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


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Stars for HORRORSTOR

Author: Grady Hendrix
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense - GhostsReviewed by: Nancy Pennick

Summary: Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.


Amy, the main character in HORRORSTOR, works at ORSK while attending college. She’s the typical disinterested employee who rolls her eyes at the company’s rhetoric. Basil, her gun-ho younger boss, follows all the rules and recites policy to all that will listen. Strange happenings occur overnight. When the crew shows up for work each morning, the employees find broken or stained items. Basil decides to stay overnight to find the culprit and asks Amy to work a night shift along with another employee, Ruth Anne. They find two of their co-workers already there, ghost hunting. .It turns out the store has been built where an old prison once stood. The ORSK store is haunted. Needless to say, they have an interesting night.

A few weeks ago, my son, who works at Barnes and Noble, brought home HORRORSTOR. He sees the latest and newest books coming into the store and found it to his liking. The cover caught my eye, but I knew better. I don’t like reading anything creepy or about ghosts. Still I couldn’t resist flipping through its pages. The book is set up like an IKEA style catalog and the store in the book, ORSK, is a carbon copy. Still intrigued, I told myself I could stop reading if I didn’t like it. I liked the fact the book was set in Cleveland. I could picture the store off I-77 and recognized the TV station mentioned in the book.

HORRORSTOR is part satirical and part horror. I think the author equated the prison to working in retail. It would be rated on the lighter scale of the scary spectrum. I enjoyed the book. I’d recommend it for an interesting read. Book in hand would be better than digital. It’s fun to look at the pictures and read the made-up names for the furniture. So I guess I’m tearing apart my genre theory. Try going out of your comfort zone. If you don’t like the book you choose, you can stop reading. But you may keep reading, and find the book stays with you. Not because it scared the crap out of you, but because you can’t stop thinking about what a clever story it was. Isn’t that what all good books do?

Purchase Links

Author Links

Friday, April 10, 2015

3.5 Stars for 314 (Widowsfield Trilogy) by A.R. Wise


Alma Harper has been trying to forget what happened in Widowsfield 16 years ago. She has a good life as a music teacher now, and might rekindle her relationship with her one true love. However, the number 314 haunts her, and threatens to bring her back to the day that her brother disappeared. When a reporter shows up, just days before March 14th, Alma realizes that her past is coming back to haunt her. What happened on March 14th, at 3:14, 16 years ago? No one but The Skeleton Man can remember.


314 starts with a unique twist on the theories behind whole populations of people disappearing under mysterious circumstances. My favorite, and maybe partially because I am a North Carolina resident, is Roanoke Colony of North Carolina where pilgrims disappeared leaving only a message reading Croatoan on a tree. The word Croatoan could refer to Native Americans, or maybe some horrific evil embodied in human form, or maybe it was a disease, incurable and dying with the last of the Roanoke Colony. In any case, this was my line of thinking when I first started 314, a mystery only a skeleton man could solve. He was like my Croatoan, so naturally; I’m intrigued.

However, 314 did not fully flesh out its mystery and it ended with a gigantic cliffhanger with way too many loose ends. I needed a little closure. I probably won't go onto book two, even though I genuinely liked the characters. The romantic element between the main characters, Alma and Paul held sweet, believable detail. Paul's stubble worthy beard and slight inner tube around his middle felt nostalgically real. He’s the guy that forgets to make a new pot of coffee in the morning, but you love him anyways. I understood Alma being in love with him. The creepy concept was another plus - a skeleton man who controls kids and whose approach is signaled by chattering teeth and a green fog. Again, he was like my Croatoan.

Dean Koontz did a similar book about a whole town disappearing in his book, Phantoms, but Koontz wrapped his complete theory in one book rather than three, further his characters were cookie-cut, but this didn’t bother me. They worked for this book. Further, Koontz did his research on lost civilizations, and tied up every loose end brought to the pages.

With Wise, I didn't understand a major concept, like how would one incident affect a whole town? Or why would a government like group step in to try and recreate a tragic incident? These were questions that should have been addressed more in book one for me to continue on to book two.

The last time I became this frustrated with a book series was James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, where I read the first two books, and never moved on to the third. With that said, a lot of other folks did move on, and have with 314 as well. It can be found at Amazon with over 500 five star reviews. So, this book may be the book for you, its certainly creepy enough for a horror fan, and the characters are ones you’ll like.

WARNING: This book contains graphic content that may be objectionable to some readers.

Amazon Kindle
Barnes and Noble Nook


Monday, March 23, 2015

5 Stars for Covert Exposure

Title: Covert Exposure (A Nick Spinelli Mystery Book 1)
Author: Valerie J. Clarizio
Genre: Mystery, Romance Suspense
Reviewed by: Nancy Pennick


Detective Spinelli’s life is tossed sideways when he is reassigned from the Homicide division to assist in the Child Services division of the Social Services Department for the holiday season. From the beginning, Spinelli and Caseworker Shannon O’Hara generate their own kind of fireworks, causing more than the normal workplace stress. They both have their own philosophies for dealing with the clientele. However, the forces of nature have their own plan for Spinelli and Shannon.

Shannon moonlights as Santa Claus’ little helper at the mall, and when Santa and an elf turn up dead Shannon appears to be next on the killer’s list. Spinelli is placed back on homicide and goes undercover as Santa to help capture the killer. He catches a great deal of grief along the way but will he capture the heart of his little Santa’s helper as well?


