Blue Skies Review

BLUE SKIES
by
Anne Bustard
Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: March 17, 2020
Number of Pages: 224

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Ten-year-old Glory Bea Bennett believes in miracles. After all, her grandmother—the best matchmaker in the whole county—is responsible for thirty-nine of them so far.

Now, Glory Bea wants a miracle of her own—her daddy’s return.

The war ended three years ago, but Glory Bea’s father never returned from the front in France. She believes Daddy is still out there.

When reports that the Texas boxcar from the Merci Train—a train filled with gifts of gratitude from the people of France—will be stopping in Gladiola, Glory Bea just knows Daddy will be its surprise cargo.

But miracles, like people, are always changing, until at last they find their way home.

PRAISE FOR BLUE SKIES:

“I loved Blue Skies so much I couldn’t bear for it to end.” –Patricia Reilly Giff, Newbery Honor author of Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods

“A heart-warming (and occasionally heart-wrenching) delight of a book . . .” –Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore

“A tender story of grief and the gentle comfort of loved ones.” Kirkus Reviews

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I really commend Bustard’s writing here, Not only are her characters completely charming but her style of writing is too. As someone that completely embraces my inner head voice when reading, a Texan accent is a must for this. I hope everyone that reads this agrees. *Audiobook hint?

 

Bustard also uses an epistolary style (something I just learned) with local news updates and French definitions. I truly truly loved this. It was a fun addition that moved the pace of the story and involved the reader into learning as well.

 

Let’s talk story now. Glory Bea is a great character. She is spirited, creative, mischievous, and stubborn. I could keep naming a bunch of other adjectives but I’ll go deeper. Blue Skies, while middle grade reading, is not afraid to dive into deep emotions and dealing with loss. Glory Bea firmly believes her father is coming back and I was so into her character, that I believe it with her. Because miracles can happen right? However, it’s more than that. While she prepares for his homecoming, keeping it all a secret, she’s dealing with changes in her life that are out of her control. She has not had her father for fours years and the family along with her have kept his belongings where they are, never giving up. I was just so moved and heartbroken in the glimpses of the past for them. However, it’s all done so gently in the story. It’s an underlining truth to their life but so much more happens. The pace of the book is relatively quick and with a goal in mind, the Merci Train arriving, life continues to move on.

 

The character relationships are great. I enjoyed the interactions between Glory Bea and Ben, especially the silly pranks they play on each other. Glory Bea’s relationship with her mother really stands out as well. The mother’s reactions, for instance, took me by surprise. I did feel frustration sometimes with her grandparents and mother’s non-action to talking things out with Glory Bea. She is struggling at times and even acting out but they would leave her to calming down or dealing with it herself, besides a short talk. The longest discussion she does have about her feelings ends up being with someone unexpected. It was definitely an interesting approach but perhaps not fully described since we don’t know everything that happened after the War ended.

 

Things I loved about Blue Skies:
The artistic and musical vibrancy of the town.
Her Grandpa taking out his pocket watch to ensure they’re on time.
Dr. Pepper floats. (Now I want one!)
The be-a-utiful cover.
A ten-year old trying to be a matchmaker.
This historical fiction still being so relevant today.
Glory Bea giving her friend a perm without reading the instructions. (Something I would definitely do.)
The use of the song Blue Skies, which has also been a favorite of mine and holds great memories.
Again, I must mention the amazing writing of this story. The tone is somewhat nostalgic but lighthearted. There are bits of comedy that shine and keep you grinning. I couldn’t put the book down…except for one moment to grab a tissue. A fantastic read that will leave you feeling lighter in spirit than before.
Anne Bustard is the former co-owner of Toad Hall Children’s Bookstore in Austin, Texas, and an MFA graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the middle grade novel, Anywhere But Paradise, as well as two picture books, RAD! and Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, which was an IRA Children’s Book Award Notable and a Bank Street Book of the Year. Hawaii-born, she divides her time between Texas and Canada.

