paranormal

Review of ‘Southern Spirits’

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Verity Long, a freelance graphics designer, is out of work and, because of a vengeful ex-fiancé whom she left at the altar, and his mother, she’s in danger of losing her home. One day, she accidentally traps the ghost of a dead mobster on her property, setting off a chain of events that forever change her life.

The ghost, Frankie the German, enables her to see other spirits, and when Ellis Wydell, the sheriff of Sugarland, TN, and brother to Beau, her ex, asks her help in exorcising ghosts from a property he bought, her changed life gets dangerous. Not only must she contend with angry spirits capable of doing her great harm, but there’s a live person out there trying to kill both her and Ellis.

Southern Spirits by Angie Fox is the first book in a planned series featuring Verity and her sidekick, Frankie, dealing with wayward spirits and other assorted bad guys and gals. It’s well-paced mystery and to use a southern euphemism, as funny as a bucket full of crabs. Verity is a main character, a la Kinsey Milhone with ghosts and goblins thrown into the mix, who you simply cannot help but like. Even some of the vengeful ghosts arouse a certain amount of sympathy.

If you like stories about things that go bump in the night, and give you goose bumps, you’ll love this one. Can’t wait to read the next offering in the series.

An easy five-star rating.

Review of ‘Bite of a Vampire’

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Emily Johnson is a PI who specializes in catching cheating spouses. Her life changes when she witnesses a vampire attacking one of the spouses she’s tailing. When she meets Michael, a ‘good’ vampire, she’s plunged into a world of supernatural madness, and she’s not sure she can survive.

Bite of a Vampire by Anna Belsky is a paranormal romance that follows Emily as she and Michael, with the aid of an ancient vampire hunter, set out to find and defeat an evil vampire who is breaking all the rules of vampire protocol. Along the way, she finds romance can really take a ‘bite’ out of you.

An interesting story, but the grammar really needs polish. I forced myself to read it all the way through, and found the plotting not too bad, but some really intensive proofreading would improve it immeasurably.

I received a free copy of the Kindle version of this book.

I can only give this book three stars.

Review of ‘Blood Warrior’

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Alexa Montgomery is not your regular 17-year-old. She has a quick temper, and in her school where she’s a junior, she has only two friends, her sister, Nelly, and Jackson, like her, an outlier. Her mother ‘trains’ her in fighting almost every day, in the roughest way imaginable, and insists that she and Nelly run to and from school every day. She understands none of this until their home is attacked by vampires, and she’s forced to flee with Nelly, leaving her mother to certain death.

During their escape, aided by Jack, Alexa learns that she’s the last of a race of supernatural warriors, people who possess the positive traits of nearly all other supernatural races, and she’d apparently the ‘chosen’ one whose destiny is to ‘save’ all the others. What this means, she has no idea, but she quickly discovers that she has abilities not possessed by others—she’s inhumanly fast, and capable of defeating fighters twice her size. Her problem, she’s not sure what she’s been ‘chosen,’ for, nor is she sure she wants this responsibility.

The more she learns, though, the more she is determined to ‘fix’ the world she knows, even if it means leaving those she loves behind.

Blood Warrior by H. D. Gordon is a pulse-tingling young adult fantasy. The graphic violence and blunt discussion of male-female relationships demand that parents exercise discretion about allowing young teens or pre-teens to read it; but it’s an entertaining story that will delight maturing and mature readers. I particularly liked the way the author integrated the supernatural world with the modern world in a way that is almost believable.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘What She Inherits’

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During her junior year in college, Angela Ellis’s mother dies, and she returns to her childhood home in South Carolina to settle the estate. In her old home, she encounters her mother’s ghost, and strange messages that unsettle her. Enlisting the assistance of a ghost hunter, she tries to decipher the messages. What she learns is disturbing; was Deb, really her mother, or was her entire life a lie?

In the meantime, on Devil’s Back Island in Maine, Casey, living with her aunt, is also troubled. Hesitant to make human connections, she lives a life adrift.

As Angela learns more about her background, the lives of the two women slowly intersect until they both discover what they lost two decades earlier.

What She Inherits by Diane v. Mulligan is an intriguing story that is part paranormal, part coming-of-age, and part epic fiction about human relationships, and the enduring impact they have on people’s lives. The author switches between Angela and Casey in a story that builds the suspense chapter-by-chapter until it reaches a satisfying conclusion. You’ll become so invested in the two women’s quest for closure, you’ll find the supernatural elements taking a distant background role in the story.

I found this to be a thoroughly entertaining read. I received a free copy of this book.