Due to a well-earned retirement, Nick Spinelli is a homicide detective without a partner. He has his cases wrapped up and his boss sends him upstairs for the holidays, to help out in the social services department. There he meets and falls for Shannon O’Hara, the woman he’s assigned to work with. Still, he’s not too thrilled having to go on cases with a social worker and lets it be known. Shannon also moonlights as a Santa’s helper at the mall. Santa is murdered and Nick joins in with his homicide detectives to solve the case.

Handsome Nick Spinelli falls for the beautiful and sweet Shannon. She’s not like other women who immediately fall for him. I think he sees her as a challenge at first, but the more cases he goes on, he sees her gentle nature and caring attitude. Nick has a past which keeps him rough around the edges. He ends up playing Santa at the mall to help solve a murder, but also to keep an eye on Shannon. During this time, he learns a lot about himself and lets his guard down. Then the criminal investigation picks up putting a few of the characters in danger. The story is a nice mix of romance and crime fiction.

Covert Exposure is a fast, enjoyable read. Ms. Claizio has two follow-up books in the series. It will be interesting to see what Nick and Shannon are up to next.

Purchase Links:

Author Links

Saturday, February 14, 2015

4 Stars for Love Least Expected

Authors: Meredith Bond, Aubrey Wynne, Valerie Twombly, Kris Calvert, Katie Stephens, Nessie Strange, Kishan Paul, Isabella Harper, Michaela Miles.

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Anthology

Reviewed by: Nancy Pennick

When love drops in unexpected, the strangest things can happen. Nine short stories from sweet to sultry, full of romance, magic and love from award winning and USA Today recommended authors

Under The Mango Tree: (Historical Romance) ~ by Meredith Bond

Lakshmi is a good 18th c. Indian girl who should not be hiding among the branches of the mango tree avoiding her chores. She truly should not be seen by a man who is not a member of her family–an Englishman, no less. And she absolutely should not even contemplate speaking with this man. But Lakshmi has never been one to follow the rules.

Rolf’s Quest: (Historical Romance) ~ by Aubrey Wynne
Time is running out for the royal wizard of Henry II. Rolf’s quest: find genuine love and lift the enchantment that has imprisoned his ancestor, Merlin, for centuries. Now he must win Melissa’s heart without the use of magic. She desires him, but will she defy her family and refuse her betrothed? Or will Rolf be doomed to a life of bitterness like his ancestors before him.

Fall Into Darkness: (Paranormal Romance) ~ by Valerie Twombly

Eli, bounty hunter for the Tribunal, is sentenced to earth to find his humanity. But when temptation is thrown in the angel’s path in the form of the soft curvy Ashley, he is unable to resist. Fate may bring them together, but desire could bond them for eternity

Alphabetical Disorder: (Fantasy Romance) ~ by Katie Stephens

When a trick horseback rider gets caught up in a dangerous prophecy that jeopardizes the circus, she believes she can solve the problem by dating alphabetically. Now all she has to do is figure out how to manipulate her flawed interpretation so she can be with the man she loves.

Roses Are Wrong, Violets Taboo: (Southern Romance) ~ by Kris Calvert
When Alexander Chase Tabeau and Rose Westwood meet by chance, neither planned on stumbling into the best night of their life. But timing is everything and fate has a cruel sense of humor. With love on the line and nothing to lose, will one night together change their destiny forever?

Love’s Not Viral: (Contemporary Romance) ~ by Nessie Strange

When a crazed Hollywood star puts Aster Sanderson in the media crosshairs, her home becomes a prison. With her life out of control, the last person she expects to rescue her is her captor’s brother, James. Is their attraction a result of circumstance…or could it be something more?

Taking The Plunge: (Contemporary Romance) ~ by Kishan Paul
When Pete, Eve’s high school crush, shows up in her life, she pepper sprays him. Despite her efforts to push him away, Pete finds himself drawn to the red haired beauty. When logic and emotion don’t agree, which path should she follow?

The Trouble With Never: (Southern Romance) ~ by Isabella Harper

When Summer and Caleb run into each other after a long absence, sparks fly. Her painful past makes it hard for her to open up, but he’s more than willing to help. He’s loved her most of their lives. Can she learn to love and trust him, or will her fears push him away?

Keep Calm And Eat Chocolate: (Contemporary Romance) ~ by Michaela Miles

When institution residents Elle and Chris meet, their personalities clash. During a quiet moment in the garden together, secrets are shared and a bond is formed. Will their connection be their downfall or lead to the fresh start they deserve?

My review:

Love Least Expected is a collection of love stories by nine different authors. It’s a great read for Valentine’s, but I recommend it for any time of the year. The other great thing is it’s just 99¢ on Amazon! The stories range from historical to paranormal. There’s something for every reader. I rate the stories from 3 to 5 stars, so I gave it an average rating of 4.

Reviewing the book as a whole, I found each story to compliment the title. The main characters weren’t looking for love. It happened organically while following other paths in their lives. Some stories had a touch of magic, others a realistic theme. I enjoyed reading about the fallen angel searching for his humanity and how the wizard, Merlin, ended up as part of a tree after trying to force love. His only hope was for his ancestors to save him by finding true love.

Some of the stories are excerpts to longer novels, so expect a few to be cliffhangers. Those that were, I wanted to know more. The short stories all end in a satisfying conclusion. There’s a nice mix in this anthology. This is a great read for those who don’t have the time to invest in a novel. Read at will, chose your own story. What’s not to like?

Purchase Links

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...