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Coded For Murder Review

CODED FOR MURDER

by
DIANNE SMITHWICK-BRADEN
Genre: Murder Mystery / Amateur Sleuth
Publisher: DSB Mysteries
Publication Date: September 26, 2019
Number of Pages: 358 pages

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Jade O’Neal is a senior at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, Texas. She’s on track to graduate with highest honors and a degree in history until she is accused of murder. She juggles her busy school and work schedule around taking care of an overgrown Rottweiler and being questioned by police until she finds a series of clues hidden in puzzle form.
Time is against her as she follows the clues to find the true identity of the murderer while avoiding arrest and her own murder.

 


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I can honestly say that the summary of this book in no way prepared me for everything that unfolded in Coded For Mystery. Greater in size and world building, this book can have you immersed in its characters lives and the shadow of mystery that hangs over them. For one, we have Jade’s uncle Erik, who is a significant throughout so much of this book. Along with him are a slew of characters and a rowdy giant dog that will show the great talent of character development. The instant dislike for some and hopeful protective nature to others. It is easy to see that Smithwick-Braden has a knack for creating tones to her characters.

 

This book excels in bringing detail and thoroughness to the story. While a scene can walk you through the main parts, Smithwick-Braden gives a slower tempo to the characters. This was excellent not only to draw out the tension in scenes but share the character’s uneasiness. On the opposite end, the shift in perspectives and frequencies of other characters being introduced can throw you for a loop sometimes. A few times I did need to go back to remember certain characters, though I didn’t mind at all. Oftentimes, you get the sense of reading a case file written like a diary. With dates and even times to keep the book moving forward, it was easy to track the span of time and follow along when the story’s pace changes.

 

It was easy to connect with Jade’s character. Especially since I have also been dragged across the ground by a rambunctious dog chasing their dream of catching defenseless prey. It’s not pretty. Especially when someone is watching. Pretty much from that scene in the beginning, Jade was a likable character and I rooted for her. With Jade’s hope of having a career like her Uncle one day, she is blindsided by all the events that take place. At times, I was so frustrated with how things went. Especially Uncle Erik keeping his investigations a secret. Overall, this is a great murder mystery story that had me guessing!

 

Dianne Smithwick-Braden is a native Texan raised on the family farm near Vernon, Texas. She seasons her mysteries with a little romance, a dash of adventure, and a touch of humor. She currently resides in Amarillo, Texas with her husband, Richard. 

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Finding Esme Review

FINDING ESME
by
SUZANNE CROWLEY
  
Genre: Middle Grade (3-7) / Magical Realism / Family & Loss
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date of Publication: August 14, 2018
Number of Pages: 288

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After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

PRAISE & HONORS FOR FINDING ESME:

“Esme is a brave, appealing heroine with the odds stacked against her… Bad blood and layered family secrets drive this story to its ultimately optimistic and satisfying conclusion.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“Esme McCauley is a lonely but spirited 12-year-old who feels nothing ever happens to her the way it’s supposed to…A poignant tale for readers who enjoy character-driven realism.” — School Library Journal

“Readers muddling through preteen changes or unstable family lives will identify with Esme’s struggles, but the thrill of discovery will appeal to most.” — Booklist

Texas Library Association 2019 Spirit of Texas (SPOT) reading program selection

Has anyone ever seen a studio ghibli movie or read the books? Reading Finding Esme reminded me of them quite a bit. It’s the transition between childhood and growing up, where the world seems bigger each day than it did before. To me, this book was on the cusp of that and accepting those things we face. Esme herself is struggling with wanting to stay who she is, even with the changes happening since her Grandpa Pap’s passed away. However, even with these strange and sometimes shocking discoveries, Esme does carry this mature sensibility within her.

“You came out like you were already grown-up, Esme McCauley, even though you were half as big as a minute. I looked into those green eyes of yours and it was like you’d already seen the whole world but were still looking for something.”

