Monday, December 21, 2015

3 Stars for The Drayton Chronicles The Taker, A Fantasy Novel, by Tony Bertauski


Drayton doesn’t know what he is. Or why he has lived for thousands of years. He takes not his victim’s blood but the silky essence of their soul during their last breath. Often mistaken for the Angel of Death, his victims sometimes ask for forgiveness. Sometimes he delivers.

After all, he is not without sin


The Drayton Chronicles, The Taker by Tony Bertauski is a unique twist on the vampire legend. He creates something darker than Ann Rice, and as unusual as Stephenie Meyers; however, like Meyers, his story line, setting and characters could have been flushed out more. The best vampire story I’ve ever read is one that didn’t try and become something different, but remained within the confines of basic human nature gripping the original vampire folk tale. In John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, he makes the vampire into a child named Eli. Eli not only needs blood, but love.

The story is set in a suburb of Stockholm where one of the main characters, Oskar lives with his mother in disgraceful living conditions. Oskar like Eli needs love. This sets the stage for a unique kind of love story questioning existence and the why of despair in a way other vampire novels do not. Lindqvist does a brilliant job weaving setting, human need, and the mysterious vampire origin to create horror in human suffering leading through a dark tunnel with clouded grey love at the end.

Trailing behind Lindqvist’s vampire tale, is Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, another vampire story utilizing setting and traditional vampire lore to create a very scary book. Salem’s Lot is set in the typical New England town chopped full of history to highlight its characters. Bertauski’s setting is set in South Carolina, a place after living there most of my life, did not strike me as rich or intricate to the characters in the stories.

Still, Bertauski’s Drayton Chronicles is a very interesting concept, which is why I picked it up in the first place. I wanted to know more about Drayton and how he came to be. However, the plot line jumped around through various other characters hinting at Drayton’s motives and past. It made Drayton seem more elusive than mysterious. My feelings became indifferent to him. Indifferent is not good when it comes to a main character. Either I have to hate a character, or love one to make them good. I can even love a monster as long as I understand clear cut motives, and there is some good beneath the madness. Dexter is a grand example of this. Drayton didn’t strike me as a creature driven by intellectual reasoning, but one that had allowed his hunger to drive him and when that appetite dissipated then he became more human.

Drayton, even after being around for centuries didn’t seem to understand his own evolution towards being human. His constant pondering troubled his motives and his role as a monstrous hero. Even after centuries of life, he couldn’t figure himself. Most of us/humans may not know what role we play, but I do believe we understand ourselves to be governed by an inner moral law, one that tells us to save a drowning man rather than stand on the shore to be safe. How could we learn this in quicker years than Drayton?

And even though we as humans do not have a urgent need for bloods or souls, don’t we have our own selfish needs and preservation for our own life to wrestle? And in the end, we always understand when we have made poor choices whether we admit it or not. In the case with Drayton and all of his interesting powers; I’d choose to be human. If for no other reason than to move towards unselfish behavior connecting me and making me larger in relationship to the universe around me.

In between Drayton’s search of self, other characters moved in and out like silhouetted answers into his already elusive history.

Ending, The Drayton Chronicles, The Taker is a unique vampire concept with fast pacing making it worth a reader’s time. I read it in just a few days. My critique hat goes off to Bertauski in creating something so different in the vampire world of sameness. This book should be read by an adult audience. It can be purchased at

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cover Reveal Justice for All (The Outcast Book #1) by P.T. Dilloway

Today we have a cover reveal for P.T. Dilloway's upcoming release. Patrick is also the author of several other books as well such as the "Tales of the Scarlet Knight" series and also the "Chances Are" series along with several other books. 

Robin Howe was a normal teenager until her police captain father is killed by henchmen of the evil Madame Crimson. When the justice system won't take any action to avenge her father, Robin takes it upon herself. Except her first attempt leaves her nearly dead and with Madame Crimson's people on her tail.

