paranormal

Review of ‘Fade to Black’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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.

Review of ‘Dragon Domain’

Posted on Updated on

Cheyenne and Celeste had been close—in fact, Celeste was like a mother to Cheyenne—until Dominic came. He promised Celeste love, but instead, he awakened her dark side, and the two of them are determined to destroy Cheyenne. With the help of Jane and others of the Dragon Clan, Cheyenne must resist a force that becomes stronger with each soul Dominic and Celeste binds to their dark designs. The forces that Cheyenne must face as she fights to save her home, though, are overwhelming.

Dragon Domain is the second book in the Dragon Clan Trilogy by Theresa Chaze. It is a compelling tale of love and betrayal with a Wiccan heroine you can’t help but cheer for. The action is chilling and the human emotions are deep. This one reads like a good thriller, with a dollop of witchcraft thrown into the mix. You don’t have to be a fan of paranormal fiction to like it.

This is one you’ll want to schedule a good block of time to read, but you won’t want to put it down once you’ve started.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Tuesday’s Child’

Posted on Updated on

Samantha Blair is a psychic who has been shunned and ridiculed all of her life because of her ‘gift.’ Her talent, though, is a dreadful burden in another way; she finds herself inside the mind of murder victims, experiencing their pain and death as it happens. When she reports this to the police, she meets Detective Brandt Sutherland, a no-nonsense cop who, though he has worked with psychics, only trusts what he can see. He has his doubts about Samantha, but she has details that seem to point to a serial killer he has been hunting, and when he witnesses one of her ‘visions,’ he’s convinced that she’s the real deal. Moreover, he fears that she could become a target of the killer.

Tuesday’s Child by Dale Myer is a chilling thriller that gallops at a breakneck pace as Samantha and Brandt try to identify and stop the killer before more people die. When Samantha comes to the killer’s notice due to internal police politics and bureaucratic maneuvering, the tension ratchets up to an almost unbearable level.

This story will grab your throat and hold it in a vise-like grip until the climax. It’ll literally leave you breathless.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Of Fear and Faith’

Posted on Updated on

FBI Special Agent Assefa Berber is on the trail of a serial killer, one possessing preternatural powers from an age long past. When he enters the life of psychology professor, Sanura Williams, both of their lives are forever changed. They are immediately drawn to each other, but that relationship is threatened by predatory killers with great power who threaten the entire human race.

Of Fear and Faith by N. D. Jones is a tense paranormal thriller that makes The X Files seem like ‘Sesame Street.’ From the modern streets of the U.S. to places where people still believe in the old gods, the two protagonists fight to stay alive while they track a killer who has no mercy. This is a book that will chill you down to the bone, with characters who are easy to identify with even when they are acting bigger than life.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Ribbons of Death’

Posted on Updated on

When a horribly scarred man shows up at the door to her isolated cabin, and shows her a blood-stained book, Stella Hunter is convinced that her ‘Peace-taker’ theory, a theory that got her branded as a crackpot by her fellow researchers, and ended her marriage, is finally validated. She believes that once in a Blue Moon, a child is born with the ability to cause people to erupt into a frenzy of killing by merely walking among them. With the aid of the scarred stranger, Carter, she sets out to prove her theory and stop the madness that threatens to engulf the U.S. But, can she do it when she could easily be killed by a total stranger standing next to her?

Ribbons of Death by Edita A. Petrick is a chilling tale that combines the paranormal and international thriller genres effortlessly into a tapestry of horror and intrigue. The characters, in larger-than-life situations, are all too human, and even the supernatural is made logical in this finely crafted story that will keep you reading—and breathless—until the very satisfying end. It has a few military inaccuracies—which won’t be noticed by anyone unfamiliar with the military—but, it didn’t keep even an old veteran like me from enjoying it.

I give it four stars.