Dealing with this loss has created a rift in Esme and what she once knew. Even the people around her, friends and family, begin to act different. Or perhaps she begins to notice things she didn’t before. I had mixed feelings about Bee, her grandmother and primary caregiver. She is a mystery to Esme and can seem aloof in her affections. At the same time, you know that Bee wholeheartedly cares for Esme and her brother and want the best for them. She treats Esme like an adult at times but keeps things from her as well. This causes Esme to feel even more isolated with everything that has happened in her short life so far. Esme begins keeping her own secrets which lead her to discovering more and more hidden history along the way. Grandma Bee has a finding gift that she calls God-given, but Esme has conflicting emotions about it. Despite her gift seeming even more powerful than Bee at times, she wants to fit in and not seem odd to the town. I can’t always say this about characters but I really liked Esme’s character from beginning to end in this book. As you follow along in the story with Esme’s point of view, the mysteries unfold and you are left with more questions. Esme is clever, caring but level-headed, and does her best to be herself despite outside pressures.

While at first I had to get used to the pace of the story and characters introduced, it didn’t take but a few chapters to become fully immersed in Finding Esme. The interweaving of everyone in town was a great addition to this story and added an extra spin to everything uncovered. There were complicated relationships that had history spanning generations and the distinct personalities that were affected by other characters. I feel like Crowley’s writing really shone here and made it unique.

Suzanne Crowley is the author of two acclaimed novels for young readers, The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous and The Stolen One. The author, who is also a miniaturist and dollhouse collector whose work has graced the covers of magazines worldwide, was born in a small town in Texas and lives in Southlake, Texas. When not hugging her dog or imbibing in chocolate, she can often be found taking a nap.
 

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All In: Review

ALL IN
by
L.K. Simonds
Genre: Gritty Realistic / Christian Fiction
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Date of Publication: August 27, 2019
Number of Pages: 282

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A woman’s empty pursuit of happiness leads to a crisis before finding redemption in the Lord in this challenging and gritty Christian novel.

Twenty-nine-year-old novelist and blackjack dealer Cami Taylor seems to have it all—but just underneath her confident exterior and newfound celebrity is a young woman in trouble. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, wants to get married, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family—a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami would rather bolt like a deer.

Breaking things off with Joel, Cami launches herself on a new quest for happiness. But her pursuit of pleasure only takes her further from herself—and toward a harrowing new reality unlike anything she’s faced before. What follows for Cami is a fight to the death that can only be waged with God’s love.

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L.K. SIMONDS PRESENTS CAMI TAYLOR:

Cami is as independent of a character you can get. She’s a writer that observes people, imagining their lives and motives, but ultimately pushing them away to remain in her bubble. When faced with someone seeking more, a typical ‘white-picket fence’ life, she wants nothing more than to run. While she struggles to determine what she really wants in life, her own decisions and discoveries leave her even more at odds. There’s more to loneliness than being lonely. Cami struggles with this existential dread that seems to have her denying wanting anything more for herself. From the start she says about relationships:

 

“I’m only twenty-nine years old, but I’ve pretty much seen and done it all. What are my choices, really? Apparently, the road to happiness must be traveled in vehicles I loathe: Sacrifice. Compromise. Surrender.”

 

I found it almost comical reading this at beginning of her narrative. Maybe it was hard to be in her shoes in this aspect but being in your twenties and thinking you’ve seen it all really stuck with me. I’ve been there. Then, of course, a few years or months pass and perspective hits you in the face. Cami is very analyzing to her own feelings but keeps this all in. Being the reader to these thoughts and feelings was a great choice and one of my favorite aspects to the book. To an outside perspective, it would be difficult to like Cami’s character and the actions she takes. Of course, most of her behavior seems to be a challenge to others and how they’ll react. While I type this, I realize how critical it may sound towards Cami. Ultimately, she’s human and has made mistakes. She struggles and is down to earth in a way that she is completely drifting aimlessly. Like many of us. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. It’s when everything starts to fall apart and her emotions are on the peak of exploding that she starts to snap out of this.

 

I went to Catholic school for ten years. Has this made me more faithful? Has this made me less? I can say is that it gave me clarity towards living constantly surrounded by faith and then not when I left. I share this because I can see why this Christian Fiction can have mixed views. Faith isn’t always easy. Especially if your intention is to share it with someone. I think that All In shares something different here. An emotional path, one with desperation but also acceptance. Maybe faith won’t heal all wounds but it helps accept them. I think Cami finds most of her peace this way. After living her formative years thinking it was normal to feel underwhelmed, meaning in God gives her hope for more.