To protect Robin, her father’s former partner gives her a new identity that sends her to St. Martha’s Academy for Young Ladies in rural New Hampshire. There she tries to keep a low profile, which isn’t easy when Madame Crimson’s spoiled daughter Tonya takes a special interest in making Robin’s life there a living hell. Yet when a rival gangster tries to kidnap Tonya, Robin has to embrace her heroic destiny.

Available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle
Also available in paperback.

Author bio:

Patrick "P.T." Dilloway has been a writer for most of his life. He completed his first story in third grade and received an 'A' for the assignment. Around that time, he was also placed in a local writing contest for a television station, receiving an action figure in lieu of a trophy, thus securing his love with the written word. Since then, he's continued to spend most of his free time writing and editing. In the last twenty years, he's completed nearly forty novels of various genres. When not writing, P.T. enjoys reading and photographing Michigan's many lighthouses. In order to pay the bills, he earned an accounting degree from Saginaw Valley State University in 2000 and for twelve years worked as a payroll accountant in Detroit.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

4 Stars for Swimming Home Ruth Mancini


Lizzie’s life hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Eighteen years ago, she made the difficult decision to leave London for Paris to escape her best friend’s fiancé, the man who’d attacked her and turned her world upside down. Secure in the belief that she and her daughter, Helena, are now safe from harm, Lizzie contemplates her future. But is the nightmare really over?

When the captivating Sky Donoghue comes along, pulling Helena into dangerous waters, Lizzie’s strength and judgment are put to the test. Just how far should she go to save her daughter? How far will she go to save hers?


Usually I pick a book because the concept is unusual, or for shallow reasoning like the cover speaks to me, and the title is clever. Swimming Home by Ruth Mancini did none of this. I chose Mancini’s book because I’m a protective mother to my own daughter. In the story, Lizzie and her daughter, Helena, which by the way is my daughter’s name, have lived a happy life together with Lizzie as a single mom struggling to give Helena the things she needs and desires. Lizzie, is a strong character that is easily admired from the very beginning. The story spends a lot of time in Lizzie’s head which is often repetitive and drawn-out. This is the only reason I gave it a four star rating. Everything else worked.
            The plot twists and turns felt like ‘Winter’ in Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and ending in his ‘Spring’. The foreshadowing in the beginning of this story paralleled an icy rain outside a house constructed in glass, that feeling is how I feel when I listen to 'Winter' by Vivaldi. It traps me, keeping me inside my own fear and unable to act. This was Lizzie, so afraid the horror that happened to her would also happen to her Helena. Mancini did a fantastic job of filling the reader with this ominous tone. It’s why I kept reading, rooting for Lizzie.
As I said, she was a great character, well-developed with other characters that highlighted her through love and friendship in a real way I found enriching. Lizzie’s friends were flawed like herself, accepting and understanding her through their own narrow flawed view points. Lizzie’s romantic interest(s) felt the same way, but geared itself towards larger trepidation and guilt. All of these, plot, characters, lastly the intense literary device of foreshadowing worked splendidly for me. I read it in two days. I highly recommend this book to those who love good romantic thrillers. It and the rest of the series can be found at

Monday, August 3, 2015

An Excerpt from Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton

Summary: Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother has lost her teeth, and her best friend is killed by her own father. Life in The Hollow in West Virginia isn't great. But Lacy Dawn has one advantage—she's been befrended by a semi-organic semi-robot (DotCom, alias Buddy) who works with her to 'cure' her parents. Buddy wants something in exchange, though. It's up to Lacy Dawn to save the universe.

