Richard and Maria have bought the home of their dreams, where they can farm to supplement their retirement. They are a loving couple, and life seems good for them until there is a persistent knock at the door. Unfortunately, they answer and find two black-eyed children who make a strange request. Although I was rooting for this couple, I had a feeling things would not be the same for them after this visit. It is a quick read that will make you rethink opening your front door to strangers, even young ones. I can easily recommend this short horror story.
By Darlene Foster
I am working my way through the Amanda Series, having already read and enjoyed her excursions to France and Malta. When I heard this book might have some ghosts, it seemed the perfect read, right before Halloween. Amanda is traveling with a group to New Mexico, a place I want to explore. During the trip, Amanda is to work on her writing while others take photos or illustrate their experiences. Her new travel companion, Cleo, believes in ghosts while Amanda doesn’t. Amanda’s beliefs are challenged as she tries to figure out what is going on with Cleo and other unexplainable events. Ms. Foster has done her research, and the history the group explores is rich in detail. I was so intrigued with the setting that I was ready to book my next vacation there, even if there might be ghosts. A wonderful story for not only middle-grade readers but also those who are young at heart and want to do some exploring in New Mexico. I can easily recommend “Amanda in New Mexico.”
“Dark Butterflies,” explores not only mental health but the depth of human experience through poetry and short stories. These poems and stories not only moved me with their honesty but left a lasting impression. The illustrations added a beautiful layer to the pain and hope. Here are some lines from a few of the amazing poetry and stories: “Neither grudge nor ambition/Only a blurring face,/Of someone I used to love….”—THE MAROONED, “I gaze upon this island once so beautiful every heart leapt at its sight. Until it bore an injustice so deep its waters remain stained to this very day, salted with tears of bereavement…”—AKAMPENE TANKA PROSE, “In my boudoir the walls are painted black/to blind me from the shadows as they wake/Of futures so bleak and a past without luck/I pray, I confess, for my soul’s dear sake…”—FIGHTING MY DEMONS SONNET, “Rose in a dandelion field/Stain upon yellow/Plucked…”—OUTCAST, and “My refuge looms upon a wuthering cliff/Pale-white with dark soulless windows/The raging sea below…”—WARMTH IN THE HIDDEN. A deep collection that left me contemplating life. I can easily recommend this to poetry lovers.
“Sir Chocolate and the Chinese Candy Dragon” is a charming addition to the children’s Sir Chocolate Series. Chinese Candy Dragon takes all the Halloween candy. How will that impact Halloween and what does the Chinese Candy Dragon learn? The story is told in limericks and rhyming prose. Skillful fondant art characters add color and beauty and are sure to hold any beginning reader’s attention. It’s also a great Halloween read for a parent and a young child to enjoy together. After the story, there are a few recipes included that would make a fun-filled family experience. I can highly recommend this for preschool or beginning readers—and those young at heart.
By Staci Troilo
Rina and Gretchen are good friends who leave work together late at night. They tell the bouncer who walks them out to their cars to go home to his family. Gretchen had forgotten something back inside, but they insisted they’d be fine. He reluctantly leaves and Rina ends up being brutally attacked by a cruel man. In steps Damien to her much-needed rescue. When the police arrive, Damien disappears, much to Rina’s confusion. While the police question Rina and Gretchen’s motives, the attacker makes it seem like he is their victim, but Rina is very much in danger. Damien feels a pull to Rina and wants to protect her but is afraid of her finding out the truth. He is a gargoyle during the day and a human who protects at night or used to. He died a warrior in the 1200s and was given a second chance with a few catches. I loved Damien’s unique and appealing character, along with his interaction with the angel, Anael. Rina was a strong female who went to school during the day and worked hard at night. She was barely scraping by, and I couldn’t help but root for her. Although they were from different times, the chemistry was undeniable. There were some surprising twists and corruption to clear up along the way. I couldn’t have guessed how this story could resolve, which I appreciate. A well-written and sometimes steamy romance that captured me and didn’t let go until the end. I would love to see more from these characters, including some of the minor ones, and can easily recommend “Love Set in Stone.”