 

Funnily enough, the ending reminded me of one of my favorite books, Life of Pi. I won’t share spoilers, but the book definitely had subtle metaphors that made me think of it. Not every person of faith or none will like the ending. Or maybe they will. It depends on our own emotional journey and what has lead us to this point. Maybe even putting aside faith, a reader will appreciate the impressive first novel Simonds released. They’ll enjoy the inner complexities of Cami and hopefulness of Kate. They’ll love the building of scenes that paint descriptive and engaging imagery that spark your imagination. They’ll think on their own faith and discuss it with others. A success in my opinion!

 

L. K. Simonds is a Fort Worth local. She has worked as a waitress, KFC hostess, telephone marketer, assembly-line worker, nanny, hospital lab technician, and air traffic controller. She’s an instrument-rated pilot and an alumna of Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas. All In is her first novel.

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Lost Girl Review

Lost Girl 
By Holly Kammier 
(A Shelby Day Novel) 
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: January 5th 2020
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Young Adult

Book Synopsis

AN APPALLING ACT OF VIOLENCE AND AN UNSOLVED DOUBLE MURDER.

SMALL-TOWN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, SHELBY DAY, IS DETERMINED TO HUNT A KILLER. 

As her search draws closer to uncovering the twisted truth, she begins receiving ominous warnings to stay quiet and drop the story. The young journalist is in danger. Her cameraman and best friend, a person with his own secret past, says he wants to protect her. But Shelby is headstrong and dodging anything that could lead to love. She can’t allow anyone to distract her as she fights for the two women who deserve justice. 

She never expects along the way she’ll have to stop and save herself.

Ticktock… If Shelby doesn’t solve the crime soon, she’ll become the killer’s next victim. 

“Lost Girl is a compulsive thrill-ride that reads as if it’s been pulled straight from the headlines. Kammier’s journalism background brings undeniable authenticity to a novel that has it all– a love story, a murder mystery, and a real-life introduction into the distinctive world of television news.” 
-CAROLINE MITCHELL, New York Times best-selling author

This book is for anyone who loves:
Young Adult love stories
Murder Mystery
Redemption
Books with journalism elements
Intended for a mature YA audience

Fans of Veronica Mars, In The Woods, and One Of Us Is Lying, will love this novel.

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Lost Girl was an entertaining and relatively easy read to enjoy. I love a good mystery and Kammier’s morally grey characters kept me interested. Shelby, an investigative reporter, is determined to solve the local murders affecting the town. Although, her self-serving intentions and headstrong attitude cause trouble for her along the way. Especially when it comes to any romantic interest. I did personally think that the mystery in this book was more interesting than the romance. In this, I could connect with Shelby’s character and the challenges she faces in this mystery. Solving this murder becomes more than a chance to be recognized as a reporter to Shelby. Overall, I quite enjoyed the hints and foreshadowing that led us to discovering the killer.

Unfortunately the story, while engaging, could be a bit scattered at times. While you rooted for Shelby, she is a flawed character that I wished had more of an arch by the end. The romance as well could be quite tedious and immature for the characters. Mostly, I felt like Shelby’s feelings towards not being in a relationship should be resolved through her own growth internally instead of for someone. I felt it may have connected more for readers. Overall, the basis and journey of this can certainly appeal to readers interested in YA and NA.

About the Author

Co-owner of Acorn Publishing, the UCLA honors graduate is an accomplished content editor/writing coach (her authors have gone on to become USA Today best-sellers and a New York Times best-seller). With a background in journalism, Holly Kammier has worked everywhere from CNN in Washington, D.C. and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, to the NBC affiliate in small-town Medford, Oregon.

She is the best-selling author of the novel, Kingston Court (Acorn Publishing 2015), and Could Have Been Hollywood, a memoir. Holly recently published her third book, Choosing Hope, a harrowing story of passion and deceit, and the things we do for love. Her next novel, the YA Romantic Suspense, Lost Girl, is scheduled for release in early 2020.

Holly resides in her hometown of San Diego, California, close to family and friends. An avid reader with a passion for timeless books and beautiful writing, she also enjoys long walks, romantic movies, and pink peonies.