From chapter 13, Mom I’d Like to Introduce You to My Fiancé:
            …..…Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn's name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.
            I hear her voice. Why won't she answer me? 
            “Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods. 
            Nobody responded. The trees weren't supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.
            I will always love you guys. 
Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.   
            Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front. 
            Jenny looked to the left of the path.
            There ain't no cave Roundabend, but there it is. 
            She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn't exit and into a blue light that did.
            “All right, you mother f**ker!”
            “Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you're supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story)."
            DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.   
            "Grrrrr," emanated from Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn's dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid shut.
            “Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”
            “You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.
            Stay between them.
            “Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I'm old enough -- like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend -- what you call it -- my fiancé.” 
            “You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce. 
            “MOM!  Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”
            Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.
            He ain't got no private parts, not even a little bump.   
            “DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”
            Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.  
            “Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.” 
            I will need much more training if I'm ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.
            “Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”      
            Jenny's left eye twitched. 
            DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…    
            …(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There're a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain't complained since the shots started -- not even with an upset stomach.”
            "He's a doctor?" Jenny asked.
            “What's your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that's different -- even if someone is a different color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”
            “Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.
            Mommy's right. Maybe I need a different argument.
            A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.
            "What's that?" Jenny asked. 
            She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.
            “But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.
            “Mommy, I'm so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn't talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he'd be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain't had no chance to talk. All I know is that he's home and I'm sooooo happy.”
            “Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more…. 
            It's unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that's a good sign. Maybe she's right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They've been together for a while and I ain't seen a mark on herThat's unusual too. He ain't got no private parts and that's another good thingHell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. I'd better play it smart. I don't want to lose my baby. 
            “What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.
            “I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”
            “My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition -- the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said. 
            They both glared at him. 
            "Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said. 
            “Okay, Mommy.”
            “I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her. 
            “I love you too,” DotCom said.
            Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile -- at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.   
            Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….

Purchase Links

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle UK
Dog Horn Publishing
Impress Books
Barnes and Noble

Monday, June 29, 2015

4 Stars for I'm Still Here

Author: Kathryn R. Biel
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Review by: Nancy Pennick


It started out as an ordinary day for Esther Comely-Cox, if you consider simultaneously totaling your car, smashing a Ho Ho in your face and meeting a handsome doctor ordinary.
Estranged from her family over her sister's mental illness and death, Esther can't help but feel alone. And when Esther hears the voice of her twin sister who committed suicide seven years ago, she begins to question her own sanity, leading her to wonder if anything is what it seems. Searching for answers, Esther must confront her past while looking towards a new future—one in which she is finally accepted.

Through humor and heartbreak, Esther learns that blood does not mean family, that absence does not make the heart grow fonder and that silence can speak volumes.


Esther Comely-Cox has many strikes against her. First, there’s her wild red hair. She feels her last name sounds like a porn star--which her mother made her hyphenate after she married. Finally, she’s on her own, estranged from her family and now divorced. The story starts with a car accident and that’s how Esther meets Dr. O. K. Cole. By his nickname, you can see there will be misunderstandings. Esther is used to fending for herself and resists the help of the doctor. She finally confesses to having a messed up family. Her parents are hippies and named most of their children after characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Her twin sister, Aster, disappeared seven years ago and Esther assumes she’s dead. Although she says she’s okay with her situation, you can tell she’s not. Ester longs for family and stability. Nothing comes easy for her.

I almost stopped reading this book and am glad I didn’t. I would’ve given this five stars, if not for the beginning which seemed to drag. That’s only in my opinion. I’m glad I stayed with it. There is humor and drama in the story. The characters are well-fleshed out. By the end I was rooting and cheering for Esther. The final scene brought tears to my eyes. Through all her ups and downs, she stayed strong. Many would’ve fallen apart by the treatment she received from her family and the physical injuries she had to overcome. She had many brothers and sisters but felt alone. I was so happy when Esther found a true partner in O.K. And like in all good books, something happens to break them apart. But O.K. doesn’t give up, he fights his way back into Esther’s life. I’m Still Here is a very good book with real-life issues. I recommend giving it a try.

Purchase Links:

Paperback (Amazon)

Author Links:

Blog  (More vendors listed on her site)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meet the Author of Detour Trail

Guest Post by Joy V. Smith

I did a lot of research for my frontier novel, Detour Trail, including the history of the Oregon Trail; and I learned a lot about mules too because one of my main characters is a mule named Jake, who helps my heroine, Lorrie, along the way. One of my first sources said that mules were mostly black so I made Jake black 'cause I wanted to be accurate. Later I learned--and I have the pictures to prove it on my Western Style board on Pinterest--that they could be the same colors as horses. After all that's in their genes! On the other hand, making him too splashy might detract from the story. Hmm. I wonder what readers would think?

