoned Angus to serve as bait to lure Jace into a battle in expectation of stipping the young Mage’s powers.

Messick expands his magical world with layers of complexity added to the characters’ conflicts, both internals and external. It is a story of rival and seemingly mutually exclusive forms of magic derived from the gifts of a pantheon of gods that the characters are only beginning to realize exists. Previously they have believed that all magic was sourced in Arn. But as we learn from a witch who Jace and Amicus encounter, things are not quite as they may appear.

The romance between Jace and Lianna that blossomed in Magehunter strengthens as their relationship is tested under the threat of a powerful antagonist bent on destroying everything Jace holds dear. The compelling fantasy tale that results offers much for lovers or the genre and we’re told there’s more to come in the series with Roguehunter, book three of the series, already drafted and books four and five envisioned for the near future.

About the Author:

Author, Jeff Messick

Jeff Messick is father, husband and author who lives in south Texas. Although he writes across almost every genre, excluding romance, he enjoys a splash of paranormal in his stories as evidenced by his first novel, Knights of the Shield, a mash-up of a police procedural detective murder mystery and a ghost story.

Most recently, he has penned the first two installments in the Magehunter Series, beginning with the series namesake, followed by Priesthunter. Yet to come are Roguehunter, Kinghunter, and Godhunter. He is also working on Lifeblood, a paranormal drama, and Aftermath, a sci-fi thriller.

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.