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Paranormal Texas: Review

PARANORMAL TEXAS

Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places

Near Dallas & Fort Worth

2ND EDITION

By TUI SNIDER

  Genre: Travel / Haunted Places / Texas History

Publisher: Castle Azle Press

Date of Publication: September 19, 2019

Number of Pages: 210 with 100+ black & white images

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 More Haunted Places and True Ghost Stories!

Tui Snider’s popular travel guide to haunted places in North Texas is back with a fully updated 2nd Edition featuring more haunted places and true ghost stories!

What’s new in Paranormal Texas2nd Edition?

Just like the original travel guide, Paranormal Texas 2nd Edition gives readers haunted history and directions to sites where paranormal activity is reported in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex.

The 2nd edition now includes:

• Photos: Readers asked for photos of haunted places. Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition has over 50 photos of haunted towns, haunted hotels, and more.

• Ghost hunting tips: Tui Snider explains what she has learned since she began attending paranormal investigations with Texas ghost hunters.

• More haunted places: Several new venues (including a haunted doll museum!) with fascinating haunted history were added to Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition.

• Firsthand accounts: Readers asked for more true ghost stories and hauntings. (She even shares personal experiences with paranormal activity, including a strange encounter with her doppelganger at a haunted hotel!)

All the above, PLUS a paranormal activity evidence database:

See the paranormal activity for yourself: Readers can access an online database with links to EVPs, ghost photos, videos, and other evidence gathered by paranormal investigators who have visited the haunted sites in her book.

Continually updated: This database will be continually updated with EVPs, anomalous photos, videos, and other data gathered at haunted places featured in Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition.

Add your paranormal activity: Readers can contact the author if they have paranormal evidence to add!

Is Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition for YOU?

1. Ghost Hunters – If you want to plan a fun road trip to haunted places (with or without ghost hunting equipment) Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition can help.

2. Armchair Travelers – If you prefer reading about haunted history, Paranormal Texas, 2nd edition can take you on an exciting armchair tour through haunted towns of North Texas.

“Tui’s 2nd edition is spot on fun and thrilling for everyone to read as only Tui can tell it!”  – Greg Stephens, Paranormal Investigator (RIP)

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5 Surprising Facts about Haunted Places in Paranormal Texas

I’ve had my experience with the unexplained and unusual occurrence. However, this book will open up a whole new world. A mesh of history meets lore. Spooky and out-worldly events that even a skeptic can appreciate. (Sorry, I had to put spooky in there at least once.)

I’ll start with why this book interested me and my own paranormal but funny history. To this day, my mother (and family) talk about their old house in Galveston which just so happened to be haunted. The house was originally built by a ship captain who put parts of his ship in the construction and had amazing glass etched of his ship and wife. When my mother and her family lived there, it became pretty clear that the strange sounds, odd awakenings in the night, even eyes seen in the darkness were shared among them all. Flash forward, I took a trip to this house with the pretext of it being a history project and interest in a picture of the glass etchings. As my mother shared happy memories of her childhood, the woman who lived there couldn’t help but ask if she noticed anything interesting or odd about the house. We may have made a hasty retreat after that.

I suppose I couldn’t help but share a quick story after reading Snider’s book. It often felt like I was sitting by a campfire, sharing ghost stories with the Author. In fact, I actually did read this book entirely at night. Did I do this on purpose? No…but it was a happy coincidence.

It was easy to feel the excitement while reading. The ooh’s and ahh’s as page per page revealed interesting facts about Texas I never knew and the ties that bind it to the paranormal. So what makes this book different? I’m sure everyone has seen at least one episode of ghost hunters, been on a ghost tour, maybe even read a book. However, Paranormal Texas is filled with an energy in the writing. The excitement and respect towards this subject leaps across each page. The locations unknown were now open for discovery and places known could be seen again with new eyes.

Tui Snider did an excellent job at writing the cusp of an experience and a welcome invitation to go on your own. Consider this your challenge to visit a paranormal location and don’t forget your copy of Paranormal Texas: Your Travel Guide to Haunted Places Near Dallas & Fort Worth!

 Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel.

Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TVCoast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman WakingShades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.

