paranormal

Review of ‘Extreme Heat Warning’

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FBI agents Roger Dance and Paul Casey must reopen what they thought was a closed case. Killers, James Devon and William Patterson, with high-level help, have escaped on the eve of their trials, and their trail leads to the teeming streets and steaming swamps in and around New Orleans. The two agents, with the help of a band of angels, must brave voodoo, corruption, and doubt as they pursue two of the deadliest perps they’ve ever encountered.

Extreme Heat Warning by Vicki Graybosch, et al follows them as they cope with things they were never taught at Quantico. This is book 2 of the Shallow End Gals series, and I have to admit the plot is fascinating. The prose, however, tends to choppiness, and the switches from third to first person are confusing at first. A bit too much telling, and not enough showing for a story that begs to be ‘shown,’ with the exotic locales and quirky characters—main and supporting.

I worked my way through it, and, unfortunately, found the ending a bit too murky for my taste. I give this one three stars, but must admit, it does show promise.

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Review of ‘The Amulet Thief’

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When her mother was murdered, young Alex Kelley was spirited away from NYC to Indiana by her mother’s best friend, Ava. After 21 years of a secretive existence, Alex returns to New York seeking answers to her mother’s death. She first encounters shadowy beings who seem to be following her, and then she meets Greer Sinclair, a mysterious man who seems to know more about her and her past than he should. The more she delves into her past, the more questions she has. Who are what is Greer, and more importantly, just what is she? The key seems to be an amulet her mother gave her just before she died, and when it goes missing, things heat up for Alex. Can she find the amulet, and unlock the dark secrets of her past before unknown forces end her life? Only time will tell.

The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett is an eclectic blend of the modern and the supernatural that makes for captivating reading from start to finish. The dynamic between Alex and Greer, though never fully explained, appears to be the point around which all other actions revolve. An exciting book that is hard to put down.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Seashells, Spells, & Caramels’

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Imogen Banks has scrimped and saved to amass enough money to open her own bakery. Just when she’s reached her monetary goal, her dreams go up in flames. But, she has somehow managed to become a contestant in a mysterious baking contest at an island off the coast of France. With nothing to lose—literally, as everything burned up in when her apartment went up in flames—she buys a ticket to France.
Once at the mysterious island, she encounters something she’s never believed in before, magic. Her skills are put to the test as she contends with magical creatures, including a wise cracking cooking flame, and a contestant dropping dead in the middle of the competition, and her humble self being looked at as the prime suspect.
Time is running short for Imogen. She must find the real killer, dig deep to find the baking skills to prevail in a contest she has no hope of winning, and learn to deal with the fact that, despite her inability to cast even the simplest spell, she is herself a creature of magic.
Seashells, Spells & Caramels by Erin Johnson is a delightful cozy mystery, with liberal doses of murder, mayhem, and magic, that will entertain you on every page. This book will delight both mystery fans and those who like the supernatural. It is unnaturally entertaining.
I received a free copy of this author’s first novel, and give it five stars for its sheer entertainment value.

Review of ‘Awaken’

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Chloe Kowalski lives in Kansas, but she has an obsession with the ocean which she can’t explain. To complicate matters, her parents have an almost insane aversion to water, and won’t even let her learn to swim. One summer, she runs away—although, it’s not her intent to run away, she just wants to see the ocean, so she sneaks off with her best friend to her blended family’s home on the coast.

Once there, though, strange things begin to happen. Her attraction to the ocean grows stronger, and one day, while out for a boat ride, the ocean acts up and the vessel capsizes. Underwater, Chloe sees a strange boy, and finds that she can talk to him; underwater. Then, she’s attacked in a bookstore by a clerk acting mad, and soon she learns that a band of killers are after her. Her only way to survive is to come to grips with what she really is, a mixture of human and mermaid.