I give this story four stars.

Review of ‘Fade to Black’

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Jeff Grobnagger is a 27-year-old slacker who wants nothing more than to be left alone. His problem, though, is that he keeps blacking out at the most inopportune times and having the same dream; he’s strung upside down in an alley and a hooded man keeps killing him—many times in fact.

Jeff meets mustachioed Glenn whose daughter, who was involved with some arcane cult, is missing, and Louise, a PI who is investigating the various cults interested in astral projection among other things. To further complicate matters, Jeff learns that someone is interested in him because of his dreams, and they just might be trying to kill him for real.

Fade to Black is book one in the Awake in the Dark series by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus. This is a book that defies genre categorization. It has elements of the paranormal—actually, more the para-abnormal—mystery, and macabre humor. The characters are captivating, and the plot doesn’t unfold; rather it folds and refolds in a most byzantine way, leaving you wondering just what the heck is going on. You reach the end, and you’re still not sure what just happened, only that you thoroughly enjoyed it.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Wild Spark’

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Faz Pound, the Dark Magic Enforcer, has decided to settle down. He’s married his live-in vampire girlfriend, Kate, and their off to Paris for a peaceful honeymoon. Of course, for Faz, peaceful is always relative. In Paris, he and Kate receive a ‘command’ invitation to the 600th birthday party of the powerful and quite evil witch, Morag, where he’s offered a job. Since he and Kate want to have children, Morag is willing to help achieve that, provided Faz does her one little favor: retrieve her soul from a powerful wizard, and, oh by the way, take away all his magic at the same time.

Wild Spark by Al K. Line is the eighth in the Dark Magic Enforcer series, and it does not disappoint. Faz has to face off against trolls, vampires, and wizards, and in the process, come to terms with his new-found magical powers. This is quintessential Black Spark, with a lot of humorous asides and pulse-pounding magical encounters of the ‘blast ‘em to bits’ kind.

I received an advance review copy of this book, and I highly recommend it.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘A Million to One’

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In One in a Million by Tony Faggioli, Kyle Fasano is given a chance at redemption. He is the millionth, which means that by sacrificing himself, he creates the opportunity for a million souls to be called to repent. Some will answer the call, but some will not.

In A Million to One, the journey continues. In hell, Kyle struggles to learn what his true mission is, while Detective Napoleon Villa, a man who believes in heaven and hell, has volunteered to accompany the Gray Man to hell to find him. In the meantime, back on earth, Villa’s partner finds a case that is somehow tied to Fasano; a serial killer who heeds the voice of the Other, and Fasano’s wife is fighting off demons who seem determined to destroy what’s left of her family.

The reader is taken on a whipsaw journey between hell and hell on earth as the forces of Good and Evil battle for dominance, a journey that will leave your blood chilled and have you shrinking from every shadow.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Faery Dust’

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Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, the gangster wizard, is back and as bad as ever. When the elf, Elion, breaks the wards to his house and offers him a job; steal the Raeth Naeg, Beowulf’s legendary belt, for which he’s willing to pay the princely sum of a million dollars, Arthur’s reluctant, but you don’t say no to an elf, who also happens to be one of the Fallen, an elf who has been exiled to the land of the humans.

In Faery Dust by Al K. Line, the second book in the Wildcat Wizard series, Arthur has to deal with an enigmatic, but extremely powerful, elf, said elf’s jealous siblings, a teenage daughter who is a witch in training, and Vicki, his new, untrained sidekick. Like the first book in this series, the reader is treated to a  hero who is often anything but heroic—he kills a thug who abused his daughter and feels no real guilt about it, does some pretty gruesome things to other beings who get in the way of the completion of his mission, and worries when his favorite hat is vandalized.

If you like your paranormal story to be bloody and bloody funny, you’ll love this book. For readers who like their hero to be flawed, but still principled, it’s all there in Faery Dust.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

Another five-star offering.

Review of ‘Beyond the Sapphire Gate’

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Indentured in a mausoleum, where her job is to catalog relics, Crystalyn Creek accidentally activates a sapphire gate that leads to another dimension. When her younger sister, Jade, touches the gate and disappears, Crystalyn follows, and finds herself in a world where Users of magic are divided into blocs of dark and light. Coming into her own in using her power as she searches for her sister, she finds that the use is slowly killing her. She is determined to find Jade, but can she survive long enough?

Beyond the Sapphire Gate by R.V. Johnson is an eclectic blend of science fiction and the supernatural that switches points of view between Crystalyn and Jade as the two sisters fight for survival in a strange world, encounter allies and enemies, and fight strange characters, as they struggle to get back home.