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The Gryphon Heist: Review

THE GRYPHON HEIST

(Talia Inger, Book One)

By JAMES R. HANNIBAL

Genre: Contemporary Christian / Thriller / Suspense

Publisher: Revell

Date of Publication: September 3, 2019

Number of Pages: 400

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Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them. 

With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where criminal minds and unlikely strategies compete for access to the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault that hovers in the mesosphere. But is Tyler actually helping her? Or is he using her for his own dark purposes?

PRAISE FOR THE GRYPHON HEIST

“A movie-worthy tale of espionage and intrigue. Hannibal has done it again.”–Steven James, national bestselling author of Every Wicked Man

“James Hannibal has crafted a story slam full of mystery, danger, twists, and turns. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough–or bother to stop to breathe. You don’t want to miss this one!”–Lynette Eason, bestselling, award-winning author of the Blue Justice series

The Gryphon Heist plunges readers into a world where no one can be trusted, nothing is as it seems, and choosing the wrong side could be catastrophic.”–Lynn H. Blackburn, award-winning and bestselling author of the Dive Team Investigations series

“Leap on board The Gryphon Heist and ride the whirlwind of suspense. Don’t let go!”–DiAnn Mills, bestselling author of Burden of Proof

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The Gryphon Heist by James R. Hannibal can be enjoyed by large scope of readers out there. This book is packed full of interesting characters, mystery, action, and already a promise of more to come.

I’ll start from the beginning. Out of absolute honesty, I had some trouble getting into this book at first. The first handful of chapters mostly set the background and struggles that Talia is facing as a rookie spy. With her own complicated past, complicated present, and unsure future; she is a jumbled mess. Props to her for keeping it mostly together. It becomes more clear why certain things are vague and hidden in each conversation. It sets the tone for our own rookie status in this story I suppose. After these starting chapters, things start to really kick off. With a bang. From there I was doomed to an over abundance of coffee and cramped fingers from holding my tablet too tight.

Talia is smart, cautious, and a bit overconfident at times. This leads her to her own fate in the dark and glooming closet of ‘Other’. She somehow remains confident in her situation, standing up against her secretive boss and even the bossy barista. At least she’s consistent…

When she proves herself capable for the field, she’s given a rather boring mission in the ‘armpit of Europe’. However, her first mission is so much more than meets the eye. James R. Hannibal’s clever writing will leave one guessing and tense throughout this layered story.

I especially enjoyed the varied amount of characters throughout this book. Hannibal creates a great mix of characters with their quirks and ties to the story. However, Eddie Gupta was my favorite. I’m fully convinced he’s a classic ‘looks like a cinnamon roll, but could actually kill you type’. (Google that if you don’t know it. You won’t regret it.) He typically is the more relatable character, besides his judgement of the original Star Trek. (I’ll forgive him for that I suppose.) Mostly, the banter between him and Talia were my favorite. I typically steer towards action scenes but found myself looking forward to their scenes a lot.

The dry humor in Hannibal’s writing was basically on point with my own dry humor. I found it especially hilarious when Talia would be experiencing a scene and later we read the side characters actual experience and opinion of her. She definitely leaves an impression with everyone she meets.

There is so much to keep the reader entertained and in a whirlwind to read as fast as possible. Plot twists around each corner and nefarious secrets linger with every character. James R. Hannibal does a wonderful job of switching perspective and revealing hints to how complicated this world really is. With Talia in the middle, her decisions could determine so much more than just her future with the CIA.

Overall, I’m just so impressed by the way this story is laid out. The writing is high caliber and sharp. Besides the smart layout of dialogue and action, there’s great humor throughout the book. You can tell how carefully constructed this book is. I enjoyed it more with every page and recommend you read it in time for the sequel release!

 Former stealth pilot James R. Hannibal is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. He lives in Houston, Texas.

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10/1/19ReviewThe Page Unbound
10/2/19Top Ten ListThat’s What She’s Reading
10/3/19Author InterviewMissus Gonzo
10/4/19ReviewChapter Break Book Blog
10/5/19ReviewMomma on the Rocks

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COMING MARCH, 2020!

The Necromancer’s Bride Review

The Necromancer’s Bride
Kat Ross
(Gaslamp Gothic, #4)
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: May 31st 2019
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Retelling

Book Summary

Forgiveness is not Gabriel D’Ange’s strong suit.