Awaken by Skye Malone is a riveting paranormal tale that explores the intersection of the human world and the world of the inhabitants under the sea, and the conflicts that plague both. The characters, human and nonhuman, are rich in detail and motivation, and the action is nonstop. I only had one gripe about the story, a point of logic; while Chloe’s parents have gone to great lengths to conceal her heritage by keeping her away from water, it’s not explained how they dealt with bathing, drinking, or mundane tasks like washing dishes. This small point notwithstanding, it was still an entertaining story.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Ephemeral

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Ephemeral by best-selling author Addison Moore is, well, ephemeral. Laken Stewart remembers being on a road, driving madly, angry at her cheating boyfriend, then, the last thing she remembers is the headlights of the oncoming car, and kissing her windshield as she plows through it. Two months later, she finds herself . . . somewhere else, with a new name, and a new family—people she neither recognizes nor remembers, until Wesley, her long-dead first love, shows up, and tries to convince her that she’s been suffering amnesia as the result of a fall, and being in a medically induced coma for two months. Addison, though, remembers. She died on that highway, and has somehow been resurrected—or, has she?

What follows will keep you flipping pages, trying, along with Addison, to make sense of what’s happening. Is Wesley real, and has he also been resurrected and placed in a strange place, hundreds of miles from their home in Kansas? And, what is she to make of Cooper Flanders, son of the resident shrink, who says he believes her when she recounts her memories, while everyone else continues to maintain what she knows deep down inside is a fiction? Snatches of humor, as post-hormonal teens play out the drama that is the lot of teens everywhere, and stretches of outright horror as Addison contends with the zombies prowling the forest surrounding her new home.

The story ends in a cliffhanger of sorts, as Addison, Wes, and Cooper face off against hosts of warring angels and other mythical creatures, among which they must also count themselves. This is not mere escapist entertainment. Buried within the surrealistic scenes are gems of truth, and ferreting them out makes it worth the read.

I give Moore four stars for this entertaining read.

Review of ‘Adored by the Alpha Bear’

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Alice Lenore is a popular romance writer, but she’s unable to deal with the real thing. She hires a housekeeper to help out around her house, but when it turns out to be Luka Oxendine, a hunk of a man, who also happens to be a bear shape shifter, her life is turned upside down and inside out.
Adored by the Alpha Bear by K.T. Stryker is a paranormal romance mystery comedy farce, and if you think that’s a mouthful, you have to read the story. Alice is adorable as a slightly klutzy, dysfunctional protagonist, while Luka is conflicted in his role as alpha male who finds himself in love with the apparently (but not really) weak heroine. The rest of the characters are not quite as fully developed, and their fates are left undetermined for the most part, but the story’s worth reading for Alice and Lukas’s parts.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Missy the Werecat’

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At the age of thirteen, while away at soccer camp, Missy experienced a dramatic ‘change.’ The onset of puberty triggered genes within her, transforming her into a mountain lion. Afraid of possible danger to her family or others, she ran away into the mountains, where, for two years, she learned to deal with the change, and developed the ability to switch between human and cat at will.

On the way back home, Missy came to the attention of the authorities when she staged a dramatic, almost unbelievable rescue of a family trapped in a wrecked car. Doctors learned that, despite potentially life-threatening injuries, she had an amazing ability to heal, and the FBI agent who had been investigating her disappearance believed she’d been abducted, had somehow killed her abductor, and was unwilling to provide the details because of the trauma.

Reunited with her family, Missy begins to develop her skills, and uses them to help others, including going up against a notorious crime boss. All the while, the FBI’s Paranormal Division is keeping an eye on her.

Missy the Werecat by P. G. Allison is a charming story; a mystery with violence and death, but also with interesting touches of humor. While the theme, a strong female character able to hold her own against all comers, is fascinating, there is entirely too much ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing,’ especially in the first half of the book. This is definitely movie material, a la ‘Cat Woman,’ but the book would be infinitely better if there were more showing of Missy’s transformation, rather than straight narrative ‘telling.’

The author gets high marks for the theme, but the excessive telling forces me to drop the rating to three stars.

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.