I also learned that mules are smart, good jumpers, and can do just about anything a horse can do. And they have their own magazines and celebrations. (See my Pinterest board for a few examples.) However, I suspect that Jake is a bit mythical, but I like that in a character. Lorrie can count on him, and her friends, when trouble looms on the trail. From ambushes and blizzards to building and working and starting a settlement, Lorrie, Jake, and her companions move steadily forward to forge a new future in the west.

Note: I read The Oregon Trail: An American Journey by Rinker Buck since I'm interested in the history of the trails--The Oregon Trail is not just one trail, by the way. I was truly surprised by the fact that one of Buck's three mules was named Jake, and he was the most trustworthy and even tempered of the three. I recommend Buck's book both for the history included in it and as a modern day adventure.


Detour Trail
The Oregon Trail an American Journey
My Western Style board

Thursday, April 23, 2015

4 Stars for Aizai the Forgotten (The Soul Wanders)

Reviewed by Kelly Michelle Baker (Guest Reviewer)


Seventeen-year old Wolfdon dreams of travelling to Aizai, a forgotten realm connected to our world by invisible sol-lines. He begins his search as a “word-warrior” in his hometown in France in the late 17th century, hunting for rare books that mention Aizai. One obscure book, by the philosopher Paulo de la Costa Santamiguero, has given him a lead to start his journey—to go to the northern coast of Spain where a portal to Aizai supposedly exists.

With a noble horse he borrows from an astrologer and armed with a strange magical device, Wolfdon travels to a place that surpasses even his vivid imagination, with walking statues, animals with glowing gems of power, beautiful towers and misty valleys, and Aizians whose magic is innate to their souls. He meets many peculiar characters, from the cryptic Philosophers of the Eastern Empyrean to beautiful Aizians and dark magicians.

Though death and danger loom ever near, nothing can dim the brightness of Aizai kindling within Wolfdon’s heart. Yet as he strives to discover Aizai’s secrets and fate, a frightening truth becomes perilously near, and may cost Wolfdon everything, including the future.


Armed with what he’s read in books, the story follows Wolfdon—a boy in search of an alternative world to our own called Aizai, where he delves into the philosophies of time travel, good, evil, and life itself. While commonplace fantasy at face-value, his journey is painted vividly through the author’s rich prose. The beautiful writing, which is becoming increasingly rare in the young adult genre, absorbs us into a clever place split between reality and the mystical. Like the cryptic setting she creates, Harris is equally deceptive, writing like a seasoned author when she is, in fact, just debuting.

The author’s greatest strength is world building. Along with the protagonist, you see the structures and hear the sounds through a literary instrument reminiscent of Niel Gaiman. We begin in France, real France, then slowly descend into an ethereal community. But unlike most fantasies, the reader is introduced to magic along with the protagonist, accentuating the suspense (in a similar fashion to Harry Potter’s training in wizardry). The non-magic elements give equal intrigue, as they ground the story into something recognizable, touching on Catholicism, familiar cities, European history, etc. It’s incredibly well-researched and was a learning experience.

Harris’ second strength is in her characters, which are diverse and not without depth. Wolfdon isn’t stone-faced in his bravery. Rather, he’s curious and all around good-natured. He’s an ambitious fellow and you want him to succeed.

One criticism (and it’s small) is how descriptive the author can be. She is not wordy, but rather dwells on the physical environment. For some readers, like myself, this is part of great storytelling. However, others may find it a bit overwhelming.

“Aizai The Forgotten: The Soul Wanderers” is a sophisticated and intelligent read promising more stories to come. It is deserving of a wide readership, and I hope she will inspire other burgeoning authors.

Author Info:

Reviewer Info:

Name: Kelly Michelle Baker

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