A self-appointed soldier of God with a penchant for ruthlessly punishing his enemies, he vanished after Anne Lawrence stabbed him with his own dagger.

The smart thing would be to let him go.

Unfortunately, Anne’s life isn’t just lonely without Gabriel. It’s insufferably boring.

Determined to heal the rift between them, she goes in search of her tempestuous former lover, black parasol in hand and daeva magic crackling at her fingertips. But Gabriel has his own plans afoot and Anne finds herself drawn into one of his tangled webs, much against her better judgment.

Gabriel’s nemesis has reappeared in Brussels, a vile slaver who’s plundering the Congo Free State with the blessing of King Leopold. Gabriel might be willing to give Anne a second chance, but not until Jorin Bekker’s head is lying at his feet.

Back in London, the quasi-reformed necromancer Balthazar sets his sights on the same quarry. He holds a very personal grudge against Bekker — and killing him might be the only way to keep Gabriel D’Ange from Balthazar’s own throat.

When the hunters collide at a lavish gala thrown by the king, Anne learns just how far she’ll go to save the man she loves.

Note: The Necromancer’s Bride is the sequel to A Bad Breed, which should be read first.

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Review

I didn’t have many expectations starting The Necromancer’s Bride, though I confess the title is what first drew me in. I also admit that I started to read this before A Bad Breed but didn’t have too much trouble following the sequel with the character development already established. Though I am likely to pick up the first book and read through it. Don’t judge me. I did it for Harry Potter too…

Ross has excellent character development and keen sense of moving the story along to keep you interested every moment. I could spend a few hours reading this and not realize it.

Anne is a force of nature and after finding Gabriel, it becomes clear how well they complete each other. The romance between them was done quite well. While complicated, it was their strength and love that overlays the dangers they must face together.

I especially enjoyed the time period of this book. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read one set in this time setting and it was so refreshing. Likely another reason this book flew by for me. The gothic and mysterious atmosphere of this setting, seems to give everything more drama. Which was a delight to read.

There is no doubt that I’ll be going back to read the first installments and more from Ross. Especially with her next book set to release soon.

About the Author

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She’s the author of the Fourth Element and Fourth Talisman fantasy series, the Gaslamp Gothic paranormal mysteries, and the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day. She loves myths, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Check out Kat’s Pinterest page for the people, places and things that inspire her books.

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The Open Portal: Review

THE OPEN PORTAL

Conquest of the Veil #1

By MICHAEL SCOTT CLIFTON

Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Magical Realism

Publisher: Book Liftoff

Publication Date: May 1, 2019

Number of Pages: 337 pages

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But with dreams, there can also be nightmares

Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.

The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches.

Then she discovers the price of her bargain.

 Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animals…and she has special plans for Alexandria.

Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil.

Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.

“The Open Portal is packed full of action from the time it begins in our mundane world, to when it jumps to another. It has all the elements of a good fantasy: a cruel queen; a frustrated prince; and beautiful girl with a pure heart. There are brave boys, werewolves, white priests, and watchtowers. I can’t wait for the saga to continue.” — Abookanight

The Open Portal was aptly named for its grand use of fantasy, adventure, and dizzying effect of imagery. Often reading through the lush descriptions were like walking through a portal myself. I was reminded of many of my favorite fantasy novels as well throughout this book. Continuously impressed by the details and wild imagination, I’m definitely recommending this one to fantasy lovers. 


There was great appeal to Mona. She isn’t the characteristically beautiful protagonist that drives many YA fantasies. She also begins her story as a semi-well adjusted, charitable person that cares for others. Her story is more than the growth she goes through but the journey to discovering more outside yourself. Despite a vicious bully and apathetic caregivers, she continues to be kind to her brother and keep surviving. Complex in many ways, her emotions are wrought with doubts and desperation for shreds of happiness. A weak link taken advantage of by a sassy ‘guardian angel’.
Now in the body of Alexandria, beauty and power come with danger and responsibilities. A thousand year war that has ravaged Meredith with blood thirsty monsters created just for evil purposes. Clifton does not shy away from the graphic nature of their image and misdeeds. Mona’s-or rather Alexandria’s-kindness could be her strength in this whirling and twisted fantasy. 
Razor was my second favorite character. As deadly as he is vicious to even his own kind, his scenes immediately gripped me with the turbulent nature of what’s to come. The author had an incredible sense of character development throughout all the many characters we jump to. I did occasionally have to write a note for names and places though. I’m guilty of doing this before so this may just be me. 