While some of the narrative strains credulity—in particular Crystalyn’s development and understanding of her powers—the story at least a fast pace and a certain consistency throughout that holds a certain interest. The science is assumed, never explained, which is, I feel, the biggest weakness. Despite that, though, I did enjoy reading this book.

I received this book as a gift.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘One in a Million’

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Kyle Fasano is a man who has it all, a loving family and a nice house, but he risks it all for a one-night fling with a young woman from his office. Plagued with guilt, and scared out of his wits when she tries to kill him the morning after, he flees, and encounters a strange man in gray who apparently has supernatural powers.

When the young woman’s body is found in a bloody puddle on the sidewalk outside the hotel, LAPD detective, Napoleon Villa, is assigned the case. He is a man plagued with his own demons, still haunted by the case of a serial killer he failed to stop.

The paths of these two torment men, one with everything to lose, and one with nothing to lose, cross in a chilling tale of love, mystery, and other-worldly madness, as the Gray Man sends Kyle on a mission of redemption—he must save his first love, Victoria, from going down the road he has already traveled, but he finds that the cost of redemption is high.

One in a Million by Tony Faggioli is a gripping tale that combines the supernatural with a compelling mystery as Napoleon tracks Kyle to the site of his final confrontation with his past. The ending will leave you in a state of shock, and with many unanswered questions. This one’s a real page-turner.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give the author four stars for this interesting opener to what promises to be a fascinating trilogy.

Review of ‘Bled White’

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If you’ve read book one in the ‘Awake in the Dark’ series, you will probably not be confused by the opening to book two, Bled White, by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus. Our hero, Jeff Grobnagger, wakes up in a strange place with fuzzy memories—okay, I’m cool with that, I suppose, although, it would’ve been nice to have at least an inkling of an idea how he got there.

As the story moves along, we learn that Jeff’s friend, Glenn, is missing; only later do we learn that he’s ‘missing’ in some kind of ‘other’ dimension to which Jeff travels when he experiences his trances. Jeff’s search for Glenn is sidetracked when a burned corpse wearing a League of Light robe is found in a vacant lot, and he is asked to investigate the murder. Jeff senses that this death is somehow connected to Glenn’s disappearance, so he reluctantly takes the case. The victim wasn’t exactly a popular figure, but those with the most reason to want him dead, appear to Jeff to be innocent.

If it sounds like I’m rambling, that’s the way this story goes. But then, what would you expect with a hero with the surname, Grobnagger? The mystery and danger are palpable, and the supernatural is a bit on the offside—I mean, reincarnation after being toasted, really!

This book reads like experimental, paranormal fiction, with a touch of black humor and mystery thrown in to appeal to those readers who can’t quite get into a total magical romp. I rambled through to the end; mostly enjoyed it; but I’m so-o-o-o confused. Could’ve used a little more backstory, so I have a better idea of who the characters are and just how they relate to each other. Other than that, I think paranormal fans, especially McBain/Vargus fans, will like it.

I received a free copy of this book, and it’s a five star theme, but I knock it down to three and a half stars for confusing me so.

Review of ‘Blood Moon’

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Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman is a gangster and a wizard. He’s asked by his ‘broker’ Nigel to do a simple job; retrieve an item, and deliver it unopened. Unfortunately, every gangster, human and nonhuman, also wants the item, and they’re willing to kill Arthur to get it. He’s been killed many times before, and even though the experience is unpleasant, he’s come back each time. This time, though, in their quest to obtain the ‘item,’ they threaten those he loves. They even subvert his sidekick, who betrays him, and then gets himself killed in the process.

A friend of Arthur’s, a single mom with children to care for, wants badly to be his sidekick, and now that the job is open, she presses her case. Not the best of times for a human untrained in magic or larceny to apply for the job, but what’s a wizard to do? Arthur is at sixes and sevens, with a shadowy organization, Cerebrus, and a group of vampires all on his case, he needs all the help he can get. So, he takes on a new sidekick, and with the help of his faery godmother (who happens to be the one who bestowed upon him the ability to come back to life) Arthur decides to use his wizardly powers to kick some serious butt.

Blood Moon by Al K. Line is book one in the Wildcat Wizard series, and if you’ve read Line’s Dark Magic Enforcer series, you have some idea of how this story unfolds. Unlike Faz Pound, a wizard who is the Dark Magic Enforcer, Arthur works on the other side of the law, but like Faz, he’s a man of principle, and one of his cardinal principles is, ‘don’t mess with my friends.’