I read and loved Peril in Ectoplasm and was excited to see a new story. It was nice to see familiar faces from before, but it’s unnecessary to have read the first book first. Clover is the assistant to the famous psychic medium, Daphne. They travel with two friends to meet with a New Orleans Spiritualist, Mother Leafy. Upon arrival, they find out they need to take a tour of the Bayou before she will see them. Clover’s and Daphne’s relationship deepens in this story as they traverse the swamp and its mystical qualities. The two men that accompany them are so different but very loyal to Daphne. The group is unaware of the evil intentions of Mother Leafy’s rival and that makes for some exciting twists. Lush 1920 settings drew me deeper into their journey. An exciting paranormal adventure I can easily recommend.
by Sue Coletta
Merciless Mayhem is the eighth book in the Mayhem Series. I have read the first and sixth books and could jump right into this story with no confusion or issues. There are enough references to understand what is going on. Shawnee and Mayhem are fighting a powerful company named Killzme, which is involved in illegal animal trafficking. This corporation has set its sights on capturing Shawnee, which leads to an explosive opening to the story. Not only are their lives at stake, but the animals captured are also at risk of survival. What I love about these stories is that justice is fought for innocent ones or animals, along with Native American culture and relationships between the warriors and families. Shawnee’s dedication to learning and working with Mayhem to become a stronger warrior is fascinating. But it’s her love for her grandfather that really touches the heart. The ravens are a favorite character of mine, and the bad feelings between Shawnee and Poe add to the entertainment. Going undercover and Shawnee walking in heels was a lot of fun, but saving the orcas and dolphins tugged at my heart. There was an in-depth explanation of what capturing these intelligent creatures does to them. There are some brutal and descriptive battles that aren’t for the faint of heart, but I couldn’t help rooting for the justice behind it. Another great addition to the Mayhem Series and I will continue reading them to catch up and look forward to more stories to come.
by C. S. Boyack
Lizzie and the Hat are back and trying to recover after disastrous flooding. Her car is barely functional, and funds are very limited as she waits for her disaster aid to come. It’s even been hard to book the band to play out. That’s when a government agency shows up needing her unusual skills to help with a gremlin infestation. They make an offer to excuse student loans. This takes Lizzie down a fun path that brings back some familiar characters from past books. I am a fan of The Hat Series and love Mr. Boyack’s humor. This book took that humor up a notch. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but I won’t go into detail and spoil them. I enjoyed an upgrade Lizzie received and I always appreciate the Hat’s snarky comments and how he helps. Another great Hat Book I can easily recommend.
By Linda Broday
“Courting Miss Emma” continues the story of the Taggart sisters. Being the daughters of the hangman, they were forced out of town after their house was burned down. They took with them the town’s orphans and found solace in an abandoned mission, along with three nuns. The first of the series focused on the older sister, Maura, and now it’s Emma’s story. Emma’s life revolves around the children, and she’s made peace with being alone—and not being lucky like Maura. However, a good-looking new neighbor, Stone, moves in. Emma and Stone immediately clash over the kids wandering onto his property to see the camels. There is little time to decide what they think of each other when riders come in and tell them their land is no longer theirs. They are expected to leave. No matter what is or isn’t between Emma and Stone, they must join to fight off attackers who will do whatever it takes to claim what isn’t theirs. I love Emma’s character; she is very strong and loving toward the ones she loves even after how she and her sister have been unfairly treated. Stone is an ex-soldier who carries a heavy past with him and a determination not to marry or have kids. It was wonderful to see all the familiar characters from the first book, especially the children, and to meet the new ones introduced. The plot was layered with not only romance and the threat of losing their home but plenty of heart-racing action and unexpected twists. Mixed in is some fun humor, including Emma imagining what her tombstone would say in different situations. The setting was rich and detailed, so I could easily imagine being in Texas in the late 1800s. A fantastic follow-up to the first book and I can’t wait for the story to continue. Although it’s unnecessary to read the first book because there was enough information added to understand the story, I’m glad I read “Maura” first. I can highly recommend this.
Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! Click on a book title and add to your reading list 🙂 D. L. Finn