With all fantasies, I become frustrated with wanting to share everything that’s happened and my thoughts. I’m very anti-spoiler so I’ll say that this book was very enjoyable. I read it in a quiet room to a crowded auditorium and it felt like there was no difference. Distractions didn’t exist when I’d truly become captured in this world. 

Michael Scott Clifton, a public educator for over thirty-eight years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys…action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novel, The Janus Witch, received a 5-Star review from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short story contests with Edges of Gray winning first place in the Texas Authors Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Open Portal, launches the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. In addition, look for the YA novel, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator, to be released soon. He is available public speaking.

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Rune’s Folly: Review

Rune’s Folly 
By Garen Glazier
Publication date: February 5th 2019
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult

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Book Synopsis

By day, Tansy McCoy is a florist making charmed bouquets for the citizens of Junonia, capital of the Kingdom of Terranmar. By night, she’s an assassin and the keeper of the Dangerous Garden where deadly blooms grow. Together with the town tailor, butcher, baker, and metalsmith (just don’t call her a candlestick maker), she is part of the Guild, a secret group of spell-wielding thieves and mercenaries. Their task: consolidate all that remains of the realm’s fading magic under the ruthless King Zeno’s control.

Impetuous loner Tansy chafes under her Guild demands. She longs to quit her town and trade and head for the hills. Unfortunately, King Zeno has other plans. He wants to marry off his daughter to Terranmar’s famously reclusive wizard, Rune Hallows, and he’s willing to have the Guild kidnap him to make it happen. Fail to deliver the wizard and the consequences will be swift and deadly.

Reluctant but determined, Tansy sets out on the long journey to faraway Wentletrap and Rune’s desolate tower by the sea. To get there she must cross a swamp full of sinister surprises, battle a werewolf, and outrace a bloodthirsty band of revenants, while she wrestles with her own magical powers that seem to be expanding in unpredictable ways.

But reaching Rune’s tower is only the beginning. When Tansy learns the real reason behind the king’s contest, she’ll need to decide whether to give in to the growing forces of magic ready to reclaim Terranmar or embrace her newfound powers to save the kingdom.

Review

This book is filled with mysteries to discover. I was instantly involved in the fast paced plot of Rune’s Folly, which kept me guessing. The author does an amazing job of introducing the characters in way that were creatively descriptive and easy to remember. The odd and interesting names helped as well. I especially enjoyed the settings and occasional blurbs of history to help you imagine this world.

First and foremost, I love the magic aspects of this book. I can see the knowledge and research that likely went into it. Also, Tansy being a green witch was great to discover. I did an internal fist pump at that. Mainly, because it’s so rare that magical books I’ve read have had them and really described what they do. Rune’s perspective was interesting but confusing at times, at least in the beginning. I enjoyed switching from both of their perspectives and motivations. It was interesting to compare Rune and Tansy’s situation. Both want to escape, to find a better life, but ultimately choose their fate for themselves for many reasons. As the story unfolds, and more wonderful action takes off, I believe many will enjoy reading this!

I’ll definitely check out book two when it comes out to see just how much Rune and Tansy will grow.

About the Author

I have always called Seattle home and find the perpetual gloom to be a wonderful writing ally. I like coffee shops, bookstores, dancing in my living room and singing in my car. The opening scene of Up makes me cry. Three Amigos makes me laugh. Fashion magazines, croissants, and long, long baths are my guilty pleasures. They might occur separately or together.

I prefer boxing classes to yoga, and I get some of my best ideas when I’m running. I loved school and spent more time than one really should getting a business degree in marketing and a master’s in art history. In an ideal world I’d go to bed at 2am and wake up at 10am. I’ve never been an early bird, and I feel strongly that alarm clocks kill dreams.

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