Wizards, plain old human goons, monsters, and vampires all come together in a bloody romp across the English countryside in a story that will keep you flipping pages until the gory conclusion, and despite all the bloodshed, it’s also something of a rib tickler, as most of this author’s books are.

I can’t wait to see what Arthur gets up to next. I received a free copy of this book.

This was an easy five star read!

Review of ‘Guns of the Temple’

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New recruit, Taki, is sent out to help capture a deserter from his unit. After successfully retrieving the man, the entire unit is put on potato peeling duty as punishment. This is the opening salvo in Guns of the Temple by Bryan Choi and Erica Carson.

The story follows the adventures of Taki and his comrades as they fight a determined, vicious, and capable enemy, while at the same time having to fight their own chain of command. The authors combine barracks humor, historical parody, and paranormal adventure in a tale that is fun to read, even if it is a bit confusing at times with the switches in point of view and the epic cast of characters.

I received an advance reader copy of this book. I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Full Metal Magic’

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Full Metal Magic by J.A. Cipriano, et al is a collection of urban fantasy short stories that are chock full of magic and mayhem. Nine authors demonstrate their chops at creating heroes (actually, anti-heroes) and situations that will bemuse and befuddle you. Plots that read like they were created in a vodka-infused reverie, from the U.S. Midwest to Cardiff in the UK, they take us on romps through magic and the paranormal. These stories are not for the squeamish or overly sensitive reader; they can only be described as gutsy and gritty, and hate ‘em or love ‘em, they give you a cast of characters you’re unlikely to forget.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book. I give if five stars.

Review of ‘Charmed and Dangerous’

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After a tragic incident with a Ouija board, Callie was sent to live with her aunt in New Jersey. Now, six years later, she’s back home with her mother, grandmother and friends. Callie is a witch who has yet to grow into her full powers, but it’s predicted that when she does, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with. For that reason, her father, a power-hungry coven leader who has been estranged from her for her entire life, wants to control her. Her mother and grandmother are determined to prevent this.

Then, Callie meets a boy, a handsome, enigmatic boy, who stirs unaccustomed feelings in her. She senses that there is something unusual about him, and is reluctant to tell him that she’s a witch. Of course, when she learns that he’s an Immortal, a race of beings who live forever, and who are forever battling other Immortals to gain their power, she’s stricken. But, when her father and his minions decide to move on her, she finds that, despite the belief that witches and Immortals are like fire and water—they don’t mix—she must turn to Thomas for help.

Charmed and Dangerous by Debbie Herbert is a fanciful paranormal coming-of-age novel with intrigue, epic battles, and romance, and while it might have been originally written for a young adult audience, anyone can enjoy it.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Shift: Strangetown Magic Book 2’

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Swift is tired. Having just evicted many Strange back through the great Rift to where they belong and forestalled an invasion of bad elves, she really wants to take a break. But, Strangetown is changing, and not in a good way. The town is being overtaken by jungle growth, and is threatened by an invasion of Normal military and other officials. Worse, her mother, the Queen of the Witches, wants her to put things right, and Levick, the chief Justice and her boss, wants her to find the evil witch, Blue, who has been randomly killing both Strange and Normal.

Shift: Strangetown Magic Book 2 by Al K. Line is another exciting adventure as Swift, her sister and her weird friends face off against a world of plants gone mad, Normals who think they can tackle an ogre, and a mad witch who has someone pulling her strings. Dialogue is pithy, and the situations Swift finds herself in are just as wild as they were in Book 1. Magic and mayhem abound in this romp through a land that only the fevered mind of this author could create.

Hard to put down, and as satisfying as a Long Island Ice Tea on a sweltering day, you’ll enjoy this book. If you don’t, Mack the ogre might just pay you a visit.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Reaper’s Deliverance’

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Ryder was a biker, addicted to action, alcohol, and not very concerned with others. When he died in a horrific motorcycle accident, he was given a choice; go on to his next life which would probably be worse than what he left, or become a Reaper. He somewhat reluctantly decides that being a Reaper would be the better choice; a decision that is validated when he meets Elizabeth, a single mother whose son, Thomas, has a terminal illness.

When Thomas’ soul is taken by evil forces who want him for his special talents, Ryder, Elizabeth, and a band of disturbed Reapers set out to rescue him. During this dangerous quest, Ryder finds himself changing; for the first time, in life or death, he finds himself putting others before himself.

Reaper’s Deliverance by Miranda Stork follows Ryder’s transformation from a self-absorbed hedonist into a caring, compassionate man as he risks all to save young Thomas.

An interesting, actually intriguing, premise, with some fairly well-drafted action sequences, the story was, unfortunately, spoiled for me by the presence of far too many typographical and grammatical errors. Another round of proofreading and line editing would make this a really good book. The author has a great idea, but needs to work on more effective presentation.

It is with regrets that I can only give this book three stars.

Review of ‘Catalyst Moon: Incursion’

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In Aredia, magic is feared, and specially-protected sentinels keep mages, those capable of wielding magic, under strict control. Kali, a young mage, crippled from birth, is on her way to get special medical treatment. She is under the watchful eye of a company of sentinels, among them, Stonewall, a man sworn to protect Aredia from the very magic that Kali possesses. When they’re attacked by demon-possessed bandits, Kali uses her magic to whisk herself and Stonewall away from danger. In the meantime, those mages still under guard are moving to gain their freedom, precipitating a conflict with their sentinel guards. Kali and Stonewall must learn to trust each other despite the gulf that separates them, if they are to survive.

Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Laurel C. Garcia is an interesting story as it moves among the characters, exploring their backgrounds and motivations, in a riveting story that moves like an avalanche toward an explosive confrontation. The author takes us inside the minds of the characters as they contend with the cataclysmic changes occurring in their world, and we watch the slow process of learning to respect differences unfold. This is a hard book to categorize; it’s a paranormal adventure, a love story, and a thriller that offers enlightenment in the complexities of interpersonal relations and power politics.

Once you start reading, it’s almost impossible to put it down until you reach the end; and it leaves you wondering—what next for Kali and Stonewall?

This one gets four stars.

Review of ‘Influential Magic’

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In New Orleans, a city filled with vampires, it’s not easy being a faery. Especially when their very existence drains your life force and their touch causes terrible pain. Willow Rhoswen, owner of the Fated Cupcakes bakery, is also a part time vampire hunter, because of her ability to detect vampires. Four years after her twin brother’s murder, Willow’s life is threatened by the presence of a particularly vicious vampire who seems focused on her. Her Aunt Maude, director of operations for the bureau responsible for controlling vampires, assigns her a new partner, her former lover, David. He’s turned into a vampire and signed on as a double agent to help find the vampires who are breaking the rules and threatening order in the city, but Willow’s not sure she trust him, and she certainly can’t stand to touch him any longer.

Forced to work closely with him, she does touch him, and to everyone’s surprise, she converts him into a ‘day walker.’ This skill puts her in even greater danger, forcing her to call upon her brother’s best friend, Talisen, a fae with healing powers. The three of them form a shaky alliance as more and more truth of David’s death and Willow’s ‘special’ abilities come to light.

Influential Magic by Deanna Chase is a paranormal romance thriller that paints the Crescent City in a whole new light. In Chase’s world, nothing is black and white, just ominous shades of gray, with danger lurking behind every corner. The author has created a universe of characters that are quintessentially human even in their decidedly unhuman personas. This story has more twists and turns than an Alpine trail, and the ending is stunning. My only complaint is the way the relationship between Willow and David is left kind of unresolved, but in the end, everyone seems to get just what they deserve. You don’t have to be a fan of either romance or paranormal stories to enjoy this book. It has a little something for everyone, and is a highly entertaining read.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Broken Elements’

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Aidan Brook is an Elemental, a being who can manipulate the elements with ease, in her case, water. But, one night in Lake Tahoe, when she and her friend, Sera, a fire elemental, were trying to trap a serial killer, her power failed, with fatal consequences. For years, Aidan tried to run away from her past, retreating to a lonely house in Oregon, but when a close friend is brutally murdered—by what appears to be the serial killer she and Sera vanquished—Aidan is drawn back to Lake Tahoe and her past. She and Sera begin the process of mending their broken relationship, and she finds that there is more to the world of non-humans than she’d been led to believe. With a serial killer now focused on her, two FBI agents determined to find out just what the hell’s going on, and her own feelings about life and love bubbling close to the surface, Aidan must learn to control her power if she and her friends are to survive.

Broken Elements is the first book in the Elements series by Mia Marshall. It follows the exploits of Aidan Brook and her Elemental friends as they navigate between their world and that of the humans, but does it in a way that makes it read like a finely tuned mystery or thriller rather than just another paranormal story. The magical elements are woven into the story almost unobtrusively, but are nevertheless crucial parts of the plot.

An interesting premiere to what I predict will be a popular series. Four stars.